Tom Pimlott (The Flex) interview originally published in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 4. Pics by Patrick Orozco, Call Me Killer, Michelle Olaya, Natalie Wood.
Flexual Healing Volume I.
1. Shiftless (Scum On The Run) 2. Scum On The Run (Scum On The Run) 3. Take A Stand (YOT cover) 4. Open Up (DYS cover) 5. Kickback (Breakdown cover)
CTM – This was a cassette with rough demos of songs from your “Scum On The Run” 7 inch and a few covers thrown in for fun. Looking back, how do you feel about this tape? What memories does it bring to you?
Tom Pimlott: Lots of memories here, as this was shortly after I joined the band so this was the first act of Flex 2.0. We recorded the music live with just my little Zoom H2 handheld recorder in the middle of the room, and we just messed with levels until everything sounded about even. I was still living in Merseyside at this point, and I would come up to Leeds every Sunday for practice, then we would go to Lucky’s Pizza on the way home then buzz off all the dickheads on Take Me Out back at the Flex house. Good days.
CTM – There has been a lineup change since the band first started. So how did you join to the Flexuals?
Tom Pimlott: I actually remember where I was when I got ‘the call’, I was in a service station on the way to Barcelona with No Tolerance. I’d already been putting the word in with Liam, cause I heard the demo and I was like “fuck this is sick I need to be in this band” haha so I told Liam if anyone drops out then to give me a shout. It turns out that their guitarist Rick was being flakey. The band actually started as a favour for this guy’s birthday, as he lived in the Flex house and had asked the others in the house if they’d start a band with him for his birthday party. Liam played drums at this point. But anyway, they had a show booked in Dublin and Liam lent Rick some money to get his passport sorted, and Rick spent it on burgers and weed. So they gave Rick the boot, Liam moved himself to guitar and put me behind the kit, and it’s stayed like that ever since. It’s been really cool cause Liam has always been the only riff writer, so he could stretch out a bit and mess with stuff that he might have had a bit of trouble with on drums. That original lineup was inimitable magic though, absolute freak occurrence. So sick.
CTM – How did you start playing drums, and who were your biggest influences growing up? Who are your favourite hardcore drummers? Who left the biggest impact on your drum style and why?
Tom Pimlott: I started playing drums just before my 18th birthday, because my friends in school who were all Pink Floyd hippie prog rock guys, had this band called Flynn’s Piece that needed a drummer, so I started learning so I could join them. I’d never played any musical instrument before though, so tackling covers of ‘Comfortably Numb’ wasn’t really within my realm then and still isn’t, so they got a proper drummer. But me and my cousin had a band that covered Hendrix, The Clash, Oasis etc, that was fun but we sucked. I listened to hardcore through school but none of my mates did, so my early drumming influences had nothing to do with hardcore really. John Bonham was my first hero, Charlie Watts, Gene Krupa, Nick Mason, Phil Rudd etc. Matt Kelly from Dropkick Murphys was a big one too early on, because I used to sit in on drums or just a snare with my uncle’s Irish folk band Reckless Elbow, loved that marching snare style.
As for hardcore drummers, Jeff Nelson from Minor Threat, Chris Foley from SS Decontrol, Dave Brown from Negative FX, John Evicci from Out Cold and Mackie from Cro-Mags are big ones. I think friends of mine have had just as much influence on me though, often way before I even knew them haha. I’m huge fans of DFJ (Mental, RJs, Step Forward, Rival Mob, Boston Strangler etc), Tim D (Shitty Limits, Murder), Connor Donegan (Red Death), Robin Zeijlon (Protester, Stand Off, Pure Disgust etc), Ryan Abbott (Green Beret, Chain Rank).
CTM – The cover of the Volume I. cassette is really simple but very expressive. Art is one of the coolest forms of expression next to creating music. You express yourselves very clearly in your music and I mean you want to clearly define who you are with your art as well. How important is the aesthetic side of the band to you? How important is the layout, imagery and packaging for The Flex?
Tom Pimlott: I’m not much of an art guy but I really love the aesthetic we have with The Flex. Classic, simple, bold, strong colour scheme, somehow it’s memorable without being wacky. We have also never used any colour other than red, black and white except maybe on some friends editions of the demo and some shirts that erroneously got printed with navy blue ink in the US. Liam is the mastermind of most of the art shit, just like the riffs. He’s a genius.
CTM – The band did a DYS cover on this tape, you chose a song from the “Brotherhood” LP. Personally, what do you prefer more, SSD “Get it Away” or DYS “Brotherhood”? Both classic records were released in 1983. I often hear criticisms or perceptions that DYS always seemed a few months behind SSD. What do you think about this?05 The band did a DYS cover on this tape, you chose a song from the “Brotherhood” LP. Personally, what do you prefer more, SSD “Get it Away” or DYS “Brotherhood”? Both classic records were released in 1983. I often hear criticisms or perceptions that DYS always seemed a few months behind SSD. What do you think about this?
Tom Pimlott: A very tough decision for me, as I think those six X-Claim! records are all solid 10/10s. I’m gonna have to go with DYS though I think. SS Decontrol are definitely the more important band, and have some great lore and aesthetic about them, but ‘Brotherhood’ is such a perfect short sharp shock of greatness that it takes the prize here. Besides, in my opinion ‘The Kids Will Have Their Say’ is SS Decontrol’s masterpiece. I don’t think DYS were following SSD too hard, musically at least. DYS have more ‘pop’ sensibility, which is a weird thing to say about them but compared to SS Decontrol’s almost tuneless brutality it’s true.
CTM – The Flex is a hard-working band that loves what they do, and it shows on stage and on records/tapes. Over the last few years you published more than ten releases. It seems to me you are still enjoying the creative process and you are still full of new ideas, you always create new music. Jon Anastas said that Boston has always had flinty, old-school work ethic. It’s in their blood and they ran with it because whatever the Boston crew did, they were all in. Professionalism and precision. What’s The Flex’s work ethic like?
Tom Pimlott: I’m not sure professionalism or precision are good ways to describe us haha. Like you said we just love playing hardcore and I think that shows when we play. As for the creative process, basically Liam will sit in his room with his guitar and a pound of weed, then when he thinks he’s got enough riffs together we start to work them out together in the basement. Liam writes all the riffs, I help him out the parts and structures together and the others pitch in whenever they need to. Our writing definitely comes in bursts, but it’s always a pretty painless process. I’d say we have a good work ethic generally, as all of us are in at least two bands and are always working on new things, but not all of that work ethic goes into The Flex haha.
Flexual Healing Volume II. – In The Doghouse
1. Excess (The Demo) 2. The Flex (Scum On The Run) 3. Virtual Reality (The Demo) 4. Kickback (Breakdown cover) 5. No Justice (The Demo) 6. Like You (Scum On The Run) 7. Scum On The Run (Scum On The Run) 8. Repressed (Scum On The Run) 9. Take A Stand (YOT cover)
CTM – One of the things that made me love hardcore when I was first introduced to it was the power and intensity of the live gigs. I love how The Flex has so much energy on this tape. The funniest moment on this tape is that between songs, we can hear two moshers talk about how tired they are at this point in the day. What are your memories of this Mongrel Fest show?
Tom Pimlott: That Mongrel gig was amazing day. That was the first moment where we realised that we (as a larger group) had actually started to build something in the UK. Great turnout, moshing for every band, first sets from Arms Race and Guidance, and early good reactions for some other bands that are way more prominent now. My favourite part of the tape is that during that bass intro you can hear Jon from Repentance shout “fuckin’ hell!!” haha.
CTM – What is the intro and outro on this tape? What is the sample at the beginning and outro on this tape?
Tom Pimlott: I’m not actually sure to be honest, but I’m willing to be it’s an Andy Jones find from some 70s or 80s UK documentary!
CTM – Breakdown. I’m currently working on an interview with the WNYU’s host DJ Spermicide. I really like their Crucial Chaos ’88 set, this is the radioset where they played their song called “We’ll Be Back”. This unreleased song is definitely the fastest of the early Breakdown tunes. What is your favourite Breakdown WNYU live set and why?
Tom Pimlott: Spermicide is sick! Make sure you ask her if she went on that date with Raybeez! As for Breakdown I actually really like the 1992 one with the Youth Of Today diss at the start. Also opening with ‘Breakdown’ is a sick move, one of my favourite and hardest Breakdown songs. I also love that they fuck up the last song so bad that they have to start it again and it never got edited out haha.
CTM – Youth of Today. Personally, which version of “Take A Stand” do you like more? A shorter (Connecticut Fun compilation 1985) or a longer (Break Down the Walls 1986) version?
Tom Pimlott: Ah it’s gotta be the BDTW version, those comp songs are a little bit too loose for me, and I like me some loose chaotic hardcore haha. Plus the intro is fucking sick. The real question is which mix of BDTW do you prefer…personally it’s probably the OG Wishgwell mix, but I think the Rev ’97 comes very close. I don’t like the Rev ’88 mix that much, too much reverb on the drums and that guitar cut on ‘Thinking Straight’ sounds terrible.
CTM – It was early 1989 when Youth Of Today came to tour Europe. I know that there was some trouble on this tour: ongoing conflicts with Lethal Aggression, metalheads threw beer on stage while Youth Of Today were playing in Belgium, Zürich show was unreal where a dog was running around… They played some awesome cover songs on that tour (Minor Threat, Better Than You, Glue, Pushed Too Far, Malfunction etc.). What do you know about the British shows (London, Liverpool, Wigan…)? Do you know cool and interesting stories about these UK gigs?
Tom Pimlott: I have been told some stories by older guys but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. But I do know that pictures from those shows are in the back of the Schism book. In fact a lot of those pictures are from the UK, including the Slapshot ones where you can see future Vans skateboard pro and ex bandmate of mine Howard Cooke at age 11 right before he sang ‘No Time Left’ for them. Also in the same picture is my mate Clifford, of ‘bartender in the movie Haggard with the Jackass guys’ fame haha.
Flexual Healing Volume III. – T.H.E. F.L.E.X.
1. R.A.M.O.N.E.S A.K.A. T.H.E. F.L.E.X. (Motörhead cover) 2. The Herd (Wild Stabs In The Dark) 3. We Don’t Need You (Wild Stabs In The Dark) 4. Ain’t No Feeble Bastard (Discharge cover) 5. Waste My Time (Wild Stabs In The Dark)
CTM – Oi! and UK82 type bands seems to have a strong musical influence on the band, but this was probably the first release where we could really hear that influence. Do you agree with my opinion?
Tom Pimlott: To be honest it was never really our intention, I think it just shines through because of Liam’s writing style and the fact most of us love that stuff. This is probably my second favourite Flexual Healing, we were so excited about people hearing ‘The Herd’ on tape, we are really proud of that tune. I also remember re-writing the Motörhead lyrics on the bus at 6am on the way to work when I worked at a model train warehouse. A cool time.
CTM – If The Flex could play a bill with British bands from the 70s, which bands would be on the bill and WHY? The Stranglers? Angelic Upstarts? The Lurkers?
Tom Pimlott: This is just my pick, I know the others would choose different shit haha.
The Undertones – I don’t wanna step into any political minefields here but I love them so much I’m gonna go with the technicality that they’re from a British ruled land. Probably my favourite 70s punk band outside of The Ramones. ‘Get Over You’ is one of the most perfect songs ever written.
Jook – not a super well known one, but I’ve no idea why. This band had the fuckin’ HITS. Just listen to ‘Watch Your Step’. Tough as nails street rock and roll straight from the pub.
Cock Sparrer – let’s not mess about, ‘Shock Troops’ is their greatest work, but the 70s stuff was incredible too. ‘Chip On Your Shoulder’ is a barnstormer. Hard to believe they’ve been a band longer than AC/DC.
The Jam – but I’d only want em to play material from ‘In The City’, absolutely amazing record. Not sure what happened after that.
Slaughter And The Dogs – because they were the toughest sounding band of the 70s. PUT A BOTTLE IN YOUR FACE!