The Avengers and Steve Jones

Extracts from interview with Avengers singer Penelope Houston published in the fanzine Shredding Paper (No. 2- summer 1999). Originally conducted in 1985 by Mel.

Penelope discusses the 4 track 12" EP.

Shredding Paper: Any comments on 'Corpus Christi'?Avengers

Penelope Houston: People didn't always understand that. They thought I had gone religious. I didn't.

SP: That's one of my favourites. In fact that whole 12 inch. What label did that come out on?

PH: It was called White Noise.

SP: That was after you broke up.

PH: Yeah.

SP: Who were the people that put that out?

PH: Umm....gosh. I couldn't tell you. They only put out one other record and that was Richard Meltzer.

SP: Cos I remember that the 12 inch was out of print for a while and then it came back in print for a while.

PH: Everything that ever got put out by us... every time they printed it, it was different. There was a different coloured cover for that one.

SP: It's a good record. Who produced it?

PH: Well, Steve Jones. We originally recorded it with Steve Jones but we remixed it with a guy named Renee Dalder, and the Avengers.

SP: When you say Steve Jones, you mean from the Sex Pistols?

PH: Yeah

SP: That Steve Jones. The famous Steve Jones. What was it like working with a Sex Pistol?

PH: Well he had his idea of guitar sounds down pat. I didn't really like what he did with my vocals. I recorded all my vocals.

SP: Hmmm, what did he do with your vocals?

PH: I don't know, he just wasn't particularly interested in them. The song we mentioned ('Corpus Christi'), he didn't work on that, it was a four track that we recorded out around here somewhere, in Richmond somewhere. In someone's garage. We took it to a 16 track and beefed it up a bit. He didn't have anything to do with that one.

SP: So which were the ones that he produced for you?

PH: 'White Nigger', 'The American In Me' , and 'Uh Oh!!'.

SP: How about 'One Two Three' ('Second To None')?

PH: And 'One Two Three'.

SP: And that one never came out until the album, but he put out his version as The Professionals. Was that a song that he had written?

PH: Yeah, he wrote the music to that and we all sorta got together to write the lyrics. But I recorded it as 'Girls' with Renee Dalder another time, but that's never come out. So on that album that's the Steve Jones mix. There's a few Steve Jones mixes on the album. On the CD Presents album. (Philjens note: Posthumous compilation of Avengers tracks).

SP: Cos I remember I used to see you perform that song live. It was my favourite song live.

You were on the bill with the Sex Pistols at Winterland with 5000 people. What was that like?

PH: Well that was really... I was... I was... terrified (laughs). It was really funny. We played with the Nuns who, up until then, had been a bigger band than us. And we started to get our own audience. But the guy who was the road manager for the Sex Pistols had seen us and he asked us to play. And the Nuns said, "if you guys want to open for us, we'll understand." I said, "you gotta be kidding," cos we played between the Nuns and the Sex Pistols. The stage was already soaked with spit by the time we got up there and the audience was maybe a third punk fans and the rest just wanted to see this phenomenon, the Sex Pistols... and they were quite hostile actually. I was pretty terrified. They were all being crushed also.

SP: I noticed that. I was nowhere near the stage. It was just like a human wave. Everyone was moving together. It was packed in so tight, it was kinda scary.

PH: During the Sex Pistols set, I got within 10 feet of the stage and I was completely crushed and soaked. It was, you know, 110 degrees right there. It was crazy. It was really an exciting show.

SP: Is that where you met Steve Jones?

PH: Yeah we kind of met him through this guy Rory Johnston who was this English guy who road managed them and he was a friend of Malcolm McLaren, and he wanted to manage us, and he did manage us for a while, and he was the one who brought Steve Jones over to mix our songs. That turned into a fiasco. Steve Jones had to go back to England right in the middle of working with this. Actually no, we finished working and the tapes were still in the studio. They weren't paid for and Steve Jones went back to England and started suing McLaren. Him and Paul Cook were suing McLaren. Oh they were always having turmoil's, the Sex Pistols. Anyway they left the tapes in the studio and we didn't have any way of getting them out. It was a big hassle. A legal thing.

SP: What was it like being backstage that night with the Sex Pistols?

PH: They were nowhere to be seen and there must have been a hundred photographers and journalists all waiting for some kind of punk action. A bunch of our friends were back there. They had this huge spread for the Sex Pistols. Lots of beer and popcorn, and all the beer and popcorn ended up on the floor which made it really slippery. They were all kind of sliding around. There was a line of photographers, at least 12 photographers, all lined up just going "tchk tchk tchk tchk" so we started jumping around and there's always these pictures of backstage at the Sex Pistols concert but it was kinda brought on by the photographers hysteria.

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