Interview with Colin Jerwood conducted in Baltimore, Maryland on September 18, 2019
Through thirty-eight years, eight full-length LPs, numerous EPs and singles, Conflict continues to be ambitious, adventurous, and utterly sincere. Vocalist/lyricist Colin Jerwood strikes me as someone who has never written a song without a reason. The band has begun work on new music. Colin has a book in the works. Prior to the band’s furious, inspiring set in Baltimore, Colin generously took some time out of his day to speak with me.
Greg: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. You’ve written a book, coming out through Omnibus Press. How do you feel after having gone back through so much of your life?
Colin: Still writing. There was a ghostwriter who tried to change a lot of stuff, tried to just bend little bits and pieces, and tried to make it more interesting but less factual. So, I got rid of him. We’re still with Omnibus, but we’re getting another person to help me now. It’s a lot to put together. It’s forty thousand words, three sections, ten chapters in each. Yeah, it’s a lot to do.
Greg: It’s Conflict, the Movement, and Me?
Colin: Yeah. It’s the whole thing. Because it’s start to finish, you have to blend each bit in as it goes along, it can’t be one bit, two bit, third bit, start to finish. It’s quite hard to put together.
Greg: And you also have a new record coming out.
Colin: Hopefully, yeah. Working on it. We got a demo of it. We’re gonna releases an EP next year, and then an album to follow after that, but yeah, I’m sure the EP will be next year.
Greg: When I listen to There’s No Power Without Control, to me it’s like an explosion.
Colin: Yeah, it’s after a long break. I dunno, I’m probably a person who can’t write an album if you meant to write one. When it feels right, it comes together. That’s why I’ve probably never been tied with a label, because it can’t be “you gotta write an album.” It’s when it happens, it happens type of thing. There’s massive gaps.
Greg: What might we expect from the new material? It’s been some time since the last record.
Colin: In my view, it’s better. It’s only at demo stage at the moment, and there’s a lot more to put on it, but I certainly wouldn’t do anything that’s going backwards, because there’d be no point; I’d rather just leave it where it was. My aim would personally be, track by track, it would be a better album, start to finish.
Greg: Looking back on all the Conflict records, they’re all really different, and they’re all really good.
Colin: It’s kind of a sign of the times, though, innit? It’s what’s happening around you. Without trying to sound corny, you feel the same obviously because you don’t change your mind, it’s a way of life, but you also try to find different ways of writing it, to get other people involved in it, even if it’s a story type of thing, to get other people to go “oh yeah, that’s a bit of us; I’ve experienced that.” You kind of unify that, that way.
Greg: Does a lot of the aesthetic of the records depend on who’s in the band and who you’re writing with?
Colin: It’s hard to say, really. I suppose I’ve always kind of put it there, what I want to happen, since it started, really. People obviously come and go sometimes, that’s life. But I think the overall thing, without trying to sound conceited, is what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve always been a major part of writing the music.
Greg: You have two adult children now. I imagine parenting shapes your worldview quite a bit.
Colin: Yeah. It did, in a way that’s so natural. Their mother worked, I didn’t. It’s a great experience. They’re really, really good. They’ve picked up their own identities, with a bit of me, a bit of their mother. They’re really good, light years ahead of me (laughs). My son’s eighteen, the girl’s twenty-two.
Greg: You had Brooklyn yesterday, and Minneapolis a few days before that. It’s kind of a long drive, isn’t it? Did you have any downtime anywhere in there?
Colin: I’ve actually lost the will to live, just drive me off the cliff (laughs).
Greg: Did you get any downtime?
Colin: I ended up a bit ill. I think motion sickness and allergies. I ended up in Urgent Care, and had to pull two gigs. I’d only ever pulled one in my life before that, but I just couldn’t do it, and the van was still moving. You have to remember that our country’s like that big (gestures indicating the relatively small size of the UK), so to me, that’s a lot. It wasn’t intentional.
Greg: I was in the UK doing some gigs in June, and we found the Gregg’s vegan sausage rolls. Have you had those?
Colin: Yeah, yeah.
Greg: What do you think about them?
Colin: They’re alright, yeah. To be honest, I don’t really eat out at places there a lot, I’ve tried it, though.
Greg: You mostly prepare your own foods, and don’t eat out a lot, is that right?
Colin: At home? Yeah. On tours, it depends where you are, and how fast you’re going, gig to gig.
Greg: Have you found that there’s more veg options these days than there used to be?
Colin: I’ve always found that there’s more vegan options here than there has been in London. London’s very overpriced for that.
Greg: It’s interesting, because I feel like a lot of our perception is that London is this really vegan-friendly place.
Colin: If you wanna pay for it. I mean, there’s some places. My friend’s got a place in Old Street, called Good to Go. And that’s really good and it’s reasonably priced. But for instance, I went to one in Primrose Hill, and I got two tiny bit of sausages and it was like eight pounds. Do you know what I mean? But it’s changing. There’s so many more options for vegan and vegetarian that never existed years ago. But I’ve always found it was well ahead here, to be honest. It’s the other way around. California, especially.
Greg: As far as lyrics and themes on the new record, what have you been getting into?
Colin: The same (laughs). Same as I’ve always been into. I can’t explain it, really. It’s just feeling, I suppose, the way it comes out.
Greg: I’m looking forward to the book and the record.
Colin: Yeah, the book’s probably harder than the EP. There’s just so much to bring back. The memory machine was Paco, the drummer who died. He remembered every single thing. He could tell you where we played ten years ago. I don’t remember where my fucking keys are (laughs), so it’s hard. I’m on my third ghost writer now (laughs). It will be good, though, it’ll be bang-on, and I wouldn’t put it out if it wasn’t. And the reason I went to a big publisher is, one, it was offered, and I was pretty shocked that it was offered, because they’re all massive, they do Robbie Williams, The Jam, Oasis and stuff like that, but I wanted it to get out to as many people as possible, because of the movement thing, it shows people what’s what. There’s nothing held back, do you know what I mean? Obviously certain things incriminating me or other people are all left out, but it’s blunt. There’s no tossing over facts and stuff. That’ll be good to get it out, it’s in Japanese, in Chinese, lots of different languages. I wanted it that way. I know I’ll get stick for it, but we’re not getting much money for doing it. And it’s positive as well. It’s not about how we did and what we did; it’s about how we did, what we did, and what we’re gonna do. It’s a positive book. It’s not a history-of in any way, shape, or form. And it doesn’t put anyone else down. I’ve read a lot of books that seem to like to put other people and bands down. Even with people who’ve put me down in the past, I’ve rejected that, totally. I’ve just ignored it, and it’s all positive. That’s important.
Greg: I was reading or hear you speaking about someone from that past who you’d made amends with in recent years.
Colin: Oh, Wattie (Buchan, of the Exploited). I mean, to be honest, we didn’t see eye to eye, and in the end we agreed to disagree on what punk was. He’d had a heart attack, and I sent him a little message—it wasn’t an e-mail, it was just on Facebook—and said “I hope you’re getting better; look after your health” and stuff like that, and it kind of went from there. Of course we disagree on how things was, but when it gets to that stage, you think, you know, “you do your bit, I’ll do mine.”
Greg: Disagreements can be healthy.
Colin: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to cut his hair, or any of that type of thing, but there’s bigger things to fry (laughs).
Greg: That’s all the questions I have. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Colin: Thank you for doing it.
Greg: Is there anything else that you wanna say?
Colin: I think you’ve covered it, really. That’s the stage where we are now. Personally, I wanted to get the old set, what we was doing to the best we possibly could, and then move on, and I think we’ve done that now, so it’s time for new stuff.
Greg: One thing I really like about Conflict in general is that each record seems to be looking forward, in the present.
Colin: Don’t get me wrong: I could probably have done album after album, no problem, but it wouldn’t be the way I wanted or the way I was feeling. I can write standard albums. And, I don’t do filler tracks. I want every track to be its own.
Greg: Every song is written for a reason.
Colin: Yeah. And music’s important as well. I just write statements. A lot of people used to say to me, “oh that’s a bit rock-star, are you enjoying it?” If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t fucking do it. I never got that bit, that you’re not allowed to enjoy it. Because you are.