John Robb (born 4 May 1961 in Fleetwood, Lancashire, England) is vocalist in the punk rock band Goldblade and bassist and vocalist in influential post punk band The Membranes. Based in Manchester, he has also written several books on music and occasionally makes media appearances as a music commentator.
Robb was born in Fleetwood and grew up in nearby Anchorsholme, Cleveleys since the early sixties He attended Blackpool Sixth Form College an addition to the Collegiate Grammar School which Robb attended, where after reading about the emerging punk rock scene in the music press in 1976 he was inspired to start his own band. He is a supporter of Blackpool F.C. stating in January 2013, "I was born in Blackpool and supporting your local team is one of those things that gets under your skin for life."
Robb was inspired by the DIY ethic of punk to form The Membranes in 1977, the band releasing several albums in the 1980s. The band split up in 1990 with Robb forming Sensurround, releasing two singles in the early 1990s. In 1994 he formed Goldblade, who have released albums including 2005's Rebel Songs and 2008's Mutiny and single "City Of Christmas Ghosts" featuring Poly Styrene on shared vocals. In 2013 Goldblade released the acclaimed album The Terror Of Modern Life via Overground Records.
The Membranes reformed in 2010 appearing at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival at the request of My Bloody Valentine and released the 7" vinyl single 'If You Enter The Arena, You Got To Be Prepared To Deal With The Lions' (Louder Than War Records) - The single was released on Record Store Day 20 April 2012; the track was The Guardian 'Single of the Week'. Tim Burgess from the Charlatans released their next comeback single, 'The Universe Explodes' and the band will be releasing a new album, 'Dark Matter' in the autumn on Cherry Red. The group believe that 'every gig must be an event' and have promoted sell out shows where they explain the universe with scientists from the Higgs Boson project and a sold out gig at the top of Blackpool Tower in August - the 'highest gig ever in the UK'.
Robb produced several bands and in the mid-90s two singles by the Leicester three-piece Slinky as well as Therapy? and Cornershop who he also co-managed.
Robb has appeared as a pundit on various television programmes including Channel 4's "top 100" shows, BBC's I Love the 60s/70s/80s/90s series and Seven Ages of Rock. He has contributed to BBC 2's The Culture Show as well as several appearances on TV documentaries as well as on Channel 4 news talking about train travel, music piracy and the state of music, and on BBC radio commenting on pop culture. He has been a contributor to Sky's The Pop Years and co-produced and presented a ten-part series on the history of punk rock. He also presented a twelve-part guide to the arts in North West England.
Robb's books include a biography of The Stone Roses, Stone Roses And The Resurrection Of British Pop; Punk Rock: An Oral History which has been translated into several different languages; Death To Trad Rock, an account of the 1980s UK DIY underground, including The Membranes, Three Johns, The Nightingales, and Big Flame; The North Will Rise Again - Manchester Music City from 1976 to 1996, an oral history of Manchester music which received 4/5 stars in Q magazine and 5/5 stars in Mojo magazine.
The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop. Ebury Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-09-187887-0,
Noise Bible - Adventures On The Eighties Underground With The Membranes. Thrill City.,
The Soul Manual. Ultimate.,
The Charlatans: We Are Rock. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-186568-9,
The Nineties: What The Fuck Was That All About. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-187135-2,
Punk Rock: An Oral History. Ebury Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-09-190511-8,
The North Will Rise Again - Manchester Music City 1976-1996. Aurum Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84513-534-8,
Death to Trad Rock - The Post-Punk Fanzine Scene 1982-1987. Cherry Red, 2009. ISBN 978-1-901447-36-1,
The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop: The Reunion Edition. Ebury Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-091948-58-0,
Robb has worked as a journalist for many years. He published his own small town fanzine, Rox, while a member of The Membranes. He wrote for ZigZag in the 1980s, and was a regular freelance contributor to Sounds in the late 1980s, as well as writing for Melody Maker. He now writes for The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The Independent, several websites, The Big Issue and magazines in Turkey, Algeria, America, Russia and Brazil.
While working for Sounds, Robb was the first journalist to interview Nirvana (in 1989), and also later coined the word 'Britpop'.
In 2011 Robb launched an online rock music and pop culture magazine/blog called Louder Than War, louderthanwar focusing on arts news, reviews, and features. The site claims editorial independence, and includes contributions from Robb and several other freelance journalists and critics. In its first year, in November 2011, Robb was voted to win the UK Association of Independent Music 'Indie Champion' award.
In the summer of 2008 Robb was appointed visiting fellow of popular culture at Salford University.
Robb has done several live 'In Conversation' events with cultural figures including Howard Marks, Crass, Kerry McCarthy, Don Letts, Geoff Travis, Alan McGee, Billy Bragg, Peter Hook, and others.
From 2008 onwards Robb participated in the Un-Convention music conference. visiting several countries from Uganda to Brazil.
He has been a regular speaking at TED and TEDx talks.
Robb has actively campaigned to resolve visa problems for British musicians travelling to the USA.
In 2011 he was the compère for the Justice Tonight tour round Europe which saw Mick Jones play a whole set of Clash songs for the first time since he was in the band thirty years previously as a benefit for the Justice for the Hillsborough 96 campaign.
In 2012 Robb launched a new record label called Louder Than War Records releasing up and coming bands. He has also chaired committees in the Houses of Parliament about Pussy Riot as well as music and cultural panels worldwide. He has also been a regular contributor to BBC Breakfast, Channel 4 news and News At 10 on music and cultural issues.
2013 sees a planned spoken word tour of the USA in support of his successful 'Punk Rock An Oral History' book and a new album from Goldblade called 'The Terror Of Modern Life'.
He is currently putting together the 'Celebrate the NHS' tour for July; and is chairing the bi monthly 'Pop and Politics Supper Club' in London's Soho, which combines MPs like Kerry McCarthy and Tom Watson with musicians and debates on issues of the day.
2014 sees him working on a new album for his influential eighties band the Membranes and a book of his collected works of journalism.