Artist Spotlight - The Crabs

What is your name?

I go under the alter-ego of Commander Crab. He is the leader of the punk rock group The Crabs, and I channel that part of my personality through the band.

Where are you located?

I now live in Leeds, but my origins are in Sheffield, U.K. (about 40 miles down the road) where the band started in 1990.

What is your artist's name?

The Crabs - though when I joined Bandcamp I discovered that there were other bands with the same name, so for Bandcamp purposes we are The Crabs U.K. It also amused me that thecrabsuk sounds like "The Crabs suck". The whole concept of the band was to have a B-movie SciFi/horror vibe, so we took our name from the king of the schlock horror novel writers' biggest hits - The Crabs series of books by Guy N Smith. It's a tribute - I hope he would be pleased. I guess if we were just starting out we would be heavily influenced by Garth Marenghi. Humour is inherent in everything we do. I don't like bands that take themselves too seriously - it's boring. That's not to say we are one big joke - we take what we do very seriously. If you look at bands like The Cramps, The Ramones, The Rezillos, the B-52's, & The Dead Kennedys, they all have humour built in that (for me) lifts them above the overly-earnest crowd.

How long have you been writing music?

I wrote my first "proper" song in 1988 which was The Crabs song "Sell My Soul". It's sort of a mission statement for the band & the opening 2 lines explain why I started writing music.

"I wanna live fast, but my life's so slow.
I wanna go out every night, but there's nowhere to go."

What inspired you to start playing and making music?

As I've said, it was boredom really, like a lot of punk bands. At that time life seemed a bit pointless and I was looking for something to focus on. I had done studying & there were very few jobs around at the time - certainly not interesting ones. Nobody in my family was musical & I took a few guitar lessons which didn't really help. I'm dyslexic and have to learn in my own way. There's no forcing it, or learning by rote - it doesn't work for me. So I bought a guitar, taught myself a couple of chords and made the rest up as I went along!

What are your favorite artists or other artists that inspire you to write music?

Aside from the bands already mentioned, I love loads of late '70s/early '80s punk and New Wave - particularly of the New York CBGBs scene. The original punk scene was basically the next evolution of rock n roll as far as I'm concerned, and it works best when it retains that accessible melodic quality & eclecticism. I also like a bit of early British Goth such as Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Sisters Of Mercy & The Jesus and Mary Chain. I can't exit this section without mentioning the grand-daddy of them all, Iggy Pop. I regard him as the bridge between rock n roll (which I love) & punk.

How would you describe your style of music?

Personally I would describe it as Punk. But punk has come to mean such a broad range of music - from hip-hop, to pop, to ultra hardcore & metal. Punk seems to be regarded more as an attitude rather than a musical genre nowadays. When I say punk I'm referring pretty much specifically to the 70s/80s movement in the U.S. & U.K. Maybe Punk Rock, Trash Rock or Garage Rock would be a better description of our style of music these days. The Rock element is important to me. I love the early 50s Rock n Roll and Rockabilly - despite an attempt by some punk bands to trash that element. To me they are very similar - raw, elemental & usually uptempo, but still massively accessible.

How is your personality reflected in your work?

I love American trash culture - it seemed so wild & exotic and out there to me growing up in 70s Britain. So my music is an outlet for all that stuff - comics, fetishism, b-movie horror & SciFi etc. that is not generally understood in polite society. It's probably my most core self that I have to keep repressed most of the time. Also, I like to be entertained. Counter to popular belief entertainment is one of the most important things in life. If you can take people away from their troubles in life for a few minutes and take them somewhere better, even if it's only in their heads, that is a wonderful thing. So I hope our music does that - especially for those marginalized people who aren't entertained by other things. I hope when people hear my music, that it's like a book or a movie opening up in their heads.

Describe your creative process when you write new music.

Usually, I just sit down with my guitar and strum around until I come up with something that I like, then build the song around that. Sometimes I read a book or see a movie or get an idea and use that as the basis for a song. Personally I find putting music to words harder than the other way around. Music often suggests a feeling that enables the words and subject matter to come, but trying to create an atmosphere using music to fit specific words or topic is much harder for me - probably because of my lack of music theory. I often "bank" riffs, chord progressions or lyrics and revisit them later when I have another idea that matches.

What is the name of your latest release?

Our latest release is (I Wanna Be A) Poll Tax Bailiff - 2024 Election Remix. It's a remix of a live track originally recorded on a Walkman from the crowd by a member of the audience back in the 90s. We've released it to coincide with the U.K. and (later) U.S. elections as I feel that it's still relevant on some level. The Poll Tax itself may not be such a big issue at these elections, but the idea of government agencies taking from the poor and giving little or nothing back certainly isn't.

What was the inspiration for that release?

The song was originally inspired by Margaret Thatcher's Poll Tax in the late 1980s. This was a tax that was based on the number of people living in a residence regardless of how big that residence was, so it targeted the less well off. You could get a large family living in a tiny flat paying multiple times what a single wealthy person living in a huge mansion was paying - clearly unfair. So we made the titular Poll Tax Bailiff into a Jason or Michael Myers style horror protagonist in protest.

Can you tell us any behind-the-scenes stories about writing or producing this release?

I was only able to work with this track because of the mind-blowing AI freely available online for ripping tracks apart into STEMS. Once I heard about this amazing technology, I realized that I could rip apart all our stereo recorded live tracks into Drums, Bass, Guitar and Vocals and remix them! A lot of these recordings were pretty primitive and some were frankly unlistenable. The AI is good but because the quality of the original tracks was not great, sometimes it struggled to get good separation and a lot of care and attention had to be given to restoring the tracks. But the ability to disassemble the track and tweak it before putting it back together means that loads more of our archive tracks can now be Reclaimed, Restored & Remixed using Logic Pro. I thought the track was finished and went on to do some more tracks for an upcoming EP. But when I listened back to it - it wasn't as good as the others that I had done, so I went back and remixed it again. It was finished the day the U.K. election was announced. Serendipity?

What do you do to promote your music?

Other than Bandcamp, GetMusic & Facebook - nothing! We don't even have our own website - we do it all through Bandcamp. It's a great way for artists to reach genuine music enthusiasts. I want to spend my time involved in the creative process, not on social media.

We are very much a DIY outfit and I do everything myself - writing, performing, recording, mixing & mastering. We make a bit of money from Bandcamp - mainly through CDs and Cassette sales which we copy at home. We wish we could make more money from downloads, but that just hasn't happened for us yet. We plough the money back into the band, but it's got to pay for itself, I'm not in the business of spending loads of money and getting into debt, so everything is done on a shoestring. GetMusic was great - you get 1 free album upload - and we got loads more followers from it. So now it's proved that it can work for us, I'm much more likely to lay out money to use it again. That's the way it should be. We also got played on March Schusters' amazing Tweetcore Radio Hour radio show & podcast from being on GetMusic. He also left us our first review - he's obviously a discerning man of great taste!

The internet seems to be full of people saying that they are making money from Spotify and streaming services, but I'm not convinced it's right for small-time artists. I did some research and there seems to be a lot of up-front costs involved. It costs money to put your music on there, because you have to have a distributor who charges for their services. It also costs to even register a song to receive royalties. Then there's the recent change to Spotify where only tracks that get at least 1000 streams in a year give a payout. Well, we're just not at that level yet. The only way we get paid is if fans buy our stuff from Bandcamp.

What are you currently working on?

The Crabs for me is one big project. The band split up in 1993 after having 2 main line-ups, with our final posthumous release in 1994 - though I am still in touch with some of the band members.

We had a reasonable amount of recorded stuff - live, studio & rehearsal/bedroom recordings, but was never completely happy with the quality of the recordings and thought the songs deserved better.

A few years ago I found out about Bandcamp and decided to revisit The Crabs as an Archive/Restoration project & bought a Mac & Logic in order to do this. Phase One was me putting all our stuff on Bandcamp as it is, warts and all. The idea was that now I have access to a worldwide audience, I could maybe build up a following that would appreciate what we did & maybe even reconnect with some of our original fans.

I am now currently in Phase Two of the project, which involves reclaiming & restoring "lost" recordings as well as remixing & improving tracks in order to show them in the best possible quality while still maintaining the original feel.

I am learning so much about music production and sound recording as I go along - I feel that I am always improving. I think I'm not quite halfway through this project yet, but once it's eventually finished I may begin a solo project & write some new songs.

The next part of the project is a compilation of remixed & restored live tracks for an EP. I'm just putting the final touches to it and hopefully it will be out later in 2024. After that I may have a go at tackling our first studio recordings for the following EP.

How can folks contact you?

The best way to reach me is to "follow" us on Bandcamp - then use your account to contact us. We also have a Facebook account.

Music | The Crabs

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THE CRABS formed in Sheffield U.K. in 1990. Now digitally re-animated to bring their exciting, & sometimes strange world view to a new & wider audience. Their musical influences range from trashy Rock 'n' Roll to Punk to Pop. Thematic influences include Sci-Fi, Horror and Fetishism producing a unique musical cocktail. THE CRABS are a powerhouse of singalong Punk with a dose of offbeat humour.

The Crabs U.K.
(I Wanna Be A) Poll Tax Bailiff (live) - Election Remix

alternative / alternative punk / chain punk / diy punk / garage punk / garage rock / glam punk / hard rock / kbd punk / new wave

"Inspired by Margaret Thatchers Poll Tax in 1990’s Britain"

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The Crabs U.K.

diy punk / garage rock / horror punk / psychobilly / punk rock / rock ‘n’ roll / trash rock

"Official bootleg recording of a live gig"

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