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ArteryThe music and style of the early 80s seems to be one of the main influences on today's music scene - right now, the bars and basements of East London are full of bands which take their cultural cue from the original post-punk era. So, it's probably the right moment for original post-punkers Artery to return to the fray.

Artery were coaxed out of retirement by Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, no less, a fan of the band from their early days on the Sheffield gig circuit in the 80s. He persuaded the band to reform to play the 2007 Meltdown Festival in London, which he was curating that year. Having thus aquired an unexpected new lease of life, Artery kept on going - and are now finding a whole new audience among twenty-first century new wavers.

Guitarist Murray Fenton talks about Artery's past, present - and future...

Artery are in an unusual position in that the band started out in Sheffield in 1978, which was pretty much the year zero for post-punk - and Artery are here now, in the twenty-first century, playing to a new generation of post-post-punks.

Does it seem natural, or odd, to have one foot in both camps, as it were? When you play at, say, the Dice Club in London, is there a familiar atmosphere that reminds you of the days when it all started? Or is it a completely different experience?

It's quite strange, but very satisfying. Meltdown and the early reunion shows were a lot of fun, we played a few different set mixes of the old stuff. To be back writing new material, as we have done for the last 18 months, and be out playing these strange timewarp shows like Dice and Static Hearts was an eye-opener to say the least.

ArteryI met someone at Meltdown who said that London was bubbling under the surface with a new generation of bands influenced by the whole post-punk thing, so it was quite bizarre but really rewarding when we played the Dice Club to a heaving crowd of largely bright young twenty-somethings, it really did have a feeling of the old days!

Do you listen to current post-punk influenced bands, and find their efforts don't really ring true? Or have you heard any that make you think, 'Yep, they've got it!' ?

I've seen quite a few bands in London, and to be honest I liked every one of them - the bands who played with us like Stavin' Chains and Project:Komakino, all of them really. Without making a big list, I found them really exciting, not least the absolute bang-on aunthenticity of their sound and style.

Early 80s Sheffield was something of a hot-house for strange and creative bands. The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, ABC, In The Nursery, Def Leppard (maybe we're stretching things a bit with that one!) all came out of Sheffield. Did Artery feel part of something, back then? Was there a 'Sheffield scene'?

The thing about that scene - and you only have to look at the list of examples you gave - was that every band sounded totally different to the next. Electronic bands seemed to be popping up everywhere after the Cabs and the Human League but there were many wonderful eclectic bands at that time, like I'm So Hollow, 2.3, the early incarnation of Pulp. It was a thriving, buzzing scene, loads of venues, gigs every night and always something different to see and hear.

Artery were described as 'Sheffield's answer to Joy Division' at the time, which I never thought was particularly accurate. Magazine, it seemed to me, would have been a better comparison for the early stuff, at least. Were there any other bands around in the early days which seemed like kindred spirits? Did you ever really feel like a Joy Division-esque band?

I find the Joy Division comparisons inexplicable really. I don't think the band ever sounded remotely like them at any point down the line. Sheffield was very art-driven back then, very pretentious at times, ha ha.... I'd say the original line up was more in the kind of Wire/Monochrome Set kind of camp, but even then, it had a sound of its own.

ArteryA lot of bands all cropped up at the same time who were looking to create something new in the aftermath of punk. And it wasn't like nowadays. You would see a review of someone in Sounds or NME and be fired with curiousity and excitement but it might be months before you heard them or saw them play live.

With the advancements in technology, bands can record stuff on laptops and have it up on MySpace the same day. A curious thing about when we played Dice, was the young guy stood at the front singing along to one of the unreleased songs which someone had uploaded on YouTube. Makes you realise how immediate everything is these days!

Until the Arctic Monkeys came along, I think perhaps the most successful Sheffield band was probably Pulp - although, of course, it famously took the band over a decade to get a hit. But Jarvis Cocker was an Artery fan from the early days, wasn't he? And in fact it was he who prompted the band to reform, in 2007, when he was curating the Meltdown Festival and decided to book Artery for the show. What happened there - was it all very formal and businesslike, or did you get a phone call from Jarvis, saying, 'Remember me? I was down the front at the Leadmill in 1980...' ?

Well Jarvis had been well quoted over the years as being influenced by and a fan of the band, and yes, he literally tracked down a number for Mark and rang him personally to ask if he wanted to reform the band for the show.

Was it difficult to reform the band, more or less out of the blue, and at fairly short notice, after such a long time apart? Presumably everyone had carved out separate lives for themselves - how did you put Artery back together after such a long break? Did you worry about whether it was going to work, or did it all fall into place naturally as soon as you had a couple of rehearsals?

ArteryThe line-up ended up consisting of Mark and drummer Garry, who had been in every Artery line-up. Tthe remaining musicians never actually played together in the band but had been in different line-ups.

We met up at Mark's house, drew up a prospective set list and off we went. We listened to, and re-learned the old songs - it all fell into place very quickly, five weeks from meeting to playing live. None of us had ever thought we'd be playing those songs again, I can tell you!

Did you originally plan to play the Meltdown Festival as a one-off show? What made you decide to keep the band going afterwards? Were you aware of the surge of interest in post-punk stuff that's come up over the last few years - and you thought, the omens are good, let's do it?

Well, we had the warm-up show in Sheffield the night before, which was a real success, Meltdown and the following Friday, a BBC 6Music session with Marc Riley. We literally packed up our stuff and left the BBC with no intention of continuing but a week or so later, phones rang and we decided we'd carry on for a bit for the hell of it. Picked a different set of songs and went out and played a couple more shows in Sheffield and London.

Then we decided we'd done it to death and should really try and write some new material or let the whole thing go gracefully. With no preconceptions, we began writing and the songs started pouring out. It was like opening the door on a room thats been locked for 20 years and switching the light on.

Now there's a new EP on release, and the band seems to be playing live quite a bit. Do you feel like elder statesmen of post-punk, or is the experience more like that of a new band, trying to win an audience, gig by gig?

ArteryThe EP came about really quickly. We spent three days in the studio last September, recording the tracks and the day after, we played a gig with Spear Of Destiny. Denz who runs the PPR record label was in the audience, and when I told him we'd just been in the studio, he jokily said 'Well, I'll put it out if you want!' So that was it - the Standing Still EP was born!

We're very concious of the fact that to a lot of people we are a new band but again, refering back to Dice, lots of people had heard some of the songs before. A lot of that is down to Eve Wood's cult documentary about the Sheffield post-punk boom "Made In Sheffield".

I suppose for many people Artery is a new band. There will be people at Artery gigs nowadays who weren't even born when the band first started. Is that a bit daunting, or is it a positive thing - knowing that for those younger people, the band's music must sound very fresh? Do you have any idea who the Artery fanbase is these days - or are you not really worried, as long as someone out there is listening?

It's great to have the young audience we have, none of whom seem to be detered by our age, in fact some of the reverance received from them is humbling. We have a mailing list, which like our general audience is a mix of old and younger, new fans. I don't mind who comes along as long as people still turn out and enjoy it!

ArteryAnd...where is it all going? Will there be a new Artery album at some point? I see you recently played gigs in Warsaw and Vienna, which seems to indicate the band are in this for the long haul. Is there a master plan, or are you just going to see where the twenty-first century leads you...?

Well, the entire back catalogue is now up on iTunes and we have enough new songs to release an album - we are demoing all the new material currently and will be out live again in the New Year. There's no plan really, tout the new stuff and see what the reaction is. It would be nice to do another album, we're very pleased with the new material.

Eve Wood's Sheffield Vision company are releasing a DVD with interviews, live footage from the reunion gigs in Sheffield and Meltdown, the BBC 6 Music session and some long lost archive gig footage might go on it too. We're just sifting through the last of that with Eve as we speak. We have some festival appearances in the offing in the Summer, so if we can tie all that up it should be an exciting year for us.

 

Essential Links:

Artery: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Find Artery live reviews here, and photos here.

Sheffield Vision - Artery are included in Eve Wood's visual documentaries of Sheffield music: Website.

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  Page credits: Top photo and 1984 photo from the band's MySpace page.
Interview, new live shots and construction
by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.