Down with the Prophets: The John Knox Sex Club interviewed

Having played enviable support slots and crossover gigs in clubs and galleries throughout their 18 months of existence, The John Knox Sex Club's helter-skelter art rock has proven a love/hate affair

Feature by Lauren Mayberry | 03 Feb 2010
  • John Knox Sex Club

Boys: who’d have ‘em? “Sometimes a high stage and lack of wireless technology prevents us from getting in about it as much as we want to. On these occasions we tend to play technically well, but [confronted with a lukewarm crowd] we boyishly throw around ideas of quadraphonic PA systems,” says John Knox Sex Club guitarist Liam ‘Divebomb’ O’Shea of his band’s attitude to that old devil, “the bad gig”. Co-guitarist, Rory ‘Air’ Anderson, disagrees: “Our worst was definitely at a club night in Sleazy’s where we were all too drunk”, recalling nothing more than the array of empty glasses left onstage.

What bravado; what swagger! The stuff rock ‘n’ roll dreams are made of? Formed around 18 months ago, the band is completed by sometime co-workers Sean Cumming, drummer Chris ‘Packet Hands’ McGarry, and friend Bob McRorie on bass and saxophone. Although one might be inclined toward deep suspicion of those whose fore and surnames sandwich an inverted comma’d nickname, hold ye back. It’s not all fun and games at the Sex Club (isn’t that always the way?), the name itself derived from a 17th century religious sect in Scotland, convinced that the greatest way to prove themselves immune to the temptations of the flesh was to debase themselves. “They were well versed in the writings of John Knox and believed that they were pre-destined to go to heaven regardless of their actions," explains Cummings. "Combining these two ideas meant that they did the most debauched and depraved things.”

Oh, wait. Maybe it is all fun, then.

All in their early-to-mid-20s (“but with the mental age of ten”), the band declined to set up their own internet profile, with a fan doing it for them instead. “There has never been a conscious decision or unwritten law about how or how not to go about promoting ourselves and getting people to shows,” bassist O’Shea says. “We are more than happy to be interviewed, or have our songs played on radio. Generally we have been approached for things – from gigs to the recording – rather than put ourselves forward for them,” says Anderson. Indeed, the aforementioned recording apparently came about after a friend recommended them to Chem19. “They very kindly offered us the opportunity to work in a professional studio and we gladly accepted,” says Cumming of the collaboration.

With all members involved in various other projects, including Washington Irving and Piano Bar Fight, they should be dab hands at this whole Glasgow band lark. Leaving it up to fans and hacks to describe the sound, they have been compared to art rock staples (Trail of Dead) and cult space rockers (Lift To Experience) as often as the more poetically abrasive (Arab Strap, Nick Cave). Accordingly, John Knox admit to having a certain Marmite effect. “Reaction is always mixed, and often polar,” says Anderson.

As for 2010, the five-piece aim to tour Europe and release a box set of live and studio recordings, currently under construction. “We may deliver them within the Glasgow area but a cup of tea is in the service charge,” Anderson warns. Perhaps not such ‘lads’ after all.

The John Knox Sex Club play the Haiti Fundraiser with Suspire and The Cinnamons at Creation Studios, Glasgow on 5 Feb.