In January 1995, five of us in a North London band called the Flaming Stars showed up at the original Toe-Rag Studios in Shoreditch to record our debut EP for a small label called Vinyl Japan UK. We’d been gigging for all of two months, and had no great plans for the future. Fast-forward to 2005, and after ten years, seven albums and fourteen singles – about 120 studio tracks in all, not counting the seven sessions for John Peel – our relationship with the label ended when they went out of business. Right now, as we’re about to start recording a new studio album for Ace Records (due out in September), it’s a real pleasure to have the chance to round up a representative selection of the now-deleted Vinyl Japan stuff in a double CD compilation to mark our first ten years as a recording outfit.
In a decade of touring, we’ve had a fair few memorable nights in many different countries… looking out of the dressing-room windows at the Liquid Room in Tokyo before our shows with Thee Headcoats and Headcoatees, and seeing the whole of the Shinjuku district spread out below us like a scene from Bladerunner because the 1,000-capacity venue was on the top floor of a skyscraper... playing in Boston alongside JJ Rassler’s Downbeat 5 at The Abbey Lounge, a no-nonsense rock’n’roll gin joint with underwear nailed to the walls... opening for the full original lineup of the Pogues at Brixton Academy a couple of days before Christmas, then watching fake snow pour down from the ceiling during Fairytale Of New York… a show in a converted slaughterhouse in Pau in the French Pyrenees where they’d even built their own Tiki Bar specially for the occasion... supporting Jello Biafra in San Francisco in a former burlesque hall… numerous tours of Germany, seeing how many people we could pack into Wild At Heart in Berlin and still have room to breathe, or playing at the Molotov on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg on a stage allegedly made from bits of the old one at the Star Club.
Just in case you’re running away with the idea that every gig’s been a blinder and every promoter a diamond geezer, let’s pause a while and shudder as we remember Newport in South Wales, where the support band at the soundcheck said ‘No-one’s gonna be here tonight, cause it’s way too expensive for our mates to get in (it was all of £3.00), and no-one’s ever bloody heard of you lot’. They were right.
All in all, it’s been a hell of an enjoyable ride so far. LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT rounds up all the singles, representative tracks from each of our seven studio LPs, and a selection of rarities that are either new to CD or were only ever pressed up in quantities of about fifty as radio promos. The collection is accompanied by a lavish selection of photos and memorabilia and extensive sleevenotes detailing our history so far.
Here’s to the next ten years…