The Danse Society – An Interview With Paul Gilmartin

The Danse Society are a well known post punk band hailing from the Yorkshire town of Barnsley, UK. A social media campaign was created by fans in 2009 to get them to reform, which was successful. However, an acrimonious fallout in 2014 resulted in two splinter versions: One version with Maethelyiah and Paul Nash with a darkwave style, while Paul Gilmartin formed a version that is more in keeping with the original post punk blueprint.

Mark Steele, on behalf of Vita in Musica, decided to interview Paul Gilmartin.

Hi Mark, and ViM readers. It’s Thursday morning and I’ve received your very interesting questions *laughs*. It’s been a bumpy ride and the band tends to consume me with all the nonsense, however we are getting there – you can’t keep a good band down! This version is a great band, forged in adversity. You’ve hit the nail on the head when you say “More in keeping with the original post punk blue print”. I wanted a Danse Society that sounded like Danse Society. What’s wrong with that? I’ll elaborate further.

1. What caused the implosion of the band in the mid 1980s? History recalls that the band were destined for great things.

The implosion came in two parts: The first big hit was “The Doc” as I used to call him [Lyndon Scarfe] who was a big part of the band. Musically, we fed off his keys; the big dark cinema size vibes he had going. We lost a keyboard player, twice. 

We toured solid for 2 years; on paper it was getting more hectic. We had sold our souls; Lyndon wanted out of the “rock star thing”. Next, Arista [record label]. We got to 90 in the charts with the track “Somewhere”. All Arista had to do was build on what we’d done ourselves, The hard work was already done. Yeah, we fell for the *cigar in mouth* “Sign here lads, and trust us” thing.

I mean, what was there not to trust? We were supposed to be canny. The “carrot at the end of the stick” was in our grasp; we snatched it too quick and believed Jazz Summers [A well know British music manager] had our best interest at heart. He convinced us out of all the big record companies wanting us, that this was the fucking right one for us – The one Simple Minds had just left! They ruined fashion! Lived off The Thompson Twins, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, and Bruce Foxton. We should have listened to our instincts.

They put an injunction on us to stop us working, until we produced a hit single. Is that what you do to a band who completed a 3 month sold out European tour and an album that charted? Madness! To this day I don’t know where the cash went, we were robbed. We needed to conform; our logic was to get a hit and regain control, call the shots – take back the power to succeed. We were a cash cow, we were sucked dry. Jazz got Simon Naper Bell [music manager] on board, we got our noses shoved out – for Wham! It was a mess, we were a mess. We tried to be Dead or Alive, then Simple Minds. The hit didn’t come; we turned on each other. What I can’t get my head around is our manger had Big Life Records and we couldn’t get a new deal – work that one out? We were shut down systematically, all loose ends tied; put in a shallow grave. We weren’t supposed to get back on our feet, and any body who fought back was disposed of. We blamed each other, I wish I could change it, but I can’t.

We should have played to Steve’s strengths, and the new songs simply weren’t good enough, The direction certain people in the band wanted to go wasn’t musically possible, because other bands did it better. We were disappearing up our own arses, we were fucked. I accepted bankruptcy, thinking “Wow we spent a fortune on stationary, and the accountant we paid didn’t pay any VAT or Tax? Thanks Jazz!”. Hardly a unique story, I think that’s the pattern in those days; exactly how it should be – certain bands get through it, but basically, the industry feeds off kids like us. It’s just what it was – a monster. I never got to fulfil my ambition to die in my swimming pool, so it was probably for the best! *laughs*

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2. Who was most up the for idea to reform the band? Who wasn’t as receptive to the notion?

I was most up for reforming the band. I’d done a six month stint in rehab so I needed a focus – The Danse Society had unfinished business. I’ve always been a dreamy fucker. It was going to be the greatest comeback of a dead band, ever. Instead, it was the poor man’s goth version of Spinal Tap. Dave Whitaker was up for it; he had all the studio stuff in place, he never stopped composing. When you see Emmerdale Farm, Through The Keyhole, and Heart Beat on TV? That’s Dave! [Dave has a background of writing music for TV series and adverts] *laughs*, out of a sense of loyalty, we went to persuade Paul Nash. Tim Wright? I end up seeing at funerals mainly, he didn’t have time or interest. Steve Rawlings we didn’t want to rush, as he has a life in the USA now.

3. How come the original vocalist Steve Rawlings recorded the track “Towers” on the ‘Reincarnated’ album, and what caused him to leave – to be replaced by Brian Shaughnessy?

Steve Rawlings came over for his sister’s wedding, and I’d been in touch with his Mum – so we met up. it was great to see him after 23 years; when he became a godfather to my boy, Louis. We caught up, we have a certain fellowship; we had dinner, went to the studio, me and Dave Whitaker had written “Change Of Skin”, he did “Towers”. He said goodbye; we waited, sent him the files, and waited. My last conversation with Steve was he said wanted to reform Johnny in The Clouds again (basically The Danse Society with another singer).

We got a female singer before Brian. Out of the blue comes a woman who blows enough smoke up my arse to get me interested. “I love The Danse Society, You were great! Please record me on vocals!”. Sadly that was enough, so we did. I thought “This could work, it’s different like a Siouxsie And The Banshees thing”. Paul Nash and Maethelyiah pretended like they didn’t know each other, I had a hunch, I thought I was going mad until an ex friend of Maethelyiah’s eventually spilled the beans. We were assured it wouldn’t affect the band, and if it did she’d leave rather than come between us.

Brian came to us from Seventh Son and Oliver Dawson Saxon, a spin off NWOBHM group. He was in three bands including The Danse Society at the time, who was originally here for the ‘Reincarnated’ album session – but then it became more of a thing and he toured with us.

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4. Do you have an amusing tour story?

I have loads, past and present! It’s funny, I was only talking to Lyndon recently about the crazy days, you know? Two different sound guys; one freaking out because he decided the drum mics had been nicked when they were still there – too much whizz at our first New York Show at The Danceteria; I fell down a big stairs case and was still out drinking in a club at 10 am.

Our big London ‘Dominion show’, our intro and first song; the P.A. was switched off – just on stage sound, then it just kicks back in – “Oh! That’s what the switch is for!” – chemical madness! Being trapped in Lisbon, Portugal after being encouraged by our new mad tour manager from Iron Maiden.

Me feeding poor Gypsy kids in the restaurant in our posh hotel; drinking and eating so much, the bill was so big they confiscated our passports until Arista wired the cash to set us free. I’ll never forget the hotel manager losing it, screaming and running full length of the reception and attacking our tour manager. My own personal “Keith Moon” moment at The Paradiso in Amsterdam; being held on my drum kit by roadies, finally recovering consciousness to try and play. Blacking out, waking up in a tower block apartment; going to a balcony and looking out – not recognising a thing. Only to ask some woman “What part of London is this?” and she says “It’s not, it’s Rotterdam”, I said “You mean I’ve been on a fucking ferry?” *laughs*.

5. What are you plans for future tours? What bands and/or festivals would you like to tour with?

I’m a bit of a dreamer. I’d like to do a Post Punk/Goth tour of 1980’s bands. I’d like to play with the usual suspects; Killing Joke, The Mission, The Cult – I like Fields Of The Nephilim, so that’d be cool. I remember when we were Johnny In The Clouds; we were on first (I think it was 1986/1987) as a support band. Fucking hell we got some abuse! I kept thinking “Am I hearing this right?” over the music as we played. They were furious, calling us sell out fuckers. Funny thing was in hindsight, they were right. I think New Model Army headlined.

6. What was the reason that Brian Shaugnessy left to be replaced by Jon Cridford? Where did you find him?

Brian was only going to sing on the ‘Reincarnated’ album. it was me who kept it going, because we had such a good time. I thought he had a great voice, more Ian Astbury than Dio. However his commitments in Oliver Dawson Saxon and Seventh Son came first. Eventually, too many shows had to be cancelled, and Brian forgot we were supposed to be a bit less rock, and more goth sounding and mysterious. Eventually, it was a situation that needed addressing and we kept putting it off. We all love him and we had some great times together, but being in three bands is a huge task for anybody and I wanted full commitment. Now, we have that with Jon – who was discovered by Darran Guy. Brilliantly, he said The Danse Society is a main influence of his. He’s a guitarist usually, and we asked him if he’d considered singing. He gave it a go, and at times he sounds so much like Steve Rawlings that’s it’s uncanny. So he was a perfect choice for the band.

7. Have things settled since the split in 2014, or is there still much acrimony between the ‘Paul Nash version’ of the band?

I’m going to be honest and blunt about this. “Those two” have been disgraceful, I have lived in the fucking musical version of Fatal Attraction. Every dirty trick in the book has been used to stop me doing what I am doing . I didn’t lose the plot and just walk out; if I did they could have got another drummer and finished the Glory Or Grace tour. The tour dates were spread thinly, there was times when venues asked us to cancel due to a lack of ticket sales.

The last time Danse Society split up Dave Whitaker wanted out, and Martin [Roberts, bass player] left with me. It become a public squabble because partnership law wasn’t adhered to. Maethelyiah and Nash decided it was all theirs, and I had no rights to anything. The first rule of business is that accounts and assets should be fairly divided, and discussions must take place about ownership of the band’s name.

They knew Paul Nash did because we’d done it before. As it stood, Martin and myself had a version, Paul Nash and Maethelyiah did, and Dave Whitaker wasn’t in any version. The worst thing in my opinion was nicking Ali Howells’ page – The Reformation Plot [she was responsible for creating the online page in 2009 to get the band to reform]. It was criminal, she should’ve been neutral – a mediator, and give both versions a voice. Then Wikipedia entries were altered to suit, to spin a pack of lies that doesn’t reflect the true version of events (if anybody knows how to edit the entry, I’d be most grateful).

Every time somebody said there’s two versions of the band, she claim it was vandalism. Yes, it’s all silly, taking control of the website; saying I’ve got personal problems – for all the world to see. Wrong, and plain nasty; setting up blogs to discredit me, all sorts of skullduggery built on lies. I’ve always stuck to the truth and not stopped them doing anything. The simple solution would be to call the band Paul Nash’s Danse Society/Maethelyiah’s Danse society; mine would be Gilmartin’s Danse Society or Danse Society Reincarnated. Nope, they had to try and stomping on my fucking neck at every opportunity. I’m ashamed to have shared a stage with Paul Nash now.

Did you know every gig has been attacked with threats of legal action? Trying to intimidate promoters with Facebook pages? YouTube closed down accounts, police called to my house with false accusations saying I’m a thug and a stalker? It’s been mental! I’ve never experienced anything like it, honestly it’s been a right old battle. If a band doesn’t have a written agreement in place each member has a right to use the name. Just because somebody who was in the band two years can’t stand the fact it’s not my problem Any normal person would be happy with what they have, gained a name to use, the web page, Facebook pages, assets etc. I started again because the main reason is the music. I can only say thank you to those who have stuck up for me and the band, and that I can’t thank you enough. You know who you are.

8. Will you be recording a new album with Jon Cridford?

Yes! Tracks have been laid down, and an album started. Jon will be doing the vocals and I’m looking forward to it. The working album title initially will be ‘Deadly Sins’ . Better still, if we can keep it to 7 tracks then it will be called ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. But I doubt it as Dave loves producing so it won’t be as self indulgent as ‘Reincarnated’, but I’m so proud of that album.

9. What was your most favourite country you liked touring, and the least?

I love Italy, they have passion for music and I love the country and people. The least would have to be the UK, because back in the day it was record company people, management turning up that don’t like this or that nosing into your routes instead of letting you get on with it. The press loved kicking you round the fucking garden once you stopped being flavour of the month. The audiences have been a bit too hard to please at times. In Europe, you always felt free as a band and relaxed, there was a lot of excess pressure in the UK back then, over analysing it all.

10. Do you have any particular rituals before you go on stage, and how do you unwind after a gig?

I’m blessed or lucky that I/we don’t mind the hanging about waiting to play, so long as we have somewhere to sit – a bit of privacy away from the noise before and after. We can amuse ourselves and often do. My ritual used to be very rock and roll one; I followed it every night in the 1980’s.

Unfortunately, I have stage two arthritis in both hands and my foot pedal foot, but I just take painkillers, energy drinks and just go for it. I’m like an old warrior, out of Rocky or something. It’s a privilege to come out the other side of this and still be playing these songs with a great band that I have now, which is ace. All we want to do is write the set, arrange the songs, design the cover, put this track in here etc. So it’s all good. It means all the band care which is a great thing in my book. Because music is my life, always have been, always will be.

Thanks for the interview, and we will see you on tour, soon.

1 comment

  • Greyson Stoehr Permalink

    I am surprised you didn’t annotate this with notes on how the other ‘splinter’ has harassed you for publishing this. Good on you, Mark, for standing your ground!

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