Skullflower Keep The Pain Of The 80s Alive
Photo by Ricky Adams
The overwhelming, grey shittiness of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and its depressing soundtrack of soft rock, manufactured pop and pretentious indie is to blame for the cult of what we now know as “noise” music.
This environment of industrial disputes, constant IRA bombings, football violence, yuppies and high profile murder cases like the Yorkshire Ripper fired the imagination of disgruntled young men with weird synths who felt that punk rock had stopped in its tracks, sold out and therefore totally failed in what it set out to achieve.
After Throbbing Gristle created the cult of noise, a whole heap of even bleaker groups, intent on making even more depressing, violent music started cropping up everywhere; bands like Whitehouse, Sutcliffe Jugend, Ramleh and, during the early 90s the miserabilists who make up the Cold Spring label.
One of the main perpetrators in this scene was Matthew Bower, ex of Ramleh, Sunroof, Total and still at the helm of his main incarnation Skullflower. They started what bands like Sunn O))) are trying to finish.
Vice: So Skullflower’s been going for ages now. What keeps you doing this?
Matthew Bower: Did you ever hear of that that Spacemen 3 title “Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To”? Well, not that I’d ever do drugs, but the tailoring of something exactly to your own aesthetic desires is an absorbing and frequently rewarding pastime. I enjoy the system of recording and releasing. It’s an expression of my hatred of what else passes for music.
When you started making this music in the mid-80s you were hanging around with people like Philip Best from Whitehouse and the Cold Spring guys and it was a real renaissance time for experimental music right?
Yes we have a, possibly eternal, common bond. The time was a golden age. Rock and roll had its halcyon days in the the 60s and we had ours in the 80s.
Plus we were young, (Philip really so). In contrast to now, it seems there was the dim notion that history was ending; or rather we were dreaming of it ending spectacularly. Everything we did was always a reaction to, or against, life. One’s existence.
That noise scene always references people like Manson and Jim Jones and other cult leaders who were into killing their followers. What was it that you liked about those total lunatics?
There are loads of reasons. Cults are always anti-society, and we know there’s something inherently wrong with all societies. I guess I take the Charles Manson view. That is to be as contrary and childish as I feel. To blame civilisation for everything, because humans have destroyed the world, and we are not beautiful or good in our ways. To me any animal life is worth more than a human life. I think any one less human being is a good thing for nature.