Incorporating The Music Fix
12th December 2009 06:00:00
Posted by Adrian Mules

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin interview

When we heard that the original Ned’s Atomic Dustbin line-up were getting back together to storm through their debut album God Fodder at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on the 19th of December we sent Adrian Mules to investigate.

After digging his DM’s and army jacket out of the loft he caught up with singer John Penney to see if there was still half-life in the dustbin.

Hi John, thanks for chatting to us at The Music Fix, how’s life treating you?

Cheers, my pleasure!

Life treats me well thanks - I'm juggling a couple of different lives just now as it happens, so things are complicated but it's a nice complication to have.

You are now playing with the original Ned’s line up. What made everyone decide now was the time to get back together?

I guess the time was finally right for everyone at the same time. There were years when I was convinced that this would never happen, so you can imagine that I'm really made up.

I grew up with these lads from boy to man, so it's felt like a bit if void in my life not to be sharing with them all for such a long time.

So how did it feel when you started playing again together?

It just felt right! There was the understandable awkwardness when we stood in a room together for the first time in 13 years, but that just melted away as soon as we started to play the songs. It wasn't long before all of the in-jokes and banter from way back was up and running again. We've laughed a lot, and that's such a great feeling for us all.

On the 19th December you are playing God Fodder in its entirety at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Did you have to relearn any of the songs or are they imprinted on your brain for eternity?

We did actually have to relearn a few of the songs because none of us had played them since 1991 on the original God Fodder album tour!

There are obviously huge chunks of the stuff that just comes straight back to you as soon as you have a stab at a song, but the devil's in the detail, and some of that detail certainly needed filling in!

Do you see any familiar faces from the nineties at the gigs?

We see masses of familiar faces every time we play - we were always pretty familiar with our audiences anyway and we're very lucky that so many of them are so loyal to us.

People still fly in to shows from all over the world - Japan, Australia, Canada, U.S. and all over Europe. It's incredibly humbling to see these people keep coming back, but it's also a great incentive to us - it makes us think long and hard about how we can make every show unique so that we can repay these people for that loyalty.

What do you think it is that has encouraged such a loyal fan-base over the years?

I think we were lucky enough to have connected well with our audiences from very early on. Maybe it's because we were very young - similar age to the fans. Maybe it's because we didn't behave like rock stars. I like to think that the lyrics reached out peer to peer and formed a bit of a bond between us too - but you can never really know that.

Are you in touch with any of the other bands you used to tour with in the nineties?

I'm still in touch with members of Pop Will Eat Itself, The Wonder Stuff, Mega City Four, Carter USM (Les' new band Abdoujaparov are supporting us on 19th!), Jesus Jones and a few others.

What interesting things had you all been up to in-between the split and reformation?

Short answer? Very little as interesting as Ned, apart from fatherhood - now that's much more than interesting! I can't speak for the other guys, I'm working in media for my favourite English venue - Wolverhampton Civic Hall.

What’s your happiest memory of being in the band?

Glastonbury 1993.

We headlined the NME stage (Blur supported us!). I couldn't see where the crowd ended, there were so many people. We struck up 'Kill Your Television' and the entire field bounced in unison - absolutely awesome to see.

I got a lump in my throat because there were so many people singing back those words I written in my bedroom or in the pub or at the breakfast table - they'd left my little world and infiltrated these thousands and thousands of other lives...

I didn't walk off stage that night, I floated.

You were all quite young when you started, did this pose any problems at the time?

Not for me personally, but some of the lads got kicked out of college because they missed lessons while we were on tour! Youth was definitely a great advantage at the start - people just seemed to warm to us because we were so young. I guess we brought out the paternal/maternal instinct in a few of the industry people and we also connected easily with a young crowd.

What’s the biggest change in the music industry you’ve seen in the last 21 years?

Where do I start. How do I avoid boring you?

Our tours, much as they were absolutely pivotal to people "understanding" us, were not viewed as a major source of income (regardless of sell-outs and merchandise) because tours were used as an advert to help sell albums (records and cds). These days tours are the main source of income for artists and album sales mean very little unless you are a multi-platinum seller.

What advice would you give to a band starting from scratch today?

There are so many factors involved in a band making it or not making it... talent, luck, confidence, determination. They are just words that are easily spewed.

I think that your very best chance at success and your best chance of enjoying success, however great or small, lies with honesty. If you make the music that you honestly enjoy making you are in with a shout.

What current bands make you shake your moneymaker?

I'm currently enjoying Mumford & Sons, The Big Pink and Bat For Lashes. There, make sense of that if you can.

If you could wave your magic wand and make any band reform for a gig who would that be and why?


I was too young to see them when they were together but I've heard a lot of live stuff from the time and it's just so atmospheric. Brutally underrated and criminally underappreciated!

The band were renowned for having an epic number of t-shirts, have you still got any in your wardrobe?

In my loft perhaps! Not many in my wardrobe. We're still adding designs though - old habits die hard.

Are you planning on recording any new material together?

I think we will, but don't hold your breath – song writing is a slow process for Neds.

All 5 of us have to like an idea enough to hone it down into a song - it was difficult enough to agree when we were teenagers, now we've all been in the planet for a while and we've heard and grown to love, despise, ignore etc, so much music that I'm guessing we'll have a hard time agreeing.

Thanks for your time today John and good luck for the future. We’ll see you on stage on the 19th.


We’ll be covering the show at The Music Fix so watch out for that. Or why not get yourself down there and remember life before Twitter, Mobile Phones and In The Night Garden.