Pompey’s legendary punks Emptifish prep a debut album 35 years in the making

Emptifish performing at Icebreaker Festival on the Wedgewood Rooms stage. Picture by Paul Windsor
Emptifish performing at Icebreaker Festival on the Wedgewood Rooms stage. Picture by Paul Windsor
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At this stage, it’s probably a bit late to expect Pompey surf-punk legends Emptifish to start doing anything conventionally.

The first album they released was a ‘best of’ in 2016 – a collection of old singles, fan favourites and rarities – nearly 30 years after they had initially split.

They returned to live action to mark its release, and have since put out a well-received EP, Sonic’s Got a Raygun, and been tearing it up on stages across the UK.

And now the band are finally gearing up to release their debut album proper – Sonic Love – due out in about two months. Last month they put out a teaser for the album in the shape of the single Haunted. Recorded at the city’s Mayfield Studios, it features studio owner Dominic Elton adding keys to the riotous garage-rock racket – a rare guest appearance on an Emptifish track.

Frontman George ‘Wipeout’ Hart explains: ‘Dom, he’s quite northern soul and moddy. The song’s got that sort of northern soul beat on the bassline, he said he’d love to get his fingers on the keyboards on that.

‘It’s quite nice to let go of a song and let someone else play with it. It’s like getting a Christmas sweater and thinking there’s no way on earth I’m touching that, and it ends up your favourite thing. 

‘We had a harmonica on our cover of The Animals’ I’m Going to Change The World – my mate Johnny Rubbish came in to do the bluesy harmonica on that – but that’s about it.’

The album’s finished with CDs hopefully ready in about two months, and vinyl to follow soon after.

‘This is our first album,’ says George. ‘If you said to us: “Do you want to record an album?” And you booked us in a studio with a day and a time, we could write an album in whatever time-frame you needed, we’re just quite lazy really because no-one’s pushing us to do anything!

‘With this, it was like, we had some songs, so let’s get something down. Now we’ve got Frisco on bass, he wrote Haunted, and Shadow on guitar, we’re more musically inclined to record – I’m not saying we’re better or more professional – we have...’ he fishes (sorry) for the word, ‘evolved. People say it’s the third wave of Emptifish.’

But last year, original drummer Damian ‘O’Delic’ O’Malley decided to quit. He still features on the album, along with The Damned’s Rat Scabies, pounding the skins. Rat was roped in through music biz contacts, and is all over Sonic Love.

‘Some of Rat's drumming is amazing, we’re very lucky and blessed to have him on there, he’s incredible.

‘Damian has now retired though –  he’s in Salisbury drinking cider and reading and writing poetry - he’s always been a bit more jazz, we’re a bit more punk.

‘We’ve got a new drummer we’ve been rehearsing with, Karl Mingay, and we’ve got our first gig with him on Sunday. He’s a revelation – he can do what Rat did, he can do what Damien did, and he can do his own thing. He’s fitted in a bit too easily – I’m a bit worried!

‘He’s more organised than we are and he adds some balls to the songs, we’re really pleased.’

As with every band member, Karl has a nickname, Mingo.

‘We’re playing this gig on Sunday, and that’s going to be great because we like all the other bands who are playing, and because it’s a bank holiday we’ve got the next day off.

‘We’re up for anything else, but we’re playing on Saturday at Victorious this year on the Castle Stage. We’ve been promoted there, which I’m happy with – we’re very lucky and honoured. The Hives are on that day as well, and that’s definitely our style.’

When Emptifish returned in 2016, they were trailed by a team of film-makers for a documentary. George admits, the project has gone a bit quiet of late. 

‘I reckon he (the director)’s waiting for one of us to peg it or one of us goes to prison so he can sell it to Netflix. I’ve not heard anything in a while –  but he’s been a bit busy, his other half has had twins…

‘He’s got thousands of hours of footage there so it could go anywhere. He could do a live Beatles’ Help-style film, he could do one on Ian and how inspirational he is, or how good looking we are and our dress sense, or a Spinal Tap-type - who knows what he’s got.’

Ian ‘Lord Sonic’ Parmiter, the band’s talismanic guitarist and co-founder, lives with Parkinson’s and continues to run the Albert Road antiques shop in his name.

‘It’s not Albert Road, it’s Albert Square where he lives,’ says George. ‘He goes through all sorts of things, But you know what, he loves a fight, and whatever’s thrown at him he wins.

‘He’s ultra-fit and his guitar playing the last few rehearsals we’ve had has been excellent. He’s been free-styling – he’s like Ronaldo, he can play where he wants, he’s in and out and he steals the show. It’s actually really annoying,’ George deadpans.

Emptifish headline at The Barn in Milton on Sunday, with The Dinz!, Acid Attack and The Rems. Doors 6.30pm. Tickets £8. Go to book.events/liveatthebarn/2019-05-05/18363