Smoke Like A Fish (Tran)

Interviews | Feb 24th, 2005

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I know bands hate this but could you give us a little bit of history about Smoke Like A Fish for the people who might not know you guys?
Originally we started way back in 94, I think. It was formed out of 2 bands Thou Subversives Limited and Cucumber Fusion. We built up a huge and crazy following in our Mid Wales area, every gig was a riot it seemed. We then started to get out and about in England a bit.

Things were on the up; there was talk of a European tour and some label interest. And then, it all came to a halt rather abruptly, when the singer Max broke the bass player jaw and it all fucked up. We reformed in late 98 after a couple of years away, with a slightly revamped line up. From one brass we swelled up into a 3 piece, a new bass player and a new singer. This is the line up that is Smoke like a Fish today. This is really where the band history should start from. So, we’ve released 2 D.I.Y EP’s ‘Punktured Shark’ and ‘Kippertronix’. We then released our debut album in April 02 on ‘Do the Dog’. All in all, we’ve been skanking; bopping and a moking around the country, having a right old blow out along the way.

Fish don’t smoke.surely you know that?!
Fish can not smoke, but you can smoke a kipper.

Is your name in reference to the fact that you’re all huge pothead Phish fans?
It does sort of imply, must be something to do with the word smoke. We used to arrive in a cloud of smoke, the longer the journey the bigger the cloud. The van door would open and we would come out in this big cloud of smoke. I don’t know where the fish fits in, it sort of sums us up, though the name was not originally really planed to be an innuendo of the herbal delights. The name was thought up by one of the band member’s old girl friend Alex. We were trying to think of what to call ourselves and she suggested Smoke like Fish or Swim like Chimney. We thought they were crap names, so crap infact they were stupid and that appealed to our sense of humor. Cheerz Alex.

What’s up with the crappy weather in England? How can you feel like playing fun, happy Ska in such dismal conditions?
The weather is a bit crappy sometimes, especially at this moment in time, as it’s fucking freezing. But at least the lack of warm weather means we don’t get those massive creepy crawly things that bite and sting. So it’s not all that bad I suppose, you can always wear a coat. Happy Ska, is something we are not in the sense of sun, sea and clear blue skies escapism. Of course we hope what we do makes people and us happy or something along them lines. But it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s raining or not. Unless we’re getting wet. We play the Ska beat to get people on their feet. We use the off beats for the energy and the dance of the whole thing. Even though we’ve got a stupid side to us, we’re quite serious in our message. A bit like life, don’t ignore it, say what’s wrong, but don’t let the bastards grind you down. You gotta still know how to live and laugh. But we’re not really that mellow, we don’t really conjure up images of far away sandy beaches and sun. We’re more manic and up-tempo, coz we’re trying to keep warm.

You have a similar sound to The Specials, The Toasters, and The Hotknives. Are those bands your influences? If not, who are?
The Specials, more so, I would say, not so much song, style or anything like that more to do with energy and attitude. It’s interesting they were experimenting in the beginning trying to capture the energy of punk and the beat of Ska. They dropped the so-called Punk bits, in favor of a more focused SKA sound. But I reckon they were more punkier than most Punk bands with the energy of the focused Ska off beat. And in that sense yea, out of them 3 the Specials are, I suppose the biggest influence, although I love the Toasters and I suppose we cross over into the same parts as them sometimes. As well as Ska, we also take in influences at times from the Clash, Fingers and the Ruts and adopt a 2 wave punk attitude at times. Subhumans, Threats, etc.

What the hell happened to your trumpet player? A cow broke his leg?
Arnie got booted by one of his cows, coz he’s a farmer, or a ferg as we call them. He’s got cattle with attitude. He apparently kicked the cow first, gently on the back of the leg to move it. But the cow kicked him back and sent him hurling through the air with his leg pointing the wrong way and splashing down in 2 inches of cow shite. He was lying in it for 20 minutes before help came. Mind you he did ring 555 on his mobile, I don’t know who he thought he was going to get. They took his kneecap off and drilled through his ankle so they could put a steel pin in, uuurrgghhh. So he is out of action for a while. A farmers life, eh.

So is Tony Blair just Bush’s cheerleader, or what?
It looks like it, doesn’t it. He looks a right gimp, toeing the line at all cost. But it shows you, that it’s nothing to do with what you see. Blair follows Bush, who in turn is told what to do by the corporation. It’s all just PR figureheads. Blair’s image was cultivated as working class, intelligent student who has rose to lead the labor party. In reality he was a middle class Christian student with a vindictive nature. And if any one were in any doubt, then a look at Bush would prove the point. How on earth could this man steer a country that is the world’s biggest power? Right from the start, governor of Texas and all that, he has been used for his name, low intelligence and controllability.

Can we give you back Hugh Grant? Please??
I didn’t know he was gone. But no, you keep him, he’s horrible!!!!!!. .

What was the last movie you saw in the theaters?
I haven’t been for years, personally. Although, Arnie I hear, went to see Lord of the Rings.

Young Ones, Monty Python, or Absolutely Fabulous?
Young ones………………… Although they’re all funny. Nikki our sax player, she loves absolutely fabulous. Red Dwarf, Fools & Horses and the Fast Show are my fav’s.

Can you remember anything bad that happened during a show?
We were the headline act at this festival in Wales, there were about 2000 people there, it was probably our biggest gig to date at the time. There were no sound checks, all the acts just had a line check and then they were on, so it was all a bit hectic. We had a bit of ill feeling going on with some of the organizers and the band on before us, who clearly thought they should be headlining. Accomplished university music types brought in from Manchester, England by the promoters who didn’t like us. Anyway we were getting hassled to go on, but Arnie our Trumpet player had not turned up yet. He hadn’t come with us due to some emergency that had happened earlier in the day, but had assured us, he would be there before we went on. We were setting up and there was still no sign of him, we were being told we would have to go on straight away, regardless. We were panicking a bit, but just in the nick of time Arnie showed up. Yes, all would be well now! No! Nikki our sax player then informed us, fuck knows how, but she had left the crook of her sax behind. (The crook being the top half of the sax). The only option was to collar the sax player from the band before and ask could we borrow his sax. A big request, as we didn’t get on and his sax was worth about 10 grand, but he was our only hope. There then ensued one of the most bizarre 15-minute periods of all time. The crowd were all waiting; the bastards had announced us. Backstage the organizers were screaming at us to go on. We were still trying to convince this bloke to borrow us his sax. Pleading, shouting, threatening, groveling, whilst we were being shouted at to go on. Which resulted in another argument going on with one of the promoters. And the sound of the crowd getting pissed off, as there had been no music on since we’d been announced. In the end he borrowed it us and we went on and the whole place was rocking from back to front and it ended up being a belter of a gig, one of our best to date.. Other funny things that spring to mind, are looking round near the end of our set at this open air show we did in an old roman amphitheater and noticing millions of wasps swarming at the back of the stage. We still finished our song though, we then got the fuck off there at high speed.

Anything to promote? (tours, website, cds, etc.)
Go and check out or take a butchers at Or maybe buy our debut album from Do the Dog music or buy it directly on line from the Smoke like a Fish site. For all farmers out there ring 555 for farming emergency services (add another 5 for international calls).