We look to the fu­ture of Bri­tish punk as we wel­come Jamie camp­bell Bower and coun­ter­feit to the ker­rang! cover for the very first time


Kerrang! (UK) - - Contents - PHO­TOS: ANDY FORD

The year be­fore the re­lease of Never Mind The Bol­locks, Here’s The Sex Pis­tols – the al­bum which, for a time at least, made ev­ery­thing that had come be­fore it seem ir­rel­e­vant – its au­thors played the most leg­endary con­cert in the his­tory of English punk. Only a few days be­fore the end of a sum­mer so un­re­lent­ingly hot that it im­per­illed the na­tion’s sup­ply of fresh wa­ter, on Au­gust 29, 1976 at Is­ling­ton’s Screen On The Green, front­man Johnny Rot­ten, guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Mat­lock and drum­mer Paul Cook head­lined a bill that also fea­tured fel­low Lon­don­ers The Clash and the Buz­zcocks, from Manch­ester. In the in­ter­ven­ing years, the former band’s rep­u­ta­tion has blos­somed to equal that of the Sex Pis­tols, while the melodic thrust of the lat­ter was of such an in­flu­ence that the group were in­vited by Kurt Cobain to sup­port Nirvana on the Seat­tleites’ Euro­pean tour pro­mot­ing 1993 al­bum In Utero. The con­cert at the Screen On The Green was billed as… “A Mid­night Spe­cial,” an­swers Jamie Camp­bell Bower, the front­man of punk group Coun­ter­feit.the an­noy­ingly hand­some 28-year-old has been asked this ob­scure ques­tion as a means to – how best to put it? – test the cre­den­tials of a man who leads a band that, to the un­trained eye, seem to have ap­peared out of nowhere.the Lon­don quin­tet – the line-up of which is com­pleted by guitarist Tris­tan Mar­mont, bassist Roland Johnson, drum­mer Jimmy Craig and guitarist Sam Bower, Jamie’s younger brother – joined forces barely

two years ago; a pro­fes­sional con­cern that rose from the rem­nants of an indie part-time col­lec­tive known as The Dar­ling Buds, formed pre­sum­ably to se­cure copy­right on the worst band name in the world. Fol­low­ing the re­lease of their de­but EP, the three-track Come Get Some, in the au­tumn of 2015, that De­cem­ber Coun­ter­feit made their live de­but in Lon­don at a sold-out head­line show at the O2 Acad­emy in Is­ling­ton in front of 800 pay­ing cus­tomers. Since then, Coun­ter­feit have is­sued two more EPS, 2016’s Enough and Ad­dic­tion, and have upped their on­stage pro­file with a house-full ap­pear­ance in front of 1,100 peo­ple at Cam­den’s Elec­tric Ball­room last April. this week sees the re­lease of their de­but al­bum, the 4K-rated To­gether We Are Stronger, an oc­ca­sion that is marked here by the group’s first cover fea­ture. that sound you can hear is other fledg­ling groups grind­ing their teeth in an­noy­ance.

“Of course I want this band to be the big­gest band in the world,” says their singer. “of course I want that. I don’t think that hav­ing goals and hav­ing drive is a bad thing. I think that not hav­ing them can be bad be­cause it doesn’t push you. I want to push my­self as far as this thing can pos­si­bly go.”

On the last day of win­ter, Jamie is sit­ting at a wooden ta­ble at The Bull pub on Up­per Street, N1. The Screen On The Green, with its beau­ti­ful art deco frontage and neon lights, is but a well-aimed glob­ule of phlegm away, which seems fit­ting see­ing as Coun­ter­feit obliquely ref­er­ence both the Sex Pis­tols and The Clash on the lyric sheet that ac­com­pa­nies To­gether We Are Stronger. In terms of punk rock her­itage, this part of town is teem­ing with his­toric land­marks. a mile or so north is Hol­loway, the birth­place of Sex Pis­tols front­man and punk’s orig­i­nal en­fant ter­ri­ble, Johnny Rot­ten (ne John Ly­don), whose sear­ing an­nounce­ment that, ‘i am an an­tichrist’ at the begin­ning of his band’s first sin­gle, an­ar­chy In The UK, res­onated with a fury ca­pa­ble of lev­el­ling the city in which he was born.two miles north is Fins­bury Park, once home to The Rain­bow, a venue re­mem­bered with misty eyes for whiteknuckle con­certs by The Clash and by Ly­don’s sec­ond band, the bril­liant Pub­lic Im­age Lim­ited.two miles south stands The 100 Club on Ox­ford Street, where in 1976 the mu­sic jour­nal­ist Nick Kent was left bleed­ing from a wound to the head after an at­tack by the soon-to-be Sex Pis­tol Sid Vi­cious, two years prior to the bassist be­ing charged with the mur­der of his girl­friend, Nancy Spun­gen, at the Chelsea Ho­tel in Man­hat­tan, shortly be­fore he him­self died of a heroin over­dose.

Jamie Camp­bell Bower loves this stuff; not the vi­o­lence it­self, per­haps, but the vi­o­lence im­plicit in punk in its most fun­da­men­tal form. But if Lon­don was once the lo­cus of the most feral and feared sub­cul­ture in the his­tory of rock’n’roll, it ain’t no more. aside from a smat­ter­ing of home­grown de­fend­ers of the faith – Gal­lows, pre­dom­i­nantly, from nearby Wat­ford – the shape of punk to come be­longed to Amer­ica; first to Black Flag, and then to Green Day. If for no more than this rea­son, the rapid emer­gence and in­creas­ing promi­nence of Coun­ter­feit mer­its at­ten­tion.

“I never set out to make a punk band,” says the group’s front­man. “i never set out to be any­thing

other than who I am. But to me, the point of mu­sic is that it has to be an ex­or­cism, and that’s re­flected in the kind of mu­sic we make. I have to be get­ting some­thing off my chest in or­der for me to share it, and to be able to breathe. that’s how I write. I wake up and I feel like shit and I can’t breathe, and then I write and feel bet­ter.” Ev­ery day? “Pretty much. I wake up and I’m gasp­ing for air.”

orn on Novem­ber 22, 1988 at Lon­don’s Ham­mer­smith Hospi­tal, as a child Jamie was trans­planted to ru­ral Hamp­shire after his par­ents swapped the throb of the city for a qui­eter life in the coun­try.as a stu­dent at the in­de­pen­dent Bedales School, his tal­ents as a performer were brought to the at­ten­tion of cast­ing di­rec­tor Susie Fig­gis, which led to act­ing parts in Tim Bur­ton’s Sweeney Todd along­side Johnny Depp and Ti­mothy Spall, not to men­tion ap­pear­ances in Harry Pot­ter And The Deathly Hal­lows: Part 1 and three in­stal­ments of The Twi­light Saga. Jamie’s dou­ble-bar­relled sur­name is at­trib­ut­able to the fact that the ac­tors’ union Eq­uity al­ready had a Jamie Bower on its books. A mod­el­ling gig for Burberry led to a re­la­tion­ship with cur­rent girl­friend Matilda, also a model, with whom he shares a flat near Lon­don’s lovely Bor­ough Mar­ket. Not con­tent with pictures both mov­ing and still, in 2015 Jamie played the part of Joe in the West End pro­duc­tion of Bend It Like Beck­ham at the Phoenix The­atre.

“The dif­fer­ence be­tween per­form­ing in the the­atre and play­ing a gig is that at the the­atre, no-one’s go­ing to stand up and throw a bot­tle at you,” he says.

Tall and tat­tooed, the like­able Lon­doner is suf­fi­ciently good-na­tured as to re­spond to the jibe that he em­bod­ies the acro­nym MAW – Model, Ac­tor, what­ever – with more than a po­lite smile. He speaks with pol­ished vow­els and in sen­tences of near per­fect English, al­beit pep­pered with the kind of salty lan­guage one might ex­pect from a sailor who has just seen his month’s ra­tion of rum fall into the ocean. He un­der­stands that his life ap­pears to rep­re­sent the epit­ome of oth­er­worldly glam­our; per­fec­tion, even.

“I guess from the out­side, in the me­dia spot­light, when you’re do­ing some­thing like movies, it does seem very glam­orous,” he says. “it does seem very…” – a mo­men­tary search for the right word – “en­vi­able. But ac­tu­ally, un­der­neath all the glam­orous stuff there’s still a fuck­ing hu­man be­ing. there’s still a con­fused in­di­vid­ual who’s try­ing to fig­ure out who they are.”

As the singer in a punk band, do you feel like you’re slum­ming it? “No.” Jamie’s re­sponse to the el­e­gant ar­ti­fice of his

“i never set out to make a punk band. i never set out be any­thing to than who other i am” ● JAMIE CAMP­BELL BOWER ●

pro­fes­sional life – a life in which, “he speaks words that are writ­ten by some­one else” – was to shovel as much chaos as pos­si­ble into its pri­vate equiv­a­lent. Once the flood­gates were opened, the wa­ter quickly turned deep and cold; the div­ing board high.

“I wanted to hit the eject but­ton on life,” he says. “i mas­sively wanted out. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was ac­tively think­ing of sui­cide, but the over­rid­ing feel­ing was that life was too fuck­ing much. My tem­po­rary out was obliv­ion in any way, shape or form. any­thing to make me feel dif­fer­ent.”

Jamie de­clines to con­firm whether or not drugs found their way into his life – “I’m not sure I want to say whether they did or they didn’t,” he says, adding that one can “in­fer any­thing you

like” from this – but lines such as, ‘i’m strung out and I’m sen­ti­men­tal/on Black­fri­ars Bridge hop­ing

that it’s all over’ (from the song Ad­dic­tion on To­gether We Are Stronger) sug­gest their own story. Ei­ther way, the singer did find car­nage cloaked as com­fort in a liq­uid form as dis­pensed by pub­lic houses.

“Put it this way: I don’t drink any more,” he says.

A glance at a pint pot quickly dis­patched and now rest­ing empty by his right hand is neu­tralised by the rev­e­la­tion that this re­fresh­ment was in fact al­co­hol-free lager with a lemon­ade top.as you were.

“I wouldn’t go as far as say­ing I was an al­co­holic, ab­so­lutely not,” he says. “but I know that for me it was get­ting in the way of what I wanted to do and who I am. And it was caus­ing prob­lems with my life… [It was caus­ing prob­lems] with every­one; with peo­ple that I work with, in my per­sonal life in terms of my re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple that I love, girl­friends and so on. I needed it to stop.” And again, but with greater em­pha­sis. “i needed it to stop.” How many nights a week would you be drunk? “That’s a very deep and per­sonal ques­tion,” he says, tem­po­rar­ily and un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally ruf­fled. “How many nights a week would I be drunk? Al­co­hol for me was some­thing that ex­isted on a daily ba­sis, let’s put it like that. [And] it would al­ways lead to me go­ing too far.”

The so­lu­tion, of course, was to stop get­ting pissed, a straight and nar­row road on which Jamie has now been trav­el­ling for two years. Like a mir­ror smash­ing in re­verse, the parts of his life that he be­lieved to be bro­ken for­ever be­gan to knit them­selves back to­gether.the re­la­tion­ship with the woman with whom he shares his life (at least when their re­spec­tive sched­ules al­low; fol­low­ing this in­ter­view our sub­ject heads home to spend an evening with Matilda be­fore she flies to Newyork on a mod­el­ling as­sign­ment the fol­low­ing morn­ing) was re­vived fol­low­ing a year of sepa­ra­tion and pal­pa­ble ev­i­dence that the young, erst­while lush was get­ting his ducks in a row. Gone was the feel­ing that he had to be “on’” all of the time, that ev­ery­thing in life was a per­for­mance staged for the ben­e­fit of an au­di­ence; an un­healthy fur­ther­ance of the fact that the words “ac­tion!” and “cut!” have fea­tured so preva­lently in Jamie’s work­ing life. In its place lay a space to be filled only by the re­al­i­sa­tions of some­one as­pir­ing to be­come a grown-up.

“That was the point that this band was born,” he says. “and ev­ery­thing that’s on this record came out of a time when I was fi­nally find­ing out

who the fuck I was, and how ter­ri­fy­ing it is to ex­ist in this world on the world’s terms rather than your own. also, I was able to look back on cer­tain mo­ments that had hap­pened in my life, and the hurt that those mo­ments caused me, and the hurt that those mo­ments caused [other peo­ple] as well, and re­ally be able to see them and feel them for the first time. Be­fore, I couldn’t re­ally do that.

“But I’ve kept my side of the street clean,” he says. “i sorted my shit out. I knew what I wanted. I knew I had to work at what I wanted.and I knew that it wouldn’t come easy.”

Back to the vi­o­lence of punk. For Jamie Camp­bell Bower, the mo­ment of epiphany ar­rived like an up­per­cut on a sunny af­ter­noon in a pub­lic park in the stock­bro­ker belt of Kent.the oc­ca­sion was the 2008 Ra­dio 1 Big Week­end, staged that year on the week­end of May 10 and 11 at Mote Park in Maid­stone, the line-up of which saw Gal­lows per­form­ing a mid-af­ter­noon sec­ond stage set in which they lurked like bro­ken glass in a bowl of ice cream.

“I’d never seen any­thing like it,” he re­mem­bers, as if it had just hap­pened. “i’d seen bands be­fore, good bands, but noth­ing like this, noth­ing that comes out and it’s like a fuck­ing punch to the face, like a kick to the teeth. It’s fuck­ing in­cred­i­ble to wit­ness. I re­mem­ber see­ing that and think­ing, ‘fuck me!’ It was real punk; it was on the edge.”

Bet your life it was.the clos­est that any band from this coun­try has come to repli­cat­ing the un­sta­ble com­bustible fury of the Sex Pis­tols, and the feel­ing that on­stage any­thing could hap­pen, Gal­lows were a union of such reck­less aban­don that on one oc­ca­sion, at The 100 Club, front­man Frank Carter dived off the stage in or­der to chase an au­di­ence mem­ber up a flight of stairs and out onto Ox­ford Street in re­sponse to the man’s un­wise de­ci­sion to throw a full pint of beer over guitarist Steph Carter. If you’re in the mar­ket for a crash course in the kind of chaos that punk can cre­ate, this is tough to beat.

The as­sault that took place on Jamie’s senses at Mote Park in 2008 has pro­vided an in­for­ma­tive and on­go­ing im­pact on the mu­sic to which he lis­tens as well as the mu­sic he makes. On­stage, the singer can be a hand­ful. Be warned, an au­di­ence mem­ber caught star­ing at a smart phone dur­ing the band’s set will be chal­lenged; a song is li­able to be halted if two peo­ple are seen shout­ing in con­ver­sa­tion rather than watch­ing and lis­ten­ing to the mu­si­cians in front of them. Last month at the Air & Style Fes­ti­val in Inns­bruck, aus­tria, the front­man re­sponded to Coun­ter­feit’s first-on-the-bill stage time in front of a small and dis­in­ter­ested au­di­ence by jump­ing down in to the crowd and singing the rest of the set from this sta­tion, hus­tling and de­mand­ing some­thing more than in­dif­fer­ence from those around him.

“I want to get peo­ple in­volved from the word go and give them the feel­ing of be­ing kicked in the teeth,” he says. “but I tend to black out when I’m on­stage. From the mo­ment I walk out there

“i want to give peo­ple the feel­ing of be­ing

I don’t know what the fuck is go­ing to hap­pen from begin­ning to end… Plus, the mo­ment I walk out on­stage I’m over­come by what I can only de­scribe as se­vere anx­i­ety. Prior to go­ing on­stage I’m ex­cited and I’m keen, and then the sec­ond I go out I’m breath­less and anx­ious.at our gigs, you can come and watch a man fall apart.” You should put that on your posters. “Yeah. ‘come and watch a band try­ing to hold it to­gether’.”

All of which is apt, be­cause this is pre­cisely what Coun­ter­feit are go­ing to need to do.the 10 tracks that com­prise To­gether We Are Stronger were recorded over the course of 26 days last sum­mer. The band be­gan work at 9am in the morn­ing – vir­tu­ally un­heard of for a rock group – leav­ing their homes two hours be­fore­hand. But these songs weren’t recorded over the course of any­thing like 26 con­sec­u­tive days; in­stead, their ap­pear­ances in the stu­dio oc­curred on week­ends and on days when Jamie wasn’t tied to other pro­fes­sional obli­ga­tions, such as the film­ing of up­com­ing tele­vi­sion se­ries Will, about the life of the young Wil­liam Shake­speare in which he plays the part of the play­wright Christo­pher Mar­lowe.

After a rather long pause, bassist Roland Johnson an­swers the ques­tion of whether, in an ideal world, he would pre­fer it if his singer did not have out­side com­mit­ments with the words, “it hasn’t af­fected us.” Guitarist-tris­tan Mar­mont will say that, “it hasn’t af­fected us yet,” with the em­pha­sis be­ing his. “if and when it does, I might have a dif­fer­ent an­swer,” he ad­mits, adding that, “i sup­pose it de­pends on how large this be­comes, be­cause the big­ger it be­comes the more it’s go­ing to im­pinge on his other ca­reer. We’ll just have to see.”

It seems some­how fit­ting that the com­pli­cated sched­ule of a com­pli­cated performer should at­tempt to bend it­self to the con­tours of a work­ing rock’n’roll band, which are in them­selves al­ways com­pli­cated things, of­ten to the point of dys­func­tion.and, any­way, that Coun­ter­feit have pro­pelled them­selves this far in such a short span of time is remarkable, not to men­tion en­cour­ag­ing. It is as if their au­di­ence are at­tracted not just by the prom­ise of their mu­sic, but also by a force of en­ergy in the hands of a front­man pos­sessed not only of gen­uine star qual­ity, but also a lik­ing for chaos.

If rock’n’roll fails to thrill, its prac­ti­tion­ers are worth­less; when it comes to punk, this is dou­bly true. On top of all else, Jamie Camp­bell Bower is here to re­mind you of this.


Stages? Def­i­nitely not punk rock

Lon­don call­ing – make sure you bring your wellies: (From left) Jimmy Craig, Sam Bower, Jamie Camp­bell Bower,tris­tan Mar­mont and Roland Johnson

“Do what you want, lads, but when that rider’s gone, it’s all you’re get­ting”

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