"The other huge thing was glam. Not the Sweet or Gary Glitter, but Roxy Music and Bowie. They were a huge influence in Sheffield. It was this working-class thing of dressing up - but not just dressing up, being prepared to be outrageous and being into this weird music.”
Roxette (1977) from NWfilmarchive on Vimeo.
Mal and Rich and Chris [Cabaret Voltaire - Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk, Chris Watson] and their gang were heavily into the sonics of Roxy. Although Mal was heavily into clothes too. He had two rooms in his flat, and one room was where he lived and the other was his wardrobe – and he had an ironing board in the middle of it. It was just completely full of clothes. Mal was the most stylish person I’d ever met; he always had a consummate sense of style.
"Around 1975 or 1976, we became friends. They had been going since ‘73 or ’74. So, it was a bit after that I got to meet them. They had this studio in this old industrial building. The whole building was called Western Works – and they recorded in it and called the studio Western Works.”
"In Sheffield it wasn’t like the London Musicians Collective where everyone’s got wire-rim glasses and that sort of avantgarde middle class attitude. In Sheffield, it was working class Dada. They were heavily into Dada and liked to get a reaction. Wake people up. Richard, then, mainly played guitar and clarinet. Mal did rudimentary bass and vocals, treated beyond legibility.
"See, punk didn’t hit the same way in Sheffield as it did elsewhere. Punk in most other places in the UK inspired people to pick up a guitar and do the three-chord rock thing, in emulation of the Clash or the Pistols. But in Sheffield it didn’t happen that way, there were hardly any punk rock bands like that in Sheffield. Most bands wanted to make weird sounds. Early synths were prized. Or just boxes of tricks that people had made."
You did a special electronic feature for the NME, right? A five-page pull-out on "Synthesised Sound", January 5th 1980 - the first issue of the new decade!
“As for Manchester, it just seemed fucking grim. I went there with the Cabs and this other group Graph, when they played the Factory in Hulme. One of them, after doing the soundcheck, went out to get some cigarettes – and got mugged.
“That would never happen in Sheffield. Sheffield 10 is the cool area – that’s the university district. I lived in Broomhill, which was John Betjeman’s favorite suburb in all Britain. But nobody got mugged, even if you went down the red-light district, in Havelock Square. It was still a safe place to go.”
We know about The Human League and its offshoot Heaven 17, about Cabaret Voltaire, about Vice Versa becoming ABC, about Clock DVA… Who were some of the other notable after-punk outfits scrabbling around at that time in Sheffield?
The Comsats were all set to tour America, supporting U2. But one of them fell ill. Robert Palmer was a big Comsats fan. Steve Fellows wrote all the Comsats songs, did the singing and guitars - and Robert Palmer invited him to work with him in the Bahamas. Steve used the money to pay off the Comsats’s debts.
Later Steve discovered and managed Gomez – they brought in a tape this record store in Broomhill, in Sheffield, where Steve was working part time."
"Anyway, it was November or October 1980, I was about to leave Sheffield and Ian comes around and says “Have you heard, the Human League have split up?” Martyn Ware and Ian Craig-Marsh had left Phil Oakey and Adrian Wright in the lurch on the eve of this big European tour. And Ian says, “Phil has asked me to join the League.” Ian could play keyboards as well as bass, you see. Ian said, ‘I’ll have to learn all their repertoire, but that’ll only take about an afternoon, cos it’s all one-finger tunes.’ But he said ‘I’m not sure whether to do it or not’. And I was like, ‘for Christ’s sake, say ‘yes’. At the very least you’ll get to see Europe, and you might make a bit of money out of it, and it’s playing in a proper band’.
Over at Pantheon, a rapidly growing archive of Andy Gill's writing. Which can also be found in copious amounts at Rock's Back Pages.
Here's a tribute to Andy at The Independent, where he worked for many years.
Andy Gill can be seen and heard talking in this doc Made in Sheffield