Dissenting Against the Apathetic State: Interview with the Newtown Neurotics’ Steve Drewett

Photo: Andy Lee. Left to Right Steve Drewett, Adam Smith and Simon Lomond

The Newtown Neurotics have been a punk rock force of nature since 1979. They audaciously demand their listeners to wake up and revolt against neo-liberal capitalism and the Tory led assault on the British people. Formed by Steve Drewett and Colin Dredd and soon joined by Simon Lomond, they emerged during an age when the punk ethos required radical notions of a better world. This unapologetic approach guided the last 45 years through boasting radical songs about earths natural resource depletion, sexism, climate change and unemployment.

Songs like “Living With Unemployment,” “Wake Up” and of course “Kick Out The Tories” stand out as inspirationally relevant anthems against overwhelming senses of crises. Futhermore, their songs offer a source of hope and agitation for their listeners. However, The Newtown Neurotics understand this a gateway toward organizing toward effective solutions. This is reflective in their direct support of the UK Miners Strike in the 1980s as well as other subsequent campaigns.

Since reforming in 2006, The Newtown Neurotics consist of Steve Drewett, Adam Smith and Simon Lomond. Never slowing, they continue to deliver their subversive material via performances and new material. On October 21 2022, after the dramatic effects of the Covid pandemic had begun to recede, they released Cognitive Dissidents via Cadiz Music.

The process for recording was done remotely during the heights of the covid lockdowns. This new album brought forth a host of new tracks celebrating ideals of uncompromising self aware rebellion. Tracks such as “Climate Emergency,” “Dumb” and “Hope” explore themes of environmental breakdowns, prevailing conspiracy nuts and the need to find the light in a darkening world. Not surprising then that this album was added to the insurgent necessity found alongside The Newtown Neurotics previous work.

In conjunction with The Newtown Neurotics relentless performance driven engagement, their story was finally brought the big screen. The documentary is called Kick Out! The Newtown Neurotics Story and was created thanks to filmmaker Luke Baker. He charted The Newtown Neurotics journey and interviewed many of those who accompanied them along the way. This included Billy Brag, Attila The Stockbroker, Kevin Jones ( The Sods), Jon Langford and many others. On September 5th, 2023 Kick Out! was screened at The 100 Club in London and has since been enjoyed both in Britain and internationally.

After a string of UK local elections where the Tories seemed to be losing ground a call for a general was proposed for July 4th, 2024. This event inspired The Newtown Neurotics to rerecord their classic “Kick Out The Tories.” With a potential change in UK government facing the British people, I caught up with Steve Drewett. We talked about The Newtown Neurotics documentary. releasing Cognitive Dissidents, their future plans and why it is important to kick out the tories.

NixBeat: The Newtown Neurotics celebrated the release of their documentary Kick Out! The Newtown Neurotics Story on September 5, 2023. How does it feel to finally have your story told?

Steve Drewett:  We are delighted that Kick Out! now exists; it is like a mirror that has been held up to us and in doing so has defined the journey we have made over the years. We are so used to having our minds focused on the present and what the band will be doing next, that sometimes we don’t appreciate or celebrate the things we have done or achieved in our past.

NixBeat: Kick Out! The Newtown Neurotics story was put together by filmmaker Luke Baker and includes interviews with many friends of the Newtown Neurotics including Billy Brag and Attila The Stockbroker. How did you get involved with film maker Luke Baker for this documentary?

Steve Drewett:   Luke, I think Adam knew him and introduced him to us. My attention was then directed to a documentary he had already done with a local band called ‘Penny Royal’ which was very good. Initially we were desperate to have a rock video done of us performing some of our songs, as this was something we had never got around to doing at that point. We thought Luke would be the perfect person to enable that.  So we had a meeting with him and although he didn’t dismiss the idea of doing a video, he said he would rather do something more substantial than that. That was when he said a documentary on us would be far more engaging for him. Initially that was disappointing, as we really felt we needed a rock video to represent The Newtown Neurotics on YouTube but on reflection, although it would take far more work, we began to see the opportunity that this suggestion really was and agreed to do it and help Luke in any way we could to get the thing made.

NixBeat: Kick Out! The Newtown Neurotics story has had several screenings. Including at the 100 Club in London (September 5th, 2023) and in Harlow at Burnt Mill Snooker & Social Club (June 8th, 2024). What has the reception been like for Kick Out!?

Steve Drewett: Kick Out! has been shown both in UK and some international cinemas.The reception for it has been fantastic wherever it has been shown, critically the feedback has been pretty good but the response from audiences has been even better. They seem to really get caught up in the story and Kick Out! shows the emotional depth and commitment the band have shown, as they moved through a musical experience that has been enriching for both the individual members and for the audiences that have experienced them live. Now more than ever, people crave music that is authentic, that is known more for the creativity and engagement with its fan base, than seeing their career as a path to enrich themselves, something created purely for the ego. The engagement in the documentary is also fed by the fact that the original three that set out on this journey of self-discovery dropped down to two when Colin Dredd (Masters) failed to recover from a major operation. Although he had not played in the Neurotics for some time, and had already been replaced by Adam Smith, it was a shock to us all, none-the-less, feeling like we had just turned one of life’s corners and we were now something different. Each Kick Out! audience has been moved by this. They have both laughed and cried at the twists and turns of our story ,and because of them, whenever I have been present, I cannot stop myself from being moved with them.

Album Cover By Jon Langford

NixBeat: The Newtown Neurotics released their latest album Cognitive Dissidents on October 21, 2022. It’s an album that continues in the Newtown Neurotics mantra of using music to raise alarms against the crisis of the day. What inspired you to call the album Cognitive Dissidents?

Steve Drewett:   Firstly, we have always sought to have an unusual album title to all of our releases, just to recap, consider these…
Beggars Can Be Choosers, Re-Percussions, Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks?, Kick-Starting A Backfiring Nation, Triumph Over Adversity and His Masters Voice (German compilation).

As Covid lockdowns had shut down live performances or congregating in recording studios to record music, the world just seem to stop. Unfortunately, the craziness of the world didn’t stop and there was so much still going on in the real world and more importantly, in the social media world. Social media had already gained a reputation for spreading lies and propaganda and now we were confined to our homes with very little face to face meetings with other people and so were forced into interaction in rapacious algorithms designed to embolden conflict to gain clicks.

Although the Neurotics couldn’t gather in a recording studio, we found we could make good use of the enforced inactivity to work on some new material. We had planned to do this anyway but as we now couldn’t meet, we decided to do it remotely. Simon bought some electronic drums. I bought a new PC and turned a little room I had at home, into a recording studio and used the computer to record demos of new music. I would then pass them on electronically to Simon to lay the drums on, and then they were passed on to Adam to put bass on them. In this way we made a demo of an album’s worth of material. Trump, Brexit, Covid, Boris Johnson and conspiracy theories etc, supplied the poisonous well in which to base the lyrics of the new material on.

The mind-bending dissonance of the crazy narratives of the conspiracy theorists helped create an alternative world in which they would attempt to get you to believe that black is white and right is wrong that hate is compassion, or more like it compassion is hate, This was the basis of our attempt to make sense of this madness. Hence Cognitive Dissidents,  a play on cognitive dissonance which describes when there is a dislocation of how a person perceives reality and bends it into something that fits their disjointed world view. Now these people are jokingly known as culture warriors and in this way they have placed themselves as heroic dissidents fighting against the ‘group-think’ they think, are the cause of our downfall as a civilization. This really did seem to be the end of the age of enlightenment and the beginning of the descent into madness.

NixBeat: The opening track “Climate Emergency” seeks to inform the urgency of the climate crisis. It’s refreshing to hear as it demands action and also fits in the same catchy vein as other Newtown Neurotic songs like “When The Oil Runs Out.”  What did you draw from for “Climate Emergency” and how do you think music can help motivate people to organize in response to this crisis?

Steve Drewett: One of the characterisations of punk generally in the Eighties was a tenancy to complain about what you don’t like, but rarely write about what you see as a solution. For the Newtown Neurotics this was not the case, we were proud to be a socialist band and we fought against the Tories and the vested interested in the capitalist world and dared to point out hypocrisies and the self-destructive nature of rapacious economics, among other things holding true to our earlier selves we carried on the tradition of pointing out the failings of our current civilization and the sand that it is built upon. This is exactly what “When The Oil Runs Out” set out to achieve and it is what “Climate Emergency” does also, although it hadn’t occurred to me until after it was completed that it was like the twin of “When The Oil Runs Out.” Both of these songs are meant to be ‘call to arms’ material.

NixBeat: A personal favorite of mine from Cognitive Dissidents is “Hope.”  This song seeks to comment on holding onto hope despite the overwhelming nature of today’s overlapping crises, whether it’s covid, war, genocide, climate or perverse social inequality. How do you think one can find hope or love in today’s volatile world?

Steve Drewett: This issue I know intimately and have suffered from depression because of it. The problem with this world is its multiple injustices have an accumulative effect on one’s psyche and you can get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it all. The main thing to hold in your mind, is that this cannot be solved by you alone and it is better to try to change things with the support of others and you need to be healthy enough to support others too. Do as much as you can, appreciate what can be achieved to make a better world with those in your community and draw together for strength and though this strength can be found hope and hope drives change.

NixBeat: “Dumb” takes a first-person perspective by lamenting on the absurdity of conspiracy nuts and those complacent in hateful ignorance. What are you drawing from for “Dumb?”

Steve Drewett: There were many sources for this song, social media is a fertile ground for this sort of warped thinking, so there was no lack influences there. However, what brought it into sharp focus was someone in our town we had known for many years who started supporting some of the most ridiculous theories, falling out with their friends and attacking anyone disagreeing with them. What is consistent with this sort of thinking, is that it is all accusation and blame but with no constructive analysis to suggest how things could be better if an alternative course of action could be followed, or proof from any legitimate sources to substantiate their views. There was nothing, just finger pointing and prodding with the poor/powerless bearing the brunt of their ignorance. For them belief trumped evidence every time.

NixBeat: One of my favorite tracks from Beggars Can Be Choosers is “Wake Up.” It’s a song that demands it’s listener to reject conformity and wake up and live life to the fullest. What inspired you to write this song?

Steve Drewett: I found myself completely at a loss after leaving school, I was depressed and directionless. I had very little in the way of academic qualifications, I was dyslexic which ruined my school life as it  made me feel thick and I found myself  basically only good for low-paid work. The explosion of punk changed everything for me, I found creative inspiration from it and it helped me tap into potential that would help me make the most of my life. I realized that the world I found myself in was full of people saying that if you try something you will fail, that many people make their way in the world by walking over and belittling others to their own advantage. I found that to get into the habit of believing in yourself changes the reality you surround yourself with. With that insight, I hoped to pass on what I discovered to others via the songs like “Wake Up” as you mentioned’ and “No! No! No!” (which I recorded with The Indestructible Beat).

NixBeat: On July 4th the United Kingdom will hold a general election. This is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s response to a continuing political turmoil within his own cabinet, as well as gains made by Labour and Liberal Democrats in local elections. The Newtown Neurotics released a new version of “Kick Out The Tories.” In your view why is it important to remove the Tories from power?

Steve Drewett: Phew, that could take many pages to properly tackle that question.

Let me just say that with the advent of Margret Thatcher coming to power in the UK in 1979, our country was turned into a testing ground for neo-liberal ideology. Firstly she changed the rules over media ownership to enable right wing media barons such as Rupert Murdoch to hold an iron grip on the information British people consumed and he got them to believe that it was in their best interests, to vote against their best interests. For people such as ourselves to point out the damage the Tories were doing to the UK, was like a drop in the ocean of reason when confronted by the power of vested interests and billionaires.

All of the so called benefits of neo-liberalism we were promised, have had 40 odd years to be realised but we have ended up poorer than we have ever been, apart from the 1% of billionaires who get richer with every passing day and pay virtually no tax to the countries they base their business in. The end result for Britain is there is very little public money left to keep the country from falling apart. Our Schools are collapsing, many hospitals are too. The NHS (National Health Service) is on its knees due to cuts, public services are going bust, the cost of living is driving people to destitution and the government and other major offices of state are corrupt and are run by people who think they are above the law. Everyone here is now beginning to see the lies of neo-liberalism and the Tories, its biggest standard bearer, can only parrot the same promises from 1979 but the ideology has brought us nothing but isolation and misery.

The removal of the Tories will see the country move on from 1979,  and with new media ownership rules being brought in, it will  hopefully steer us towards a more fairer sustainable society. If the Tories are re-soundly beaten, they will cease to be the official opposition ,and therefore will not get a platform in the media any longer to perpetrate their redundant ideas.

NixBeat: In the song “Kick Out The Tories” the ending chorus is “Don’t Believe What you Read.” What are you drawing from with this chorus?

Steve Drewett: This initially in 1981, was saying the press are owned by right wing millionaires who indoctrinate you to support their world view, whilst they fleece you. I was trying to say, you are being manipulated by those in power, don’t take this information at face value, look for opposing views, look for alternative narratives. It may take a bit of effort doing this, but you are more likely to be better informed and therefore better equipped to understand what works and what needs changing outside of the power structures and distorted views of the billionaire class. Nowadays it is suggesting that you be very, very careful about what you believe to be real in social media. For it is here that the vested interests of the extremely wealthy can be found in the online world as well as real world. You also have be careful that some content is driven by other countries, and that our international enemies would try to undermine the UK and have been in behind socially and materially divisive Brexit propaganda. Social media has also unfortunately given great power and reach to groups of nobodies that know how to manipulate its algorithms that spread ignorance and hate because they are more ‘click bait’ than facts and reason.

NixBeat: Who will you be supporting in the UK general election and why?

Steve Drewett: The Neurotics will have the same choice as the rest of the UK to either vote for Labour or vote tactically where a local candidate of another party is more likely to unseat a Tory rather than Labour. This is the sort of tactics that has to be used in a ‘first past the post electoral system’

Photo: Andy Lee. Left to Right Adam Smith Steve Drewett ,and Simon Lomond

NixBeat: The Newtown Neurotics have forever been faithful in engaging their audience with anthems to agitate and organize. These include songs like “Lets Kick Out The Tories” “Wake Up” and “Climate Emergency.” What do you think are the most effective way to effect political and societal change?

Steve Drewett: Always look for likeminded people and get involved in trying to improve your world. Being alone makes you vulnerable, being together makes you less so, and organising together makes you powerful. It needs a concerted effort, music on its own can’t do it, but it is one tool that can be used to inform. Its power can be seen by how repressive societies always clamp down on music and culture. It is through our lyrics and music that the Newtown Neurotics have strived to encourage people to take heart and take action..

NixBeat: The Newtown Neurotics are back at the Rebellion Festival in August 2024. What can readers expect from your performance?

We will be playing numbers from each of our albums we have released over the years so it will be quite a cross-section. We are really looking forward to it.
I am also appearing solo on the Almost Acoustic stage on Thursday 1st August and doing a Songs and Stories solo set at the Literary stage on Sunday 4th August.

NixBeat: What does the future hold for The Newtown Neurotics?

Steve Drewett: When we first formed the band, we could not have conceived that we would still be playing together over 40 years later. Any attempt to anticipate the future at this point could seem to be just as unlikely.

Photo: Andy Lee. Left to Right Steve Drewett, Simon Lomond and Adam Smith

For more about The Newtown Neurotics visa their website here!



Most Popular

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new posts, events, podcasts.


On Key

Related Posts

If you haven't already then pay attention Fast Eddy. Hailing from Denver, Colorado they bring a unique excitement to underground
The Newtown Neurotics have been a punk rock force of nature since 1979. Formed by Steve Drewett and Colin Dredd
or years Mala Vista has blazed a trail throughout the New York City punk scene and beyond. Mal Vista’s sound
Scroll to Top