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The Inception

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-up by myself, Morgan Bryan, and Ian ('Rolls') Rowlands. Shortly after we enlisted a singer called Irene Keyes. Irene was a short, slightly layered, giggling teenager with a stunning voice and a warm personality. At this point the band went under the name Ambush Infancy but both name and singer didn't quite fit the image, which was more Stranglers than X-Ray Specs. After quite a number of rehearsals Rolls and I realised things weren’t going in the right direction and we asked Irene to leave the band. A difficult message to give someone who was quite passionate about her music. I never kept in touch with her but I hope she did well as she was extremely talented but unfortunately the parting wasn't completely amicable.

Many positive things came out of this union but mostly a good collection of quirky tough songs which had been well rehearsed.

The Name

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 - this band. This was the era of The Police, The Cure, The Jam, The Stranglers, etc so a 'the' was also out. A list was drawn up and the band and close friends were asked to comment on the options. Amongst the names on the list were

     T-Tes-T (pronounced Tay-Tez-Tay)

     Photas R (pronounced Photazar)

     Qit (pronounced Kit)

     V-Sor, X

There seemed to be little debate, V-Sor, X was by far the most popular name on the list. As for pronunciation there was only ever one way - Vee Sore Ex - but we could live with 'Veeser X'. The best derivation I heard was 'Phise Or P' . . . . . your guess is as good as mine. Was it a good choice? Yes for the primary reasons it was conceived, i.e. it was supremely unique. Unfortunately it was supremely unique and thus a marketing man's nightmare. A product that no one could pronounce and that punters couldn't second guess. Was it a band, a mathematical equation or an acne treatment? I still love the name but would caution others against taking this route.

1979 - 1980

Mid 1979 things started to come together for V-Sor, X. The band had a rehearsal room, in a 1960’s youth centre, a name change and a number of well rehearsed songs. Everything prior to this, as Ambush Infancy, was the rehearsal. At the time it was still the two founder members, Ian 'Rolls' Rowland and, myself, Morgan Bryan.

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-Sor, X ever played in front of. A large truck came to pick up the handful of tiny amps we had, which were dwarfed by the acres of space available. We set off from the rehearsal studio while Simon went to pick up his drums with his massively patient girlfriend Sue, in his car the 'Love Machine'. When we arrive we began setting up our meagre amps on stage but were worried as time was eating into our sound check and we still had no drummer. We went for a coffee when he finally arrived and left him to set up his kit. When we returned, to our astonishment, on the stage was a monster of a drum kit; double bass drums, 5 or 6 toms, percussion rack, chimes and a gong! Needless to say there had been no hint of this in rehearsals. More was to come.

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.

V-Sor,X, team one, did several more gigs, the most notable of which being the Lichfield Guild Hall. This was supporting the Denizens, who were an up and coming band from Birmingham. Excellent music tainted by miserable personalities. My tip - never get to know your favourite pop stars personally, as it has a damaging effect on your love of their music. This was the gig that Simon brought a 1 metre high motorised robot which Rolls had to blow up (he seemed strangely familiar with blowing up dolls!). It was all we could do to stop him using it on stage! Another show at the City Gate was notable for the number of underage drinkers in the bar.

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.

1980 - 1981

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-Sor,X. Unfortunately this split Colour 4d. I am none to proud of this as they were a good little outfit, both with and without me. The up side was Alastair and Rob joined V-Sor,X. The result was one of the high points of the band’s history and unfortunately there are no recordings to witness it.

I took several songs to Colour 4d and then on to the next incarnation of V-Sor, X. The best of these being 'Egyptian Romance' and 'Overcome'. Rob had written a fine poppy number called 'Dull Grey Life' which also migrated to the new line up.

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-up. We got a good crowd, not just in size but in humour. They were all behind us and commented on unique atmoshere of the evening. I remember it well because we were so tight and it was a real pleasure playing with the team. Simple but effective drumming, melodic and appropriate keyboards and Rolls' hard, accurate bass playing. Rolls had a stubborn streak, which built many unresolved emotions, inversely this made him a loyal and good friend both in and out of the band.

Some of the key songs of that period were 'Artic Dessert', the excellent 'Prey Room' and the haunting 'Out On The Moors'

1981 - 1984

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' - Dum Dum Zed). After a year I begged, borrowed and stole enough money to release a single, 'Authors 2' (B Side - 'Station' and 'Backroom Commentator'). The A side was a haunting but less than commercial song about two writers trying to find an unmarked path between high art and money. Neither writer succeeds in this quest, for differing reasons. The single still pops up in the strangest of places. Somehow a number got to Germany, quite how still remains a mystery to me. I still have a handful of these singles left unlike many of the other releases.

After a lot of work promoting the single and a couple of gigs with friends and artists (the Vine - Hanley) it was time to resurrect V-Sor,X. With the help of good friend Johnathan Wrennall and unstinting devotion from Rob Derbyshire, who regularly drove from Birmingham to Alsager, near Stoke-on-Trent, V-Sor,X (team 3) was formed. We managed our first national tour, which was three dates in Crewe and Alsager College, Lichfield Arts Centre and Middlesex Polytechnic in London.

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.

1985 - 1988

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-Sor,X with Lichfield drummer Alastair Boyle. We were joined by two other college friends, Alex Newton on Trumpet and Jackie Hemmings on keyboards.

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 Rock Garden, Dingwalls, The Powerhouse, The Greyhound, The Bull & Gate, The Mean Fiddler and probably every other well known circuit venue except the Marquee. Of all of these music pits, the one I remember with the greatest affection was also the biggest toilet, The Bull & Gate. And here we give big thanks to Jon the Beast, also known as Jon 'Fat Bastard' Beast. He ran this venue with a rod of ale but dispensed great enthusiasm and encouragement. I can't remember having a bad gig there (except when we supported 'the Farm' and I wasn't sure whether to worry about our gear or our lives. In fact they were alright but had a strange malevolence about them).

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-Sor,X single was recorded, 'CUE'. A great track ruined by over compression during the recording process in Arkantide Studios, Islington, so the final output was very quiet and lacked dynamics. Let's be honest, it was ruined by us as we were not savvy enough to understand the treatments being applied. While the excessive compression and gating was the bulk of the problem, we also got carried away during the recording and fundamentally changed a good live track from being primarily guitar based to synth/sequence based. This record played a part in ruining another good friendship.

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-Sor,X album, 'From The Mouth Of No King', 'Bare Stares' 'Home, Still Home', 'Private Sly', 'In Black', 'B-lin', 'Protection The Game' and, of course, 'From The Mouth Of No King'. Many of which had been produced and recorded with the help of Howard Davidson, a well known film and television composer. I had originally met him at college and we both moved to London around the same time. Thanks for all you help mate!

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 - 'This Hated Plain', 'Brighter Lights' and 'Big Wave'.

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'.

1988 - 1989

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-ups, not a drop of luck and relationship that was dead on its feet. I was exhausted with the whole journey. In pops Mirko Whitfield, a tall curly haired expatriate who lived in Berlin. He had been given a tape by a well know indie DJ, Lord Litter. Lord Litter (Jorg) had been a tremendous rock of support from the mid eighties onwards. He had been introduced to me by Claus Korn another inspiration from southern Germany. Mirko had brokered a deal with Ear-Ruprion Records (an off shoot of Dossier Records) for one off V-Sor,X LP.

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-Ruption. The other side was recorded from scratch with a session bass player called Joe McGrath. He was a fine player but very different from Dave Grant, lots of slap and fast riffs. At first this didn't work. After a comprimise on some of the older track he was let loose on the newer ones. The result was a great success, although I still wish Dave could have played on the title track. Once again Howard Davidson donated his skills and some valuable studio time to realise the project. I have lost touch with him now but I hope someday I can repay him for his generosity.

We felt the record company never really got behind the album as V-Sor,X were not industrial enough for the label. At the time their biggest band, 'Frontline Assembly', were selling enough to keep the record company in new acts. I know it sold as I have had feedback from some of the people who bought it but I never heard a whisper or got a bean from Ear-Ruption. Still, I do not regret seizing the opportunity.

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-Sor,X, move to a different part of London and go professional as a musician. My vehicle was now Dum Dum Zed, dance beats with rock guitar, but that's another story.

2000 - 2007

I thought that was the last I would hear of V-Sor,X but early in 2000 I got an email requesting tracks from the bands early eighties releases. This was the analogue electronic period, the pop zone. Mark Patrick Shaffer has asked for a track or two for his forthcoming compilation album. As a result of Mark's interest Genetic Music are to release a CD of tracks recorded in the early eighties.

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-Sor,X reformed in 2006 with three of the original members Ian 'Rolls' Rowland, Rob Derbyshire and Morgan Bryan. An album was recorded but never got released. Some tracks will be available through the downloads page.

2017 - to date

After a number of tracks that had been re-released (Authors 2, Conversations With) the band felt it was time to release some off the new material that has been backing up over the last few years. To this end early in 2019 will see the release of ‘Reformer’ the first all new album for 30 years. Two tracks from this album, Dragged and Elektronisch, are available digitally from all major online shops.