SEMINAL Punk Rock band The Damned has had a busy year. They toured the UK earlier in the year, toured with The Hollywood Vampires (the band that includes Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp) and released a brand new studio album.

Now, having just toured the United States, they are on another UK tour that visits The Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth on Saturday.

The band formed in 1976 and was the first band to release a ‘punk’ single New Rose, the first ‘punk’ album and were the first to take ‘punk’ to America.

Other hits included Neat Neat Neat and Smash It Up.

They also embraced the Goth rock movement in the eighties and had a massive hit with a cover of Barry Ryan’s Eloise.

Original members, guitarist Captain Sensible and singer Dave Vanian still front the band, along with keyboard player Monty Oxymoron and drummer Pinch.

Bassist Stu West, who has been with the band since 2004, decided to leave the band late last year, so the band had to find a replacement.

Enter Paul Gray, who was bassist in the band back in the early eighties, when they produced the albums ‘Strawberries’ and ‘The Black Album’.

The new album, ‘Evil Spirits’ has recently been released and for the first time in their 42-year history, the band has a Top Ten album. The previous high spot in the album charts was with their 1985 album ‘Phantasmagoria’ which reached Number 11.

A little jet-lagged after just returning from the US tour, singer and founder-member Dave Vanian jokes when I ask him how the band are.

“No idea, never heard of them.” He quips. “No, we’re all very well. We’ve just spent 20 days together in the States and it was all fine.”

Going right back to the early days of his career, all the biogs state that Dave was once a gravedigger.

“Yeah, it’s true.” He confirms. “It was in-between other jobs and one where I didn’t have to think too much and could make my own hours.”

“I was walking past a graveyard and saw a gravedigger whistling away, obviously happy in his work. No pun intended, but I had a lot of dead-end jobs.”

The new album has received great reviews and Dave is very pleased about it.

“It was a while since our last album (‘So, Who’s Paranoid’ in 2008) and I think we were fizzling out a bit. I wanted this to be the best album we had done, as you never know, it may be our last.”

Dave continues.

“That didn’t affect the writing though. We all came up with material separately and when we got in the studio we just pooled our resources and then made some demos. From there, we cherry-picked the best songs. In fact, we still have some left over that are very good so hopefully we’ll get them out at some point, maybe stream them.”

And you have a good producer as well.

“Yeah, we got Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T Rex), he agreed to produce it before he’d even heard any of the music.”

And what are Dave’s thoughts about finally having a Top Ten album?

“It’s a bit late.” He laughs. “Really it’s fantastic.”

“It’s always gonna be great having a hit album, even though it’s not quite the same as it was in the past. It’s a great testimony to the belief of the people who paid for the recording through Pledge Music.”

The recent tour with The Hollywood Vampires was a pleasant experience for Dave as he explains.

“I really enjoyed the tour, even though it was only four shows. They were all very nice people and all good musicians. On a personal level, it was great for me to meet Alice as I loved his early albums. It was nice to meet him and find out what a nice person he is.”

As that was obviously a highlight of his year, I ask Dave about highlights of his 42-year career in The Damned.

“Well, there’s been a lot. There’s the usual ones like the first gig, the first time we heard our songs on the radio and going on Top Of The Pops.”

“However,” he adds, “they wouldn’t let us in the Green Room for some reason.”

One show that really stands out for Dave is one the band did at The Royal Albert Hall.

“It wasn’t just the venue,” he explains, “but the atmosphere. It was a very emotional gig. And of course my daughter played violin on Curtain Call.

Dave is also happy to have Paul Gray back in the band.

“Yeah, but it’s kinda weird, a bit like going back in time.”

“He’s not in permanently although he is on the album and is doing the UK tour. He didn’t come to America with us though.”

“Paul’s a very interesting individual and we share a taste in sixties music.”

Dave tells me that he’s looking forward to the UK tour.

“I just hope the weather hold up as I tend to drive around, having said that,” he smiles, “We’ve made every show so far.”

The new album will form part of the show, as Dave tells me.

“We’ll do about four or five tracks from ‘Evil Spirits’ and naturally a smattering of hits.”

And what of the future?

“Well, we’ve got some gigs lined up already for next year and we’ve got a big show at the London Palladium of all places next Halloween, which should be good.”

The Damned will be appearing at The Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth on Saturday November 24.

Tickets are available from the Box Office and all the usual agencies.

Martin Hutchinson.