Argy Bargy – From Then Till Now.
Argy Bargy began life as five piece back in early 1992.
After relentless rehearsing and recording their first demo tape they were ready to take the band out on the road, and to get themselves ready for the adventure of a lifetime they agreed to play at a friends birthday party in east London. Expectations were high and the place was packed but nerves can be funny things as vocalist “Watford” Jon recalls…
“We had to get there early to set up and sound check. I was driving so I wasn’t drinking but a couple of the other lads were really going for it. I asked them to calm down until we’d played but to be honest they were past caring by then. Long story short, by the time we went on stage they could barely speak, never mind play! It was a nightmare. They blamed it on nerves but I had the right hump. I nearly split the band up there and then but I was persuaded to give it another go.”
Jon decided to persevere and a few months later the lads were asked to play with three other bands at a pub in Essex. The night was called “Carry On Oi!” At the time the Oi! scene was in it’s early stages after being virtually non existent since the mid 80’s. Argy Bargy went on stage, sober, and blew the place apart. This is what it was all about, this is how it should be!
“From the first note the crowd were on our side” remembers Jon. “We played for 45 minutes but it seemed to be over in a flash. The atmosphere in there was electric. I remember thinking at the time that this was the start of something great, a whole new scene.”
After a great night, the lads went home buzzing with ideas of tours and record deals aplenty.
Jon takes up the story…
“I was such a high after that gig. It was great and still get’s talked about to this day. I thought we’d be unstoppable after that. Then I got a phone call off one of the guitarists who told me that he’d split up with his girlfriend so he was moving back to Scotland! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. As if that wasn’t enough, the other guitarist was going with him, and the bass player, who was their mate, decided if they weren’t doing it nor was he!!”
That left Jon and drummer, Dustin to ponder the future…
“The problem was, we didn’t know anyone else who played our stuff because at the time there were no other Oi or punk bands around who we knew!” says Jon.
“The thing was, I wasn’t gonna jack it all in. and I was sure we’d find replacements but until we did I decided to have a word with my best mate, Daryl Smith.”
Daryl had been gigging a lot at the time with his band, The Elite and he and Jon had played together in a band before that.
“Jon called me and explained what had happened. He asked if me I would help out in Argy Bargy until he got something concrete sorted. That was twenty years ago!!”
With a new bass player (Mark Hatton) and Daryl on board Argy Bargy were up and running again. The first gig the new line up were offered was at Londons’ legendary Brixton Academy along with GBH, Anti Nowhere League, UK Subs to name but three. It was a dream come true for Jon and Daryl who had grown up loving these bands. The band opened up the show and won over a whole new crowd.
The band continued to gig across the UK and as a result started getting interest from record labels. Step One Records approached Jon and asked if they would record four tracks for a compilation album called “Oi! The New Breed”.
“We were well pleased” says Jon. “Us, with a record deal! It was a dream come true really.”
“Oi! The New Breed” was released in November 1993 and instantly took the band to a wider audience, with offers to play abroad as well as in the UK.
“We loved it in the studio, me and Daryl both felt right at home there” says Jon. “Then we started getting asked to play in Belgium and Germany and places like that. We didn’t even know anyone outside of England was into our stuff so naturally we jumped at the chance to go out there. We jumped at the chance to drink their beer an’ all! Well, they might’ve thought we were being rude if we hadn’t…”
In February 1994 Step One released the bands first ever demo recordings and in January of ‘95 they recorded two tracks for “Oi! The New Breed Volume 2”.
More gigs followed and more new songs were being written with each rehearsal.
Bass player, Mark, who was never really into the whole punk thing decided to leave the band to follow his beloved Watford F.C full time so the lads drafted in the ex bass player of Daryl’s band The Elite.
Argy Bargy went into the studio once again, this time to record their debut album, again for Step One. “Drink, Drugs & Football Thugs” was released in November 1995 and sold out it’s initial pressing in pre orders alone.
“Daryl knew this geezer called Dave West who was a producer so we got him to do the album with us” remembers Jon. “He wasn’t really one of us but I didn’t mind him really. I just wanted him to do a good job.”
Daryl adds “the sound wasn’t too bad but his (Jon’s) vocals were a bit low in the mix. Probably just as well! The guitars sounded great in the studio but came out all tinny and metally on record. Early lessons learnt – don’t trust studios!”
The album was released all across Europe and still sells well to this day.
More gigs followed as did more compilation appearances.
Time flies when you’re having fun and the band spent the next few years gigging across Europe and the UK.
By now a great friend of the band, Herve Laurent, was playing bass for Argy Bargy as well as in his own band, Deadline.
The time had come to record a new album and April 2002 saw
the release of the second full length Argy Bargy album, “Songs From The Streets”.
“Mark Brennan from Captain Oi! Records asked us to sign to his label” says Daryl. “I had my own studio at the time so Jon and I sat down and wrote some new songs. Sometimes we went on till the early hours but we got there in the end. We recorded the whole thing in a weekend.”
“Songs From The Streets” took Argy Bargy to a different level. As with the first album, this one sold out upon release and soon became the labels biggest selling album. The bands following had grown too and by now the Oi! / Street Punk scene was global.
In November 2002 the band recorded a brand new track, “My Life” for a compilation album called “Addicted To Oi!”. Singer, Watford Jon who worked at Captain Oi!, helped compile the album.
“The whole idea behind the album was to let the world know that Oi! was back and bigger than ever. We had bands literally pleading with us to have a track on the album. We had some of the biggest names around on it. Agnostic Front, The Business, Discipline, Deadline, The Filaments… We had to turn down a lot more bands than we put on there. We were gutted for them but what could we do? It would’ve ended up a quadruple album otherwise!”
By now Argy Bargy had regularly played with some of the biggest names in the scene. Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, The Business, Discipline, Madball, Agnostic Front… the list goes on and on.
In April 2004 the band recorded six tracks for their half of a split CD with long term mates, Discipline with both bands covering one of the others tracks. Argy Bargy also covered “It’s My Life” by New York Hardcore legends Agnostic Front. “100% Thug Rock” summed up both bands style of street punk perfectly.
“We’d been mates with Discipline for years” explains Daryl. “We had spoken about doing something together during various pub sessions and eventually we did something about it. We recorded the tracks in my studio but went to Pat Colliers’ (ex of The Vibrators) studio in south London to do the backing vocals. We had a mob of Watford hooligans with us and we got them all done in a day.”
Daryl continues, “We mixed and produced it at Pat’s too. We were really pleased with the end result. It was as though we’d found the definitive Bargy sound.”
Argy Bargy weren’t the only ones who liked the sound either. The CD sold fast, worldwide and the interest it generated led to the band playing some of the biggest festivals in Europe.
The bands original drummer, Dustin, had decided to leave so they recruited Dave Thompson to fill the vacant drum seat. Herve had also left as his own band, Deadline, were getting busy. A chance meeting between Jon and Dalb at a Rancid gig in London led to the latter joining the band on bass guitar.
August of 2004 was to bring about one of the greatest nights in the bands history. Two days after arriving home from the Wasted Festival in Blackpool the lads went on at The Underworld in London as special guests of the mighty Rose Tattoo.
“Rose Tattoo were, and are the reason I wanted to be in a band in the first place” says Jon. “When I first heard them, they literally changed my life so when we were asked to play with them it was one of the greatest days of my life.”
The venue was packed with at least half the audience made up of Argy Bargy’s “home crowd”. The lads bulldozed their way through 45 minutes worth of brick wall punk, watched eagerly by the whole of the Tatts and their entourage.
Later, when thing’s got a bit out of hand during Rose Tattoo’s set Jon and Daryl jumped into the crowd to sort it out, to be greeted with cheers from the crowd and Tatts front man Angry Anderson proclaiming “Argy Bargy! They’re not just a band, they’re a fuckin’ way of life!”
“Yeah, that was a great night” remembers Jon. “Us and Rose Tattoo became good friends that night. We still keep in touch now.”
Over the next couple of years the band continued to gig across Europe and the UK, making some great friends along the way. Dave had moved back up to his home town by now so Jon went to see his good friend Ray “Dust” Bussey, drummer with UK Hardcore legends Knuckledust, at a Madball gig in London, hoping he could persuade him to join the band.
“He didn’t even let me finish my sentence!” laughs Jon. “He knew what I was going to ask him and he said yes before I popped the question! The thing with Ray is that he really get’s what we‘re all about. Not only that, but he’s also one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard, and a great mate too.”
With Ray settled in the time was right to record a new album and “The Likes Of Us” was released in July 2008.
“We spent a lot of time on this album” explains Daryl. “The punk and Oi! scene was massive now and it was important to release something special otherwise it would’ve just been lost in amongst everything else. We wanted to make an album that people would remember and still listen to years after it was released.”
“We went back to Pat Colliers studio and spent the next ten days recording the album. The end result was better than we had hoped for to be honest. We honestly felt that “The Likes Of Us” was our finest moment.”
So it seemed did everyone else, with mainstream rock monthly Classic Rock calling it “the finest punk album of the last ten years.”
Tours with the biggest punk band in the world, Rancid, followed along with a host of live shows and festival appearances.
In August 2012 Argy Bargy released their latest album, “Hopes, Dreams, Lies & Schemes” on the Randale label from Germany. The album was released at the huge Rebellion Festival and had sold out by the second day with critics and reviewers across the globe already calling the best punk album of the year.
“We did things a bit differently with this album” says Daryl. “We went down to Devon to work with a guy called Pete Miles who had produced The King Blues, The Skints, Random Hand and so on. We loved the big sound he got with those bands and thought he’d be ideal for us. As it happens he was ideal and got what we wanted straight away. For me, this is the album I’m most proud of. I listen to this as a fan and I know Jon and Ray feel the same.
As Lars Frederikson of punk giants Rancid announced on stage at Rebellion; “Argy Bargy’s new album is one the best fuckin’ albums I’ve heard in a fuckin’ long time!”
February 2014 and new bass player Nicky from UK Hardcore legends Knuckledust joins the band.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are ARGY BARGY.