Shari Black Velvet: You've been singing and playing music for as long as I can remember. Going back to the very beginning, can you tell us about your first ever band - when was it, how did it feel being in a band back then - and how does it feel now? Is the feeling you get now much different from back in the very beginning?
Polly Phluid: The first real band I was in was called Tarletia – the arbic word for Hashish - so I’m told! It was me, a tranny called Jess, a Brummy drummer and rhythm guitarist plus my mate, Jef, who I bullied into getting a bass. I stayed in bands with Jef until the end of Phluid four years ago – he became one of the best rock bass players I ever met. The first time I went on stage I looked at my feet and hid behind my hair. I felt compelled to do it, yet it made me ill and terribly shy. It never really changed, that feeling of fear and excitement, until we formed Phluid, my first serious band. The solid nature of the playing and strength of the songs awoke something in me and I just started to disappear from my own head on stage – not through fear, but with feelings of elation, belief and power. I still get that now – The Idol Dead replaced Phluid in a way I never thought would happen. Not bad considering I only got involved for something to do!
SBV: Your latest album 'Dark Little Hearts' was released in November 2012 with the help of fan pledges via wefund.com. Were you nervous at all before setting up the wefund page in case you didn't get enough pledges - or were you confident that you had enough friends and fans to support the band?
PP: We didn’t think we’d do it, to be honest. We’d pretty much planned to pledge most of the money ourselves, towards the end, to make it happen. But when we launched it we got so many pledges in the first few weeks it blew us away. We didn’t get Ginger or Eureka Machines type success but, for a band like ours, it was pretty amazing. Stuff slowed down about halfway, and then we started to worry again, but our fans rallied and started whoring us all over. Popping up on the Wildhearts, and similar bands, pages and pointing them towards our music. We were blown away – humbled – we just couldn’t believe us five blokes could inspire that kind of dedication in people. We still can’t believe it now!
SBV: Claire Cameron from fellow Leeds band, The Claire Cameron Band, sings on ‘I’m Drowning’. Did Claire singing on a song on your album inspire you in any way? Can you see why some well known duets become huge singles after introducing female vocals into one of your songs?
PP: That was one of those moments that makes you glad you’re in a band – and equally amazed that you made it happen. We originally just wanted some ‘sweet’ lady backing vocals on the chorus or something. But Claire is a force of nature – a brilliant musician and real music fan, so when I sent the lyrics over, without any kind of direction on what I wanted her to do, she just assumed she’d be singing alongside me. She guessed the story of the song, painted herself as the woman in the song – then took the lines she thought would work best. When she came to rehearsal, we had a chat, thought it was great idea and tried it. Second time through, me and Nish (drummer) just looked at each other and smiled – we knew it was perfect. Since then, Claire’s harmony work has influenced us to try new backing vocals and different melodies. She had a big effect on us. As it happens, I’m not a big fan of the duet – unless it’s in a musical – Sweeny Todd and Mrs Lovit do it for me. 'I’m Drowning' is just about my favourite Idol Dead tune though.
SBV: As a male vocalist, what do you think of the female singing voice? And how happy are you with your own vocals?
PP: I love the female voice – a huge part of my music collection features female voices. Not much as rock bands – although I love Garbage, Evanescence, The Nymphs, Distillers… actually, yeah, in rock as well. I can listen to Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Amy Winehouse all day. There’s something fragile, yet ferocious, about the female voice, it’s very expressive – that’s why it works so well in jazz, old skool! Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan are two of my favourites. My own voice is OK, not great, but adequate for a punk singer. I thought I ruined the album the first time I heard it, I thought the vocals really let it down – I’m sure plenty of people would agree! But, after a few days it grew on me and I figured I’d done ok.
SBV: If you could do a song with a world famous singer, who would you most like to duet with? Who would do The Idol Dead music justice?
PP: Fuck the Idol Dead – just let me sing with Bowie! Haha – that’d do me! Or Lydon. I get compared to Josh Todd and Scott Weiland, which is very flattering, but I think it has more to do with my build than my voice. Scott Weiland would probably do The Idol Justice – probably more than me!
SBV: Your album features a variety of emotions. For example, in ‘Bad Fiction’, you sing ‘You need a high five baby, in the face I'm thinking lately, With a chair’ which is a variation of an amusing quote that people started posting on Facebook the other year. What sort of people make you want to give them a high five in the face with a chair!? What people, or things people do, annoy or irritate you? Was that song written about anyone in particular?
PP: That song had a target, but it's generally about drama queens/kings who seem to get off on causing friction and being at the centre of a shit-storm. My personal ‘chair/face interface’ crew are The Conservative Party. I know it’s unoriginal, but they’ve been a bit wishy washy since the Iron Lady stepped down as national hate figure. But this current crop made my blood boil, they’re just so blatantly about business and protecting the rich, they don’t even hide it – it shames this nation, and they’re destroying the country I love, again.
SBV: In 'Blue Skies' you sing 'Carpe diem, seize the day'. Do you think you've seized the day enough in your life - and what days stand out as featuring amazing memories that you'll never forget?
PP: I’ve lived, but I think I have many moments where I didn’t Carpe Diem. But, I am who I am, I have some great memories – mostly great actually, so that’ll do. I have some moments where I wish I’d been stronger or less selfish, but I hope I’ve learnt form the feelings those dark moments gave me. I have moments like the first time I met my wife, my wedding, the birth of my daughters, the birth and death of my son – all those major life events that stick. Music wise – Playing Breeze fest in 2000 with Phluid, 5000 people watched – The Idol Dead winning Highway To Hell, getting the pledge total, playing HRH, Barcelona, Ibiza – I can probably take a moment from every day to be honest, that’s what life is all about, really.
SBV: On June 29th, you wrote on Facebook, "There is no way we can possibly explain how much it means to watch an audience get into our songs as much as you did tonight." Besides at a live show, have you had any other particularly special moments that involved your songs and a fan or fans? What effect have any particular songs had on your fans?
PP: We have a song called 'Travelling Man' which I wrote for my Dad after he died of cancer. It’s a celebration rather than a lament. That song has touched quite a few of our fans who have lost parents. This year we had some friends who went through a hellish experience, which included losing their dad. We played the Noise Level Critical show this year and while we were playing it the brother and sister of this family were holding on to each other and welling up – I nearly lost it, but it went in my memory as one of the most powerful moments in my musical ‘career’.
SBV: As mentioned, the album's called 'Dark Little Hearts'. As far as your own heart, what's the kindest thing you've done for an animal - and also a person?
For an animal? Dunno really. My missus generally usurps any chance to help wounded animals by getting in there first! We’ve had all sorts of dying and injured animals staying for a few days/hours before being taken to vet and set free. I help old people carry stuff if I see they need it – I drove an old bloke from a holiday park into the local village so he could get a paper recently. I see random acts of kindness as a very positive thing – but think generally being nice, friendly and polite is a good way to make the world a better place and keep your karma in check.
SBV: Do you think enough people care about other living creatures with their hearts?
PP: Honestly, I do think most people do... What they don’t do is care about them with their heads. Recently, when all this ‘horse-burger’ stuff kicked off I found people's reactions amazing. It was disgusting to eat horse, but eating cows and pigs is perfectly fine. Don’t get it, there’s no logic in it. People can’t make the connection to such things. They love Fido, nestling by the fire and gently farting. But a pig, that’s equally sentiment, aware and alert is fine to be force fed and factory farmed. Nuts. But, I think most people do care for animals with their hearts, in a totally useless and passive way.
SBV: You're vegetarian. Tell us about when you became vegetarian and why?
The logic kicked in. I was about 20 (which was quite some time ago) and I thought ‘Hold on, I love my cat, who is basically a fat, lazy killing machine, but I’m happy for all manner of furry beasts to be mistreated so I can eat burgers’. After that I just didn’t eat meat. It was purely ethical at first, I didn’t agree with factory farming and treating animals like products. I would have probably gone back to eating meat if they had banned factory farming and gone all organic. But now, I see no moral, economical, ecological or practical reason to eat meat. It’s fast helping us destroy the planet for a start. These days I'd rather eat a Cumquat than a Cumberland sausage even if it was organically and ethically raised.
SBV: As a singer, do you think being vegetarian has helped you from a health perspective and performing?
PP: I’m keeping my figure! I dunno really. I have plenty of other bad habits, less now than earlier in my life, that contribute to my declining health. But, yeah, I think Veggies tend to eat better than a large majority of the population. It’s harder to consume huge amounts of saturated fat unless you’re guzzling down cheese and cream. Plus, I think we research our food more, especially as we get older, to make sure we’re getting the vits and nutrition we need. So my diet is healthier if nothing else!
SBV: Some meat eaters just don't try vegetarian food - even though there's more and more becoming available. Why is that? And what vegan food would you recommend meat eaters try?
PP: Most of my mates are pretty open to veggie food, to be honest. I think people who get all ‘Ugh, it’s veggie’ probably don’t try much different any way. Jef, the old bass player from Phluid, is a great cook and a Veggie. Him and his missus have made me, and other friends of ours, veggie dishes that could be served in any high-class restaurant in London. I always say the veggie option on a menu shows you how creative the chef is. My missus does a great Moroccan Pie… and my life would be over if someone banned hummus.
SBV: You've mentioned that it was hard to find vegetarian footwear. Tell me about your search for good rock n' roll leather-look footwear, or other items.
PP: I stopped wearing leather about ten years ago and took to wearing nothing but Cons – weddings, job, everything, Cons. I found my first pair of veggie shoes, brothel creepers, at Underground Shoes. That was great. But then I fancied some winkle pickers – that proved harder! Apparently, veggies are either geography teachers, or teddy boys! I came upon a site called alternativestores.com – they’ve got it all!
SBV: What do you think about how cows' skin is used to make leather products like shoes, bags, coats etc? Do you think people ought to buy more fake/PU leather products?
PP: Again, it’s unnecessary. We don’t need to wear leather, it looks cool, but so does pleather. Fake leather is cheaper and it is easier to work with. No brainer really.
SBV: You’ve played various charity shows while being in The Idol Dead and previous bands. If you could raise money for an animal charity, which would you most like to support? And have you ever raised any money for an animal charity?
PP: I give to the Blue Cross and PDSA monthly – charity shows are usually predetermined by whoever’s putting them on. I’d do a gig for any animal charity within reason.
SBV: Last week the annual Running of the Bulls took place in Pamplona in Spain – a disgusting event which is scary and horrifically cruel to bulls. What are your thoughts on events such as that?
PP: Using animals for sport disgusts me no matter what it is. Hunting, baiting, horse racing – it’s all wrong. All a bit medieval. You’d have thought we’d have grown out of it as a race really – it’s all a bit juvenile.
SBV: Have you read anything in the newspaper lately involving animal cruelty that upset or angered you? Or what other forms of cruelty to animals do you hate hearing about? What saddens you?
PP: Animal cruelty saddens me in the same way child abuse does. Ghandi said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." Jane’s Addiction backed that up with ‘The way we treat the weak is our true nature’ – that’s why it saddens me. We pick on the weak and the vulnerable and I don’t see any merit in it. It’s like beating the weakest guy in school up – no one will respect you for it. But something in human nature makes us do this shit – and it sickens me.
SBV: There's a song on your previous album, 'Die On My Feet Or Live On My Knees' called 'Question Everything'. PETA's motto is 'Question Authority'. What things do you think more people should question? And do you think too many people just believe everything they read and see on TV and don't think about what's really going on and what needs to change in the world?
PP: People are lost. The power is so far away from the man/woman on the street it’s almost impossible to change anything. We have been divided and conquered by the people that hold the power. They pit us against one another – the poor against the reasonably well off, Christians against Muslims, men against women… they create these false battles to keep us squabbling amongst ourselves. People start to look inward – look after their own – and slowly we are all becoming islands of apathy and impotent rage. We need to find our common ground, look what we have in common – which will turn out to be we aren’t happy with those driving the bus as it were – and we need to face the future as a world community. Until we do that, we’re fucked, and those fucking us are gonna be the only ones smiling.
SBV: If you had the ability to change this world, how would you change it?
PP: I would make money worthless. That’d soon sort stuff out. And I’d obviously put an Idol Dead album in every home!
Check out The Idol Dead over at www.theidoldead.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theidoldead
Top Photo By Rob @ Bitchin' Rock Photography