If the zombie apocalypse ever reaches Lancashire, you’d be wise to seek advice from Adlington’s Chris Unsworth and his band Faster than Bulls, as MALCOLM WYATT found out...
There’s a certain irony to the fact that Lancashire punk rockers Faster than Bulls’ most lively audience to date involved an ‘undead’ audience.
The band had star billing at a ‘zombie apocalypse’ shoot in Widnes last month, making a video for their third single, When Death Comes to Town, a tie-in with North-West dark comedy horror writer Peter Mckeirnon’s latest book series.
You only have to see the footage – with a behind-the-scenes video and plenty of photographs from the shoot online – to see what a mad event that was.
But Faster than Bulls frontman and bass player Chris Unsworth, from Adlington, is keen to tell us anyway, in his own infectious way.
“It was unbelievable. Peter, the author, said we had around 150 extras. I reckon more like 200.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s a great back story too.”
Once Chris, a regional sales manager for a recruitment firm by day, gets going it’s difficult to get a word in.
In fact, think Paul Whitehouse’s ever-enthusiastic ‘Brilliant!’ character from The Fast Show.
It’s clearly Chris that drives the band, and in a relatively short space of time Faster than Bulls have made headlines, like their namesakes in a China shop.
What’s more, they even feature in the second book of Peter McKeirnon’s Death in a Northern Town trilogy.
Chris said: “Just today, Peter sent over the chapter to me in which we feature, and it’s just unbelievable reading about yourself in a novel. Crazy!
“It’s so surreal reading about us as the band in a work of fiction. The day of the zombie shoot itself was beyond belief.
“We had around seven make-up artists, the press were down, and it was all just so incredible.”
Is that the Runcorn Bridge I see in the background of some of the photographs?
“Yes, we were on the Widnes side of the bridge. Peter’s set the books in Runcorn, where he’s from.
“The Studio, the venue we used, is in Widnes, and is superb. Only a month ago the Happy Mondays played there, as did the UK Subs.
“You can see from some of the stage shots what a great place it is to play.
“We did a free gig that night to help promote the event, and most of the zombies stopped on, so we had a whole day with them really. How mad’s that?”
Faster than Bulls have barely been together a year, but like the name suggests, they’re moving quick.
”I’ve been in other bands before, but this has been amazing. And in a couple of months we’re playing Rebellion, the biggest punk festival in the world.
“Bands just don’t do all these things so quick. It’s unbelievable!”
For a lover of all things punk rock, that showcase at Blackpool Winter Gardens, on August 7, is some line-up.
“When I was a kid, maybe three or four, I was listening to The Dickies, and they’re on the same night as us. What’s all that about?!
“Then there’s Stiff Little Fingers, Killing Joke, NOFX … Fantastic! It’s endless. There’s 200-odd bands there.
“It’s all about networking. I found out through somebody who found out through somebody else who to speak to about Rebellion.
“I was persistent … but in a nice way. And around November I got a message saying ‘I like you, I like your band, I like your music, how passionate you are… you’re on.’
“I said, ‘Are you having a laugh?” and the promoter just repeated, ‘no, you’re on’.
So how did you get to know about Peter Mckeirnon’s books?
“My work’s head office is in Runcorn, and a work-mate told me about Death in a Northern Town.
“I’d just watched 28 Days Later or something of that genre and was writing this dark tune. It was a concept song, and fitted perfectly.
“I asked my mate to have a word with Peter, and ended up sending a message on Facebook. He came back saying, ‘that would be cool’.
“Peter then sent a poem written for the second book, so without even knowing each other at that stage we co-wrote a song.
“A few months later we did a rough recording, and went to meet him at this boozer in Runcorn with our drummer, Ben.
“We really loved it but worried that he wouldn’t. But luckily, after a couple of pints and a good chat, we hit it off. And he loved the song.
“Then we started talking about a video. Peter knows a lot of people, and it just happened.”
That track is now set to be band’s third single, following Despite the Night and Blowout.
“Neil Treppas, who records and produces us in Bolton, has worked with Steve Vai and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kasabian, and is very well respected.
“He took us away to this little studio, and it all came together. He could probably charge treble what he does, but just wants to be kept busy.
“We listened to his advice and four or five months after we started gigging we had two singles out.
“We did a single launch for both recordings around Halloween last year, with a good crowd down and a great night.”
And now the release of the third single is tied in with the release of Peter Mckeirnon’s latest zombie book.
“Yes, with the video out a little earlier, all on iTunes, possibly with the first two singles as a three-track EP.
“We’ve now started recording our second three-track EP, which should be ready by next March. It’s just a taster of what we’re all about. “
As well as the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, you can also see Faster than Bulls at Prestival in Preston on September 20.
Then there are two hometown gigs, playing Chorley Live in early October.
“We did that last year, again both nights, and want to keep doing these.
“I’m a Chorley lad and want to keep playing around here.
“We’ve also played around Adlington.
“There’s nothing better.
“You come off stage – if there actually is one – go straight to the bar with your friends, and it’s just fantastic!”
There’s a further Chorley link, with lead guitarist Ricky Moss also from Adlington, while drummer Ben Argyle’s from Rochdale and second guitarist Tim Daniel based in Didsbury.
The band are also playing an ‘Indiependance Day’ event on Friday, July 4 in Manchester, at an upstairs room at the Ducie Bridge, ‘another proper good venue’ according to Chris.
While forthcoming on most things, he’s a little cagy about his age, but admitted to inheriting his musical taste from an older brother.
His band followed suit, citing the New York Dolls, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, PIL and Ramones as influences.
“That’s come from our Billy, my brother.
“He was a punk from around ’76 and old enough to go down to London, down the King’s Road and all that.
“He had all the gear, and I’ve still got some of that now, like his dog-collar and badges.
“When I was growing up I listened to whatever he did.”
The band explain their sound as ‘an eclectic mix of proto-punk, pop, rock and blues, driven forward by musicians who know how to make the walls shake’.
Chris added: “You can put us into all these genres.
“There’s all sorts of things going on.
“But our biggest influence is the New York Dolls.
“They were proto-punks, the band all those early punk bands listened to.
“A brilliant band, and eccentric with it.
“I started playing really late, not picking a guitar up until I was 28.
“I was in a couple of average bands, and now I’m here in a band that’s a little bit special!”
Chris wouldn’t let me go without another plug for his zombie video, concluding: “I’ve seen an early edit, and it’s unbelievable.
“I won’t spoil it, but we were up there on the stage, then they all started coming in to the venue, and I was absolutely terrified, or words to that effect.
“The attention to detail was amazing.
“We’re hoping it’ll go viral.
“It’s that good!”
For more about the band go to www.fasterthanbulls.co.uk or their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FasterThanBulls