Dark Company: 30th anniversary

Dark Company‘s 30th anniversary is upon us in August 2021. It seems quite unbelievable and yet it’s true. How the world has changed in the intervening 30 years!

Back in the summer of 1991, George had a dilemma. Should he go to university to study music at Salford? After all, he was offered one of just 30 or so places from several thousand applicants. It was the only modern music course of its kind in the UK at the time. Salford University even offered to pay him far more than the vast majority of students and to fix his accomodation and moving costs, so keen they were to have him there. Or – should he stay in Exeter to be the doorstep Dad to his young son?

A once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity? Or family loyalty?

What actually made up his mind was Pete’s offer to live in and run a recording studio. George and Pete had written songs together in the band Alien Heat, which had ended abruptly a year earlier. They hugely admired each other’s respective talents. The thought of taking the songs they had already written together and the potential of crafting new ones made that decision easy.

Pete also had a dilemma. He had just built a recording studio and had kitted it out with, at that time, state-of-the-art eight-track recording gear. He had persuaded his new and somewhat younger wife to spend a small fortune on all the equipment, building work, acoustic treatments, and so on. She was a classically trained musician. Pete wanted to help her develop and express that side of herself further. He also hoped they could become a husband and wife musical team in a band.

The person they had already installed in residence was hopelessly unreliable. He was only interested in his own music. His flaky mental health deteriorated and he was ultimately sectioned after starting a huge fire in a historical building and hurling bricks through the windows of lorries whilst attempting to hitchhike his escape.

So Pete owned a fabulous recording studio, which he didn’t have the faintest idea how to work, having persuaded his wife to buy all of the equipment. George needed to do something with his musical talent whilst being Dad to his young son.

It was a perfect match.

With the previous incumbent languishing in a special unit in hospital, George moved into the studio. He was very happy with his new “private detached residence” and all its fancy musical gadgets.

Pete and George had already started working on a couple of the old Alien Heat songs. The songs they had chosen to record before George moved to Salford had never been properly finished by Alien Heat. They were Prisoner and Traveller. In hindsight they seem very apt titles, considering the nature of George’s aforementioned “stay-or-go” dilemma!

The songs Prisoner and Traveller will both appear on Dark Company‘s forthcoming Alien Heat album.

You can hear the work-in-progress version of Alien Heat as it stands right now by clicking here.

The Alien Heat album is a tribute to the Alien Heat band, which came before Dark Company. It showcases the amazing songs that the band created, albeit with a slightly different spin.

Before long, new songs started to flow from Pete’s pen. Killer, Astrologer and Second Sight were all new. Killer seems to be a song about George’s “stay-or-go” dilemma. Astrologer and Second Sight were lyrics that Pete wrote whilst on holiday with his family in Bexhill.

Rowena was most enthused by the situation. She was keen to add the sound of her saxophone and flute to the band’s songs and she encouraged Sammi to play flute as well.

Armed & Dangerous and Animal House were both lyrics that Pete had written during Alien Heat days. George crafted the music from riffs and progressions he already had kicking around in his head. Crash was another song that Alien Heat had performed live.

Some of the hottest local musical talent started to get on board as well. Jazz musician Jeff Willmot joined on bass and soprano sax. Jeff knew a lot about drum machines and production from his DJing. Ben Ballard on drums and Don Wills on guitar also joined the band. All of them were amazing musicians with excellent reputations.

Suddenly the demo that Dark Company were creating in order to find other musicians was turning into an album.

One Thursday morning, after finishing the lyrics for Future Sadness Past, Pete drove into town to fetch Jeff. Before the other band members arrived for a rehearsal, the trio had spontaneously created the weird experimental psychedelic song Future Sadness Past that you can hear on the Signmaker album.

The Signmaker version of Future Sadness Past is a bootleg from that very day. Although Dark Company tried to recreate the song on a few occasions, the results were never as pleasing.

Signmaker was originally released on cassette in December 1991 as a seven song album. Since then it has had three re-releases with bonus tracks included and new artwork. The most recent update was in 2010, when the whole album was remastered. All the physical copies on cassette and CD have long since sold out.

We are planning a few surprises for fans of the band to mark Dark Company‘s 30th anniversary. These will be announced in our News service and on Twitter.

To celebrate Dark Company‘s 30th anniversary, and for a limited time only, we are offering Dark Company‘s Signmaker album at 30% discount on Bandcamp. Use the code “signmaker30” to claim your discount.

This 30th anniversary offer expires on August 31st, so don’t wait! Click here now to claim your copy.