Now based in Las Vegas, punk rockers Soldiers of Destruction recently dropped their Cause And Affect album (read our review). Thirty minutes of proper punk rock, the album has been 30 years in the making, but one blast of tracks like “End of a Rope” and “Amphetamines” will take you back to the days when the emergence of punk rock horrified parents across the country.
Following the release of the album, we caught up with Soldiers frontman Morat. A man who has had punk rock pumping through his veins from an early age, we headed right back to the start of his journey. It’s a journey that has seen him sleep in ditches, sneak into venues, move across the globe to Las Vegas and, eventually, finally record a Soldiers of Destruction album.
I wanted to first go back to your early punk days right through to now. Do you remember the first album that turned you on to the whole punk scene?
Morat: “I remember the first song! It was ‘Did You Know Wrong’ by the Sex Pistols. Someone played it in the schoolyard. It wasn’t even the A-side, it was the B-Side. It was particularly Jonesy guitar on that is just phenomenal, you know? That was it. I was fucked after that. Anything that looked vaguely punk I’d get it which led to some disasters and led to some really cool shit as well. It was that song!”
Pre-punk, what were you listening to music-wise?
“Slade, Bowie, and T-Rex. You were limited to what was in the charts because I hadn’t discovered John Peel. I mean, I always liked heavy shit. Like, there was some band called The Honeycombs from like the ‘60s or some shit and apparently, I played that on repeat over and over just because the drums were so stomping on it they had a really heavy beat on it. It came out before I was born. It was like heavy shit.”
I think my family were horrified when I started listening to metal back in school…
“Yeah, mine weren’t too pleased about punk rock. It was bad. I was shunted around between families anyway to some extent because my parents split up. I was living with my mum and stepdad first and then my dad and stepmum, and then got kicked out of there and went back to mum and stepdad, and eventually got kicked out of there as well. So, yeah, it wasn’t a good reaction. They would try at times to be understanding of it. They didn’t get it, which was, I mean, in hindsight, it’s kind of surprising because they grew up with all the hippie shit, you know? It’s the same sort of thing really, rebellion and all that sort of stuff. But, yeah, I mean, they tried.”
How rebellious were those early punk days for you?
“I was pretty bad, actually. I mean, well, I don’t know. I didn’t get in a lot of trouble but, mentally I could see that there was something wrong, even before punk rock. We were brought up at school and taught about the British Empire. I thought that was a bit dodgy going around stealing people’s countries. Religion as well. I actually got a school report card saying I have no moral values, because I’ve rejected religion. That was the one time my mother actually stood up for me and went into school and argued the case just because I didn’t believe in that. Also, I thought the Church of England seemed a bit limiting. Just because we’re in England, like, there’s hundreds of other countries. What about them? You know, it was, there was always the questions in my head, you know? I’d go on demonstrations and all that sort of stuff.”
What was it like at school being a punk?
“It went mostly horrible because there were so few of us and then it got trendy for about a year. Right. I was like, king of the punks for five minutes. Well, accepted. I was kind of a loner, to be honest, and still am to a certain extent. I didn’t really care because I was so hooked on the music that, I mean, I literally wouldn’t date a girl if she didn’t listen to punk rock. It didn’t matter how nice she was, I’d think we won’t obviously get on.”
You’ve talked about the music and Steve Jones guitar sound, but what was it that drew you into the whole scene?
“I honestly think it was probably that guitar sound. I remember having to look up what anarchy meant. I thought it was pronounced energy because that’s how it’s spelt. Obviously, I got into the lyrics after that once I figured out what they were singing about. But that wasn’t quite so important to me because you had songs like ‘New Rose,’ which is basically a love song to the punk scene, really. The lyrics didn’t really make a lot of sense at the time. It was the aggression and the attitude and the energy of it. And they looked cool as fuck, you know?”
Did you have a role model when you were younger?
“I am quite embarrassed to say Sid Vicious briefly. And that was one of the things my parents were right about there. They said, ‘one day, you will realize that he’s a twat,’ and it didn’t take very long to realize he was and just looked cool. Johnny Rotten as well, to a certain extent, but I was way more into The Damned, to be honest, because they looked like they were more fun. There didn’t seem to be a lot of rules to The Damned. That was just like they did whatever the fuck they wanted. If the sound changed and people didn’t like it tough shit. I didn’t like all of their stuff, but I liked that they would experiment with it a bit.”
What do you remember about your first band?
“Fucking hell, yeah, I was in a band called The Legislators. I didn’t name it. It was just a schoolkid covers band really. We play one gig which I had to be escorted to because I wasn’t old enough to get in. I was only 14. The funny thing about it now is I actually looked up the lyrics to one of the songs. We just did covers but, because there was no internet or anything, I didn’t know what the words were so I just made noises. We did ‘GLC’ by Menace and I finally looked at the lyrics the other day, and I’m sorry, I was way off with this. I remember someone writing out the lyrics to ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ for me and that didn’t make a lot of sense. And I thought ‘Rockaway Beach’ is a made-up place, I didn’t realize it was a real place. I don’t know what other songs we did, probably a Clash song or something.
Then, after that, I was briefly in a band with Razzle from Hanoi Rocks, funnily enough, and that was just weird. They used to play quite a lot, again, mostly covers, I think they had one original. They got a gig only for The Damned and the singer quit two weeks before. Fuck knows why you do that but we were asked if we wanted to open for The Damned at 15 years old? Fuckin’ hell, I’ll have some of that.”
Moving onto your work as a writer for Kerrang, I suppose you got to see it from a different side. Did that change your opinion on any of the people that you looked up to?
“Some of them in later days. I interviewed Johnny Rotten, he wasn’t a hero by that point but, yeah, I lost complete respect for him. I think he was horrible. It’s such a fake persona, he puts it on basically. On the other hand, you get to meet people that you know, you didn’t think you’d get on with and, yeah, you had something in common. It was good experience for me in a way because, by that point, I’d done a bit of roadie work and been in bands and stuff.
I remember someone coming up to me telling me they’d studied English and wanted to know how to get a job there. I didn’t know. I never went to college. I barely went to school, and mine was more hands-on. I followed bands around the country. Hitch-hiking, sleeping in ditches and shit. It was a totally different approach to it, you know, and kind of more down to earth because I wasn’t in awe of anyone because of punk rock. I remember being nervous once and that was with Iggy Pop. God, basically, but he was so laid back and such a nice bloke that went away straight away. You know?”
Doing it the hands-on way, sleeping in ditches to follow bands and so on, what did you learn from it?
“What did I learn from sleeping ditches? Don’t sleep in ditches!
Honestly, not a lot. Just to not be in awe of people because they’re just normal people. You know? Like when you’re hanging out, especially in the early punk days, hanging out with GBH, they’re only a couple years older than you are and they’re just fans the same as you. It’s nothing to be in awe of. They’re just people, you know? That was I think was probably the main lesson I learned from it. Not a lot else really because obviously, I spent most of it getting drunk.”
So when did Soldiers Of Destruction come into existence in your life?
“That was not long after I moved to London, actually. I moved at the end of ‘81, around about Christmas time. And I think it was like, early February. I went to see the band Chelsea. I went to see them at the Marquee, and they had this bit where they would get someone on stage to sing a song and I did ‘No Fun.’ As I was launching myself off the stage and hitting the deck, because no one caught you in those days, this girl picked me up who was the guitarist’s girlfriend and asked if I wanted to sing for Soldiers. Apparently, they tried people and they had like five or six songs and I was the least worst.
We had our first gig within two weeks, and somehow got like half-page review in Sounds for a gig which was underneath a Pizza Hut in Shepherds Bush. It kind of took off really quick. Within a couple of months, we were playing the Lyceum with UK Subs who were huge at the time and just ended up within probably a year headlining the 100 Club and stuff like that. You know, with no record deal…”
Why didn’t it go any further for you?
“We did get offered quite a lot of deals back then and we just said fuck off to them. Some of it was just stupidity, we thought it was selling out. Some of it was because we didn’t know what production meant. Like, it was a word. We assumed that if you were on a record label, you’d sound like the bands that were on that label, which is kind of true to a certain extent, you know? A lot of the punk records at the time were so tinny. You know, I mean, they just said really, and we were into Motorhead and AC/DC as well, and the production on that it’s a lot heavier.
Apart from that, it was out of control as well. The bass player, the second bass player, rather, and the guitarist were both fucking heroin addicts, so that doesn’t lead to a lot of productivity. There wasn’t a great deal of loyalty in the band. To be honest, there was like, we were people who were in a band together and hang out together, but there wasn’t really a lot of camaraderie, I suppose.”
You said you thought you got the gig from jumping up on stage at a Chelsea gig? Did you have ambitions to be a singer?
“Um, I didn’t have ambitions to be anything really? Yeah. It wasn’t there wasn’t a thought process behind it at all. It was just, ‘oh, I’ll do I’ll do that then.’ Yeah, I didn’t really think about it at all. I mean, I suppose the only thing I was good at in school was English. Everything else I didn’t even bother going to classes at the time as I was obsessed with music. I would only turn in if they asked you to write about your current obsession. I’d do a massive feature and get 10 out of 10 for it. But if it’s anything else, I just wouldn’t do it which was the same with English to a certain extent. I remember getting a score report where they said ‘out of 16 essays, he’s done four. They’re all excellent.’ I still got a pass somehow. But, yeah, I’ve never had a plan ever.”
What about the band? Was there any vision or plan?
“Oh, no, no, none whatsoever. I mean, I think the original drummer had his head screwed on it to get like merch done and all that, but I thought that was selling out. So I often threw it off the stage and would give it away for nothing, not realizing that it costs money. Nope. The plan was to open for GBH as we would get in for free. Honestly, there were there was no thought behind it.”
Was that part of the reason why you’d never recorded anything?
“It was partly just the production thing, and partly just not being together enough. And I mean, to a certain extent, we didn’t think we were good enough to record. Also, you sort of look at Discharge and GBH, and think we’re not as good as that so why bother? Why put out something that’s second rate?”
“No, not really. I mean, it would have been nice to, because obviously, if you put out one single back in those days, you’re suddenly a legend, and you can play like big venues. But no, not really. It was kind of cool the way that it disappeared and it became this weird cult thing. Like, when the internet started up, I was suddenly getting letters from Russia and shit like that going, ‘when you play in Russia?’ And it’s because people used to bootleg our gigs and then they eventually put them on YouTube. I knew nothing about this then started wondering ‘why is there suddenly a bunch of interest in the band again?’
I thought that we were done? Two of them are dead. The guitarist died in about ‘96. I think he died of complications through his drug use, and the bass player was actually murdered and that was pretty much the end of the band. We were fizzling out anyway. Punk was dying out and he got murdered so that was the end of that. It was nice to suddenly get all this weird interest from different countries and especially places like Russia. Like how the fuck do they know about us there?”
Did you have any kind of interest in putting anything back together when those interests were coming through?
“I’m trying to think when it first happened. I mean, I sort of thought about putting another band together for a while. I think the first time there was sort of any interest in that I was interviewing Lee Ving from Fear because they were supposed to play the UK, which I think they eventually did. It was booked and then cancelled and booked and cancelled again. We got talking about music and he was like, ‘well, you guys should open for us,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not in a band anymore, but I’m thinking maybe it’s worth doing something because opening for Fear would be pretty cool.’ So, there was that kind of interest.
I was living in LA at the time and sort of tried to do it a little bit, but it’s such a weird scene there. I actually got some really cool people into it like Roy Mayorga was going to play drums but he was on fucking tour with Stone Sour. And then Jason Christopher was going to play bass. He was on tour with Ministry. And I’m like, ‘this ain’t gonna work.’ Plus, LA is so spread out that it takes you two hours to get anywhere. There was a vague interest, but I didn’t really put any effort into it at all beyond making a few phone calls.”
What took you out to LA?
“All sorts of things. London was getting a bit claustrophobic at the time. I think. There was a time when I never thought I’d leave as it was just the best city in the world. Then it started to get really, really expensive and more violent. Some of it is personal but, literally, it got to a point where I’m like, fuck it. LA is hot and sunny and bands play there. I’ll go there. There was no thought to that either and that’s also what took me to London.
I’ve only ever been to LA for like a couple of days, right? Staying up at Sunset Marquee, doing jobs for Kerrang and stuff. So I didn’t have any idea of the scale of the place or any of that shit. It literally was to get a suitcase and fuck off. You know, which is kind of a weird way to do that, I suppose. I mean, I knew I could get work and because I was still doing Kerrang stuff, and I got a Visa through them.”
From LA to Vegas then. What was the reason for the move there? From one crazy place to another?
“Again, LA was getting really expensive and I didn’t like the music scene there so much, partly because it’s so spread out. Say you go to the Troubador, you see a really cool band, you meet other people that you get on with, you probably won’t see them for two years because they live in Anaheim or somewhere that’s like an hour away. The gigs are all spread out. It’s not like a centralized scene, you know, like London, where you go to the Underworld and you’ll see the same people next week at the Underworld. So there was that and, obviously, just being stuck in traffic for fucking hours on end and all these new taxes where like, if you’re self-employed, it’s 2,000 dollars extra just for being self-employed.
It was just getting on top of me. Then there is the fucking helicopters above your house all day. So, the missus was just like, ‘do you want to move somewhere quiet?’ I thought she meant out in the woods or something. She meant Vegas somewhere. That’s not fucking quiet. The thing is, it is. Everyone thinks of the Strip, and that’s only a few miles in the middle of town. The rest of Vegas, like, where we are, we’re five minutes away from crazy, but it’s quiet.”
What’s the rest of Vegas like?
“It has some dodgy as fuck areas, some peaceful residential areas. It’s the same as any city is, but it is very condensed. If you go to a gig, you will see people that you know. That is kind of how the band came together because you end up making friends. There is definitely a scene here.
It’s not that different to London in that respect. Obviously, it’s different in that it is 110 degrees today outside in the palm trees. People also assume, and I think I assumed as well like the early punk bands were whining about how tough their lives were but they live in fucking California? You can’t have it tough? Yeah. But, then you go there and you’re like, well, there is Compton and fucking Watts and they do have the same struggles. So, there’s a beach but if you haven’t got enough money to get to the beach, then you’re still in poverty, you know?
So yeah, I think some of the punk from over there was dismissed because of that. We thought that there couldn’t be that much of a struggle but we’re on the dole in England, and it’s pissing down while they’re in the same shit but they’ve just got sunshine. As for Vegas, I can’t see myself moving from here. I like it.”
What about the band then? What finally made you start something up again?
“I was basically at a dodgy goth club because the wife wanted to go and her friend brought her brother, and he didn’t really want to be there either. We just ended up chatting about punk rock, and he told me he kind of played guitar a little bit. He came around with his guitar and he’s really fucking good, really good. We talked about finding some other band members. We were talking about that in the local punk bar and the bouncer there told us he had picked up the bass before and it turns out he’s a cracking bass player so he ended up on bass. Then we spent about six months trying to find a drummer really just rehearsing with three of us in this cheap studio. It was getting to the point where wondered if we were ever going to find a drummer.
We had this dude who came along and did the first year of gigs with us but he wasn’t right. I think, no disrespect to him because we wouldn’t have got off the ground without him, I think wanted to be in a famous rock band making a lot of money, but he just quit. The day he quit, the dude who’d been recording us, because we’d recorded a couple of tracks, he said he wanted to join the band. He was an even better drummer and had his own studios as well. John’s now our drummer, and he’s just phenomenal and has a studio, so you can’t get any better than that.”
Going back to something you said earlier, back in the day, your ambition was getting into a GBH gig for free. What are the ambitions now?
“I suppose we do have some ambitions now because we’ve got a record out and we’re looking at obviously COVID fucked things up, but we were able to play a few gigs in the middle of it all and stuff. But, yeah, the next step is to go on tour somewhere. We’ve got Phoenix and a couple of places, Arizona and then possibly Texas. None of it is huge ambitions because I don’t ever worry about that stuff. We’ve had a couple of offers to play in the UK as well which the rest of the band are well up for but all I can think of is how it is going to be raining over there. It would be nice to do Rebellion and the 100 Club again though.”
What about the future? Any talk about another album or anything like that?
“Funnily enough, we’ve got five tracks already written and ready to go, because of COVID we had nothing else to do. They came together really quickly as well because of the way we work. If we’re spending too much time on a song, it’s probably not going to work anyway. Maybe come back to a bit of a riff or a bit of the lyrics or whatever. If they come together really quick, by the end of one rehearsal, if we’ve got a song and it’s working, we usually keep it. So we’ve got, I think, five songs. There’s one called ‘Taser Face,’ which is named after the dude’s name on Twitter. Remember the guy in Portland, that Navy bloke that got a battering from the cops? He just stood there and took it, his name on Twitter is Taser Face so it’s a kind of little homage to him because I was really impressed with that.
It started off with the Wall of Mums. Remember that? All the mothers would turn up and make a wall if there’s was a protest and the cops would batter them so then it became a wall of mums and a wall of dads and they got battered. Then it became a wall of veterans like all ex-Forces turned up to protect them. So part of the lyrics goes into that. What else have we got? There’s another one we’re working on that’s more of a mental health thing, you know, which is basically about suicide because ‘End of a Rope,’ and ‘Also Gazes’ touch on some of that sort of stuff. It’s weird because it’s turned out vaguely poppy in places. Is this us? I mean, the rest of the band question that more than I do. To me, it doesn’t matter if we like it, then that’s fine. For instance, the first Clutch album is hardcore then the second one stoner rock. I love both of them so I don’t see any boundaries.”
So long as you enjoy what you’re doing then it doesn’t matter really, does it?
“Yeah. I don’t give a fuck, we’re doing it for us really. I do think it’s all in keeping with what we were doing. That’s the funny thing about the album is it’s seven new tracks and seven old ones. Most people don’t know which ones are old and which new so we’ve obviously kept the same edge.”
Did it feel the same playing the old songs even though you are now, essentially, a different band?
“Luckily, people bootlegged the old songs so we were able to just learn them. I suppose the main difference is that I’m actually with a band that is tight as fuck, I mean, they’re really tight. So, if you go to do something, even if you raise your fist on stage to a beat, in the old days, I wasn’t entirely sure if that beat was going to be there or not. Now I know that if I do it at the wrong time, it’s because I fucked up. And we are really good friends in this band, you know, which makes a difference. And there’s no heroin, which is also a good thing.”
Yeah, that’s always a bonus, knowing you’re going to see tomorrow. On that matter, hopefully, you’ll get over to the UK sometime soon…
“We’re actually looking at next year. We’ve got like, I think three or four gigs offers so far, but with flight expenses and Coronavirus and all that nonsense, if we do it, it’d be like, probably around the time of Rebellion next year. We’ve not heard from them but that seems like a logical place to play.”
Do you miss the UK?
“Not really. It always reminds me of that thing in Sexy Beast at the start where they say ‘don’t you miss it?,’ and he says, ‘nah, fuck that place, every cunt has a long face.’ Obviously, you miss your friends and family. To a certain extent, it’s true that you can’t ever go back. When I first moved to LA, I was desperately homesick. I was not in a good place. I’d be in a punk bar and they’d play ‘London Calling,’ but then every time I went back, I fit in a little less.
One of the mistakes people make when they move is thinking the world will stop because they are not there anymore. It doesn’t, it carries on and it’s just it’s as if you weren’t there. Which is not an ego thing, I suppose, but it still sort of messes with your head a little bit. Obviously, there are friends out there that I keep in touch with them still. I mean, that’s part of the problem. Back in the day, there was no WhatsApp or any of that shit so if I made a phone call, it’s 50 bucks or 100 bucks. Yeah. I just couldn’t afford to call people but now it’s fucking free.”
Perfect, on that note, we can finish things up. Enjoy the rest of your day…
“That’s great, thanks. Yeah, Vegas is fully open now which I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not because everyone’s bringing their germs from fucking everywhere, you know? We played on March 12th last year. I remember because it’s the wife’s birthday. We played this dodgy punk bar. We obviously went for it and had a two-day hangover. We wake up and Vegas is turned off and it was like ‘fucking hell, what did we do?,’ because it’s really weird with all the lights off. Even though we’re away from it, you can see all that from the balcony.”
Wow. Can’t imagine a quiet Vegas.
“Yeah, it was weird. We were actually going to do a photoshoot down on the strip when it was all empty. I went to scope it out and, by that point, everyone realized that it was empty. Everyone’s busy now, but it was weird at the time.”