The Buzzcocks also jump-started the punk do-it-yourself ethos with their 1977 self-released Spiral Scratch EP, on which Diggle played bass guitar. The Buzzcocks’ notable songs include “Orgasm Addict,” “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t've),” “I Don’t Mind,” “Promises” and “Harmony in the Head.” Their compilation Singles Going Steady is regularly ranked as one of the best punk rock albums of all time.
The Buzzcocks broke up in 1981 but reunited in the late ‘80s, and have been going strong ever since. They plan to release a new album in the fall. Between performances at this year’s Coachella festival, they will be playing a few smaller gigs in California, including one this Sunday at the SLO Brewing Company in San Luis Obispo. This one’s worth the drive, folks!
Diggle, who also released a solo album called Air Conditioning last year, was happy to chat from his home in London about their upcoming trip to California. Click here for the full interview, which covers more on the history and influence of The Buzzcocks — plus how Diggle ended up snorting all of Kurt Cobain’s cocaine in Portugal.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming Buzzcocks shows in the United States?
Steve Diggle: Well, legendary songs from a legendary band. We’ll be doing a mixture of songs from the whole of our musical catalog. Probably two new songs as well, and a lot of the classics, and some from the later albums.
JM: I’ll be seeing you in a smallish club, but as part of this trip you’ll also be playing at Coachella, which will be in front of thousands of people in the desert. How does it compare playing at a big festival versus a small club?
SD: They’ve both got their own thing really, you know? I mean, essentially you’re still playing to people, that’s what you’ve got to remember [laughs]. It’s just we might be playing to more people one day than another.
You get the intimacy of the club, which obviously is a great rockin’ vibe. And then you get the great sense of occasion of a big event. You’re kind of still dealing with the same thing, but in a slightly different way. I mean, it’s great to see thousands of people jumping up and down or getting involved on a bigger scale, that’s one thing. You’ve got the grandness of the event, you know?
Then in the other one, the more intimate place, then you can kind of smell the sweat. It’s almost like you’re inside of the song in a smaller place. It’s a bit more internal.
But they’ve both got their points It’s a great thing to do. Life’s full of extremities anyway, you know [laughs]? In your life you go from one extreme to the other — happy, sad, crazy, mad — you know, you’ve got that difference.
JM: The Buzzcocks first toured the United States in 1979. Do you have any memories of that tour that you’d like to share?
SD: Kind of fragmented, yeah. I mean, great memories. Those were wild tours, those early ones. You come to America and you learn to realize how big it is, how great it is. It was certainly rock ‘n’ roll on those early tours. Sex, drugs, craziness and massive shows. The thing about America, if you kick a**, they like you. And we like kicking a**.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your career, or some misconceptions that are floating around?
SD: One thing that pisses me off, they think we just sing love songs. When I wrote “Autonomy,” which is on the first album, that was a political song. “She’s a Girl from a Chainstore” is a political song. I wrote a song called “Sick City Sometimes” about 9/11. When we were recording it, the towers fell down, so I had to put the last verse, “Now those buildings take a fall / And he tries to kill us all / In the name of something zero in your mind.” That’s not a f***ing love song to me, you know?
So people should realize that Buzzcocks sing about the whole of the human condition, and not just f***ing play “Ever Fallen In Love” all the time. That boils the s*** out of me. It’s like we’re typecast sometimes. Great song, but there’s a lot more other sides just as good.
JM: Am I correct that you are in London right now?
SD: That is correct, yeah. I’ve just got in from the studio.
Luckily we’ve got California weather here, but we’re looking for a bit more out there as well. We love coming to L.A. One of the reasons is the sun in California. I do like a bit of sun these days.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.