Dark Company’s History

Dark Company’s history began properly in the summer of 1991 when Pete helped George move from Plymouth back to Exeter. They had already spent some time playing together in a band called Alien Heat and worked together well, Pete drawing inspiration from George’s guitar work and George finding meaning in Pete’s allegorical lyrics, resulting in their hauntingly evocative and thought-provoking music. They were only going to record two songs initially because George had won a degree place at Salford College of Technology to read Band Music and Recording and would be leaving the area soon. However, they were clearly onto a good thing and promised to continue to work together whenever they could.

Pete had bought some quality recording gear and was already working with Zaphod in an outfit they called Hot Machine and the Silicone Dream. Unfortunately they suffered a number of musical and personal differences that left Pete in a tricky situation – he had bought all this gear but didn’t even know how to switch it on, let alone work any of it! George had his own dilemma at this time too – the degree course would take him far away from his young son. The solution was simple enough: George would run the studio as a business and do his learning ‘on the job’ and they could do all their songs ‘properly’. From this situation, Silent Running Studios was born. George lived and worked in Pete’s studio (uh… garage!) for the next few years. The two songs they were initially going to work on were Prisoner and Traveller from Alien Heat days, the combined titles of which seem rather synchronous in retrospect, bearing in mind George’s ‘stay or go’ dilemma.

The band started out being called Dark Star after the wonderful and hilarious movie, and they went by that name until another band also called Dark Star came to the attention of the public in around 1998. Soon after this the band attempted to launch legal proceedings to try to force the other band to change their name. However, when it became apparent that Dark Star were not even the only band with that name in Devon and there were in fact a further eight Dark Stars in the UK, the name was changed in 1999 to Dark Company. There are still a few ancient items of artwork in stock which carry the Dark Star name and logo, and the cover of the band’s second album Rage in Heaven features a star at its centre.

Back to the Ancient Days then. It was not very long before the first two proper Dark Company songs (Killer and Second Sight) were finished. They were sent to the Guild of International Songwriters and Composers where they received extremely positive feedback. The band itself started to grow, with Rowena playing saxophone and flute and Sammi also joining in on flute. The result was the 1991 mini-album titled Signmaker, which featured seven songs and was later re-released under the Dark Company name in 1999 to include some remixes and out-takes. Towards the end of Signmaker the highly talented multi-instrumentalist Jeff the Bass (Lost in Space) joined Dark Company.

The band’s membership grew to nine; Don on guitar, Simon on trumpet, Craig on keys and a succession of incompetent or uninterested drummers, the best being Ben, Danny and Tony. Although lots of fun, this group was far too impractical for reasons of space and noise. The solution to the drummer problem came in the form of some synths, a sequencer, a sampler and some other bits.

Apart from the hardcore of Pete, Jeff and George, the band slowly drifted away. After a period of learning and writing, the second album, Rage In Heaven, was completed in early 1993. Three more albums (Alien Heat, Can of Worms and Ghost of the Art) had already been written and planned in the meantime. Jeff and George also spent a fair amount of time creating various instrumental club remixes of songs which were to be released under the name & co, with the title of the album being Drifting Stars. The band progressed further under the guidance of Marcus who was a positive influence with his photography, design skills and organising abilities. More help came from an electronics genius called Jim who built some custom equipment for the studio and used his contacts at Radio Nacional de Espana in Barcelona to play some songs from the Rage in Heaven album on air. Despite the technological and logistical difficulties, the band’s aim was to play live.

While Dark Company were working on the live set, a family bereavement marked the beginning of a catastrophic time of personal disasters for all three of its members. This resulted in Dark Company’s progress being stilted for a time in late 1994. Andy helped out vocally during the lull and George and Andy performed as an acoustic duo known as The Bastard Sons of Dennis. George also formed the Ug Brothers with Alien Heat’s Graham on drums and Dave on bass. They went on to enjoy some success in 1995 with their unique brand of heavy funk and rock. Pete and Jeff collaborated on a different project which resulted in their dance music being played in local clubs.

George then spent a year in Prague as a TEFL teacher where Pete’s enigmatic, esoteric lyrics were useful tools in teaching English. Whilst there he performed some of Dark Company’s songs on acoustic guitar in a duo with virtuoso violinist and pianist Phil the Fiddle, who had previously been the soloist with the Royal London Philharmonic Orchestra. George and Phil, also known as Doctor Watson, regularly drew large crowds at their performances. Numerous copies of Signmaker and Rage In Heaven were sold in the Czech Republic, Poland and to students from Germany. Just before returning to England for family reasons, Polygram (CZ) showed an interest in signing George to continue his work, but it was clearly impractical.

After his return in July 1997, George re-established himself in the UK and following considerable encouragement, enthusiasm and cajoling from Sammi he decided to contact Pete again. Soon the band was back on track with Sammi singing as well. The two voices were so different that they worked together beautifully, rather like a demon singing with an angel, although it’s hard to say which of them would be which… The result was a new album of songs called Mind Dance. This was never recorded properly at the time due to a severe lack of facilities. However, the songs of those days can be heard because George made a rehearsal tape and then added bass and another guitar or keyboard to it on his old Tascam 4-track in the autumn of 1999. The results, although rather rough and featuring a particularly horrid beatbox, were nevertheless pleasing and have their own charm. You can clearly hear Sammi smiling on the recordings as Pete starts to blort, and she somehow manages to get him to stick mostly to the script with various cues, such as prodding or pointing or both (so well done!). Although this was great fun to do, once again the fates conspired to confound the band with an assortment of deaths, disasters and tragedies and the Dark Company bandwagon shuddered to an abrupt and rather sad halt in 2001 after further writings had created the seeds for the Benign Inquisition and Old Hands albums.

It took a fairly long time for things to move forward again as everybody had been so shattered by the events that had had befallen them as individuals and collectively. Sammi had moved away from Exeter and had a new life by this time and George had moved back. He happened to be in the street where Pete lived in late 2007, chatting with one of his neighbours. George asked if Crazy Pete was still living at the house and apparently he was. Before much longer they had come together again to write more songs. Soon after, in 2008, Dark Company were discovered by Wud Records and we signed them up straight away.

In 2008 the band wrote most of their Bad Habits album, so titled because despite the scepticism of various friends of Pete and George, the two decided to try to work together again. Pete had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had a number of awkward medical complaints to complicate matters. We wanted to try to make the best of him in whatever time remained. Bad Habits was developing into a fabulous album and everyone was very happy wth it.

There was no question of Dark Company stopping their musical activites again and we began properly recording their entire back catalogue. Our session players Sven, Maxx, Zak and Josh have been tremendously helpful in this particular regard. This work is still ongoing and we shall bring you news of developments in our News service and on Twitter.

Whilst Bad Habits and the whole back catalogue continued making progress with two or three vocal recording sessions every week, Pete’s profuse magikal lyric pen remained as active as ever, possibly even more so. The Noir album was written whilst all the other recordings were taking place. There were over 100 sets of lyrics and more than 50 demo songs to choose from and eventually 18 songs made it onto the final playlist.

Whilst all of this work continued to go on, Pete was writing more and more lyrics. He and George created more demos of new material and eventually we decided to make these demos into a new album. It would be a triple CD, containing an album of rock, an album of reggae and an album of weirdness. We have these demos under lock and key and will be recording and releasing them when more Dark Company songs have been finished.

In May 2016, Pete sadly succumbed to illness and passed away, having survived several years longer than the medical profession had thought he might. Pete himself put this down to the music as much as anything, saying it gave him the strength and the will to go on. The surviving members of the band will continue recording and releasing Dark Company songs and we hope to facilitate some form of concerts beginning in 2018.