Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Interview with Martin Bowes of Alternative Sounds & Attrition

as many of you will know, ran the Coventry Alternative Sounds
Fanzine in 1979 / 1980, -
an amazingly popular and documentary Coventry Music magazine during the Two Tone period in Coventry. The magazine wasn't just about Two Tone though, the City was buzzing with lively post punk bands and venues and Martin captured the scene and the atmosphere in his magazine before realising his first dream of having his own band which became Attrition - still going strong some 28 years later having recently toured Russia. Martin recently took time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.

Trev Teasdel's Interview with Martin Bowes (2008) 

Trevor - In Coventry people used to talk a lot about apathy! So what got you off your butt to do the Alternative Sounds Project? The inspirations / motivations.

Martin - I remember that....everyone used to say that in the late 70's early 80's...i don't know why...i don't
Martin Bowes
know if times were really any different to now in that way....i suspect that in the wake of punk rock it was actually LESS apathetic a time...there were so many bands around at the time...a lot of people making an effort... but then there were less distractions from computer games and dvd's and the internet...

Punk rock just slapped me in the face. I wasn't happy with the adult world i was entering in the last years at school in the late 70's...and it said to me. ANYONE CAN DO IT. DO IT YOURSELF. I actually had already had dreams of being in a band...there was so much i wanted to say....I went to the Lanch (Polytech) to do an art foundation course in 77/78... I dropped out of wasn't enough... so as the band thing was a, then, distant dream...i took up the fanzine.... the typewriter rather than the guitar... :) ..... I was proud that I was contributing to something as culturally and politically important as the punk and post punk music scene... and just to Coventry... as that was my life at the time as well...

Trevor - How did you get it started / produce it / finance it? Was it a struggle?

Martin - I did the first issue with Dill, the singer of Gods Toys...I have to credit him with that extra push to go out and do it... I was a shy boy in those days and he encouraged me...! he didn't bloody well contribute much but i never cared about that! :)
The first issue we pooled our dole money and photocopied 100 copies at Parbury's in Earlsdon!... February 1979 it came out...only a few pages... nothing special but a first statement...
it sold well straight away and we reprinted!... we got our money back...
then i heard about the Princes trust.... the Prince of wales gave away money to young people to help them start up new projects....(wasn't that kind of him?! :) ... i'm no royalist but this seemed like a plan.... so i applied and sent a copy of issue one... and i got £100 to finance the next issues...!
so it wasn't a struggle...i kept the fanzine going for 18 issues... the first 12 were out on the first of the month for a year....always got the money back from sales... a lot of alternative outlets sold it for no commission...something that wouldn't happen now... i took a very few adverts but i wasn't into a commercial concern.... the circulation rose to 1000 copies at it's peak and i really believe it helped the Coventry music scene a great deal...Although it started very much as a local Coventry fanzine...there were so many great bands here... in the end i was looking more and more to bands outside of Coventry...and even started my own band.... so i did the last issue in the summer of 1981... for years i thought of doing another....
maybe i will again... i met a lot of people through the fanzine... local bands...national acts...other fanzines people...which helped my band Attrition get started... and even local journalists who started off writing for Alternative Sounds... such as a certain Mr Pete Chambers...
I even went on to the BBC's something else programme ,... the Coventry edition... to talk about fanzines and show people how to make one...
that was a was a great time for me...and for Coventry...
oh and... when i finished the magazine i had almost exactly £100 left in the kitty.... :)

Trevor - Martin - Alternative Sounds was a lively and popular Coventry music fanzine in the wake of Two Tone and is now a great historical document of the times - but wasn't one issue banned and branded 'sexist'. What was that all about?

Martin - The name Alternative Sounds was a poke at the national music paper Sounds at the time....
i occasionally changed the title for a joke... one issue i put out a mock"Alternative fiesta"... which was a poke at porn magazines... i used a page 3 model but in the style of the great Linder (she did the famous cover for the Buzzcocks Orgasm addict) or even Crass...i cut her head off....what i thought was an obvious comment on the exploitation of womens bodies...

Unfortunately the fanzine was printed by the students union at the Lanch at the time... and there was a very strong left wing presence there... they didn't talk to me about it they immediately banned it...(actually they still printed it and took the money but that's another issue...)... i couldn't sell the fanzine there any more...
i was really disappointed in them... i always thought that there was a counter culture...that we were all on the same side...i was obviously naive... and my, perhaps crudely executed, statement had not fit into their world view...
well i found another and better printer and went from strength to strength..
shame about that though... it really is...

Trevor - 1979 / 80 was an exciting period in the history of Cov music. Punk had happened and Two Tone bands were breaking through. Give us a snapshot of the music scene in Coventry in that period. What was good, what was bad.
Martin - Oh i don't like to tell you what is good and what is bad.... what was really positive is the morale boost that Specials and Two Tone gave the city and pubs and clubs were all giving bands a chance to play... i loved the Specials but they were only the tip of the ice berg... there were bands playing every night... there was a real vibe and some real talent in the city... a mix of styles...based around punk or new wave...everything looked really good...there WAS a future...

Trevor - What were the venues like - How easy was it for bands to get gigs in the city / out of it back then?

Martin - Most of the venues were only small clubs or back rooms at pubs.... i even ran a night for a while at the old Zodiac pub near the Parson's Nose chippy in a car park unfortunately). Usually bands brought in their own small vocal PA's in those days... there wasn't the technology available at the venues... but bands would share and it all worked so well... it was very easy to get gigs in the City at the time.... the problem was that it was much harder to get gigs outside was much harder to get the contacts in those days.... we had a good scene with fanzine...and others coming hot on it's heels... but to break into another city in those days without the internet was much more difficult... and ultimately the bands that did well were the ones that DID get out and play the UK and maybe Europe... the ones that were left eventually died... you have to grow to survive and many of them fell by the wayside after a couple of years....

Trevor - A lot of bands seemed to either get contracts / make singles or at least have had the promise of that even if unfulfilled. What was happening at this time?

Martin - It seemed everyone made singles at the time!.... i had a great collection... again the do it yourself
ethic...most were self financed... some bands got contracts but usually with small labels that were little more than being self financed...Gods Toys were an example...i so wished they had got a better deal...

Embedding is disallowed but click back to youtube to watch this amazing vid and others by God's Toys.

Trevor - You initiated the compilation album Sent From Coventry. It's a great snapshot of the bands from that time. How did this come about and what effect did it have on the Cov music scene?

Martin - Yes...i saw that so many cities in the UK were putting out compilations of their bands and as i was
on the promo mailing list for a number of record labels i approached one of them - Cherry Red - who had just put out a Bristol compilation - and they were really interested...

I approached the bands...some had demos already...some Cherry red paid for at John River's Woodbine Studios in Leamington.... i think it was a really good snapshot... they even included a special edition of Alternative Sounds inside the album with articles on all the bands... (A copy of which is <<<on this page - see the Sent from Coventry album cover the magazine is in the collection there)
this all added to the buzz going on here in Coventry in 1980.... it was all positive...

Trevor - What about media involvement - was there a rush to look for bands?

Martin - there was interest...Cherry red wanted to sign the Wild Boys...and some publishing companies
were interested... signed Protege at least...there were also more magazines and journalists coming to shows here.... it lasted for a while...then i guess somewhere else became the new big thing...

Trevor - What about recording studios in and around the city. Were you involved with Horizon studios?

Martin - NO...i went there once to transfer our first 4 track recording to a reel to reel master for a flexi disc Attrition put out.... but i had little to do with the Coventry studios... Woodbine in Leamington did a lot of bands at the time... and later Cabin studios of course although that opened around 1984..

Trevor - Two Tone is well documented of course but do you have any 'behind the scenes' stories or insights to share with us?

Martin - Well i wasn't around Two Tone much at all... i knew some of them...Horace i still see around occasionally... John Bradbury used to work in the original Virgin records... he used to save me weird experimental records as he knew i liked them...i remember buying the first Teenage Jesus and the jerks 12" from him on his recommendation.... i still live it... (that was Lydia Lunch's first project)... Terry i knew vaguely... i remember bumping into him in Woolworths once...he was buying a copy of the TOP OF THE POPS album with Gangsters on it...(if you remember the awful albums they would put out in the 70's with covers of the latest chart hits!...)... i would have done the same!...

Trevor - I remember attending a meeting with you around the creation of a Community Arts Centre
of some description. (At the Hope and Anchor I think it was). I left Cov shortly afterwards but did anything come from that meeting?

Martin - I only vaguely remember that meeting.... so i would think it is safe to say that not a lot happened!....
i'm not very good at meeting like that wading through mud at times... :)

Trevor - Eventually you emerged as a musician in your own right with the creation of Attrition. Can you tell us about that transition?

Martin - As i said like any frustrated journalist i had always had desires of doing music.... but i was a visual artist...i knew nothing about "music"...
so it took some time and really the popularity of synthesisers to give me an out let...a start....we did our first show in December 1980...actually December 8th...the day John Lennon was shot. and as i began Attrition my enthusiasm for the fanzine started to wane....

Trevor - What were the influences and approaches of the band?

Martin - I was very influenced by the more experimental and post punk scene i would say i still am although I've moved on a lot in other ways... so that is Joy Division/Magazine/PIL/Banshees/Wire...and going back to the Velvets.... that kind of thing started us off in style at least if not content... we actually began life as a guitar/bass/drums/vocals line up but soon got a synth in instead of guitar and then bought an early drum machine....eventually we even lost the bass.... although years later the electronics were augmented by viola/violin and cello occasionally...and even some guitar if you listen closely... :)

Trevor - It's great to see that the band is still going strong and recently you toured Russia. Why Russia and how did you fix that?

Martin - We are busier than's been a long road that has taken us all over Europe...the Mexico and now to Russia...
the Russian adventure all started a few years ago when we played at the Castle party in Poland...a Russian label was there and loved the show...they put out our last album "Dante's Kitchen", in Russia... and then hooked us up with a booking agency there...

Trevor - What kind of venues were you playing and what was the response to you like?

Martin - the bigger cities like St Petersburg or Moscow had regular rock clubs but a lot of the cities were a little like throwbacks to the scene in Coventry in the early 80's...the promoters would hire restaurants and they would clear them and bring in a PA for the evening... (i will say the PA's were all excellent quality...)... it's really new to a lot of Russians outside of the major cities... i was surprised...and really pleased to find that there were a handful of die hard Attrition fans in EVERY town there... and they were all amazed that we had made it out to places like Siberia.... so we had a great response... we loved it....

Trevor - Any stories of the tour you'd like to share?

Martin - Well we were a little concerned to be playing Russia in January!.... especially as far east as Siberia.... the Russian winter doesn't have the best reputation does it!... so we bought thermals...!... but actually they had a very mild winter this year so we only got down to -14c... !
we traveled on trains as well... overnight trains...which we didn't realise until just before we went... it's the only way to get through the snow and the long distances... we were doing up to 41 hour trips on the trans Siberian express....mixing with Ukrainian builders and Mongolian was like an episode of a Michael Palin travel documentary! and it was hard work but i wouldn't have missed it for the world... oh and the vodka helped... :)

Trevor - Where can they buy your albums?

Martin - In Russia they have shops that sell CD's/DVD's and MP3's!!! ..... which basically means they sell legitimate music and films and then bootlegs as well... we are in the alternative shops... we also did very well selling at shows...
We're planning to do more really is a growing scene...

Trevor - Martin - Alternative Sounds was a great contribution to the Coventry music scene in it's greatest hour - that of the Two Tone breakthrough. Have you anything else you want to say about those days or the music scene.

Martin - Thanks...i need to scan all those issues i still have and put them online somewhere as a resource....
I had a wonderful time in those days.... it was a great period for Coventry and the UK music scene as a whole...but as i also teach music technology at City College here in Coventry now i can see there is a lot going on here now too...almost 30 years later...
what they need though is a really good fanzine!
The official Attrition Site

Friday, October 11, 2013



A letter sent

To Lynn Greenwood - Coventry Evening Telegraph August 1973
updating her on our ideas for a venue and Hobo benefit...

Dear Lynn,

We told you of our proposals to put on a benefit to raise funds for Hobo. Well we've had some ideas of putting on a succession of events as a kind of arts week with all events leading up to the benefit. Some of the ideas included Jazz / poetry sessions, folk and rock concerts, art exhibitions and various other musical get togethers and any other ideas anyone comes up with. We were hoping to hold this sometime in August but again we've been let down on venues...

Trev and Bo on the Music Scene 1973

This post is from the original Hobo site on Vox blogs c 2007

After publishing the first edition of Hobo in June 1973, we dropped off a copy of Hobo for the editor of Coventry Evening Telegraph's supplement ON THE SCENE -  and our articled appeared in this issu Saturday June 30th 1973 - after an interview by  CET Reporter Lynn GreenwoodI've written out as the print quality might not be so clear after all these years! The CET editor wrote to me after sending a petition of 500+ signatures in response to the article they published RU18 and in sending the first edition of HOBO.


TREV and Bo didn't think much to the arts scene in Coventry - so they decided to try and liven things up.
And their efforts - an eight page music mag called HOBO - is out this week.

In their own words "It's an attempt at supplying the musicians and such likery of Coventry with a form of music paper intending to cover not only musicians but discos, poets and artists, etc."

At the moment it's free and is strictly a "non-bread-head, non-profit mag"

"We want to get people interested in helping us" said 22 year old Trev Teasdel. "the music scene in Coventry has never been brilliant although three or four years ago it wasn't too bad. But now there are lots groups wanting to do concerts and artists willing to do exhibitions, but there's nowhere to hold them."

Trev, of 16, Laneside, Willenhall Wood, Coventry, says the only place to go for music are pubs.

"And that just gives the drugs and pubs squads plenty of work," he said.

One of Bo's ideas (his real name is John Bargant) is to start an information service which offers help to anyone with a problem.
"I've called it Central Spot and at the moment people can only contact me at home," said 26 year old Bo, of 21, Lorenzo Close, Willenhall. "but we're trying to get premises and have been offered a room in Bardsley House so many nights a week"

"We want to be available to help young people who may have owhere to live or stay; they may have a drugs problem or they may just want to drop in for a chat and coffee."
At the moment the big problem is finance.

"We'd like to put on some sort of benefit to raise money for the mag." said Trev "but first we've got to find somewhere to hold it."
So if anyone has any ideas, please contact the two and try to help.

Lynn Greenwood.

Letter from Lynn Greenwood of Coventry Evening Telegraph

Bo left Hobo during the production of the second issue and became the Road manager of Khayyam - the
Jazz Rock group with Chris Jones on guitar and Steve Tayton on Sax. They were embarking on a European Tour.

He ran Rouguestar Promotions and Disco and was managing me as a singer songwriter at the time of starting HOBO. The magazine took over from the music for a while although I still played and wrote. The emphasis was on building an infra-structure for musicians through the work on Hobo. Bo had worked for Release as an adviser, hence his idea for Central Spot. However Central Spot hardly got off the ground before Bo went on his European tour with Khayyam. However through going to an executive meting of the Coventry Arts Umbrella, I met Henry West, who was both on the Umbrella Executive and the head of the Coventry Voluntary Service Council. He had just employed a Detached Youth Worker for the city centre area - Bob Rhodes (who later managed Midnight Circus / The Flys for a while). Bob needed contact with local youth to help in a similar way that Bo had intended and we needed facilities - a venue and place to organise alternative street theatre / films and music nights and printing facilities etc. It seemed a good trade-off. Bob got us the use of the Holyhead Youth Centre in 1974/5 and started an informal youth advisory service at the gigs. I was doing a Social Study course at Henley
College and it became my Social Work placement - which was good because it wouldn't conflict with what I considered to be my Real work - HOBO! So Bo's idea for an advisory centre came to fruition albeit without him, but stimulated by him talking about it to the press. Following on from the informal detached work at the Hobo Workshop, a drop in House for young people S.H.A.C.K. was established in 1975. I went to Canley College for some training to be an advisor. But more of the Hobo Workshop (the music and the advice work) in separate posts in a while. For now the magazine was the first base to establish.

On the Scene - Wot Scene - article from Hobo Issue 1

This article appeared in Hobo, issue 1 in 1973.

HELL! Warta Mess!!

As I walked through he ruins of the Coventry music scene, uncovering odd flowers here and there, gasping for breath, methinks um watering can is needed, and um-builders to let these flowers blossom.

This is the watering can, come ye builders, let’s be ‘avin ya. Right! Let’s have a look now, in every mess, in every ruins there are still things that can be developed, foundations that can still be used, just as in every bad person there’s a certain amount of good and in every good person there’s a certain amount of bad. So let’s look for the good and get it goin’.

The music scene in Coventry has never been brilliant from wot I can gather, but about three or four years ago it wasn’t too bad. At least there was more activity and vitality on the scene with the Broadgate Gnome and a lot of local groups and musicians and places to go and play. Even though these were inadequate. At least there was more energy being exerted. Time has taught that the only way things are going to improve, is if the people concerned get things together themselves. No the ’Gods’ of the authorities are not going to help. That has been proven (with exceptions). They generally seem out to destroy any attempts to get things together. I’ll explain; Take the RU18 pub squad busting young people for under age drinking. The pubs are their only meeting place and kicking them out of the pubs is no solution. Where can they go? What can they do? Playing guitars in the street, not obstructing anyone seems to be against the law. From experience pubs are the only places to set up discos. Under 18’s are therefore excluded. They also complain of noise. The hassles in trying to get premises for discos, concerts, group practices, arts labs are tremendous. Nobody’s interested in young people and their puny efforts at helping themselves.

Ask any disco unit, any group, ask the Coventry Arts Umbrella, ask me, ask promoters, ask the people in local bars. The latest place this disease has destroyed is the Royal Navel Club. The last gig there is the Budgie / Fissiongig because the magistrate’s court has decreed that it is ‘a members only club’, so I’m told.

Coventry is the 8th largest city on this island and one that spent least on the arts and recreation. Even a small place like Bedworth has its own concert hall.

I’ve only outlined a few points here, that we can expand on in further issues. But the important thing is that we are trying to do something about it. We are not just trying to cause a revolution and say two fingers to the establishment, ‘cos by doing so we become another establishment. What we need and what we want is some co-operation and communication with the people in power. The only time people are able to get things together is if the they've got the bread. Not everyone has a bank balance. We want to get things going without being ripped off around every corner, for every penny that they can get.

We want to hear your views; hassles you've had; ideas you've had; solutions from all people.

Although we don’t want this to get into a political magazine (it is essentially a music mag.) but certain politics come into it and need to be tackled.

From HOBO No 1 June 1973 by Trev Teasdel

Hobo began with me taking a petition around the Dive and Golden Cross and Lanch etc after reading the RU 18 article that appeared in the Coventry Evening Telegraph's colour Saturday magazine supplement ON THE SCENE (hence the title of the article). We thought that it should cover more of the local scene rather than just the fashions up from London. The RU 18 article on underage drinkers brought up issues on the about the lack of places for young people to go, for band's to play etc. The petition with over 500 signatures and a very quirky and long letter from me was submitted to the Coventry Evening Telegraph in May 1973. This will be uploaded soon. However while going around getting signatures for the protest - various people and especially Bo (John Bargant) who I started Hobo with, suggested we start our own magazine instead of relying on the established press to represent the music, arts and alternative scene in Coventry. I'd been selling some of the Birmingham alternative magazines and they had encouraged me to start a Cov mag and Bo was a DJ, music promoter who had worked as an adviser for Release in London and knew how to do layouts and could finance the printing initially. I was a writers and knowledgeable about the music scene of that time - so by June - Hobo was on the streets. I dropped a copy off the Coventry Evening Telegraph. The protest letter and the new magazine caused the editor to contact me and we were both interviewed for On the Scene (the cutting will be on soon.) That's roughly how Hobo started.

The Minister Art Gallery 1973

The Minster Art Gallery - Hobo Issue One
This article, called The Pulse of Art, was first published in Hobo Issue 1 June 1973 - it's in the pdf of the magazine on here but reproduced as an article here.

‘Minster’, ‘Minster who?’ ‘ Minster gallery’ ‘ who’s he?’ ‘It’s not a he, it’s a thing’ ‘oh a thing, I know, like a pogo stick?’ ‘well not so much a thing but a way of life, a happening, something that’s taking place amidst the debris of smoggy Coventry’ ‘Oh I see, Minster Gallery, is that where they hang people den?’ ‘ no stupid crud, that’s the gallows where they hang people, the only thing they hang at the Minster gallery are paintings and socks on washing days.‘ ‘Oh I dig!’

The Minster gallery is not just another art gallery, another plastic rose in another airless shop window, but a wild rose, wild and exciting, the real thing, like coca cola. It is where art is created and exposed, where its inmates till a common plot which flourishes from the variety of the individual talents that work it.

In an old Victorian watchmaker’s workshop, converted, a group of artists / sculptors / potters (some of whom live on the premises) work and exhibit art, their own local work. Where artists can meet and contribute to the common bond which has become a way of life to those involved. Unlike the common art
gallery, where peak capped attendants cast a dark shadow and tense, silent atmosphere over the exhibits, the Minster gallery has warmth, like your favourite club.

The Minster is happening, is growing, is blooming. The artists have strived, fought and struggled to build what they now have ( and we all know how hard it is to start something like this, in anything, especially in Coventry - at least without financial backing).

But the struggling isn't over and there are ambitions still to be reached. More support is needed, from artists,
people in art and from people interested in purchasing works of art. Real, non- manufactured, non-mass produced articles of art that has come from the heart and is part of the artist that created it.

If you want to know what art is all about, go and have a look. The Minster invites you to peek a boo, suss them out or just plain walk right in and wander around. You never know, it may just be your cup of PJ tips. You may dig the scene or you may even just like what’s going on.

Art is not just a thing that bores the draws off you, art is something that happens under certain conditions. That happening can be exciting. Art is the child of human temperaments in conflict with the forces of life. The Minster is the nursery of these children.
Trev Teasdel - Hobo Magazine 1973

Minster Gallery was 8, Hearsall Lane, Coventry 1973

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Derek Brimstone Review - Hobo 1973

This brief review was in the unpublished version of Hobo Issue 2. Haven't found much on line by Derek but here's live song - Sweet Mystery. Although from Hemel Hempstead, Derek's son used to stay in our shared house both in Birmingham and Shilton, Nr Coventry periodically. A fine guitar player himself.


This review was written for the original HOBO Issue two which wasn't published unfortunately – see editorial section.

A Very Good Time – by Derek Brimstone

Review by Trev Teasdel 1973

Followers of  Derek Brimstone who recently played at the Pilot (Coventry pub) with Colin Scott, will be,
might be, or might not be, delighted to hear that he’s has a new LP out. Mostly recorded Live in Sunderland Polytechnic and Pirton Herts, thus capturing not only his incredible playing but his hilarious stage patter, into which his songs are woven.

Songs included are:- We Had a Very Good Time (Brimstone) and Piss Off (Copyright Control – Mike
Heron. / When the Music Starts to Play / Mrs Fisher (A Melancholy yet funny half-poem / half song by Derek and a John Martyn song.

By the time this is printed Derek should be on the way to being a Grand dad - so good luck to Steve and Lyndie Brimstone (friends of mine).

Also – for folk guitarists may not know that Derek has a Clawpicking Guitar tutor out, in easy to follow tablature. I have a copy myself and recommend it! This is published by Southern Music and cost 40p (in 1973 that is!!, you will have to order it but it’s a good book. Well we’ll be saying “Keep on smiling cos ‘that do make it good’.

Derek's Auto biography  Till I Was Twenty

"A tale of a harsh childhood and a rebellious youth, told by a master storyteller with wit and style. Anyone who has seen Derek's stage performance will recognise the humour that lights up his journey through those turbulent years."

Tony Capstick.

My copy of Derek's Learn Clawpicking Guitar - Made Easy (From the early 70's)

A review from Melody Maker at the time