That Petrol Emotion: The story behind my first interview ever

Before running Vendetta magazine from 1994-2002, I edited a shortly lived zine called New Direction from 1987-1991. While cleaning out my closet, I came across a box of old issues, so I decided that I’d start scanning some articles over the coming weeks, including reviews of then ‘new’ albums by the likes of the Stone Roses, House of Love, Ride, and the Cure’s Disintegration. But first, I wanted to share the first in-person interview I ever conducted with the now legendary Northern Irish outfit That Petrol Emotion.

The group became an immediate favorite of mine when their debut Manic Pop Thrill was released in 1986 while I was studying abroad in England. I remember reading rave reviews in the British press and running out to buy it with my best friend Marc. That Petrol Emotion even make a cameo in my novel Wivenhoe Park when the protagonist Drew and his buddy Johnny see the band in London and talk to Steve Mack afterwards. When I came back to America, I discovered The Big Takeover magazine and was immediately inspired to start my own fanzine. For the first few years I just published record and live reviews, until a friend of mine, Jon, kicked my ass into gear. We went to Detroit to see That Petrol Emotion at St. Andrew’s Hall. At the gig Jon went to the side of the stage and started chatting to a dude who turned out to be the group’s tour manager. When the concert ended, Jon said to me, come on we’re going backstage. I told their manager that you write for Spin and that you just interviewed Billy Bragg! We went backstage — I’m sure my hands were visibly shaking — and got to meet everyone in the band, before I conducted a brief interview with bass player John Marchini. As I didn’t have a recorder, I jotted down notes on the back of a concert flyer and blended them into the short article below.


I would end up interviewing a hundreds of bands in the coming decade, including Ride, Catherine Wheel, Suede, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Brian Jonestown Massacre, but this little chat with That Petrol Emotion will always remain one of my favorite writing memories.

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


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