I fancied bringing this post forward to the present date from January 2008 just because I been playing the tracks a fair bit recently…!
From sleepy Devon, Amebix formed in the late 1970’s, influenced by Killing Joke, this band were one of the earliest to incorporate metal riffs within the punk genre. This debut record was released on Flux Of Pink Indians label ‘Spiderleg’, and recorded in Bristol and is absolutely essential. Amebix spent a fair amount of time in and around the Bristol scene of the early 1980’s, with fellow west country lads, Chaos UK and Disorder. Amebix tuned into the Black Sabbath style riffs even further for the next few records released and became very popular with the nu-metal crowd.
Photo below from the personal collection of Martin Flux, text below courtesy of deafsparrow.com. The couple of flyers are fresh from my scrap book!
Amebix, now recognized as one of the most influential ponderous bands ever, was born in England during the summer of 1978. Originally trolling their minds and coming up with the thought provoking moniker the Band With No Name, the group of dirty, broke punks recorded a trashy six-song demo and managed to sell a meager four copies of it. Opting for the name Amebix, the band released a track from the demo called “University Challenged” on the first edition of the obscure compilation series “Bullshit Detector”.
Life was chaotic from start to finish for Amebix, because they were really living the lifestyle that their lyrics and image portrayed. Guitar player Stig writes on the gatefold of the posthumous album of live and studio recordings “The Power Remains” that “none of us signed off the dole in all the years we were together.” Living in squats and other unstable accommodations, eating out of the garbage, scamming and hacking out a living by any means possible, it’s amazing that the band were able to amass equipment and practice on a somewhat regular enough basis to last for nine full years. However, through all of the strife and chaos, the band were astoundingly prolific, recording enough material for seven full-length albums, two 7″ records, two compilation tracks, and the previously mentioned Band With No Name demo in that period of time.
Prior to 1983, the band’s lineup changed quite a bit. In one humorous incident, shortly after the release of the “Bullshit Detector” compilation, the band added a fellow named Martin to their roster in the drummer role. One of the fringe benefits of Martin’s being in the band was that he invited the whole group to come live with him in a manor house in Dartmoor. Unfortunately, the owners of the house (Martin’s parents, who were away at the time) weren’t aware that Martin had extended this kind offer to the band. Upon returning home, the horrified parents booted Amebix into the street and sent Martin away to an institution to be “corrected.”
The Baron and Stig, the core of the band, added synthesizer player Norman to the mix and moved to Bristol in 1981. By 1983 they had acquired a stable drummer named Virus, who left the band Disorder to join Amebix. 1983 saw the release of the “Who’s the Enemy” EP, the “Winter” 7″, and the first LP “No Sanctuary” on Spiderleg Records. Norman appeared as the synth player on the two 7″ records, but was replaced by a fill-in player on the full-length album. After a brief tour, the band returned to England and in 1984 signed on a new synthesizer player named George. With George filling the synthesizer position for the remainder of the band’s existence, the band hit the road again for a short tour, and upon their return kicked Virus out of the drummer’s chair.
The final band lineup was secured in 1985 when drummer Spider joined the group. After disputes with Spiderleg, the band had gotten a deal with Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra’s label Alternative Tentacles just prior to the drummer Spider’s arrival on the scene. “Arise” hit the stores with the Alternative Tentacles imprint in 1985. Alternative Tentacles didn’t mesh with the band either, and they left the label after the release of “Arise”. In 1987, the masterpiece album “Monolith” was released just months prior to the breakup of the band. Amebix split up at the end of 1987.
Their Story Straight from The Baron
“I was there from the beginning to the end, along with my brother Stig, a period of adventure, fun, and extremes of hardship that spanned nearly ten years, that took us around most of Europe, made us good friends and firm enemies and produced a small number of records to leave behind us.
We started whilst I was at school in Devon. A fellow friend Andy Billy Jug played drums and Clive the bass, we practised in old village halls, never learning to tune the instruments and calling ourselves the BAND WITH NO NAME. Stig had been working in Jersey and returned with a guitar to start the ball rolling. We played every little hall in the Tauestock area, delighting in the thrown cans of beer and insults, 1978, and anyone could play in a band!
We released a 6-track tape recorded in my bedroom and sold 4 copies, all to friends from school. I had a part time job as a columnist in a local paper and wrote a review of any bands that played the area. This led to us giving a tape to CRASS when they played in Plymouth, one of the tracks University Challenged subsequently appearing on the first Bullshit Detector LP and launching us into the heady world of local stardom, albeit unearned.
The dark side of the band did not appear until we met Martin, a 6 foot 5 Sid Vicious look alike whose parents had a manor house on the edge of Dartmoor. They were away in London and had no idea that the family home had been overtaken by spiky undesirables. We played music all night and slept during the days, living a weird twilight existence that began to inform the lyrics and style of music. Martin became the new drummer, I played the bass and sang, and the band was called Amebix.
Martin was taken away to London upon his parents return, he suffered a breakdown that has had him diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and on heavy medication to this very day. I have seen him several times in the preceding years, a gentle soul in a giant¹s body who was punished for his sensitivity.
After Martin we acquired Norman as a synth player and moved en masse to Bristol in the hope of furthering ourselves, only to fall into abject poverty fairly quickly. The first squat we moved to had sold all the doors to buy glue. We lived with and close to Disorder at this time, and for another four years moved from one ruin to another, no sanitation, little electricity, and skip raids for food.
Friends were lost to heroin and drink, we excelled in drug abuse, a way to numb the hard life on the streets. Guitars were never sold, we borrowed Virus, Disorder’s drummer, who became a solid part of the band for the recording of our first two singles Who’s the Enemy, Winter, and the 12″ EP No Sanctuary. These were all recorded for Spiderleg Records, run by A Flux of Pink Indians. We met Jello Biafra during the recording of No Sanctuary at Southern Studios in London. He liked what we were doing, gave us a copy of Generic Flipper, and suggested we get in touch in the future.
Amebix became the first UK signing for Alternative Tentacles with our debut album Arise. I remember some reluctance to release the LP, mainly because of the style. There was simply no one else at that time playing heavy music with a punk attitude. We were steeped in Black Sabbath despite our musical illiteracy, waking up to Motorhead and bass power chord riffing. Gigs were amazing, people didn’t know quite what the fuck was going on, we were intense, heavy as hell, and loud!
It’s funny to look back and see the stock that was spawned from those tunes and a legacy that still carries on, a lot of it of a very dubious and nefarious nature, but to have been at the crucible was a privilege none of us will forget. We played hard, practiced hard, and lived the life”.