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Indie Pop Purists The Dentists Q & A
Ben Hewitt , March 24th, 2010 09:51

The Quietus talks to The Dentists guitarist Bob Collins about the band's forthcoming reunion gig and album

Tomorrow night, The Dentists and The Claim - two great forgotten indie bands of the 80's who both hailed from the Medway Towns - will reunite to play a one-off gig at Dingwalls in Camden.

Both bands seemed on the cusp of sustained success in their original runs. The Claim were championed by Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne fame and released a slew of killer singles, while The Dentists excelled in producing fantastic psychedelic pop, with their 1985 album Some People are on the Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now a particular highlight.

However, both bands disbanded in the early 1990's without ever receiving the recognition they deserved. The Quietus caught up with Bob Collins, guitarist of The Dentists, to find out exactly what inspired them to reform and get the skinny on their new rarities album, If All The Flies Were One Fly...

After all these years, how does it feel to be playing with The Dentists again?

Bob Collins: Great - like returning to home turf in a way.

How did the reunion show and new album come about?

BC: The album came first and it was really something we'd been talking about doing for years. We have tons of unreleased stuff and even this album just scrapes the surface. The gigs were almost an afterthought when we met up one day and someone said, 'We should do a reunion gig'. To our collective amazement we all said, 'Yes why not?'. Even then we dithered for ages until our old friend Adrian Gibson asked us to play at Dingwalls.

How did the idea of playing live again make you feel? Excited or nervous?

BC: Definitely excited. I've been doing a lot of new things in the last couple of years, particularly learning how to be a solo performer and I'm really liking doing that, because it's new for me and outside my immediate comfort zone. But in contrast, I love playing in The Dentists because it's like, 'Well this is what I really do'.

What have you been doing since the group disbanded?

BC: Round about 2000 I was in a band called Fortune West, we consciously tried to go for an MOR feel. We had cracking songs but we basically never got off our arses and did anything. Then I played guitar for Fortress Madonna, which had a couple of releases on Laughing Outlaw and went to SXSW in 2005 with The Great Lines, a short lived band featuring me and Mark, another ex member of The Dentists.

Since then I've been doing stuff as a solo performer, which is very new and different.

You'll be playing at Dingwalls with The Claim, another band from the Medway area. Was there ever a sense of rivalry between the two of you? What was the scene like in Medway at that time?

BC: I don't think there was a rivalry between us and The Claim. We got on very well. There have always been great people and bands from Medway. When we started The Prisoners and The Milkshakes were a key influence, and that Medway garage/beat thing has become well renowned (and rightly so), but there has been lots of other good stuff not related to that. There was a great local scene in Medway when we started and there were big audiences who would just go to local gigs.

But Medway has always been a bit insular - not terribly well connected to the London music scene. Artistically that's probably a blessing, maybe a curse in other ways.

Back in the 80's and early 90's, it seemed as if you were on the cusp of mainstream success, but it didn't quite happen. Why do you think that was?

BC: I have no idea why it didn't happen for us.

You made the decision to leave the band in 1995, after which the remaining members went on to form Coax. Why did you make that decision? And what was your relationship like with the rest of the band at that point?

BC: I felt that it had got as good as it was ever going to get. We'd done out best but the game was up and it was time to retire gracefully before it all got desperate. I had no problem at all with the others carrying on as Coax. I wished them well and they had some great songs, but I was very happy not to be a part of it.

What would you consider to be the high and low points of being in The Dentists the first time around?

BC: There are many high points. To me, the high points were all specific gigs where the audience-band dynamic was just spot on. I think we had an extended low point during out mid-life crisis around '88 to '91 where we didn't release anything and just seemed to be having endless debates about out 'future'.

What can people expect from the new album?

BC: For us, it's just about giving a lot of songs the public airing they deserve. It's about documentation rather than sales or winning a new audience over.

And finally, what can people expect from the live show tomorrow?

BC: Our ramshackle charm! The set will be fairly evenly spread across our various albums and we're definitely going to do what we thing are our most popular songs - a crowd pleasing set we hope.

Click here for ticket information for tomorrow's show.

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