Eagle Spits is probably not his birth name but it does seem to suit a character who 40 years after his initial involvement in punk is still going strong- still angry, hopeful, humorous, militating for change. Seeing The Stranglers on TOTP performing ‘No More Heroes’ at 14 was Eagle’s introduction to punk but he’s never settled for a punk culture of fast music and studded leather jackets, he hung round with The Clash at a gig in Peterborough, got ‘Feeding of the 5000’ by Crass discovered anarchism, became acquainted with the ‘Agitator from Nazareth’, and decided that changing the world was a much better option than giving up on it. And for Eagle that involves punk, in 2014 he commented ‘…’Yes’ I am a punk if punk is an attitude but ‘No’ if it’s someone who just consumes generic, unchallenging crap.. I’m still naive enough to want to change the world and despite its problems believe the punk scene can be a major part of that’ (1).
Eagle quotes one of his heroes Joe Strummer as saying “I thought we were a fucking punk band. I thought that meant we could play what we wanted!’ (1) Eagle has followed the same path artistically- a book of poetry Slap Bang In The Middle of a Contradiction, The Poor Geezers, Spitune, Eaglespitshexx have given expression to spoken word, industrial noise, collaborative cacophonies.
But all Eagle’s hyperactivity and output is with a purpose, with an aim; He wants to wake people up, he wants his art to be an alarm call! In the Old Testament there were prophets who railed against the injustice and inequality of their time. Often ignored and misunderstood these figures challenged the powerful, spoke up for the weak, and were occasionally confrontational- Eagle does his best with the first two and is probably better than most at the last!
But he hasn’t just made lots of noise he also runs ‘Punk 4 The Homeless’ putting on gigs each month, raising money to take kids off the streets of Central America and into the safety of orphanages away from the hands and feet of local cops.
Punk 4 The Homeless has been running since January 2010 mostly through a monthly Punk (Benefit) Gig in Nottingham. The monies raised are channelled through Compass Children’s Charity which started as Casa Alianza UK in February 1999 to raise funds for programmes in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Casa Alianza was founded in response to the senseless death of one child – 13-year-old Nahamán Carmona López – a street child kicked to death in Guatemala City by four police officers who found him sniffing glue on the streets to combat his wracking hunger pains (2). This incident lies behind the P4TH slogan, ‘Stopping Cops Killing Kids Is Punk Rock’. Last year P4TH put out a call for solidarity gigs which resulted in Norwich, London, Stoke and Bradford hosting P4TH events. This January was the 8th birthday of P4TH and to mark the occasion they released the first volume of Punk 4 the Homeless Compilations featuring bands who have played gigs from the early days, with further volumes planned.
With all this going on and P4TH continuing it’s good work I asked Eagle to explain a bit more about the experience of running P4TH.
Why did you decide to set up P4TH-was there a specific reason and time when you decided to go for it or did the idea gradually evolve?
I know this might sound a bit odd to some people but I had a real feeling that this was what God wanted me to do in September 2009. Our first gig was in January 2010. I had done gigs for homeless causes several times in the preceding years. I have been promoting gigs since the mid 1980’s. I was briefly in a homeless hostel myself in 2009 and also helped out at a night shelter and soup kitchen run by a Methodist Church in Boston. Several years earlier my step son had volunteered to work with street kids in Guatemala, which led to me having a relationship with Compass Children’s Charity ( formerly Casa Alianza UK). When I decided to set up Punk 4 The Homeless I messaged several homeless charities to see if they wanted any money. It was only Compass who replied. Possibly because I already had a relationship with them, but also possibly because the others didn’t want to work with some dirty smelly punk rockers! We have been working closely with Compass Children’s Charity ever since but also support a homelessness initiative in Ashton Under lyne , support local homeless projects, did a gig to support survivors of the Tsunami and supported groups in Indonesia. Through this we have also developed a close relationship with the Indonesian Punk community.
Has the work being done in Central America by Compass Children’s Charity changed over time?
The work of Compass Children’s Charity is continually changing and evolving in response to need. It mainly centres around street work, engaging with children. Getting children off the streets into orphanages, getting them into education and giving them a future. There are also specialist projects such as a scheme teaching girls to weld in Mexico to avoid going into prostitution, which is often the only alternative. Compass also provide legal support when children are abused and are involved in stopping trafficking. Their teams also do pretty well in the Street Children’s World Cup.
What was it like in the early days of P4TH, explaining the idea, organising gigs-was there a good response to the idea of a regular benefit gig?
Starting P4TH was hard work initially, because, in the good old Peter and The Test Tubes tradition, I was banned from the pubs and had to use the hall in a big old Methodist Church as a venue. People had to drink outside because there wasn’t a bar. We had strong support from a small amount of people, and as often is the case in the Punk community, people were exceptionally generous. A couple more promoters in different cities came on board. Zine writers were keen to promote what we were doing. A local Radio Station got us on board to do a P4TH radio show. It was hard work to get established. I was working around 17 hours a day promoting what we were doing. But, I was on a mission and was slowly chipping away. We have made progress over the years. In the early gigs we made a maximum of about £30 per gig, but when taken into perspective it costs 12p to feed a child in Guatemala City, so we had a huge impact. It was the suggestion of the bands that we didn’t pay expenses, otherwise we would have gone under pretty quickly. We still pay no expenses, however, right from the start we encouraged people to put on gigs to raise money for street children. Our name has been used at several gigs, including one in America in 2017
You seem to have a ‘home’ in The Sumac Centre, Nottingham, do most of the bands who play come from the immediate area?
We have been at The Sumac Centre for 3 years now. Bands come from all over, including outside of the UK to play for us. Our P4TH man in London, Alex Lyng, is expanding our gigs in London. We have a couple of gigs booked already this year. Most years we do collaborations up and down the country with different promoters. This year we are running a P4TH fringe festival in conjunction with Nottingham Green Festival on Sunday 16th September 2018.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of putting on a gig? Is there an order of priorities, e.g. venue first, that you’ve found works?
Always find a venue first. Expect things to go wrong; bands to pull out etc. Trust no one else to do anything, ask advice, only drink towards the end of a gig and keep a sense of humour.
You’ve just put out a P4TH Compilation, can you tell us a bit more about the thinking behind that?
In 2010 Stoneage Records bought out a download compilation of Indonesian and western bands to promote our cause. This is still up for free download. Then we came on board with Independent Creative Movement to bring out a massive download for the survivors of the Japanese Tsunami. A couple of years ago we did our own massive download compilation. Since then several people have asked for a hard copy of the download compilation. P4TH Volume 1 is the result and is available through Band Camp and at gigs. We plan to bring out a 3 monthly compilation and are in the initial stages of thinking of setting up a record label.
If somebody wanted to get involved what would be the best way to help?
We always need help. If anyone lives near to Nottingham we need physical help at our monthly gig/stall . Anyone can put gigs on for us and just need to get in touch. As there are 100,000,000 street children in the World there will always be a need ;( Keep it real and Do Not Support Charities that pay exorbitant wages to CEO’s.) If anyone wants to get involved drop us a line on FB .
Looking back over 8 years what are the things that stand out for you?
We have made so many friends throughout. We have a massive Punk Rock family. When me and Rachel met and married in 2012 we donated money to street children instead of getting a new toaster! The street children in Nicaragua painted a painting for us. Each gig is unique and a good night out .
What is 2018 looking like, any new ideas/involvements in the pipeline?
Well in addition to the things I’ve already mentioned there is P4TH Fringe Festival,in conjunction with Nottingham Green Festival, Sunday September 16th, The Arboretum, Nottingham. More compilation albums and some surprises no doubt.
You must have your ear to the ground-what bands should we be checking out?
Too big a question to answer. Check out our compilation albums. Anyone who performs in the underground is awesome. Nobody ever made a monument to a critic!
Thanks for the interview. Much love