June , 1984
By David Huff
Lords of the New Church
Lords of the New Church Losing their Religion
Four years ago, Dave Tregunna could be found pounding the beat on his bass to the aggressive, slashing sound known as punk rock that was all the rage over in England. The musician was plying his trade for one of the movement’s more infamous acts, Sham 69. At the time, his only concern was to lash out at society through the only medium he had available to him – music.
Those angst filled days are behind Tregunna now, but if you took a step back and look at the present line-up he’s involved with, maybe those disgruntled feelings from the past really haven’t gone away.
Formed in 1982, Lords of the New Church is comprised of punk pioneers Stiv Bators from The Dead Boys; Brian James of The Damned; Nick Turner of The Barracudas and Tregunna. More melodic and slickly produced than most punk of the past, their music has reached a broader audience that had often been limited by their underground past. In the process, the band has alienated certain elements of its hard core following. Some critics have even gone as far as to call their music the punk version of Asia.
"Well, I wouldn't go that far," replied Tregunna with a bit of sarcasm in his voice. "We are four musicians that came together because we work well as a unit. We play the music that we like. There have been a lot of people that have said they've grown a bit uneasy when they hear the name of our band. Well, that is one of the reasons it was chosen. We wanted to shock people as well as make them sit up and take notice of this group. We've heard people refer to us as an evil band because of the name. I want to set the record straight right now. That accusation is totally untrue."
Tregunna touches on an interesting point that is hard to dismiss. The Lords of the New Church have been designated as different and weird by the media because they don't conform to the stylized look that music videos are now giving bands. Radio stations are also taking a wait and see attitude. Fortunately for this band, college radio and the no holds-barred attitude it has adopted when it comes to music, have taken up the Lords cause and exposed their music to fans around the country.
"When we travel in our van and switch from station to station” insisted the drummer, “you hear the same thing on every station. It's like they're not going to give anyone a chance and that is a really bad thing. College radio stations aren’t that way. They play what they like, not what they are told.”
The idea for the Lords came about in 1980 when Bators and James, having split from their previous bands, renewed an acquaintance that began when the Dead Boys opened for the Damned. The two experimented for a time with different rhythm sections, rehearsing briefly with ex-Generation X bassist Tony James and ex-Clash drummer Terry Chimes. A lineup of Bators, James, Tregunna, and Damned drummer Rat Scabies played a single 1980 gig as the Dead Damned Sham Band. But by the time the group’s self-titled debut album appeared in 1982, Turner had replaced Scabies to form the present lineup.
“When we into the studio to cut this record,” replied Tregunna, “the four of us pooled our ideas, threw them into the mix, and the songs that came out of those sessions occurred quite naturally. I wonder if any American bands that had a past like the four of us came from, could ever do what we did and get radio airplay in this market.”
Though the Lords debut was well-received, the band has become more notorious for their live shows - in particular Stiv Bators’ Iggy Pop impersonation on stage. A big fan of Iggy, Bator immolates his notorious antics during shows. He’s even been known to risk his own life in pursuit of rock and roll infamy. The singer has suffered numerous injuries during any number of performances throughout his career. His most famous stunt was the time he looped the mic cord around his neck, actually hung himself (not intentionally), and was reportedly clinically dead for a few minutes. Obviously the singer survived, and so has the legend. Two more band recordings have followed – 1983’s Is Nothing Sacred and the ’84 follow-up, The Method to Our Madness.
Tregunna is quick to point out that he American fans tend to feed off the outrageous, which is why they aren’t critical of whatever antics are performed on stage by bands. With so many different types of music available on radio in this country, everything and anything is given a chance to succeed on its merits. In England, however, music is viewed in an entirely different manner.
"One thing you Americans don't realize about my country is this,” said Tregunna. “Music in England is the only way in which disgruntled youth can voice their opinion and know they are going to be heard. That in effect, was what punk music was all about. It was the only way we could speak but about high unemployment, the sagging economy, the government and the bleak future we were facing. Music is our only vehicle for expressing viewpoints not only about England, but in a sense, the rest of the World too.
"We never plan our lives around criticizing the world. We don't work' like that. That is why we did the song, "Living for Today". It fits our kind of attitude towards life. You can't plan too far ahead because you never know when the bomb is going to drop. You take things as they come and try to reach as many people as possible.
"Certainly the Lords are a different band than the corporate rock groups you have today that dominate the airwaves. Kids come up to us and say we're great and that they haven't seen a band like ours for ages, When we go up on stage and perform, the main thing for us is the audience. Every night is different for us. We feed on audience reaction. That is all we are about up there on stage, and it's the feedback from the audience that gets us going. It's like a communal thing with us. We want people to say, 'Wow.' when they see us. Hopefully, we will get people to release from their everyday lives."