How’s life treating you out on the Costa Blanca? ’We had been planting seeds for a couple of years and eventually moved here last November. I work about ten hours a week and make a decent living. No gear to carry and all my gigs are within three miles of my front door. Absolutely loving it’.
How did you get involved in playing music ? ‘Just always knew it’s what I was going to do. My first memories were jumping around singing along to The Beatles and The Stones, into a hairbrush’.
Who were your influences ? ’Everyone from the Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks to Sinatra and Tony Bennett via Alice Cooper and The Stray Cats’.
When did you start playing gigs and what venues did you play ? ‘First started in punk bands in the very late 70’s. We played places like the British Legion Club and The Cyprus in South Shields. Also La Metro in Sunderland. Worked with Toyah, Dr and The Medics, The Rezillos… oh and The Cheeky Girls, who were lovely and actually far better vocally than I expected’.
What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Can’t recall the names of some of them but Lynx in Newcastle that was early 80’s and The Bunker in Sunderland stand out. I recorded with South Shields band The Letters in another Newcastle studio, the name of which escapes me – 1983 that would have been. I don’t have any of the recordings. It was a vinyl single with three songs on Walk Away, You Girl and Hello. But the band had a few disagreements and all but a couple of the 1,000 copies were destroyed’.
Did you record any TV appearences or film any music videos ? ’There’s a live video kicking around of a band I was in The Babysnakes at Newcastles Riverside. I think we were on with Paul D’Ianno’s Killers’. (The track is ‘Hard Lovin’ Woman’ from 1993). Babysnakes rose from the ashes of Gods Little Devils and was initially me on vocals, Stidi (drums), Gary Heir (guitar) Roy Page (bass) and Dave Stratty Stratford (rhythm guitar). We lasted from ’91 to ’93, when I moved to Turkey. Mark McGlauchlin took over on drums when Stidi went back to The Wildhearts. We did a 3 track cassette single which Roy probably still has copies of. Before that was The Smoking Beagles who were still called The Lipstick Junkies when I first joined. I’m not really one to hold on to the past so I don’t have any of the recordings from then, either. I live for the moment’.
Have you any funny stories from playing gigs ? ‘We (The Smoking Beagles) were practicing in The Bunker and – as was usually the case – we had enjoyed some of mother nature’s finest Afghanistani import. Anyway, after practicing we often went to Washington Granada Services for an all day breakfast and a few coffees and we did so on this particular night. Must have been around 2am that Iain (Cuz) Curtis picked a sachet of sugar to go into his umpteenth cup and said, “Granada Sugar… You know why they call it that ?” and after a long pause, “They couldn’t spell granulated!” Now, under normal circumstances that wouldn’t be funny at all but when you’re wired on coffee and exceptionally good gear, it was the funniest thing we’d ever heard. We sat and cried laughing until we were eventually asked to leave at around 6am. Everyone who came in stared at us which just made us laugh all the more. We would get to a point where we were calming down then we’d hear the door go and off we went again’.
You are using the stage name Cameron James in Benidorm…. ‘Yes I have several shows over here in Beni. An 80’s tribute, a rock and roll show, a tribute to Robbie Williams (!), a cabaret show and a sixties show. I’m your archetypal sell-out but I’m making a decent living in the sun’.
Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2018.