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School: Justin & Dan Hawkins

Was a musical career already on your agenda at school?

Justin Hawkins: I think so. I recently looked back at my GCSE Record of Achievement and it said that I’d expressed an interest in the medical professions. But by then I was already playing guitar in bands. My teachers said it wasn’t worth me pursuing education, because I was just going to end up in a pub band. Just like I have.

Dan Hawkins: Justin and I had been playing in pub bands from the age of twelve. But I chose not to study music at school when it came to GCSEs. I remember going into the music room once and fifteen kids were burping into their Casio keyboard samplers and playing them back. So studying music was just a complete waste of time. You had two choices: embrace technology, or they’d force you to sight read stuff.

Did you have any particularly influential teachers?

JH: I studied music at college, and the teacher in question, Mr Spencer, was one of those that you never forget. He had a really positive impact on me. I had a lot of respect for him, and it was brilliant that he was so supportive. He recognised that life’s too short to pursue things that you don’t really want to do.

DH: My form teacher, Mr Westerby, was so cool and I loved his sense of humour. I remember walking down the corridor once and my friend, Jamie Craig, kicked me really hard up the arse. I turned around and shouted: “Jamie! You cunt!” And when I turned back, Mr Westerby was looking at me with his arms folded. He went: “Daniel, it’s ‘You can’t.’” He completely let me off and made a joke about it. I was forever in his debt after that. We had the big chat at the end of school, and he said I’d do well if I went into an academic career. But I said: “Actually, I’ve decided to go and work for my dad as a builder, until I can get a job in London. At which point I’ll find a band and become a musician.”

What kinds of subjects did you excel at?

JH: I loved sports, and hockey was a game that I was particularly good at. And I represented the school in basketball. But then somebody smashed the ball into my hand during one game and it made me realise that I cared too much about playing guitar to be playing basketball. Another time, I was playing rugby against this posh public school, somewhere in the countryside, and got kicked in the eye. There was blood everywhere and I needed stitches. As I was waiting for the nurse at this posh school, there was a kid there who started telling me he was going to kill himself. That was it. I knew school and sports don’t mix. Just do music.

DH: Justin really loved rugby for a while, but I was never into it. At school I thought I was going to be a professional footballer. I was playing for Suffolk and got to county level. Apparently Ipswich Town were going to approach me about signing me up. Then one day we were playing against Leeds United’s youth team, and one guy deliberately kicked my leg. I snapped every hamstring in my right leg.

Justin, weren’t you in a play at Kirkley High called Faust And Furious?

JH: Jesus Christ, how did you know that? I played a TV reporter, and I provided some pieces for the soundtrack, too. I’d already done shows before then as a guitarist, but it was definitely the first speaking engagement I was involved in.

Rob Hughes
Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.