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Paul Cook Interview
Live Professionals dates and new album SNAFU

With Covid restrictions easing, Phil Singleton catches up with Paul. There's plenty to look forward to.
Tom 'n' Paul
Tom 'n' Paul
Phil: How was lockdown for you and The Professionals? Were you able to be productive?

Paul: It’s been tough really. We’ve been writing stuff. We’re in the process of finishing our album. It’s been stop start all the way, mate. People think that through this lockdown everyone was going to get on and be creative, but it’s been the opposite. I’ve been speaking to a lot of people, musicians and so on. Rehearsal rooms were closed, studios were closed. Getting together with people, with the isolation and social distancing, has been tough.

I’ve been getting together with Tom (Spencer) over this time. We’ve been writing the album on and off for the last year or so and we’ve done a lot of recording. We’ve recorded stuff in Wales at a studio called Mwnci - pronounced Monkeys! We’ve done the basic tracks there. We’ve had loads of time to mess around with them and get guitar guests on. Chris McCormack is not in the band any more. We parted ways amicably. It wasn’t working out for one reason or another, I think Covid had a lot to do with that. So we got guests in. Chris Catalyst is stepping in for this run of shows in August. He’s an old mate of Tom’s who plays with a couple of other bands. We’ve got Billy Duffy on the album again, Phil Collen, the usual suspects! They sent their bits over from LA. Gareth Proctor, who puts stuff out as Jonny Weathers, plays on a couple of tracks. The basic band is obviously me, Tom and Toshi.

We couldn’t get Jonesy involved. He was hard to track down! He was worried about going into the studio in LA. He wanted to do stuff but didn’t want to go in the studio when other people were around with the isolation and virus.

Dave Draper (who produced What In The World) has got the album as we speak. There’s so many guitars on there. He’s sorting it all out and we’ll be going up to Worcester next week to finish it off. We did all the overdubs in London, we wanted to stay close.

Any hints on the song titles?

The first single coming out - we’ve done a video already - is called Spike Me Baby. We filmed it at The Olympia arena. We managed to get in there when it was empty. There’s ones called Heartburn, M’Ashes, Punk Rock and a Hard Place... that’s enough for now, all will be revealed.

M’Ashes, what does that mean?

Mary’s ashes. The lyrics are really great. It’s a story Tom wrote. When Steve’s mum died over here a couple of years ago, he couldn’t come over for her funeral. So I picked up Mary’s ashes and took them over to LA and dropped them off at Steve’s. Tom thought it was a great idea for a song. If you listen to the lyrics, that’s what it’s about.

What In The World was a very personal album. Is your new one of a similar nature?

I think that’s all you can do really without going off on a tangent. It’s great to write songs that are personal to you, about what’s going on in your life at the moment. Rather than trying to be clever on an obscure topic you don’t know much about. It’s best to work with what’s close to you. We’ve got a good bunch of songs together again, 10 or 11 for the album. Tom’s great at writing lyrics. It’s been 50/50 again writing wise, same formula as before, throwing ideas about, changing them and not getting upset when someone says “that’s a load of shit”. We work well together. It’s been at a distance this time, so it’s been slightly different.

Is the album going to be self released?

Yes, it is kind of. Liam, who manages us, is going to handle this one.

How are you feeling about playing live again, are you excited to be getting out there?

Yes, we are really. It’s going to be interesting to see if people are up for going out, or if they are still a bit wary ‘cos the government have been scaring the shit out of people. It’s all a bit nebulous with the information people are getting.

What happened was, we had the Stone Valley Festival in Newark (28th August) booked from a long time ago. We thought it wasn’t going to happen the way things were going, but it is. So rather than just do a one-off gig we thought it made sense to do a little run of club dates around that. Get the band back up to speed and get out there. Get the ball rolling again, ‘cos as you know we’ve got a proper tour coming up in October.

What kind of crowd are you expecting, the old punk rockers or a wider audience?

I don’t know to tell you the truth. We’re playing places we’ve never been to before, Southend, Devon. We’ll see when we get there. It’s gonna be interesting seeing what happens after Covid, now everyone is out and about again, or supposedly out and about. These shows are for us really, keeping the band together.

Are you looking for a new permanent guitarist?

We are. We’ll keep looking till we find the right person. Until then we’ve got Chris Catalyst stepping in for these dates, and if we can’t find someone by the October tour we’ll get someone to step in for that tour as well.

How’s Paul Myers doing? He appeared in the M’Ashes video.

That’s right. He might be on a couple of tracks on the new album. We’re trying to get him in last on a couple of bass tracks. I’m in touch with him all the time and he seems in good form. We got him back in for the video under The Professionals umbrella!

Any new songs getting an airing on the August dates?

Not on this little run, no. We will do in October. We'll wait till the album’s out so people can have a listen first.

Tom did his stained glass work for the 1,2,3 EP sleeves, has he done the cover for the new album?

Yes. The coat of arms with the unicorn. That’s a stained glass piece of artwork that Tom’s done and we took a picture of it. He’s getting all the artwork together for the album. He’s good, he thinks he’s the arty one in the band!

I assume SNAFU is ‘situation normal, all fucked up’?

Yeah, that’s right! A lot of people don’t know that acronym. I just mentioned it one day. We were talking about the band and I said “oh God, it’s just SNAFU, innit?” Tom said, “Eh, what’s that?” It’s an old army term. It just stuck. It’s like that with us, The Professionals, it always seems a bit SNAFU! And generally with the world we’re in at the moment. It’s a good title for what’s going on around us at the moment.

What would you say to entice the punters back outdoors to see The Professionals?

Come and see some poppy, punky, post-Pistols rock ‘n’ roll. We are a good band and we just wanna get back out there again. We made a great album with What In The World and I hope people will want to come out and listen to it, and listen to the new stuff when we do the tour in October.

I’m just so happy with What In The World as an album. I’m really proud of how it turned out. It got album of the year in Vive Le Rock and got great reviews from everyone. No-one expected it, with Tom stepping in for Steve. People were surprised we could get a new lead singer and make such a great album. We surprised ourselves really, every track on it is great. Of all the albums I’ve done in the past, I’m proudest of What In The World. It was great to make such a great album as The Professionals with a new singer and a new line-up. I prefer it to I Didn’t See It Coming from all those years ago, I must admit. A lot of people want to hear the old stuff, but I much prefer playing the new stuff to tell you the truth.

(At this precise moment Tom phoned Paul on his way to the gym!) Here’s Tom on the phone now! Alright, Tom? I’m just doing an interview with Phil, he’s got a question!
Have you got a question for him?!

What have we got to look forward to on the new album, Tom?!

Paul interjects: Getting it finished to start with!

Tom: Jesus Christ! Can I answer after the gym?! OK, the first ever song written about lead poisoning!

Paul: We’ve got a song called Easily Lead!

Tom: Speak to you soon! (With that Tom said his goodbyes and headed for his workout)

Paul: Touching on that mate, see how seriously we’re all taking it, we’re all getting in shape. I’ve just been out for a run and Tom’s going down the gym! It’s what we have to do before we do a tour these days. We’re not whipper snappers anymore.

I couldn't believe it the other day when I heard that Charlie Watts has got a bit of a health issue. He’s 80 and was going to go out on the road again with the Stones. I thought fuckin’ hell, how’s he doing that?! Credit to Charlie, he was still going to go out and do it!

Thank you Paul. I've no doubts The Professionals themselves will be around for some time to come.
See them live on the Pretty Vaccinated & SNAFU Tours

Pretty Vaccinated Tour SNAFU

Interview conducted 6th August 2021

Paul interview April 2020 >

©Phil Singleton / / 2021
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God Save The Sex Pistols / Kick Down The Doors ©Phil Singleton / / 2021

God Save the Sex Pistols

God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton /