Emerging from the ashes of the industrial wastelands of Sheffield in 1978. Artery packed a huge amount into a short period of time releasing three studio albums and several singles / EPs. During their existence Artery were championed by John Peel, they recorded two sessions for his show and featured in the 1982 ‘Festive 50’ at number 9 with the classic ‘Into The Garden’. The band eventually broke up in 1985, posthumously releasing a live album of their final gig in Amsterdam. Like many cult post-punk bands of the time their legacy and influence only grew with their demise.
Fast-forward to the year 2000 and the release of the film ‘Made In Sheffield’, which documented the explosion of post-punk and electronic music in the city. Made In Sheffield featured interviews with the band and footage from the Leeds Futurama Festival performance of ‘Afterwards’, regarded by many as one of the film’s most memorable moments.
The mid noughties saw a flurry of new interest in Artery’s minimal, abrasive post-punk sound and dystopian visions strongly influenced by the political turmoil of the age at home and abroad. 2006 saw two retrospectives of the band’s work being released simultaneously: the ‘Afterwards’ and ‘Into The Garden’ compilation albums. While in 2007 Jarvis Cocker invited the band to reform for the prestigious ‘Meltdown’ festival at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
After the feedback from a series of low key shows, Artery re-grouped and decided that this wasn’t time for nostalgia; during a mini documentary in 2009 Mark Gouldthorpe and Murray Fenton adamantly claimed that they had begun writing again and they claim the ‘music they have now is better than anything they’ve done before.’ That record is their first original material in over 20 years. Entitled CIVILISATION it’s set for release later in 2011. We caught up with Artery for a brief glimpse into their past, present, and future….
How did Artery get together and was there any particular ethos behind the band?
We formed out of the ashes of Sheffield punk band The, initially as a four-piece, with Mark on guitar! As he was writing the lyrics it seemed a natural side-step for mark to take over vocal duties.
What’s your fondest memory of playing in Artery?ICA in London 1981 is one that sticks in the mind – Steve Sutherland said at the time in Melody Maker: “it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a front man come up to a microphone and audience take two steps back”!! When we did the ‘Big Machine’ tour in the Summer of 1984, we had some hilarity with deceased creatures on stage, with Mark hurling two huge cod into the audience in Sheffield which exploded all over them! The night after in Chesterfield, amidst all the noise, presented a stunned kid at the front with a beautifully preserved dead blue-tit (which Murray found on his earlier in the day on his doorstep) from out his leather jacket. He took it round the entire audience showing everyone in disbelief before handing it back to Mark who just stuck it back in his pocket.
Sheffield at the time was quite a industrial powerhouse, yet so much great music emerged from that region in the late 70s and early 80s why do you think that was?
Sheffield was on the precipice of industrial collapse really, the steelworks and surrounding coal mines on their last legs. It was punk that inspired a lot of people simultaneously really though much of the influence on the music and lyrics tended to come from Bowie, Roxy and the like.
Did you feel like you had any musical allies or did you stand alone?
I don’t think any band at the time felt like they had allies. Maybe in so much as we were a new breed, a new style, a new way of doing things… but ultimately it was every man for himself. There was a certain element of friendly rivalry but ultimately, still rivalry.
What gave you inspiration for the lyrics? Your surroundings? The political situations? What was going on in your own lives? Books? Films? Other albums? Or all of these things?
Having left school, one realised just how shit it all was and could see through and beyond what most people were spontaneously absorbed into, hence the desire or drive to talk about it. It started with scribblings and then constructed song material; these were the very early inspirations and visions that created the way forward.
How was it recording sessions for John Peel in the 80s? And having ‘Into the Garden’ chart inside the top ten in his Festive 50 of 82?
It was not only an honour but a pleasure to be recognised as a creative force by such a magnificent avant-garde representative of new work as John Peel. This gave us the opportunity not only to be heard but also have the facility of the recordings to put out our first album, Oceans.
Artery’s dystopian lyrics, and menacing post punk sounds were forged against back drop of a recession and the World seemingly turning itself inside out. Do you see echoes of that time in the current situation in this country?
Without a doubt, as is reflected in the Artery you hear today.
Having broke up in 1985 did Artery feel a little like unfinished business? What record do you think best sums up the Artery sound and aesthetic?
Yes, business was always unfinished but after several years of fishing one is pleased to be back in the bullring. As for a particular choice of past releases, one can only say that each and every aspect of Artery’s creative past is relevant to its own period of musical history. In short, it was a forever changing picture and it’s almost impossible to pick out any particular moment as being the definitive Artery sound.
How was it being involved in the 2000 film ‘Made In Sheffield’ (about the explosion of post punk and electronic music in the city), did it spark a period of looking back for yourselves?
It was quite strange really, that someone would suddenly decide to document that period on film. Eve brought her camera and lights round to Garry and interviewed us and no-one really knew what to expect but the memories came flooding back and I think it’s evident in all the other interviews just how special a time it was to be involved in music. It’s become quite a cult film now and made the Time Out top 50 all-time music documentaries!
Jarvis Cocker said: “Without their (Artery’s) inspiration a lot of what took place in the intervening years probably wouldn’t have happened.” How does that make you feel having that kind of impact upon fellow artists? Is that just as satisfying as the work in a way, the fact that you can plant seeds in the heads of others? How was performing at his Meltdown 2007 shows?
We were an inspiration to many people, including Jarvis Cocker, who as a young guy came to see many of our concerts. It’s a fantastic feeling in the sense that there is some kind of impact when one actually is sometimes oblivious to the very essence of what is happening within oneself. It was great to be asked to reform and play at one of the country’s most prestigious concert halls.
Your new record ‘Civilisation’ is your first original material in over 20 years. How was it actually getting back in the studio together after that period of time apart?
We’ve been particularly fortunate in meeting James, whose house we recorded the album at. Having the luxury to take time to over the recording and mixing – without over-egging it production-wise, obviously helped matters. Every other studio release has been done against the clock, with ‘Civilisation’ we had a little breathing space and hopefully that comes over in James brilliant production.
Do you plan to tour the new record?
We are planning some special album launch dates in selected places around the country followed by a more comprehensive tour later in the year.
Do you think its important not to be regarded as just another nostalgia band? And is the new material part of that?
It was great to revisit some of the old material, which we did at first but we quickly found we could and wanted to write new material, after which it just flowed out, the result being the album Civilisation, a visionary look at the world today!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us about some of the sounds and themes that make up the new record?
Lyrically, it’s an instinctive, if somewhat dystopian vision of the world we live in. The sound is quite traditional Artery, driven by the rhythm section and decorated by the guitar and keyboards.
How was the world of music changed for you since your first forays into it?
Massively but in a lot of ways it’s much easier to promote a band like us. In the old days, we had John Peel and the three music weeklies. We were fortunate to have the support of John Peel. The power of the internet is immense though and definitely something we plan to use to our advantage!