The Psychedelic musical genre was never really on my radar, possibly due to spending my life playing it straight as a musician. The albums of Floyd, Zappa, Beefheart etc presented nothing I could connect with as either musician or potential music fan; so developing an appreciation for Dr Phibes & the House of Wax Equations was never going to rank high on my list of band discoveries. So let’s go back to the end of 1992 and relive the moment when I realised it wasn’t necessary to be high to appreciate. But first, a quick history lesson:
Dr Phibes & the House of Wax Equations (to be referred to as DPHWE from this point forward!) were a trio of musicians hailing from North Wales and Cheshire, apparently meeting up at South Cheshire college in the latter part of the 1980’s. They were: Howard King Jnr (Guitar/Vocals), Lee Belsham (Bass guitar) & Keith York (Drums), releasing two albums – ‘Whirlpool’ (1991) & ‘Hypnotwister’ (1993) – on their own Liverpool based ‘Seel St’ record label. By 1995, having accomplished some hefty touring and festival appearances throughout Europe, it was all over. (As there appear to be no public-access, officially recorded details of the events surrounding Howard King Jnr’s imprisonment, I am not prepared to publish speculative comment on this BLOG regarding the circumstances of his incarceration.) There hasn’t been a band to emerge under the ‘Liverpool scene’ flag with as much imagination, musicianship or originality since.
Once again, it was the ex-band colleague who introduced me to the Chili Peppers responsible for diverting my attention to this near-home grown talent who dared to think outside of the musical box. His band, ‘Scorpio Rising’ had supported DPHWE on many occasions and strongly suggested that I check out his vinyl copy of ‘Whirlpool’ which somewhat unenthusiastically, I did. After my turntable revealed what was to be an unexpected musical pleasure of jammed-up psychedelic/funky/rock, loosely sandwiched between the solid crusts of song-form, there was no choice but to see this band live. Fortunately, my wait wasn’t long as they were due to appear at the Tivoli Ballroom, Buckley, North Wales, during a December ’92 tour.
Being a local gig for the Phibes, it was pretty much a full house, to which, the band played up to. Live, they proved themselves to be well rounded musicians, totally tuned into each other and completely aware of the importance of dynamics. This was a gig where I got a lesson in tasteful drumming in the face of constant opportunities to overplay. Keith York seemingly, could do everything; from a silky Purdie shuffle (see ‘Sugarblast’) to funky grooves, to never-in-your-face usage of a double-Bass drum pedal. Blown away by both band and drummer, my faith was restored in knowing that it was actually possible to put a band together entirely different from any other music that was happening in the area. Indeed, this was a mind-expanding night for me, both music-wise and drumming-wise.
Sadly, I didn’t get to see DPHWE live again but Keith York was certainly on my list of drummers to look out for. Apart from a brief stint in Liverpool Rock band, ‘Deadline’, his work seemed to take him out of the North West locality and into the Midlands music scene. I caught up with his work on the Bivouac album, ‘Full Sized Boy’, not long after the band were dropped from their label. Other than that, his name cropped up with the likes of Ladytron, Pitchshifter, Bentley Rhythm Ace, The Lightning Seeds, The Orb and Broadcast, all of which seemed to hire him for live work. Not even the UK’s leading/only drum magazine at the time seemed to feature him, somehow letting his drumming presence slip under the radar.
At the time of writing, Keith’s most recent work is playing for old South Cheshire pal, Steve Hewitt (ex-Placebo drummer) in his band, Love Amongst Ruin. Without a doubt, a live fix of Keith York’s underrated talent is definitely overdue by my reckoning, along with an interview (which I’ll be working to rectify). For the uninitiated, this is a player who truly deserves recognition for his tasteful playing and musical approach to drumming. Anyone interested in further research should check out the following links featuring snippets of information about Keith and the bands he’s been involved with:
- Interview with Lee Belsham & Keith
- Indie Music BLOG mentioning DPHWE
- Promo video on You Tube for ‘Lazy Hazy Hologram’
- Promo video on You Tube for Bivouac
- DPHWE album reviews
- My Space page for DPHWE
- Wikipedia entry for Keith
- Love Amongst Ruin website
Watch this space; there might even be an interview from yours truly…