Dark Wave

SPK (engl.)

At a time, when industrial bands gave themselves relatively straightforward names, e.g. „The Klinik“ to name one of the well known, SPK chose a different path. Their name, an abbreviation, can mean pretty much anything (there are no limits set to your imagination). To their music it behaves similarly. During their career they tried out everything, what is to be tried out later on.
In far away Australia a guy called Graeme Revell felt destined for greater things than to sort tablets and to keep shizos. Because the small Graeme was a male nurse in the loony bin, he decided to do something very strange; it should be tremendous ! Revell developed a concept and called it SPK. He did´nt need long to search for a hook for that what should follow. A look in his field of work (psychiatry) let a big vision emerge inside of him: He would try to express “psychopathological states by acoustic means“. The planning stage was left Very fast, there was busy experimentation and the founding of a label (Side Effect Records) where two singles and a LP (Information Overload Unit) were generated under Graemes direction. We’re in the year 1980 by now and Graeme, the maniac, had already collected a bunch of boldly comrades-in-arms around himself.

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1986

Those who hoped that SPK’s first vinyl-releases would have satisfied Graemes ego had made a mistake: With a radicality which bordered on monomania SPK went to implement the sanctified concept on the concert stages of this world. First he punished the Americans, because these fellows had violated his ears in too despicable manner with their chewing gum music: SPK´s America tour caused some confusion, although it must be mentioned at this point that there were also people who are crazy about these spectacles. Throbbing Gristles Genesis P. Orridge went into rhapsodies about it.
The experiences of this tour were incorporated by SPK into their next project. In 1982 they published the LP „Leichenschrei“. A LP title seldom better characterised its music. The reactions to this record were relatively strong, so that Graeme and his band were on everyone’s lips. Even today Gisela tells with pleasure how she was punished by bouncing hailstones when hearing the Leichenschrei-album on the auto cassette recorder. In 1982 I received the very dubious honour of beeing allowed to see a video of this psychopathic combo. It really was horrific. One can say without exaggeration that it was the most horrific piece of celluloid I have ever seen. I preclude this from the fact that I could still sleep at night before this event.
Now here´s the attempt of a description how horrific it was; it is difficult for me to put into words. Two stations before the Cologne central station (I came from southern direction) I threw this product of a sick mind out of the window of my moving train. Nevertheless, Contrary to my expectation it remained lying without resistance and will probably lie there even today. However, now follow this scanty path description, on that you may find this work and make your fortune with it!

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

However, now back to the other biography (the one you want to read, finally). After the LP ‚Leichenschrei‘ Sinan (she´s a likeable Chinese) entered Revells life to control together with the good Graeme the further development of SPK from now on. Shortly afterwards the 12″ ‚Dekompositions‘ (1983) occurs. Graeme was weary of the wild life of an independent musician, which was full of privation. A not insubstantial part at it presumably had the slightly poor nutrition (always just horse head food probably is a little bit tasteless on a continuing basis): “The people would like our music, they just never hear it. We wanted to change this with the WEA contract. We played in clubs. And the people freaked out regularly.”
Two Maxis and the LP ‘Machine Age Voodoo’ were released in the WEA phase. Thus the group, which I believed to have left behind me with the mentioned video, stepped again into my life. Who could reckon already on meeting them on television ? But exactly this happened. One Tuesday evening I switched on as by chance the goggle-box and saw SPK at prime time and this still in the programme ‘Formel Eins‘ (german version of TOTP). Into the bargain I have to confess that this track they played had something that fascinated me. Indeed, I was´nt so inspired that I would have had a look at them still in the ‚Wartesaal‘, because it was there that time where they played. It turned out subsequently as a mistake , because they were really good, as plausible eyewitnesses (e.g. Ralf D. from B.) reported to me later. As relic from a bygone era they should have thrown metal barrels into the audience to disassemble them beyond the stage by means of a chain saw competently then.

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

The disco concept, SPK had shown in their WEA time, nevertheless, was quite quick outbidded. SPK was forgotten. Graeme got an age at which one should found a family and make a lot of money in a relaxed manner. How else can it be explained that he signed a contract with WEA ? Now Graeme himself should be able to speak: “We were disgusted at Europe. Our position became trendy. There were Dozens of groups which sounded similar to us, e.g. Test Department. We doubted on ourselves and went back to Australia. The sad thing in the independent music is that it is nowhere played.” However, you have made a mistake if you believe‚ Graeme‚ the old workhorse, would have been idle decayed to play Chinese duet with his Sinan. Far from it, my lambs: He even worked in different ‘projects‘ (modern classic) which were´nt published under the company name SPK. Besides, our multitalent composed a film soundtrack for a British B-Movie about the Elizabethan age.
However, Gaeme had discovered one more passion: Byzantium! Therefore, Byzantine liturgy also stood in the centre of ‚Zamia Lehmanni‘, the last LP of SPK. The question whether this is a trip with no return with Graeme gets stuck somewhere between Byzantium and Middle Ages to make us happy as a traveller between the worlds with epochal dull music, can be denied without restriction. Since Graemes heart recently beats for funk (You read correctly)‚ therefore, the next LP of SPK will also accommodate at least one record side of this ecstatic music.
To blame for their versatility is the musically reprimanded Australia. Sinan: “Australia is isolated. On the radio they only play such traditional junk – folk etc., Therefore, we are obliged to roll up the whole history of music again independently.“ Now you know it – further future remained uncertain. Because You have visited this blog, you may read now the concert report.

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

A famous Cologne club was filled in order to burst. Everybody wanted to see SPK. Because this was possible, nevertheless, only in the first two rows, everybody flocks to the place in the sun: There was a big crowd and words which would have remained rather unsaid were said. The only reason, why it came to no brawl at that time, is owed to the fact that because of the shortage of space virtually nobody could lift the arm. The about 98 unfairly treated (this is estimated favourably) had to look in a monitor which provided the event on the stage – what of course was more than fair considering the concert ticket only cost lousy 15 Deutschmarks.

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

SPK live in Germany (Hamburg), 1984

Because to me no way is too narrow to make it for you and you would have looked certainly silly if I had’nt exhausted all visual means, I protected a place in the second row to myself. What I saw on the stage, already was impressive anyhow: An earth-smeared Sinan which performed a torch dance to ethnic music, the misuse of a mussel to a wind instrument. The stage actions were stylised ad nauseam. Metal barrels were attacked, aluminium pots were maltreated. And I felt battered to death. Everything was very spherical, just really Byzantine. But in the long run also a little boring. Movement came up only in the spectator’s masses as a SPK made to saw metal barrels on the stage and send one shower of sparks after the other into the audience that the eyes and hair would become victims of the flames. So that the spectators stepped back to rear (there rules, nevertheless, some justice). In spite of some turbulences (I had to help an overthrown girl) I reached the saving harbour. At the surrounded bar I searched forgetting in the alcohol.

This report is dedicated to E.S.

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