Crawling Chaos History: Myths passing as Truth, revealed
The Crawling Chaos started in Ashington, Northumberland in the UK by two young men, soon to be Doomage Khult and Strangely Perfect who met at the local school, sharing an interest in astronomy, music, gloomy science and horror fantasy novels and science itself.
Doomage acquired a BSc Physics Hons (First Class) whereas Strangely, in one of his habitual depressions jacked his university physics course in to work and get money.
Skills in music and electronics coupled with the punk explosion in 1976 led them commit to the creation of a proper band together. Early 78 saw them setting up studio equipment and developing techniques, writing compositions but without a clear idea of personnel requirements. A reasonably clear idea of styles and attitudes was in place.
At this time, other school acquaintances were keen but not really good enough to be partners. The name was chosen around then because it sounded good, it was a partial homage to H P Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos he’d created and also Strangely had not managed to read it all the way through even after several attempts because he was usually too drunk to finish it. It also stood out from band names of the time and sounded dangerous and gloomy. This was the start of THE CRAWLING CHAOS although the definite article was usually dropped. The Crawling Chaos was supposed to be an actual creature of nightmares.
Mutual friends led them to end up dossing on the floor of Eddie Fenn after a drunken night at a Lurkers gig in Whitley Bay. The Attic Studios were quickly established in Fatso’s flat which included knocking a huge great hole through from one room to the next. The mutual friend (Jim from Durrim), appears as the title but not the subject of the song “Wee Jimmy”.
A recording and live performance band followed with a core of Errol Dynamic on (Keith’s) drums until they were nicked, Doomage Khult on guitar, Strangely Perfect on keyboards and vocals. Engineering, mixage and production were handled by Strangely and Doomage. Two bass players joined and left in rapid succession, Steve Smooth and Dave Cook.
The first gig was at the Bridge Hotel in Newcastle, near the Keep, on the first floor inside the bay window. (The picture was taken by Strangely in 2002). At this time the band were gigging at least twice a week in places such as The Gosforth Hotel upstairs with Arthur 2-Stroke’s mob, The Noise Toys, or Spectro Art Workshop down Pilgrim Street, Newcastle.
The “sound” changed during this period due to the demands of gigging from the original avant-garde free-flowing jams to include more tightly worked new wave pieces. The “sets” very often were created on an ad-hoc basis dependant on the audience and how the band were feeling at the time. Numbers would be shouted out and with a few quick nods they’d be played. Sometime it’d be “JAM” and off we’d go.
Many of the coterie of helpers and followers of Crawling Chaos appeared at this time. In human relations, Crawling Chaos and their ilk used the pitmatic test. Survivors of the ordeal ended up as mates. Everyone was free to do their own thing. The only penalty would be ridicule if you did something daft.
Following an advert in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle for a bass player, with the tag line “we are sick of straight jerks jacking it in”, Holly joined the ensemble.
He and some school friends from Seaton Deleval, Paul Shields, Guzzle and Fen (Michael Fenwick) had a band called Nothin’ performing Holly’s music and co-written lyrics from Shieldsy.
The Nothin’ connection would continue, some tunes becoming part of The Crawling Chaos’s repertoire and the bands (and other connections) performing on the same bills.
Strangely Perfect played grass hockey for a team called Northumbria (now re-named!). One co-player was the newsreader from the local commercial TV station, Tyne-Tees TV (soon to start the influential show, “The Tube”). His name was Rod Griffith. It turns out that he is source for the Chris Donald character, Roger Melly, the man on the telly. He was a lovely man. Truly.
Crawling Chaos had organised a show at the Rex Hotel in Whitley Bay. Strangely asked Rod, semi-tongue-in-cheek (as I never expected a positive response – SP), if he’d like to buy some tickets for himself and his TV chums…… He took a wodge (!), and bizarrely, about a dozen straight-looking TV types turned up to the gig, where they witnessed the normal show of the time which included Strangely stripping to his long-johns, Doomage alternately sneering at and showing off to everyone and Errol sweating a lot.
After the show, one particular guy said he really liked the performance, to phone his mate and say that he, Tony Bulley, thought we were good and that his mate, Tony Wilson should give us a listen as he’d just started a record company called Factory Records. Strangely remembered Bulley was the director on the infamous Sex Pistols/Grundy live interview (I nearly always read the credits! reference), and also knew of Wilson from his earlier time in Wales watching Wilson’s TV show in the Granada TV area showing artists like Iggy Pop, Joy Division and The Sex Pistols.
So I (SP) phoned Wilson up, and So It Goes, as Tony Wilson’s excellent show on TV was called at the time…
Demos were sent to Factory. Twat Hannett took an immediate dislike to The Crawling Chaos possibly because he had no control over the band apart from exerting negative forces from afar. An alternative view from Doomage is that he actually didn’t believe it was possible for us to get “Sex Machine” as good as it was and is… He exploded in the end.
Tony Wilson was impressed and decided that they’d want to see us so he said if we could get to Leigh for a open-air festival he’d organised, (he DID say all this, that’s what he was like), he’d put us on. So we did. (these previous links contain interesting info on the business practices of Factory/Tony that have also emerged in other areas – we should have guessed then… The comments by Chris Miller are especially salient). (see here also – added on 31/10/2007)
We filled a coach from Target with our fans and went to Leigh. I think we were on just before OMD. This was the day that Billy Connolly drank a beer can of Doomage piss (he’d used it as a toilet) on the coach journey, remarking that the beer tasted warm… The day was a typical absolutely freezing bank holiday, audience minimal but reaction good despite the conditions. The subsequent headline in a UK music paper was “Angst in East Lancs Wasteland” which was about right considering the situation on a disused dark grey pit heap (this is no criticism of the real organisers or the area; it’s just the way it was).
Tony’s blagging did get us on though as there were a heap of bands that didn’t pass Mrs Miller’s selection process! I’ve posted an article here about a visit to Tony Wilson’s house in Glossop.
After much delay due to Arty-Farty Wilson and the other creative media types having control over the sleeve design the single “Sex Machine” was released. The control was such that a highly expensive metal embossing master was needed to pump out the cardboard. This was reputed to be £700 alone at 1980 prices. The first run sold out in less than a fortnight pushing the record close to the top of the indie chart despite the embossing being flattened out when the records were stacked up at the warehouse.
They were so cash-strapped that another batch couldn’t be made until they got some Joy Division money in. So the £700 master was a complete and utter waste and the fast sales and heightened demand could not be capitalised on so all momentum was lost. Apparently, the design was the second one they had in mind (this was FAC 27, even though the catalogue numbers are out of sequence). Who knows how much the first one would’ve cost (presumably they chose the cheap one). It’s ironic (or maybe just karma), that Factory was brought down by the album cover cost for a New Order thing in 1992.
At least Tony Wilson plugged away to get it out though. The hidden dark machinations of Rob Gretton maybe started about then. It was a Tony Wilson riposte to one of his previous wheedlings that produced the “joke” at the …
(In case the ‘joke is dead, use this link from the Wayback Machine) (added 29/11/11: iancurtis.org seems to be folding so this is a screenshot of the webpage)
During the long delay before record release, the distrust towards Factory started. Among the demos, was a politically motivated tune, penned by Strangely Perfect called “Mary Whitehouse” about the whiter than white whinger of the time by that name. This was written in 1977 while Strangely was working in a fibreglass factory in Welshpool, Powys.
The key guitar hook of the tune was identical to the Joy Division (who virtually co-habited with Factory at the time) guitar in the single “She’s Lost Control”. CC said JD had pinched it although now, since examining the time-lines, it looks like a case of parallel evolution and that Jeff and me were completely mistaken with the source of our ire.
Further mistrust followed when Factory “lost” some of the masters for the follow up LP; then the LP had to be re-mixed in an expensive Newcastle studio adding to costs which were taken into account when splitting the ‘profits’ as was normal Factory practice; then it was postponed; then it was finally put out on the graveyard Disque du Crepescule (twilight or semi-darkness in French) label (aka Factory Benelux).
They mucked this up as well, changing the carefully crafted anagram-title of “Gas Chair Clown” to “The Gas Chair”.
Wacky cover though! Needless to say, the cash generated was piss-poor and all momentum to the band was lost due to the back room machinations of key Factory personnel.
Errol Dynamic left to live in Manchester during this period but before “Gas Chair Clown” was released. Another contact with a local band called “Danger in Paradise” led to a mutual agreement to start Foetus Products in the basement of (Anth/Baldy) Chester‘s flat in Tynemouth.
Rough booths were constructed and when finances permitted, another room was anechoic-ally kitted out with loads of headache inducing thixofix glue keeping it together, lagged and double glazed drum/vocals booth and wired in mike and headphone circuits.
The studio was up to four-track tape by now at 15″ per second.with 2 track master at 30″ per second.
This period saw the recording of lots of material which would appear later on “Gas Chair Clown”, “Homunculus Equinox”, “The Big C” and “The Last Pose” LPs as well as “The Blonde Etheopian”(sic) EP featuring lots of tracks by the old “Nothin'” ensemble and performed mainly by those members.
The “Gas Chair Clown” was released on the Factory Benelux offshoot. It contained material recorded at the Pits and at the Attic. The wacky cover was by The Belgian artist, Denyse Willem, who has done loads of stuff in a similar vein. I like it.
When some royalties came in, all the members of Foetus Products (and a few liggers) had a celebration meal cooked on Chester’s manky old gas stove. It was roast chicken. It was “The First Foetus Feast”! And jolly nice it was too.
Only the EP and “Homunculus Equinox” were released by Foetus Products during “The Pits” occupation. “The Last Pose” was produced mainly by Chester as a vehicle for some of his tunes from DIP days. It was released after Crawling Chaos had left the premises, dividing equipment and severing Chester from any Foetus Products business.
Later, Chester managed to acquire some original master tapes – which is the output re-issued on CD by the LTM label. He did not contact me regarding the CD production or royalties for these issues or anything since 1985, save to complain later to me about mentioning these facts on these and other web pages. Further on-line releases are his doings, mainly sourced from “The Last Pose”; The door to The Pits never opens when I’ve knocked though the lights are on; I am told to phone when I’m in the area but am turned down just before arriving; The email, in this digitally connected age, “doesn’t work”; What am I to think? What would you think?
Following the general decline in relations and then fall-out with Chester, premises were obtained in a wing of Bebside Hall, Northumberland. (To be strictly accurate, although the address was 1 Bebside Hall, it was actually part of the outbuildings for the Old Hall, long demolished). A certain local notoriety had obviously evolved when a postcard arrived from local Newcastle band Freak Electric (Lorna and Ian, along with Moyly and George) addressed simply to “The Noisy House, Bebside“. (n.b. Later, Bebside Hall was demolished and is now a block of apartments. The ruins feature on the cover of Spookhouse.)
During this period all the later output was recorded and the last vinyl material published for public consumption. This was “The Big C” and “Waqqaz” (although various other compilations were published by the remaining and alternate members this was the last vinyl output). “The Big C” contained material recorded at the Pits and Bebside Hall. The output was much more professional than previous relying on new tighter scripts rather than reworked old recordings and edits of jam sessions for avant-garde effect. Crawling Chaos continued to confound the critics.
Strangely Perfect, deluding himself with his excessive lifestyle, left the band, at least until his head cleared as it was killing him. He went to France for six months with his soon-to-be 1st wife working casually (although he always had a core belief that his work with Crawling Chaos was incomplete).
For five years Crawling Chaos continued with varying levels of activity and membership around a core of Doomage and Holly. This later period is still relatively poorly documented. Live shows in Europe and elsewhere continued and a video was produced (now found). The release of creative work in tape format, similar to the previous “shouting at dozy twats” and Homunculus Equinox but in compilation form, continued, mainly through EE Tapes. Tuva was one of the nom de chanson at this time for Crawling Chaos who had by now a very floating membership. Other local bands used the studios and mentions of this and recordings can sometimes be found on the net.
No further vinyl releases were made following Strangely’s departure.
“Waqqaz” was the last album containing Strangely’s contributions. It took a lot of effort to produce, and we all really believe it is contains works of creativity that the world will recognize eventually. He is very proud of Crawling Chaos and is honoured to have worked with all of the different members of the band.
Doomage occasionally spoke to Strangely since those times, finally expressing his initial feelings completely here. (you must be registered and logged on to read this piece!) He unfortunately and surprisingly died in 2010 following several years of optimistic letter writing ‘tween him and me, Strangely using Jackie’s email address.
Holly continued working at Bebside until the landlord kicked him oot. After a period working in Holland, he returned to the North-East of England and records and occasionally entertains as one half of The Symptoms. Strangely and Holly have been in contact since July 2007 and Holly has been a good source for archival material and correcting errors therein.
Mr Excess, after bizarrely returning to our roots, making videos and helping others in the community, finally (and sadly for me) reached the Carlsberg induced oblivion he craved in December 2009.
Errol Dynamic (The Honourable Ted) probably won’t speak to anyone again. He’s happy with his own stuff, having previously worked with Mark Riley and the Creepers.
Haircut hung himself, which was weird – and very sad.
The information about band members following Strangely’s departure has been provided by Holly & Doomage and can be found here.
Strangely Perfect, back in the UK in 86, started landscape gardening but stopped that when it became too dangerous, then ran a delivery business and news agency with his wife, got his Class One HGV, spun wheels for some years while raising a family and then created custom SQL and VBA code for a business leeching from the NHS and its employees until he saw the light. He now lives in France (where he should have stayed 30 years ago).
He now manages this website and all band communications.
The recent death of Jackie, Jeff’s partner and through whose systems I had to communicate with the self-confessed Luddite that he was in these matters, is very sad. There have been a few happenings like this this past year. As the end of my sixth decade approaches it makes one think. As Jeff’s mam said to me this morning (29/5/2015),
Live life to the full because you never know what life will bring tomorrow. Those two went early, but they had happy lives together.
She then went on to ask about my ageing mam, which is what we do. Nichiren, a 13th century Japanese guy concludes in, “The Problem to Be Pondered Night and Day” – a brilliant read actually, from top to bottom…
You must not spend your lives in vain and regret it for ten thousand years to come.
…which is what Jeff’s mam said, in a different way.
To enlarge on a previous mention, the value of who-did-what only becomes an issue when rights and status are purloined from their natural home. ‘Twas ever thus in music and art. The two CD issues of earlier tapes and discs were released in several ways, depending on the author of the story, each author having their own particular gripe.
For myself, Strangely Perfect, I was not consulted on this by anyone. My gripes are post story and the dastardly deeds are done.
- Sex Machine and Berlin were stolen to big up the Gas Chair Clown CD by Baldy Chester and Mr Nice.
- Art started by Baldy Chester was unceremoniously bunged as the first two tracks of the Homunculus Equinox CD to big up Chester’s ego. However, my keyboard, Jeff’s guitar and our sound effects and production turn what were two dismal tracks into something a bit more special.
- A similar situation exists with the on-line-only release of the cul-de-sac that was called Crawling Chaos/Danger in Paradise. True, as Jeff said to me in an email, both Jeff and I played and added to Baldy Chester’s creations, but it was not ever Crawling Chaos and to tag the two bands together is plain deceit.
n.b. There is a large amount of unreleased material of jams, experiments, tests and versions. For further information, please use the contact form on this website here.
Because the text is by me, Strangely Perfect, by definition, the information is skewed to my viewpoint using my memories of my personal experiences. But this transcript is open to continuous edit because nothing in this universe is constant and new information and opinions continuously surface like matter spontaneously arises from the quantum soup. I’ve included all of this, no matter how painful, as it’s been presented to me. Whatever has been written is probably an order of magnitude short.
– Strangely Perfect.
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