SEMINAL punk band The Damned, are heading to Southampton O2 Guildhall on Tuesday February 13, and there’s an old friend back in the fold, writes Martin Hutchinson.

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 ‘80s, when they produced the albums Strawberries and The Black Album.

“It feels like I’ve never been away,” he says. “I’d always kept in touch with The Cap (Sensible), as we’d been great friends when I was in the band before. It was nice to be asked

“He just called me up and said that the band needed a bass player. I work full time for the Musician’s Union so I had to see if it would fit around my full time work – and luckily it did.”

But it turned out to be a ‘baptism of fire’ for Paul.

“Yeah, that’s right. We got together at the American Embassy getting our visas for a US Tour. It was definitely a case of ‘in at the deep end’ – we hardly had time to rehearse. But it all went very well.”

Paul also got involved with the new album.

“The songs came through to me and they were all very nice and different, and that’s the charm of the album for me.

“It’s a band firing on all cylinders and that power really comes across. There’s a live rawness to it with psychedelic overtones, but it still sounds like The Damned.”

Main support on the tour comes from fabled Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom.