Meet: The Damned’s Captain Sensible talks new EP, plants, bees, and a world beyond lockdown

Raymond Ian Burns, known more commonly as Captain Sensible from the seminal punk band The Damned has, like the most of us, had a lot of time on his hands lately. Luckily, he happened to spare some of that free time to have a little chat with us about their new The Rockfield Files EP, dropping October 16th 2020 via Search and Destroy Records/ UMG.

You’ve made your return to Rockfield studios after 40 years. What did it feel like going back there after such a long time?

Great.. and even better because nothing really had changed… it’s still run by the same wonderfully eccentric old Welsh farmer who loves having bands stay – and turns a blind eye to the odd bit of chaos that’s part and parcel of rock and roll.

Did it bring back any particular poignant memories from that time?

It really hit home how we have changed with the many intervening years.. these sessions were more about the tea breaks than endless runs to the off-license, but we had a new producer… Tom Dalgety who specialises in guitar-based music so it was fun cranking the amp up again after Evil Spirits, which had been more keyboard led. This was the first time I’d recorded with an old valve amp I’d recently acquired (Mesa Triaxis) working on the principle that if it’s good enough for Metallica .. it’s good enough for me!

What was it that influenced the decision to record new music there again?

The surprising thing was how long it took us to go back because everything we did there… Black Album, Strawberries, etc… came out so splendidly.

Your new single ‘Keep ’em Alive‘ is a dedication to the dwindling bee population essential for our survival. What lead you to the decision to release a song on this topic?

Chris Packham comes to see us play occasionally.. and I follow him on Twitter. We were talking about the dramatic drop in the bee population and how that’s not great for us seeing as they pollinate so many crops that we rely on to put food on the table. We know why their numbers are dropping – it’s because of intensive farming, loss of their habitat and modern pesticide uses. I don’t find myself agreeing with Prince Charles often but on this one he’s right and we really SHOULD be thinking about how farming methods and the concreting of more and more of Britain impacts on our wildlife.

The video from a bees perspective is such a brilliant touch, whose idea was it for that creative direction?

Well, we had to work out how to make a Damned video without us all getting together… and I found some sensational drone footage on YouTube that sparked the ‘bees perspective’ idea. Ross, the director managed to persuade some bloke to fly his drone over some interesting locations and it has to be said his piloting skills are exceptional because the swooping and near misses give me vertigo every time I see it. The message comes over well, I feel – Keep ‘Em Alive!

We’ve all recently been in some form of lockdown in one way or another over this past year, what did that look like for you? What kept you going throughout this time?

As with most musicians I’ve been working away on new material… what else is there to do? There will be a huge plethora of new music released soon because of all this. At least we’ve that to look forward to. Oh, and I’ve been growing chilis with all the seeds that would usually end up in the bin. They germinate fairly easily indoors… I’ve now got about 100 plants getting bigger and bigger and [I] am wondering where to put them all.

Obviously one of the industries suffering the most from the pandemic is the music industry, what do you think the future looks like for the people working in this area at the moment?

It’s pretty tragic.. loads of companies are going bust… it’s not just the bands but the roadies, venues, agents, promoters, logistics companies, lighting, outdoor events people, etc, etc. How many festivals will survive for example.. and what WILL a gig in the future look like? 
Hopefully, some parts of the music scene will recover because my whole life has been based around gigging… and when not performing myself going to see other bands do their thing. As a performer, you can learn something from every gig you watch.. even if it’s what NOT to do. 

Have you started thinking about what’s next for The Damned following this new release? Any touring plans?

Yes, we are working on some new songs.. what else is there to do??? Oh… and growing chilis.

Did you ever imagine you’d still be bringing music out after all this time?

I thought punk would last 3 weeks… and I know it doesn’t get much radio play… but there’s always an audience somewhere that want to hear what we sound like, and I love to travel and see different places. Here’s hoping on that one!

Where do you hope this new EP takes you and what do you want people to get out of it?

This is Pinch’s EP.. a collection of the last songs he recorded with us before jumping ship. You can’t blame him really cos there’s not a lot of money in the kind of touring we do. His playing and enthusiasm have driven the band on over the last 20 years and he’ll be sorely missed. Whether he will miss mine and Dave’s many foibles and eccentricities is another matter – I think we drove him slightly nuts at times. I wonder if he’ll write a book.. hope not!!! 

The Damned‘s new EP ‘The Rockfield Files’ comes out on 16th October. Pre-order your copy here!

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