His buzzsaw guitar sound was an essential part of the punk sound, but now there’s a chance to hear Steve Diggle in acoustic mode.
As guitarist with The Buzzcocks he came up with the riffs behind classic hit singles like Ever Fallen In Love, Promises and Everybody’s Happy Nowadays and the back catalogue is getting an overhaul.
“A lot of the Buzzcocks stuff works acoustically but I’ve also had three solo albums and I had a band called Flags Of Convenience,” says Steve.
“The first song I wrote for the Buzzcocks was Fast Cars and that sounds fine acoustically. Promises works as well – I basically wrote that and Pete (Shelley, lead singer) changed it into a love song. There are loads of others like Ever Fallen In Love, Autonomy, Harmony In My Head…
“I reckon there are 50 Buzzcocks songs that would work and probably another 50 solo songs, so plenty to choose from. Over the years I’ve been fairly productive.”
His current acoustic tour started off as a couple of shows to fill in time but has snowballed into a major outing – and he’s pleased about it.
“One thing I’ve realised is that when I play acoustically it gives me a chance to actually sing and I’ve discovered my voice suits a quieter way of playing. In the Buzzcocks I tend to do the more raucous shouting stuff and Pete does the more romantic ones.
“It also gives me a chance to draw on folk elements. Bob Dylan was the first album I ever bought and that’s never come out in my songs before.”
Steve is also getting used to being on stage on his own after more than 35 years as guitarist in the Buzzcocks. “It’s still a great discovery for me,” he says. “You’re on your own and it’s a lot harder because you can’t take a breather while someone else does something.
“You’re exposed a bit but the delivery and the sensitive side comes out more. It’s also a chance for the lyrics to shine a bit – I don’t think all the nuances of the songs have come across in the more quickfire style of punk.”
However, like many of his generation, Steve says he owes a lot to the punk explosion of the late ‘70s.
“It was like splitting the atom,” he enthuses. “It blew our whole concept of music, it raised your consciousness of what music could be.
“It was political too, there was a whole attitude and there are people I still meet who are artists or writers who say they wouldn’t have been who they are if it wasn’t for punk. I’m sure there are road sweepers who sweep the road differently because of it!
“It wasn’t just a case of tapping your foot to the songs, people were involved in it in all kinds of ways – it’s an attitude, a questioning thing.”
And it led to all those classic singles from the Buzzcocks, although Steve adds: “When we were writing all those songs we were just saying that’s the next single, I never thought that 30 years down the line they would still stand up.”
There’s a chance to find out how the quiet versions sound when Steve Diggle plays an acoustic show at the Boileroom in Guildford on Thursday February 14.