What is your name and role within The Membranes?
My name is John Robb, I a deal out the dark bass lines and sing.
Where are you currently based?
Currently based in Manchester although most of this year I have been on the road touring with the band or doing other stuff all over the world either music, in conversation or think tank science stuff.
The band recently toured Europe with Sisters of Mercy, what were the highlights of the tour?
It was a great tour the Sisters were contemporaries of ours in the northern post punk scene – the time when the people inspired by punk took the music and the energy on their own terms on a journey of their own. They treated us very well and their audiences really listened and we sold a lot of CDs on the road – more than you would ever expect and the album had to be repressed yet again to keep up with demand.
How do you prepare for each show?
We are an intense band. You have to get into the place. Since I don’t drink or do drags I have to psych up but its not that hard as I’m in that place a lot of the time. I think to do this kind of music or culture you have to do it 24/7. When you get up in the morning you don’t wear casual, you go straight into suit. A good chalk stripe sets the discipline for the day. The stage is just the mind set intensified further. The music then takes you away. It’s a cosmic rush. A dark dub axis shift. A dark energy that fills your every pore.
Recording for the new album is underway, where about’s are you recording?
In Manchester and Yorkshire. The plan is to make a double album with several tracks featuring our choir doing heavy drone stuff. I can hear the album in my head and looking forward to getting it recorded and out there. Thematically it’s loosely about nature but not in an obvious way. About the beauty and violence of nature.
Do you have a preference over analogue or digital and if so why?
Both have their roles. Analogue has a warmth and we hate click tracks. We play live. We mic up carefully to get the full sound. We are also conscious of space and not too much clutter. It’s always very tempting to fill everything in but the space is the place. Our music is not standard. the bass plays the lead lines, the guitars play atmospheres or percussion. We don’t have guitar solos or riffs. The music is meant to create a dark atmosphere that is also exciting.
What can we expect from this up coming record?
A trip into the deepest darkest forest of your soul…
Who or what influences your sound?
Everything from the grey cloud hanging in the air to the wild weather to random snatches of music to great conversation that blows your mind like on the last album with the head of the CERN project that sparked the India of the universe and trying to capture the mind blowing themes around the universe in a musical way.
What equipment does the band use when recording and playing live?
I have a 1972 fender precision bass, a MARSHALL bass head and a rat pedal – I don’t use DI , we have 2 guitars, drums, metal percussion, a melodica, and we also use a choir, strings, ebows and lots of pedals
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Cosmic black metal and South African gwoq dark electronic music as well as Arvo Part, sometimes the old school punk that I grew up on sneaks in as I eternally love that music but keep trying to go forwards if I can!
How has the music industry and scene changed since the band formed back in the early 80’s?
Massively…the internet changed everything – it created an international DIY culture and made arranging stuff easier and quicker. There are more interesting international scenes now and more music everywhere -its a culture avalanche.
How did The Membranes form all the way back then?
Punk rock said ‘go on I dare you…’ and I dared…
Favourite bands at this point in time?
All first wave punk was great Buzzcocks because they took punk to the north, pistols for starting it, the clash for believing and the Banshees for bringing the darkness and the stranglers for being so beautifully awkward
What’s planned for the future?
Get this album made and tour— also finish of writing a book about so called goth culture due for release next summer and also launch my spoken word tour ‘The World According to John Robb’
Favourite food and place to hangout?
I hang out at gigs an art galleries and bars where I can type away writing articles, books, music and manifestos.