Steve Diggle isn't exactly a founding member of the Buzzcocks, but he's been around since the beginning. He was recruited by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto early on after a couple of the band's members left the group and he played with the Buzzcocks when they opened for the Sex Pistols in Manchester in 1976. Since then, they've had quite a few lineup changes, packed their discography with albums, and continued to play around the world for a growing number of fans both young and old. A seminal punk band, the Buzzcocks have had a worthy career, one that's stood the test of time
Thirty-eight years after their formation, they've just released another album. The Way is their first new record in eight years, and it's being compared to the Beatles' White Album. We called up Diggle last week while he was relaxing in a New York hotel room. He'd be playing Webster Hall that night and Riot Fest in Toronto the next day. With his thick British accent, he told us about the new record, their set, and how he plans to break down the door to the Motown Museum.
Metro Times: How's the tour going?
Steve Diggle: It's been an exciting tour up to now. There has been a lot of warmth from the fans and the people out there. Two-thirds of the audience are young fans, generally, around the world. There are some old die-hard fans — well, quite a few, actually. The music is kind of timeless, really. A lot of young kids are picking up on it. And, you know, the songs still sound like they were made last week.
MT: Tell us about your new album, The Way.
Diggle: It's kind of interesting, it's been described as the White Album, and I thought it was more like Exile on Main Street — not musically, but because of the sentiment of it — the color and flavor of it, you know. Even though there are a few catchy songs on there, it isn't as poppy as some of the other things we've done; there's heavy riffs. We're really pleased with it. It's where we are right now, you know, in time, as we are as a band. It's a classic Buzzcocks album, definitely.
MT: How do you feel about it being compared to the White Album?
Diggle: It's just kind of weird. I had done an interview and that wasn't even mentioned, and then I read the story — that's how the guy described it and it surprised me, really. The thing was, I don't know, there's a certain kind of flavor and smell and sound of that Beatles White Album that's quite unique, so I can see where he's coming from with that, but I never thought it was like that. I can kinda see it in a way. It's not like it sounds like the White Album song-for-song, but there is something about it that has that sort of flavor. I suppose it's a great compliment, really.
MT: What's your set going to be like when you're in Detroit?
Diggle: We'll be doing six new songs in the set, and they've been working really well. We've got a groovier song called "Third Dimension," which I really like. It takes us in a bit of a different air. It's all classic stuff. There are about 25 or 26 songs that we do in the set. There are a lot of favorites that people know. There's "Ever Fall in Love" and there's "Harmony in My Head" which always goes down strong. We expand it out a bit and get the crowd singing and a bit involved. There's all of those classic ones as well, you know. We have our MC5 moments as well [laughs]. We've got songs as good as the Beatles, rock 'n' roll as good as the Who and Rolling Stones.
MT: What was it like making this album after eight years?
Diggle: It was a great surprise, really. We'd been touring and the back catalog is about 150 songs, so when we play we can never do enough songs. It was time. It was like, well maybe we should make a new album now. You know, we used to make them every year. We even made two in one year. We got the songs together pretty quick once the ball got rolling. It was amazing to do, really.
MT: Do you think you'll make another album?
Diggle: I'd be up for doing another album now because we've kind of forgot about it and just skipped to the live thing, you know. The magic is still there. Buzzcocks were always about songs, you know, over the bullshit. We've let the songs do the work rather than tell people we're good. We let the songs speak for us.
MT: You've played St. Andrew's Hall a few times over the years. Do you have any memories of performing there?
Diggle: We always have a lot of memories of St. Andrew's Hall. It's a great place to play with the balcony. I remember some guy jumping off into the crowd, and I thought that guy's got a lot of faith, you know! That was a hell of a leap. Nobody said anybody died, so I think he survived, but that was amazing to see from the stage!
MT: Is there anything you like to do when you're in Detroit?
Diggle: Oh, yeah. What really pisses me off about playing in Detroit — which I love — is that we always seem to play on a Sunday, and I've always wanted to go to [the] Motown Museum, you know, Hitsville U.S.A., and it's always closed on Monday. Every time we've always had to leave early, and I've never been there yet! Maybe I'll get to it this time. Every time, it's broke my heart.
MT: Maybe they'll open it up especially for you.
Diggle: Otherwise, I'm going to break in this time. I'll blow the fucking door off. — mt
The Buzzcocks play at St. Andrew's Hall on Sunday, Sept. 14. Doors open at 7 p.m.; 431 E. Congress, Detroit; saintandrewsdetroit.com; 313-961-8961; tickets are $20.