Interview with Greg Cowan of THE OUTCASTS
"People aren’t Punk, its only music".
How has the last two decades changed your perspective in general? Do you have a family now? What other jobs have you taken to get by over the years?
I’m 44 years old, middle aged man, of course my perspectives have changed over the last 2 decades, but probably not as much as people expect. I’m glad I can still get passionate about music; the difference now is that it’s not just Punk but any good song although the new Green Day single “American Idiot” blew me away.
I’ve always worked in the family business a painting and decorating firm even when the band was going now Martin and I run the company. I’ve been married 18 years (she’s very patient) but never wanted kids I couldn’t bear the responsibility, inside my head I’m still 19, its funny if you’ve been in a band you get used to an image of yourself stuck then and find it odd when you see photos of yourself now and realise how old you’ve become.
What was your last interview you did?
I seem to be constantly doing interviews now, I find it very flattering that something we did 20 years ago is still of interest.
In 1977 you were a young punkband on the scene. Did your parents supported you in any ways?
My parents were extremely supportive especially my dad, we had our own practice room in the house, he gave us any time of we needed from worked, payed to set up our own record label when Good Vibes sacked us and bailed us out of jail when we got in trouble. They never complained no matter how ridiculous we looked.
What was the worst tattoo you ever saw in 1977 or 1978 or 1979?
The worst tattoo I ever saw was on Raymond’s girl in Marseille it was SKINS on the inside of her lip.
How many times have you seen the Stiff Little Fingers? Or in other words, which band did you have seen in your active time the most? Rudi? the Undertones?
I’ve seen Rudi more than the other 2 as we toured with them, both the Undertones and the Stiffs left Ireland very early in their careers.
I once saw on video your live performance at the “Ulster Hall”. I´m not sure, but I think, John Peel was also there. Do you think it´s coming out in the near future on DVD? In your active time, did someone filmed you in the studio or at some other shows?
The video you saw was “Self Conscious Over You”, a film made by John Davies who also made “Shell Shock Rock”, there are loads of footage of us, videos, TV. Etc but I don’t think its commercially available.
Was there much violence at your gigs? What was the strangest thing that´s been thrown at you on stage?
There was loads of violence at our gigs, in the early days in small halls it was us against the audience if any one spat on us or heckled Martin and Colin would jump of the stage guitars swinging. Later when we had our own crowd we would be very protective of them if trouble broke out.
How is life in your street where you live?
I live in a very quiet street, they put up with me with no complaints.
The most clever word you ever said?
I was always proud I described down town Belfast during the troubles as “ a wasteland inhabited only by Punks and terrorists.”
What would be a criticism of yourself that would really bother you?
I would hate to be told I live in the past; I enjoy talking about the Outcasts years but loath people who think life ended in 84.
Which tune will be always your fave OUTCASTS song?
I always hated all our recorded work, but my favourite song is “Teenage Rebel”.
Who is/was the biggest loudmouth in punk rock, that you met or knew? And why?
There were so many big mouths in bands its hard to pick one.
How would you compare the scene you were involved 27 years ago to the punk scene today? What newer bands are you in to?
I don’t know what the punk scene is like now, it certainly seems bigger than it was in terms of record sales; of course being a part of a scene creating something new is a magical experience. I like Green Day.
Where/how often do you practice? Do you share the rehearsal room with any other band? Any serious plans to record some songs for a release with your new band Shame Academy?
We rehearse in my house, my attic is converted into a rehearsal room, and we only practise before gigs. We have a new CD coming out in December but its only rerecorded Outcast and Rudi songs.
What is the best sentence you have ever heard, that someone has managed to get into a song's lyrics?
Best lyric is in “Hurt” by Johnny Cash “ You can have it all my empire of dirt I will let you down I will give you hurt.”
Which record could I find in your CD-player or at your turn-table?
I have an I Pod so I carry all my music collection with me, every thing from Dolly Parton to Discharge.
How many times have you been to London? What were your first impression about the London punk scene?
I first went to London with Getty in 1975 to see David Bowie. I then went back in 1977 to go to the Roxy, Eater were playing. I thought the London scene was so glamorous compared to Belfast.
When you look back at the time you spent in the Outcasts, what sticks out the most? What's the general feeling you get about it? Do you miss it?
I am very proud of my time in the Outcasts, not by the records we made but by our live shows, for a while we were a shit hot live band. When think about then I always think of Colin’s death, he was a terrible drummer but was our leader and the heart of the band, all though we were more successful after he was killed some of the fun died with him.
Being over the teenage age, how do you view teenagers now?
I love pretty teenage girls but hate boys and hate listening to them.
Your first single was in 1977 one of this One Chord Wonders-7"inches, that fit perfect in John Peel´s radioshow. I could remember he played it very often on his programme. Did you met him personal? And how would you discribe him and his work in the early punk rock years?
We recorded 2 John Peel sessions and he compared one of our shows so we met him quite a lot. He was shy, but I hated his shows you had to listen for hours to hear 1 good song.
What is the differnce between the shows you played in the 70ties and the shows you play today with the Shame Academy?
Shame Academy is like having a brilliant hobby; we only play a couple of times a year so it’s all ways fun. The Outcasts was my life for a while.
Was there cameraderie between bands or were they distant to each other? How did the bigger bands treat you?
All the Good Vibes bands hated each other then and we all hated the Stiffs, bands are jealous by nature and hate to see other bands doing better. Now were all the best of friends I love meeting anyone from then, in January I flew to Sydney to meet up with Gordy Blare who was in the Stiffs, Rudi and us.
What was the most violent thing you did as a youngster?
I cut my brother Martins face and left him with a permanent scar.
Is there anything else on your mind you'd like to share?
Sorry it’s a bit short but I have done so many interviews recently it’s becoming hard.
Ralf Real Shock ( August 2004 )