Culture talks /// Damn Vandals

Damn Vandals 1

Today Rock Britain’s culture talks continue with Damn Vandals. The band’s singer Jack Kansas talks about his favourite British art.


Of late I’ve been overdosing on South Korean cinema. As a result, when I close my eyes and try to think of a British film, all I get is a fuzzy mangle of sub titles, sadist peril, violence and tortured humanity. The South Korean film I watched last night had a guy eating a live octopus in it … he wasn’t acting either. Wow Mama. It’s hard to think of a Brit flick that can top that – there certainly isn’t an equivalent scene in ‘Passport To Pimlico’. Ealing Studio comedies, however, are the perfect antidote to South Korean octopus-eating mental craziness.

I guess if Damn Vandals were to pull a native DVD off the shelf, though, it would be something like ‘Sexy Beast’ (which coincidently is the film we named our record label after).

‘Sexy Beast’ is top – Ray Winstone at his best and Ben Kingsley playing the bastard South London villain to perfection. The opening scene with the massive rock crashing into the swimming pool in the searing Spanish heat, all to the sound of The Stranglers (walking on the beaches looking at the peaches) – can’t beat a bit of that. What else … Adam the bass player always bangs on about ‘Jaws’ after a few pints. But that’s not even a British film. Any case, that octopus makes that shark look proper fake … octopus wins!


For my money Shakespeare is still the Elvis of English Lit. Take that bit in ‘King Lear’ where the dude gets his eyeballs scooped out – that’s octopus territory. A few years ago I had this daydream that I should learn all of Hamlet’s lines in entirety. The plan was then to head down to the West End and kidnap a Hamlet and his understudy. Just before that night’s show was about to be cancelled, I’d announce myself to the director and save the day. I now realise that this daydream was a deranged manic fantasy, egotistically and shortsightedly concocted inside my skull size kingdom. But, hey, Shakespeare can do that to people and the daydreams have dried up since I’ve stayed on the medication. Truth is, I don’t have the will or the balls to kidnap anyone really, so guess I will never play the Dane (which co-incidentally is a killer line from ‘Withnail And I’, a film I should have mentioned in answer to the question above).

And the other Damn Vandals … well, Frank always has his head in a Kurt Vonegut or Phillip K Dick book, who aren’t British (although he did enjoy Brighton Rock by Graham Greene recently, so he’ll put that in mix). Adam’s got a very big thing for Scottish author Iain M Banks, may he rest in peace. Chris enjoys the pictures in Drummers’ Monthly but, come to think of it, he likes that rock climbing guy from Sheffield – the one that ‘Touching The Void’ is about. Guess that works …


I like being a tourist in my own town and walking endlessly and aimlessly around London. There’s always something new to discover. The other day I didn’t realise this certain street had been closed so I parted a flimsy barrier and inadvertently joined a lesbian rights/anarchist rally. The Police were acting like schoolyard bullies and weren’t allowing anyone to deviate from the set route. I was left no option. I acquired a banner and marched on Westminster. After a while the circling helicopters made me dizzy and I nipped off for a pack of crisps.

One fun thing to do on a really sunny morning is to get a train to Richmond and walk all the way back into town along the river. It’s about 17 miles and if you’re wearing a pair of Converse like I was, you’ll feel every pebble. I know it sounds as mad as eating a live octopus, but it’s well worth doing. You get to see the countryside gobbled up by brick. You get to see the skyline inch its way nearer as that wiggly Thames worm twists and turns. You get to lose the path and get lost in a council estate until you find that path again. Eventually things like Big Ben pop up. Then, finally, you get to take a sip of a pint and stare at a Waterloo sunset. At that moment you’ll forgive London for its mute traffic wardens, its billions of surveillance cameras, its bleak winters and the way it rinses you of money. Bathed in the warmth of the setting sun you will swear blind that all human happiness has been distilled in to a single atom – an atom that, for one second, you alone own and are able to balance on the tip of a pin.  After that, you can catch the tube home and start getting annoyed with people again.

What else … The Tower of London rules … did the guided tour with a Beefeater once. He was totally sarcastic and pretty sexist, which was weird. Perhaps he was drunk on all that gin he makes …. anyhow, he knew his stuff.

And the other Vandals … well, Adam the bassist would take you to a little island in Northern Ireland. It’s uninhabited aside from a single horse. Great stars at night! Chris the drummer would give you a prideful tour of his home town Sheffield and tell you staggering facts such as how it’s a bit like Rome – being built on 7 hills and everything. Frank the guitarist would probably just take you to the pub.

If you were to surprise a UK visitor with any fact from British way of life which fact would you share with them?

I would tell them a true story. A story which only just happened this afternoon …

A man walks into a motorway service station holding a lunch box. This is a handy setting because motorway service stations are by default a great place in which to observe a perfect cross section of British society. Every class, colour and size of individual gets to walk through those doors and experience the speculative delights on offer in those neon-light corporate cages of hospital-like gloom. All are united by the fact that when travelling distance, it is a universal necessity to re-fuel the car, eat something and take a piss. So basically, we’re all there buying over-priced crap.

Anyhow, this guy walks in to the food hall, puts his lunch box on a table and sits down. All around him are people eating McDonalds and greasing up their fingers in KFC buckets. Slowly he opens his lunch box, pulls out a live octopus and begins stuffing it down his throat. The octopus doesn’t like this and is violently resisting. Its purple tentacles are floundering all around the guy’s neck and shoulders in an attempt to avoid being thrust in to this strange dark cave. But the man is winning, his hands are strong. Eventually the last tentacle flicks a sad wave of goodbye to the world and disappears down the man’s throat. He looks up at his fellow diners. Everyone has been watching. One half of his audience has just been staring, mouths open. The other half is still pointing their phones at the man, videoing the whole thing. Their McDonalds are going cold, their KFC buckets even colder.

At this point the man slowly closes his lunch box, stands up and at the top of his voice yells  ‘I don’t know what you lot are looking at – you’re the ones eating shit’. I’m pretty sure that lovely story sums Britain up. If it doesn’t, at least it had an octopus in it. Love you Rock Britain. Your kind words upon the internet have punctuated our lives with sunshine one too many times to make thank you not enough … you rock, Damn Vandals xxxx

One Response to “Culture talks /// Damn Vandals”
  1. eva6kora says:

    This is an amazing read!! Love these guys!

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