1996 – 2001 (5 years)
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom
Camp Blackfoot were a rock band that existed in Oxford from 1996 - 2001, masterminded by Benjamin Hervé and Alex Ward (both also of improv. group The XIII Ghosts). To simply label it as 'experimental' is to severely understate the utterly ruthless, squalid, and apocalyptic subversion that this band represented. Frequent features of their music was a puritanical avoidance of any semblance of palatable 'melody', warhead-inducing riffs distinguished by erratic, irregular time-signature/scale changes and contorted structures, other-worldly, haunted-house esque screetching keyboards, atonal free-improv interludes, extends rays of holocaustal noise, and raw vocals that sound somewhere between a banshee being sodomised by a dead cat's solidified entrails and a parrot expectorating while having a finger jammed down its throat by some wanton luxuriously paunched gentleman of the Rush Limbaugh calibre. Some pieces also featured Kabuki-esque orchestration.
Lyrical content evokes such imagery as a grudge-holding man out to kill his ex-wife and her husband (and fantasising that he's a snake while doing it), a decrepit old rock star whose fate is reduced to vermin devouring his clothing while discovering body parts in brown paper & string in his mailbox and being nobbled by an angry lynch mob, alien clone-like duplicates out to contrive a political insurrection, and a frightened schoolboy backing away from a possessed teacher attempting to inoculate him with a serum of esoteric & sinister origins. Ominous signs depicted include black cats, the advent of a cyclops man as foretold in a prophecy, bats that fly upside down, and the appearance of red clouds above a hotel.
They released one album 'Critical Seed vs. The Spartan Society' and took part in the Erase-yer-Head #9 EP (along with Melt-Banana, God Is My Co-Pilot, and Tear of a Doll) with the track 'It Was Too Bad For Marie Antoinette, And Now It's Gonna Be Too Bad For You!' both in 1999 on Pandaemonium records.
In their heyday the line up was
Alex Ward: guitar, vocals, alto sax, clarinet
Benjamin Hervé: vocals, guitar, bass
Lex Fontaine: bass, guitar
Luke Barlow: keyboards
Greig Stewart: drums
Fiona Somerset played violin and keybaords until moving to Canada in 1998.
Camp Blackfoot's live shows were something of legends, the info of which are said to be scrawled in Esoterika on the Dead Sea Scrolls and on various tableux present in the Egyptian pyramids. Cue one memorable review:
"Nothing could prepare you for the assault of Camp Blackfoot though. Simply nothing. The stage is somewhat crowded with slightly interesting-looking men, led sometimes by a tall young guy with fluffy hair; most of the time by a short angry man in a black shirt and a red tie, who lurches back and forth, screaming and panting and crying out the words, in and out of time with the startling music. They open with the hideous lunging 'Red Mist', and from there on things only get darker, uglier and even pronkier. Depraved noise, the songs are wild and unrestrained, inward-collapsing sonic supernovas that deal in sick bemusement. One second they're Mike Patton-fronting-the-Cardiacs hardcore mental prog; then a hand-break turn, and they've morphed into headcase free jazz Flying Luttenbachers screwballs. Camp Blackfoot create truly the most indescribable, unbelievable noise there is. After 40, 50 minutes of this, you're left in utter enthralment, and without a clue whether or not that's even a good sign. I still can't tell. Frightening. Scream for your lives. Raging, dazing, pure noise. Experience this, then you can say you've lived." (Pete Flynn, Skippy's Cage)
They split in 2001 after Alex Ward moved to London the previous year - and Alex began to feel that the material they were creating wouldn't necessarily translate well in a live setting. Although Camp Blackfoot are sadly long-gone, the collaborations between Hervé and Ward continue to this day, with a new album in the works and slated for release sometime before the world ends in late 2012. Alex Ward is playing with his new old-tyme country/math rock composition/improv duo Dead Days Beyond Help and the full-band version of this project, Alex Ward & The Dead Ends and improvising relentlessly on clarinet & guitar with a constantly revolving door of collaborators; charlatans, maestros, street urchins, etc. As for Ben Hervé? Fuck knows what he's up to. He's probably not too far from Oxfordshire musing thoughtfully on a home-made canopy while creating personalised homages to Rocko, Heffer, and Philbert of Rocko's Modern Life fame using only glue and the bits of rubber on the end of pencils.
No member of Camp Blackfoot was ever in Steel Pole Bath Tub.
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