The Solovair Meets series delves into the lives of those who wear our footwear in everyday life.

Sam Knee is an avid music fan, record nerd, musician (on the peripheral outer limits with a brief stint in ‘87 with London garage band, The Mistreaters), vintage clothing aficionado, menswear designer and historian in post-war fashion, music and youth culture scenes.

His acclaimed book A Scene In Between set out to excavate the sartorial treasures of the independent guitar-based music of the 1980s in Britain. spanning Postcard Records, Creation, C86, shoegaze, and the multifarious sub-scenes that sprouted in between.

Sam Knee is also the author of Untypical Girls (2015), The Bag I’m In (2015) and Memory of a Free Festival (2017).

The UK ‘80s indie scene has withstood the test of time as Sam documents on his Instagram (@sceneinbetween) which offers daily doses of hopelessly obscure archival photographic wonders from the ‘60s-‘80s underground guitar scene jigsaw.

"Be part of the scene, not part of the scenery!"

 Sam Knee in 1985.

LF: Where was you born and did you grow up in the same place?
SK: I was born in Rochford, Essex in 1968 and grew up in Southend, a seaside town on the Thames Estuary.

LF: Growing up what type(s) of music was being played in the family home?
SK: My parents listened to 60's Bob Dylan and Stones, some postwar blues and jazz that harked back to their art school youth in the late 50s. My sister succumbed to the new wave movement in 77 and brought home records by the Pistols, Ramones, Adverts and the like, so music felt like a thing of importance, deserving deep appreciation from early on.

LF: What was your first gig?
SK: I started going to see local Southend bands in youth clubs and pubs when I was fifteen. Mainly goth or anarcho type groups that were de rigour at the time like Anorexic Dread, Allegiance to No One (whom a couple of members were at my school) Stax Century and also neo psychedelic/ mod leaning dream pop outfits like Le Mat (who were on Dan Treacys seminal Whaam Records) Ocean and Sticky Fingers. I didn't start venturing up to bigger indie/ underground gigs in london til I was sixteen in 84 just as the indie psyche scene era was bubbling to the surface.

LF: When would you say music first started to influence your life?
SK: I'd say in 79 with the mod revival, which I was a tad too young to remotely be a mover and shaker in, but was deeply entranced by the sleek shimmering sta prest trousers, subtle and subdued yet conservatively garish, American surplus army parkas and crashing feedbacky power chords of bands like the Jam, Purple Hearts, Chords etc it felt like the next youth scene move on from punks diaspora, and was also my initial gateway to 60's pioneers like the Who and Yardbirds.

LF: Your first project 'A Scene In Between' chronicles the music and fashion of the UK’s 80s indie scene, how did you approach creating this photography book?

SK: I'd been mapping out a 80's UK indie scene fashion tome in my head for years, so when the notion finally became a reality I was fully primed for the quest. Initially, I reached out to a few individuals I’d known in my youth to delve into their archives for 80s indie photos and ephemera. I then joined various social media platforms and cast the net out wider. Before long material was snowballing in at an alarming rate, far exceeding any prior expectations for a complete unknown author, it was quite overwhelming.

My Bloody Valentine. Photograph by Ken Copsey.

LF: How does the synergy between music and fashion differ in this era compared to others? Compared to the modern day for example.
SK: In the early 80's the music and the fashions, which subcultures you gravitated to were of paramount importance in defining oneself's existence and a declaration of separation from drab mainstream society. I'm not sure if youth subcultures exist on that single minded level of focused intensity nowadays.

LF: What are your fondest gig experiences during that time?
SK: The Clarendon basement in Hammersmith was always a good scene and a general gathering of the tribes, indie/60’s scene Mecca. Saw many great gigs there between 85-88 when it was sadly knocked down.

LF: Did you have any favourite places to visit? Gig venues, record shops or clothing stores for example?
SK: In the 80s most of the best venues, record shops, flea markets were in west London, in particular around Portobello Road. The best record shop by far was Plastic Passion which specialised in 60s original pressings, reissues of obscure psyche, garage, freakbeat gems and also carried all the contemporary international indie underground jangle releases and zines to boot.  So it was a one stop shop and quite a mind boggling cornucopia of information.

LF: How far did you travel when creating 'A Scene In Between'?

SK: Not very far, all within the M25 with my trusty portable scanner. Fortunately most people were kind enough to scan their own archives and transport them digitally.

The Shop Assistants. Photograph by Mark Flunder.

LF: What was your favourite clothing and footwear of this era?
SK: I wore mainly 60s clothes, old button downs over a stripey tee and black leather box jacket, straight black jeans and either Shelley’s Chelsea boots or black suede Gibson shoes with a monk strap and air ware soles from Johnson’s in Kensington market.

LF: Do you have a favourite photograph in 'A Scene In Between'?
SK: There’s one of the JAMC taken in Plymouth 85 where the room looks like it’s melting from the feedback from William Reeds complaining amplifier. It’s the last exposure on the roll of a cheap camera but the overall effect is so haphazardly perfect for that moment.

LF: Which artist or band documented in 'A Scene In Between' epitomizes the fashion style of the UK music scene of the 80s?
SK: Probably the Sea Urchins from Birmingham. They had the jangly mid 60s / indie anorak kid look down, on point! Ten out of ten for effort.

LF: Your second project 'The Bag I'm In' documents underground music and fashion in Britain 1960-1990. Did you have to approach creating this project differently to 'A Scene In Between'?
SK: Yes it was a far broader more panoramic project to embark on. But I went the same diy personable route as A Scene In Between gradually amassing material as my contacts built up and the word spread.

LF: Looking back do you have a favourite era of music and fashion? Has this changed over the years or remained your favourite throughout?
SK: No, I haven’t really moved on at all from that era, I’m very much a broken record, still obsessed by the 60’s - 80’s underground era. What else is there really?

Photograph by Violet Kidner Knee.