What So That's What He Was Doing In His Room All That Time?

The Academy Morticians – The Forbidden Curriculum
(1998, Cursed) 

My first ever release: a glorious, thrashy mess made up of sessions recorded in 1997/1998. Dan McKee and I are 15. We put it out on our own label Cursed. 50 copies are made, 50 are copies sold; we are sell outs.

Two of the sessions are recorded at Rich Bitch studios in Birmingham by a guy who makes us sound like a metal band (something we'd do to ourselves in our own time). Third session is done in a random studio called Exel somewhere in the Midlands. We eat awful lettuce sandwiches as if rationing is still implemented. In an attempt to make our guitars less metal, we end up with guitars that sound like banjos. Only two tracks from this 8 track session make the EP/album.

Is it an album or an EP? Who cares. Stephen King and Jello Biafra both have a copy. When we meet Jello, not only does he like it, he takes us for dinner which effectively gets us signed to Crackle! Records. Great man.

The Academy Morticians – Shallow Permanence 
(1999, Smokin' Troll/Cursed)

A band this country would not be the same without - Fracture

Recorded in three days at a nice man called Carl's place. He lives with his Mom in Nuneaton and has a really warm, red-carpeted studio in the attic. It's the summer holidays after we've left school. Our drummer quit the band the week before the session. I play drums, as well as guitar and vocals, on the recording. Make them up on the spot. They sound ropey as hell if you listen closely, but we are having so much fun it doesn't matter.

Probably the best thing I'll ever do. Despite the political anger in the lyrics, it's the sound of two teenagers absolutely loving their life. 


Raggity Anne – Only Square People Think It's Cool to Be Cool
(2000, Boss Tuneage)


The first time I listened to this album I thought it was poo - The Collective Zine

 1999: Dan and I are roped into touring Italy to front defunct punk outfit Raggity Anne. Snowy train journeys, late night pizza, a room by Lake Como and an early morning escape from a convent boarding house. A millionaire kid sees us play and invites us to his mansion in Milan opposite the San Siro. We record 4 tracks that are basically Morticians songs. Autotune is used to hilarious effect.

Despite playing on and co-writing all 4 Milan songs, only Dan's name is on the final Raggity Anne best-of release... a matter I really should have let go of by now. 

The Academy Morticians – Consumerism is an STD 
(2000, Crackle!)

Incredibly catchy, bouncy and tuneful punk rock, and it's blessed with some really well reasoned lyrics railing against capitalism, the destruction of the earth and consumerism. Excellent and thought-provoking stuffFracture

Never record this kind of shit again – Maximum Rock N Roll

Crackle! records email us. They love Shallow Permanence and want to re-release some of the tracks as a 7". But we have already written 4 million more songs that we are far more excited about. So we record some at Carl's and Crackle aren't impressed. We demo some others and they choose their favourites.

Back to Carl's with our first proper drummer. Drummer had heard of our band and approached us on a bus -- like something from a punk fanzine. We have another guitarist too. The sound is bigger, but still fun. It is the first time I record something knowing it will definitely be released. That is a nice feeling, but probably not nice enough to warrant the next 10 years of gigging.

Carl's Mom moves house after this session and his new studio is on the first floor. Nothing will ever seem as rock and roll as trying to push a combo up a near-vertical staircase.

The Academy Morticians – What Happened
(2003, Iron Man/Who Killed Culture)

8/10 At first you think vocalist Simon’s taking the piss with his vocals but through repeated plays you realise the implicit quality & uniqueness that lies underneath... one of the quirkiest punk bands in the UK. – Drowned in Sound
 
It wasn't really my thing at all...Ripping Thrash

Come on Crackle!, do an album. Listen, here's a demo.

They agonise. They sit on a hill late one chilly Leeds night and listen to our shoddy demos on headphones. Go on then, they say. They love us.

We go into a big studio in the basement of an old factory in Hockley in Birmingham. We spend nights there and can hear the graveyard-shift workers beating panels through the walls. Watch a film called Pin. We get very scared and very sick. 

After we are well again, we go insane. Mitch from Napalm Death is co-producing and we think we're Queen. Crackle! refuse our demands for more money. They don't love us that much. We pay for the recording ourselves then split up before the album is mixed. 

Acrimony is put aside when another label step in and promise to release it. A tour bus, SNFU-split EP, a solo deal for me... Promises, promises. The label makes us and lots of other people cross when promises are broken. Multiple law suits are narrowly avoided. We buy back our album from them. Dan Mortician sets up a label and, with Iron Man Records from Birmingham, they put it out nearly 2 years after it was recorded. Mitch Harris wears an Academy Morticians badge on his 2000 tour with Napalm Death. The Morticians are no more. I am 19 years old.

Simon Mastrantone – ...and the First Noise
(2006, Rekabet)

4/5 *Recommended* multi-emotional and highly developed... Mastrantone has condensed a huge range of influences into cogent three-and-a-half minute mouthfuls—Manchester Music

Short of a celebrity girlfriend and a raging drug habit, he's going to have to raise his game if he wants to make his markZeitgeist

Move to London . Finally get my solo deal with a label so small it isn't visible in any space. Instead of spending the budget on a studio I rent a cottage by the sea in Pembrokeshire and spend a week recording there with friends, one of whom is a producer who smokes way too much weed. He does a good job though, but we have to go back to London to finish the vocals. Final product is stark, cold and obscure, completely antithetical to the recording session it was born out of. The video for the lead single gets played on MTV2 and we get invited to do an XFM session. On the drive home we feel like rock stars until the moment we write off the car on a bridge. 


Simon Mastrantone – ...and the Drowse
(2007, Rekabet)

4/5 Mastrantone possesses all the star qualities of any indie band out there lapping it up on big budget major label deals. Best thing is that he’s far more accomplished than any of his peersManchester Music

I find it hard to warm to the music of  the former Academy Mortician... it leaves me cold as a very cold thing left in a cold place, with added ice. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. nada — Zeitgiest

Back to Pembrokeshire despite the puzzled look on the label head's face. Record the drums then the computer breaks on the second day. Producer is now definitely smoking too much weed and is a bit twitchy. He demands we drive him the 5 hours back to London despite having paid him for a week in the cottage. Reluctantly we oblige and accidently put petrol in our diesel engine. Break down near Cardiff. Eventually get to London then drive back to Pembrokeshire to record very expensive four track demos. 700 mile round trip with nothing to show.

The label are rightly pissed off and the producer reluctantly lets us finish two of the planned 5 tracks at his place in London. Only manage to complete one of two promotional videos for the planned double a-side. Label and I part ways almost amicably and shortly after I finish the solo career for good.




The Woe Betides – Play Dead EP
(2009, Songs in the Dark)

Enthralling... deft puppet-masters of indieNME

The EP sees gradual steps down the inspirational stairwell — CMU

Solo stuff is hard, particularly carrying all the gear. But bands are hard too. I know! Double acts are in right now,  I'll do one of those. But evil.

A rehearsal or two later and we're off. Drum machines, hand claps, downtuned acoustic guitars, distortion and vocal harmonies are the order of the day. I have a bash on the piano. NME even like us. For a bit, anyway.

Down into the depths of an East London basement we go, recording beneath a flat in which they once filmed an episode of Peepshow. The one with the record producer. With the collapse of the music industry happening around us, we self-release the EP and hand make the covers with little red bows. We have a lot of fun, make a lot of friends and drink a lot of beer.

The Woe Betides – Never Sleep
(2010, Songs in the Dark)

Style-meshing staccato pop of genuine flair... energising and delicate  NME

It’s always a tad unnerving when singles are the best tracks on an album  Clash

So... the music industry is dead, you say? Never mind, let's carry on  regardless. Back to the Peepshow flat to record the music, this time with drums in tow. More beer is drunk, and the vocals are recorded in the hallway of a maisonette sandwiched between two mattresses. There aren't any record companies to send it to any more, so we self release. Alec Empire reviews our single in NME and tells me to give up and work in an office.

A headline tour is booked around the UK, and we play to around 4 people over 10 gigs. Some shows are so badly attended not even we turn up. We play to a sound guy in the East Fife equivalent of the The Overlook Hotel. We stay in a house with a scary Macaulay Culkin lookalike in the middle of northern nowhere and end up locking ourselves in our room when he decides to drunkenly and drugedly destroy his own house. In the morning we find his gun and leave promptly.

The band survives the tour, but it never recovers.