A Clunk Back and Forth Interview with SHOT BALOWSKI

Shot Balowski

Could you tell Clunk readers about the band members, who does what and how did you get together?

Simon Whittle: “I play guitar and sing, allegedly.”

Debbie Ullrich: “I’m on bass.”

Tef Lovegrass: “I’ll have to be the drummer then.”

Simon: “We’re from Carlisle, and I live in Glasgow now, just to stir things up. Me and Tef had previous, musically – ’nuff said – and we got Debbie in on bass in late 2015.”

Debbie: “Well, I initially contacted you to buy a t-shirt. Then I asked how difficult the bass lines were, since you and Tef were looking for someone…”

Simon: “I lied and said it would be easy…”

Debbie: “I think you joked that I should try out. I did!”

Simon: “And we mainly rehearsed then started recording the album. We felt like we needed a fresh start, so we had to think of a name…”

Shot Balowski… an interesting band name. Can you tell us about it?

Simon: “We couldn’t agree on anything till the name Balowski cropped up – from Alexei Sayle in The Young Ones.”

Debbie: “We kinda settled on Super Hot Balowski…”

Simon: “I went on Twitter and it didn’t fit, so Super Hot was shortened to Shot. It’s meant to be fairly ambiguous anyway, kinda meaningless. Super Hot Balowski sounds like some fucking hotdog from Nebraska though.”

Tef: “We were called Catfinger for about a week before that.”

Is it fair to say that the album is a mixture of celebrating some lives, as in Emily Does, and a full on verbal bashing for others eg. the Daily Mail and Trump?

Simon: “Yes, only there’s much more anger than celebration. There are songs about Emily Wilding Davison and Muhammad Ali, about the positives in their radicalism. But Commander in Cheat is scathing – written on Trump’s inauguration day. Some think he’s an easy target but you’ve got right wingers jerking off at his racism and sexism, at his sheer inhumanity, so it had to be done. It nails our colours to the mast anyway. Destroy the Daily Mail had to be written too – it’s a hideous, toxic little rag. We’re very lucky we got Welsh poet Patrick Jones on that track. His bit takes the song to another level. BBC Wales and BBC Cymru radio have been giving it lots of airplay. We had to make a censored version for Aunty Beeb.”

With the album lyrics in mind, do you all consider yourselves socialists?

Debbie: “I would agree – socialist, over any other.”

Simon: “Yes, I’m a socialist, pro-feminist, environmentalist, Rice Krispies advocate, you name it…”

Tef: “I guess I’d say I was probably a small ‘s’ socialist. I’ve got fairly fluid politics but to have a properly functioning society there has to be a fair amount of empathy and philanthropy to one’s fellow species. Just don’t be a dick.”

Simon: “They found a dead homeless guy outside Glasgow Central today. That’s capitalism. Thatcher’s longest lasting achievement was making ‘socialism’ a dirty word. McCarthyism just became second nature in US politics. Trump and Brexit is a natural progression when folks blindly accept the left as being ‘looney’ just cos some billionaire-owned newspaper says so. It’s guns, money and gas versus looney peace and looney love.”

Although the album is pushed along with punk guitar there are a couple of really nice pace changers, Kitchen Sink/Girl in the Call Centre and In the Suicide Forest. How did the spoken word of In the Suicide Forest come about?

Simon: “It’s about Logan Paul, the YouTube vlogger who filmed a fresh dead body in Aokigahara Forest in Japan. Just thought it was sick – and millions of people follow him and his ilk – ridiculous times. So I wrote eight lines, and that covered that. It didn’t need singing, so we just stuck it straight on the album. It works well as an intro that segues into You Love Yourself, a more post-punk track. It’s important to have a few different textures across an album. We’ve got punk, acoustic, poetry, post-punk. The first five tracks are full-on but it develops and goes somewhere, and comes back with Redemption Song.”

I really enjoyed the album and the final song seemed rather fitting, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. Presumably it’s a band favourite?

Tef: “Well, shamefully, I’d never actually heard it till Sime said we’re gonna give this a blast.”

Simon: “Yeah, Tef had never heard it… I like reggae, so it’s always been a staple for me – not that the original is reggae; it’s a folk song, a protest song. We just rocked it out.”

Tef: “And although it’s a cover, I think we’ve kinda made this version our own, like Johnny Cash’s version of the Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt’.”

Simon: “Its a great lyric and a top tune.”

Debbie: “Redemption isn’t my favourite Marley song but it’s iconic.”

Tef: “Yeah, I like playing it. It’s a bit of a crowd pleaser, gives ’em summat to sing and bop to.”

Debbie: “I prefer the lyrics and message to the music – addressing slavery, freedom and equality. Coming through adversity.”

Simon: “And nuclear fears, physical and mental emancipation, and religion – it’s got everything. I’m not religious at all though – nature is the closest thing I have to a god.”

The artwork on the album is also rather interesting. Who drew it and what is the main figure? It resembles a Pinocchio Trump.

Simon: “The graphic on the cover is by a guy called Leo Rolf, who our label man Chuck knows.”

Tef: “Ha ha! A Pinocchio Trump would of course have a massive effin’ conk! He’d be just all conk!”

Simon: “Ha! Yeah! Leo designed us a t-shirt – we thought it was nice and striking, so we used it on the cover.”

Tef: “It’s supposed to be a generic info-passer-on-er.”

Simon: “We got Leo to re-do the puppet’s hairdo, and make it more of a brainless anchorman type thing, and shade the hair in…”

Tef: “…to make him less Trump-like. But it looks like he has a small dead shark on his head!”

Simon: “The shark’s an added bonus for me. And it’s ambiguous enough to still look a bit Trump-like, yet curiously Barney Rubblesque. Discuss! Leo’s stuff is fucking great – he’s at @depressedwalruses on Instagram.”

Looking forward to seeing you folks on May the 4th. It’s a cracking album!

Shot Balowski: “Cheers!”

Thanks for taking the time to talk to Clunk.

Shot Balowski: “Thank YOU!”

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