How we met: Spider Stacey & Max Décharné
by Adam Jacques
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Max Décharné 49 is a journalist, author and musician who joined alt-rock band Gallon Drunk in 1991, before starting his own group, underground garage-punk act the Flaming Stars in 1996. He lives with his wife in north London
I'd known who Spider was since the Pogues first started in the early 1980s – their second album is probably my favourite of the past 30 years. But just because you like someone's music, it can still be disappointing when you meet them. I was playing a gig with the Flaming Stars in early 1996 at a venue in Camden, and Spider came down to check us out. Afterwards, he came up to me and we started chatting. He was a dream to talk to: witty and knowledgeable, and we had a lot in common as we're both from the punk generation.
People in the business will come and see your gig once out of politeness but they don't keep showing up on a regular basis, as Spider started doing, unless they are really enjoying it. We started hanging out in pubs a lot, chatting about the Velvet Underground, and going round to each others' houses for dinner.
For most of the time I've known Spider, he'd stopped drinking. For a lot of people, if they don't drink any more they don't want to be around it either, but Spider was so considerate. When I'd go round to his and his partner's house, we'd always bring a non-alcoholic drink, but then he would bring out a bottle of wine, saying "Here, I bought this for you."
He's been in this well-known band now for 27 years, while I've been in bands that have been on a different level entirely, but it's never affected our dynamic. He could name-drop for England if he wanted to, but he's very understated about who he knows. Recently, we were watching [the American TV series] The Wire and a song by the Pogues came on, so I asked him about that and he said "Oh yeah, we know [the series creator] David Simon , he likes our music."
Spider rang me up a few years ago and said the reformed Pogues [the band broke up in 1995 after numerous personnel changes before getting back together in 2001] were playing Brixton Academy, and asked if we'd support them. Normally we play in front of 300 people, so it was a lovely gesture, and last Christmas we did the same thing. I guess Spider thinks it matches, as we both make a fair old racket.
I interviewed Spider for my last book – which was about Chelsea's King's Road – because of the punk element. I found out things about him that I hadn't known after 10 years of friendship. He used to customise his clothes as a teenager as that's what the Clash did, fixing fox furs to an army surplus jacket. The object was not to look like anybody else. And that's what I got out of punk, too, of doing things yourself and not being scared about whether you're making a fool of yourself. You recognise that attitude in people and I think it gets to the crux of our friendship.
Photo by EVA VERMANDEL
Tea total: the pair's nights on the town have become 'one sided' since Stacey (left) gave up drinking in the 1990s
Peter 'Spider' Stacey 50 is a founder member of the punk-influenced London Irish band the Pogues, best known for their festive classic 'Fairy Tale of New York'. He lives in north London with his wife
I first became aware of Max through his band Gallon Drunk in the late 1980s; they were Camden-based, while we were nearby in King's Cross. His music didn't sound like the Pogues, but there was a similarity in a grasp of the sleazy and the desperate.
I met him a few times back then, but my first clear recollection wasn't until early 1996 when my girlfriend Louise took me to a gig by his new band, the Flaming Stars; it blew me away. I loved the underbelly of darkness theme, about reaching the end of an evening [of drinking] and sinking into that grey horror of the approaching dawn. So when I met him afterwards, we really hit it off: we had a shared musical background, a love of the Velvet Underground, and we seemed similar – quite introverted and private.
I started going to his gigs on a regular basis – I think I've seen more Flaming Stars gigs than any other band – and got to know him much better. He's one of the best people to be on a night out with, as alcohol has a positively benign effect on him – he gets quite talkative – although as I'd given up drinking not long after I met Max, our nights on the town were a little one-sided.
Max was really supportive when I started my band, the Vendettas, in 1999, after the Pogues split up. He went to every gig. We started going round to each others' places for dinner parties – actually it generally involved getting takeaway pizza with our girlfriends and we'd listen to each others' music collections: I'm sure Max thought some of the stuff I played was a load of crap. I think he's always had impeccable taste: the first band Max went to see live was Dr Feelgood, while the first band I ever saw was Uriah Heep, so Max has "coolest first band" status by some considerable margin.
Since the Pogues reformed, Max's band has guested for us a couple of times. The first time they did it was at Brixton, and the roadie crew came up to us afterwards and said Flaming Stars were the best support band they'd seen. But I think his band is much more than a support band; they deserve to be headlining. Why they aren't enormous baffles me. n
Décharné's latest book, 'Straight From the Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang' (£16.99, No Exit Press) is out now