Please enjoy this interview and see the link at the bottom for more information about The Danse Society! I added the link at the end of this interview to address all of the questions and comments that this interview stirred up!
Recently, Paul Gilmartin of the 80’s band now reinvented, The Danse Society, shot me an email. I having always had an inexplicable passion for 80’s music so I was instantly intrigued. The Danse Society is a goth punk/rock band that began their journey back in the early 80’s and have reformed in the last several years. I won’t give anything else away! I emailed Paul some questions about The Danse Society’s history, ups, and downs. Read below for the full interview and enjoy Paul’s colorful answers!
MFL: It seems The Danse Society has quite the history and has morphed several times over the last 30 or more years. What was the first step in forming The Danse Society and when did this happen?
The Danse Society (Paul Gilmartin): The Danse Society has had a colourful past and I am talking recent past as well lol ( if you have been following the drama.) Steve and I were in a band called Y who were on Bouquet of Steel, a Sheffield compilation album with the likes of Comsat Angels, Artery, I’m So Hollow and bands that went onto be Pulp and ABC. Recruited new guitar and keys to our line up and formed The Danse Society .We put out our first single “Clock” on Society Records in 1981 and John Peel picked up on it .We signed to Pax records, toured the country, released more records, and made the goth classic “No Shame in Death”, which rates in most all time goth favs. Then we did a Peel session and went to Holland where we did well. The Futurama Fesival was shown on BBC2 (more exposure).
Live, we went out with The Cure and came to the attention of a London based manager Jazz Summers later to be Whams manager as well. He took us under his wing. We recorded the Seduction album which went to number1 in the indie charts and was record of the year in the Melody Maker. Our single “Somewhere” went to number 1 in the indie single charts and another TV appearance at riverside made us the press darlings at the time. Tours became bigger etc etc…We peaked at about 1984 I think selling out the Dominion AND Lyceum in London and went to the states. We signed with Arista Records for a lot of cash and got into the lower charts etc. We were ruined by the record company. We became better known for being shit on the live TV show, The Tube, then for selling out and going with a S A W production (Dead or Alive producers) pop single “Say it Again” and failing to get a UK hit. However, it was a USA club hit. We had another attempt to be Simple Minds and U2 with a minor hit in Australia. Then we disintegrated. Personally, I ended up bankrupt for the bands debts. Steve went to the USA and that was that. We carried on as another name but that came to nothing. Quite sad all that potential was destroyed by business really and our failings with each other but we did shine bright for a while.
Below is a video from their early days in the 1980’s. No one can hide from YouTube, not even bands from 30 years ago:
MFL: Who were your biggest influences at the start and are they the same now with The Danse Society’s reincarnation?
DS: The thing about The Danse Society in the early days was we had so many influences. It’s got to be said Joy Division, The Banshees, The Cure. Throw in Japan (Killing Joke who we toured with) and early Simple Minds. The list was endless because we liked all types of music. Me and Steve would get off our heads to Jah Wobble, Hawkwind and Level 42. The reincarnated Danse Society I would say has gone back to that with a bit more Chameleons vibe thrown in courtesy of Elliot, the guitarist now. We had lost that ethereal touch. I think we have got it back now. The main stay of The Danse Society has been the key parts so I retained that for this new album. You know the atmosphere and layers type vibe.
MFL: I read you shared a festival stage (Leed’s Futurama Festival) with bands like Joy Division and Public Image Limited. Comment and reflect on this experience.
DS: We did two Futurama shows: Leeds and Deeside. The Leeds one was a classic, so many bands. The Banshees headlined our night but I got to see and meet so many great bands. Adam Clayton stood on my foot LOL. U2 had Boy out then and were getting big. Robert Fripp of The League of Gentleman and husband of Toyah told Lyndon to “fuck off” for saying he liked his music. Not very nice LOL. There were so many bands. Soft Cell, Altered Images was on early and at that point, still unknown. I liked Budgie’s drumming so was looking forward to getting a back view of The Banshees but the back stage got closed off for them which I was perplexed about because she was supposed to be punk. Joy Division were great the night before. Loved “Transmission”, Hooky (Peter Hook) and (Ian) Curtis. For the Deeside festival we were higher up on the bill with Cult, Sex Gang Children etc. Think The Damned headlined. I know that because the captain went to tell our very stoned crew to get me another foot pedal out in case mine had broken. I was not just waving to them because I liked them LOL. Haha, rock and roll memories.
MFL: What was the last straw that caused the disbanding of The Danse Society in the 80s?
DS: What was the last straw? There never is usually. It’s an accumulation of events, affects and consequences. Basically me and Steve were burnt out. The songs were not up to it. Arista was not up to it. Management wanted the easy way out. We were very unlucky. We were just before the flood gates opened and our kind of music style became trendy and accepted into the mainstream more. Blame set in. Basically, we were all manipulated and had been milked dry. We needed to re-evaluate and get back to what we did best. Not try to become Talk Talk or Simple Minds or some bad 80s haircuts producing bland tracks. We did not talk or stick to what we started. Lost our values and principles of The Danse Society. The dream of doing a Pink Floyd, Hawkwind in it for the long haul was killed off like the music industry does to most bands. It’s how you deal with it. We were not strong enough.
MFL: What was/were the driving force(s) behind bringing The Danse Society back together?
DS: Well, I had just done a stint in rehab in 2010. I carried on the rock and roll lifestyle without the music LOL. I always felt and still do that The Danse Society was unfinished business and I still had great ideas etc etc. I got in touch with Dave Whittaker who played keys for Music For Pleasure. He had done well as a composer etc doing TV work. We met up made some tunes and decided to reform The Danse Society and make an album. Basically, Dave was the same as me, he still had that ideas flow. If you cut us open it says The Danse Society music all the way through. Nothing had changed. At that time a Facebook thing was going on to get us to reform so we jumped on that. Got Steve over, we had written the album. Steve went back to the states. A bit of impatience on our part and apprehension on Steve’s. Communication let us down again like the old days.
Check out their latest music video for the track, “Belief”:
MFL: How have everyone’s lives changed since The Danse Society of the 80s?
DS: Older and wiser LOL or still daft and stupid, it depends. For me, I can only speak for me. I still get as much out of playing and writing The Danse Society music as I did years ago. It embraces you. I am still proud to play under those crown of thorns and do those songs justice. One of the great things was meeting Steve again. We went to a meeting of a certain fellowship together so that was great and Dave, he is always in his studio producing and recording bands. He’s based in Leeds at Old Chapel Studios, home of the Kaiser Chiefs. That’s where I like him to be. Chained to a desk.
MFL: Tell me about your material for lyrics. Where does it come from and what part of human nature are you trying to capitalize on?
DS: Haha good question. Where does it come from? The lyrics, that old chestnut what do they mean? What are you trying to say? Steve and Lyndon used to do the lyrics in the early part. Then when Lyndon left I did them with Steve and for the last 3 albums I have done them. So, it’s like this: when you have been to the dark side in real life, it helps you to write about it (if you know what I am saying, LOL). You know I always like to keep that semi religious connotations up. We have always had it, you know, faith, loss, despair, the good cheery stuff. That battle we all have to be true honest and live a good life and fail. How we deal with loss, death etc. It’s a fascination. Our mortality and perceptions of what and who we are. You know, has god abandoned you? Or are you just a touchy fucker full of self? Who knows. The fellowships I go to help with inspiration. I should not say that but it does. Somebody will say something and I think, “Yes where’s me pen?” I sort of round it off into simple form and let people take what they want from it. It’s like the last track on the album, “Jezebel.” You can take it how you want. The line “rejoice when the hole is filled in.” Which hole? The one in your soul or the one we all end up six feet in and thank fuck it’s over? Then there is the track, “All Things Shine”, from the album. It’s about a guy in rehab who never made it went back out, chose addiction over life and died alone in an empty flat. It was just so sad. I met his wife and kids on visits. He just would not give in. It killed him. He used to get me to play the sink as drums for him in rehab and would crack me up shouting “look at it shine man” in a Rasta voice. Yeah, he was a brother a friend, the one I walked with. He did not make it.
“Message in the Wind” is a warning. A sort of biblical message of impending doom / destruction to mankind. “Child of Paradise” is also about the addictive personality. We all think we are special and different LOL. So I guess a lot of the stuff has to do with your own mortality and your place in the world. The sad reality is, we don’t have one and it’s all immaterial in the big picture. Enjoy it while u can LOL.
MFL: What have live shows been like in recent years? I’m curious about the crowd. Do they seem to be old fans or mostly new or a mix?
DS: We have just done Glasgow and London and to be honest, it’s the first time its felt like, “Wow, people are liking it again.” It’s been great to see an audience get it. “Wake Up” and “Heaven is Waiting” always go down well as does the new stuff now. Unfortunately, we are not attracting as many young people as I would like new ears and all that but what can you expect? We just got to grateful we are still able to do it. Quite a few of our shows have been with other bands like Balaam and The Angel, Modern English, The Hawklords, Skeletal Family, Spear of Destiny, so we do OK. As a band, we are doing it the hard way again. There’s nothing like a rain soaked winter night playing to 10 people. It can kill a band off. It’s made us stronger.
MFL: Finally, where would you like to see yourselves as a band 5 years from now?
DS: Where would I like to see us in five years’ time? In a dressing room still enjoying being a band with the same excitement as we still have and ready to go on and play. I’m 55 now so I don’t know how long I can tom bash. I have to go for psycho. I’ve got arthritis in both hands but I’m not giving in. What do we want? Not that much and its achievable. To get up and down to gigs in comfort over to Europe would be great again. Don’t lose money and build the audience back up. A couple hundred people in each town will do us. I mean, I was saying to Bri (he sings for Saxon OD)…As well as when will they retire? Who knows. I came up in a punk band and had that old fart thing but as soon as you get a taste I thought, “No wonder they never want to pack in.” It’s infectious if it’s in you. Like Charlie Harper from the Subs. What ya gonna do, I’m not one for growing tomatoes and like all things you have got to turn it into positives. In my personal life, I have got a second chance and keep the demons at bay and also got a second chance with the band and music so how good is that? From where I have come from, lots don’t make it so everything else is a bonus.
Thanks for the questions and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to answer them for you. Hope I made some sense to some body and all I can say is in my best female Italian accent, “WHAT IS ALL DISS BULLSHIT?” It’s a private joke the lads will get it.
Thank you, Paul for answering my questions! A lot of emails went back and forth the get this interview done. Cheers to The Danse Society and round two of their musical careers. You can find all of their music (new and old) on iTunes and on good old CDs which you can purchase on their website.
LINK TO MORE INFO ABOUT THE DANSE SOCIETY:
and contact Paul Gilmartin for any further discussion: