Steve Skaith and Mike Jones - Latin Quarter
They distinguish themselves from German political groups mainly by the fact, that their music sounds like modern pop. Their songs deal with football fanatics in England, they pillory the Apartheid policies of South Africa, they describe the condition of a boy, who was sent to the senseless Falklands war and they tell of a third class Lennon biography. Hard to digest themes? Whoever has heard the songs, knows, that this isn't true. At least not with Latin Quarter.
We met with Steve Skaith and Mike Jones, the musical and lyrical "heads" of this absolutely unusual British band, in Hamburg, and tried to pinpoint the secret of their success. Incidentally, their first album is called "Modern Times", and it has German sleeve-notes for the lyrics, which will doubtlessly enhance their comprehension as much as the understanding of the activities of the band.
OXMOX: What a contrast: you make "lovely" music, while the lyrics that go with it are pretty controversial. Who had the idea for this pretty unusual combination?
STEVE: It was in one sense not an idea at all, Mike merely decided to write lyrics.
OXMOX: But he didn't have any musicians!?
MIKE: So to speak. But the situation was, that Steve had already started to sing political songs with a suburban Liverpool band.
OXMOX: You must therefore be very interested to see, what the band will make out of your lyrics?!
MIKE: Of course, especially as the band always gives me the feeling, that I belong to it. For example, by inviting me for a drink, when the time is right for it. (General laughter.)
OXMOX: As much as you broach problems of world wide interest in your songs, on the other hand there must be the question, if the importance of the problems doesn't differ from country to country. A song like "Cora" is theme wise after all typically British, while one like "Toulouse" is typically French, don't you think?!
MIKE: I only agree with that inasmuch as I admit that we were well aware, of how difficult it would be for foreigners to understand the subtleties of the lyrics. This lead to the inclusion of a sort of German text commentary with the LP in Germany, to prevent too much of what we want to bring across to our audience being lost in translation. Apart from that, our songs deal with themes that should be of general interest, even if one or another of them happens to be typically English, French or whatever.
OXMOX: Your songs are thoroughly danceable. But how much would it bother you, if people dance to lyrics that at bottom are anything but danceable?
MIKE: But that is absolutely all right. Music these days is after all first a form of entertainment. Only after that does it represent a form of communication. If one manages, to connect entertainment with communication, one has really done a good job. We at least try to achieve that. In my opinion, if one merely tries to politicise or teach people with music, one inevitably runs aground. Rather than musical agitpop, we instead run more of a musical daily paper, where we try to make lyrics and music as current as possible.
STEVE: I think, lyrics have to be interesting, and, if need be, they also have to provoke, in order to bring those people, who basically like to stick their heads in the sand about political problems, out of their complacency. We can't of course force people to agree with us all the time, but we want to at least encourage them to think. Luckily this concept even appeals to the heads of our record company.
OXMOX: Exactly how far left do you stand?
STEVE: I'd like to say, pretty far! Maggie Thatcher would presumably not be too happy if she were ever to hear us. But sadly, that is unlikely to happen, so we don't have to worry about her reaction.
J.S.; OXMOX (Hamburger Stadtmagazin) 1985