Continuing our exploration of the 1980s English West Country punk scene we are honoured to have both Stig Miller and George Fletcher here for a chat about the post-Amebix ( rightly or wrongly, that’s how most people define it ) outfit ZYGOTE. Heavily influenced by Killing Joke – as were many great bands of the 80s – their 1991 release “A WIND OF KNIVES” (post punk/crust etc) is a dark, chugging, winding psychedelic beast that conjures up images of primordial archaeological landscapes, gigs in dilapidated industrial buildings / squats, and a kind of heathen rock-and-roll lifestyle that you can probably only do for so long, perhaps? Whatever, this piece of history deserves to be in your collection in one format or another! There are a few re-releases out there, but tape heads are in luck…..Wind of Knives is getting a cassette press from Sunshine Ward Recordings of New Jersey. Pre-otder it here for January shipping: https://sunshineward.storenvy.com/products/31432324-zygote-a-wind-of-knives-cs
Bio: Zygote was made up of three members of Amebix – Spider, Stig, and George ( also from the U.K punk band Smart Pils) and Tim Crow, and the band were part of the English West Country punk scene of the late 80s and early 90s, alongside Smart Pils, Hippy Slags, 2000 DS and a host of traveller bands loosely assembled around the festival scene popularised by the space rock band Hawkwind and the punk / squat scenes of the Bristol area. Stig and George were the two guitarists, so let’s see what they remember of those times.
Hello gentlemen. I was sure Amebix had split, but whilst in Holland in late August 1989 I got an excited letter from a friend saying it wasn’t true and she’d seen ‘Amebix’ at a festival ( turns out it was the infamous Treworgy ). We eventually worked out she’d been ‘impaired’ and had actually seen ZYGOTE…
Stig: Well if it was Zygote we would have been “impaired” as well , that was how we rolled haha! Well I needed to keep doing something musically after Amebix split in 87 so did Spider so we started jamming with friends in Bath and started pulling ideas together along with George (Smartpils) and Tim (lately of Cross Stitched Eyes) although I am a pretty horrible singer so we split singing duties where we could , as far as I can remember we lasted from 88 to around 91 .. we had a laugh though toured Belgium ,Germany, Holland , Poland ..played festivals and gigs all over the UK at a moments notice , some of the festivals we played at have become quite infamous over time such as Treworgy 89 “A dustbowl of death, drugs, dysentery, dirt and depravity” (Google it )
George: There was no idea about continuing Amebix [as a lot of people seem to think…in some ways inevitable I guess], I think we were similar people who wanted to do something dark, intense & emotionally moving & meaningful…but who also liked to have the proverbial good time…there was a lot of that…which makes the memory a little punctured. But it was ace, a bit like being in a gang brotherhood – one for one & all that…& a real desire to ‘not be like anyone else’….Punk such as it was seemed to be ossifying – it’s artistic parameters were shrinking…everyone was starting to look the same, sound the same, sing the same…the age of crust had come about & it was into special brew & metal….Crass, Venom & Metallica had had a threeway and it’s results were of age…monochrome & uniform. A lot of great bands, but fuck me it got boring after a while.
No one worked if possible – a ‘real job’ was seen as giving in to the system man…but we would work on building sites & dig holes for studio time, strings, pints down the Hat & Feather & a few blueys for practice. Bloody good times.
At the time so much seemed to be changing culturally, and so fast, to me it seemed like a huge crossover point, and people in the punk scene were going in all sorts of directions. DId you feel you were going forwards, sideways, backwards? Did you see it as a fight or some kind of escapism?
Stig: Well me personally back then I was living on a barge on the canal in Bath not far from where the other band members were living that was where we would rehearse . Looking back on it now we were in a time when Government/Corporate oppression was a physical thing that you could see and feel at the wrong end of a truncheon or whatever , it was easy to identify and know “there is Evil we are against it ” sort of thing but now its all pervasive secretive you are just left with a feeling of continual unease and psychic attack but you can’t quite identify where its coming from but it’s there just the same, worse than ever before… “constriction” The rise of the internet and social media has left us all floating in our own little bubbles of fear and isolation I believe that energy is amplified exponentially in this time and by this technology.
George: Although we indulged in a lot of escapism, we were quite active within the free festival scene, playing loads of benefits for all the right on stuff & that push back against Thatcher’s government. There was a lot of squats involved here & abroad & angry young men & women all trying to find a space for their own communities in the midst of some real struggles with those ‘in power’…bastards!
George had a unique guitar style, between the two of you you came up with something tribal, yet psychedelic..What were your influences? How did you see your roles?
Stig: George is a great guitar player I think the mixture of my basic guitar playing and his more echoey type of style was a pretty original sound .If we had home recording computer set ups back then who knows what we could have done!
George: Influences?….Machinery, Geordie Walker, 1978/9, year zero attitude, Joy Division, AuPAirs, John McKay, not learning how to play, drugs, Chrome, John McGeoch, youthful pretentiousness, Keith Levene, Metallica’s first album, being hungry & pissed off, Daniel Ash, nightmares, Paul Fox, dystopic visions of the future, Steve from the Smartpils, good old JG Ballard, Cabaret Voltaire, Tubeway Army, a love of effects pedals – the more obscure the better, Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon…Holst…everything I’ve bloody ever heard.
I don’t think we assigned roles – I guess we swapped rhythm/ lead duties quite naturally. It could get a little messy…but that was part of Zygote. Sometimes it felt like who could consume the most booze & other drugs, wear the most makeup etc…A sort of ongoing friendly competition….that could get out of hand… singing was split – we both had a lot to say & quite distinct approaches. Stigoid’s guitar was ace when he was on form – been rocked out a bit by Arise…but check out ‘Winter’ …fucking brilliant.
Did you see yourself as part of a west country scene at the time? If so, any other bands people could check out?
Stig: I guess we were part of a West Country Scene but just like Amebix we were also kind of apart from it in our own thing .. from that time I would check out Smartpils /Hippy Slags to start with , there are a few compilation albums out there with some of the bands from then worth checking out.
George: Fuck me I can’t remember – we toured a load with Citizen Fish – diametrically opposed musically but an ace bunch of blokes…same with Bad Influence from Belgium…Tim played with them for a while after the demise of Zygote.
Foetus, Big Black ,Test Dept, Laibach…it’s weird as music was absolutely EVERTYTHING back then & I can’t remember some of the ace bands we come across…brilliant sounds on the Russian/Polish border, a squat in Arnhem, a fantastic punk rock bar in Ypres [De Vort’n Vis], a free festival in Treworgey, a youth centre in Northern Germany…….Sharon Tate’s Children!
Do you have anything musical / artistic coming up?
Stig: I have been working on some exciting collaborations with interesting and talented people . even in this time or possibly because of it creative shit is being done , connections are being made , it takes time though but I am quietly confident that it will be some next level noise !
George: Currently in a nifty little outfit The Basement Seven ex Cit Fish, Blunders, Muckspreader chaps in there…check it ahhhhht https://b7recordings.bandcamp.com/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCwcj1fqBtI&feature=youtu.be
Must be nice to know that your music still sounds good to modern ears…
George: I am…some of it has aged well…whatever anyone says, it’s cool to have your music still appreciated after all those decades.
Coming soon – SMART PILS……