The Damned Sign Label Deal With Search and Destroy (Despite Captain Sensible's Banana Antics)

Joe De Lorenzo 
Damned

The label is a joint venture with Spinefarm Records/Universal Music and is subsidiary of Raw Power Management

The Damned, one of the UK's classic punk rock bands who are amidst something of a resurgence, have signed a record deal with Search & Destroy. The London-based label operates under Raw Power Management and has a joint venture with Spinefarm and Universal Music Group. The deal will see the iconic punk rock band release their first new album in nearly ten years likely in 2018.

"Well first up, you're not talking to the business head of the band," The Damned's outspoken guitarist Captain Sensible told Billboard in true punk rock fashion when asked about the deal. "The Sensible name is ironic, you do understand that, right?"  The Captain (aka Raymond Ian Burns) is speaking from somewhere in Kansas amidst the band's acclaimed 40th anniversary world tour which has included three-hour-plus sets in sold-out venues like London's Royal Albert Hall, L.A.'s Belasco Theater and New York's Gramercy Theater.

The deal comes during what's been an exceedingly well-planned strategic year that began with a meal. "I was having dinner with [Damned singer] Dave Vanian and his wife Patricia Morrison, [The Bags, the Gun Club and Sisters of Mercy]," recalls the band's manager Jamal Chalabi of Backlash Management. "And they just said the band's 40th anniversary was happening. And I said, 'What's happening, who's behind it, what's your plan?' And they were like, 'There isn't' really a plan.' So I just decided for the love of it to get behind it and give it the push it needed."

That push has thus far included a re-release and deluxe version of the band's 1977 touchstone album Damned Damned Damned by BMG, which made it on to the U.K.'s Official Album Charts, a Pledge Music campaign that achieved 350% of its goal and several initial anniversary tour dates the past October before setting off on a full spring tour and signing a new label deal.

"I didn't' really know an awful lot about Pledge," says Sensible of the band's first crowd-funded album campaign. "The Buzzcocks turned us onto it. I think they did a couple of albums on Pledge. It allows you to go into the studio and make the album that you want to make. Not only do people pre-order the albums which is nice but you can go into a  studio without some record label person breathing over your shoulder and saying, 'Why don't you write a song like blah blah blah. I don't hear any hits,' or whatever A&R people say."

But more so, having the successful Pledge Music campaign, a charting album and an international tour with sold-out dates helped the band get to the point where they can have the luxury of an annoying A&R person.

"That's the new paradigm now," says Chalabi, who was the band's guitar tech in the early-90s before becoming their manager. "You almost have to have a complete package before you can get a record deal. Having a fan base, having a top ten album in the bag, having the recording budget almost already made up, put us in a a really really good position."  

Search and Destroy is home to Bullet For My Valentine and Atreyu among others while its Raw Power Management parent company oversees a roster that includes At The Drive In, Bring Me The Horizon, While She Sleeps, Of Mice and Men, Don Broco, Mallory Knox, and others.  

While details of the deal were not disclosed, Chalabi notes that it's a "classic deal" that will include a couple of proper videos and singles as opposed to a "youngish band just churning it out, like, 'We're gonna do 12 singles and feature you on Spotify then we'll see if people are interested."

Over the course of the year the Damned's music team has grown to include agents Chris Monk from Allied Autonomy, Paul Bolton from X Ray and Steve Homer from AEG. And on the U.S. side, the band's team includes Stormy Vehnekamp from Leave Home Booking and Sean Striegel at Live Nation as well as Siouxz Zimmerman and Jo Murray at Magnum PR—all of whom are longtime fans.

Chalabi says they were speaking to a number of labels but Raw Power "stood out head and shoulder above the rest." He notes that its principles Craig Jennings and Don Jenkins were also huge fans of the band from the early days. "We just felt that their energy what they wanted to do campaign wise, it was a reasonable deal and it's a good solid base to go through Universal."

The Damned, whose initial line-up of  David Vanian (vocals), Captain Sensible (bass), Brian James (guitar) and Rat Scabies (drums), may be one of the most important if criminally overlooked punk rock bands to come out of the communal hocked loogey that was London's fertile 1977 punk rock scene, one dominated by the Clash and the Sex Pistols (who it should be noted had major label deals).

But the Damned's first single predated that pivotal year when they released "New Rose" on Oct. 22, 1976, which is considered the oeuvre's first official single. That was followed by their classic Damned Damned, Damned released on Stiff Records "produced" by Nick Lowe.

"Stiff Records came along and they offered us a meal at a cafe," the guitarist recalls of their first label "deal." "I thought, 'this is the kind of label I want to sign with!' I was very impressed because I was starving."

Sustenance aside, the Captain recalls the sessions for Damned Damned Damned from forty yea earlier thusly: "It was a really dingy dive of a studio. It was an eight-track round the back of a garage in Islington which was not posh certainly. Previously I think they had only ever done demos  We banged it out in two days with Nick whose nickname was Basher as in bash it down on tape as quickly as possible. He had us play our live set over and over until he was happy. Then we left and he did his magic for a couple of days while he mixed it and that was that. I thought it sounded magnificent you know really raw and fuzzed up, it's a proper garage album for me. It's punk as fuck really."

The band's classic album catalog would come to include The Black Album, Machine Gun Etiquette and Strawberries along with genre-defining punk singles like "Smash It up," "Love Song," "Wait For the Blackout," "Hit or Miss," and "Neat, Neat Neat" among many others. But that's only half story, singer Dave Vanian's rich crooning baritone, his vampire shtick and moodier songs like "Curtain Call" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" helped give birth to what would later would become goth and arguably even emo.

What lies ahead is for the band is  to finish out its 40th Anniversary tour which lasts until the end of May (with Bleached and the Bell Rays) and to begin recording over the summer. A European tour in the summer follows.

Chalabi notes the band will perform at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park where they will play with Green Day on the same main stage. "There is talk of possibly doing "New Rose" with them," the band's manager tantalizingly reveals.

As for the new album, Sensible say the band hasn't really ever worked with a proper producer. "We kind of did most of it ourselves with help from really good people with really good ears" he says. "It would be great to have one really well-produced album that takes our raw ideas and make something really special out of it,' he says. "I haven't got a lot of records in my record collection but there's some real quality—Pet Sounds, Sgt. Peppers and Odyssey & Oracle -- I always aspire to that. This is coming from me Captain Sensible from the Damned so don't laugh, but I always aspire to the greatness of the records I got in my record collection.

This from a man who at the band's brilliant live show at the Belasco Theater with current members Vanian, the wild Monty Oxymoron, Andrew 'Pinch' Pinching and Stu West, turned to leave the stage only to reveal his naked backside. Later, when talking to the manager, one realized this was just the tip of the ironically-named Sensible.

"Any man who wears a dress and sticks a banana up his ass and has the audience eat it has to demand some respect from me," says Chalabi of a bygone era when he was still the band's guitar tech. "That was one of his earlier tours. It was his thing. He must have gone through 5 or 6 guitar techs because of the banana in the ass antic. It is what it is."