Ten-Midnight.com spoke to Pauline Murray, lead singer for the band Penetration. When people talk about the explosion of Punk in the late 70s, how it inspired a generation and grew as a movement to influence most of the society we now live in, Pauline was part of this and played a significant role in changing the attitudes of the nation’s youth.
Penetration took their name from the Stooges, what were the other types of music that was inspiring you at a young pre-punk age?
Named indirectly from the Stooges song but actually came from a fanzine called Penetration on my boyfriend’s bedroom wall.
I grew up in the 1960’s and was lucky enough to hear all the great music on the radio and see it all with the advent of TV. The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield, The Monkees, Girl Groups and Tamla Motown. Such an inspiring time for music and style. Pre-punk in the 1970’s it was Bowie, Roxy Music, T.Rex, Iggy, Lou Reed, Cockney Rebel, New York Dolls, and just prior to punk, Doctors of Madness, Television, Patti Smith, Jonathan Richman, The Ramones.
To form a Punk band in the 70s was a brave move, as there was a lot of negative feelings around at that time. Also with very few female singers around was this something you were apprehensive about or did you just throw yourself into it regardless of the nation’s opinion on the music?
It didn’t feel particularly brave- it felt good to be different from everything and everyone else at the time. Changes were happening and you wanted to be part of it. It was something we did without too much contemplation! The nation’s negative view of punk didn’t bother me as I thought it was incredibly creative, exciting, liberating and life changing. As for women in music, the girls involved in punk were expressing themselves as individuals, speaking their own words, in their own voice, and were not just passive sex objects in a male dominated industry.
“Don’t Dictate” will forever be closely linked to the Punk movement throughout generations, for its melodic but aggressive tone and hard hitting lyrics. Very few artists have been able to capture a moment in their history that is iconic in this way, which gives the song a platform of its own. How do you view how the song still makes a statement for people after all these years, is there a feeling of pride or achievement?
Don’t Dictate was recorded mid-1977 and was only the second time we’d been in a recording studio. We were still developing as a band and the recording captures the spirit at the time. The lyrics are the same verse sang twice and were probably aimed at my nagging parents but capture a universal sentiment of defiance. I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved with the band, not just one song!
The music industry of today is unrecognisable from the scene in the 70s, there is so much scope for DIY today where before record labels had a grip of everything. What do you think the pros & cons are from past to present?
The music industry decided which artists/bands would be financed, promoted and distributed when physical product was the main income. Now in the digital era, anyone can make and promote their own music without the expense of manufacturing and distributing. Most bands have to do everything themselves (as we do) – no manager, agent, record company, publisher or finance. There’s more music out there but things have become more fragmented, existing in their own bubble and nothing seems to connect to form a bigger picture.
Penetration seemed to have a different musical outlook compared to the initial Punk bands from London who started out, was this anything to do with coming from the North East away from London and what kind of reception were you given on your first trips to the capital. Was there a lot of competition in those early days for the spotlight?
Seeing the Sex Pistols early on gave us the inspiration to form a band but it was important that we were true to ourselves and explore our own musicality and environment. Even though we were at such a physical distance we were totally in tune with what was going on in London and our first proper gig was at the Roxy in April 1977. We were accepted as being part of the initial wave and had strong links to all the London and provincial bands playing on the same bill on many occasions. Yes, it was competitive, as everyone was a chancer and wanted to get to the top!
You were still very young and with only really 4 years experience of being in a band, how did putting out a solo album and was going out on your own name also a bit daunting?
We had gained intensive experience in the 4 years but nothing prepared us for working with producer Martin Hannett! I had to put my trust in the process which was difficult at times and not only was it coming out in my name, it was totally different musically from Penetration. The album is intense, passionate, emotional, original dream pop so its release was daunting on many levels – the flowering of punk and the beginning of producer-led 80’s pop.
Music has a habit of unearthing memories, is there anything that always comes up when listening to “Moving Targets” & “Coming Up For Air” if you do still listen to them occasionally?
I listened to Coming Up For Air a couple of years ago and felt quite emotional hearing my young self and also wondered how I had written such insightful lyrics at such a young age. It’s hard to be objective as there was so much pressure during the recording of the album. Moving Targets was more pleasurable to make since all the songs were tried and tested and we did our best to record the definitive versions.
You were very reluctant to reform the band initially, what has kept your interest in Penetration as you were releasing solo material and joint projects away from the band?
I felt that Penetration was in the past and my life had moved on since those days. I didn’t think it would still be relevant 22 years later. Once I committed to Penetration again it would have to be good, have the same intensity, be enjoyable, challenging and the songs still relevant. We’ve done some great live shows, released a new album Resolution which represented the band in 2015 and will play the Royal Albert Hall next year on June 21st.
After being part of Punks origins and watched it grow in many different directions over the years, there are signs of Punk in many industries in society, not just music. How do you view the impact it has had on the world from those early basic beginnings?
Since the explosion of punk, all those years ago, I find it incredible that society is still drawing from it today. It was a powerful energy, led by young people and has informed everything that came after. It was eye-opening on many levels and inspired people to be creative, express themselves and live life in a different way. It’s important that people face up to the problems of the present day and address the issues with the same intensity, moving forward instead of looking back.
Are there any plans for more music from yourself or Penetration coming up in 2018 and beyond?
I am currently completing my 3rd solo album which is due for release Spring 2019. We have demos of new Penetration material though I don’t know when we will record the next album.
What has been your proudest moment involving music?
I don’t feel that I’ve had a proudest moment! I am happy with what I’ve achieved in all moments of writing, singing and performing. Everything is part of a learning curve.
If there is one song you wish you had written what would this be?
There are so many great songs out there that it would be impossible to choose one! All writers/artists express their own take on the world and there is such a rich history of wonderful songs, music and performances.