A History of Modern Warfare
After a ten year break Contrastate resumed activities releasing A Breeding Ground for Flies on Dirter Promotions in 2012, and performing in Sweden, Germany and Poland at among others Wave Gotik Treffen and 25th anniversary of Tesco Organisation Germany. Contrastate, who stopped work between 2000 and 2010 were originally formed in 1987 in London by Stephen Meixner and Jonathan Grieve and were joined later in 1992 by Stephen J.Pomeroy.
Contrastate’s early experiments were in avant-garde music and performance under the monikers of The Disciples of Delmonte and The State Organisation and were heavily influenced by the industrial and the experimental music scene of the 70’s and 80’s as well as experimental film, theatre and writing. Their initial musical ventures were as an experimental gothic rock band, realising that this didn’t satisfy their artistic desires they began playing with extremes of noise, volume and frequencies aiming for a physical confrontation through sound. They performed in this formation at the age of 18 and 19 at the Islington VI Form Centre where they blew up the PA and were ejected from the stage after playing only 3 minutes of a planned 15 minute set: the audience sat in stunned silence as if they had been physically assaulted. They also performed six months later at A la Cave in Geneva in 1988: they were reported on Swiss radio as these strange Englishmen who blew their guitars instead of playing them. Soon after, they released their first LP "Seven hands seek nine fingers" on their own label Black Rose Recordings. Two live performances followed this release: in Belgium 1989 at Club Moral and a on Radio Militia with a live interview and performance. However they considered the performances a complete failure and retreated back into the studio. It would be four years before they would play live again.
During this time they released the albums “A thousand badgers in labour" and "i". Both recordings helped Contrastate gain favourable attention from the critics and a growing audience for their music, leading to the 1992 release of "A live coal under the ashes" on the Tesco Organisation Label. It was during this recording that Stephen J. Pomeroy joined the group, it also marked a conceptual change and the group's ideas became more specific, focusing on contemporary political issues and the growing lack of freedom of thought. "A live coal..." was critically acclaimed not just for the music, but also for the artwork and packaging: a CD placed in the middle of a 12inch clear vinyl record.
Another side of the band started to emerge namely their love of the 7 inch single and a penchant for dark surreal humour. "I'm a clown collecting moments (and other chocolates)" was the group’s debut released in 1993. Three more singles were released between 1994 and 2000, all different, showing an alternative side to their music ranging from surrealist montage cut-ups to Gothic experimentalism and dark trance.
1993 also marked the return of Contrastate to the live scene with their performance at Festival Karlsruhe run by Tesco Organisation. This show was extremely well received and a spontaneous ten minute ovation followed the concert. One reviewer said at the time, ‘This special and believable performance would definitely stay in the minds of the public for a long time’. The show signified a change in approach to the live medium as they abandoned any attempt to reproduce studio work live and new material was specifically written for their performances. With minimal use of pre-recorded sound, the band experimented with combining live electronics, acoustic instruments, sound manipulation and performance art. This was released as a cassette box set by Tesco called Festival Karlsruhe (1994) and later on their retrospective live album Handbags and Dada (2006).
Contrastate's fifth studio album "Throwing the baby out with the bathwater", was simultaneously released in 1994 as a CD and a limited edition picture disc LP and 12" set on the labels Functional and TESCO respectively. The album continued their interest in political themes dealing with the concept of the end of ideology and the vacuum in society created by the lack of new alternatives and new visions. Three more live performances followed in 1995, one in London (their first full length concert in the UK), in France at the Deadly Actions II festival, and a live radio session and interview for VPRO (Dutch National Radio). The session was subsequently released by Staalplaat as part of their "Mort aux vaches" series and remains a document of Contrastate's 1995 live shows.
"Goodbye great nation", the classic EP release of 1996, was a collaboration with the now well known Tiger Lillies, blending Contrastate's sweeping electronics and sound manipulation with the passionate accordion driven blues of the anarchic castrato blues trio. This release was a spooky premonition of Lady Diana’s death. The back cover artwork featured a picture of her bounded by a wreath with words Goodbye Great Nation written above her head. The band was slightly bemused. The artwork for most of Contrastate's releases was created specifically for the group by the artists Ben Hughes and Stone. Their artwork, often surreal, gave the releases a recognisable identity, which was far removed from the usual packaging within the experimental genre. The band went out on the road again 1997 performing in Germany and France. These were the last shows as a three piece and they were joined on stage for these performances by actor Richard Da Costa.
The sixth studio album was entitled "Todesmelodie". Part inspired by the book "The Mysteries of Algiers" written by Robert Irwin, and the 1965 Pontecorvo film: "The Battle of Algiers, and part by events in the Middle East and the beginning of the era of the ‘war on terror’. Just before they ceased working in 2000 they performed as four piece with musicians Jim Machin (Splintered/The Domino State) and Jimmy Maravala at Nantes in France, at the 'Oblique Lu Nights' festival.
After 2000 Stephen Meixner continued producing music under the name srmeixner, releasing four CDs, most recently “Ten thousand ways to die” in 2010 on the Swedish label Segerhuva. Jonathan Grieve ran Para Active, an experimental theatre group between 1994 and 2007 directing, performing and teaching (inter) nationally. Stephen J Pomeroy formed and gigged with a variety of bands, most recently with The Looters who play regularly around the UK.
However it seems like Contrastate never really went away. Between 2005 and 2010 there have been a number re-issues: in 2005 Seven Hands Seek Nine Fingers was made available for the first time on CD followed by False Fangs for Old Werewolves, a collection of rare and unreleased tracks, and then Handbags and Dada, a document of Contrastate’s live shows all released by long time supporter Swedish label Fin de Siecle Media . A live Coal Under the Ashes was reissued in 2008 by Tesco Organisation with a bonus track, and the live album Mort Aux Vaches, (originally released by Staalplaat) was re-released by Segerhuva on vinyl under the new title Regiment de Rapaces in 2010. (Please see the discography section for full details of each release including compilations and see the performance section for a list of all live performances between 1987 and 2000.)
With so much water under the bridge the original members decided to get back into the canoe and start paddling again. However we have to give thanks and credit to Magnus Sundstrum, Segervuva and Klaus and Joachim at Tesco for keeping our music alive over the last decade and inspiring us to get back into the studio
Well we got back in the studio and everything just started again as if we had never stopped. To be updated...