Having recently returned from a series of entertainment-filled, riff-fuelled, action-packed gigs on their recent national UK tour, London rock four-piece Steranko dedicated some time to Glasswerk London for a bit of a chat….:

Steranko are:

LM – Lee Mangan – vocals
GM – Guy Matthews – guitar
LE – Lee Elvy – bass
JB – John Barratt – drums

“From where does the band name Steranko originate and why did you choose it?”

LM: “right, well the name comes from an American comic-strip artist called Jim Steranko, who I think was also an escape artist. Wasn't he?” Mangan turns to the rest of the band who seem to shrug and tentatively agree without being too sure. “Anyway, I'm quite dyslexic and I always read it wrong and then one day we were at a venue called Planet and there were some pictures by Jim Steranko, but I read it as 'Steluma' which was quite funny cos it's sounds more like some sort of American cop chief, but Steranko seemed to fit”.

“You guys try to speak before Lee (Mangan) does on this one please. Describe the music of Steranko and tells us your influences”

GM: “well we've all got different influences and that really comes out in how we play I think. I mean, I like the strong melodies of The Beatles, John's more into old style rock like Zeppelin, Elvy's fond of bands like Iron Maiden and Lee's got a variety of influences but he particularly likes REM…”

LM: “…but don't put that in the interview! No, our music's like a big stew with all the influences mixed around in there, but I reckon all those influences make the band resonate with an attacking sound…”

JB: “…cos you've got Elvy's thumping bass, Guy playing small guitar chords for melody and I put in loads of fills on drums, and then there's Lee who's, well, Lee”

“So your first single was released a short time ago. Tell us how it feels to have progressed this far”.

LM: “well no-one's singing the words at gigs yet…!”

LE: “…yeah, but it's great to be able to go to the shop and buy your own record…”

LM: “…I bought one for my aunty…! Nah, but seriously, we've gone from playing a gig to playing a gig and selling records, but when you've got a record out there you know it's your livelihood. This is our job so the focus changes from playing a gig for the fun of it, to playing a gig to get ourselves known and to sell some records. And as for the single, well every day is like a nail in the coffin of the single. You tell people, tell people, tell people about the single and there's all the build up to launch and encouraging people to buy it, and then it's gone, it becomes history. It's here today but gone tomorrow. It's like a bruise, it's there but it slowly fades away until it's gone.”

“So having just finished your UK tour, what were the high and low points?”

LM: “I like the not knowing. You never know how a gig is going to turn out and whether the crowd's gonna like us or hate us. We did a gig in Hastings and we got a really bad reception, but by the end there was a punch up and everyone was having a fight – they were only there for a good punch up! And there was the one in Blackpool where you're not allowed in unless you've got 20 tattoos and a hard-man stare. They didn't like my cockney voice either…”

LE: “…sure, we had some hostile crowds, but at the same time loads of them came up to us at the end and said things like “you were brilliant” which really makes you feel good…”

GM: “…I think with Blackpool it's just that they have so many tourists that you have to win the locals over. It's a small community with loads of visitors, so anyone from out of town needs to do something to win them over…”

JB: “…yeah, the stares and the poor welcome, it's just what they do.”

“What has it been like living in each other's pockets?”

LM: “well when one of us gets a cold, we all get colds! They don't say it, but they're sharpening their blades, I can feel it! I mean, I can talk all night, I can see something when I'm driving down the street that'll really annoy me and then I'll just talk about it and talk and talk”

GM: “yeah, you talk too much Lee! But seriously, we're so busy all the time as a band that we're constantly doing something and there's not enough time to get under each other's skin…”

LM: “…but Elvy's the moodiest…”

JB: “…yeah, Elvy's the moodiest…”

LE: “…yeah, I'm moodiest!”

“Being the frontman, it's inevitable that attention is going to be focused on Lee. Does it sometimes feel like it's Lee and his band? Does that cause any resentment or friction amongst you?”

GM: “well Brian May wasn't bothered about it when Freddie Mercury was the frontman in Queen! But we've all played in loads of bands and I guess the rest of us don't actually want to be frontmen…”

LM: “…but if you don't put on a show every time, you're not the same band. You can't be a bit wild at one gig and then dull the next…”

JB: “…and when you're the frontman, it becomes expected of you…”

LE: “…yeah, and if the review is good then it's great, but if it's not a good review, it's usually Lee that get's slated…!”

LM: “…yeah, it's always me!”

“What other local bands are getting you excited?”

LM: “Charakka…”

GM: “…yeah, Charakka, they're the whole package. Daddylonglegs for me, but we all have different tastes so it's all about the energy and the vibe of the performance…”

LM: “…Youth Is Dead, they rock man. And who was that band that we supported on the tour…?”

JB: “…The Harrisons…”

LM: “…yeah, The Harrisons, they're cool too…”

LE: “…I like Shot Myself Down, they're a cool band…”

LM: “…yeah, they're great”.

“So what does the next 12 months hold for Steranko?”

LM: “well we're doing so much! We've just done the tour, we're doing videos, remixes, an exhibition and we've got the album coming out. We're really proud of that, it's got so much energy in it and we've put so much time into it as well. Zapatista will be our next single, but we've been holding back with our stuff a bit so we can get the album finished…”

JB: “…the album's gonna be out early next year and then we'll be back on the road in February/March…”

LM: “…and we're going to Korea on tour, so there's always something going on!”

“How was the Manchester 'In The City” for you?”

LM: “ooh, MAN, we played one of our best gigs of all time. We played Sunday and there was no-one there, so I grabbed a megaphone and got people down from upstairs, and then the second we started, it all kicked off. But Manchester is where you really get the feeling it is all happening, so when you're there you really have to make a point, you really have to make your mark”.

“and lastly, what advice would you give to bands that are starting up in the industry?”

LM: “don't give up. Whatever you do, don't give up. You've just got to keep it together and keep working at it. Just do it, do it, do it. If people tell you something, it doesn't mean it's true, it's just their opinion, so don't give up, just keep going until you get there.”

STERANKO will be playing out 2004 in style:

30th November @ The Pleasure Unit, Bethnal Green
2nd December @ The Telegraph, Brixton
17th December @ The Garage (downstairs). This is a gig for a children's charity so BE THERE.
18th December @ The Peel, Kingston

Interview conducted by Alex MacHorton and Jack Cook

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