“As long as we live and we have fun, we will be there.”
So says Pork Dukes guitarist/vocalist Horrendus Styles (aka Stewart Goldring) on the eve of the veteran Brit punk band’s first ever West Coast shows (which includes a stop in San Bernardino). An obscure, obscene footnote to London’s late-1970s punk explosion, the Dukes reformed in 2001.
When they started the band around 1977, Styles and his twin brother Vilos (aka Colin Goldring, vocalist/guitarist) were still under contract to RCA Records with their prog rock act Gnidrolog, while their bandmates were often moonlighting from prominent punk bands. Needing to remain anonymous, the Pork Dukes performed in—what else?—pig masks. Their succinct, Buzzcocks-y pop-punk displayed a musicality rare amidst the anyone-can-have-a-bash ethos of the time, which only made the Dukes’ sex- and toilet-obsessed lyrics all the more incongruous.
The predictable controversy and feminist backlash generated by songs like “Tight Pussy” and “I Like Your Big Tits” soon had them banned from most clubs and radio, which forced the piggy ones to play mostly unannounced gigs in increasingly unlikely locations (including the mental institutions where Vilos was training to be a nurse). And though they were punk through-and-through, they always sat somewhat apart from close-knit cliques around bands like 999 and The Lurkers, and from the whole “Bromley Contingent” crowd that followed the Sex Pistols (and included the then-unknown Siouxsie Sioux and Billy Idol).
“The difference for us maybe—a bit like The Stranglers as well—was that people in our band were actually musicians,” says Styles, with a slight John Lydon sneer. “We weren’t working-class kids who found an instrument and found they could play one or two notes—we were actually session musicians and good players wanting to play that kind of music.”
Intentionally or otherwise, their masked, mysterious aura fueled outlandish rumors about the true identity of the Pork Dukes. Some claimed that they were actually Led Zeppelin or Steeleye Span, while others speculated that their singer might be Keith Moon or even Dudley Moore. Rumors don’t pay the rent though, and by 1979 the band had broken up after releasing three singles and a couple of albums (which sold relatively well, despite the lack of airplay or promotion).
Their decision to reform 22 years later was “utter stupidity” according to Styles. In the meantime, Vilos had become a drug and alcohol therapist, and Styles had been a teacher, lecturer and an elected politician on a local council (seriously). And both now look like your favorite grey ‘n’ bald uncles. “Nothing really tops playing this kind of music,” Styles explains. “We really missed going out live and doing small venues and being close to people who enjoy listening to it.”
With drummer Bonk (aka Rocky Rhythm, also of The Revillos, Tenpole Tudor and Dave Vanian’s Phantom Chords) returning from their ’70s incarnation and new bassist Vince Santini (also ex-Revillos) on board, the now self-managing Pork Dukes soon found that British crowds were mostly disinterested in “wrinkly rockers playing this kind of music.” Yet across the Atlantic, they found a whole new audience.
“This will be our eighth tour in America in as many years. Every time we come back we seem to make more friends and we’re absolutely blown away by how much they like what we’re doing,” says Styles.
“If you’re easily offended, don’t come . . . We’re not going to change what we do and we’re not going to soften it down or tone it down or change it in any way. We’re playing a lot of the stuff that we played in the ’70s. Even though we’ve had albums since then and we’ve written new stuff, we keep coming back to the driving rock with those types of words because that’s what we want to do.”
The Pork Dukes w/Colton Disposal at the Music Room, 4360 N. Sierra Way, San Bernardino, (909) 883-6513, www.porkdukes.com. Thurs, Sept. 24. $10 cover.