Basking Sharks' finesse
John V. Roy braved the perils of deepest Lancaster to catch the Basking Sharks at play
The Basking Sharks consist of Ged, the professor, particularly fond of Carlsberg Special Brew; he plays a Korg MS10 and PE1000, a home-built synth and drum machine — he also sings. Adrian, the joker, who's particularly fond of winding people up and a particularly potent home-brew; he plays a Korg MS10 (customised) with MS50 expander and sings. Last but not least is Martyn, father-figure and owner of an elegant handlebar moustache, who plays a Korg MS20 and Polysix, and like the other two he sings as well. They originated in Lancaster about two years ago; Adrian and Ged met at art school and befriended Martyn (who wasn't at art school), and this unmistakable trio have been together ever since.
Their stage set-up is rather on the large side, to say the least, and includes a couple of TV sets displaying computer graphics, a string-machine mounted above Ged's head, an inflatable shark and slide shows — it doesn't leave much room for them on stage. They play everything live, as Adrian pointed out: "We want the audience to see us actually playing our instruments. The use of backing tapes have given electronic bands a terrible image in the past and we go out to entertain our audiences and to show them we're not trying to rip them off in any way."
The visual side of their stage show is really staggering and is mainly the work of Ged, quiet and unassuming until he discovers a dirty plate. "I'm pursuing more computer graphics projects and I hope to be able to take them into the studio eventually, because we all feel that there's a lot more scope for computer graphics in the SHARKS and we all want to build up the visual side of our stage show." The SHARKS are eager to point out that they use synths in a very new and original way. They are eager to entertain their audiences — they don't put themselves on a pinnacle created by their own egos — showmen and skilled musicians.
The music of the SHARKS is in the main written by Martyn, well, the lyrics anyway; "Ged and I are basically lazy, so we let Martyn write them and we sort out which ones we should use." It's hard to know when Adrian's being serious. "We all work on the music together."
Martyn's style of songwriting is very imaginative, never more so than in the lyric of 'Theatre of War'. "Basically the song's about nuclear war, but when you mention that people just imagine gloom and despondency and think 'Oh God another protest song'. So I decided to write it from the rocket's point of view, its happiness and its eagerness to do its job and blow up the world as best it can, and I've been able to get the message across without having to write a very 'heavy' song."
In addition to being serious, the SHARKS also have some fun. Take 'Rap do-Lallytap'. "It came about when the Rap thing started and I suggested we got into it," exclaimed Adrian trying not to laugh, "but the final result sounded nothing like your average rapping song. The same thing happened with 'View from a hill'. Ged came in one day and said that Elvis Costello had gone country, that it was the new 'thing', so we gave it a shot, the result, electronic country."
It was through playing at the Sugar House Club with the John Peel Roadshow that got them a session. "The session was a great success, a real break if you like. We received a great many letters and phone calls for information about us and we sold a lot of copies of our single 'Thrill of the Game'; it made up for a lot of bad deals we'd had in the past, like when we were supposedly going to be on a video of British bands for American cable TV; we duly sent off our best tapes and photos to them, then they went bust and we're still trying to get them back."
With all the gizmos on stage it's surprising they're able even to look at their audience, never mind sing and talk to them. Martyn offered the most comprehensive reply to this problem.
"After a while it becomes automatic, which knob to turn, what note to press, the only difficulty is when we perform very new songs, then full concentration is needed; or when one of Ged's home built pieces of equipment breaks down and we've got to fix it on stage." Instruments are another thing close to their hearts. "It's great to build your own gear. I put a Korg MS10 inside a fibreglass mould of a shark's fin," enthused Adrian, with a childish grin on his face. "And once he sawed a synth in half," added Martyn. "Well it seemed like a good idea at the time," Adrian replied, rather sheepishly.
On the road up to their very successful John Peel session they'd supported both Blancmange and Shakatak. "The Blancmange gigs were great, with only two of them and hardly any gear we were able to use as much of the stage as we needed," said Ged, "and the audiences were great too, a direct contrast to some of the clubs we'd been playing in the likes of Carlisle where they just couldn't figure us out." The Shakatak gigs weren't talked about so freely, but they did say that they enjoyed themselves.
Now that the Peel session has given them a foot in the door, a step further up the proverbial ladder of success, another single must be in the offing. I asked Martyn, who seemed to be the one to know. "We would like our next single to be done as well as possible. We got a bad deal in the pressing of 'Thrill of the Game' but we have a publishing deal in the works at the moment and we also hope to have a distribution deal set up for our next single 'Club International'."
The future holds a great deal of hope for the SHARKS, they're original, inventive, humourous and sincere, and at that point we adjourned to the nearest watering hole.
Music Review by John V. Roy
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