ART FOR ARTERY’S SAKE
Although guitarist Simon Hinkler went on to play with Pulp
and fill stadiums with Mission, Artery remain an intriguing
cult secret. At a time when Sheffield meant Human League,
Heaven 17, Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA and
Vice Versa (ABC), Artery used conventional instrumentation
in unconventional ways
MULTI-LOCATIONAL TALES FROM
EIGHT MILES HIGHER LIESURE INDUSTRIES…
TRIP, THE FIRST
There’s a strange Cadillac, lipstick red (lips tick red!), all chrome gleam and varnish flash. There’s lush green foliage, thick vines that resemble twisting knotted veins growing outta the windscreen and the wind-down side-windows, long snaky tendrils of chlorophyll emerald. Crash! Fade to green. I got one, two, three, four, five, SIX senses working overtime! Underneath the frame, against the white whiteness of the wall, Mark Gouldthorpe is saying ‘…it’s all based on fear.’ Voice pitched confessional low, like in a TV documentary, the silence roaring all around us and swelling out in waves to engulf this segments of the ‘Mappin Gallery’, and perhaps out into glacial Sheffield beyond.
I’m almost scared to ask. Like, having made the incision, I’m now slowly peeling the skin back to expose the wet porous flesh beneath. But, ‘fear of what?’
‘…the things in life, that are… frightening. That I find frightening.’
Gouldthorpse is singer and poet. He fronts Artery whose single “Into The Garden” is at least a fortnight ahead of its time. A lyric about sex with identical sisters, implications of troilism, the ‘smell of sex, blended with the scent of the flowers.’ He’s a head of his time. He’s a guy well weird. He’s got ideas and opinions by the shovelful – once you’ve got beyond the sounding-out stage and into braincell contact. Artery are an apocalypse in the head. The shockwaves have only just begun.
He opts for straight narrative, leans forward, bubble-plastic seating locked into tubular steel frames wheezing and exhaling as he does so. ‘I found myself leaving school, went into work, was a Carpenter, worked for a building company. For a couple of years it was alright – but as soon as I started to THINK
and look into things, it all went wrong. IT BECAME A MONSTROUS
SITUATION. You get people in that walk of life that are there just to be used by the big machine called society. AND I COULD SEE THIS! And I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. So I started writing. That’s where it all came from. That’s what I mean about the fear factor.’ He pauses, slumps back in the chair. ‘I’m not so frightened these days.’
Yes, but when you’re under pressure and you’re creating out of that pressure you can make some really tense work. (Mark Gouldthorpe is on a bus, hands thrust deep in his pockets, where he holds a gun. The barrel is warm. There is one bullet left in the chamber. He’s considering whether to take ‘my shoes and socks off and walk barefoot/ over the corpses through the blood and brains’) … and when you get out from under that situation, and can’t feed off that pressure, the motivation to write in that way is removed. I’ve seen musicians stuck in grim factories having to earn their crust, playing furiously in their spare time, brilliant stuff, but once they’ve made their pile and retired, once that resentment and hatred is gone, they just fall apart creatively.
‘I feel that’s a big thing, it could happen. Could happen to anyone that’s expressing things out of one particular situation – what one does then is make a choice. Stop. Realise the situation, just handle it on its level. It’s no good trying to write frightening material when you’re no longer frightened.’
Do you find working in a Rock band stimulating in itself?
‘Yes, Sometimes I find it difficult to get off on things. I get confused – ‘is it good, is it bad?’ – I can’t decide. And that’s dangerous. But on the whole yes, I love it. I love the music.’
--- 0 ---
FIT, THE SECOND
First assignation in Sheffield, zoning in off the M1. The buzz is on for Artery. Pete Scott, cartoonist, Rock journalist, William Burroughs-ophile, and all-purpose credible source has been cranking them up in correspondence for a couple of weeks. A tape of theirs he enclosed in his latest letter-bomb prestige package is on my in-car system all the way down the M-way. Fading in on repeat mode through a deceptive calm of soaring glissando guitar and perfect stereo separation drum-pulse into what is already the most hypnotic-compulsive single of 1982. Artery are a new band from Sheffield. No roots or connections to family trees, no previous convictions, no form, tie-ins, cross-references or inter-pollinations with the so-called ‘Sheffield Sound’. The only constant parts are talent, of which they have more than their egalitarian share – and control vision, a pristine clear sense of purpose, a concise stage-by-stage programme for conquest. They’ve got a Virgin publishing deal, a signing to the small but upwardly mobile London Armageddon label – responsible for the Method Actors recent very crazed ‘Little Figures’
album, and they’ve scarfed up track-time on two compilation albums (‘Bouquet Of Steel’
1980, Aardvark STEAL2, “The Slide”, alongside Comsat Angels and I’m So Hollow, plus ‘WNW6: Moonlight Radio’
1981, Armageddon Records MOON1, “Into The Garden”, with the Pinkies and Patrik Fitzgerald).
I’m hanging round outside the ‘Crucible Theatre’ foyer – but the mission is aborted. Gouldthorpe’s just escaped decapitation! Manager Tony Perrin explains. The ‘Lyceum’ is across the road, a huge gothic cornucopia of refurbished movie-house rewound into Rock venue, Human League and Stranglers last weekend, Slade tonight, and Mark was helping out, just that there’s this heavy-laden boom well-hung with spots which comes loose and arcs down with vicious intent. Leaving Gouldthorpe severely incapacitated.
We shuffle snow. Perrin wears the kind of hat Humphrey Bogart wore in ‘The Big Sleep’
perched incongruously atop a mass of tight curls. He’s sharp and comes on polite but insistent, the effective way to hustle. He wears a single strand of beads, and (later) dunks his teabag thoughtfully in his McDonalds disposable red-and-white striped beaker. Histories are exchanged. Mark Gouldthorpe’s laceration is not unprecedented. Artery were slated for a tour with Toyah, bulging with potential and promotional prospects, armies of vinyl-hungry kids awaiting exposure, and Mark stakes out his position in the autowreck games, takes a neat and bloody head-dive through the windscreen. Crash! Fade to red. Comments about severed arteries, or jokes in that vein are to be discouraged.
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ACT, THE THIRD
ANDREW: What was the first record you ever bought?
MARK: Can’t remember.
ANDREW: The photo on the cover of your poem-lyrics booklet (‘Oceans’) bears a strong visual similarity to Iggy Pop. Is that an image you deliberately contrive?
MARK: No. Just a coincidence.
ANDREW: Artery are not part of the Sheffield band Mafia. The local Rock inter-support system.
MARK: No. I don’t know anything about that.
ANDREW: What was it like doing the John Peel Session? Do the bands actually get to meet John Peel?
MARK: Yeah, he’s a right good buddy. Supposed to be taking us out for an Indian…
TONY PERRIN: He still owes us a meal.
MARK: (bored) Yeah, it was real exciting. It’s goo… WE’RE BEING DISTRACTED LIKE MAD HERE…!!!!
This is bad. Sheffield is drowning us, we’re being boiled. Writer, poet, and one-man managerial band sat in a Department store cafeteria walled in by non-communication. Tension stands out so electric you can taste it. A great void of emptiness that drains all potential energies. Mark Gouldthorpe is morose, or perhaps wary, or even nervous. He’s hunched into his coat, toying irritably with his plastic spoon in his turgid plastic coffee. He’s got short black hair and eyes that have become black holes. Dull and expressionless, glazed over with discontent, then coming opaque and pacing across the vinyl-top table to the next vinyl-top table where a gaggle of released shop-girls are laughing at loud stories about grope-fingered dates, Pop Stars in ‘Pink’
magazine, and new shades of eye-liner. Background conversation intensifies, and the long-awaited interview grinds down to monosyllables. I’m thinking that if I split now I’ve got a tape-worth one-thousand words, and even that shot-full of incomprehension. Frustration burns to flashpoint. Each opener I attempt either gets squashed flat or gets effortlessly fielded by Tony Perrin.
ANDREW: Was that story true, about the Toyah tour you were going to do?
MARK: It was just an idea that came up.
TONY (pushing back Mark’s hair to show scar-tissue across his forehead): That’s why the tour didn’t come off.
MARK (bored): Oh yes. That happened. Forgot ‘bout that.
ANDREW (attempting to provoke response): Perhaps it was a lucky escape. A tour with Toyah is like touring with Sooty!
MARK: ‘Scuse me smiling, but that girl over there keeps looking at me.
TONY: I don’t think people would connect a support band with a headline act. It’s just a case of getting in front of a lot of people and playing.
MARK: But I had a car crash, so it didn’t happen.
ANDREW: Last time I came round you’d had a collision with a lighting boom or something.
MARK: …who? Me? Is it getting to you in here? It’s getting to me!
TONY: You wanna go somewhere else?
Time to, um, fade away and radiate.
--- 0 ---
TRIP, THE FOURTH
On the street I’m tempted to cut out, but we head instead for the promised calm and non-aural interference of the ‘Mappin Art Gallery’. It’s too good to miss. Artery in the Art Gallery. Artery for Arts sake. Sheer Art Attack. On the way Mark tries oblique verbal strategies ‘You ever interviewed a group from Southport?’ No, is there a reason why I should? ‘No reason, I just wondered.’ I’ve interviewed Kraftwerk, they’re from Dusseldorf, that’s near Southport, I guess. Stoned fragmented illogics à la Beefheart I can understand! It gets better. The ‘Mappin’ folds in around us as we’re comparing notes about Leonard Cohen, Mark likes the early albums, and we agree that the Phil Spector produced one (‘Death Of A Ladies Man’
, 1977) was a mistake. Then we talk about Cohen’s novel ‘The Favourite Game’
(1963, Secker and Warburg).
Swing doors open and we’re tramping down long corridors of glass-top cabinets of artefacts and sculptures, between paintings of water-colour industrial landscapes, nudes in oils, and flowers. Mark selects a row of low black bubble-plastic tubular steel chairs beneath a painting of a lipstick red Cadillac lost in a garden. He wears heavy boots against the snow and walks like slow motion, in long loping strides as though he’s wading through knee-deep water. And when he sinks down it’s with a languorous wishful sinful Jim Morrison slouch, part surly, part lazy sensual. And yes, there is something of the wilful brinkmanship, the FURTHERNESS of Iggy about him, despite denials. An air of jumpy energy. Only now the conversation’s off and running, no distractions, walls coming down fast. We just flow with it.
Is there a story behind “Into The Garden”, or is it just an image?
‘It was just an image’ he explains, as careful as if he’s handling eggs. ‘I want to work with images, I know it’s been done before – but then so has walking. But I did get it from something that inspired me to write. What do you
see in the lyrics?’
Me? I see a kind of symbolist decadence, and some submerged Art Deco eroticism.
‘Yeah, it’s basically about sex, and society’s attitude towards sex’ he adds expansively. ‘The way people are ruled by undiscovered areas such as ego and jealousy. People don’t delve into themselves in order to get to know themselves. The majority of society just functions on surfaces, because that’s what society demands. I feel that these animals – ego and jealousy, need to be looked at and understood. I was trying to express that in the lyrics. Love is love, right? But people screw each other uptight. Seems a bit shallow to me not to try to understand it. You get what I’m trying to say?’
Sure I do. It’s like we’re sitting here in this gallery having good conversation, but all the time there’s all kinds of undercurrents. ‘I want something out of you,’ ‘You want something out of him,’ ‘He wants something out of you.’ All that is going on simultaneously beneath the surface. And when you bring the sexual angle in, there’s a whole lot more besides.
‘It’s one of the most difficult areas to talk about. It’s bad for people in general to be like that. People should be more open with sex, and not be frightened of it. People’s ego’s rule their lives. That’s what fashion feeds on. People have to tart up their ego.’
Yes, but ego also manifests itself in violence. Like in Mark’s “Bus Poem” where he shoots all the other passengers.
‘That’s a slightly different field. That’s nearer the surface. That’s DESPERATION
But there’s still violence in there as well as love and sex.
‘It’s an expression of that. I think that poem is expressing myself violently, sure, but I didn’t actually want to do just that… it boils down to people not knowing themselves. Someone made a quote about war, I forget who it was, he said ‘men go to war because the women are watching’.’ (It was TE ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ who said it.)
We live in violent times (cliché).
‘…we always have!’
--- 0 ---
FIT, THE FIFTH
There are five Artery’s. There’s Mark, Simon Hinkler and Mick Fidler on guitars, Neil Mackenzie on bass, and Garry Wilson on drums. But just another band from Sheffield they ain’t. Theirs is a traditional Rock instrumentation. No synth-drums or electronics. ‘But they use these normal factors to produce something that’s totally unique’ stresses Perrin, quite correctly. ‘Which is a bigger achievement than using new instruments or new combinations. It’s a fairly standard combination, but out of it comes totally ridiculous stuff.’ I’m not arguing.
Artery recorded their ‘John Peel Session’ in September, the production talents of Tony Wilson brought to bear on their material at the BBC Maida Vale studios. Following the well-received broadcast the band hived off the studio-tape and appropriated “Into The Garden” for the face-up side of their single. Dreaming guitar-lines supplied by Fidler, shortly afterwards he reneged, then drifts back into harness. Face-down side, “Afterwards”, was cut in Surrey with Dale Griffin and Overend Watts, one-time Mott The Hoople producer, at the desk.
Live, Artery is something else. If you think music’s the Food of Love – prepare for indigestion! They did the ‘ICA’s Sixth Rock Week’ crammed in alongside seventeen other bands on a roster headlined by heavyweights Maximum Joy, Rip Rig And Panic, Buzz and Haircut 100 – and thrashed them all! ‘Melody Maker’
concedes they ‘made the new psychedelia sound meek, weak and sane. Howling from the shadows.’ With Mark mesmeric, from manic stare to bare feet slap-slapping the boards. ‘Don’t overstate the lyrics to the demerit of the band’s corporate wholeness’ urges Perrin. ‘They are just as much a part of Artery, and each part is just as important as any other.’ Strict control of all photographically-recorded evidence of their uniqueness chases this theme too, and is a central prong of his/ their programme. No orthodox grinning dummies line-ups, no ‘diluting your soul’. Instead they get a creative freelance sometime ‘ZigZag’
lensperson (Kishi Yamanoto) to direct the flash. A spread of them up to their necks in the local canal, and more, shots of them suspended upside-down from tree branches… stay tuned…
But the words DO stand up to investigation. Mark’s sometime lyrics/ sometime poems can be obtained in a thirty-pence booklet called ‘Oceans’
(from 8 Hobart Street, Sheffield 11). It includes the text for “The Clown”, b-side of the next single, now in gestation… (top side will be “The Slide”)… about the clown who has to die, but ‘he can’t die, in a world of amusement.’ Later, as we get up, and the interview closes down, I glance across the gallery and on the opposite wall is a crazy harlequin clown in maroon patchwork clothes, he’s contorted in some impossible act of circus juggling. The coincidence is uncanny. Whether the portent is good or bad I still can’t decide.
--- 0 ---
TRIP, THE SIXTH (THE POLITICS OF ECSTACY)
Banks of TV screens at full volume, worlds in rows. The Thin White Duke’s attention skates across the thin white ice of jumbled visions, six, seven, eight, NINE senses working overtime. Inserts from multi-locational tales, Humphrey Bogart in ‘The Big Sleep’
, cultural revolution in China beneath huge Mao Zedong posters, Elvis Presley in ‘Tickle Me’
, antelopes on the shores of an African lake, starving Third World children, flies feeding off huge empty eyes – and I swear, somewhere in there, there’s Mark Gouldthorpe on a nightmare Horror-Show train-ride across France!
But we’re just talking about David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’
movie. ‘There was a lot in it’ asserts Mark, ‘a lot suggested. At times, I thought, perhaps with no real point underneath it.’ A good pose? A striking image? Yes. But ‘to stimulate. To make you think. A bit Ken Russell-y.’
Nicholas Roeg’s production for Bowie is not as force-fed as Ken Russell’s, I counter. Do you like Ken Russell? ‘Yes. Reminds me of tripping. What you get off hallucinogenics.’ At first I’d not made the connection, but now it’s suddenly obvious.
Is tripping one of the ingredients for the lyrics – replacing the Fear Factor? ‘More now than it used to be. It’s influenced me, it’s made me look at things. Acid, and Magic Mushrooms as daft as it sounds.’ Speed and harder drugs he dismisses contemptuously. ‘Just a kick that, isn’t it? You’re not going to learn anything from it. But you learn from hallucinogenics. They discovered the drug LSD because they wanted to use it in psychoanalysis, to understand mental illness better. It can be good if you understand what’s happening. If you don’t, it can be an atrocity.’ Words: Mark Gouldthorpe. Mind-Movies: Hieronymus Bosch thru Salvador Dali. ‘The main stimulation for a bad time, in myself and a lot of people I know who have touched it, is isolation, loneliness. They get paranoid. Really disillusioned. That’s the bad side. It’s there to start with – but the acid amplifies it. And if you’ve got an idea, an attitude towards something, then it’ll expand that too. It helped me to discover the distance between light and dark, and about up and down. You gain more insight. It opens your consciousness somehow.’
We’re moving into Timothy Leary territory, altering states, opening Doors To Perception, the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom, stuff like that. But he’s firm that dropping psychedelics (yes, Alice, that’s where the name comes from) is NOT a thing to focus on. Fear of flying on the ground is alright. ‘I don’t think it’s a good thing to write about. People might read it and be encouraged.’ The balance is somewhere around William Burroughs’ protean addiction memoir ‘Junkie’
(published as by ‘William Lee’ in 1953). ‘He’s a very clever guy, a virtual genius. He’s very blatant about his experience with heroin. He tells you the reality of it, which is good because there’s a lot of taboos about it. If it was educated properly it wouldn’t encourage people onto it. People go into something like that because they’re curious. But William Burroughs puts it right down the line, exactly what the situation is. The undertone is the shit. You’ll be used and you’ll be spat out…’
Mark Gouldthorpe functions on a number of different levels, gleefully demonic, determinedly provoking, but his games are far from superficial. His lyrics separate all that out in width and depth. Like in William Burroughs. It can be related backwards and forwards, over, under, sideways and down. As in ‘Junkie’
where he sees giant centipedes crawling out of buildings when he’s absolutely on heroin. Then ‘The Naked Lunch’
(Grove Press, 1959) and ‘The Soft Machine’
(Olympia Press, 1961) where those same hard narcotic visions have been soaked up into one continuous fantasy. All one trip. You can glide over the top of it and get a pleasingly jumbled disorientation. Like David Bowie watching all those lines of multi-broadcast TV screens.
‘Not really watching any one screen in particular in depth’ suggests Mark. ‘Just watching the surface. Cut up.’
‘…and getting a fragmentation.’
--- 0 ---
FIT, THE LAST: FOR NOW
As we come out from the ‘Mappin Art Gallery’ into the ice I’m looking out across the street, the snowed-in autos and the meters, to the wall of the building beyond. There, in huge melting aerosol letters someone has graffiti’d F-A-K-E! Whatever he’s commenting on, chances are it’s not Artery. Artery refuse to fake it, and they’ll never get static. They might ‘slip into doing bad things – causing deaths and world wars and things,’ but it won’t be boring. They talk of extremes, and of sheer power, there’s some nihilistic intensity and vitality about it all, taking it all on out to the brinks and the jagged edges.
Eventually they will probably destroy themselves in fire, perhaps midway through their second US tour?
‘…the first US tour’ corrects Mark Gouldthorpe emphatically.
‘HOT PRESS Vol.6 no.4’
(Eire – February 1982)
ARTERY: LINER NOTES
When you switch on your deck you hear the tension violating your airspace before the first note hits. It’s there in the tape-hiss fade-in of the William Burroughs prologue/ travel-log, there in the vivid gleaming Premier drum-kit sub-lit monolithic against the psychedelic eye backdrop. This Artery is razored raw to four-piece basics. It’s like feeling the pulse of Yorkshire fragmenting with every nerve a charged wire. Then there’s Mark and Garry, Neil and Murray, through an electronic storm in a web of strobes shocked supernatural in a noise of edgy reflexive brutality, projecting like hell. Is this the end, beautiful friend? But let’s get Sirius. It’d take a 10,000k-memory Pete Frame to chart the fractured Artery bio-lines – like Bowie/ Dylan each evolutionary phase tricked out territorially in time-locked disciples all ‘ya shoulda shoulda been THERE!’-ing. Emerging on suicidal torque (of the Devil) – late seventies, the decapitation theory from manic to shamanic through a vinyl drip-feed of hi-energy low-tech Aardvark singles high in the pain-scale. Darkness at the edge of Sheffield’s computer dream, a bouquet of steel, carnivores in a field of musical vegetarians. Sophisticated they weren’t – mesmeric they were. Through wonderfully odd mid-period Red Flame albums spawning dark caustic ripples of fear and psych-idyllic riffs. Taste and class and shake your ass. Show me the way to the next little girl. Soundtrack albums from Hades. Musicians head-hunted from the cream and music as broadly-based as it is well-placed. The smell of sex/ blended with the scent of the flowers. Ocean-deep/ Mountain-high. If the godlike genius of Leonard Cohen ever becomes next month’s Scott Walker, these albums prove Mark Gouldthorpe will cope. And now… here… the spools coil – sucking up necro-nirvanic sound, and this Artery is raw. Mark in pointed-toe shoes, meticulously frayed denims and biker jacket – but closer to the Golden Dawn, immersed in Aleister Crowley’s uniform of imagery. On his feet or on his knees, bloodied but unbowed, slips over into near self-parody. Holds the mic gun-barreling his forehead the better to reach cerebellum direct, bites the cable to sharpen the sound, folds into foetal crouch and primal howl. Mesmeric. Could THIS be the end, beautiful friend? Now he’s crucified on shocks of light, reborn in the ferocious fire of his own intensity, bigger than jesus, on a vocal-style that’s early-cunnilingus mating the curious sorcery of late Beast 666. He’s a one-off. THIS is Artery NOW!... and the tape-hiss amputates and leaves only an audible tension violating your airspace. This tape is the most fun you can have without actually coming… ya shoulda been THERE…
Mini-album Review of:
(1982, Red Flame RFM4)
As far as Sheffield is concerned, Artery is the antithesis of all things coldly cerebral and digital-sterile. Artery inhabit zones of manic compulsion, shot through with the red and violent streaks of poetic flame, flooded with shadows suggesting mystic and haunted symbolism. It’s an obvious route to simply grab the lyric-sheet and write your thesis around Mark Gouldthorpe’s texts, the magnum opus “The Ghost Of A Small Tour Boat Captain” forms a tempting entry point. Fed in though Michael Fidler’s gull-wailing sax and Simon Hinkler’s demon-possessed violin it becomes a gothic voyage pitched midway between Jim Morrison’s “Horse Latitudes”, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. Gouldthorpe’s is an oblique narrative style that intimates more than it states, his world being one of savage intuition (the percussive “The Slide”), erotic beguilings (“Into The Garden”), and the logics of dream or hallucination (“The Sailor’s Situation”), all launched upon a painted ocean of romantic blackness. It’s easy to concentrate on his dead, often inflectionless delivery too, the full mesmeric intensity of which only comes clear when his voice gets substituted by Fidler’s more jauntily Alan Hull colouration on the remix of their current John Peel Session single (“The Clown”).
But there are five Artery’s, and Mark’s imagery floats on a fathoms-deep mood set by the fully interlocking combination of their quintuple heads. The Debussy piano corruptions and fairground lilt to “The Clown”, the strummed acoustic introduction the “The Slide”, the high keening ascending guitar and Neil McKenzie’s bass-addiction on “Into The Garden” where an ugly riff becomes a thing of beauty, all nailed by Garry Wilson’s drums. Excerpts from this album at work-in-progress stages have already received much airtime and critical John Peel favour. They benefit from studio-time with Peel’s producer Tony Wilson, from Dale Griffin and ex-Mott The Hoople bassist Overend Watts. And in toto its seven tracks form a stunning debut into twelve-inch territory.
‘HOT PRESS Vol.6 no.20’
(Eire – December 1982)
‘ONE AFTERNOON IN A HOT-AIR BALLOON’
in ‘HOT PRESS Vol.7 no.12’
(Eire – July 1983)
THE MAN WHO
THE ART IN ARTERY
The orgasmic interpretations of the word ‘Come’ got Frankie Goes To Hollywood one of the most commercially successful BBC airtime bans ever. But in a different universe, and typically miles-ahead, Artery are already into the vinyl multiple-orgasm. Their new album is called ‘The Second Coming’
(1984, Golden Dawn GDLP01). And it’s as hot as the orgasmic interpretation of that title might suggest.
Mark Gouldthorpe puts the Art in Artery. He’s sat in front of me now, eyes, nose and mouth like ragged holes gouged in a Persian carpet. His lips move like lightning – girls melt in the heat. He forms words with the punch of filthy kisses. ‘The Western World is swamped by product, and it’s very difficult to maintain a truthful outlet/ expression’ he admits, eyes now like distorting lenses. ‘I always think back – although time moved slower then, to some of the great artists who went all through their lives suffering in poverty, when their paintings in future years became invaluable. It’s very s-t-r-a-n-g-e.’ A long contemplative pause. ‘It ties in with the idea of wanting to create something that you believe in, and the reality of surviving in a business sense’ he expands with a languorous gravedigger stare.
I prompt more – he’s delineating the conflict that exists between coming up with something that’s artistically valid, and something that’s gonna sell records? What separates the creators from the caterers? ‘Yes. The fact that you have to be ‘product’ to make cash to survive, to live, and all that. The two don’t really go together. The actual expression, and the reality of having to earn a living.’ He down-strokes the day-growth of ebon-black stubble on his chin thoughtfully. And nods. ‘It’s a realisation of that situation,’ delivered in neat rhyming couplet.
Artery is a band of five-years standing (and falling!). I’ve known Mark Gouldthorpe for much of that time-period. He’s often obtuse, difficult to interpret, but he’s always impressive. I recall Artery psyched-up pre-gig, in a room miles deep beneath the Sheffield ‘Leadmill’ club, cheap moonshine lager poured from weighty plastic tubs into polystyrene cups. Manager Tony Perrin in stylish goldthread lumberjack shirt. He’s haranguing local Mafia or Tong factions for sabotaging press reports and posters to the effect that the gig’s been cancelled. One Artery ignores it all, tunes up his sax in jagged broken lines. Another Artery unravels a long discourse about the merits and demerits of circumcision, and his own discovery of them. I briefly consider reviewing the band along those lines, who is and who ain’t circumcised. Would Steve Fritz print it?
I recall Gouldthorpe reclining back on the segmented off-white couch. An expression you can see on stage where he alternates from lazy closed-eyed sneer to a demonically leering eyeballing the end-of-the-world stare. A man who’s writing and performance tackles his nightmares head-on, in collisions from madness to erotic self-absorption across three albums, three Satan’s treasure-houses high on the pain scale. This is his Second Coming. I decide on that recorded evidence as a more fruitful line of enquiry.
So I ask. Why the reference to Vance Packard’s book about ‘The Business Jungle’ on the 1983 album ‘One Afternoon In A Hot-Air Balloon’
? Could it represent an attempted shift from the heart of darkness to the art of business? And how did that angle tie in with those slyly insinuated musical motifs that crop up across the album? ‘The whole scene with that second album is that it uses ideas – not only in a commercial sense, but how to get people interested’ he says. ‘Because a lot of people are asleep, and you have to encourage them to listen. Those almost-subliminal motifs mean ‘I’ve heard that before, what is that?’ They just seem to make people get involved with it. Then they get involved in the thing underneath that I want to say. It surfaces to them then because they’ve actually taken the time to listen.’
The motifs, the splinters of themes, tend to run from a hint of John Barry to a taste of Spaghetti Western. Do you relate to movies? Is that a strong input? ‘No. Not at all. But they are part of the subliminal thing. I got the idea for those subliminal musical references from actual films, because it was used in America. It’s illegal in this country… it’s illegal even in America now, but it was mooted as a very sinister selling strategy. I was amazed that it worked, but…’
You mean that ‘Hidden Persuaders’ idea of advertising? Where they infiltrate sneaky promo for their crummy product in – like, one movie-frame in twenty, so that…
‘…right. They put one still in twenty of – say, a beefburger, or frothing Cola, and you’re watching this completely innocuous film and you suddenly start thinking ‘I’m hungry’ (his lips chomping lasciviously). You don’t see it, but your subconscious eye sees it. It was proved over and over again that it works. It’s an ingenious manipulative idea…’
A glance at a Fred Flintstone watch indicates time is hurtling gigwards. ‘...a dangerous idea though! ‘Cos you never know what else they could involve. But – then, that gets v-e-r-y complicated.’
Things tend to get complicated when Mark Gouldthorpe is involved.
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There had been an earlier Punk band simply named The. But Artery came into being around 1979 – ‘born out of frustration’, with Gouldthorpe just turned twenty-two, on guitar. He began writing while still at Sheffield’s De La Salle School, and later published a poem collection – tagged for Artery’s first album ‘Oceans’
(1982, Red Flame RFM4). But it wasn’t until he – and perennial stix-man Garry Wilson connected as nucleus of the ever-vacillating Artery line-up that the group sparked. Neil McKenzie played bass while original vocalist Toyce Ashley quit, allowing Mark to assume the role. Mick Fidler (guitar and saxophone) and guitar/ keyboardist Simon Hinkler (formerly of TV Product) joined. It was also manic. ‘It got frightening for a while. People would say ‘Let’s go and see if they kill themselves tonight!’
There were three singles, recorded on primitive technology for Marcus Featherby’s embryonic Aardvark label. They played the London ICA Rock Week, and the legendary ‘Futurama’ in Leeds Queens Hall – a vast airless abattoir of lethal echoes, a huge crucible of noise, an aircraft hangar of a venue with all the acoustic properties of a Spaghetti Junction autowreck ‘…and it was like a sheep-dip backstage.’ But their set was televised and got them much favourable kudos.
The next phase – the two Red Flame albums, followed. At one point I suggest to Mark that perhaps Red Flame label-boss Dave Kitson – a man with a lyric-orientated roster including Patrik Fitzgerald and Anne Clark, might have seen him in a similar bardic light. Gouldthorpe’s not so sure. ‘They saw us appear live’ he counters. ‘And we had quite a lot of impact live, in the old days. That encouraged them.’ A suddenly ludicrous laugh. ‘‘In the old days!’ – that sounds STUPID, but it DOES seem like a long time ago.’
A lot of that lunacy stopped when people began to expect it. When it became a role. Excerpts from ‘Oceans’
– at work-in-progress stages, received much airtime and critical favour from cult DJ John Peel. It benefited from studio-time with Peel’s producer Tony Wilson, and bragged the involvement of former Mott The Hoople bassist Overend Watts. Producer Dale Griffin, with a history clear through David Bowie and Mott, was also present. In toto the album’s seven tracks form a stunning debut into twelve-inch territory. The Peel Show, and the album, showcased their then-current single “Into The Garden”. Its sensual linear decoration and amorphous colours reflecting a chimerical state of mind. It perhaps best snares the melancholic fin de siècle breath of that phase, one of Mark’s most haunting melodic lines igniting the lyric. It still requires the mere use of ears to drown in its mythic stillness.
But there was bloodletting and Artery-cutting. John White (later of UV Pop) replaced Mick Fidler, Christopher Hendrick replaced Neil McKenzie, and David Hinkler (of Pulp) joined on keyboard. Although they were stripped down to a trio in time for the ‘One Afternoon In A Hot-Air Balloon’
album, with its teasing musical motifs and ‘Business Jungle’ references…
And there was a long long lay-off for rethink. Now it’s their ‘Second Coming’
phase. The first product emerged as a twelve-inch single from the newly-formed Golden Dawn label, ‘closer to the Golden Dawn, immersed in Crowley’s uniform’ as in David Bowie through the dark occult wizard Aleister Crowley. It was a taster for the third Artery album, the listed personnel having firmed as a returned Neil McKenzie on bass and Murray Fenton on guitar. Garry Wilson remains the only Artery – bar Gouldthorpe, to play all three albums. How did he escape the lethal stripping-down and reshuffling?
Is Gouldthorpe difficult to work with? ‘I’ve always found Mark easy to work with’ Garry offers loyally, or perhaps tactfully. ‘If we keep a distance between us. Leave him to do what he wants to do.’
‘There’s a lot of trust involved’ adds Gouldthorpe.
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Mark’s is a strange, highly individual method of creativity. Ambiguities abound in his songs, narratives are tantalisingly rich and leagues-deep, they imply moods that leave definition pleasingly blurred. But his stuff doesn’t rhyme, the songs are stretched and manipulated to fit his odd line-lengths and metres. ‘That approach throws a whole new angle on song-structure and attitudes. That’s unique in a sense, and that makes it good. My lyrics are not even really song-material at all, although it’s put into musical form because I love to be involved in that process. I love playing live gigs and things like that…’
I suggest that, on the album track “A Song For Lena”, where Gouldthorpe doesn’t take the vocals, it comes out technically better, if I can say that…?
‘You may say that if you want’ he concedes generously, unphased.
…but it’s not as interesting. It comes out blander.
‘I see. Slightly more conventional?’ As though the thought’s just occurred to him. ‘Yes, that was the one song that demanded a more conventional approach.’
So what about the technicolour violence of “The Slide”, that’s hardly conventional, ‘razorblade in the blood, razorblade stained with life’? No light there, just a visible darkness. ‘When I hear that I think, yes, it’s expressing myself violently.’
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The pungent aroma of illegal substances pervades odd corners of the Leeds University Bar, while backstage, Artery bass-person Neil McKenzie has only to draw on a relatively modest Peter Stuyvesant cigarette (sat beneath a green NO SMOKING sign) to provoke a hysterical near-physical attack from a jobsworth – ‘CAN’’T YOU READ
SONNY!!!’ So much for the wild and wacky world of Rock’n’ Roll hey kids? And he extinguishes against a wailing wall of feedback.
Artery is now a band of five-years standing (and falling!). They know the art of tightening up and letting go simultaneously, and how to let the loose ends hang properly loose. They’ve always been the darkness at the edge of Sheffield’s clean computer dream, with a genealogy as twisted as DNA’s double helix. Mark Gouldthorpe is a fully-qualified survivor. He tests his role to near-destruction against lethal pulses of psychic violence and compulsively ugly beauty. The twisted delicacy of the ‘Red Flame’ albums gets gear-stripped down and deconstructed to a maximised minimalism. The sparsity of the bass/ lead/ drums triad electrified by the killer instinct and the subtlety of a high-speed train-wreck.
Mark languorously drapes around the mic-stand in pointed-toe shoes, meticulously frayed denims and Biker jacket, fingers sensuously crawling his thigh like some obscene scorpion, tongue lolling long and pendulous. He’s folding down into foetal crouch and primal howl. He’s too big for this cramped stage, coming furiously animated, lashing the speaker tower until it trembles close on collapse. All the while he’s flanked by Murray Fenton, the shock-headed manic-dancing guitarist who splits the prime focus in two with lead-lines that maim by remote control, every nerve a charged wire. They do the jagged narrative “Killer Behind The Trees”. They do a pointed attack on Big Business called “Live Like This” – ‘the root of all evil is man himself, money just buys his dreams’, the powerful “Big Machine”, and the current twelve-inch single take on Leonard Cohen’s “Diamonds In The Mine”. All delivered up in a celebration of the sheer physicality of raw energy.
‘I didn’t really get off on it tonight’ Mark confides afterwards. But this Artery on a supposedly bad night still fly higher than most other bands you’re likely to see this year…
April 1979 – ‘Mother Moon’ c/w ‘Pretends’ plus ‘Heinz) (Limited Edition 3) with Fidler, Gouldthorpe, McKenzie, Wilson
1980 – ‘Unbalanced’ c/w ‘The Slide’ (Aardvark STEEL3) with bonus live EP of ‘Perhaps’, ‘Turtle’, ‘Toytown’ and ‘Heinz’
1980 – ‘BOUQUET OF STEEL
’ (Aardvark STEAL2), compilation includes Artery’s ‘The Slide’, alongside tracks by Comsat Angels and I’m So Hollow
1981 – ‘Cars In Motion’ c/w ‘Life And Death’ (Aardvark5)
1981 – ‘Into The Garden’ c/w ‘Afterwards’ (Armageddon Records AS026)
September 1982 – ‘OCEANS
’ (Red Flame RFM4, mini-album) with ‘The Ghost Of A Small Tour-Boat Captain’, ‘Into The Garden’, ‘The Clown (studio version)’, ‘Afterwards (Remix)’, ‘The Slide’, ‘The Clown (alternate John Peel Session version)’, ‘The Sailor Situation’. Cover painting ‘The Secret Goldfish’ by Tony Perrin. With full lyric-sheet insert
1981 – ‘WNW6: MOONLIGHT RADIO
’ (Armageddon Records MOON1), compilation includes Artery’s ‘Into The Garden’, with other tracks by the Pinkies and Patrik Fitzgerald
1982 – ‘FEAR AND FANTASY
’ (Armageddon Records, MOON2) compilation including tracks by the Pinkies, Dr Mix And The Remix, Patrik Fitzgerald Group, Flying Club, and Artery’s ‘Afterwards’
1982 – ‘The Clown’ c/w ‘The Clown (Version)’ (Red Flame RF704)
March 1983 – ‘ONE AFTERNOON IN A HOT-AIR BALLOON
’ (Red Flame RF18) with, side one: ‘Perhaps’, ‘Being There’, ‘Unbalanced’, ‘One Afternoon In A Hot Air Balloon’, ‘A Song For Lena’ (vocals by Christopher Hendrick). Side two: ‘Potential Silence’, ‘Turtle’, ‘The Butcher’s Shop’, ‘Louise’, ‘It’s Good To Be Alone’. Recorded and mixed at Southern Studios, September 1982. Vocals, lyrics, electric and acoustic guitars, Mark Gouldhorpe. Piano, bass, guitar, Christopher Hendrick. Drums, percussion, Garry Wilson
1983 – ‘The Alabama Song’ (Brecht song) c/w ‘Song For Lena’ (Red Flame RFB25), the twelve-inch format has ‘B-side ‘The Death Of Peter X’ RFB25-12. ‘Vocals that infer more menace through understatement than theatrics thread around quirky piano and banjo… Artery enhance its magic without resorting to dramatic tactics. Brilliant’ says ‘Melody Maker’ 12 November 1983
March 1984 – ‘A Big Machine’ c/w ‘I Open My Eyes And Walk’ plus ‘Brink Of Extinction’ (Golden Dawn GD1203, twelve-inch). In ‘Melody Maker’ Frank Worrall says ‘The Big Machine’ ‘has a menace and yet a subtlety that Artery have rarely achieved before and two embryonic Gouldthorpe compositions ‘The Father Song’ and ‘The Mother Song’ promise to usher him to the level of genius’ (1 September 1984)
1984 – ‘THE SECOND COMING’ (Golden Dawn GDLP01, vinyl mini-album, via Red Rhino Distribution), with, side one: ‘The Last Song’, ‘My Age, My Beast’, ‘The Father Song’. Side two: ‘The Mother Song’, ‘Little Boy Blue’, ‘Diamonds In The Mine’ (Leonard Cohen song), ‘Ringing The Bells’. Recorded at Terminal, London, during October 1984. Producer, Tim Parry. Vocals/ lyrics, Mark Gouldthorpe. Guitar/ keyboards, Murray Fenton. Bass, Neil McKenzie. Drums, Garry Wilson. Backing vocals by Elizabeth Jean Murray. Martin Bedford cover art. Artery headline at Sheffield City Hall Ballroom, Thursday 3 May with Sedition
November 1984 – ‘Diamonds In The Mine’ (Leonard Cohen song)’ plus ‘Live Like The Rest’ c/w ‘Onepenny Horror Show’ and ‘The Butcher’s Shop (revisited)’ (Golden Dawn GD1204, twelve-inch)
1985 – ‘NUMBER FOUR (LIVE IN AMSTERDAM
’ (Golden Dawn GDLP02) with, side one: ‘Living In The Real World’, ‘Escape This Thing’, ‘Kiss Of Truth’, ‘The Finest Thing’, ‘It Was Raining When You Left Me’. Side two: ‘Diamonds In The Mine’ (Leonard Cohen), ‘Scarecrow Joe’, ‘That’s All There Is’, ‘Black All Night’. The ‘Discogs’ website adds… ‘Simon Hinkler briefly returned, with band manager Tony Perrin added on bass. A live album was released in 1985, by which time the band had split up, after Fenton had joined The Batfish Boys’
April 1986 – Gouldthorpe and Simon Hinkler collaborate on a further album, ‘FLIGHT COMMANDER SOLITUDE AND THE SNAKE
’, reviewed by Sorrel Downer as ‘pleasantly unsettling. Gong meets the Goths. In solid songs like ‘Hidden For Days’ and Shipwreck On The Moon’ we’re rushed past the exotica gripping on the easybeat drum like the handrail of a big dipper’ (‘Melody Maker’ 3 May 1986). After which Hinkler joins the Mission. They collaborate on a second album, ‘A ROOM FULL OF THIS
’, in 1992, working together under the name The Flight Commander
1989 – ‘AFTERWARDS
’ (Pleasantly Surprised label PS011), a compilation cassette edition of demos, live tracks and interviews
Gouldthorpe moved away from music to run his own hair salon, stating in 2009 ‘I lost it with music for a bit and went into dark corners.’ Artery reformed in 2007 after being invited to perform at the Meltdown Festival by long-time fan Jarvis Cocker, and recorded a session for Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music show. They stayed together, releasing the ‘STANDING STILL
’ EP in February 2009 (with Mark Gouldthorpe, David Hinkler, Murray Fenton and bassist John Clayton, ‘Standing Still’, ‘A Song For All The Lonely People’, ‘The Seeds Of Youth’ and ‘Who’s Afraid Of David Lynch?’). In 2010 they split up again when David Hinkler decided to leave, but continued after recruiting James Bacon to replace him. A further album, ‘CIVILISATION
’, was released in October 2011 (Twinspeed Records), featuring Mark Gouldthorpe (vocals), Simon Barfield (bass), Garry Wilson (drums), Murray Fenton (guitar, percussion), James Bacon (keyboards) with ‘Standing Still’, ‘The Prediction’, ‘A Song For All The Lonely People’, ‘Is It All For Real’, ‘Waiting In Subway’, ‘Unfaithful Girlfriend’, ‘The Stalker’, ‘The Night An Angel Was Raped’, ‘Who’s Afraid Of David Lynch?’, ‘Civilisation’, ‘Into Oblivion’
(Italy – May 1983)
THE ARTERY STORY
Before Sheffield was Sam Smith or the Arctic Monkeys,
before it was Def Leppard or Tony Christie, it was ABC,
the Human League, Cabaret Voltaire… and Artery
Outside, in the sodium streetlight wash, there’s a big adjacent ‘Come Dancing’ sign. Inside Sheffield City Hall, the support-band – Siii, ain’t dancing. Ageing Bouncers in dickie-bows watch the sound-traps in the richly-inlaid ceiling, joke about the noise, and glance at the time. It’s 10:09:13.
Then, the latest Artery is razored down to basics. Crucified on trips of light, Mark Gouldthorpe has always been the visual fix, but now he’s backed up by guitarist Murray Fenton, a Yamaha, a Fender Strat, a cowboy shirt, and a severely damaged Johnny Thunders brained-out lurch. His hair walls vertically down so he stumbles disjointed, head angled sharply back on the permanent brink of collapse. Bassist Neil McKenzie, in red/ white neckerchief, is well hung-back, guitar penis-high at forty-five degrees spawning dark caustic ripples of fear and psycho-idyllic riffs. From a remixed “Butcher’s Shop” (off their ‘One Afternoon In A Hot-Air Balloon’
LP), to the current album ‘Second Coming’
. From “One-Penny Horrorshow”, bridged by a shriekback of distortion, into the excellent ‘Golden Dawn’ single “Big Machine”, then “Dangerous To Think” with Mark on his feet or on his knees, bloodied but unbowed. He slips over into near self-parody, then gets reborn in the fire of his own manic intensity, his own ‘Second Coming’. He’s a one-off. Should be bigger than Jesus.
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‘Occasionally I tend to go too deep. Lose myself,’ Gouldthorpe admits. ‘The surface is imagery, but there are a lot of other things in it.’
Is there a political angle? ‘I’m not all for politics.’
What about drug-based literature, then. Jean Genet? William Burroughs? ‘I’m about a third of the way through Burroughs’ ‘Nova Express’
. It’s his use of English, basically, that’s too clever for me. I hate trying to read a book I can’t read.’ He states it artlessly, or possibly deviously. It occurs to me as odd that Rock accepts and ushers into culthood its poetic word-spinning Bob Dylan’s, Jim Morrison’s, Elvis Costello’s… and quite possibly its Mark Gouldthorpe – while refusing anything more ambitious from its poetry poets than Music-Hall John Cooper Clarke, Stephen ‘Seething’ Wells, and Mark Miwurz…
What critique does Mark use for good or bad? Is it a personal thing? ‘I just see what the reactions of the people around me are. And then I can get back to myself and decide, so I don’t wander too far. Basically the chemistry of Artery is, I’m writing all the time. If I come up with a good lyrical idea I take it down to the guys and we’ll read it, think about it for a bit, if I have a vague musical idea I try to get that across so it goes the way I want it. Or I ask what they think I’m trying to say in it, what’s happening, and somebody might come up with a mood music and build it off that. That’s how the construction occurs. We’ve all got our political – not political, our outlooks on life. We’re not all exactly the same. Artery is a very tight thing. A very solid thing ‘cos we’ve all looked at each other and we all understand each other. We all understand ourselves. Eventually it will disband, it’s a vehicle for us at this stage to get us into the music arena. To consider it a permanent thing is to underestimate the situation. It’s better not to.’
Tony Perrin – manager, sharp entrepreneur and fifth Artery, intercedes tactfully. ‘In terms that other bands go by, Artery is permanent. But at the same time, we’re looking at bigger things. There’s a lot more fields of communication than just Rock music!’
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I try on that serious archivist hat for size. It fits quite snugly. So let’s talk-through Artery’s fractured time-lines…
Gouldthorpe still has time for the first Artery single – “Mother Moon” c/w “Pretends”. It arrived in April 1979, and seems like a good point to begin. It was followed by “Unbalanced”, and the urban note-taking “Cars In Motion”. Around this time they were playing the ‘stagnant’ Leeds ‘F-Club’ – four times, although their particular tapestry of decadent perversity was well outside its Punk tribal orthodoxy. ‘The pure sense of that time was saying a lot of what I was feeling then’ Gouldthorpe recalls. ‘But the business machine gobbled it all up and spewed it out as fashion. It became the deformed child of Punk.’
An Artery gig at the ‘Leadmill’ – 16 August 1980, was significant in that a then-unknown Jarvis Cocker was in the audience. ‘It was the singer I couldn’t take my eyes off’ he wrote later, ‘he was half-talking and half-singing. You couldn’t catch all the words, but the ones you did fired the imagination… this wasn’t a concert – it was a ritual, a summoning of primal energies, a trip, all the things I’d hoped music could be. And then some.’ Jarvis became a long-time Artery fan, promoting a reunion gig at the Meltdown Festival as late as June 2007. Meanwhile, Artery were slotted onto the ‘ICA Rock Week’ promoting their then-current single “Into The Garden” – issued through a temporary hook-up with Armageddon. At the time he did a travelogue on the single for me. It was a tale of sanguinary rites and forbidden indulgences with ‘identical twin sisters’. ‘The smell of sex blended with the scent of the flowers…’
‘Do you get the point about the identical bit’ And the importance of it?’ he probes. ‘I was trying to point out that it seemed irrelevant because they were two identical people.’ Ambiguities abound, narratives tantalisingly rich and seamed with metaphor, implying moods but leaving definition pleasingly blurred.
Artery played West Hampstead’s ‘Moonlight Club’ which led to inclusion on a couple of compilations – ‘WNW6: Moonlight Radio’
and ‘Fear And Fantasy’
(both for Armageddon), supplying tasters for the mid-period portfolio and the first Artery album-proper – ‘Oceans’
. But first, Artery did a John Peel session, recorded on the BBC’s Maida Vale equipment. ‘We learned a lot from that. The previous work we’d done in the studio was so inadequate as regards production. That was the big door that opened for us.’ Tony Wilson was knob-twiddling and dial-watching, and he was ‘one of the best producers we’ve ever had. We learned a lot, yeah. There’s so much brilliant production about that you have to compete to get people to even listen to you. And it’s all down to production. Production enables you to express the music better. If you can make people listen, you know it’s working.’
Then it’s 1982. The album versions of “Into The Garden” and “The Clown” are lifted direct from ‘borrowed’ John Peel session tapes. ‘We tried to get Tony Wilson to produce the other five ‘Oceans’
tracks, but he wasn’t available. So we asked John Peel if he could think of anyone else who was good, and he said ‘well, try Dale Griffin’. So we did, and he was even better!’ Griffin has a history clear back to Mott The Hoople. ‘Tony Visconti used to manage both Mott The Hoople and David Bowie at the same time. It was really strange just listening to Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin talking about those guys in the same way that we talk about our friends. Good in’t it? It was interesting to hear about Lou Reed’s hang-ups though.’ He delivers straight, no description in his eyes. A moment’s pause. ‘Not that there’s a division between people – well, there is, yeah. Of course there is.’ Sometimes the division is felt more by the people outside, I suggest. When you get to meet someone you’ve only known previously by listening to their records. It’s you that builds the barriers, not them.
Mott bassist Pete ‘Overend’ Watts also gets a co-production credit on the “Afterwards” track. Did Gouldthorpe listen to his records with Mott – “All The Young Dudes”, “All The Way From Memphis” and the rest? ‘No. Never really got into them at all. But if I had it might’ve been a situation like you say. That’s why I don’t read the music press. That tends to happen when you read the papers.’
Despite his reservations about journalism, ‘Sounds’
, ‘Melody Maker’
and ‘Hot Press’
came calling. They liked what they saw/ heard, and reported accordingly, at some length. ‘Oceans’
yo-yoed around the Indie chart for some time, but after its success ‘I was getting disillusioned with the English music scene’ resumes Mark. ‘The set-up was becoming really tight, because of the cash thing. It’s all become so instant, nobody will touch anything that won’t sell. So it’s limiting the output from creative people, it disheartens them from the very root. Although we had a bit of a head start by being involved with the company, and they did want a second Artery album.’
The regenerative process was inaugurated by the brief link with multi-instrumentalist Christopher Hendrick, through which they fulfilled the obligation to Red Flame Records, in the form of ‘One Afternoon In A Hot-Air Balloon’
. And, spilling over into 1983, it was within this three-piece guise – with drummer Garry Wilson forming the third component, that Gouldthorpe apparently exorcised his demons, rising from the murky depths of oceanic angst into the… well, the buoyancy of aerial travelogue. There were ten tracks, and twisted weirdness aplenty – the butcher who accidentally amputates and sells his own hands, fish that swim in and out of eyes, midnight suicides who ‘drip on into the day’, and monsters with the eyes of children – and there’s no disappointments, just that the themes are handled with a slightly more whimsical edge that Hendrick’s surprisingly rich instrumentation lifts and fleshes out, with piano credits, keyboards, bass guitar, electric ‘Flamenco’ guitar, and xylophone!
‘From the outset, we (Gouldthorpe and Hendrick) decided to just do that one album, that one thing, because I realised more than him that it was what it was – and that was it! After that I’d want to move on, and that was made fairly clear between us. We’ve now gone our own ways. He’s working with a new band, he’s got his own ideas. Before we did ‘Hot Air Balloon’ he was on the rocks a bit. At a loss. He’d worked with two or three bands that he’d not been happy with, and they’d split up. But the whole approach to our album encouraged him to get his own thing together.’ There’s one track – “A Song For Lena”, where Hendrick wrests vocal chores too. ‘Yes, Chris loved that lyric. But I found it difficult to do because I wanted to do other things with the song. It wouldn’t work for me, so we were going to drop it. But Chris said he liked it, and liked the idea. He said ‘can I have a go?’, and I said ‘sure, if you can do it, do it’. And he did, and it was good. All that basically took place in the studio. It came together really well.’
The return to vinyl was hotly chased by fresh live work. Playing their way through an intense series of UK dates shoving a wide-textured sound with blaring brass, sax, trombone, and Simon Hinkler’s honky-tonk piano circling the core of Garry Wilson’s drums and John K White’s guitar.
There were additional gigs in foreign climes. ‘We got an offer to go to Italy. The agency was really interested, so we got the live set together because of that. What we wanted was to get a range of songs that represented tracks from ‘Oceans’
, tracks from the second album, and the single we had out of the old Brecht-Weill ‘Threepenny Opera’ thing “Alabama Song”. Then we went over. It was the first time I’d been out of the country, and the experience was incredible. It was excellent. The enthusiasm we experienced in Italy was so good compared to reactions in this country, the actual level of involvement. It felt like a new breath of fresh air, a new situation.’
Audiences are blasé here, I suggest. There are so many fine bands. Whereas in Italy, a gig is still an occasion – I mean, people still riot to get INTO Eric Clapton concerts there! Rioting to get OUT
I could understand, but…?
‘It’s the same all over Europe’ he claims. ‘Yet the whole European scene looks to England. It’s a complicated situation. I suppose it makes you work harder here, and you get more out of yourself.’
Since that tour the Artery line-up has gone through switches again. Simon Hinkler had worked with Pulp – playing on and producing their Red Rhino mini-album ‘It’
(April 1983, RED LP29), while co-writing their debut single “My Lighthouse”. ‘It’s nice and sweet to listen to’ opines Garry Wilson, in a tone that could imply approval – or could be a subtle put-down. ‘I did the drumming for it, and I think their biggest mistake was, they got the drums and they really mixed them down. I can lie and listen, and just about hear myself.’ While John K White went on to form his own one-man UV Pop, issuing a series of incandescent LPs of his own, starting with ‘No Songs Tomorrow’
(Flowmotion FM004, 1983).
But for Artery, this was the ‘Second Coming’ phase, which brings things more or less up to date, ‘Confuse To Prevail’ reads the liner-blurb, and ‘PLAY LOUD’. At that time, Artery was the four-piece I saw at Sheffield City Hall. Harder, more guitar-based, and the power they’re supplying – it’s electrifying!
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Mark Gouldthorpe can be cagey. He’s very emphatic he won’t ‘pander to the media’ except on his own terms. Won’t ‘dilute his soul.’ ‘It’s the writing side that’s been chosen to get Artery into the press. At this stage. Now. You can’t really talk about the music. It’s got this sound and that amp, and that’s it. It’s not interesting to read about. But with Artery there’s a unity, the same direction in the whole set-up.’
Tony Perrin, the man who painted the Magritte-esque ‘The Secret Goldfish’ cover-art for ‘Oceans’, points out that ‘Rock is the only business you can get into without anything other than raw talent, and get into a position of power. In every other business you need capital.’
‘One has to earn a living to survive in amongst this society’ Gouldthorpe concurs. But not to the extreme where ‘the machine uses you, instead you should try to use it. Because then the human is in control, at the top of the hierarchy. It can get very dangerous if the ‘society machine’ is in control of events. That’s probably what’s going wrong with the ‘Bomb’ thing…!’
‘The Second Coming’
LP, launched under their own control, on their own ‘Golden Dawn’ label, is probably their most direct and accessible work to date – without once diluting their soul. Artery play haunting sounds, taunting sounds, creating the perfect audial back-projection for Gouldthorpe, always the focal point with his insolent deadpan delivery and Jagger-animal movements. This Artery has the will and the skill, a music that works on stage and on the page. Outside the confines of Sheffield, the business jungle and fiercer chart competition has concentrated their minds wonderfully.
To quote a current advertising slogan, I am convinced they are a major contribution to contemporary music.
It’s 11:13:11. Outside, the sodium streetlights dance…
(USA – August 1985)
‘DIE IN THE ROSARY no.1’
(UK – October 1985)
Artery ‘Sheffield City Hall’
Gig Review published in:
‘WHIPPINGS AND APOLOGIES no.9’
(UK – December 1984)