“Touring The States and Unleashing Some Dark Matter/Dark Energy Upon Us”
Standing beneath an eclipsed street lamp, leaning against the outer brick facade of the venue, I was able to detain poetic oracle and visionary musician John Robb, just moments before he was to take center stage live, with his post punk band, “The Membranes”.
Embarking on their virgin US tour, the first in over 25 years, the internationally famous fraction had literally just deplaned from their UK flight and traveled to “The Grand Victory” in Brooklyn, NY. John nodded mysteriously, signaling the “go ahead” to begin the conversation. He appeared tall and powerful with the deep inner strength of a solar wind, fierce enough to destroy the earth, yet he was surrounded by an aura of brilliance, like that of the icy tail of a comet raging through the universe.
For those unfamiliar, the chronicles of John Robb embrace his artistry as a vocalist and bassist in the bold, audacious, rebellious and often bordering upon the brink of insanity, punk rock scene. He is credited as a member of the band, “Gold Blade” and the recently resurrected group, “The Membranes”.
Aside from his musical orbit, John is also an illustrious, world renown journalist, having been the first to interview “Nirvana”. Writing for publications such as “The Guardian”, “The Observer” and “The Sunday Times”, he is also a noted author of several books encompassing punk rock and related topics. He has also appeared on television and radio on numerous occasions.
In 2011, John launched, “Louder Than War”, a rock music pop culture, uncensored, online magazine, which has also recently gone to print.
John Robb is a profit. He does not have to seek the answers to the mysteries of the universe or the essence of life or death, because he already knows them. He has already encountered the revelation.
The Membranes currently have come to the states to unleash some Dark Matter/Dark Energy upon America via their newest release, providing a journey beginning with “The Universe Explodes Into a Billion Photons of Pure White Light,” in the vast cosmos and ending with, “The Hum of the Universe”, and it’s demise.
I find it very coincidental that The Membranes arrive to the states promoting their new space inspired album “Dark Matter/Dark Energy”, nearly on the eve that the “Star Wars” trailer was released and pre-sale tickets are virtually sold out in both the US and the UK.
Was there any reason for choosing this particular time to travel to the states?
It’s quite boring really, I asked this agent if she had any gigs, and she just booked the tour. She said there was quite an interest. That was it really. Then we had all the visa crap. We could have just done a British Tour, but that’s always the way it goes.
What’s with that visa issue? People ask all the time why we don’t have more British bands coming to America.
Nobody here knows what’s going on. Most bands I know in England will not come here now.
I don’t blame them, having to pay all that money, and not even being assured that will get here in time for their actual concert. The last British band I spoke to who made it to the states was Spandau Ballet.
They probably have lawyers, but we did it all ourselves. It’s a nightmare. We started a campaign now. We need people in America to know about it. So tell people about it. Ultimately America gets ripped off because the bands you wanna see can’t come here.
Your newest release, as one of the fans put it on social media, ” the best record to ever come out”, “Dark Matter/Dark Energy”, I understand was scientifically maneuvered and inspired, is that correct?
I did a Ted X Talk, and one of the other people who did the talk was a guy from the CERT project. He’s the one guy in the world who knows everything about the universe and space. After the talk we went to dinner, so I figured this was the opportunity to find out all about it. He wanted to know about The Buzzcocks. But I liked the words dark matter, dark energy. They’re nice words, aren’t they? They are poetic.
And I like dark music. So the idea of the vastness of space, the weirdness of space, the idea is quite psychedelic. It’s just weird, isn’t it? The idea that it doesn’t have an end…you know those things where you think …you look up at the stars , you look up at the sky, and they’re not there anymore. All of these things you think about makes your head trip out. I was thinking that if you can make music to match those ideas, you could make great records. …and that’s where it came from.
Seems a challenging task to put music and lyrics to the vastness of the universe.
Well it was more like trying to match the idea of all of this weirdness with the music. The songs are like a chemical equation, it’s like space isn’t it, so fascinating. Its like trying to capture the weirdness and trying to think of what is on the edge of the universe, it makes your head kind of funny. The greatest music in the world makes you feel like that. It takes you beyond.
So I’ve heard that this record is a culmination of a lifetime’s work.
Yeah I put everything into this. I was fascinated, going back to the universe…there is a way of dealing with death. So the last track on the album, “Hum of the Universe”, it’s about the universe, putting the matter back into the universe. I thought it was quite interesting, it’s a way of dealing with death as well.
If you could take anyone on a date to outer space, whom would you take?
Would anybody actually want to go? I always wanted to go to Mars, I thought we would be living on Mars my now. When I was a kid I always wanted to go to Mars. Back in 1969 I remember staying up and watching TV. In England T. V. was never after 11 o’clock. In 1975 they said we would be landing on Mars, I couldn’t wait that long.
Do you have a favorite song that you particularly like to perform?
I like the first one on the album, “The Universe Explodes into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light”. You really get inside it. Another one I really like playing is “In The Graveyard”, it’s quite different than the rest of them.
E-Who is the most interesting person you’ve ever interviewed?
I have interviewed every single person in the punk rock generation. Some people were very interesting interviews, some people were quite difficult to interview and that makes it interesting as well. I like those conversations with people who go off on tangents.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Probably here. You have to make things happen. About two weeks ago we did an amazing gig. We did a gig in Estonia with a 20 piece choir. A thousand people watched in Estonia, it was an incredible gig. We did all our songs with a 20 piece choir, it sounded amazing.
It was incredible, we are going to bring them to England next year in the spring. I doubt if we’ll ever do it in America. We have to get visas for 25 people. It would cost about 20,000 pounds, it would be just insane. Doing America is not easy, but if you want to do it, you just have to come and do it. We might come back and do some more dates. On the West Coast in LA we are selling out. We don’t make it easy for ourselves, we are what we are.
And then what are you?
We are just ourselves, really. Those bands came out punk, it’s become a generic form of music. Most of the bands my age that are out punk never called themselves punk, never! Music is everything, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is just a joke. You see bands, specially my age still taking drugs.
I understand you are going to produce a film?
We are going to make a film. We’ve filmed bits of it. We filmed the gig in Estonia. We are going to go to the CERN project, which is the universe project….we’re going to go there to the scientists…it’s kind of rock n roll, but not rock n roll….it’s kind of far out.