Medusa: The unapologetic Lancashire rockers keeping punk alive and kicking
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It’s alleged that, in the early days, the band sent The Sun newspaper a fake email, masquerading as the disgruntled father of a 14-year-old girl who had thrown a party at which Medusa had played whilst he was away. Concocting a tale that the party had been advertised on MySpace, the faux shindig had supposedly attracted scores of punks.
The make-believe house was trashed, thousands of pounds-worth of fictional damage was caused, and an unfortunate imaginary dog was painted blue. Intrigued, the paper allegedly organised for a photographer to come down and document the whole affair. It’s said that Julian miraculously managed to find a blue dog, a house, and two actors just in time.
The jig was up, however, once they refused to let the snapper inside, prompting him to make a call to the local authorities to enquire as to whether any reports of a punk rock had been filed. As the story goes, the police had no idea what the surely-now-seething photographer was on about. Punk rock indeed.
“Early on, we had a reputation for being a bit rowdy,” says Julian, now 38. “Eventually, we got banned from practising at our drummer’s house, so we found a place in Burnley where we had a weekly residency and, initially, I thought it was just rehearsals, but it turned out to be gigs every Monday night and we quickly got banned from there too.
“What happened was we’d done two gigs which had gone alright, but before the third I got ill and could barely talk so we didn’t show up,” he adds. “Turns out the place was packed, but we weren’t there to play. On top of that, next time we played we trashed a load of equipment because we were young and stupid. The landlady was pretty angry.”
It’s true that Medusa - Julian came up with the name in French class - swiftly earned their reputation as one of the North West’s most outrageous acts in their early days, playing the length and breadth of Lancashire and, as rumours perpetuated by the band itself have it, getting banned from most venues they appeared at. But how did it all start?
“Like most teenagers, I found my love of music through bands - back in the ‘90s, it was alternative and grunge bands before I found out about punk music, which I fell for straight away,” says Julian. “I loved how the music took risks and it just made me think ‘that’s something I’d loved to do’, so I started to learn how to play the guitar when I was about 14.
“I loved the rebellious side of music, it just really spoke to me because I immediately identified with the sense of freedom and the general ‘I do what I want’ vibe of it all,” he continues. “That was very me back then. But it still took a while to get everything going with the band - we only got our first drummer about two weeks before our first gig.
“We were all about 16 and we were so bad that they literally pulled the plug on us two and a half songs in,” Julian says with a chuckle. “But, even though it wasn’t going well and we experienced a lot of drawbacks, we just couldn't shake the urge to keep performing. Even when it genuinely wasn’t that enjoyable, we all still felt compelled to keep at it.
“And it wasn’t as if things weren’t going perfectly or anything, it was that things were going really, really badly, too! But my mindset was always ‘this is a setback, but we’re going to continue no matter what’ because we were filled with teenage idealism and, at the time, there were a few other bands actually making it as teenagers.
“In my head, I didn’t even consider that we might have to wait to get to the same level, it was just about playing and waiting to be discovered as the next big thing. I was thinking six months, not 10 years! And we were having fun - it was a different time back then in the ‘90s and we were having the kind of shared experience which I think a lot of people had.”
The difference is, Medusa persisted. Now 24 years and four albums in, it’s been a rollercoaster two decades for Julian who remains the only constant in a band which has gone on to have literally hundreds of members - a constant state of flux Julian attributes to the band constantly moving, members’ shelf-life, and people being tied down to other jobs.
As they say, the only constant is change.
“Over the years, there have been literally hundreds of people in the band,” says Julian. “It’s always suited me to change the drummer and the bass player - some really famous bands do the same thing and I realised early on that, once the chemistry goes, it’s just not as fun. Plus, it’s kept the music a lot more fresh because new people bring a new way of playing.
“We’ve had a completely different lineup for every one of our albums and, because of that, it’s felt like a new album each time,” he adds. “And it keeps everything innovative for me personally, too. Sure, I’ve changed musically over the years, but I’ve also tried to not change too much because you can try and evolve too much and lose what you had originally.”
But far from being purely gimmick-oriented, Medusa have achieved their fair share of musical pedigree over the years, too. The band has previously worked with Deaf Havana producer Lee Batiuk and Steve Albini, who famously recorded Nirvana's last album. Next year, they will also be playing a gig on a 120-capacity party boat on the River Thames, too.
“Working with Steve Albini has been one of the biggest highlights of everything so far and the boat gig should be a really unique experience not only for the band, but for the audience as well,” says Julian who, in typical Medsa fashion, isn’t 100% sure who’ll be in the line-up for the show, which will be recorded by a full film crew and released as a concert movie.
“It’s going to be crazy, but it’s high-risk: there’ll be cameras everywhere so, if it doesn’t go well, it’s not gonna look good!” he adds with a laugh. But there’s no nervousness in his voice, only excitement. “So long as we’re all having fun and the audience is enjoying themselves, it’ll be fine.”
And what does the future hold?
“It’s all about doing what I’m doing as an artist,” Julian answers simply. “I’m looking to make a fifth album after this boat gig, so I’m currently working on songs for that and I feel like the band has done so much that we can now consider ourselves experts in this kind of music, so there’s no reason why we can’t make the next album the best one we’ve released yet.”