Hailing from Peacehaven which is on the South West coast, Peter and the Test Tube Babies have been around for quite some time and have experienced quite a lot! Founded all the way back in 1978 by Peter Bywaters (vocals) and Del Stranglefish (guitar), they released their first album Pissed and Proud in 1982. Mind you, they were featured in Sounds Magazine in 1980 and already featured on Vaultage 78, after appearing on a John Peele Radio One session!
Fast forward to 2017 and Peter and the Test Tube Babies have released their fourteenth album That Shallot, ending a five-year wait for fans since the last album Piss Ups. That Shallot is available now via Nuclear Blast so make sure to get your hands on a copy if you haven’t already!
OVERDRIVE spoke to Bywaters about That Shallot, as well as what the near future holds for the band. The first topic of conversation was how That Shallot is an album that flows seamlessly from start to finish; if this interviewer wasn’t paying attention to the time because he was conducting the interview shortly, he would never have known how much time had passed! Bywaters explained how this came to eventuate:
“As you notice, it’s quite a diverse album and there is a lot of different musical styles on there! Apart from the first song ‘In Yer Face’ which I wrote specifically to be the opening song of the album, we never intended really for the album to be as it is. Although, once we had written and recorded all the songs, we did sit down together and quite carefully work out the placing on the album, so that it would all run together. It’s a process that we spent a bit of time working on and I think it worked out well.”
Touching further on the album, Bywaters let OVERDRIVE into a secret about the songs chosen for the album:
“The album is actually missing a track; the last song wasn’t going to be ‘Pissedenstein.’ We did actually record a version of ‘Je t’aime;’ you know the old Serge Gainsbourg song. We called our own version and called it ‘Shittem.’ Unfortunately the Gainsbourg’s estate won’t let us release it. So unfortunately the last song was meant to be ‘Shittem’ but it isn’t. It’s a real shame because Olga from the Toy Dolls makes an appearance on that song and plays two blinding solos! It could be quite difficult for us to get that released, we may try to get it up on YouTube but we don’t think it will stay up there very long!”
There are a couple of tracks on the album that have a female vocalist appear. ‘Tramp Killer’ is the one that was fresh on this interviewer’s mind when he was preparing his questions. When asked how the band is going to replicate songs like ‘Tramp Killer’ in a live setting, Byswater unfortunately explained that, “We can’t really replicate ‘Tramp Killer’ live; there are too many strings on it and like you said, there’s the female vocalist. So it may be one of those songs that we may not be able to do live; HOWEVER we are planning our own festival for next year to celebrate our 40th anniversary! If we go ahead with this festival, then we may well bring her over so she can do it; we’ll also work out some way to recreate the strings. If we do perform it, it won’t be me singing it; she’ll come over and sing it! The song ‘Silicone Beer Gut’ is played by The Pukes; they’re an all-girl ukulele band and we got them into the studio for them to record it with us, so I don’t think it would work just us playing it normally. We would have to do something very special to re-create that!”
At the end of the ‘Crap Californian Punk Band’ music video, Lars Frederickson tops off his guest appearance with a witty and crass remark to the final lyrics that Bywaters sings. This interviewer got a small insight as Bywaters explained how, “He sings on that song; if you listen to that song again, I sing the opening line and he sings with the second line, so we’re both singing the full song,” before explaining how it came to light:
“When we were writing songs for the album, we decided to reach out and ask people if they wanted to contribute. We wrote to Lars and he said he’d love to do something; we wrote to Campino from Die Toten Hosen, a big German band. He said he’d love to do something but unfortunately we couldn’t find the right piece for him! We also got Olga from The Dolls, as well as The Pukes as previously mentioned. Getting back to Lars, I’ve known him a very long time, so he was more than happy to contribute; I think he’s done a great job!”
Touching further on that final retort, this interviewer explained how it made him laugh; Bywaters replied with, “When I first heard it, it made me laugh because I didn’t know he was going to say that; when we received the audio file from Lars, I ended up laughing for a good two or three minutes when I first heard it!”
This interviewer was curious as to whether the song title was in reference to any particular band(s), or whether it was a dig at Rancid after finding out that Bywaters and Frederickson are long-time friends. Bywaters was very careful in the wording whilst giving a small history lesson:
“I wrote that song 20 years ago; it was in response to just turning on the television and there being this new pretty boy punk band. I use the word punk loosely as they’re not really punk; there just seemed to be all these boy bands that were dressing like punks and doing mildly punk stuff. Two bands instantly sprang to mind; I’m not going to say their names of course but there are numbers in their names…”
Touching further on the previously mentioned Test Tube Babies festival, Byswater gave OVERDRIVE an up to date of exactly where they are in the planning stage:
“At the moment, it’s still very much in the planning stage; we’re thinking of next September and it will probably be in Berlin or Hamburg, but that’s about as far as we’ve got really. We’ve all named some other bands that we want to play, but as it’s still in the very early planning stage, we haven’t approached any bands as of yet. We were actually discussing this yesterday, as we did the album launch party on Sunday floating on a boat in Berlin.”
Bywaters gave OVERDRIVE an insight into what the band has for the rest of 2017, as well as if Australian fans will get to experience That Shallot on our shores before too long:
“The rest of the year is all tied up now; we have one more gig at the end of this month, before having I think only three gigs next month. At Christmas we’re doing our yearly German tour and I’m just starting to plan gigs for next year: I’m really hoping that Australia will be in those plans, but at the moment we need somebody in Australia to arrange a tour and help us get over to your shores!”
THAT SHALLOT IS AVAILABLE VIA NUCLEAR BLAST ON CD HERE, ON CLEAR VINYL HERE AND ON BLACK VINYL HERE!