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Q&A with Sam Knee

Incase you hadn't realised by now, I have a huge love for the 80's indie scene, I've even made a whole zine on it! It's a subculture that I believe will never go out of fashion, it continues to be relevant year after year after year.

So I thought who better to talk to other than Sam Knee!

Sam Knee is a historian in post-war fashion, music and youth culture scenes. As well as an author who created the amazing book 'Scene In Between: Tripping through the fashions of UK indie music 1980-1988' which is what fuelled my passion for indie! Not to mention he also had a brief stint in 1987 with London garage band, The Mistreaters.

I had the delight of asking Sam a few questions about the indie scene, gigs and his favourite tunes so here it is...

Sam in 1985

SH: I believe today depending on where you live there are definitely not as many scenes or obvious subcultures to be apart of so I listen to so many different genres of music new and old. Did you ever dabble quite as much in any other music genre? Was it normal to switch between scenes then?

SK: Though most didn't, sticking loyally to their chosen scenes, I definitely dabbled across movements early on, though my preferences were always rooted in the 60’s.

When I was 12 in 79/80 I felt drawn to the mod revival, I loved the shimmering sta prest , military parkas with power chords and jerky choruses. My elder sister was into some of the current post punk groups like Joy Division, PIL, Banshees, Rough Trade type stuff, that that was her kinda bag so I felt I needed to discover my own scene rather than just copy her.

The Gun Club

Then a little later I discovered the Cramps, Birthday Party and the Gun Club and drifted from the mod thing into that scene, which visually was very 60s based but more American southern Gothic, I call that scene Moth, part mod-ish sleek styling with goth. Also after realising that probably half of the Cramps repertoire was 60s garage covers, that led me to seek out the originals on comps like Pebbles, Back From The Grave etc then entering the eternal bottomless 60s garage psyche pit.

Also late in 84 I picked up Upside Down, intrigued as I thought they dressed like me on the rear sleeve, which was my gateway into the emerging indie/ Creation a scene in between era.

Robert Hampson from Loop

SH: As soon as I discovered the Indie scene I fell in love with the bowl cut and don’t think I will ever fall out of love with it! What’s your opinion on the bowl cut? Did you ever have one?

SK: Yes I sported a magnificent bowl cut around 85-87, with long fringe blanking out mundane society, it was the only way to survive back then!

SH: What was the best gig you went to during the 80s indie scene?

SK: Probably the first time I saw Spacemen 3 sometime in 87 at Dingwalls, they levelled the building with their minimalist raw psyche, perching on stalls blanking the audience.

I'd seen their records around and heard their name for a year or so but not investigated further, i kinda kicked myself for snoozing early on but saw them a bunch of times in pubs and clubs around the Perfect Prescription era and later.

SH: Scene In Between focuses on the UK indie scene from 1980-88, how different do you think the UK indie scene was to the USA’s?

SK: The US scene seemed so sprawling and disconnected to one another, largely city based with their own micro scenes and labels it's hard to pin down unifying elements beyond being indie and guitar based at times. For example you had the La Paisley Underground scene, Austin acid punk psyche scene, Olympia K scene,DC Dischord post hardcore scene,Boston/ new England college rock, NY noise art rock all occurring around the same 82-87 epoch. In the uk the scene in between era bands were largely all on the same jangle pop page and quite often provincial, that it felt like a new subculture.

The Who, circa 1965

SH: If you could curate a gig today who would be your dream line-up? (Can be anyone dead or alive!)

SK: Probably bands I never saw as I was too young or they didn't tour the UK. My lineup would start off with something sci-fi like the Who circa 65, Love circa 66, Subway Sect circa 76, TVP's circa 79, Minor Threat and Void circa 81/2, Rites of Spring circa 85.

SH: The history of music/fashion and subcultures is something I’m hugely interested in! How and why did you become a music historian?

SK: Well, I've been deeply possessed by the whole shebang since I was a kid.I started selling and trading clothes at school and veered into the fledgling vintage clothing biz for a long time as well as working in 2nd hand record shops and playing in bands, so it's all a straight linear path.

SH: Lastly, because I’m nosy ... what is your most treasured 7”/12” vinyl From your personal collection?

SK: Maybe my super tatty UK mono Piper at the Gates of Dawn which still plays brilliantly and I've had since I was 15, it's brimming with youthful nostalgia!


P.S Some exciting news.... Sam is working on a revised edition of 'A scene in between' with more amazing original photos showcasing the fashion and attitude of the 80s indie scene. It will be out in September and available to buy via his instagram!

Check out Sam on Instagram here at @sceneinbetween!

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