freakapuss logo

Background / History

Part Two

Tronics in a Love Backed By Force

(Dispelling the myths of Creation)

The first vinyl record Zarjaz released was a double A sided 7 inch single called Favorite Girls, a release singing openly about the empowerment of women. It was characteristically a release ahead of its time, keeping in mind that it would be 18 years before the girl power scene of the Spice Girls. The record was produced by John Edwards who had been an associate of the former The Who producer Shel Talmy.

At the time of Favorite Girls, the indie scene was more of an opportunity for artists to release for themselves, independently, the music major labels would not. Most instrumental in the original emergence of the indie scene was Geoff Travis at Rough Trade. The first Tronics release was encouraged by Geoff, who gave Zarjaz some money to press the record in advance of first sales and this record emerged perhaps in the early stages of post punk, alternative, indie music.

The record itself, being viewed as being of a sexy nature, initially ran into problems at the pressing plant. The plant refused to press the record when they found out one of the songs on the record was about a girl using a vibrator. To get around this problem the title was changed and the record was pressed at another plant.

In 1979 Zarjaz designed a punk style t-shirt with the slogan "Fuck Dancing Let's Fuck" in response to the Madness t-shirt "Fuck Art Let's Dance". The FDLF t-shirt was soon to be reputed to be the top selling t-shirt world wide and was seen worn by many rock n roll personalities, even 10 years later, including Axle Rose and Tommy Lee in a Motley Cru video and was often pictured in magazines. The design was bootlegged into the 21st Century.

In 1980, Tronics released the first independent release on cassette to be nationally and internationally distributed, constituting what was acknowledged by the NME as the first "Indie Cassette Album". The release started an indie cassette boom, presenting opportunities for thousands of bands and musicians to gain attention and recognition where it would not otherwise have been given beyond their cassette release being localized or demo status. The music press were quick to catch on and were soon full of charts and reviews. Zarjaz was somewhat lost in the stampede as the trend was soon overrun and controlled by the music industry but the "boom", started by Zarjaz, manly through Virgin Distribution, was defined by the group Bow Wow Wow, with their release C30, C60, C90 Go, referring to sizes or lengths of cassette tapes.

"I made Shark Fucks so I wouldn't be popular. When Shark Fucks became popular I tried to surpress it". - Zarjaz

The Tronics, psychedelic, rock n roll, Clockwork Orange, cult album Love Backed By Force, in 1981, was stylistically years ahead of anything that would appear on Creation Records later on in the mid 1980's. Tronics were attributed with being "the first Droog influenced band". At the time, all other A Clockwork Orange efforts on the music scene were merely copies of styles from the film and depended on the use of a Clockwork Orange word "horrorshow". Love Backed By Force went way beyond that.

In 1982, the NME published a feature of Tronics describing the band as 'making low tech love songs for people who wish Tyranosaurus Rex were still making records in the 80's'. Throughout Zarjaz's recordings and in particular early Tronics, a similar thread prevails where Marc Bolan is obviously a predominant influence but more so, this media recognition placed Zarjaz as the vanguard of Bolan influenced / fan bands, but more, Zarjaz took T-Rex into the 21st Century before anyone else.

Since Favorite Girls, Zarjaz has released a catalogue of items, all of them highly collectible, including releases on Basilica, M'lady's Records, Red Rhino, Orgasm, Wrench Records, Joe Foster's Kaleidoscope Sound, Creation Records and Alien Records. He has emerged with some influential styles ranging from pure rock n roll to Bolanesque hip hop to psychedelic sci-fi psychorama and "proto cyber punk". Each of these releases has received it's share of high appraisal mixed with total derogation.

Perhaps the most extreme style to come from Zarjaz was publicly unveiled after the release of Wild Cat Rock during the 1980's. This incarnation, along with it's development has become legendary and is defined under the title of La Leggenda Del Block.

Since 1980, Zarjaz had been working on ideas that incorporated sci-fi rock n roll, building up a wardrobe of massive knee pads and shoulder pads while wearing his hair bright shades of pink and purple while the music scene developed goth rock. The Tronics were gigging around at the time and one person to be attending some of these shows was Tony James, former bass player of pop punk band Generation X. It turned out that Tony was interested in Zarjaz being the singer of a new project he had in mind that incorporated punk and break dancing. Tony invited Zarjaz to record demos as the frontman for this band and discuss ideas.

Quite suddenly, as if possessed, Zarjaz already heavily influenced by the future, with a heavy but more latent affinity with history, changed direction and left the developing Tony James project. This project went on with a singer from the new romantic scene and eventually became Sigue Sigue Sputnik but adopting many of the ideas styles and attitudes introduced by Zarjaz. These included Zarjaz's instructions on how to scream through a rock n roll track, a major aspect of future SSS sound and using Zarjaz records in their live set. Zarjaz always liked the band during the 80's and has commented that Martin Degville was better suited to that band than he was, bringing styles that had nothing to do with him. Tony James never openly acknowledge Zarjaz, as if to play down the role and influence he had on some of the better concepts and styles James received credit for. There is no mention of Zarjaz anywhere in any SSS official biography. Nevertheless, the pre Sputnik work of Zarjaz speaks for itself to show that they may have achieved notoriety as they fleeced the world but Zarjaz has achieved success with credibility. One commentator has said that "Zarjaz saw the future and wrote his name on it and if Tony James is the BoSSS (as he calls himself), Zarjaz is JezuSSS".

The new ideas Zarjaz had become so wrapped up in materialized in 1983, in the form of synthesized baroque, Wendy Carlos / Clockwork Orange style music but with the earlier Love Backed By Force individual idea of not copying A Clockwork Orange but accepting A Clockwork Orange as a major aspect of popular culture and at the same time emphasizing ancient music as pop music. A unique concept and achievement at the time. The music was in a sense "baroque pop", a term used by some in the music industry to categorize pop music incorporating baroque instrumentation and styles. At the same time Zarjaz defined that all rock n roll and modern pop music is essentially baroque anyway and with La Leggenda Del Block, ancient music is presented in pure form musically but with instrumentation that modern audiences would understand. One early Zarjaz release featured Latin poetry that had been banned in ancient Rome by the Emperor Augustus. The prolific music journalist and writer Dave Thompson commented that this "scarcely matched up to any criteria I can think of".

The first Zarjaz release was One Charming Nyte, on Creation Records. Despite being let down on recording agreements with Alan McGee the record was greeted enthusiastically, but it did not receive any promotion or advertising. The release was a lo-fi prototype calling out for support and development. These things are a necessity for such a new and unique idea and hit records and breakthroughs have never been made before without them, especially something so big. Because of this the record did not sell well but went on to become an important collectors item. Former Buzzcocks manager, Richard Boon, someone who obviously knew a good thing when he saw it, was among the reviewers of One Charmyng Nyte. He wrote that the record was "the biggest single ever".

One example of the value of this music and episode in Zarjaz history is again evident with the Sigue Sigue Sputnik release in 1989, "Albinoni vs Starwars", showing a half Baroque, half futuristic figure, drawn by an artist from 2000 AD, on the cover, years later, at a time when Zarjaz was going in and out of mental hospitals. At the same time the Creation release resulted in disputes with Alan McGee over style, creative control, McGee manipulating the music press, defamation, unauthorized releases and royalties, as McGee amassed hugh lists of bands for his label catalogues. Meanwhile the music press presented McGee as a helper of young musicians while McGee collected an award at London's Stock Exchange. Zarjaz has commented saying that it was help he could have done without, at the same time retaining a deep artistic and personal respect for Creation Records co founder, former TVP and producer of My Bloody Valentine, Joe (Slaughter Joe) Foster. In 2015 Zarjaz and Joe Foster both refused to be included on the Cherry Red, Creation singles retrospective release.

"What Alan McGee was asking me to do was quite nasty and at the same time, the same as with most things on the Creation label, so far behind me it would have been wrong for me as an artist to redo it. I just no longer needed to copy the Velvet Underground. All that posing behind tambourines like Andy was ridiculous. Smacking up my audience for publicity was never my thing. Any derogatory remarks I get in the press often stem from Alan McGee and people under his influence. I have never understood why, after he asked me to be on his label, he has outwardly slagged me off, for so many years after the event. To my face he was always great but then later I would hear about things he said against me in interviews. I accepted Alan McGee into my home. He shook my hand and made promises. It seems it didn’t mean anything to him. If this is what is meant to have been on Alan McGee’s “label of love”, I can’t say I found it much good other than the experience to have met Joe Foster." - Zarjaz

From this point also, the tendency to become more withdrawn and anonymous began to be more apparent. It was not as though Zarjaz wanted to stop working, he didn't, but it was, as he has said, an urge to avoid the price of fame. Nevertheless, the new and controversial ideas coming from the Zarjaz camp were not entirely accepted. The new "baroquabilly", was greeted enthusiastically by many, but there were those who were more negative. The world had never before been introduced to an elctro punk Orpheus, singing in Clockwork Orange language, about pleasuring his girlfriend with his fingers during an atomic explosion. The concept seemed to go past most of the rock n roll scene who were intent on creating the styles of the 80's. Zarjaz was announcing in interviews that he believed that rock n roll began in ancient Rome, that Nero was the first and greatest rock n roll star and that baroque music was pop music and rock n roll in its purest form. If such ideas were not enough to alert the industry to Zarjaz being a complete lunatic, even if they were true, Zarjaz went on to reveal that he was the Emperor of Rome. As much as he turned away from the music industry, the industry was turning away from him and in places burying him alive. From being hailed as the "essence of rock n roll" individuals in the music industry and with some control of the music press, who must have seen Zarjaz as some kind of threat, began to assassinate him and obscure his achievements.

"One day I was taken into a large shop that was closed in the centre of the basement of Kensington Market in London. In there I found 50 or so people dressed in Clockwork Orange style, drinking milk and dancing to One Charmyng Nyte. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. They told me that they loved Wendy Carlos music but they loved mine also as it was closer to them, in a sense it belonged to them. Creation Records never did understand that record." - Zarjaz

Today, classical music as pop music does not seem so different or strange, albeit presented differently / safely. Even Paul McCartney has viewed his opinions of classical music as pop music. Still, at the time of Zarjaz's heroic revelations the scene was much different. Amadeus had not yet been made as a film. It was some time before artists began to tell in interviews that they listened to Mozart in the bath and so on.

It was also around this time that DJ's began mixing Zarjaz classical tracks into dance and techno tracks in clubs and at the new experience, "raves". In places the DJ's, techno and rave music took to the Zarjaz tracks as they had no drums and were easy to mix into dance beats. Although La Leggenda Del Block had a techno sound the music was also completely different in style to the styles being played, all in all resulting in a spectacularly surreal and psychedelic effect. Again, an effect totally lost on Alan McGee and his followers.

In 2009, some 26 years after the original One Charmyng Nyte release on Creation Records, Zarjaz incredibly made innovations and breakthroughs with the follow on release La Leggenda Del Block, Editio Seconda, Traite Pour Marbre Neon Harpe Et Voix. Every note either played or programmed into the music and described by Zarjaz as "future dreams of the ancient robot God" and "a futuristic treatise on rock n roll's pre blues influences". Never has pop music more needed a breakthrough like this as LLDB plays out music from antiquity in an electro / techno / garage / drum n bass sound, played by robots and demented concrete crazed.

Exit