Do you remember the days of 2014? The international ‘Oi’ music landscape was awash with overproduced pop/rock garbage, but then Crown Court came along with their aptly titled Trouble From London demo, delivering a sudden, well-aimed kick in the nuts. Tunes like ‘Hammer A Nail’ and ‘B.T.P’ delivered Oi music as it should be: raw, gritty, and oozing the grime of inner-city streets.
Subsequent releases easily lived up to the promise. What’s more, they contained beautiful references to Haringey/Tottenham, north London home to both Crown Court’s vocalist Trevor Taylor and Creases Like Knives. There’s ‘No Paradise’ off the English Disease EP, for instance – an ode to Trevor’s stomping ground near Manor House tube station. Or ‘Sammy Skyves’ off the Capital Offence debut album – a worthy monument to the legendary black lad who was a leading Tottenham Hotspurs bootboy in the 60s.
In the past couple of years, things went a bit quiet for Crown Court. Girth, Richard Lewis and Matt Crombieboy caught up with Trevor Taylor to check if everything was alright – and, lo and behold, it was!
Girth: What’s the story with Crown Court – how did you guys form?
Trevor: So me and the drummer Tim were mates as we were both lived next to each other in North London, and one day we got drinking and talking and decided to start a band. Problem was we didn’t have a guitarist or bassist.
So I’m on the overground one day, headed from Green Lanes to Camden Road, and on the off-chance bumped into some geezer dressed in boots and that who I hadn’t seen before. Turns out he’s mates with Tim as well and plays bass. He introduces his mate to me, and Tim and Whalah, Nick and Charlie complete us as a band.
We picked the name from the On Parole song ‘Crown Court’ and release a demo, Trouble From London. I actually disappeared to the army during its production and didn’t know it was going to be received in this way. Came back from basic training and was like, ‘fuck, people really like this’.
Matt: The band has gone through a few personnel changes in the past couple of years. What happened – why did people quit?
All I’ll say about that is: don’t ever use an image or attitude that you cannot back up. I was always taught that nothing in life is easy, so you need to fight for it. If you don’t have that fight within you, maybe find somewhere where it’s not needed.
M: Some people say the best Oi music of the past five years was made by hardcore kids rather than skinheads, though. Crown Court has had a couple of members from hardcore backgrounds too.
Well, I’m not a fan of cosplay personally.
M: You’re eight songs into recording your second album as we speak. Judging from what we’ve heard, it sounds like you’re back with a bang, to use a phrase. What will the new LP bring to the table?
We play real music. It is not pretty, it is not made to be a gimmick. If you lot like it, we’re doing something good. It’s very much for the fans to decide. Pretentious nonsense need not apply.
Richard: So how can Oi bands keep their sound and ideas fresh?
Don’t take selfies, put in some street time instead. Don’t just buy what’s on, make sure that music speaks to you and try to better it. The rest will take care of itself.
G: How does recording compared to playing live?
Recording is a ball-ache. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
M: Hard to believe that Capital Offence is four years old now. What did you want that album to stand for when you wrote it?
For me, it was meant to be something true laid down. I’m proud of everyone’s input and hard work on that album. Time will tell what people think of it.
M: Your last release was a seven-inch called Mad in England, previously titled ‘Made in England’ on the Oi! Ain’t Dead 6 compilation. What was the song about?
It was always ‘Mad in England’, the former was a record company mistake. That song is about the chaos unfolding around several mad months of 2017. I was still in the military at the time doing all sorts – and in London, Grenfell was on fire, and there were attacks in central and some moody stuff going on in North London at the time. “Machetes down Knightsbridge, Sten guns are old news”.
M: It was frustrating how rarely you used to play London in the past. Will Crown Court Mk II be gigging at home more frequently?
Yessir! Always tended to gig at least three times a year in London. I will let promoters decide.
G: How much do you feel football and Oi music are intertwined?
This is my life. Skinheads started from the terraces and dance halls of whatever shitty hole in London they came from. I grew up with Spurs in my blood and in my family, and I grew up in love with the one and only best music in the universe.
R: Tell us more about the Spurs firm today, then. To what extent does it represent the rather diverse area which the club is based?
For anyone who has grown up or lived in Tottenham, they can understand the melting pot it is. The firm mirrors that in a unique way. Things are alive and well in N17. If that kind of life speaks to you, come see for yourself, don’t take my word or opinion. There’s no place quite like it.
R: Are there any other skinheads or Oi types within your ranks?
Absolutely, there is the 60s lot, who are getting on a bit now, and the late 70s/80s lot, some of whom are still surprisingly very active. There is a strong cult skinhead following at Spurs, as there was at most London clubs. I believe some benefited from more media exposure than others – and of course, as time went on, politics had a greater part to play, but that is naff.
G: Speaking of which, you had a fall out with the Clapton FC Ultras. What was the story here?
I’ve been active in the football scene in Tottenham for many years now. 2015 Aston Villa at the Lane we went to a gig, at a venue up there. Now we had just had a bust-up with Villa not two hours prior, so we were a group of about eight in a venue on Tottenham High Road on match day.
Now, some genius decides to unravel à Clapton Ultras banner, to which I object and politely as fuck ask them to take it down, as they were in our manor and there was no bad blood at this point. Now 20 minutes passed, and the gaff starts filling up with some more of these, and sure enough, the geniuses put the banner back up….fuck’s sake. Ok, so again I go over to say ‘look, it’s gonna go if you keep on poking a bees nest’. But before I get a word out, some big oaf says “that’s him, that’s him”, and they start to go for me. Outnumbered, I floor the cunt and jab two others, then bugger off.
As you know, they start talking, and what was a purely football on matchday story turns into a ‘big scary skinhead attacks antifa’ story. Now, I couldn’t have given a shit about whether they were anarchists, communists or philanthropists. I had gotten on very well with the antifa in London for years, as we all drank at the same pubs and parties and no one gave a damn. Nor did I give a shit about goose-stepping down my local high street.
But these do something amazing next. Liverpool at the Lane 2016, I finish up with the lads at Spurs and go back to this venue for a gig, and I’m waiting outside with a group of lads including the soon-to-be guitarist of Crown Court, Benny, and I feel a whack on the back of my bonce. A bird and a bloke with a cosh and crowbar have smashed my head and are screaming, “fascist, get out of here”. I was covered in my own blood, attacked from behind.
Now, unknown to them, the very multicultural, very Jamaican, very cockney, very pissed off football crew that I was with not 10 minutes beforehand were not happy to hear that Clapton were up to sneaky games on our manor one more time. In about five minutes time, every single fucker who wanted to stand and fight got battered by 20 or so Yids.
Now the very next week, it was reported that the singer of Crown Court was apparently involved in attacks against antifa – Clapton twisting shit. They posted a meme online trying to clutch at straws and paint me with the brush of the ultimate baddie.
Long story short: if you can’t handle football violence, please don’t go to football kids… Stay at home, read your books, cry about the system, I don’t care – but don’t be sad when you cause problems yourselves and then lose.
R: Which rival firms have you noticed to ‘punch above their weight’ so to speak, are there any which proved tougher than you expected?
I’ll rate Blades (Sheffield United FC firm). London rivals hate us for a reason, and we hate them.
R: Have you had any contact with supporters in Europe, either friendly or not so friendly?
Europe’s pretty lively in general. Can think of a certain lot who need a lesson in betrayal. Don’t get turned over home and away if you’re trying to make a point… Nuff said.
G: Back to music. What do you think of the Oi scene today?
The Oi scene today is a kick in the bollocks, to be honest. In London not so long ago, we had loads on, from reggae nights to Oi gigs once a month to something always going on. Seems like the promoters got sick of promoting or moved away. A lot of Europeans who put in the graft moved away as well.
In a bigger picture, I worry that Oi as we know it is losing touch as to what it really is and what it originally stood for. It’s violent, tough, ugly music made for and by people from that background. I see a lot of people looking the part, and not a lot of people making music or carrying themselves in a way which warrants anything to do with life on the street or terraces.
R: We understand you’re a well-travelled young man, though. Can you give us any insight into the differences between the skinhead scenes in the US compared to Europe?
I haven’t seen the US scene in a long, long time. When I was there it was incredibly violent and had some decent sound. Europe has good people everywhere. Athens is my second home. Zurich and Barcelona are crackers. Marseille too, but not for the faint-hearted: extraordinary ultras scene there.
G: I understand performing abroad is a much better experience compared to here in the UK?
We’ve had some good gigs abroad. But I will tell you, nothing beats being at home, in London, at a packed-out pub gig with wall to wall friends and people going nuts… This is the best feeling in the world, not 3000 or 5000 punters.
G: As a leading light in the Oi scene – which current bands do you rate?
My Top 5 active are B Squadron, Brutal Bravo, Hammer and the Nails, Templars, and Suede Razors are fun as well.
G: Do you listen to any music which is miles away from Oi?
Fuck yes, been doing this scene since 14 years old, but grew up on a healthy diet of British rock ‘n’ roll from my old man: Bowie, Stones, Thin Lizzy and all that.
R: Where are your favourite places to go for a pint these days? It seems so many pubs have closed…
I drink at the Elbow Room. Yep, pubs in London are being smashed, and I don’t know why. Seems like turning a profit ain’t good enough these days.
M: What are your favourite places in London? I especially mean locations that mean something to you – and to make it extra difficult, I want you to name your favourite 10.
OK, number one has got to be Park Lane, N17 0AP – the street Spurs was founded on, the street they used to ‘try’ and bring away fans into, and the Park Lane End being our traditional and spiritual home. Now home to the biggest and loudest single-tier home end in all of world football. Best place in all London.
Number two: the Elephant’s Head pub in Camden. Yes, it is shit and full of tourists now. Yes, it has changed…but for my teenage years right up until 2015ish, all kind of skullduggery could be gotten away with.
Alexandra Palace in Haringey – if you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be king of the world. If you know, you know.
N4 Manor House. My home turf, where two generations of my family were born and raised. Grandad on Woodberry Down estate, my old man the Clapton side of it, and myself on Green Lanes. Used to be Greek and cockney and Jamaican, now starting to be full of yuppies just like everywhere. Neighbourhood is still as tough as any and my home. Viva Seven Sisters Road!
Fiddler’s Elbow venue/pub. ‘Crown Court’s CBGB’s’ had the best local gigs there, and before Crown Court had the best memories attending. Once I came home from the army and was literally told to get on stage and start singing our songs. Luckily, the lads were in the crowd.
That’s five. Number six: not East London.
Flashback Records stores in Angel and Brick Lane. Digging for gold, you can find anything from 4-Skins to Cockney Rejects to whatever your heart fancies originals. Vinyl and good memories mooching around. Trying to get it.
Number eight: Denmark Street, Soho. From red lights to record shops to venues to hidden basement bars to the old hallowed ground of the closed 12 Bar. It was a haunt for me and is somewhere near and dear to me. Always matter to chat to birds or find a gig or enjoy the buzz about the place… and miraculously, it’s on the 29 bus – as is everything!
Rochester Avenue, Victoria. It’s where I joined the army from, and where I left it from after a long incredible journey in between. I showed up to the initial interview in an Oxfam suit and boots. The Sergeant Major just looked at me and said, “did you lose your job in The Specials?” Should’ve learned there.
Last but not least: there’s no better place in the world to be but the Thames. It’s big, it’s long, it’s cliché – but it’s what makes us who we are. From the Tattershall Castle and summer Tottenham drink-ups to pubs with nooses in the beer garden, the river made us. No more peace than being at this place.
G: Any last words of wisdom?
To dare is to do.