Hang On To Your Hats: It’s MDT!

Promo shot Motorcycle Display Team on a roof in Deptford, facing the camera

Q & A // Hang On To Your Hats: It’s MDT!

I first met Motorcycle Display Team in a pub in Drumcondra, in Dublin. That was about eight or nine years ago, we chatted for my radio show. I move to London and find out that they rehearse in the same part of South East London that I live in.

Occasionally, our paths cross but that hasn’t happened in a while. So right now was a great opportunity to catch up with the threesome, aka MDT, and find out about life in lockdown, about a certain Britney Spears cover and get a few musical tips for Deptford.

Hello, MDT, who are you, where are you and how are you doing?

Steve: Wandering round in my own head wondering where everyone has gone, shrugging then mixing a drink.

Drew: Hi, I’m Drew – MDT’s current bass player (at time of writing). I’m at home in London Bridge slowly driving my wife up the wall with an unending barrage of questionable musical ideas.

Morgan: I’m Morgan, at least I think I still am. I’m in my house in Westcliff On Sea, south Essex. I guess I’m as good as can be, all things considered

You’ve covered Britney’s Toxic in lockdown, have you been keeping a weekly rehearsal schedule or how have you been keeping the creativity going?

Steve: Creativity is fighting its regular battles with the regular old distractions, but the biggest challenge is finding some physical privacy to make my little mistakes.

Drew: Like everyone else in the known universe, we’ve been meeting up on Zoom. We’ve actually turned the chat room into a serviceable pub.

Morgan: We tried to have a rehearsal online, but the latency made it impossible. I downloaded some programme to beat the latency and it killed my laptop. Completely destroyed it. When lockdown started, I found myself forcing myself to write and finish off songs etc, but I wasn’t very successful.

Since we did the Britney thing, I’ve taken that pressure off myself. I try and play a bit here and there, but with all that’s going on, my head isn’t in the right space and I’d hate to just churn out something for the sake of it. As Steve said, finding physical privacy in this situation is very difficult- my wife and kids don’t appreciate me playing the same thing over and over, while swearing a lot. And as Drew said, we just find drinking together online easier right now.

You’ve released a couple of albums, your last was ‘Yours Probably’ in 2018. Are you writing or planning more original material?

Steve: Yes, a new crop of songs we think is easily among our best work. I suppose we’ll be recording it when we all get out.

Drew: We were actually due to record some new tracks in March when the apocalypse happened. The only upshot that springs to mind is that we’ve had a little more time to tighten the screws on what we already have ready to go.

Morgan: I can’t wait to record this new album once this whole period passes. I’m hoping to get one more song included/finished before we go to record, I’m just having a job convincing the lads on it. Also, Drew has been sending lots of ideas around, which we’re bouncing around ideas on.

You’re big boys with jobs and families, does their influence cross into your songwriting?

Steve: Of course. You have to write a little of what you know else you’re really just singing from your sphincter. That said, I haven’t written anything about lockdown yet. My instinct is that there is depth there, but it needs to be carefully teased out, or else you end up with another trite piece of tut for the pile.

Morgan: We have a new song called Mexicans. The genesis for that song was me trying to wake my son Jude for school. I just started this chant with his name, thought ‘I like that’, swopped his name in the chant for ‘whoaho’ and the song took off from there. Also, I regularly make mistakes when I’m trying to play other peoples’ songs as my kids always distract me when I’m playing at home. Often those mistakes turn into ideas for MDT songs.

What your favourite of your own songs that you’ve released and why?

Steve: Yours Probably, the title track from our last album. It’s long and detailed, and when we play it live, if it has gone well by the second chorus it feels like we’re really expressing joy to be alive together on that stage.

Drew: Of the released stuff, I’d have to say that my favourite MDT tunes to play are either ‘Erosion’ from the last album or ‘Laughing Cavalier’ from the EP just before that. However, we’ve got one coming through called ‘Divide & Rule’ that is a whole bunch of fun to play.

Morgan: Ice Age or Yours Probably. I can’t wait to record and release Divide and Rule.

You’ve had a couple of different bass players over the years, if you don’t play music full time and life gets in the way sometimes with moving and jobs, how hard is it to keep the passion and enthusiasm going?

Steve: It’s like most things you need to summon energy for. It’s not a one way pleasure cruise. You need to turn up. You need to do your homework. You need to jam stuff even when it feels like a dead end. You can go through weeks with no progress. You keep at it till you get a breakthrough or a different perspective. When you’ve done the hard work you’re then capable of performing and you can begin to enjoy it. When you see others expressing pleasure in your work your enthusiasm gets a boost.

Drew: We’re only a couple months short of it being a year since we did the support gigs for The Quireboys up north! I think a huge factor in keeping it fresh since then is the fact that we don’t just talk about MDT. We’re all big film/music/anything remotely creative fans, so we’re looking out and listening for new things to share with each other.

Morgan: I think the fact that we’re always writing and trying out different things is what keeps it going. While it might not be visible to anyone who might keep an eye on us, there’s always something afoot. Another thing that keeps me going is the very slow increase of people who listen to our music. If you release music, you hope someone will listen to it and appreciate it. We’ve seen that start to happen, albeit very slowly, in the US and Canada. One of our old singles ‘Brickwall’ has been getting lots plays in that part of the world of late.

Morgan, you’re Irish and previously played in bands in the Dublin area. What bands did you play with?

Morgan: I’ve played with lots of Dublin bands that didn’t make it out of a rehearsal room, but the one that anyone might know of was a band called Zeel. We were around from 2000-2002. I was told our single ‘Best Things’ got into the Irish charts. It got lots of airplay on Phantom FM and good old Dave Fanning gave us a few spins. In hindsight, we could have taken it much further, but we didn’t have a clue what we were doing and we broke up just as it was getting bigger. Oh well. As Joey the Lips said ‘this way it’s poetry’. Or something like that.

How did you find the transition to life in the UK?

Morgan: It’s that long ago now, I’m not sure I can remember it being a thing. All I do know is I was very excited and up for anything. I was very hungry to explore all the live music London had to offer and what that could lead to.

As an Irish person, you have a huge safety net in London. If you’re ever homesick, there’s loads of Irish people, pubs and other things going on. I guess finding my own niche took some time, but I think anyone moving to any new country would say the same thing.

Once upon a time, I met you guys in a rehearsal studio in Deptford to chat for The London Ear. Can you recommend three bands or musical delights from that area that we should check out?

Steve: The Invisible are locals and they’re well worth checking out, especially their eponymous debut album. Royce Wood Junior too. He has new music out soon which I’m really looking forward to.

Drew: I wasn’t in the band back then, but I’d still like to recommend The Amersham Arms as a place that seems to attract a really eclectic mix of acts. It’s literally over the road from New Cross station and I don’t think I’ve ever been in there without seeing something or someone interesting (in the best way possible).

Morgan: A band we know, like and that use the same rehearsal space as us is Glue Men. If you fancy a night out in Deptford, I strongly recommend the Bird’s Nest. It’s hands down one of my favourite venues to play and have a pint. As Drew said, Amersham Arms is also good for a pint and they sometimes have live music too.

What are you most looking forward to doing after the lockdown? Could be playing a venue, going to work, off to the pub, a quirky shop? you tell me.

Steve: The pub. Simple.

Drew: I miss my nieces and nephew, so I’ll probably make them take me out for a drink on the Southbank whilst I tell them stories I’ve already told them at least twice before.

Morgan: I’m chomping at the bit to play the drums properly with the lads. I have an electronic kit, but it’s nowhere near as satisfying. And yes, I miss pubs. A lot.

How are you all coping with life in lockdown, getting into gardening or baking? What have you learned about yourself?

Steve: I need to make cocktails a more permanent part of my daily.

Drew: I made a chilli oil (with homegrown chillies!) the other week that came out way better than I’d presumed it would. Mucho picante, senor. Mucho picante.

Morgan: I’ve learnt that I’m bored stupid of myself and that William Burroughs was a massive misogynist.

Pick an uplifting song for us that makes you want to dance!

Steve: Humans by Super Best Friends Club

Drew: ‘One Thing’ by Amerie. It’s as if God herself got to Day 8 and said “Let there be an absolute banger”.

Morgan: Chanson Populaire by Claude Francois- just try and sit still when that chorus kicks in. Also, a track called Love by Unloved.

Any secrets you’d like to tell us?

Steve: I can’t in good conscience tell a secret and be the architect of its demise.

Drew: I like to lip-sync to songs and send the video to the MDT chat group. I most recently did ‘My Sacrifice’ by Creed.

Morgan: I’m desperate for my pet budgie Brett to like me. He f**king hates me

Send us a selfie?

MDT in 3 selfies arranged in a square - nessymon

Find Motorcycle Display Team Online

You can find MDT online on Facebook, Twitter, InstaInsta and listen to the band on Spotify.