"The days of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed being dark and wayward and fascinating are long gone": Philip Seth Campbell on the Temperance Movement, sobriety, and being broken

Philip Seth Campbell studio portrait
(Image credit: Maclean Photography)

Athough more familiar as a frontman, first for The Temperance Movement and then The Byson Family, Glasgow-born Philip Seth Campbell started out as a solo artist. He resumed that status in 2022. His new album is titled City Lights.


Are you nervous ahead of the upcoming tour? 

Yeah. To be coming back from the fucking mess of The Temperance Movement, then lockdown, and now I’m trying to start all over again. It’s nerve-racking – especially as it’s just me and a piano player. I cannot afford a band. The show will bare my soul, trying to tell the story of where I am now. 

How do you look back on your time with TheTemperance Movement? 

I loved the Temp, especially during the early days, though I’m aware that half of my fans are people who are heartbroken that the Temp split up. That’s a difficult thing to negotiate, but I must be hard-headed and the music [I’m playing now] is as good as anything I’ve ever done. My other fear is that is there even any point? Here I am still harping on about David Bowie, when to a generic 12-year-old audience does anybody even give a fuck? 

During the formative times of your next group, The Byson Family, you predicted that the Temperance guys would understand your reasons for leaving as the new band progressed. 

The Byson Family probably will still figure in my life. But my being in The Temperance Movement wasn’t about songwriting. In that band I compromised on songs – the arrangement of them and their length. I cut myself off from being me. The Byson Family record has three of the best songs I’ve ever written. The Temp had my voice but they didn’t get my songs. 

Will The Byson Family, in turn, understand your reasons for leaving when they hear City Lights?

The Byson Family has been structured to be more like Ryan Adams & The Cardinals or Neil Young & Crazy Horse. That’s what it could be. The Bysons will ride again. I don’t think the Temp will.

The album is a mixed bag; Hasta Luego, for example, channels Springsteen, the title track is a slice of soulful gusto, and Soul Fire tips its hat at The Temperance Movement.

Hasta Luego is Springsteen. It’s a song I wrote years ago wanting to sound like Born To Run. It’s defiantly stupid. 

Sober Boy, with its references to ‘making all the same mistakes again’ and never taking ‘a chance upon yourself’ must be autobiographical? 

I’ve never really believed in myself, that’s why I drink and take drugs. I know I keep making the same mistakes again. More importantly, I see my son and my daughter doing the same thing. Life is cyclical.

Are you sober at the moment? 

I am, but it’s been a struggle. I made the record that way; I put all of my effort into that. There’s fear about that too. But there should be fear. 

You’ve admitted being “a bit wayward”. Is it a struggle to control that? 

Absolutely, it is. My whole life is about that control and that loss of control, telling yourself that you’re sober when you’re not. I go around and around and around with all of that. Unfortunately, those days of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed being dark and wayward and fascinating are long gone. 

Thanks for the chat. 

You’re welcome. I don’t mind people knowing that I’m broken, or that my bum crack is showing. I’ve always worn my scars on my sleeve. I’m saying to people: I’m fucked up just like you. To all those forty-five-year-olds in the front row looking for a last-gasp bit of rock ‘n’ roll: I’m going to give it to ya!

Philip Seth Campbell is currently touring the UK. Dates and tickets details

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.