The glory of punk was fading but every month there were hundreds of groups releasing 7" singles funded with their own money. Lichfield was a pretty, middle class city to the North East of Birmingham, England. Very conservative and very sterile. To this day mock Georgian is the city’s idea of modern architecture. I had been in a punk band called 'the Nurses' and was only just getting to grips with my instrument, the guitar. I was desperate to start a new band so that I could improve my skills. There was also a great feeling of brotherhood between musicians at that time, predominantly because there was content behind lyrics and music was an opportunity for the dispossessed. The scene was entirely bands doing original material (I wish I had realised how unusual this would become).
This new group was set-
Many positive things came out of this union but mostly a good collection of quirky tough songs which had been well rehearsed.
Ambush Infancy was a comment on education in 70's Britain. This was the bus station approach to youth development. Thousands of travellers being forced onto too few buses that al had one destination. The name was a bit too worthy and maybe a little dated for the style of music that we were writing.
We decided that a new name should be created that would/could only mean one thing -
Photas R (pronounced Photazar)
Qit (pronounced Kit)
There seemed to be little debate, V-
Mid 1979 things started to come together for V-
We now found ourselves with the unexpected excitement of a gig and no drummer. We leapt into auditions for drummers but didn't get a very positive response. One guy couldn't understand why we weren't fired up with the idea of doing the Eurovision Song Contest. There was a female drummer with sticks the size of telegraph poles but was still too quiet and another guy who hung up the phone when we said we didn't like Kim Wild.
So no drummer and two weeks left till the gig when we auditioned a guy who seemed, well, a bit odd. He claimed to have played a song in 16/17 timing and had been playing with a heavy rock group called 'Steel'. This was strangely appealing, I am not sure why as he was a bit 'rock' for a post punk trio, but he was exceptionally talented. With just a week to go he was given a call. His name was Simon Atkins and he came across very keen, which was a pleasant surprise. He then casually informed Rolls and I that he was away on business (a shoe salesman) for a week. Somehow he talked us into believing one more rehearsal prior to the gig, our very first live event, would be sufficient.
The day of the gig arrived. We were to play to several hundred students at Repton Public School, Derbyshire, UK. This was possibly one of the largest audience V-
Rolls and I wore black, tough and torn in deference to one of our favourite bands, the Stranglers. Simon chose another route and appeared on stage in a Kimono with a huge dragon on the back. I was almost unable to play, not just at the site of the Kimono and stadium sized drum kit, but I was worried sick about how much of the set Simon was going to remember. After the local support band were finally dragged off the stage, we entered to the sound of wailing mono synth and white noise. The rest was a blur. Simon was excellent with the one exception of playing a 3/4 song in a mixture of 4/4 and 5/4. Rolls, as always, played solid and hard. I, however, felt very nervous. At one point I blanked so badly that I couldn't remember which song I was playing or what came next. I have never forgotten that feeling.
Four tracks were recorded during this period, 'In The Dark', '12th Daydream', 'Plan It' and 'In Loving Memory'. These got a positive response from the legendary John Peel, I still have the postcard somewhere. Other notable songs were 'Fallout Shelter Renagade', 'Take 5' and 'Summer School'. After nine months or so there was a split in the band. I can't remember why but a great shame, as I had learnt so much from Rolls and valued his friendship greatly. Rolls went to join a band with my sister's boyfriend (not a person I have much respect for, although he was a fairly talented songwriter) and I joined another local band called Colour 4d.
Colour 4d were a very capable young band and it was here met I first played with Alastair Boyle and Rob Derbyshire. We rehearsed in Alastair's parents house, a big rambling property that was always in a semi decorated state. His father was a dentist and they seemed a strange family. They were always slightly distant, slightly at odds with the world but none the less very loyal and extremely nice people . . . . except for one major character flaw but more of that later.
After doing a number of gigs and a four track demo, I had this overwhelming desire to get back with V-
I took several songs to Colour 4d and then on to the next incarnation of V-
One of my favourite ever gigs was the Bridge Tavern in Lichfield and I know Rolls and Rob felt the same. If I remember correctly this was the last gig for this line-
Some of the key songs of that period were 'Artic Dessert', the excellent 'Prey Room' and the haunting 'Out On The Moors'
One of the key reasons the band split at this point was that I had managed to escape to college, in search of a life in the arts and freedom from Lichfield (see 'Field Of The Dead' -
After a lot of work promoting the single and a couple of gigs with friends and artists (the Vine -
This unit was very synth based, drums being supplied by the cheapest of drum machines. All three of us played keyboards, although Rob was the undisputed hero as he reset the drum machine between every song. Johnathan also played guitar and I my main role was lead guitar and vocals. Due to the recording facilities at the college there are quite a number of recordings from this period ('Prey Room', 'Euramantic', 'Conversations With . . ', 'SCREF', 'Commercial Breakthrough', 'Artic Dessert' and 'Mischief Again' amongst many others.). It was to be a while before I would have the freedom to write like this again.
College came to an end but not before Rob had said he had done enough motorway bashing. At the time I was slightly irritated with him but he was right and I had been quite selfish with his devotion to duty. Again another band split that broke a friendship but this wasn't to be the last.
I moved to London against my better judgement, I have always had the belief that it was in my destiny to move to Manchester. This city has always had a strong musical tradition but the 1980s was one of its high points. Apart from the fact it spawned the Buzzcocks, Magazine and Joy Division, around the time I moved to London the Manchester scene consisted of New Order, The Smiths, The Chameleons, Happy Mondays and many more. Instead I was in London in a depressing dead end job a millions miles from my music.
I left college, full of optimism and ready to conquer the world, and ended up working in a depressing antique shipping company in Fulham. Probably one of the lowest periods in my life. For solice I would wander to the local music shops and look at equipment. Having studied the options I took out a loan to buy a Yamaha MT44 multitrack cassette recorder and this kicked me back into music. I started writing again and before long I had reformed V-
Something missing? Well yes, we played without a bass player for a couple of concerts. We were then joined by the soundest of geezers, Geordie boy Dave Grant. I met Dave when we were both locked out of a launderette and I used my credit card to gain entry and save our washing. He used my bass for his first few gigs, until he bought it off me (no pressure from me).
It was this outfit that played all the well known London venues -
The venue I remember with the least goodwill was the very famous Mean Fiddler in Harlesden. This chain was worst offender for its 'Pay To Play' policy. We paid a 50 UKP deposit to play there, which was returnable if we got a certain size audience (at least over 50 but I can't remember the exact figure). As we were given the honour of playing after midnight, on a rainy Monday evening in NW London the chances of fulfilling this figure were slim. We did however get in excess of 40 people which I was impressed with. It is no surprise that the company who ran this venue became the largest and richest organisation in their field.
During this phase the second V-
At college Alex and I had been very close buddies with some excellent drunken memories, despite me giving him deep grief when we first met. I had written 'CUE', sung the demo version, got the money together for the single, organised almost every other breath the band had taken but to be fair, Alex had always sung the song live. When it came to the recording I insisted on singing the lead vocals. I can both sympathise and understand why he was pissed off, although I don't think he ever saw my point of view. A fifty/fifty situation which was the point of no return. Despite his consistent tardiness, dodgy politics and addiction to nasty roll up cigarettes he was a good bloke. Kind, great fun to be with, a penetrating laugh and a great trumpet player.
Jackie, my girlfriend at the time, had left the band prior to recording the single. Again another shame as she added a great deal of glamour to the band and was very reliable with both her practising and keyboard playing. Poor love, going out with a man obsessed with his music and playing almost every gig on a Casio CZ101 (great sounds for the time but it had a 3 or 4 octave mini keyboard which wasn't velocity sensitive). It didn't split our relationship, that had been ropy for a long time and in fact it limped on for a couple more years. Alex left a few months after the single's release.
Again there were a number of notably songs from that era which eventually became the basis of the first V-
A new line up appeared, the penultimate if you include a few session players and me. Alastair and Dave stayed and we were joined by Toni Josephs on keyboards. Strangely enough this was probably the most rewarding of line ups when it came to material. I finally relaxed the reins and we started writing as a group. The sad thing is there are only rehearsal studio recordings of this material -
We also managed our first European gig, The Melkweg in Amsterdam. This was a nail in the coffin for another friendship, through a cocktail of free booze and free marijuana. None of it taken be me but excessive amounts tucked away by Alastair. The net result was I had to apologies to the people in the flat below our room as they had to wade through Alastair's vomit which was dripping from their door frame. He had scuttled back to London by this time. In truth it wasn't this that killed off the friendship but a point I alluded to earlier. I was fond of Alastair as he was a bright, quirky and friendly character. The problems was he is, to this day, the tightest person I have ever met. No one has ever come close. After a number of years this becomes very distasteful. Inversely, he was also one of the few band members who actually contributed to administrative tasks, e.g. designing the cover for 'CUE'.
After a number of years playing London venues it just ground me down. Have you ever seen a club in daylight? Pretty depressing, carpets that stick to your feet and the smell of stale beer and cigarette. The feeling gained from playing live doesn't equate well to the work that goes into preparing for the gig (finding the gig, rehearsals, poster design, poster distribution, van hire, collecting the equipment from various corners of London, driving and not drinking, sitting in a health hazard for 8 hours, arriving home at 4 in the morning and having to set up your equipment again). To be honest when the last gig came I think we were all relieved. It is akin to a long term relationship finishing; you are sad but the relief is strangely overwhelming.
So, no band, few friends left from the various line-
This was a great opportunity for me, as not only was my dream of recording an album coming true but I was also flying out to Berlin to meet the record company and Mirko. This was prior to the wall coming down and while I was there Mirko introduced me to some friend who took me over to the East. I remember this trip with great fondness.
The first four tracks from the 'CUE' cassette album were chosen by Ear-
The record company never got behind the album as V-
Another albums worth of material was recorded as second album was muted but it has sat in its box until this site went live. The track "The Villain" was probably the pick of the bunch and can be download as a MP3 file. Things changed in my personal life so I decided to kill off V-
I thought that was the last I would hear of V-
The album is entitled 'A Strip Of Light But Still To Dark' and on Genetic Music. The CD will contain previously
unreleased tracks (including 'In The Dark', 'Prey Room' 'Converstion With', 'Arctic Desert' and many others). I am very excited about this release as it contains all of my favourite tracks of this period.
And there's more . . . V-
After a number of tracks that had been re-