The Man With The Plan
Harry Stafford
With the legendary Inca Babies due to play for Isolation at The Hope, Brighton, on 1st November, singer-guitarist Harry Stafford talks us through the band's excellent new album, The Stero Plan, track by track.
The Stereo Plan: This is about a man who is slowly losing his mind, and as he is an bloke of a certain age his only point of reference is his vinyl LP record collection – “Going back to the place where it all began, going back to the man and the stereo plan.”

Scatter: This is the oncoming of a terrible force of nature: a hurricane, a war, a plague or a seriously bad man, and he’s coming to your city. “Look away and run, dig a hole and load a gun, time to sell the sun and scatter with the wind.”

Damnation: Everything’s going to hell and there ain't a damn thing you can do about it so embrace it and go down with a drink in your hand and a ‘goddamnsonofabitch’ attitude as you meet your maker.

River To The Centre Of The World: This is a movie (my own made up movie) made in the 60s about two espionage agents who fall in love and vow to meet up again when the coast is clear. So he goes to all the airports and meeting places in the hope that she’ll be there. I guess he’s still waiting. The river to the centre of the world is a metaphor like the undiscovered country in Hamlet.

Stand Down Lucifer: The scene of a failed exorcism. "Stand down Lucifer, I won’t ask you twice sir..." A bit half-hearted as he is consumed by the devil’s fire. Amen.

Panthers: Don’t hang out with a bunch of pricks or they’ll drag you down to their level. You chose to feast with Panthers now the Panthers feast on you. I told you so! Rob on this is fantastic, he seems to have this lazy roll that adds a laconic groove which heightens the tension.

Last Flight Out Of Saigon: I remember watching this on the TV in 1975 and my dad saying this was a big moment for America as they had pretty much lost the Vietnam war and were in retreat. Also there’s a re-occurring dream I have about just getting off an island before the volcano blows or the tidal wave hits, etc. Phew!

Absolute Leader Of The World: What if, for just one day, I could be .... well, here’s my portfolio.

Inca Babies Live
Devilfish Anarchy: This is a peace of beat poetry that scats on things that go through your mind in a fishmongers. It’s fairly random but as the chorus goes “Devilfish anarchy makes sense to me”.

Still Mountain: “Up here it’s very quiet...” It certainly is and this was an opportunity to catch my breath and just play a simple piece of piano. Vince’s bass on this is particularly good. It sets a scene of tranquillity only upset by the need to run off the mountain very fast.

Damn Our Hides: When someone close is disappearing in front of your eyes and you don’t think you need to intervene. And then it’s too late: damn our hides for not doing anything. “Damn our hides and damn our inconsequences.” Hopefully we’ve learnt something from it.

Ghost Ship: You know how in science fiction programmes such as Dr Who or The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits our hero wakes up on the Titanic and the terrible dawning of what is about to happen makes for a most satisfying drama? Here our hero wakes up on the Enola Gay, which is unmanned (ghostship) but carrying a mighty big payload of atomic doom ... shit!

Blacktop Speedway: This is like a Alan Vega/Suicide riff about racing cars around a city track, but shorter as it’s only 1’ 58”.

Late Night Frankie Brittle: The late night Shock Jock who has to fend calls from every bigoted/Nazi/religious fundamentalist/crackpot/fantasist. One day he manages to wind up the wrong Nazi who waits for him in the radio station’s car park and shoots our hero Frankie. This is his lament from those of us who loved him. “Give me your shoulder to cry on, I want someone to see my heart breaking”.

The Stereo Plan
Now it is out in the shops what are your thoughts on The Stereo Plan as a whole and do you agree the band is improving all the time?

I obviously think the album is a great work and I think the songs show an element of progression from the last. As for the band? Yes I think there is that unwritten communication between us that means we can get beyond the fog of an initial idea into a collective effort. It means that if Rob and Vince like my idea I can proceed with my genius. If they don’t like the idea then a song may well or indeed often gets lost/abandoned which means I have to come up with something pretty brilliant ... the pressure, the pressure. (Ah there are a lot of lost songs!)

From the subject matter of your songs, people would imagine your head is constantly full of dark and dangerous thoughts. Is that the case or does the music drag you there? Does that make music dangerous?

Music should be dangerous. I remembering watching bands like Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Fall, The Birthday Party, Swans, The Pop Group, all of these bands wanted to fuck with your perception of what music was. I embraced it and took up the baton and I'm still running with it to this day. With regard to subject matter I have worst scenarios running through my head often. It’s not that I want them to be there or I’ll embrace them but they make great stories. I spent eleven years at the BBC in radio and I've met some astonishing people and covered a lot of really strange events and stories. There are some of these situations that I have used for songs.

When you are writing a song do the words come before the music? What do Rob and Vince add to the overall feel of the song?

I will write a song with music and lyrics, but the real brilliance of the song comes when Rob and Vince add their considerable experience to the arrangement and full composition. Rob drums with a few other bands and has an extraordinarily full repertoire of styles and arrangement ideas. Vince adds some fantastic flourishes to the bottom end creating the solid foundation.

'Damn Our Hides' - are those thoughts about Bill?

Yes, Bill (Bill Marten, a founding member of the band who died in August 2008) was foremost in my mind when I wrote that song. And while there is an element of regret there is also a moment of hope in that it wasn't all a fuck up. So in a word, Yes. There’s always a bit of soul searching when you lose someone on your watch. But at the same time, he really wanted to go so I don’t know how long we could have delayed him. 30 years would have been ideal. I think there’s also an element of guilt which the song addresses but doesn't really answer. It’s like being asked a direct question and your answer is a damning silence. Err ... ”It’s just something that we won’t forget soon...“

'Absolute Leader Of The World' - what would be the first thing on your manifesto?

Declare war on all the other planets in the solar system. I like sci-fi, it reminds me of a Private Eye cover where there is a picture of the Queen talking to George W. Bush and she asks the question, “And what do you do?” To which, W replies, “Anything I goddamn want.”

'The Stereo Plan' video - Led Zep? Really? He sings like a girl (not sure this is a question)

"Waaaaaay dowwwn HOOOOONEY YOU neeeeeed cooooooling" (or something). Actually Robert Plant isn't my favourite thing about Led Zep it’s the other three who do it for me. I actually went to London once in the late 70s and could afford to buy two albums or a double. I was really tempted to buy Physical Graffiti, but then my eye caught the second Ramones album and the Swell Maps album and the rest is punk rock.

Finally, are you going to hell, Harry?

I do believe I am, I’ll keep a pew warm for thee.

The Stereo Plan is available on CD from your local independent record shop, as well as on-line tax avoiders and for download from all the usual suspects. Signed copies with tickets to the Brighton gig (1st November 2014) and a lovely signed poster are available here.
Words: Adam Hammond
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