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Baker's Dozen

Champion Versions: Steve Mason's Favourite Albums
Joe Clay , March 2nd, 2016 11:04

With his new solo album, Meet The Humans, just released, the prolific musician and former Beta Band man gives Joe Clay a tour of his record collection, meandering through electro, hip-hop, punk and more


Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
There was a record shop in Dundee called Groucho's and that's where everybody went to buy their records. It was this tiny little shop but it was crammed, wall to wall, with albums and singles. There was a big punk section and I can remember coming across these Crass singles and unfolding them – it was like a poster with all this typed information and dark, terrifying images. I put them straight back; I was like, "Woah, I don't understand it!" Then I saw the cover of Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, and it seems ridiculous now, but it frightened the life out of me. When you're young, stuff like that feels dangerous. Even the cover of Never Mind The Bollocks looked scary.

The first song I heard by the Dead Kennedys was 'Holiday In Cambodia', and I didn't know anything about Cambodia or Pol Pot or any of that. I was ten years old, which is just bonkers to think about. I've got friends with kids and when I think about the sort of records I was buying at their age... it's absolutely crazy. But I had this voracious appetite for that. 'Holiday In Cambodia' seemed so much faster than any of the British punk and when you're young you're like, "Yeah! Let's go FAST!" So it was really exciting. the guitar sound in 'Kill The Poor' – East Bay Ray is a fucking genius. That rockabilly surf guitar sound – it shouldn't really work with what they're doing but it's perfect. It gives them this complete edge. If they didn't have him, I think they'd just have been a reasonably run-of-the-mill punk band – with good songs. But his guitar sound was fundamental to them, for me anyway. The lyrics I didn't really understand at the time, because I was way too young. But you listen back now and he was so on point, especially with stuff like 'California Uber Alles'.

They're a brilliant band, especially those first couple of albums. They were genuinely punk. Where the Sex Pistols failed, Dead Kennedys succeeded. They were really intelligent. You felt like if you had a conversation with them, they'd be able to back it up, 100 per cent. With the Pistols, you never really felt that. I think even more so with what Lydon's become now. I struggle with Lydon. Because you listen to 'God Save The Queen' and 'Anarchy In The UK', and they were perfect for the time. But he never really wrote lyrics that came close to that ever again. I find that very strange. I'm not saying it was a fashion thing for them – I think Steve Jones was a proper punk. But I don't know about Lydon. He's currently under suspicion.