It can be a real risk to be in a punk band these days. Not only might your music be deemed to be of a very bad quality, but , as punk has been around since the middle of the 70’s, many people claim that it has become stale and repetitive, adding that it’s next to impossible to come up with completely new ideas, which , of course, is what the ethos of punk is all about. There is, however, always hope for something fresh and new, and the punk band the Parkinsons, who are currently based in London and are 3/4 Portugese and 1/4 Scottish, are definitely up for the challenge. The band only formed at the end of 2000, but their music has already attracted plenty of attention from the media and also some controversy. Alfonso Zheimer (vocals), Victor Torpedo (guitar), Pedro Xau (bass) and Chris Low (drums) in the space of a year and a half have built up a respectable following especially in Portugal and Britain but also all over Europe; recorded a mini album ‘A Long Way To Nowhere’ : received plenty of radio play ; appeared at the British Reading and Leeds festivals, and also had lots of music paper and magazine press.

Who knows too what will follow ? But let’s start at the beginning. So, sit comfortable. A story of “maximum rock n’ roll” , as the NME have defined the band, is about to begin.

While the band has been in the spotlight almost since the very first days of its formation, it was not any of its members’ first involvement in music.

“I used to play drums in a band in Portugal four years ago, but then I moved to London” says Alfonso, talking exclusively to Pennyblackmusic during a sound check at the London venue the Garage on the last date of a tour, supporting Ikara Colt.

“We were all in various bands before” Victor adds. “ Pedro and I used to also play with The Tedio Boys and did three tours in America in 1997. We played at Joey Ramone’s birthday party in the same year which was one of the highlights of our career , and also released three albums on the Elevator Music label (‘Outer Space Shit’, ‘Fuck The Beatles’ and ‘Bad Trip’)”.

“Victor and Pedro formed The Parkinsons back in Portugal when I was already in London” Alfonso continues . “And they said: “OK, you are in London, so we better do the band in London.” They wrote some songs and lyrics and sent it to me and two months after that they came over and we started rehearsing.”

“Portugal is not a good place if you want to make music” Victor says, explaining the band’s decision to relocate. “ But a lot is happening in Britain and especially London.”

The name of the band, The Parkinsons, may suggest that the musicians are relatives but that’is not the case. “It comes from the disease” reveals Victor, “When we play, we shake a lot on stage as you can probably see.”

“We can’t control ourselves” continues Alfonso. “ We can’t speak properly and we shake, so the Parkinsons is good name for us.”

Victor writes most of the music and the lyrics. “Where do I take the inspiration from ?” he ponders when I ask him. “In everything, in our lives, relationships, friendships, newspapers, TV, girlfriends, good moments, bad moments. Basically in everything around you.”

His lyrics often, however, do not end up with the same words in live shows. “ “Sometimes I don’t have the breath to sing the line” admits Alfonso, laughing.

The band from the very beginning worked hard at producing original music of fine quality, but quickly ran into difficulties. “Unfortunately, early on our old drummer went back to Portugal,” explains Alfonso, “We needed a new one and then I met Chris at ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts in London).” Chris’s first sighting of Alfonso at the London cinema happened when the singer stood up in the middle of the film ‘Dead Boys’ and started singing along to ‘Sonic Producer’, one of the songs on the sound track,. After the film had finished and Alfonso was walking out of the building, he was attacked by a bunch of men, angry at him for disrupting the film. Fortunately, he managed to fight them off with the help of a complete stranger. The stranger was, of course, Chris. Alfonso and Chris quickly became good friends as a result, and when Alfonso learnt that Chris was a very experienced drummer, it only took a few weeks for him to join the Parkinsons line-up. Chris has toured Europe regularly since he was 14, played with the punk band Apostles, supported Crass and has also run a club in his home town of Edinburgh in Scotland.

The Parkinsons played their very first gig in Soho in December 2000 and appeared with two other bands. In their own words the Parkinson boys “burned” the place down with their wild behavior and emotive music. The gig ended in a riot, and it is claimed that the venue manager ran off and not been seen since..By the time of their second show, they had, as a result of this, attracted a manager and an agent, and shortly afterwards appeared at the Leeds and Reading festivals in England.

“The last year has been really good” says Alfonso with self-satisfied pride. After just a couple of show, we were selling out places. We have also done a lot of supporti slots for bands likeSuitside, Freeheat and Ikara Colt. It was quick how it came about, but I think we deserve it. We have worked very hard in the past and it has taken us a lot of time and courage and finally now we are getting somewhere.”

While the Parkinsons gigs have attracted massive attention for a new band, and there is no doubt that their music is very strong, an element of the unexpected also has an important part to play in their live shows/

“Basically we want people to have fun at our shows” insists Alfonso.” But I want people to feel fear when they come to our shows as well . You don’t know what is going to happen, and they are unpredictable Any person who wants to be happy and successful in lifes has to overcome his or her own fears, so, if people are afraid of coming to our shows I would say: “That’s fine to be afraid but you are overcoming your fears at the same time and that’s definitely a good thing.”I hope they will enjoy the experience.”

Some of their other shows havealso ended in riots , and all four members of the group have become notorious for regularly stripping off and taking their clothes off on stage as well.

“It’s just heat of the moment enthusiasm. It gets really hot when you are up there on a stage.” claims Alfonso, who has exposed himself to fans many times.  “Our maddest fans are so desperate to see us naked though that they try taking our clothes off us” he continues, probably referring to a show at the end of last year at London’s Mean Fiddler in which a complete stranger pulled Victor’s trousers off.

“Sometimes you just feel like fucking the audience and you can’t do it with your clothes on.” adds Victor laughing.

The Parkinsons’ first ever recording, a track called ‘Bad Girl’, appeared on a Fierce Panda compilation ‘The Mush Up’ in 2001, which featured punk and metal bands. At the end of the same year they returned to the studio once again to record their debut mini album ‘A Long Way To Nowhere’.

“All our lives have been like a long way to nowhere.” ponders Alfonso, refllecting upon the title. “We have walked paths that never led us to anything at all. It is only now that we are beginning to get some kind of recognition. I think it’s a good name for our first record because it took us so long to be appreciated by people. There have been times in the past in which we have thought: “Fuck! We are getting nowhere.” We were putting ourselves out and doing something we really love and we were getting nowhere, so it was s like: “It’s been a long way to nowhere.”

“Maybe the second album is going to be called “A Long Way to Japan.” Victor jokes . The musicians are attending the Fuji Festival in Japan in July this year.

The album was recorded at the end of 2001 and produced by Jim Reid and Ben Lurie (ex-Jesus & Mary Chain,and now Freeheat). “We met Jim and Ben through David, our manager” explains Alfonso. “They suggested we record something with them. We didn’t need much money because they had all the equipment for recording so we just recorded it in a short time.”

The mini album has 7 new songs, and ‘Bad Girl ’also appears as a hidden track at the very end. Victor designed the artwork for the sleeve. ”It was my first ever painting” he says proudly. “It only took about 2 hours to do.” It came out in late February on Fierce Panda records In britain, but is also about to be released in the United State on the Connecticut based label, Elevator Music. The American version will inlcude a bonus track 'Pill', which was recorded live, and also something really special which is still a surprise.

“We just want to play as many tours to as we can do” enthuses Alfonso. “It’s just been confirmed that our record is going to be released in Japan on Elevator Music records so we are going there in July. Then we are playing Reading and Leeds UK festivals. We are also due to play Glastonbury, and we are going to be playing in Ireland and also Portugal. It’s going to be a very busy year again and hopefully even more things will come offg in the future.”

“I think,” ponders Alfonso, “although we use some of the late 70s punk formula we have something fresh. I’m not saying that we are like nobody else but we are quite a fresh band.” Who would doubt it having seen a Parkinsons liive show ?

The Parkinsons are already looking forward enthusiastically to recording ‘A Long Way To Nowhere’. “Victor writes the songs and he always comes up with new ideas and songs” Alfonso concludes . “If you put us in a studio in next month we can have an album out because we are never really short of ideas. And they are getting better and better.”

If that’s true, it’s up to you and I and music fans the world over to confirm if Alfonso is right. Such fast growing popularity, enthusiasm and musical progress are always good dispositions, but can never be a guarantee. Will the Parkinsons lifeline really end up nowhere? We shall see, but the way things are going it definitely looks like they are on the way to somewhere.

Message from Alfonso to everybody:  “Always sign a Greenpeace postcard.”
Writer’s note: Don’t ask… Just do it, I guess.

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