‘He attacked me with a jug... so we split’: Andy Riff fondly recalls life in Islington band The Dark
- Credit: Archant
“My name is Andy Socratous, but in the band I was ‘The Riff’. I was the rhythm guitarist. After one show, a guy came up to me and said I had the wrong name. He told me I should be called ‘The Machine’...”
That band was The Dark, a short-lived Islington punk outfit that emerged from the coat-tails of the Sex Pistols and The Damned in 1978.
But, rehearsing and honing their sound in the former Mitre pub in Upper Street, The Dark was more indebted to the sound of Slade, Sweet and T-Rex.
On Friday, The Dark’s one and only LP, Chemical Warfare (pictured above) will be reissued by Westworld Recordings – 35 years on from its original release.
Sat with half a Coca-Cola in The Coronet pub in Holloway Road on Monday, Riff, of Skinner Street, Finsbury, recalls his three-year stint in the band – right up until it imploded with a water jug in 1982.
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“The Dark did nothing before I joined,” he laughs.
“I first came across them in 1979 when my previous band – I can’t tell you what it was called as it’s not printable – played a gig with them in Clerkenwell.
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“I got on board and we played gigs around London with bands like The Damned and Spandau Ballet.”
Going through many line-up changes (final drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley went on to join Finnish glam band Hanoi Rocks, but died in California in 1984 when Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil crashed the car they were driving in), The Dark only recorded five singles alongside Chemical Warfare, which was released in 1981.
But it was still enough to attract cult followings in unlikely places.
“The best gig we did was in Wigan,” Riff announces.
“We had a big fan base there and did so many encores that I actually lost count. It was just one of those mental gigs. The crowd just loved it and wanted more and more.”
Riff is clearly a man unafraid to ask for something he wants.
At one point in our meeting, he struggles to read a text on his phone as he has left his glasses at home. He gets up and asks a drinker on a nearby table if he can borrow his glasses. He obliges.
Unfortunately for The Dark, founder member and lead singer Phil Langham, now deceased, was not so compliant with Riff’s desires.
“The band finished because Phil, I don’t know how to put this, was ‘on the gear’.
“He couldn’t keep in time with us and I ended up having a huge row with him, which finished with him throwing a jug at me. I just thought I didn’t want to keep dealing with this.”
Riff went on to form the V2s without success (“the songs didn’t have enough b****cks behind them”). He worked in printing up until three years ago, when he retired to care for his father.
But earlier this year, Riff was delighted to receive a call from Westworld, telling him they wanted to reissue Chemical Warfare.
“They are also reissuing albums from The Damned and Chelsea. It was completely out of the blue, a massive surprise,” he said.
“But I’m just glad the album is getting the recognition it deserves.”