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Mary Chain’s Dave Evans: ‘When punk happened I immediately knew that was my tribe.’


Dave Evans started out as a roadie and a sound engineer in the very early days of The Jesus and Mary Chain. He eventually replaced John Moore on rhythm guitar. Quite a remarkable promotion! ‘The Reids were too preoccupied to go through auditions so I told them I could do it.’ He was with the band for about two years. ‘I played 65 gigs with the Reids before I was sacked. And yes, that indeed made me feel very sad.’

Please take us back to the beginning.

I currently live in Portsmouth but was born in Birmingham. My parents moved to Boston, Lincolnshire when I was twelve years old. That’s where I got to know Ken Popple, my future band member of Biff Bang Pow! We were in the same school. I hated school and I didn’t want anything to do with anybody there. I formed a band called Flat Rabbit, because there were so many flat rabbits around, run over by cars. We were terrible.

Dave with a not so flat rabbit

Do you have a musical background?

Not particularly. Back home my parents used to listen to classical music on Radio 3 or Radio 4. I vaguely remember Juke Box Jury on BBC, a panel show about the hit potential of the latest singles. That’s how I knew of the existence of The Beatles. When I got my first transistor radio I secretly listened to Radio 1, Radio Luxemburg and Radio Caroline on AM. The reception was dreadful. In the early seventies all of a sudden punk happened! I immediately knew: ‘Wow, this is my tribe!’ The first album I ever bought was Hunky Dory by David Bowie for £2.15.

Dave with Jim and Douglas

In 1981, at the age of 21, you moved to London. Why?

Because, musically, that’s where everything was happening and I wanted to be a part of that. So I got a job in Croydon as a computer operator which was horrible. I had nothing to do and would often fall asleep while at work. I lived at the YMCA. In London Victoria, 20 mins on the train, was a place called The Venue where I visited a lot of gigs. That was great! One day I went to see The Laughing Apple who were playing in Brixton. My former schoolmate Ken (Popple) was in that band and we kept in touch.

The Laughing Apple – Art work by Bobby Gillespie

How did Alan McGee end up in your story?

Around 1982 Alan started The Communication Club on Gloucester Road in Camden. It was the predecessor of The Living Room. Meanwhile, I had joined a band called Twelve Cubic Feet as a bass player and we got a gig at The Communication Club, along with bands like The Go-Betweens and Television Personalities. After that, we would go over to Alan, drink cider all hours of the night and play records.

Alan McGee on tour – Picture by Dave Evans

After the Communication Club closed down Alan started The Living Room above The Adams Arms. That’s how he got the money to start Creation Records. Creation came about because Alan was a huge music fan and had the irresistible urge to put records out. The Living Room was immensely popular. It was situated in the center of London and there were three bands on the bill each night. Jerry Thackray was a journalist and a musician, nicknamed The Legend, and functioned as a compere on these evenings. The whole period only lasted for about six months before it was shut down by the police.

The Loft at Alan McGee’s ‘The Living Room’ Club – circa 1984

Then you met the Reid brothers …

Indeed. The Living Room was relocated to The Roebuck and that’s where The Mary Chain made their first appearance. The gig was extremely noisy there weren’t a lot of people that night. The Reids were hammered, so there was a lot of falling about and screeching noise going on. Probably, the audience presumed it had all gone wrong so they went down to the bar. I stayed and although I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, it was exiting! Murray, their drummer, was completely sober and wanted to look good up there. Yvonne, Alan’s wife, even helped him with his gear and his appearance before the show. The band stayed with Alan in his flat in Tottenham. I moved around the PA in my van. It consisted of an amplifier with four inputs, accompanied by my rubbish microphones. I would set all of this up at The Living Room because no one else had a clue.

Trailer of Creation Stories, a film by Danny Boyle – Sky Original film

You were involved in Creation in many ways. What are your thoughts about the recent biopic Creation Stories? Does it accurately reflect that period?

No, it’s absolutely awful. It’s all so exaggerated and blown up. And it makes out that everybody else is an idiot, really. Dick (Green) gets the worst wrap of all. The guy that plays Ken the film once called him up and said: ‘I’m playing you in the film!’ He wisely cut off all communication after that.

Oct 1984 -Hamburg-to-Nurnberg – ‘This is what it’s really like being on tour kids.’ Picture by Dave Evans

By all means, do enlighten us about the real Creation days.

Well, at Creation there was speed and there was booze. Mainly booze for that matter. There was no coke, because we couldn’t afford that. And everybody smoking grass was considered to be a hippie. Alan used to say that Rough Trade consisted entirely of brown ice eating hippies. He despised them! Well, we did obviously admire the music they brought out. And their founder, Geoff Travis, would often come to see the gigs in The Living Room. Together with Mike Alway of él Records he established the record company Blanco y Negro Records that would release several Mary Chain albums.

Dave Evans (Biff Bang Pow!) 1st Creation package tour, GermanyHow did you end up in Biff Bang Pow!?

I don’t exactly recall how that happened. Simply because I was there at the time, I guess. I used to go to Alan McGee at his house and we would pick up some instruments and play.

On the record Oblivion, five out of ten songs start with you on bass. The instrument has quite an important part on the album.

Really? I never noticed. But Oblivion does happen to be my favorite Biff Bang Pow! album. Also because I mixed it. We booked the studio for five days and recorded the songs on Monday and Tuesday. Then we had to give the studio to Primal Scream for a day, because they were in a hurry to record a single. So the mixing was done on Thursday and Friday. Everybody turned up around midafternoon but I got there early. So it was mainly me and Noel Thompson, a sound engineer of Alaska Studios, who did the mixing. When the rest of the band arrived they did tweak a little, but most of the work was already done. The Only Colour In This World Is Love is my favorite Oblivion-track. I really love my bass line on that. And I am also the one doing the shouty high backing vocals on that one.

Cover art Biff Bang Pow! Album Oblivion

You are positively glowing when talking about Biff Bang Pow! It must have been a blow when the band stopped.

Yes, it was. But to Alan the band had always been always a side project. He didn’t rate himself very highly and he sometimes failed to see the potential of the band. Also, Creation took up most of his time. Later on, Alan did make some new BBP-albums, but I wasn’t around at the time. Therefore, Phil King took my part.

Dow did you get involved with the Reids?

When The Mary Chain had some success they got a record deal and had money to employ Alan as their manager. I was their live sound engineer and would do whatever else needed doing, like driving them about. I used to, for example, pick them up and take them to Southern Studios when they were recording sychocandy.

When I was with The Mary Chain for over a year, they wanted to change direction and become more professional … or whatever. They sacked me and Alan. So I went to work for other bands, like Shop Assistants and Primal Scream. After a while they asked me back as a roadie for a British, European and American tour to which I agreed.

Jim and John Moore

So how did you become an actual member of the band?

Halfway through the British tour we had a gig at Nottingham Rock City that was reviewed in one of the newspapers. It said that The Mary Chain were history and that their only savior was … John Moore! I need to explain that Moore was a bit different. Where the rest of the band shyly shuffled around on stage, staring at their feet and by all means avoiding to look at the audience, John would stand there proudly, with one foot on the monitor. The Reids would say: ‘No! Don’t put your foot on the monitor! It’s too rock n roll!’ After the review came out they had this massive row and it was like ‘I quit!’ (Moore), “You’re fired’ (The Reids). After that, the brothers didn’t make any effort whatsoever setting up auditions of some kind. Eventually, I said to them: ‘I can do it.’ So by default I got to be one of The Mary Chain! I didn’t get to rehearse or anything, but of course I knew all the songs already.

Fans always want to know about guitar pedals, so please elaborate on those a bit.

Apart from my Rat Overdrive distortion pedal and my Boss Overdrive, I did occasionally use one of the three original Shin-ei Fuzz Wah pedals. But obviously William is the guitar virtuoso who brought fame to these Fuzz Wahs. I was the rhythm guitarist and all I needed to do was to get some sort of distortion. The only instructions they gave me was: ‘Downstrokes. No upstrokes!’ And no feet on the monitors was a given.

Sept 1988 – Richard Thomas – Auckland – Picture by Dave Evans

We didn’t have a drummer back then and used cassette tapes instead. Each song had a different cassette. During the British tour it was my job to timely put in the proper cassette. Around 1988 Richie (Richard Thomas) joined as a drummer. So by that time the band consisted of the Reids, Douglas Hart, Richie and myself.

The Reids with Douglas and Richie | Picture by Andrew Catlin – website www.andrewcatlin.com

I was with The Mary Chain for about two years and played 65 gigs with them of which only four were in Britain. I joined them on tour in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. My two favorite tracks to play were Happy When It Rains and The Living End.

What’s this story about a disintegrating pigs head?

That took place when I was still their sound engineer. We were in New York staying in a hotel on Times Square. There was this girl, Kat, that fancied me. We went back to her hotel and spent half the night up speeding out of our minds like crazy. We didn’t do anything sexually, possibly because of all the speed. The van, with most of the gear, was parked in the street outside.

In the early morning I heard an alarm go off that, in hindsight, was probably coming from our van. When I went down a few hours later everything had been stolen, except for the drums. Luckily, Jim and William had taken some of the guitars into the hotel, so William still had his Gretch. The next gig was in Montreal.

Dec 1987 – Jim Reid

The band was flying but Dick Green, Luke Hayes – the graphic designer for Creation – and myself drove the van all the way to Montreal. After a day we noticed this funny smell and didn’t know what it was. We even lifted up the hood to check the engine. In the end it got so bad that we reached Montreal while driving with all the windows open. I took the drums out and put them on the stage. The ‘kit’ only consisted of a floor tom and snare, because … well … it was Bobby drumming back then, you know. I took the top of the floor tom and there’s this rotting pigs head staring at me! Maybe it was the burglars calling card, I guess we’ll never know.

And you were there too when poor Bart Peeters interviewed Jim.

Yes, I was their sound man back then. I remember Jim insulting Joy Division during the interview. That was taken very seriously by everybody, while he just said it to wind people up. So I guess he succeeded on that part, not knowing it would haunt him for decades to come. And of course next to Jim, on the couch, was Bobby all over Karen Parker, his girlfriend of the time. This whole setting had been plotted out beforehand: ‘What can we do to make it weird?’

July 1985 – Bart Peeters – Belgian TV – Picture by Dave Evans

Jim’s former girlfriend Laurence Verfaillie, my next victim, claims you were always great company to diffuse boredom and touring tensions.

Oh, that’s sweet of Laurence! I was just being me, I guess. I think Laurence appeared on the scene at Les Bains-Douche, Paris. The band played there, and Jim and Laurence started going out together thereafter.

‘Being bored looking eloquently’ – Picture by Dave Evans

About these tensions, there were indeed times it got so bad that I thought the band was finished. Once, in Copenhagen, William smashed absolutely everything in the dressing room. The bottles, the mirrors, the lights, … everything. We all left him to it. I guess he had had too much speed and too much to drink. That particular incident was just him, on his own. But there was a gig in Tokyo, when the brothers had this massive argument. That time I actually thought the show would be cancelled and maybe the band would break up. During my time with the band the brothers never hit each other or anything of the sorts. It was just a lot of yelling. Once, during a gig in Barrowlands, Jim left halfway through the gig and didn’t come back. He was pissed off with William about something. We stood there thinking what to do next. Luckily, William sang the rest of the set. Believe me, you don’t want to piss of the people at Barrowlands.

‘How did we get this lot in yesterday?’ – Picture by Dave Evans

In 1989 you were replaced by Ben Lurie. That must have hurt.

It did. Like hell. In all honesty, I had a hard time reading your interview with Ben. I had to find out that I was fired myself. That gig in Tallinn, where I took Laurence and Jims picture, turned out be my penultimate gig with The Mary Chain. After the Bizarre Festival in Loreley, Germany, in the late summer of 1989, it suddenly fell silent although there was a new tour lined up. I called Jim to ask what was happening and he told me they had hired someone else. He found it really hard to tell me … so he hadn’t. Neither did the management.

Dave and Bobby, New York 1985 – Picture by Dave Evans

I loved being in The Mary Chain and it took me nearly a year to get over it. They should have manned up back then and told me themselves. But the hard feelings have almost worn off now. I have even met the Reids on one or two occasions since.

What happened to you after this deception?

I worked as a guitar tech for the Cocteau Twins and that was pretty fantastic. I took care of Simon Raymonde, Ben Blakeman and Liz. She was way more nervous about playing gigs than Jim and William ever were! She was absolutely petrified, every night.

Any learnings from your time with the Reids?

What I learned from my time with The Mary Chain is the capability to learn along the way and to improvise. When the band had their first hit, we had to go on a proper tour with a proper PA System. As their FOH-engineer I looked at that impressive sound desk and didn’t have a clue what to do. But I knew their sound and eventually it all turned out just fine. And fixing vans was also something very useful that I learned!

‘Transport was always a bit iffy on tour’ Dave fixing the van.

Are you still in music?

I am currently trying to get back in! In 1997 I left the music industry because my girlfriend – now ex-wife – absolutely hated me being away. Also, some bands weren’t really appreciative towards their crew. And being in a van for hours on end, often stuck in traffic for ages, didn’t really appeal to me anymore either. So I decided to get a proper job and became a web developer. After twelve years of that I started working for a company in the South of England, but was made redundant about eighteen months ago. I’ve been doing some tour management for Lawrence from Felt, his new band Mozart Estate. But I could definitely do with some more work. So if any if you is in need of a tour manager, driver, roadie or sound engineer, don’t hesitate to get in touch!