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An English Punk In San Diego: An Interview with Pinch of The Damned

Photo by Steve Gullick. The Damned L-F: Paul Gray, Pinch, Captain Sensible, Monty Oxymoron, David Vanian.

An English Punk In San Diego: An Interview with Pinch of The Damned

The Damned‘s Evil Spirits, their first album in ten years was produced by Tony Visconti and debuted at #7 on the UK Top Ten Chart this April 2018, the first time in the Top Ten in the band’s career. The Damned began as a punk band in 1976 and released New Rose, the first UK punk single the same year. Damned Damned Damned, their Nick Lowe-produced debut album followed in February 1977 featuring the classics New Rose and Neat Neat Neat, live staples to this day.  The fact that singer Dave Vanian and guitarist/singer Captain Sensible are still putting their all into such vital music after over four decades is very punk. In 1999 former English Dogs drummer Andrew “Pinch” Pinching joined The Damned and has been their back-beat ever since. Pinch wrote two songs for Evil Spirits: the gritty Devil In Disguise and the dramatic and affecting Look Left. I spoke with Pinch about working with the iconic band and San Diego life and this is what he had to say.

I read that your grandfather was in bands. What did you learn from him and the bands he brought to your attention? Is any of that still with you that you bring to The Damned?

He was a multi talented musician who played in big bands during the war and I did get to hear him play various instruments, all of which he was great at, but they were mainly wind and stringed instruments. He never really had an influence on me picking up the drums, although all these years later I love listening to Jazz and big band swing stuff, so maybe it did rub off in the end.

What drew you to being a drummer?

I asked the oldest punk in town to be the singer when I formed English Dogs, we knew a metal guitarist who was getting into the punk thing, and my friend Wattie got a bass for Christmas, so I was the drummer by default I guess. I think it was a natural progression from being a boxer. The years of boxing training helped with the cardio too I guess.

Who are your influences?

Initially, Tommy Aldridge, Wilf from GBH and Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden. Always full of energy and stellar time. Nicko’s intro to Where Eagles Dare introduced himself to the world with a bang and I was blown away by his style. In later life, I loved the instructional DVD by JoJo Mayer, Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer. A must for any half decent drummer to expand their arsenal.

The Damned has a definite sound, but each song is varied. How do you think your abilities support what is expected and how do you think you make the songs that much better?

The guys in the band taught me a lot about restraint and dynamics. Coming to grips with trying to play tastefully was a bit of a challenge for me, as I had always played at pretty much 100mph every record I had done with English Dogs. I listen to their advice and respect that I don’t need to play all over their chops and melodies. I think we have a fine balance of musicianship in the band. We can all play, and sometimes you walk off the stage feeling like you just made some really special entertainment for the night. All the better for us never playing songs the same way twice. It keeps the set nice and fresh. Some would call it chaotic, but that’s what we like.

Is there a song the band has never performed that you’re dying to get dusted off?

Honestly, I enjoy them all. There’s never a song that gets a groan from me. Can’t speak for the others!! Sometimes, when you’re sick but the show has to go on, I wish I was in a reggae band to get a night off the adrenaline filled numbers.

I keep plugging for Alone from MFP to be played but nobody seems to get the same vibe as me for that one.

Hopefully Look Left will get a look in the set. Pun intended.

Talking of Look Left, did you write/collaborate on any of the other songs or arrangements on Evil Spirits? How collaborative was the writing process for the album?

I wrote Devil In Disguise the same way I wrote Look Left<