Amebix – Spiderleg Records – 1982

I fancied bringing this post forward to the present date from January 2008 just because I been playing the tracks a fair bit recently…!

Carnage / Curfew

Belief / No Gods No Masters

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 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”.

  1. Chris
    January 26, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    An absolutely GLORIOUS record (if anyone has a spare copy please email me as i stupidly sold mine years ago) ! many , many thanks for putting this up, though i fear my computer speakers won’t be capable of playing it at the volume it deserves.

    BTW: does anyone know the origin of the wonderfully claustrophobic sounding intro to ‘no gods no masters’?

  2. davecress
    April 24, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    yes a classic i do have it on vinyl but wont part with it sentimental value as with all my vinyl

  3. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    February 5, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Just had a blast of this on the turntable…ummm great stuff.
    Amebix revival anyone?

  4. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    February 5, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Was it Amebix who nicked the hook from ‘Spacer’ by Sheila B Devotion (a fabulous ‘Nard and Nile production) for their contribution to the first Bullshit Detector??

  5. Jay Vee
    Jay Vee
    February 5, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Amebix are on tour in U.S.A. at this moment in time, if that’s the revival you’re looking for Penguin…

    Rob Miller (another ‘Baron’) and his brother Stig on the front line, with a drummer borrowed from some Metal band that is more than up to the job on the back line… massive following they have in the States, which is why Rob felt confident about reforming and touring there first, despite many times saying that he would never reform Amebix ever again!

    Glad he did though, even though he didn’t need to with his successful Sword forging business he managed from nothing after losing everything after a motorcycle accident… good on him for getting Amebix back on the scene, European tour planned sometime in April when they return from the States, but only Belfast and Holland confirmed as yet, I’m led to believe…

  6. Jay Vee
    Jay Vee
    February 5, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Graham, the squealing cat at the beginning of that track by Amebix on Bullshit Detector One might be Sheila B. Devotion stepping on it in the recording studio, despite her ‘good-girl’ image?

    Sheila started her musical career in 1962, after being noticed by Claude Carrère, a French music producer and songwriter. This collaboration would last actively for over 20 years. It ended definitely in 1995 with a highly publicized lawsuit and won the royalties battle against her former producer.
    Sheila had numerous and well-remembered hits in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, playing the well-behaved young girl image. The first one was “L’école est finie” (School is over), in 1962 (1 million copies).

  7. chris
    February 5, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Just out of interest, does anyone know what exactly the intro to ‘curfew’ is all about? I’ve always loved it but never really been able to suss it out.

  8. back2front
    February 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Amebix European dates are currently postphoned. There’s a bit of kerfuffle over the asking price for gigs/upcoming DVDs etc Go to Belfast Records and Profane Existence websites for the latest

  9. Jay Vee
    Jay Vee
    February 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Hi Chris, with regards to the intro on the Amebix song ‘Curfew’, it always evokes an atmosphere of fear and aprehension, and conjures an image of an infantry man given the task of checking a building that is suspected to contain some kind of threat, to which the infantry man meets his fear at the climax of the intro – curfews subsequently often put in place in a warzone such as that imagery that is conjured, that’s my offering of an interpretation anyway…

    Yeah back2front; definitely postponed for European Tour, however they have been confirmed to play ‘HELLFEST’ open air festival in France in June this year, maybe they just need to reflect on the U.S. tour a bit more before rushing in and burning themselves out for a full blown European tour…?

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