1919: Let me blow the dust off this dusty tome and reveal to you how 1919 began.In order to do this let me transport you back to 1977 where two teenagers are watching the Sex Pistols play in a Keighley nightclub. Sid Vicious is pretending to play bass just six-feet away and John Lydon taking some cough medicine before launching into Pretty Vacant. Then there is the Clash playing Leeds, supported by the Slits, early Adam and the Ants with Matthew Ashman on guitar. Siouxsie and the Banshees at Huddersfield Poly and Throbbing Gristle at Wakefield. These bands were the early influences of Ian Tilleard the original singer in 1919 and myself.I had met Ian around 1977 when punk was kicking off and we used to go see all the bands. You have to remember at this time there was about three good gigs per week and you were tossing a coin on whether you would go see the Buzzcocks or The Heartbreakers, Generation X or Subway Sect.With all these bands playing and the scene pretty vibrant we wanted a piece of the action. I had started playing guitar around 1976 and Ian originally played bass.Punk only lasted a short while and then for me it got more interesting with bands like Joy Division and Wire, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle (who had ceased to exist by then) and early Ultravox. Things became more experimental and by 1979 it was Post-Punk and Positive Punk.We formed an experimental band called Rue Morgue and at this time we were in contact with Throbbing Gristle and other such post-punk pioneers. We termed this music “Experimental” and that is how we described our sound. The band name went through various changes adding and subtracting various members along the way, including Mark Manning later to be Zodiac Mindwarp God bless him and later Aky from Southern Death Cult. Our first real gigging band was Heaven 17…yes we had the name nicked….new-wave had popped its funny little head up and the New-Romantic thing was emerging…these were very strange but fun times and a lot of people were experimenting with image and music, there was an air of anything goes. The looks were outrageous and it was fairly dangerous out on the street, I think a lot of people forget this. People took offense to my larger than life Quiff, tartan pants and brothel creepers on numerous occasions. Anyway no more Heaven 17and enter Mick Reed a drummer from Dewsbury who liked his drums tribal. After rehearsing for a while we developed our sound and a new name to match. Enter 1919.It was now 1980. 1919’s sole aim was to pound out a rhythmic, heavy and melodic/ dark dance beat.
Chain D.L.K.: The experience with 1919 lasted about four years and you produced two 7″s, an album, a 12″ and a MLP. What would be the best way to describe the band’s grow thinking about each release?
1919: The first release was a double A side 7 inch single with “Repulsion” and “Tear down these walls” It was a white label and we just stamped “Take it or leave it” on it because we did not really care, and sent it out to various radio stations and Magazine/fanzines. It was a limited edition and only 500 were pressed. The sound then was the embryonic 1919 sound we had not found are darker niche, but I love the two tracks. Of course John Peel loved it and he came up to where we lived in Yorkshire (his wife’s mother lived nearby)And we had a drink and that is when offered us the first Peel session. At this time we rehearsed very hard and there was a lot of youthful enthusiasm. The line up was Ian on vocals, Mick Reed-drums, Nick Hiles-bass and myself -guitar.The Peel session brought us in touch with a wider audience and various record companies were sniffing around. We eventually signed a deal with “Red Rhino Records” based in York. We found them very enthusiastic and they were fairly big on the independent scene. Repulsion/Tear down these walls was re-released due to the demand and we started to record our next single, another double a side entitled-Caged/After the fall. The feel was more sinister and the sound was starting to get a little darker and the drums were becoming more tribal and big-beat. My guitars became more menacing and rhythmic, the lyrics about dark hinterlands and alienation. Caged/After the fall was just a nice little taster for the even more menacing mini-album “Machine”. There was inner turmoil in the 1919 camp, and to cut a long and rather tedious story short we sacked Nick the bass player. We did various gigs with different bass players until I poached Steve Madden from another local band (well your not going to stay with them when 1919 beckons).Anyway before Steve’s arrival there was the more urgent problem, we had to record an album, but we had no bass player. After discussions Nick was draughted back in to record only, not to rejoin the band. So we went down to Cambridge and recorded “Machine” This is definitely a dark album full of nihilism/alienation/angst and we were putting out this Northern boys estranged from normal society thing.At this time we felt that Red Rhino were not pushing us enough and decided to leave. We signed with Abstract records in London and plans were made to record an E.P. Steve had settled in the sound was bigger and tighter and more focused. Peel offered us another session, so of course we obliged and then we recorded the 12 inch “Cry wolf E.P” with Storm /Dream and a re-mix of Cry wolf. The E.P. was still the old dark sound with tribal drums/dissonant guitar lines, but Dream was a more dark/dance track, it still retained a sinister edge but the eastern guitar/big flange bass was more PIL territory than the other tracks. The Cry wolf e.p did very well and Dream stated getting played in the clubs a lot.This was 84 and the whole scene was in turmoil. We had our own problems within the band and we split, Mick went one way and the three of us went the other. We had started to demo new tracks for the next release, before recording proper. I was not happy with where the sound was going, Mick had brought a mate in who sort of played sax and the whole thing was going Gary Glitter, which to me was absolute insanity. The Earth song ep was released and (remember these were rough demos) without my or Ian or Steve’s permission. This contributed to the 21 year absence of 1919, I could not return to it because I was still pissed off with that release.
Chain D.L.K.: Musically early 1919 could be compared to Killing Joke and to other post punk bands. Playing into 1919 was only a musical thing or was there also some kind of connections with other bands? You know: similar bands that shared a similar thought
1919: 1919 played quite a few gigs with Killing Joke. We played with Southern death cult and New model army (who were both also from Bradford) and at that time they supported us.We played with Danse Society (from Yorkshire) and Playdead and we all had our own sound. It was all called Post-punk/Positive-punk then and the “Goth” thing seem to develop. 1919 remained aloof and more isolated and I don’t really know why, maybe we had transcended our own ego’s. There was also a healthy rivalry and general bitching going on. I can remember Ian Astbury seeing his arse after Mick called him quarter to three feet. I can see him now mincing around backstage in his little Indian feathers and furs. Funnily enough we were supporting Nico and I was watching one of the other bands and Nico asked me for a light and we had a chat about Jim Morrison, who she had been involved with, and there’s Ian Astbury about to take old Jimbos place in the doors 20 years later. Life is definitely a strange thing.
Chain D.L.K.: What made you disband?
1919: After four years with the same characters, there was inevitable friction, fights, differences either musical or just personal. People change and want different things. The direction the music was meandering did not thrill me and I cannot remember why I let it go that way in the first place, but with hindsight etc. The whole music scene in 1984 was all over the place, maybe it was confusion. I will quote the old Miles Davies saying “Change was as necessary as breathing”- that sums it up.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you followed the English musical scene during these last 20 years? Have you ever thought to join someone else before deciding to come back with the 1919 monicker?
1919: Yes I have followed the world music scene and I have absorbed by osmosis the vibes. I love music and it is a disease I cannot get out of my system. I have been in quite a few bands over the years and have recorded and released music under various pseudonyms, I have played many toilets around the country, just because I love making a noise. But alas a king must sit back on his throne; the wilderness is harsh dear friends.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you asked to the old band members if they wanted to join you with the new 1919 adventure or, have you had comments from them about your decision to form a new band using the old name?
1919: No I have not been in touch with the ex-members. Steve-bass has retired from music and I see him to talk to. Mick is doing his own projects, and we talked about a year ago. Ian and have no contact. I named the band and the music was written by Mick and myself, so you never know we may join up later- that would be cool as F**K. But really, I am happy with the new 1919 and the future will have many collaborations with different musicians. This is just the start.
Chain D.L.K.: On your website you wrote that deciding to form 1919 again has been a natural thing and, as far as I understood, it was anger that pushed you to do so. Can you tell us something more?
1919: I had spent 21 years trying not to play in my 1919 style that it felt so good when I did.I got the vibe and it was like an epiphany, like coming home and I was comfortable. It was just the right time. In fact I had started writing tracks for the L.P. and I had a tarot reading and she nailed it, said I would be returning to my beginnings after a long absence, yet stronger and at ease with my destination, so there you go. I’m trying to get back to hell before they close the door.
Chain D.L.K.: How you met the other new band members? Have they played with other bands previously?
1919: Richard and Dave are brothers and they have played in various bands in Leeds. Ian Hardcastle has been more studio based and is a tech wizard who fate guided me to.Other musicians have helped out along the way and people will drift in and out as it suits them. We will have the core of the band and then augment who is available at the time, it will be interesting.
Chain D.L.K.: I found that your new tracks are someway linked to the old ones because of the energy. Is correct to say that the new sound is an updated version of the old one? You know, in the last twenty years we had grind, gabber and another thousand of musical styles and it’s natural that the new 1919’s music include a part of all of them…
1919: You are totally right on that and I feel Mick Mercer’s review of “Dark Temple” (Oct journal) was so on the ball, the description of our musical progression was bang on. Like I said I have assimilated a lot of musical styles over the last 21 years and music has changed dramatically, from analogue to digital, and the new guys have brought their element to the new 1919 sound too.
Chain D.L.K.: The “new life” brought also a new label called We Must Mutate, with it. Can you talk about it and about its aims?
1919: We Must Mutate I set up so that I being a control freak can avoid getting financially ripped off. Also I want to explore different ways of packaging things. Call me old fashioned but I love tactile products. I cannot get away from the days of buying vinyl with gatefold sleeves and reading the lyrics and fondling the cover. It is odious nostalgia really, but who cares. So all the 1919 releases will be through wmm and maybe if I like a band enough I will consider releasing something. There will be other media releases as well. Also all releases will be downloadable as well.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the best memory of the old days and what’s the thing you like most of the new adventure?
1919: One of the funniest memories I have is I think it was 83 and we were playing Sheffield Lead mill with the Meteors and Chelsea. Gene October lead singer of Chelsea was trying to walk cooler than F**k across the dance floor to the stage. Now I must admit he was full of himself and Micks dog Clint, a feisty Alsatian, who was gigging with us took an instant disliking to Gene and ran towards him and got hold of his ankle. Poor Gene he lost all that coolness. Laughed I nearly pissed myself.The new venture is at a stage where I have the benefit of all those pearls of wisdom and the ego has landed and been safely garaged. There is a general feeling that anything is possible.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s next for 1919?
1919: Current 1919 activity is- Working on a live set and presenting it in a way that inspires us.Recording two E.P’s which will complete the “Voyage that never ends” trilogy. Ideas for DVD footage/film are been looked at. We are open to ideas and people are contacting me from all over the world with all sorts of proposals. Quite interesting really.
Any way thanks for the interview Maurizio and it has been a pleasure.
Visit 1919 on the web at: