Q Magazine – Pigbag – Where Are They Now?

Q Magazine – Issue 50 – July 2000

When Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag hit Number 3 in the singles chart in April ’82, it seemed evident that, overnight sensation status notwithstanding, the funky jazz combo Pigbag was here to stay. Except they were anything but overnight sensations and were already failing apart.

James Johnstone (guitar/keyboards): A clarinet player called Chris Hamelin started Pigbag as an avant-garde thing in Cheltenham, with me and Chris Lee. We were seen at our first gig, supporting The Slits in Bristol, by Dick O’Dell of Y Records. Our whole set – our only song – was a 20-minute jam of Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag, which Dick recorded with us in Bury Street Studios, London, early in ’81. We had a stopwatch to keep us under three and a half minutes.

But we were so idealistic that, the day after we recorded it, Chris Hamelin left. He felt we’d sold out. When it came out, it topped the indie charts and Peel plays kept it bubbling under the Top 75 for almost a year. Dick had the idea of withdrawing it and letting the demand build up so, when it was re-released, it went Top 40. Then Roger, our drummer, left the day before we did Top Of The Pops because, like Chris, he felt we were selling out.

By now, we were bored rigid by the song and we also made lots of stupid decisions, turning down deals from EMI, refusing to put the single on the album etc. It was virtually a new line-up by late ’82, when we did the second LP, so when that didn’t sell, we just packed it in.

I got back into the music business in the late ’80s when techno took off. Now I run an animation website called Infinitewheel.com and my latest band, Frantic language, has just recorded an album.

Simon Underwood (bass): Before Pigbag I was in the Pop Group, so I was the only one with much of a history. After the split, James and I had a band called Instinct on ZTT. We spent three months making one track with Trevor Horn, but it was so costly we were dropped. In the early ’90s, I became an advisor to the New Asian Music side of the Vienna Festival and that led to a similar role for the Africa Festival in London in 1995. Like James, my latest project is website design for clients like Talvin Singh and BMG Records.

Andrew “Chip” Carpenter (drums): I quit after the second album and did improvisation and sessions for a few years. Then I went to the London College of Furniture and learned how to make tables and stuff. My current semi-pro band, Red Dirt, is kind of country popadelica, and we gig around London.

Chris Lee (trumpet): After the split I did sessions with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, then avant-garde things with the London Musicians Collective. I’ve since had bands called Montoya Sound, The Jam Professors, Sweet Thunder, and I’m currently doing a more jazz/R&B thing, possibly to be called Sidewinder.

Ollie Moore (sax): I moved back to Bristol, did sessions, then joined Float Up CP with Neneh Cherry for a while. At the end of the ’80s I formed my own horn section and I did some stuff on Acid Jazz and on William Orbit’s Guerrilla label. I toured with Red Snapper for two years in the late ’90s, but now I’m writing my own stuff, concentrating on soundtracks, and supporting myself with part-time nightshift jobs.

Roger Freeman (percussion): Carpenter says that Freeman “did some work with Stephen Duffy, but now lives in Birmingham and doesn’t even have a phone. He keeps himself to himself.”

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