Buster Bloodvessel of ska veterans Bad Manners speaks to Grace Duffy on outrageous names, musical endurance, and an ability to liken good manners
Hardcore veterans of the ska scene of the 1970s and 80s, Bad Manners have a status and experience most bands dream of. Signifying their ambition with a debut gig at Stonehenge, the band have taken their music from their school assembly to Top of the Pops and beyond.
Interestingly-monikered frontman Buster Bloodvessel explains, “We started in 1975. We were at school, we were just a bunch of friends and rather than leave school and break the friendship I decided to form a band, as some of the other friends that I had were into playing music. We played in local pubs and started spreading out and made quite a name for ourselves. Then Madness and The Specials came along, and we all sort of joined up together.”
Instantaneously deciding that they wanted to “stick out,” the band chose their style of music and name to reflect this. “I didn’t want it to be like everybody else,” Buster says. “Hence the reason why we got our name, Bad Manners. In comparison with the punk bands who were quite outrageously named at the time, [we picked it] so we would stick out, which we did!”
However, he notes that there was a firm following for ska music at the time, something he sought to embrace. “I just liked that concept of being one of those bands who were completely different from everyone else. There were a lot of people who liked that style, but they were listening to music from the Sixties from Jamaica. I wanted to form a band playing ska cos there was a definite market for people who still loved and respected ska music.”
The band’s success has culminated in a festival, aptly titled Badfest, that takes place in what Buster describes as a “wasteland that I’ve converted into a beautiful little amphitheatre, in the middle of London, in Brentford.” A three-day event is scheduled for April of next year under the heading of Badlands, which Buster anticipates with pride. “It’s ruling my life at the moment, but I’m really quite impressed about what I’ve done. Festivals for a weekend in London are just not heard of!”
In a revolving door musical climate where bands disappear almost as soon as they arrive, Buster is earnest and says simply of the group’s longevity: “I think you have to love what you do. I’m so in love with the stage, I just have to continue what I’m doing. Longevity may come with that attitude; it’s not about being famous, it’s about wanting to do what you do. Reinventing yourself is also quite an important thing, and you gotta believe in yourself. That’s what I call longevity.”
Wise words from a man who once mooned the Pope – but hey, you can’t have fun all the time.