PANIC - The Story So Far...A.K.A. "I hope you're sitting comfortably, cuz Jamie's gone overboard with all his PANIC facts again....."

 Durham City.  England.  The summer of 1993.  In one fell swoop, I had fallen out with my girlfriend, my best friend and my beloved band had broken up.  KIDS & FLAGS were just about to record our half of a split 7" with Nottingham's MUGWUMP, when a stupid misunderstanding over a small amount of money, sent the three most important things in my life crashing to the ground.  I'd just turned 18, and for the last year I'd been visiting Nottingham fairly regularly as I had made friends with DOWNFALL when they were on tour with BORN AGAINST and had played with my band in Durham.  Plus, on one of my numerous visits to the Rock City nightclub in Notts, I'd also made friends with a strange individual called Digs, who had spotted my ALL t-shirt and engaged me in a conversation involving Lookout Records, NOFX, The MISFITS and various other important topics.  I worked out that I now probably had more friends in the Midlands and decided to take my bad luck as a sign and as a fork in the road and to move out of my parents’ house and to a different part of the country.  There was nothing left anchoring me to the North-East now anyway, so that was that.  I finished my course at college, quit my job and said goodbye to my family. 

I embraced my new life and loved every minute of the non-stop partying and drinking lifestyle that I had fallen into.  I decided that I wouldn't bother looking for a job after all, as my new found punk pals all seemed to get by alright on the dole.  So, with loads of time on my hands, the search was on for some similar minded musicians.  Simon, who worked at the local record shop, had just formed BOB TILTON from the ashes of DOWNFALL, but wanted to do a pop-punk band as well.  He informed me that he knew a band that had recently lost their bassist and needed a singer too, so he arranged a jam with the two guys in their rehearsal room for the next evening.  At the time, they were called SKULLFARM, but I didn't let that put me off... 

I walked into the pub the next night with Simon and Neil (also now in BOB TILTON) and immediately spotted a guy with a red ALL t-shirt on.  "Nice shirt" I said, and showed him the same design that I had tattooed on my leg.  "Nice one" he says.  Si makes the introductions; "Jamie this is Tot, the drummer. Tot, Jamie".  It was a promising start....  I was also presented to the guitarist, called Yellowman.  He was a pleasant and clean-cut fellow, who rather strangely was in CONCRETE SOX for a while.  Having all hit it off rather nicely, we proceeded to have a pretty good practice, covering "Silly Girl" by the DESCENDENTS as we went along.  It wasn't really Simon or Neil's thing, but the three of us carried on rehearsing for the next few weeks, eventually adding a bassist called Zac Bingo who was formerly in MUGWUMP with Digs.  I was churning out plenty of new songs, we covered "He's a Whore" by CHEAP TRICK and "I Got You" by SPLIT ENZ and it wasn't long before we were being offered gigs by people.  So after only 3 or 4 rehearsals as a four-piece, under the name of KIDS & FLAGS, we played a gig in Wakefield with a green as hell CHOPPER and then a month later, as the newly christened TRAPDOOR, kicked ass at the legendary Narrowboat Pub in Nottingham with the SUGAR-RAYS  (who incidentally broke up that night and went on to form the X-RAYS).  

 One evening though, as I turned up to band practice, Yellowman was packing his equipment into his car and informed me that the band was splitting up.  Partly because he wasn't into doing gigs all of the time, but mostly cuz he thought that Zac was a cunt.  In hindsight, he was right.  Zac was a right royal twat.  I was mortified, and at that point I decided to sell my amp, retire from the music business and become a full time drunkard. 

1994, and during my self-imposed hiatus from "the biz", I kept myself busy by either drinking cider heavily every day or by driving and roadieing for local punk heroes SLUM GANG.  I also followed RANCID around on tour and saw GREEN DAY play live waaay too many times.  I kept in contact with Tot and also re-acquainted myself with Digs who had just returned from Bristol where he'd been to University.  I think it was Digs who suggested getting a band together first, as I still felt jaded and uninspired, yet regardless, I said that I knew of a drummer but doubted he'd be into doing a band due to the fact that he'd just got married.  Nevertheless, we all agreed to meet at the JAWBREAKER gig the following night.  Tot and Digs instantly got along fine and to my amazement, Tot said that he was up for it and that we should get together soon for a practice.  JAWBREAKER stopped at my house that night and I gave them my room to crash in, but instead of looking after my guests, I borrowed a guitar from a housemate and started getting loads of ideas for songs together.  Cometh the glorious day that shall forever be remembered in the annals of history, we attempted a cover of "Walk On By" by PEGBOY, completed an instrumental track and jammed a tune which would soon become our first song, "Empty Pockets".  I decided that I really didn't want to be the lead singer though.  All I wanted to do was to rock out and do a little backing vocals, so in-between rehearsals we searched high and low for a charismatic frontman.  Or woman, obviously.  As many of you will know, sorting out a band name can be an absolute nightmare, but after eradicating a load of stupid ones like "The Flip-Flops", "The Back-Packs" and "Tot Flip-Flop & the Back-Packs", (although Tot did adopt the "Flip-Flop" surname) we managed to whittle it down to either "The Vapids" or "Panic".  And to answer the age old question; yes, of course it has something to do with SCREECHING WEASEL you fools!!  We still love 'em and along with the RAMONES, are probably the only band that the three of us actually agree on.  Them and probably PROPAGHANDHI too... 

1995 arrived, and with it brought a loud, fat, Glenn Danzig look-a-like, that seemed to smell of sausages all of the time.  Pug Slum, as well as being the Slum Gang drummer, was a fellow Geordie and he had been the one to christen me "Jamie Delerict".  It would have been "Derelict" but for his speech impediment and all.  He had a cool vocal style and was already mates with us anyway, so he slotted in nicely.  I was more than content with just doing the odd bit of vocals and writing the tunes with Digs.  I also lived with Pug at the time, so we worked on melodies and stuff most days.  We had to really, cuz his memory was appalling!  We were eventually deemed ready to be unleashed live and we received the perfect platform when we were offered the support slot for the QUEERS gig in Notts.  Unfortunately, that was their ill-fated UK tour and they didn't show up, but a large crowd still did and we even pulled off three QUEERS covers to keep the punters happy!  We were only to play one more show after that though, (slipping in a scorching version of "Rat Patrol" by NAKED RAYGUN) because an ultimatum was delivered by the singer of Slum Gang for Pug to choose one band and one band only to play in.  At the time, the Slums were quite popular around these parts, so we parted company, with more gigs booked and fast approaching.  I reluctantly agreed to fill in on lead vocals until we found a suitable replacement, but I really didn't believe that my voice was good enough to pull it off properly.  On our travels, we encountered DAGOBAH from Grantham, who we ended up playing a lot with and are still very good friends of ours.  In fact Tony still has PANIC's first gig with me singing on video, but refuses to this day to give me the tape, based on the grounds of Digs still having his Descendents video and an old skateboard shirt of his.  I don't know the truth, and I'd rather not know, thank you very much.  The hunt for a vocalist intensified.  We tried out a cute girl on vocals, but she was rubbish.  I wouldn't have minded going off on a REZILLOS type tangent at the time, but whatever.  The local scene was thriving at the time and we continued to play loads of gigs with the likes of the X-RAYS, CONSUMED, and BRADWORTHY at the Narrowboat, which was now bringing in quite a big crowd.  In the end, we'd played that many gigs with me singing, that we gave up looking and accepted the hand we'd been dealt.

Now, I, like many other punkers before me, always carried a dream of running my own record label someday.  Well, for whatever reasons they were, my Dad very kindly lent me more money than quite frankly I thought he had, and so Delerict Records was born.  Even though Panic probably had just about enough material to do an album, I decided that we simply weren't ready.  Looking back on the songs at our disposal, and more importantly, how sloppy we were back then, I guess that the right call was made, but you can't help wondering "what if?"....  Anyhow, I made the decision to release two 7" EP's.  One by the still criminally underrated SLUM GANG and the other by Leicester's NERVES.  The Slum's were long overdue an official release and had quite a following, so I assumed that at the very least, National domination awaited around the corner.  NERVES though, were already creating big waves around the country and had the uncanny ability to appeal to both the "punk as fuck" crowd and to the more U.S. orientated lot.  Anyone who saw them live in the mid-nineties will vouch for how good they were live and they had a split EP under their belts, but nothing more.  Both bands were very good friends of mine, but like 80% of punk bands, they had plenty of internal bickering going on and occasionally their futures were in doubt.  I made a point of telling both bands that if there was even the slightest chance of them breaking-up, that I wouldn't go ahead with their record.  I was assured that everything was totally cool in both camps but guess what?  By the time I got those slabs of wax from the pressing plant, both bands had broken up!  Without either of 'em playing live and promoting the records I was fucked as distributors just didn't wanna touch me or my stupid record label.  Lots of small distros ripped me off and I just ended up hating the whole thing.  The one provision of getting the loan from my Dad in the first place was that I would give him monthly updates on how I was doing.  It was safe to say that the figures didn't quite match those on my business plan's.....  Thoroughly disheartened and with Panic getting busier all the time, the whole record label thing just slipped away.  I've still got bloody hundreds of the things in my flat, but if I move again I seriously doubt that they'll follow me.  Maybe I could have and should have done more to keep the label alive, but I still blame those damn bands for it's downfall.  As Ian McKaye once sarcastically said:  "Thanks a lot friends".    

Back to Panic. Our rehearsal rooms, the Warehouse, also had a studio so we decided to record a demo with Kev, the owner, towards the end of the year.   We recorded 6 songs (see our DISCOGRAPHY for track listing) and called it "Go Home".  During the recording, while we were in booths with headphones on, Kev was threatened with a knife by some wannabe burglar, but he fled empty handed and Kev calmly resumed his studio work...  We probably copied about 200 of those bad boys and sold 'em at gigs for 50p or a quid, depending on demand.  The song "New Tattoo" appeared on the "Wood Panel Pacer Wagon With Mags" compilation LP, which was released in the U.S. on Too Many Records.  This was the first ever 100 band compilation (including LESS THAN JAKE, BORIS THE SPRINKLER and The FUMES) and was released years before a certain Fat Mike thought of doing a huge comp... 

In 1996, on the back of our demo, we received lots of positive press from all over Britain and so, began to spread our wings outside of the Midlands to play our first London gig.  In an important turning point, Gary from the X-RAYS passed on our demo to one of the Virgin Records reps that came into the record shop where he worked who'd apparently been looking for bands to be on his new label.  After one listen, he immediately contacted us and said that he and his mate wanted to release an EP as soon as possible.  We were absolutely thrilled and so began our rollercoaster ride with Phoenix Records.  The rep was called Lee and his partner in crime was the ex-drummer from ANTI-PASTI, Stan Smith.  They had the money and they seemed to have the drive, as well as having loads of contacts and they were definitely into Panic. 

The deal was, that we finance the recording ourselves and they'd take care of the rest.  As luck would have it, a friend of ours (Steve Blackman) was doing a sound engineering course at the local university and could get us a day in the studio for free.  Whoooo!  The date turned out to be the day after my 21st birthday, so Tot and myself were a little worse for wear that morning, although it seemed to go ok.  It sounded a little bit ropey to me, but we were assured that it'd be cool come the mixing session.  We waited.  Time passed.  So much time in fact, that Tot's wife gave birth to their first child, Amy (I'm her Godfather by the way!).  We waited and waited, but Steve told us that he couldn't get back into the studio to mix the four tracks.  Months went by, then all of a sudden, I received the DAT tape.  "I tried to ring you, but I had to just go ahead and mix it anyway" he said.  We weren't happy, but had no other choice than to send it on to Phoenix anyway.   

Our mate Noel Sharman did a cracking cover for us and I cut 'n' pasted the rest.  Before you knew it we'd received the finished article; 500 hand numbered, glossy and well cool looking they were too.  It was called "Her Family's On Drugs" after the title track about my then girlfriend's weird family.  However, I'll never forget the look on Tot's face the day he brought my copy over and slipped the disk onto my turntable.  It sounded absolutely fucking terrible.  We were not amused I can tell you.  Steve Blackman was not my favourite person for quite a while after that either.  Amazingly though, it received fantastic reviews everywhere.  Fanzines praised the "rawness" and it even made international punk bible MRR's editor Tim Yohannan's top ten.   The 500 singles sold out before many promo copies had been sent out, so another 1000 were hastily pressed with a different Phoenix logo and on recycled paper this time round  (if anyone's bothered).  We were getting our name around nicely, supporting MILLENCOLIN and NO FUN AT ALL amongst others, but there was a problem within the band:  Digs was doing our bloody heads in!!  

 He was an absolute nightmare when it came to playing gigs away from home.  He'd be the first to admit now that he whinged about sleeping arrangements and long car journeys and basically anything else that displeased him remotely, as well as asking way too many questions that he just assumed either me or Tot knew the answers to.  We'd been offered an album by Phoenix by this time and the gigs were coming thick and fast, so after a long discussion with Tot,  it was decided that I was to be the one to break the bad news to our buddy Digs.  It was a horrible, horrible experience and we were both a little bit upset, but we agreed that it was for the best in the long run.  Digs had recently started making short films too, so at least he'd be channeling his creativity somewhere.  We had a gig booked in Leeds 48 hours after our conversation, so we had to find a bass player quick!  

Slum Gang bassist Lee Van Cleaver had recently moved into my house, so after buying him a couple of pints at our local, I asked him to temporarily join us for the next few gigs.  I knew that he'd say yes, it was now just a matter of how long we could keep him for!  We practiced in my room for hours that night, thrashing out the set right until the moment Tot came to pick us up for the gig.  On arrival though, outside the venue in Leeds, a bunch of Nazis attacked us and the other band, DOG ON A ROPE and I got CS gassed in my face, which really bloody hurts.  The coppers came and shut the gig down, but a quick call to our buddies Chopper, had us scamming our way onto the bill in the town that was fast becoming pop-punk central: Wakefield! 

Unfortunately for us, the end of this year saw the end of the City's most celebrated venue, when the Narrowboat was demolished.  I don't really think the local "alternative" scene has ever quite recovered, as we still don't have a regular venue or a regular crowd to speak of... 

Come 1997 we were being offered decent support slots and rubbing shoulders with prolific mid-carders such as J CHURCH, BLANKS '77 and FYP.  We also landed a gig at Rock City in Nottingham, which is supposedly a kind of Mecca for bands, and, for the record, we were absolutely fucking disgraceful.  You know, I still can't believe how much we used to drink back then, I really can't.  London gigs were a-plenty too, playing with cool bands like the GRISWALDS and TOAST and as I'd hoped and expected, Cleaver was now totally settled in the band and quite enjoying the little bits of attention we were getting around this period.  

It was soon debut album time, and Phoenix had even booked us into the studio owned by THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN in London and got us a producer who'd (allegedly) recently worked with SKUNK ANANSIE, BABYBIRD and other such nonsense.  For such a hotshot working with the stars, it was weird that we had to tape over one of ALISON MOYET's DAT demo's, but it was funny so I didn't question it.  It only took about four days in total to record and mix seventeen songs for the "Gremlin Generation" CD.  It was gonna be sixteen tracks, with the song "Parasite" going on a compilation for something or other.  We realised there was something weird going on though, when Darren Allison, the producer, said that we shouldn't have recorded that last song if it was going onto a comp.  Apparently it would involve more contracts and legal stuff and it was then that we realised that we were in over our heads.  Still, we trusted Stan and Lee.  They said that they were going to get us a van and amps and any merchandise stuff that we wanted too.  They'd already spent a lot of money on us, so we believed them.  Noel once again did the cover art and I did the rest of the layout stuff, it was gonna be a great package. 

 Months passed and we waited patiently.  As long as we were gonna get it by the time we went on tour with SCARED OF CHAKA in the Winter, it'd be ok.  But we didn't.  So we had to go out on tour with nothing to sell!!  It was our first bunch of gigs in a row and it went pretty well and was a great laugh all in all.  Except for the fact that we haven't been invited back to Brighton since, probably due to the fact that Coop (X-RAYS) who'd booked the tour, used the promoter’s phone to ring Empty Records in Seattle and ran up what must have been a huge bill for the poor bloke. 

Nearing the end of the year, not only had Phoenix pissed us off big time, but other bands such as LOVEJUNK and PINTO were continually asking us what was going on, as they too had apparently been offered the moon-on-a-stick by Stan and Lee.  Phoenix (or Phoenix Arizona Ltd. as they now liked to be called) were starting to get a bad reputation and it seemed as though we were getting a bit of mud thrown at us too.  Cleaver, at this point had fallen in love with the singer from the band PMT, and informed us that he was moving in to her Norwich home but still wanted to continue playing in the band.  We appreciated his dedication, but knew deep down that "this" Panic wasn't gonna last for much longer... 

1998, and if memory serves me right, the "Gremlin Generation" CD came out nearly a year after the recording.  Although it sounded ok, (though nowhere near as good as it should have sounded, what with an alleged pop/rock producer at the helm) they had tampered with my artwork (including taking off our PO Box address - why????) and also put "Parasite" on as a hidden track.  I fucking hate hidden tracks and I hate being lied to.  I went mad at Stan on the phone, but all I got for my trouble was a mouthful of abuse from his wife about how ungrateful we were and how her family is now thousands of pounds in debt because of us.  Sorry missus, but it wasn't me who married a prick. 

With that relationship over and done with, a lovely young kid by the name of Lester put us on in Northampton and asked us to be the first release on his new label, Hectic Records.  We just told him that if he paid for everything, he had a deal, no strings attached.  We thought that it was probably all talk, but before we knew it we had the studio booked and things started progressing.  However, the current Panic line up was evidently not gonna have much more mileage in it what with Cleaver hitching back and forth across the country for gigs and by the time we'd played a fun-packed show with the MISFITS in Birmingham, (for the full story on that go to the Time On Your Hands website, find it under "Personal Scribblin" :- Misfits vs Panic) we all knew that it was the end of the road for Panic mk II.  We simply weren't practicing, playing live or even writing enough anymore.  By now, Tot had even resorted to doing a side project with Digs and our roadie Andy Hazard called THINGS FROM OUTER SPACE just to keep himself busy and drumming.  Luckily, Cleaver ended up making the first move to leave, so we avoided any awkward-type stuff.  Incidentally, he's still living with Sue in Norwich, so it was a good judgement call!!  We asked him to do one more recording with us as his swan song and he was more than happy to oblige.   

We recorded at a massive studio called the Square Centre in Nottingham and used local nu-metal wizard Dave Chang to engineer, who was famed for his work with heavy guitar bands.  We did it all in a day and we had a full colour four-track EP in our hands in no time.  There were next to no problems with production from start to finish, Lester was great and the "You Smell Like A Brewery" EP is considered by quite a few people (including Digs) as the best thing we've ever done.  It certainly looks and sounds good to me.  

 By the time it was released, Digs had put me in touch with a young lad by the name of Jan Zadora.  He wanted desperately to play bass for us and was more than eager for a try out.  It turns out that I'd met him once before, back in 1993 when he was 15 and in a band with Digs' brother called JACK SHIT.  Apparently I said that they were well sloppy, but in a charming way, similar to CRIMPSHRINE.  Anyway, aside from him being a bit of a slacker / stoner type, he was a good guy, a great bass player and had a pretty cool voice.  On top of all that, he learned our back catalogue very quickly and wrote his own songs!  It was all systems go once again.  He was nervous as hell when it came to playing his first live gig, but quickly got into the swing of things.  

 Digs' film career was blossoming at this time, so he offered to shoot us a video for a track from the EP called "Gremlin Comprehensive School".  We both pulled some cool ideas together, but had to wait for quite a while to get all the equipment together and the various helpers in the same place at the same time.  While Panic waited for other people to get their shit together yet again, Tot became a father for the second time.  Another daughter, named Cara.  He was now only one away from owning a three-piece, all-girl, pop-punk band!  

 Back to the story, and unfortunately for me, the day of the shoot fell on my then-girlfriend’s birthday, who at the time I was also living with.  This sparked the first of a long line of "me or the band" type arguments which would plague the following 12 months of my life.  The filming went well and we had a local gig coming up which would provide us with the live footage we needed.  Along with BRADWORTHY and DAGOBAH, we packed the place out and whether it was due to the cameras or the fact that a load of Jan's mates came along, we had a blast and assumed that this would kickstart the local punk scene once again.  That wasn't to be the case sadly, but the video turned out great and we flogged loads of them for just one pound at gigs.  I've been told that it was seen on MTV2 a couple of times, but I've not received any royalties from that so I don't know....  It was shown on various cable shows and stuff in the U.S. though if that counts for anything.  

 Over the course of the year, I'd got back in touch with Kev from Durham, who I had had that monumental falling out with back in '93, and arranged to meet up with him when I headed back up North for Christmas.  We decided to let the past be, and started over again, getting along great just like old times.  He told me that he'd saved up a fair bit of money over the years and was keen to start a record label.  He also wanted to get the hell out of Durham and move somewhere new with his girlfriend.  As the beer flowed that night, we decided that he'd move to Nottingham, call his label "Your Illegal Recording Company", release Panic's new album and send us to America to promote it.  Come the morning, it still seemed like a good idea, so what the hey, we set about doing just that... 

1999 started off terribly for me as I foolishly tried to resurrect my footballing career one more time.  On my debut for Jan's Sunday league team, I ruptured my knee ligaments for the third time and was out of gig action for months.  Jan and myself kept writing new material though, as we'd booked the Square Centre studio for June to record our new album and we had many songs to write.  Jan was proving to be a bit of a pain in the arse to work with though, as he didn't seem to understand the words "compromise" or "teamwork" at all and rather alarmingly, expressed his desire to become a famous solo artist one day, as long as, and I quote, "it wouldn't involve too much hard work"...  Of the songs JZ brought to practice, around 20% totally rocked and about 80% totally blew.

By this time, I felt as if I was on the brink of a some kind of mini-breakdown too, as my home life had reached new lows and was suffocating not only my creativity, but my very own well being.  My blood pressure was through the roof and I was constantly on edge.  We managed to squeeze a few gigs in anyway to test drive some of our new material before disappearing into the studio and we were pleased with how the dual vocals thing was turning out.  It was also cool that Jan was taking over the lead vocals in some songs as it kinda gave us another dimension or something.  I was worried about him being in the studio environment though, as he was totally unfamiliar with it, but to his credit, he was a trooper and his stuff sounded great.  The three of us managed to knock it out in four days and we were all content. 

 It cost a lot of money, but Kev didn't care, as he loved the finished product.  We had full colour art to mess around with again and once we'd got Noel's artistic interpretation of the title track "Movers & Shakers", myself, Kev and a mate of mine from work set about putting the package together.  Kev's girlfriend Nichola took some classy black and white photographs of us and we constructed a fantastic booklet for the CD, only to have to scrap the idea completely because of being quoted wrongly by the pressing plant.  So, we simplified it, but by the time the finished article arrived, it had been fucked about with so much that someone, somewhere had made a bit of a mess of it.  Still, we were stuck with it now... 

 Reviews were more varied this time around which took us by surprise a little, and unfortunately some people seemed more concerned with the "controversial" artwork than with the music.  The band still see nothing wrong with the imagery to this day and as Tot said at the time:  "That'll teach Panic for trying to carry a serious message for once".  At the time, the criticism hurt me a lot and offended us as a group, but we still stand by what we were attempting to portray and anyway, it's better to provoke some response rather none at all right?  After the albums release, Jan seemed to lose a bit of interest in the band, as if he'd accomplished something and now it was time to reap the benefits and relax.  His age was also beginning to show at times and Tot and myself were growing more and more weary of his tight-arse ways.  It was around then that he shattered his wrist skateboarding and standing on top of a football or something daft like that, so we once again had a member out of action for a while in '99.  Kev and Nichola had moved down by now and were househunting while crashing at my house.  Meanwhile, I'd simply reached breaking point with my home life and chose then to move out and make a fresh start all by myself. 

Kev was certainly backing up his words with plenty of action and once he'd found a place to live, he set about getting us over to the States.  Using the powers of the internet, he hooked up with a guy in Allentown, PA called Roman, who said he could sort us a tour out next Summer if, in return, we could help his band out in the UK.  His band were called the FUX and Kev set the wheels in motion for them and their buddies the CLAP to come over the following year.  Meanwhile, our bass player went MIA and wasn't returning our calls, but as he'd find out, life goes on and we had bookings to fulfill coming up.  One of those bookings was for Ipswich, home of real OverDose magazine, who put us on the cover when no-one had heard of us in 1995, and have supported us ever since.  It was Wolfie, the editor's, birthday and he had asked for us specifically, so we weren't gonna let him down.  We asked Digs if he'd like to do a few gigs with us for old times sake, and he gladly accepted.  After a few rehearsals of the original line up back in the saddle, Jan suddenly reappeared (with his wrist in a brace) and he hit the road with us to do some guest vocals.  We all had a good laugh and myself and Tot decided that we would discuss the uncertain future in the new year. 

By the start of the new Millennium, the U.S.A. tour 2000 had become a reality, so we plucked up the courage to ask Digs if he was up for joining the band full time again, as the old magic was certainly back for Tot and myself.  Not only had he chilled out and changed considerably as a person, he now absolutely loved gigging all over the place, sleeping on floors and meeting strange new people!  Jan was hurt that he wouldn't be going Stateside with us, but to be fair, he only had himself to blame for his own slackness and general laziness.  

 Kev wanted us back in the studio as soon as possible so that we could take a new release with us to the States, so we decided to record an EP straight away.   Now, whether it be at band practice or when we're writing songs together, Digs always insists that we play faster.  It's an annoying trait for me, as I love a good, mid-paced foot tapper and I'm a sucker for a powerful ballad, but this also ensured that the next CD would be a return to the earlier days of a snottier, more trashy Panic.  We quickly managed to accumulate a bunch of new songs and even reworked a couple of old THINGS FROM OUTER SPACE numbers, so we selected five of them and recorded the "A Monkey Smoking A Fag" EP with Guy Elderfield at the Square Centre.  Cuz of Guy's different style of recording, I don't personally think it sounds as good as it could have done, but the fuzzy production seems to suit the style of the songs pretty well.  By now, we'd totally nailed how to produce sleeves on the computer properly, and the front cover of this one still makes me laugh to this day. 

In April, the FUX and the CLAP made it over, and although we were unable to do the whole tour with them, we hooked up with the Yanks and LUNA:SUIT from Grimsby a couple of times, just to get acquainted with them.  After they'd returned to where they belonged, in between doing a bunch of gigs on our own turf, week by week the dates were really coming together for our long awaited U.S. tour.  This is just a little note for all the bands out there like us:  You do not need a big label behind you. And you certainly do not need a lot of money to be able to tour America.  People seem to think that because it's some kind of musical mecca or some kind of "promised land", that it's an impossibility to get over there unless you're SNUFF, GOOBER PATROL or CONSUMED or something.  It's all a matter of finding the right people and it's so much easier now, what with the internet and that.  There ain't much point going into the ups and downs of our little trip here, as you can find out (in detail) how we did in the States by checking out our TOUR DIARY if you've got a spare hour or so... 

Because of the amazing time we had over there, the three of us suffered an almighty hangover of depression on our return home.  It had really changed us all quite a bit.  I know that Digs had trouble relating to people and that Tot didn't get out of his bed for a long time afterwards.  I personally didn't leave my flat for a week and started making massive changes in my life, such as quitting my job of three years and deciding to become single once again.  Luckily though, we didn't have that much time to dwell on things for too long as we had been offered the support slot on the WIZO UK tour.  

 We didn't really know much about these German weirdos beforehand other than that they were on Fat Wreck, but they were quite the revelation.  They were really tight, funny and a great live band and they constantly blew us away on stage.  The highlight of the short tour for me was playing Hartlepool, as it enabled my Mum to come and see me play for the first time ever.  I have a sneaky feeling that she might have enjoyed WIZO a little more than us though!  We ended up going back to her place after the gig and the night was made memorable by the fact that I somehow found the intestinal fortitude to come clean and introduce my Mother to the world of trees.  Thankfully, she was cool about it!! 

After a short chilling out period, I decided to become self-employed, so that I wouldn't have to answer to a boss anymore.  At the time though, I didn't fully comprehend what a time consuming job it would be.  For some extremely bizarre reason, the FUX decided that they wanted to come back over to the UK in October, (why, I will never know, but whatever) but Kev simply didn't have the time to book a tour for them.  For an even weirder reason, I put myself forward and offered to sort out a bunch of dates for them.  I guess I did it out of some kinda misguided loyalty or because I felt like we owed them one big time, but the fact was that I'd only ever booked local shows before and Panic had never asked for a gig in our lives!  Nevertheless, despite my inexperience, I called in some favours and sorted them out a wicked ten day tour in between busting my arse trying to sort my own brand new life out.  

 The day before they arrived, things started to go very wrong:  The van hire was all fucked up, gigs were being cancelled front and centre, the Midlands was on flood alert and even some of my friends who were supposed to be helping me out began letting me down and really did a great job of making me look stupid and unreliable.  About five of the ten gigs booked actually took place and the band ended up being cooped up in Kev and Nichola's house for most of their stay.   I really felt like shit about the whole thing and made it quite obvious that I didn't need or appreciate the attitude that I copped from Roman.  I guess that the whole shebang simply wasn't meant to be, and the only positive thing that came out of the whole experience was that their drummer Ronn had brought his tattoo gear with him, and I managed to get him some work donating some Panic skin and by hooking him up with a bunch of my friends.  It's safe to say that I doubt I will ever book another gig again as long as I live, and that myself and Roman haven't spoken since... 

2001 started with high expectations for us all:  we were over our depressed stage, we were songwriting at a simply alarming rate and for the first time ever, had decided to promote the band ourselves by demoing some tracks and by sending a CD out to some "bigger" labels.  For the previous six years, we'd always relied on other people for promotion, and such as life is, they'd invariably let us down.  We had done OK financially on the WIZO tour, so we paid for and recorded five songs with our buddy Steve Blackman (he of "Her Family's on Drugs" fame!!  He was forgiven, for his past sins...) with the aid of his portable studio and they sounded great.  We all agreed that this was the best stuff that we'd ever done, and Digs went as far as to say that this was the first time he'd actually felt proud to play his friends something and say "listen to this, this is my band".  Tot made 25 CD-R's look really nice and we mailed them off to some of the major players in the punk scene.  Soooo confident were we of striking gold with this one, that we decided to just go right on ahead and record nineteen of our songs in a proper studio, figuring out that some record label would reimburse our costs at some point later.  With this in mind, we met up with local hot-shot producers Johnny Carter (original PITCHSHIFTER member) and Paul Yeadon (of BIVOUAC fame) who, according to them, had wanted to work with us for a while.  They were alarmingly enthusiastic and they made us feel wanted, so we happily entrusted ourselves to their talents.  We ended up recording at the Warehouse, which, if you've been concentrating, is where it all started.  You know, our old rehearsal rooms and where we did our first demo.  Kev, the owner, had expanded a lot and brought in some top notch recording gear so it all sounded wicked.  We ended up spending a full week recording, but as we were paying for it ourselves, we didn't have enough money to mix and finish it right away. 

To our bemusement, we ended up getting about four replies all in all from our demo CD, which pissed us all off quite a bit as we'd splashed out cash to make them stand out from all the other demo's that these labels no doubt get tons of.  Fate also gave us one more raw deal, this time in the form of a cool label that was well into us, being bought out by one that wasn't!!  Around this time, we'd also played a bunch of gigs that were poorly attended and even more poorly paid and this, coupled with the fact that we'd seemingly been "knockbacked" by these labels really got to us all.  We were sick to death of taking time off work and rearranging our lives for gigs that were basically not worth doing and were getting us no-where and most importantly, were losing us money.  Digs was fed up, I was frustrated and I'm pretty sure that Tot was close to quitting.  

 Although the money thing was a key element to ourselves becoming jaded, I think for the first time we were questioning our own faith in ourselves.  That may sound like hippy crap, but we figured that maybe, just maybe, we weren't actually as good as we thought we were.  Sure, all bands think that they're great, but there's only so many times that you can tell yourselves that one day you'll get that "lucky break".  They say "something's gotta give", but what if in fact, Panic are shite?!!  Don't get me wrong, I certainly count my blessings for what we've achieved so far, but things had become stagnant and if you don't evolve, you die.  Simple as that.  So, things had to change quickly.  And they did. 

On June 9th my Dad died in rather unpleasant circumstances.  Despite his many faults, I loved him.  From my birth, until I was sixteen, the most important years I'd say, he was the perfect Father.  Unfortunately for his family though, he was a workaholic, which lead to stress, which lead to early retirement, which lead to boredom, which lead to alcoholism, which very probably killed him.  As anyone who's lost someone close to them knows, you tend to feel as though you've come to an important crossroads, and that you should make some sort of change in your life.  I felt that this was certainly the case for me, so for starters, I decided to quit my job.  I was tired of working seven day weeks (with varying degrees of success), my social life had dried up, I didn't see my friends as much as I'd liked to and I wasn't exactly in tip-top shape health wise either.  

 Secondly, the thought that I would some day end up like my Father had always haunted me, so I decided that I would give up drinking alcohol completely.  I would do this on 27/07/01, which would have been his 52nd birthday.  On discussion of this topic with Tot, to my amazement, he also made the decision to give up the beer, which shocked me a lot, but I'm sure left his wife totally flabbergasted!!  It was quite a big and drastic change for us to make, as drinking had been a huge part of our lifestyle for a such a long time, but so far, so good... 

Which, I guess, brings us up to the present tense.  Tot and I are kinda like A.A. buddies at the moment, helping each other through, but all this can only be a positive thing for both us and the band.  Hell, we've even played a couple of gigs sober for the first time ever!!  It's kind of strange, but it's kind of cool too.  It's a magical journey and who knows what's gonna happen next.  I don't think that you can ever say "never", but we've already proven a lot to ourselves and whatever decisions we make along the way, I'm sure will be in our best interests in the long run. 

Things seem to be working out for us all now anyway.  I'm now running the White Rooms, which is where Panic have rehearsed for the last five years.  It's pretty much a dream job for me as I can get in some practice and sing and play whenever I want and it's going well so far.  Tot's furthering his knowledge of computers to even higher levels and has already lost some weight!  And Digs?  Well, aside from landing a job as a cameraman for the BBC news, his girlfriend is also pregnant and his having their baby in November.  Bandwise, the new album's nearly finished and we're extremely close to finalising a really promising deal with an American-based label for its release.  Of course with Panic, everything is subject to change, so I'm gonna keep my mouth shut and you can keep up to date with us by checking out our monthly NEWS section, cuz I don't plan on updating this baby until 2004!! 

Cheers 'n' that.

Jamie Delerict