This feature was originally scheduled for inclusion in the 1st edition of a local magazine called Rhythm Town that John Glover and myself were to publish in 1991. Sadly the magazine progressed no further than a few interviews and some layouts. Recently I came across John’s interview with Ely band, Higher Breed. So published for the first time is that interview from August 1991. Karl Bedingfield
If you like gutsy vocals, graveyard guitar licks and hard, railroad drumming in your music, then you’d better listen to HIGHER BREED’S new demo, the unusually titled ‘Chunk, Moth And The Fat Controller’. It’s spilling over with all three. Rhythm Town meets the band and digs the new breed!
Of Ely’s new breed of guitar grinding rock bands, Higher Breed appear to be among the leading contenders. Raw and gutsy, they have been winning new fans from all over the Cathedral City. Formed in February 1990 by brothers Christian and Lindsey Blicken and bass player “Squadge”. At this stage none of the band could play their instruments, an attitude harking back to the “I can do that” stance of punk. The spirit of ’76, indeed!
Their first gig in August 1990 was at Little Downham Village Hall, as support to those other local boys, Threehead. Since then the Higher Breed have notched up around 30 live shows, acquiring drummer Phil Smith along the way (he joined in March of this year). Through persistent graft on the local live circuit they have developed their own particularly distinctive style, which, as Christian modestly explains, is “just the wah-wah pedal, really”.
Things were beginning to go well until, unexpectedly, bassist “Squadge” left the band shortly before a gig in Harlow. Thankfully a temporary replacement was found in Ali Loker, singer of The Color Factory. Having only four rehearsals to learn the set, the band has nothing but praise for Loker, “He’s a very musical bloke. He picked it up in a week and we were as tight as we were before. He’s not a bass player by trade but he did a very good job.”
You’ve got The Man On The Moon, The Boat Race, and when you get a bit better – there’s The Alma!
Eventually Christian Fromont, formerly of recently disbanded local favourites Excitable PJ Maybe, was chosen to take over permanent bass duties, hopefully ushering in a fresh new era for the band – that’s if they can get the right kind of gigs, though. For a band who love to play live, the lack of suitable venues is frustrating. “At the moment there’s not an awful lot happening,” says manager David truthfully. “It’s not so much down to our problems finding a bass player, it’s the fact that there’s not much happening in the area. You’ve got The Man On The Moon, The Boat Race, and when you get a bit better – there’s The Alma!”
Although the band have their own distinctive sound, it is the result of a strange and diverse mixture of influences. Christian cites Hothouse Flowers, Faith No More, and above all Stevie Ray Vaughn, while Lindsey is a self confessed U2 freak. Phil is one of the legion of Smiths fans who still mourn the premature demise of the infamous Morrissey/Marr partnership.
Although the band are making huge advances musically, they are cautious when the subject of record company’s is bought up. When asked if they had sent their demos to any labels, Christian’s reply was typically restrained, “No,” he says, “we haven’t sent any yet. It’s not of a quality I would expect a record company to say “Oh, that’s brilliant!”, but it shows a certain direction. It’s very tight and we’re all good at what we do. I think a record company could see that. I’d expect the fourth demo we do would be more likely to get sent off. When we feel we’re at a level that we’re happy with, then we’ll really push it”.
Their distaste for the type of bands charting nowadays is obvious. “I watched ‘Top Of The Pops’ for two weeks in a row,” says Lindsey, “and I just thought how sad it was”. Their demo, ‘Chunk, Moth, And The Fat Controller’, shows a much more commercial appeal than they’ve achieved before, making it a far more accessible product than predecessor, ‘Elsibev’. “The difference between the tapes is quite a lot,” explains Christian. “When we first went into the studio we were all very serious, with songs such as ‘Angel’ and ‘Free’. The new tape is much more relaxed. By the sixth demo we’ll have it sounding how we want it.”
At some point in the future, we might even do a couple of slow songs!
The looser sound is explained more cosmically by manager David Darlington, “We’ve tried to change things a bit because we’re all coming to the end of our teens and we’re ageing hippies trying to relax everything. It’s all Stonehenge really”.
With Phil now working and with Lindsey and Christian at college, Higher Breed intend to stay defiantly local, pushing the band towards more frequent gigging and recording. “At some point in the future,” Lindsey adds, “we might even do a couple of slow songs!”
Would that be with or without Wah-Wah? Now, that would be progression indeed
Podcast: Higher Breed’s Music
Our featured track by Higher Breed is called ‘Free’ and was from their 1991 cassette E.P. called ‘Elsibev’.[audio:http://www.elyonline.co.uk/downloads/higher_breed_free.mp3]
The complete tracklisting for ‘Elsibev’ was: Angel, Free, SX and 4-beat. All material was written by the band and recodred at Flight Path Studios.