Small Doses 7 – Rema-Rema

Small Doses 7 – courtesy of Iv/An

And you thought that getting a copy of Rema-Rema’s Wheel In The Roses EP was like trying to locate rocking horse shit: in a painfully small edition of just 100, issue seven of Iv/An’s obsessively detailed, intensively-researched and beautifully-designed Small Doses is entirely devoted to telling the absolutely definitive story of a band who had already fragmented when their solitary EP was released, an act which simultaneously launched the 4AD label and which also started in motion the ongoing mystique and mythology surrounding the group.

For Iv/An this is, first and foremost, a highly personal endeavour and a work of love as a fan of the group; because of that this issue intertwines his own story of becoming intrigued by Rema-Rema with the story of the band.

Featuring interviews with four of the band’s five members (Mick Allen, Dorothy ‘Max’ Prior, Mark Cox, and Gary Asquith) providing a comprehensive first-hand account of the band’s history, unseen photos, a discography including compilation appearances and cover versions and a ‘family tree’ showing where the members of Rema-Rema came from and where they went onto after their eleven gigs and solitary EP. The fanzine is accompanied by a CD-R of unreleased recordings by the band culled from demos and live rehearsals, all sequenced into a single piece brimming with white heat and blistering energy.

Small Doses 7 – courtesy of Iv/An

More information on the new issue will be made available at Iv/An’s 0.5 Facebook and Bandcamp pages on May 1. I already have a copy. It’s signed by Gary and I’m not selling. Don’t even ask.

The latest issue of the fanzine comes hot on the heels of 4AD’s overdue Fond Reflections by Rema-Rema – a collection of unreleased live tracks, demos and studio material from the same rich archive as the Small Doses CD-R that approximates what should have been the band’s 1980 debut album, assembled by Gary Asquith and Takatsuna Mukai and released earlier this month.

The album’s launch was supported by a live Q&A with Max, Mick, Gary and myself at London’s Rough Trade West, just a few hundred metres from where they recorded their first demos in a Portobello Road basement on a tape recorder borrowed from Hazel O’Connor.

Rema-Rema and Mat Smith at Rough Trade West, March 1 2019 – Q&A for the release of ‘Fond Reflections’. L to R: Mat Smith, Gary Asquith, Max, Mick Allen. Used with kind permission of Trevor Pomphrett.

(c) 2019 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Renegade Connection – I’ll Surrender (Le Coq Musique single, 2015)

Renegade Connection 'I'll Surrender' 7" artwork

Renegade Connection is a collaboration between Gary Asquith (Renegade Soundwave, Mass, Rema-Rema) and Lee Curtis from Lee Curtis Connection. I reviewed Curtis’s Psyclops Trees single ‘All Back To Spikes’ for this site last year and at that point this collaboration was on the blocks ready for a release later in 2014. Manufacturing and artwork issues prevented the single seeing the light of day last year, and this will now be released to coincide with Record Store Day on 18 April 2015.

‘I’ll Surrender’ finds Asquith in an emotional mood, delivering a tender, warm-hearted love song over a loose, heavy dub groove that links this back to both the dub albums of Renegade Soundwave material but also back to the type of soul-scarring music reaching these shores from Jamaica way back in the Seventies. It’s a new direction for Asquith, and one that works really well. His voice is well-suited to this type of romantic outpouring, even if that seems something of a surprise after being so used to his vocal having more of an aggressive, nihilistic edge.

The flip, as is traditional in this genre, is a straightahead dub version, containing all sorts of springy effects and sonic trickery, as if the ghost of King Tubby had been meddling in the mixing desk.

The B-side to ‘I’ll Surrender’, ‘White Flag Dub’, can be heard below. The single will be available from Rough Trade and the Le Coq Musique webstore.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gary again for a forthcoming Electronic Sound feature; that feature will appear later this year. 2015 is set to be a good one for Asquith followers – on the same day as ‘I’ll Surrender’ gets its release, two Rema-Rema 12″ singles will see the light of day. The first 12″ pairs ‘Entry/Exit’, a track from the original Rema-Rema sessions that begat the Wheel In The Roses 12″ for 4AD, with an instrumental version; the second 12″ (What You Could Not Visualise) sees Asquith collaborating with Takatsuna Mukai on Renegade Soundmachine remixes of the track ‘Rema-Rema’.

Rema-Rema 'What You Could Not Visualise' 12" artwork Rema-Rema 'Entry / Exit' 12" artwork

Asquith is also working on a new, as-yet-untitled project with Michael Allen (Rema-Rema /  Wolfgang Press) and Andrew Gray (Wolfgang Press). More details will follow in due course.

Renegade Connection 'I'll Surrender' postcard

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

The Psyclops Trees – All Back To Spikes (Flying Saucer Records single, 2014)

The Psyclops Trees 'All Back To Spikes' 7" artwork

flying saucer records | 7″ flys5001 | 30/05/2014

Lee Curtis is a producer and DJ who has released records as Lee Curtis Connection on the venerable Ninja Tune and who also formed one half of Flavournaughts with Dave Priseman. His latest project is Psyclops Trees, prefacing a much-anticipated track for Gary Asquith‘s Le Coq Musique imprint called ‘I’ll Surrender’ which will see Curtis collaborating with the erstwhile Renegade Soundwave / Rema-Rema frontman as Renegade Connection.

All Back To Spikes’ is like a time machine back to the halcyon big-beat / trip-hop days of 1994 – Athletico compilations, The Chemical Brothers back when they still lived on Planet Dust, Mo’Wax before megastardom etc. Curtis himself describes these tracks as ‘funky psychedelic breaks’ which is completely apt – on ‘All Back To Spikes’ the (block rocking) beats are rich, hypnotic and chunky, while deep textures that shimmer, twist and loop suggest movement through multiple dimensions.

The single is backed with ‘Beak Street’, which earns the distinction of being this author’s summer anthem. On this particular street the beats are slower, the vibe funkier; the melodic hooks sits somewhere between Stevie Wonder circa ‘Sir Duke’, the theme tune to Grange Hill and the Pierre Henry piece that Fatboy Slim ripped off shamelessly. ‘Beak Street’ casually pulls off this mood with a cheeky swagger, making this a perfect soundtrack to sipping cocktails by the pool.

Check out videos for the two tracks below. The single can be purchased from Rough Trade here or Flying Saucer’s own website here.

Track listing:

A. All Back To Spikes
B. Beak Street

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Rema-Rema – International Scale / Short Stories (Inflammable Material / Le Coq Musique single, 2014)

Rema-Rema 'International Scale / Short Stories' 7" artwork

inflammable material / le coq musique | 7″ burn017 | 04/2014

‘Can you imagine what these beautiful songs would sound like if we’d done them in a 24-track recording situation?’ ponders Gary Asquith by email when I let him know that the copy of Defiant Pose Eight with its accompanying Rema-Rema 7″ he sent me has arrived. ‘It’s so sad that the most beautiful creations that I’ve ever made are just demo quality-lo-fi. They’re the pinnacle of my musical thinking.’

Rema-Rema’s recorded output, until the release of this 7″, was confined to the Wheel In The Roses 12″ that effectively properly launched the 4AD label; apart from a couple of live tracks on a very underground cassette and an alternative version of one track on a Japanese 4AD compilation, that was it. And yet, as future Wolfgang Press member and Rema-Rema founder Mick Allen recounts in the interview with him and Gary Asquith in the Defiant Pose fanzine, this post-punk unit seemed to have developed a cult following that even these two members are surprised about. Allen recalls Nick Cave talking to him about his time in the band whilst his Bad Seeds were on tour with Allen’s Wolfgang Press, and Steve Albini‘s Big Black covered one of their tracks. I can vouch for their status: when I posted a review of Wheel In The Roses last year, including some insightful information from Asquith, I received emails from people enquiring about whether the band had any other recordings that might see the light of day.

Which brings us on to the exciting prospect of two hitherto unheard Rema-Rema tracks, rescued from cassette demos and pressed onto heavyweight vinyl to accompany the Defiant Pose feature and interviews. ‘International Scale’ is a breathtaking moment of sparse robotic motorik rock underpinned by squealing synths from Mark Cox, a taught, sinewy guitar riff from Marco Pirroni and a Mick Allen bassline that dominates with ground-out, low-slung angsty prominence. Asquith prowls above the mix, his vocal somewhere between punky snarl and wide-eyed wonder, offering repeated phrases and complex wisdom. Like all the best post-punk this feels like a head-on collision of ideas: the edginess of punk and the regimented rhythms of German electronic pop (thanks to a skeletal beat from Max) and a leaning into artsy esoterics. It’s not hard to see why Asquith considers his Rema-Rema period his best – ‘International Scale’ suggests a raw confidence and effortless cache of ideas that could have served this band very well had circumstances been different. It’s a travesty of grand proportions that we’ll never get to hear a finalised version of ‘International Scale’ but this is more than adequate aural evidence of what makes Rema-Rema so compelling a proposition.

‘Short Stories’ clocks in at just under two minutes and has a much rawer, embryonic sound to it, Asquith sounding not dissimilar to Wreckless Eric with an emotional, almost anguished vocal. Slow, gravelly and murky, ‘Short Stories’ feels like a single evolution away from the pure punk of The Beastly Cads / Models and Manic bands from which Rema-Rema were formed. No surprise, perhaps – in the accompanying interview we learn that Allen and Asquith brought fragments from unused songs from their former bands to the studios as the genesis for the Rema-Rema material.

Asquith turns more sanguine as our brief email exchange concludes. Hey, we have these moments and we get respect – because you can’t be in a band with Marco Pirroni and Michael Allen playing guitar and bass that isn’t worth a listen. Because those two people exude class. That’s the moment I live for, and when I die I will say “please God, can we cut a deal and you play me some Rema -Rema?”‘

Buy this; it’s important.

Get it at Defiant Pose

Track listing:

A. International Scale
B. Short Stories

Thanks to Gary

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Renegade Soundwave ‘Women Respond To Bass’ badge (1990)


Renegade Soundwave 'Women Respond To Bass' badge (1990)

Email from Gary Asquith (Rema-Rema, Renegade Soundwave), 27 March 2014

Hello Mat,

I noticed on your pages somewhere that you had a memorabilia section. So……..

Here’s my Women Respond To Bass Badge and my World Cup Willie badge from the 1966 World Cup. I’m not too big on badges, but I have some punk rock bands and……..?

Willie was our lucky mascot for 1966, and the Women Respond badge was a giveaway at our American tour dates in 1990.

Later. G

Photo courtesy of Gary Asquith.