Buster Bloodvessel (Bad Manners)
by Lisa Dib
The energetic and effervescent frontman of long-running punk/ska band Bad Manners, Buster Bloodvessel, has been going since the band’s inception in the late '70s, and shows no sign of slowing down now. Indeed, the band recently made the jaunt to Australia to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
“I do my keep my mind occupied with hobbies and lifetime pursuits but I still a lot of passion for music.” he notes. “Otherwise, I wouldn't still be touring. I still love it as much as when I first started, there's obviously something wrong with me (laughs), I’ve grasped it with both hands.”
Before Buster was opening big-eating themed restaurants (Fatty Towers) or hitting up the panel show scene, he was leading Bad Manners through the exciting and reactionary punk-ska era in London. Bad Manners came to prominence in the early 80s with tracks like Lip Up Fatty, Special Brew and Walking In The Sunshine, stimulating the public’s hunger for visceral, blazing ska music. Buster himself has always been best known for his showmanship, and his huge wagging tongue. He maintains that the band have got their good tricks down pat after some time in the business.
“We do have the basics, we've worked out that our set goes best with the high party stuff. The main things of the set has always stayed the same. It usually goes that we find what the audience will react to or not, whether it goes down well, whether we'll continue to use it. But after about a year, you wanna change it around.”
I note that it must be difficult to sing the same song for forty years, but that it’s no doubt a minor hassle of the whole shebang.
“Exactly! Imagine, like, Brown Sugar - you cannot go on stage and not sing it. He [Mick Jagger] probably sings it with such venom, sings it with all he’s got, the same way he did when he first started.”
Bad Manners have long retained the punk ethos in their years. Buster speaks candidly about the nature of the mechanized British press - especially the production-line-style of music press.
“They eat ‘em up and spit ‘em out. If you’re rejected, you don’t wanna continue, that's why many bands split up in the early days. It’s amazing that there's many bands that do carry on with one-hit wonders. We had quite a lot of hits and lots of people remember our songs, they were quite tuneful. When people get the chance to hear it, they like it whether they’re four or forty.”
Although he tries, Buster admits he doesn’t listen to much “new” music. “I don't listen to enough. I keep my ear to the ground if I can, but I mainly listen to old ska and reggae. I still find it amazing, I’m still discovering things I never even knew, I have a good knowledge of it. It was breaking new ground then, with very young kids into it, it was the ‘in’ thing at the point, and it still has its place in music but doesn't seem to attract ‘mainstream’ radio or anything really like that.”
“Our history of playing tours and keeping music live has kept our scene going; it is now a bit more inward looking.” he says, commenting on the band’s - and the genre as a whole, really - success without ever having been a darling of the press. “It’s going back to its roots. It’s amazing, any chance we get to play with certain bands ... it amazes me when we can outdo them ‘cause we’re fun and they take it so seriously. That's the success of our band, we have fun.”
Throughout its time, punk and ska have been subject to deviant schisms; Nazi punks that often clash with their more centrist or left-wing brethren. Buster says he'd prefer to leave politics out of all that.
“It’s working-class music. That's another struggle for most people's lives, a political struggle in any other direction. It’s crazy when politics takes a hold of a music genre; other music seems to drift through and never seems to bother, but ska and punk certainly suffer with torment of politics. It’s played its part in the world …”