Thanks so much for taking some time out to talk about Stress and the 'The Big Wheel' reissue. For the readers that are not familiar with Stress, can you tell us a little bit behind the factors that led to the formation of Stress, and why you chose to call your band Stress?

- "Stress really evolved out of the local music scene in and around Coventry, England in the late 1970s and very early 1980's. We formed in December 1981 but both myself and Phil had been active on the scene for a couple of years having produced two of the most popular local fanzines (Adventures in Reality was my zine, and Phil produced Damn Latin). Phil was part of the Ambivalent Scale collective in Nuneaton (a small town just outside Coventry) that included Eyeless in Gaza and Phil's band, The Stick Insects. I was a big part of the Coventry scene and was closely involved with Attrition, releasing music from them and others through my Adventures in Reality label and touring with them as visuals engineer, creating and operating complex slide and film projections on stage. We also shared a house together. Everyone was forming bands, recording, putting on gigs, publishing fanzines, so it just seemed natural that we should team up and give it a go. I was still running my fanzine then and had just started the label so we had a ready made outlet. Why did we call the band Stress? We've been asked this before and neither of us can remember, but it was appropriate as we never went about things the easy way! We hadn't a lot of money at the time (no one had, it was in the depths of the previous recession under Thatcher) so our set up was very basic. Bass guitar, a drum machine, a casio keyboard, a synth, FX box and a few bits of percussion, all recorded onto a 2 track in Phil's bedroom. We recorded all of our first cassette album 'Help Comes Too late' that way. That cassette has since been reissued in its original mini video case style packaging by Manchester label Vocoder in November last year. Later on we got a bit more gear and a 4 track recorder. We used other bands equipment where we could too (largely Attrition and Eyeless in Gaza's) and recorded a second cassette album ('Restraint') and a couple of compilation LP tracks, plus played a handful of gigs, largely locally. Looking back now, what was good about that process was that we were forced to be inventive out of sheer necessity. Tape loops were just that - loops of 1/4" tape spliced together and stretched across the room over chairs before being fed back into tape echo's and recorded. Live vocal rooms were bathrooms and hallways. Metal percussion wasn't a sampled MP3 downloaded, it was whacking bits of rusty metal hanging from chains between two mike stands taped together. You get the picture. Much of this style of music was quite new at the time, so anything went and it all felt very physical and hand crafted, despite being electronic in nature. Some of that early material has recently been re-issued by San Francisco label Dark Entries on the 'Conspiracy Theory' LP. It sounds very different to the later material that appeared on 'The Big Wheel' LP, (now also re-issued on Russian label Other Voices) but there is a common thread between the two and a very definite Stress 'sound' that I think stands out."

How did you feel when Dark Entries, Vocoder Tapes and Other Voices contacted you about reissuing your material 20+ years later? It must have been flattering?
- "Yes, it was really good to know that there is still an interest in what was going on back then. At the time of course we just got on with it, and it was hard work getting things out and getting noticed. No internet you see. It's now seen as a golden age for electronic music and looking back, there was a lot going on. Its great that labels like Dark Entries, Vocoder and Other Voices exist and are now getting these things over to a wider audience. Its surprising and flattering to me that Stress has this reputation as a cult UK electronic act, particularly as we weren't totally electronic. We were closer to contemporaries like Cabaret Voltaire and those we hung out with like Attrition. It was a very mixed scene at the time. Its also surprising how well many of the tracks have stood up to the test of time. Lyrically, the songs are still very relevant (Siege Economy etc), as the same old shit is still going on now, just as it was in the 1980's."

Just prior to the release of 'The Big Wheel' back in 1985 on your Adventures in Reality label, you had released a few cassettes and had some appearances on compilations such as 'Life at the Top' LP. What were deciding factors that led to you releasing 'The Big Wheel' mini-album?
- "As you say, we had released two cassette albums and started to have tracks featured on vinyl compilations so the next step had to be to record an album of our own. I was running the label at the time and had chalked up a number of big selling cassette only releases such as the Last Supper compilation cassette, which featured SPK, Test Dept and others and sold over 1700 copies (and is apparently one of the 20 most essential cassette releases ever according to Record Collector magazine recently). That meant I was able to secure backing and distribution for the label from Rough Trade and had begun to release vinyl, starting with a compilation called 'Something Stirs'. Recording 'The Big Wheel' meant paying to go into a professional studio though, which we had only done for single tracks before, so we had to up our game a bit We recorded four tracks over two days and nights, then went to another studio to record another two before the budget ran out and I issued 'The Big Wheel' as a 6 track mini album in 1985. It made number one in the NME's electronic chart and got good reviews and airplay. It really defined what Stress was all about, with the sound and lyrics and artwork (the Big Wheel symbolising power and greed crushing those at the bottom rungs of society) and I'm very proud of it still. Although Stress was doing well, Phil and I weren't and we called it a day soon after, which meant that the LP stood as a testament - one that has fortunately now been rescued by Other Voices so people can hear it again."

With the reissue of 'The Big Wheel', Other Voices offered us vinyl, CD, digital and cassette formats. Was it important to you to have all formats? Which one did you like the most? I grabbed the vinyl and the cassette.
- "I love the vinyl edition, particularly the red vinyl version. Having it available in all three formats (four if you count download too) meant that it spanned the decades and kind of came back full circle, all the way back to cassette, where it all began. Cassettes have pretty much disappeared now and its hard to imagine that they really were a liberation in the day. The ability to copy and release music yourself on your own label without needing to raise large amounts for pressing records and printing sleeves was fantastic. You could photocopy the sleeves, sell them through a network of mail order distributors and small shops. It was really like bandcamp is now. Vinyl is great too though, as it gives you this huge sleeve to do artwork on and you can really go to town on the packaging. For the 'Conspiracy Theory' LP, I created a new edition of my Adventures in Reality fanzine, just on Stress. That went into the sleeve with the record. You can't do that with a download!"

In the early 80's, lyrical themes were saturated with the Cold War, televangelists, punk rockers and politics as heard in "The Prayer Clock", "No Sane Alternative" and "Siege Economy". Why were these themes important to write about?
- "It felt very much like we were under siege at the time. There were strikes, riots, virtual class war. The IRA were active so bombs were going off in London. Regan was calling Russia "the focus of evil". It felt like you had to say something about all this or you were part of the problem. You just couldn't sit on the fence or 'entertain' with music. That's where the whole UK industrial scene came from. Cutting up quotes from all these reactionary right wing lunatics and inserting them into tracks really showed how treacherous their vision was. Maybe that made a small difference to a few people, The track 'No Sane Alternative' certainly seemed to strike a chord with some people as they've got in touch to say that it was important to them at the time, and I can see why now, looking back"

Where did all the bonus material on the reissues come from? There are some really great tunes that found the light of day.

- "Thanks for that. As I said, we split soon after the 'Big Wheel' LP came out, so there was a bunch of tracks we had recorded ready for the next release, that subsequently came out on the 'Nostalgia' CD in 1991, but that got very little distribution so not many people have heard them. We also got together for a weekend in 1991 and recorded a couple of tracks specially for the Nostalgia CD. There are seven extra tracks on the Big Wheel CD version actually, so make sure to buy that version too!. We don't have a lot more unreleased material left lurking in the attic, but there are one or two tracks yet to see the light of day so who knows, they may pop up at some point"

What live shows stand out as you played to support 'Big Wheel'? Any memorable radio spots or interviews?

- "That's difficult as we only played about a dozen shows in all. The first show is memorable of course. We had no transport so we carried all our gear down the street. I actually have pictures of us doing that! We played in Northampton at an arts festival and there was a picket outside by feminists angry at a film that was also showing (nothing to do with us!), so that was interesting. We also had to set up the PA and do our own sound as the PA engineer didn't show! There was one show in Norwich where all my metal percussion fell off the stage into the audience. I will always remember the look of terror on their faces. That's one way to make an impression! Our best shows were in London. At one I hit the metal percussion so hard it swung round and hit me on the back of the head so I played the show with blood running down the back of my neck! The best radio slot had to be getting played on the BBC by John Peel. No contest. I also really enjoyed doing a round of interviews in Belgium. The track "Elizabeth Selwyn" was a surprise club hit there so I felt almost famous for a bit whist I was there."

If you were to describe the sound and style of 'The Big Wheel' to someone, what would you say?

- "The sound of the world you know crashing down around you...."

I always leave the last question open for the artist. Is there anything else you would like to add? Future releases, projects etc?

- "Due to the interest in the re-issues we have recorded a few new tracks which will come out, but I don't think we will be re-forming. Stress was of its time I think. I am working with a label in Berlin on an LP and CD re-issue of the band I formed after Stress, Dance Naked. That is due out in early 2014. Otherwise, I do have a new project, but that is under wraps until it is ready to go public. It'll be different, but calling on the same influences I had with Stress. I have no illusions about fame and fortune though. This is all for fun now, but its great that there is a strong scene with lots going on out there and that they are still interested. Thanks for your interest too of course..."
Stress interview
December 10, 2013
Brutal Resonance

Stress

Dec 2013
Thanks so much for taking some time out to talk about Stress and the 'The Big Wheel' reissue. For the readers that are not familiar with Stress, can you tell us a little bit behind the factors that led to the formation of Stress, and why you chose to call your band Stress?

- "Stress really evolved out of the local music scene in and around Coventry, England in the late 1970s and very early 1980's. We formed in December 1981 but both myself and Phil had been active on the scene for a couple of years having produced two of the most popular local fanzines (Adventures in Reality was my zine, and Phil produced Damn Latin). Phil was part of the Ambivalent Scale collective in Nuneaton (a small town just outside Coventry) that included Eyeless in Gaza and Phil's band, The Stick Insects. I was a big part of the Coventry scene and was closely involved with Attrition, releasing music from them and others through my Adventures in Reality label and touring with them as visuals engineer, creating and operating complex slide and film projections on stage. We also shared a house together. Everyone was forming bands, recording, putting on gigs, publishing fanzines, so it just seemed natural that we should team up and give it a go. I was still running my fanzine then and had just started the label so we had a ready made outlet. Why did we call the band Stress? We've been asked this before and neither of us can remember, but it was appropriate as we never went about things the easy way! We hadn't a lot of money at the time (no one had, it was in the depths of the previous recession under Thatcher) so our set up was very basic. Bass guitar, a drum machine, a casio keyboard, a synth, FX box and a few bits of percussion, all recorded onto a 2 track in Phil's bedroom. We recorded all of our first cassette album 'Help Comes Too late' that way. That cassette has since been reissued in its original mini video case style packaging by Manchester label Vocoder in November last year. Later on we got a bit more gear and a 4 track recorder. We used other bands equipment where we could too (largely Attrition and Eyeless in Gaza's) and recorded a second cassette album ('Restraint') and a couple of compilation LP tracks, plus played a handful of gigs, largely locally. Looking back now, what was good about that process was that we were forced to be inventive out of sheer necessity. Tape loops were just that - loops of 1/4" tape spliced together and stretched across the room over chairs before being fed back into tape echo's and recorded. Live vocal rooms were bathrooms and hallways. Metal percussion wasn't a sampled MP3 downloaded, it was whacking bits of rusty metal hanging from chains between two mike stands taped together. You get the picture. Much of this style of music was quite new at the time, so anything went and it all felt very physical and hand crafted, despite being electronic in nature. Some of that early material has recently been re-issued by San Francisco label Dark Entries on the 'Conspiracy Theory' LP. It sounds very different to the later material that appeared on 'The Big Wheel' LP, (now also re-issued on Russian label Other Voices) but there is a common thread between the two and a very definite Stress 'sound' that I think stands out."

How did you feel when Dark Entries, Vocoder Tapes and Other Voices contacted you about reissuing your material 20+ years later? It must have been flattering?
- "Yes, it was really good to know that there is still an interest in what was going on back then. At the time of course we just got on with it, and it was hard work getting things out and getting noticed. No internet you see. It's now seen as a golden age for electronic music and looking back, there was a lot going on. Its great that labels like Dark Entries, Vocoder and Other Voices exist and are now getting these things over to a wider audience. Its surprising and flattering to me that Stress has this reputation as a cult UK electronic act, particularly as we weren't totally electronic. We were closer to contemporaries like Cabaret Voltaire and those we hung out with like Attrition. It was a very mixed scene at the time. Its also surprising how well many of the tracks have stood up to the test of time. Lyrically, the songs are still very relevant (Siege Economy etc), as the same old shit is still going on now, just as it was in the 1980's."

Just prior to the release of 'The Big Wheel' back in 1985 on your Adventures in Reality label, you had released a few cassettes and had some appearances on compilations such as 'Life at the Top' LP. What were deciding factors that led to you releasing 'The Big Wheel' mini-album?
- "As you say, we had released two cassette albums and started to have tracks featured on vinyl compilations so the next step had to be to record an album of our own. I was running the label at the time and had chalked up a number of big selling cassette only releases such as the Last Supper compilation cassette, which featured SPK, Test Dept and others and sold over 1700 copies (and is apparently one of the 20 most essential cassette releases ever according to Record Collector magazine recently). That meant I was able to secure backing and distribution for the label from Rough Trade and had begun to release vinyl, starting with a compilation called 'Something Stirs'. Recording 'The Big Wheel' meant paying to go into a professional studio though, which we had only done for single tracks before, so we had to up our game a bit We recorded four tracks over two days and nights, then went to another studio to record another two before the budget ran out and I issued 'The Big Wheel' as a 6 track mini album in 1985. It made number one in the NME's electronic chart and got good reviews and airplay. It really defined what Stress was all about, with the sound and lyrics and artwork (the Big Wheel symbolising power and greed crushing those at the bottom rungs of society) and I'm very proud of it still. Although Stress was doing well, Phil and I weren't and we called it a day soon after, which meant that the LP stood as a testament - one that has fortunately now been rescued by Other Voices so people can hear it again."

With the reissue of 'The Big Wheel', Other Voices offered us vinyl, CD, digital and cassette formats. Was it important to you to have all formats? Which one did you like the most? I grabbed the vinyl and the cassette.
- "I love the vinyl edition, particularly the red vinyl version. Having it available in all three formats (four if you count download too) meant that it spanned the decades and kind of came back full circle, all the way back to cassette, where it all began. Cassettes have pretty much disappeared now and its hard to imagine that they really were a liberation in the day. The ability to copy and release music yourself on your own label without needing to raise large amounts for pressing records and printing sleeves was fantastic. You could photocopy the sleeves, sell them through a network of mail order distributors and small shops. It was really like bandcamp is now. Vinyl is great too though, as it gives you this huge sleeve to do artwork on and you can really go to town on the packaging. For the 'Conspiracy Theory' LP, I created a new edition of my Adventures in Reality fanzine, just on Stress. That went into the sleeve with the record. You can't do that with a download!"

In the early 80's, lyrical themes were saturated with the Cold War, televangelists, punk rockers and politics as heard in "The Prayer Clock", "No Sane Alternative" and "Siege Economy". Why were these themes important to write about?
- "It felt very much like we were under siege at the time. There were strikes, riots, virtual class war. The IRA were active so bombs were going off in London. Regan was calling Russia "the focus of evil". It felt like you had to say something about all this or you were part of the problem. You just couldn't sit on the fence or 'entertain' with music. That's where the whole UK industrial scene came from. Cutting up quotes from all these reactionary right wing lunatics and inserting them into tracks really showed how treacherous their vision was. Maybe that made a small difference to a few people, The track 'No Sane Alternative' certainly seemed to strike a chord with some people as they've got in touch to say that it was important to them at the time, and I can see why now, looking back"

Where did all the bonus material on the reissues come from? There are some really great tunes that found the light of day.

- "Thanks for that. As I said, we split soon after the 'Big Wheel' LP came out, so there was a bunch of tracks we had recorded ready for the next release, that subsequently came out on the 'Nostalgia' CD in 1991, but that got very little distribution so not many people have heard them. We also got together for a weekend in 1991 and recorded a couple of tracks specially for the Nostalgia CD. There are seven extra tracks on the Big Wheel CD version actually, so make sure to buy that version too!. We don't have a lot more unreleased material left lurking in the attic, but there are one or two tracks yet to see the light of day so who knows, they may pop up at some point"

What live shows stand out as you played to support 'Big Wheel'? Any memorable radio spots or interviews?

- "That's difficult as we only played about a dozen shows in all. The first show is memorable of course. We had no transport so we carried all our gear down the street. I actually have pictures of us doing that! We played in Northampton at an arts festival and there was a picket outside by feminists angry at a film that was also showing (nothing to do with us!), so that was interesting. We also had to set up the PA and do our own sound as the PA engineer didn't show! There was one show in Norwich where all my metal percussion fell off the stage into the audience. I will always remember the look of terror on their faces. That's one way to make an impression! Our best shows were in London. At one I hit the metal percussion so hard it swung round and hit me on the back of the head so I played the show with blood running down the back of my neck! The best radio slot had to be getting played on the BBC by John Peel. No contest. I also really enjoyed doing a round of interviews in Belgium. The track "Elizabeth Selwyn" was a surprise club hit there so I felt almost famous for a bit whist I was there."

If you were to describe the sound and style of 'The Big Wheel' to someone, what would you say?

- "The sound of the world you know crashing down around you...."

I always leave the last question open for the artist. Is there anything else you would like to add? Future releases, projects etc?

- "Due to the interest in the re-issues we have recorded a few new tracks which will come out, but I don't think we will be re-forming. Stress was of its time I think. I am working with a label in Berlin on an LP and CD re-issue of the band I formed after Stress, Dance Naked. That is due out in early 2014. Otherwise, I do have a new project, but that is under wraps until it is ready to go public. It'll be different, but calling on the same influences I had with Stress. I have no illusions about fame and fortune though. This is all for fun now, but its great that there is a strong scene with lots going on out there and that they are still interested. Thanks for your interest too of course..."
Dec 10 2013

Luke Jacobs

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

Share this interview

Facebook
Twitter
Google+
0
Shares

Popular interviews

Kite

Interview, Feb 10 2017

Psyclon Nine

Interview, Mar 24 2017

God Destruction

Interview, May 17 2016

Dead When I Found Her

Interview, Nov 02 2016

Bestial Mouths

Interview, Feb 12 2017

Related articles

Stress - 'The Big Wheel'

Review, Oct 25 2013

Dance Naked

Interview, Aug 22 2014

Ego Likeness - 'East'

Review, Aug 15 2012

Shortly about us

Started in spring 2009, Brutal Resonance quickly grew from a Swedish based netzine into an established International zine of the highest standard.

We cover genres like Synthpop, EBM, Industrial, Dark Ambient, Neofolk, Darkwave, Noise and all their sub- and similar genres.

© Brutal Resonance 2009-2016
Designed by and developed by Head of Mímir 2016