Words: Mike Kennedy
[Guest Writer – Welsh Connections/SWND Records, Director | Oystermouth Radio – Presenter]
Grown up and mature. Words that we never thought we’d use when talking about legendary South Wales pop-punk pioneers Stickman – and to be fair it’s a struggle even now!
Despite line-up changes and fatherhood, the Llanelli rockers still play at the edge of madness with their infamous live sets which, more often than not, have involved nudity, fistfights, missing transport links and the police! The former Mighty Atom stars are back on the SWND label with some worryingly good music.
Why get back together?
We are old, our lives are boring. Work is shit, and we needed something to do. Me (Rich) and Damo lost touch with each other for a while after Stickman disbanded but when we would cross paths, we would always fondly remember our friendship, nights out and the crazy whirlwind mosh pit that was our time as Stickman.
It was always the last thing said at the end of the night. “We need to do a reunion gig.” Life always got in the way and getting everyone to commit to a night was always hard to arrange so it never happened. Around midnight one evening during December 2019, I remember getting a call from Damo.
He was letting me know that Mighty Atom had posted up some footage on YouTube of us playing in Baron’s nightclub in Swansea for [the] Mighty Atom Showcase. After watching the video, the yearning to put Stickman back together came flooding back. This eventually led to the reunion gig question again, but this time we felt it could happen.
We got in touch with Adz (vocalist), and he was well up for it but we needed a drummer and bassist. Adz recommended Daz, who had been a long-time friend (jamming partner) of both Adz and Damo (This Trophy Life/The Needs) for the bass duties. Damo suggested Paul, an ex-work colleague could be a perfect fit on the drums. We set a jam early in January 2019 to see if it all fitted together. It did!
As Damo and I had been writing some new riffs recently, after the old Stickman tunes were nailed, we started to work on some new stuff and it felt right. This eventually led to the reunion gig at Y Fwrness Theatre, studio time and further gigs around south Wales.
Has the dynamic changed within the band?
Yes. We have two new members – Daz on bass/vocals and Dirty Paul on Drums. The new members have given us the ability to take the tracks into a different direction through dual vocals and Paul’s dirty disco beats.
You had a reputation for being a bit ‘wild’; has age/parenthood calmed you down?
When we first started Stickman, we were all in our early twenties and Stickman was just the tool for us to get out and get on it! It was never a band that was looking to be perfect and have a plan to get signed and make a career, and I think this came out in our shows.
At shows there was regular nudity, fights, police raids, mosh pits and lots of alcohol consumed both before, onstage and after the show. Many people remembered Stickman shows for the visual entertainment as well as the music. As we are old, no one wants to see us naked, having pathetic old man fights. The police wouldn’t bother arresting us, but we still have mosh pits and the same musical drive.
Were you surprised at the crowd when you played Ffrwnes last year?
Yes, it was a big risk for us to play such a large venue. It was great to see a big audience and people singing along with the old tracks and the new ones. We had a lot of people who were unable to attend the night due to the horrific weather and childcare issues (never thought I would say that about a Stickman gig!), so we arranged a Christmas show in another venue and it sold out, so that was great.
Did you see familiar faces or a new fan base?
There was a mix of both: some of our loyal fanbase who were fans the first time around as well as a new younger crowd who had never seen any of our shows before. The younger fans showed a lot of energy in the crowd, which we fed off onstage.
How does the new material gel with the old?
The new stuff I feel is something I have wanted to write for a long time. It goes back to my roots as a skinny weird-looking boy with crazy hair who tried to write tracks that shouldn’t go together but were real ear worms. With Damo open to my style of writing and able to reign me in when I go off on a tangent, Adz’s ability to write an awesome melody to anything, and both Daz and Paul buying into it, the new stuff is really shining through.
It still has the same ethos that the old tracks have (Loud, Fast, Catchy) but with a different edge. The old tracks will always be a part of our set as people want us to play them. Which again is humbling for us.
You’ve signed to SWND Records – why do you need a label in 2021?
SWND are a record label that reminds me so much of Mighty Atom when we first signed with them. They are a record label that do it for the love of music and championing new, fresh, exciting music and doing it all in their own time. They relate to us on so many levels we are happy to be on board and working with them. SWND are a label going places and it won’t be long before they are the premier company operating from South Wales.
A new single out on June 12th for RSD on vinyl – what’s next release-wise ?
We are back in the studio in July to record a couple of new tracks that we are hoping to release later in the year.
How has the business changed since you were with Mighty Atom?
It has changed drastically with the introduction of social media; everything is driven by it, companies live and die by it.
We used to have to go out at night fly-posting around the area to promote gigs, demo releases and that would often end up by us being chased by police! I remember being stopped by a policeman who demanded I hand over a ‘gun’ that I had been seen running around with in Llanelli town by CCTV. It was a paint brush that I was using to post a show up with!
Now with the help of social media we can advertise far and wide without risking criminal convictions! On the downside, the venues have been hit hard over the last few years. We are hoping that once all restrictions are lifted that people will go out and support their local venues by checking out all of the amazing local artists that have really struggled over the last year.
Can we expect to see Stickman back on the road ?
No shows? No point! Yea definitely; Stickman is and will always be about playing live. As long as there are people wanting to watch us, we will continue to perform. Please don’t be an armchair or iPhone fan of music, get out and watch the many amazing bands and people who put their all into their art or show. Without these people we truly are in ‘The Digital Plugged-in Age’.
Want to be part of a rebellion? Go out and watch an original band live! When you find that band no-one else knows and they blow up, its great to say: ‘I saw them at the Dog & Duck back in the day’.