The Leeds School Of Drum Machines

Leeds in the 1980s was a famous hub of post-punk and goth rock heavyweights. In much the same way that The Smiths were fiercely Mancunian and The Human League considered themselves the sound of Sheffield,The Sisters Of Mercy made much of their adopted home town – which helped solidify its reputation as goth city.

Many years later, I ended up a student at the university there –  a decision made directly because of my teenage desire to experience for myself this hallowed church of all things utterly bastard groovy. It’s a wonderful city with a rich cultural identity that stretches way back to the industrial revolution and beyond and, like so many northern powerhouses in the early days of Thatcherism, it became a hotbed of cultural and artistic dissent. A legacy that lives on to this day.

In this piece I talk about some of my favourite bands from the city to paint a picture of what I consider to be the “Leeds sound” that I love so much and discuss some cult classics that deserve to be constantly recognised for the genius that they are.


The March Violets


The March Violets are one of the strangest, most idiosyncratic post-punk bands of all time. Although lumped firmly into the goth rock genre because of their close early association with The Sisters Of Mercy, by comparison they’re an out and out avant-garde post-punk outfit. Their early singles are dissonant and wild, dreadfully sparse and abrasive and bristling with black humour.

The March Violets were simultaneously beautiful and ugly, like a musical interpretation of a Salvadore Dali or Heironymous Bosch painting. Although their most memorable moment for many ended up being the dance floor smasher ‘Snake Dance’ it’s a crying shame that their weird and wonderful early recordings are occasionally eclipsed by this success. The March Violets deserve to be rediscovered by a new generation of strangeheads looking for something that sounds as out of its mind as they are.

Ghost Dance


Anne Marie had the best hair of all time

By 1985 not one, but two, West Yorkshire pop combos had collapsed. Gary Marx, fresh from the high profile clusterfuck that had been the end of The Sisters Of Mercy’s first album tour, was immediately in the studio with Anne-Marie Hurst, formerly of Skeletal Family.

The newly formed Ghost Dance released a string of wonderful 12″ singles over the next few years. They’re lo-fi, fuzzy, overloaded with reverb and have none of the glossy new wave production that typifies releases of this era. For all that, the songs themselves are wonderfully crafted slices of pop perfection. You can collect all these early records individually, or find them compiled on the ‘Gathering Dust’ album.

Although they got steadily more polished, and went on to record an extremely radio friendly second album (which never got them the mainstream recognition they were obviously craving by that point), for me its the clunky, drum machiney early recordings which really stand the test of time.

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry


Fuck knows

The Lorries. Man. If existential despair, primal rage and and an unhealthy relationship with powerful stimulants sounds like your idea of a good time, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are for you. Lots of bands sound mean and lots of bands sound miserable, but The Lorries sound like they’d still be mean, miserable and looking for fights well into the middle of the week, long after you’d had a shit, shower and shave and gone back to work.

There’s a mood I’m sure we all get sometimes, when you’ve had a bad day and you’re hoping a big night is gonna sort you out. The kind of mood were you keep clenching and unclenching your jaw and rubbing your thumb against your knuckles.

I listen to all their records, all the time, although I’d recommend their first and third albums for the best view of their scope. Talk About The Weather is packed with aggression, whereas Blow has more resigned cynicism about it. Get both. Then get the rest.



I had the same wall hanging in my student house just off Royal Park road. It was probably the same damn house. This photo was taken by and is copyright of Rebecca Goodrich

Another band known for close association with The Sisters (singer Danny Mass was one of their roadies) and another band for whom that association doesn’t do them justice. Although their early efforts were dirgey drum machine ballads of the type typically associated with the Leeds scene, it’s the big chorus anthemic power pop act they developed into that’s really worth talking about. The record I come back to again and again is the ‘All And More’ 12″ single.

The Batfish Boys


Motorhead? Never heard of her.

Although it wanders in distinctly more bluesy and psychedelic directions , the first Batfish record is essentially a March Violets album with more drugs. Reportedly written and recorded in a single sleepless week  by singer Simon Denbigh, guitarist Tom Aston and their trusty Linn Drum shortly before the disintegration of the March Violets proper. It’s less antagonistic than the early Violets records, but way more delirious.

Over time, with a new and expanded line up, The Batfish Boys came into their own as a post-Hawkwind psychedelic gothic biker rock extravaganza. The drum machine gets pushed aside for a live kit, the riffs get more rocking and the vocal style comes out the dark hole it was hiding in and becomes a coast to coast wrecking machine. With overtones of rockabilly and big slabs of classic rock muscle in their musical armoury, The Batfish Boys’ second album, Head, is the most serious chunk of rock n roll on this list.


Nope, still doesn’t ring any bells

Reviews, Terminal Communications

Cognitive Dissonance: On being post-goth

I’m not ashamed to admit I have a difficult relationship with Goth. I saw the Sisters for the first time at their infamous worst-show-ever (Astoria 2006) and still loved it. I discovered half of my favourite bands as a late teen off Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock compilations. I’ve crimped, I’ve backcombed, I’ve worn a cowboy hat. I still go and watch The Mission every single year without fail.

Some of the artists and characters that inhabited the goth scene when I first started to become involved were the most supportive, encouraging and comradely figures I had in my life throughout that period. The herculean effort put in by the goth scene’s champions is an example to all of counter-culture, and the longevity of the scene is a testament to it’s self belief and authenticity.

This being the case, why do I insist on denigrating all things goth? Why the crisis of faith? Why refuse to accept kinship with the culture that raised me, when the music I make and the articles I write are so clearly grounded in it?

The answer is simply that despite all of its merits, the goth audience became a vehicle for conservatism. The inhibiting influence and circular logic it imposed upon the artists it claimed for its own prevented ambition and evolution. Like the way a corporate monopoly stifles an industry, the goth scene’s grip on goth music was slowly killing it.


The writer of this article aged 22 in 2011. Taken in a well known North London Goth Club.

Post Y2K, goth bands have been increasingly been out-competed in their own field by artists from outside the genre, starting again from first principles.

People often say that the “I’m not goth while being plainly gothic as fuck” affectation is a simple pastiche of Andrew Eldritch and The Sisters Of Mercy. This rather misses the point, as there are literally hundreds of bands from the last 20 years that have managed to out goth the goths. Here are is a little selection of the albums that lead me on the journey that ended up with me believing that the best way to be goth was to avoid goth at all costs:


A.R.E. Weapons – A.R.E. Weapons (2000)

With their mean, druggy, biker-come-street-gang exterior, wry humour and minimal synth/drum machine/guitar sound palette, by the turn of the millennium A.R.E. Weapons were busy pushing themselves as the coolest band on the planet via Rough Trade Records, while bands with literally the same set of influences and instruments weren’t even cool in their local wednesday night goth club.

Primal Scream – XTRMTR (2000)

How was a band who literally made their name as a second-summer-of-love euphoric dance music act suddenly able to make an album of pure gonzoid amphetamine filth while the rest of us were still working out the chords for This Corrosion?

She Wants Revenge – She Wants Revenge (2006)

For the more progressive elements of the goth scene, this was one of the albums that convinced them the outside world existed. This hit goth club dance floors in a big way, despite being from an “indie” band. Cue existential crisis.

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns (2009)

This wonderful slab of New Wave grandiosity put the self -appointed torch bearers  of post-punk to shame.

White Lies – To Lose My Life (2009)

This album still gives me the shivers. Both bleak yet epic, towering yet fragile. This record defined the post-punk revival that finally brought goth back into the light.

A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head (2009)

I literally challenge you to a better name a drum-machine/guitar goth rock album made that decade. And it didn’t come from Leeds, it came from the heart of the newly hipsterised New York noise scene.

Cold In Berlin – Give Me The Walls (2010)

Emerging from their formative period as “Death Cigarettes”, Cold In Berlin were one of the first bands from the East London post-punk underground that forward looking goth promoters started take seriously (credit to nights like Dead And Buried). This caused a long and pointless loathing in the goth scene of “East London Hipster Bands”, which ultimately hastened its demise, while giving loads of publicity to a new generation of bands that thought Camden had outlived its usefulness as a hub of counter-culture.

Because they were willing to engage with the goth scene on some level (unlike most of their contemporaries) these guys had a big influence on me. In some ways they did for London goths what She Wants Revenge started doing to the scene as whole a few years before.

Ulterior – Wild In Wildlife (2011)

A band that inspired an almost quasi-religious devotion in me for a time (I even have a home made Ulterior tattoo on my right leg).

Factory Floor – Factory Floor (2013)

An act that literally needed nothing but a drum machine and a massive reverb unit to take everyone else to school. This record is like a one sentence put-down that ends the entire argument.

Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe (2013)

Move over Depeche Mode, here come Chvrches. This industrial synthpop trio literally filled stadiums while others struggled to fill Slimelight.

Vuvultures -Push/Pull (2014)

This relatively short lived act did a great job of presenting themselves as the centre of their own underground scene, forging an effective link in the chain between the ultra-cool East London DIY music scene and the ultra-influential fashion world. The music? Pure goth.

Ritual Howls – Into The Water (2016)

One of my favourite ‘definitely not a goth band’ records from last year.

It’s a damn tragedy that so many great bands will be more or less be forgotten by history because they stood on the wrong side of the line in the cultural sand. So many of the bands listed above created great goth albums by going back to post punk and drawing the same musical conclusions as goth scene bands from the late 1980s onwards. Ulterior could have had a turf war with James Rays Gangwar, that A Place To Bury Strangers single isn’t a world away from Transition era Vendemmian and Ritual Howls unknowingly made an improved version of Rosetta Stone’s Tyranny Of Inaction last year. Even White Lies in their early days wouldn’t be out of place on a bill with Altered States. The Dream Disciples’ final album Asphyxia (2001) was as good as, if not better than anything on this list, but no one but me and a few goths own it.

I’ll always love the great bands of the goth scene, and I’ll always carry the torch for them, but there comes a time when its ok to put the albatross down.


The writer in 2016, aged 27, after watching Sleaford Mods support The Jesus And Mary Chain at a psychedelic rock festival in Manchester, realising the game was up for the whole concept of goth.

Cassette Archive

Children On Stun – Choices – 1992

I gushed quite a lot about how amazing Children On Stun are in our last post about the Monochrome I & II tapes. Therefore I’ll leave out the prevaricating and great straight to it.

Here we have the excellent Choices tape, from around the same period as the Monochrome demos. We’ve also uploaded the Choices Remixes tape which, until recently, I had no idea actually existed. I can only assume it was done in a smaller run for the seriously die hard. These “remixes” aren’t significantly reworked arrangements – they’re more or less the same tracks with certain mix elements aggressively pushed to the forefront.

Children On Stun have a final dates coming up before the end of the year:  December 10th in London

CHILDREN ON STUN : Choices and Choices Remixes (1992)

Lineage: Original Cassettes > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44




Post-Goth Cassettes: Summer 2016

Cassettes – and more interestingly, cassette singles – are making a comeback. Some people can’t understand it, but it’s pretty easy to see why. Just as in days of yore, if you have a couple of tunes but you’re not yet able to stump up for the studio time and cutting costs of a vinyl release, you can record at home and bang a couple of songs onto tape. I mean, sure, you could release it online – but everyone knows digital releases have a shelf life of about 3 days before everyone forgets they exist. Tapes, on the other hand, tend to end up in a little pile on people’s dressing table where they become cherished possessions – helping cement the relationship between listener and artist.


My dressing table, for reference.

I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a small haul of exclusive cassette releases over the last couple of weeks, so I’m going to share them with you. Most cassette-only releases since the early 80s have had a DIY feel to them, although in these latter years digital recording technology means none of these releases are likely to have been made on a 4 track studio-in-a-box. Sadly, for all they’ve gained in production values, they haven’t maintained in dynamic integrity. All four releases are relatively squashed (“loud”), some more than others. If any of the artists are reading now, I would remind them that the people listening to the actual tape probably have a hifi, so can just turn it up and won’t benefit from a compressed, dynamically impaired master. It’s a point we make often in reviews on this blog, but its a point worth making again and again.


Gundogs – Tokyo/Lurcher

This punchy two track single is a wonderful statement of intent from this brand new West Yorkshire two piece. The whole thing has the cavernous, vaguely metallic tang of late 80s digital reverb units layered over literally everything. Although it has that wonderful faux-tribal feel of early Red Lorry Yellow Lorry recordings (think “He’s Read”), it’s still quite primitive. I’ve seen these guys play live and they did some really cool stuff with looped synth parts that aren’t really present on this rather direct garage-goth offering, but it gives me the feeling that they’re developing their sound in ever more interesting directions.

I’d advise you get yourselves a copy of this tape while you still can. For its own sake, and also because it’ll be a treat to own once this band have started to build up a more comprehensive back catalogue.


FEHM – Animal Skin

There’s a style that’s been doing the rounds recently. It combines a sort of fuzzed up Americana with a mean post-punk snarl. A Jesus And Mary Chain meets The Cramps sonic posture. The Amazing Snakeheads did it, The Sly Persuaders are doing it and now FEHM chuck their hat into the ring. All tremelo and whammy bar guitars, vintage space echo vocals and a bouncing rhythm section that begs for a pogo dance.

This three track cassette is a solid offering of the kind that attracts a mixture of the more badly drugged up Indie kids and the kind of goths that don’t mind soaking themselves in snakebite and waking up with their trousers on backwards. Also from Leeds, I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys quite quickly start to dominate the dive bar circuit up there.

Raum-Zeit – Let a Maniac On Your Modular 

WHAT THE CRAP IS THAT NOISE. OH MY GOD TURN IT OFF. No. Wait. Don’t turn it off. That’s a fucking cool noise!

…is more or less all you need to know about Raum-Zeit (who don’t even have a facebook page). It would be easy to compare them to Suicide, but to be honest they aren’t nearly as restrained or minimal. It’s like if all that really unlistenable early Einstürzende Neubauten material had an actual beat behind it.

I suspect if this had been made by a conventional industrial artist it would be called “power noise” and get played by people who used to go to Slimelight “when Slimelight was good” (a mythical time which applies to the exact period when you were old enough to fake your way into clubs but young enough not to get massive come downs after eating an entire wrap of speed). But, because it’s been released on a really hip underground tape label, I’m going to call it Techno-Wave. Because I can.

Don’t let the fact that it’s entirely electronic fool you. Synthpop this is not.


Direct Attack – Lapsed Catholic

A similar sonic palette as Gundogs. An instantly aggressive drum machine and flange/chorus guitar assault. This full length release starts with a few variations on this same high octane approach – none of which really hit the mark. It isn’t till we get towards the end of the first side that Jack Champagne (alias Direct Attack) shows us what he’s really capable of. Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist justifies the entire A side. The song opens up with gravitas and drama, building up to a punk rock climax better realised on the earlier songs. It also introduces a bit of a bit more sonic dimensionality, with the dripping wet goth guitars giving way to a psychedelic freakout to finish.

Joyfully, the B side continues to be engaging and immersive. I love the sound of every instrument on this release and I adore every painstakingly applied bit of FX-Box weirdness in the production, but as the album progresses it’s good to start hearing more attention being paid to the space between the instruments. The arrangements become more open and its possible to start properly appreciating the idiosyncratic production and performances.

If the sonic journey taken on this tape in any way reflects Direct Attack’s own musical trajectory, you’ll wanna keep a close eye on their future releases.



Cassette Archive

Children On Stun – Monochrome I & II – 1992

In my last post I talked a lot about the joy of listening to a band in their daisy age; the juxtaposition of glorious intent and a serious lack of resources creates recordings that burst with vitality, innocence, and joy. Quite an unusual thing to say about a goth band, where adjectives like “brooding” and “menacing” are more often at play.

Children On Stun‘s early cassettes are a prime example of this. Partly because the band’s personality is inherently joyous and partly because the songs are really, really good. They walk a fine line between ripping off their favourite artists and sounding exactly like themselves. I think the reason it works so well is that when they’ve tipped their hat to an obvious influence, they’ve done it unapologetically and with good grace. Note the “Temple Of Love” refrain in “Tortured (By A Sense Of Humour)” for a perfect example of this.

The use of clunky, primitive bass synths alongside their guitar/drum machine sound (see “Crawl ’92 [Remix]”) can easily be compared to The Horatii tape reviewed previously in this blog. This ability to experiment with their sound palette in such a way that it creates musical interest but avoids rubbing their “creativity” in the listeners face typifies some of the better quality releases of this early ’90s goth period. However, they do indulge in gratuitous sampling of the film Hellraiser, a weird trope that spread across the genre around this period.

These tapes played a huge formative role on me personally as a songwriter. Despite the lo-fi recordings and the excessive use of distortion and reverb, there’s a true clarity to be heard in them which allows a real insight into the shape and life of the songs. So many modern artists get this so badly wrong – they think there’s a trade off to be made between harsh and aggressive and clear and spacious. Done well, one complements the other perfectly – just listen to The Velvet Underground!

I’d like to finish on the note that Children On Stun’s founding guitarist, Simon Manning, sadly passed away last year. Seeing the band perform “When Lovers Die” in his memory was genuinely emotional. It turned what had previously (to me) seemed like empty melodrama into into a genuine outpouring of grief at a lifetime’s friendship wrenched apart too soon.

CHILDREN ON STUN : Monochrome I & II (1992)

Lineage: Original Cassettes > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44


  1. Tortured (By A Sense Of Humour)
  2. Pray
  3. Crawl ’92 [Remix]
  4. When Lovers Die
  1. Shallow White
  2. Downfall ’92
  3. When Lovers Die [Remix]
  4. Crawl ’92

Archivist’s note…

Both transfers featured here are from TDK D60 Type I cassettes, we actually had two copies of Monochrome I to choose from! As stated in the article above, there’s a subtlety present in these recordings that is revealed thanks to the Nakamichi’s transparency. Thankfully, both tapes feature tracks that are replicated on another, more high-fidelity source. “When Lovers Die” and “Shallow White” feature on the Hollow EP, which was used as a reference for pitch and speed correcting these cassettes. The result is a stable, clear transcription of these classic demo tapes which, I hope, should keep listeners satisfied until an official master transfer is released. More Stun to come!



Bootlegs, Cassette Archive

Rosetta Stone – Liverpool, 1989

Today’s submission is another delightful bootleg recording of an extremely early gig. We are treated to soundboard (or near soundboard) audio quality and a long set list packed with songs that would soon be permanently shelved. We also get a real insight into both the guitar and bass playing – stripped of the huge reverb and effects processing that characterised their later sound, it is a brutally honest document of a great band in their infancy. Although I use later output for production references, this is the kind of recording I would whack on the stereo before having a noodle on the guitar myself.

You also get a rather nice feel for the audience. Rather than indistinct cheering, we have a portrait of the kind of snakebite chugging, speed-bombing goth audience you can still expect to meet in a northern town today. The heckling starts right after the first song and, if you listen closely, you can hear Porl King breathing a heavy sigh as people begin screaming gibberish at him. You can also hear someone heckle “Adrenachrome!” right after Chapter And Verse which, if this wasn’t recorded four months before I was born, I’d swear was actually me.

This recording makes an excellent companion to the original trilogy of cassette EPs (Chapter And Verse, Retribution, and And How They Rejoice), although the sound is actually closer to the portastudio demo versions which we may or may not be sharing at a later date.

This bootleg originally came in a plain, coloured card cover with a hand written track list. A few of my original source tapes look like this, most have “© Quarrier Tapes” written on them. This leads me to suspect they are relatively close to an original source. The cover art presented here is my own design, from a photo by Andy Forster (or Andy Barra as he appears in some contemporary credits).


ROSETTA STONE : Milo’s, Liverpool, UK (22 March 1989)

Lineage: Type I Cassette > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44


  1. Intro/Revelations
  2. Evolution
  3. Hit
  4. Six Before Dawn
  5. Relentless
  6. Chapter And Verse
  7. Summer
  8. Fatherland
  9. Hour By Hour
  10. Whispers
  11. Superstition

Archivist’s note…

For a bootleg cassette of unknown generation (though, as mentioned above, the “© Quarrier Tapes” stamped on the original sparse sleeve gives us hope) the signal present was surprisingly strong and consistent throughout playback. The sound is clear – particularly the vocal – but the limitations of the taper’s recording set-up are present. Nevertheless, the  tape is a perfectly acceptable document and and you do get a real sense of being “there”, surrounded by hecklers and clinking glasses, if you listen on headphones.

A handy aspect of archiving drum machine bands is that it’s possible to accurately speed correct transfers based on pre-existing digital sources. I used the excellent digital transfer of Chapter And Verse, featured on the On The Side Of Angels compilation, as my basis for speed correcting this recording. The speed difference was minuscule but noticeable in an A/B comparison. Having speed corrected this recording using a known correct source, it is now possible to use this transfer as a reliable source for other (i.e. demo) recordings of these early songs. I used Brian Davies’ DeNoise software to remove a heavy and steady hiss from the recording without removing any musical information. I’ll write in more detail about this application in a future post dedicated to analogue-to-digital preservation.

There is some tape damage which results in skipping during Relentless.


Milos cover

Cassette Archive

The Horatii – Insect – 1994

It’s hard to work out where The Horatii fit into the great gothic tree of life. Emerging from Leicester in the early 1990s, they just don’t sit comfortably with the classic cannon of ’90s Britgoth.

Their sound is a bit like a schizophrenic take on Children On Stun. But where the Stun fused a wry wit with a strident goth rock backbeat, The Horatii jump madly between the two, without ever quite hitting the balance. They repeatedly manage to conjure up a towering, straight laced melodrama but almost instantly collapse it into a farce – a bit like Steven Moffat era Doctor Who.

This tendency creates a delicious sense of tension on this beautifully crafted and recorded demo tape, which shimmers between moments of genuine greatness (Seeds Of Regret) and strenuous, overwrought attempts at left-field songwriting (Highway Road).

As the ’90s wore on, it became increasingly clear that the music media and mainstream audience was moving further and further away from goth. Many Goth bands went from being regarded as torch carriers of the ’80s post-punk scene to pathetically regressive hangover acts. This contempt from the outside world begins to tell a tale within the goth genre itself, which became increasingly paranoid and defensive. The Horatii’s particular brand of mania festered worse than most. They carried on producing bizarre, original and compelling releases throughout the decade, but never seemed to get their fair shot at the limelight. This is one great reason to unearth them now: what might at the time have been written off as a demo by “just another goth band”, today stands up as a dynamic, vibrant artefact of great artistic – as well as historical – interest.

This cassette release, and others of its kind, chart a short lived period of innocence and optimism in the gothic underground. For the first time, people were able to make records at home and you begin to hear a delightful mix of musical hero worship and ambitious originality from a host of DIY and bedroom artists. This blog will continue to look at these releases and speculate on how it reflects and contrasts with alternative music culture today, and what (if any) influence they’ve had through the years.

THE HORATII : Insect (1994)

Lineage: Original Cassette > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44


  1. Eyes For Infamy
  2. That’s My Girl
  3. Feigning Angels
  4. Eddie’s Legs
  5. Seeds Of Regret
  6. Highway Road
  7. Riposte
  8. Blonde In The Head?
  9. Insect

Archivist’s note…

We’re adding a new facet to the Heavy Leather blog in the form of a cassette archive. Dedicated primarily to the post-punk/goth underground years of 1988-94, when digital technology was more accessible to independent bands and DIY tapes were the way to get their demos heard. This era is largely ignored by the myriad definitive articles plaguing the Internet’s depths of late.

Armed with a top tier Nakamichi DR-10 and a clean ADC, each cassette is transferred to a high-resolution master file with minimum digital processing applied and shared in the Apple Lossless format at CD quality. I will write a more detailed post on the analogue-to-digital process, but in the meantime you can rest assured that the cassette transfers shared here are free from any EQ alterations or futzing with dynamic range.

The cassette I transferred is in mint condition with no audible anomalies or distractions. It is a Type I cassette with no Dolby NR, so expect the usual limitations with regards to frequency extension for this formula (there’s nothing audible above 16 kHz) and a present but quiet hiss. Speed and pitch stability is excellent throughout and – as is the surprisingly usual case with turn of the decade goth – the dynamic range is through the roof.

This recording was never released digitally, so the mint condition cassette combined with the Nakamichi’s transparency permits a very clear and detailed listening experience of this underground gem. Enjoy!