Anti-Nowhere League are not your typical English punks. The band, which has been around since 1980, is more likely to dry-hump Kelly Bundy on your dad’s couch than protest an oil spill. They’re blue-collar outlaws, not art school misanthropes. Still, We Are…The League is as flawless as any album from that side of the pond. We sat down and Nick “Animal” Culmer, the band’s singer, and Shady, the bassist, and talked life in England, motorcycles, money, and reggae. Everyone was hammered.
VICE: Why do you think Lars Ulrich is such a cunt?
Nick “Animal” Culmer: Is he?
Shady: Is he? See, that’s what we always hear, but we have no reason to believe that—it’s about the downloads, then?
Well that certainly didn't help, but also anyone who would whip their hair around like that when they spoke-
Shady: Ah yeah, well, that's his own thing, isn't it? He's fought all these downloads, and you say he's against music or he's a cunt for that. But we still owe money for the last two albums we've made, because of free downloads. To carry on doing something new, you still need something to cover those costs, or it’s a burden on you, and that's the problem with the way modern things go. It's great that everything's shared and everyone can hear it, but someone’s actually got to pay for the studio to record the fucking thing in the first place. And in our case, that's us, or people who financed us.
But of course I'm sure back in the early days of Anti-Nowhere League—
Shady: Well then, other people ripped us off for everything, [laughs].
Animal: We have never leeched off of the music business. We've only ever played music because we wanted to. People make shitloads of money out of us, all around the circle. That's life. That's life. We go back and we have to earn a living. We have to pay bills back in the UK, so when we come on tour there’s no magic pot of money. We have to work ourselves. That's the difference with us and those bigger bands. You always hear about these guys arguin' with each other on big tour buses and then going separate ways at home. We're all riding motorcycles together on our days off or when we're back home.
What do you guys do for work back home?
Animal: Construction. Always have been, nothing new. The Anti-Nowhere League has always been a motorcycle ridin', construction workin', payin’-for-everything band. So a lot of people have made money off the band, but isn't that life? We're not gonna throw our toys out because someone stole something.
But you don't think Metallica stole anything from you? I mean they did re-record "So What?" (on Garage, Inc.) and made it sound really burgery?
Animal: All I can say is Metallica bought me a Harley.
Shady: Yeah! A gold-plated Harley with all diamond-encrusted pan heads and everything!
Animal: And they've only looked after me when I played with them. A band of that ilk to actually look after a smaller punk band, which they did, is something they didn't need to do. But they did it, and you gotta respect that. And we certainly appreciate it.
So how has this round of shows been for you in America?
Shady: It's been enjoyable, the shows have been fair enough, you know, nothing crazy inside like back home.
Animal: Yeah in the underground scene back in the UK, Scotland, England, the people are very, very crazy in a smaller environment. In America, at these larger shows, you don't have the craziness of mad Scotsmen or mad Irishmen.
What makes Scotsmen or Irishmen madder than Americans?
Animal: Well, they're violent bastards, aren't they? They really, really are. If you've never been in a club in Glasgow with everyone looking at you and calling you a fucking poofter and threatening to break your fuckin’ nose if you don't play properly. It’s hard to explain.
I'm actually playing a show in Glasgow soon, should I be worried?
Shady: (shakes his head in pity) You should definitely look forward to that one. Unique hospitality.
Animal: I'm not sayin' we're super tough boys, but we always play really rough venues, so you're used to guys who are really hard around you. We grew up in bike gangs and stuff. It’s all quite normal for us, so when we come to a place where the people aren't as rough, it's a bit of a surprise to us. But, of course, getting’ out of a gig without a broken nose is a good night too.
Which bike clubs do you identify with?
Animal: I was in a couple of outlaw motorcycle clubs that I can't obviously talk about. But I was brought up with bikers, I was brought up on the bike scene, so it was no big deal to hang out with tough guys. I did my time in prison. I got nothing to prove and I don't intend to prove anything. I just play punk rock music.
Were you immersed in motorcycle culture before discovering punk rock?
Animal: I spent two years inside. I then had to live in Canada for a year because of situations with bike gangs. When I came back from Canada in 1979, after living in the Rocky Mountains for a year—big beard, eating rabbits— we started the Anti-Nowhere League in 1980. I then obviously asked my brothers whether I could go from the bike gang into punk rock. They said they would have to remove my tattoos, but luckily I just had to date them, and they gave me their blessings.
Shady: But getting back to the punk thing, I don't think we identified ourselves with punk; punk identified itself with the Anti-Nowhere League is more the truth of it, like most bands of the time. You’ve got a genuine song to sing, you do it, and then the media or the audiences put you in that pigeonhole of whatever they think you are: "Oh, you're a punk band."
Animal: But we were accepted, which is the important thing.
Where would you say your earliest musical roots are planted then?
Animal: I was brought up on a council estate in England, with Jamaican guys, so Jamaican reggae was always my roots. To be honest, I was part of the first skinhead uprising in 1967 along with all of those guys. We were the first lot of skinheads on planet Earth. But as a biker I didn't really associate with Lynyrd Skynyrd and all of the bands bikers listen to. It didn't really do anything for me. Then I heard the Stranglers record, Peaches, in our clubhouse, and bang! That record really got me. It wasn't really the Pistols, it was more the rock of the Stranglers and the Clash that really got me hooked. So when people ask me what I'd be doing if I didn't have the band, I'd be serving a life sentence, no doubt. I had a lot of really serious issues in the past and punk saved me. I love that punk rock kept me out of prison, and it really did. It was good therapy. It still is. I spent 32 years of my life playing punk music and I hope I do it for another 32 years, because it really is my life. That's how I think everyone should be, live your life and don't worry about others. I would never, ever, tell somebody what to do. I don't fuck with people.
But you hate people!
Animal: I hate people but I don't fuck with them.
With that said, 32 years on, how do you view the world now and the people running it?
Animal: It's all quite sad isn't it? Politics are quite sad. We've all come to the point where we realize you can't trust anybody, and certainly not them. Nobody trusts a politician. We used to sing about it years ago, about trusting nobody. I still find it quite sad, the whole system is fucked and now it’s come to light. Europe is going down the pan, the UK is going down the pan. And these politicians who wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire, are still telling us what to do. I find that really sad. That's why I have respect for gangs and no respect for politicians. Gang life always, always will prevail. If the Krays were running London, life would be wonderful.