An Interview with Ian “Knox” Carnochan of The Vibrators

During the original UK Punk movement, many bands came out of the woodwork. One of the more iconic bands was The Vibrators.

One of the driving forces behind The Vibrators is talented vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist, Knox. Knox is one of the hardest working guys in Punk, playing with countless groups and working on numerous projects.

Below, Knox and I discuss the upcoming, and reportedly, final Vibrators’ album, projects past and future, and so much more.

Joe:
Here at VWmusic, we have been enjoying listening to the boxset with all those early demos. We feel like many of these demo versions are breathing a different life into the songs. What went into the decision to release these demos now and as a boxset? What do you feel the value is in listening to a demo version of a song?

Knox:
I think it was Eddie [Edwards] who came up with the idea to release many of the demo versions of the band’s songs, in conjunction with Cherry Red Records. I think that fans who know the songs will be interested to hear how the songs initially sounded. I think initial ideas are often quite good, otherwise, the songs wouldn’t get released. I think they allow the listener to possibly hear the stripped-down, basic idea for the song, and how they might then have gone on to be recorded differently. When a band makes demos of songs, they contain the ideas for the songs up to that point. The band members can then listen to them and come up with additional ideas. Things like changing the arrangement, adding extra bits, changing the words, etc.

Joe:
In 2020, The Vibrators released Mars Casino. It is an exciting project, as it got the original line-up back together. What was the impetus for revitalizing that line-up? The album is dynamite, although it wasn’t what we were expecting. What approach did you take to writing and recording? Were you looking to subvert expectations or simply just get out what flowed naturally?

Knox:
Chris Spedding was asked by a record company about possibly doing some more songs with us. We immediately said, “Yes.” As I understand it, the company who had requested the songs decided they didn’t want to pay for an album. But we went ahead anyway. My contribution was to sort through my home demos to look for songs that might be suitable for the project. They didn’t all get chosen. The album is just the songs we thought were good for the project. I don’t think there was any “big idea” as it were, except to feature Chris.

Joe:
We’re told that a final Vibrators album, Fall Into The Sky, is coming out shortly. What can you tell us about it?

Knox:
Cleopatra Records asked us to make a final album, so that’s what we did. We’re all getting older, and the road doesn’t go on forever. I don’t think it will be the last recordings by any of us by any means. We’re all involved in other projects. Get ready, no one is safe!

Joe:
What made you decide, back in the day, to change courses musically and join the burgeoning Punk scene? What was it like coming up in the early Punk scene?

Knox:
We were playing lots of gigs and noticed the audience liked faster songs. Our first gig was supporting The Stranglers, at Hornsey Art School, in February 1976. I think Eddie summed it up perfectly when he said, “We were putting the energy back into music.” Later in the year, the press started writing about Punk Rock, and we were among the bands they mentioned. We’d already been doing support gigs at The 100 Club. One time, we supported The Sex Pistols. We were out there for a good six months before bands such as The Clash.

Joe:
That first album, Pure Mania, is widely regarded as one of the best Punk albums if not Rock albums of all time. What do you think it is about that album that has given it the reverence it has been bestowed?

Knox:
The album was mostly the songs we’d been playing live. It was produced by our sound guy, Robin Mayhew. He has also been the sound guy for David Bowie. John Ellis and I remixed the album for the US release. We wanted to make it sound a bit heavier. I think doing lots of gigs shaped the songs. I guess, there were no rules when we recorded the album. I think people just liked it.

Joe:
Let’s talk about the longstanding project, Urban Dogs, for a second. How did that project initially come together? The last Urban Dogs album was recorded in 2016. Any chance of new music from this avenue in the future?

Knox:
I met Charlie [Harper] at a party. Charlie was telling me he had this other band, but the guitarist had left. I told him I could do the guitar, and off we went. The band did quite a lot of gigs. Often, the gigs were at The 100 Club, where one week we’d be the opening band, and a couple of weeks later the main band. Really funny. One time, for a few songs, we had Wattie from The Exploited on drums. Charlie and I had other commitments, so we’d just make an album every-now-and-again. I think it’s inevitable that another one will come along one day.

Joe:
Another great band you were involved with is Fallen Angels. We especially love the first album. Tell us about how it came together. What was the recording process like?

Knox:
Yes, that was a great band. I’d love to make another record like that first one. I had a manager at the time named Richard Bishop. He was half-managing Hanoi Rocks. I was moaning to him that I had all these songs and no work. He had the genius idea to put me together with Hanoi Rocks to make an album. The band had three weeks off, and it was seen as a good way to keep them out of trouble. They were great to work with. It was all very enjoyable. I don’t think, at the time, we realized how good the album was. I think the reason the album was so fantastic had to do with combining my songs with Hanoi’s great musicianship. Plus, their [Hanoi Rocks] attitude made the album come out so rockin’. We just got on with recording, and there were very few frills. No daunting expectations. It was a fun project.

Joe:
There are so many different great projects you have been involved with over the years. Are there any new musical projects or albums, other than the new vibrators album, that may be coming out soon?

Knox:
I’ve got lots of ideas for projects. I’m currently trying to finish pulling together an album with Bill Hurley. He’s the singer for The Inmates. I did some tracks with him for the album. The album will also have tracks with Bill’s bands, The Enforcers and Hammerhead. It’s really an appreciation of Bill’s great vocal talent, which is greatly helped by Bill Liesegang’s production, and guitar work. I’m also hoping to release my Vibrators’ demos, a second solo album, and a Knox and friends album. We’ll have to see how that all goes. No promises and remember, talk is cheap.

Joe:
Many people like to try and define what Punk is. What does Punk Rock, and culture mean to you personally?

Knox:
I guess it’s several things: the music, the look, the time, and the attitude. When it first started, it was a product of the three-day week, and a reaction against Prog Rock. The three-day week was when electricity was off for several hours every day and was actually quite exciting. Punk captured the political spirit of the times and gave ordinary people a voice. You didn’t have to be a great musician. You just got on with it. Nothing precious about it, and it was open to everyone. You just got together with a few friends, learned a few songs, and got up on stage. People have complained about how bad the support bands are at local gigs, but they don’t understand that it’s often just some friends who get to play together. They’ve probably all got jobs and are looking for something fun to do. They don’t have a plan to get to the stars, but of course, some accidentally do. Making music is a great thing to do.

Interested in learning more about the work of The Vibrators? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Records, Roots & Ramblings, by Joe O’Brien, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/records-roots-ramblings-archives/

About Post Author

Joe O'Brien

Joe has always been a huge music fan. Growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Joe did chores and dumpster dove for bottles with his best friend Andrew to trade bottles for money to buy vinyl. Joe is a Registered Nurse in the ER by day, and a life-long music lover by night. Having been an avid consumer of all things music since he was a child, Joe’s diverse collection of over 3,000 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of a man who simply loves music. Joe’s goal is to write about what he is most passionate about and share new and exciting music. Joe lives on Long Island, NY with his beloved dog Scarlett.
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