Buzzcocks Steve Diggle Talks About the 'Magic' of Making Punk Rock Music for Nearly 4 Decades
Longtime fans of the punk rock scene are no doubt already familiar with Buzzcocks and their catalog of music which spans 39 amazing years. The band's crazy punk rock energy still helps to draw fans, young and old alike, to their live shows and it doesn't sound like they have any intention of slowing down in the near future. Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle, Chris Remington and Danny Farrant recently released their ninth studio album, The Way. It has already delivered up two singles and the boys have been criss-crossing the Atlantic Ocean in support of their new record.
Music Times recently had the privilege of chatting exclusively with Diggle, a light-hearted, jovial man that is simply happy to still be out there performing after all of these years.
Music Times: What is it like to still be making music nearly forty years after Buzzcocks first started playing together?
Steve Diggle: We're still enjoying it! It has been our lives really and music is what we do. It's amazing to make a new record now after all of these years though. When you go to a Buzzcocks show it's really exciting and people kind of know what to expect, at least the classic fans from the old days do. We're kind of like the last game in town left from a certain generation. We're known for our classic songs and the songwriting and that seems to be what really seems to stick with people. Even in the past we have always mainly worked well together or at least well enough to have good songs for the albums.
MT: How did you guys go about creating this new album?
SD: This record we kind of did it in two ways. I went in with the rhythm section to run through my stuff and Pete (Shelley) went in with his. He put his backing tracks down and then about a week later I went in and put my backing tracks down. We worked separately just to get the basics down. Then we went into another studio together to put the guitars and vocals on each others tracks. It was actually a more practical way of doing it like that. Then we had all of the fairy dust coming [laughing] and that's when all of the magic really starts with various riffs and things. The moments of spontaneity that work are always real moments in the creative process for us. With some of the backing vocals it was like, roll the tape and let's just see what happens. Sometimes amazing things come out and experience helps us to trust those spontaneous moments. It's a work in progress right up to the very end.
MT: The Way is your ninth studio album together. Has the process of putting the record together changed for Buzzcocks over the years?
SD: It hasn't really changed at all. Writing the songs is what's initially so important. We used to say it's like writing a postcard to people, making these records. That was long before emails were around and everything was either post office mail or word of mouth. We hadn't done a record for about five years. We used to put them out all the time and this time we decided we wanted to make an album with ten songs on it. One of the hardest things is going into the studio and having a lot of songs that are good and then having to decide what to leave off of the album. Ten songs is quick and it doesn't go on for too long [laughing]. People's attention span these days might be a bit shorter than it was in yesteryear. We have done 12 and 14 songs on previous albums but this time we thought doing just ten would keep it concise.
All of the B sides are great too. That was the biggest surprise for me really, when we got into the studio. We had a lot of really great songs to sort through. Making any album is kind of like lightness and darkness with all of the introspective moments. This one still has all the hooks and things that Buzzcocks are known for. It wasn't like we were trying to make something like The Beatles' White Album [laughing]. We weren't thinking of that at all and it took awhile to see where this album was actually going to be coming from. When you think of The Beatles catalog and then when you get to the White album, it's kind of in a world all of its own there so maybe in that way, our newest record is a little bit like that. It wasn't intentional but it does have some dark, introspective moments mixed in with those moments of light.
MT: How have your audiences changed over the years?
SD: We've got a couple singles off of the new album and the latest one, "In The Back" has just come out everywhere. This is the second single off of it and The Way has just been doing really well. It's played in Germany, Holland, Spain and of course, the United States. Two-thirds of our audience around the world, generally are still younger people. The other third was there from the very beginning but we get a lot of young people. The songs are kind of timeless in a way and some of them sound like they were made last week and a lot of younger people have picked up on that. The internet has certainly helped our music to reach a younger audience. Then too, some people come to the shows with their parents (laughing). We span about three generations and after being the darlings of the press in the beginning, we've kind of built our own Buzzcocks world. Things come and go all the time, styles of music and what's in fashion and we now find ourselves in a classic band category.
MT: You've got a pretty busy schedule and are playing a bunch of live gigs to promote this record. Are you always this busy?
SD: Our touring just varies from year to year, it kind of depends on what comes up for us. We have always had a big following in the U.K. But it's the same in other areas as well. We were in the states before the album came out and now we've been back this month to play some dates and to do The Late Late Show with Seth Myers. We'll then be back to playing a multitude of dates in the U.K. before once again flying back to the states this summer to play in Portland. We're doing a lot of Atlantic crossings [laughs] and we love it.
You can get more information on Buzzcocks tour dates and merch by visiting their official site here.