Live Reviews
London, 1986 Cleveland, Ohio, 1991 Detroit, 1991 London,1997



Propaganda and Persuasion

Imagine the soundtrack to a Hieronymous Bosch painting . . . grisly screams, primal groans of anguish, remorseless beat of the torture machine, gurgles of malefic ecstasy, life histories played back in minutes on Judgement Day, mocking parodies of your most cherished beliefs. Four anonymous figures on stage preside over the assault using a mixture of prepared tapes, electronic instruments and percussion.

This was the sound of the Nocturnal Emissions, the only white band to play (underneath the Atlantic Road railway arches) in Brixton during the '81 riots, the band who, on the night of the '83 election results took over the Ritzy Cinema and played their music with a widescreen backdrop combining the TV announcement of the catastrophic results with snatches from their 16mm film The Foetal Grave of Progress. The first band ever to use metal bashing - with a female metal basher, laying waste to washing machines and cookers, rolling in broken glass on stage.

'When we saw Test Dept in the same railway arch bashing metal we stopped doing it. It was becoming too fashionable.' Says Reg Sailyne, otherwise known as Nigel Ayers, longest serving member of the Emissions. 'Two years later, Depeche Mode, the Eurythmics, 23 Skidoo and ten thousand other hopefuls were bashing that metal.'

If you've never heard of this band - who have a large cult following - it's possibly because of this anti-commercial stance and the fact that they only work through small independent record companies - usually their own, Sterile Records. In fact they've been around for five years now.

'The Emissions have been working as a collective since 1981' says Nigel in his broad Derbyshire accent, 'making records, cassettes, videos and performing live with multi-media shows in Italy, Holland, France and occasionally the UK'. Besides railway arches they've appeared in such bastions of kulcher as the Tate Gallery and the ICA, and their early scratch video works have been cited as pioneering work by the likes of Howard (Rock Follies) Schumann. Their record label has also featured music by Test Dept, SPK, The Band of Holy Joy, Portion Control 'and many other obscurities.'

But can art change the world? 'All art is used for propaganda and persuasion. Our enemies recognise this power even if we don't. So everything we do on our own terms helps to build our own confidence and that of our class as a whole. We are denying the official version of reality with our own version, and seeing what we have to do has encouraged a lot of other people to start doing things for themselves?'


Interview by Dave Thorpe in Monochrome, May 1986

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London, 1986 Cleveland, Ohio, 1991 Detroit, 1991 London,1997
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