Interview: Godfathers Vocalist Peter Coyne on Acting, Journalism and New Songs

After visa issues forced the Godfathers to postpone a few shows on its current U.S. tour, the show is happening tonight at Off Broadway. Here are outtakes from our recent interview with vocalist Peter Coyne.

Mike Appelstein: You know, I saw you play at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1988 on the MTV New Music tour. Living Colour was your opening act. My primary memory is that the frat boys left after Living Colour, to be replaced by the college radio types and Anglophiles. Almost two audiences. Do you have any memories of that tour? Peter Coyne: It was an enjoyable tour. Every gig we ever played in the States was always enjoyable. I don't think Living Colour had released their first album yet, and then then the next year they supported the Rolling Stones. They just reformed a few years back, too.

Your current lineup includes Del Bartle, who was in the Sid Presley Experience. He wasn't in the original Godfathers, though, was he? No. When we first actually toured the States with the five guys who became the Godfathers, we were briefly called the Sid Presley Experience. If it wasn't for Del, my brother and me, there wouldn't be a Godfathers, so it all comes from that group in the first place. Sid Presley Experience was a very unusual group to be formed in 1982 or 1983 in England. We were playing serious hard rock & roll music at a time when synthesizers were the major fashion. I was very glad, and we were all very glad, to fly the flag for rock 'n roll music. We didn't like hearing all that bland synthesizer rubbish. We wanted something a bit more real, a bit more gritty. So it's great to be playing with Del Bartle again.

What other new songs can we expect to hear on tour? There's one I really like called "I Can't Sleep Tonight." It's a Ramones-type song. We idolized those people as a band, bought their records when we were kids. Later on, we got to tour with the Ramones, which was fantastic. Joey Ramone used to come to every one of our New York gigs. Speaking to him was a humbling experience. It's very sad for me to think the Ramones are dead, although they'll never be truly "dead" because their music was so full of joy and life. So when I was writing new songs, it came to me like a dream, literally. We're keen to try it out in the States.

There's another song called "The Outsider" that we may or may not be playing. Most people in bands are outsiders, really. So there's lot of different things in the new Godfathers recordings, but of course it's mostly classic rock 'n roll music.

You actually dabbed in music journalism before you formed your own band. How was that for you, and do you think it affected the way you approached music? I wrote for a couple of national papers in the UK. One was called Record Mirror. I wrote album reviews for them. Then I did interviews for a quite famous paper in the UK called Zig Zag. I always loved music; if I didn't play it, I'd be writing about it. But it was a strange time between 1979 and 1982, writing for those magazines. I didn't like the music scene at all. I thought it was terrible, thought it was bland. If my brother and I put our minds to it, we [thought we] could do better than these people. So we put our money where our mouths were and formed our own group. And I think our music's stood the test of time. Rock & roll music is never going to sound "old;" you could play the Ramones for a 16- or 17-year-old and it will still sound fresh. It's got a certain spark to it, makes you feel alive.

I saw that you and your brother have done extra work in TV and movies. What are some of the better known productions in which you have appeared? I was in The Spy Game, six out of seven of the Harry Potter movies, both Batman movies, and hundreds of films and TV programs. The thing about being in a group is that you're working only six or nine months out of the year. So that's what I do when not on Godfathers duty.

Do either of you have a theatre background? I've done some acting before in TV and film, but I wouldn't call myself an "actor." But David Bowie's acted in films, and I wouldn't call him an actor either!

What keeps you going? Revenge. We always want to prove that we're a great band, always. It's like you're a great boxer; you want to keep coming back and doing it and doing it. You do it because you can do it and can please people. There's no other job like it. And we're fans of music, full stop. So we're in it for all the right reasons. We love music and love performing together; with those two combined, hopefully you've got a great group. So really, to prove that we're great to people, to still show that we're as good as before, but also because we love music so much. Money doesn't come into it at all. I don't care whether I make 500, 5,000 or 50,000 pounds. It's immaterial to me.