Catch the Common Cold as the underground arrives in Preston
While his working hours are spent at prestigious Amsterdam venue The Paradiso, producer/sound engineer/songwriter Ajay Saggar remains proud of his Lancashire past.
Three decades after an introduction to the North West indie scene as a Lancaster University student, hanging out by night on the Preston front, Ajay’s returning to his musical roots.
He was an integral part of John Peel favourites Dandelion Adventure with Marcus Parnell (then known as ‘Fat Mark’) in the late-80s, releasing an LP via Church Street record store/label Action Records.
That kick-started an acclaimed underground career, Ajay later associated with acts like Donkey, The Bent Moustache and more recently King Champion Sounds and Deutsche Ashram.
In October 2016 he was on stage with Marcus for the first time in three decades at The Continental, joining former Cornershop drummer Dave Chambers as The Common Cold, letting rip in the snug on two extended krautrock jams as part of Tuff Life Boogie’s UnPeeled event.
But that wasn’t just a one-off trip down memory lane, the project secretly moving forward, their debut LP, Shut Up! Yo Liberals! out on Monday, April 9 via Action Records.
To mark the occasion, The Common Cold play 10 UK shows on 10 nights, the originals backed by second drummer Scrub (Roland Jones, ex-Big Red Bus) and teenage bass player Jack Harkins (also in Ludovico).
“Jack’s a massive Stranglers fan. When I heard that, I said, ‘Just bloody get him!’ The bass sound I’ve always gone for has been Jean-Jacques Burnel (The Stranglers) crossed with Steve Hanley (The Fall). The first single I bought was No More Heroes, my first LP was Black and White, and the first band I ever saw was The Stranglers at Bridlington Spa. I started playing bass because of JJ’s gnarly growl – something Steve Hanley has, too.
“I just felt we needed to take it a notch up. Marcus was super-enthusiastic, so I wrote the music and got the personnel together to play on it. The two-drummer thing was important. I always loved that idea of having that powerhouse – a Paul Hanley/ Steve Hanley/ Karl Burns axis, like The Fall.
“I visited Preston last spring and we worked our asses off in a rehearsal room. And I felt it important to do as many Lancashire shows as possible, where I first played in a band and saw so many bands.”
Ajay’s mentioned his love of The Fall, and he became good friends with recently-departed Mark E. Smith, who also released records on Action Records in his time.
Fall singer Mark E Smith dies aged 60“That was the band that made me listen to music differently, appreciating the highest art-form there is within the spectrum, and how it appeals to people in different ways. It ignites you. The Fall took making music to a heightened level, via Mark’s poetic view of the world and way of expressing that, keeping you on your toes as you listen.
“Then there were the musicians who stood the challenge of presenting Mark with a musical palette that would not only be a perfect foil to his voice and lyrics but also keep the momentum for the listener – keeping them challenged in what they’re hearing. You didn’t know what had hit your ears! This was music from a different planet, fantastic. Every time I play Hex Enduction Hour or Grotesque, or whatever Fall LP, I still hear new things – the greatest compliment you could pay to any musician.
“Mark challenged himself and his group. They never became lazy, he wouldn’t let them, keeping it fresh for himself and them. That’s something that rubbed off on me, keeping yourself on edge. If you think things are becoming too safe and you may be on to a winning formula, break away – go in the opposite direction!”
The link to Gordon Gibson’s Action Records goes way back. Was it key to have them put out the record?
“Absolutely, and Marcus goes back even further with Gordon, while Dave Chambers worked there. And I wanted a Lancashire band, with Northern roots and a Northern sound. It would have been easy to ask other labels to do it. But I totally trust Gordon, somebody I can phone up or drop an email to ask advice on. He’s really honest and on it, which is why Mark E. Smith liked him.”
And what’s the LP’s overriding message?
“On a musical level, it’s a call to arms, and one of the best albums that will come out of the UK this year.
“Marcus is one of the best lyricists in the UK. His knowledge of pop culture is enormous. He’s a man of the world, understands how things work, the difference between right and wrong, and he’s not afraid to state things, with a fantastic poetic way of expressing things.
“I said, ‘Let’s just make it, get it out, do a tour, then follow it up with something else in due course’. The ideas are always there. This is our calling card, saying we’re here, we’ve got something to offer, it’s good – take it while you’ve got the chance! Then we’ll just move on. Art is not something that needs to be held on to for dear life. It’s always in flux. Things move and change. That’s the beauty of it, and we’re just a small element of that changing process. This is our contribution … for now, for this moment, for this instant! We’re saying, ‘Here it is, take it, immerse yourself in it, enjoy it, love it, get energy from it, and then we’ll move on.”
The Common Cold UK tour includes dates at Darwen Sunbird Records (May 10), Lancaster Yorkshire House (May 11), Salford White Hotel (May 12) and Preston Ferret (May 19), with tickets for the latter on sale from this Saturday (March 24) at the venue or via Action Records, from whom you can order the
LP – limited to 300 copies on vinyl, the first 100 including a hand-painted inner sleeve, a free badge, and other goodies - at www.actionrecords.co.uk