Dub Sex were to return to the live scene earlier on this year. It didn’t happen. After reforming in 2014 they went on to do a storming set at The 02 Ritz in 2017 with Membranes and friends. A lot of their cult fan base were gutted due to the release of the excellent compilation Search For The Right Words in April 2019, which featured all of their recordings including the John Peel Sessions. They have now found some old footage from recording The Underneath at Strawberry Studios, filmed by Malcolm Whitehead / IKON who sadly passed last year. This ‘lost’ Manchester band could well be in THEIR time right about now. Back in the late Eighties was when the Madchester wave hit and Dub Sex drifted away, yet they made an impression on the underground scene and are still loved to this day. Wayne AF Carey speaks (or rather listens) to front man Mark Hoyle for a bit of insight…
LTW: “How did you find this footage and why are you releasing it now?”
MH: “Well it’s a pretty good story really, that’s why I’m glad it’s you I’m talking to about it because you know all about IKON don’t you?”
LTW: “Yeah, the man behind the old Hacienda / Joy Division archives and videos”
MH: “Yeah it was Malcolm Whitehead who did the Love Will Tear Us Apart video and the rest of it. Basically what he did, you know I’ve read some of your stuff and you know The Hacienda. Well he was part of the scene that was filming all of the gigs. At the time it was really rare. It was a new thing really, based on the thing being done in New York which New Order witnessed over there. The idea was that whenever you played at The Hacienda, you just got given a copy of your gig.
Malcolm was involved in loads of things at the time even The Doors film, loads of stuff. He was a real piece of history, a brilliant guy. He died last year and I went to his memorial. Malcolm and Brian Nicholson his colleague really did shape the visual side of Factory and the way it looked. They did stuff with The Fall (Perverted By Language). I ended up inheriting 27 U-matic tapes, really old format, the fuckin’ size of a gravestone. I donated it to the North West film archive because no one’s got the machines anymore. You couldn’t even transfer it. Covid hit. The library stopped doing anything. There’s basically a treasure trove of unseen, probably like a whole 27 hours worth of stuff. I don’t know what it is yet. A lot of it is Dub Sex, Ikon and when they get back to work we’re gonna see a lot of unseen Factory stuff.
The ones that he could do, the reason he gave them to me was he couldn’t get them working on his machines, the stuff was obsolete. So the ones that did work he put on a memory stick for me. Chris Nagle played a part and it all captured a really exciting part in our career. We were just on the rise. It was Chris Bridgett’s (guitarist with Dub Sex) first time in the studio when we recorded this. Me and him were mates from Hulme and he’d just joined the band. He was really excited for all of us. On this memory stick there were bits and bobs from Flexible Response Studio. The whole band stuff is from Bradford, me and Chris putting down guide guitars and vocals and the stuff with the mirrored walls with Chris looking really spacy, that’s from Strawberry. Malcolm just cobbled it all together into something workable you know, bring a bit of life to it.”
LTW: “So why did you pick Strawberry then Mark?”
MH: “It was the most natural place. Basically the first single we had, we picked Suite 16 (famous recording studio in Rochdale). We were very aware of the history of Strawberry. You couldn’t be into music without hearing about it. A band like 10cc and Lol Creme trying to take the music scene away from London. Chris Nagle who we’d been working with had done Basement 5, Pauline Murray, The Invisible Girls, being Martin Hannett. Just look at Chris Nagle’s history of recording there. He knew it like the back of his hand. The scene was very incestuous if you know what I mean. People found each other through the love of music, forming bands together.
I came really involved with the whole IKON thing. It makes you raise your game. I was singing in the same room where Unknown Pleasures was done. It was very important to us. We ended up doing four Peel Sessions. I’m from the gutter me, I’m just an orphan from Manchester. This period of my life, I don’t look back on it because I’m always going forward but it made me think, wow I’m human. This is what I do. It took us to Berlin, touring Germany. The footage shown was just a month after we’d got back and we got Chris involved. To think that the Berlin Wall was still up, little Dub Sex next to that thinking fuckin’ ‘ell it’s brought us here. These people I would normally have nothing to do with. Music brings you together.”
LTW: “I’ve been listening to your compilation album Search For The Right Words recently. Are you proud of that release?”
MH: “I’m proud of the things it’s compiled from you know. What I do, it’s not a fiction you know. The songs I write are about things in my life, unique things, even heartbreaking things sometimes. To see A – lights and B – seeing it all put together in the same place, it’s just fuckin’ brave for me. Back in the day numbers, you laugh at them now, you know the script, getting prominence being in the indie charts, NME coverage, Sounds, Melody Maker, you know, we were a quite well profiled band.
Yet the numbers were small. We only pressed about 2,000, we were loves for a while then disappeared. Then the internet came and brought them back. So it had to be done. They were all on small labels. To get them all together in one, put them into some context with a booklet and that. It was just something to do, no trouble at all. Optic Nerve wanted to do it. They’ve been re releasing stuff by The Wedding Present, House Of Love, stuff from a similar era. They’re just music lovers like you and me and it was good to do it. I was really looking forward to doing the gigs with The Chameleons after being mates for years with them, I was gutted.”
LTW: “Any plans with Dub Sex at the moment going forward?”
MH: “It’s all a bit in limbo at the moment. We just got the rugged pulled and then the world got the rug pulled a few months after that, so basically we never say never, you know what I mean. Chris is busy with his stuff having a good time, getting more focused and you can’t be unfair to him. It’s what he should be doing in his life. The last time I saw him he was at City v Chelsea with his son who turned into a City fan. He’s going to be totally spooked seeing this footage.”
LTW: “Why are you putting this footage out now? What’s your main reason?”
MH: “It wasn’t me actually putting it out really. I basically just sent Cathy the bass player the subtitles on a memory stick, 10 minute batches of things like Chris getting his sound levels right. It wasn’t like, for anything. Malcolm was making a documentary about me, my journey from care. I had a terrible start to life and I’ve come out of it alright really and he saw that halfway through. I used to go up to Altrincham and he’d turn the camera on me and talk about things, and it was all part of an ongoing thing.”
There loads of footage thats textural really. He kind of went off, did a path for it, then he sold all the back catalogur to Cherry Red. Then he died and it was all very sad. The footage I’ve sent to Central Library is going to be like a fuckin’ treasury. No one has seen any of this stuff. There’s old Factory stuff that’s never been seen for a music lover from those times. Full gigs from The Hacienda and The International. Dub Sex gigs with The Shamen, stuff with A Guy Called Gerald. The list goes on. We were filmed outside of Manchester rather than stick in the bubble. Keep people guessing.
LTW: “The thing is, when I listen to your music now it sounds like it’s for this time. You were bypassed by the whole Madchester scene exploding, due to the fact you sounded nothing like that at all.”
MH: “That’s why we got a bit further outside England you know. In America we weren’t seen to be a Manchester thing. Being in Germany and out of reach places was an experience that took us out of those times. We were part of it in some ways, we still partied like fuck with The Mondays and we knew them all in the early days through girlfriend connections and rehearsals. I started collecting glasses in the Hacienda then ended up headlining it.”
The interview ends as we start rambling with each other about all sort of connections I never knew we had. Mark lived on Hollins Estate right next door to Langley Estate where I spent my early years. He tells me stories of Mark Burgess (The Chameleons) making him a brew and helping him on his path. I tell him about playing pool with Dave Fielding and travelling to gigs with The Reegs on a cramped bus. The connections with Thrush Puppies, State Of Kate, Solar Race and all the little underground bands that rebelled against the likes of Oasis, Blur and that whole Britpop scene. The Boardwalk and Hacienda nights, John Robb helping and producing all us little bands, putting his own money in when he could and really pushing the unknown bands at the time like Cornershop and Therapy? We probably crossed paths that many times it’s scary. This was more of a chat with an old friend I’ve never met than an interview, who knew so many people who love music and continue to help out the up and comers to this day. A genuine guy who got the buzz of recording Peel sessions and enjoyed the moment of the time before the Madchester explosion. Here’s hoping that when this is all over Dub Sex get back out live and show the newcomers how it’s done.
It’s their time again…
Dub Sex: Search For The Right Words is available here.
Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here