The band, who gained cult status in the 1980s with singles such as “Cry Wolf”, are working on their first full-length studio album in over 30 years, which will be released as 3 limited edition vinyl EPs before its general release later this year.
Reformed by founding guitarist Mark Tighe, with drummer Stefan Khacheturian and new vocalist/bass player Rio Goldhammer, 1919 kicked up a storm with the video for their new song “Revenge”, coming seemingly out of the blue to the delight of fans new and old.
“1919 was a year of massive change and desperate rebellion. The murder of Rosa Luxembourg, the mutiny of the French fleet in the Black Sea, the Churchill/Trotsky dual, general strikes in Belfast, Glasgow and other cities, the great red scare in America… I think it was the caved-in head of Mrs Fanny Sellins, Trade Union organiser, killed by Steel Trust gunmen in West Natrona, Pennsylvania, on August 26th, 1919, that really started my obsession with that year. After that it appeared at an alarming rate everywhere I looked…..1919.
The best 1919 image was Michael Biro’s famous worker poster of a naked giant of a man about to administer the most monumental hammer blow ever … Budapest; May Day 1919. Things were getting rather Fortean so it became the only contender for the band name. None of the other band members would get in the ring with it so that’s how we came by the name. My only regret is 1919 never being credited with having the most monumental Quiffs, post Billy Fury and pre Stray cats…
The band evolved late 1980’ with the sole aim of pounding out a rhythmic, menacing, atmospheric, sometimes bleak sound with hints of a dark melody. I had two Vox AC 30’s with the original blue speakers – apparently the dog’s bollocks – the sound I required was like vicious monsters jumping out of the speakers; aural beasts from Hades. There weren’t too many ingredients to the 1919 sound – if we couldn’t file it under EVIL it would not make it onto the set list. 1919 was four Northern souls desperately different in temperament but with a much focused musical vision, which Attila the Stockbroker once described as “Stockhausen on guitars with some long lost tribe on drums”. – Mark Tighe”
In 1977, two teenagers are watching the Sex Pistols play in a Keighley nightclub. Sid Vicious is pretending to play bass just six-feet away and John Lydon taking some cough medicine before launching into Pretty Vacant. Then there is the Clash playing Leeds, supported by the Slits, early Adam and the Ants with Matthew Ashman on guitar, Siouxsie and the Banshees at Huddersfield Poly, and Throbbing Gristle at Wakefield. These bands were the early influences of Ian Tilleard – the original singer in 1919 – and Mark Tighe.
Early incarnations of the band included Mark Manning (Zodiac Mindwarp) and Aky (Southern Death Cult) before settling as 1919, who were already right in the mix of a West Yorkshire scene that included New Model Army, Southern Death Cult, Sisters of Mercy, and The March Violets.
It all started with a white label promo, limited to 500 copies; Repulsion/Tear down these Walls. After sending a copy to John Peel marked “take it or leave it“, the legendary DJ travelled to Shipley and asked the band to do a session at Maida Vale studios. The Machine LP was heavily inspired by Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and the theme of alienation is prominent in the band’s oeuvre.
In spring 1983 – while 1919 were on tour promoting Cry Wolf – Stefan Khacheturian was working on studio material with the band ICE, featuring original 1919 bass player Nick Hiles, who by now had been replaced with Steve Madden. Stefan started drumming in 1973, playing on his first 7” single in 1977, and after playing drums in various rock bands throughout the 1970s Khacheturian did his first tour of Europe in 1980. During the winter of 1979, Stefan met singer and guitarist Tony Jessuk from Leeds, England, and the pair wrote and recorded together from 1980. After touring in 1981, Stefan moved to London to work on ICE singles ”This is the world”, ”B Movie”, and ”London life” for 101/Arista records, at which point he had introduced to then-1919 bassist Nick.
After founding drummer Mick Reed left the band to form The Hive, Nick recommended they brought in Stefan as a replacement. In December 1983, Stefan Khacheturian was confirmed as the drummer in 1919. The band at this point though was taking a new direction musically, and – against all advice – changed their name to Another Cinema. Another Cinema signed again to Red Rhino Records; releasing “Hallucination Spires” (which hit number 11 in the indie charts) and later “Midnight Blue Oceans”.
“The band always felt like outsiders, people liked to tag us with various movements but we were having none of it and remained outsiders looking in. Cry Wolf, the last single said it all “You got what you wanted, all cry wolf” so we split the band…”
In 1986 Another Cinema called it a day and bassist Madden decided to go to London. Ian and Mark rehearsed and worked on tracks, eventually forming Zap Gun Virus. This band morphed into Slaughterhouse 5 before, and shortly afterwards, Tighe got sick of the music scene and disappeared – travelling first to Israel and then to Italy, before eventually returning to the UK. After a while the enthusiasm was rekindled, and in 1997 Tighe worked on a mini album entitled “Freaks Geeks and Sacred Monsters- The songs of Morton McReary” which again was picked up by Peel. After that, he drifted off once again; this time to customise and chop motorbikes, and build guitars under Zendog customs.
Khacheturian, meanwhile, having returned to dep’ and session work, had moved to California to work as part of a 3-piece band with guitarist Eduardo Mendez that would last for 7 years. In 2007, he moved to Australia to do drum clinics for the legendary Australian audio company RODE before returning to the UK on 2009.
In 2004, Tighe had been subject to renewed interest in 1919, and decided to pull together some musicians to test the water. Could this have been the re-birth of 1919? The mini-album Dark Temple was released and sold 2,000 copies, but though sales and reviews were good it had failed to morph into the 1919 rebirth that he had dreamed of. Tighe deleted the master files so it would be limited to those copies sold, before drifting off once more to a reclusive life in the West of Scotland; reading, walking, and producing a few bands.
“I still dream of vicious monsters leaping out of the speakers, my trusty old Vox, the valves waiting to be red hot again, the smell of the burning dust, the crackles and then the German radio outbursts like long lost broadcasts from Berlin.”
Since the release of “The Complete Collection” on Cherry Red in 2007, and with the emerging influence of social media, 1919 had had 200,000 streams on sites such as Last.FM through fan uploads alone. In 2014, Mark Tighe had the chance to pick up where he left off 30 years ago. January of this year had led to a chance encounter with Stefan Khacheturian. The two had not worked together since their time in 1919 and Another Cinema (collaborations in 1993, 1996, and 2003 had been attempted, though were short-lived or abandoned for a number of reasons), but within a week rehearsals had started. The result, they could both feel, was 1919.
But the final piece of the puzzle was still to fit, and after almost a year of auditioning singers and bass players, in walked Rio who could do both. As a description of Matty in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting goes:
“Hard on shoes, reducing clothes to threadbare status in no time at all. [His mother] was therefore not concerned when he grew into punk as he grew into adolescence. It seemed merely to be making a virtue out of necessity.”
It’s difficult not to think of Rio when reading this. From a young age, Rio developed obsession with lyrics and started working with glam punks Stiletto Farm, as well as the band that would later become PseudoNympho. Over a decade, Rio has recorded in several countries for different labels – with varying results – and released a smattering of records on his own Bunnysnot Records label. He also featured in the documentary Madder than a Full Moon Dog (2012) at the end of his time with Stiletto Farm.
Having cut his teeth on the Leeds underground, it is precisely this mixture of character traits and artistic direction – his lyrics smacking of the alienation closely associated with the original band – that made Rio a perfect misfit for the perpetual outsiders 1919; the man to breathe life into a band considered “one of the most overlooked bands of the early eighties.” (Gods and Alcoves)
And with that, 1919 were ready to rise again…
Their new album will be released in November 2015, and preceded by 3 limited edition vinyl EPs released from September 2015.