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The Exploited: Ten minutes of total anarchy as Baz Bardoe interviews the legendary Wattie Buchan

Riots…….fights…..trashed hotel rooms…..controversy…..legions of lineup changes…..for an incredible forty years Wattie Buchan has been vocalist and leader of punk’s premier vortex of anger, anarchy and violence The Exploited. In all of that time he has never once dialled back the outrage or enthusiasm for punk’s most primal urge to rebel against absolutely everything, including at times his own best interests. In 2014 he had a heart attack but that doesn’t seem to have slowed him down one bit. He refuses to release albums unless he is 100% convinced of the quality being 100% and he attacks every gig with the same drive as when it all began. I only had ten minutes of his time and his Scottish accent is thicker than treacle but what shone through was his enormous energy for punk music, and his absolute dedication to the fans and being the best version of The Exploited possible at all times. It is a no compromise lifestyle that has taken a huge toll including multiple bans from various venues and cities, a vast cast of ex members, fraught relationships other bands, and a big cost to personal health but as of 2020 Wattie seems to be in a good paddock and as always excited to be touring and talking about punk rock.

The Exploited’s first gig was in December 1978. At that stage iconic vocalist Wattie was not a member – his brother Terry was vocalist. Wattie was kicking around London immersing himself in the punk ethos after having left the Army. When his brother left the band he became vocalist and is now the only remaining member form that period. I asked him if his Army experience had helped with the kind of discipline needed to be in a touring band. “No the opposite!” he states. “I was in the army at 17. It was the only thing I really had. I fell into the wrong company and it was either go to jail or join the Army….” Incredibly he managed to combine the two! “I was listening to music in Germany and it changed my life….but I was always getting put in jail…” If I have understood correctly he is talking about military jails. Apparently he would go out to punk gigs and then get back to base when it suited him which would result in charges and jail time. A transcript of his military record would prove hilarious and they must have breathed a sigh of relief when he left.

After becoming the vocalist for The Exploited he quickly became an unintentional pop star. The band’s early releases did very well on the independent charts. Their debut album ‘Punk’s not dead’ topped the independent charts and made the mainstream Top Twenty. They then appeared on ‘Top of the Pops’ which apparently upset rival band Conflict who never forgave them for what they perceived as selling out and fights between fans persisted for decades. But for Wattie who is ever mindful of his working class Edinburgh roots there is no problem with taking his message to the masses as long as there is no compromise in the music. And this is the root of many of the lineup changes. Guitarist ‘Big John Duncan’ left to play a different style of music characterised as ‘total shit’ by Wattie and there was a seemingly never ending procession of drummers. Wattie will not put up with members “trying to act like pop stars…..I end up fighting with them, it’s nothing to be proud of. I always control what songs come out. Everything has to be perfect including the artwork. I never do anything record wise that is not 100% – the best it can be….” These days the band is much more stable with Wattie’s brother playing drums since the early 1990’s, and long standing bassist Irish Rob for the last twenty years, although perhaps predictably the current guitarist only started this year. I asked Wattie if he could ever have imagined the band going for forty years back in 1980. “Of course! No! Two years is a lifetime when you are twenty…..forty years is unthinkable…the first ten years were really hard. So many music fans hated the band. But we’ve never changed the music and never changed the tunes. Music has helped me so much. I feel honoured.”

With songs like “Fuck the USA”, “Fuck the system”, “Beat the bastards”, and “Chaos is my life” it is pretty clear that Wattie does not care what people think. In more recent times the virtue signallers have tried to tarnish his name with absurd accusations of fascism. He has beaten up people of many different backgrounds and makes it very clear that he does not want fascists from the Right or Left at his gigs. His ethos has never changed. He is an anarchist who has no time for authoritarianism in any shape or form.

The band’s last studio album was ‘Fuck the system’ which was released around seventeen years ago. Wattie has been talking about a new album for many years but for now he seems happy touring the world and causing mayhem. It seems incredible that he has survived forty years. How much longer he can continue at this level of intensity is hard to tell but for now The Exploited are touring Australia again and just like every time they do people are predicting it will be the last. Long may the live!

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