The Vaynes’ story is a tale of dirty rock ‘n’ roll fuelled by a love of Iggy Pop, The Dead Boys and of course Johnny Thunders. In the 80’s, Leeds was a dark place with post-punk pioneers like Gang Of Four and Delta 5 paving the way for Goth. The Sisters Of Mercy and later The Mission, blazed the Leeds Goth trail.
The Dead Vaynes and The Vaynes, took a different route and to this day proudly declare that they are the most authentic punk rock ‘n’ roll band from Leeds.
Stevie – I don’t know any other band from Leeds who put their balls on the line like we did.
I catch up with the band before their support slot to The Dead Boys at The Brudenell in Leeds, their first band interview in over 28 years.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
As the oldest member of the band, Mick Vayne had the pleasure of catching The New York Dolls at Leeds University on 24 November 1973 and a Thunders obsession was born.
Mick – That gig changed my life ! The photographer here is on Sylvain’s side. I was at the front at Johnny’s side. The best 60 p I ever spent.
Stevie – Funnily enough, I was into The Dead Boys before Johnny Thunders came along. A friend of mine put me onto The New York Dolls and then Thunders came from that. Someone played me L.A.M.F. and it wasn’t just the music I loved, it was the whole attitude and I wanted to be that crazy rock n roll guy, I wanted us to be that New York band. When I was writing songs for G.T.F., I was thinking “is this a song that Johnny would play ?” The artwork, the lettering, is heavily influenced by L.A.M.F.
Jess – Being a little younger than Mick and Gerry, plus having no older siblings and the fact that I grew up in Germany, means that I hadn’t heard of the New York Dolls. I only ever knew ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by Iggy Pop, as that was the only song by him ever to be played at alternative places. ‘Chinese Rocks’ by Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers was one of my Punk samplers. My inﬂuences were The Cure, Joy Division, Killing Joke, with JJ Burnel from the Stranglers being one of my early bass heroes. Craig Adams from The Mission being another one – he’s a machine! I also grew up with disco and ABBA on the telly and the Beatles from my mum’s fairly small record collection.
Martin – The first music I heard was Irish rebel songs, then glam rock. My first wow was Tubeway Army & then Gary Numan. The band that changed my life was New Model Army, as they had that “fuck you” attitude but with a very strong family vibe. Mick Brown was the reason I became a drummer as when I saw him play, he looked like he was having the time of his life. I just thought “I’ll have a bit of that!”
The band’s first incarnation, The Dead Vaynes’ put out their much lauded debut, G.T.F., in 1985. It was self-produced and put out on Goth innovator, Si Denbigh’s (March Violets) record label, Batfish Incorporated. No footage exists of The Dead Vaynes but “Midnight Gun” off G.T.F. shows that the band were a serious, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll band, with songs that lived up to their idol’s recordings.
It’s Christmas Time For The Wide Eyed Faces
Stevie – “I’m hanging out on a government vacation and I’m having a ball every day”. Mick had given his job up and we were deadly serious about making it as a band. At the same time we were living on the dole and loving it. Everyone around us wanted to be involved with music and being on the dole gave us the time to try and do that. The whole song is a reflection of the crew we hung with at that time. Everyone was around at ours at some point. It was a really creative time in Leeds with loads of bands starting up – The Sisters Of Mercy, Salvation etc. It really was Christmas every day and you never knew who would turn up at your door next, to join the craziness.
A number of line-up changes including a brief stint by Sisters / Mission bassist Craig Adams eventually morphed into The Vaynes’ string of singles and “Vayneglorious” line-up of Stevie Vayne (Vocals), Mick Vayne (Lead Guitar), Gerry Famous (Rythm Guitar), Jessica Fischer (Bass) and Nev Nevison (Drums).
Early Vaynes single, Baby Cruel, clearly shows their intentions to continue as a dirty punk rock n roll band …
After blagging their way onto Johnny Thunders’ Leeds Warehouse show, the band befriended Johnny and he actually made Leeds his home for a period of time. Johnny’s time in Leeds is immortalised in The Cyanide Pills’ track “When Johnny Thunders Lived In Leeds”, with the classic line of “”Here they come, Johnny Thunders and The Dead Vaynes” …
Here’s a really cool pic of Mick Vayne & Johnny
The band toured relentlessly, supporting Johnny Thunders in the UK and Europe, then later supporting other high profile bands such as The Mission and Gun Club.
Stevie – I wanted to be the ultimate punk rock n roll junkie. I think I achieved that for a while. I think I outdid all of them.
I paid the price for it. But not the price some other people have paid. I came out the other side. When Johnny died, there came a point where I just thought if I carry on like this, I’m gonna be dead and I don’t want to die. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to die, it was that I wasn’t ready to die. I thought that I wasn’t famous enough to die yet. Therefore I had to stop this and I just fucking stopped like that. No more bands, no drugs, no booze, no cigarettes – I just stopped. I honestly thought if I’m not famous now, I’ll never be famous and I need to do something else.
As the band progressed, the sound got slicker but they retained all the elements of their rock ‘n’ roll roots, with the likes of “Big Cities”
“Big Cities” was to pave the way for The Vaynes only album, Vayneglorious, which whilst holding even more commercial gems like “Alive and Kicking” …
… it also retained a lot of their sleazier side with tracks like “Lick The Dirt” and they were certainly a monster live band.
Stevie – I’m not a big fan of the recording process, everything takes so much time to do. I loved the Dead Vaynes album session because it was almost live, apart from then pushing Mick to do loads of solos on top of loads of solos. The same with the Baby Cruel EP – live and then pushing Mick to play play play. When we did Vayneglorious it was like real studio work, not my favourite style to record but for quality “recording” sounds, it’s the proper way. I really enjoyed recording Fun Parade because the interview/conversation came out of nowhere. A girl came into the studio and I loved how she spoke. I just had a spontaneous idea to write and record an interview and put it into the instrumental track. I also loved doing the acoustic things with Mick, particularly “Speaking in Code” and “Broken Heart” where he’s guitar picking across from my strumming.
Mick – Making Vayneglorious with Julian Standen at the Slaughterhouse in 1988 was something special. I got on with Jules really well – Gerard and Nev got very frustrated with him. It was hard work but our aim was to make a professional album that would get airplay. I’m proud of my song Alive and Kicking which I’d had since my Shake Appeal days and it actually earned me royalty money for a change.
Jess – I always felt a lot of pressure recording. I never had much conﬁdence in my playing. I don’t like just hearing myself or being louder than the others. My favourite recording times were in London, for the Big Cities single and in Driﬃeld doing Vayneglorious. Driffield was real fun as we were all staying together. I had personal things on my mind though and had to go back to Leeds at one point, so I missed out on the whole team experience. I have a fond memory of the bit on Crocodile Smile, where we sampled some claps (the ﬁrst time we ever heard of sampling) and everyone was slapping, clapping or hitting something that Julian then recorded and inserted onto the track.
The band’s favourite Vaynes songs ?
Mick – I love them all. Stevie’s lyrics on GTF are incredible but my favourite song has to be Baby Cruel. It sums up what I am as a guitar player. It’s a great riff but it has 3 or 4 interweaving parts that all lock into each other. It’s also a summation of my idea of rock n roll music – The Stooges and the Dolls had a fight in my head and I spewed up the pieces. Stevie did me proud with his lyrics.
Jess – To play – Cinderella. To listen to – all of Vayneglorious, as it’s part of my journey.
On Playing Live
Stevie – Every time is a special time when we play. When we were touring properly, the songs would take a natural elevation. We have been chaotic and shambolic to intoxicated and intoxicating.
Mick – Playing on Johnny Thunders’ European tour in 1988 was incredible, you know – just playing with a hero. We got treated with respect by promoters – the same top class hotels as Thunders’ band. We became great friends and we still are to this day, with Johnny’s band. The Mission Highlands and Islands tour in ’89 was again a fun tour with great friends. The UK tour with Gun Club was cool – Jeffrey Lee Pierce is probably the greatest, unrecognised, awesome talent in the world – a genius. Ha Ha !! Too many great times – Dead Vaynes Dutch tour in 1985 with Craig Adams – that was my first pro tour- totally crazy. I’ll never forget my debut gig at the Royal Park all dayer- mad and bad !! I realised I’d joined something deep in the whole Leeds scene.
Jess – Even though it was a hard tour to be on, the Johnny Thunders tour was great with the highlight playing in front of 2000 people in Barcelona. I also enjoyed the Highlands and Islands tour with The Mission. In fact, I probably just like playing live !!
All Vayned Out
The band split not long after the release of “Vayneglorious”.
Mick – We toured with Johnny Thunders in ’88 and the album, Vayneglorious should have been coming out on Red Rhino. During the tour they had tax problems and went bust. It took us nearly a year to get out of the Red Rhino contract and find someone else to put it out. By this time we’d been playing it and promoting it for a year.
Towards the end of the band, there was a lot of tension, frustration and erratic behaviour. Stevie had made a habit of stripping off during shows, his inner Iggy Pop and other attributes revealing themselves. Rumour has it that the rest of the band had enough of the tackle displays.
Mick – We broke the rule that we wouldn’t play gigs at Christmas. In those days you got a double giro at Christmas, so we all had money in our pockets at that time, which obviously meant more booze. The Mission had lent us their van. We’re all in the van with the gear and no sign of Stevie. No mobile phones or anything. It was tense backstage because we were set up but still couldn’t find him. He eventually turns up, so off his face that we were literally pouring black coffee down his throat to get him up on the stage.
Stevie – I do remember stripping everything off, yes. We actually played great that night. We always did, no matter what state I was in.
Mick – Yeah, we always played great, however fucked up Stevie was. We did a song that night called “For You” – we can’t even remember who wrote it.
Stevie – I was so fucked up. My head was everywhere. I had paranoid psychosis. If I looked at a packet of crisps that said “Salt & Vinegar”, to me it would say “You are a fucking prick”. Also, I thought I was underappreciated. That was nonsense though – there was no basis to that feeling, it was all in my fucked up head from the drugs. I stormed off with final words of “fuck you all” and that was the end of the band.
Jess – I couldn’t quite remember the build up during the day of the gig at the Astoria, but we had been at the ‘if Stevie does a certain thing because he’s drunk, then I’m oﬀ’ stage before. The last time was at a gig at The Duchess, when Stevie made us play Gloria for the 3rd time. I couldn’t believe that he wanted to play that song again – twice was more than enough, so I just downed tools and walked oﬀ. I remember Stevie running after me through the crowd threatening to kill me with Mick running after Stevie, trying to calm him down. We still had gigs and tours coming up plus an album to record, so we ironed our diﬀerences out afterwards. Anyway, back at the Astoria, and Stevie had a bee in his bonnet about Salvation being the headliner, even though we were so much ‘better and more deserving’. We were all trying to placate him, knowing full well that it could escalate out of control and at the same time not wanting to piss oﬀ Salvation, who let us support. Stevie was gradually taking items of clothing oﬀ and just before the encore back in the dressing room he arranged his remaining clothes for what looked like a complete strip. Gerard said to me that if Stevie took all of his clothes oﬀ, he’d be oﬀ and I said that I would be too. So, he did and we did and it felt irrevocably like the end, as we had insulted Stevie by bursting his bubble once too many times. I may have expected us all to make up again, but I didn’t cry any tears when that didn’t happen – I’m very pragmatic.
The White Isle
Fast forward 25 years and I’ve tracked down Stevie in Ibiza. True gent that he is, he invited me over to his place and I had the pleasure of him playing an acoustic set for me over a couple of beers. Here’s Stevie’s homage to his all time favorite artist, Elvis Presley, from that session.
Stevie talked about his desire to play again. Maybe a short acoustic set somewhere, similar to the set he played me – pretty eclectic to say the least – the likes of Hank Williams, Bowie & Snow Patrol, included alongside Vaynes numbers. Reuniting The Vaynes couldn’t have been further from his mind.
Stevie – When we met in Ibiza, I was adamant that the band would never play together again. For a couple of reasons. The first was I didn’t know if anyone in the band would even talk to me again. I felt I’d let everybody down when we split. Secondly, I didn’t think I could ever stand in front of a microphone and sing on stage again. I just thought it was impossible. Tom (Needham – promoter) announced he was having The Dead Boys on. The Vaynes, for me, started from The Dead Boys and The Heartbreakers when I was probably 14 – they were my biggest influence. I said to Tom – we should play that gig, not like asking but stating that we really SHOULD play that gig, much like I had when I blagged the Johnny Thunders support at The Warehouse all those years ago – we HAD TO play that gig too. I hadn’t spoken to Mick at this point for what must have been 20 years. I’d spoken to Gerry a couple of times and maybe a couple of Jessica’s mates but that was it. I just called Mick and said “what do you think ?”. To my absolute surprise he said he would love to do it. At that point I thought, wow, I’m forgiven, let’s do it – Jess and Gerry got on board straight away. Without Martin (Aylward) – drums, it wouldn’t have happened. He plays with Gerry in The Expelaires.
Mick – I saw The Expelaires playing at a party and I thought the drummer was really good. Then I had a double take and thought, I know that guy. I got in touch after the party and just asked him if he’d like to do it.
Stevie – Martin was actually key to getting us all organised and having a plan to make it fucking hot again, not just chucked together.
Fast forward another 12 months and The Vaynes are resurrected, gracing the stage again for the first time in 25 years to a packed crowd at Leeds’ Brudenell.
I was on holiday and couldn’t make it. Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. So, here we are another 9 months down the line and the resurrected Vaynes are back at The Brudenell again. This time I CAN make it and wouldn’t miss it for the world. I ask the band how they felt getting their reformed debut gig together last summer, supporting The Dead Boys, who eventually pulled out through injury and left the band headlining.
Stevie – By that time we knew people wanted it, so we were bang up for it. It felt like we had never been away from each other, very easy fitting for all of us, a lot of love and respect from all to all made it a dream. The last gig was fantastic – on the stage the band just clicked mystically, the four of them were incredible. Mick’s playing at the last show was amazing even by his standards, which are right up there to begin with. They all nailed it.
Mick – I was pissed off at the time, when The Dead Boys pulled out but I wasn’t afraid of headlining at all. I knew we would draw a crowd. When we got moved to the smaller room I was disappointed but it was best in the end ‘cos we filled it and we had a great time. There was so much goodwill we almost couldn’t fail.
Jess – I was very nervous about playing at all. I am probably the only one who hadn’t kept up playing over the years. It turned out to be a lot easier than I had anticipated (muscle memory is a fantastic thing!). By the time the date of the gig rolled around, I was more or less ready for it. Plus the fact that there is a lot less pressure being in a band when you’re older. Martin, Mick and Gerard made it all really easy for me and we were having a great time rehearsing. I was a bit apprehensive about playing with Stevie again, not because of the history but because of the way the rest of us had bonded over the last 6 months. So, when we were asked to do a headline gig, it felt like a great opportunity to show oﬀ what we had achieved in that time plus we were able to play all the songs we had rehearsed. I was so nervous before the gig but started really enjoying it about 3 songs in.
Martin – As a fan of the band first time round I knew there were people who wanted this to happen, so when The Dead Boys pulled out I knew we could step up and give a great show. Having Klammer & Kingcrows support made it a top night out!
The New Vayne
Martin – Back in the day, I’d heard tracks by the band played at The Phono (alternative club in Leeds) and every time they played in Leeds I’d go to see them. They were always looking dangerous and cool as fuck ! Mick came to an Expelaires show & said “I’ve got two bits of good news for you. 1 – The Vaynes are going to reform … me “great”…. and 2 – you’re our new drummer. Me – “what you want me to audition?” …. No, the gig’s yours if you want it … Me – Hell yes !! You can imagine I was gobsmacked to be asked , and at the first rehearsal, I looked at the others & thought, shit these guys are THE VAYNES, I’d better not screw up. At the first show, even from the 1st song, we were on fire, so I knew the shows would be fantastic. The respect & great feedback from fans & friends was wonderful too!
Rock ‘n Roll Train, here it comes again
I ask the band if they think The Vaynes had actually run it’s course last time around. There is a resounding no from all quarters.
Stevie – we were like 25% of what we could have been. The next batch of songs we were writing and indeed playing were so much better – the chord changes, the key changes, the space for Mick to play. The writing was getting better, the playing was getting better.
Gerry – the other stuff that was going down then was the start of all the acid house stuff. We split in ‘89. The next 4 or 5 years was all that rave scene and I’m not really sure that we would have fit in anyway. Guitars didn’t really come back until Oasis took off.
Stevie – But I think we were developing a lot as a band, away from that rock n roll thing and we could have really done something with the next album.
I ask the band what’s next ? This is their second gig in. Will there be more ?
Stevie – I would love to record some of the songs that we never did before. Maybe that will happen.
Mick – We’ve been offered Rebellion Festival in Blackpool and a few gigs around that.
Stevie – What was amazing was that when I came back to Leeds and we had the first rehearsal, it was like none of us had been away from each other. Being in that room was really comfortable and I thought, wow, my real friends are here in front of me. All of the band felt that. And there was a respect there.
Mick – We always knew we were good partners and we are a great band. It would be great to do some more stuff.
Stevie – We’ve no illusions that we’re gonna be this or gonna be that. After soundcheck tonight Cheetah Chrome from The Dead Boys came out and said “you guys are fucking awesome, you’re the real deal.” Just to get that respect from Cheetah tonight was something special, that’s enough today. It doesn’t matter after that. Let me be really clear. If someone came along and said here’s a 20 date tour, I would have no hesitation in doing it, and I know I would be at the happiest in my life. Just to be around Mick, Jess and Gerry again. Martin too – he’s a new guy to the band but he’s a great guy. If Walter Lure and his LAMF tribute show came to the UK, that would be a perfect fit. Who else could do that support slot ?!!
Jess – Ha Ha !! If I could dream up a support slot it would be going back in time to do a gig with all the bands that were around at the time, even though it’d be a strange line up – The Mission, Salvation, Rose of Avalanche et al.
Mick – I tell you what, the band sound really, really good now. We did an incredible version of Shivers in rehearsal. That would be an amazing Vaynes record
Stevie – For me, the “Shivers” lyrics mean a lot. A lot of people won’t realise it but I am a really emotional guy. Its very difficult to be me (laughs).
Mick – It’s amazing the love for the band that people have carried with them for 30 years. Steve Spalding turned up for the last gig from Somerset, Raz came from The Isle Of Man, people came from Holland.
The Vaynes are waiting on the platform once again. The rock ‘n’ roll train is heading into the station. Let’s wait and see where it takes them this time around.