The first part of this feature saw how I began to dip my toe into the world of live music. But with the exception of Gotham, these gigs were all about ‘going for one band’. Come 2001, and I began to push the boundaries at bit further. But not much further. Outside of scene events, 2001 was a dead year for me. The only work I could get was mind-numbing temporary admin work (including that bloke that could make all of Australia sound boring), which left me turning up to several events in no state of mind to enjoy myself.
Despite that, there were a few stories to emerge from the years gigging adventures, concluding with a show that I still maintain is the best I would ever see.
February 2001 – Put You To Rest….Tonight You’ll Be My Guest
Small-name industrial bands traditionally had two methods of getting London gigs. They can play support on extended-length billings, or they can do a show ‘Upstairs at Slimelight’. Not exactly a marvel of soundsystem technology, but inexpensive and willing to play host just about any band that one of the DJs claim could pull some kind of crowd. And at the time, Suicide Commando were still a small band in UK terms. But they were just starting to make their mark.
I’d found my way up to the top floor, where I’d rarely ventured before, with little if any idea as to what to expect. And what I heard was a form of electronic body music harsher, louder and more scathing than anything I’d previous heard. I had no idea what any of the songs were called, but my blurred memories suggest that I spent the whole gig by the left front speaker, bouncing the full distance. This was my first experience of the style we’d latter dub aggrotech, terror EBM, hellelektro and all kinds of other tedious classifications. Five years later I was all but sick to death of it.
There was one amusing aside. The calls for an encore were inevitable, but having just seen Suicide Commando depart the stage, the band that returned turned out to be…..VNV Nation? Ronan and Mark duly gave out a stack of freebies (I got the ‘Standing’ CD single) and finally brought back Johan Van Roy and co for a few more songs. Energised by what I’d just seen, I staying the duration of the night and arrived back in Harold Wood, stopping off at my grandparents for a cup of tea before heading for home.
April 2001 – The Hand Lies Severed At The Side Of The Road
Whilst half the scene were off at Whitby over the Easter weekend, I decided that London offered a better spread of live action at spent the weekend gigging and clubbing. Having seen Fear Factory and the bands at Slimelight on the Saturday, I bumped into Wilson, an old uni mate of mine, and also an individual with a wonderfully skewed outlook on the ways of the world. His uni mates had all gone home for the holiday, so there were plenty of spare beds round his house. That was a stroke of luck, because Flag’s Elektrofest was taking place later that day, and whilst I had a ticket (bought after my previous good experience at Gotham), I no longer lived in London and on no account could I handle a there-and-back trip to and from Essex.
A few hours sleep was not enough to recharge the batteries however, and despite first sight of Icon of Coil and In Strict Confidence, I was a broken man and nearly decided to leave before the appearance of a previously-unknown (to me) headliner ‘Fad Gadget’. A group of 80s veterans that had spotted my poor state of mind and body made an impassioned plea that I should stay and watch no matter how bad I felt. It just so happens that I very susceptible to persuasion from die-hard fanatics of one band or another and hence pulled myself out of my chair and decided to see what all the fuss was about.
It took two songs to work it out. I didn’t expect the singer (Frank Tovey) to start assaulting a prosthetic hand with a portable power drill, spraying fake blood all over the place. And apparently, this was quite tame by his standards, as he later claimed ‘I’ve spilt enough real blood for you fuckers’. Further antics took us right through to ‘Lady Shave’, with the infamous shaving-foam-dance the highpoint in one of the most surreal bizarre performances I’d seen to date.
We had know way of knowing at the time, but Frank Tovey would die suddenly 12 months later. Neither could I have foretold that my friend Wilson would only be with us for few more years. Sometimes you have to treasure the memories of your adventures because you never know when those you enjoy them with will no longer be around.
November 2001 – Though These Wounds You Cannot See
The DJ Terminates Here story will follow at a later date, but I did also do some DJing back in my student years under the ‘DJ EOL’ name, though my sets weren’t actually all that adventurous. Even though I’d graduated 18 months previous, Imperial College RockSoc invited my back from time to time to do the token ‘industrial’ sets. They’d booked the band MaxDmyz to headline one of their sICk Night In mini-fests, and asked me to be their support DJ. This was in fact the second time they booked the pair of us, but back in June, petty student politics about who-ran-what-part-of-the venue intervened, and the event overran to the extent that both them and me only had time for 2 songs each.
Fast forward to November. The event had moved to a different part of the Union building and it was time for another go. What no-one knew was that I’d been on anti-depressants the last month or so, and was suffering having being given the wrong version of the tablet by the pharmacist. What’s more, I was still desperately trying to extract some kind of enjoyment from a uni that had proved time and time again that it was too conservative, too grounded and too sensible for the zanier life I really wanted to leave.
My own set was a five-song blast of sure-fire hits, and this time MaxDmyz took the stage with a full hour to play with. Back then, the group employed two vocalist and a performance artist who would inflict various tortures upon himself in full view of the watching public, occasionally helped by the bands keyboard player (who never really had all that much keyboard to play). The usually conservative IC audience quickly got into the spirit of things, with various mosh pits, impromptu stage invasions and a writhing pile of bodies piling up in the middle of the floor. The dull, inspired nature of both my year and my time at IC were firmly receiving the middle finger.
The evenings chaotic nature went into crazy overdrive when lead singer Pete committed his then-traditional set closing move of smashing up a TV set (the old CRT variety) – usually it was an action confined to stage, but on this occasion the broken box found it’s way into the crowd and promptly got kicked around the place. When the house lights came on, blood was visible on the dancefloor. Luckily on this occasion, it wasn’t anything a first aid kit couldn’t solve, but it was an anarchic move that was some distance from what the IC Union employees usually expected to deal with.
MaxDmyz would soon drop the performance, backing-tracked, TV-smashing side of their show and became a solid four-piece metal band, returning all focus to their music. I myself had played my last ever student era set, and my last-but-one until 2008. Sure enough, come August 2011, I once again found myself as MaxDmyz’s support DJ. Both them and me had grown quite substantially in the interim. As for Imperial College, after this I hardly ever saw the place again.
December 2001 – Mein Herz Brennt!
Around the time of the 2-song atrocity at IC Union in June, I’d also been due to see Rammstein at the Astoria. I’d actually fallen for their music as far back as 1999, but they weren’t touring at the time. They weren’t a huge band at the time, but had still managed to sell-out the 2000-capacity London Astoria. Only no-one was letting us in. It seems that a mistranslated rider had led to their pyrotechnics being crippled, and the band pulled the plug rather than rework their show. It wouldn’t had been so bad had the same thing not happened with NIN a year ago, and both at times in my life where I could really had done with the cathartic release that seeing one of your favourite bands live for the first time provides.
Unlike NIN, who took 5 years to return, Rammstein promptly rebooked at the end of the year, shifting to the Brixton Academy, who’s high ceiling and solid construction was just the job for a sextet of Teutonic fire-metallers. Only none of us knew at the time what the fuss was about. Why did the fireworks matter so much after all? Why couldn’t they just play the songs? These boys had a lot of explaining to do.
Having made it to the gig, unemployed, still under the influence of ADs with with about £3 in my pocket, I really, really needed one mega-gig to reignite my stagnant life. It seemed like everyone else did as well. The mere sight of skinny keyboard player Flake appearing on stage and turning a light on provoked an uncharacteristically wild reaction from the audience, accelerated further as the opening chords of ‘Mein Herz Brennt’ were played. We could hear the singing, but where was the singer?
The answer? Riding down from the ceiling on a motorised disc, that’s where! Before long, the Academy was alight in a musical and literal sense and everyone present finally realised why they were turned away from the Astoria six months previously. The full tale of the gig has been told elsewhere, from the head-mounted flamethrowers, the Till vs Flake spanking/dildo ritual and the finale of crowd-sailing in a rubber dingy for their cover of ‘Stripped’.
But for me, it was more than just a great gig. It was my life’s most important turning point, as I received a call the next day, offering me a job I’d previously been turned down for (the first choice candidate had rejected it). It was the start of a continuous period of employment that continues to this day, giving me a solid platform on which to base my exploits elsewhere. I’d rediscovered my resolve to see things through and make a better life for myself. And whenever I think back to the moment I knew things were going to get better, I’ll think back to the Rammstein boys finally appearing on stage in a shower of sparks and leaving in a blaze of glory.
Plus these snapshots…..
For a year I otherwise have less-than-happy memories of, quite a good bunch of live action here!
- First live experience of Project Pitchfork and Star Industry
- Watching Mesh in a pair of boots that in all honesty, didn’t fit properly (damn you, New Rocks)
- VNV Nation doing a cameo for Funker Vogt at the Underworld during ‘Tragic Hero’.
- The Nine and SPOCK co-headlining, a match-up that could only be defined as a high-scoring draw.
- Diary of Dreams playing the Garage with Assemblage 23 in support. A23 were actually the bigger band in London at the time, resulting in some rather unwarranted flak aimed the headliner online. Tom Shear himself had to intervene. The gig itself went down just fine.
- Suicide Commando falling flat at Black Celebration 2001, only a few months after aceing their Slimelight set.
- VNV Nation’s backing track being set to random at the Camden Palace, resulting in the only time I’d hear an Advance+Follow track live.