When Scottish punk band The Exploited arrive on our shores next week it will be an absolute miracle that they are here. I don’t use the word miracle in a form of journalistic shock either, it will be a true miracle as lead singer Wattie Buchan has had a number of heart attacks over the years including one in stage in Lisbon as the band performed alongside Hatebreed and Napalm Death. In Wattie’s own words it is a miracle that he is alive, let alone still touring to countries like Australian.
“When I got the phone call to ask if we wanted to do this tour it was really weird,” says Wattie in his think Scottish accent down the phone line. “It was really weird because just the day before I was just thinking that perhaps it was time we came back to Australia. Then when I got the call I was like ‘sure we would love to come back.’”
This year marks a huge celebration as it marks the 40th anniversary of a band that many believe brought back true punk in the 1980s. It was at the time when Sid Vicious was gone from The Sex Pistols and many believed that The Clash had gone mainstream. Then bang out of nowhere came The Exploited hailing from Scotland, a band who were ready to share with the world exactly what they were angry about.
I ask Wattie whether or not during the celebrations of this there fortieth year in the business if it has been a time of reflection for him and he says “Totally, totally. The last six years have been tough for me health wise. I’ve had all these heart attacks so I had to get myself healthy again so I could do gigs again. When you are twenty years old you think that two years is a long time, but when your band goes for forty years and still be successful is fucking unbelievable.”
“I’ve even be thinking that you never know this could be our last time,” he adds but with a now obvious hint of sadness in his voice. “This could well be our last time doing gigs in Australia, so this is a really big deal for me!”
When Wattie says he has bad health, he is not over-exaggerating and I am surprised at how easily he opens up to me to talk about it. “Over the past six years I think I have had five heart attacks,” he explains. “I had a pacemaker put in last year and a gastro-bypass done two years ago because I was really as fat as fuck. I’m not the lightest that I have been since I was 20 years old. I have had to do all of this so I can be fit enough to do gigs again. But I am fine now, I am in much better health and I am looking forward to doing these gigs. The last five years have been shit but now I am better.”
The thought of a pun world without The Exploited is almost too painful to imagine and despite Wattie saying that this could be the band’s last tour to Australia they are a band that is forever evolving. The new material that they have been working on is still there waiting to be released and the band recently signed a brand new guitar player.
“We’ve just got a new guitar player… our first in twenty years,” exclaims Wattie with all of the excitement returning back to his voice. “That means that we will be able to play a longer set. We had a German guy try out but he couldn’t get the songs proper so we tried a Scottish guy and he was okay. He was good at playing everything, the guy was good enough… if he wasn’t good enough then it would be simple we would get somebody else.”
As we discuss the fact that the band is still changing after forty years together Wattie admits that in the early days he would never have been able to fathom where the band would be at today. “I was always off my face on drugs,” he says openly. “For fucking thirty-four years I did drugs every single day. I never really thought about the things in the future because I was always so wasted but now when I look back I realise that we have achieved a lot and I know that lot of people appreciate what we have done. We’ve never changed the kind of music that we have done – it is just punk. We’ve never tried to change our music, we have never sold out, we have always stayed true to what we believe. People appreciate that and that makes me feel good.”
Wattie then laughs when I ask him what he feels has been the band’s greatest achievement over that forty years. “Still being here,” he says with a heartfelt laugh. “Actually I would say that our great achievement would probably be keeping punk music going for forty years. If it weren’t for us I think there are a few bands that wouldn’t be around these days. I think our music has also helped a lot of people through bad times and to me that means a lot.”
The Exploited are proof that punk is far from dead so make sure you catch them on their Australian tour which kicks off on the Gold Coast on March 18th.