Reformation: Rose Of Avalanche

A younger, more foolish me was flipping through the vinyl in a Headingley charity shop many years ago. I came across several colorful and complex covers by a band called The Rose Of Avalanche. I’d never heard of them, and kept on flipping – looking back, of course, I curse my shortsightedness!

Formed in Leeds in 1984, The Rose Of Avalanche catapulted into the charts with “L.A. Rain”, a shimmering slice of dark rock and roll that even caught John Peel’s fancy. Clad in leather with long hair and heavy aviator shades, the band seemed a clear-cut goth-rock success story but like many contemporaries, they didn’t fit neatly into that particular black box, a streak of independent creativity running right through them.Still, they found a warm welcome supporting The Mission as they played on their World Crusade Tour in 1987, and the full first album in 1989. A number of line-up changes followed that, and a tumultuous relationship with their record label that lead to wrangling and a split by 1993.Since then, I’ve heard their name spoken of approvingly when people talked about the fine music made in Leeds in the Eighties. So I wasn’t completely surprised when Kirstin, the incredibly hardworking heart and soul behind Absinthe Promotions, told me she’d been chatting with an Eighties outfit and had encouraged them to consider reforming…Now, it’s my delight to be conversing over email with founder guitarist Paul James Berry, bassist Alan Davis and guitarist Glenn Schultz, as they announce the return of The Rose Of Avalanche at the leading UK alternative festival, Tomorrow’s Ghosts


TBG: First off, what’s prompted the reformation? I see that you’ve been performing as a solo musician Paul, so what prompted you to get the band back together?
Paul: It’s a total nostalgia trip! I’ve been doing a moody solo singer-songwriter journey for many years – with no plans to stop. I’ve supported some interesting chaps from Frank Black to the late Vic Chestnutt and still get a kick out of the intimacy a solo show provides…But whilst I was on tour in Germany earlier this year, driving across the Black Forest and I received a message from the promoter of the Tomorrow’s Ghost Festival asking if I would consider reforming The Rose Of Avalanche. Now I’ve been asked before – and I’ve always said fuck off!
However, when I eventually stopped the car I noticed that the promoter’s company was called Absinthe – and I had just stopped outside Pontarlier in western France, which is renowned for Absinthe. I took this as a good omen and burst out laughing! Then I responded to the message saying I’d look into it when I got home….Which I did and found that the boys were mustard to take the beast on again!*
Alan: The band has had a number of offers to reform, but its never been the right time for all five of us… until now, that is. A lot of our peers have reformed over recent years, with more popping up every day, so that showed us that there is a growing interest in alternative music from the 1980s.Weve also all had sufficient time to mentally recover from the trials and tribulations that dogged the band from (almost) the beginning e.g. line up changes, legal battles with record and publishing companies, poor management choices…Finally, we all want this second opportunity to put the record straight and to show what we can really do without the constraints of the issues described above. The three original band members moved from learning new instruments to having a John Peel session and Festive 50 entry in less than 18 months.
The follow up singles all charted high in the Indie Charts, before things started to slip. This is the perfect opportunity to right a few wrongs!*
Glen: The reformation has been suggested once or twice before but there was always some hitch. This time things just came together – the planets must have been aligned correctly or something!


TBG: Allan pointed out that there’s still an audience out there for Eighties alternative music. Have you got any theories for what keeps goths, grebos, punks, rockers and the rest of the crowd in black coming back for more?!
Glenn: I think that there are only two sorts of music – good and bad – The Rose material is good. It stands up remarkably well, and in a strange way it articulated a feeling that was common at the time.During the 80’s we were deluged with completely disposable, plastic music – I’d been turned onto music in a previous era when bands wrote songs about real events or ongoing human drives so for me the 80’s were a kind of hell on earth and the utter dross that I was subjected to didn’t reflect my reality at all.
The 80’s were Thatcher’s Britain and the everyday reality that I saw was poverty and deprivation. None of the shiny, happy people on TOTP mentioned any of that. Everyone I knew was in the same boat so bands and music that acknowledged that reality resonated with me and presumably with all the other people in a similar situation.Any hint of ‘darkness’ was carefully expunged from mainstream media so music that contained ‘angst’ or any of the darker emotions spoke to me. Looking back I feel that we were the reality. I have a great deal of affection for the music of bands like The Sisters of Mercy and others, because they helped me through some of the worst times of my life and I presume that lots of other people have similar feelings – that’s why the demand for those bands is as high as it is.


TBG: You were singled out early by John Peel, which I imagine did you some favours! These days, it’s all about getting your music on YouTube and all over social media. Have we advanced, or are we missing a keen musical prophet like John?
Paul: Oh, I’m sure there are music maniacs out there like Peely that simply want to wave a flag for the underdog and give it a voice, but the jam is spread much too thinly these days.

In the 80’s the media outlets were not so plenty, apart from fanzines. I loved fanzines – every body I knew was interested in the underground scene and read the same music mags, and yes we all sat up late recording onto cassettes what JP was playing on the radio. With the social media sites these days, it brings a much larger scope, but not as mischievous…!


TBG: You had some superb support slots, especially with legendary rockers The Mission on their World Crusade tour in 1987 – any really stand-out memories or anecdotes… or is it all a blur?!
Paul: Partly a blur, but I have been blessed and cursed to remember even when totally out of it.I remember staying as long as possible every night in the backstage of The Mission’s dressing room and getting as drunk as inhumanly possible, not because it was fascination, although it could be, but more because we had no hotel and slept in a fucking converted horse box! It was a harsh winter and the toilet bucket thing at the back was alway frozen…I have a million stories from that tour but we don’t have time now… It was a fantastic experience that we were not ready for!


TBG: How does it feel to be playing together again? Can you give any hints as to what fans can expect when you play Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in 2020?
Glen: I found it surprisingly easy. I expected a period of awkwardness but it felt like we’d never been away. In fact it feels better than the first time round because we’ve been laughing a lot – I don’t remember an awful lot of laughter back in the day.We’re trying to have a good time and enjoy it as well as getting it right. What we’re going to do is go out and play some songs as well as we possibly can
Alan: Were much more professional and organised. Were also ensuring that we have total control over what we do and how we do it… we took some big knocks the first time around and have learned from those mistakes.
When you play Too Many Castles together for the first time in 30 years, it’s really not meant to sound THAT good – it’s really good!
Alan: I can assure you that we will be giving everything that we have in order to ensure that we put on the best live show ever played by The Rose of Avalanche. We have an amazing set and big ideas for the live show. We can’t wait.


TBG: It’ll be great to see you at Tomorrow’s Ghosts, it’s a massive beacon of quality alternative music right here in the North. Are there any plans to play elsewhere in the UK or even abroad?
Paul: Too early to say! It’s funny being in a band, you have to suggest and negotiate what the moves are. New territory for me! The goal for the moment is this festival, but I think there are other things on the horizon if we want them, step by step stone by stone….
Alan: We won’t be committing to anything just yet. Let’s see how it goes, what the fans think and how we feel. We’re looking into a couple of support slots as warm ups for Whitby and there is the possibility of us appearing at big festivals in Europe…
Glenn: Hm’m – that’s a toughie! We’ve all got other things that we’re doing so it would depend on what happens and how we could fit things in.Originally the idea for me was to walk on stage stone cold sober and play the songs properly so that I could walk off at the end of the gig and say ‘that’s it – that’s what I should have done 30 years ago’. That would exorcise some demons and give me a bit of closure. If that was the end of it I wouldn’t really mind but we’ll have to see…Do you have a message for the fans who’ve been waiting more than twenty years for this news?
Glenn: Sorry! My alarm didn’t go off and I overslept!


You can follow The Rose Of Avalance across social media: on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram and Soundcloud. They’re one of the earliest announcements for Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival, April 2020. Continue following The Blogging Goth for more news on this and other key events in the alternative calendar!

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“I can only receive” – Gary Numan, ‘Cars’ 21/08/79

2019 continues to be a year of celebrations as anniversary after anniversary proceeds – 1979 being a launching pad for the definitive tracks in the goth subculture. From the unassailable Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division on 15th June, through the colossal Bela Lugosi’s Dead from Bauhaus on 6th August, to today’s (thirtieth) birthday of the impeccable Lovesong by The Cure, we’ve enjoyed four decades of some of the finest goth music going.

However nobody emerges fully formed and goth educated from the crypt, and before I even knew who Marilyn Manson was, let alone Peter Murphy, I caught a snippet of music that was originally released on 21st August 1979, but now it was on an unlikely advert playing when I was just eleven…

Something about this electro-rock ditty tugged at my impressionable mind. That was the plan of course. Ex-Tubeway Army singer and now solo artist Gary Numan specifically wrote “Cars” to be a catchy pop song and it performed, topping the charts here and scoring the highest for Numan in the US as well.
It charted again when it sound-tracked the above beer advert, and inadvertently steered me in the direction of new wave which is a gateway sound to a whole world of alternative music. The dark tide of goth music was poised to fall on me, but I’d first spend my teens drifting around new wave, futurism and light Eighties electronica…

down in the park

I should give thanks here to my Mum, who has an excellent and eclectic taste in music and helped introduce me to the wider Gary Numan sound. She helped me get his cassettes (why not ask your parents what they are) and CDs, and I devoured his production.
I also became entranced by his look. He was pale and slightly built with dark hair, very similar to myself – but he was successful and accomplished. He also wore exotic makeup and elegant suits, symbols of transgression and power that enchanted and overawed me.

And he was aloof, even arrogant – robotic and superior. The mingled sci-fi desires and burgeoning self-esteem issues that would come to define my adolescence didn’t touch the synthetic singer with his perfectly programmed machine mind. It turns out that was very much an act by Numan and for much the same reasons, but it was a blueprint for me at a crucial and formative age.

Returning to the music, I nowadays feel envious of US markets – the B-side to Cars was the equally impressive Metal, an opinion shared by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails who covered it in 2000 and did a superb job. My passions for Numan’s output surged for firm favourites like Are ‘Friends’ Electric and I actually maintain my strongest love for the Tubeway Army non-starter of this auspicious year, Down In The Park.

Numan Hull

The Blogging Goth pauses to selfie with the synthetic singer

But whenever I hear that hypnotic drum attack intro, I’m transported back many years to being perched in front of a TV in the mid-Nineties when I first heard it, and felt like a switch had flipped in my biotech brain. The year before last, I was lucky enough to be right down the front at Gary Numan’s gig in Kingston-upon-Hull (with my still cool Mum!) and after performing his epic single My Name Is Ruin with his unbelievably talented daughter Persia, he played Cars, just feet from where I was stood.

I count myself very lucky – like many musicians cursed with an early hit, he’s had a tumultuous relationship with this track. It’s a testament to his good nature, and to the enduring strength of this odd little Eighties cyber-pop tune, that it remains in his set where it thrills me again, so many years after its initial, immense impact.

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Bela Lugosi’s (still) Dead: 1979 – 2019

bela-lugosis-dead

“White on white, translucent, black capes…”

Nine and a half minutes of exploratory, indulgent and spine-tingling music courtesy of the most recognizable post-punks going – the Bauhaus anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” was released this day exactly forty years ago.

It’s an homage to the legendary black-and-white movie actor Bela Lugosi, who codified forever the visual version of Count Dracula in the 1931 film from Universal. The song manages to continue this legacy-defining journey, by becoming an unofficial anthem to the nascent goth subculture of the early eighties, and even if it didn’t trouble the charts overly much, it became a helpful point of reference for baffled music journalists struggling to interpret the baritone vocals, hypnotically rhythmic drumming and jangling, other-worldly guitars of the latest alternative music strand.

So it has remained for four decades, aural shorthand for a complex and contradictory subculture and sound. Even when it was unseated, to the surprise of many, by prolific competitors The Cure on BBC Radio 6, you can still rely on it as a common touchstone for visual as well as audible style for the goth scene.

A talisman, and perhaps an albatross. Certainly for Bauhaus, in the same way that all their peers regard the entire goth scene – a jet-black weighty bird of pompous, verbose origin forever pinned to their necks and forcing them into a box that is the enemy of any creator. And, perhaps, for newer creators – forever striving for recognition of their individual creations, even in the sprawling shadow of this jet-black monolith.

Goth is, for all its intended subversiveness, bad at changing and innovating. Ask any DJ and they’ll despair at the difficulty with which new songs are adopted on dance floors. Even after some hot new outfit has finished playing to a rapturous audience, those same fans will not want to dance to anything except the hits of forty years hence.
Indeed, those seeking the biggest audiences at the leading music festivals for goth might consider it a safe bet to diligently check off the dusty list of tropes that Bela Lugosi’s Dead established in 1979… stifling true innovation and creativity, instead encouraging us to resurrect the Count from his red-lined box time and again and again…

This shouldn’t be taken as approval of every wild burst of new creativity in the alternative genres. Attempts to anoint nu-metal, emo, or even Marilyn Manson as the ‘inheritors’ of goth should be furiously resisted. Equally, we should welcome vibrant new outfits that wear their Peter Murphy influences proudly on their flowing black sleeves. Continuity is critical, especially in this bizarrely long-lived subculture of ours, and it gives new sound a legitimacy that can be fleeting and fickle in a community regularly riven by vicious and petty internecine war.

What I hope for is the goth scene to remember that once upon a time, Bela Lugosi’s Dead was startling and risky in its unusual nature – utterly unshackled by precedence and forging a new path for musicians and fans alike. It is that dare to be different that once upon a time typified goth, and not the slavish adherence to orthodoxy that the surliest gatekeepers insist upon.

So, celebrate this Bauhaus-infused birthday and remember where we came from, but do not forget to think about where we might go, as David Haskins, Kevin Haskins, Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash did before us. We’ll never lose that classic sound after all… it’s undead…

“Oh Bela
Bela’s undead
Oh Bela
Bela’s undead
Bela’s undead
Oh Bela
Bela’s undead
Oh Bela

Undead”

bauhaus

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Forty Years of Unknown Pleasures

Confession time, to begin. I’ve never owned Unknown Pleasures on vinyl. Sacrilege! I know, but I’m late to the entire record party, and I’ve always had Joy Division in my pocket as an MP3 or similar.

IMG_20190615_142437.jpgSo for a few days now, I’ve been planning what to do today. I visited a couple of record shops, of which we have an enjoyable variety in Newcastle, and finally found what I was looking for. The Fortieth Anniversary edition, pressed on ruby red and heavy duty vinyl in a pristine white sleeve that still retains the iconic design by Peter Saville, based on the radio wave signals received from a distant pulsar. Interestingly, this version more closely resembles the version the band themselves wanted – Saville thought black was far sexier, and I can certainly see his point. Nevertheless, the pure white sleeve is beside my turntable now, and I’ve even kept the plastic outer to try and preserve it as long as possible!

It’s spinning as I write this, and I can easily imagine myself transported back to 1979 and playing this for the first time. From the opening track – ‘Disorder’, eerie and hypnotic, through to the heartbreaking end of side one, ‘New Dawn Fades’, it’s a soul-shredding journey with a superb beat. Turn to side two, and you’re immediately swept up by the unstoppable dancefloor colossus that is ‘She’s Lost Control’, only to be left cold and bereft at the end of ‘I Remember Nothing’, memories shattering like glass as the record crackles to an end. I envy every soul who heard it for the first time when it was a startling, difficult to grasp debut. I appreciate Jon Savage’s contemporary review in Melody Maker, with a sadly prescient view:

“Problems remain; in recording place so accurately, Joy
Division are vulnerable to any success the album may bring –
once the delicate relationship with the environment is altered
or tampered with, they may never produce anything as good again.”

We know all there is to know about Martin ‘Zero’ Hannett’s raw, sparse production, and the frenetic, punk-infused playing of the band, wreathed in an unsettling and alien miasma of nihilism and despair. An artifact of its time, that has resonated with a power incomparable down the generations. Sealed in amber by lead singer Ian Curtis’ untimely and heartbreaking suicide less than a year after the album’s release, it has gone on to define the idiosyncratic goth scene, as well as artists across the spectrum of music. It was even accorded special treatment on the BBC yesterday, with a sprawling show by veteran Mary-Anne Hobbes, playing the album in its entirety. Whatever its failings, the Corporation certainly recognize and venerate our heritage well.

Ultimately, Unknown Pleasures is a self-fulfilling prophecy, best appreciated through the lens of melancholy about a career and sound cut brutally short – an album that continues to resonate so long as it holds up a stark, chilling mirror to a nightmarish world that has progressed no further from 1979 to 2019 except the spread of icy cold technology. Beautiful, artificial, mesmerizing and inducing despair. The Joy Division dichotomy.

“It’s getting faster, moving faster now, it’s getting out of hand,
On the tenth floor, down the back stairs, it’s a no man’s land,
Lights are flashing, cars are crashing, getting frequent now,
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, let it out somehow.”

giphy-1

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Could you be in the Museum of Goth?

Now all the celebrations have ended and our hangovers have receded, it’s time to confront reality. 2019 is the fortieth anniversary of many goth origins, and so we must accept that this odd old scene of ours is a legitimate museum artifact. We enjoyed the British Library’s wonderful Terror and Wonder exhibition of 2015, but there was only a small section on our odd scene. One organisation is looking to change how we remember goth, though!

I’ve been in conversation with Lisa der Weduwe who works at YOUTH CLUB where the history of youth culture is carefully researched and preserved. She’s particularly interested in recovering any photos and memories of the genesis of goth from the very early eighties, so I asked her to give us some more details on what sounds like an awesome idea for an exhibition… and how you can contact YOUTH CLUB to be in their collection!


1. Can you quickly intro the Youth Club for our readers? What motivated the creation of a home for the legacy of youth culture? 

museum of youth culture - 80s gothYOUTH CLUB actually goes back to 1997 when our precursor PYMCA (Photographic Youth Music and Culture Archive) was formed alongside Sleazenation Magazine. This worked as a successful image library for a while and enabled us to grow the collection to over 300 photographers. 

Then in 2015 we had a think about why we were doing what we were doing and the fact that we really see this history of youth culture as incredibly important and often overlooked. When we became YOUTH CLUB our focus shifted to preserving, sharing and celebrating this amazing story, with the end goal of opening a Museum of Youth Culture. 

This year our focus has been to build an online Museum of Youth Culture, which is going to take the archive as a starting point to tell the story of youth and subculture. As part of this campaign we are looking at gaps in the archive, which is particularly around earlier movements from the 50s and 60s. But we are also asking the public to submit their photographs; whether they have one photograph or a small archive we want their images and stories. We want to know what it was like growing up in Britain?

2. Do you feel like you personally have links to any subculture? 

Growing up me and my friends were massively into Emo and that was such an important part of my life throughout my teenage years. As I got older I slowly got into heavier music and have happily stayed in the metal scene since. 

3. You’re now specifically looking for records of early goth culture in the capital. What are your impressions of the scene so far? How does it compare to other youth cultures from the 80s? 

Well we are actually looking for photos, ephemera and stories from early goth across the UK. The archive is strongest in the 80s and 90s, but for some reason the emergence of goth is a time we don’t have many photographs of. 

I’ve always been drawn to the Goth scene and as a teenager many of my friends were Goths. To me the scene has a lot of amazing strong female figureheads and more generally a strong female presence, especially for the 80s when subcultures could feel quite male-led. I also love the style, its so unique and has a real timelessness to it.

The Gothic has a long history as a cultural movement and ties to the mythology of Britain, and goes beyond the teenager in many ways. Its goes beyond the subcultural movement and into the national psyche. 

I think more generally the rise and fall of subcultures is quite interesting – some are constantly going strong, whilst others experience real revivals. People are really starting to respond to our 00s nu-metal images at the moment and following the fashions and music. 

Part of this could be down to some movements going really big in the media and growing both popular and infamous rapidly, and then seemingly disappearing again, whilst other movements are a bit more underground but have gone along steadily. I think for someone involved in a movement as a teenager, that will always be something they identify with, and movements have become so iconic now that there is always a scene around it, even if it is smaller than in it’s heyday.

6. Will you be looking into the strong presence of goth elsewhere in the UK, like Leeds – and around the world? 

At the moment our focus is very much on the UK and trying to build a timeline from post-war Britain to the present, that goes across the decades and represents the entirety of Britain equally. We are hoping to do a bit of travelling as well and stop by Whitby!

Once we’ve got this down we can start looking further afield, even though at the moment our archive is already international. 

7. Having looked at the history of youth culture, and how it’s changed going into the present – what do you expect from the future, for young people into subcultures like goth, as well as new trends emerging?

One thing we often hear or get told is that subcultures don’t exist anymore, because of factors like social media. I think although the nature of young culture and how it manifests itself has changed, young people are always creating new things for themselves and in a way the web has enabled more young people to discover subculture movements from the past like goth.  

8. Any other comments, or things I haven’t touched on? 

Just to say if anyone has any photographs or would like to submit, head to youthclubarchive.com/submit or get in touch via info@youthclubarchive.com for more information.


Please consider contributing to this awesome project if you can supply memories from the dawn of the dour and the start of something spooky! We’ll be looking forward to what Lisa and YOUTH CLUB produce and sharing updates as they come along – make sure you’re following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Let’s make an exhibition that truly celebrates our subculture.

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