Category Archives: Technical

Dumping It On Parliament 2015 Live Presentation

Dumping It On Parliament Revisited Live Review

DIOPR By 21st century youth and music.
Copied with thanks from Diamond Seeds

Steve Spon note:  “This live performance of which I co hosted and curated along with Dash N Dem, Roshi, Graham Gagarin, Bedford Creative Arts and Mid Bedfordshire Libraries was the culmination of several months of planning , music, artwork, drama and poetry workshops with various groups and bands from Mid Bedfordshire. The project was part of the ‘Libraries As Laboratory’s’ presentation with the aim of utilising local libraries as part of a multifaceted arena and local resource.”

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The amount of work that went into this project was phenomenal. As a bystander, hearing about it as it unfolded and watching the culmination of all the hard work, it was truly breathtaking.

The project was run by Bedfordshire Libraries I believe, in a bid to keep these precious public places alive. Choosing music and its place in the right to protest was a formidable concept. Something that was news thirty years ago was resurrected and held up as an example of how people, working together, make their cause stronger. Well that was the main point, but of course, the history has to be explained, the flavour of the times revisited, in order to give a satisfactory view of how things really were.

I featured some songs from the Dump It On Parliament tape in a podcast. I listened and was impressed at the variety of styles of music and the wide involvement of people dedicated to protest against a nuclear dump near Bedford (yes believe it, it could have happened!)
The tape was made so that proceeds from its sale could provide financial help to those who were arrested and fined for demonstrating against this insane idea. The wider community woke up and participated in voicing its disapproval, and eventually the government dropped the proposal.

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But this incident threw open a door to the times we were living in, times past and unknown to the present generation. History is coloured by the media, and the media can be woefully unfair. The punk scene, which became the alternative music scene, was not populated by drones. Sure the clothes were interesting but there was more to it than the look (which was hijacked as soon as a buck could be made from it anyway).

The Dump it on Parliament tape is an icon for activism, for building communities and for the arts. The 21st Century project ‘Dump It On Parliament Revisited’, directed by the fantastic trio Rochi, Dash and Dem, probes into all the factors that made this tape, connects to the anger of the times, the politics of unfairness and the grassroots effects of fighting back. The drama group of young students that enjoyed the dressing up and acting of the Young Ones gives a nod to the recognition of this phenomena in our country’s social history.

And I have to laugh. Much of it goes back to Luton 33 Arts Centre and the craziness that went on there. I admit I took it for granted, surely every town had somewhere like that? Well it turns out that this arts center was very special, and to think I only went there a few times to rehearse with my band. Discussing 33 nowadays is like talking about Shangri La – there were drama groups, a recording studio, a photography studio, a cafe – decorated with Tony Hough’s paintings (Luton’s incredible fantasy artist). Gorilla Video was based there, developing new film techniques and providing Channel 4 with the stuff that used to make Channel 4 worth watching.

This was the meeting place where workshops took place and bands met, not in competition but in building a community, organizing gigs together. It was the antithesis of X Factor. Of course the council condemned the building, pulled 33 Guildford Street down and no independent place has emerged to rival it since.

Now it has come to pass that the building has gone, and the people have scattered to the four winds; but the music is still with us. So the idea was to revisit the tape itself, and listen to the songs and study the history. Then, to invite bands/performers of today to participate, by commenting about the issues in their lives through their music.

My goodness, the bands that participated are living proof that this project is a bloody good idea. Firstly there was no age restriction, I believe the youngest participant was a very enthusiastic actor, it would be rude to try and work out the eldest, so lets just say this project appealed to all ages!

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Secondly it was a project that embraced all facets of art, not just the music. Tee-shirts and posters were designed. Clothes were embellished and make up carefully applied by the drama group. Films made by Gorilla Video were aired. There was even face painting – where people ‘wore’ an album cover on their face.

An interesting discussion about the times and the action taken by bands and film makers were discussed at a public forum in Leighton Buzzard, hosted by Dave Stubbs from Quietus Magazine.

With music being my main passion I was bound to be drawn in by the promise of live bands, but all this other stuff, the historical perspective, the inclusion of anyone who wanted to be involved in any way, I found this inspiring. And yet all it was, was people, encouraging other people, to discover and evolve their abilities and learn something. I was entertained. More importantly, I was educated about the music scene, and the battles fought with the government of the 1980s against nuclear dumping, among other issues. Things that are not in the National Curriculum, or the newspapers.

So how can you better the idea of asking bands of today to come along and show us what music is about now? The master stroke was this – ask each band to cover one of the songs on the Dump it on Parliament Tape (I also called it the ‘Anti Nirex tape’, as Nirex was the company that the government was going to farm out the nuclear waste to).
This is asking a lot considering that music has moved a long way since the eighties, the words can be lost and musicians are all ego maniacs – well that’s how they are portrayed in the media – right?

Musicians don’t always turn up for rehearsals, well we know that! Sometimes people say yes to things and do not deliver… life can get in the way..sometimes people just cannot make it. I have said it before, musicians are emotional creatures, when you strip your soul naked on a stage it takes courage. But there are plenty of brave people out there.

I turned up on the last night of this project at Leighton Buzzard Theatre and it seemed clear to me that this was going to be a fantastic effort because it was so much more than ‘just a gig’. I was privileged to meet many of the musicians performing that night and their commitment and credibility was awe-inspiring.
I have to say in an industry once populated with men (which is even reflected to some extent on the Anti Nirex tape) the girls have silenced the equality debate, which thankfully, for this project, has gone out of date. Women, dressed in clothes that betray the fact that they are serious musicians and not put together by some creepy media company executive (ie they were dressed normally) performed to a very high standard, as did everyone taking part on the night. Yes the bottom line was that these bands were worth seeing.

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Carolla

I like punky stuff and I like folky stuff, so I wasn’t disappointed. The show kicked off with the Grove Theatre Drama Group (?) Dunstable – performing a song strong on lyrics. We all get how bad it is to be young in a system that does not care about you, but hearing it from kids who are living it and understanding that things don’t have to be that way – made it a powerful performance. I truly hope that these kids do find a future in the arts, even if nobody will fund them.

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Gary, known as Slippy Skills came over from Luton and rapped a set, and we were off into a night of sheer delight, as I like to say. He was followed by the Council Tax Band, who really don’t care if they cannot be found on Google. This band was tight, political and had a dynamic girl guitarist as well as the singer/keyboard player. They covered the Click Click track from the Dump it on Parliament tape. I enjoyed their defiant style and material.

Grand Mal were excellent too – a Bedford band fronted by bass player, sound engineer and singer Amy Mason, often found behind the bar at Esquires, Bedford.

Grand Mal

Grand Mal

Corolla were something different. Their performance had delicacy and a gentle delivery which completely reset the atmosphere. The girl (I should say lady) singer has a completely controlled delivery of her vocals. Holding back and putting space into the music, captured the attention of the audience, and held us in the palm of her hand. Even though this band was quieter, the sentiment and pace of the music was its strength. The musicianship was exquisite, the moment was precious.

In contrast, everything seems to be in a state of explosion around Nick the Poet. He is like a human detonator. When someone with his energy takes the mike and announces that he will read you his poem, nobody would ever consider heading for the door. Nick has written some wonderful stuff over the years. He has a punk heritage that takes us back to the days of the emerging and pimpled UK Decay. Nick gave himself the job of reading a poem to the crowd while there were band and equipment changeovers on the stage behind him. He loves a rabble to entertain and the rabble loves him for his word-smithing. Nick does not beat around the bush. His poetry will ask awkward questions – and on this evening he brings out a poem questioning what Thatcher and Reagan were up to and the disgrace that was Greenham Common. By the end of the night everyone in the venue will know who Nick the Poet is, and probably go to see him if they ever get the chance again.

Nick the Poet

Nick the Poet

Rochi and Spon performed a song from the ‘dump it’ tape and had the crowd singing a simple song by a bloke named Kev, and I wondered if it may have been a guy I went busking with years ago in Luton. We never found out but the song brought a great audience response with us singing along with the chorus and the drama group really feeling it. Their tutor, Chris performing as Red Lighter Man also gave us a haunting poem about the times we live in.

Roshi

Roshi

The evening was fast paced, so I had a sit down and quick chat with Steve Spon who was co-presenting and co curator of the project. Then I heard someone on the drums and I knew that it had to be Kirk. Halfway through my tea I jumped up and ran to catch the Kindred, because it is the only thing to do when the Kindred get on stage. I have seen this band steam the pub windows up, I would go so far to say that they are rather ‘mighty’.

I just about caught the first song and it was the cover of the Rattlesnakes song ‘No Money’. This being my favourite song of the whole thing, it is not surprising that the pics came out a bit out of focus, I was trying to mosh at the same time. Seems the Kindred were not together as a band at the time but I am hoping they reform and gig because the world is too quiet without their gut ripping energy. All excellent musicians, they seem like direct descendants from some of the bands that made the Anti Nirex tape. Of course I mentioned the Rattlesnakes before, it being Gregg Herbert’s band at one time. It was special to see Kindred, highly respected in my opinion, paying tribute to Gregg and the Rattlesnakes all this time later. It was good too that the boys knew it and felt that respect.

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Kindred and Kin

The evening ended with the Defektors, the other band that I had already picked up on the radar as a bloody good set up. I had a chance to speak to their singer, Cara, the enigmatic front-person before they got on stage. The Defektors were covering a song by Penumbra Sigh and I wondered if she knew that the singer had passed away in the last couple of years. I had tried to contact Spiky Kaz, who had been the singer in Penumbra Sigh when I included the track on my radio podcast, but could not connect with her. Cara viewed this news in a mystical light, she has a spiritual dimension about her, and she paid tribute to Spiky Kaz when they performed the song. The Defektors set was the last of the night and they rounded off the evening with kick ass tracks and lively performance. Cara is totally dynamic, having mastered the art of movement and performance, she gives a masterclass in stage craft to anyone watching who would want to learn. I liked this band before, now I love them!

All was filmed by Andrew and others, and the sound recorded on the desk by Graham, from Pere Ubu who did the engineering single-handedly and must be congratulated for not a whiff of feedback! The library staff involved with this project were so friendly and I glimpsed them support the creators as they cleverly navigated their way through their aims and objectives.

What will be my lasting impression of this whole thing? Well I was an outsider looking in, but for me what sticks is that people were just lovely with each other.

Barney The Musical

Barney The Musical CD - screenshot

Barney The Musical CD – screenshot

2015

At the beginning of this year I upgraded my DAW with a new Alienware I7 Quadcore PC and my software to the new Steinberg Cubase Pro 8. I am loving it to! I have been using Cubase now since 1990 and the days of the good old Atari putor’s. This one is the best version yet, Steinberg now have the backing and benefit of the Yamaha music group behind this next generation virtual studio technology. So a music tech marriage made in heaven between the Cubase software brains and the Yamaha hardware interface, will lead to further integration into the future with innovative new digital work surfaces and controllers. For the time being I will have to settle with my brand new Steinberg UR22 Audio Interface, which does the job superbly, with as high quality sound as you might need.

The first major project of the new set-up was a slight divergence to the normal musical production and it came as a refreshingly different and pleasant surprise. Ella Jo Street who I have recorded music for in the past , asked me if I would record an Audiobook of one of her kids stories. I was a bit dubious at first, although in the past I have recorded spoken, plays for the radio and podcasts. Anyway we ran through a dress rehearsal of the 6500 word story and I recorded it onto an MP3, it played back at around 50 minutes and in places it was hilarious with EJ Street finding great character in her performance.

I also recently acquired a Rhode NT1A microphone, so after a bit of tweeking EJ and I decided to record the story again , this time obtaining a top quality sound and putting some thought into Foley and other sound effects. We set up the environment with a dampened space away next door, ran cables under doors, set the laptop up on the table for a text read out. Then we sat EJ down comfortably , with headphones, with talk-back. I set up the phantom power on the UR22 and set up the recording levels. I set up a number of Audio channels on Cubase, which I set to run at 24bit and 44.1khz, we did a few test takes until we were happy. Then we started.

We ploughed our way through the first 15 minutes before we listened back. We were largely really happy with the take, the sound was good, the performance was excellent, EJ had really done her homework on the characters voices.. The only things we needed to touch up later was a slight volume adjustment I had to make as it was recording some three minutes in. I had to compensate for this in the post production process. Once the new level was set, it was good for the recording of all the following narrative. Later we went back and replaced the continuity headings narrative.

The new Cubase Pro 8 - screenshot of the Barney The Musical Project page

The new Cubase Pro 8 – screenshot of the Barney The Musical Project page

As time wore on however, EJ tired quicker so we ended up doing more takes, which I knew would have to be edited later. I didn’t want EJ’s voice to give either before the end of the reading. So we stopped for a cup of tea break. Had a listen back to the work so far, hey! It was sounding real good!

We returned to finish the second half, which in fact turns out to be more or less an hour long. EJ needed me to rewind a couple times to check her character voices were right, eventually we got to the end. A great performance but some serious editing was needed to edit the different takes into the right order. I literally had to follow the text and check every line whilst editing, which I needed to do right away, whilst fresh in my software memory! After a few hours of editing I had something to play EJ for her to check, she spotted an ‘audio typo’ or two , we put it right. Set up a soft limiter and slight eq on monitors. We ready for the next stage.

This is where we were to have fun!

“Barney The Musical” is a story from Ella Jo Street’s “A Witch called Gwubbin’s” series aimed at kids between 4 and 11 years. Gwubbins creates magical spells with the best of intentions , but the spells go hysterically wrong leaving her visiting actress sister Alidusta from the end of the universe and her dog Barney in ‘pandabonium’ in a stage musical.

We decided we would make an audio book to remember. As this was a musical we decided that we must depart from a normal narrative (Like most audiobooks) and add some bespoke ‘musical’ songs.
So how would the new Cubase Pro 8 cope with an hour long Audiobook with foley and music?

On another project we started work on the bespoke musical pieces. This was to involve lots of practising of scales, donkey honking, yodeling, murmuring, whispering. We needed to create the sounds of wonky contraptions, magical broomsticks, dogs barking and running riot.

Using Halion SE I created an Orchestra on different layers and created a loop on one idea. On another we needed a kind of fanfare so I used the same orchestral multi-timbral in Halion, eventually creating four or five pieces . Once reasonably happy I suggested EJ write some lyrics. In the story she mentioned a few songs for instance “The Dog Show Cabaret”, “Howling Moon Blues”, “Winner by a Whisker” and “Barney in my Dreams”.

Very soon EJ had four short songs to work with, so I got her to drop the vocals onto each of the songs. What a fine job to! She got into full operatic character and before long we were creating mini mixes to slide into the main book.
So we were now armed with most of the sounds and Foley we needed to create our masterpiece!

It was just a case of layering on different tracks, using the new ‘REVelation’ Reverb hosted in Cubase Pro8, I found a general theatrical ambiance for the live on stage stuff. Later we played about with the different characters voices, the elf for instance we transposed up and layered, the magic spells needed a peeling harp and bobs your uncle, there were many other treatments, that all hopefully augmented to a well put together story that is all but graphically animated!

“Barney The Musical” is a kids story at the end of the day, it is kids that it is meant for however in places it reminds me of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End , or Jeeves and Wooster or something similar. This is not a regular audio book in the true sense, it is a listening experience par excellence!

I do have a serious grumble about Cubase Pro 8 however.

Most songs that one might want to record are never more than a few minutes. However with “Barney The Musical” being over an hour long , it did manifest a peculiar problem that made it very difficult to work with. As more tracks piled up over the narration with different sound effects and some control changes, editing got slower and slower. Yes I agree it was a very huge song! But I would have thought Cubase should have coped admirably but it let me down!

Everything was fine when editing near the beginning of the material but after about a third of the way through, editing took longer and longer the nearer I got to the end! At the end each edit would often take as long as two minutes to perform, a real pain in the neck that slowed the work down significantly. I took time out to read the manual and help sections , I tried various setting changes in the audio devices pages. I turned down the ‘undo’ in fact I spent several hours trying to track down the problem. I went online to the Steinberg Cubase forums and tried several searches for others that may have had the same problem. I did find a couple of leads, like turning of the ‘auto-hit detection’ in the preferences (It’s on by default) I removed all of the hit-points which were totally unnecessary in audio book narrative material anyway. There was one tantalising thread that sounded just like my problem but no-one had got back with any answer , so I still don’t know if it’s an inherent problem with the new Cubase Pro 8 or whether it is a setting somewhere! If i am going to use Cubase to create any more audio books I am going to have to nail this problem. When I get a chance I will address the forum with it.

In the nineties I had a similar problem with Cubase when it moved over to VST with audio for the first time. I was getting these timing anomalies they seemed pretty random. I couldn’t work out if it was a multitude of differing facets to do with the multi-track sync or in the software or what. I spent weeks trying to track the problem down and it caused a lot of disgruntled customers to complain which meant I had to compensate with so much extra time in the studio. At that time there was no internet in the studio, in fact it was early days full stop. I never got to the bottom of the problem at the time. It was a couple years later when I was reading through the upgrade history to a later version of Cubase that I came across an entry that stated…

version…such and such…”fixed…..anomalous timing discrepancy” and sure enough it was fixed!

All of that time wasted, hours of trying to track down, the disgruntled customers, the heck!

The fault lay in the software all the bloody time! Since then my lesson learned is to never jump in with brand new software, let someone else be the guinea pig.

So after a few sessions we now have our first audio book. There were many lessons learned in the creating of Barney The Musical, now it’s onto the packaging, marketing and promotion. It will manifest both in a CD form and digital versions. We have plans for more audio books now, I will have to nail the Cubase problem, but I am sure that will be fixed very soon. All new projects are likely to have teething problems, it’s part of the learning process.

Gwubbins The Witch Audio Books – Barney The Musical

1986 Luton Compilation

Dump it on Parliament: 1986 Luton Compilation (aka the Anti Nirex Tape – BAND)

UK Decay, Furyo and In Excelsis were gone but in their wake, the town of Luton still had a bustling ‘alternative’ scene in the mid eighties. At the time, Click Click, Karma Sutra, the Party Girls, Penumbra Sigh and a host of other acts were ‘wooing’ the local audience’s. Click Click were pioneering new industrial sounds at their Lung Function HQ and Karma Sutra were flying the flag for the ‘anarcho-pacifist’ movement. Both bands were regularly playing gigs out of town and around the country, even playing in Europe by 1986.

Dump It On Parliament - Luton Compilation - Click for stream
Hear this now!

Thatchers government made great issues to protest against, we had seen the Falklands adventure, the Miners strike. So in 1986 when it was announced that an old WW2 supply base near Elstow in Bedfordshire was to be the host of the nations nuclear rubbish dump, it was decided that something had to be done to stop it.
The focus for the towns alternative community at the time bedside’s the obligatory ale houses such as the Blockers Arms and The George, was the 33 art centre in Guildford Street. A three minute walk round the corner in Bute Street was situated the printing workshop. The upstairs rooms hosted Click Click’s ‘Lung Function’ – rehearsal rooms for bands. Both ’33’ and ‘Lung Function’ provided rehearsal spaces and acted as informal gathering and networking havens. So ideas, pre- internet days, would spread quickly.
So it was relatively easy to galvanize the towns alternative community into an action to try and prevent this nuclear waste dump from setting up just 15 miles away. Chernobyl was fresh on folks minds and with this a campaign was started – Bedfordshire Against Nuclear Dumping (B.A.N.D.)
Most of the towns young ‘alternative’ musicians got behind the idea quickly and very soon the idea of a protest – compilation tape would be in order. Bands and individual musicians were asked to contribute a specially written and recorded song or two, protesting against the Governments nuclear agency – Nirex.

In the mid Eighties Government Policy determined that a site in mid-Bedfordshire near Elstow, was to become the main national and an international Nuclear-waste dump.
In the true ‘Punk-spirit’, the Luton ‘alternative’ scene galvanized their protest against Nirex, the government agency responsible for nuclear waste.A 24 track Tape was produced which included works by many local artists.Presented here are the digitized cover scans for the tape and below that, you can download the MP3’s:-

Dump It On Parliament – Luton Compilation

Download

24 Colours-Tortured Soul

Bugsy and the snakes-Open your eyes

Guitars for Ammunition-Brutal

Karma Sutra-The Package

Party Girls-Believe in me

The Click Click-Fear of cats

The Twitch-Look,Look There

Kev- Break DownThe Walls

Occult Radio Disorganisation Unproduction-Dear Mr Nirex

Kull-Carthage

Penumbra Sigh-Televised Murder

Two Little Dicky Birds-Sitting On A Wall

Kul-You’re Not Smiling Anymore

Guitars For Ammunition-DreamPolice

Kev-Men Of Power

and the reverse:-Luton Compilation cover reverse

The Rattlesnakes-No Money

Corpaelia-Mentor Will Rise

Party Girls-DreamHasEnded

Click Click-Shes Chewing Them

Strawberry Speed Trials-The Horror Of Party Beach

Bugsy and J Graham-War Games

Corpaelia-Beyond This Place

Penumbra Sigh-To Serve Them All My Days

The Twitch-Chalets And Bungalows

Windows Media Player required

Play whole selection in windows media player.

It is with good credit to the people involved because an idea is one thing, however turning an idea into reality is another! Recording studios and equipment back in the day wasn’t cheap to come by. The real hard work was holding the idea together until the project was achieved. Most of the tracks ended up being recorded on 4track cassette ‘Porta-studios’ as this was the only method that could be afforded at the time. The process seemed to take forever and at times the project nearly ground to a complete halt. But eventually the tape was finished. According to the hand written text on the back of the Cassette,

“This tape was put together on very cheap equipment, nothing flashy at all. So obviously the quality suffers somewhat and for this I apologise not only to you but to the bands and artists that have contributed their songs and their time completely free. Although it hasn’t quiet turned out as good as it could have done, I think it still proves that anyone can produce D.I.Y. Tapes easily and cheaply. Without the help of the money merchants that control the major record companies but simply with a little trust, solidarity and cooperation”

Profits from the project were to..

to be sent directly to people who have been fined by the courts for their participation in acts of direct action against the plans” (for nuclear dumping)

Ironically it tuned out that soon after the tape was released, the government dropped their plans for Elstow, the whole country at the time was up in arms against the nuclear industry! So victory for the aims of the campaign and reason for the tape, by default! This may have taken the wind out of the sails for the project at the time but today this collection stands as a historical snapshot of Luton’s alternative musicians, community and culture of the mid-late eighties.
In 2004 one of the original artists to have appeared on the tape, Bugsy – digitised and sent the UK Decay Com website the MP3’s to host, which we have hosted to this day, now twenty five years after it was originally released. In 2006 Spon re compiled and remastered using another recently found copy of the original, selecting the best quality to have survived the years of each track on the tape.

So thanks go out to Bugsy, Spon and Ella Jo for the BAND poster and of course all the bands and artists that contributed to this historical and unique Luton collection.

Old anti nirex article on forum

A radical view of Luton’s anarchic past
Straight outta Luton

If you enjoyed this article you may be interested in reading about
Some notorious Luton Punk venues from the 70’s and 80’s.

“Alternative Luton – Grab it, Change it, it’s yours!”

A B.A.N.D. poster

Perspectives

It’s October 2013 now, the album is ‘New Hope For The Dead’ by UK Decay

  • UK Decay are recording their second album Guitarist Steve Sponblogs the lo-down Part 1: Blue skies over, the White Cliffs of Dover! On a Sunday afternoon in late February 2012, members of UK Decay began arriving for their booking at the recording studio situated above the famous white cliffs of Dover. The recording sessions will be our first since we recorded the 'Rising From The Dread EP' almost thirty years ago. Together with the help of the www.pledge.com website and our 'Pledgers', we had managed to raise much of the funding required to hire out the services of one the rock-guitar worlds most eminent producers, Chris Tsangarides, better known to many as "The Dark Lord" ("TDL").TDL's studio is perfectly situated, away from the beaten track, overlooking a holiday park with magnificent views across the sea all the way to France on a clear day. As the light faded to dusk we arrived and unloaded our packed vehicles into a 'Hi de Hi' type holiday cabin nearby to the studio, that was to be our lodgings for the next ten days or so. Utilising the studios facilities at this quiet time of the year meant that we had the holiday park to ourselves for the duration, which was real cool! We had a mammoth task ahead, not many bands had left it thirty one years between recording albums! Since the proper reformation of UK Decay in 2008, there has been a lot of talk about new songs and possible recordings. The recent shows have seen us featuring a small number of new tracks in the set. In October 2011, the decision was taken to go ahead with recording a new album. Abbo suggested that we find a specialist producer, who had mastered the art and understanding of recording a guitar and drum oriented band. It wasn't long before TDL came to light, although primarily a Heavy Metal producer, Abbo recommended that he might be the right guy for us. Back in the first era of UK Decay, most of the band were based in Luton with Ed the bassist making a short journey down the M1 from Northampton for rehearsals, we had it easy then! Nowadays, members of UK Decay live and work far apart from each other and even a simple rehearsal can accrue many hundreds of combined travelling miles. Not very good for our carbon footprint, we know! But for us there is no alternative, saving for working across the internet, sending ideas via mp3's etc. we had done a lot of that but its still necessary to play together in the same room at times. Over the last few months, ideas and activities have increased as the booked studio dates got closer, culminating in a very active couple weeks before the deadline. Then with one week to go, a serious problem manifested that would affect our plans. Ed the bassist was contending with a serious personal family problem that meant we would not be able to have all the band in the studio in the initial days. He would be arriving later in the session. Initially we tried to change the dates, but this was impossible as TDL had other bands and projects booked after us. So we would have to lay down the drums to a guide and have Ed overdub his bass later on. This is not the usual method of recording bands but then hey! when were we ever a 'usual' kind of band! Luckily we had worked out guide tracks on our song demo's on computer software, complete with raw bass parts, so by utilising these, it would be possible to get around Ed not being available in the initial stages. So in the evening before the first day of recording, drummer Ray and I set up my PC in the 'Hi de Hi' cabin and poured through the songs that were about to be recorded. Additionally, having structured the new songs with this software, this enabled Ray and I to really get our heads around the arrangements and the work we had to do. So with a few beers we sat at the computer writing notes and rehearsing parts until at 2am we hit our bunks for the night, tomorrow would be a big day. Ray was up bright and early the following morning and he was eager to get the 'she-bang' on the road. Personally mornings are not my best time, but with the inspiration of the blue-skied vista outside and the sea air, I soon got my act together. It was a glorious day! Ray phoned TDL who was ready and waiting for us not one hundred metres away in his studio. Ray had gone ahead, he would be using a kit largely supplied by TDL augmented with his own cymbals and snare. Before I ventured down to meet TDL for the first time, I took a few steps away from the Hi de Hi cabin to take in the magnificent view. I noted the cross channel ferry disappearing into the distant haze, beyond I could just make out a faint impression of distant french cliffs. I had read up about TDL and his impressive array of achievements of production and had watched youtube videos of interviews with the man. He came across as very experienced and a genuinely interesting chap whom amongst other achievements had invented a revolutionary method for recording guitars, namely "The Vortex Guitar" recording technique. My years since the first era of UK Decay had seen me working and producing music for innumerable others, but now it was my turn to be 'produced' by someone else! As a musician it made me very aware of my personal 'shortcomings', I had after all abandoned playing the guitar for over twenty five years, only picking it up once again in recent years! I was about to meet the producer-maestro otherwise known as 'The Dark Lord'. I headed toward the white painted bungalow, round the back were some run down wooden barns, alongside a heavy duty looking outbuilding also painted white. I proceeded to a semi opened laminate door, knocked politely and entered. Inside Ray sat on a chair working on his drum pedal on a table leant against a wall in a slim room. Above the table on the wall there were several presented gold discs on display. The far end of the room contained a small kitchen and in-between, a door leading to what must be the studio. Ray took me through the door to the studio control room, nice I thought, plenty of valve technology! It was small and compact compared to what you might expect but I could see it was well equipped and designed. The very large mixing desk faced a window tucked between two very nice looking studio monitors. Through the window you could see the cliffs and sea beyond. I continued following Ray through two smaller rooms containing a plethora of musical instruments and recording studio accessories including an upright piano and Hammond organ with Leslie cabinet. We rounded a corner and entered a larger room and in it was The Dark Lord himself, placing microphones round a drum kit. We entered the room and I shook hands with TDL as Ray introduced us. "Coffee?" TDL offered, "Yes please" I answered and TDL took us back to the kitchen where a pot of freshly brewed coffee was awaiting.We sat down at the table and after introductions, we discussed the plan of action for the session. Ray had already filled TDL in with the situation with Ed, so we moved on to how we could go about recording the drums for the songs. We worked out a plan for transferring our PC based guide music files onto his Radar/Pro Tools recording system. That would turn out to involve me running back and forth between TDL's studio and our Hi de Hi cabin armed with a memory stick, transferring files for much of the first day! The system took a little tweeking to get right at first, but improved as the day went on. TDL's years of experience and empathy with his vocation shone like a wise beacon, here was a studio seer, a music magus that had worked with the likes of Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Killing Joke, Depeche Mode and Samantha Fox! To name but a few! I felt humbled and yet he had a warmth and sense of inclusiveness that immediately made one feel at home. He had a down to earth attitude with a cunning plan to solve our problems! He led us back through the studio, this time with a narrated tour. At the back of the 'live room' with the drum kit was a covered rack, TDL pulled back a large cover and exposed the large rack, perhaps three metres long, bristling with guitars of all denominations. "Feel free to utilise any of these if you like" TDL offered, "Hmm" I thought of my trusted Antoria custom, "Thanks very much – perhaps!". After a further coffee, I returned to Hi de Hi with memory stick to prepare the first batch of three songs. I needed to export the guide tracks from my software and import the results on to TDL's system. TDL in the mean time finished the microphone placement and started work on the drum sound in the control room. Ray tweeked the kit and limbered up. Eventually I returned with a working file and we were go for recording the first three songs. Ray played along to the prepared guide tracks which were now in sync with TDL's system. I hung around whilst Ray went through a few takes on the first of the three tracks. With some adjustments of the monitors eventually we were happy to have the first take in the can. The drum sound on its own was absolutely awesome! I headed back to Hi de Hi to prepare the next batch of songs, on return I noticed it was already dusk, "My God! its already six o’clock" I thought. Ray had recorded a second track and was about to start on the third when TDL announced that we were finishing the first day's recordings. This was ok as we were now set up to steam into everything first thing the following day. We would have the evening to make sure all the guide tracks were prepared for the remaining songs. Abbo would be arriving later that evening so we would be able to discuss the arrangements with him then. Ray and I drove the car to a local chippy, on return we sat at the large table in the Hi de Hi cabin and ate our nosh. Afterwards we got back to the PC to check over the next bunch of songs and work through some ideas on my guitar. Eventually, Abbo phoned Ray to say he was on his way with Jim. The time was 11.30pm, Ray was knackered, he had a long day Abbo was going to be late. I carried on with my guitar for a bit longer but I too was getting tired. At 1am, Abbo called again to say that he was twenty minutes away. Ray decided to wait up a little longer and eventually at 1.30am, Abbo and Jim arrived. Complete with 100% Nob Creek Bourbon, Baileys, bottle of Rum and fat cuban cigars, the guys waltzed in. We could have been forgiven for taking a swift nightcap and departing for a well earned slumber, but not this time. Abbo, fresh faced and brimming with ideas, wanted to pour over the songs right away. Out came his mobile ipac, laptop and guitar and before we knew it we were back in the thick of working out songs, this time lashed with Jims cocktail concoctions and cigar smoke. Abbo had two brand new ideas for songs he would like to record, I shuddered as I thought about the technicalities involved in making them happen at this stage of the proceedings. Eventually at 4.30am we finally ground to a halt, we discussed a plan of action for the following day and turned in. Day one over! Spon, Abbo, Chris Tsangarides (TDL), RayThanks to Pirate Hatter Jim for photosTO BE CONTINUED.....when I get a chance!Steve Spon
  • Hot on the heels of Leighton Buzzards budding writer Julian Wolfendale's 'Damaged Goods' comes fellow 'LU7' co patriot, Ian Lee, with his"1000 Gigs - A Life Well Lived" Here's a book by a man who's obsession in life is attending gigs - lots of them. Ian Lee has included within this book with the zeal of an eagle eyed accountant, a detailed list of the gigs he has attended covering twenty years.Much of Ian's love of Punk and Alternative music sources from the same place as many of us -the legendary late John Peel. A quick scan through the book will reveal a strong correlation between gigs visited and what JP was championing around the same time. Such was the respect and influence of the great man in shaping the music scene between the years 1978 - 1998, which happen to be the same years covered in Ian's book. What this book is not - and this is important to point out - is a detailed review of every gig visited. This would have been a project of encyclopedic proportion but what it is instead is a list of venues and bands/artists and dates, spiced together with Ian's thoughts, notes, pictures and experiences.This book makes for a truly unique and personal perspective on Ian's Journey, that will be relate-able for many. I doubt whether most would remember events in such detail going back twenty years, but this book is an interesting snapshot of bygone times, that many of us let's say more mature folk, might relate to. Particularly for those that may hail from the Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Milton Keynes and surrounding districts - the mid shires of England you could say. For the aforementioned, this book is a treasure to behold, that includes this writer. I had immense fun re-tracing and remembering events and bands that I had forgotten about, for me it has helped piece together vast parts of my lost 'rock n roll' lifestyle years. I too had shared many events in Ian's listings, in fact he has actually visited many events that I played at or promoted. Ian's journey has lead to a deep and knowledgeable wisdom of alternative music. He starts in the late seventies with classic punk, hardcore, post-punk and goth type bands. Then through the eighties to the Manchester, scene, britpop and trash bands carefully avoiding the out and out bland commercial shite. He flirts briefly in the nineties with rave and techno outfits, then continuing with the more adventuress aspects of dub, ambient and avante garde etc. Often he returns to his roots and favourites with the odd iconic sixties and seventies classic, thrown in for good measure. Occasionally adding the odd alternative comedian into the mix as well. All bands and artist are meticulously listed - so to are the venues and places visited. The occasional visits to 'foreign climes' including Amsterdam and a token-nary visit or two to the US of A are also included.Embedded within are occurrences wrapped around Ian's personal life and meetings with some of Ian's personal hero's.There are newspaper cuttings relating to some of the stories told, concert tickets and other memorabilia coupled with photographs included.The accounts of all of this including a summing-up listing of all bands, artists and venues visited are included at the end of the book. Although one slight criticism was that I found the ticks in the columns a bit confusing and unexplained, perhaps this was an unnecessary inclusion in my humble opinion. But this aside its all there written in a chronological order, easy to understand and fascinating, Ian can be proud of his gig attending life. The book is reminiscent of Cimaric's 'Punk Diary', although written from a very personal perspective. A kind of memoirs I guess.Would it have a wider appeal? I have to say I doubt it in the sense of a best selling novel but at the same time it is easy to pick up and put down. I would rather see a book like this placed in a doctors waiting room than the usual 'Hello' or 'Country Life' dross the unfortunate patient has to endure. Better still it could sit happily in any discerning Punk and Indy disciples bookshelf. Inevitably visiting so many gigs statistically would lead to unplanned occurrences such as getting arrested as a murder suspect in one case.The more obvious, missing the last train or bus home are covered in spine tingling detail including a thirteen mile walk home from a Crass and UK Decay concert and breaking his arm in a fall on the way.Such is Ian's love of bands and gigs that he would go to such lengths to sustain his passion. Highly recommended !Steve SponFurther details and purchase "1000 GIGS - A LIFE WELL LIVED"Next TOP ARTICLE: CLOPHILL CHURCH
  • In the midst of one of Englands middle shires and nestled amongst a ridge of sandy Pine and Chesnut wooded hills, lies the little village of Clophill.Now blighted by a busy arterial road junction just off the roundabout lies the old high street. Passing the Flying Horse Inn and past the picture postcard cotts to the far end of the village, there is a turn, a green lane that drifts up a low hill and dwindles to a very rough track. Eventually round a few twists and turns and near the summit lies a knoll crowned with a ruined church. In 1979 a young punk rock band from nearby Luton had the idea of taking some cover shots for their forthcoming record release. It was around the time off, but not the day off - Halloween. The photographer was booked for an evening shoot to capture the atmosphere and also to take advantage of when it was (hopefully) quiet.The Story below is taken from the UK Decay CommunitiesPunk Gothique Forum. The ruined Clophill Church of St MarysThis church has had a rich history of myths and legends within the worldof the Paranormal and the Occult, eg. it is down on record as being thesite of the last reported incidence of Necromancy in the UK!Situated 10 miles north of Luton, Clophill Church lies in ruins some 3/4of mile north east of Clophill village on a lonely hilltop. God only knowswhy they chose to build a Church there or why it was abandoned, but itcan be accsesed via an unmettled lane winding its way through deepancient hedgerows slowly up a low hill. The Church is situated on a knollof high ground near the summit. One mile to the west lies 'Dead Mans Hill'infamous for the A6 murders that led to the last instance of the deathpenalty being impossed on the convicted perpatrator, James HanrattyThese days the gravestones have been moved and the terrainsurrounding the church, flattened and grassed over, so it has lost someof its former 'spooky' atmosphere. The Ruined Church todayAt the time of the photo for the 'Black Cat EP' in late 1979, thegraveyard of the church with decaying tombs and crumbling gravestoneswas completely overgrown. The path leading up to the entrance to thechurch had sunk 3 or 4 feet below the level of the graveyard and withmist rolling around, it was truly terrifying to walk up alone on a dark night!Going there in the dark of the night became a 'rights of passage' ritualfor kids living both locally and in the nearby towns. It is on record thatBlack Occultists have also used the church for their ungodly rituals.At the time that the band took the 'Black Cat EP’ photos, there was agigantic pentagram engraved into one of the walls and other occultsymbols placed around!Shortly after the shot that appeared on the front cover was taken, theband became spooked, they fled back to the car in blind terror and madeof back down the lane towards the main road. Travelling at speed downthe dirt track the car rounded the bend and came to a screeching halt asthe headlights picked up a magnificent white horse strolling down the lane.The car came to a halt with hearts pounding and a moment’s pause asthe horse disappeared round the bend a few yards in front. With that thecar pulled of again, the band realising that it must have been an escapedhorse had gathered their senses together again and followed the horseround the bend, not five or six seconds behind!There was absolutely no sign of the horse, neither any obvious placewhence it could have escaped in the short time it took to round the bend!The hedgerows were dense and over 10 feet high with no gates! it was ifit had vanished before their very eyes!The band were said to be really spooked by this and that it was said to havehad a significant influence on their musical approach.One things for sure with twenty thousand 'Black 45's sold accross the globe, theruined church of Clophill St Marys captured the imaginations of many.Cursed EarthThe band felt cursed by the above experience! You know that saying' when you break a mirror, you get seven years bad luck!' well thatwas the impression the band got resulting in the following few monthsbecoming fraught with bad luck!A number of years later I told the story to an individual who grew upin the villages of Bedfordshire of the 'incident' with the white horsewhom on hearing it was not surprised. He had been brought up in theatmosphere's of 'small-time' village 'myths and folklore' surrounding themid Beds villages. To my surprise, he told me that the 'ghostly' whitehorse was a well-known local legend of Clophill and the surroundingarea and indeed the memory in folklore still exists in the name of thevillage public house, 'The Flying Horse'. This I found incredible until Ivisited the Pub for myself a few years back.The Public Houses sign depicted a flying white horse, reminiscent ofPegasus. This struck me as odd; it got me thinking about the bandsstory of that night of the photo session, where the white horse hadapparently disappeared into thin air. Could it not be possible that thedisappearance of the white horse may be explained, by it’s sproutingof wings and flying away? Incredible nonsense? Maybe, or maybe not!Indeed, may the band have been privy to a sighting of Pegasus fromancient Greek legends? It does seem arguably far-fetched but the Greekwriters based their myths and legends on older and more profaneshamanic deities. The Roman's too had a fertility goddess -Epona who"led the soul in the ride of the afterlife".The Celtic Mabinogi had Rhiannon, whom some interperate as a Horsedeity. The iconic Uffington White Horse comes to mind with similarimages appearing on celtic coinage. We can only glimps like passingshadows into the ancient mindset and create reallity that pleases thecontemporary orthodoxy. We can never know for sure.The 'genus - loci' of the knoll of St Mary would suggest a sense ofcontinuity from the pagan past, to the present day.PegasusEponaOne things for certain,It's there in the landscape with a maginficent view of thenorthern Chilterns hills. The vista is impressive and it would behard to believe that it wouldn't have inspired anyone anywhere intime and history Some have reported very peculiar earth energies that emanate fromthe area of Clophill Church, people have seen glowing orbs, heardstrange heavy breathing sounds and many have had mind alteringexperiences here. Most are probably narcotic based, howeversome are unexplainable.On a visit there some years ago, I met a chap who was meditating onthe newly grassed over graveyard, he told me that he was a memberof an occult society in nearby Bedford. He said the church was builtthere deliberately in the fifteenth century to cap a 'negative energyvortex'. Before that, it had been a leper colony. He went on to saythat the real reason for the church becoming abandoned, was thatthe church authorities had given up the fight to cleanse the 'negative'energies and had built a new church closer to the village instead!He went on to say that people who do not see or respect the powersof the ruins will become 'cursed'. He particularly said that it wasextremely unwise to actually touch or 'lay hands' on the stone orsubstance of the ruined Church! Cainho and the barony of AlbiniOne mile to the south east of Clophill Church on the other side of theriver Flit, lays Cainhoe Castle; today all you will see are ruins in a fieldto north of the Shefford road. The hamlet of Cainhoe, is mentioned inthe Domesday Book and William the Conqueror granted this area toone of his top baron’s. Cainhoe was the center of the Barony of Cainhoe,held by the d'Aubigny family from the Conquest until the mid thirteenthcentury. Nigel d’Albini who probably built the castle, is said to have beena powerful mover who controlled a huge area and was involved in thecrusades and he was said to have been a member of the order of theKnights Templar. Around the castle, a small town grew up and for a whileprospered but by 1272 it had vanished! All that’s lefts of Cainhoe today,are the castle ruins and a large farmhouse that is named Cainhoe Manor,where legend has it that Queen Anne Boleyn; one of Henry the 8th's sixwives, spent some time.It is proposed that for some reason that the mysterious disappearance ofCainhoe may be explained by the relocation of the town, to the higherground north of the river. This ‘new’ area was on the hill where thecurrent ruined church now lies. This did not last long however, as thevillage was decimated by the endemic plaques of the Middle Ages.In the early 16th century, the future site of St. Mary’s Church was saidto have been a leper colony. However, later in that century, the churchof St. Mary’s was built on the site. In Victorian times the village againrelocated from the hillside adjoining the church, to it’s current position;at the foot of Dead Mans Hill and a new Church built closer to the villagecenter. Therefore it is probable that the ‘lost’ town of Cainhoe physicallyand phonetically mutated into the current village of Clophill.The Church of St. Mary’s, somehow kept going until the middle of thelast century but sometime during the 1950’s, it fell into disuse.Further readingClophill EchoesMore info and pictures of Cainho hereA visit to Clophill Church six months laterSpon ( to the left), Hughie Byrne ( on the right, photographic artist ) andMatt Love ( Scotish Film Director, who took the pic!) made a trek to thedeepest depths of the occult landscape's of Bedfordshire, UK. namellyClophill and its mysterious ruined church.Spooky!Here is Spon posing the same way he did in that cover shot - he is probabllywondering what the other three guys in the band are up to!It was a pleasant afternoon and the guys took some good shots and marvelledat the combinations of a bright evening light and Urban and Occult graffiti thatcarressed the multi structured layers of red sandstone masonary of the ruins.Of there being a certain resonance to the 'sense of place'.Well on a nice sunny day with tourists and dogwalkers enjoying the sunshine itwould be difficult to detect the legendry negative or haunted vibes! but as theevening progressed and the sun made its exit the guys made a 'sharp exit'!On leaving, a large white owl startled, flew rapidlly out of the bell tower.The guys gave chase with the cameras cliking but it was too fast forthem! Later the same owl was ducking and diving in the fields next to thelane, perhaps he was out for his evening meal!.We all had the impression that the bell tower of the church was its domain andwhat a fine Gaurdian spirit providing your not a field mouse or vole!Our welsh 'seer' told us later that it was a good omen!..we shall see.Hughie made a youtube movie of the day, Spon provided a sound backdropPostScriptThe original post in the popular UK Decay Communitiy Forumshas achieved 55,000 views and has proved somewhat of acontroversy. Kids and Youth will be Youth! The excitment ofa haunted ruined church is bound to inspire 'adventure' and'missfit'.I have been there myself on many occasions and for manyreasons including when I was an excitable teenager.But now all these years later I am standing on the summit ofNoone Hill, which is directly opposite, about five miles to the south.With my binoculars on a pleasant sunny day I can see the littleknoll on the distant hills and on the summit, lit by a golden sunburstis the tower of the iconic ruined church of St Marys of Clophill.A moment later the sun went behind a cloud and so too the churchand knoll it was standing on. It had dissapeared into the gloom ofDead Mans Hill in the background.......My youthfull sense of adventure, had evolved into a quest for deeperinformation.What a golden jewel of the Dark Imagination is the ruined church ofSt Marys of Clophill within its landscape.Original Forum posting with comments and moreWWW.UKDECAY/CLOPHILL
  • Some notorious Luton Punk venues from the 70's and 80's.First posted: Aug 16, 2004 - Updated Febuary 14th 2008 We thought it might be a nice idea to see the sites of some of the Punk venues that were home to the Luton Punk scene in the late 70's early 80's. So we sent our photographer out on his bicycle to get some pictures of what may be left of some of these venues. Here's what we found:The 'Cork and Bull' on the corner of Park street and Cumberland street. (Feb 2008; the venue is now called Manhatten's.) In 1979 it was called 'The Grapevine' and was the main Luton Town Centre 'Punk' meeting point. We thought we would start here as for many this was where it all 'happened' in 1978/79.With the floor covered with sawdust and furnished with large wooden beer casks and many cubbyholes for groups to sit in. It was decorated suitably in dark wooden colours and had ornamental Grapevine signs hanging on the walls. At the time there was 2 main bar areas with the odd band playing in the rear area.The Grapevine certainly lived up to its name with many of Luton's Punks meeting there for the first time.Many a band was formed after a few pints 'The Grapevine' didn't get away without the odd punch-up either!We think it shut down in 1980 or perhaps early 81 and on the last day we completely De-furbished the entire pub! After rolling out the great beer casks, denuding the internal hanging signs and making away with everything that would move inside, Steve the Voice who had climbed up the Pub Sign post and was trying to 'relieve' the sign, was caught out by the landlord!Halcyon Days!! Can anybody remember the landlord's name? (was it George?)The Cork and Bull was trading up until 2006, it was re-opened as Manhatten's later that year. In summer 2005 many ex-Grapeviner's visited the venue to witness 'The Pokers' who 'Punk and Rolled' the joint!Later that year in December, UK Decay Communities held their first 'Class of 1979 - 1989 Reunion I' event at the Cork and Bull. An original Grapevine sign was hung up on the stage behind the bands, a symbolic gesture that many in attendance would have seen all those years ago. In the spirit of the occasion some even dug out their old bondage trousers and 'Seditionary' T-shirts and pogo-ed along.As the Cork and BulL, it was much the same internally with the stairs still leading down to the toilets near the front door although they have knocked the 2 areas into one large area now. We have not yet visited Manhattens! (Do the new management realise they need one of those blue plaques!?)The 33 Arts Centre (1978-2002) situated at 33 Guildford Street now sadly demolished. The 33 Arts Centre as seen in 2006!If the Grapevine provided the early social fabric for Luton's Punk life, then '33' provided the 'nuts and bolts' services for the Punk infrastructure. It took a few years to get the centre fully up and running but in the early days there was much work to be done. The centre was obtained and developed by the 'Reflex' arts group who promoted arts and music in the town.Previously it had been a school and a Hat factory and was completely full of relics from the previous owners, which all needed sorting out before they could get going. There were little or no funds available so volunteers, many of whom happened to be Punks, carried out the early work.With the promise of badly needed rehearsal rooms, green room and performance space, arts workshops, restaurant and bar it was an exciting time and provided a bridge between the Punk movement and the perhaps more thoughtful 'fringe' arts and 'Jazz' cultures in the town.In about 1980 the small performance space (maximum capacity of about 70) became established as a music venue both for Jazz and Punk music events, as well as fringe theatre (The world famous 'People show' for instance performed there several times)The 'Plastic Records Audition Nights' established 33 as a frontline Punk gig! And for the next 20 years or so the centre became a Luton institution. Swallowing up next door (no35) in about 1981, which eventually housed the 33 video collective (they produced amongst other things channel 4 's 'Death Valley Days') and later on the 33 recording studio as well as photographic workshops.The 33 centre had always been the place in town for the 'alternative' sub-culture, to meet up in the veggie cafe or later on in the bar not without its critics either however, but 33 has earned its place in the towns history with world famous producer (Dave Arnold) and film director (Danny Cannon) who used the facilities in their early days.In the 90's the 'Exodus' sound system put on a couple of Dub sessions there and 'Hypnagogia' would fill out every space with pounding drums and chill vibes. Over the years there was so much that came out of '33', too much to mention here!In 2002/3 the remnants of '33' finally moved into the newly furbished 'Hat Factory' Art's Centre, leaving the old building to its ghosts and memoriesMatrix records and Clothes 1979/81(now demolished!) John Street LutonAprox situated near the blue doors in the middle of the'University Hostel' This is the current scene of Luton's first independent Punk and New Wave records and Clothes shop.Set up by 'Plastic records' and UK Decay to provide the Punk community with all their needs here in Luton as opposed to having to go down to London to get them. At least that was the plan!The premises had 4 floors including the basement, which had been converted to a rehearsal room. The ground floor which was taken up by the shop, the first floor being for the Plastic Records official office and the 2nd top floor being for 2 flats (Steve Harle and Spon)The shop attracted many from far and wide but the proprietors were perhaps a little 'over optimistic' in their business plans! And it became increasingly difficult to maintain a steady supply of merchandise for the consumers!In the shop there sat a table-top space invader machine that many will remember spending hours blasting away at!The shop also became something of a meeting place in the time shortly after the Grapevine had closed and at the same time as the Baron of Beef was becoming established! UK Decay had written many of their finest tunes in the rehearsal room that also once housed a memorable after tour party with The Dead Kennedys. During the proceedings Jello Biafra from the 'DK's and the UK DK's, ran amok amidst the Arndale car parks where Jello graffiti-ed his name over the place.These scrawling's allegedly lasted for years. A week after that event, after a torrential downpour the basement became totally flooded out. The 'death-knell' of Matrix!The Baron of Beef, 1980-1982ish, later changed to The Elephant and Tassle and then something else. Current name unknown! (up for sale again!)After the Grapevine shut down the vacuum created was soon filled by The Baron of Beef. As a bar built into the dreadful arndale centre it seemed an unlikely venue however in a stormy atmosphere the landlord welcomed the displaced Punk community with open arms!Although small The Baron of Beef put on many a fine Punk gig and later on perhaps after a change of management and name the early 'Switch Club' events were held here.The Blockers Arms 1981-ish to the 90's. Now known as The Well, HightownRoad, LutonCurrently closed, as of mid Febuary, 2008)After 'The Baron' days the next venue became The Blockers.The bar in those days was long and narrow with a courtyard out the back for those hot summer evenings. Punks and other punters would meet up here before moving on to the Stingray club or The Switch club or perhaps occasionally rioting, as they did in the early 80's copycat riots in Luton!!The Blockers Arms was regarded by the authorities as a 'den of aniquity' yet somehow it managed to survive throughout the eighties. Most of Luton's alternative tribes would gather there and exchange drugs and occasional fisticuff's, to a background of live music.In the early 2000's the pub was reopened as The Well , a music venue and Thia Restaurant until it shut down in 2007, it is not known what it's future holds.The Bricklayers Arms 1984ish to present, Hightown Road LutonThe Blockers shut for a period in the mid eighties after one too many drug bust's and increasing friction between the differing tribal groups. The punkier, alternative and goth types started dissipating to The Coopers Arms and The George 11 in Bute Street.At least another section of the now changing scene moved across the Hightown Road to the newly furbished Bricklayers Arms, where DJ Crazy Fish would often spin some of his jazzier and proto house grooves.'The Brickies' as it is affectionately known as, is still pretty much the same as it was some 17 or 18 years ago. Alison is still the Landlady some of the barstaff still work there and if you listen carefully you can occasionally hear some of Crazy fish's grooves pounding away in the corner.Wins the prize for Longevity!The Royal Hotel, 197? To the mid 80's. Corner of Bridge Street/ Old Bedford Road(Later to be known as Mirage) During the late 70's was the home to the 'Reflex' events that would range from the then jazz funk scenes (Quantum Jump), to the Damned's 10th gig!This also could also claim to be Luton's first introduction to punk, silly buggers left all the tables and chairs in sittu. Dave Vanium clambered all over them knocking over drinks and spitting out theatrical blood. Much to the annoyance of most of the regular clientelle, whom were not ready for Punk just yet. After the show Dave Vanium, Captain Sensible and co, ran amok in town, ended up trying to break into first an off licence and them a chemist in Farley Hill.The Royal was Luton's premier music venue for the late 70's. UK Decay played a memorable gig their hosted by 'The Mad Caps' a local biker chapter. Later on it became a mainline nightclub Mirage whom The Switch Club would use to host their events.The Tech College 1979. Now Luton University. Vicarage Street Luton.Many gigs here over the years, currently the Students Union are very wary of letting in non members so most of us 'humble' Luton folk don't get to go to any of their 'do's'Back in late 1979, the policy was different and their were several major Punk events that happened here including the legendary dual headlining gig with UK Decay and Bauhaus.The Hall (the left part of the building in the Photo) has now been rebuilt and now is part of the University facilities.Today (February 2008) literally underneath the building in the picture, underground, lies the ~University of Bedfordshire Student Union 'Sub Club', a 300 plus capacity live music venue.The Sub Club host's live events catering for today's generations of Scene-kid/Emo/Goth/Metal/Indie' kid's.It is apparently at times open for non-students and even dare I say, Lutonian's!Note: The reformed UK Decay went on to play their come-back concert there in June 2008The Mad Hatters Mid 80's to the late 90's. Now known as Club M. Cheapside, LutonHome for a period to The Stingray Club and later to The Switch Club, as well as a host of other events in its 15 years or so history.You could rub shoulders with Luton 'Superstar' Paul Young as well as hosts of Luton's 'Music royalty' here, at an early Stingray Club. Notorious for its brawls and seedy gangland shenanigans after many closures and re-openings it has now resurfaced as Club M.An aesthetically pleasing looking building in the photo!The Five-O Club Mid 80's till 2001. Dunstable Road, Luton. (Now demolished)An Afro-Caribbean Social club with a restaurant and late license. This clubs usual repertoire of Jamaican Sound Systems, talent contests and Dominoes contests also became home to the M.A.D. club and later The Switch Club in the 80's with many bands and DJ's putting on events there.The venue hosted some really great evenings but there were also some bad incidents that marred the atmosphere for many unfortunately.At the M.A.D. club in the late 80's,you could see such bands as Click Click, The Cookie Crew, Mark Stewart and the Mafia, Renegade Soundwave as well as many other bands and DJ's pounding the beats late into the night.Later in the 90's the club was hired by Exodus spin offs, The Eviction Sound System and other rave sound systems. The proprietors struggled through the late 90's to keep the club going but sadly it was finally demolished last year It used to be at the back of that car park!Library Theatre St Georges Square, Luton 1964 to present.The Library theatre, which is at the top of the library building, was hired out on numerous occasions. Many Luton bands performed there including. Karma Sutra, Corpelia Party Girlz etc, in the mid eighties.Its still there and still available for hire.No thanks too many rules and regs!Luton Carnival 1979-1982. Stuart Street viaduct. UK Decay and many other Luton Punk bands performed at the Luton Carnival. The actual venue of the stage varied from year to year. UK Decay performed three times at the world famous carnival. Twice they were banned because of trouble breaking out amidst the crowd.. The best venue for a few years was a car park under the Stuart Street viaduct.They played at the main music stage that was situated at the bottom of this car park. Nothings changed here apart from the appearance of the office block in the background.Identitiy Early 80's New Romance Fashion Clothes Shop Barbers Lane, Luton. This Bleak block brick building used to be the home to Rick and Kass's Identity fashion clothes shop, behind the shop in the same building was the Barbers Lane recording studio Hero's, which was run by the late Geronimo Geoff and Captain Blute.Rick and Kass ran the shop that specialised in radical fashions for the new romantic and goth sub cultures!Many used this shop to 'dress-up' for the nightclub scene. They eventually moved to Kensington market (I think?) and resurfaced years later as hosts for an upper class rave (the name escapes me at the moment!)The studio behind the shop was run and engineered by Geromino Geoff and amongst its clients were The Friction and UK Decay. The building was left empty up until the last few years then it was bought and god only knows what it is today? The River Lea actually runs right underneath the premises!"Lung Function" Bute Street Click Click rehearsal room and Pan club next door.Late 70's, The 80's The Pan Club was set up in myth as being a secret venue for the Sex Pistols (S.P.O.T.S.) early on in their history.It was a 'gay' nightclub but was hired out for various events in the Eighties."Lung Function" was the name given to Click Clicks rehearsal rooms (scaffolded building). It became a kind of drop-in centre for post punk/early "Electronic Body Music" musical renegades, who were treated to many a fine Click Click performance.Many other bands rehearsed there including In Excelsis, Corpalia, Passchendale Party Girls etc it was indeed an informal venue. Both venues now under new management.Sadly no longer any musical functionality!The Bag Shop Wellington Street, Luton. Now demolished.This is where everyone got his or her Studded Belts! Don't know how long its been shut down and don't know what's happening now but it is still there!And this is a close-up of the shop window! complete with watchstraps for 30p!The Plume of Feathers, Bridge Street, Luton. 1982 1990s? Photo, 2004. Now demolished. The 'Plume' Hosted Luton Punk bands such as Screaming Blue Murder, Phallic Symbols and Government Lies in 1982 and continued right up to the 90's hosting live music although not necessarily Punk.Oddly last year (2003), there were signs that the premise was going to open up again under the controversial name 'The Nine Bar'!The refurbishment continued for some time And then when it was nearly ready for opening it went quiet and has remained so ever since! (Thanks for the info Blink)The George 2nd Bute street, Luton 1800 to Date! Still in use. A regular Live Music venue right next to the bus and train stations. The Punk scene in the early 80's had a slight honeymoon there a couple of times but it never really took off for one reason or another.Nevertheless the venue which has refurbished a few times is still hosting Live Music today.The Edge Club Park Street, Luton. Mid Eighties to present.Original name not known. Hosted The Stingray Club and perhaps later the Switch Club.Now the Edge Club is host to a Student Nightclub audience.The Town Hall well we all know what that is!Punks were under pressure from all sides in the late seventies in Luton. At the same time they quickly learnt to adapt new techniques for finding venues. Someone had a eureeka moment and remembered the large hall for rent inside Luton Town Hall.There was a small run of anarchy at the town hall with a handfull of memorable punk gigs - but it was only a matter of time before the authorities found a legal reason to ban it.Well thats it for the time being. this list is by no means complete but should go some way to highlight some of the main venues of some 25 years ago! Please feel free to correct us as in some of the details, we do our best but the fog of time can sometime's blur. Further info on Luton 1978 to 1988 punk scene at the 'Friction' website MORE on LU PX 'Clubbing in Luton 1984' History is made at nightThe Black Horse Thanks Tony, we sent our 'cyclo-photographer' out to get this shot of the Black Horse, as it is today. (11.11.04) The Black HorseLooks like its been recently 'tarted-up'. but its still there! 1984 was a funny time in the Luton Punk Scene with the closing down of many of the classic earlier mentioned venues.It was 5 years since the 'Grapevines' heyday and many of that generation of Punks had moved on., or were moving from venue to venue. Meanwhile a 'new wave' of 'alternative' and 'Post-Punk' types were establishing a new scene in town complete with new venues, The Black Horse being one!The Cross "God So Loved The World"!!The Crucifiction This just had to be included in the list of 'notorious Luton Punk venues from the 70’s and 80’s.'As it stands today (11.11.04) at the junction of Wellington st. and Russel st In full-on 'Coronation st.' land, it looks even shabbier now than it did when the picture (above) was taken for the front cover of UK Decays first single. Proof that both the Church and the UK, really are in Decay!Apologies for the ‘slightly-out-of-focus’ feel, we could really do with a new ‘didgy’ here!There are more venues to be included here from time to time, such as: 'The Unigate Club', 'The Marsh House Nissan Hut' (venue of the legendary 1979 Crass, Poison Girls and UK Decay gig) and 'The Pink Elephant', maybe 'The Kingsway Tavern' as well.Please feel free to visit the forum and post up any comments or dont hesitate to point out any venues that are not included here! The Nissan Hut Marsh Farm The Nissan Hut Today.Venue of the legendary 1979 Crass, Poison Girls and UK Decay gig.The Flyer for that gig. This was an extraordinary venue that was chosen for that most memorable event. The only time Crass & Poison Girls ever played in Luton.It was set up as a benefit gig for the Cobalt Hate fanzine. Unbelievably, 250 anarcho Punx squashed into the hut to witness the live action. It was at a heightened time of tension in town between Punks and Skins and everybody was expecting a visit from the 'Bone-eds'.When they did arrive, they were duly chased off!At the time UK Decay were involved in the Fanzine co-operative hence the benefit gig for Cobalt Hate who's writers were 'unfairy victimised' by the authorities. It is unsure how much 'benefit' was made for the Fanzine but the gig cemented a relationship between the 3 bands that would continue for another 3 years!Bernard Chandler who played Bass? I think for the Poison Girls would later design the artwork for The UK Decay covers, For Madmen Only, Sexual and Rising from the Dread Crass and particularly Penny Rimbaud would later form Chorpus Christie Records on which the Rising from the Dread EP was released. Also it cemented in peoples minds the idea that these 3 bands were related to the same idiom. An idea that was later to prove a double edged sword! It is not known if there were any more gigs in the old World War Nisan Hut.On another tip........CristchurchPete Brennan wrote:The Church up by the labour club (now demolished i think) housed a few bands.It's actually still there, well kind off!The Christchurch, Upper George st. Luton. May 24th 2006The Christchurch at the top of Upper George, previously, yes youguessed…A Church (another disappearing institution!) Before it wasconverted into prime office space, for a short time it became a livemusic venue. Think it was run by a Mr. Madden who owned a recordingstudio in Brantwood road.Local Punk band ‘The Traitors’ come to mind as playing there but that’sit as far as I can remember. Can anyone fill us in with any other bandsthat played there?OK so long for now, there is more to be added including the KingswayArms, The Pink Elephant and a church in Marsh Farm!November 2011So the above highlighted the state of the old 'punk venues' in Luton during the mid 2000'sWhat has become of them since?Find out some of the answers and comments by visiting the forum posting hereWerewolfPs. A radical view of Luton's anarchic past is good further readingStraight outta LutonVisit UK Decay Community Forums
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UK Decay to Nostramus – Interview

Diamond Seeds talks to Steve Spon on matters Nostramus and UK Decay.

We recently caught up with Steve Spon to ask him about his re mastering of ‘Earthlights’ an album that he wrote and produced in 1997 for Nostramus. Steve Spon (aka ‘Spon’) has recently re-joined the re-formed legendary eighties post-punk-goth pioneers, UK Decay.

We were fascinated to gain a glimpse into the thinking behind the re mastering of the classic nineties ‘D ‘n’ B noir’ album.

Which, according to one reviewer is  “probably the best Drum and Bass album you have never heard

Where the worlds of drum ‘n’ bass and post-punk and goth collide, stands a man like Spon

We were intrigued…….

D.S.# You have returned to your punk roots playing guitar again with UK Decay, in your musical evolution how does that relate to your D ‘n’ B oriented Nostramus?

“Although it can be argued that the music of Nostramus is completely different from the music of UK Decay, I feel there are threads of similarities between the two. Born out of the alternative punk-post-punk-early goth mela of the early eighties and like many ex punk types, I moved with the musical underground into the heady nineties rave scene. I sacrificed my guitar and took the technological path. It was important for me to continue to create music with an alternative message to counter the commerciality of popular music.”

D.S.# Would Nostramus appeal to the average UK Decay fan given ‘drum and bass’ surely had so much bad press?

“I know Nostramus’s mix of Drum ‘n’ Bass, Dub and Electronica may not appeal to every UK Decay listener but I know it will to some. Most of the guys in UK Decay, actually love Dub and Reggae music and have done so since the 70’s so there is nothing new there. The D ‘n’ B scene has received a lot of bad press in the past. Understandably, for many, the tragic murder of Sophie Lancaster by ‘hoodie’ thugs has put some people off the musical tastes of these low-life monsters. But I believe that mutated minorities in any genre, should not be allowed to hold good music to ransom.”

D.S.# Drum and bass was cool back then?

“From my point of view, the early hedonistic nineties D ‘n’ B scene was an invigorating and exciting proposition for many who wished to carry alternative music forward. The development in recording and playback technologies opened up a new universe of musical exploration and possibilities. Earth shaking bass lines, impossibly tight drum structures, emotive complexity in keyboard sound-scapes and sampling, all led to a new excitement in the then stale music scene. I took the plunge into this maelstrom, as it’s part of my make-up to explore new musical adventures.”

D.S.# Surely being an ex-punk had drawbacks on the emerging drum and bass scene

Spon comming at ya!

Spon on the run

“The movers and shakers of this emerging British scene were young DJ’s who had no hack with the old ‘rules’ of creating music. Like many others, evolving from the former 80’s punk scene I moved into the D ‘n’ B at a early stage in its development.

I liked the anarchic approach to creating the music and found for a time comradeship and a sense of purpose and enjoyment in the underground party scene. Back then I found a refreshing openness and tolerance to the music and the people generally in the scene…anything went!”

D.S.# What gave you the idea, or set you on the journey to creating a drum and bass album?

“Drum and Bass as well as other so-called ‘rave-music’ was developing it’s own set of rules that related to the flux’s and flow of the dance-floor. My tastes were still on the darker, deeper and hopefully more thoughtful side. At that time I was a recording studio engineer/producer and that made me open to a wide input of styles. Steve Harle introduced me to the D ‘n’ B scene back in the very early nineties. He encouraged me to embark on the musical journey that would eventually create my first album under the name Nostramus.

I called the new album ‘Earthlights’ and it summed up four crazy years of my experience of the underground party scene at a time when the music was at its most vibrant, purist form.”

D.S.# What was your aim in creating Earthlights your first album, how did you go about determining what it would be?

“The album was written using Atari computers, but I wanted it to have a live feel. I invited guests to contribute spoken and sung performances. The tunes included obscure iconic samples to create light and dark moods to give a sense of meaning. My aim was to create the most organic quality as possible, to create a journey for the listener. I wanted something that was easy to listen to, yet also had a deeper, substantial level. As a ‘non’ DJ, I even broke the dance mix rules, making it virtually impossible for DJ’s to mix the album with other tracks. I wanted to make ‘Earthlights’ stand out in a crowd.”

D.S.# Sum up Earthlights message?

“‘Earthlights’ takes the listener on a journey through themes, ranging from our pagan past, to future space travel. It questions and studies the doubts and optimisms of the human race.”

D.S.# How many did Earthlights sell back in the nineties, how did it fit in with the drum and bass scene?

Earthlights original 1997 released in the UK by Recordings of Substance

Recordings of Substance version of Earthlights originaly released in 1997

“I released this album first in the UK in 1997, on ‘Recordings of Substance’, and then licensed it to ‘Shadow Records’ for the US market in 1998. In total, there were 6000 sales worldwide. It didn’t make the top ten, but it sold steadily over a period of time and some of the feedback from reviews and emails have been fantastically encouraging. A review a couple of years back summed it up quite nicely “Probably the best Drum and Bass album you have never heard!”

D.S.# What led you to re-mastering Earthlights?

The new Earthlights 2010 re-mastered

Earthlights 2010 re-mastered CD front

“Although I was reasonably happy with the original mastering of Earthlights, I’ve since become more fluent with audio mastering techniques. In the new edition of Earthlights, I reworked the source master tapes, taking care with every step of the process in order to retain the original concept and flow. I feel I’ve now created a much more considered dynamic to the sound-scape, hopefully bringing the whole thing up to today’s audio standards and listen ability.”

D.S.# Did you just re-master or is there anything else added or taken away?

“Aside from the re-mastering, I have re-edited and re-mixed ‘Babel’ the opening track to the album, mixing in some new warped-up a-men from the un-released Jungle version of Babel. There are also one or two other new samples, subtly crafted into some of the other pieces to spice up the mix. Overall, I am much happier now with the sound and flow of the re-mastered album and I hope the listener will enjoy it even more”

D.S.# What about the rumours of Earthlights II any chance soon?

“I have had most of the material for this sitting on my shelves now for a good few years. Now with the help of Diamond Seeds work is in progress to see this project through. I shall be editing and remixing some of the material and with the addition some new performances and samples, I will collate into the final cut. I am hoping for around March April 2010.

D.S.# UK Decay are famous for being one of the first eighties post-punk bands, to make the crossover from ‘punk’ to ‘goth’

What are your future plans with UK Decay, are you enjoying their revival?

UK Decay on their Italian Tour spring 2009, Spon on the left

Spon back with UK Decay in Milan, May 2009

“I am really enjoying playing live with Decay again. It’s a real buzz playing guitar in a live situation, I had forgotten about that.

Because of commitments however, Decay can only play a few times a year, which is fine by me. UK Decay are currently working on a new album, which is an exciting challenge. Getting wild sounds out of my guitar is refreshing to me after so many years of programming songs together. The guys in UK Decay between them have a wealth of new ideas and experience to draw upon. At the end of the day UK Decay were adventuress in seeking out new sounds, we were ‘dark’ back in the day and that’s partly my fault, so they tell me! I look forward to mashing it up with them.”

D.S.# Any future Nostramus beyond Earthlights II?

“We shall have to wait and see!”

Click here for Earthlights Re-mastered 2010 £10.00 inc. shipping

Click here for Earthlights Re-mastered 2010 £10.00 inc. shipping. thru Paypal

Nostramus is now signed to Diamond Seeds Productions.

Seeded from the Diamond Seeds Blog