Eric Ramsden from Manchester was one of a handful of early electronic post punk pioneers, unique and uncompromising not completely unlike Robert Rental, Fad Gadget, . He was involved with early Factory acts, the New Hormones label, Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley as The Tiller Boys and maybe best documented with Cabaret Voltaire (as guest musician on record, as opening act on tour and fully absorbed on the Pressure Company live LP). From solo output up to putting a band together (The Bedlamites) and getting recruited for the then Manchester based femme fatale junkie legend Nico as tourband member – with additional stints in the Suns Of Arqua, Psychic TV and the Durutti Column.
This short bio shows a lot unknown facts, thankfully supported by the man himself about his whereabouts and his surprising return to electronic music starting with ‘Man Dog’ in 2014 on Klanggalerie after a 18 years hiatus and continuing until the present day. Find his latest Album ‘No-Go‘ here as CD and DL and a live recording from 2019 promoting the ‘Wire Me Up‘ 2*12″ on soundcloud.
An incredible find, many, many thanks to Hugo Ball.
Mark Griffin was born in 1957 in Kentucky but based in Dallas, Texas since 1979 as far as known. Actually a classical trained and studied musician and trumpet player, he joined a local New Wave Band, The Telefones and played with Jazz musicians, worked for a local indie record store during the 80’s and became MC 900 Ft. Jesus ca. 1988, named after an Televengalists vision of 900 Ft. high Jesus statue he promoted heavily at that time. Together with DJ Zero (Patrick Rollins) they self relased a first 12″ which caught interest of Nettwerk – then looking for quite progressive acts fitting in the late EBM / Synth Wave / Alternative Electronic corner like Consolidated, Meat Beat Manifesto, Severed Heads, Skinny Puppy and more.
“Hell With The Lid Off” (Nettwerk, 1989) with DJ Zero was themed arround the questionable TV & Radio preachers and their agenda not unlike the middle ages indulgence tradings which caused the first great crisis of the catholic church, the schism and splitting into evangelic and catholics in Europe. Paired with a good sense of irony and sarcasm.
The irresistible groovy electro tracks ‘I’m Going Straight To Heaven’ and ‘Truth Is Out Of Style’ made their way into my favourites back then, despite the unavoidable Stephen R. Gilmore Design which ruined so many records for me and the obvious hip hop scratching. I nearly sorted this LP out after reviewing it then but for a late 80’s record it beared many good ideas and did not hesitate to jump over the boarder to the plain absurd. A special humour which was seldom in my usual listening then. The album title was of course another direct quote – John Peel even offered a session as I recently discovered feat. ‘Truth Is Out Of Style’, ‘Real Black Angel’ and ‘Revolution 10’ (from the ‘UFO’s Are Real’ 12″).
Peel Session, February 1990
“Welcome To My Dream” (Nettwerk, 1991) expanded the spectrum Mark Griffin worked in favourable. Less synthesizer and hip hop orientated it started with a bang – ‘Falling Elevators’ which was an surprise success 5 years later after Levis used it in a campaign and got subsequently issued as a single in 1996 (!).
The more in sync with the earlier tracks ‘Killer Inside Me’ and the futuristic lounge jazz track ‘The City Sleeps’ where then as singles issued with lesser success. The bizarre ‘Dalis Handgun’, nearly an acapella track also showed Griffin’s main interest in leftfield themes and storytelling as did ‘Adventures In Failure’ and ‘Hearing Voices In One’s Head’. It is a great album and much more serious than the first but as the song titles give away it’s no surprise the mass appeal needed for commercial success was vanishing. Slightly jazzy downtempo tracks where not really en vogue while half America started stage-diving to Grunge and Europe was raving on with sidesteps into Warp, IDM and Ambient. The lyrics, missing an overall album concept kept the intelligent observations, the sarcasm but with self-critic present also which was not going down to well with most of the hip hop influenced audience.
Mark Giffin writes on his channel: “About 47 minutes of a live show we did in Moers, Germany on June 7, 1992. I don’t think it was broadcast, but rather was shown on closed circuit TVs scattered around the festival. Someone recorded it and gave me a copy, but unfortunately they stopped the tape before the end of the set. Still, it’s some of the best footage I have of the band from those days. Features Chris McGuire on reeds, Baby G on turntables, and Mitch Marine on drums.”
“One Step Ahead Of The Spider” (American Recordings, 1994) appeared on a new label, three years on. Already involved in “Welcome To My Dream” where Mike Dillon (Percussion etc.) and Chris McGuire (Saxophones), but now he went full way into jazz band realms, adding Drew Phelps (Bass), Dave Palmer (Piano), Earl Harvin (Drums, nowadays playing with Tindersticks), Nikhil Pandya (Tabla) and Rajiv Chakravarti (Tambura).
Starting the album with an 11m43s track – ‘New Moon’ – showed how ignorant / arrogant / free of commercial orientation Mark Griffin operated back then. If you made this and managed to follow the storytelling you where ready for the album. If not, then not. Many of his old listeners might have skipped it then, I know I did. I missed any sense of dynamic groove and was so disappointed I gave it away after listening half hearted ca. twice…
The artwork did not help either.
I think this is one of the quite spectacular cases where the grown public was scared away in large parts without gaining a new.
Anyway – this year I finally felt curious enough to give it a go again (…..).
Lyrically Mark Giffin took this to the top, the dark sarcasm he showed on “Welcome To My Dream” turned into blank Cynicism besides his observational storytelling. A Curtis Mayfield cover with Living Color’s Vernon Reid guesting on Guitar did not save this from being a step ahead into uncharted territory. ‘Tiptoe Through The Inferno’ is one of the greatest song titles ever used imho but it describes pretty well where he was heading to.
Find a comic adaption with full lyrics on instagram courtesy of Simon Paul.
‘But If You Go’ was the second and final single, the video was never properly finished nor aired and is from his personal archive.
Afterwards – he disappeared. A fourth album was planned but didn’t work out; “I had sort of lost my sense of humor about it,” he says. “The big thing about MC 900 is we’re a pretty dark thing, but it was like I used to at least try to be kind of funny and I got to the point where I didn’t think anything was funny anymore and I still kind of am that way.” (Dallas Observer Interview, January 2017),
He finally opened up a little about his whereabouts, frustration leading to more alcohol and a complete reinvention as Pilot and Flight Instructor to build up enough praxis to apply for a commercial Pilot license but after 9/11 demand vanished and he found himself living of his savings until he asked for a job in a bookstore. Years later he slowly started DJ’ing in a small bar, started a MC 900 Ft. Jesus facebook page in 2012, took on a second Job to survive.
A full professional recording “Live In Vienna — A.D. MCMXCII” (2013, self released), a Radio Broadcast from 1992 was published via MC 900 Ft.’s Facebook page as free download in December 2013.
I discovered this thanks to discogs when I was startled whatever happened to him after listening to ‘Welcome To My Dream’ once again to start my day working from home.
In 2016 he finally made a full live appeareance which can be found on youtube.
So, at last he found the attitude to go out and play again in addition to his daytime jobs after a hiatus of more than 15 years. Perhaps there is more interest in his dark, witty observational style maybe now than in the 90’s and it would be great to have a few songs reflecting the changes of our times from his POV.
Bonus Track: Instore set, Record Store Day 4/22/2017, Dallas Tx
1: Falling Elevators / 2: The Killer Inside Me / 3: If I Only Had A Brain / 4: Tiptoe Through The Inferno / 5: The City Sleeps / 6: U.F.O.’s Are Real
I’ve read about this documentary when it came out (or at least was shown in some selected places a few times) but could’nt go to watch it. It never appeared on DVD as far as I know but today I stumbled upon it – so yeah – here are just 24 years later some interesting tidbits from the New York scene in glorious youtube quality. Thanks to the uploader.
DONT BRING A DOG, 1997
“It´s not like writing a popsong and have it played on the fucking radio!”
Aurelio Valle / Factory Press
“A lot of these alternative rockbands seem to be more into Kiss than into Duchamp!”
Kid Congo Powers / Ex-Cramps, Ex-Gun Club, Ex-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
“Suddenly we became part of the mainstream and that´s still disconcerting!”
Thurston Moore / Sonic Youth
Regie/Buch/Kamera: Oliver Schwabe
Kamera(Interviews): Dirk Lindner
Schnittregie: Rita Schwarze
Schnitt: Oliver Schwabe
Ton Remix: Thomas Arntz
Produktion: Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln
And a little Kid Congo bonus from 2016… He just turned 62 and lives happily with his man & cat!
‘Pull up! This is the new style.
Flip the script.
This one’s for the inmates.
The process, the process, the process church of the final judgement.
Like my life these tunes are crunked, chopped & screwed.
A deep listening reflection on this processed world we live in.
No sleep till Bristol.
As Prince Jazzbo said ‘one step forward, two step backward.’
Let the drums of defiance ring across this land.’
Not brand new but nonetheless worth listening. For tracklist and dl see secret thirteen, always worth a visit.
Yes it’s already that far with Martin Newell, just after Robbie Williams offered his seasonal highlight to the record buying public here he rides the season with his very own free digital EP with a lovely designed used 7″ cover;
Martin Newell on the other side far from retiring with a youthful age of 66 he just published his second Memoir, “The Greatest Living Englishman” (of course…).
No this does not sound pretentious – This is of course a homage to his best-known solo Album which finally put him on the map for wider recognition and left critics overwhelmed with joy due to the Andy Partridge production. Well, just to let you know I think the production is far from superior – at least the tracks I’ve known before sounded more direct and electrifying before this elder statesman of complicated Pop layed hands on them. But it worked and Newell was gained with moderate success so I won’t complain.
In this bound (!) book he tells his story 1975 up to 1995, if it’s as entertaining written as his “Little Ziggy” in which he took a close look on his 60’s let’s hope that he continues up to the revival he went through during the last years general reissue campaigns by Captured Tracks a.o.
As it seems it’s about time for a short review what really mattered to me in 2018.
Of course this can only be a glimpse on the amount of music released, re-released & unearthed from my small point of view, further narrowed down due money + time at hand but anyway here are my personal highlights of the year:
Simon Crab : Demand Full Automation (CD, Klanggalerie)
Marco Milanesio : L’ultimo Viaggio Del Conte Rosso (CD, Swiss Dark Nights)
Kallabris : Red Square (LP, Inselkind)
Shriekback : Why Anything? Why This? (CD/LP, Shriekback)
KatzKab : Le Syndrome De Diogené (Digital, KatzKab)
Duende with David J : Oracle Of The Horizontal (CD/LP, Glass Modern)
Cousin Silas and The Glove Of Bones : Spirit Of Afrodubism (Digital/MC, Submarine Broadcasting)
Singles / EP’s
Drew McDowell x Hiro Kone : The Ghost Of George Bataille (12″EP/Digital, Bank Records)
Gary Clail Soundsystem : Electric Skies (10″/Digital, Sugar Shack)
Heavensbee : Gonna Dub Now (Digital, Heavensbee)
Ben Coda : Silk Road (Digital, Lowering The Tone)
DsorDNE : Grafio Ricerca 010 (Digital/MC, Asbestos Digit)
Soft Cell : Northern Lights (CD/7″/Digital, Universal/Mercury)
Reissues / Rediscoveries / Remixes
Coil : Scatalogy Sessions, Hidden Hydrology, Contaminated Apples, Wormsongs (Digital, Live Coil Archive)
Coil, Zos Kia, Marc Almond : How To Destroy Angels (CD/LP, Cold Spring)
Black Light District : A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room (CD/LP, Dais)
Soft Cell : Keychaines & Snowstorms (9CD & DVD Set, Universal/Mercury), Club Remixes EP (12″, A Big Frock)
Magic Moments At Twilight Time : Creavolution Reborn (CD/Digital, TMR)
Robert Rental : Different Voices For You, Different Colours For Me – Demos 1980 (LP/Digital, Optimo)
Bauhaus : The Bela Session (CD/12″EP/Digital, Leaving Records)
Officine Schwartz : L’Opificio (CD, Again Records)