Thee Headcoats were mainly Billy Childish (Git/Vox) Bruce Brand (Drums) and Johnny Johnson (bass), they formed in 1989 after Billy’s previous band Thee Mighty Caesers gave up the ghost. By 1992 they had already released something like 6 albums and 15 singles one of which was DAMGOOD 1, a split single with Thee Headcoatees.
During the ’90’s I must have seen them 60 times, I even went over to Japan with them in 1993. There was something really natural about them, no bullshit. We did the ‘We hate The Fuckin’ NME’ single after a sad old journo (Johnny Cigarettes) walked out of their gig in Archway after insisting that he should get in for free as he was from the NME and then reviewing Thee Headcoatees by saying there were no girls in the band (he left before they came onstage!!).
Lots more releases followed including the great ‘In Tweed We Trust’ album. Thee Headcoats carried on touring and releasing records in every corner of the world until mid 2000 when they called it a day with a final show at London’s Dirty Water Club. Billy immediately formed a new band The Buff Medways and promptly became a press darling…they split a few years back and he’s now releasing music at CTMF
In 2008 they got together after a MBE’s show for three songs, totally unrehearsed, shambolic and brilliant!
We’ve done a fair few reissues recently of this fabulous band. If you’re looking for a good place to start the 3LP / 2CD singles compilation, Elementary Headcoats, is a great place to start. It collates (almost!) all their singles in one handy collection.
Then there’s some of the other LPs we’ve released – Headcoats Down, The Messerchmitt Pilot’s Severed Hand, Conundrum… we could go on! Plus we have some of the recent reissues they did on M’Ladys Records. Plenty of great music to immerse yourself in!
In 2023 the undisputed kings of garage rock surprised everyone by recording and releasing a brand new album called Irregularis: The Great Hiatus.
Billy, Bruce, and Johnny kindly answered some questions about their latest LP…
You got back together recently as Thee Headcoats Sect to make the ‘Tribute to Don Craine’ EP. What was it like working with each other again after all this time?
BILLY: It was ‘fab’ and ‘gear.’
BRUCE: The weirdest thing for me was how weird it wasn’t. It was like time compressed, but to the ‘good old days’, early on. I was wary that it ‘wouldn’t be like Thee Headcoats’, but it was.
JOHNNY: I’m with Bruce and Billy on that one. I think we were all surprised how it all just worked. If I remember correctly, we kicked off role playing like we detested each other. Then we got started and well, you can hear the result.
What were the first songs you ran through when you got in the studio?
BILLY: That’s a very good question. No idea.
BRUCE: I can’t remember. They all sound the same to me.
JOHNNY: Bill had stuff on his phone that went “KSSHHCCCKSSHHHH”! So, we did that first.
You’ve also paid tribute to Don with a track on the Irregularis album – ‘Oh Leader We Do Dig Thee’. He was, along with the other members of Downliners Sect, a big inspiration to Thee Headcoats. When did you first become aware of his music and what was he like to work with?
BRUCE: We were given (or possibly lent) a reissue of the Sect’s first LP around 1977, marketed as ‘Punk From The Vaults’, which certainly floated our boats and definitely popped our corks, due to the somewhat aggressive yet carefree nature of the tunes and sound in general. Ollie, our old bassist, found an ad in a trade magazine for them with a contact number for a Michael O’Donnell, which I excitedly called almost immediately. T’was none other than Don his’self and we managed to convince him into venturing down to Rochester to record some tunes with us which became the first Headcoat Sect EP. We were fairly starstruck and presented him with a brand new ‘dearstalker’ (or ‘Headcoat’, as they were now known). He was very accommodating and a great laugh and spent the evening with us, regaling us with tales of yore. I recorded a lot of it on cassette, which I may still have somewhere. Gawd bless Don.
BILLY: I heard them via Ron (Bruce). I picked up a copy of The Rock Sects In, a truly great LP. Next thing I was picking up Don from Rochester station in the Old Ambulance then driving down to the boat yard to winkle Ron out of his bunk, if you’ll pardon the expression. Next it was off to Red Rodders studio to record Sect Maniac, then an evening in a Borstal pub trying to get Don to stop talking too loudly about his uncle being on bombing trips to the UK when he was in the IRA and musing about kings being bled into the fields if the harvest failed. Top Chap.
JOHNNY: ‘Glendora’ and ‘He was a Square’. I don’t know how or when I discovered these tracks – probably from my older sisters. When Don first came down to record with us, I hadn’t been in the band that long so I pretty much kept stumm. By the time we got to the laughs, stories and general hilarity I was tanked up, so l probably spent the evening glaring at him.
The New York Times famously called you “the kings of garage rock”. We reckon they were correct. Do you agree?
JOHNNY: Ahh journalists, bless ’em. They’re right though.
BILLY: I think the term was ‘undisputed kings of garage rock.’ of course I concur, apart from we call it rhythm and beat/ drums and racket.
BRUCE: What’s one above ‘kings’?
I’m sure Headcoats fans would love to see a live show. Is there any possibility?
BILLY: There’s always possibility.
BRUCE: I’m sure it’s highly possible that Headcoats fans would love that.
JOHNNY: Oh gawd. I’ve dropped me plectrum!
Out of the three of you, who makes the best cup of tea?
BRUCE: That’ll be me, then.
BILLY: I definitely did most of the tea making and cooking the bastards’ breakfast! (And dinner come to think of it.)
JOHNNY: Nothing like a nice cup of tea, is there? What was the question?