Eyeless In Gaza: P.B. Synth, bass, snare drum, stylophone, tape treatments, backing vocals. M.B. Vocals, guitar, organ, saxophone.
by T.G. (Bop eye 11)
In the beginning things happened quick1y for Eyeless in Gaza’s Pete Becker and Martyn Bates, (both from Nuneaton) got together at the end of February last year and by May they had their debut single released on their own ‘Ambivalent Scale’ label. The record, ‘Kodak Ghosts Run Amok’, with its wasp synth prominent, was recorded one day in mid-March in Martyns bedroom (not that you would he able to tell). They sold all the copies (with Rough Trade taking a substantial amount) and the money was then recycled into another Nuneaton group Bron Area, for their first single. Tapes of local groups also came out on ‘Ambivalent Scale’.
“It was a really loose knit thing,” explains Martyn, “but nobody’s bothered now, I’m not pushing it. There used to be a bit of a buzz, but unless there’s someone in there pulling strings and making things work people couldn’t care less.” Pete continues, “It became a Nuneaton thing everybody was mates each putting money in whatever organising gigs as a co-op thing.”
They played their first gig on April 3rd 1980, which went down very well, after being together barely over a month. By July they had enough new material recorded for an LP and in December they signed with the London based label Cherry Red, who released the LP ‘Photographs as Memories’ in February, which showed up in the Rough Trade Top Ten. It shows a departure from the early synth dominated ‘Kodak Ghosts’ songs to a more balanced sound with guitar. It is sparser with no drum machine with minimal or no overdubs.
But as Pete explains, “You can record without using dubs if the piece stands up by itself, purely through the mixing depending on effects you put on so it doesn’t have to sound empty just because there’s two of us.”
On this subject of being a 2 piece, Martyn puts the question over to Pete, “ we seem to get on OK as we are, how do you feel about, Pete? ’cos you always wanted somebody else.”
“Yeah, ’cos basically I play nineteen things at once,” (slight exaggeration). “Pete is playing the drum and the synth or the synth and the Stylophone or the bass and usually I’m just playing one thing. It does create problems I guess but the thing is I don’t think we would have made this music if there was any more than two of us.”
Their latest single is ‘Invisibility’, which does not appear on ‘Photographs as Memories’ or their second album, which has already been completed, but as Martyn says, “We’ve planned a twelve inch single as well so I can’t imagine the LP coming out before September. That’ll be quite an old record by that time. You see, the thing is, you might think it’s stupid, I know, just building up a backlog but it’s recording it while we can still put all the feeling in it.”
There is an urgency about their approach wanting to work out new ideas keeping things flowing. Instamatic snapshots, which they are able to work quickly and in obvious profusion.
“He sits there and I’m here and I just say Pete! and we’re away you can communicate a lot easier.”
“It’s easy to work together when there’s only two of you, you haven’t got so many people to please,” says Pete, “If either of us don’t like something we don’t play it.”
“Another reason why we’re prolific,” explains Martyn, “Is I’ve got the rough idea which I bang out on the guitar or organ and I play it to Pete and if it doesn’t work in the first five or ten minutes, then we don’t bother with it.”
Pete continues, “I’ve changed the feel drastically, but I don’t change Martyns lyrics at all ’cos I don’t know what he’s writing about half the time anyway! That’s the interesting thing what’s that about, what are you singing there? He’ll tell me and this big light switches on in my head, then I understand what it’s all about.”
“If it doesn’t happen straight away,” Martyn says, “we know its not really going to work and I think it’s going to come across to other people that force thing.”
Eyeless in Gaza like to keep their live appearances fresh by mainly playing their latest material and also ideas which may have just been worked out in the previous rehearsal. They were meant to be touring with Classix Nouveux, Theatre of Hate, Shock, and Naked Lunch in the “2002 Review”, but after a pre-tour gig they decided to pull out.
Pete tells why. “After playing to a Blitz-style audience in Essex we decided that Futurism is not for Eyeless in Gaza besides that, the tour promoter would’ve be been making money out of us while we would’ve starved. We don’t want to be labelled with that movement, because we are not part of it, so far nobody has been able to put a label on us. It is so easy to throw us into this fashion thing because it’s getting a lot of attention and we have been in the public eye at the same time.
Further developments are that NEMS agency, who get us gigs at present, are likely to cease working with us and vice-versa. We specifically told the guy to get us weekend dates only and that we didn’t like playing too often, so the idiot gives us loads of dates like Glasgow and Scunthorpe in the middle of the week and then confirms that we are playing the gigs without a word from us! And loads of really rocky London dates like the ‘Rockgarden’ and the ‘Greyhound’. The guys just a rock‘n’roll hustler doesn’t seem to care about what might happen to us, only his own reputation as an agent. Agents are the bottom end of the business anyway.
Well, enough moaning, but we are going to change agencies probably to Rough Trade as I hear they are starting to organise gigs themselves. We’re still learning about things like this it can be a pain arguing with these people all the time and trying to create music as well … still, I’m sure it’ll be alright on the night.”