“Play it fuckin' loud!” Bob Dylan, true words from a great songwriter. Even though Dylan may not be a direct influence to London veterans, The Fallen Leaves, they certainly do play it fuckin’ loud. Formed in West London in 2004 by Rob Symmons ( guitar) and Rob Green (vocals), and Paul Myers (bass), all three seasoned performers from the punk and new wave circuit.
Myers has left but Symmons and Green have remained the core foundation of the group. Taking their influences from the sixties garage sound, sixties beat groups and vintage punk, The Fallen Leaves have become a band to witness live, as they play with a raw passion and energy that would make The Ramones blush. In addition, they do not enter the stage in casual attire, but suited and booted in classic sixties influenced clothing. The utmost care is taken in their vision, and with regard to their sound, passionate and loud. The Fallen Leaves do not just perform, there are many recordings available, and their 2008 album It's Too Late Now received critical acclaim. With such energy and grit, it was only right that ZANI caught up with founder member Rob Green at a roadside café on the way to Margate.
ZANI - Your roots seem to be (Rob and Rob) from Subway Sect and Bernie Rhodes, legendary status, and a good foundation, care to expand on the origin ?
Rob Green – The other Rob is really the association although I had some association. Even though we are happier in talking about what we are doing now, there is a no doubt that it is a useful foundation in a sense. I think the misunderstanding now is that punk was a musical style, and of course in our view punk was not a musical style, but what we do now is punk rock, but punk rock for gentlemen. But punk was really about an attitude and there was an opportunity to play, which didn’t really exist before. The idea beforehand was that you needed to be a brilliant musical technician which went out of the window, thank you, and we still believe that you don’t have to be a brilliant musical technician in order to play brilliant music. Rob’s often repeated quote is “a good idea played badly is better than a bad idea played well”.
ZANI – I understand that you’ve played for many years, and with that experience you must view yourselves as accomplished musicians ?
Rob Green – I am not sure we do, we are a bit contrary. I am not sure we call ourselves musicians in total, of course at a certain level we do play music, so some people would call us musicians. What we really do believe is that simplicity is where it is at, but we also recognise that simple and easy are not necessarily the same thing. I don’t claim that what we do is easy, in fact what we do is quite hard but it is pretty simple.
ZANI – Staying with the spirit of punk, you had one of the original Sex Pistols drumming with you for a while, Paul Cook.
Rob Green - He did for a while, he’s an old friend, it was fun. He didn’t want to do it other than rehearsal, which is fair enough, but we needed someone who was a good solid drummer. And Paul is certainly that.
ZANI – He sure is. Both you and Rob stem from Richmond, still reside there? Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones lives there, and Pete Townsend has Eel Pie Studios just round the corner in Twickenham.
Rob Green – I still live there, and Rob just outside the borough, but we do still feel that is our spiritual home. We used to put live shows on in Richmond, and Ronnie Wood, got up on stage which was nice of him. And we recorded our first single at Pete Townsend’s studio, again which was very nice.
ZANI – Nice on both counts. Townsend also stated that the original Who (himself , Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle) never got on, and you say on your website that “The Fallen Leaves hatred of one another is intense. But it is out of this creative conflict that pop music, played with passion rather than precision, is born.” Do you think it important to be friends in a band?
Rob Green – I don’t think it is important, but a strong alliance is. There is a strong alliance between Rob and I, we have known each other for 30 years. And the alliance means that The Fallen Leaves can continue but if either of us stopped playing you could almost guarantee that neither of us would continue playing. I am not interested in singing with anybody else, and Rob will tell you he’s not interested in playing guitar with anybody else. Speaking of the Richmond connection, look at The Rolling Stones, who made their name in Richmond, Jagger and Richards may not get along, but they have a powerful alliance, and their solo material is terrible. Put them together and something important happens. Who I still feel is a force to be reckoned with, is The Who, because of the alliance between Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey.
ZANI –Going back to Townsend, how did it come about, was he looking at local bands?
Rob Green – Kind of. It came about because at the time the bass player we had, Paul Myers, who used to be in the Subway Sect, then joined Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Professionals. He knew Pete Townsend from then because I believed Pete had produced some demos. Paul bumped into Pete in Richmond High Street, told him about the band (The Fallen Leaves) and he said we can use his studio if we like.
ZANI – Very supportive of him, plans for next year ?
Rob Green – To keep releasing records as often as possible, we always aim to release an album a year, but we never achieve that, that’s because we do it all ourselves. We will be recording again at the start of 2014, and we are hoping, well more than hoping, expecting, to release The Best of The Fallen Leaves in 2014 on Damage Good Records, they have expressed an interest. And we will play wherever we get asked and whenever we get asked. Oh, and off to Berlin in January, played there before and been asked back.
ZANI – You play once a month at The 12 Bar Club, Denmark Street, London, do you have any other monthly residences.
Rob Green – No, we used to at Richmond and Notting Hill but both venues closed. We were the last people to put on live music in Richmond; people are still doing it in Twickenham, but not in Richmond. It’s an outrage that more and more live music venues are getting closed down in West London. You look what Liverpool do with what we believe to be the most over rated group in the history of music, The Beatles
ZANI – I disagree with you on that, but any way, carry on.
Rob Green - Fair enough, but Liverpool know how to market their city and The Beatles. Why Richmond Borough doesn’t market the fact that British beat music was born in the Richmond borough, is beyond me.
ZANI – Agreed on Richmond, and it did take Liverpool Council a long time to realise they were sitting on a gold mine. Perhaps you should start a campaign to put Richmond on the rock ‘n’ roll map, get someone like Ronnie Wood to support it.
Rob Green – Maybe, not necessarily to take the lead, but be involved. We would love to play in West London again.
ZANI – It would be good to see, and food for thought. Tell us about The Fallen Leaves sound, can you describe it?
Rob Green – Punk rock for gentlemen, that’s our by-line. If you crossed The Who with The Ramones, you might get something close to it.
ZANI – Powerful and aggressive sound. How did the name Fallen Leaves come about? Quite a poignant feel to it.
Rob Green - From a book called The Fallen Leaves by Wilkie Collins, we do like the sense of Englishness
ZANI – As you say punk rock for gentlemen. What are the instruments of choice for the band and why?
Rob Green – The guitars and amps, we always play with Fender, we love the Fender sound. It came about by accident when looking for a new amp we came across the Fender twin that Steve Jones used to play, so we decided to get that and loved the sound. In regard to bass and drummer, we leave them to do it, as they know what they are doing. We like a solid rhythm section behind us, and Rob can make a racket with the guitar, and I can do my lead work on the top of it.
ZANI – Sounds a solid and strong foundation, best gig of 2013?
Rob Green – Had two, one was in Berlin, which was fascinating and the other Half Moon in Putney
ZANI – Still good that the Half Moon is going well, saw Geno Washington, Steve Marriott, Wilko Johnson there. Never been to Berlin, what other European cities have you played? Not necessarily this year
Rob Green – Paris, Rome, and Northampton (that’s in Europe) and Brighton. Brighton is our second home, love playing in Brighton.
ZANI – The spiritual home of Mod, thanks to The Who and Quadrophenia. With Christmas coming up, will the band being sending Christmas cards to each other?
Rob Green – No
ZANI – What’s The Fallen Leaves’ agenda
Rob Green – We have our own manifesto of band langue, a bit like in Soviet Russia, words that weren’t allowed. We never describe ourselves as a band, we call ourselves a group. We never play gigs, we play concerts or shows.
ZANI – So if someone joins The Fallen Leaves, and they use the forbidden words, what is the punishment?
Rob Green - They might get thrown out, but usually it’s a case of it’s three strikes and you are out.
ZANI – So you give them a firm warning and a chance to amend their ways, well you never got that in communist Russia. A bit jack boot for my liking, however I do agree a band or even a writer creates their own rules and values, which are separate from the mainstream. The Who and The Stones had their own rules
Rob Green - Our rules, no jeans or tee shirts, no cover versions.
ZANI – I take it you and Rob are more or less the Managers
Rob Green – Yes, totally self-managed
ZANI – A lot of bands are these days, on the live circuit that is. Favourite part of London and why?
Rob Green - Soho, the more it changes, the more unhappy it makes me, parts I still love. Love Maison Bertaux in Greek Street, best cakes in London
ZANI – Will try it out, I love Soho, been going there for years, and that’s why I wanted to do live music in Soho, because it is my favourite part of London too, and I was happy to get the Spice of Life downstairs basement for gigs (sorry Rob) in which you are playing. So looking forward to the ZANI night ?
Rob Green – Looking forward to it, working with a great promoter, great part of London. Playing alongside some great groups, one of which we know already, Friends of Luca Brasi.
The Fallen Leaves, like all good bands, have their own values and rulebook, and by abiding to them, they remain classic outsiders, and I mean that as compliment of the highest degree. From speaking to Rob Green, it is easy to get inspired by his words, which he doesn’t mince nor search for the one that you might wish to hear. So in classic punk ideology, he doesn’t care, and that is refreshing. Next year will be their 10th anniversary, and it already looks a good year, with the possible release of selection tracks from the back catalogue. More concerts (please note, dare not use the g word) and perhaps more press attention, I am sure the two Robs will take satisfaction and pride when they clink their champagne glasses and say it’s been a gas.