Punk rockers’ passion for performing re-ignited by reunion gig

Twenty-seven years after they last gigged as a band, Ipswich punk rockers The Sustained triumphantly returned to the stage in aid of a cause tragically close to their hearts. Supposedly a one-off, it seems their passion for performing together has been re-ignited, as entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE found out.

“TO be playing those songs again was like being taken back in time and emotions were high, remembering all those friends that would have been there if they were still with us,” says drummer Darren Olley.

One of those friends was original frontman Niall Corr, who committed suicide in 1995.

“It was hard on everyone. The last person you ever thought would do something like that would have been Niall. He was one of these guys that no matter what was against him he would just fight on; at the time it seemed he had everything going for him,” he remembers.

“Nobody saw it coming; Red Flag ‘77 have a song called Poker Face which is about him. He was a unstoppable force in the local music scene; he was also in Optimum Wound Profile and Spiral Fire. It was like a light going out.”

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Last Saturday’s sell-out gig at the Ipswich Regent’s Circle Lounge raised money the national charity Papyrus, which works to prevent suicide and promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing in young people.

“To have 200 old friends together in one place, seeing people who hadn’t seen each other for more than 20 years singing along to our old songs was an amazing experience. It’s just a shame that it takes something like this to get them together,” he adds.

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“To top it all we made money for a great cause. The final total for the charity hasn’t been tallied yet, but we’re confident they’ll be more than happy.”

With fans clamouring for more, Darren says there may be a surprise or two still to come.

“Playing with friends after such a long break was amazing. It remains to be seen whether it will happen again, but I think all the band are secretly thinking about it; maybe not on such a big scale though,” he laughs.

THE Sustained were born around 1980 when Copleston High School friends Niall, Guy Ebbs and Darren got together at the latter’s Ipswich home in their early teens to play around with a few old songs.

They soon graduated to their own material, Let Me Talk being one of the first and most well known.

“It was pretty much just the three of us messing about with a battered old drum kit, a guitar and a little microphone not even going into any amps. I think we went through a old reel to reel tape recorder to start with,” laughs Darren.

Joined by Wolfie on bass guitar they were ready to hit the town.

A few gigs later fellow school friend Gavin Willis replaced Niall on vocals and they enjoyed success at various youth clubs and fayres.

The big time beckoned when Geordie Davison, who was managing The Adicts, watched them rehearse.

This led to The Sustained supporting them, Abrasive Wheels, Action Pact, English Dogs, 13th Chime and UK Subs at various venues including the famous 100 Club in London.

“For a bunch of 16-year-olds to be on the same stage our heroes had been messed with our heads a little bit. These are people whose singles we’d gone and bought; all of a sudden we were on the same bill and hanging out backstage with them.”

They recorded a demo but Darren admits it didn’t sound too good due to financial restraints and the technology available at the time.

Wolfie left with another friend, Jerry Clay, filling his shoes. After a few more gigs the band slowly went their separate ways.

Gavin, Guy and Niall ended up in poppy punk outfit Adrenalin, then Gavin went to DJ in Spain; leaving Niall and Guy to join the remnants of Panorama in Black to form Spy Real Fire.

Darren was also founder member of Extreme Noise Terror in 1985 and became one of the founder members of Perfect Daze.

That was that until last year when Guy and Darren, who now both live in London, got together.

“We ended up in a pub, had a few gin and tonics and one of us said jokingly ‘let’s get The Sustained back together’. Within a matter of minutes we were on Facebook saying did anyone fancy seeing The Sustained again - it turns out people did.”

Former frontman Gavin lept at the chance and after the duo failed to find the elusive Wolfie long-time fan and friend Paul Thorpe was recruited on bass.

“Our first practice last year went scarily well. If we’d sounded like that back in the 80s we would probably still be together as a band,” laughs Darren.

The Sustained - boasting support from Suspect Device and Red Flagg ‘77 - thundered through a set of 30-year-old songs last Saturday; reigniting long gone memories for some while introducing the rest to new sing-a-long punks tunes.

Gavin whipped the crowd into a frenzy as easily as he did first time around and despite a couple of mishaps, including a broken guitar strap which had Guy sitting on the floor for one song, it went extremely well.

John Bowers, who recorded the band’s first and only demo in 1983, was in the audience; summing the night up by saying: “Brilliant gig. More, more, more please.”

There are still some of the specially created T-shirts donated by Steve Scudder - with the proceeds from these also going to Papyrus - available from The Sustained’s Facebook page.

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