Eddie Piller - A Chat About Clean Living

Written by Matteo Sedazzari
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Modism, Mod living, is an aphorism for clean living under difficult circumstances” Pete Meaden 

Meaden’s citation has become ingrained in Mod philosophy since he first uttered these words in an interview published by NME in 1975, a decade after the Mods of the sixties, a year before the Punk explosion and three years before the second wave of Mod. Sadly this former Who Manager and Mod icon died in July 1978, never witnessing the mass Mod Revival scene that swept across the UK in 1979 with the re-release of The Who’s iconic album and cinematic triumph Quadrophenia and the rise of a new Mod sound from bands such as Secret Affair, The Chords and The Purple Hearts. If he had, then he would surely have been proud that the cultural values he first espoused in 1964 had taken root with a new generation who had reinterpreted them for modern life – the mod mantra of “adopt, adapt, evolve”

Nevertheless Meaden may well have had a glimpse of the future from the powerpop bands that were evolving into the mods of the late seventies. New Hearts would become Secret Affair, and a trio from Woking, The Jam, who dressed in sharp black suits and belted out maximum R & B at classic mod venues like The 100 Club and The Marquee were beginning to gain credibility.  He, no doubt, would have found reassurance that The Who’s friend and biographer Nik Cohen from Shepherds Bush, article ‘New York Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night’, had been created into an epic film “Saturday Night Fever”. Years later, Cohen admitted his article was indeed fictitious, as he didn’t understand the disco scene of New York in the early seventies, so he based the piece on the Shepherds Bush Mods he knew back home, and Meaden was the arch Shepherds Bush mod.  Peter Meaden was Tony Manero. Peter Meaden was Jimmy Cooper. (in the same interview with Steve Turner, Meaden said about the initial film treatment “Townshend’s writing about me man. This was my life” Two of the greatest folk-culture film heroes of the 20th century based on one man? Strange but true.

 It’s well documented that it was Meaden who turned The Who on to the  Mod scene. So the man behind the scenes is equally as important as the front man. Would The Jam have been so successful without Paul Weller’s father and Manager John Weller fighting their corner and making sure they got the best deal? Meaden certainly did this for The Who in their early days before the band were pinched by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. There are many famous people that have been behind the scenes with their magic touch who have brought much success to the bands they represented. Malcolm McLaren with The Sex Pistols, Alan McGee with Oasis and Eddie Piller with Jamiroquai.  

Essex boy born and bred, Eddie Piller Co-Founder of  Acid Jazz, Radio Presenter, Roadie, Writer, Producer, Manager, DJ, Festival Curator (and now he can acting to his CV after his appearance in the hit Internet comedy Svengali) Piller is a name that is known throughout the Mod scene and beyond. He was also the man that Paul Weller turned to play records at his fiftieth birthday party.

Eddie Piller Tracey Wilmot Matteo Sedazzari ZANI 3Piller began his long and diverse career in the music business as a schoolboy in 1980, producing a Mod fanzine called Extraordinary Sensations which captured the attention of a new generation of Mods. After seeing bands like Secret Affair, The Jam and The Chords he wanted more just to be a fan, he wanted to write about them and analyse the scene. Like Meaden, Piller continues to be driven by a passion for all things ‘Mod’.

So if the Mod scene of today were to seek a new Pete Meaden for this generation is Eddie Piller worthy of that title? One sunny afternoon in Bethnal Green, on the roof of Acid Jazz records’ headquarters, ZANI and Piller chatted about all things Mod:
ZANI – What current projects are you working on at the moment?

Eddie Piller –I DJ a lot and do the official Tamla Motown set for festivals like Glastonbury,  helped out with the film Soulboy. And generally have a good time at work – I’m developing a film idea at the moment too.

ZANI – Did you do Glastonbury this year?
Eddie Piller – Yeah, 10,000 people going mental to two hours of Motown, you couldn’t ask for a better gig. It was exhilarating. I also work with a few people in the TV world like Jonathan Owen from Svengali, who I think you know?

ZANI – Yeah, I know Jonathan, we have interviewed him recently.

Going back to Motown, why do you think Motown has stood the test of time?

Eddie Piller – The songs, it’s that simple, the songs are amazing. It is also the fact that Motown worked on it like a factory production line in the same way that Chess did and they both got it right. Both labels had a team of ten songwriters, twenty session musicians and a dozen singers working shifts twenty-four hours a day; plus Gordy was a great Promoter.

ZANI – Was Berry Gordy, (Founder of Motown) a figure you have aspired to be?

Eddie Piller –Not particularly. I started in music because my mum ran the Small Faces Fan Club. I grew up always wanting to work in music. I tried hard to get a job at a record company when I left school and eventually got one as a motorcycle messenger – on my Lambretta.. The record company, Avatar happened to have had a Mod band called Sta-Prest on their books. Nice coincidence.

ZANI – Aren’t they from Norwich?

Eddie Piller – Basildon, East Anglia and deepest Essex. Great little band.

ZANI –Dick York?

Eddie Piller – That’s right, they’ve just got back together. So there I was, pottering around town delivering letters when my boss asked me, “You’re a Mod aren’t you?” He asked if I could drive a car and when I answered in the affirmative he said simply “Good, we’ve just signed Edwin Starr and you are going to drive him on his forthcoming tour....what do you know about Northern Soul?” Well, the answer was absolutely nothing. The Mod scene in London was deep into Psychedelia and Garage by December 1980 as well as the last knockings of the ’79 bands scene and Randy Cozens mantra that “Northern Soul was the true mod music” hadn’t really caught on by then.

The Edwin tour was called the Ric Tic Tour with several performers from that label and others, JJ Barnes, Al Kent, Lou Ragland and Pat Lewis – my job was to take Edwin from the venues to radio stations for interviews and get him back in time for shows. It blew my mind. By 1980 mod was slowly infiltrating the northern scene, but you also had the classic northern look of baggies and vests, skinheads, all dancing together, no bother. Talcum powder for fucks sake. I loved it and was amazed by how they sooo loved Edwin Starr in ‘The North’ – we did Hinkley, Manchester Ritz, Nottingham and a few others – never got to Wigan though which is a bit sad. The music blew me away and from then on I started buying it.

The following year, Sixties and Northern as it was called took off in a big way at venues like the 6Ts.

Going back to your point about Gordy, musical heroes or Svengali’s, I have had two.

ZANI – And they are?

Eddie Piller - I used to work for Dave Robinson who ran Stiff Records.  He was a marketing genius and broke the likes of Madness, The Pogues, Elvis Costello and The Damned, probably the most successful true ‘Indie’ ever – 250 odd chart hits. Stiff had a great atmosphere, it really was us against the world (or the majors) and very often, we won (they always get you in the end though and Stiff went bust in ‘87)

My other record label hero who I’ve met and interviewed is Andrew Loog Oldham. I suppose I based the marketing philosophy of Acid Jazz on an amalgamation of Oldham’s ideas and Dave Robinson’s promo practices.

ZANI – What was it with you that struck a chord with Andrew Oldham?

Eddie Piller – The man is a fucking genius, I mean he was eighteen years old, self made and driving a Rolls Royce. He was totally Mod, he ran a company with another hero of mine, Peter Meaden and he signed The Small Faces.

Not just the Small Faces either – Immediate was at the heart of the Londoncentric cultural revolution of the mid-sixties.

Oldham is in a different place from the rest of us, he created the Rolling Stones; the biggest band of all time – by pretending that they were a threat – inverting reality, the Stones were the soft middle class kids while the Beatles were the real deal-‘Would you let your daughter sleep with a Rolling Stone?’  I loved the little slogans they would put on their records; “Proud to be Part of the Industry of Human Happiness” We did that at Acid Jazz; “Proud to be Independent” “The Freedom Principle” The concept of slogans is important with music, at Stiff there was ‘If It Ain’t Stiff It Ain’t Worth A Fuck’. Acid Jazz had loads of them.

Both Robinson and Oldham realised that a label’s strength is with its core audience and you have to make them feel involved as if they are part of an exclusive gang that actually get it, whilst the other world out there doesn’t belong. Make them feel that it’s their label. Alan McGee, a contemporary, did this particularly well.

ZANI – Good philosophy, are you a West Ham supporter or Leyton Orient supporter?  

Eddie Piller – Ha. I am actually Orient, I was indeed once a West Ham supporter. I know it’s very unusual to change teams but it happened quite naturally. In the east end, Leyton is everyone’s second favourite team, in the 70’s and 80’s Orient games were always scheduled on separate Saturdays than West Ham or Spurs so their fans could come to Brisbane Road, I was always a reglular there anyway. My dad took me to Upton Park as a kid. I even remember shouts of “We’ve got Harry Redknap on the wing.” Moved up from the north bank to the west side and watched mod flower on the terraces…But, by ‘83 I got a bit pissed off with the way it was going; the violence. What was once a kicking became a Stanley knife. It wasn’t a sudden thing, I just stopped going. There was loads I loved about West Ham but I just wasn’t enjoying going anymore. Orient happened  by accident. At the time, Saturday licencing laws meant that pubs closed at 2 on a Saturday. We had a set routine on Saturdays – record shopping in the morning on the scooter, pie and mash in the east end and then up west. On the way back to Woodford we always drove past Brisbane Road, eventually, the desire for a pint at four o’clock got us stopping off there, it was only four quid or a jump over the wall by the west side. After a while I came to love the atmosphere of the small ground, seeing the same faces every week with no pressure. I got hooked. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a challenge at times, Wimbledon was a big set-to and Southampton in the League Cup when the ICF came down to help was amazing. The Welsh were always a bit hardcore too. Especially Newport County. It was a sad day when they went out of business. I went home and away for about ten years but have slipped back into occasional home games now. I’m generally disillusioned with football these days.

ZANI –  A lot of people have left after England’s performance in the World Cup, what did you think of their performance?

Eddie Piller – Not bothered and it was always going to happen. I think I gave up England when Ericsson took over – I thought that if we can’t find an Englishman to do the job then what’s the point? The golden generation – I mean…get real. I saw England Cameroon at Italia 90 and after we sacked Bobby Robson I realised that the FA was a joke. Always knee-jerk reactions - I haven’t stopped supporting England, but I’ve just lost interest. A shame as I’ve seen England at Wembley about twenty times but I feel much less involved with football then when I was growing up.

ZANI – Do you support another country then? To be honest I always support Italy.

Eddie Piller – I’ve heard you do. In the United Kingdom there are four countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I’ve always loved an underdog and about five years ago started taking a keen interest in Northern Ireland. I’ve been to Ulster about 25 times since the early 80’s dj-ing and I love their plucky spirit even though they have not really got much of a chance-always so near to qualifying but eventually fall at the final hurdle. There’s something quintessentially British about that. Ha.

Saying that, if England had appointed Redknap instead of Capello, I would have been cheering myself hoarse but they didn’t. All this “We’re going to make the next Manager English” – pathetic, Hodgeson’s got his dream job and will be too old by the time he is finished, they’d never have Harry so who else is there?? Peter Taylor was the best candidate, best U21 manager England ever had but that twat Wilkinson fired him and took his job and the decline into nonentity began. The FA are pathetic. As the beautiful Delia Smith recently said “How can the FA sleep at night. Paying Capello 6 million a year whilst letting a club like Chester City go to the wall. It doesn’t make sense.” I met her at Millwall Norwich last season and think she’s great. Let her run the FA.

ZANI - It seems that you were born into Mod, with your mum running The Small Faces fan club and your dad being a Mod?

Eddie Piller – I always say I was but It wasn’t like that really. I had a normal childhood. I did meet Steve Marriott, and Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones made regular trips to our house even up to the late 70’s. The first Small Faces keyboard player, Jimmy Winston’s mum and dad owned a pub next door to my dad’s shop in east Ham. So when they first formed as a band, they asked my mum to run their fan club, which she did. But she was eventually fired by Don Arden. I have got some photos of me as a child with Marriott and Lane, somewhere around the house. However, the reality of it is, I didn’t really remember much of it. The Mod thing I mean.

Yes my dad was a Mod, but a different kind of Mod. He was a kind of Jazz Mod in 1961 – had a Lambretta too.  No, my route into it was like so many others, through Punk, and then I discovered The Jam.

I remember my dad taking me to school in the car in ‘79 and I was playing him a tape that I’d made, which had The Kinks on it. I said to him, this is Mod, and him saying that I had completely missed the point, that this was not what Mod was all about

ZANI – So your own dad was telling you you’d got it wrong?.

Eddie Piller – Yeah, he was saying that Mod is Miles Davies, Art Blakey and Tubby Hayes, that the Kinks, The Who and The Jam was just pop rubbish. And that argument got me interested in the entire concept of what Mod is. Mod is an unbroken line from 1958 to now, and I never realised that. Because in 1979 Mod was about The Jam, The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces, you didn’t know about Soul and you didn’t know about Jazz. You didn’t really know about clothes.

The funny thing was, I didn’t believe him at the time. He was right though. Mod is a broad church.

ZANI – Yeah you did start to discover new music that was related to Mod. It is a voyage of discovery. Weren’t you a roadie for The Angelic Upstarts during your days as a Punk ?

Eddie Piller – No that was much later, I was only a kiddy Punk in 1978 for about a year. I loved the bands; Buzzcocks, Saints, Subway Sect, Only Ones…loads, but I didn’t like the snobby attitude, or the anarchy.

 I was a roadie for Long Tall Shorty. When Shorty briefly spilt in the early eighties, the guy I used to guitar roadie for, Tony Perfect, joined the Upstarts. So I worked for them for a couple of tours, which was insane seeing Skinheads throughout Europe, left and right, fighting each other every night.

Many people thought Mensi, the lead singer was a Fascist, but in fact, he was a hard-core Marxist and an Anarchist. They misinterpreted the Upstarts song England as a fascist song, and it used to go off every time they played it live. But in those days, people used to fight all the time at gigs. Over Europe with them was really bad, I saw some terrible things.

ZANI – Care to tell us about any?
Eddie Piller – Well the Fascists would think ‘yeah this is our song’ and the Communists and anarchists punks would go mad and steam into them. I can’t really describe it, but every gig you went to, there were bloody fights. Planks with nails, golf clubs, baseball bats – I mean how on earth can you smuggle a golf club into a gig venue??

ZANI –Sounds nasty, with a scene like the ‘79 Mod Revival, everyone has their poignant moment when they remembered when they became a Mod, can you remember yours?  

Eddie Piller – Yeah I was about fifteen, I used to like Stiff Little Fingers, and I went to see them play at the Electrical Ballroom. On the way back, I met some kids and we got talking, and they told me their mate’s band were playing on Saturday. My mates and me went, it just so happened it was The Chords.

The third ever gig for The Chords, November or December 1978, in a tiny little pub in Plumstead for a private party.  The next day I went down to the Army and Navy in East Ham and bought a Parka thinking, this is for me. Got home and started talking to my mum about Mod, and she started re-educating me about The Small Faces.

ZANI – Cool. The nice thing about the Mod Scene of 1979, was the bands and the fans are about the same age, and they dressed the same, in a cool way.

Eddie Piller – True, I followed The Purple Hearts when I first saw them in April 1979, and they got back together last year. I was talking to their lead singer Bob Manton at the 100 club in 2009, and I said ”Bob you look really well” asked him how old he was and he replied “forty seven”.  Crikey. Now I first saw The Purple Hearts when I was fifteen, and I am now forty six, so Bob Manton is one year older then me. And that illustrates the gaps between the bands and the fans in the Mod Revival scene, because Punk had its own thing. Punks had younger brothers who couldn’t get into the scene so went off and formed their own bands, the gaps between the audience is a year. You can’t be pretentious when the singer is sixteen and the kid in the audience is fifteen, it was a beautiful time.

ZANI – Moving away from Mod for a while, your first record label was Countdown records?

Eddie Piller – Countdown was actually my second.. I started my first record label in 1981, a subsidiary of the fanzine (Extraordinary Sensations) which was called Well Suspect. It was named after a Mod Shop in Carnaby Street who were around in 1979. They sold nice clothes, which Sherrys, Merc and Robot didn’t. But it only lasted a year and then went bust.  

By 1981 was managing a R ‘n’ B Mod band called Fast Eddie, they were amongst the first wave of new R‘n’B bands,  around the time of Nine Below Zero and The Q Tips. I was managing them at eighteen and started Well Suspect with a mate to put the single out. I also released The Merton Parkas and a couple of comps.

ZANI – You were a right little Andrew Oldham back then.

Eddie Piller – I started my fanzine at sixteen, by the time I was seventeen I was selling 10,000 copies an issue. It was happy days, I suppose the equivalent of a blog or efanzine today but with slightly more distribution problems..

ZANI – I remember going to the Flea Market in Carnaby Street, where now stands Boots, to buy a copy of Extraordinary Sensations. The name comes from a Purple Hearts song doesn’t it?

Eddie Piller – One of their b sides in 1980, they used to play it live.

ZANI – Were you influenced by the Punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, created by Mark Perry?

Eddie Piller – No I was most influenced by Maximum Speed and Get Up Ad Go which was run by Guns For Hire/Department S’s Vaughan Toulouse and Tony Lordan – Vaughn died twenty years ago, which was a tragedy.

ZANI – Yeah Department S, Is Vic There? and he also appeared on the sleeve of The Jam’s Bitterest Pill.   

Eddie Piller – Vaughan was a bit of icon to me when I was a young Mod. You have to remember the Mod Scene was like a bit of a closed shop back then.  On Monday you would go and see Secret Affair at The Bridgehouse, Tuesday might be Small Hours at The Rock Garden, on Wednesday you would go and see Beggar at some dodgy pub down the Balls Pond Road, Friday the Wellington etc… So most nights of the week you were out, it only cost thirty or fifty pence to get into a gig.  So it wasn’t a problem for a kid to go out and you used to see the same people at these gigs as you recognised from the early Jam gigs – this is how the scene developed pre-Quadrophenia. Vaughn and Tony encouraged me to start the fanzine but then so did Goffa from Maximum Speed or Dominic from Shake, Ray Patriotic and Steve Roadrunner – we were a close knit family back then, fanzine editors.

ZANI – Remember doing your first copy?

Eddie Piller – At my mum’s work, she had a rotary printer where we had to use this horrible type of blotting paper, only made 30 and sold them all in one night at the Bridge, don’t even have one myself... But by issue four a mate of mine had admitted to being an apprentice printer and reckoned he could print the fanzine at work. It started off as fifty or a hundred print run per issue but by issue seven we were pushing 4000 and by 10, almost 10,000; he was printing this without his boss knowing... So it started off as a lunchtime project, then he was working through the night in secret. Not the kind of thing you would get away with now…Used to staple them myself though which was mind-numbingly boring.

ZANI – I know the one, I used have to staple the early issues of my old fanzine Positive Energy Of Madness.

Eddie Piller – by issue 13, exactly 26,000 staples later and me on my own in my nan’s front room – I decided it was too much work and started to look elsewhere.

ZANI – Did you get a publishing deal during this time for Extraordinary Sensations?

Eddie Piller –   No, but I did for a book I’d been researching on The Small Faces. It was a company called Proteus Books, but again, they went bust (conveniently just after they paid my advance.) It was around this time that I met Terry Rawlings. We became partners in Extraordinary Sensations and he helped me with the record label Countdown with Maxine Conroy.

ZANI – And from Countdown you started Acid Jazz?

Eddie Piller –  No, I set up a label called Re Elect The President, which released stuff like James Taylor Quartet, The Jazz Renegades, and a Swedish band called The Creeps, a Psychedelic Mod band. It released about ten records in all and eventually Stiff approached me and said what have you got? I told Dave Robinson that I had a mod/ska hybrid band from the States but that I thought It was too big for my own label -they were called The Untouchables - Robinson, probably thinking about his success with Madness jumped at the chance and they delivered the last 2 top 40 hits of the mod revival.

ZANI – I remember it well, I Spy For The FBI and Free Yourself.

Eddie Piller – You know it

ZANI – Saw them in their heyday, at Guildford University. OK, before we discuss the origin of Acid Jazz, I understand you have recently signed Tony Christie?

Eddie Piller – Yeah, that’s true – first single is out in November – I describe it as a classic mod soul album with filmic influences – it’s really amazing and nothing at all like Amarillo, more like Avenues and Alleyways – I think TC felt at home with my take on his heritage and his take on soul music – this is like a ‘back to my roots’ type album - when I heard the songs I went mental, it’s the best thing I’ve signed in ten years.  

ZANI – Look forward to hearing them. Your first top ten with Acid Jazz, correct me if I am wrong, was a cover of a Led Zeppelin song?

Eddie Piller – Yeah, Whole Lot of Love by Goldbug which included the Pearl and Dean music.

ZANI – I remember that well from the cinema, I mean the Pearl and Dean music, not A Whole Lot of Love. It was quite inspiring when you were sitting in the cinema, waiting for a film to start.

Eddie Piller – A whole generation remembers Pearl and Dean. Look for the hook - Dave Robinson taught me this, a good song, is a good song, it doesn’t matter if a band didn’t write it, and I have always used covers as a tool to have success with minority music.

ZANI – Please expand?

Eddie Piller - You could open doors and get air play, like Acid Jazz’s cover of Duffy’s Mercy, which we released last year. Everyone hated Duffy’s song, well apart from the twenty million people that bought it. But everyone who liked real music loved our version, it was played on the radio and everyone thought it was the original. So I have always used covers. Yes my biggest hit was a Led Zeppelin cover, so what? Led Zeppelin nicked it off The Small Faces, who nicked it of Willie Dixon.

ZANI – When Acid Jazz was launched in 1988 by you and Gilles Peterson, do you think it was eclipsed by Acid House?

Eddie Piller – No, it was the alternative to Acid House, they went hand in hand. I was on the Ibiza holiday that Special Branch organised in 1986 or ‘87 where Acid House was discovered by Danny Rampling, Pete Tong, Nicky Holloway, Trevor Fung and Johnnie Walker. There were about three hundred people there on what was basically the London soul scene on holiday and half way through the trip the crowd literally split in half – those that liked the new house sound (which at the time could only be heard in one club in Ibiza) and those who didn’t – it was a strange holiday that one.

Everybody embraced Ecstasy culture, but I didn’t particularly like the music - I was into the Acid House scene for about six months, went to Nicky Holloway do’s and Shoom, but dancing to Can You Feel it with a bunch of former Football hooligans all off their heads and shirtless was too much for me in the end.

We still loved Black music, and we thought we could use the spirit of this Acid House thing to reinvigorate rare groove, funk and jazz. It worked but we were stuck for a name and wondered what we were going to call it, - in the end we went for the lowest common denominator and called it Acid Jazz – The label was only going to release four or five records…After a while Gilles Peterson became fed up with the whole retro thing, but that is the music that I loved and grew up with – soul jazz and funk, and by its nature is fundamentally retro, so he shot off to start Talking Loud in 1989. This left me to do a carte blanche and sign whoever I wanted – that’s when we signed Jamiroquai.

ZANI – He’s still around now, and highly successful. So clearly you have a good ear.

Eddie Piller – Jamiroquai have sold about fifty million records, one of the biggest Artists in the world over the last 20 years, but Andrew Loog Oldham once told me that you can never ‘discover’ anybody, you just happen to be in the right place at the right time and recognise greatness when it walks past. He’s right.

ZANI – You have a spiritual relationship with music, what makes a record special for you?

Eddie Piller – Funnily enough, I only bought a record player the other week, I didn’t have one at home for about three years. I suppose I just got a bit fed up with music 24-7 – I play it and make it for a living and have done for almost 30 years. I also don’t like other people’s musical selections much..

I have got certain loves in music that are givens, one of them is Leroy Huston, a seventies soul singer and songwriter who replaced Curtis Mayfield in The Impressions. He is the best producer of black music whom I have ever come across. I love Sixties Soul, Northern Soul, Jazz Funk and I love a little bit of indie, Stone Roses, Primal Scream-and I love Oasis as well.  Add Folk,  Roots Reggae, Dub, Jungle and old school hip hop and that just about covers it

ZANI - Would you say you were the Pete Meaden, for the Mod revivalist generation?

Eddie Piller – No but that’s a beautiful thing, but he is the only Mod poet and philosopher that has ever been. He is our Bryon, our freedom fighter, and no one has been as eloquent at capturing what it is like to be a Mod more then him.

Everyone asks what is it to be a Mod. It’s quite simple; “Modism, Mod living, is an aphorism for clean living under difficult circumstances.” It means nothing, but it means everything, no one can define it. That is what is so good about it, but you read Pete Meaden’s interviews, he had come up with this idea of Mod as a youth culture and a social force that could destroy or at least subvert contemporary society, and to a degree it worked - but it didn’t work for him; because he lost the plot and went mad on too much speed.

ZANI - Yeah, a drug casualty. What film has been your template for life?

Eddie Piller – Quadrophenia

ZANI – Really?  

Eddie Piller – (laughs) Yeah, I grew up with the Curbishley kids, whose parents made the film. I had the chance to be an extra in Quadrophenia, but I was on holiday with my mum in Ibiza, I do regret missing that actually.

Quadrophenia is not a template for Mod, it’s just a great story that uses Mod as its backdrop, and the mod it depicts influenced mod on the streets a generation later... before Quadrophenia, people went to Clacton on Sea by train, after the film people went there on scooters, thousands of them. What Quadrophenia did was influence contemporary culture in a way that no other film has ever done. That has been my film template for life, but my favourite film is Wicker Man, without a shadow of a doubt.

ZANI - Ever thought about writing a book?

Eddie Piller – Yeah loads of times, couldn’t write a book about what I’ve seen and done, because loads of people would be fucked off. Maybe in twenty years – I’ve even been asked if we’d consent to a film about the Acid Jazz story. I laughed my tits off.

ZANI – You should, it would be fun.  But what would you like that it as documentary or as a drama, and if so who would you like to play you?

Eddie Piller – There has been documentaries about Acid Jazz before, some of which I have written. The trouble is with history is in the name; His Story. It’s the story of the person who writes it. Therefore it’s not the truth because everyone has their own truth and it is always subjective.

ZANI – History is written by the conquerors.

Eddie Piller – True, I suppose if it was a drama I’d like Martin Freeman to play me as he’s got the style… Or Russell Crowe ‘cos he’s a great actor and has a couple of cousins who’ve played test cricket...

ZANI – Talking of Martin Freeman, who recently appeared in Svengali, did you enjoy your role in the show, which sort of paid homage to Secret Affair in your episode.  

Eddie Piller – Only because Dean Cavanagh liked Secret Affair from his youth and Matt Berry changed the lines as he went along – I just kind of became Mr Secret Affair, which was quite ironic because I was in the Time For Action video an ’79 and their guitarist Dave Cairns is a good mate of mine from school. I loved it actually the episode was shot in the Acid Jazz office which Horsey was borrowing off me for a few weeks.

I love the whole series of Svengali, it’s funny.

ZANI – I have been in it you know.

Eddie Piller – Yeah I have seen it, I hope it grows and becomes a big success.

ZANI – What band would you have liked to have signed or still sign for Acid Jazz ?

Eddie Piller – New bands, I wish I’d signed The Milk, as they are about to be enormous – I tried to sign Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip a few years back but couldn’t – genius…

However, I almost signed Paul Weller when he released his first solo album. I was trying to create a proper Acid Jazz division at a major – didn’t really work out though as most majors liked different bands on the label – Sony went for Jay Kay, London for The Brand New Heavies and no one really understood the idea of a package, I also had Terry Callier and A Man Called Adam (who became Leftfield) and a few promising others at the time – plenty of majors offered in the end but I didn’t feel comfortable so it didn’t happen – I would love to have signed Weller though.

ZANI – They would have had a great deal, short sighted by the majors.

Eddie Piller – I did make a record with Weller before he split The Style Council though, and he was still with Polydor. It was called King Truman, with Mick Talbot, Paul Weller, DC Lee and Carleen Anderson on vocals. It was a P Funk thing, you could tell he wanted to change what he was doing but Polydor wouldn’t let him. So he made his record on Acid Jazz, and then he formed the Paul Weller Movement, which I think is a brilliant record.

ZANI – I would like to hear that record-what are your interests outside of music?

Eddie Piller – I play Cricket, I ride my scooters, classic cars. I love history and archaeology.

ZANI - Nice one, I love learning about history. Plans for the future?

Eddie Piller – Publishing a couple of books, by Paolo Hewitt and Terry Rawlings, we have signed a great progressive funk band called Twisted Tongue; and promoting Tony Christie. Oh yeah, Matt Berry is now on the label with an album due next year and  we released a charity record to raise some money for a Fred Keenor statue, the old Cardiff captain who got wounded at the Somme – Jonny Owen is singing and members of the Super Furry’s and Catatonia are on it – it’s like a Welsh Pogues. A striking miners song from the turn of the 19th century – it’s the oldest football song in the world. Might get to number one.

ZANI – Sounds like you are busy as always. Final question, what have you learnt from life?

Eddie Piller – That’s the hardest question there is, you learn not to make the same mistakes, but if you could do your time again you would still make the same mistakes. Life is tough, but all too beautiful.

Eddie Piller has led a beautiful life, but this is from hard work and seizing the opportunity with both hands. There is a twinkle in his eye, when he speaks about music, his achievements and his dreams. He may be in his forties but he has the ambitions of a twenty one year old. There is certainly a positive energy from Piller when you speak to him, which you do feed off.

However from speaking to him, you can sense that he is a man who likes to get his own way. Those character traits are needed in success, regardless of the nature of the business. Yet Piller is humble when he speaks, as well being charming, witty, articulate and intelligent. Whether or not he is the Pete Meaden of the Mod Revival generation is up to the reader but without doubt he is a well respected man in the minds of many Modernists of today.

© Words Matteo Sedazzari/ZANI Media

Read 11067 times Last modified on Saturday, 10 April 2021 13:59
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Matteo Sedazzari

Matteo Sedazzari

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ZANI was conceived in late 2008 and the fan base gradually grew by word of mouth. Key contributors came from those of the music, film and fashion industry and the voice of ZANI grew louder. So, when in 2013 investor, contributor and fan of ZANI Alan McGee* offered his support to help restyle and relaunch the site it was inevitable that traffic would increase dramatically and continues to grow. *Alan McGee co-founder of Creation Records and new label 359 Music..


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ZANI is an independent online magazine for readers interested in contemporary culture, covering Music, Film & TV, Sport, Art amongst other cultural topics. Relevant to modern times ZANI is a dynamic website and a flagship for creative movement and thinking wherever our readers live in the world.