A POTTED HISTORY
1996 - February, Reading UK.
After a bout of food poisoning and a consequent dream concerning a
telepathic alliance between Tory Health Minister, Stephen Dorrell and a
tapeworm sect, The Sonic Catering Band formed, striving to pursue a new
working practice in electronic music whilst not having to worry about where
their next meal would be coming from.
The notion of the Band was/is to employ a similar approach to electronic
music as to (vegetarian) food; taking the raw sounds recorded from the
cooking and preparing of a meal and treating them through processing,
cutting, mixing and layering. No source sounds other than those coming from
the cooking of the dish are used and as a commitment to artistic integrity,
every dish is consumed by all members of the Band. The Sonic Catering Band was
specifically conceived as a project and not a band as such. The aim of the
project being to plough and furrow as meticulously as possible every
possibility inherent in the cooking process, both aurally and conceptually,
within a shelf-life of around five years. In terms of personnel, The Sonic
Catering Band would be an anonymous unit of whoever happened to be around.
For the first year, it definitely had the feel of a loose collective with
various characters drifting in and out.
Most of the year saw the Band masterminding their various projects and
setting-up their Canteens of Atlantis studio. With a 4-track recorder and
some antiquated analogue effects units, the Band set about
cooking/recording their first dish - Tofu Royale. The resulting tracks, Dada
Cuisine and Gastric Serenade were constructed in one night with the former
making it onto The First Supper: Edition 3 single in its original form.
Work began on the concept of a box-set of singles, in which one could
collect courses of a meal on 10" singles the size of plates. More
cooking/recording followed in the Canteens of Atlantis to produce demos of
all five First Supper courses, (some tracks in very different form to what
they are now). The demos were used for an art installation at Reading
University's Fine Art Department in June in which the very dishes from The
First Supper were laid out on a table and wired-up to bakelite headphones
on plates. One could literally sit down, put the headphones on and listen
to the meal, as the wires and electrics crawled through the pasta and
literally into the soup. On the wall by the table, hung a lifesize 5ft
gingerbread man with headphones on, listening to the sound of himself being
Late Summer saw the Band embarking on a Xmas split-single project with
sound scientist, Michael Prime, (of Morphogenesis and Organum). Both
parties were to apply their sonic alchemy to a festive object which
resulted in the Band cooking/recording Christmas Pudding several months too
early and Michael Prime waiting until the time was right to climb an
appropriate Mistletoe-plagued tree to record the bioelectrical signals it
emits. By this stage, the Band was reduced to two people.
Late Fall and the Band headed for Tollerton, York to do some additional
production work on The First Supper with Colin Potter (Nurse with Wound),
applying his mixing magic to four tracks; Peristaltic, Metabolica, A
Sedimental Journey and (I Hear a) Cookie Monster.
With the addition of a third member, the Band began to incorporate more sample-based
methods into their work with a view to performing live. On 16th June, the
Band were invited to a makeshift studio in The Royal Festival Hall to
perform a live popcorn session for the London Musician's Collective's own
radio station, Resonance FM which was launched to coincide with John Peel's
South Bank Meltdown Festival. Bringing one of their mothers along for
cooking duties, the Band performed a four minute piece whilst staying just
the right side of the smoke alarms.
The Band's first gig proper was at the 333 club in Hoxton, London, 27th
September. From existing in the nowhereland of electro-acoustic
experimentalism, the Band suddenly found themselves championed in the style
pages of publications such as Sleaze Nation, NME and Time Out. More gigs
followed at Reading's Rising Sun Arts Centre in October which culminated in
a blender-trashing encore and then, for Christmas, a performance at
Brixton's Orange Two put on by the Kosmiche team was recorded and
subsequently broadcast on Radio One.
The Band started approaching artists to remix the source sounds from The
First Supper sessions and then add their own distinctive instrumentation for
a future release, entitled, 'Artificial Additives.' One of these artists;
Clare Connors who used to play violin in The Balanescu Quartet, Michael
Nyman Band and Spiritualised suggested a further collaboration of some
sort. The Band took all their utensils to her place in North London and set
about improvising from a very loose idea - one simple phrase from a very
famous blaxpoitation soundtrack to be repeated again and again on the
violin and run through the Band's various effects until it became something
else. The resulting track, 'Icing Tone' was performed live in July at The
Lux Cinema in Hoxton Square, London.
Along with The Lux, the Band performed another gig at Bracknell's South
Hill Park in June as part of the annual music festival. Come August, the
Band's first single on their own Peripheral label, (meet ... The Sonic
Catering Band aka The First Supper: Edition 1 - Appetiser) was released to
equal amounts of derision, bewilderment and praise from the press. Record
Collector went as far as hailing it 'the most innovative record of the
year' whilst the Melody Maker simply enquired 'can you believe these
More split-single projects were embarked upon with electronic pop band,
Saloon and the infamous, They Came from the Stars ... I Saw Them. One Sonic
Catering member moonlighted for the latter band, playing kazoo and popcorn
for a gig they did as part of Satellite's 1977 event in the Fall.
The second (Soup) Edition of The First Supper ('The Sonic Catering Band ...
report from an Alimentary Zone') followed in October and for Christmas, the
Band finally released their festive double A-Side single with Michael Prime
on the cult Netherlands label, Rund Um Den Watzmann. The snow-white single
came wrapped in 60's Eastern European wrapping paper with a greaseproof
paper insert with Christmas Pudding silk screened onto it.
A quiet start to the year, especially as the Band were busy relocating away
from Reading with the three members split between London, Bristol and a
boat somewhere near Oxford. Most of the year was spent cooking/recording
new material for the projects with Saloon, They Came from the Stars ... I
Saw Them and Clare Connors.
In October, the Band performed at Notting Hill's Tabernacle Arts Centre for
the London Food Film Fiesta. Kitchen appliance maestros, Morphy Richards
sponsored the performance which was a first for both parties. Following on
from the gig, the Band finally got round to manufacturing the remaining
editions from The First Supper ..
After a quiet year, The Sonic Catering Band jump-started the first three
months with the remaining three editions of ‘The First Supper’, not
forgetting the customised pizza box to house the collection in. A split
single, (‘Bodypop’) with Saloon followed in May, which saw the two
bands performing together in Brighton and London. The single made it to
number twelve in John Peel’s Festive Fifty, though undoubtedly on the
strength of the Saloon track, ‘Impact’ which got played heavily on the
show. There was some critical praise left over for The Sonic Catering Band,
courtesy of some very favourable reviews in both May’s Wire Magazine and
September’s New Musical Express. The long-cherished First Supper remix
project, ‘Artificial Additives’ appeared only to disappear again due
to sample trouble. More gigs followed in London. London Arts funded a Food
Art event c/o of the OMSK collective. Enough money and kitchen supplies
filtered down from both London Arts and Morphy Richards respectively for
the Band to undertake a live soundtrack project to Luis Buńuel’s
‘Exterminating Angel.’ Sonic Catering gigs were known for being somewhat
ramshackle, only given the lack of money paid to the band by many promoters
along with the rapidly widening geographical divide between members, it was
mutually decided to call it a day on the live front. The Sonic Catering
Band said their farewells at Geneva’s Forde Gallery and Moloko Restaurant.
To make the event extra special, the Band recorded and pressed-up a track
called ‘Frostbite’ which came out as a gallery edition 7”, meaning
that you got art as well as catering, what with 57 individually designed
labels on the records. Come Christmas, the Band contributed two specially
recorded tracks, ‘Kitchen Utensil Ploy’ and ‘Interculinary
Dimension’ to accompany or not accompany a short story by Hildi Hawkins
for her magazine, Things.
After a busy year, the (no longer anonymous) Band took some time out
from Sonic Catering duties. Colin did some essential repairs on his boat in
Banbury before sinking from the world; Tim’s wife Emmanuelle gave birth to
their first child, Stephanie in Bristol and Peter left London for Budapest.
With very little opportunity to get together, the Band decided upon
releasing other peoples’ material on the Peripheral Conserve label, despite
the fact that distribution was suddenly reduced to just Anomalous in
America. A repressing of ‘Artificial Additives’ appeared along with
a split single, (‘Disco Brunch’) between The Sonic Catering Band and
They Came from the Stars; I Saw Them in the Spring. Late summer saw the
release of the first non-Sonic Catering record. ‘Purely Practical’
by The Bohman Brothers was a confounding spoken word tour de force, which
despite its limited run of 150 copies, did a very good job of circulating.
The Wire Magazine in October praised ‘Purely Practical’ as ‘one of the best
sound poetry jukebox records since Henri Chopin stopped cutting them.’ On
the strength of the single and their debut album, ‘A Twist for all Pockets’
for the Italian label, Rossbin, The Bohmans found themselves touring round
the UK, America’s East Coast and Budapest. The Sonic Catering Band paid
tribute to the Rossbin label by contributing a track, ‘Sugar Nocturne’
for a compilation album to commemorate the wedding of the label’s founders.
By this time, quite a few additional band members were cropping up in
London, Preston and Budapest. Dan Hayhurst who formerly played bass with
Echoboy, Electric Sound of Joy and They Came from the Stars; I Saw Them,
(not to mention his new project, Sculpture) played a prominent role in
recordings as did Colin Potter of Monos, Nurse with Wound and Ora. Back in
Budapest, several other members joined; Zsolt Sőrés from SKY and
Budapastis and Pál Tóth from én, along with Ádám Csenger and Jozef Cseres.
In September, sessions began for the first Sonic Catering album at
Budapest’s Arion Hangstúdió on a Danube island. As a warm-up, a ‘trial’
debut album, ‘1093 Budapest IX., Lónyay u. 7., Magyarország
(22.09.2002. 19.45 – 20.52)’
was recorded at a friend’s apartment at the above location, date and time.
Each of the 10 CDRs came with a CD-sized cake from the recording session.
Whilst recording and mixing on the debut album proper continued in
Budapest, material was sent back and forth between the aforementioned and
Banbury, Bristol, London and Preston. To be continued ..
A bootleg white-label 12" of 'Bodypop' remixes
appeared at the beginning of the year. The Sonic Catering track that
originally appeared on a split-single with Saloon in 2001 underwent various
makeovers courtesy of Shintaro Taketani, Sculpture, Order of Zarg and The
In February, our Peripheral Conserve label released the 10" 'Rehearsal
Tapes 1999/2000' by Clare Connors. The ex-Balanescu Quartet violinist got
together with sonic caterers, Tim Kirby and Colin Fletcher at both her
place and Peter Strickland's in London to rehearse for a show at the now
defunct Lux Cinema. Despite the rudimentary quality of the tapes, the
overall music and feel of the rehearsals were far superior to the final
performance at The Lux and were aptly described by Byron Coley in July's
Wire Magazine as 'shimmering, ghostly, filled with both action and
stillness … a lovely piece of work.' 2002's Sonic Catering split 12"
with They Came from the Stars, I Saw Them ('Disco Brunch'/ 'The Holy
Mountain') also garnered some posthumous praise from Muzik magazine when it
made 'Leftfield Single of the Month' in February.
A momentary influx of attention came about in the spring with Sonic
Catering interviews appearing in the Italian magazine, 'Miele'; the Greek
fanzine, 'Overdub' (which came with an exclusive Sonic Catering track
'White Light from an Oven Above' on the accompanying compilation CD) and
England's magazine, 'Record Collector.' The latter interview was to promote
the Groove exhibition at England's Huddersfield Art Gallery. The exhibition
apparently featured a cornucopia of vinyl-related oddities and artefacts by
The Sonic Catering Band, Project DARK, Matt Wand, Cornelia Parker, John
Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Philip Jeck and others. We should also add that we
were never asked to participate in this event nor were we informed or sent
anything such as a catalogue once it opened to the public. If Record
Collector hadn't contacted us, we would never have known. Two raised
fingers then in the direction of Huddersfield Gallery
On March 3rd, The Sonic Catering Band recorded a special
90 minute show for London's Resonance FM. Culinary field recordings from
Italy to Bosnia, dietary comment, food science machinery and pre-S.
Catering workouts were all thrown into the Resonance broth by Colin
Fletcher, Tim Kirby and Peter Strickland.
Another non-Sonic Catering release appeared on our label in the spring. To
coincide with their emergence from hibernation, we put out a 7" single
of mole cricket field recordings by D.R. Ragge and W.J. Reynolds, entitled
'Entomological Acoustics (European Gryllotalpidae)'. The single came packed
with information along with two out-of-this-world illustrations by Denys
Ovenden. We can also proudly announce that unlike other recording artistes
in the world of art and entertainment, you can hear mole crickets live
every spring/summer in the appropriate habitats outside the UK without
having to get frisked by a doorman.
Whilst work continued on our Sonic Catering studio album in Budapest, the
ever- dependable Nicolas Malevitsis took it upon himself to release some
live material of ours on his Greek label, Absurd. The two volume live opus
'Live from the Canteens of Atlantis' appeared in the summer featuring two
hours of material. The first CD was a whistle-stop tour of our finest and
hardest moments, edited into a whirlwind 60 minutes of culinary overdrive.
The second CD featured our last quasi-Zen performance at Geneva's Forde
Gallery in 2001 in its entirety.
Contrary to the sleeve notes on the aforementioned release, we reformed
gig-wise and opted for a small performance at one of The Bohman Brothers'
Bonnington nights in early October. Featuring just Peter Strickland and Dan
Hayhurst with some extra-culinary input from The Bohman Brothers, we pulled
off a discreet yet highly enjoyable 20 minutes of Transdanubian glide in
anticipation of the forthcoming album.
And come November, The Sonic Catering Band's most ambitious project to date
appeared in the form of 'Seven Transdanubian Recipes.' The usual beats and
sizzles were eschewed in favour of a more austere, gothic flavour in the
grand tradition of Eastern European folklore. Tracks such as 'Greed' and
the 17 minute oven opera 'The Lamb is the Light Thereof' are way beyond
anything we've done or will be capable of doing, probably. The print job on
the CD left a lot to be desired. But quibbles aside, the whole experience
of making and listening to the album with the extended Eastern European
line-up over the past year has been a total wonder.
Through the process of making 'Seven Transdanubian Recipes' the final
Peripheral Conserve release inadvertently came to fruition. 'Continental
Drift (Eastern & Middle European Movements in 2003)' features pretty
much all the characters who populated the Sonic Catering album and then
some. Though all the tracks on the album have been completed and compiled,
it won't be released until 2004. Though this is a fairly representative
dose of what goes on in those Great Plains and valleys, the album is far
from comprehensive and acts more as a thank you to all the
musically-inclined folk who put Peter Strickland up for the night
throughout his sojourns, rather than some curatorial voyage of discovery.
There are plenty of painful omissions for one reason or another but what
you get is wayward electronics c/o Zsolt Sorés, Zsolt Kovács, György
Galántai, S.K.?, R.R. Habarc, Kopott, én, Abstract Monarchy Trio,
Alergische Platze, The Lazy Anarchists; Slovakian post-modernism c/o Lengow
& Heyermears, József R. Juhász; Hungarian folk c/o Kata Peto; Romanian
choralscapes c/o Vox Turturis; Viennese percolators c/o Institut für
Transakustische Forschung and a fraction of British and French colonialism
c/o The Bohman Brothers and Dragibus.
'Continental Drift (Eastern & Middle European Movements in 2003)' is
the fourteenth and final Peripheral Conserve release. It has become
financially impossible to continue the label and some of us are sick of
tripping over cardboard boxes at night. The scars on Strickland's shins
convey more about running a record label than any nonsense spouted by
A&R types. Running the label over the past four or so years has been
incredibly rewarding despite the fact that each release threw some obstacle
or other at us. We're incredibly proud of all fourteen releases on the label,
yet we are glad it's all over too. The Sonic Catering Band will continue
beyond the Peripheral Conserve grave in some zombie form.
What of 2004? No releases, no recording, no fun. The Sonic Catering Band had
to make do with some left over praise from the previous year’s ‘Seven
Transdanubian Recipes’, courtesy of The Wire magazine and BBC Radio 3. The
oft-promised two releases, ‘ImperialMetric’ by The Sonic Catering Band/The
Bohman Brothers and the Eastern European compilation CD, ‘Continental Drift’
fell under a dark bureaucratic spell and won’t see the light of day before
the year rests. The only Sonic Catering activity to speak of, occurred in
the so-called ‘Old Europe’ of Germany and Austria. Coaxed back from the
grave, The Sonic Catering Band decided to love the capitalist within its
festering corpse and rise. The live S. Catering machine offered something of
its food, chaos and frustration to bewildered, hungry and occasionally bored
audiences in Hamburg, Berlin, Linz and Vienna.
'Continental Drift: Eastern and Middle European Movements in 2003' finally
appeared in May after an excruciating 10-month wait at the pressing plant in
Hungary. The CD gained favourable reviews and attention courtesy of The Wire
Magazine in the UK and the Slovak National Radio. Peter Strickland performed
solo as The Sonic Catering Band in a cellar in East Transylvania and the
Hungarian branch of the S. Caterers performed in Paris.
The SCB's Tim Kirby set up smallPRINT Records in August releasing a collaborative work with Zambian born Miselo Kangwa entitled 'Walk Together'. He is currently working on the label's next album length release 'tREE sHUTDOWN', joining forces with SCB's Colin Fletcher for The Casio Consortium's first release, as well as an array of Bristol's finest.
Our tenth year as caterers of the sonic; too much celebration and hoo-ha
resulting in no work, and in no time whatsoever, Manfred and Geert's dinner
guests adeptly steered the conversation towards the intricate subject of
aural hygiene practice.
A hectic year for Sonic Catering. One live shift in Budapest and the posthumous release of our Bohman Brothers measurement mix; ImperialMetric.
back to top of page