Seminal punk veterans Buzzcocks may have been around for nearly 40 years, but guitarist Steve Diggle isn’t tiring of playing live any time soon.
“The nature of Buzzcocks songs is that they're so catchy and well crafted in their own weird way, and they're always such a pleasure to play,” he says. “It just feels like you are playing a classic all the time. What I've learned over the years, is that a live show is about communicating with the audience. It doesn't matter whether I play a bum note or the wrong chord; we can all be in this together, and in that way you never get bored of playing them. We're feeding off the crowd every night, and I think that's where the magic is, human beings connecting, you know? But fortunately they're all pretty good songs as well.”
Coming to Australia to play the Dig It Up festival and headline their own shows is a double bonus for the band, but whatever the size of the gig, Diggle is clear about what to expect from a Buzzcocks show.
“A selection of great classic songs, and a lot of excitement on-stage – that's the nature of Buzzcocks music. Bigger festival crowds bring that big sense of occasion, but then the smaller crowds are more focussed intensely on the music. So it's great to see a band in a small place as well; you can really get the essence of what they are. When I'm on-stage nowadays, it's not what I'm playing; I'm more concerned about what the crowd are doing and feeling.”
Buzzcocks are one of the few original punk bands to still be together since their formation in Manchester in 1976.
“When you're on the road together all the time, it's like being married to four people, and it's bad enough being married to one sometimes! This is why a lot of bands split up. We split up for a while in the '80s. We had a lot of success, we were on tour all the time, and all of those things take their toll. But when we got back together again we learned a lot from the break-up; to keep things in focus and in check, and now 35 years down the line we know how to deal with all that. We started when I was 20, and a lot of success came to us quickly, but then I realised that rock 'n' roll is in my blood and I embraced it. Like Turner, I nailed my colours to the mast and went out into the seas and experienced it all. Some people start taking it all personally and cracking up, you know? We got over those things quite early on, and that helped us survive. It's been a great journey. Like James Joyce's Ulysses, we were Mr. Bloom for a day, but the day went on and on for about the last 37 years.”
Organising their trip down under is easy for the experienced and well-travelled band.
“I bring two guitars and that's it,” Steve says. “In the early days when we went to America, we took the whole of the back line with us. Now we just turn up and plug in. The great thing about Buzzcocks is that we don't need rows of effects pedals. Australia is a little like home in a sense, because we're always well received; it's a great understanding we have. We know what to expect, and Australia knows what to expect, so let's all get down to it.”
While a Buzzcocks show may be rooted in music from the band's long career, Diggle is also very much looking to the future.
“I'm working on my solo record,” he says. “Pete lives in Estonia now, so it's hard not being in the same country. It's easy for me to do a solo record as I'm in London and the studio's just down the road. We will get a new Buzzcocks record out at some point. In the mean time we've got about 150 songs which are great to play live. Our live experience has always been the best.”
Buzzcocks play The Zoo Saturday April 20.