ModPopPunk Archives: The FLYS formed in 1977, how did that happen?
Neil O'CONNOR : We actually formed long before that, more like 74, but we went under the name "Midnight Circus".
I met David and Joe through David's mother and started giving them guitar lessons.
Before too long we decided to try to put a band together and Joe shifted to Bass while David and I played the 2 guitars.
We didn't have a drummer for ages and for a long time went through a succession of part time drummers.
Eventually we met a guy from the States who was living in Coventry called Paul Angelopolis and he was with us for a couple of years until he overdosed on barbiturates and died at the age of 24.
So it was at this time that we changed the name to The Flys, borrowed some money from Dave's mum to buy a van and some extra gear that we needed and found Pete King, brother of our Manager, Chris King, to play drums.
MPP A: When was your first gig?
Neil: As the "Midnight Circus" it was at a community hall called the Butts centre in Coventry. We used to rehearse there and so did the fledgling "Specials".
For the Flys, I can't remember but we used to play a club in Coventry called "Mr Georges" quite a bit and we set up a regular Monday night gig at another place in the town centre but I can't remember it's name.
MPP A: When you were young, what was it about "punk/new wave" that moved you?
Neil: Up until the punk time there was a hell of a lot of Prog rock and Jazz rock, no-one was dancing, just sitting around on the floor. It was next to impossible to get a record deal unless you were making this kind of music, which we weren't. When bands like the Sex Pistols and the Damned started happening we recognised that we were closer to them than anything else and this gave us an ID. Also we saw that many bands were doing it for themselves, going the indie route, cutting out the big guns so, with our manager Chris, this is what we did.
MPP A: You put out your first 7" pretty soon after you formed, how did you pull that off? How have "Bunch of five EP" been received?
Neil: Our manager Chris King financed "Bunch of Five". We went to Pathway studios in Islington, London where most of the early "Stiff" records had been produced. It's where the first Damned, Elvis Costello albums where made and we loved the sound.
We spent a whole Saturday recording nearly everything we had and from the sessions went back a few days later to mix the 5 songs that became "Bunch of Five". By the way our label was called "ZAMA" not "Lama" as some people say.
It was very well received though as we were releasing it we were also in negotiations with EMI and they made it a condition of the contract that we had to restrict the printing to 2,500 copies as they wanted to re-release "Love and a Molotov" cocktail on their own EMI label. All the copies of "Bunch of Five" sold out very quickly.
MPP A: What was the scene in Coventry?? Any relationship with other bands?
Neil: It was very vibrant and we had good friendships with all the bands especially "The Specials", who we'd known since our "Midnight Circus" incarnation, and "Selector", Neal Davies was a personal friend who'd gone to the same school as my sister Hazel. We used to help out each other with lending equipment and transport, share the same gigs. If The Specials needed a first act they'd sometimes call us and if we needed one we'd call them and others from around Coventry.
MPP A: What is your favorite release, of all the stuff that the FLYS have put out? What are you most happy with...
Neil: I'm personally happy with the first tracks that became "Bunch of Five", I liked a few of the tracks from Waikiki Beach but I wasn't a big fan of the production.
The same is true of Own though, because Dave and I made the production I was happier about that.
After the passage of time I now enjoy to listen again to all the tracks, guess I've taken a back step of objectivity.
What gives me the most pleasure is knowing that a whole new generation of people are still playing and apparently enjoying our old tracks and this gives me a whole new perspective on that period of time.
I guess my most fav tracks are Molotov, 16 down, Night Creatures, Energy boy, Waikiki beach refugees, Lets drive, Can I crash here......
MPP A: Do you feel the FLYS were more "punk" than "powerpop"? Did you care about label?
Neil: Somewhere in between but no I don't really care for labels and prefer, these days, to write without having to put one on any of my writings/recordings.
MPP A: What has been the FLYS' worst/best dates and memories?
In a town called North Allerton which is in the North of UK. We had a show to make at a club there and as we had arrived early decided to walk around the town centre to look over the place before our soundcheck. As it was a Saturday and this being a small town the centre was just one Street running through the town and crowded with market traders and people shopping. The only walk we could do was to go up one side of the street and return on the other. Of course we were dressed in the height of punk fashion of the day and picked up quite a few odd looks from the people of the town. Before too long we were aware that we were being followed by a growing gang of local young guys who were starting to chant "You're going to get what Rotten got", a reference to the recent knife slashing received by Johnny Rotten reported in the press a few days before. We were 6 people, the 4 of us from the band and our 2 roadie/tour managers and they were about 20. Before long one brave soul got close enough to us to try to trip up Joe and push him into an alley and then they all pounced and we ran for our lives. Eventually we took refuge in a hairdresser shop and the police were called who helped us get back to our van.
It didn't stop there. We went to the club, we played our show which was well received but as we were trying to pack up this same gang came down to the club and started to try to get to us to beat us up, I guess. Anyway they ripped down a wall and started to throw the bricks in our direction. The bouncers at the club picked up baseball bats and charged them, the police turned up and they also took part in the charge. All the while we're trying to get our stuff packed into the van while rains of bricks and rocks are coming over our heads. Well no-one was seriously injured though we were all shaken and couldn't get out of the place fast enough. Drove through the night back to Coventry.
At "Mr Georges" club in Coventry when we opened for the Buzzcocks. At the time Coventry audiences were pretty blasé and couldn't give a toss for local bands.
We were introduced to the Buzzcocks by a friend, Adrien, and they asked us to open for them in Cov. Pete didn't want to do it and threatened to leave the band but we persuaded him to go along with it. The audience reaction was amazing, so positive, lots of dancing and cheering. After that night the Buzzcocks took us on most of their tour dates, EMI came to see us and we were on our way.
MPP A: Do you have any regrets about FLYS' split in 1980?
Neil: When we split I was bitterly disappointed. We'd worked hard but couldn't get that elusive success that would have kept EMI on board.
Dave and I had always had a relationship built on friction most of the time and it became too exhausting for both of us.
In retrospect I don't now regret the split. It gave us all the opportunity to pursue other areas of music. I joined my sister, eventually moved more into the studio, which I love.
Dave and Joe had their hit with Annie Lennox.
We are all still in this precarious world of music and that's fine.
MPP A: What aspect of making music did you get off the most?
Neil: I love playing live, I love playing in studio and more than anything I love producing others, which is what I do mostly these days.
MPP A: How long have been playing together? What's your opinion of band reunions and "punk nostalgia circuit"?
Neil: Including the "Midnight Circus" days we had about 6 years together.
If the magic is still working for bands to re-unite I think it's great, if it's just to make some cash and not really for the music I think it sucks.
MPP A: Who are some bands that you think, deserve credit in 2007?
Neil: I'm not really up to speed on all the new bands out there and besides there is so much new music being played that it's hard to keep on top of all that comes out.
Also I live now in Montreal and I'm more exposed to the scene here which includes a lot of Francophone artists that my perception is coloured by my surroundings.
Saying that from Montreal I really like "Leap", "The Whereabouts" and Valery Saint-Germain but then I'm biased as I work with all of those artists.
You can find out more about them from myfriends on my myspace profile.
MPP A: What are you working now in Canada? Did you play in any bands?
Neil: Mostly, these days, I produce other artists and especially up and coming Montreal people.
Sometimes I go out on the road with them because I sometimes have played the guitar parts on the recordings.
Notably in recent times "Papillon" and "Valery Saint-Germain" who you can also find in my friends list.
"Papillon" is a Franco guy from Quebec city who has a lot of Iggy Pop in him, very energetic. Valery, well she's more Alternative/Chanson Francais.
Another notable and proud production is "Nico Lelievre".
MPP A: Any closing comments?
Neil: Happy to know that you, Roger, and others like you are taking the time and energy to document this period of time, well done mate.
You can get more info, if you need it, by checking out my 2 myspace sites, The Flys and Neil O'Connor.
Also it might be worth being in contact with "Pete Chambers" a journalist from Coventry who a couple of years ago put out a book called "Godiva Rocks" a history of music from Coventry. Again he's in my friends list on both myspace profiles.