Eyeless In Gaza
Letter from Peter Becker to MFTEQ
For many years Martyn Bates and Peter Becker as Eyeless In Gaza echoed some of the most beautiscious, emotional, yet minimal and esoteric music ever created. Last year we asked one half of this duo to set down the essence and thoughts of the band and in October Pete obliged. What follows is extracted from that letter:
“… Believe it or not this is the first letter I’ve written in years that’s anything to do with music. You said you wanted some details or biography stuff … for the record we had our first get together in Feb. 1980, yes that’s over ten years ago, the first four or five sessions were really a cross between song writing/arranging. Sessions were held in Martyn’s bedroom at his parents house and a local youth centre. Recorded material from these sessions ended up our first 7” release ‘Kodak Ghosts Run Amok’ on our own Ambivalent Scale label. Martyn took the finished product (a run of 1000) around various record shops in London: Rough Trade, Red Rhino, etc. The info on putting the record together was got from the sleeve of a Scritti Politti single (Skank Bloc Bologna) we assembled the sleeves/covers ourselves and all the labels were handwritten on stick on labels (strictly cottage industry stuff). I think it was officially released in May ’80. We always worked very quickly and had recorded two albums worth of stuff at Woodbine Studios in Leamington Spa by the end of the same year. Martyn was very impatient in those days!
We did the bulk of our live gigs during ‘80-’86 abroad. Although our albums usually received critical acclaim in the UK it was never really affected in massive sales. I think I’m right in saying that we sold more records in Europe. I suppose our appeal was the quality of Martyn’s voice and the moodiness and energy of the music. Although we came up in the beginning of synthesiser pop/alternative thing we managed to stay clear of any big tags, a definite plus in my mind. Though there were synths used in the music it was never overtly electronic or rigidly sequenced and machine like. It was a very organic sound coupled with Martyn’s emotional and often hysterical voice … we had our share of serious young men in long coats as followers (shades of Morrisey?). The music was always constantly changing in style: punk, thrashy, atmospheric, ambient, dense, sparse, folky, poppy and even a tinge of avant-garde. I suppose there are plus and minus points because of it. Above all because there was only two of us there was also intimacy. Things were always quick and direct, no management by committee!
I can’t really speak for Martyn’s musical influences only I know that he always has been and always will be a total, total music-head. To him the idea of a good day out is to spend seven hours in Record & Tape Exchange! Because we’ve both grown up at the end of the sixties and lived through the seventies to become musicians in the eighties and carry on into the nineties means that we’ve absorbed a LOT of influences. My personal musical influences have been (because of one reason or another) Tommy Steele, Joe Brown, Dave Clark Five, Amen Corner, Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Kinks, Frank Zappa, Capt. Beefheart, Hawkwind, Artur Brown, Rory Gallagher, T-Rex, Chick Corea, Stanley Clark, Jaco Pastorious, Joe Zawinal, Wayne Shorter, Big Youth, PIL, Herbie Hancock, Scritti Politti, Prefab Sprout, Adrian Sherwood, John Rivers, Brian Eno, Jazzy B and of course Martyn Bates. There’s loads of others of course but those are the main ones that have made an impact. Oh, I forgot Stevie Wonder and Prince and … and … .
Eyeless played their last gig in a wonderful venue in Reus in Spain in 1987. We opened a new club that was a converted bakery. The gig was filmed for Spanish TV – I’ve not got a copy! We also appeared on Saturday Superstore in Nov. ’85 with our last single ‘Welcome Now’. After that we were looking for a new deal possibly with a major – everyone seemed to be doing it at the time! We did lots of songwriting the majority of which was never recorded beyond the demo stage (i.e. 4-track at home). I ran out of steam waiting for something to happen and got a day job, full-time in June ’87. So I’ve been in employment since then, also doing sessions for other bands (In Embrace) and recording local bands, doing music for lager commercials and playing around with lots of toys at home. I’ve started doing stuff with Martyn again, with the two of us plus Liz (his wife) called Aboye. As I said I’m looking for a publishing deal, but also really interested in doing instrumental pieces for film, TV, radio, anything. I’m currently building up a home studio but refuse to go via the credit card route, so it’s hard-earned cash which takes time to save up. Sometimes I think I should be getting into production work, but I like doing my own stuff too much!
It’s been fun working with Martyn again. We’ve got 5 or 6 things demoed at home, but unsure what the next step should be – people expect so much these days demo-wise. Anyway see what happens … !”
Many, many thanx Pete for writing. The Empty Quarter and I’m sure many others wish you and Martyn the very best with your new project. There’ll be a more in-depth look at Eyeless In Gaza’s releases in a future MFTEQ.