Way back in August 2010 I was handed a photograph album and two cassette tapes by Simon Rix at his house in Homerton, Hackney. I digitalised the cassette tapes, scanned all the photographs in and promptly returned them safely to Simon. The material lent to me by Simon once belonged to Mark ‘Shark’ the guitarist of Soldiers Of Destruction. Shark sadly died and Simon who had been a good friend ended up with the photograph album and the cassette tapes.
Originally back in August 2010 I had sent feelers to various folk who might help me write up a small biography of Soldiers Of Destruction. Unfortunately I heard nothing back and throughout the time that passed I forgot all about the audio material on my hard drive. I had already uploaded Sharks collection of very personal photographs onto the KYPP photo archive in August 2010 but it has come to this date in 2012 for me to place up the audio that came alongside that artifact.
The audio is recorded from the audience but is of a very clear quality. I do not know who was responsible with recording it. I do not know the track listing (although both performances seem easily guessable) and also; I am not even sure that I have placed the correct audio onto the correct links. I digitalised both the cassette tapes so long ago that I have actually forgotten which recording was Hope and Anchor and which recording was Moonlight Club. I have basically guessed; hopefully correctly.
If not please let me know. This may be a long shot as the chances of anyone remembering small details on the specific nights that make up these two cassette tapes from three decades ago must be pretty slim.
Soldiers Of Destruction seemed to have passed under my radar at the time of the bands existence from 1982 so I know next to nothing about them. John mentioned the Petherton Road squat and Sgt Heresy (Sniper) in a comment on an old KYPP post but other than that there is a blank. There is also nothing on the internet that I could find to bolster this post.
If anyone would like to add anything relevant either about the history of Soldiers Of Destruction or the life of ‘Shark’ then please let me know and I will add the text to this post with of course a credit. I am aware of the Soldiers Of Destruction T shirt on the Peter And The Test Tube Babies ‘Pissed And Proud’ LP on No Future records.
It would be good to get Soldiers Of Destruction represented with a decent biography from someone who knew them, or even better, a decent biography from one of the surviving members who was in the band.
STOP PRESS – I HAVE NOW RECIEVED SOME TEXT FROM THREE FINE INDIVIDUALS THAT I CAN USE FOR THIS POST – ANY MORE TEXT IS WELCOMED OF COURSE – THANK YOU SO FAR TO BONGO, SIMON RIX AND MORAT FOR ALL THE INFORMATION SUPPLIED.
Billy ‘Bongo’ the original bass player for Soldiers Of Destruction
In 1981 I placed an advert in the NME for musicians to form a band. After eventually meeting Mark (Shark) we formed Soldiers Of Destruction. We wrote around seven songs together in a squat in Brixton. Carlos joined the band and then Morat joined us a little later on. Morat got recruited by Lynn, our manager, after a one man stage invasion at a Chelsea gig at the Marquee where he screamed the lyrics for ‘No Fun’. We started to write more material and practice together. Our first performance was downstairs at Carlos’s restaurant in Shepherds Bush. Morat had only been in the band for a little over a fortnight at this point.
(Collection of Morat) Bigger text HERE
The following week we somehow got a review of that debut gig in the weekly music paper Sounds. The review had a great picture of Morat as the centre of the piece. The journalist (or the paper) made the mistake of printing Mark’s name underneath the photograph. Morats big moment in the media was somewhat quashed by having the name of the guitarist underneath his picture! We had some interest from the management of the Anti Nowhere League, a band we shortly toured with. Soldiers Of Destruction even played the huge and very elegant Lyceum Ballroom with the UK Subs along with The Meteors and Peter And The Test Tube Babies. Fun times indeed. R.I.P Mark.
Shark and Simon Rix at Hyde Park
Soldiers… Mark Rennie, guitar, Morat, vocals, Paul Thwaites, bass and Carlos on drums are the line-up I remember. I think that Paul was not always the bass player but that’s the mob who I witnessed doing the gigs.
Mark had come down from Banffshire in the late seventies when he’d run away from local authority care. Already into the punk rock scene, he ended up around the King’s Road where he was introduced to both smack and the rich trendies who’d colonised it. As a reaction, he eschewed fashion and dressed in shite describing it as ‘tramp punk’, a look which caught on, Mark was one of the first “crusties”, though he’d curse me for saying that.
As the scene coalesced around the Islington squats, Skunx and the suchlike, the band met and started playing. They were straight down the line working class street punk, avoiding politics and viewing Crass as splitters of the movement. While singing the usual complaints of police oppression, celebrating the riots and going for the anti-society shock value of “cheated”, there was a morality there which was distinctly humanist.
Soldiers became managed by the owner of a local shop, Preposterous Presents on Upper St in Islington where Lynn worked. More gigs were arranged, some showcase performances at Gossips and a lot of support slots at places like the 100 Club, Klub Foot, and the Lyceum with the usual contenders at the time like GBH, Peter And The Test Tube Babies etc. The band got on famously with the Test Tubes Babies, hence the T Shirt’s appearance on their album cover.
Stan, the manager, arranged for badges, stickers and t shirts to be manufactured. These got around because the designs were quite popular, the design of the dolly hanging on a safety pin appeared around on many walls and jackets. The band produced some highly entertaining flyers which were handed around at gigs, highlighting certain songs or commenting on stuff that was happening. Not many were still doing that then, except Crass.
(Collection of Morat)
Attempts to make demos and maybe a record faltered though. Mark claimed he resisted it because “we weren’t good enough”, but compare with some of the drivel that came of some indie presses at the time, I think he was wrong. There may have been something of ‘to be an enigma’ in it.
Why did the band stop playing? Well, a couple of narks with each other and a bit of general un-togetherness. There were a lot of drugs, by that time prescriptions for pills and codeine in some cases, not all.
I’ve no idea what happened to Carlos. Morat, last I saw of him in this country, he had got into bikes and psychedelic Hells Angel stuff, but is now residing in LA and is a burlesque and rock photographer. Paul was stabbed to death by my side in a row over a squat in Morningside Estate, Hackney, in 1986. He was a good friend and I will forever both regret and appreciate that this happened because he was backing me up when my squat was under attack. A couple of inches either way it would have been both of us cold. Mark died of an HIV related illness in 1995. He never managed to throw off his monkey on his back, but he’d completed a degree in Classics as an adult learner, having had no education since childhood. When I asked him what he was going to do with it now he had letters after his name, he said “nothing”, and that’s what he did do. Classic.
(Collection of Morat)
I had been in two bands before joining Soldiers Of Destruction. They were both ‘covers bands’ and I never really took it seriously. The first band was The Legislators in 1978 and we only played one gig. I was too young to get in the clubs so I don’t know what they were doing letting me on stage!
(Collection of Morat)
The second band was Thin Red Line who had Razzle later of Hanoi Rocks on drums. We opened for the Damned at a show in 1979, but we only did a few other gigs and again the set was all cover versions.
Soldiers Of Destruction started sometime in 1981. I don’t think they’d been around very long before I joined, but they told me they’d tried out a bunch of different singers prior to me joining the band.
I was seen ‘singing’ along to Chelsea at a gig they were performing in London and a message got through to me that I was ‘wanted’ as a singer in Soldiers Of Destruction. I think I was probably the best of a bad bunch! I knew Shark vaguely after buying speed off him at the Christmas On Earth gig in Leeds. He had a big bag of blues down his trousers. Three for a pound!
I’d only been in the band a week or so when we played the first gig at the pizza place in Shepherds Bush and I have no idea how we got that review in Sounds. It was mildly annoying that they got my name wrong on the piece, but only because I kept getting called Mark, literally for years afterwards. Mark was Sharks real name. To be honest the review and being in the paper didn’t seem to mean that much to us, although I do remember Gene October being all butt hurt about it and saying something on stage when Chelsea played in Brixton the following week…!
Lynn who originally saw me onstage at the Chelsea gig and who got word to me about joining the band, worked down Upper Street in a shop called Preposterous Presents. It was just a joke shop in Islington that sold novelty crap. The owner was a nice enough bloke but he liked to think of himself as some sort of Malcolm McLaren type even though his shop wasn’t a hangout for punks at all. I suppose he reflected Malcolm by not putting any money into the band. He paid for a photographer to come down to rehearsals once, but I only ever saw a few of the pictures and we never had any line up shots done. To be fair though, the punk scene was falling apart by the time he got involved and it was difficult to get any gigs.
Soldiers Of Destruction only ever played one show outside London, which was on the Isle Of Wight with GBH and the Test Tubes. Rick (who later went on to become our drummer) travelled down to the Isle Of Wight show with a few mates just to see Soldiers Of Destruction and I remember being blown away by that.
I preferred any shows were the crowd got into it and some of the best that I can still remember were opening for GBH and The Exploited. I didn’t really care what size the gig was so long as people jumped about.
We did attempt some gigs up north somewhere but we got to the first venue and it had burned down the night before and then the second place had only sold one ticket because they forgot to advertise, so that got cancelled.
We played quite a bit at the Clarendon and the 100 Club though, some good gigs, some terrible, depending how drunk we were. We had quite a decent following sometimes and in hindsight probably should have played better for them. I think Wattie from The Exploited liked the band, we certainly hung out a lot and we’re still friends, but I can’t really ever understand what he’s talking about!
I was a big Crass fan, though more their attitude than the music. I was also into Conflict and Subhumans and Rudimentary Peni. I remember getting a lot of shit for it because you were only supposed to like Crass or The Exploited, not both, but I liked different elements of each bands and its fucking ridiculous having rules about which bands you can and can’t like.
At some point Bill, the original bassist and Shark had some sort of falling out. It was weird because he just sort of got replaced. I only really saw him at gigs and rehearsals and suddenly he wasn’t about any more. I didn’t even know exactly where he lived, I think it was a squat in Brixton. No one had a phone so there wasn’t much point in arguing about it. He was a far better bass player than Paul though.
Paul was a friend of Sharks, almost like this Sid Vicious character. They had both had a mutual interest in heroin. I think maybe that’s why Shark recruited him, because I always hated smack.
Soldiers Of Destruction never recorded anything in the studio, not least, as Shark once said, we weren’t really good enough. We got offered a lot of different contracts but turned them all down, which is probably why Carlos left. I must admit I liked the idea of never recording anything so you could only see us live, but it was a bit of a naïve viewpoint.
We’d shoot ourselves in the feet a lot!
I remember Carol Clerk from Melody Maker wanting an interview after our Lyceum show with the UK Subs and we told her to fuck off because she didn’t have any beer. It was a long time before she mentioned us again!
We had no management most of the time and didn’t even know about the Lyceum show until we saw the poster for it on a wall around the corner. From what I can tell, the promoter just used to stick us on the flyers knowing we’d probably turn up and play.
(Collection of Morat)
Shark and myself squatted together a lot and for a while our new drummer Rick squatted with us. Drugs were an everyday thing, mostly speed but pretty much anything else. I always steered clear of heroin because it killed so many people and it didn’t look like fun at all. Later on there was a lot of acid about.
I moved into Petherton Road after getting kicked out of a squat in Stoke Newington and being homeless for a while. It was a fucking nuthouse, lots of drugs and a lot of runaways, with only one responsible adult, this hippy called Jay who kept leaving weird love letters stuck to our doors. I’d be here all day if I started telling those stories, particularly with Sniper in the house setting things on fire. I liked a guy called Luke a lot and managed to keep him off smack for a while, but unfortunately it got him in the end. Many of the readers of KYPP would probably know Luke. Ditto Sniper who also died.
Soldiers Of Destruction never really split up, just kind of fizzled out after Paul was murdered in Hackney. That was the end of the band; we did not bother to replace him. It was almost impossible to get gigs and the whole scene had been ruined by skinhead and punk violence so I was drifting away towards the biker scene anyway. We were actually starting to get pretty good by then, but it all seemed a bit pointless. The band just hadn’t done much because Paul and Shark had got so far into drugs and I was losing interest in it.
I lost touch with Shark and only found out about his passing some years later. But it was fun most of the time and I like to think we at least kept our integrity. It’s weird that people are even interested in Soldiers Of Destruction twenty five to thirty years later…
I guess we weren’t that bad after all.
You may view the contents of Shark’s photograph album HERE