Hello, well that was a long time ago. I’m not crazy anymore, I can assure you. I live a very quiet life. That was then. That was when I was young.
Marco: Please start at the very beginning. How did it all start with The Cockney Rejects back in 1978?
Jeff: No actually, it truly didn’t start in ’78. It is wrong - it was 1979 The Rejects started. It all started basically as young kids. Working class families couldn’t afford instruments, so we used to favour our instruments from various record and music shops. We always wanted to be in a band because we was always into music. When punk came along, anybody could be in a band. So, when we started me brother was learning a few chords on the guitar, I wanted to be a drummer but I couldn’t do that, I wasn’t very good. So, me brother in law started learning a few lines on the bass and we formed a band called ‘The Shitters’. Then we stopped there and I got the name ‘The Cockney Rejects’ and we went from there. We were recruiting a drummer and then things took off really quickly. Very quick, too quick. I was only fourteen years old at the time. It was good, innocent times but it got dangerous very quickly.
Joyce: Which bands influenced you to start your own band?
I was always influenced by heavy rock bands. As a kid, I was listening to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, all the usual bands. When the first wave of punk came along, it was refreshing. I’m a 70s punk, so bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Generation X, The Stanglers, I loved the freshness of it. It was kind of like a revolution in a way, musically, and I loved that part of it and what they were singing about. We wasn’t good enough as a band start being like Queen and the Rolling Stones… so punk was it. So that’s where we went, with the punk thing.
Marco: What’s your main source of inspiration (football and riots) for writing your lyrics and music?
It was what we was living at the time. We were really the first football band so heavily involved in football with only a mile away from our stadium’s ground. Me and my brother were a successful image of boxers then. We lived in a place that was rough. All I knew about punk and rioting was - you know, The Pistols were a great band - but it was more political and anarchy. My idea of punk was coming from football: fighting, getting nicked by the police, so that was what we wrote about. We actually wrote about what we was doing, unlike a lot of punk bands of which we found out many years later were fakes. We was what we was.
Marco: Do you have any other hobbies or interests besides music and football?
I still box, I still train. I was sparring on Thursday night and I’m a little bit sore, but I’m 52 and I still do it. I used to play a lot of cricket, English game, and I do a lot of running. I love sports. I’ve been a single parent for years and raised me kids on me own. I’ve got two lovely grandkids, so I spend me time together, I’m a family man. I live a very normal life like anybody else should do. Two of my boys still live with me and one of my boys has just joined the Royal Navy and he is doing okay. So, life is good, and obviously I love playing music, rock and roll. So it’s just a normal live, at least to me it’s normal, as normal as can be. And I still love football.
Joyce: If I’m correct you have also made a couple of metal records halfway your career (The Wild Ones, Quiet Storm, Lethal). What can you tell us about the reactions to these albums, because we can imagine that the punk/Oi! scene were perhaps a bit indifferent about it?
I can understand that, but I think if you’re going to be true to yourself and you really mean what you mean, you’ve got to do what your heart is telling you. In 1991 in England, we were exhausted with the Oi! stuff and after the Southall riots, Punk was pretty much dead in England. We were professional musicians and I wanted to carry on, and the next stop for progression for The Rejects was to go back to my true heroes like Nazareth, Aerosmith and stuff like that. I think they’ve helped us set to be made, critically that was very inclined, but we didn’t play any gigs with them anyway The gigs seemed really died in the early 80s after Southall and after relaunching a heavy metal band there were thousands of promises and millions of lies, but we didn’t actually get booked. And the band didn’t make any progress there. Everything is meant to happen for a cause, and maybe that was meant to happen, but I don’t regret them albums at all. It’s all part of who we are. At that time of me life it was more truthful to yourself writing and putting all those words down - I said to you I always loved heavy rock - than singing about fighting and getting nicked. I’ve done all that. So, I moved on, you know. We have always been around with bands as Black Sabbath and UFO. It was time to do what we had to do. I don’t regret it and I think we all go through that in life. Maybe it was a mistake in a lot of ways, maybe financially and all that. But then, when is finance all about being in a band? It is about what you feel there.
Joyce: Why did you make these records in the first place?
Because, we always wanted to do it and the band was progressing musically. When you’re fourteen and the band was just learning their instruments, within a couple of years you be far. It’s with everything: if you’re a football team, you want to get better. If you’re a cricket team, an athlete, you think you can fight in the army? So fucking get better! Unless you take that leaping at a dog, and you don’t test yourself… then you’ll never know. To me it was a natural thing, I was only seventeen when I started making these records. Nothing is braver than go the next level and die trying than to have never done it at all.
Marco: Could you tell us something about your connection with Pete Way and UFO?
Jeff: Pete was a legend. Vince their bass player was a roadie for Sham 69 and there was Ross Halfin the photographer.
Marco: Sham 69, the Millwall fans?
Not the original, they don’t support anyone. I think you’re talking about fake Sham 69. The real Sham 69 is Jimmy Pursey, he’s still playing. What the other clan is doing I don’t fucking know, they’re fakes. You can put that on record, I don’t give a fuck about Millwall Sham 69. Fucking idiots. We always loved the band UFO and we kind of got connected with them. Started going to some of them shows, always loved their music. Pete was an absolute fantastic character; brilliant, great ear for music. Pete had a big thing to do in making the trip to heavy rock. Because we played with Mick and all that, with the band, and said we should try to go that extra level because we got enough to do it. Pete was a fantastic man, a wild man. Not a wild man not in fighting, but in the amount of drugs he consumed and what he got up to. Sadly, at the moment our friend Pete’s got cancer, so I’m really wishing him well and that he pulls together. He has led a very hard life. Self-inflicted, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a lovely man and a good friend.
Joyce: You said you never played any of the metal albums live, if I’m correct?
The only time we played it live was about two years ago. We done a one-off show at the Bridge House in Canning Town at “The Wild ones night”. We played 15 heavy-rock songs all of ‘The Wild Ones’ and another five or six songs to an invited audience. Tony Frater, our beloved Tony who died last year, our bass player, replaced Vince on the guitar and Vince played bass. It was a fantastic night. I don’t think it will ever be repeated again, since Tony died last year and he was integer to it, you know what I mean? It wouldn’t be the same without him. So, we did it once and once is good enough. Once is better than never.
Joyce: We are truly sorry about the tragic loss of your bass player Tony Van Frater October last year. What impact did it have on you and the band?
We always talk about it. Tony was a great and fine man, a great musician, always great to be around. It was a very sudden loss, nobody saw it coming. I had spoken to him the night before because we was playing in Germany on a Saturday and I had spoken to him on a Wednesday. I got a phone call at 7 o’clock on Thursday morning saying that he was dead. It was at the end of a 14- days-tour, pretty sore and other things. We didn’t see it coming, it’s so sudden for a 51-year-old, so young. I mean a lovely man and a massive part of The Rejects and a massive part of me life. And one moment I thought I’m not going to do this anymore, I can’t do it anymore. But, it’s in your blood and the only way is that you have to try and carry on. At the end of the day it’s very tragic to lose a member and a friend, but then, at the other point you’ve got thousands of fans around the world who expects you to play. So, that’s what you’re going to do. Love him, miss him, not a day goes past when I don’t think about him, but this is in honour of his memory anyway, that’s the way I look at it when we play. Tony was a fan of the band.
Marco: In the early days there have been some troubles among football supporters during your shows.
Not now, but many years ago.
Marco: How is the current situation in the English Oi! scene right now?
Surely calm. People are more grown up. You don’t get any trouble. It’s a good scene compared to the early days – the early days was horrific, it was terrible. If you look at 1979/1980, there was a right wing faction in it as well. It counted for the football too. It was what it was. Now it is good, but that was horrible days then, but I look back at what happened was part of the band’s history. If that hadn’t had happened we probably wouldn’t had that writing about the band, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Marco: Was there any rivalry among bands who were supporters of other football teams?
Not back in our days, we was the only one. I don’t remember any band saying that you should support this or that team. It’s only years after they come out as football people. Take that wanker John Lydon, when the Sex Pistols were going he never used to mention Arsenal. Never he was passionate about your team when he was doing them interviews dragging the insults of the lies of Mick Jagger… he surely would’ve mentioned Arsenal, but he never. And now every time you see him doing interviews, he has got an Arsenal scarf behind him, but they never mentioned it then. Be true to yourself, people was frightened to mention it, but we wasn’t because we were the ones being truthful. Now they come out “I support this team and I support that team”, why wouldn’t you fucking sign it then? They’re full of shit. We was about football, we all cared about football. Now football, is trendy, but it wasn’t trendy then to say “I’m a football hooligan, fuck you!". We got over the football and fight. We were young kids, so what? And the press hated us and good, I’m glad they did….because we hated them too…
Marco: Are you still welcome to play for some Tottenham and Millwall punks?
Anyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter, I’m grown up now, I’m older now.
Joyce: Before asking you any further questions about the legendary Top Of the Pops clip of ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles’, I would like to compliment on playing the instruments flawlessly without even touching them. Could you tell us about a bit more about that gig?
It was mental that day, we was drunk! We were taken to the Green Room at 11 o’clock and we started drinking. Drinking, drinking, drinking and being told “You can’t do this, you can’t do that”. The UK Subs were there as well – if you see the clip by UK Subs doing ‘Teenage’, you can see us at the side of the stage going mental, going mad! It was a good night, we was drunk and they told us never to come back again, which was fantastic. I’m glad they did.
Joyce: What kind of an audience did you have to play for?
That’s what you get on Top of the Pops, people want tickets to get an audience… and sometimes one song could take about six or seven takes, because of the camera. There’s no punks in the audience. You get all those chart people who listen to ABBA and stuff like that, haha! But that was the beauty of Top Of The Pops, because it was so diverse. And you knew being a punk band, they was going to hate you. That was fine by me anyway, it was good. Great clip! Trying not to let me kids see it, but they are grown up now anyway, haha!
Marco: You recently released the song ‘Goodbye Upton Park’. What’s your opinion about the new stadium and the commotion about the English football?
English football is dead. It’s horrible and I can’t stand it. It’s just money and business, and it’s not about proper fans anymore. The new stadium, I can’t stand it and I will never go there. To me Westham died like the day that they come out the Boleyn ground. It’s not going to get any better and they will probably get relegated, and they be playing for 30,000 people next season in a 60,000 stadium. They turned it into a family tourist club. They are banning fans all time for standing up in the stadium. Over 200 bans! I’m sick of it, I’ve had enough! My older brother, he’s 63 now, has been a season ticket holder for god knows over 35 years now, and he won’t be coming anymore. That’s why many true Westhams hold this foe. I think it’s gone, it’s finished.
Marco: How did it feel as a fanatic Westham fan to play at the final goodbye-gig at Upton Park?
It was the greatest moment of my career. It was surreal. We was the last people who walked off that pitch after all the years of them not wanting to know us. On that ground, holding banners, It was a fantastic night! We beat Manchester United 3-2. It was awesome and been on national television as well. We went global. We were the only band and the last people who walked off that pitch for the last time. People said after that “What’s there left to do? It was only a career.” But there is still a lot to do. It was an absolutely magical moment; one of the best moments that I had in my career and that’s being honest. We’ve played Upton Park! But it was the second time we done it. Because we played our friend Kevin Mitchell, a boxer, he had a world-title fight in May 2010, we played him into the ring. But this was different because Westham were actually playing. It was great playing Kevin into the ring for his world title fight, but this was playing Upton Park! It was fantastic, it was significant! My two boys were there, which was great, they loved it. But walking away from that pitch for the last time, I knew that was it. I was walking away from 45 years of going over that stadium. People say ”You will get used to the new stadium.”, but no, I can’t get used to it. Why should you?
Marco: Do you think every Westham fan knows the Rejects, including the new generation?
I would like to say 75%. The new generation is the new brood. Millwall fans were true Cockneys. But I would say the new breed don’t know nothing about Westham history. The new breeds are supporting the tourists; they are middle and upper class. Bringing their family and kids and tell them sit down like grown men…they wouldn’t know The Cockney Rejects. It was always the true people who was there and knew what we was and knew what we stood for.
Questions by Joyce VC and Patchman Marco - Headbangers Zine. With help and advice from Joris Tio Gringo and Jeroen Rottendlijk.