Steel Citys Latest Contribution To Popular Culture
- Introduced By Pete Lock
has so far given us amongst other things The Human
League, Cabaret Voltaire, Def Leppard,
two football teams whove seen better days and
an athlete whos conquered the world. Any time
now Polydor are set to release the debut album of
Steel Citys latest contribution to popular culture,
The Comsat Angels. Sci-fi fans will be familiar with
the name, Comsat being the abbreviation of Communications
The Comsat Angels havent featured in your social
calendar of late its hardly surprising - on
the live front the band are not exactly in line for
the Queens Award for industry. So far this year
theyve played just two gigs bringing their total
to just over fifty in three years."
at a stage where we cant afford to lose money"
explains singer / guitarist Steve Fellows.
"To hire a PA that we think is good enough to
present our music costs a lot." Drummer Mik
Glaisher adds: "I think most bands like to
gig a lot when they get their first set together,
like we did with ours, but that excitement has worn
off and now we realise that theres more to being
in a band than just playing on stage."
A little blasť for such a new band, but an indication
of the bands strong minded independence and
their determination not too compromise.
The band, completed by bassist Kevin Bacon
and keyboard player Andy Peake, started life
as Radio Earth, a would-be jazz-rock combo
beset with numerous problems. "We experimented
for a long time trying to sort things out, but basically
we were playing horrible material" says Steve.
Their inability to accommodate their many influences
meant that (a) the music was complex and difficult
to play, and (b) no one liked it. They were in this
depressed and directionless state when their particular
"Lennon meets McCartney"
/ "Lydon walks into Sex" watershed
occured. They went to see The Damned.
Kev: "It wasnt so much the music as their
attitude and the atmosphere they created. We couldnt
equate what we were doing and what they were up to."
The re-evaluation saw them strip their music down
to the roots, discarding unnecessary technique and
replacing it with energy and emotion. So great was
the change that a new handle was deemed to be in order
and The Comsat Angels (much better name anyway) were
The other effect of Punk was to steer them more towards
an independent label for their first single than the
established music scene. They claim theyre not
adverse to making a few bob and seeing the world but
they have no intention of slipping into the "one
gig a year" situation. With that in mind it may
seem strange that they have now signed to Polydor
rather than an independent.
"Polydors an institution like the
BBC" says Steve, "and theyre big
enough to leave us alone, for a while at least, and
let us try to succeed on our own terms. A smaller
label might have tried to push us a bit more and tried
to look after us. What will happen with Polydor if
we fail to sell enough records I dont know."
When it came to recording the album the Comsat's displayed
a keen eye for business. They used Polydors
studio, stayed in a flat rather than a hotel, used
a fraction of their budget and were in and out of
the studio in ten days flat. As Kev explains:
"One reason for that was because wed had
a lot of time to think about the sort of sound we
wanted so it was just a case of going in and recording
it. There was another side to it though. Polydor signed
us last year when they were going through a reasonably
good period, now that the bad period has set in they
might start to offload some of the bands. If they
see that we only spent a third of what they originally
offered us they might hang onto us for a bit."
Describing the Angels music is no easy task. Hypnotic
bass & drum patterns emphasise the emotion in
Steves vocals and the strong but subtle melodies
of the songs give the sound an almost unnerving feel.
Steve summed it up a lot more simply when he explained
what was left after Radio Earth had been taken apart:
"The three things I like in music are a strong
rhythm, a nice tune & funny noises. Thats
basically what we ended up with in The Comsat Angels."
the past few months the Comsat's have been looking for
a new rehearsal room into which they hope to incorporate
their studio at a later date. At present they rehearse
in a cellar, which may sound romantic, but in reality
damp & none too spacious. This afternoon theyve
found a new home, a basement with only a mailing address
for a neighbour. Its also handy for the buses. While
the others give the place the once over, Mik expands
on the bands touring plans.
we want to avoid is becoming too "slick"
and to do that youve got to strike a balance
between prolonged gigging and short bursts."
The bands next live work will be in Holland where
theyll be playing a series of co-operative gigs.
"The Dutch get to see loads of different bands
because the government subsidises gigs. That means
you can go there and usually break even, if not make
a profit. It must have some effect because the shops
over there sell Pere Ubu albums like Virgin
shift Blondie & Police albums
Without the benefit of extensive live work the Comsat's
could find a problem carving out an audience for themselves.
The Sheffield fanzine NMX hinted at this when
they said: "Theyre not extreme enough to
be a cult band, nor streamlined enough for the Top
Twenty singles." A review of the current single
Independence Day in a local paper put it
more succinctly: "The Comsat Angels second single
has warmed the hearts of radio moguls and deservedly
so. They may not come up with the most commercial
offerings but their music has wonderfully sinister
overtones that make it delightful. No chance."
Fortunately the band see their future in albums more
than in singles and even then success has got to be
on their terms.
"We intend to continue", says Mik, "and
that means selling enough records to carry on without
compromising. To us the songs will always be the same
whether they sell a thousand or a million."
Steve: "Success on the star level is not something
I aspire to. My idea of success is us to continue
writing good material. Success on any other level
is something alien to me and youll have to ask
me about it when it happens."
If the albums anything to go by hes got every
chance of being asked about it in the near future.