Interview with John Youens. Guitarist/Singer of Slow Faction

I was 13 when punk happened. I grew up in Kidderminster in the West Midlands – Black Sabbath and Led Zep country, but they didn’t appeal.

My older sister was into Jackson 5, Osmonds, then later The Stylistics. I literally didn’t have a music to call my own. Then, all of a sudden, friends at school started bringing in those old mono cassette players and at breaktime I’d get to hear The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus, Damned Damned Damned, The Buzzcocks and of course, the first Clash Album.

Naturally, the Sex Pistols as well, but this was just before Never Mind The Bollocks – finally, I had a music that made sense to me and I’ve been in love with punk rock ever since.

Slow Faction is for me a life project – the first incarnation was in the 80s when I was in Exeter. I lived in a student house and my songwriting partner lived 2 floors down.

The second version was in London in the 90s. My musical partner moved to London and we put a functioning live band together. Unfortunately, we had grown apart as people and this incarnation crashed and burned after a few good years in acrimony.

I then had a break of 13 years but carried on writing songs and recording demos. Finally, I met up with our old bassist, Umbi. He wasn’t in a band at the time so we recruited new members and started rehearsing at the end of 2012. We’ve been gigging solidly for 7 years and it’s been more enjoyable than ever.

First Punk Rock band you ever saw Live? Where/when?

Stiff Little Fingers, Malvern Winter Gardens, 1979 – I was 15

and went with 2 school friends. We went early and were

crammed in right against the stage – these were the days

before crash barriers. SLF were at the earliest stage of their

career and promoting Inflammable Material, still one of my

favourite albums.

They were immense – so powerful – and for the encore, they were joined by Danny Kustow of TRB for a rendition of White riot. We left crushed, soaked in sweat, but absolutely exhilarated.

First Punk Rock Record you bought? What made you buy it?

 

The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus. I’d heard it at school

on the aforementioned mono cassette players and loved

the artwork – they looked so menacing and dangerous.

I listened to it on repeat for months, sat on my bed,

staring at the album artwork.

I think the CD and then the download ages miss out on the pleasure of sitting, listening and staring at the artwork of a 12” album.

Favourite Venue to play in? UK or abroad

I always enjoy playing at The Unicorn as it draws a good crowd of friends. The New Cross Inn is always fun as I like venues where the stage and the bar are all in the same room.

Abroad, we love Kulturrampe in Krefeld.

We’ve done 2 minitours as a South London Punk Collective package with our good friends The Phobics and Proud City Fathers.

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Krefeld has really taken us into their hearts (and we the Krefelders, likewise) and the second time we went there the venue sold out and had to turn people away – a very pleasing moment for 3 unsigned bands, doing it for themselves. This year would have been the 3rd year in a row but unfortunately Covid 19 intervened.

Influences?

Musically, obviously The Clash and SLF, but I and the other band members are all massive music fans and we listen to everything from Sun era Elvis through to 2020 DIY punk rock, and everything in between – especially 60s beat groups, soul and roots. Although we are firmly in the punk rock camp I think you can sometimes discern a beat, a bassline, a lick or a vocal line that’s been nicked from somewhere else 😊

Other influences for me include the German authors Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse and Heinrich Boell, plus, of course, Buddhism & Taoism as I am married to a Buddhist and have studied meditation & Taoism for over 25 years

Any new bands impressed you and worth a shout out?

Through the South London Punk Collective we have contact with most punk bands in London, one way or another, and there is incredible music out there. I’m not going to name names as I’ll only leave someone out. However, I would recommend anyone stuck in a rut to check out new music on the podcasts I share (Just Some Punk Songs, Trash City Radio and Pulsebeat) and be open to hearing what is current and good.

Looking at my MP3 player, the last 4 albums I bought from Bandcamp are Accidente (from Spain), Lucky Malice (from Norway) Rabies Babies (London and SLPC regulars) and Las Ratapunks (Peru). Interestingly, all 4 are all women groups and confirm my feeling recently that women in punk are killing it at the moment.

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What’s the future look like for you and Slow Faction?

Well, 2020 was meant to be our best year so far – the reviews for Unilateral Declaration of Independence, our current album, were fantastic and led to us being invited to play Rebellion.

We also had our 3rd German minitour on the books and we were looking to build on recent successes, touring the album with a new drummer (Gianfranco) and writing new songs in preparation for the next batch of recording. This has obviously all been wiped out, but we’re strong people and will gradually rebuild once we can start gigging again.

We have started rehearsals again in the last couple of months and will start to put together a batch of new songs for our next recording – but it’s very much a waiting game at the moment.

Where does the name Slow Faction come from?

At the time of the first incarnation of Slow Faction I was studying German, reading lots of Heinrich Boell and was very interested in the genesis of the Baader Meinhof Gang and the effect on the Wirtschaftswunder of post war Germany – so I was intent on using Faction (as in Red Army Faction) as part of the band’s name…but where to find another word to go with it?

Then one night we took a load of mushrooms, washed down with vodka, and we spent the night walking, walking, walking, getting freaked out by whatever came to our attention…we were walking round a bend in the road and it had the word SLOW written in huge white letters before the bend. I became fixated with this word and stared at it for ages….it was then that I decided the band was going to be called Slow Faction

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What is the craziest, most memorable thing which happened

on Tour or at a show?

Nothing particularly crazy – we don’t seem to attract that sort of vibe.

A fond and recent memory is playing an antifascist after hours benefit

a couple of years ago. We were meant to be on at around 11.30pm

(first band of the night) but we didn’t hit the stage till about 3am

(last band of the night)…we were the oldest there by about

20 years…after  we had played, someone said “I hope we have your

energy when we’re as old as you”

Horror Movies or Science Fiction?

Definitely horror – not the slasher kind, but I grew up on the old,

camp Hammer Horror films and love anything with Christopher Lee

or Peter Cushing!

What do you dislike?

Offal and Brexiters…kind of one and the same thing, really…

As a band I dislike people who don’t support the whole show or turn up just for their set and leave…I watch every band at every gig we play or organise as the SLPC. There is so much great music out there if you’re just open to looking for it and listening…

I dislike selfish people, rude people, violent people, narcissists, toxicity, racists, petty nationalists, Tories, etc, etc – you get the picture. I don’t think it costs you anything to be polite, appreciative and open to new things – in fact living like this is actually enriching.

Guilty pleasure

Abba, Fleetwood Mac, chocolate, soul, reggae, Brian Jones era Rolling Stones, Sun era Elvis, oh and red wine, particularly Malbec….

Is Punk Rock Dead?

No, but it is a niche genre and a very fragmented one. At the SLPC we try to put on eclectic bills covering old school, ’82 influenced bands, pop, alternative, hardcore and cover every generation…I always think that people want to be surprised when they come out and see bands or styles that are new to them so I try never to have 4 soundalike, lookalike bands on the same bill. I also think that punk is not just a musical genre or an attitude, but a philosophy…

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Interviewed in November 2020 London