Belfast rockers still going after 41 members, countless bust ups and plenty of JD. Click Play Audio to listen to 'Gimme Gimme Rock 'n' Roll'
'If I was some sort of namby-pamby, wannabe-rockstar I wouldn’t have survived 800 gigs playing some of the worst places in Europe, and doing it all for no money,' says Andrew Griswold.
The lead singer and drummer of Belfast band the Dangerfields has the will of 10 steel oxen. He’s been rocking out for the past 20 years, despite the candle wax and beer glasses that have been lobbed at him on stage and despite the indifference of the sanitised world of mainstream rock-n-roll.
The Dangerfields have brought their heavy, Motorhead sound to the slums of Germany, warehouses in Switzerland, haunted pubs in Norwich, ungodly dives on the banks of strange rivers and to the furthest reaches of the Outer Hebrides, where they slept rough in mid-winter for the adrenalin-thrill of performing live. (They considered breaking a couple of windows to secure the warmth of a jail cell but didn’t want to miss the ferry back).
Along the way 41 members have come and gone, including a six-foot-three tattooed American porn star called Roxy Michaels, a devastatingly overweight 17-year-old from Carryduff and a guy who left to become a guitar technician for Leonard Cohen. There has been punch-ups, bust-ups, arrests, drunken snogging between brain-addled straight guitarists who still don’t want to talk about it, random vandalism, passing out in shopping precincts in Plymouth, a lot of whiskey, crowded gigs and the loudest, brashest riffs.
'Everyone who wants to play in a band is an absolute lunatic,' says Griswold. 'Put four or five lunatics together, put them on the road and it’s an absolute recipe for disaster and madness.
'We’ve had a revolving door policy because it’s so hard keeping the same bunch of lunatics together. But one thing that has been a constant is our passion for the music. Being in a band has never been a channel to drugs, girls or fame. For us it’s always, always been about the music.'
Johnston aka Griswold, 36, has been the band’s only enduring member. He started life as a rock road dog aged 15 and championed a scratchier, punk sound in Adream and Griswold (which gave him his pseudonym) before forming the Dangerfields in 2000 and adopting a heavier, faster style.
Though he used to wake up after a night with Jack D, these days the Dangerfield’s lead man prefers a nice cup of Earl Grey to a night on the tiles. The former zookeeper frustrates the stereotype of the fulsomely tattooed, wantonly hedonistic rocker. He’s teetotal, clean-shaven, loves bird watching, admits to religiously hoovering his flat and doesn’t care whether you like his music or not. It’s his love of rock and being on stage that drives the Dangerfields, unstoppably, from gig to gig, like tenacious bats from hell.
'Being on stage is the best feeling in the world,' says Griswold. 'I probably get the same feeling of release that a transvestite gets when they dress up as a woman. It’s about being somebody else for half an hour. Real life is so crushing – but on stage you escape all that. Live performance is messy, in the moment, there’s an element of danger - it’s a rush unlike any other. At the last gig we did in Glasgow it was so loud I nearly passed out and I liked that.'
The current line-up sees Griswold with guitarist Adam Sims and bassist Jamie Delerict performing their hardcore punk/metal mishmash of stomping, dirty baselines and lyrics about girls, horror movies and capital punishment. Their music has the raw energy of punk - fast, heavy and loud with distorted bass - but the Dangerfields have too much of a sense of humour and self-parody to be seriously, gravely punk.
'The Dangerfields are closest to Motörhead in sound and I suppose we’re a bit punk but we’re wary of labels. The punks hate us, the metal crowd hate us and the indie crowd hate us because we just don’t really fit in anywhere and we’ve never tried to fit in.
'So we’re further out than the outsiders and we don’t care. We’re too misanthropic to be part of any clique or scene. We’re just what we are and we’ll keep on doing what we do and enjoying it until this ship goes down.'
Dangerfield tunes like 'Gimme Gimme Rock ‘n’ Roll', 'Voodoo Doll' and 'Scream Queen' from the band’s 2005 album Born to Rock are speedy, revved-up offerings that are all about the velocity, the thrash and hell-raising racket.
'What I want to do is write the Motörhead album that Motörhead have never written,' says Griswold. 'Like Black Sabbath used to say about their lyrics, there’s no point in singing about teddy bears and picnics when you’ve got these evil, crushing riffs. We are giving the fingers to everything, including other anarchists, outsiders and punk bands.
'We don’t have some grand kind of message to convey. The human-race is doomed. So I don’t need to sing about it to hammer the point home.'
Griswold is nothing if not contradictory. He loves performing but can’t go on stage without wearing a baseball cap and sometimes shades - it’s about appearing as his alter ego, Andrew Griswold.
'Being a creative person usually means you’re mentally fraught. You’re passionate and you don’t want to lead an ordinary life. I think it was the comedian Frankie Boyle who said the dynamic between him, his act and his audience was really about hating himself, the audience and what he was doing, and yet not being able to live without it. As Def Leppard said, it’s when love and hate collide.'
The Dangerfields will perform at Auntie Annie’s Porterhouse, Belfast on Wednesday November 18 at 8pm, with special reunion performances by Adream and Griswold.