A history of Big Block 454
Colin Robinson and Melissa Sinden formed Big Block 454 in 1988 from the remains of a previous band. By 1989, Pete Scullion joined – probably because he had a lot of studio gear that he didn’t know how to use.
In 1990, with the Strangeways Prison riot taking place down the road, Big Block 454 put out a cassette single of “Strangeways Riot”, sampling news reports. This was played on local pirate radio stations (and banned on one…perhaps they weren’t fans of the Z-Cars theme) and also picked up by Stuart Maconie.
In 1991, the band recorded a 12” single, “Know What This Is?” at a studio in Salford, with Melissa Sinden and Emma Scott on vocals. We had found Emma behind the bar at The Hacienda. We subsequently lost her again. After this, Big Block 454 played at several installations and fashion shows in galleries in Salford and Manchester. One of the fashion shows featured clothes made of wood. Imagine Ents dancing lasciviously. Now stop imagining that.
In 1994, the cassette album “Three Lucky Boys” was given away to three lucky boys, and the next year the cassette album “I Changed my Dentist… I Changed him into a Horse” escaped, with individual covers made from pages ripped from a book about Robin Hood. Some cassette boxes were mosaiced or covered in wood. One was covered in hair shaved from Colin’s head – this was sent to Radio 3. We combed it first.
Big Block 454 were commissioned to provide the music for the “Measured In Shadows” art installation, created by dada artists Russell Mills and Ian Walton. The mixing was done at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Somerset. The installation featured 16 continuously-looping asynchronous sound sources. “Measured in Shadows” was exhibited at the Tullie House Gallery in Carlisle in 1996 and at the Guinness Hopstore in Dublin in 1997. The first night at Dublin was introduced by The Edge from U2. A boxed set of “Measured in Shadows” was released in 1996.
In 1998, the band released three CDs on a German record label: “I Changed my Dentist… I Changed him into a Horse” and “Three Lucky Boys” (both previously released on cassette) plus “They’d Bought a Packard” (a 3-track electro EP).
After falling out with the record label when they diversified into selling food, Big Block 454 wrote the song “Marzipan Pig” about them and thenreleasedtwo CDs through internet label mp3.com - a compilation CD entitled “Rough as Sausages” and an electro album under the name 454i. This album was called “Animal Knackers In My Soup”. Note the food references in all three… Not intentional.
At this point, Alex Stone and Mark Joell forced themselves upon us and the band started working with the nefarious film-maker and recluse Les Howarth. Les was making an H.P.Lovecraft-inspired film set in both the Antarctic and an alternative-future Manchester, with airships and flying boats. Big Block 454 recorded some songs and incidental music for the film… Once the band had realised that films can take a very long time to make and sometimes don’t get finished at all, we released the music on two CDs: “Strange Ululations” and “Fistula !”
“That’s a Nice Hat” was released in 2000. Then we found Robert Shaw living in a van and ordered him to play the drums; this 5-piece band (Pete, Alex, Mark, Colin and Robert) performed avant-pub gigs with the aid of a pony-tailed assistant with an air-raid siren secreted in the audience.
In 2002, Big Block 454 worked with Les Howarth on the film “An Evening at Blank Frank’s Bun Factory”, which got finished and shown – probably because we didn’t need a Dornier flying boat in this one. And we filmed it in Salford rather than the Antarctic.
Another album, “Their coats flapped like God’s chops”, was released in 2004. By this time, Robert had returned to his van and Pete had run away to Ramsbottom; the band was now Alex, Colin and Mark, who appeared on Stuart Maconie’s “Freak Zone” radio show on BBC 6Music and pretended that the album had been recorded by just the three of them whilst persuading Stuart to talk about Rugby League and the Floral Hall in Southport.
In 2008, the album “Bratislava” was released, featuring songs about as many capital cities as we could think of (three – Bratislava, Ulan Bator and Tirana).
The band then started recording their next album “Bells & Proclamations”, which deals with the probability of the world coming to an end whilst you’re tucked up in bed asleep.
All the albums, plus the 12” single and a couple of compilations of terrifyingly-unreleased material, will be made available on Bandcamp during 2011.
« Text post