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Chris Remington on life as a Buzzcock as the band head to Sunderland's North Shore

Buzzcocks survived punk and are still going strong as an audience at Sunderland's North Shore is to find out

Ian Rook 2014 Buzzcocks are Steve Diggle, Danny Farrant, Pete Shelley and Chris Remington
Buzzcocks are Steve Diggle, Danny Farrant, Pete Shelley and Chris Remington

If you thought they were a blast from the past, Buzzcocks will be out to prove they’re very much a blast from the present when they play Sunderland for the first time on Saturday (May 30).

They’ve outlived most of the bands from the spit and safety pins era – well, they always had a bit of class – and they’ve even outlived Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

The BBC music quiz show – named in honour of them and the Sex Pistols (sort of) – lasted a mere 18 years but got the chop this week after ratings fell.

Buzzcocks burst onto the punk music scene in July 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols in Manchester. It was a famous gig. I was in the city at the time, a bemused student wondering where all the hippies had gone.

“You weren’t at the gig?” asks Buzzcocks bassist Chris Remington.

“It’s been said before but if everyone who’d said they were at that gig actually was, there’d have been about 20,000 in the hall.”

Well, memories become hazy over time.

But no, to my shame I missed that cultural landmark – the birth of a band (not Johnny Rotten’s mob) whose musicianship and songs would sustain them into the post-punk era and beyond.

Chris wasn’t there either, as it happens. He’s younger than founder members Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle but came in as bassist in 2008, replacing Tony Barber.

He and drummer Danny Farrant are the 21st Century Buzzcocks wing, Farrant have replaced Phil Barker in 2006.

Chris, in the North East to see friends ahead of the gig, offers a taste of life as a Buzzcock.

“We seem to be permanently touring and it’s very full on. We were in America recently and the fans there are very passionate.

“But the further afield you go, the more attention you seem to get. We went to Malaysia and played Kuala Lumpur and it was quite scary because the band had never been to that area at all and it was like Beatlemania.

“I’m used to people asking for my set list or plectrum but this one guy wanted my bass guitar. It was quite surreal. People were really up for it.”

While in America the band appeared on the NBC show Late Night with Seth Meyers.

A fellow guest was Helen Mirren who, it turned out, was a Buzzcocks fan. She also grew up in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, not too far from Canvey Island where Chris, as a young lad, nursed ambitions to be a footballer.

It wasn’t to be.

“It suddenly hit me one time that actually I was spending most of my time listening to music,” he says.

Bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes – “more new wave then punk” – would have been on his iPod had such things existed.

He says he was in a band called The Weekenders “back in the day” and bumped into Steve Diggle socially in the early 1990s on the Brit pop scene.

“We were always bumping into each other at after-show parties. A friend of mine had a club and we got chatting there and became friends.

“Eventually he asked me to play in his solo band so I did that up until I joined Buzzcocks.”

Pete, too, he knew socially which meant that when he first lined up in front of the fans of a very famous band, the nerves weren’t as bad as they might have been.

Physically, though, being a Buzzcock is as demanding as ever.

“Our gigs are pretty full-on,” says Chris. “You can expect a pretty high octane show in Sunderland because that’s what we do.

“There won’t be much hanging around between numbers.”

Gigging is great but Chris admits touring has its drawbacks.

“There can be a good bit of sitting around. It’s enjoyable if you use your time wisely – otherwise it can get under your skin.”

People heading for Sunderland’s North Shore on Saturday will hear numbers from well received new album The Way – the first Buzzcocks release since 2005 – as well as hits from an extensive back catalogue.

And they might see Chris in especially exuberant mood if his beloved Arsenal have just won the FA Cup final.

Kick off against Aston Villa at Wembley is at 5.30pm with the gig at North Shore, on the St Peters Campus, due to start two hours later.

If the result turns out wrong for Chris, at least he’ll be able to work out his frustration in time-honoured punk fashion – by giving the guitar saved from a Malaysian super-fan a right good thrashing.

Tickets for the gig canbe bought via www.ents24.com

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