By Andy

BEN – Firstly, if you could introduce yourself and give us some background about how you ended up doing what you do…
MIKE – I’m Mike Davies, I do the Lock Up on Radio, and the show’s been on the air for about a year and a half now. I started off as the Runner at Radio 1, then went to a punk rock festival called Deconstruction with Steve Lamacq in 2001. We talked about Oi all day long because I grew up on it for some weird reason in LA. Driving down the street, going to the beach while singing about the fucking Tories didn’t make much sense at the time! We got talking and hung out all day long. His production team who were meant to be doing the interviews ended up getting pissed at the 12 in the afternoon and he basically didn’t have any interviews sorted so I asked him who he wanted to interview. He said Mad Caddies, NOFX, so I was like “Chuck [Caddies vocalist], come over here!” I’d been part of the scene for a long time living in Santa Barbara, going on tour with bands, that kinda stuff. I came into work on the Monday, got called in by the boss who told me I’d got a job on the Evening Session! Then from there…I dunno, it was probably because I was always battering Steve to play more punk rock…my boss noticed that too and decided that there was a new form of music called punk rock that people liked. They told me to do a pilot, and I think what they were expecting was loads of Sum 41, and Eminem, and Blink, and I gave them my pilot and it was nothing like that at all.
BEN – Living in LA but being affected by British punk bands, how much of a culture shock was it coming over here and seeing the origins of it all?
MIKE – My parents are both British – my dad’s from Swansea and my mum’s from Devon – so all my relatives lived over here and I used to visit all the time. Like seeing Brixton for the first time, from the Clash track ‘Guns Of Brixton’, that meant a lot to me. It was very cool to begin with, seeing what people were singing about. We didn’t have the same thing in LA by any means, but the music still made sense…it’s an amazing thing, that’s what music became to me, a total release. It just takes me somewhere else.

BEN – As you said, the LA scene was very different to the British one, what was the first time you went to a show and thought “This is what I want to be involved with”?
MIKE – I think the first time was with my brother, it was Suicidal Tendencies. I was just like “Holy shit, what is that?!” I was probably about 9 or 10 so it wasn’t like I’d been going to see pop bands all my life and then I discovered punk music, I started on punk music and just stayed with it. It’s just different over there, pretty much every house is detached so you get a lot of bands playing in their back gardens – you get a lot of shit bands, but there’s always something going on. At the same time, LA had a really violent scene and you’d go to clubs and see whoever…you know Suicidal Tendencies had a gang element to them?
BEN – I’ve heard basic stuff about them, not much real information though…
MIKE – Yeah, a total gang mentality. You go to Hollywood and you’d have to look out for the Suicidals, or the Skins, it wasn’t a good night unless you came home with your shirt ripped, bloody nose, black eye and missing a shoe…I came over here and found it really mellow, the scene was a lot more about unity and having a good time. People don’t go to a gig to kick someone’s head in; while that was a risk you had to take.
BEN – I think it varies, because there is a different hardcore element that goes into pits and starts pulling all these stupid kung fu moves…
MIKE – I’m not going to lie, because I’ve never seen it at all in London. I mean, I’m not in the pit every night like I used to be, but at the same time I’m not going to worry about it, whereas in LA I did worry.
BEN – I mean, I’m a 19 year old living in London who obviously knows fuck all about it, but listening to people like Fat Mike describe the LA scene it does seem a world apart with the sheer violence…do you think that it’s positive for the scene?
MIKE – What it did was make everybody move out of LA and stop going to gigs in LA. That’s why everyone’s got that chin-stroking, poser vibe, and no bands like going to LA. They’ve branched out, gone north to Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and started up some really healthy scenes. Like Fat Mike went to San Francisco and he does not go back to LA, he doesn’t like it there. There still is the element of boneheads and knuckle-draggers.

BEN – What do you think of elitism over here?
MIKE – To be honest, it’s a weird situation because I go to gigs as a fan of the band…
BEN – It’s not a job or a social thing…
MIKE – Yeah, I don’t go to the pub and discuss who’s punk rock, I can’t be arsed with that. I did that when I was 15. I’m just about enjoying the music now.
BEN – Do you think there’s a lot of growing up to be done, because of bands like LTJ, Blink or whoever…is it a good or bad thing?
MIKE – I think that anything that encourages kids to get into guitar music is a good thing, and it’s a hell of a lot better than getting into boy bands. There was a time when The Strokes, Slipknot and Staind were at the top of the charts in the US. You might say “shit bands” but they were opening doors…kids will get into Blink, they’ll turn 13 or whatever and open their eyes and read some magazines and see some bands and listen to the radio and realise that it’s not just candy-coated music.
BEN – What role do you think the role of the internet is, seeing as it makes the dissemination of information a lot easier?
MIKE – It’s good as long as you are level headed and can take it in and form your own opinions and not be a sheep. You should open yourself up to as much as you can. If you come talk to me and you’ve got nothing to say except what you’ve read somewhere and you’ve got nothing to back it up then quite frankly I don’t have the time to talk to you. But if you’ve said “I understand what he’s saying, I understand what you’re saying…”, there’s nothing wrong with reading bullshit if you can decipher that it is bullshit.
BEN – Do you think that kids who are getting into punk rock younger are just swallowing they see? They’ll take instant gratification bands with the most rudimentary of messages, and that’s it…
MIKE – They’re swallowing everything that’s being fed to them by NME and Kerrang…life’s too short to worry about those people. Let them get on with it, they’ll never be part of the scene, then they’ll get bored with it and move onto something else. I can’t be arsed with wasting my time on them.
BEN – It reminds me of the NOFX lyric…”If you’re not part of the cure, you’re part of the disease” [from The Plan]…
MIKE – Exactly! There’s enough good people involved in the scene.
BEN – I think you get extremes…because there are the people who stay up all night and write their fanzines, who lose money printing them and stuff…
MIKE – Bands are paying to play now…people on the scene have it rough, bands have it rough. If you dedicate your life to it, the chances are you won’t succeed. Even when you are established the scene will turn on you. One of my favourite bands while growing up, and great bunch of guys, Snuff…Duncan’s got three kids and lives in a one bedroom apartment, Lee’s got a wife and kids…it’s very difficult. They honestly love Snuff but there’s got to be a point where you have to take care of yourself.
BEN – Bands like Capdown are getting a lot of flak for saying that, people who have nothing to do with the band are labelling them sellouts even though they’ve been touring their arses off for like 5 years…
MIKE – They haven’t done anything yet, they haven’t signed or anything…you have AFI, Alkaline Trio, all these bands…if you put your work in like AFI who have toured so hard…what’s wrong with a band trying to get their music out to more people? And spending more time in the studio to get the album they’ve always wanted to make. I used to be into that when I was a kid, like “Fuck NOFX, too many 12 year old kids are into them, I’m not going to wear their T Shirt!”, same with Pennywise…I’m going to listen to whatever. You just wake up one day and just realise it’s fucking stupid to do that.

BEN – I mean, I admire Fat Mike more than pretty much anyone…
MIKE – But you can see why some crazy punks might think he’s a sell out…
BEN – Yeah, like he’s got a nice car, he must have sold out!
MIKE – They guy golfs and has a Land Rover! It’s not 1977 any more, and what is punk rock? Hopefully, there will be some good angry punk rock coming out of Bush now, after the “Fuck the Tories”…like US Bombs – that guy is punk! If there’s one guy who’s punk it’s Duane Peters from US Bombs, if you want to be a punk then you have to live up to what he’s done.
BEN – Do you consider yourself punk?
MIKE – I’ve never considered myself punk. I listen to punk rock music, I listen to hip hop, reggae, drum and bass…I just spend more time with punk rock…I wear the T shirt!
BEN – I’ve got some questions that people have sent in…why has the balance of the show slipped away from hip hop towards punk rock?
MIKE – The original idea was to make people more aware that there is more than punk rock…I’ve slipped out of playing that…I get people saying “Why don’t you play hip hop?” but at the same time people ask me why I DO play it – I have no time for those people, I don’t want you to listen to my show. Like last night some guy emailed in asking for Nirvana but said what I played instead was pants – I played The Slackers! I saw red, and this debate started up about Nirvana, and I said I’d be quite happy to play Nirvana but just don’t call The Slackers pants because you don’t like them. The reason I haven’t played much hip hop is because I’m not going to play American bling bling, and I’m still waiting…in the last six months there’s been nothing really awesome.
BEN – SO if something landed in your lap tomorrow…
MIKE – Yeah, it’s all peaks and valleys dude. When there’s good music from whatever genre I’ll play it. Right now I’m going to play Jay-Z, or fucking…
BEN – …Nelly…
MIKE – Damn right.
BEN – How do you choose the playlist?
MIKE – I sit down and see what’s new, what’s been requested, what bands are touring, what bands I haven’t played in a while, just making sense of it all. It’s not just thrown together, believe me. It’s very difficult getting the 28 tracks in a show.

Thanks to Anita, Mike and Anna for the interview.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]