The Bangin' Man
Rob Haynes
My year in drumming? No, wait – come back! We live in strange and unpredictable times. Reality television has altered any sane definition of what is considered interesting, so who are we to second-guess what may be of interest to the wider world? Thus, when asked by Isolation if I’d like to write an account of my multi-band drumming year my initial response was one of concern for their critical faculties, but then if entire TV series can be drawn out of road haulage then I ought not to feel too much shame in hoisting a few percussion tales out into a crowded internet.

My gigging year started in January with Inca Babies in Leicester and ended with Gold Blade in London in the weekend before Christmas and took in a total of 46 gigs, large and small. Although Dave Grohl’s diary might differ somewhat in scale and profile, here’s a selection of highpoints from the more modest end of the scale.

The majority of my musical year, certainly the highest profile, is spent with Gold Blade. Twenty years of honest toil have eventually borne their reward, and gigs are invariably sweaty and rewarding affairs. After a somewhat troubled gestation we finally got our new album out. The Terror of Modern Life got us the most and best reviews of our career – but does it make any practical difference? The Royal Albert Hall didn’t beckon by the end of the year as a consequence, but it’s better than nothing amid the online scrum of competing bands, and a bit of recognition, however belated, is a pleasant sop for musicians of remorselessly advancing years.

Having said that, as memorable as it always will be to play in Blackpool’s glorious Empress Ballroom (as we did during the Rebellion Punk Festival in August), for me, the shows that linger more fondly in my memory are the acoustic ones that we started to add in wherever we could this year. With Peter playing either acoustic guitar or through a mini-Marshall practice amp, John wading into the crowd with his punk preacher man shenanigans and myself playing hand percussion on any cardboard box or table available, it opened up a whole new sideline. This led to us playing outside an RSPB stall at the Bearded Theory festival, in the gathering darkness outside the cowshed of Mick’s Farm during our annual Bladefest event, or – best of all – in Blackpool HMV.

Gold Blade – Do You Believe in the Power of Rock’n’Roll?


An interesting diversion came in the form of ORE, a unique duo whose music I’d stumbled across on the internet – they play very slow tuba music, which is hardly the most gripping pitch but anyone who is familiar with the drone or slowcore genres will get the idea. I was taken with the sepulchral beauty of their music and emailed them asking them if they were playing Manchester soon. Indeed they were, they replied – would I like to join them on stage? My philosophy in matters like this is ‘Just Say Yes’. No rehearsal – I just met the two musicians Stuart and Sam before the gig, discussed an outline of the ideas and off we went, no safety net.

People who watch punk gigs may assume that drumming in them is hard work, and it is, but in a fairly straightforward way. There’s rarely room for too many frills, and it’s more a matter of simple stamina. Playing slowly, however, is another discipline altogether, and on the small stage of Manchester’s Roadhouse the ORE experience is like being immersed in a flotation tank of warm noise. Stood behind a solitary floor tom which boomed and fed-back ominously when struck, I contented myself with simple occasional pulse beats and cymbal swishes, reluctant to disturb the unspoilt beauty of the music. In some ways though, it was the hardest gig I played all year, and was all the more rewarding for that.

Inca Babies
Inca Babies were a band I joined on their reformation back in 2007, having missed their mid-1980s heyday, and this year turned out to be our busiest since that reunion. In 2012 we’d put out a well received new album, Deep Dark Blue, and had contacted various friends’ bands and trusted small promoters to cobble together a modest tour with dates sprinkled across the year – twelve in all, finally. A compact three-piece, we can travel light, making our journeys in a car and taking in as recreational an itinerary as we can. This led to a beautiful sunny weekend on the Isle of Man, a great trip to Brighton courtesy of the good men of Isolation, a small but perfectly formed gig in the Belgian town of Kortrijk and various points between.

The enduring reputation of the band worldwide leads to some interesting offers, and we played our first gig in Greece in April. This was essentially a squat gig organised by the local alternative music heads – they paid for the flights, let us sleep in their flats and fed us, while we got to play a great gig in a basement alongside our Italian friends Dystopian Society, and in the daytime got to have an extensive walk around Athens. We checked out the impressively stocked Archaeological Museum, circled the Acropolis and generally marvelled at the volume of excellent graffiti. Mustn’t grumble.

Inca Babies in Athens


Boz Hayward
I’ve been friends with Boz Hayward for over twenty years. We met at a Killing Joke concert in the mid 1990s and went on to play in various punky bands together. In recent years he’s drifted into playing acoustic guitar and has evolved many of his old punk thrashes into eccentric, whimsical and very English songs, augmented with a selection of gifted musicians from his local folk and pub scene. I pick up my brushes and bongos and join in when time allows. I’m not overly familiar with the frames of reference for the sort of odd things we play now, but names such as Bonzo Dogs, I Am Kloot, Penguin Café Orchestra or John Martyn have occasionally been dropped. In May we did a great gig in a South Manchester church where our numbers were swelled by the son of our trumpet player Rick, who performed a frankly astonishing human beatbox to a couple of songs. It really is a pleasure to sit and watch at times like this.

Boz Hayward – Attack The Panic

The Membranes
Perhaps the most memorable gig of the year came with what turned out to be 2013’s sole live outing for The Membranes. The evening was advertised as The Universe Explained, the seeds of which were sown when head Membrane John Robb met a scientist from the CERN project. The idea grew of having an evening of music and art inspired by the amazing discoveries in space sciences, with scientists giving talks before handing over the stage to The Membranes’ guitar-led invocation of the Big Bang. After all, what is life without a little ambition? It was – and is – a difficult event to describe effectively. In the weeks leading up to it, people would ask me to explain – they got the science bit, they got the gig bit, but what was the connection? Well, I wasn’t sure, beyond the simple fact that we found it interesting. And why do we have to stick to the old band / two supports formula? Why not throw in spoken word, science experiments or concept art?

Of great musical interest was the addition to the line-up of Steve Hanley on bass, whose couple of decades worth of definitive playing on the prime work of The Fall has granted him justified legendary status.

Collectively we’ve been around the proverbial block quite a few times, but having Steve in the band was still a thrill for all of us, and we all had to keep the lid on a certain giddy fanboyishness. He was impressed, or possibly disturbed, to see me reading a book before the gig (a bit of last minute swotting on my part with Bill Bryson’s excellent A Short History of Nearly Everything) – and claimed never to have seen a drummer reading a book before. This led to some entertaining anecdotes concerning legendary Fall drummer Karl Burns, and also on their I Am Kurious Oranj tour where Michael Clark’s dance troupe effortlessly outstripped the musicians for excess. Our gig had little to match that in the way of backstage mayhem but had plenty to keep the contributors on our toes, as a succession of talks, experiments and musical interludes finally led to a most enjoyable capping of the evening by ourselves. The new cosmology-inspired songs went down a treat; our old friend Pete later described it as “music for people on drugs made by people who aren’t on drugs”.

When the time came for an impromptu encore of Membranes' classic 'Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder', Steve discreetly leaned over to me and asked me how it went. I sang the riff and he went ahead and played it. We got some of the classical musicians onstage (who’d earlier played music inspired by rhythms of pulsars), and the evening ended in a glorious, chaotic meeting of musical energies.

More such events are planned for next year, and at some point we promise to reveal the actual secret of the Universe.

Membranes – Universe Explodes (live at Gorilla)


I conclude the year even poorer than at the start, with tinnitus creeping gradually closer, but with a satisfying richness of spirit. My habit of joining reformed 1980s noise bands is set to continue as I am on board for the reunion gigs for A Witness (getting my head around the numerous time changes in 'I Love You Mr Disposable Razors' has been quite a challenge with which to wind up the year.) It’s a kind of critical mass theory – if I join enough bands, one of them will eventually earn me some money. Well, we can dream.

Rob Haynes



Reviews Jan-Mar 2013
Reviews April-June 2013
Reviews July-September 2013
Reviews October-December 2013
Review of 2013
Facebook Link
Isolation Home