Biography of Alien Heat

It all began for Alien Heat one day in October 1989 when Pete mentioned to his son Marc that they really ought to play some music together. Pete had already sung and played harmonica with Fat Chance and Barefaced Robbery and was an accomplished lyricist. Marc had been playing bass for some years with bands such as Completely Triffid, The Ug Brothers, Laughing Sun, Wud and Sirius Rising. Marc’s old mate Graham was raring to go on the drums after stints with Wud, Fat Chance, Laughing Sun, The Ug Brothers and The Subterraineans. And then there was Richard, programmer extraordinaire, who had been playing flute and keys with Wud, keys with Completely Triffid and made a lot of his own rather fine and somewhat peculiar music on a four-track with a little occasional help from various other characters.

This left a vacancy in the guitar department and the boys were just wondering what they should do when George appeared one evening to say hello. Eureka! George, Graham and Marc had not long since had a jam at Bandspace and it had been jolly good fun. All three were reminded just how good the others were to play with by the experience. Besides being a guitarist frustrated by having no-one to play with regularly since the demise of Rough Terrain, George also happened to have some time on his hands and access to rehearsal space at Bandspace, which he helped set up and run at St Davids Hill Community Centre. Thus the band was born, kicking and screaming like a pig covered in tar and set alight to frighten charging elephants. Indeed, Alien Heat were easily capable of creating a sound that would absolutely terrify any kind of elephant that has ever lived.

The first bizarre incident came when the band were to have their initial meeting at Bandspace. There had been some sort of kerfuffle, a double booking or something. Graham, Marc and Richard were all walking across the Iron Bridge away from Bandspace towards the city centre when George drove by. He was so surprised to see them walking towards town he immediately slammed the brakes on really hard to stop and say ‘hello’. The driver of the car behind was daydreaming and smashed straight into the back of George’s beige Talbot (complete with fountains when it rained) and totally failed to cause it any damage, which was amazing because the thing was such a wreck. The man who had driven into the back of George’s car was surprised, shocked, shaken and apologetic. Meanwhile, the rest of the band were most amused.

One of the first things the band had to face was the problem of equipment. Richard had sold his keyboards to cover some debts and Graham had sold his previous drumkit to Bandspace when he decided to try his hand at photography. Pete needed a mic and the band needed a PA and transport. Graham didn’t mind using the Bandspace kit – after all, it had been his previously – but poor Richard was reduced to using a truly horrid keyboard, one of those neo-toy things with tiny keys, horrible preset rhythms and 100 sounds that all sounded like they had been made by putting several different bees in several different types of biscuit tin.

Undaunted, they soldiered on and began to write some fiendishly fine tunes. The first one, Alien Heat, was very silly indeed and was soon dropped when other numbers came along. It went A, F, D, Ab, G if anyone is interested. Also came Badass Boogie, another song which Graham, Marc, Richard and Pete had already worked on. The first number that all five wrote together was a wonderful, beautiful, mystical two-chord song called Abnormal, which came to life one fine grey rainy November evening in Pete’s bedroom. Very soon after came the equally wonderful, beautiful and mystical Ship to Shore, which had a few more chords in it.

Richard was on the verge of acquiring some keyboards by now (Ship to Shore began with the cry: “Cue the noise!”) and Pete had bought a van, a big red Transit which was called Red Dwarf and was destined to be repaired or modified more often than any other vehicle in the entire history of the universe, and probably every other universe too.

Marc and George squeezed into Marc’s tiny hovel once or twice near the beginning and went through a few numbers. This was after George had lent Marc his four-track and drum machine and Marc had had some fun playing with them and some guitars. This led to the basis of several songs such as Alpha Omega, Where Are You, The Winds of Heaven and Odd. Marc already had the basslines down to some extent and George’s guitar work added strength and definition to the numbers.

Pete’s lyrics were absolutely fantastic. His allegorical style was fascinating and Pete himself often had very little idea what he had written about, it just came from that place on the far side where songs come from. The rest of the band put forward their own thoughts and theories as to the meanings of the songs. For instance, Richard reckoned that Ship to Shore was about Pete himself, a misfit living in a strange world, and George recognised that Abnormal had been written for him, the last person to join the band and a young man desperately in need of solace. Pete was truly prolific; by the time the band were able to play four numbers from start to finish there were another couple of dozen sets of lyrics sat in a folder, waiting to be unlocked by the twelve magik keys of their musik…

The band worked out some more tunes – Dancing In The Dark was a particularly quirky number, being in Bm yet starting around G and F and having a jazzy section around C#m. It also had a drum solo which allowed the string section to roll cigarettes and so on while it was in progress – most essential. Next came Asylum Child, a tune that was written largely by Pete, Richard and Marc, with Graham and finally George joining in its creation. Around the same time, Joe Right was written and promptly dropped due to Pete expecting it to sound like speed metal and the band coming up with something more like Latin jazz. Odd was also completed and gave the whole band a chance to shout stuff into the mic. This was a particularly funky number and always raised a smile from Pete’s wife Rowena and daughter Sammi, who would turn up at the place towards the end of rehearsals.

Next came three tunes on George’s birthday in late January 1990. They were all composed in Pete’s garage on Topsham Road, which had been cleared to use as a rehearsal space – Easy Street (hard metal), Jigsaw (funky soul and rock) and Wonderlust (hard metal again, and somewhat later, a soft jazz version). When Richard took his keys round to George’s new bedsit in Haldon Road, just round the corner from Bandspace, they came up with the basis for Crash. Pete spent an afternoon on the phone to George discussing the songs and the tarot, and how the songs could represent different tarot cards and they worked on Crash and one or two others, including Mr Dream.

By the springtime, Gorilla Promotions had taken an interest in the band, the result being a stonking preview written up in the local magazine Event South West. A photoshoot was necessary, so the band headed for Exton and Lympstone beaches. Before meeting the photographers, they had to wait in a pub garden for them to turn up, dressed up in all their gear. All the other people at the pub were rich families out for their Sunday lunch, to whom the band were a very peculiar spectacle from another world and their children really ought not look at them too much in case – well, they’d just better not.

Alien Heat was still struggling away with second rate equipment until finally a plan was hatched to produce the gear needed. Pete bought a big Peavey PA and a new mic, Graham sorted himself out some drums and a few bottles of Jack Daniels and Richard found some useful bits of gear, although a lot of what he wanted took time to track down. The band also wrote Bodyfire, Traveller (a song inspired by the visit of George’s friend Michaela, also a songsmith who agreed to also write a song called Traveller [but she didn’t] ) and a funk song called something like Cosmic Dancer that was in Em and went on about “Moving up your body, moving up your spine”. This last song was also dropped – pity really, because it was actually quite good.

Also necessary was a decent demo tape. There was already one stage gig in the pipeline and more would be needed if the band were to achieve global domination. A good friend of Richard’s was running a studio in Torquay called Red Rug, so the band headed off there and recorded a demo tape over a couple of days. Interestingly, when recording the song Jigsaw they played it twice and it was exactly the same length both times, much to the amazement of Jake the engineer. The demo was also the showcase for Graham’s new drumkit, and it sounded very fine indeed, especially the vintage wooden snare by Ludwig!

A rush of events took place in the early summer. The song Prisoner was written in the back room of where Graham and Marc were now living and the first show was about to take place at the Dayspace Festival, Totnes. Alien Heat were to headline the show! The band unfortunately didn’t play to their potential and were disappointed. Then came Richard’s new equipment, and suddenly there was a load of drums and bass coming from where there had previously only been keyboards. Marc especially found this hard to play to, although the song Ulysses began to emerge from the chaos. The band split came after an unpleasant and violent altercation between two members. Left hanging in the air, it seemed unreal that it was all over and something simply had to be done…

Well, what actually happened was Richard and Pete set up a recording studio, Graham and George moved to London for some adventures and Marc did his own thing for a while. However, Alien Heat was the solid foundation upon which Dark Company was based, a band that consisted mostly of Pete and George. Dark Company rekindled some of the Alien Heat material and collected it together in their third album which they titled Alien Heat, in memory of the power, strength and energy of the mighty band that came before.