Thanks so much to Jim Bishop for this interview! K-State was always a mystery to me until earlier this week I found two of their songs on Jim’s Youtube channel. Upon listening to “Lies” I was reminded why I searched for them in the first place, because they were making great jangly pop in those late 80s! As many obscure bands of the period there is not much written about them on the internet, but it’s time for that to change. Now sit back and discover K-State!
++ Hi Jim! Thanks a lot for for being up for this interview. As you might know there’s absolutely no information about K-State on the internet. Why do you think was that? Were you THAT obscure back in the day?
Good question. I’m surprised there’s absolutely nothing at all except for the posts I’ve put up on YouTube. In a way I was seeing if someone from the band would get in contact. At least you contacted me ABOUT the band so it does work ! But why nothing else..? Maybe.
1) The band was very popular locally in suburban North West London – Harrow, Wembley – but that’s still quite provincial. It’s away from the main live scene, so there’s no record of the band playing at well known venues like Dingwalls or The Dublin Castle. The Roxborough in Harrow for example was well known and popular but not on the live radar so far as London was concerned. Probably the nearest was The Clarendon, in Hammersmith.
2) As a wider answer, the unsigned bands from the eighties and nineties fall into a kind of internet black hole. Budget filming methods barely existed, so decent footage is thin on the ground and very basic quality by today’s standards. So material to put on YouTube is limited. Let alone posting the gig onto your Facebook page the day after. And audio-wise, If you weren’t signed it cost quite a lot of money to go into a recording studio then press the record yourself, so there were only a couple of ‘proper’ recordings made. I’ve posted one track from each vinyl record.
3) Time-wise most people of our era will have got on with their lives & copies of everything may have been lost in the intervening years with moving house, etc. I for one can’t find the early recordings made before I joined, I’m hoping someone somewhere has them.
++ You were telling me that you joined the band when they were already going, right? When did the band start and when did you join? And how did you know them?
I’d say they got going in 81/82. I met them in 83, and we became friends & me a fan.
I played in a guest spot on the first record in 86, and was asked to join after that.
Because I wasn’t there when they formed I’ll do my best to remember what the story was.
The 2 guitar players & bassist were – I think – all at the same school in Wembley, north west London. They definitely all lived in the same area. But the drummer went to school in Acton, where I lived. I was in a band myself and 3 of my band were at this school too, so the two bands were introduced to each other through that. We were playing in a similar style.
As a bizarre side-story, 3 members of The Who went to the same Acton school as the K-State drummer, whereas The Who’s drummer went to the same Wembley school as the other 3 members of K-State ! Also, I think three members of each band had learned to play the trumpet as well. Strange.
++ Talking of “them”, who were K-State and what instruments did each one of you played?
Richard Elderfield – lead vocals, guitar, principal songwriter.
Graham Hodson – Rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Wade Chandler – Bass
Robert Weaver – Drums
Rachel Weaver – saxaphone (from 85)
Jim Bishop – Keyboards, some guitar, backing vocals (from 86)
++ Any clues why they named the band K-State?
Yes. Good answer, this, which is important for a band name. Robert’s Dad Bernie was a retired sound technician who’d worked for The Rank Organisation. As a result he somehow had access to the closed-down Kilburn State ballroom, which I understand was still being used as a BBC soundstage then (the guys told me there was a piano crashed halfway through the actual stage stuck there permanently.) Bernie managed to get the band in there to rehearse and even make some straight-to-tape recordings, which were really good quality. Anyway, someone was cleverly inspired to shorten Kilburn State to K-State. And there you have it. Some more educated scientific folk used to guess that it was referring to the k-state of an electron !
Because the building is listed they’ve kept it intact and you can still see it clearly from the tube with the huge letters ‘State’ on the top, so on the rare occasions I travel out that way it brings a smile to my face as it reminds me of the story. Not a bad landmark to choose ! It became a bingo hall afterwards, it’s even on Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
++ And, yes, very important question. Whereabouts in the UK were you based? And what were the places in your town that you usually like hanging out at?
Nearly everyone lived in Wembley, or nearby. A pretty unremarkable part of London – except for having the most famous stadium in the world. At the time, especially after Live Aid in 85, lots more gigs went on there & the guys lived so close they could hear them from their houses – U2, Simple Minds, etc. I lived in Acton/Ealing, which is a couple of miles the other side of a huge hill & a big main road out of London from Wembley. Nice looking place, but hardly any live music.
++ What about gigs? Did K-State gig much? Any favourite gigs that you remember?
They/we did a regular gig at a pub originally called The Chequered Flag, in North Wembley. That was the ‘home gig’ if you like. Pretty much all the fans would turn up to those & they were good nights. There are 3 videotaped shows from there, very basic quality. The pub changed its name to The Dog & Duck (yuck).
(The promoters who put that night on were big Gary Numan fans so how K-State ended up playing at those nights is still a bit weird. Apparently they put on a regular Numan disco & the man himself would turn up.)
The Roxborough in Harrow was good in an old-fashioned rowdy beer-drenched boozer sense; downstairs at The Clarendon and most other places like it you felt a bit more pressure. It was right at the height of pay-to-play so the pressure was on to get as many of your mates down to the gig to impress the promoters.
But the first K-State gig I went to (this is before I joined of course) left me speechless. I had no idea what I was in for – they blew the roof off. It was in one of those social clubs which have almost all disappeared now, North Harrow something-or-other.
++ Any other bands from that period that you liked and would recommend?
I’d gotten into the mod scene without becoming a full-on mod, so I used to see The Truth, The Prisoners, Making Time, The Moment, The Rage, The Way Out, to name a few. But that scene was short-lived and eventually splintered, the main result being Acid Jazz. I liked to see rhythm’n’blues bands, preferably with pub rock legends like Gypie Mayo or Mick Green. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There were a load of bands I liked at the time. I could go on and on and that’s not even asking everyone else in the band.
++ So, from what I gather, there were two releases, a 12″ and a 7″. Is that right? Or was there anything else? Compilation appearances perhaps?
That’s it I’m afraid, both self-made. No record label so no real release as such. Just sold at gigs.
++ The 12″ that had “Promise” in it came in 1986 and it was self-released by the band. What other songs were in this release? And did your own label had a name?
The A-side was We’ll Find A Way (which Richard sometimes called We’ll Find THE Way, he kept switching.) The other track was Endless Struggle. No label.
++ Then, in 1987 there was the “Lies” 7″. I’ve only heard the A-side for this one. The B-side being “The Connoisseur”. But “Lies” to me sounds a bit different than the previous release, it’s just pure jangle bliss! Who would you say were the influences of K-State? And do you happen to know the story behind this song?
First and foremost, we had all met because we loved The Jam, but sadly they split up just as we’d started.
I was surprised when Richard brought Lies in, it’s so different from anything else he came up with. They way he sings it sounds like he really means what he’s singing, but I have no idea what influenced it. I can say for sure that we all knew the writing was on the wall for angry-young-men-doing-power-
Indie bands were getting more exposure & heading for mainstream popularity, especially The Cure and The Smiths; The Fall started to sound more chart-friendly, That Petrol Emotion were on the rise, Roddy Frame hit with Aztec Camera. So we had to change & although there were a few directions we could’ve gone, the popular thing at the time – and you have to remember all bands wanted to sign a record contract – was slick-sounding white soul, like The Blow Monkeys or Swing Out Sister. If you remember the late eighties you’ll know what I mean. And Richard was going for something like that that still suited the band. He did great I think.
I’ll get around to putting The Connoisseur up. It was a very popular live favourite, the K-State theme song for a while. It’s the first one to add saxophone & go for a smoother sound, but really catchy too.
++ On the sleeve artwork for this 7″ there are some portrait drawings. Who are they?
That’s us, as sketched by a friend of the band, from photos taken at the recording session.
++ By any chance do you know how many copies were pressed of these records? Perhaps it’s because they are not very well known, but I don’t think I’ve even seen them pop on eBay!
My best memory is that there were 200 of the 12” and 500 of the 7”. I know for a fact that 50 of the 7” got totalled because like a prat I drove away from the pressing plant with one box still on the roof of my car! Oops. I seem to remember we put the sleeves together Buzzcocks-style, sitting round with scissors and glue.
++ And what happened between the 7″ and the time you left the band? Are there any recordings from that period?
We did tape some rehearsals – which as I said unfortunately I’ve lost – but no more studio stuff. We were doing a good job forging ahead trying a new direction, but everything seems to have its own lifespan and I’d say ours had run its course.
++ When did the band split? And what happened after? Were you guys still involved with music?
I went travelling at the end of 88 and although I contacted the guys when I got back I really lost proper touch with them not long after; the band came to a halt in 89 and I think everybody splintered a little, as happens. People wanted to start families, spend more time doing other things. Being in a band can be very time absorbing. But I’ve been banging away ever since! I tried to stop when I was going through a hard time in the nineties, but it keeps drawing me back like a siren. I play in a band called, would you believe, King Salami and The Cumberland Three, which has a decent fanbase on the independent garage punk scene. I’m also in a 60’s all-male dance troupe called The Action Men; it’s easier to just watch the YouTube clips than explain. I’ve been in quite a few other band along the way, most recently Luxury Condo.
I record my own stuff under the name The Sayme, a lot of which I’ve put up on Soundcloud under the name Clark Commando (I’ve ended up with pseudonyms all over the place). In fact I pressed a 7” single in 2006 of a song I originally wrote for K-State, with new title & lyrics, called Ebabe. I was hoping to hawk it to Ebay to see if they’d use it in an ad, but that company are impenetrable! I thought of flogging some t-shirts with the ebabe logo on, but that seemed like too much hassle. And I could’ve gotten sued into poverty.
++ You were telling me you haven’t heard from the other band members since then. That’s a long time! Is there anything you’d like to say to them?
Hey ! How’s it going?! Let’s meet up…
I hope everyone’s doing well. We were good friends and a good band, and as you go on through life you realise just how much good fortune it takes to make those things work. I’m sure at least a couple of them are still in touch with each other.
++ And what would you say was your biggest highlight as part of K-State?
Musically, the Lies single sounded great to me, a real epic. I confess I’ve been naughty and put the alternate mix on YouTube with everything on it, that’s the one I love.
Live, the first time I saw the band play – they opened with Heatwave and I couldn’t believe how powerful, tight and sharp they were. Then the first time I played live I got a cheer when my name was mentioned. Typical show-off you see.
Socially we had some great laughs, especially with our drummer Robert, he’s such a character. Lots of growing up lads stuff that would make us wince now, but really funny at the time. But when we recorded Lies we went up to a studio in the middle of nowhere, literally a converted farmhouse. We stayed at a local pub and the landlord took the rare chance (for him) to stay up drinking with us. It was very messy.
I got into Super-8 film; mainly collecting though I tried to make films as well to use as backdrops for gigs. Wasn’t really good at it though.But I now have an unrivaled Super-8 collection, mainly because there’s no rivalry in it.
I took up scuba diving which I’d wanted to do since I was a kid. I love it but time and money make it a rare treat these days.
I’m a general wildlife enthusiast, though I don’t think of it as a hobby as such.
++ Thanks again Jim! Great to know a bit more about K-State. Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for tracking K-State down and being interested in the band!
K-State – Lies