They’ve been thrilling rowdy beer-spilling Moseley-ites and colourful festival goers for years, and their reputation for live lunacy and carnival-folk has made The Destroyers a widely loved and incredible Birmingham staple. Guy Hirst catches up with flautist and bagpiper Max Gittings ahead of their legendary Christmas party set to take at The Prince, Moseley, on December 16.
Firstly, you’ve got a new EP arriving in 2016, tell us more.
A new EP is on the way in Spring 2016, and we’re excited for our fans to hear all of it! We’re still in the process of deciding which 4 tracks it will contain but have no fear, they’ll all have that classic Destroyers’ vibe, ranging from new discoveries in the universe of Balkan grooves, to songs about scary cats and even massive gongs. And yes, don’t worry, we have ridiculousness covered too. There will be the aforementioned gongs, alongside bagpipes and we’ve even got mariachi whistling in our arsenal now!
I’ve been listening to you guys for about 5 years or so, could you tell me a little bit about how The Destroyers came together?
Thanks for listening! We’ve been going since Autumn 2004 when we first came together for a series of basement jam sessions in a legendary party house in Speedwell Road, Edgbaston, where we explored our shared love of Balkan, Klezmer, folk and groovy music. What we found is that we could take all that music and meet it somewhere in the middle, making it our own and that’s more or less what we’ve been trying to do ever since paying homage to our influences.
We began with an ever changing line up of members in our first year or so, before settling on the stable line up, which with a couple of small changes in 2012 and 2014, has remained constant ever since. Our alumni list of past members would read like partial who’s who of some of the great musicians who have come out of the Birmingham scene in the last 10 years, and we do always joke that one day we should get all 40+ of them (yes, really!!) onto the same stage, but in the meantime to list just a few of the crucial, linchpin past members to whom we’re indebted and who helped the current band to be where it is today would include Daz Dolczech, Joel Murphy, Jim Willis, Frank Moon, Leo Altarelli, Paul Murphy, Louis Robinson, Dan O’Connell, Suman Joshi and Mick Howson!
The Prince is being threatened by the apartment complexes being constructed next door. What are your thoughts on this common problem? Where do you see a solution?
Unfortunately this common problem is replicated countrywide as local councils allow their planning departments to think not about the community and cultural aspects of an area, but merely ‘development’ and ‘progress’. It’s been going for a long time if you think back to the great Fiddle and Bone saga played out in central Birmingham 12 years ago. The solution will come from bold moves by those with power on planning sub committees and by continued local activism, the like of which can be used to support The Prince in it’s campaign here.
But don’t worry, we Destroyers will also be doing our bit to help bring it to people’s attention, as this clip from a previous year’s Prince of Wales gig shows (the lyrics of which refer to the fact that a decibel-meter carrying spy did once try to sneak into a folk jam session that we were at in The Prince!)
You guys have a cool relationship with the Prince – tell us more.
Keith (Marsden) and Diane (Marsden) have looked after the band, firstly by booking us for gigs going back over many years, and also during our early years by driving us to gigs and then looking after us (very well!) when we got back to the pub. And so we owe them a great debt of thanks – so much so that in fact we’ve even written a song for them. But of course what we also love about the Prince is the same sentiment that all regulars and loyal locals would recognise – the warm welcome, great vibe, and the great beer and food that The Prince is famous for. It’s always been a stalwart of support for live music in Moseley-from the trad session in the front bar (started by a couple of The Destroyers and members of The Fair Rain), through to regular slots by local legend Steve Ajao, and right through to blow-out monster gigs in the beer garden like we’ll be delivering at our Christmas party!
Awesome, so tell us more about the Christmas party!
People can expect two-and-a-half hours of great partying and dancing music. First, the awesome new Birmingham band Punch The Sky will kick things off as our support band. This video gives you a pretty good taste of what to expect. And then we’ll take to the stage to deliver a full one-and-a-half hour classic Destroyers set. I think when we’re on home ground, playing to our local friends and fans, and in a venue we love so much, we’ll be all set to really let rip! Watch out for gongs, songs and possibly a very special guest….
Fans are keen to know this – why did Paul Murphy leave The Destroyers?
Paul, and his amazing songs, were a crucial part of our line up and sound up to the end of 2012. However at that point, professionally and personally we decided to part ways and since then haven’t wanted or needed a new frontman, preferring instead to have Fiddler Leighton and Accordionist Dave front and sing our songs!