Back to New York after 9 days in the United Kingdom. Many might think I’m glad to be back, but I have to say I’m not. I’m in love with London. And if I could, I would stay there. Even if it’s underground is always packed and I hardly ever find a place to sit down. Even if there’s chicken bones all over the sidewalks. Even if everyone offers you tea at home and never a soft drink. Even and even and even. I love it. And I can’t wait to go back, probably not until next year around Indietracks time.

My trip was terribly busy and sadly couldn’t meet all the people I wanted to. Also couldn’t do everything I would have liked to. But more or less I did everything I had planned to. On top of it all it was the best record shopping experience I’ve ever had. A massive haul of 19 CDs, 2 10″s, 25 7″s, and 43 LPs in 2 carry-on bags. I crossed my fingers and hoped the British Airways clerks wouldn’t ask to weigh my bags. I didn’t want to check them in. I didn’t want them handling my precious findings with their rough and uncaring hands.

The week went fast. And hopefully on some next blog offerings I will cover a bit of this trip, especially what interests the most to indiepop fans, like for example the Chickfactor gigs. Or going over one of the many obscure records I found at that fabulous Greenwich record store. But right now it’s time to catch up with Cloudberry news.

First of all, a year in the making, the Nixon 7″ will be out on December 10th. The sleeves have already arrived at home and they look truly amazing. Just waiting for the vinyl. This weekend I should put together the insert, I have some ideas of what to write about, and don’t worry I won’t be dwelling anymore on sad thoughts. I’m on the way to shining again and good days. The 7″ is an EP with 4 songs and it’s the first one of our collection that runs at 33rpm. You can pre-order it now from the Cloudberry site if you like.

I have already said it before, but releasing Roger Gunnarsson’s Nixon is a milestone for me, as I’ve been a fan of his for at least 10 years now. Roger has been a true inspiring force, not only through his many bands but also through his absolutely indiepopstastic label Fabulous Friend Records. This label is an inspiration to mine. Definitely.

On other news I’m happysad to say that the 3″ releases of The Medalist, Bye Bye Bicycle and Log Lady Train are now sold out. I have found a Bart & Friends 3″ though, one last copy, that if anyone wants it let me know. If not, I’ll probably throw it in in the next big order we get.

The fanzine has been selling really well too. And I think I want to start on number eight sooner than later. My only issue is that I have kind of ran out of colors. Colors that look and print ok. And that are legible for 10 pt fonts. Do you all have any suggestions? And also, who would you like to be featured?

During the time I was away I received the tracks for the Alpaca Sports single. This weekend probably I will update the website with a song for all of you to download and preview plus a pre-order button. And soon also for Tripping the Light Fantastic as well. And coming up is also the Flowers 7″ who have just confirmed that they will be playing NYC Popfest. I just saw them playing a gig in London, at the Buffalo Bar, and all I can say is that they are really special. They remind me of fabulous 80s bands like Heart Throbs, Parachute Men, Popguns and the like!

And talking about Popfests, I feel I’m going to head to Madrid Popfest next year again. Perhaps alone this time, but, can’t wait to see Alpaca Sports playing live this time. And also my good friends of Northern Portrait who I’ve never managed to catch them live. Well, unless you count Stefan doing an acoustic rendition to many of his songs in his living room? I’m pretty thrilled. Especially as this year’s edition was the best week I’ve had so far in such a long time. It was magical. One of the best times ever. Perfect from start to finish. Also joining the festival are another favourite of mine, Burning Hearts, who I’ll happen to see for the third time live. They are always great.

2013 seems really exciting!

So the Tony Head Experience. I only own their first 7″ which I bought on eBay many years ago. It was one of the first vinyl records I bought actually. I don’t know exactly why or how did I know them. But I thought with that name they were going to be good. “Debbie One” started playing on the old Fisher Price record player that I owned and I was blown away.

These days there are a couple of bands that sound a bit like this fantastic track. I can think Betty and the Werewolves and Shrag to name two. They do it really fine. But for me this is the original. This is the first time I heard such punchy female vocals under pop hooks and catchy lyrics. No other band can live to my expectations when they make songs like this.

Who was Tony Head I ask. I guess only the band could answer that. My guess is the actor Anthony Head (born 20 February 1954), who  is an English actor and musician. He rose to fame in the UK following his role in television advertisements for Nescafé Gold Blend (Taster’s Choice in the U.S.), and is known for his roles as Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and as Uther Pendragon in Merlin.

Head was educated at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). His first role was in the musical Godspell; this led to roles in television on both BBC and ITV, one of his earliest being an appearance in the series Enemy at the Door (ITV, 1978–1980). In the early 1980s he sang with the band Red Box.[2] In the late 1980s, he appeared in a storyline series of twelve coffee commercials with Sharon Maughan for Nescafé Gold Blend. (A version made for the US featured the American brand name Taster’s Choice.) The soap opera nature of the commercials brought him wider recognition, along with a part in the Children’s ITV comedy drama Woof!  Head played Frank N. Furter in the 1990–91 West End revival of The Rocky Horror Show at London’s Piccadilly Theatre, with Craig Ferguson as Brad Majors. In 1991 Head’s rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” was released as a single by Chrysalis Records.

Could that be their Tony Head? There was also a Tony Head that was a British statesman, a Viscount, and a Tony Head that was an Australian paralympic athlete. But I doubt it’s about them. I found a small little special about that Nescafé ad with Tony Head here. And another here. Seems these ads were huge in the UK back in the 80s!

Now a quick stop to last.fm where there is a small bio of the band:

The Tony Head Experience were formed in Street, Somerset in early 1991 by Elisa Young. Within days she had roped in her ex-Felicitys band mates Nik Dalgarno, James Merry and Rob Buckley to record a four song demo at Nik’s Giant Recording Studios in Compton Dundon. Along for the ride and to produce this meisterwork came Jon Mates (Basinger/ex-Felicitys) and Nick Osbourne (The Becketts) who also helped out on guitar and tambourine respectively. Recorded in a day and featuring the songs ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Sleeper’, ‘Let Her Drive’ and ‘Go’ the recording was deemed a triumph in low-fi barn recording and hi-fi lager drinking.

I remember Twee.net having a bio as well, but it seems Twee.net is having some hiccups and all band profiles show Aberdeen!

The Felicitys. I remember them too. They had some songs on some compilation tapes. Should be interesting to go over them sometime as well. And Basinger! Oh! That’s why I got a 12″ while in Scotland. Their name sounded familiar to me and I decided that I had to take their EP with me. And what about The Becketts? I don’t know much about them but I remember a song called “Angel Heart” that I really like.

Their first 7″ was released in what I assume their own label, “Big Internation”. Though there’s a chance it wasn’t as this label also released Automatic Dlamini’s “From a Diva to a Diver”. This band had PJ Harvey before she was huge. It came out in 1991 and it was catalog number BOT 01. It included “Debbie One”, “Let Her Drive” and “Sleeper”. The artwork shows a black and white photo a little sign saying “Paradise”.

Then two more releases came out which I’ve never heard, though from listening to some stuff on Youtube I feel they are much more harder, more rockier, less poppier, less of my taste. It was the early 90s anyways, people were into this kind of Pixies kind of sound. So I can understand. Their second release was a flexi disc. Again on the same label and catalog number BOT 02. Released also in 1991, this record contained “Oh yeah, Albatross”, “Frontiers” and “Swings”. The interesting bit is that Tony Head is credited as the producer and mixer of the single. It was recorded 7 engineered at Giant Studios, Somerset.

Their last 7″ came out in a different label, Hair Records. It was catalog number HAIR 004 and included two tracks, “Heavy Mother” and “Kelly’s Hotel Forever”. This was released in 1993. Hair Records had released Basinger, Gear and Gutless before and it was Simon Barber’s (The Chesterf!elds) label.

The band also has left a Myspace page where you can stream some more songs. There is a version of “Debbie One” on the Peel show, “Leather”, “Caucho Sol”, “Freeway” and “Anschuls Song”.

They appeared on a couple of compilations too. One of them was the “The Noise and The Melodies – The Pearl Compilation” where they contributed the song “Heavy Mother”. This compilation was part of a German fanzine of the same name.

From what I gather there was also a split flexi with Automatic Dlamini where they included the song “Jack’s Back”. But I’ve never seen this one.

And searching a little bit more I found an even longer and bigger biography. So either you stop reading here and go straight to the MP3 sample, or you continue reading. I suggest the second.

The Tony Head Experience were formed in Street, Somerset in early 1991 by Elisa Young.

Within days she had roped in her ex-Felicitys band mates Nik Dalgarno, James Merry and Rob Buckley to record a four song demo at Nik’s Giant Recording Studios in Compton Dundon. Along for the ride and to produce this meisterwork came Jon Mates (Basinger/ex-Felicitys) and Nick Osbourne (The Becketts) who also helped out on guitar and tambourine respectively. Recorded in a day and featuring the songs ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Sleeper’, ‘Let Her Drive’ and ‘Go’ the recording was deemed a triumph in low-fi barn recording and hi-fi lager drinking. The following Sunday on The Caz Ford Show on BBC Radio Bristol, Caz played the demo and enthused. Greatly encouraged Elisa, Nik and Jon (now ex-Basinger) recorded more tunes at Giant, whilst James and Rob went and formed Three Men In A Boat with (another ex-Felicitys) Hugh Edwards. James and Rob would return though for the recording of the bands debut single in August of that year…..

Taking advantage of the momentum built up from numerous radio plays and a special offer at a London record manufacturer the group reconvened at Giant to record their debut single in that balmy summer. Re-recording demo faves ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Let Her Drive’ the band dismissed their initial attempt at an A-Side as awful, and returned three days later with the newly written ‘Debbie One’. It was deemed cool! Especially the drumming by guitarist Nik. So the band formed their own label, Big Internation , and via the Cartel distribution network released their debut single ‘Sleeper E.P.’ in Oct ’91 on glorious 7″ vinyl. The single was picked up quickly by various regional radio stations, received a glowing review in the NME, and then as if by magic was played on The John Peel Show on Radio One…twice! The orders flooded in, and the band realized that they had a going concern and should maybe think about playing live.

James and Rob returned to Three Men In A Boat and with Elisa on Vocals, Jon on guitar and Nik on lead guitar they needed a rhythm section. First to sign up was Strode College student Matt Fry on bass and then a letter and record was sent to the Netherlands……..Steve Mobley had been a local drummer of some regard (and another ex-Felicity!) and was at the time working in a frozen fish factory, living on a barge, and avoiding debts on the outskirts of Amsterdam. He didn’t have a record player but liked the look of the single and so hurried himself back to Somerset in time for the groups first gig at the Fleece in Bristol supporting Ocean Colour Scene.

Job done the band began a relentless tour around the indie venues of England and Wales ( sorry Scotland they never made it!) for the next year, and swiftly released a follow up record, the ‘Albatross E.P.’ a three track 7″ flexi-disc. Recorded again at Giant Studios, by now relocated to an industrial unit in Street, the flexi shot to the top of radio playlists in France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Germany and the States, and the three thousand copies distributed by fanzines in the UK and Europe sold-out within eight weeks. Nice.

Now with local face Anschul Brandt already installed on additional guitar, in the summer of ’92 Matt Fry left the group to go to university and Anschul took over the bass guitar duties. Matts final contribution came on the track ‘Jack’s Back’ which was released on a Big Internation split-flexi with Automatic Dlamini. Then in the autumn the band recorded a session for BBC Radio Bristol produced by Mike Chinaski (The Becketts), and recorded (and aborted) the ‘Freeway E.P.’

Turning to local producer John Parish (Automatic Dlamini/PJ Harvey) to help record a proper follow-up to ‘Debbie One’, ‘Heavy Mother’/’Kelly’s Hotel Forever’, a double A-side 7″ was released in the spring of ’93 on Simon Barbers’ (The Chesterfields) Hair Records. The single featured John Parish on Slide Guitar and Clare MacTaggart (Portishead) on Violin. The group shot videos for the single directed by Dan Knight (Hoffman) and continued their tour around England’s indie toilets to much acclaim and indifference….great reviews though for the single began to pour in from Europe and coupled with extensive radio airplay a tour of Germany was scheduled for the autumn. Unfortunately, again, the pull of higher education was too much and Anschul left the band in August ’93 to take up his university studies in London.

Nick Osbourne (The Young Hurlants), now a music teacher at Bridgewater college, recommended a replacement for Anschul in the form of 17 year old Rob Perdrix and the group set off on some warm-up dates around Somerset. Then Nik dropped a bombshell. Indifferent to thoughts of Germany and newly in-love, he left the band. Luckily, Rob’s best mate Paul Kelly was a fan and an outstanding guitarist. The fellow 17 year old joined and played his first gig in Germany in the December of ’93. The two week tour was a big success. Gigs in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, and throughout East Germany brought big crowds and great times. Tour managed by Nick Osbourne (yes…Parrot), and sound engineered by Haggis, the tour was to prove the highlight of the bands career. It ended in Hamburg in a fog of marajuana smoke, riots, and a cover of The Beatles ‘Day Tripper’……………..

The band returned from Germany just in time for The Head Club’s Xmas Party at the Tor Leisure Centre in Glastonbury, which featured local legends Gutless and Hoffman, and a sell-out crowd. Then in the new year of ’94 they contributed two tracks to the Hair Records CD compilation ‘Trigger’. The songs ‘Horse and Van’ and ‘Who Is Roscoe?’ were recorded by the band during the previous summer and re-mixed by Head (PJ Harvey). They turned out to be the groups epitaph.

Parting company with Rob in March ’94 the group re-enlisted Anschul for what turned out to be the Tony Heads finally show. On April 23 The Tony Head Experience appeared at Tor Leisure Centre in Glastonbury alongside The Family Cat, Bandit Queen, and Hoffman for the final night of their ‘Head Club’. The band members had been promoting these live music nights in one form or another every week or two for over six years and with the group relocating to London it was a night of high emotion and fantastic music. In the summer of ’94 Elisa, Jon and Steve moved to London, Paul stayed in Somerset and Anschul returned to university. The group dissolved officially in Feb ’95 when Jon joined the band Pout. That would be the kiss of death for anything.


Jon left Pout after six months but two of the fellow inmates happened to be Sam Miller and Joe Thompson who subsequently turned up in the only live reformation attempt of The Tony Head Experience in 1997 at the Fortress Studios in London. Irving Welsh walked in during a version of ‘Leather’. That was the highlight…. The group did release new material that year on the London based Sounds Junoversal label but re-workings of songs from their last major recording session at Giant in the summer of ’93 proved uninspired and the band quickly disolved again. And that was that.

Jon Mates eventually moved to New York, met up with Elizabeth Mone’, returned to London and formed My Symptoms. He then went on to lead the group English Electric (www.myspace.com/theenglishelectric) and is now out doing his own thing at www.myspace.com/jonmatesmusic.

Elisa Young became a midwife and a wife of Pout bass player Joe Thompson (Stanton/Hey Colossus). She occasionally still sings on records, has two sons, and is now back living in Street.

Anschul Brandt briefly re-united with Jon in dance music outfit Firefox before launching a variety of musical visions onto an unsuspecting world. Currently residing in Sweden his last major contribution to the culture was the Giants Of Design www.myspace.com/giantsofdesign.

Nik Dalgarno is a computer software programmer with a wife and four kids and happily also lives in Street.

Matt Fry graduated Oxford University with flying colours.

Steve Mobley joined Yeovil based Elliot Green after the demise of The Tony Head Experience. The band released a couple of classy singles and the album ‘United States’ on the legendary Playtime record label.

It seems there were other poppy songs recorded by the band. They mention on their Myspace blog a tune called “Go Go Tripper” that they say was a throwaway indiepop moment. And also they mention they had done a semi-reunion gig in Glastonbury. They were planning something for their 20th anniversary in 2011 but I guess nothing really happened sadly.

About Youtube, you can watch some videos for Heavy Mother, Deaf Ted / Leather and Horse and Van by clicking on these links.


The Tony Head Experience – Debbie One


Before I leave to the UK for, what I think, are some deserved vacations and also to avoid Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I want to ask for some help. Not that I don’t ask for it often here in the blog when it comes to tracking down bands. I do. Often. Once a week at least. But as I won’t be writing anything next week, I thought maybe it’s a good time to pick your brains.

I’ve been trying to track Nine Steps to Ugly for the last couple of months. Phil from Feverfew/The Rileys, was kind enough to ask around his contacts around Reading, but there was no luck. There was the odd comment by Cameron (guitar) on Javi’s old, very old, blog “Lost and Found”. But there was no email. I looked all over Google, which I’m training on search skills thru their “Google a Day”, but no luck. Same on Facebook.

The first time that I heard about Nine Steps to Ugly was thanks to The Sound of Leamington Spa Vol.5 that Firestation Records released in 2005. “Eddie Lopez lives in Slough” opened the CD. It was fresh, it was catchy, it was the kind of pop that I’m a sucker for. On the booklet, they took the center spread, a long list of gigs and a bit of band details were included:

Popstatic Facts and Gigathon

Band formed in January 1987 for Windsor College Rag Stomp held at the Old Trout Windsor on 24th March 1987.

Original line-up 13th January-14th January 1987. Jenny Miell singing, Cameron Smillie guitar, Stuart Scott drums, Nick Elson bass, Jim Turner guitar, Andrew ‘Flan’ Flannery guitar, Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Malibar saxophone (part time).

We write one song ‘I’m in Love with the Girl from Tallulah Gosh’. I no longer am and the song was crap. Jenny and Johnny leave.

Jenny as she couldn’t sing and Johnny as the sax was on hire and had to go back to the shop.

Tracey is found and off we go. Lots of awful noise created in an effort to get a set together for the Rag Stomp.

Line-up for 24 March 1987. Tracey Owen singing, Paul ‘Beany’ Bateman singing, Cameron Smillie guitar, Nick Elson bass, Andrew Flannery guitar, Jim Turner guitar, Stuart Scott drums.

24 March 1987 Infamous Rag Stomp. Play ‘Purple Haze’ and several forgotten covers and are not lynched. Start to have fun and write our own songs.

A few weeks later we inflict them on the public…

Old Pals Club Taplow 22nd May 1987 + Urgh Leave it Out.
The Greyhound Colnbrook.  4th June 1987 + Stir Fried Pop Stars.
Windor Art Centre. July 1987 + The Wallflowers.
The Rose Maidenhead 22nd August 1987 + Stir Fried Pop Stars.

Stuart leaves to continue his studies; Flan leaves to drink more beer. Beany leaves to join the Stir Fried Pop Stars and wear dark glasses on stage.

Line-up 20th September 1987. Tracey vocals, Cameron guitar, Jim guitar, Nick bass, Dave Best drums.

Herschel Park Slough 19th September 1987 (whilst playing we are attacked by madman wielding a scaffolding pole – we run away, did he not like the music?)
Windsor Art Centre 13th October 1987 + The Shrubs
Old Trout Windsor 4th November 1987 + Stir Friend Pop Stars.
Wexham Parish Hall 15th November 1987 + The Wallflowers.

The George Farnham Road 19th November 1987 + Million Dollar Bash
Upton Grammar School 17th December 1987
Windsor Art Centre 9th January 1988 + Magic Mushroom Band.
Baldwin Institute Eton 16th January 1988 + Hello Revolving Horse.
Pontons High Wycombe 19th January 1988 + December.
The George Farnham Road 3rd March 1988 + The Company
Windsor college Rag Stomp 17th Martch 1988
Maidenhead Town Hall 26th March 1988 Battle of the bands competition, we came 2nd (Robbed!!).
ontons High Wycombe 16th April 1988
Windsor Art Centre 29th April 1988 + Bob
Forbury Park Reading 29th May 1988
Reading Town Hall 1st June 1988 + The Darling Buds
The George Farnham Road 9th June 1988 + The Company
Ninos Wine Bar Reading 15th June 1988 + The Jeremiahs
Ninos Wine Bar Reading 26th June 1988 + Feverfew
Windsor Art Centre 16th June 1988 + The Company
Cool Trout London 27th July 1988 + Bob
Paradise Club Reading 5th August 1988 + House of Love
Windsor Art Centre 2nd September 1988 + The Wallflowers
Old Trout Windsor 3rd September 1988 + Johnny Panic
Skindles Maidenhead 4th September 1988
St. Davids Hall Reading 15th October 1988
Mean Fiddler London 1st November 1988 + Metro Trinity
Paradise Club Reading 2nd November 1988 + Spacemen 3
St. Davids Hall reading 9th November 1988 + Falling Trees
Old Trout Windsor 30th November 1988 + Morbific Seeds

Line-up 30th November 1988. Tracey vocals, Cameron guitar, Jim guitar, Nick bass, Bevis Bevis drums.

The Centre Farnham Road 10th December 1988
Old Trout Windsor 21st December 1989 + The Premonitions
Windsor Art Centre 2nd January 1989 + Morbific Seeds
Blast Club Bracknell Art Centre 9th February 1989 + Thrilled Skinny
Garden of Eden Old Trout Windsor 8th March 1989 + The Bachelor Pad
Garden of Eden Old Trout Windsor 29th March 1989 + Bob
Blast Club Bracknell Art Centre 30th March 1989 + Bob
Garden of Eden Old Trout Windsor 26th April 1989 + Savage Opera

Final gig at Windsor Art Centre 23rd June 1989 supported y Thousand Yard Stare.

And that was that.

Bevis and Cameron joined The Morbific Seeds. Nick went to university in Brighton and writes. Tracey sang with Montefury, The Wallflowers, Foam etc and still is in bands in Brighton. Jim became an archaeologist Cameron works in St Pauls Cathedral and s an actor. Bevis became a troubadour.

I probably have missed a few gigs out, I remember one in Slough High Street for a bizarre parade and I ended up in the back of a van converted to look like the Batmobile driven by a member of the Morbific Seeds. Perhas these things are best forgotten.

You can still find this CD. Get it straight from the label for 3 euros. That’s much much less than what I paid for it when it came out. It’s a bargain, and it’s essential.

Since them I’ve been trying to also track down their flexi single. That one that includes “Eddie Lopez lives in Slough” and “Bobby Charlton’s Haircut”. The sleeve has a kid playing the triangle, while some other schoolmates (?) are watching him. Wonder if that little boy is one of the band members.

So who was Eddie Lopez? He was the Labour candidate for Slough in the 1987 and 1992 elections, finishing runner up on both occasions to the Conservatives.

About Eddie Lopez and the song I found this comment online:

Eddie Lopez actually came very close to winning Slough in 1992. He lost by 514 votes, but a rogue candidate called Alford who also termed himself The Labour Candidate stood (election law has changed now to prevent this sort of thing) and, because he was top of the ballot paper, took 699 votes. He celebrated on election night with the winning Tories.

“Eddie Lopez Lives in Slough” wasn’t taking the piss. Eddie Lopez had been instrumental in the establishment of a recording studio under the Slough Labour Rooms. The song was a Thank You.

You can read more about him here.

While Slough is a borough and unitary authority within the ceremonial county of Royal Berkshire, England. The town straddles the A4 Bath Road (it becomes the Great West Road closer to London) and the Great Western Main Line, 22 miles (35 km) west of central London. At the 2001 census, the population of Slough was 119,070 (est. 122,000 in 2006) and the borough area was the most ethnically diverse local authority area outside London in the United Kingdom.

The first recorded uses of the name occur as Slo in 1196, Sloo in 1336, and Le Slowe, Slowe or Slow in 1437.

Though I guess most of the people have heard about Slough thanks to the tv series The Office.

About Bobby Charlton. Well, I don’t think he had much of a haircut. Anyways, I assume many of you don’t know anything about footie, but come on. Bobby Charlton is pretty famous. You can read more about him here.

The band also contributed to a couple of compilations. On the  classic “Corrupt Postman” tape compilation they included the song “Vaudeville”. This same song will appear some time later on the tape compilation “Hacia la Luz” released by Elefant Records (ER-005) in 1990. But if we go back in time a little, to 1987, “Eddie Lopez Lives in Slough” appears on an obscure compilation called “The Final Teaze” which was released by Final Records (Final 042).

But those three songs I’ve mentioned weren’t the only that they recorded. Fast forward to 2008. I visit Nana and Andreas in Hamburg. Nana is throwing a big birthday party for herself. Many friends have come from different places, and even The Sunny Street are playing a gig. Then there will be a dance party (these days have been already documented on the blog). They day I arrive Andreas burns me two CDs. One that has everything by Grab Grab the Haddock. And a second one by Nine Steps to Ugly. This CD contains:

From the “Eddie Lopez Lives in Slough” flexi
01. Eddie Lopez Lives in Slough
02. Bobby Charlton’s Haircut

From demos 1987-1989
03. Apart
04. Vaudville
05. Tobogganing
06. Drink Up, Let’s Go!
07. Kevin Loves Sharon
08. Small Pieces of Everything
09. Spencer Says
10. Eddie Lopez lives in Slough (demo)
11. Lemon Badger

From live 29.03.1989 (must be from this gig: Garden of Eden Old Trout Windsor 29th March 1989 + Bob)
12. Glad
13. February Wednesday
14. Vaudville
15. The Friendship
16. Spencer Says
17. Bobby Charlton’s Haircut
18. Apart
19. Meadfield
20. Ever Again

See? Quite a bunch of songs recorded as demos. And I’m not sure if they were all that they recorded. Probably they were. But can’t say. I also find mind boggling that they never released anything else other than the flexi. It’s very odd. And what about that “Im’ in Love with the Girl from Talulah Gosh” song? Was that ever recorded? I have so many questions. I wonder if I should just step in to St. Paul’s Cathedral and ask if Cameron is still around…

So yes, if anyone knows anything else, has something more to add. Please do! Probably won’t answer until I’m back from the UK, but I’ll check my email daily. If you have a spare copy of the flexi, that’ll be nice too.

And by the way, before I forget the new fanzines are ready. I made some silly mistake while doing the pre-press and there are two pages, the second two pages of the Youngfuck interview, that are in the wrong place. It’s not a big deal I think, as they are back to back to the ones that start the Youngfuck interview, and perhaps adds to the DIY spirit of it, but thought it was worth mentioning. So there are no surprises. Also forgot to change the snail mail address of Cloudberry. I’ve been a bit fluffy-headed as of late it seems. In any case, the fanzine looks great, and I’m very proud with it. I hope you all like it!


Nine Steps to Ugly – Eddie Lopez Lives in Slough


Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. The plant, indigenous to Europe, is now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of the world. It is found wild occasionally with its parent species.

Just a couple of days until I travel once again to the UK. Second time this year. My sixth time overall.

A couple of things.

– I bought a Lonely Planet guide to London and been reading it before going to bed. Why now? I don’t know. On top of it all, I will barely have any time in London this time to do any sort of sightseeing. So what’s the point of me getting this book? I don’t know.

– Also after coming back from London last July, I bought a book about the names of the tube stations of the Undeground. I had seen one of these books for sale at the British Library and caught my curiosity. I stopped myself from buying it there as I assumed (correctly) that it was overpriced. Upon returning to NY, I ordered it online. Quite interesting. Now I could probably tell a story or two to those tourists that ask me, another tourist, for directions.

– I’m going to my second Chickfactor gigs this year. First was here in New York and was during weekdays. Now in London during a weekend. I’ll see for the first time The Pastels and Would-Be-Goods. Would-Be-Goods being one of my favourite bands ever. I admit the only time I’ve chickened out of asking to take a photo with a band member, was with Jessica Griffin who happened to be next to me and my friends outside the 100 Club. To be a success, this time I must get their setlist. At least.

– I’ll see Amor de Dias for the third time. I’ll see Pipas for the third time as well. Can’t have enough of Lupe’s bands.

– Second time for the Aislers Set and the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group. Two favourite bands. And fifth time seeing Tender Trap. I clearly go to many gigs, or what?

– Talking of the Aislers Set the other day I saw Linton walking down Bleecker St. with a brown paper bag. Thought saying hi, but then I noticed I was wearing my green t-shirt that has her name printed on it and thought, that was much of a fanboy already.

– I have grand plans of record shopping during this trip. The question is, how will I carry all my records back to the US if I’m planning to just take a carry on. Mind you, I already bought some records and they are waiting for me at my dear friend’s place.

– I will visit a Peruvian restaurant in London. Been terribly curious about them after they opened this year. I’ve been meaning to invite friends while I was there years ago, introduce them to our rich cuisine, but the restaurants were non-existant. Now there are two by Tottenham Court Rd. Are we the new thai as some Peruvian officials love saying? Not yet, not quite. Someday perhaps.

– Then will take a train to Edinburgh. Spend some hours record shopping, hopefully have haggis for lunch. I have haggis craving. Hearty haggis.

– Next stop Glasgow. For third time lucky Aislers Set. At Mono. Will see Stephen Pastel there for the second time. This time he’ll be DJing, won’t be selling me records. And Camera Obscura will DJ as well. I saw them once playing though. Just once. It seems I only see big bands once, and the smaller bands I see millions of times.

– Taking a bus to Inverness. What to do there? The word Inverness sounds to me like “invierno”, winter in Spanish. I feel just by the name that I will freeze. It’s up north. From there we’ll take a bus to Loch Ness. Fulfill a childhood dream. Visit Nessy’s den. See castle Urquhart. Send some postcards from there.

– A trip for me with no castles is not a trip. So we’ll be heading to Arundel castle. It looks glorious. Everyone has told me it’s beautiful. I hope it is! I just really hope it doesn’t rain, like that time  I went to Tintern Abbey and the weather was miserable. The most “romantic ruins” in Wales had become the most dreary ruins in Wales all of a sudden. So better behave you famous English rain.

– Note to self. My grandma doesn’t want chocolate like last time. Suddenly she figured out that it wasn’t Cadbury powder Hot Chocolate what she wanted but Cadbury Cocoa! She also insists that I have to buy me a sweater at some famous “sweater town” close to London that she visited two decades ago. “It will do you good in the NY winter”.

– There’s also the gig at the Buffalo Bar where Flowers are playing on Thursday. Will go to that. Definitely. Time to see one of my new favourite bands play live after touring with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Hopefully we can sort out the 7″ soon!

– And speaking of my carry-on bag, I feel half of it’s weight is going to be gifts, from mac n’ cheese to records, to friends. I so look forward to see my transatlantic friends. I miss them. Can’t wait to catch up!


Parlour (or parlor) is a name used for a variety of different reception rooms and public spaces in different historical periods. Parlour derives from the Old French word parloir or parler (“to speak”), and entered English around the turn of the 13th century In its original usage it denoted a place set aside for speaking with someone, an “audience chamber”.

A band from Wales. That Wales I really liked and had a great time in July. That Wales I won’t be visiting this time, but that I do have strong plans to revisit next time I go to Indietracks. The band was Peppermint Parlour and they had one 7″ single but many more songs recorded.

Uncommon to most obscure bands, I could actually find an extensive bio about the band online:

Peppermint Parlour was the brain child of founder Alan Thompson along with his school friend, Clive Widdison. The two met at Llanederyn High School in Cardiff at the beginning of the 1980s. Alan Thompson is an extremely talented songwriter and was soon penning many songs. His musical influences coming through in an intelligent mix of The Beatles, Squeeze, 10cc, The Jam and The Beach Boys.
Peppermint Parlour came together in the autumn of 1984 with the line-up of Alan Thompson, vocals and rhythm guitar, Clive Widdison, bass guitar and backing vocals, Mark Haggart, lead guitar and backing vocals backed up by the newest addition of Simon Davies on drums. St. Martin’s Church Hall on Crwys Road, Cardiff became their rehearsal venue every Monday night. Alan’s friend from childhood, Rhys John used to help out with rehearsals, adding keyboards and some excellent guitar pieces in between him finishing off his degree at the University of East Anglia.
Months of practice, practice and more practice, Peppermint Parlour finally got their first gig at the Joint Students Union, Cardiff University on the 25th May 1985. The group added Rhys John to the line up and by the end of 1985, Mark Haggart left The Peps and Rhys took over the duties of lead guitar. The band were finally on their way. The band developed their extremely tight sound from hundreds of gigs across Cardiff and in London. Several record companies were alerted to them with particular attention being paid by MCA Records, who even came to see them in rehearsals at Simon’s fathers factory in Cardiff and EMI Records.
Being a Cardiff based band and with the capital’s rather stereotyped view of Wales made it hard for The Peps to get to see the right people. It is generally considered that they paved the way for less talented Welsh bands to come into prominence, like the Manic Street Preachers, Sterophonics and Catatonia. Peppermint Parlour made the “hard yards” and the others felt the benefit. The band eventually were pestered to release a best of CD in 2002, called Pet Sounds. Within that CD are 19 musical gems.

Is it really “Pet Sounds” the name of the CD? I have never seen it, and somewhere I’ve seen it mentioned it as “Pep Sounds”. But still no luck. I would definitely LOVE to hear these 19 songs. At least since 2009 when I first heard about this band, I’ve often revisited and listened to a bunch of their songs thanks to Last.fm.. If you head there you can find 7 songs to listen fully: “Gary Sobers Up”, “Playhouse”, ” It’s Wonderful”,  “Evermore”, “Whole Damn World”, “You Are The Drug” and “You’re Gonna Crash”.

What can I say about these songs? They are fantastic! If you like catchy pop, jangly guitars, and smart lyrics, you’ll like this lot. This is a band that I would have loved to release definitely. They remind me a bit to Feverfew and The Chesterf!elds on their more upbeat songs, while in their more “classic” c86 songs you can think of Bob or Reserve. So yes. Pretty good. Pretty amazing stuff.

By the way, did you know that Alan Thompson from Peppermint Parlour is a UK radio broadcaster, presenting on BBC Radio Wales? I just found out.

Here is a little interview I found where he is asked about Peppermint Parlour:

As the popular presenter of the Radio Wales evening show, Alan Thompson has acquired a reputation as a man who enjoys revisiting the ’80s classics.

Haircut 100, Simple Minds, Wham! and Duran Duran have all cropped up on his playlists.

But there’s one nugget from the decade that taste forgot that he won’t play – his own.

In the mid-’80s, Alan was the frontman of Peppermint Parlour, a Cardiff powerpop four-piece which, over their seven-year lifespan, managed to garner a hardcore of devoted fans thanks to tireless gigging around South Wales and one fondly remembered single, Whatever Happened to Pop Songs.

He’s too modest to admit it, and far too modest to actually play it on his show, but there are many who would herald it as a little indie pop classic.

And in Japan – where they’ll always find a place in their hearts for such things – it’s something of a collector’s item.

Alan, 49, remembers his days in the band with nothing but fondness. “We’d first got into a band at school in Llanedeyrn,” he said, “a mod outfit called The Standards – terrible name – with Clive Widdison, who played bass.”

After school, he and Clive formed Peppermint Parlour in 1984 , gigging mainly in Chapter and other venues in South Wales but also as far afield as London.

“The Pepps were a good band,” said Alan. “We were compared to the Housemartins but I thought we were more like Squeeze, melodic pop with a bit of edge.”

Like countless other bands, when real success proved elusive, the Pepps petered out. By 1991 Alan had started work at the BBC and with A&R men loathe to head over the Severn Bridge (this was long before Cool Cymru) they called it a day.

Happily, Alan retains his enthusiasm for music, as his listeners will readily attest, and he continues to write and record in the little studio he has set up at home.

But if his reluctance to play Whatever… is any guide, we can’t expect to hear his songs any time soon.

1984. They were ahead of their time. I can’t believe. Maybe that’s why they are so obscure. Because their songs should have been HITS. It’s always so unfair to read or hear stories like this.

But let’s go back to their one and only 7″. One that I’m still tracking down and I suppose will be impossible for me to ever get my hands on because the Japanese will always have a bigger wallet than mine!

The 7″ included two songs. On the A side “Whatever Happened to Pop Songs” and on the B side “Awkward Girls”. It was released on Apex Records and was the first reference on their catalog. Both songs are credited to Alan Thompson and were produced by Peppermint Parlour and Len Davies. Len Davies seems to have been involved in many releases of the Apex Label. Maybe it was his own label?

The songs were recorded at Apex Recording Studio in Cardiff. The engineers were Davies again and Matthew Butler.

Peppermint Parlour were:
Alan Thompson – lead vocals/guitar
Rhys John –  lead guitar / keyboards / vocals
Clive Widdison – bass guitar / vocals
Simon Davies – drums

On the back cover it’s also written:
Special thanks to Gary Price of “Red Dragon Radio” for his belief and support. He truly is the Hippy King of Mintsville!
The record is dedicated to Johnny L. and to Julie B. And also to all you Pep Cats everywhere.

As a curious cat I went to look for Red Dragon Radio and found out that it changed it name years ago to Capital South Wales and that is a radio station broadcasting from Cardiff Bay. I get flashes of walking down the promenade, next to the sea, in Cardiff Bay. Walking towards that Turkish restaurant on the pier which we didn’t like the prices.

And that’s about all I could find about Peppermint Parlour. It’s more than the usual I find though. So that makes me happy. But I would really love to listen to the rest of their songs. Track that “Pep Sounds” CD is possible. And if anyone has a box full of spare copies that is willing to give a new home, a lovely home, please let me know! And yes, if you happen to have any memories, anecdotes, or know the whereabouts of any of the band members let me know! Their songs deserve to be much more known than they are already!

Edit: I just noticed they have a Facebook page!


Peppermint Parlour – Whatever Happened to Pop Songs


I got out of bed at 10:30 am. Unwrapped myself from the sheets and as usual, first thing in the morning, I went to check my email. It was election day. Mentally I had prepared for it during the weekend. The long haul. Staying up late in the newsroom. Updating things every couple of minutes. Stressing out at giving the right call, not messing up the numbers, being correct at all times. And on top of it all, being fast. You want to beat the other news agencies.

This was my second time working and covering the elections. Both times we had the same winner. This time the responsibility was bigger, working for a much larger organization. Large enough that I was thrilled to see some of the graphics I worked with my colleagues embedded in pages like El Mundo, Aftonbladet, Televisa and so on. All over the world. On top of it, those Spanish-language newspapers that embedded our main graphic, were using a version that I had translated to Spanish. I was worried all night that someone was going to spot some typo or a grammatical error on it.

I woke up the computer, as I only turn it off when I travel. I always only put it to sleep. I received a couple of miserable emails. The day seemed bleak outside from my window and it felt cold in the room. I turned on the heater. A friend started chatting me, telling me that today was the launch of Halo 4. I had already pre-ordered it I tell him, but I won’t receive it until Thursday. He sends me a bunch of codes that I need to plug on some Doritos page to get some bonus in the game as soon as I start playing. I asked him, how the hell he got 20 codes, did he had a Doritos fest or something? My friend, as a good resourceful Peruvian, spent the best 5 minutes of his day at the supermarket taking photos of Doritos bags and their Halo 4 codes.

As the morning rolled the emails were getting nicer. Friends reconnecting, and also making plans for my London trip next week. I also had finally purchased tickets to visit Arundel, a castle that has been on my top list for some years now. I ordered a pizza as I wasn’t heading to work until 4pm. I turned on the Xbox to distract myself, to not overthink, and went on a very good winning streak on PES2013. Suddenly it struck me that I was being really dumb to order pizza as probably they would feed us pizza as well at the newsroom.

Stopped at the post office and dropped some Cloudberry orders. There were lots of people outside. I could see many proudly wearing their “I Voted” stickers on their coats. The coffee shops around my subway station were packed. Not that I care, I don’t drink coffee, but I have the bad habit of walking watching the store fronts, their windows, their displays, instead of just looking ahead. Suddenly the smell of the halal cart always gives me the heads up that the stairs to the subway station are just a couple of steps away.

I live at the end of a subway line so I don’t need any luck to find a place to sit down. There’s always one. Thanks to that I’ve been able to devour so many books this year. Something unthinkable in Miami. This is one of the things I’m most thankful to NYC, the reading time it has offered me in it’s subways. The ride feels shorter and accomplished at the same time.

From Herald Square to the office is another 10 minute walk. I walk it fast. Sometimes I stop by my bank’s atm. Today is not one of those days. It’s almost 4pm when I enter our building. The lobby is packed. There are huge lines waiting to check in at the front desk. It’s election day I’m reminded. I’m excited all of a sudden. This is why I like working for the news industry. When the newsroom comes alive and we are all running around with the sole goal of providing the rest of the world with the most accurate information.

This day I’m changing desks. I’m moving closer to let’s say the main hub, outside of our department. I’m working directly with our mobile app and those who update it. I’m in charge of some balance of power map, updating it every couple of minutes, as soon as a state is called, as soon as new House representatives are called, or the Senate as well. I live in the future, I know who has been elected and which state has been called before the rest. Until I push the update and then it’s public knowledge.

Of course by 6:30 pm we are treated to pizza. One that is kind of greasy and not very tasty. And warm soda cans. I grab three slices of meat lovers and head to my desk. The margherita pizza seems to be the least favourite from what I observe. I’m sitting close to the big table where they’ve set up or dinner. Everyone, from every corner of our floor, is driven here, not for the smell or the taste of greasy pizza, but for the free-ness of it. And then, it’s going to be a long night, better have your belly full.

The night goes smoothly aside from some incorrect tweets we make. We notice other websites calling some states before the results are ready. They take risks. We can’t though, we need to be 100%. That’s why people trust us. I get a bit frustrated when the soda machines have run out of soda. I return to my desk and keep updating. By 1am I have made 65 png files for our mobile app. I’m exhausted.

The president calls his victory before anyone else does on Twitter. A couple of minutes later it’s official. We will go home early, and Florida won’t matter at all. Ohio decided it. We congratulate each other. The newsroom is cheerful because we all agree we’ve done a really good job and things went really well. There was no major mistakes or bugs, everything worked accordingly. I want to say it was a successful night. I love the newsroom. I love covering events like this. I like feeling history so close to me.

By 1 pm, in a surprising good mood, one that I haven’t had in months, I walk alone the streets of midtown, under the shadow of the Empire Estate building, watching flashy store displays, Macy’s big Christmas tree, and the last open halal carts on the way. The night is cold, but it feels warm to live in the US today. I put on my gloves, I push play and the Sugargliders glide me gently into the N line. In less than an hour I’ll be home. And things are going to be bright again from now on.


Here’s another band that I’ve been trying to get their one and only 7″ without luck. Not because it’s terribly expensive, but because I always end up losing at the last minute on eBay. One day hopefully I’ll be the lucky winner. Their name was Life Studies, and they were Gloucester.

A cathedral city, capital of its county which was built on a flat spot of land, Gloucester is situated on the River Severn and the Bristol and Birmingham Railway.  Gloucester was founded in AD 97 by the Romans under Emperor Nerva as Colonia Glevum Nervensis, and was granted its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II.

Cathedral city, Roman city. Sounds like my kind of town. I haven’t been there yet though, but I was really surprised the day I was taught that you pronounce the name of this town “Gloster”. I used to say something much longer.

There’s a tiny bio around the internet that says:

The Life Studies were formed in 1982 in Gloucester by Graham Nicoloson, Phillip Thomas and Martin Bennett. This is their only single release, and was featured by John Peel on several occasions on his radio show. The band performed several extremely successful gigs in and around Gloucestershire, before dis-banding. Nicholson and Thomas went on to form ‘The Trout Faced Few’ whilst they were considered one of the most influential and popular in Gloucestershire, they did not release any records. 

Only one 7″ as far as I know was released. The 7″ went by the name “Homeward” and included three great pre-C86 songs as this was released in 1983! The songs are: “Girl on Fire”, “Inside Out” and “Citizen of Love”.  The single was released on Occasion Records. Catalog number OCC-001. My guess being that it was a self-release.

On this record they also counted with the help of Richard Thomes, Helen Davey and Dean Gifford. Not so sure what instruments each of them played. The songs were produced and engineered by John Eeles. And the whole thing was recorded at Spadger Studio in Rudford, Gloucestershire.

The sleeve has on both sides a black and white photo. Both of a girl. As I’m a bit knowledgeable when it comes to movies I recognize these photos from the Spanish movie “The Spirit of the Beehive”.

The Spirit of the Beehive (Spanish: El espíritu de la colmena) is a 1973 Spanish drama film directed by Víctor Erice. The film was Erice’s debut and is considered a masterpiece of Spanish cinema. Made during the last few years of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, and set in 1940, the film subtly criticises post-civil war Spain.  The film focuses on the young girl Ana and her fascination with the 1931 American horror film Frankenstein, as well as exploring her family life and schooling. The film has been called a “bewitching portrait of a child’s haunted inner life”.

Back to that band they formed after, “Trout Faced Few”. I found a little text about them from a band that supported them back in the day, The Living End:
The Citizen’s were a Gloucester group with practically all their members coming from Brockworth and most had been in a band called The Trout Faced Few. The Citizens and The Trout Faced Few leant heavily on Manchester post-punk outfit The Fall for their inspiration!

I’ve only heard so far “Girl on Fire” and “Inside Out”. Still missing “Citizen of Love”. But how much I enjoy the trumpets on “Inside Out”. And the jangly guitars. It’s really thrilling that they were doing this kind of pop ahead of the C86 days, before the rest caught up. And I can only wonder if there are any more songs by them. Perhaps a demo tape stored in some box, on the cupboard, somewhere.

And that’s all I’ve found about this band. But of course, if you know anything else about them, have a spare 7″ of “Homeward”, or more songs by them, use that little comment box just below this post.


Life Studies – Inside Out


Thanks so very much to Chris Brady for this great interview! Surreal Madrid were a late 80s English band that made fantastic jangly pop as you can tell and listen at their soundcloud account. They only released one 12″ EP, but what an EP it is. Now it’s time to rediscover this band, especially as it seems they will be playing gigs very soon again!

++ Hi Chris! Thanks so much for the interview. How are you? I hear there is some sort of Surreal Madrid comeback, is that so?

Hi Roque, I’m fine thanks and thanks for inviting us to be interviewed. There is indeed a reunion going on at long last. Loads of other bands from the late 80s early 90s are doing it so why not ? I think the fact that we are having another go is down to our continued love of music.

++ That’s so cool. So how did you track down the other members from the band? And when do you think you’ll be playing your reunion gig?

I found the guys via LinkedIn. First up was Shaun (drummer) who was already on there in his professional guise as Head Vet at Battersea Dog’s Home. I got in touch with him and we went for a beer. Rob (bass guitar) is his best friend from when they were about 8 years old so that was two of them snared ! I LinkedIn to some old university mates and got John’s (singer) details . We all met up in London for a beer and talked music all afternoon and evening and decided it would be fun to book a rehearsal room and see if we could still play. 

We found a great studio in Little Venice and have now been there 4 or 5 times working on getting the old songs back up to speed. We’re all scattered round the country now so can’t get together as much as we’d like to but we should be ready to gig early next year.

++ So yeah, how come  a band from the UK calls themselves Surreal Madrid? What’s the story behind the name? I assume you’ve been to Madrid?

The name comes from a pathetic football joke …. “Heard the latest scores from Europe ? ….. Real Madrid 2, Surreal Madrid Fish ” We called one of our demo tapes Fish. The late, great John Peel was a huge football fan and he apparently chose to play “Sorry Sir” on his Radio 1 show because he liked the football gag . Madrid’s a cool place. Been there a few times on business

++ Where were you based, in Biggleswade or in London? I’m a bit confused there!

We were and it’s fair to say we still are based in London. Biggleswade is a sleepy little town famous only for being the birthplace of the tractor and there is no music scene other than covers bands playing in pubs. Nice place to live and a 40 minute train ride into London.

++ And you were telling me that there was another Surreal Madrid after you, from Liverpool, right? Are they any good?

Yeah, they came along with the Madchester / Liverpool baggy scene. Not my cup of tea ! They show up on Google searches so we considered changing our name to PerryComa …… but have now decided to stick to our guns as we had the name first

++ So let’s talk about the past. When did Surreal Madrid start as a band? how did you all knew each other?

John and I were mates at university and started a band doing covers of Joy Division, Cure, Cramps, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus etc with an epic Goth bass player. We started writing a couple of songs of our own to slip into the set and played a few low key student gigs. The best of the names we used was “He’s Dead Jim”

After university John and most of our friends moved down to London to start work and I was living a short train ride from the capital in a shared house with a couple of mates from work, one of whom was a drummer. We started messing around with a few songs & covers, then Andy (the drummer) decided he needed to concentrate on his career. Fortunately one of John’s colleagues from the day job (Lol) was a drummer so we signed him up and John brought his mate (Johnny B) in on keyboards. John & Lol worked for a courier firm at Heathrow airport and we used to use their office out by Terminal 4 to rehearse on Saturdays. Great place to play as you can make a lot of noise !

This was the start of Surreal Madrid proper. We played a few gigs in London then decided it would sound better sans keyboards and then Lol got married and fled to France. We stuck an advert in Melody Maker for a drummer and Shaun responded. At the time John was playing bass & singing so when Shaun asked if he could bring his bass playing mate Rob along it seemed like a good plan.

It worked really well and this is the line up that made the record and played regularly around London.

++ Where you all in bands before Surreal Madrid?

Rob & Shaun had been in bands but I’m not sure what they were called, John and I did some stuff at university and there was an interim period after university and starting up with John and my housemate Andy where I was in a local band called Code 7 Victim 5. This one sounded a bit like the Cocteau Twins with guitar, bass, drum machine, and clarinet.

++ What about after?

After we split up I joined up with some guys in the town I was living in and tried to kickstart them but it was never going anywhere. We had a singer that looked like a blond Jim Morrison ….. but totally choked when we did our one & only gig and a bass player who couldn’t stay out of  jail.

Rob & Shaun started a new band called Two Robs which got about as far as Surreal Madrid.

John has spent the last year or so writing solo material and playing acoustic guitar and is all over Youtube as Johnkneem. He’s got an album’s worth of material more or less ready to record

++ Who would you say were your main influences back then?

All  the obvious ones, mainly the Smiths with a bit of Joy Division and the Cure thrown in. On the later songs Braver, Belt and a Better Time you can hear the Stone Roses creeping in too.

++ You released just one fabulous single. It included four songs “In Dreams You Stay Mine”, “Now It’s You”, “Sorry Sir” and “Blood on the hand”. I think my favourite is “In Dreams You Stay Mine”, though it’s very hard to pick. Care telling me the story behind these songs?

John and myself wrote these usually based on a riff or fragment of a vocal melody. We’d introduce new material at rehearsals and develop it into complete songs as a band. The subject material is fairly dark and focuses on relationships going pear-shaped.

Blood on the Hand is about being accused of doing evil when you didn’t actually do it but have no way of defending yourself.

Sorry Sir concentrates on being in a good relationship ….. but making a mess of it by doing bad things and getting away with it. This segues neatly into

Now it’s You which is about the point where you stop getting away with it and the relationship ends leading neatly into

In Dreams which is all about regret and yearning.

You can sense a theme going on here ! One day we’ll consider doing a happy one about puppies or kittens.

++ And which would you say was your favourite? And why?

In general when listening to music I listen to the overall sound rather than trying to make sense of the words or whatever and my favourite on the record would have to be Sorry Sir. Plus it’s a blast to play live. A lot of people reckon that the best songs are the ones that come together quickest and Sorry Sir was one of those.

++ Rottweiler Records? Was that your own label or who were them?

We made the record back in the days where everybody made demo tapes on cassette and posted them to record companies thinking that if we sent them finished product it would stand out from the crowd. To make it look good we used the name Rottweiler Records. It wasn’t really a serious label.

++ You were telling me you had a  total of 20 songs, but only got round to recording 7. So that’s 3 that weren’t included in the single. Were these 3 supposed to be released in a new single? “Belt” is fantastic, could have definitely been one!

We sent the record to all of the record companies and got really strong interest from Stephen Street (produced early Smiths and went on to work with Blur). He came to see us live and commented that the record, which we’d recorded one instrument at a time, sounded sterile compared to the live sound. So we booked another studio with a big live room and recorded Belt, Braver & a Better Time in 2 overnight sessions. These were done live with a couple of guitar overdubs.

++ But yeah, 20 songs, seems like you had enough to make an album even. Or two!  What happened? Why didnt you get to release any more records?

Stephen liked the sound of the new demo and we kept ourselves busy gigging hoping something good would happen but at the time he was busy with Spin (who evolved into Gene) and early Blur. The recording process was different back then and more expensive and at the time we couldn’t afford the studio time to do justice to a whole album’s worth of songs. The plan was for somebody else to fund that ….”

++ And did you ever had any sort of big label interest in your band?

Oddly enough we did ! The head of A&R at Virgin came to see us at the Robey in North London and the guy who allegedly signed Madonna to WEA came along to a gig in Hampstead. They both liked the music but nothing ever came of it.

++ Tell me about gigs! Did you play a lot? Are there any particular gigs, favourite gigs, that you remember? Any anecdotes you could share? 

I think we did about 30 gigs in total. Places like the Robey, Bull & Gate, Rock Garden, New Merlin’s Cave, Camden Falcon ….. all London venues. My personal favourite place to play was the Robey as they had a good sound system, 3 or 4 bands a night followed by Indie disco until 2am and it was next to the Tube station so easy to get to. It was a lively scene back then with most venues putting on 3 or 4 bands a night. The Rock Garden used to host great gigs on Holidays where they would put 10 bands on between 2pm and 2am.

The best gig was in a pub in Islington where we supported the Boo Radleys just after their first album came out. It was a hot summer evening, the pub was full of people in for the music and cheering on Cameroon in the World Cup which was on the TV, everybody was in a good mood and the music flowed nicely

++ What about radioplay? Did that work alright for you guys? Press? fanzines? I ask because it’s so strange that with the songs you had more people don’t know about you!

The record got played a handful of times on GLR, a Cambridge station and most notably on John Peel’s show on Radio 1 which at the time was the go-to station to listen to interesting new music. Our record got reviewed in NME the week they started a new feature where they invited celebrities in to do the reviews. Comedian Vic Reeves reviewed ours and wasn’t complementary claiming we sounded “probably overqualified”. Given that we are basically a doctor, vet, chemist & physicist he was probably right. NME reassured us that even getting reviewed was a good result as they get sent so many records a week

++ And then what happened to you guys? Why did you split?

We did a gig at the Robey with a good crowd in, played really well and everybody enjoyed it. On the way out I said to John something like “Great gig mate see you next week at practice”. He told me he didn’t think there would be another practice and that was it

When we met up again earlier this year the recurring topic of conversation was “Why did we split up ? ” and nobody actually knew.

++ When you are not making music, what do you do? Do you have any other hobbies?

My wife & I bought a fixer-upper Victorian house about 17 years ago and have been working on it ever since. It was a mess when we first saw it but instant love for me as it had a basement converted into a recording studio.  John goes to gigs all over the country and when he’s not doing that is an avid plane-spotter & twitcher. Rob has taken up running and completed the London marathon. Shaun works strange hours but fits in a busy social life.

++ One last question, in retrospect, what would you say was the biggest highlight of Surreal Madrid?

It has to be hearing our record on the radio for the first time. GLR was a London station and the DJ told us he’d slip it on between 6:30 – 7:00am on the breakfast show. It got to 06:50 and he put the Rolling Stones on and I thought there was no chance ….. but then he played In Dreams You Stay Mine. Celebration ensued !

++ And bonus one question, as I’ traveling to London again, what do you recommend visiting? eating? drinking?

Tough question as there are so many choices. Camden is the obvious Indie hangout with the market, music venues & interesting places to eat. Let me know when you’re coming over and we’ll help plan your visit. As far as food and drink are concerned you’ll have to have a night out with us !

++ Thanks a lot again Chris!! Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks Roque, great questions. We’re really enjoying playing music again and the difference this time is the Internet. It is so much easier these days to get your music out there and opens up opportunities that just weren’t there 20 years ago. Hopefully a few more people will hear us this time round.


Surreal Madrid – In Dreams You Stay Mine