Monday, November 04, 2019

Four Letter Word's tales of recording with Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface

BYO Records promo shot for Four Letter Word
This one comes from Welsh lifer Welly best known for his time in Four Letter Word, but also the man behind Artcore fanzine, vocals for Violent Arrest, and the merch table during Chaos UK tours of yesteryear. Welly gave this good take on how Four Letter Word ended up working with the legendary Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface and what it was like to be in the studio recording those albums with the man. Check out Four Letter Word's reissue of their "Zero Visibility (Experiments With Truth)" LP our now on Boss Tuneage.

We formed in 1991; all of us were from the '80s scene. Kip, the original drummer, had been in the Cowboy Killers, but he was only in the band through the first EP. BYO Records was one of my favourite labels as a kid in the '80s, so I sent our first EP to see what they thought. I'd been writing to Shawn Stern (BYO label head/Youth Brigade) for an interview for my zine, Artcore, previously so kept in touch. I sent Shawn our first 7" which was basically our demo on vinyl. Couldn't believe it when they wanted to sign us.

When we got the offer from BYO, they wanted an engineer to work with us and asked Andy Turner of The Instigators if he knew of anyone. The connection between Instigators and Youth Brigade went back from Instigators touring the US in the '80s, I think. Andy recommended Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface. Shawn was a big Leatherface fan as were we, so I got in touch with Frankie.

I'd been into Leatherface since their first record came out. We knew Frankie recorded bands, so when his name came up as an option it made sense. I phoned him up and met him at the train station to record our first album. We ended up working with him on all four albums, as we got along and he knew what a punk band's record should sound like. He did backing vocals on all those albums, although you have to listen closely.

We basically lived with the guy for over a month over the four albums. We recorded in the Whitehouse Studio in Weston-Super-Mare for years (Chaos UK, Ripcord, Heresy, Can't Decide, Violent Arrest) and stayed in a local caravan (trailer) holiday park as it was cheap. While we were recording, Shawn was asking about Leatherface, and I reported back that they were just reforming as Frankie had said they'd just had their first practice after years. So I was basically the one who got them signed to BYO. Frankie says he still holds me responsible, ha ha.

BYO had told us that they wanted us to work with an engineer not just to record, but also in case they had any suggestions regarding our song writing. When I mentioned this to Frankie, he said "There's nothing wrong with the songs." He'd been taught by Iain Burgess (Big Black, Naked Raygun, etc.) so was very performance oriented. This meant he would rather keep a take with small errors in it if the feel of the song was good. 

For our second album, Frankie wanted us to record at Burgess' studio in France, but BYO knocked it back as it was too expensive. There'd be a time each day Frankie would refer to 'Lager O'Clock' which would be when the red wine would be opened. When doing the vocals, he'd insist we had a bottle of Irish Whiskey on hand for smooth vocal progress. Of course, he would have to match the shots of whoever was doing a vocal track.

Always up for a laugh, on the first album we recorded a cover of "Six Pack" by Black Flag, and the end of the song ran into whatever band was underneath on the second hand reel to reel tape (The Whitehouse was an analogue studio). It was some wailing rock shit, and he just left it on there so the end our cover segues into this rock song, and he had us talk and shout over it... The studio owner walked in and just said "naughty." On the second album, my vocal carried on after the song "Playground Politics" ended, and he wanted it to cut dead, so he literally cut the master tape with scissors and when it bounced to digital in the final mix it just played that way and the tape ran off spinning.

It's weird because Four Letter Word got lumped in with the pop punk thing when people think of us, but our first tour was with Spite in '96 which was Steve and John from Ripcord, Becky from Chaos UK and Pete who was later in Icons of Filth (years later Steve and John formed Violent Arrest and when Steve left I ended up joining). Four Letter Words' set had covers of Ruts and Toxic Reasons early on. When we were on BYO, we covered Black Flag and Black Market Baby.
Chaos U.K. with Sand, Contempt Four Letter Word flyer from 1993 Bristol gig
Four Letter Word info piece from BYO Records 1998 catalog

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Unlimited Genocide and how the AOA/Oi Polloi split LP came together

Oi Polloi on tour in East Germany in 1989
How much genocide can you fit on one record? UNLIMITED GENOCIDE. The A.O.A./Oi Polloi "Unlimited Genocide" split LP has all the components of a classic record: great left wing/pro-environmental lyrics, raging songs with big riffs, urgent vocals, a perfect sounding recording with unmistakable '80s production, and a cut 'n paste layout that looks fucking COOL. Plus, it's on Children Of The Revolution Records, which was the best punk label going in 1985-1986.

A.O.A. has remained mostly shrouded in mystery over the decades. Their vinyl has been out of print (with the exception of a rare and little known Japanese reissue that may or may not be legit), and minimal info has come out regarding them. This has earned them cult status amongst the collector set, and with crossover appeal of anarcho punks, thrashers, and crusties, has driven up the price of their records.

Oi Polloi by contrast have taken the exact opposite path. They've remained together as a band since there inception in the early '80s, undergoing countless lineup changes, with vocalist Deek as the only constant member. The lineup changes have resulted in Oi Polloi having totally different sounds during different periods, including an Oi era, hardcore, and infusing more traditional Scottish influences. And while A.O.A.'s releases from the '80s are the only thing to remember them by, Oi Polloi's records from the same period are somewhat overlooked, possibly due to the sheer volume of their output.

We reached out to Deek of Oi Polloi to find out how this release happened, the relationship between the two Scottish thrashers, and how it ended up on COR. He replied lightening fast with tons of info, cool anecdotes, and some surprising answers (including multiple overlapping members). Check out the link in bio for the full interview. Apartheid Stinx, but this record does not.


NI: How did you initially meet AOA? Did you play gigs together in Scotland?

Deek: We're from Edinburgh and AOA were from a small mining town just outside there called Loanhead, so they played quite a few gigs in Edinburgh. A couple of us saw them play at a venue here called The Nite Club supporting an old Scottish band from Dalkeith called The Threats. We really enjoyed them so we got talking to them and got their demo cassette, which we really liked too. We featured them in an old fanzine two of us used to write and would go and see them whenever they played, so things kind of grew from there. When the miners' strike happened in 1984, we played benefit gigs together in support of the striking miners—that was a really big issue here with all the mining communities on the outskirts of Edinburgh like Newtongrange and Loanhead —and we got involved together in stuff like the Stop The City protests and actions against the nuclear submarine base in Faslane on the west coast of Scotland. So we got to know them really well.

In fact, when our previous bassist left, AOA's bassist's brother Rab ended up playing bass for us, so on that split LP there's one brother playing bass on each side! Rab played on that split as well as on our "Resist The Atomic Menace" 7" and our split LP with Betrayed on Oi Records which later came out on the "Fight Back" LP with the tracks from the AOA split on the other side. At one point AOA's drummer on the split, Deek, helped us out on drums at one gig in London when our drummer couldn't make it, their bassist Bruce played keyboards on our "Guilty" 7", and I shared a room for quite a while with their singer on their "Satisfactory Arrangement" LP. So it was quite an "incestuous" relationship, and we played a lot of gigs together both in Scotland and England.

NI: Who proposed the idea of doing the split LP?

Deek: AOA had released their 12" on Children Of The Revolution Records, which was a brilliant label at the time that we all loved. We were desperate to get our own vinyl release out too, so we asked AOA if they could put in a good word for us with Tim who ran the label to see if he would do something for us. I think he wasn't sure if an Oi Polloi release would sell as at that point we'd only had a couple of tracks on compilation LPs and EPs and hadn't played many gigs outside Scotland, so I think in the end he thought a split with a band like AOA who already had something out would be safer. That's how I remember it anyway and as both bands didn't have enough stuff for full LPs at the time it seemed to make sense. So basically, pretty sure it was his idea initially—but it's a long time ago now!

Oi Polloi at the Berlin Wall in spring 1989
NI: How did it end up coming out on Children of the Revolution Records in Bristol? Did you contact them?

Deek: Think the last answer covers this to an extent, but yeah, we did send them a demo but initially we'd asked AOA to sound them out on our behalf as they already had a relationship with Tim who ran the label.

NI: Any idea how many total were pressed?

Deek: Not a huge number and almost certainly not more than 3,000 in total. Think it was probably an inital pressing of 1,000 and then a couple of re-presses, but I wouldn't swear to that. That was one of the reasons we re-released the stuff on the "Fight Back" LP as we wanted to keep the songs available for folk.

NI: Although the Oi Polloi songs have been released on the "Fight Back" LP on Campary Records, have you ever discussed repressing the record in its original form with AOA?

Deek: We have indeed. AOA are playing again now and we've gigged together and talked about this. Scott, their guitarist, has also been roadying with us on tour, so we're still in touch and hopefully we'll make it happen. I think Scott was keen to put it out himself, but we've also had offers from other labels so there are various options. Would be great to get it out again and do a joint tour at the time of release—sadly most of the songs are just as relevant today—and we're just as angry now as we were then!
Live shots from East Germany during the first Oi Polloi European tour in spring of 1989

Monday, September 30, 2019

Exit Condition's Pusmort EP and its unheralded greatness

How the hell does one of the best late '80s U.K. thrash records featuring the bassist of Broken Bones, released by Pushead on Pusmort with artwork from Squeal, and with production done by Bones of Discharge end up as a overlooked Jolly Roger that sells for cheaper than partied on copies of hair metal era TSOL albums? Questions like this keep us up at night. Yet such is unfairly the case with Exit Condition's "Bite Down Hard" EP from 1988. There's no justice, there's just us (complaining about it).

We reached out to former drummer Richard Stanier for answers. Together with input from former Exit Condition guitarist Darren Harris (the aforementioned bassist of Broken Bones), he put together these great replies, including the details on a proposed Septic Death/Exit Condition split LP on Pusmort. Huge thanks to Richard and Darren for this interview.
Exit Condition live at the Borough Exchange, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent 1988
NI: How'd you first get in touch with Pushead, and how did doing an EP on Pusmort come about?

EC: I sent a copy of our demo tape, "Impact Time" to Pushead and it went from there. It was Spring 1988 and I used to be an avid reader of "Puszone" in Thrasher Magazine—Pushead used the column to explore the origins of hardcore and to promote new bands from around the world. It was a pretty exciting read at the time. I sent the tape on the off chance we may get a mention in the new bands roundup or something. So you can imagine my surprise when an envelope featuring the famous "skull in hand" design dropped onto my doormat with an offer of releasing our music.

Exit Condition "Bite Down Hard" EP
NI: Who suggested Squeal for the front cover? Did he come up with the concept?

EC: Pushead suggested Squeal. If I remember correctly, he offered to do the sleeve himself, but offered us Squeal as an alternative with a hint that he would like Squeal to be involved. And since the examples of Squeal’s art we had seen were great, we readily agreed. We knew Squeal from his Poison Idea work. Pushead gave me his address and we corresponded for a time to discuss the sleeve. I think Squeal is a Welsh guy that was living in the US at that time, and yes, he came up with the "Bite Down Hard" concept.

NI: How did you get Bones from Discharge and Broken Bones to do production on the record? Were you guys friends with him?

EC: We knew Bones quite well at that time, as Bones was a very friendly and approachable guy around the Stoke punk scene in those days. He used to hold court at a local nightclub, called Chico's, and obviously we were a bit in awe of him as Discharge were an iconic band and he had some great tales to tell. When we first started Exit Condition, he came along to our rehearsal studios, and offered to get us support slots, etc. And he was particularly friendly with Darren.

We recorded our "Impact Time" demo in a couple of sessions in an 8-track studio, and it sounded pretty good, so when it came to doing the Pusmort EP, we thought we'd go to a 16-track studio and it's going to come out twice as good, right? Wrong! We were out of our depth, and when we listened to what we had recorded, we were very disappointed—we thought the sound was weedy and the energy and aggression of the demo was lost. In desperation we booked another day at the studio for a re-mix, and that's when we asked Bones to come with us and try and rescue things. It was very good of him to do that for us, and he did manage to improve it, but it remained a disappointing recording. And as Bones pointed out, "a producer can only work with what’s been recorded, and if what’s been recorded isn't great, then he can't really make it great."

NI: Was Darren playing in Broken Bones at this point? How did Darren end up in Broken Bones?

EC: Yes, he was. He ended up in the band as they had an extensive US tour booked up for the Summer of 1988, and they were in need of a bassist, and they asked him. Obviously, he jumped at such an opportunity and off he went. He joined for that tour, but he remained a member for another few years, recording a 12" and a couple of albums with them. In fact when he left them, I think he was the second longest serving member of the line up, after Bones.

Review from Sounds
NI: Any idea how many were pressed of the 7"? How was the reception to it?

EC: There were 3,000 pressed over two separate runs. The first run sold out pretty quickly, with the second lot going a lot slower. I think I bought the remainder of the second run from Southern Studios (Pusmort's distributor) to sell at gigs, etc.

The reception was pretty decent overall. The punk fanzines generally gave it positive reviews and, in those days, the mainstream music press also featured hardcore punk a little and there were a few good reviews from them too. People seemed to like the record generally, but those that knew the band from live gigs and the demo also seemed to think it could have been better. Southern Studios used to send out "confidential" feedback questionnaires with free records to the movers and shakers in the punk world, and one or two of these were less than glowing.

NI: You guys also appeared on Thrasher's Skate Rock Volume 7 "Noise Forest" cassette compiled by Pushed. How did that come about?

EC: That was a direct result of Pushead's involvement. We were big fans of these cassettes, and for us to be included was something pretty special at the time. I think we were only the second British band, after the great Stupids, to have been featured.

NI: Was there ever any discussion about doing further releases on Pusmort?

EC: Yes, before "Bite Down Hard" came out, Pushead did mention another record—possibly a split 12" with Septic Death, but it came to nothing. There was a long delay between the recording of "Bite Down Hard" and its release, and we became a bit disillusioned during this time. The 7" was recorded in late Summer '88 and didn't come out for about 12 months, during which time many of our contemporary bands had progressed and released albums. When Darren was in North America with Broken Bones, he spoke to a guy that knew the Canadian band Fratricide, and they had recorded a record for Pusmort that had never been released. This worried us, and because we were never told an actual reason for these delays, we decided it would be easier to deal with a British label whose owner we could just pick up the phone and talk to.

Throughout the Pusmort period, I only ever communicated with Pushead by mail! Of course there were no emails and stuff then, but I never actually spoke to the man, and I think on one occasion I complained in writing about the delays, and I think Pushead may have been offended by that—and I greatly regret that, as he did help us no end—but it was a frustrating period, particularly as we wanted to get the record out, and hopefully move on to something better.
Letter from Pushead proposing a Septic Death/Exit Condition split release

"Metallica and Danzig touring together in the U.K.!! You want to go? Let me know!"
Exit Condition in 1988. L to R: Rich, Daz, Shaun and Rob
Southern Distribution Reaction Sheet 1
Southern Distribution Reaction Sheet 2
Southern Distribution Reaction Sheet 3

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Part 1 and "Pictures Of Pain": an interview with vocalist Jake Baker

Jake Baker, vocalist of Part 1
Part 1 are an interesting band. Coming from Milton Keynes, England, they played a style that mixed a darker gothic sound with anarcho punk. They released only one EP while they existed, entitled "Funeral Parade" on their own Paraworm Records label in 1982. Primary Part 1 songwriter Mark Ferelli then began communicating with US artist Pushead which led to the band posthumously releasing the "Pictures Of Pain" LP on Pusmort Records in 1985, as well as an inclusion on the "Cleanse The Bacteria" compilation album.

However Part 1 remained in the shadows when compared to the popularity level of many of their contemporaries, and stock copies of their LP were available into the early 2000s. It wasn't until the resurgence in 1980s British goth and anarcho punk exploded that word started to spread about the quality of the band. It was well deserved.

This interview was conducted with vocalist Jake Baker in 2011. It was intended for an issue focused on the anarcho punk meets goth sound of early '80s Britain but was never completed. The issue is one of four aborted issues of Negative Insight, and we will slowly be putting up material from each of those issues.


NI: How did the Part 1 form? Part 1 blend goth, post-punk and anarcho-punk to form a very unique sound. Did the band aim for a particular sound?

Jake: Part 1 was formed in the summer of 1980.We were all at school together and following the punk explosion several years earlier. I just loved the music and general attitude and really wanted do something creative... There was a few bands in the beginning but the most memorable one was probably 'Airfix' which i suppose became the foundation for Part 1. We never really aimed at a particular sound, it just kind of evolved from the noise we were making with Airfix? We each had our own influences too; Mark loved guitar sound of the Banshees, Chris liked PIL and liked to experiment with his bass, and Bob was into early Genesis, where as i was listening to bands like Discharge! It was quite an eclectic mix really but it worked!

NI: There is a lot of religious imagery on all of the Part 1 material. The lyrics in particular seem to focus on religion.  Were you anti-religion or just commenting on religion in general?  And if so, are you still anti-religion today?

Jake: The artwork is all down to Mark who's incredible drawings cover the sleeve of the Funeral Parade e.p and do reflect a religious theme, there is so much going on the closer you look the more you actually see! It does crop up a lot in the lyrics too along with death, destruction, war etc.... So i think it's more 'commenting in general' besides i had never been religious anyway, i don't think any of us were? I am still pretty much anti religion today i just do not want that in my life.

NI: Was anyone in the band politically active at the time?

Jake: Nobody was really politically active within the band, but all very much aware... as we played regularly at places like the Anarchist Centre and Centro Iberico i suppose you could say that was our contribution?

NI: Part 1 recorded two demos at the Crypt in Stevenage, the same studio The Mob had used for their first single, "Crying Again." Was this the reason for going to this studio?

Jake: I can't remember how we found out about this studio apart from hearing it was built beneath a disused church. We did the "In The Shadow Of The Cross" demo there, it was recorded in just a few hours too and we were really happy with the end result. We sent copies out to several independent labels with no response whatsoever...

NI: Did Part 1 have any relationship with The Mob or any other Crass Records bands other than Rudimentary Peni?

Jake: We never really formed relationships with any of the bands but did make friends with people like The Apostles, Primal Chaos, Chronic Outbursts as we usually played the same venues together.

NI: How did Part 1 form a relationship with Nick Blinko?  Did you play any shows with Rudimentary Peni?

Jake: I first saw Rudimentary Peni at the Anarchy Centre and was blown away! As we were playing there regularly it was only a matter of time before we were on the same bill and used to crash at each others houses too depending on where the gigs were... it was during this time that Mark and Nick became close they had a lot in common too.

Jake Baker (vocals) and Mark Ferelli (guitar)
NI: By today's standards Part 1 is most closely associated with the anarcho punk scene, the same is true for Rudimentary Peni. How did you feel about your relation to that scene at the time and how do you feel about being categorized as part of it 30 years later?

Jake: I wasn't really aware we were getting categorized because that was something we never wanted to be. There were so many bands around then, some brilliant bands in fact who were probably more anarcho punk than us anyway? I am amazed at the amount of interest in all this 30 years on and hope that people will still be talking about it in 30 years time.

NI: Part 1 is included in Ian Glasper's book, The Day the Country Died, which focuses on the anarcho punk scene. Have you seen or heard of the book?  And if so, what are your feelings on it?  He mentions a possible discography CD on the way.  Is this still in the works?  Is there any unreleased material?

Jake: Yes, i have heard of this book and do own a copy of it, i bought it from a bookshop in Oxford some years ago! I think it's a brilliant book and feel proud to be featured in it too, These was history in the making and i think it was important that somebody bothered to record it all so well done Ian!

The discography mentioned in there was going to happen but as everything back then was recorded on cassette, the transition to CD loses that edge which is a shame because the plan was to put out a box set compilation with lyrics, artwork etc... and yes there was unreleased material!

NI: While bands such as The Mob and yourselves were mainly associated with anarcho punk, did you ever have any desire to play with the early gothic bands such as Play Dead, Bauhaus, Sex Gang Children, Danse Society, or others or be a part of that early gothic or Batcave club scene?

Jake: No desire whatsoever thank you... we were perfectly happy playing gigs where we could, preferably low key ones. London was a regular haunt of ours. Play Dead were good and Bauhaus were an early influence too, so yeah it would have been good to have got on the bill with them, just not at the Batcave.

NI: You mention having no desire to play at the Batcave.  Was this because of certain DIY ethics or other reasons?

Jake: I suppose it was but then Batcave was emerging around the time we had called it a day... i had friends at the time who used to go there. It was a kind of nightclub back then, with live music. I don't actually know where it was or even if it's still going!

But no, we had no desire to play there at all, or any 'major venues' mainly because of the DIY ethics, also it was much more intimate playing these smaller places and just stand in the crowd watching the other bands.

NI: The "Funeral Parade" 7" was put out by the band's label, Paraworm Records. Was this the only record on Paraworm? How many records did were pressed? What sort of reception did the record receive?

Jake: Funeral Parade was the only release on the Paraworm label. We were determined to put out a record and knew that it had to be Graveyard Song but had no desire to join the Crass label... even when they offered us a slot on their Bullshit Detector album we declined. Originally we planned to press 500 copies but it worked out cheaper to go for 1000, so with a helping hand from Peni we managed to pull it off. We took it around to the likes of Rough Trade, but nobody showed any interest in distributing it for us. So again we went it alone, selling them at gigs and through mail order mainly.

NI: What was the reason for refusing to submit a track to the "Bullshit Detector" comp?

Jake: Like i said, we wanted to put our own record out, and make an E.P. The invite came about in the early days, we must have sent them a copy of our demo just to get a reaction i suppose? But when they eventually got in touch we had already decided not to go through with it. I'm glad we did too because the E.P. was all our own work... We recorded it ourselves, we designed and printed the cover ourselves, even distributed it as no one showed any interest. It was very much something to be proud of!

NI: In 1984, Pushead posthumously released your first demo "In The Shadow of the Cross" as the "Pictures Of Pain" LP. Why were the last two songs of the demo, "Tomb" and "The Graveyard Song," left off LP?

Jake: These songs were from the original demo and were on a completely different recording to the others... Pushead was only given the masters to these and not the demo that's why. Also the artwork on the original album was different to the Pusmort LP too.

NI: After the record was released, did you ever think about reforming the band due to the critical praise it received?

Jake: I never thought about getting back together then. i don't think the others did either? We had all gone our separate ways by the time the "Pictures of Pain" came out. I was never aware of the praise we were getting then albeit critical at the time, but reforming the band was never mentioned or even talked about!
Bob Leith (drums) and Mark Ferelli (guitar)
NI: How did Part 1 end up on Pusmort? What were your dealings with Pushead like?

Jake: I have absolutely no idea how we ended up on Pusmort or what the dealings were... this was something that Mark and Brian did so you will have to ask them. I don't think it's at all relevant to what the band was/is about either... since the reformation we have talked a lot about things that have gone on over the years, and to be honest it doesn't really matter anyway!

NI: Did you get a good response from the US due to the release on Pusmort? Did anyone in Europe express interest in releasing the record domestically?

Jake: The overall response from the U.S.A. has been pretty incredible. I still cannot believe the interest over there. It's overwhelming! There was some interest from Europe, but mostly from people like yourself and fanzines... by now we were getting requests from France, Germany and Italy.

NI: Pushead included the song "Black Mass" on the "Cleanse the Bacteria" comp LP. Did you think it was odd to be included on a comp of all hardcore bands when Part 1 had an entirely different sound?

Jake: Not at all... i was extremely happy to get a song on that album and proud to be a part included. "Black Mass" was a good choice, it's a fucking great song!

NI: Pushead put contact information for all the bands on the back of the comp except for Part 1. Why wasn't your contact information included?

Jake: As i said earlier, this was between Mark and Brian, you have to remember back then there was no internet or email, so the only contact information would have been your actual home address. He could have put that on there if he wanted but chose not to! "Funeral Parade" had the address of a bed-sit i was living in at the time which became a sort of base for communication, etc...

NI: Why did you leave the band? Did you ever see the band live once you left?

Jake: I never officially left the band, but just drifted off slowly into the sunset! Mark and Bob were starting to experiment more with the music and the songs seem to be getting longer and longer, and i never felt comfortable singing them either... I couldn't sing anyway, but they were not the sort of songs you could just belt out like "Black Mass," "Graveyard Song" were. Shortly after the departure, i moved away for a while then completely lost touch with them... I never saw them play after that but did hear from somebody they were still playing.

NI: Do you keep in touch with any members of Part 1? Are any members still involved in the punk scene, and have the ideals and ethics of the anarcho scene influenced the way you live your life today?

Jake: We used to bump into each other now and again but as time went on lost sight altogether... But never ever got away from the punk scene. I think this is something that will always be with you... in your blood even! And i guess it does become a way of life if you choose it.

NI: Steve Ignorant is currently touring playing the whobrle "Feeding of the 5000" album, Zounds have put out a 7" in the past few years and are currently touring, and I have heard the Mob are getting back together. What is your opinion on the current trend of bands attempting to recreate something that happened nearly 30 years ago, and has Part 1 discussed any sort of reunion?

Jake: I think it's great that bands like The Mob have reformed as they were one of my favourite bands along with Zoundz etc... I am not sure the Steve Ignorant tour is a good thing though, don't get me wrong i fucking loved Crass, and if it was the whole band playing these gigs i would probably go. Sorry i would definitely go but this just feels like Crass greatest hits live... I would rather remember them how they were.

I am sure it would sound just as good and the sentiments are still the same only now it is a new generation we are reaching out to now, so why not, if it feels right then it is right.

A Part 1 re-union has been talked about for a few years and after a chance meeting last February at a UK Decay concert the wheels were put in motion and by August we got together again for the first time in over 25 years, and it was fucking amazing! Since May we have been rehearsing on a regular basis and the plans now are for brand new recordings of all the songs, a new EP and most exciting of all to play live...

Part 1 a new beginning is happening now!

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Damage Is Done: The story of Ripcord's 1986 flexi

Ripcord's "The Damage Is Done" flexi was released in 1986 on the band's own Raging Records. It brought a fresh take to British hardcore, combining the sound of Bristol thrash with Boston hardcore bands like Negative FX, SS Decontrol and Jerry's Kids. It was Ripcord's first release, and along with The Stupids and Heresy, represented a shift in the UKHC scene to a wider American influence.

Steve Ballam, better known Baz, gives the details on this flexi and more. We hit on the really important topics like why Chaotic Dischord had a song called "Fuck Off Ripcord" and how Simon from Chaos U.K.'s mom was Baz's science teacher in school. Baz also had a ton of photos from the recording session and even the original label art form saved. He was kind enough to share it all here. The Damage Is Done!
NI: First off, coming from so close to Bristol, how'd you come to be influenced by USHC rather than the sound of Chaos U.K. and Disorder?

Baz: Well, I wouldn't say that's 100% true. Yes, me and John were really into those early Eighties U.S bands,but we were equally into those early '80s faster noisier U.K. bands as well. Chaos U.K. particularly were crucial for my love of all things fast and noisy. I'd go as far say they were a pivotal to the sound Ripcord was sort of aiming for back then.

My science teacher from school, Mrs. Greenham, was Simon Greenham's, the first Chaos U.K. singer's, mother. She would tell me what they were up to, and I scored the "Loud, Political and Uncompromising" single from her, so they will always have a special place in my heart.

If you want to be pedantic about it, both Chaos U.K. and Disorder aren't actually from Bristol. Both bands started life nearer to Weston, where Ripcord were based, and the place I grew up was literally just down the road from both of these bands birthplace.

Funny really how all three bands were noisy, fast and from such rural setting! I think all the cheap scrumpy cider had a lot to do with it!!

NI: How do you come to choose Diamond Studios rather than Cave Studios or S.A.M. Studios where so many other Bristol bands had recorded?

Baz: Sam Studios was basically what was Cave Studios, but in a different location and taken over by new people, where those early Disorder and Chaos U.K. records were recorded.

When we did the first Ripcord demo, the studio was in a really small building and they were looking  to move. The Amebix happened to be recording "Arise" when we went in. By the time we went back to record the "Defiance Of Power" LP 18 months later, they had moved to a larger building.

I think the studio was a bit out of our budget when we were thinking were to record the flexi. So I'd been to Diamond Studios in my pre Ripcord band, Act Of Defiance in 1983. So thought we'd give a go. Still not sure why we didn't go back to Fast Forward Studios where we had recorded the "Westcoast Thrash" demo a couple of months earlier and were happy with the sound, but anyways we didn't.

The place was a joke, really basic. The guy didn't even have enough mike stands to record all the drums, so was using sticky tape to try to put the microphones into place! So after we had recorded all the tracks, the guys shows us which slider did what on the mixing desk and fucks off for his lunch! So as each track plays, I'm going more guitar, no more drums, etc.

Original quarter inch tape reel from the recording
Anyways we left thinking we'd recorded the new "Why" 12", got home to find we hadn't. So we had to go back into another studio to rerecord some of the bass parts and remix what we could. That's the version that got released. Years later I found the original quarter inch master for the first mix and that's what we put on the "Fast and Furious" demos compilation that came out, just thought it would be fun to let people hear it.

NI: How'd you come to decide on a flexi?

Baz: I think all along the idea was to release the flexi ourselves. Kalv and Dig [Earache Records] had been doing them for a while and when we got the Generic first single it had all the info inside saying how they'd done it all themselves. So we thought we'd go for it.

It was a great, cheap way of getting our name about and as you got double the amount of flexis compared to hard vinyl it was a no brainer.

NI: Did you ever speak with Tim Bennett of COR Records about doing the release?

Baz: Not long after we'd recorded our first demo, we started going up to Bristol to Tim from COR's house to buy records from him, he ran a disto as well as running the label. So we got to know him and basically badgered him about doing a record with us. He said we weren't ready and needed to play more gigs and get our name around.

So basically it was him who spurred us on to do our own release. Looking back, we were gutted he wasn't interested, but he was totally right. That first demo is pretty ropey. I'd only switched from playing drums in my earlier bands to bass and had only been playing bass a matter of months. Malc the guitar player wasn't into the thrash stuff at all, and was all over the place. Added to that we were 18 years old! It is what it is I guess!

NI: Were you guys aware that Heresy was doing their "Never Healed" flexi around the same time? Were you guys in touch with Heresy that early on about what each other were doing and the US influence?

Baz: Kalv [Heresy] used to run a little disto back then, selling all the European records from the time, Anti-Cimex, Mob 47, etc. I used to buy stuff from him and got to know him through that.

Not long after that, Heresy got together, so we started trading tapes, and he send me all the latest demos he was getting, Concrete Sox, Sacrilege, etc. He sent me the "Never Healed" demo which later got released as the flexi. It was him that put me in touch with Sound For Industry, the flexi manufacturer, where both the Ripcord and Heresy flexis were made.

Original label art pasted to be pressed by Sound For Industry
Annoyingly the place kept both of the master tapes for the flexis and closed down a while after, both reels lost forever. When both recording got reissued years later, they had to be taken from the cassette copies we had. Back then you got just one copy of the quarter inch master and you sent that, no back up copies. Insane thinking back now.

NI: How many were pressed, and how was the reception to the flexi?

Baz: Well, from memory I think it was around 2500 copies. We had to get the covers made ourselves, and supply the plastic sleeve, which I remember were to long, like a comic sleeve so we had to use a guillotine to cut them down to size! And then fold and assemble and add the lynx leaflet, which Buzby the singer had organised, to all 2500 copies. Man that took forever!!

There were no test pressing made, you just sent the tape and then took delivery of the finished thing. If there was an issue, I guess it was tough shit, crazy.

Review by Pushead in Thrasher mag
February 1987 Puszone column

From memory the flexi got a great reaction. People from all over took copies. Distros in England, Northern Europe and the States all took them. Basically it did exactly what we wanted it to do.

We started getting offers of gigs from all over the U.K., which lead us going over to mainland Europe. The Pushead review in Thrasher certainly didn't do any harm!

NI: Later on, Chaotic Dischord did a song called "Fuck Off Ripcord". Can you talk about this? Did you know them? What was your reaction?

Baz: As I mentioned earlier, we recorded our first demo at Sam Studios and then returned there to record the "Defiance Of Power" LP there. The guy who ran and owned the studio and recorded the bands was called Sooty. He played second guitar in the second line up of Vice Squad.

And was secretly involved with Chaotic Dischord, who were something to do with Vice Squad. So when we returned to do the LP, we'd improved a fair bit, had speed up and some of the songs were on the short side. He thought this was hilarious and took the piss out of us about that.

Then a few years later I saw that they'd recorded a 'tribute' song to us on a Chaotic Dischord LP. I guess it's supposed to sound like us! Ha ha.

I've bumped into him a few times over the years,he's a really cool guy. Weirdly enough he ended up owning the studio/rehearsal space that we recorded the "88 in 16" gig single in 2016 when we reformed for two shows to celebrate my 50th bday.

NI: Any other words on the flexi or anything else to add?

Baz: It's funny in later years I've read or heard people saying how they love that sound we got on the flex. Honestly, it was a total accident how that came about, a mixture of shit gear, not being able to play that well and that crazy hippy guy who ran the studio.

I reckon you'd never be able to recreate that sound again if you tried!

Thanks for listening.

Baz/Ripcord. Summer 2019.


Photos from the recording session at Diamond Studios in 1986:

Ripcord flexi "out soon" ad from 1986
"Out now" flyer ad