Noel Simpson is an angry young man. True, his soulful, all-vocal outfit may be familiar with the upper reaches of the British charts; Simpson and his 'brothers' may be mobbed on the streets of London; America and the wealth of Croesus may beckon, and he may well find himself very comfortably off in not too many years. But when it comes to his group's treatment at the hands of the press - especially the British press - Simpson seethes. 'We do not get the coverage we deserve,' he said through audibly gritted teeth. 'Damage have been in the public eye for two years now - and in that time we've had one magazine front cover. It hurts when you see other groups who have just come out getting everything. But we're still fighting for those covers.' For Simpson, speaking from Singapore, where Damage were to stage a promotional gig, there was one glaring reason for the band's victimisation: all five members were black. 'I'm sure the reason is racial,' Simpson insisted. 'We've been told that putting us on the front would not sell magazines - but that's just not true.' His claim is supported by statistics: Smash Hits, the mainstream British publication that did make them the subject of its cover story doubled its usual sales. 'It's not just a money thing. They smile to your face, you do their photo shoots - but when it comes down to it, they use you.' Simpson's complaints run the risk of alienating a world that sees a group of young men, aged 18 to 22, living privileged lives. But his gripes are borne of a seriousness about his art from a singer who knows the value of his band. 'We are serious about what we do,' Simpson said. 'We want to cut out the 'cheese' - because 'cheesy' is something we certainly are not.' Which raises the spectre of another Damage bugbear: 'manufactured' groups foisted on the public by record labels. 'Sure, we've been perceived by the press as just another boy band, and we attract girl fans. But boy bands are put together by record companies and don't write their own songs, like we do for the most part. We have a say in our careers, our lives. We're all from the same part of London; we went to the same schools and theatre schools; we've already been together six years - and we want this to last forever.' Something else Damage avowedly are not is the 'spice boys'. 'We try to ignore questions about 'them',' said Simpson. 'They get enough publicity as it is.' And in a blast for sanity against the rampant nonsense surrounding pop's biggest fad, he added: 'I don't like to judge, but there are some things in the charts . . . well, I don't know how they get in. And in somewhere as small as the UK, for example, you can't sell just to black people - so that stuff [in the charts] makes it a lot more difficult for us.' Still, Damage, favourably compared to the Jackson Five, continue to play the game their own way, down to the choice of a small label - Big Life - which gives them extensive control over their output, yet can mean problems when it comes to attracting publicity. But long-term control is clearly more important than the short-term lining of pockets; and being smart, the band have surrounded themselves with reliable cohorts. As Simpson, 22, and the de facto leader (although he insists no one member calls the shots) said: 'We have some trusted people around us. You have to grow up quickly in this business and open your eyes to a lot of things. That's why we have a closely knit organisation outside the five of us.' Confidence is obviously in plentiful supply in a band that took Eric Clapton's timeless ballad Wonderful Tonight to number three in the British charts - then declared that theirs was the better version. And they are already convinced of the reception they will receive when they reach Hong Kong some time this year. 'We love this part of the world,' Simpson said. 'We're treated so differently - people just love us out here.' In the meantime Chicago calls, with Damage due there in the next few weeks to start recording their second album, the follow-up to Forever. Will the five London likely lads conquer America? 'We want to be huge there,' Simpson admitted. 'We hope being British will help us: we don't wear baggy trousers and baseball caps. We're British, we describe our music as 'gritty Brit funk' - and we keep it real.' Should Simpson find certain observers need persuasion as to Damage's charms, he could always look to his inspiration for help - Jackie Chan. 'Jackie Chan: he's the man!' Simpson said, laughing. 'He's been my hero since I was a kid . . . so much so that I even dabbled in a bit of taekwondo.' In a couple of lessons Mr Chan could no doubt teach Simpson a thing or two about putting the boot into truculent members of the press.