photo: Mark Leary
Are you surprised that you have lasted a decade?
Austin Rocket: There were various points where I didn’t think we would continue. The first was when Gaz, the original singer, left. I had known Nathan for years from various bands and, bizarrely, the day after Gaz quit Nathan rang. “How Are you doing?” “Pretty shit, Gaz has just left and the band is falling apart.” “I’ll sing for you.”
Lee Love: It was at a low ebb at that point. We had recorded a new album with him and were scratching around for a bit.
Austin: When Nathan joined, we wanted to redo the vocals but Guy Elderfield had lost the whole album. We then had to re-record the whole lot. In the weird time gap between recording the album with Gaz and redoing it, we had found a label to put it out, then from that point it just steamrollered.
Lee: Doing that album was just like starting again. We had already done the really raw trashy album.
Nathan joining revitalised the band…
Austin: Especially on the live front. Gaz was great at what Gaz did, but once Nathan settled in to his groove it just went fucking ridiculous. We kicked up a whole other gear because the way he is as a front man, he is in everyone’s face, so energetic.
Nathan Von Cruz: It was an opportunity to get banned from different venues.
Lee: The first gig he did we got banned from the venue.
Austin: In Grimsby.
Lee: We won’t talk about the outfit. It was some Outlaws place.
Austin: The bikers guys were fine. It was a burlesque night and the girls that ran the burlesque night…we got an email saying “You drank all of our booze, you were touching up the girls”. You ask a rock n’ roll band that sing about drugs and girls to play your place and then you complain?
Nathan: Lee sent an email back saying “You booked the fucking Hip Priests what did you expect?”
Lee: And the promoter went apeshit.
How do you find it when people get offended by the band?
Austin: I find it funny. A lot of people have got a stick up their arse. The first album, and a lot of the second album, was about sex and excess, because that’s what we like and, at the time, that’s what we did. Being in a band is entertainment at the end of the day and people, especially in Nottingham, think, “Oh, those wankers singing about this and singing about that and they’re not that”. Well, at times we have been that. Even though we’ve got families and kids there have been times where it has been crazy.
Lee: It’s always meant to be taken a little bit with a pinch of salt, especially earlier on. But steadily, dare I say, it’s got more serious.
Is that because you now take the band more seriously?
Lee: The first album, every song is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s risqué and every song is about screwing or taking drugs.
Has there ever been a point where those excesses have stepped over the line?
Lee: Can’t see because of too many drugs; throwing up during gigs; getting thrown out of your own gig. There’s plenty of them but it’s all been enormous good fun.
Austin: There are some people who think we are full of it, but the majority of stuff in those songs is stuff that has happened. There’s some stuff that we are not proud of at all, and other stuff that we are proud of because every dog has his day. A lot of people join a band to get girls and party, whether you are playing math-rock, emo, whatever. Whether people deny it or not, in every bloke’s head they are thinking, “I might get that girl if I play that gig”.
photo: Mark Leary
You’ve done various collaborations down the years. How do they come about?
Lee: Normally the labels. Increasingly over the past couple of years we have been in a position where labels have asked us who we would like to do it with. We have been quite altruistic in helping people out. Recently there was Mannequin. We sell a good number of records now and have said to mates “why don’t you join us?”
It’s that DIY ethic of helping people out…
Austin: Everything we have done is DIY, we have never sucked dick for a gig, nothing. All done off our own back.
Lee: That’s why I get a bit pissed off. I do think we have this reputation of being wankers, but actually, we’ve brought bands over from abroad, we’ve lost money on tours, pissed money out like a leaky barge, put bands on singles. That’s what it’s meant to be about, but everyone still thinks that we are tossers.
How do you find the balance between everyday life with being in a band?
Austin: We all have jobs that we have to do and just fit it around that, the same with family life. I’ve got a crap civil service job and the amount of people you meet in bands who are civil servants because of the amount of time you get off and that kind of thing.
Lee: We have done a couple of weeks in the US. We go overseas a lot but we still treat it as a little holiday. We’ll do a Wednesday to a Sunday, the gigs are great. You don’t do the gig in nowheresville on a Monday, you do the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and just do a load of those throughout the year and it’s brilliant. We’ve got to the point now where we do those trips and we don’t lose money, it’s DIY but we get paid enough.
Where do you get the best reception – Europe or the UK?
Lee: Europe, because the UK is pretty crappy for what we do. It’s a very small scene if it even exists at all. You’ll go to Europe, you get put up, get a guarantee, a few beers. You could be in the middle of nowhere on a Thursday and have this fantastic gig.
Austin: In a tiny town in Slovenia we have paid there twice and it’s gone fucking mental every time. It’s packed and they just go loopy.
Nathan: And there’s people there who tell us that they’ve been waiting two years for us to come back. In Belgium before Speedfast last year people were energised and up for it, that’s the best bit, going to Europe.
Lee: One of the most mental ones was in a strip club in LA. This bloke turned up and he had all of the records that we had released and he wanted them all signed. What’s really good is that over the years we have got more and more of those super-fans. You play in bands for years and think it would be amazing if someone really loves you, they have to buy everything, want to wear the same clothes as you, and now we’ve got them we think “weirdos”. It kinda freaks you out – no wonder proper rock stars go mental.
Austin: UK-wise we have always done better in London than in Nottingham.
What do you put that down to?
Austin: Nottingham is really cliquey. There are a lot of cooler-than-cool people that aren’t actually that cool but have certain restrictions about what they’ll like and won’t like. I think a lot of them are put off by the ridiculous overblown nature of what we do.
Lee: There are too many bands who are so fucking earnest and take themselves way too seriously. We learned years ago that being cool is not very cool. Too many effects pedals instead of trying to have a good time.
I’m trying to work out which band you mean…
Lee: I could name fucking loads.
Austin: The MC5 were some of the biggest show-offs and then people diss us for being the way we are. You can’t say you are a massive MC5 fan and love the overblown outrageousness of them and then look at us and dismiss us.
Lee: You can’t play a gig, throw some moves and look like you are enjoying it. You have to stand there looking at your feet for it to be some how valid? No, not at all.
photo: Mark Leary
Is there anyone local you do have an affinity with?
Austin: The X-Rays because Gaz is in the band. In Gaz and Coop you have two of the biggest characters in Nottingham. I saw the best X-Rays gig I have ever seen last year when they played at Stuck On A Name. They were one of the first British bands to do garage punk; give them their dues.
Nathan: At every gig, you didn’t know what was going to happen so you had to go to every gig.
Lee: There’s loads of people that want to be musicians. I would take that as an insult. I’ve owned bass guitars for years but I can play it no better than when I was nineteen to be honest. Who wants to be a musician? I’ve always wanted to be in a rock‘n’roll band.
Austin: The only other band is TV Crime. They’ve got the same thought processes as we have - No bullshit, no chin stroking looking down your nose at someone, you just play rock n’ roll and do it.
Nathan: Mannequin. Endless Grinning Skulls. They’ve got the right attitude – you don’t learn that from watching YouTube clips. If you are doing that, just stay at home practicing your scales.
Tell me about the tenth anniversary shows…
Lee: We are trying to work out how to squeeze 100 songs from ten years in to our set. We’ve asked for requests from the fan club. I would love to do that Rock From The Crypt thing when they did the wheel.
Nathan: You need to actually know all the songs to do that.
Austin: And you need not a job to be able to rehearse all week. We are doing two special gigs and later in the year we are putting out a compilation of all the 7” - 28 tracks, CD and double vinyl gatefold.
Lee: Name me another band that has put out a double album of all their singles, especially a bunch of underground garage punk idiots, you know? Respect is due to us I should say, even if no one else will say it.
Austin: We are doing a fifteenth single, a split with Flash House, who are supporting us a both shows. Matt from the band is also doing the artwork for the gig poster.
Do you ever think about what the band might be doing in ten more years’ time?
Austin: There were thoughts about knocking it on the head after ten years, but we keep getting asked to do more stuff. We think we may have enough money left in the account to go to America again.
Nathan: Just say “Probably dead”.
Austin: If we stopped this I would probably end up in another band that isn’t as good. So why stop this to do something that isn’t as good?
The band does have a reputation for being a bit twatty…
Nathan: Any camps in particular?
I heard that a lyric in Cunt Make It Up by Sleaford Mods was written about The Hip Priests…
Austin: If it is, then it’s about me in particular. Sleaford Mods played at Spanky’s and I went because Endless Grinning Skulls were playing, then went home, posted on Facebook: “Endless Grinning Skulls were blinding, no one is going to follow them”. Now if it’s about that, it’s because he clearly has a stick up his arse about it. He’s a big gobshite, I don’t know if that’s character or not. But at the end of the day it might not even be about us, that’s the thing that intrigues me.
Nathan: I’m the one that lives in Carlton. I don’t ride a motorbike. I watched all four bands. Three of the bands that were playing I was mates with. I was having quite a nice time to be honest.
Austin: I pissed him off years ago, again through Facebook. I’m from Sleaford and went to school with Mods. I put a comment saying “I went to school with Sleaford Mods and they were wankers”, because they were... He even took umbrage to that.
Lee: They’re just poseurs. And he ain’t done half as much cocaine as he thinks. I reckon that I could times it by a hundred.
The Hip Priests 10th anniversary show is at The Chameleon, 30 July 2016.