Steve CRESSA, brought up in Firswood, was John Squire's on-stage guitar effects technician and sometime dancer between 1988 and 1990, the Roses' equivalent of the Happy Mondays' Bez. Cressa had roadied with the Happy Mondays prior to his stint with the Roses, and did much to bring the two groups closer together. His friendship with Ian, John and Mani stems back to their scooter days in the early 1980s. Cressa has since been in Manchester band, Bad Man Wagon, who supported The Stone Roses at Wembley in 1995.
This Is The Daybreak caught up with Cressa in 2003, when Bad Man Wagon had just released their debut album, A Day Late And A Dollar Down. Cressa, vocalist for the band, kindly sent me a copy of the album, now released on Arthur Records. Bad Man Wagon were initially formed when Spencer Birtwistle (drums and programming), ex-Intastella, approached Cressa, and the first result of this union was 'Do You Love Reggae Music ?', released on 10" format on Robs Records in 1996. This was closely followed by 'Chronic Sonic' on the same label 9 months later. Around this time the other members were drafted in. These included Ian Watson, ex-Bodines, on bass guitar and Steve Bunn, ex-My American Wife, on lead guitar. Extra vocals provided by Stella Grundy, ex-Intastella. Bad Man Wagon are currently working in the studio on a new single provisionally titled 'Action Man', with a view to a summer release.
Thanks to Cressa for taking the time to answer these questions.
Can you describe for us your musical interests prior to becoming a member of The Stone Roses ?
Hmm, let me think. We're going back through the mists of time here. Mid 80's, I was listening to a lot of 60's punk: The Electric Prunes, Chocolate Watch Band, The Nazz, Creation, The Nuggets LP's, that sort of thing. There were also the contemporary American bands such as Rain Parade, Green On Red, Three O'Clock, Plan 9, and Husker Du. British bands included the likes of the Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream. Not forgetting Hendrix, Love, Marvin Gaye, The Stooges, Bob Marley, The Pistols, The Beatles, you know, the classics.
Interesting that you mention The Three O'Clock and Primal Scream, bands cited by Alan McGee as heavily influencing The Stone Roses.
I disagree with Alan McGee about the early Primals being a big influence on the Roses. They were both contemporaries but developed separately and similarly. Although I can remember going to see the Scream in 85 at the Hac Fac 51 with John and were impressed by their lead tambourine player ! There was an affinity in having a non-musical member who summed up the band ! But yeah I played John those Three O'Clock LPs first.
How close a relationship did you have with the Happy Mondays ? When did you roadie for them ?
I started going to gigs with the Happy Mondays mid '86, tagging along in the transit van with them to gigs. After a few months of this, Phil Saxe (manager) reasoned that as I was always there I might as well help horseman (Derek Ryder) and roadie for them. I was in. This lasted for eighteen months or so before I had to decide who to work for solely, the Mondays or the Roses.
An avid Happy Mondays fan once told me that you make a fleeting appearance in the Happy Mondays' Wrote For Luck video ? Is that correct ?
Yes and if you look carefully in a couple of Black Grape videos you'll spot me too.
You did a couple of tours with the High also. How enjoyable were they ?
Great ! Especially the three days in Valencia.
You introduced the Roses to the baggy, bright coloured clothes and flares which would define their late-80s look. Your circle of friends gained the nickname The Baldricks and you featured in an article in ID magazine before you were in the Roses (the photos from this can be found on page 28 in Dave Simpson's Roses book).
The Baldricks started as a piss-take on a few of us at the Hacienda on people like myself, little Martin, Mike Pickering's side kick D.J., Al Smith, Steds, just a few of us that were into flares and hanging around in the Hacienda. So we reply to the piss-take by keeping a straight face and sending some photos into ID, who duly printed them. They seemed to think that flares were funny back then but for us they were a philosophy.
How early did you become involved with The Stone Roses ? Page 38 of Dave Simpson's book says that you hung around a lot with John in '84 ? Did you go to many Roses gigs in the early days ? Do any in particular stand out in your memory ?
Yes. I have known Ian, John and Mani from the early eighties when we all had scooters and we were good mates. So when the Roses were touring in '87 and they knew I was working for the Mondays, they offered me a position. By late '88 however, with both bands touring at the same time I had to choose which camp I was in full time. So I did.
How close a relationship was there between the Roses and Mondays ?
I don't know if there really was one. We all knew each other but it's like the Beatles and the Stones - great bands never hang out together. They are two sides of the same coin.
What was your first gig with The Stone Roses ?
St Helens Citadel, November 1988.
What were your favourite gigs with The Stone Roses ?
Those would have to be Northampton Roadmenders club (24th June 1989) and Glasgow Green (9th June 1990 - Cressa's and Reni's last gig with the Roses).
At gigs, were you changing patches on Johnís Alesis reverb unit (or was it delay) ?
Yes, I was changing patches. If I remember rightly there were only 3 or 4 songs I would have to change his effects more than once. John could have done it with pedals like everybody else.
Can you describe for us what happened post-Glasgow Green in terms of your own position ?
I came home from Glasgow Green and didn't see any of them for 18 months. But you know, shit happens.
Bad Man Wagon supported the Roses at Wembley in 1995. How did that come about ?
I was on the bus with them for the whole of the last tour in '95 and it was good to hang out on the road with them again. That was when the opportunity to support them came up.
You witnessed the demise of the Roses at Reading 1996. In retrospect, when do you think the band should have called it quits ? After the departure of Reni ? After John left ?
In hindsight, when Reni left. I thought they did some alright gigs without him.
What contact have you had with the Roses, since parting ways ? What post Roses gigs have you been to ? I read that you strutted your stuff on-stage for a few songs at one of Ian's solo gigs in Brixton !
I see John, Ian and Mani quite frequently if irregularly. I have been to see them in all their incarnations. It's always good to see them as, whatever problems there are between themselves, they are nothing to do with me.
Where did the name of the band - Bad Man Wagon - come from ?
Bavarian Motor Works / Bob Marley and the Wailers / Bad Man Wagon, 'nuff said !
Who writes the lyrics for the band ? Are the songs mostly joint collaborations ?
I write my lyrics and Stella writes hers.
And what about the music ?
Spencer programs, Spencer samples, Spencer produces.
What would you cite as the high point(s) to date with your current band ?
Getting our first 10" single, 'Do You Love Reggae Music ?', out on Robs Records a few years ago which helped us to keep on keeping on. Cheers Rob.
Bad Man Wagon have an album out now on Arthur Records, 'A Day Late And A Dollar Down', with the following tracklisting:
1. Kill 'Em All
2. Chronic Sonic Hydroponic Tonic For The Masses
3. Rollin Down The River
4. Kicked Out
8. It Ain't Easy
9. Do You Love Reggae Music ?
10. Crocodile Smile
11. Winker Dub
12. Chronic Sonic Hydroponic Tonic For The Masses (REMIX)
On 9th March 2003, Bad Man Wagon covered Revolution Rock, a Clash track, in a Joe Strummer Tribute Session. The Clash were a huge influence on John Squire. How much of an influence were The Clash on you ?
I missed out on The Clash as a youth. I loved The Jam and The Stranglers and The Clash didn't fit in. But now when I listen to the London Calling album I feel humble and humiliated that I did not embrace it sooner.
When can we expect to see Bad Man Wagon performing live ?
3rd October - Irish Club, Chorlton, Manchester. And hopefully London before Xmas !
Have you started work on the follow-up album ?
Plans for our next aural construction are being drawn up as we speak !
Until such time,
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