An NEW Interview with UK gloom punk band The Mob!
by Oliver Sheppard
For fans of dark punk music, The Mob need no introduction. During their initial run from 1977 to 1984 they released a string of influential EPs, worked with Crass, and left a legacy of heartfelt, if apocalyptic, punk rock, most notably in the 1983 LP Let the Tribe Increase. The Mob used the medium of punk to paint an amazingly morose, yet darkly beautiful, picture of a world living in the shadow of nuclear Armageddon — a mournful lament for the tragedy of mankind’s impending collective self-immolation. The Mob provided a soundtrack for lost souls wandering the gloomy landscape of humanity’s new dark age.
The band have been called peace punk, postpunk, anarchopunk, and deathrock — but whatever you choose to call them, their influence and profile has grown over the years. The band have recently reunited and will be playing a string of US dates this year, starting May 31 at Chaos in Tejas in Austin, TX.
I recently conducted this interview with Mark Wilson, aka Mark Mob, the main vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist of the three-piece band. I wanted to ask him about The Mob’s past and why the band chose to get back together. The band has been an inspiration to me, and I originally did this interview for NO DOVES FLY HERE, the free twice-per-month deathrock and dark postpunk event night we hold in Austin that is named after The Mob song and EP. A special thank you to Mark for his time. I’m proud to present this to CVLT Nation. And now — LET THE TRIBE INCREASE!
OLIVER: You all have the reputation of being a gloomy and apocalyptic band, even mopey. Do you feel this reputation is earned, and is this a mindset of band members outside of the songwriting process?
MARK MOB: I think our overriding message is one of hope even in the darkest of times, which we all suffer from at times. An amazing amount of people have told me over the years how our music has helped them through really difficult times.
OLIVER: When did the Mob start? Who was in it then, and who is in the band now?
MARK MOB: We started at school in 1977. Me, Graham (Fallows, dums), and Curtis (You’e, bass). When we moved to London a few years later we had Josef Porter on drums for a few years, and now we’ve reformed. It is the original line-up .
OLIVER: I have always felt like you all had an unfair reputation as “a Crass Records band.” Not that there is anything wrong with that, per se — it’s just that to many people that signifies a certain sound (thrashy and/or atonal), which I do not think you all necessarily have. That is, you all are a mid- to slower tempo, almost a gothy and postpunk-sounding band (to me). Have you ever felt the Crass Records affiliation has limited your appeal in any way, or unfairly stigmatized you all?
MARK MOB: I’m glad you picked up on that, because we were never “a Crass band.” We did one single on Crass and that was after we had released 2 singles on our own label, “All the Madmen.”
Don’t get me wrong, we liked the people and we lived with members of Crass at times — but we always felt we didn’t belong in that somewhat monochrome and, as you say, “atonal” world. As many have said before, there is not much point to being an Anarchist if you have to all look/dress/sound/act/believe the same things. On the other hand, the exposure on Crass probably helped a lot of people get to hear us
OLIVER: Why choose the name “The Mob”? (Confusingly, there was a New York hardcore band in the 80s with that same name). Who chose it and why?
MARK MOB: It seemed to describe the group of us that were living and working together at the time. It’s a lousy name, but it’s ours. And the NYC band of the same name came along after us.
OLIVER: What were your primary influences? Folks listening to you might think Killing Joke, some of the early Factory Records bands like Joy Division, or UK Decay, etc. Is that accurate?
MARK MOB: It’s funny you should say that, but I keep noticing Killing Joke elements in our music, and Joy Division have never been far from the turntable. We were big Clash and Damned fans back in the day — and all early punk music, really. We were lucky: We left school in 1977 just as punk took off. It was a great time .
OLIVER: In the 25 or so years that The Mob were NOT together, what were you all doing? Were you all in various bands, just working jobs, etc.? What was going on?
MARK MOB: We’ve just been working, raising kids, and all that. Curtis played on for a few years with Blyth Power and Graham has been playing music all his life. I hardly touched a guitar in 20 years. I would see Curtis once every few years or so, and we hadn’t seen Graham since about 1979. I run and live in what you people call a “junkyard” in the woods. Curtis is a chef, and Graham does fire and flood remediation (I think).
OLIVER: Do you feel your ideals have changed since being in The Mob? What were The Mob’s ideals, anyway, and what are your ideals now?
MARK MOB: I can only speak for myself here, but mine haven’t changed much. A bit less naïve, but not much. I still like to think we can change the world, that it needs changing, and that it needs radical ideas in order to achieve any of that. Anyone who listens to our music probably feels our ideals better than I can express them in words. It’s Love and Hope and Despair and the need to help each other through it all. I know we get a bit of flack for being “hippies,” but I couldn’t give a fuck. We are ourselves and I don’t need a label, thanks. That was what being a punk was all about. .
OLIVER: What prompted The Mob to get back together, and play out again?
MARK MOB: My partner Leah was planning a surprise party for my birthday and she was getting all these bands to play and do the odd Mob cover. Anyway, I found out and thought, “Fuck that, I want to do it myself.” So me and Curtis got together and played a few songs and thought, “Yeah, we can do this.” We spent about 2 minutes thinking what to do about a drummer and both said, ”Graham.” About a day later Graham knocked on my mum and dad’s door completely out of the blue, and that was that. We did my birthday and sold it out in days. We couldn’t believe it. And the atmosphere was immense. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It’s been a very emotional ride ever since.
OLIVER: Are there any new songs in the works?
MARK MOB: Were trying. It’s hard ‘cos I stopped writing and I thought I didn’t have anything else to say. And it’s really important to me that the words mean something, that it’s good. And I can’t just write a load of shit about governments or nuclear power. It has to come from the heart. I’m hopeful we will manage something soon, and I hope it’s good enough .
OLIVER: Do you all have any memories of playing with the likes of Poison Girls, Rudimentary Peni, Part 1, etc.? What are your best memories of playing with those bands?
MARK MOB: I used to sit at the side of the stage when the Poison Girls were playing and gaze in awe. I loved to hear Francis (Vi Subversa, Poison Girls singer) and she wrote some brilliant lyrics. I still can’t listen to “Cry No More” without crying some more. But for the most part, back then we would miss most of the bands ‘cos we were busy getting wasted or waylaid.
OLIVER: Last question: Where are you all playing in the US this year? And where can folks buy your records, CDs, mp3s, etc.?
MARK MOB: As well as Austin (May 31 in Austin at Chaos in Tejas at the Mohawk), we are planning to play New York and Boston this time and then hopefully come back later in the year and do some on the West Coast. It’s quite a difficult thing to organise with work and family but we would love to do more. Right now we’re taking it one step at a time. I’m pretty sure you can get most of our stuff on itunes. We’ve got CDs and tshirts, etc., here at ours. We are just setting up http://letthetribeincrease.com so we can sell stuff direct. And if anyone checks out http://killyourpetpuppy.co.uk there is plenty of our music to download.
Also, the late Lance Hahn of J-Church was working on a book called Let The Tribe Increase, which included a 10,000 word section on The Mob, which you can read here: http://greengalloway.blogspot.com/2007/10/lance-hahn-on-mob.html
A lot of Mob audio in mp3 format can be found at the Kill Your Pet Puppy zine/collective website.