Allan Dias interview

First published Fodderstompf, May 2004
© 2004

John Mcgeoch, Allan Dias & John Lydon, 'That What is Not' promo pic, 1991 © SchoernerFodderstompf.Com: Allan was one of PiL's longest serving members, playing bass on three studio albums, circa 1986-92; before leaving shortly before their final gigs in 1992. In his first post-PiL interview he explains why he had to go. He also gives us a glimpse into the PiL song-writing process and talks passionately about his time with band… Interview conducted for Fodderstompf April 2004.


First off, I'd like to talk about John McGeoch's passing...

John was a beautiful person, he was like a brother to me. It was just sad that as close as we had got, I really hadn't talked to him in years, it would have been nice to have been able to talk to him. But there's still the sudden sense of loss, with someone you've worked with over the years, and hung out with... In this music business thing, rock n roll, whatever you want to call it, these things do happen, and it happens quite a lot. I don't know what the odds are statistically are, but man, there's three, four, five guys maybe, that I can say that I knew quite well that are just gone all of a sudden, and it is all of a sudden.

I think with John it took everyone by surprise. I'm not sure if maybe he was ill beforehand, I presume he was but I don't really know.

Yeah, it just surprised me, he was so young. Obviously it was the last thing you want or expect. I guess eventually we'll find out. Every time I hear about something like that my mortally rises in front of me as well, you think jeez man, your days are numbered as well.

When was the last time you spoke to him?

(long pause) It's hard to remember, maybe 1992-93.

After PiL?

Just at the end, just at the end of things. Those are hazy days for me, it's difficult to remember exactly.

You left very suddenly, I have to admit I was really surprised when you did leave, what actually happened?

Well, basically I could no longer function correctly in terms of being able to show up for the rehearsals or show up to play. I was completely burned out, and in a bad way. I had a drug habit that was looming over my head, and it was just very difficult. It wasn't something I wanted to do, I can tell you that. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I could not function properly. I don't think I was an asset anymore to the band or myself or to my wife, so I just had to bail and take care of my physical and mental health.

So did you decide to leave by yourself, or was it a mutual thing?

No, I just told them later, I was gone, I just jumped ship. It's not my style, but like I said it's not something I wanted to do. It was literally life or death for me at the time. In that wild circus of things, you know, I was gonna get buried under something... I really didn't understand what was going on until I got out of it, and went through rehab and was educated about what actually happened to me, my whole physiology, my brain chemistry and all that, so then I could begin to deal with it.

Do you think it was just down to the lifestyle of being in a band, as you said before, that whole 'rock n roll' thing, or did you have a problem beforehand?

No, no I didn't. I did what we all normally do, and I could wake up in the morning and I would be fine, no hangover or whatever and just go about my business. But there's a point in time where you cross the line, where you can't stop, where you can't say NO. Your responsible self conscious should take over and say, hey listen, you've got things to do, but I had no defence over it, I was a dead duck.

So what was the last show you did?

I believe the last thing I did was the UK shows, after the '120 Minutes Tour' in the States with Blind Melon and Live opening up for us and BAD, and then we came back to the UK. After that I think we had a European leg, and that's the one I just didn't do... There were some issues with the contract and stuff as well. We knew there might have been a sense of writing on the wall in terms of the longevity of the band.

Is that because of what happened with EMI and Virgin, the takeover?

Yeah, yeah, it was coming to the point where quite soon decisions had to be made about contracts and stuff, and I don't know exactly what they did, I think the band disbanded after that?

They did another US tour after you left and then John decided to just do some solo work. Did he talk about disbanding PiL and maybe doing something different?

He always had interest in his own projects, you know, which sometimes he'd talk about and sometimes he wouldn't. We all had things that we were interested in, but you know, looking back at it right now, maybe it's quite possible that what we were doing had ran it's course, I dunno. Just a kind of natural thing. But that's not to say we couldn't have carried on, because we had lots of ideas, there were lots of things we could have done. We weren't short on creativity that's for sure. Sure, we could easily have changed the sound of the band and came up with something that was contemporary, or accessible or competitive or whatever you want to call it, but at the same time we did have a lot of integrity. That's one of the things I love about the stance and attitude of PiL, there was integrity based on that. Sure we might be taking the piss out of certain things, and certain aspects of society, or certain people, maybe our music was tinged with sarcasm, but we believed it had integrity.

'9' promo pic, 1989 © Bonnie Shiffman What had you done prior to PiL? I know you had played with James Blood Ulmer...

Yes I did, but that was while I was in PiL, we did a record for Rough Trade... I started late in my life, I ended up playing bass in my early twenties while I was in college, it was kind of a fluke. I had a friend who was in a band and he needed a bass player, he had said 'Allan it's too bad you don't play bass because it would be great', and I said, well, I've picked up a guitar before, I've fooled around, I know some notes and stuff. So he said do you think if I get you a record and a bass you could learn a set of songs for a gig next week? So I said I'll try... and I did! I learned all these bass lines just off the record, this is having never owned a bass. So I knew I had something in there naturally, and people told me too. I had a feel for it, even two notes, I could lock in with drums, I could groove, and it was all just natural.

I played in bar bands and stuff like that, and then worked my way into some other gigs. In the early to mid seventies there was a combination of Jazz Funk and P-Funk Jazz, things were crossing over and mixing up. I had some friends who were brilliant musicians and we had this thing called the 'Eastern Sound Space Orchestra', which was pretty much an amalgamation of musicians from the East Coast headed by one guy called Billy Paterson, who was commonly known as Spaceman in New York, he was a fantastic guitar player. We wouldn't play any standards, he'd just have some hook lines, and bass lines, and the keys, and we would just jam, it was cool.

I did all that stuff and I also played in a kind of Hotel band in New York, sort of R&B stuff. I would back up singers like Jean Knight, who did 'Mr Big Stuff', he would do a residency and we'd play our tunes. I played with other lesser known artists who were kind of hangovers from the sixties. A guy named Ronnie Love, another called Tyrone Washington, who had worked with George Clinton in the original Parliament when they were a Do-Wop group. So I got all this R&B, Jazz, Do-Wop background, and that's what helped to give me my playing style.

That was my playing wages as it were, but really my head was into stuff that was a little more avant garde and more outlandish, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa those kind of bands. I didn't really like the twee mainstream. I came up on that kind of wild stuff, and that's what I really wanted to do, but there wasn't really a lot of scope there for me to do that, which is one of the reasons why I eventually ended up in London.

I had a chance to get into the recording scene, and be a studio guy, but ultimately I thought this isn't why I want to play music, I don't want to play other people's stuff, I want to do my own thing, I want to do wild and outlandish, I want to just let it go. I was tired in playing in such a controlled and tight manor. I mean it helped me to learn, but it was not really good for my soul. So I left the States, I sold all my stuff in the mid seventies and I travelled. I headed to Morocco then I travelled all across North Africa, but that's a whole other episode! To make a long story short, I eventually ended up in London in the early eighties. I used to come through London on my way to say Cairo or wherever. I would get a Bed & Breakfast for 35 quid in Earls Court, I'd get all the music papers and I'd go out every night! I had to learn because I didn't know anything, but it was exciting, it was let loose stuff! It's difficult to remember who I saw, but I remember seeing some reggae stuff, Aswad, The Slits. There was a tonne of stuff and it really opened my ears and eyes, and I thought this is where I need to be!

Eventually I stayed in London, like '82 ish, I had a girlfriend and we were involved in a squat way down in South London somewhere, and it was cool. I would go into town, just hang out and meet musicians, I did a lot of auditions and stuff, not to say I wanted to be in those bands, I just wanted to see what was going on. It was the fall out from punk days, and there were lots of guys who were still wondering what to do, because there was all this post-punk, and New Wave and all these different categories, people really didn't want to be stuck with all that. There were all these casualties, guys that still really wanted to play but weren't sure what they wanted to do, but I would bump into these people, and get together and play demos or jam whatever. I did a lot of development work, demo work, for people like Jimmy Pursey from Sham 69, and Steve New.

Bruce Smith was one of the first musicians that I actually got together with, we used to hang out and jam, I saw him play with the Slits, and I was flipped out. I saw him at a club and I went up to him and I said listen you're great, that's pretty much what I said! And it ended up we used to jam in a basement down All Saints Road, and just play, just me and him for hours, not every day, but quite often... Who else? God, I should know all this stuff, but it's been so long since I thought about it, that whole scene...

Eventually I hooked with a guy called David Lloyd, and formed the band Uropa Lula, which got changed to Viva Lula. We got a deal with Arista Records, and had a few singles but nothing really happened. But anyway, through that band, and the guitar player Chester, it led to me working with Brian Ferry on his solo stuff. I wasn't really in the band or anything, I mainly just did promotion, we did a lot of touring to promote his album.

I was still working with Brian Ferry when I got the call from John in 1986. It was just after 'Rise' had broke into the charts, I think it was like the day after he was on 'Top Of The Pops'. Then it just got surreal! I got the call from John's manager, 'Would I be interested in playing bass?' I thought about it for about a split second (laughs), yeah man I'd be interested! So I met John in a pub and we sat and talked for an hour over a couple of pints, and that was it man, no audition, no nothing, just a meeting of the minds, and boom we were in the studio rehearsing!

'Happy?' promo pic, 1987 © Tom Sheehan You got the call via Bruce Smith didn't you?

Yeah, I had always stayed in touch with Bruce through that whole time. I think initially when John decided to reform PiL, after the generic 'Album', as I understand it he went to Bruce Smith, because he knew him through his connections with the Slits and Ari Up, and when John approached Bruce to play the drums, he had said listen, I also need a bass player, and Bruce gave him my name. I mean, Bruce knew a lot of bass players but he thought I'd be right for the job. There was something about the way Bruce and I grooved, and the commonalties we had in music, I think we brought another aspect to the music.

But I got to tell you something, I think John's main concern was that we could work together. It's ironic that even though I was not in London in those punk days. I had been in the States in the late sixties when stuff changed there, so I could relate to what he went through. We had the same point of view on things. All those guys, Bruce, John McGeoch, Lu, they all had the same attitude of busting out, being able to make a statement against the banality of what was happening. Not being afraid to step out, and be a little rebellious and sacrilegious. It was cool, once I was with those guys who were all instrumental in changing the face of music, particularly in London at that time, it was like I had been there too!

I thought we had a phenomenal affinity as a band, which is really what I think impressed John to the point of asking us all to stay on. After we finished touring 'Album' he said, listen, do you guys want to form a band because this is a good thing, he felt it, and we all felt it. And he was so equitable about it that he split the band to the five of us, and we each had 20% up and down on everything. I thought what a great thing, a great gesture. That he would bring us in like that, it was phenomenal.

It was obviously a sign of trust, that's the thing with John isn't it.

Exactly, that's exactly how I felt, I had been entrusted to this legacy that was walking around me and talking to me! (laughs) And it was my job to carry the torch, I was entrusted in continuing this legacy, it was a great honour. I dunno if John ever realised that from me, but I think he did. Obviously I couldn't just go to him and say, listen man this is an honour, blah, blah, blah! (laughs). Even though it was, I think that would have been a little embarrassing or uncomfortable, but I think ultimately he knew.

So did you know much about PiL before you joined?

Um, I knew a little. I told you earlier that I lived with this girl in some squat in South London, well anyway, she had a collection of records, I was listening to a lot of reggae at the time because that was kind of new to me, and she had the first PiL album. I remember putting that thing on, man, it blew me away. I remember hearing 'Religion' and I was like 'What is this!' I leapt out of my seat, and I was saying 'Who is this guy, he's some kind of prophet or something!' (laughs). Sure, I knew about the Pistols but this was so powerful, so different. That whole sound on the early material was great, the simplicity of it, and it was the same with the Laswell 'Album' album - we were actually gonna work with Laswell for '9' but that didn't work out - but anyway, Laswell captured that sort of austerity of the whole thing, he managed to capture it on 'Rise' particularly...

But yeah man, with PiL I just thought that John, and the lyrical content of 'Religion', together with the music was just so powerful. I thought to myself this is the route I want to go, this is the kind of thing I want to do, that's why I'm here in London. And ultimately it ran it's course and I got a chance to work with that very same person! In that very same band! To me it was destiny. I think that's why I went to London, not be corny but I felt that's why I was there...

Certain things happen for a reason, and that was one of them.

Yeah! I'm just sad that ultimately I burned out before I really completed what I wanted to say.

John Lydon, Alan Dias & John Mcgeoch, 'Greatest Hits So Far' promo pic, 1990 © Ross HalfinYou were saying earlier that you originally only came in for the Tour, and John decided to keep the band, the 'new' PiL!

Well, the understanding we had with John's management of the time was that we were hired as side men to go and promote the generic 'Album' and 'Rise' and all that stuff, plus obviously do some older tunes. So we had to go through it all and pick out tunes. I don't recall how we got the set list together exactly, I think John had some ideas about what he wanted, some songs he wanted to sing, some he didn't. I think we all made a general conciseness as to what would work and what wouldn't. Some we kept and some we didn't, some we added. But anyway, in the end it was so successful after that '86 tour that John sat us down and said do you want to make it a permanent band, and that was it...

I used to always enjoy seeing you live, you always made me laugh! You always seemed to enjoy yourself!

Yeah, it's entertainment! When you're pumped up on the music, you've just got to let loose. That's what it's all about. Communicating is my thing, I'm an entertainer, I'm a bass player. I don't even really like calling myself a musician, but like I told you, when I got to the point of playing with Public Image I realised that was why I had left the States and came to London. And working with PiL I could run around the stage, I could lay on my back looking up at the lights, I could jump out into the audience, I could let loose and play, which is all I wanted to do, and I got to do it on an international level, and it was a beautiful thing, it was destiny...

Obviously Wobble had that distinctive heavy bass sound, when you were playing his bass lines you still had that heavy sound, but it was done in a different way, did you have to change the way you played?

First off, I have to say I'm so impressed with what Wobble has done, and how he has continued on his musical journey after Public Image, it's so impressive. I don't think I ever actually met him, but I was quite honoured to be able to play some of his bass lines because as simple as they were, they were so clever! I think that was one of the most important aspects other than John's vocal delivery of the band... I eventually went through the whole catalogue, and I had heard some of that early music, not all of it, but there's a way I could relate to his bass playing, and how it fits, and how it is supported the rhythmic and tonal aspect of the music. I didn't really have to change my way of playing, but I played his lines in my way, with his style. I started off just copying his lines and then it sort of naturally came out as the way I interpreted them but that was the foundation.

As I said you could still have that full sound, but your stuff was maybe more melodic than Wobble's, plus a lot of the stuff you did seemed to intertwine with keyboards and synths, things like 'Save Me' when the bass and synths worked together, and again on '9' too. You had you're own thing definitely.

Well, yeah, I mean I definitely had a style that I brought to the band.

When you joined PiL it's fair to say there was a big change in direction, which John himself calls towards pop structure, was it something you all talked about, or was it just brought on naturally?

Well, I think that's what John wanted, which is why he head hunted these particular people, because I think he just basically just snatched McGeoch from the Armoury Show! So I have a feeling that he wanted a particular sound. Jumping off from where 'Rise' left off with the use of big guitars and all that, and that kind of bass sound, not that I would compare myself with Laswell, but that bass and drums groove that Bruce and I had established. Then Lu had this beautiful 'off the wall' sound, he played so many different instruments, and brought a sort of ethnic, folk, roots, side to the music. So I think John had this sound in his head and put together all the elements. When we toured we could hear aspects of it coming out, but we never sat down and said well, listen, OK John, I know you brought us in here to make a little more 'pop' sounding record, or make the band more musical, or more melodic or whatever. But as musicians when we sat down to write music for John to sing that's how it came out.

I felt that there were so many different things happening within the song, things that Lu's doing, you're doing, whatever, you were all pulling the song apart, but when you brought all those elements together within the format of those songs, it all clicked into place. And there's no way you can just call it straight 'pop' or 'rock', there's no way PiL were just a rock band, but that was a part of it...

Yeah no way. We'd get interviewed and they'd come up with that, and I'd say this is folk music, folk music, music from folks! Just because they wanted to say it was pop music, or it was this or that. Sure, there are elements of that but that's not what we are trying to do. With PiL we were using elements of contemporary music, but doing it in our own way to have that big searing cutting sound.

The only one time that I could say that I sat down and wrote a pop song was for the 'Greatest Hits So Far' album. Virgin were feeling that we would be leaving them, and they wanted to make some money, they wanted a “hits” album. They said they needed a lead off tune to sell the album, they wanted a hit record that hadn't been released yet. We didn't really want anything to do with “Greatest Hits” to be honest, but what were our choices? Let them put out some bland packaging of old songs, or you know, put our hands in there and make sure that the mixes or the tracks are like 12” singles, and all different. We did the whole lay out ourselves, John got Reg Mombassa to do the cover, I did the lay out and chose the photo work.

I sat down and wrote 'Don't Ask Me' specifically as a pop song, I even wrote the lyrics, John used about 80% of my lyrics. It was funny 'cos when we were going over it at his house in LA, I gave him a little sheet with the lyrics, and he's singing it, and then he turned and said are you sure I didn't write this!! (laughs). So I said, in a way you did John, I've been writing music with you so long. I wrote this for you, with your phrasing and your style in mind, from my point of view though, but it's for you. Obviously he changed some words around, but I was chuffed man...

When Virgin said ok, we need a hit, we need a pop tune, it was a challenge for us. We all went away from that meeting thinking. When it came to do it, McGeoch, as usual he's got a million ideas on a cassette. He was such a prolific writer, and he had some great melodies but no complete tune, and Lydon had all the sketches and stuff that he had done in the studio at Malibu. I'd only came to LA with one tune, I had one tune on a cassette, but I'd worked on that tune for three or four months, and the guys were like, 'Man what have you been doing all this time!' I didn't play it to anyone, I wanted to surprise them. We had a meeting at Virgin in LA and the others played the stuff that they had brought, then I popped the cassette in and I sang the lyrics, and everyone nodded their heads, and that was it.

John & Allan Dias, tour rehearsals, London 1992, Volume 3 CD/book © Steve Gullick I always thought 'Don't Ask Me' was great pop, but at the same time when you look at it with those big drums behind the pop verses, that was before dance really kicked in, it was quite unusual for that kind of 'pop' single.

You know, I hate that version that's out, it's so soft, you should have heard my version. It was cutting, it kicked! The producer wanted to lighten it up a little bit, the way it's mixed there's little bells and things. The way I had it it was heavy, it was still pretty much the same song in the same way, same tempo and everything but just a little harder. They softened it up, they made it sort of MTV friendly or whatever, but that's pretty much my tune straight as it were, it's just the remix that is not good...

The drums are great, who played on it, did you do them too?

Actually I'm not even sure they are live drums, I had a demo that had everything on there. I was using computers back then, so I had it all on disc, I had all the programming, and I think we just set it up in the studio and transferred all my stuff to the multi-track, and did it from there. Man, I can't even remember where we recorded it. That's a good question, I'll have to look that up!

I remember reading in an old interview about the way PiL wrote, that you all wrote separately on cassettes and then dissected certain parts of them, keeping certain melodies, or guitar line, or whatever...

Yeah, exactly. It was logistics really, I was in London, John Lydon would sometimes be in London or LA, Bruce was in London, Lu was in South London, and McGeoch was up in the Midlands somewhere I think. So when we wrote, for example I would take a bunch of McGeoch chords off a multi-track in the studio, and I would take them home and put them in a sampler. So if I wanted a chord while I was sequencing tunes I could use his guitar sound. We would all have cassettes with some ideas and some songs, and then we would exchange them. We would listen to each others stuff, and I'd pick what I like from their stuff, and they'd pick what they like from mine, whatever, and then we'd sit and try to play this stuff or try to structure it. Sometimes we'd use bits and pieces from each others tunes yeah. We shared everything equally so it didn't matter who's song initially it was.

I think McGeoch was probably the more prolific writer, I think if an album had ten songs, usually four or five came from John McGeoch, three of four would come from me and the others, and then John Lydon would have a couple. But even though John Lydon didn't necessarily bring the music to the majority of tunes, he shaped them with his vocals and lyrics. A song like 'Seattle', which came from a couple of riffs that Bruce and Lu Edmonds had, they brought it to me and I put a bass line on it, sitting on a bed in a hotel room! It was a nice bouncy groove, but it was nothing until John sang on that, once he added some vocals to it, I was flipped out! It just became amazing. His voice is like another instrument, it's not just like having a singer. You can have a backing track and have 15 different singers singing, and it won't make a difference to the song, because they are just singing words, but John is singing more than words. He's bringing in dynamics, he's another instrument. So even in the studio, or at rehearsals for recording, the song would go through even more changes once he had put the vocals in. It would develop into a big breathing thing, the music goes with the vocals, it doesn't just sit there or fly over the top.

The level of musicianship and listening in that band was so high. Performing with John live, it's like it might as well have been Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. John is not gonna sit there and just sing a song to the beat or the vibe. He's not like that. With John, we didn't know if he was going to come in on the second verse, or the first note, or if there was gonna be a middle 8 that evening. We never did a song the same way twice, so we had to be on our toes and alert. When it came time for the chorus, wherever I was on stage I had to have an ear or an eye towards John to find out if he was gonna come in early, or be late, or skip that part, and go to the next verse, so I had to be ready, and so did everybody else in the band, because, you know, we'd look like a bunch of berks up there! And we didn't want to make him look bad either. So it was something we developed and that made us have such big ears as I call it, that when we went into the studio and we were writing songs that aspect came out, which is beautiful, it was fantastic.

I've said many times before, you did seem like a band, it wasn't just John and four backing guys on stage.

Yeah, it was a living breathing thing, it wasn't a backing band, we could all do our thing. And John was quite, OK I'll say it, encouraging of us to feel comfortable. Even though the band wouldn't exist without him obviously, I never really felt that on stage I was his backing guy. Even though he had the limelight, he was the singer, the whole thing was his concept, and I was just a little bass player, I still felt as important as him on stage.

How did you feel about John having all the limelight, I bet you were quite pleased about that in some ways?

Well, to put it in perspective, he's like a dignitary! We go to Brazil or the Soviet Union, or whatever, it was a national press conference! This guy is heavy man! I'm working with Royalty here, I don't mind! If a little bit rubs off on me, that's fine! It was an honour, you gotta understand. I'm working with a living legend here and the more I got into it and I travelled with John, and saw how people responded to him, and what I read about him consequently, hey man, it was fantastic. I was pleased to be associated with him, so I didn't mind that.

And plus, it made my life easy sure, but there were times when I had to step up and help buffer, take some of the attention off John. Sometimes it was too much and he didn't want it so he would throw us out there for interviews and different things. 'OK, it's time you guys held up your share', we weren't getting away with it so easily, but that was good. It was a good learning experience and good because we helped out. Ultimately I was a protector of the flame!

John Lydon, John Mcgeoch & Allan Dias, 'That What is Not' promo pic, 1992 © SchoernerDoes it bother you that the records you did don't get the same respect as the earlier albums. We mentioned earlier that they're often written off and labelled rock and pop, when they are not that at all.

Well, obviously John's loathing for the press, and his suspiciousness of the media, rubbed off on me early on, plus I had my own sensibilities about that anyway. I never really got too down about any critical reviews. I knew the deck was stacked in terms of where we were coming from. I was never disappointed or disillusioned with it because we had the respect of our piers, musicians from other bands and people that I would consequently meet. People would come up to me personally and tell me they dug what was happening, music fans. I had the respect of my piers which was important.

You had a fair bit of success as well. The records did well, and you were one of the longest serving members, you did a load of gigs!

Yeah, it was fantastic, I hated to have to leave. Ultimately when I came out of my fog I was disappointed with myself. I know I let those guys down, and it was sad, but it was something I had to do for my own survival at the time, and the band's. It was literally life or death. I was in over my head, I didn't want to be a rock n roll casualty, I didn't want to go out that like that. I had to step up and accept that, and do something about it, and I did. Unfortunately I had to cut out early and I didn't really want to, those guys are my family man, as close as that.

You had been MIA for so long, you were almost missing presumed dead, which is not a nice thing to say but...

Well, you know, I had been through that rumour mill thing. People who knew me in my wild days figured I just kind of fell off the boat into the ocean! (laughs). But I dropped out and it took me a while to come around to the point of being glad of being out of that whole tornado of events, in terms of that whole night life thing and what not. What can I say, at the same time I missed everybody, and I figured that eventually I would get in touch with people and let them know I was ok. I felt bad about cutting out and not letting anybody know how I was, but it was a desperate situation, I was fighting for my life, and it was scary.

The people in the band were all part of the same environment, I'm sure they understood the pressures.

John McGeoch had been through that, and Bruce. Everybody had their own things to go through, and I felt I had to come home to the States. Escaping was my only way of surviving. I dunno, but hopefully I'll get to see or speak to those guys again, I always felt bad I never called John Lydon, I think I might have talked to him once since then, but very early on...

Right, time for some trivia! The track 'Criminal' that's on the 'Point Break' soundtrack, was that written especially for the movie or was it from an outtake?

It was written specifically for the movie. I think initially it was one of John McGeoch's songs, or a sketch that he had, it was based on that... We went into the studio with a producer specifically to do that track, it was a one off thing, it wasn't an outtake or anything. As I recall we were approached by someone from the movie, but I think we were in the middle of recording an album or something, possibly working on '9', and by the time we got the track done, and put it to them it was too late to be considered for the title track, but they put it on there regardless...

We did quite a few other movie things, 'Slaves of New York' that stars Bernadette Peters and written by Tama Janowitz, also a Mickey Rourke movie called 'Wild Orchid' that's got 'Warrior' in a Samba carnival scene of all places. There were a couple of other things too, plus there were things that Virgin wouldn't let us do. We had a lot of other offers, but Virgin were very protective of us in terms of outside projects, they always wanted to make sure it fell in the right category for them to give it any support.

Did you play guitar on an Adamski album called 'Naughty', it's credited as Allan Dias.

Um. I don't remember! I hung out with Adamski and Seal loads, Seal was neighbour of mine. He gave me a credit? Wait, I'm just getting a flashback now for the first time, we were in a studio, messing around, we went back to Adamski's house after clubbing, and he had all this stuff up, and we were just messing around. I played some bass and I played some guitar, and he used it? That's amazing. I didn't realise we were doing anything, but that's one of those things that you kind of forget about, when you hang out with musicians, we were just jamming around, and he had some grooves.

What have you been doing since you left PiL?

Well, I came back to where I grew up in Stratford Connecticut. I just kind of decided to appreciate life as a civilian. You know, getting up in the morning and going to work, even that was something new to me! I worked like a million jobs trying to find something that I liked. I was trying to ease myself back in so I felt more like a everyday Joe rather than a vampire! (laughs). Which is really how I felt by the time I left London... I took up mountain biking, and I was running. Initially it was just to get my health together, then I started competing, doing some bicycle racing, it was good man.

I still listened to a lot of music. I listen to stuff all the time, and I was still going to see bands. Then eventually after maybe five or six years I had an inkling that I might want to play again. I had felt musically I was done, I really had nothing to say, I didn't have an urge to communicate, and for me that's what it's about. But I guess through listening to music and checking out bands, maybe there was an undercurrent bubbling up that something inside of me thought I had something to say again. I ran into Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth from Tom Tom Club, and they were one of the first people to say to me you've got to play again, because it's your mental and physical health that's at stake. I guess a lightbulb clicked in my head. Even though I was loathed to play music again because it just reminded me of all the bad things that I had gone through, it was a big gap in my life. And ultimately I thought, what the hell, I'll get some stuff together, and just have some fun with it.

So what kind of stuff have you been working on? What sort of stuff do you like?

Well, that's a two folded thing there... Initially my intention was hey, I'll get some music software and make some music at home. Then if I want to put it out, I'll just put it out on the internet. Whoever likes it can take it, whoever doesn't, won't, what can be easier than that? Well, those intentions were all very well and good, but the minute I had to buy an instrument I bought a bass! All of a sudden I had a guitar in my hand and I was like, wow, this is what it felt like when I first started playing. This is awesome! So I started playing again, then I started sitting in. It's called 'Open Mic' you go into a coffee house or a pub, and you go up and sing or play, so I've been doing that for the last three or four months. It's been great.

At the same time I've been listening to a lot of songwriting, sort of the anatomy of the song. I've started going back to American songs, in terms of the legacy of American songwriting, kind of folk stuff, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan even, early Country and Western music from the forties and fifties, just getting into the sixties with all the electric stuff. That's what I'm listening to these days. But I pretty much listen to everything or anything, what I don't listen to is actual radio or Top 40. I'm so disenchanted, once in a while I hear something on the radio that I like so I'll research that.

John & Allan Dias, tour rehearsals, London 1992, Volume 3 CD/book © Steve Gullick It's getting less and less often now to hear good stuff on the radio. I mean there is still a lot of good stuff out there, but you have to go out and find it. It's not in the open as much.

Well, this is what I'm coming to see. I think with being able to download music through computers and the internet, I think the whole music business is getting flipped over, so I think a lot of the best music is probably on these independent web sites where you have smaller independent artists putting their own stuff out, and bypassing the whole record company industry.

They've had the dominant power for so long, I think it's about time they got shafted anyway.

Exactly. I'm so glad you said that because my whole contention is 'fuck em'. The music industry have been fat cats so long, they missed the boat, they deserve what they get. Not only that, bands like Metalica or whoever who have made millions off of them, who are screaming and crying, they signed a deal with the music companies so they have to suffer that too, fuck em!

It's their fault, they didn't adapt to the technology, they didn't move with what people actually wanted, people want access to all kinds of bands and genres. They just keep pumping out the same silly puppet bands and re-issues. Fuck them. Though I think it's a shame that small artists are getting shafted too. That's the down side of it.

Well, they're caught up. They are casualties of this whole thing unfortunately. The thing is, when Phillips invented the cassette the music industry tried to stop it, because they said people were gonna copy albums to cassette and we're gonna lose money, so they tried to encode it in the early days. So OK, I'll give them that one, but with CD's they had so much time to come up with something, and they missed the boat through being fat and lazy, so fuck em. And whoever signs up with them unfortunately has to take part in the loss, the upheaval. So my suggestion to people is just do your own thing. I got no sympathy for the record companies or recording industry, but I do have for the smaller bands that may be getting screwed...

Plus, you know, in another aspect, I have to say it gives me real joy, because the whole industry is so fickle, and two faced and hypocritical that they need to get their asses kicked, get things shaken up. They are just a conduit, I mean they might be putting up the money, sure, but it doesn't give them the right to dehumanise people, and that's what they're doing, and I think they're getting what they deserve, the chicken is coming home to roost!


Picture Credits (top to bottom)
John Mcgeoch, Allan Dias & John Lydon, 'That What is Not' promo pic, 1991 © Schoerner
'9' promo pic, 1989 © Bonnie Shiffman
'Happy?' promo pic, 1987 © Tom Sheehan
John Lydon, Alan Dias & John Mcgeoch, 'Greatest Hits So Far' promo pic, 1990 © Ross Halfin
John & Allan Dias, tour rehearsals, London 1992, Volume 3 CD/book © Steve Gullick
John Lydon, John Mcgeoch & Allan Dias, 'That What is Not' promo pic, 1992 © Schoerner
John & Allan Dias, tour rehearsals, London 1992, Volume 3 CD/book © Steve Gullick
Interviews | Fodderstompf