Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Enemy: "Former Coventry Miner is Enemy Single Cover" Interview

Here is the interview with The Enemy that appeared in the Coventry Times this week:

A former miners' union rep who worked at Keresley Colliery is the face on The Enemy's new single, we can reveal.

Mick O'Gara was the uncle of the Coventry band's front man Tom Clarke,and sadly died this year. He is pictured on the new singles front sleeve at a rally alongside National Union of Mineworkers' leader Arthur Scargill during the Miners' Strike of 1984-85.

The photograph is on all posters and websites promoting the single released last week- "You're Not Alone" - a song about industrial decline and workers thrown on the scrapheap.

Tom spoke with the Coventry Times about his uncle - who lived in Tamworth - when we caught up with the band last week, before they performed and signed records at Chalky's music store in Banbury.

He said: "My uncle Mick was a transport manager and worked at Keresley pit. He did so much work for the union so we dedicated this song to him which is about the disappearance of industry. We don't know where the photograph was taken unfortunately, but it's clearly from the 1980s. Of course our families have been an influence on us. We grew up around them."

You're Not Alone is an unambiguous political statement. It hits out at big business and government who "sold us down the river like rats" and was inspired by the band seeing other British post-industrial cities on tour reduced to a "wasteland".

It is also well-documented as a gesture of solidarity with the thousands of workers who lost their jobs when Peugeot pulled the plug on its Ryton factory last year. Tom said: "Maybe Peugeot's closure couldn't have been stopped but if a strong union was there we would have heard about it more and it could have made a difference. We used to be so proud of our skilled workers and now they're working in call centres"

Since shooting to fame this summer, The Enemy have brought transparent youth protest and impassioned anger back into the popular music mainstream - so often ignored by other bands or disguised in a veil of ironic humour and pastiche.

The Enemy's direct lyrics are about the emptiness and nihilism of life on the minimum wage in soulless jobs, with binge-drinking and brawling and only "crappy" escape. The band believes collectively people have power to change things.

But they are canny enough to stop short of falling into the trap of some of their musical predecessors such as the young Paul Weller. He acknowledges he had difficulties in his Jam days when being heralded as the "spokesman for a generation", and later when he nailed his leftist colours to the mast with the highly-publicised Red Wedge tour.

Tom, outspoken but also genial, shrewd and thoughtful, told us: "We're not a political band. We're young lads, not politicians, and we wouldn't want to be. We give a social commentary. Our songs are about modern society and the problems are glaringly obvious."

"For instance ASBOs are a ridiculous piece of legislation. They're not a deterrent and they're not a punishment. Many of the problems exist in schools. People aren't always educated in ways that encourage you to get yourself out there. You end up in an office in a factory or a shop. A careers adviser looks at you and sends you to a sh** job."

With a gruelling summer schedule which included Japanese shows, a London gig with the Rolling Stones and the Coventry Godiva Festival - still the band's favourite gig - these three striplings could be forgiven for thinking life on the road has become just another job.

They admit it's difficult to see family and friends and love coming home for occasional weekends. Another major tour kicks off today in Oxford (27/09) - and they expect a large Coventry following throughout.

"Coventry people have been behind us from the start and even at gigs in other countries we always see Coventry flags", says Tom.

But the boys are living their dream - first discussed when they were working in Fedex offices in Foleshill or selling TV's and when they met each other through mutual friends in pubs after work.

Bassist Andy Hopkins and drummer Liam Watts - who still lives with his family in Holbrooks - attended Heart of England and Cardinal Wiseman schools respectively. Tom, brought up in Birmingham before moving to Coventry in his early teens, again speaks on behalf of his quieter band mates: "This is not a job. It's still the dream. We're all just loving it. I hate it when bands start complaining."

Interviewed by: Les Reid (

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