Named after a Stooges song, Penetration (Pauline Murray, vocals; Robert Blamire, bass; Gary Smallman, drums; and Gary Chaplin, guitar) arrived on the punk scene in late ’76 in the unlikely setting of the mining town Ferryhill, County Durham. Like many others they were inspired by seeing the Sex Pistols, and although divorced from the burgeoning London community, were playing the famous Roxy club by January ’77. They released a slew of terrific, should-have-been-hit singles (Don’t Dictate, Firing Squad, Life’s A Gamble) and two albums that didn’t do them justice (‘Moving Targets’ and ‘Coming Up For Air’). Chaplin was replaced by Neale Floyd, later joined by second guitarist Fred Purser, a none-too-popular move in some quarters due to his metallic leanings (he later joined The Tygers of Pan Tang).
One of the best live bands on the punk circuit Penetration decided to call it a day in ’79. Amazingly, in 2001 the original trio reformed with new guitarists Paul Harvey and Steve Wallace, and have lost none of their ability and energy (read a review of their recent scorching Shepherd’s Bush gig on this site). Fans are also strongly advised to check out www.loversofoutrage.com where you can order their live DVD, recorded last year at the University of Northumbria. Robert and Pauline took time out of their busy schedules to fill me in on where they’ve been and where they’re going.
SXP: What prompted you to reform after 22 years?
Penetration: The thing that prompted us to reform after 22 years was a natural reunion. We came back together not through music but we did get in contact with each other. We decided on a rehearsal and it’s just gone from there to the present.
SXP: What’s it like playing together again, and how do the new guys fit in?
Penetration: When we started rehearsing, it felt very familiar and comfortable and as the two new guitarists were introduced (Paul and Steve), things fitted back together nicely.
SXP: What have you been up to in the intervening years?
Penetration: Since the break-up of Penetration in 1979, we have involved ourselves in various endeavours too numerous to mention, from roofer to recording studio owner to record production, to builder to printer, lecturer, security, doorman, band management, proprietor of rehearsal studios, record label, dishwasher, distributor, Stukist, painter, reflexologist, singer, drummer, bass player, guitarists, mother and father.
SXP: What happened to Neale and Fred?
Penetration: Neale and Fred are unable to join us due to prior commitments.
SXP: You play one-off gigs rather than touring; would you be up for a full tour?
Penetration: We’re unable to take on a full tour due to work and family commitments.
SXP: You’ve been introducing new songs; how much new material do you have and are there any plans to record?
Penetration: We introduce new songs to the set as and when they are ready. The two songs we are performing at the moment are called Guilty and 2 Places. We are keen to introduce new songs to the set and then record them when ready.
SXP: You have a recording studio in Newcastle. Who comes through the doors?
Penetration: The studios are primarily a rehearsal facility and there is on average about 40 bands a week going through the place. It’s mostly local bands such as Illegal Movers, Jumbo, - there’s too many to mention and of course we use the facility ourselves. The local scene in Newcastle is thriving. The recording studio is mostly used by ourselves but has played host to many bands in the past such as Solavox, Kodiak and many more.
SXP: How do you balance being a re-born rock band with family lives?
Penetration: It’s pretty tricky this but it seems to be mostly about logistics, itineraries, timetables that end in either a rehearsal or a gig. The re-born rock band has to fit in with us rather than the other way round.
SXP: Are you frightened of not being taken seriously, being seen as jumping on the punk nostalgia bandwagon or doing it for the money?
Penetration: Sometimes you can’t take it seriously yourself but it does feel OK to be singing and playing these songs now and as far as the punk bandwagon/money, we have not been offered any punk package at Wembley Arena yet. We are doing it because we are enjoying it for ourselves and really don’t care what anybody thinks about it.
SXP: So what’s next?
Penetration: We are all keen to develop and write and record with the band but unfortunately we are unable to concentrate long periods of time to our music. We grab time when we can and make the most of it in writing, rehearsing, recording and gigs. The release of the Re-animated DVD is a big achievement for us. Progress is slow but we do as much as we can.