Wonk Unit are stalwarts on the Punk scene, bringing their unique brand of high octane inventiveness to an ever growing and devoted fan base. They’re a band who like to play a lot of gigs and somewhere in between this busy schedule I managed to ask the inimitable frontman and overseer of all things Wonk, Alex a couple of questions. We covered some big topics, like a penchant for Lana Del Rey and the trials and tribulations of being ‘Tour Dad’. Regrettably Wonk baked goods may be on hold for the time being, but given the continually evolving nature of Wonk Unit you never know…
What was your first experience of Music?
My 1st experience of music was also my first conscious memory. Lying on the sofa listening to Carry that weight on the B side of Abbey Rd.
If you had to describe your music to someone who had never heard it before what would you say?
Crafted bricklayers music – alternative pop with a crazy punk edge.
Who or what would you say are your main influences?
Good songwriters. Carole King to Madness to Joe Jackson to Lana Del Rey.
How do you approach writing songs, do you decide on a specific topic and focus on that or is it a more spontaneous process?
These days I write music to poetry that has already been written. I have a blog called Cement you Cunt. When i feel creative i pick a poem and go from there. Cement you Cunt has all my short stories and poems which i tend to write on my phone when travelling on public transport.
In your bio description you state that ‘Wonk Unit has always been about “me”’, though it feels across your lyrics that this refracts onto wider social and political commentary, to what extent do you view your songs in this context, is there a conscious interaction between the self and larger themes?
I write about my life and how the world affects my life. The shit that makes me wanna scream. Obviously these are things that affect everyone. I write about everyday issues we can all relate to. Love, lust, jealousy, addiction, poverty, family, Life.
You’re heavily involved in the DIY scene in England and further afield, how do you think it compares now to when you first started out?
The punk scene in the UK has never been better. It reminds me of the late 80’s when Snuff and Leatherface first happened. Honestly, I haven’t seen gigs so busy in decades. Sign of the times i guess. This country is a very unhappy place. Punk thrives in shitty times.
You do a lot of art for the band, do you think there is an interaction between the process of making music and more visual arts, do you see them as discrete entities or is it all part of a more unified approach?
Skateboarding, songwriting, playing in a punk band, doing dumb drawings for T shirts, these are all things i do for fun. If I Liked baking I’d probably make Wonk cakes. It’s nice that i can combine them all into 1 common Wonky goal.
There seems to be a near infinite amount of interpretations on what ‘Punk’ is and it’s relevance (or lack thereof), what does it mean to you and your creative process?
For me, punk has always been about art and creativity, about doing things my own way, an alternative to the mainstream, the opposite to the middle of the road. I hate the constant bullshit the masses are force fed everyday through the TV and newspapers and radio stations. I hate how dumb and gullible Joe Public are. Punk has always been about enlightenment. Socially and artistically.
Your upcoming album Terror, is your sixth studio album, how has the process of putting an album together changed as you’ve progressed?
The biggest change has been the introduction of Keys. How they can make the simplest song sound so clever. I love them! For Terror i was ultra choosey with what songs made it onto the album. I wanted a record without skip tracks. Terror (to me anyway) is 28 minutes of joy.
What would you say are the highlights and the lowlights of your time in Wonk Unit?
The opportunities we get as a band are the obvious highlights. Getting to travel the world and see so many rad places and meet so many wicked people. Playing gigs is the best fun ever. Who wouldn’t wanna strut their stuff on stage acting like a wally to like minded people, our family are the best! Being poor is the only low point. Running the band is a full time job but unfortunately doesn’t pay the bills. Maybe one day hahahah xx
If you could offer any advice to bands looking to get going what would it be?
Have fun, be proactive, get on with it yourself, don’t ever chase scenes or sounds if you think this is where you’ll find success coz you’re too late, that ship has sailed. You gotta lead, not follow. Be honest, write from the heart, if you haven’t got anything to say then you probably shouldn’t be a songwriter. Get a bass player.
What’s the best gig you’ve played to date?
Too many rad gigs to choose from but I love outdoor ones when it’s warm and floor shows when it’s crazy and sweaty.
You have a pretty relentless touring schedule, what is your experience of being on the road, how do you keep yourself occupied in between gigs?
I’m tour dad, my experience is relentless stress hahaha. It’s quite wearing getting the children out of bed, into the van, across countries and to soundcheck on time without them wetting themselves. Skateboarding and being a dutiful husband keeps me occupied between tours.
What other bands are you really into at the moment that you think people should be aware of?
Clowns, The Dopamines, Aerial Salad, The Dub Righters, Pizzatramp, Calva Louise.
What’s your favourite song to play in your live set and why?
I’ve always loved to play Nan. Just a total rager for me. I loved my bonkers nan. Dementia had it’s firm grip on her in the last few years but we laughed in it’s face. She was very loved to the end.
Looking forward what are your hopes and aspirations for Wonk Unit in the coming months and years?
Every album we release opens us up to a wider audience and my life gets a little bit easier. Let’s hope this trend continues! Yay! xx
If you want a bit more Wonk in your life then their sixth studio album Terror is released on Friday 20th April.