Ok so this is the pitch, a true life story of an imaginary Manchester band. The inside history of the albums, the stories, the bust ups, the tours and more. A story that ranges from the late 1970s to 2011. All of it true. But fictional. The story of The Greatest Band That Never Existed.
I am aware that jumping straight in loses context but hope it can be enjoyed as a fun, whimsical read to give a sense of the full picture. In this excerpt drummer Jason enters the story.
Chapter 26: Jason
I sit down opposite Jason Fitzwilliam for the first of the interview sessions in 2009. I place two pints on the table between us; we are sat in a beer garden in Castlefield, just off Deansgate in Manchester. The fact we both drink cider breaks the ice. I set up my recording equipment.
‘Do you use your Dictaphone?’ he asks.
‘No I use my finger like everyone else’ I reply.
He smiles to himself, it’s clear I’ve just nabbed his punch line but he doesn’t seem too put out. He takes a swig from his pint and runs a hand through his long black hair. It’s messy and unkempt and dangles down to his shoulders. He’s dressed in the clothes he wears perennially, faded denims, T-shirt, battered leather jacket and boots. He’s quite tall too, lanky and lean. A seemingly permanent five o clock shadow decorates his jaw line.
Part of the reason we’re outside becomes apparent when he lights a cigarette, taking a drag before having another drink. He continues alternate from one of the other. Jason can normally be seen smoking roll ups around town and uses either matches or lighters he has acquired from around the world. The only non alcoholic substance he drinks is tea, in which he has three sugars. Jason seemingly lives off greasy food too; sausages and bacon are apparently his main dietary requirement. On top of this he has a noted capacity for LSD, speed and Guinness. The man is a medical enigma.
Jason is mischievous, sociable, sarcastic and good company. Occasionally childish, he plays up to his clownish image. He likes to be a cartoonish rock ‘n’ roller. He has an eye for the ladies and enjoys dessert.
‘Where does the story start?’ I ask him. He flicks his ash into the wind and tells me.
Jason Fitzwilliam was born in Manchester in 1973, but, despite various urban myths he was not orphaned and bought up by wolves. Consistently slippery about his upbringing, the only fact I can seem to gleam is that his father, who wasn’t around much, was ‘some kind of a cop’. His father was a ladies’ man from down south that was fond of drinking, gambling, womanising, fist fights and disrupting international terrorism. He would pop round every so often in his Ford Capri. Jason seems to bear no malice towards his errant father; in fact he claims it’s where he inherited his roguish traits. A lean, rugged child he could often be seen prowling street corners in Wythenshawe wearing a succession of bad jumpers playing football with a tin can. He would occasionally sneak into Maine Road to watch Man City play.
Leaving school he went through a series of jobs he describes as ‘shite’, but then it is difficult to imagine Jason doing any job. A career in drumming was always eluding him, mainly because he was always being kicked out of bands for being ‘an irritating cunt.’ Why is that? ‘I don’t sleep much and I like to get up to mischief in the wee small hours.’
So how did Jason join the band? Luckily I have found him Jason on a verbose day with time for personal reflection. He picks the story up in the year 1997, he was 24 and too tall to sneak into Maine Road.
I’d spent about ten years doing all these crap jobs. Luckily I don’t eat much so I can keep my expenses down [I ask him about taxes – he appears to not hear me]. The only thing I ever wanted to do was drum but that just wasn’t happening, I wasn’t giving up though. One day I heard that Sulkin Serpents were looking for a new drummer, so I thought: “I’m having that gig whether they like it or not”. I knew where they rehearsed and I knew Andy vaguely [ignoring the fact that Andy doesn’t particularly like him] so I blagged my way in telling them how I was their new drummer. So I spent the afternoon there showing what I could do and I put my all into it and by the end they said I was on board. We all went to the pub, I slept on Mitch’s sofa, and I woke him up with a celebratory ice cream at 4.30.
‘It was certainly a whirlwind!’ laughs John, ‘but that’s pretty accurate, it was quite a formal rehearsal and if he had been crap Andy would have kicked his arse out of there! He became our drummer mainly cos he’s very, very good at it and don’t let him tell you otherwise!’
Unfortunately for him 1997 would see a year without an album, just when the band desperately needed yet another comeback…