Current Menace Lineup
Noel, Finn, Rob & Harv
Noel Martin – drums, vocals
Finn Panton – guitar, Vocals
Rob – bass, backing vocals
Harv – rhythm guitar and vocals
Menace Mark One: 1976-1979
Noel Martin, Steve Tannett, Charlie Casey, Morgan Webster
Menace were London’s first generation no-nonsense boot boys, pre-dating Sham 69 and Cockney Rejects who overtook them in terms of mass popularity.
They formed in 1976 at the Hope And Anchor in Islington when Webster met the other three members and were soon playing the Roxy. Their high-energy, unpretentious sets won them few admirers in the inkies e.g. the Press, but they swiftly built a strong following that brought together both punks and skinheads. They’re often cited as the first to unite this potentially volatile mix. However, there was nothing premeditated about the audience they attracted. “Sham were more overt in their leanings towards skinheads,” Martin told me. “We had that crossover thing. We liked that idea.” Partly because most of the band themselves were skinheads in their youth.
Half of the band were first generation Irish immigrants. “We were working class lads from around King’s Cross. Charlie and me came over from Ireland when we were about 14. We were both from the Galway area, but we didn’t actually know each other until we met in England. We were in the same class together, at St William Of York school, and being Irish, there was obviously an immediate connection. Steve Tannett was in the year below us. St William Of York was also John Lydon’s school. When we saw him on TV, when the punk thing got going, we couldn’t believe it we knew at school! He didn’t stand out. He wasn’t good at football and he wasn’t one of the tough kids.” Neither Casey nor Martin belonged in the ‘most likely to achieve’ category either. “You automatically became prefects in the fifth form at our school, and we were the only two that didn’t. Charlie lived round the corner from the school, so we’d go to his house make lunch and play our guitars. We hooked up with Steve Tannett after leaving school.” We stated in pub rock band Stonehenge in 1975.
Menace were initially signed to Miles Copeland’s Illegal Records and made their debut single in August 1977 with ‘Screwed Up’ backed by ‘Insane Society’. Charlie Harper of the UK Subs bought the very first copy when he bumped into Martin picking up the first box of singles from Copeland’s office. It was good, honest, working class sloganeering (“If we’re the working class/Why ain’t we got jobs?”) and more musically adept than you might imagine. Sniffing Glue trumpeted that they “are the best punk band in England today!” after witnessing some highly charged early shows at venues such as the Vortex and Hope And Anchor.
Alex Ogg Author of ‘No More Heroes’
Vermillion and the Aces: 1980-1981
Noel Martin, Steve Tannett, Charlie Casey, Vermillion
Following Menace the boys joined a feisty biker chick called Vermillion who was working with Steve at Step Forward Records.
The Aces: 1981-1984
Noel Martin, Steve Tannett, Charlie Casey
The Ace’s, Noel Steve and Charlie sprang into existence during the encore of Vermillion and the Aces gig at the Lyceum Ballroom (If anyone knows the date let me know) when Steve launched into the Menace classic GLC . Needless to say we were sacked by Vermillion and The Aces were born.
Menace Mark Two: 1999-2001
Noel Martin, Charlie Casey, John Lacey, Andrew Tweedy
Your HITS scribe met the band in Coventry to discuss the reformation and what’s happened to the band since. Lead singer John Lacey thus continues “the reformation happened after we played support to Alternative TV as another band in London, there were loads of punks in the audience and for an encore we did “GLC” and the place went mental. It was at that gig in Hackney, that we realised people still listened to that sort of stuff, cos we had no idea.
Then Darren Russell approached us after hearing about it and asked us if we wanted to reform.” Drummer Noel continues, “We did one gig at the Dublin Castle the week before HITS and were stunned by the amount of people that turned up.”
Since the reformation the band have toured Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland and the USA but only select dates in the UK. However as Noel states “as the band all work, every tour they have to take time off work, so for gigs in the UK it’s just weekend gigs and not tours as such.” As for the live shows, its the place where the band are at home, as Noel states; “we enjoy it, we enjoy playing, we like the crowd to feel the energy coming off the stage.” He admits; “we’re very lucky to be able to do it, we don’t want to do too many dates because we don’t want to make it feel like work, so every gig we do, we’re really looking forward to it.” Of the tracks they play live, a quick band consensus listed the following favourites, “I Need Nothing”, “Rocks’n‘Dust” and “I’m Civilised”, so listen out for those in their set.
Turning to their album “Crisis”, surprisingly it’s their first official album release as they didn’t release any long-players last time round. John succinctly sums up that release by confirming; “If we never do anything else in our lives we’ll always be proud of that.” Indeed the band didn’t take the easy way out by re-recording any of their old stuff, as the album was all freshly written and produced in the twenty-first century. The band confirm that the album’s shifting units, as Noel says “its gonna be one of those things that’s going to be selling well in 10 years time….it is unusual and very difficult for old punk bands to come back and record anything that is relevant or good, but I think we’ve managed to do it.” As guitarist Andrew Tweedie concurs “the good thing about it is that it still sounds fresh and relevant as well, and it’s about now.” Noel agrees underlining the fact; “we’ve not got teenage angst we’ve got middle-aged angst!!!” With regard to new releases the band are currently looking for a deal and are presently working on new material, so get in touch if you can help on that front in any way. The band wouldn’t spill the beans as to the new material, but they are all agreed that they wouldn’t be following the recent trend of releasing an “unplugged” album, even though there’s a “hidden” acoustic version of “C and A” at the end of the “Crisis” album, with Andrew quite rightly stating; “you just don’t get the energy…the secret track at the end of the Crisis album, that’s our acoustic contribution.” As bassist Charlie Casey jokingly confirmed, he doesn’t possess an acoustic bass!!!
With the band now lined-up to play their hat-trick of HITS, the obvious question was why? Noel, ever the conversationalist gave his choice that “meeting people’s always good…it’s great to see old friends like Charlie Harper, people like that it’s great.” And their favourite HITS to date? Bit of a split here with John and Noel going for the first HITS they played in 1998 at The Dome in Morecambe, as there was “a real buzz about that one.” Andrew however plumped for their performance at The Platform at last year’s Morecambe event. Following HITS the band should be embarking to pastures anew with a tour of America’s West coast later on in the year, but hope to play some more UK dates prior to then. And the bands closing comments; “Happy HITS, see you there and buy us a drink!!!” Thanks to the band, you can’t argue with that sentiment, so get down to the Empress Stage on the Friday to check out one of the finest live English bands that’s doing the rounds at the present time.
DERRICK MOORE (EATEN ALIVE) 2002
Menace Mark Three: 2002-2004
Noel Martin, Charlie Casey, Uncle Albert, Oddy
Oddy from Resistance 77 came in as vocalist and Uncle Albert was our friend Paul on guitar, who didn’t want his identity to be known. He came from the Stains, alongside Geordie who played with the Spitting Vicars.
After the break-up with John Lacey – we had two break-ups – the first one we got back together again – Charlie and I were a bit wary. We were keeping an eye open. When John left the band again we got in touch with Oddy and he said he’d love to do it. Resistance 77 had supported us in Derby before and we knew them through that. We found Paul through Barnet of Viva Las Vegas who runs the 12-Bar Club off Tottenham Court Road. He suggested a few people and I’d seen Paul play. I gave him a call. He jumped at it. Paul Fox of the Ruts was interested in joining us at that point, but rightly or wrongly we didn’t choose Foxy. Foxy actually said to me at the time “I don’t like punk”!
We started rehearsing in London and Derby, where Oddy is from, and put a set together; initially just doing the songs we already had, then started writing. And that became Rogue’s Gallery. One of the first ones I wrote was ‘Test of Time’, which we never did live, which is a shame really. But once we decided to do an album we got our heads down and started writing properly. Paul had an old song that he’d never wanted any of the bands that he’d been in before to do. That was ‘Oliver Reed’. He didn’t have any lyrics though – he just liked the idea of a song called ‘Oliver Reed’! and he had the music for that. I wrote the lyrics. Charlie wrote ‘Wot’s It Like’ and ‘Observing Way’ and I did most of the rest. The way it goes with Menace, though, is that whoever is in the band gets equal credit.
We gigged everywhere, including the States, all over Europe and places like the Czech Republic; good gigs, bad gigs. But around 2004 we started to wind down. Oddy was having pressure from his other half and had restrictions because of Resistance ‘77 – he was serving three masters! He found it difficult to find time for everything. We thought he should just stick with Resistance ‘77, cos that was his first love. But we’re still mates with Oddy and he’ll still jump up on stage with us if he’s around. Paul left at the same time – he just thought that all good things come to an end and it was time to do something different, which would be Dirty Love. There was a bit of a hiatus then, but eventually we moved on.
The last gig we played in this line-up was at the Borderline supporting Sham 69, and at the end of the set Johnny and Jasper came up and we were able to introduce everyone to the ‘new guys in the band’.
(from interview between Noel and Alex Ogg, author of No More Heroes)
Menace Mark Four: 2005-2009
Noel Martin, Charlie Casey, Johnny Moses, Jasper Hood
I met Johnny at the 12-Bar Club, which figures a lot in the Menace story. I went to see the owner, Barnet, and a band called Bomb 45 were playing. Johnny was onstage doing a soundcheck, he said, ‘Hello Noel’. I vaguely remembered him but couldn’t recall where we’d met. I was very impressed by his playing – it was all downstrokes, that chugging sound, which was what we were looking for. We still had Oddy around at this time, and some gigs booked, and we did a short tour of Germany with Johnny and Oddy before Jasper joined. Jasper had been in a band with Johnny called Chinese Lung. We did the “Live From Bermondsey 2” thing as a practice, and that’s not released yet, but it will come out on the anthology we’re doing. But that was Oddy with Johnny, which only lasted for a short period.
Part of the gang that came down to the studio for “Bermondsey 2” was Jasper, and he hung round afterwards. He was a big Menace fan. So we invited him to an audition – we auditioned my son as well, but that didn’t work out! But if you asked Jasper to learn four songs, he’d do it immediately. He knew all the old songs straight away. That made getting up to speed a bit easier.
Eventually we started to write the No Escape From Nowhere album together. Rogue’s Gallery hadn’t gone down so well; there were some critics of Oddy’s voice. People thought that Menace needed a London singer – even though Jasper was Welsh-German, he was a London boy too! Johnny wrote a song for the album, Jasper wrote a couple, Charlie wrote one, and I wrote the rest. Jasper also added some lyrics to my song ‘Punk Backlash’ and improved some of the verses. He also added lyrics to ‘Nowhere Fast’, ‘Free For The Money’ and ‘Why Can’t I Come Back To Me’.
That was recorded again in Rogue Studios and we did some European gigs together. We became close mates, and still are. Jasper, who was also the bass player in Johnny Throttle alongside Oddy’s old pal Geordie, has gone back to Germany now and plays in a band called the About Blanks. He’s best known over there for being in the Shaking Nasties originally, who were quite big. He’d said he wanted to leave and try something else, but said as we all got on so well, he’d cover for us until we got a new singer. So we asked him to stay until May 2010, but he didn’t need to in the end. And if we’re ever in Germany, he’ll step up and sing a song with us. And Johnny joined the Electric Cocks, which was with Geordie again – who gets everywhere!
(from interview between Noel and Alex Ogg, author of No More Heroes)
Menace Mark Five: 2009-2012
Noel Martin, Charlie Casey, Finn Panton, occasionally Steve Tannett and Martin Sawtell
Johnny and Jasper’s last gig was on 19th December 2009 at the Mars Bar in Worcester. Before that we played the Dublin Castle and someone came up and said, ‘I hear you’re looking for a new guitarist. You’ve got to see Finn, he’s great.’ I didn’t know Finn, which is unusual, because Finn knows everyone – especially the ladies! We had a chat that night and he seemed OK. We arranged a rehearsal. Charlie knew him from his days at Fresh Records because Finn had been in loads of bands; Headhunters, Bloodsport, Public Heirs, Junior Manson Slags, just loads of bands. Apparently we once played with him, as a member of Fuck All Else To Do, at the Royal Standard at an impromptu festival we did after a Punk Aid gig was cancelled.
We started rehearsing pretty much straight away. Although his style was slightly different to Johnny’s, not a natural born chugger, he’s a very good guitarist. It worked out quite well. We tried it as a three-piece and when we shared out the singing, it didn’t sound too bad. We had no intention of being a three-piece! Finn’s first official gig was a half-set at the Hope ‘n’ Anchor on December 18th, which was the night before the Worcester gig with Jasper, who couldn’t get back from Germany. I was playing with an Irish band just as a laugh (including an Irish jig, which went into ‘GLC’…) So we actually played with two different singers on two different nights with a bit of a crossover in the line-ups.
The current line-up – officially – is now Charlie, myself and Finn. We’ve done an album with the new trio, Too Many Punks Are Dead, and we’re very proud of that. That came out in August 2011 and we’ve been playing gigs to support it, including Rebellion in Blackpool and, as this is being written, we’re just about to fly over to Japan, where we’ve never been before. Charlie who lives in Plymouth has a touch of RSI as well as family commitments so he can only do selected gigs. So we also have a stand-in bass player, Martin Sawtell, who sometimes plays with Jenny of the Belle Stars, and played with Finn in some of his old bands. We’ve also been rejoined by our original guitarist Steve Tannett at some recent gigs. He can’t rejoin the band fully because he lives in France, but he’s played a few shows now. So we have a nucleus of five band members, if you like, including three original members.
Noel and Finn, and …: 2013-2015
Noel Martin, Finn Panton and first Martin Sawtell, then Rob
With Charlie playing less and less, Martin moved to the fore. But with Martin busy there was some flux in the bass department. A certain Toby Panton sometimes (yes, relation, a very hairy version of Finn) when Charlie could not make it.
Noel kept an eye open for more backup and Barnet once again was responsible for him meeting Rob. Finn vaguely remembers Rob being in a band called the Uglies in 1980. Allegedly he had hair in those days, and was a lot skinnier.
At the end of 2013 Martin moved to New Zealand, a bit too far to travel for gigs, so Rob has been a fairly regular feature since.
Noel, Finn, Rob & Harv
A small amendment or so: Harv joins on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, so now
Noel : Drums and vocals
Finn : Guitar and vocals
Rob : Bass and shouting
Harv : Guitar and serenades
and now and then: Toby, Guitar or Bass (standing in for Rob) and vocals.