In the last of our interviews to preview this weekend’s PlanetMosh-backed Helloween Havoc in Belfast, we talk to bassist Aidy Dunlop and drummer Rab McNeill from headliners – and all round headbins (if you ask us) – NASA Assassin.
Rab: “We’re just five people who like to play and perform music together – and hopefully do it well and entertain the punters… and get blocked…”
Aidy: “Haaaa good one Rab but its a bit more than that… Me, Jeff and Johnny (‘The Watcher’) used to play in SuperSkin and Stevie was our guitar tech – who was better than our guitarist! Rab then play drums for Co.Uk, who were making a buzz around the same time: we all were drinking buddies, and after those bands ran their course we started jamming and and recorded a few EPs with Neil Calderwood at Manor Park Studios under the name The Deaf Club. We’d done a handful of shows (but) not much came out of it, so then NASA Assassin was born…”
What are your musical influences, both individually and collectively, and are these reflected in the band’s sound?
Rab: “Whitesnake! We just love ‘em, they’re class…” [Editorial note: they sound absolutely nothing like Whitesnake!]
Aidy: “There ya go… Rab’s said it lol!… Oh, and Stiff little Fingers – and space film soundtracks!” [Editorial note: they don’t sound anything like SLF either!]
You have a rather distinctive onstage appearance, what with the lab coats and all: what is the thinking behind that and how did the image first come about?
What’s with the signs (The Watcher wears sandwich boards with cryptic messages on them during their sets) and how do you decide what to say on them each night?
Aidy: “What IS with the signs? I never know whats gonna be on them… none of us know what’s gonna be on them apart from Jeff … he’s the brains behind the signage… Jeff comes up with some crazy shit on there… No one gets to see it till The Watcher has it on… Then its too late!”
You suffered a bit of a setback earlier this year, when Rab unfortunately suffered a heart attack just a few days before you were due to play the Helfast festival: how has your recovery been going?
Rab: “What doesn’t kill you makes you HARD!!!”
Aidy: “We don’t do ourselves any favours in the health area… we drink anything, take anything and then more… all part of growing up!”
To sidetrack for a moment: Aidy, you’re well known on the local punk scene via The Defects: you’ve got a busy time ahead of you there, what with another live album being recorded in the near future and then a studio album of covers in the pipeline…
Aidy: “Yeah, the Defects keep themselves busy … but we all have other bands to keep us in different areas in music: Buck has his ska with Doghouse and Glenn has Ashanti plus his solo stuff. NASA is a totally different style and I put every free minute I get into it … if I’m not gigging with the ‘fex, I’m gigging with NASA… or in my local!”
Are there any plans for any new NASA Assassin recordings in the pipeline?
Rab: “We have a mountain of tracks ready for recording: we’re just waiting on studio dates from our man Pete at the Blueroom Studio in Bangor.”
Helloween Havoc takes place tomorrow (November 1) at Voodoo, Fountain Street, Belfast. The bill is completed by Altus, Scimitar, ForChristSake and We Are Knuckle Dragger. Admission is £5 on the door. https://www.facebook.com/events/213248798814720/