With the curtain about to rise on the 20th instalment of Truck festival, Tim Hughes sits down for a question-and-answer session with one of the festival’s perennial favourites, Lee Christian – who returns this year with his band The Prohibition Smokers Club

With the curtain about to rise on the 20th instalment of Truck festival, Tim Hughes sits down for a chat with one of the festival's perennial favourites, Lee Christian – who returns this year with his band The Prohibition Smokers Club

Q: Who are you and what do you do?

A: These are the questions one finds oneself repeating, looking in the mirror in a club toilet at 3am. But I’m Lee Christian and I’m a singer, musician, writer-ish, filmmaker-ish, radio type with many strings to his bow but a threadbare wallet.

I’ve made two albums and a bunch of other stuff with Smilex, a record and a few EPs with the Prohibition Smokers’ Club, two records with Chateaux69, music with boywithatoy and refuge for homeless prose. And I put out six solo records in four years – two this year so far.

Q: What is the Prohibition Smoker’s Club. And why is it so called?

A: The Prohibition Smoker’s Club is a band originally formed to provide an antidote or ‘Sunday band’ to my insane rock band Smilex’s Saturday antics.

I formed it with Luke Dunstan of Verbal Kink and it grew into a band that has since changed beyond all recognition.

The name was pre-smoking ban and is a socio-political comment on the criminalisation of specific controlled substances in this country as it compares to prohibition-era America and its attitudes towards alcohol at the time.

Q: Who is in the line-up?

A: I have to remind myself sometimes, as we’ve had well over 20 members, but currently have myself, Grace DB, Nick Breakspear, Chris White, Lisa Choo, Ian Budd and Mark Franklin.

Q: How do you find members?

A: I’ve known Nick since college (he’s probably my longest friend and sold me my first guitar, as it goes!), then Budd (who I was told I had to meet as he was a big Prince fan – something that led to us seeing Prince and related acts many times over the years) and Mark (who has been a real help to the PSC, stepping in during times of need over the years) via Nick and their awesome band, the Black Hats.

I’ve been working with Chris since recording and putting out stuff for his teen band 20/20 Vision. His band Desert Storm are one of the best heavy bands on the underground scene, hands down.

Lisa was recruited via the Oxford bands and musicians database on Facebook and is fitting in really nicely and adding a whole new flavour to things. Grace DB has been in the band for many years now, despite an unintentional revolving door in the singer spot!

I’m always thankful that my contact list is so filled with great players that I get on with nicely too. It’s a true nightmare without.

Q: What do you play?

A: On stage, I keep the dying art of the awesome frontman alive. On record, I’II have a go at almost anything – to wildly varying results!

Q: What’s the band’s mission statement?

A: To bring the party. We’ve all had a gut full of misery and doom and gloom, and these festivals are a chance to get together, have fun and maybe even get a bit sweaty.

That’s not to say the music has nothing to say or lacks any bite, more that getting the crowd’s feet moving is the primary concern for us, this time around. It’s also important to me to show that great musicianship is not dead yet.

Q: What are your past glories?

A: Smilex got a few nice plaudits plus we got to play some nice shows and create great records (and may do so again soon one day if schedules permit!) with Ace from Skunk Anansie, and did a couple of hundred awesome shows that left a trail of destruction, confusion, disgust, disbelief and blood in our wake. So that’s nice.

I’ve put on hundreds of gigs, written many reviews and produced tons of radio shows plus made and helped create and released many records for myself and others.

I bent my nose cartilage permanently while stage-diving at Truck once. Except that I went over the back so no one actually saw it.

Oh, and a drunk man in Manchester once tried to grab my microphone to prove I was miming. I countered that I might sound in tune if I was!

It’s about good times to be honest, though, and I’m excited about the future as I’m a better musician and even human being now, hopefully!

Q: What has happened to Smilex?

A: Smilex is a rare beast, a rebel band that don’t care about anything except being the best at what we do. If you look around, you will notice there have been almost no bands anything like us in our 15 years so it’s no surprise we didn’t go stratospheric.

The band is on hiatus while members have kids of both human and goat description! We have a bit of music in the can, offers to play live and are very close friends, so it’s a matter of us getting together and having some fun when we next can all do that, I hope.

Q: What are you doing at Truck?

A: Having the best time, of course. And we encourage everyone to do the same. We finish the night in the Veterans and Virgins tent so it’s going to be a hot, sexy, funkfest in there. If the tent’s a bumpin’ come do a little sumpin’ – it’s the last chance to get down, so it’s on, baby!

Q: Why is it a significant festival for you?

A: It was weird having some time away from it and going back last year to play as it’s become one of those rites of passage festivals for many teens.

But I remember its humble roots as I’m fairly ‘Old School’.

So while Truck may seem a new kid on the block to the rest of the country, as it grows in size and reputation, it’s already the Original Gangster to me!

We’re very honoured to be headlining our stage with the standard of acts. It’s going to be interesting because this new set is a reaction to last year’s show.

Q: What will we get out of the set?

A: Something for your mind, body and soul. It’s an entertaining, non-stop thrill ride through steamy funk, rock, dub, psychedelia and more! There may even be a few babies conceived at the festival this year, potentially named ‘Lee’ and ‘Christian’, if you follow me...

Q: And the festival?

A: A damn good weekend of fun and music without a dirty corporate feeling or endless queues with a reassuring feeling of homeliness.

* Truck Festival starts tomorrow at Hill Farm, Steventon, and runs through to Sunday. Tickets have sold out.

* The Truck stops here. Bands, punters and even the farmer are geared up for a Trucking great weekend. More here...