Monday, 31 July 2017

Family Patrol Group - Fear Death by Water (1983) C60

Back when I was just a schoolboy in short trousers, I went to see Whitehouse play live at a pub in Birmingham. I'm not sure if it was the first gig I ever attended, and I can't be bothered to check, but it was probably one of them. I went with my friend Grez, and possibly also Jez, although I have a feeling he may not have been able to make it - it was a long time ago. Anyway, despite being a youthful bag of nerves I made a new friend just by standing outside the venue with a Come Org badge proudly sported upon the lapel of my school blazer. His name was Colin Fisher and I think he'd helped organise the event. He was a member of Family Patrol Group, one of the two support bands, the other lot being D.Mag 52 / SHC standing for Death Magazine 52 and Spontaneous Human Combustion because they had two names, not yet having decided which they preferred. We went in and my eyes boggled at what the inside of a pub looked like. I noticed a bloke resembling the Shend from the Cravats stood on the other side of the room fighting off a massive crowd of fans, and David Tibet was perched at the next table reading out the lyrics to Whitehouse's Rock and Roll to his pals and making them laugh. It was exciting, and also kind of scary.

Family Patrol Group were first on with a fifteen minute wall of noise, followed by D.Mag 52 / SHC, who were good, but not as good, finishing with Whitehouse, who were terrifying. A glass casually lobbed into the audience by one of the Whitehousers hit Grez squarely on the top of the head. I turned to him so as to opine something along the lines of fuck this - let's go home and found my question answered in dramatic fashion by blood gushing down his face from where the glass had hit. This incident has somewhat coloured my view of Whitehouse since, but to get to the point, Family Patrol Group really stole the evening for me. There was something about the pure force of their noise, like standing before the business end of a jet engine, and a jet engine which caught our attention without turning the event into the pre-title sequence of an episode of Casualty.

I kept in touch with Colin and bought a few tapes off him, then saw Family Patrol Group again later that same year supporting a couple of bands I don't even remember - Seduction and Baptism with Fire. One of them was a Bauhaus tribute act or something along those lines. This second gig is captured on Fear Death by Water, or at least on my copy. I've a feeling the original tape may have been just the four studio tracks, and I added the recording of the gig in support of Whitehouse myself seeing as there was plenty of room on the tape. I had the impression that Fear Death by Water wasn't so much an official thing as just a tape they might slip you if they could be arsed. The cover doesn't give much away, certainly no titles, and some of this stuff turned up on compilation tapes with titles which may have come from the group, or may have come from whoever was putting out the compilation. I get the impression they were more interested in the live setting, and to be fair, they were fucking amazing live on the two occasions I saw them.

I still don't know much about Family Patrol Group, although their internet presence seems to have increased since the last time I looked, and there's even a website with a list of gigs performed. Their commitment to power electronics conventions of the time seemed tongue-in-cheek bordering on sarcastic, at least going by what Colin said about their Beyond Nilsen stickers. They clearly figured somewhere in that whole Birmingham noise thing which also bequeathed us Final, Smear Campaign, Con-Dom, Godlfesh and so on, and the two who weren't Colin Fisher had also been involved with D. Mag 52 / SHC, concerning which, please feel free to interpret whatever else you may feel you need to know from this excerpt from one of Colin's letters:

I'm not in D. Mag 52 / SHC, but the other two are. I'll give you the D. Mag 52 / SHC potted history if you like. Originally a large band of around nine members, fluctuating line up depending on who could attend, no rehearsals, just found instruments before gigs usually. Mainly metal bashing, drums, and other percussion, like Test Dept at times. Slimmed to five, four, or six piece - then mainly metal, tapes and vocals. Then down to two hardcore members - others thrown out or dissuaded. No gigs, but still fluctuating as people replace one another. At the Mermaid, Simon was helped out by a friend. The other hardcore member - Paul - was on 'holiday'. Truth is he was a bit embarrassed at supporting Whitehouse. I think he felt it was pointless trying to compete with them, as we all did, but nevertheless we didn't bottle out. After Family Patrol Group degenerated to nothing, mainly because of my absence at Sunday afternoon jamming sessions, Mike Grant, Family Patrol Group vocalist, was looking for gigs to play as D. Mag 52 / SHC, playing alongside Simon and Paul with Greg, our tape person. They got two, one at a pub which has a regular free spot on Monday evenings, and the second was at an all day festival where Nick Lowe was the main artist. They got ₤100 to play this, but I was told they used ₤80 in preparation by going into the recording studio to record backing tapes. I think it may have been Mike Grant's idea as he had not been into a studio before and was quite keen to do so. Anyhow, I didn't go to either of the above two, mainly due to Mike Grant falling out with me. Nothing serious, just once when we were in a pub he ignored me and he's never spoken since.

I'm therefore assuming that Family Patrol Group were Colin Fisher, Mike Grant, and some dude called Greg, but I'd be very happy to be corrected on any of this - always happy to revisit this little corner of noise history, given that you probably won't get to read about it in books written by tossers for whom it all started with comedy acts such as Ministry.

1 - Fighting Cocks, Moseley 17/12/83
2 - Fear Death by Water I
3 - Fear Death by Water II
4 - Fear Death by Water III
5 - Fear Death by Water IV
6 - The Mermaid, Sparkbrook 27/8/83

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  1. This was a great surprise mr Burton! Thank you once again for sharing all these treasures.

  2. What a lovely surprise! I've been dying to know just about anything about Family Patrol Group, I love their track on Trev's "Destined to Decay" comp. Never expected to hear an entire tape from them, thank you!

  3. Hi. It's great to read your reminiscences about DMag52/SHC and Family Patrol Group, and good to see it living on through the web. I have to say I don't recall falling out with anyone – I seem to remember that all developments in FPG were mutual without any animosity! The core personnel of FPG became Greg Pearce, Barry Griffiths and Mike Grant, with a few others drafted in for some of our later performances, and we eventually evolved into Blissbody in the 1990s. I am no longer involved, but I'm still in contact with a few. Believe it or not, my public performances these days are limited to morris dancing, but that's another story! Cheers, Mike Grant.

  4. Thanks for that, Mike. Always good to know one of these shares is appreciated by those responsible and that I haven't stepped on any toes; and thanks for both the update and the performances all those years ago. Still say you were better than Whitehouse on that night, and I wasn't the only one to think that.