Gizz Butt's punk rock guide to surviving life in a band

Some people have stories. And then some people, they have stories. It’s fair to say in the case of punk rock veteran Gizz Butt, he falls comfortably into the latter category. Cutting his teeth with crossover thrash legends English Dogs, it wasn't long before he was recruited by The Prodigy to join them as a touring guitarist during the height of their 90s fame. He also performed stints with Foo Fighters, Crass, Fields Of The Nephilim and many more. As you might expect, he has a slew of hair-raising tales to accompany them all.

But it was with his own band, Janus Stark, that Butt really found his feet. Releasing only one album – 1998's Great Adventure Cigar – the record became a cult favourite before the band called it a day at the turn of the century. Now, they're back with their first new single in over 20 years – "a tale of promises that lead to betrayal and being shuffled to the back of the pack" – and are ready to pick up where they left off.

Here, Butt reflects on almost four decades at the frontlines of punk rock, and gives us his foolproof guide of how to survive life in a band. You can watch the video for new single Shuffling The Pack at the bottom of the page.

If you make a fuck up, keep it to yourself but don’t do it again

"When The Prodigy headlined Reading festival in 1996, 70,000 people were treated to the loudest power chord in history. Here's how: during our act, I became disturbed at the lack of guitar audible onstage even after numerous signals to the monitor engineer – only to receive the return signal that my guitar was cranked up all the way. Puzzled, during a break between songs I inspected the rear of my amplifier stack and discovered the volume control going out to the monitor desk was down near zero. Euphoric that I’d found this error, I corrected it by turning the dial to 11. The next song up was Firestarter and everyone prepared as the menacing intro bubbled away. The familiar banshee like guitar hook signalled me to start and as my plectrum came crashing down on that F# power chord what resulted was an absolute ear splitting 'changgg' that could be heard in Australia! Keith Flint’s mohicans were flattened by this as everyone scurried to turn my amp down. Keith and Liam looked like they’d received 10,000 volts, the monitor man was fired and I kept quiet."

If you’re gonna dish out shit, be prepared to take it back

"The Destructors supported GBH on their City Baby Attacked By Rats tour in 1982 and travelled with a bus load of 50 local fans to Ipswich. On arrival, bursting for a shit, I sourced the dressing room toilets and relieved myself despite there being no light in there. Unaware I had shat on the back of toilet seat, the lead singer’s girlfriend came in the room pale and horrified saying 'There was a massive turd on that bog seat I just used'. That very turd was transported to GBH’s dressing room for their entertainment but at the end of the night someone whispered to me “Better check your guitar case Gizz”, I immediately opened the case up to find Mr Poo lying next to my treasured guitar."

Keep calm, even when everyone’s fucking stoned

"The English Dogs album Forward Into Battle really took off in the USA in 1986 and the band were invited to tour over there. After the final show at The Loft in Baltimore, the after-show party was in a five storey building with debauchery in every room, thick with smoke from the multitude of hash pipes, bongs and chillums. I heard a frantic rap at the back door and after five minutes of everyone ignoring it, I opened the door to face a naked, bald, middle-aged, morbidly obese man who had been tied up, stabbed, robbed and threatened with death. He’d escaped and come for help. There I sat with a naked, bleeding man, several heavily armed police in a house full of stoners – I was pretty toasted myself."

You’re a team: don’t miss a gig and don’t let anyone fucking die!

"The More I See were on tour in Germany when they signed their record deal with SPV records. The plan was to play in Keil and drive to Hannover the next day where the record label was based. There was a stop off in Hamburg outside the Lunacy bar where the band had a break with a few beers. A hour later the band got back in the van and headed down the autobahn with yours truly behind the wheel. An hour into the journey, stereo blasting and everyone shouting, I noticed the ride getting strangely lumpy. The handling drastically deteriorated as I gripped on for dear life. Everyone was now screaming for their mums as we saw sparks flying from the rear wheel and the van violently twisting. It was a miracle but somehow I managed to control it and grind it to a halt in the hard shoulder. What had happened? The rear wheel had literally come right off. We never found it! We ran for help and returned to the Pyogenesis flat in Hamburg. All our earnings went on repairing the van as we hired a car to conclude our journey to sign the record deal. Amazingly, we didn’t miss a gig."

Don’t kill your record label guys

"Janus Stark were signed to Earache Records, and in 1998 toured with Dub War (Benji Webbe’s pre-Skindred band), Misery Loves Co. and Pulkas. A life-changer in many ways, we’d just released our debut album Great Adventure Cigar and were sharing a bus with our best mates Dub War, who were about to receive some tragic news. Half-way through the tour, Jeff, their guitarist was woken up with the sad message that his dad had died over night. Instinctively he left to join his family and yours truly stepped in to help. The next four shows were intense as I had to front my own band and fill in Jeff’s sizeable boots for Dub War. Jeff returned to the tour, upset but pleased the tour continued and that he was able to rejoin. After the show that night, our bus became the mother of all parties with a table containing everything imaginable to get everyone in every kind of state. Our Earache rep, Dan Tobin came upstairs saying “Will you keep the fucking racket down,” which were almost his last words as a bottle of Jack Daniels was launched across the room, just missing his head by a whisker. Shaken, he fled to safety as the chaos continued. Fourteen years later, I signed another deal with Earache as Dan reminded me, “Do you remember that night you nearly fucking killed me with that JD bottle”? 

Treat your comrades how you wish to be treated

"I played in German alt-metal band Pyogenesis and had a great time, but after the honeymoon period ended I began to tire of a certain frontman’s shenanigans. Every night after the set he would dash to the dressing room, fix a drink, fix his hair and dash to the merch stand to greet his fans, leaving yours truly and the other band members to pack his gear into its cases and into the trailer. Noting his absence, me and the other members became increasingly irate, especially when playing with French metal band Dagoba. They asked “Are you his roadie?” This sent alarm bells in my head as I hunted our duty-dodging singer. After several attempts asking him to join his band in packing away, I decided that the best course was to eject him from the dressing room and throw him down the stairs and into the trailer. We never quite got on the same but from that gig on he always assisted in the load out."

Give it all you’ve got, but hold back just a little in reserve-just in case

"When Carl McCoy looked for musicians to help him get Fields Of The Nephilim back on the road in 2007, I went along to the auditions. They liked what I did and the sound I made. I became really close to Carl and spent many nights at his home talking with him about how he could realise his vision. There were exhausting rehearsals and wardrobe discussions and one ultimate vision that he had. This was that the entire band bleach their hair and eyebrows and wear contact lenses to convincingly come across as the real 'Nephilim'. When it came down to it, there was only one person who followed this through to the end – yes, me. But bleaching hair already dyed black is a big mistake, as I discovered. My hair dropped out and instead of sporting long, blond locks, I looked more like Hazel O'Connor. Add that to the blonde eyebrows and things are looking dangerously Jimmy Savile."

What happens on tour needs to stay on tour… or on your phone

"It was a dream to be asked by Steve Ignorant to join him and play the Crass songs as he planned a Last Supper world tour. At the request of many fans, he wanted to tour the world playing the Crass songs one final time. Steve liked a drink after a show and so did I. When Spike joined on drums, it upped the ante as he really liked a drink. Our levels increased on a nightly basis until one night after a show in Austin, each of us downed a pint of Jagermeister. Now, the photos on my phone from that night stay on my phone, and there they must stay, as they have the power to damage reputations and maybe even careers. What I will say, though, is there is a banana."

Speed can kill

"Andy Sneap is one of my best friends and undoubtedly deserves his break in Judas Priest, as he has soldiered on through the years giving it 110% in everything he does. When Sabbat reformed in 2006, it was no exception, and Andy organised everything: rehearsals, shows, merchandise, touring, transport, PR; the whole works. I replaced Fraser Craske, who dipped out after the Cradle Of Filth four. 

There’s only one person that I have ever seen really get to Andy, and that's Sabbat vocalist Martin Walkyier, who had the ability to get into Andy’s head and rub him up the wrong way. We once played a Full Metal Cruise type gig; a metal festival on a ship. The morning after the show, the band was due for filmed interviews, signing sessions and photoshoots, but all plans were abandoned as Martin had gone AWOL on the boat. It turned out that someone had gotten speed onto the boat and Martin had spent all night on the wine and getting himself into a state. 

The next morning he was found dribbling, twitching and stuttering “I don’t want to play this old shit anymore I want to record a new album! Record a new Sabbat album Andy or I’m not doing this anymore!” This left a lasting impression on Andy, and serves as a reminder that when someone is a driving force behind what you’re doing, don’t take the fucking piss!"

Enjoy it – life is short

"Some of my greatest times have come around with very little warning. Someone's just made a suggestion and then I’ve gone for it: playing with the Foo Fighters when they supported The Prodigy; The More I See filming a video on the Star Wars set of Tatooine. Playing the Crass song Bloody Revolutions night after night. Playing with ex-Beatle Pete Best and befriending his family, becoming friends with David Bowie when Prodigy shared the bill. 

One story I will mention now is that Pyogenesis played a Full Metal Mountain festival; a metal festival at a skiing resort. I decided to take some skiing lessons and take advantage of the facilities when the gig was due. On arrival at the festival we had only two hours spare, so me and Malte, the bassist, went up the slopes. After a hair-raising but exhilarating trip down the mountain, we had a beer and got on stage. It was then that Malte realised how much pain he was in. After some emergency pain killers he discovered that he’d fallen and landed on his camera in his pocket and broken his ribs. Ouch! You’ve just got to battle on, though. I did the same a couple of months later falling off stage. You’ve just got to say to yourself: “There’s another few pages for your book one day.” Cheers Jock Blyth for that quote!"

Janus Stark's new single, Shuffling The Pack, is out now. Check out the video below: