Conversation from beyond the grave with:
ONE MILLION FUZZTONE GUITARS.
Spirit guide: Frank Worrall.
Special photographic effects: Bryn- Jones.
SET in an immovable rut during the winter of 1979, two-thirds of the Nottingham enigmas One Million Fuzz Tone Guitars decided that there was only one way out of the depression.
Robert, blunt and as blatant as ever, immediately slammed his hands down on the table, Crewe , always the more sensitive and inhibited, emulated the action slowly.
A strange shiver went through their two bodies as the seance took shape.
The shivers turned to violent shock as a full-blooded voice began to speak slowly and confidently.
Then it was over. Crewe and Robert rose slowly and went their separate ways for a couple of days.
When they returned to each other they were refreshed and full of inspired ideas: the voice had set them on an unpredictable, even volatile path.
Three years later Crewe and Robert are sat around another table — with your humble scribe and their latest recruit, Chris Cellupica.
Although the scene isn’t as dramatic, there is an immediate shock in store – for me.
“It was definitely Jim Morrison talking’ Robert tells me, his face not flinching in the slightest, “And as a result of that conversation we came up with ‘Rock Section’.”
I gasp, taken aback, not at the situation he has just been describing ~ but because I’ve just discovered that one of my favourite songs by The Colours Out Of Time, isn’t actually by The Colours Out Of Time after all.
“It’s true,” Robert tells me with a look that defies the slightest contradiction. “We got ‘Rock Section’ lyrically and musically from that seance.”
( Editorial note: if this story sounds familiar, Anti Pasti made an identical claim in our feature two weeks ago). (2004 – Re-edit note: Oliver Hoon who played on the original Skin Patrol version of Rock Section later joined Anti Pasti).
PERHAPS at this point I should introduce you more generally to the two bands mentioned. Both have had records out on the Monsters In Orbit label; both possess that indefinable talent to create stirring music.
But whereas The Colour’s progress has already been fairly well-mapped out (check Lynden Barber’s piece last year), the Fuzz-Tones are still largely unknown.
And that shouldn’t be the case. Through their preposterous use of stylophones as a major instrument, the Fuzz-Tones are now coming up with some of the most sinister music to be found – anywhere.
“Initially, the idea was to go out and make as much noise as possible, and annoy as many people as possible.”
Strong words from Robert, who refuses resolutely to discuss what he’s been doing for the five years previous to the Fuzz-Tones.
‘Look that’s irrelevant,” he shouts. “The main point is that we emerged seriously last year because every other group we listened to was coming up with the most atrocious garbage imaginable.”
“We were a positive counter to the white funk thing,” Crewe chips in. “We went out and did a demo which was the exact opposite of that. Surprising thing was people actually liked it.”
I was one of those people. I found the way in which the Fuzz-Tones fudged crazy influences together in dazzling, albeit dirge-like sounds irresistible.
“Although we ignore all trends, we do keep on listening to those things which are closest to our hearts,” Chris admits. “Right through punk to today I don’t think any of us have ever stopped listening to people like the Velvet Underground and the Doors.”
But although these are admirable influences, the Fuzz-Tones don’t actually rip them off. No, they have pushed forward with a laid-back, sleazy style of their own – which allows for certain other styles to seep through now and again.
Crewe tells me, “We try desperately to avoid getting into a rut. We’re constantly changing our music.”
The Fuzz-Tones first single, “Heaven” was not as extreme as the band would have liked, “In retrospect, it was too…. commercial,” Crewe claims. “Now our music is much more out on a limb.
“I’D AGREE with that. The Fuzz-Tones build their music from an incorrigible foundation of frustration, viciousness and dark humour.
“I get frustrated and bitter when I see rubbish selling in vast numbers,” says chief lyricist Robert.
“It annoys and saddens me that the public is taken in by hype. At least our music is a credible alternative to all that nonsense.”
But will people necessarily see or understand the subtle emotion and humour within your music? “If they tried, yes,”affirms.
“But the reason that they don’t see things like subtle humour is because they don’t listen to the words in the first place.””They’re programmed to be looking out for a dance beat before lyrical content,” he adds.
I’m not at all sure that the general public is as unwilling as Chris believes but I would like the Fuzz-Tones to be seen and heard on a wider scale. So would they.
“Look,” Chris remonstrates, “There’s only two bands in Nottingham that matter — us and Pinski Zoo, they’re already widely known as ‘jazz innovators’, but in comparison to us they’re as dated as the hills.”
“So surely it’s about time that people paid us a bit more attention if they’re talking about innovation. Do you get my drift?”
Indeed I do.
MELODY MAKER, June 12, 1982 — Page 13.
Text © Frank Worrall / Melody Maker.
Photograph © Bryn Jones.
THE MANCHESTER FLASH
1,000,000 FUZZ TONE GUITARS
THE DIALS, a local band, performed unaccompanied do-wop songs. A good idea. But despite some brave singing from the trio, this type of thing has to be perfect and, sadly, it was largely a mess.
Next the sultry tones of Carmel, who sang some soulful stuff reminiscent of Laura Nyro, to the accompaniment of a double bass. This girl’s got class and a voice to match, but the bass-man could have done with some of the leading lady’s talent.
From Nottingham, One Million Fuzz Tone Guitars, sometimes known as Skin Patrol who have taken on their zany new name solely for a soon-to-be-released single And for the first few numbers there wasn’t a guitar to be seen. Frontman Rob Courtney sang and Andrew Dickinson played the stylophone. It actually worked rather well, possibly because of their arrogant confidence. On the night, I thought they were the best.
Finally The Howdy Boys. Frankly I found their decadent wasted image a bore – the only one alive and kicking was the sax player. Musically, they played proficiently but again only the sax playing shone.