Nikki was the only one of us into singing at this time, but he was encouraging me and the others to vocalise as well. John started to play with us in 1975, I think. He would invent some tunes with unusual riffs and time signatures. Richard joined our little scene later in 1976. It was unusual for any four of us to play together at the same time, but when we went to our first recording session in 1977, there were six of us in the studio, but only four playing instruments. Richard was driving us in his mother's car and he ended up singing on one of the songs, 'Ripped And Torn'. Phones did not want to play live on stage, so with Richard we made up the four-piece version of the band which became our regular line-up for gigs. In the studios, it was more flexible - we were more of a co-operative, with all six members coming along with tunes and ideas, and even confidently improvising tracks on the spur of the moment for the hell of it.
Picture if you will, a sleepy county town in the West Midlands suburban purgatory south of Birmingham. Solihull was so bloody dull we didn't really know much different at the time - we simply made our own entertainment, because there were no bands, no venues, not even a guitar shop or a record store. Nikki went to work in London on and off from 1975, and would bring back exciting news of a new scene emerging down there. There were not many opportunities in our area for a young band to play in front of an audience in those days. None of us played a live gig until Boxing Day 1977 - that was Nikki, Epic and myself at a punk rock happening at Barbarellas nightclub in Birmingham.
Because we had no money for "professional" equipment, we would play various guitars though small amplifiers and old radio sets, plus an old army surplus speaker cabinet that I had picked up. Epic saved up for a snare drum, then a hi-hat and later a bass drum to gradually add to the options we had for making sounds. I got hold of a ratty old bass guitar which I hacked up a bit in my dad's garage. I found a balalaika which made a dreadful din, and bought a brand new zither from Woolworths, of all places! We also had some primitive electronic effects made by a friend, including a ring modulator, a tremolo and a terrific fuzz box.
We made good use of found objects, household objects such as cushions, trays, kitchen utensils and a fire bellow. For one session we used some items I found in a toy shop which were made for the strange noises used in teddy bears. We also used radio sets to make random noise, and manipulated old records on turntables. Epic devised a way of manipulating an air lock in the household plumbing to make a bizarre alarming random rhythm! Nikki set up our solitary microphone on a camera tripod. Phones devised a guitar which could fold in half; I still cannot work that out! He also discovered that headphones could be adapted to use as a microphone. We would often record on a variety of portable cassette machines in mono, but John had a fancy reel-to-reel machine that he'd bring along for special occasions. Most of our music was made in secret like a fiendish experiment, and we never had a notion at the time of a career in music until we made the quantum leap of making a record, but that is another story.