Inside his tidy Old Town flat — amid Bret Easton Ellis novels and oriental laquer bird-cages — Wattie serves strong tea in ‘Paintball’s The Game For Me’ mugs while we listen to a Vibrators tape. The visual background consists of a ritual skin-piercing video, with individuals sticking metal spikes through bodily parts usually covered by at least two layers of clothing. Next is a tape of a US businessman taking his own life at a press conference, shooting through his mouth with a Luger in well—focused monochrome. ‘And they say horror films aren’t true to life,’ comments Buchan, as blood gushes from the dying man’s nostrils and spurts erratically from a cavity in the top of his slumped head. ‘Call an ambulance,’ urges someone on the videotape. ‘He needs more than an ambulance,’ Wattie observes, drily.
Aired for effect or not, the video fare at Buchan’s ﬂat is a giveaway. Though the years have greatly mellowed him, Buchan has always enjoyed a reputation as a bit ofa wild, might we say violent, man. Titles from The Exploited’s latest collection, 1991’s The Massacre (60,000 copies sold worldwide) — ‘Police Shit’, ‘Fuck Religion’, ‘Porno Slut’ — would suggest that the twelve years his group have been in existence have done nothing to tame Buchan’s confrontational aspect. He begs to qualify the charge.
‘Ten years ago, we were notorious for causing damage.’ he admits, ‘but that was through drugs. We had loads of fights with stupid skinheads. Never lost any, either. We’d get drunk and, if a gig didn’t go right, we’d destroy the place. But we did 50 gigs in America last winter, and there was only trouble at two of them; one I smashed up and the other was a stage invasion that I organised in Florida.’
‘I don’t like anyone telling me what I can or can’t do,’ Buchan offers, when asked outright if he is a violent man. ‘I don’t advocate violence, but I wouldn’t walk away from it. I’m genuinely not a violent person, but there are situations where people exploit you, rip you off for thousands of pounds, and because you can’t afford a lawyer and these business guys can, sometimes the only way is to say, “Look, we’ll burn your house down if we don’t get the money you owe us.” I’ve got a cupboard full of cheques people have bounced on us. What am I supposed to do about that? I spent years going demented about the money we were owed. I’ve made more money in the last two years than in the previous eight, because now I make sure it comes through the door. When people sit there and laugh in your face because they know you can’t get near them legal-wise, well, violence is there as the last resort.’
Wattie formed The Exploited in 1979 from the remnants of his brother’s school band after a three-year stint in the army in Northern Ireland. ‘I tried to get a job,’ he recalls, ‘but the Job Centre said “Change your image,” and I said “No”. I formed a band instead.’ Thus began the legend, a legend which, in Spinal Tap fashion, has seen a few casualties along the way. ‘Aye, we’ve had a fair few line-up changes,’ Wattie
aw " “i
Casualties along the way: Big‘John (lett) is now in Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and Gary MacCormack (right) is in ZuluSyndicate Second right is Wattie. with trademark c'rimson Monican.
chuckles. (Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’s Big John and Zulu Syndicate’s Gary MacCormack were Exploited originals.) ‘Our last drummer came to Holland with us in ’91. First time he’d taken real drugs. He just went “Whoooooargh!” He lost it. He plays in a touring Christian church band now.‘
Though he still writes about ‘what happens to me in the street, drugs, war, the police’, Buchan describes recent Exploited output as ‘faster, better, more guitar-orientated’ music. ‘People think punk’s just a racket,’ he notes. ‘Well, we’ve auditioned qualified musicians and they can’t cut it. There’s complicated guitar work in there, and also energy. You need to be fit to play speed-punk music. Most bands just thrash it out as fast as they can. To me, that’s shit. Our last album took two years to make and I
‘We’re the biggest
punk-thrash band in f ' ‘ the world, and the - press is at last ﬂ A recognising that.’ “’ .
- thousand records, and here’s us on our sixth
produced it myself. It got five-star reviews in Kerrang!and Metal Hammer. I felt like I’d finally proven a point. We’re the biggest punk-thrash band in the world, and the press a is at last recognising that. The papers cover all these new bands who can’t even sell a
American tour, playing to full houses all over the world, selling tens of thousands of records a year, being completely ignored. It’s not just a noise we’re making, it’s choruses and good riffs. That’s the difference between us and the other thrash bands in Britain.’
You can ignore The Exploited, but they won’t go away. On the positive side. their hard-hitting, emotive art gives a primitive voice to the disquiet felt by a generation of revolution-seeking British street people. The Massacre is as rich an expression of disgust at perceived iniquity and oppression as anything U2 have ever come up with. Yet. on the negative side, there’s just that, the up-front negativity of it all. It’s saddening, ultimately, to note that the nihilism ofThe Exploited’s anti-everything philosophy seems to offer only unconstructive despair at our pathetic lot, denying the possibility that anything good could ever appear in its stead. I put this to Buchan: he disagrees animatedly.
‘No. Punk means something to thousands of people. It’s not, and never was, just a fashion, a fad. At heart, it’s rebellion music. solid working class music. It gives people like me a chance to voice my points ofview. People might not like it, it might get their backs up, but at least you have let them know what you think about life. If an Exploited song can help somebody or make them think about something, then it’s done something good. I’d just be another silent number ifI wasn’t in this band. It’s about
expression. I’m communicating ideas here.’
The Exploited play The Venue, Edinburgh on Tue 1 1 Feb.
’ wt! ’ 1 .‘U-
The List 31 January— 13 February i962 11