Anti-Nowhere League are an English hardcore punk band, formed in 1980 by lead singer Animal (Nick Culmer), guitarist Magoo (Chris Exall), Tony "Bones" Shaw on drums and Clive Blake on bass.
Their first gig was as a three piece at the 1980 Chaos Show at St Mark's Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells on 31 March 1980. This was a six band extravaganza of local punk credible bands including Le Nouveau Riche, The Vital Third, The Elite and The Audience. Chris Exall sang as well as played guitar, Tony Shaw (Bones) played drums and Chris Elvey was on bass a very short while until a longtime friend and fellow biker Clive Blake AKA Winston joined to play bass, In 1981, Gooky (who left the same year), Hopper joined on drums, although Hopper was quickly replaced with PJ ('Persian John') (real name Djahanshah Aghssa). They managed to get a slot in Discharge and The Exploited's Apocalypse tour, along with Chron Gen and Anti-Pasti. This led to them signing to John Curd's record label WXYZ Records, with Curd and Chris Gabrin co-managing the band.
Later that year, after reportedly bribing drummer Rat Scabies in the toilet of an East End pub, they also opened for The Damned on a short tour round the north of England and Scotland plus a hastily arranged one-off gig at the Lyceum Ballroom where The Damned stepped in for Stiff Little Fingers. November 1981 saw the release of their first single, a cover version of Ralph McTell's "Streets of London". The single peaked at No. 48 in the UK Singles Chart and spent five weeks in the listings. The profanity-laden B-side of the single, "So What" later became the group's anthem. Copies of this single were seized from indie distributor, Pinnacle by the Metropolitan Police's Obscene Publication Squad shortly after release. Pinnacle's Orpington depot was raided by the OPS and all ANL product was lifted. "So What?" was covered by Metallica, being released as a B-side to the "Sad But True" single, and later included on the Garage Inc. album; "So What?" would go on to become an in-concert standard for Metallica.
In 1982, ANL took part in the 'So What Tour' alongside groups such as Chelsea, Chron Gen and The Defects. This year also saw the release of a debut album, We Are...The League. It reached No. 24 in the UK Albums Chart, and spent eleven weeks in the chart. Also in 1981 the band joined the Apocalypse Punk Tour, with Discharge, The Exploited, Anti-Pasti and Chron Gen. The year finished with the 'Hardcore Storms America' tour with the UK Subs.
Gilly (real name Mark Gilham) joined the band in 1982 as an extra guitarist. The band went to Yugoslavia to record a live album, called Live In Yugoslavia, but this was dogged by problems with the authorities insisting that references that Animal had made about the recently deceased president Josip Broz Tito be removed from the master tapes. The live album spent one week at No. 88 in the UK Albums Chart.
1984 to 1989:
In 1984, PJ left the band, and they became musically inactive. 1985 saw Michael Bettell join on drums, followed in 1986 by JB (Jonathan Birch). During this time they signed for GWR Records, and recorded the The Perfect Crime album.
In 1987, Anti-Nowhere League disbanded. However, there was a belated 'farewell' show at the Victoria Hall in Tunbridge Wells, in 1989, which was recorded and can be heard on their live album, Live Animals.
In 1992, Animal was told by JB, that Metallica wanted him to guest at Wembley Arena, when they did their cover version of "So What". Animal put it thus on ANL's website. "As I waited on the edge of the stage waiting to go on it suddenly dawned on me I was just about to stand in front of 10,000 punters who didn't know me from Adam and sing a song that I couldn't fucking remember; all that kept running through my head was RUN you silly old fucker!". However, after the 25 October show, Mark joined that year on lead guitar, and 1993-1995 was spent playing gigs in the small venues the band had started out in. Michael Bettell died in September 1993, aged 41, from a brain tumour. In 1996, they signed up with Impact Records and recorded their next EP Pig Iron. Beef also joined the band after Mark's departure.
Further personnel changes occurred in 1997 when Winston left the band to be replaced by Jon Jon, and the recording of the album Scum. Winston Blake returned to his former occupation of a roofer and leadworker and lives in East Sussex.
Danny joined on drums in 1998, and the album Out of Control was released a year later in 1999. In 2001, Magoo quit playing live shows.
Jon Jon, Beef and Danny left the band, to be replaced by PJ (original drummer), Jez on guitar and Shady on bass. This line-up released the band's fifth studio album, Kings and Queens in 2005, which was released on the Captain Oi! record label. However, there were arguments over the omission of two songs from that album, namely "The Day The World Turned Gay" and "The Adventures Of Peter Vile". Lawyers for Captain Oi! refused to sanction the release of these two songs because of fear of litigation, so Nick (Animal) eventually relented and let the album be released with the two disputed songs omitted.
In 2006, the band set up their own independent record label, Nowhere Records; with Pig Iron - The Album being the first release in August 2006. The album included the two songs omitted from the Kings and Queens album, as well as "Landlord", taken from the Out Of Control album.
In 2006, Anti-Nowhere League undertook a twenty nine date UK tour, and PJ left the band after the Glasgow gig in October 2006. His replacement was Dave Hazlewood (Nato), also from Tunbridge Wells, who had filled in before on tours. On 8 November 2006, the ANL began a three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand. On 26 October, the band joined Angelic Upstarts, Sham 69 and The Damned for the Academy in the UK 2006: 30th Anniversary of Punk gig at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire.
The Anti-Nowhere League supported Rancid at their Leeds gig on 8 November 2008. In December 2008, Jez was replaced on lead guitar by Johhny Skullknuckles. The League continued to tour and record, and now promote their new songs with videos.
After a mini European tour in late spring 2009, they embarked on an American tour in June and July 2009, before appearing at the Punk Rebellion festival in Blackpool.
After touring Germany and the Netherlands in early May 2010, the band and Johhny Skullknuckles parted company and Tommy H (Tom Hunt), another Tunbridge Wells native who had previously been a member of the band's road crew, and filled in with the band on occasion, was drafted in on guitar. The band completed the rest of 2010s tour dates culminating with a special 30th anniversary Christmas show. The band have played Christmas shows in Tunbridge Wells for years and for the last few years these have been held at The Forum.
In 2011 the band recorded the 'This Is War' single, and accompanying video, which was followed by a tour with the UK Subs supporting Motörhead on a number of UK dates.
The Anti Nowhere League appeared on The Pepsi Max stage at Download Festival 2012 to a good crowd of enthusiastic followers.
In 2013 ANL appeared at Rock al Parque Festival in Bogota, Colombia.