portion control : the man who did backward somersaults [t.e.q. music?]
there were three bands in my youth which meant that little bit more than everything, the passage, portion control and psyche. in truth, there is a list as long as my arms, your arms and probably enough of everyone else’s to go round this planet, but, these were the bands i corresponded with most, in the main by old school letter writing (and yes, the replies are still here neatly stashed, close to my heart). needless to say when it came to actually doing something in the vague ball-park of industry these three topped the ‘erm, do you have any tracks... etc’ list. there will be words to come on the magical darrin and sadly departed stephen huss at a later date and dick witts, andrew wilson and joey mckechnie were tied to cherry red therefore begging hands reached out to dean piavanni, ian sharp and john whybrew. by chance, as i used to tape-swap with various people here and abroad i already had in my mitts on a live studio recording from holland based around tracks from i staggered mentally. so, the question was put to them and for all and none in cassette-form was established with that nine-track assault, replete with sissy spacek carrie inlay cover and printed labels which annoyingly fell off extremely quickly. i’m unsure how many were made, but the nagging thought is that of ordering 500 inlays/labels from a printer in barking near where i worked (easy to pick up in the lunch hour!) so i guess that was indeed the magic number. once assembled, all were sold via ads in the music press or distributed through backs in norwich, part of the independent network the cartel. that was 1986 and some kind of partnership forged. needless to say faan only really lasted five minutes and two other releases by psyche and shrink to fit. step forward then, early nineties to the empty quarter. magazine, mail order and tagged teq music? label. dean, ian and john had since dropped the portion control name after a period being managed by the larger than life pet shop boys supremo tom watkins. he brokered the signing to a major label, recordings were made but never released and they were even in the studio remixing bros! endgame. a disentanglement from that contract ensued. eventually solar enemy emerged from the ashes. same line-up, same electro aesthetics with just a little less of the brawling venom from vocalist dean. third mind records released their debut dirty vs universe but passed on the follow-up. i’d always stayed in touch with the boys, so being offered the chance to release the second solar enemy was an honour and many a woohoo could be heard at teq hq (spare bedroom of mine and my partner in all that is life jules’ two bed ilford flat - she gets too little credit, especially by me, for everything we are and have done). proceed to beyond (the rape of europa) hit the racks in 1993 and became the first release on teq music? with cover art by john roome of terminal power company, witchman and later bigscreen score fame. by this point we had upgraded to the new-fangled compact disc format which suited the crisp, clean lines of solar perfectly. i wanted a link to portion control to be clear though, after all they were the same three creators. hence the solar enemy vs. portion control* subtext on the cover and press releases. despite selling out its relatively low run (we didn’t have the funds or contacts of an indie, let alone major) it seemed all the punters really wanted was portion control. needless to say the band was against going back, but an idea of releasing under both names got the thumbs up. with a back catalogue repress programme put into form a ‘best of’ was hastily assembled by me. with much glee, hour upon hour spent putting track after track together of (mostly) my favourites from their archive and of the various versions i readied 1.2 nailed it. sadly the band didn’t have all the master tapes so the man who did backward somersaults was assembled using my cut and paste list from vinyl onto dat master by them. this was possibly a self-indulgent exercise from stargazing fan to saleable commodity, but i saw it also as a process from making the old, long out of print material available again (for the first time on cd) leading them eventually to record new pc and giving the kids what they say they wanted. in turn, what i wanted, i am just a fan after all! for now, or then rather, these 18 tracks spanned a good, extra large portion of their career extracted from the albums i staggered mentally, hit the pulse, step forward and psycho-bod saves the world plus singles a’s and a few b’s. hard, rhythmic electronics battling it out with electro-funk, esoteric sideswipes and unsurpassed electro-punk arcade-dwelling anthems. picking the opening track was the easy part. it could only be the great divide. a huge tuuune and a saleable one at that, ripe for the dance floor. just as much of their material was, once getting to grips with the growling menace of dean’s vox. go-talk, raise the pulse, chew you to bits and karateka all subscribe to this moveable agenda in one way or another. dean’s voice was integral to their sound, which constantly shifted around cabs’ style sequential repetition and pitch-switching elation. the fact they never stood still, buried in one sound-mould made the shuffling of these tracks even more enjoyable and edgy. the ultra-nasty abbo dabbo (a particular fave) slices deep, as does eat your heart’s oblique stuttering and yet there’s humour in the animated sci-fi of brain scraper death dive and screen of death. a throwaway consumer agenda, then put to the sword by refugee and under the skin’s social conscience; “refugee, he who carries his home on his back. comes constantly under attack everywhere he goes” ... “under the skin lies the mess that we’re in. set in our ways we are blind. in from the outside, your point of view. i speak no evil, i only talk to you”. both of those songs from 1984’s step forward. how’s that for fucking relevance today? lyrically they were so very under-rated and musically without peer. and as such plotting the siren call of havoc man before the scatterbrain rage of bite my head made perfect sense. portion control always drew you in, made you welcome, at ease and then at a pindrop slapped you squarely in the face and recorded that noise to use later. the closing line of the sleevenotes which i asked bill leeb of front line assembly to pen said it all; ‘the day will come again when this great monster will rise and all those who stand in its way will be devoured by its greatness’. portion control were true innovators in so many electronic fields, acknowledged as inspiration to the likes of fla and skinny puppy. to me they were gods, if ever such things existed. no-one could ever match them. in reality they were just three, friendly, ordinary blokes with a love of abc who gave me the honour of being a tiny part in their story, if only i had known what the hell i was really doing back then who knows what could have happened. thankfully their catalogue was repressed eventually, though remarkably they had to do that themselves. this band was and remains a huge part of my life. psycho-bod was the first review i had published. first interview published. assault the first cassette on faan, proceed kicked off teqm? and the man who did... the first portion control cd. my 21st birthday was spent watching them at the shiny london hippodrome supported by a bloke who swallowed goldfish (boy, that was a weird night). me and a mate all long-coated, stood dead-still whilst the regulars readied, in a state of virtual undress for their weekly bop and ogle (boy, they really must have thought it a weird night!). there were so many other highlights like seeing them pile out of their mini, plug the gear in and rumble the brighton seafront in the zap club. they blew away the likes of mode as support and really should have and deserved to have been huge. watkins recognised their potential but sadly london records didn’t bother trying. it is ironic that after reforming as a two-piece dean and john used the portion control name rather than solar enemy. of course this was after my own inner fuel had emptied and the music industry changed beyond recognition. of all the brilliant artists i had the pleasure of collaborating with i will always feel i let them down the most. at least i was right about one thing, portion control was the way forward. sadly that’s of little consolation to what might have been.
currently unavailable.., who knows one day?
hearty thanks to graham needham and his cybernoise.com site. it was because of him i allowed my mind to drift back to better days today. he has an astonishing attention for detail and tweeted earlier that on 28 november 1994 both the man who did backward somersaults and lagowski’s wire science were released on teqm?. I’ll have to get back to you on the latter, which is still a right rollicking, glorious electro-fest btw and available as a dl via andrew’s bandcamp, but right now am feeling old, tired and pretty worthless despite all of the above. ta-ra. away with you, go listen and raise your pulse.
* there is a solar enemy vs portion control title listed on discogs from 2008. this is an unofficial release and i am unaware of how these tracks were obtained. the seven solar enemy tracks were given to a german magazine back in 1993 intended only for use as a free cd to their readers - i presume these are the said tracks to which i hold the master dat and contract.