ireallylovemusic vs age of chance
as readers of my online gubbins will know i have always had a soft spot for all things related to this leeds-based band. but, despite knowing the gang personally in leeds all those years ago, this is the first time i have decided to actually interview anyone from the band. naturally there is a lot to cover, but i reckon its time we got some of this stuff down officially.
so without further ado, please let me introduce geoff taylor, age of chance bass/guitarist/vocalist extraordinaire.
hello geoff, let’s go back, way back ….
Let me loosen my clothing!
how did such 4 differing characters, steven-e, jan-p, neil-h and yourself become one ?
Well, in 1982 I was in my last year of Art School in Leeds. For a while, I’d been trying to find people with a view to forming a band, without much luck. I’d played around a bit with a few friends, but nothing with any promise was happening.
Then one day I went into Scheerer’s (no longer there) in the Merrion Centre and on the wall was an ad that caught my eye. It didn’t mention music or bands or influences at all, you know, the usual stuff, but instead was a dark, xeroxed pic of people dancing, with a few suitably enigmatic phrases over the top…I actually still have it somewhere.
Whatever, it was intriguing enough, so I pocketed the ad, and eventually rang the number. This turned out to be Steve Elvidge’s,. He and Neil (Howson) had placed the ad So the three of us eventually met up in a café near Leeds market.
We all recognised one another from around the clubs in Leeds, which was particularly vibrant around that time. They were doing their own club-night, called The Upzone, once a week at a place called Belinda’s (which later became Back 2 Basics, then Rockshots, and God knows what else since). I’d been there once or twice, but had no idea it would be them that I’d be hooking up with to get a band going.
What I only found out later, was that, the advert I’d responded to was actually placed well over a year previously…and at that time, they’d received no takers, not one, and duly forgotten about it. I think Neil had even got a job in London and left Leeds for a year or so.
Then came my phonecall, more than a year later.
Now I think of it, I recall Steve sounding a little surprised/confused on the phone…
Anyway, things proceeded from there.
how did the band form, what were the original ideas behind the band, how did you come about your original sound?
I don’t recall us approaching things with any particular manifesto, but I think we were guided more by what we didn’t want. Between us, we covered most bases, taste-wise; funk, soul, punk, and it’s aftermath; Experimental music of varying types, very early electro/hip hop…The Message had just come out, I remember..
When the dust had settled after Punk, there was a slew of UK bands whose modus operandi was to avoid any footsteps previously trodden, musically speaking. I’m thinking particularly here of acts such as The Fire engines, Gang of 4, The Pop Group, and even The Fall at that time. New ways to do stuff with guitars was a big deal. This was very much the spirit of that era…. The Post-Punk era. Alongside this was a host of electronic noise-makers emerging…people like Fad Gadget, Cabaret Voltaire, Soft cell, DAF.
There was a massive explosion in the club-scene at that time also, quite apart from the live-band thing. A lot great stuff was being played in clubs then, lots of New York Mutant Disco, electronica, post-punk,guitar stuff, funk, Northern Soul, all played alongside one another…which was a revelation to me. I’d constantly be going to the DJ booth at the Warehouse in Leeds asking what particular tracks were.
Clubland then was a place to get a musical education, definitely…it certainly expanded my own tastes.
Anyways, one club we all had in common at that time was the aforementioned Leeds Warehouse, which, one way or another, was the social hub of pretty much every musical tendency there was in Leeds that time, depending on which night you chose to go. There was also the Phonographique but that became more relevant to us in the mid-80’s when Thursday nights became the home of The Downbeat.
The policy was funk, soul, rare groove (as it eventually became known) and hip hop. That became quite a landmark club.
How did Jan-P get involved?
I knew Jan from art college. Myself, Neil and Steve had begun writing stuff using a drum-machine for a few months. This proved unsatisfactory, and we asked Jan to come and try some drumming. I say ‘Drumming’…we had a snare-drum, a high-hat with a tambourine over it, and a 19” tom-tom. The latter had been pinched from somewhere or other. Whatever the case, it worked, and Jan became AoC’s stand-up drummer…a good couple of years before the Jesus & Mary Chain came along, I hasten to add.
Our debut gig was at Leeds Warehouse, March 23rd 1983. A friend of ours ran a night there called ‘Music for the Masses’, and we played a 20 minute set. The place was packed. I have polaroids of that night somewhere.
the name is obviously a reference to mark stewarts rants-n-raves – who and why came up with this idea?
We all liked The Pop Group, Even now, I marvel at their 1st album, and at how it could only have happened at that time.
‘The Age of Chance’ was copped from a track on their 1st album called ‘Don’t Call Me Pain’. As I recall, it was Steve’s idea to use it as a band name. I remember him mentioning it to me during a drunken night out at Sheffield’s Leadmill, another favourite haunt of that period.
then from gigs in leeds to self releasing 2 singles with self-made sleeves – give us an indication as to how these came about?
We just reached a point, like many bands, where releasing a single was obviously the next thing to do, and we felt ready to do it. Motorcity became the candidate, which I have hazy recollections of us writing, in Steve’s flat in Springfield Mount (behind the Faversham pub) sitting in armchairs.. the 2-bar electric fire, you know the kind of thing (laughs). Great days!
Lyrically, the song was a comment on the Goth/Grebo scene, especially big in Leeds…which I guess is a whole other topic. But that’s where the ‘Hey, Leather-for-Brains’ etc came from.
did you get the cash from rich relatives to fund these, or, were other factors involved in getting the age of chance groove onto the streets ?
I can’t recall how much Motorcity cost us to record, but it was done in a studio in Heckmonwyke, of all places, at the home-studio of George Hamilton 4th’s (Old School County singer) guitar player. As I recall, we’d gone there because Soft Cell had recorded the B-side of ‘Tainted Love’ there. We did Motorcity and Everlasting Yeah!
After the recording, Motorcity cost £645 to press up for 1000 copies, artwork etc etc (including the original sleeve inserts). We all chipped in for the overall cost…no rich parents, sugar daddies, shadow-figures of any sort were involved in the process I’m afraid. Just crap jobs and social-security.
About 6 months later, we recorded the second single Bible of the Beats in pretty much the same way, but using a cheap studio in Sheffield, called Vibrasound. That record was released in January of 1986.
in regards to the cover art, obviously the early singles were raw and basic and very much a direct descendant to the punk diy ethic, but how did the pink star/eye logo come into being?
I did the Motorcity and Bible of the Beats sleeves myself. The imagery was put together via long afternoons spent xeroxing images in the Art Library. We liked Lenny Bruce, the 50’s/60’s comedian, so a few of his quotes made it onto the cover of Motorcity.
The star/eye logo was a product of trial and error. Designers Republic eventually morphed that into something a bit slicker, and adapted it to whatever design-context it needed to be placed within. It worked really well.
We also formed our own label ‘Riot Bible’ to release the first singles, and got a deal with Red Rhino distribution.. This came about as a result of myself and Neil, brainstorming a load of ideas one night.
did you make an active choice not to use band images on the sleeves (something that remained so until the mecca era), especially as the band were very image conscious, this was surely a strange decision?
Not at all. These were early days remember…mid-1985 in the case of Motorcity.
The idea of putting a pic of the band on the cover of a record was unthinkable! That actually says nothing at all about the band or the record….except maybe Look How Naff This Band is.
In fact, I still think this is pretty true,..apart from maybe exceptional circumstances….major, iconic-type artists like Bowie or Dylan.
Other than that, I’ve always thought that a band photo on any single/album-sleeve is highly naff. That said, major labels will demand that this be done, as we were to find out in time.
the early singles got the band noticed, written about, peel attention and the subsequent peel sessions. did you ever stop and think, ‘whoaaa – whats going on here!’, or did it all feel completely natural and expected?
The Peel attention dated from a day or two after we sent him a copy of Motorcity.
Oddly enough, Dave Gedge (wedding present), came round to my flat to interview us for his fledgling fanzine, ‘Blood From a Stone’., I think it was called. We were talking away, and I had the Peel Show on in the background, At some point Peel spun motorcity, talked it up, the room fell silent, and the pathway to glory was laid out before us.
It was the best possible outcome for a band self-releasing their first record.
Later in that year, we recorded our second self-financed single bible of the beats. This also did pretty well, getting us more radio-play and press attention.
How did ‘the twilight world of sonic disco’ come about?
We wanted to put the Motorcity and Bible of the Beats on a 12”, and this is what we did. Initial pressings were in translucent yellow vinyl, then some pink., The record-colour matched the sleeve colour.
Plus, there was a 12” insert with the record, which we’d been inspired to do after buying the first LL Cool J album ‘Radio’, which had a similar insert…done in a very retro, early 60’s style, almost middle-of-the–road, which seemed intriguingly at odds with the nature of the record within, ie, really hard-sounding hip hop. This was in early ’86.
then c86 ! how did a band from leeds get noticed by nme and asked to feature on a compilation?
Well, we’d had a lot of NME/Sounds/Melody Maker coverage by the time C86 was suggested, so it didn’t feel like such a big deal, to tell you the truth.
Plus, the NME hosted the C86 live-shows at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. This was our debut London appearance.
We’d intentionally not played London up to that point, and we certainly didn’t want to tread the Rock circuit of the time down there. That ICA gig was truly great though. Fantastic sound,…. that bootlegs I’ve heard since don’t do any kind of justice to!
Regarding the c86 album, how did you decide which track to hand over?
The track we eventually did decide on was ‘From Now On, This Will be Your God’. And what a track that was! We’d recorded it for a John Peel Session that year, (the same session that included ‘Kiss’) and it sounded fantastic…superior to the C86 one to be honest.
We recorded the C86 version at Vibrasound, in Sheffield, where we’d done ‘Bible of the Beats’ and the session was not a success. The engineer was a bit of a f*ckwit, (name withheld!) and we left frazzled and less than satisfied. That’s what you hear on the C86 compilation. It still knocks the hell out of most of the tracks on there though, haha…..
what are your thoughts on the whole c86 movement – after all, from an outsiders viewpoint there seemed to be little connection between yourselves and the rest of the tapes lineup?
It wasn’t a movement at all..it was just a collection of bands who happened to be around at that time, and had had some music-press coverage, as far as I could personally see.
Y’know, the mid-80’s, Indie-wise, was kind of directionless. If there was any common thread with a lot of acts, it was trying to sound like something from the 60’s…like Primal Scream did at that time. The whole paisley-shirt and winkle-pickers thing was pretty big at the time.
That ‘Jangly guitar’ routine…the ‘Postcard’ label in Scotland, whose whole raison d’etre was post-John Cale Velvet Underground..
A lot of acts who wanted to be the Buzzcocks or the Ramones, or The Birthday Party. Very few bands deviated from this approach I think.
You pretty much knew what they were going to sound like before they started playing. The whole ‘Copying your Heroes’ kind of approach….which we hated.
By this point, most of the acts on the C86 album were bands whose philosophy we weren’t exactly in line with. Saying that, one band we loved on there was Big Flame from Manchester. A trio of hyperactive leftwing musical insurgents whose club in Manchester, The Wilde Club (as in Oscar Wilde) we played at several times. I recall that if your hair was considered too long, ie, if it was over your ears to any degree, they’d give you a free haircut at the door of the club…otherwise you weren’t coming in. Great band.
its 20 years since that time, did c86 help you out at all do you think?
The actual gig at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London was definitely the most fantastic gig we’d played up until that point…really good, despite a mid-set power-cut….which apparently some of the audience mistook for a really tight song-ending (laughs).
So yes, to answer your question, it did help us at the time in as much as it provided us with our first London show. Plus, the album C86 collection itself was guaranteed a certain amount of press, given that it was an NME thing.
are you proud to have been part of that whole scene, or, was the tag actually more of a hindrance in the longterm?
Again, we never considered ourselves part of any scene….I’m not sure that the public at large did either, to be honest We were just an Independent band around at that same time as the others.
What ‘Scene’ there was, was something we increasingly reacted against… the innate conservatism of the whole thing, as we saw it. I mean, for some years following C86, the term itself was used in a derogatory way in the press as far as I can recall.
did the compilation have any lasting impact on your life?
Well, the ICA was our London debut, so in that respect maybe it did; But the ICA was special enough to get us up the M1 for the first time as I’ve said. Also, for whatever reason, people are still talking about it 20 years on, so who am I to say!
in interviews at the time you were referencing z’ev and motown, a direct link between the lure of noise and the passion for pop music , did this duality ever cause internal conflict within the band when creating new tracks?
The ‘Lure of Noise and the Passion for Pop’ I guess was what defined us as a band. We liked stuff from the mainstream… we loved Prince and stuff like Jam & Lewis for instance…but we liked left-field stuff too…Sonic Youth, Swans, stuff like that, We always had an ear for something new, something fresh, from wherever that might arise.
To answer your question though, no, this never caused any disagreements whatsoever within the band.
then, from the self-funded releases to FON records, probably one of the coolest northern based record labels (pre-warp days), releasing the genre-demolition track that was your cover version of prince’s kiss – how did this label-band collaboration come about?
We’d come to the attention of a journalist ( I won’t mention his name) who was involved one way or another with FON in Sheffield. The studio was owned by a band called Chakk, (kind of electro-avant-funkateers), who’d bought the place and kitted it out with money from their record deal with MCA. It was a considerable step up from the places we’d recorded the first two singles in.
what made you deconstruct such a perfect record in such a brutal manner?
The initial idea came about because The Fire Engines had done a cover of Heaven 17’s ‘Fascist Groove Thing’ on a John Peel session, which we loved for a couple of reasons.
One was the idea of a spikey raw-as-hell guitar band covering a slick piece of white electro-funk. The other was that the track was actually in the UK top 10 at the time of the session’s broadcast. Now that we loved. It just felt like a fresh thing to do.
At first we were going to do Prince’s 1999, but had heard that Big Audio Dynamite we doing it in their live shows, so we chose Kiss.
i seem to recall you mentioning that you heard prince actually heard your version, did i dream you telling me this?
When we eventually signed to Virgin, we met a guy called Jeff Ayeroff, (now Vice-Chairman/Creative Director at Warners) from Virgin’s newly formed American company. He’d been involved with Prince as some kind of creative consultant, and he told us that Prince had heard our rendition and approved.
fon records exploited the fun of packaging to the max – multiple remixes/diff colour vinyl/diff colour sleeves/eps/maxi ep double vinyl packs – did things get out of hand or were you loving it like some alternative to ztt?
I recall that, around the time of ‘Kiss’ being out, (late ’86) we’d gone away to Europe on a tour. When we got back the ‘Beneath the Pavement the Dancefloor’ EP had appeared, with a black & white sleeve. We had no say in that decision at all as I remember…the sleeve would’ve looked a little less confusing if we had. It had ‘Salute the Sound’ written on the sleeve as prominently as the actual title. I mean, even when we paid for our record-sleeves out of our own pockets, we never considered a black & white one.
Some of the packaging made things a little confusing at that time I think…even for us in the band!
We eventually headed into difficulties, to put it politely, with that label, which was sad because it could’ve been great. The studio, the Designers Republic handling the artwork… they could’ve gone on to great things in the long term. I have to say, Kiss was the biggest-selling record we did, but we didn’t see much money from it.
how many variations of the kiss package are there?
God knows. There are a few websites that document them pretty thoroughly I think. You can see a collection of Age of Chance/Designers Republic sleeves at www.myspace.com/ageofchance.
and then there was the visual image of the band, much joked about since, but quite fresh and dynamic at the time. how did you come about the whole cycle chic look?
In early ’86 we’d done a photo-session in London, featuring Jan upfront and myself, Neil and Steve behind, all in black. In these photos she was wearing a black & white kind of hybrid t-shirt/cycle-top. That was the start of that.
It wasn’t entirely original though. I recall seeing ABC years before, when they were still a club act, and Mark White the guitarist was wearing full cycling-gear.
He looked a little more elegant in it than we ever did. (laughs).
for me this was very important. living in leeds in the mid-80’s was not the colourful place euro-centric fashion centre the city is now, the goth cloud hung heavy over the look and feel of the town, yet there you are on a cold winters night hanging outside megacity four (hairdressers near leeds university) all done up in the dayglo gear looking like something out of vogue magazine. you guys must have been frozen, but you looked great/different.
Frozen? Nah, we wore vests mate, vests.….
Yeah, we used to suffer for our art, that’s for sure! As a band, we were definitely reacting against the Goth thing, consciously or not, which was at it’s peak around the mid-80’s, seemingly with Leeds as it’s spiritual UK home
Also, with hindsight, we were going against the prevailing musical grain of the time,to the extent that it gave us a kind of siege mentality…definitely a stronger group identity at any rate. It was satisfying to piss certain people off I have to say.
To us, the Goth scene was the sound of everything getting back to normal again after Punk. Leather jackets and long hair. Red winkle-pickers…shudder! I think the whole thing, then as now, is a weekend past-time for frustrated, confused and self-loathing office-staff. I blame the parents.
i recall there being a strong group identity being projected whenever i read articles/interviews, a very northern attitude. you seemed to avoid the whole london media game – intentional or just that you were too broke to move to london?
No, we definitely liked the idea of not playing there…at least until we could do so on our own terms, which of course we did, with the C86 ICA gig. We weren’t consciously trying to be Northern though….it’s just that we all were/are from Up North.
did you ever discuss moving to london in order to progress further, or was this always a no-go topic?
We were up in London more and more as things progressed, but we all still lived in Leeds. I don’t recall any of us expressing a desire to make the London side of things permanent. It was good to get away from the place after a certain amount of time. We had a great time whilst we were there though, don’t get me wrong.
was the whole fon era always regarded as just a stepping stone to getting onto a major label ?
That’s how it turned out I guess, but it wasn’t part of any Grand Plan. It would’ve been nice to put out further material with them, but events subsequent to Kiss being released ruled this option out.
It should be remembered that back then, jumping off onto a major label was the only option a band had once it reached a certain level indie-wise. This was before so-called Mini-Majors like Food records. In hindsight, that would’ve been the best option for a band like us.
how did you find yourselves getting interest from virgin?
We didn’t yet have a manager, and needed to get one. Major labels don’t talk to bands…well, so we were told. We’d become friendly with That Petrol Emotion, who were managed by a team called Cracks 90. They’d been with them since the Undertones days.
Damian from the band suggested we meet with them, we did, and ended up being managed by them. They also handled Thomas Dolby and Prefab Sprout, amongst others
didn’t they release kiss over in america ?
All our records had to that point had made it over to the US and Canada, and we frequently received fan-mail from there. Virgin’s American arm was just being set up, and we actually signed to Virgin US before we signed to Virgin UK, believe it or not
tell us about the KISSPOWER remix – this track quite literally changed my outlook on how music could sound, as it turned out to be one of the first uk made cut-n-paste tracks, that was played on radio (peel of course), but never released officially.
how did you decide which tracks to drop into the mix ?
That was the sound of us just wanting to get some of our ideas down and have fun doing it…probably our first opportunity to cut loose in a studio.
This was at the end of the ‘Beneath the Pavement…’ sessions at FON studios in Sheffield, with Rob Gordon engineering. We simply assembled a collection of material of all sorts that we liked and got to work…we had a little studio-time left at the end of those sessions..
We beat JAMMS 'All You Need is Love' and Coldcut's 'Say Kids, What Time Is It?' to the cutting-room by at least 6 months or so.
were you annoyed the track never got released – or did know this would happen with the high profile samples?
i suspect you know it was featured (briefly) in strictly kevs aural documentary on the cut-n-paste genre ?
It really should have gotten a release. I recall the top brass at Virgin citing our use of MC5/Springsteen samples, saying ‘The MC5 would sue you because they’re broke, and Springsteen would sue because he’s rich’.
As a theory, you could see their point, but in the light of what was soon to happen in the music industry, it was complete bollocks. Hence around 500 white-labels were pressed, and that was it. This is how in the dark record companies find themselves at certain times…this was all new to them. They didn’t know what was good or what was bad with this kind of thing. They just didn’t have a clue, period.
so now you are top of the indie charts, front cover of sounds, media love, the world is your oyster. you sign to virgin and start about the creation of your debut album (we’re not including crush collision repackaged ep as an album here of course!), the glorious ‘1000 years of trouble’.
Yes, life at this point, dear reader, was good! (laughs)…
access to greater technology redefined the age of chance sound, was this something you were concerned about?
Like any band, we welcomed the prospect of better studios and a bigger budget.
We’d gone as far as we could beats-wise with Jan banging the hell out of a 19” tom-tom and a giant snare, and wondered how we could enlarge on this.
did you ever have issues that your fans would reject the more technology based noise?
I don’t remember us ever discussing it, to be honest. We were never one of those bands that didn’t want to present anything other than a trademark, surefire sound …AKA ‘Giving the kids what they want’. That whole ‘Our fans wouldn’t like it’ idea was not something that occurred to us. Of course, there’s a whole downside to this too….
the new age of chance sound was assisted by 2 extra members to the gang – howard gray (co-producer), and dj powercut, aka noel watson.
tell us how you found these guys, and why?
We’d told Virgin that we wanted to co-produce. There’s not a band out there who signs to a major and are allowed to produce themselves from the outset. I’ve certainly never heard of one at any rate.
So, one afternoon, we interviewed prospective candidates at Virgin HQ…one every half-hour or so…Looking back, it was bit like Pop Idol (laughs).
Anyway, earlier that very week, we’d been for a drink in a bar in the West-end somewhere, and noticed a guy walk in with a copy of Kiss under his arm. He stood at the bar with a large bloke with a lot of ginger hair.
During a break in the interview proceedings I took a toilet break and who do I bump into on the stairs, but Large Ginger-Bloke, (laughs)…
This turned out to be Howard Gray. So we ‘Interviewed’
him…actually an informal chat, as you’d expect. He mentioned that he’d just bought a Sequential 440 drum-machine, liked the same kind of stuff we did, said stuff that we liked……and in the end, he got the job.
DJ Powercut, AKA Noel Watson, was an acquaintance of Howard’s. At that time he was a hip hop DJ in London, hosting a club called Delerium at the Astoria.
i have always wondered if dj powercut was the first example of a indie/noise band dropping a proper dj into their live setup/records. people have always told me that the blue aeroplanes were doing it prior to aoc. were you aware of any other bands doing this type of experiment ?
I have to confess total ignorance of the Blue Aeroplanes. I recall them being around in the 80’s, and had them down as some kind of indie art-rock band, but never heard a record by ‘em. If they were using turntables, it’s news to me. I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning this at the time I have to say
the first single to come out of these sessions, ‘whos afraid of the big bad noise’ – surely one of the most aggressive collisions of guitar noise/samples and chants all wrapped up in the eyecatching designers republic sleeve art ever to hit the racks ?
Yeah, it turned out pretty good that one didn’t it? One of my more vivid memories of recording that track, was us running over our timeslot at Virgin’s Townhouse studios, and having to barricade the doors at about nine in the morning to stop the next act getting in.
what was the reaction from virgin when they heard this in-yer-face mash of hiphop loops and guttural noise?
It was reasonably positive I think. It was the natural progression from Kiss , sonically speaking. At that point, Virgin were simply letting us get on with things, as you might expect with any new band on the label…but I’m pretty sure that they didn’t know what to make of us.
did they actually expect the track to become a proper hit record?
Not sure about that….but we certainly didn’t see why not. Kiss had sold a lot of copies, without any kind of campaign behind it.
i think the ‘Sonic war sculpture' mix still sounds very extreme and unforgiving.what were your ideas behind this type of remix – i mean you couldn’t dance to it surely !
I love that mix! There are some great little moments in there, Led Zeppelin fighting it out with Gary Glitter and Barry White…totally uncompromising. Hard on the ears, but in the good sense! Fantastic track. The engineer for that session ended up in a Harley Street doctor’s surgery with an ear-problem.
But no, I don’t recall it being a floor-filler as such (laughs).
how did you end up being remixed by public enemy for the "take it" single?
Naturally we were excited at the prospect, not least because we were the first white rock band they’d done this kind of thing with, and I think we felt kind of honoured. Mind you, the resulting mixes were pretty forgettable…but the association was a good one!
i expected a PE styled noise, but instead, the minimal beats were anything like PE records. were you happy with the results ?
Yeah, we were expecting sound-collages and dissonance too, understandably. I think that they simply didn’t know what to do with the track, and tried to shoe-horn it into sounding like a conventional rap tune. Which wasn’t, of course, what it was.
and who/what/why were the quotes by ‘john f. power’ all about !?
He was our Spiritual Advisor-cum-Life Coach shall we say… Our reasoning was, if the MC5 had one, we should too. It just follows. (laughs).
the follow up single, ‘don’t get mad, get even’ showed that you had been listening to house music, but yet still you maintained a certain underground edge, was this an intentional attempt at getting chart action?
What a lot of people don’t seem to grasp about that era, ie, the pre-Acid House UK club scene, is that, for a time, hip hop and early house tunes used to be played side-by-side in clubs. They weren’t yet mutually exclusive cultures. And both were at that time, the cutting-edge.
So yes, we listened to house music, particularly the likes of Todd Terry. His stuff had that ruff sound to it, very DIY.
The dance press in recent years talk about acid house like it was the invention of club culture, but I remember the couple of years prior to 1988 as being really exciting and vibrant. What Acid House did, was essentially provide a soundtrack for ecstasy. The drug, not the spiritual state.
As a band, we were in the capital a lot, and used to go to places like the Boilerhouse at Brixton Fridge, Raw at the YMCA in Tottenham Court Road…and a great occasional club at Brixton academy called Westworld.
God those parties were fantastic!
especially with the very club friendly nyc remixes ?
Stylistically, those mixes were very underground, for that time.. Did very well in the states, particularly in New York.
again the sleeve art jumped out of from the display shelves, how much input did you have over the tdr sleeves by this stage ? they were very striking, and have since been recognised as great examples of design/sleeve art.
For the Kiss sleeve, we’d given the designers republic pretty much everything in terms of visuals and random phrases, and asked them to assemble them as they saw fit. We also handed them a copy of a Go-Go sampler that was around at the time called ‘Paint the Whitehouse Black’ as a general guide to how we’d like to see the finished product.
As time went on, it was a little harder for us to visit tDR at their studio, so we were less hands-on as regards input.
At the same time, this was the very outset of their professional career as a design team, and they were only beginning to find their feet style-wise.
the ‘don’t get mad’ u.s.mixes were later picked up by channel 4 and used for its american football tv show .. yet still it failed to chart. an oversight on an opportunity to get more exposure – or another display of the aoc ethic ?
Not quite sure what you mean, but it was just another way to get the stuff heard.
If memory serves, the football coverage came out when the record had come and gone, release-wise. That the track didn’t chart could’ve been down to the not enough people liking it enough to buy it, the record company not doing it’s job properly, or both.
It’s hard to say really. We were pretty much always kept in the dark as to how many records were actually selling at that point.
then we got the album, in all its glory. 36 and a bit minutes of pure crush collision. nearly 20 years on, what are your thoughts, memories of the album, the process of its creation, the ideas, the over all concept?
I have great memories of that time generally. I mean, this was the honeymoon period!!!
As a band, we’d worked the songs up over a period of months in a rehearsal room in Leeds. Compared to what you hear on the record, these were very no-frills versions. Guitar/bass/samples kind of thing.
Further down the line, Howard came and sat in on a session to get the general vibe, and then we all set about demo-ing the tracks in an inexpensive studio, also in Leeds.
I recall that one work-in-progress that myself and Neil were particularly fond of got binned. Style-wise, it was a collision between the Glitterband and Sonic Youth with Tony Iommi guesting on guitar. Which is probably why it got binned (laughs).
After this, we packed our little collection of equipment into a van and headed for London.
We were booked to record at Trident Studios, just off Wardour Street, which was fantastic in itself. Quite a small, discreet place, in the heart of SoHo (St. Anne’s Court, for those interested), that had a great history.
It’s where Bowie recorded Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, and T. Rex did Electric Warrior, amongst many other big 70’s names. So it was good enough for us.
Apart from ourselves and Howard Gray, we had Mark ‘Spike’ Stent in the engineer’s seat, and Steve Osbourne, (more recently known for his work with Paul Oakenfold amongst other things) was the tape-op/tea-boy. Both went onto to great things it must be said!
We spent a fair amount of time trying out different ideas sound-wise for each track. Around this time we’d bought three Akai S900 samplers, and were coming up with material in that area…sampling stuff from films, TV, sound libraries, mangling our own stuff etc.
We were recording at Trident, (or Trident One to be specific) for 6 weeks, and then 6 weeks at Trident 2 in Victoria (near Westminster Abbey) for mixing.
Thing was though, we ran out of time at Trident One, so were still recording during the Trident 2 mixing period. In fact, we over-ran generally, which began to cause tensions along the way, as I remember, and budgeting started to become an issue. Of course, all of this was new to us.
do you think the album has yet to receive its dues ? after all, several other bands lifted ideas, both sonic and visually, and realigned them to the mainstream (eg, pwei/emf/jesus jones) and yet aoc themselves have yet to get any such critical recognition.
Ultimately, what it boils down to is that the bands you mention, particularly EMF & Jesus Jones, (who both had UK and Stateside No 1’s) knew how to write a catchy, accessible 3 minute pop-song., in a way that we didn’t.
Plus, by the time that those bands were in a position to get out there with those songs, the music-biz, and the general public were more ready for it.
The very idea of sampling for instance, of having someone else’s vocal/guitar/chorus whatever, in your own recording, was, by the turn of the 90’s or so, pretty well established.
do you think the album could have been any better? and if so, how ?
It could’ve been a little longer maybe. Also, we could’ve made the
Glitterband-Sonic Youth-Tony Iommi track work (laughs).
But generally speaking, we put everything we had at that point into that debut album.
where did the ideas for the carefully constructed sample loops come from – eg, the delicate parts that are put together to form the hook in ‘take it’?
The ‘Why doncha take it’ parts are from ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ from David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’ album, The guitar-chord is from Tommy Gun by The Clash, The bit just prior to that is a synth sample from Van Halen's 'Why can't This be Love?' The spoken-word ‘Take It’ phrases are what most people mistook to be Ronald Reagan’s voice. In fact they’re from a spoken word album that once, belonged to Steve’s dad, called ‘Cashing Objections’.
The album was basically a recorded lecture on sales-techniques. We sampled from that on numerous occasions, notably to introduce each of the four tracks we did on our first John Peel radio session.
if such an album were to be made today would that type of thing be possible?
What, using the samples you mean? Yeah, it could be done of course, but at considerable cost .
how did you feel when you realised that jam & lewis had lifted the sample loop from ‘this is crush collision’ to form the basis of janet jacksons’ ‘rhythm nation’ track ? did you ever think about approaching relevant people to get credit, or, were you aware that seeing as the loop was from sly stone that it was fair game ?
Well, that loop we initially lifted from Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘Thankyou Falletin me be Mice Elf Again’, so we couldn’t get too indignant about it! (laughs).
However, what they put in the JJ track was ours, ie, the Sly Stone loop after we’d messed messed around with it, put a beat behind it, given it a certain attitude, and to some small degree, made it our own. That was what ended up on the JJ album I think if anyone has a right to be pissed off, it’s Sly Stone.
the live shows for the album were great, you had an excellent combination using dj powercut to cut up the noise, and the band out front giving it rock star poses. were the gigs fun ? or was the technology involved too flaky to really let loose?
I have to say, there was an element of that…the not being able to cut loose thing. But that’s working with sequencers for you I guess…you’re not going to be jamming much! Not that we ever did mind. At least that was the case back then. Nowadays it’d be less restricting possibly.
The gigs as you say, were great fun though. We had Nightmares on Wax (the original duo) doing a few support slots. I remember the Manchester Hacienda as a high-point. We played there just before the Madchester era kicked off…end of ’87 I think.
There may have been the odd glitch technology-wise, but looking back there weren’t many serious problems in the live context.
i managed to see you do the big london show @ the town and country, was this the last proper gig prior to steves departure ?
No. The last gig we played with Steve as vocalist was actually in 1988; A benefit (can’t recall what for) at Leeds Riley Smith Hall, again with Nightmares on Wax supporting.
It was badly organised, and had a slightly chaotic feel to it, lousy PA etc. I don’t have great memories of it.
I recall that DJ Powercut/Noel Watson had to hire a car to get to the gig from London, (which was to come out of the event’s budget) and he turned up in a BMW…given that this was a benefit, that didn’t go down too well with the main organiser, who by the end was pissed senseless on free beer anyway.
So yes, this turned out to be the last ever Age of Chance live show. We never did any with Steve’s replacement.
Much later, around the time of Slow Motion Riot, myself, Jan And Neil played at some raves, but that was a different kinda thing.
what are you prepared to tell us about steves departure – how did he tell the group?
No big drama to report. He disappeared for a few weeks as I recall, and let us know of his decision by getting Ben Mathews (ex-Sisters of Mercy guitarist) to ring us. I think he’d been staying at his place in London. There was no direct contact.
That was pretty much that. He’d obviously grown disenchanted with it all. It was never discussed or anything.
did it come as a shock?
Not so sure it did, no. There had been issues with his voice I recall….by this I mean keeping it in shape so he could do his stuff… that kind of thing.
The main beef at the time was that we’d just laid down all the groundwork for the Mecca album, including all his vocals, the songs were all written and recorded…so he could’ve chosen a better time.
how long was it before you decided to continue with a very different type of front person, did you ever actually contemplate calling it quits, or was that never an option ?
No, we never considered stopping at all. Our contract with Virgin was just put into suspension, pending us getting a new vocalist.
Now if there was one thing that the remaining 3 of us always had in spades, it was idealism. We saw this as a chance to bring a…well, more able singer into the proceedings. I don’t mean that to sound overly negative. Steve was a natural frontman live, and speaking for myself, an incredible lyricist. He wrote some inspired stuff, he really did. But given that he jumped ship, we had to re-think…and quickly.
how did you go about getting in charlie then? was the choice unanimous?
Initially we advertised in the Melody Maker, in time honoured fashion. We didn’t use our name, but it was along the lines of ‘Major Label band seeks…’ etc etc. The result was several binbags full of cassettes of really bad or just plain inappropriate singers. That stage was depressing!
All this time, myself, Jan and Neil were still rehearsing/writing most days…mainly instrumental material, as you might imagine. But some good stuff it must be said. Jan had begun doing some vocals I think. Charlie came to our attention as a singer for some local band. We'd pretty much exhausted all other avenues of enquiry by that point, and decided to go with him as steve's replacement.
is it true that you had mecca just about recorded and that steve’s vocals had to be wiped off and charlies added ?
Yes, that’s true. Our main problem was that we needed someone who could come in and re-do Steve’s already recorded vocals.
if steve had stayed do you think that the band would have had a greater chance and drafting in such a different style singer actually sealed the fate of the band there and then?
Over the years. I’ve seen a few people in the press comment upon how we messed-up after 1000 Years, or how we compromised too much to the label, blah blah.
The plain truth is, The second album of any band is notoriously fraught with problems anyway, and our singer had left…. not many bands ever survive the departure of the lead vocalist.
It’s a pretty insurmountable problem…. However I’m not so sure that Steve staying would’ve sealed our place in the Hall of Fame either! But between myself, Jan and Neil, we gave it our best shot.
the mecca album was a very different take on the age of chance sound. much more mainstream, streamlined etc. what was the concepts and ideas behind the album?
In a nutshell, we ended up going right up our own backsides with it. We’d been recording and re-recording the same 10 songs for over 2 years.
After a while, those songs that you thought were great when you first wrote ‘em start to sound not-so-good any more. They get hammered into the ground. All bands do that at some point I think.
We’d gone overbudget quite dramatically on 1000 Years of Trouble, and so after some discussions with our management team, we chose Clif Brigden (who’d been a protégé of Thomas Dolby) to co-produce Mecca with us, on the basis that we’d save money, and he wasn’t an industry figure etc etc..
This proved to be a bad choice. He didn’t really ‘get’ the AoC thing at all, didn’t really like it looking back, and we ended up having to fight for every little decision, sound-wise. It was just one contributing factor to what was becoming a tortuous process.
and with hindsight, were you happy with the final results?
Good God, no! There was DOOM written right the way through that record.. I don’t even like looking at it (laughs). Even the sleeve was shit. I remember that causing really big trouble with the powers-that-be at Virgin HQ. We were read the riot act over that one.
That said, ‘Snowblind’ is a pretty good track, with an amazing lyric. I always liked that one.
what would you have done differently had you been given the chance ?
Probably carried on as a trio. With hindsight, that was the obvious thing to do…but then we had committed ourselves financially to finishing an already recorded album. That’s why we needed another singer.
But yeah, I often think that we should’ve gone down that particular avenue, with Jan on vocals. We could’ve kept to our own vision that way. But it wasn’t considered an option at the time.
We just made the best of a bad situation looking back on it. The core 3 of us
were always nothing if not tenacious. to be honest though, I don't count
mecca as an age of chance album. Like most people out there, I discount
anything after '1000 years of trouble' with the notable exception of 'timeless',
which Charlie had nothing to do with anyway. That and 'Slow Motion Riot'. That
was a killer track.
…and yet this period in the bands life produced some fantastic remixes which were fashioned by the band as opposed to external names – especially the timeless and heavens gate 12” remixes that went down well with the club scene.
Yeah, we did an awful lot of instrumentals one way or another during that period!
Timeless in particular turned out really well. We did that for the same reasons we did Kisspower…we were fed up with the recording process we’d just been through and wanted to cut loose in the studio a bit. Plus, we hated how the original song ‘Times Up’ had turned out and wanted to do something good with it.
how did these tracks come about, as they both bear little relation to their original sources?
Yeah…there’s a reason for that (laughs). We were just remixing a few album tracks and having a little fun with ‘em.
With ‘Time’s Up’ for instance, Virgin had gotten a guy in to remix the track for radio-play. We weren’t consulted about this, but the general vibe was ‘We’ve tried things your way, now this is how we’re going to proceed’. Can’t recall his name but he’d had a few UK Top 20 hits with that lightweight radio-pop sound, if you know what I mean.
We were so un-thrilled with the result that we recorded Timeless, and called it a remix of the track, even though it wasn’t anything of the sort. Same thing happened to ‘Higher than Heaven’, except we managed to get Freddy (‘Corporation of One’) Bastone onboard to remix. That single ended up selling pretty well. The ‘Gates of Heaven’ remixes were the ones that we did ourselves.
both tracks seems to be forged from the burgeoning techno scene with pink floyd/bladerunner samples etc, proving that you seemed to have moved on from hip hop to house in your influences, were you heavily into the club scene at this time ?
We always were. It’s just that were were always inspired by new sounds…we never sat down and discussed any of it. Maybe we should’ve I dunno. As I said earlier, Hip Hop and House were not mutually exclusive areas at that time. We liked both. I still do, personally.
i seem to recall having several conversations re ‘higher than heaven’ denying that you had all had a ‘road to damascus’ experience and that you weren’t a christian pop band.
did you know that this would happen considering the cover artwork for the single?
Er…not sure what you’re inferring here…that we’d all Seen the Light? Believe me, that never happened! We were just using Jesus-chic to sell records (laughs).
then we came onto the final stage of the bands life .. the last 2 self-released 12” records, ‘slow motion riot’, and ‘she is filled with secrets’
jan-p on vocals. these records were almost like a complete circle, back to the diy route.
Y'know, I've never really thought of it that way, but I guess you're right. The 2 self-released singles thing kind of... bookends our career. Spooky! (laughs)
did you get a sense that the bands chance had been and gone and that the world had missed out on something special?
I think we were all mentally fried with the whole thing by that point to be honest.
We were ‘back to the DIY route’ as you put it because that was our only option.
We still had some money to play with at that point.
are there any tracks/mixes from any of the bands output, lying around on dat/tape that you would love to get out there for the fans? we believe that we have just about everything, but the lure of new versions is forever not too far away !
Yeah, there are different versions of various things, and works in progress I guess. Not sure how interesting they’d sound to people though! Obviously, the most interesting and fertile period is the one that led to 1000 Years of Trouble.
We didn’t end up with much in the way of out-takes or anything from back then, plus, Virgin Records own the tapes, so they won’t be seeing the light of day in a hurry.
in 2006 nearly 20 years after all that chaos, there are 130 members to the aoc discussion group! something that amazes me, some complete gig bootlegs have surfaced, as well as a rather healthy demand to hear the kisspower/timeless/heavens gate remixes.
Well, it’s nice that people still have an interest in our back-catalogue, or that people might be discovering it afresh.
does it concern you the fact that there is nothing available officially from the aoc back catalogue?
Not concern exactly, I’m sure that’ll happen at some point.
do you have any hang-ups with regards to the whole major label experience, or, was it just one of those things the fact that the band didn’t get the success that you were hoping for?
After our experience with Virgin, I watched the same scenario play itself out (that of ‘Indie Band gets Indie-Big, then signs to Major and gets swallowed by the machinery) again and again, often with acts who sold far more records than we ever did. There’s an initial burst of expensive-looking activity, then very little.
When you’re an Independent band, the energy-level as regards writing, making, and playing music, is very high. You get used to thinking of something, then putting it into practice there and then As soon as you sign to a Major, all that energy, it seemed to me even at the time, gets absorbed. Everything immediately halts. You’re now one of many, MANY acts, and you wait in line for everything. Plus, the first thing most bands do upon signing to a big label is get into debt. Seems to me that this is how the company wants it…it immediately puts the band into a position with less power. We were no exception- When we exited Virgin, we took a 6-figure debt with us. That wasn’t so nice.
in retrospect – did you enjoy being in age of chance ?
Loved it, of course. It was a decade of my life….in fact, almost to the month.
We made our mark one way or another, and between myself, Jan and Neil, we took things as far as we could.
what aspect of the bands career gives you the greatest buzz ?
The time around the FON releases up the the first album was the best…we hooked up with some great people, and were busting with ideas, and idealism it must be said, at a time when so much exciting music was in it’s infancy…Hip Hop, the early Chicago House stuff, sample-culture. A fantastic time.
and now to the future – what are your plans – are you still making music, and if you are, what are the chances that folks out there will get to hear the results ?
I’m making music under the name of Sonic Avenger, which is in a similar area to Age of Chance…Guitars, Beats, Noize! (laughs). So watch this space, and expect Great Things…
I’m also working with a Japanese DJ/Producer/Scenester called Miss Kubelik, writing and producing. Her stuff draws from Ambient, Techno, movie soundtracks, Folktronica, Post-Rock…a lot of influences, with hip hop as the backbone. It’s a nice contrast to the Sonic Avenger stuff. I’m hoping that I can get the 2 to meet in the middle occasionally. See what happens.
anyways, i reckon that’s more than enough to go on for now ! thanks for your time sir,
My pleasure. That was like….therapy…but cheaper.Thanks!
link : official age of chance site
link : excellent fansite
link : age of chance myspace