British Oi! during the first half of the 1980s was an unstoppable force that combined aggression, drive, and focus of purpose to create the definitive soundtrack for steel-capped bootboys everywhere. Bands all over the world have been trying to recreate that sound for the past three decades, with varying degrees of success. When all is said and done, nothing beats a gruff British accent over well-crafted, steamrolling anthems.
Last Crusade were one of the newer crop of UK bands that channeled the spirit of this classic sound. I mention them in the past tense because they unfortunately announced their untimely demise just before the October release of their debut album, so good that two labels have joined forces to release it: Longshot Music and Rebellion Records.
Said record is a scorcher, proof positive that (authentic) Oi! music continues to survive and thrive.
I recently chatted with Last Crusade singer/guitarists Karl St. Pierre and Mike Underwood, and they were gracious enough to share an advance track called "Survive" from the album. I'm sure this won't be the last we'll hear from these bootboy crusaders.
It's weird that I'm starting off at the end, but why are you guys breaking up?
Karl St. Pierre: I lost my job, so financially speaking (and for a few other reasons), it was best for me to move back to Canada. I'm gutted in all honesty, but I was on a two-year Visa which runs out in March next year, so we knew it was coming eventually anyway. I've done more in a year with this band than I have with all my previous bands combined, so I really can't complain.
Mike Underwood: Well, Karl's moving back to Montreal, and our bassist Ralph might be moving further away as well. With us all sharing lead vocal duties, it made the most sense to just leave it at that. It's a shame, but we've had a good run over the last year, and we've had a laugh.
The LP has a timeless vibe to it. What reference points were going through your heads during the recording process?
Karl: That's very kind of you to say, mate, thank you. I love Britpop and Manchester bands, so I incorporated a few influences from Oasis, The Smiths, and The Stone Roses—quite peculiar for an Oi! band, but then again we weren't known for being very orthodox [laughs]. As for vocals, I just kept it straightforward.
Mike: Cheers! Truth be told the recording was a bit of a nightmare [laughs]. But we wanted a more raw, less beefed-up recording than our demo, which I felt was a bit too slick sounding. For me personally, I was hoping to get a similar sort of sound to Alternate Action, The Clichés, and that kind of low distortion, twangy guitar feel.
Listen to "Survive" off of Last Crusade's upcoming LP
The band's name sounds to me like somebody is really into medieval history, or the Indiana Jones series, what does it mean to you?
Mike: Truth be told it doesn't really mean anything [laughs]. We couldn't agree on any names at first, then I think Karl came out with Last Crusade and it just sounded cool. We all liked the idea of a sort of historical name like the Templars or something, and it seemed to fit the bill. Big fans of Indiana Jones, though, that's a given!
Karl: Nothing really, loads of people seem to think there's some sinister meaning behind it or some shit, but I just thought it sounded cool and catchy. It's also quite Templars-esque, which was a big influence on us as a whole.
SEE ALSO: Oi! Music: Dig the New Breed
Have you caught any flak from people that might misinterpret the Last Crusade logo being embedded within the Union Jack as some sort of anti-whoever/whatever sentiment?
Karl: I've had a few people not involved in the skinhead scene complain to me personally about it, but other than that, no. We wrote our name on a UK flag because we were a UK-based band, that's it. If people want to see it as more than that, that's on them, and if they're offended by the sight of a national flag, then they've got bigger problems.
Mike: I've not had anyone say anything to me, I'm sure there will have been geeks online who didn't like it, but what can ya do?
I know some of you guys played in hardcore bands previously. What prompted the switch to playing bootboy rock 'n' roll?
Mike: I've only really played in punk bands before this, but I took about a four-year break from doing bands. I tried to get an Oi! band together in my hometown of Victoria, but couldn't get a whole band together at the time. Ralph's played in a few punk bands, I think; and our drummer, Mike, plays in Gimp Fist.
Karl: I've played in a handful of straight edge and hardcore bands back in Montreal. I'd never done an Oi! band before, and I've always liked all the classic bands even before becoming a skinhead, so I thought I'd give it a crack.
SEE ALSO: The New Wave of British Hardcore
There seems to be a growing movement of newer Oi! bands around the world intent on avoiding any ideological extremes and just getting on with the business of playing straight ahead aggro tunes. Any current like-minded groups come to mind?
Karl: Two of my best pals play in a little band you might know called Crown Court. They are the best Oi! band in Britain, without question. Our good mates in Rixe are worthy of mention, too. Otherwise, I wanna shout out my fellow countrymen in Hired Goons, they are a good crossover of hardcore and Oi!
I know you, Karl, are of French Canadian descent, and I take it you sing on the stomping Warrior Kids cover featured on your four-song demo from 2014. Any other French Oi! bands from the past or present that you dig?
Karl: That is correct, sir. There are way too many to mention, but I'll say Camera Silens, Komintern Sect, Maraboots, and Snix are the four I listen to the most. So many amazing bands came out of France, though, it's literally impossible to name them all.
Might be a bit premature, but do you or any other members have new musical projects already lined up?
Mike: I think we've all got things in mind, but not actually got started on any of 'em yet [laughs]. I'm sure we'll all do bands again relatively soon, though.
Karl: I've been talking to a few folks about doing different bands back in Montreal. You'll hear of something soon enough.
I dig the lead/rhythm guitar interplay in your songs. Any other similar guitar duos you admire from other Oi! groups, or any genre?
Karl: Cheers, pal. Personally I think Camera Silens' first LP, Réalité, has some of the best musicianship of any punk record ever. So I'd say them. The guitar and bass playing on that record is spot on.
Mike: Two bands that come to mind for me are The Chords and Alternate Action.
The eternal question: which side of the Last Resort/Combat 84 split LP do you prefer, and why?
Mike: Both classic, but it's got to be Combat 84 for me. They're a lot snarkier and more energetic, also catchier riffs.
Karl: Combat 84, no question. Hardest Oi! band ever.
In your opinion, what do you think is the single most important distinguishing feature of being a skinhead in 2015?
Karl: See the Templars' "Pride." That song explains it all perfectly.
Mike: Can't say I've really thought about it... smart clothes, good tunes, 'n' shit tattoos?
Favorite 4-Skins singer: Gary Hodges, Tony "Panther" Cummins, or Roi Pearce?
Mike: Hodges, without a doubt.
Bummer about the breakup, but thanks for the tunes and the interview, lads! Feel free to add any last comments.
Mike: Thanks a lot for the interest, bud, cheers!
Karl: Thanks for the interview, Freddy. The New Breed comp is sick. Massive thanks to Rebellion Records and Longshot Music for backing us from the beginning, all the bands we played with, and all the people we had the chance to meet while doing this band. Skinheads rule, okay!
Head to Last Crusade's Bandcamp for more info on the band and their various releases.