Healthy Junkies is an explosive London-based rock – punk rock band. On the music scene since 2009, the heart of Healthy Junkies is Phil Honey-Jones (guitar, keys, drums, backing vocals) and Nina Courson (vocals). Dave Whitmore is on bass and Tony Alda is on drums. Yes, you’ll hear shades of influence from Sex Pistols, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Iggy and the Stooges, but don’t be too quick to pigeon hole Healthy Junkies. You’re likely to recognize influences of Bowie, Sonic Youth, as well as some reggae and blues. There’s a lot going on in the music and each of Healthy Junkies’ studio recordings (Trash My Love, 2010; Sick Note, 2012; The Lost Refuge, 2013; Box of Chaos, 2015; The Absinthe Session, 2017) will give rise to different impressions – which means buying all of them to really get into the band. And not to forget live performance. You’ll find that the lead, the rhythm, and that special something – the wild card – is all there in great musical and physical abundance!

HVUM: Thanks, Phil and Nina for your time and willingness to join us on HorizonVU. We read from the band’s bio sketch that Healthy Junkies is the outcome of an evolution that goes back to Soho’s Punk and collaboration between the two of you. Will you tell us your story and maybe fill in the spaces with high points between the first meet-up and today?

HJ: After we initially met, we spent about a year together not really connecting musically at all. We both had separate bands, Nina’s was called Altercation, a grunge band and mine Hiroshamour, a psychedelic rock band. In terms of writing we were on different planes altogether. Then one day we decided to write a song for Nina’s friend Lucy on her birthday. Lucy had not been well at all and the song was something we felt we could do for her at least. This song is called “Glam sister” and it is on our first album, “Sick Note”. We still play it live sometimes.. After breaking the seal as it were of our writing partnership, other songs naturally followed, we recorded demo versions at home and then one day we were offered a gig by a promoter in Brighton for a festival there. We agreed to the gig then of course had to get together a band pretty sharpish. We found Steve Nightmare, who was a tall, goth like guy with whom we had recently become acquainted, he showed an immediate interest in playing drums, then my bass player from Hiroshamour took on the job as bass player for us. The gig was a disaster, running so late that we only played 5 minutes before the festival was shut down. The promoter ran off with the money, the only band I believe that got paid was Goldblade, Jon Robb telling us at the time that they ‘always’ get paid . I believe him.

So we had a band. And we just played anywhere that would have us, mostly in London at random gig nights, squat parties, even the side of window on scaffolding at a protest to an imminent squat closure. Until we played a show at a venue called Bridgehouse 2 in Canning town. The venue is no longer there but at the time it was smack bang in the middle of an industrial wasteland. We didn’t really expect anyone turn up, in fact one of the bands on the bill didn’t. But there was a female fronted band called Gun Dogs on the bill, they were from Birmingham and brought with them a bunch of fans, who came down on the train especially. That was an eye opener in itself because in London its pretty hard to get people to travel from North to South or South to North as they always claim its too far. Also at this gig was a man called Steve Iles. He liked what we did, chatted to Nina and then introduced us to a whole world of gigs up ‘North’ . Steve is from Manchester and he pretty much knows all the female fronted band in the UK and even in Europe, the Americas and Australia. This man supports bands 6 nights a week. It is his calling and its because of him and other such fanatics that an underground live music scene exists at all.

So Steve booked us countless gigs all over the UK, some were better than others but at least we were doing it, out on the road, getting more confident, writing songs as we went. I suppose the result of all these gigs on the ‘punk’ circuit was getting invited to play firstly Nice and Sleazy festival in Morecambe, then the mighty Rebellion festival in Blackpool where we headlined the new band stage, at the time it only ran for one day, the Thursday. Now it runs for all 4 of the days as the festival continues to expand. We met loads of bands and punks and skin heads and alternative people during these gigs and at the festival all the time appreciating our being included in this burgeoning scene. After recording our first 2 albums we split with the other 2 band members. As anyone who has been in bands knows, 2 or years in each other’s pockets, internal pressure, external pressure, people wanting different things, dramas all can contribute to a break up in a band. So we found ourselves on the way to Bristol in a car at 6 PM on a Friday with no drummer and no bass player. It was to support the amazing UK Subs, not an opportunity that we were about to let slip away. As luck would have it, a good friend and former drummer of the Lords of the New Church, Danny Fury, had seen us the night before and offered his help if we ever needed it. I’m not sure he quite expected to be learning our songs in the car on the way to a gig the following night though. But that is what he did. We had also called a bass player up, a guy called Peter Lock who had told Nina that he had learned some of our songs from YouTube videos, we took a gamble on doing this but actually the gig was amazing, felt so freeing and like we had done it against all odds. We got on very well with Subs and have played with them a few times since, Charlie is always very supportive of us and loves Nina. So we had a temporary new line-up which has chopped and changed a bit over the last 3 or 4 years but we managed to record a 3rd album which was released on Manchester label STP Records as was the second album. Now we are ready to record the 4th album with drummer Tony Alda who has toiled with us on drums for 3 years now and the wonderfully crazy Dave Whitmore on bass who we found just over a year ago. Many gigs have been played, in the UK and a couple of tours of France.

The last tour of France was with UK band Neon Animal and we took loads of footage filming the bands live and behind the scenes. This we have edited into a documentary which we will release soon for those who may be interested in what its like for an underground band to be on tour abroad nowadays. Recently ( the Beginning of July ) we hosted a 3 day festival at a pub called the Unicorn where we have been hosting a monthly free night for bands and a DJ. It’s called Punk’n’Roll Rendezvous . Part of the premise of this night is to always have at least one band playing on the bill from outside London,. we often get a return invite to play in their towns later as a kind of return the favour thing which has worked very well. Another feature of these nights is that the bands all support each other and do not just go home after they have played. This shows a real sense of community spirit which is seriously lacking in some circles.

Well I’ve been as brief as I can, in filling in the gaps for several years, but one thing I can tell you is that its been a gas. Had loads of fun, met loads of people and would like to continue doing so health permitting. Very important if you are a Healthy Junky.

HVUM: Great! A couple things really stand out and I hope some of our younger followers get the message. First, when you’re starting out you play, play, play. Don’t try to cherry pick venues. Second, keep us in the loop on your documentary, this should be a HorizonVU feature. You mention changes in band members over the past years; particularly bass players and drummers. Now that David Whitmore (bass) and Tony Alda (drums) have joined, has Healthy Junkies stabilized?

HJ: I mentioned the changeable line-up that we’ve been subject to. Its like this. People come and people go. Life can be like that. Stability is something we definitely like but people have their own agendas, commitments financially and timewise. Nina and I write 99 percent of the material and do pretty much all the driving, organising, funding, make most of the decisions, decide what direction we want to go in often simply depending on which way the wind is blowing so its really not suprising that people either want to abandon ship or get pushed into the ocean by a slight slip of the hand on occasions. The reality of being in band with very limited support network is a hard, cruel fact of our lives. Its just the way it is.
All we can hope to do is capture the essence of whoever we are playing with at any given time, guide it so it brings out the best in all of us, make sparks and hope we don’t get burned too much doing it.

HVUM: Generally, what do you think is the toughest challenge to keeping a band together? Most rock bands have a life expectancy of…a week? How do you approach managing a band?

HJ: Well, it seems I am determined to answer each question in advance of the question itself. Keeping a band together? It may be that we are not the most qualified to answer this, as our line-ups have only ever lasted a max of 3 years. However, there are some very obvious strategies that can be employed for the continuation of a group. Now despite the fact that I’ve already mentioned that Nina and I basically call the shots, we are all about fairness, justice, equality and consider all members to be as relevant as the next. Our most recent bass player Dave, for example, wrote a tune that we play live often and its called Theft. We all love this tune, it will be on the next album, it’s a stand out live track. We actively encourage contributions from other members. Its important to feel as a band member that you are as relevant as the next member and that Healthy Junkies is your band too. Getting on with each other helps too, something that you can’t force of course. Splitting the money , what there is of it anyway, is important and of course trusting each other.

HVUM: How did you get to Healthy Junkies for the band’s name? Is there any kind of a topical aspiration you have in mind for the band?

HJ:The name Healthy Junkies usually comes up in interviews. When Nina came up with it way back before we even had a band, it was a joke. I have been drinking Kamboocha tea for many years now, I make it at home. Nina calls it my magic potion. However at the time I was probably smoking too much pot as well so she came up with ‘Healthy Junky’ ..

We are not Junkies in the heroin sense though, and I think anyone that knows us realises this. In the early days of the band we got a lot of criticism from people about our name, they said things like ‘You’re glamourizing drug use’ or I lost a friend because of heroin. Well, guess what? I’ve lost several friends due to drug misuse too. What I do believe in is personal choice though and I am looking forward to the day that we follow California and lets face it we always follow the U.S. , in the legalisation of that plant that grows wild, that admittedly has been manipulated my mankind to produce varying stains of marijuana fit for various purpose. But what hasn’t been manipulated by man? The strongest joint I ever smoked was a gift from someone who knew Richie Sambora, who in case you don’t know is the guitarist in Bon Jovi. Anyway Richie sent me this gift by way of a friend and when I smoked a tiny amount I literally felt like I had lost my sync with time. I had to take a Valium or two and for a while felt like I had entered into the sphere of madness and would never return. This was an outdoor grown straight forward weed and it beat in strength any hybrid skunk whatever plant I have ever had since. And bare in mind this was in 1993. So that really completely destroys the current argument that the strength of marijuana available today is more dangerous somehow than the shit the likes of Jack Karouac smoked on the road way back when.

So having lumbered ourselves with this shall we say non pc non commercial name, various discussions have been born and had along the way about the pharmaceutical industry for example. Where doctors are quite happy to take the easy way out and prescribe the likes of Prozac, or whatever its current counterpart is, and of course aniobiotics, pumped into our food, water and each other. Its no wonder that the bacteria is becoming resistant and fighting back. Healthy Junkies is an oxymoron. It has a ring to it, the punks seem to quite like the name, and our next album will be by ‘Healthy Junkies’ .

HVUM: Listening to your music, it seems straightforward to pick up on threads of rebellion, anger – perhaps isolation (“Resistance”, “Trash My Love”, “I Don’t Give A Damn”, “I Can’t Stand Anyone”). Standing back a bit and taking a broad-brush assessment, how do you characterize your music?

HJ: Yes, there are definitely certain themes that crop up lyrically in our songs. Nina is quite the activist, feminist, revolutionary leader for sure. I said earlier that we are passionate about certain things like equality, standing up for yourself, fighting for your rights and now more than ever we can see how the corporates have taken over the world. You only need to travel ,though London to see the amount construction sites that are simply crushing and squeezing any alternative life that may still be left in the city. Venues closing left right and centre, fewer opportunities for up and coming bands to learn their trade and make their way forward. The main music industry of course has become generic, bland , un adventurous and processed for fast food music to the masses. So yes we have plenty to rebel against and much to resist and sometimes we do feel so much despair that we simply shout ‘ I don’t give a damn’ because no matter what we do or say it seems that this disintegration into oblivion seems inevitable, the city has been sucked dry, people cannot endure this infinitely and there is a huge price to pay. This country has a wonderful history of music, art, literature and culture and its been strangled, devalued and cast aside like an unwanted Christmas present.

We basically write about what we feel like writing about at the time. Sometimes Nina leads the way and sometimes I do; it depends on the song and maybe who is the more inspired at any given moment. Most of the lyrics are written between us though which we both find stimulating. There is nothing more thrilling than riding on the crest wave of an idea and seeing it sprout wings and fly before your very eyes. Not always knowing where its headed or whether the thread of the song will ever return gives me goose bumps, and it’s when the theme of an idea does come back at you like a boomerang and hits you right between the eyes, its like ‘Yeees’.. that means something to mean I hope it will mean as much to someone else who hears it.

HVUM: Is there a song in your catalogue that stands up especially well?

HJ: There are certain songs that stick out for us. “Copycat” was our first single, it got a bit of attention at the time and continues to be a winner live. Certain songs have been favourites for a while like Manifesto and then not played so much, maybe we over played them. But when you do go back to an almost forgot song that you once played all the time, its like seeing on old friend again after along break. You simply pick up from where you left off. Witches of lust off the second album is great song to play live as is If you talk to her its over which has expanded live into a psychedelic epic. Someone mentioned the Doors as an influence that they had heard in that song, that’s fair enough, we love the Doors.

HVUM: Let’s have a look and listen to that first single, “Copycat”.

Off the third album “I don’t give a damn” is ferocious in its way and I love to play “Just a fool” which does always make it onto the set but I thing is one of our best songs. As far as listening to the recordings go, I am still moved very much my some of the more moody, atmospheric tunes like “Shine a line” from the second album and Captive from the third album. I would like to do more of that kind of moody, atmospheric song.
We also released an EP recently called “The Absinthe Sessions”, which is basically a set of what we call B sides that we never thought would see the light of day. All recorded at home and pressed up simply because we needed something else to sell on a French tour. I am still very fond of that EP and it represents DIY in its purest form.

HVUM: Yeah, “I don’t give a damn” is one of our favorites. Let’s check it out.

HVUM: What drives you? What is the source, or sources, of inspiration?

HJ: Well I’ve done it again . Answered a question before its been answered !
Everything we see, hear, experience, dream about, long for, suffer the loss of, the dramas we ignite between us, the fights, the making up, the past, the future, now , London, the world, the main stream, the music industry, being on the road, personal therapy, madness, living your dream, no future, better days ahead…Its all there in the songs…

HVUM: Getting more personal, Nina and Phil, what are your music backgrounds? Formal training? Self-taught? Keep in mind that we have a lot of young readers that are really interested in knowing the path taken by performing musicians such as yourselves.

HJ: My mother was a classical concert pianist, she had 6 kids of which I was the second last to be born. She got divorced and brought us up herself, teaching piano every day and every night. She taught until the day she died. So naturally when I so much as looked at a cello at the age of 6. She had me in lessons and then orchestras at school. Now while I love the sound of a cell played well I could never get it to sound as good as I’d have liked . I picked up a guitar at 10 years, then an electric guitar at the age of 12, taught myself and never really looked back. In terms of rock music, I was given or somehow it came into my possession, a card board box full of 45s from artists from the 60s and 70s. Bands like The Kinks, The Who, The Amen Corner, The Beatles , T.Rex, The Stones, Marvin Gaye, The Troggs… I had a cheap plastic record player in my bed room and I would listen and love these tunes when I was very young.

Nina had a similar experience with her parents who still are to this day huge fans of Rock music, the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Bowie and Bob Dylan were played during her childhood. Her father was the singer in a psychedelic rock band called Metamorphosis, their biggest claim to fame was supporting Can at a festival in France.. Nina is self-taught as a singer although she has had some lessons since we met which she says have given her confidence especially with her breathing.
So you can see its in the blood..

HVUM: Nina, tells us about your journey from Paris to London. How did that happen? We’d really interested in knowing what attracted you London as far as music is concerned.

HJ: I was kind of obsessed with London since the age of 14 when I saw the song ‘Do you really want to hurt me’ by Culture club on a music program in the 90’s and became really intrigued by the eccentricity of Boy George. It then later got me into new wave then punk and finally grunge which is when I really started my own band after seeing Kurt Cobain play Reading Festival on TV.

There wasn’t much of a grunge or punk scene in Paris by the time I was 19 and that’s when I decided to move to London. Lots of my heroes and inspirations were from England and it just seemed like the only thing to do. I also always loved the fact that there were artists like David Bowie, Mark Bolan and the Sex Pistols who had such an outrageous look and you only seemed to get that in England. That aspect alone attracted me. The idea that you could be who you wanted to be and wear what you want.

It’s always been a bit more macho in France. It’s more rare to see a man wearing make-up. I’ve been growing up all these years thinking about living in London and learning the language thanks to a lot of Internet friends who lived in England and America. It seemed to me like there was more of a scene in the U.K. than in Paris and a lot more venues to play too as an underground band. And I was right. Since I’ve been in the UK I haven’t stopped touring.
It just feels more possible to be an underground musician in London than it is in France. More opportunities. Although now lots of venues are closing and things are changing compare to the time I arrived but that’s another story.

HVUM: That’s really interesting. Thanks for your honest view of the Paris scene. You are so right (I can’t help but say it) we find the Paris scene is so not-a-scene for indie rock. If you want to play anywhere but your own basement you pay the venue up front – and that sucks. Okay, moving on, you have an affinity with punk and post-punk. Going back to the 70s and punk as we knew it (Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, The Slits) how do you view the evolution and the relevance of punk today? Is it still about creativity exploding with hard-edged anti-authoritarian views on society or stripping away b.s. from everyday life? What do you think?

HJ: We actually think that punk is as relevant today as it was in the late seventies. People feeling disillusioned, with no future, doing minimum wage jobs and never being able to move beyond that.

Of course nothing is shocking nowadays ( to quote Jane’s Addiction ) or is it ? People are maybe a little too afraid to say what they think nowadays it seems for fear of being prayed upon by the social media police. Judged or simply trolled. The punk rock of today, other than some of the original bands that are still going like The Damned, The UK Subs and Sham 69, is the punk that is thriving in the Underground scene. That is where its at. And yes singing and shouting about what’s happening in the world today, what they see and how they feel is still as important…

HVUM: In your view, where are we with the music scene today? Where do you think we’re heading? Your outlook for independent music? Is there any kind of vision?

HJ: Well, the pop music of today seems to have reached a point of generic-ness previously unrivalled. I occasionally still tune into radio one or Capital radio just to see what is being played and I am usually disappointed. I hear people say all the time, ‘it has to change’ , something good must come out of all this zombie nation fast fodder, producers dominant stage that we are currently in and have been for some time. Once again I turn to the Underground music scene where you can find many great bands who are not manufactured and express how they feel in the most genuine way. Not simply thinking about what they think the public want to hear or what they will buy, these bands keep playing shows against all odds, financially and otherwise so I cannot say enough times… Support the Underground bands at the smaller gigs otherwise they are in danger of becoming extinct…

HVUM: Amen. Does the band have a plan? What’s next?

HJ: Yes we do… We have a bunch of dates in the UK and Europe to see us through this year and into next. We are currently refining, learning, jamming a bunch of new songs and getting ready to record them for our next album. We intend to be in the studio no later November/ early December. That is our priority. Also the plans for visiting the USA have been stepped up, this is a major thing for us because we are DIY and we don’t have a big label behind us so the costing, the logistics, accommodation, transport and finding of the gigs is all down to us. So be it, at least we don’t have to answer to anyone except ourselves and the people that come to our gigs.

HVUM: Finally, and just for the fun of it, describe Healthy Junkies as a painting? What’s that look like?

HJ: Well, I would say one of Jackson Pollock’s pieces. Paint splattered everywhere randomly that after a while starts to make some kind of sense. Or maybe that’s just inside our heads. Perhaps Healthy Junkies is a multi headed series of shadows is the form of tormented human heads straining to push their way through some kind of plasma layer that is being stretched but seems unable to be broken…I can almost hear the stifled screams…Ok maybe that’s a bit dark, but we are very much about acknowledging the darker side of human nature rather than using energy to hide it or deny it.
I really think a visual image of Healthy Junkies would change on a daily basis depending on our mood.

Nina and Phil, again, thanks so much for sharing your story and your honest opinions. It’s always great to talk with musicians that put it all out there for people that follow us. I really hope that you’ll give us the word net time your in Paris. We promise to be there!