Ethnic Ozricles
The

Ozric Tentacles

Adventure

By Richard Allen.

Spirit Of The Age.

The UK Festival scene, if it can be called such, has a long and varied history that has developed in tandem with some of the best of UK underground rock bands. The first major festival, and the one that really started it all, was Windsor Jazz Festival in 1967, an event that managed to stay alive and kicking up until its brutal destruction by "the authorities'' in the early '70s. Since those euphoric days of the mid '60s, many festivals have come and gone, and a whole plethora of great UK rock bands have become known to the public via the festival medium. Jethro Tull, Arthur Brown, Hawkwind, The Pink Fairies, The Edgar Broughton Band, Pink Floyd and Gong are just a few of the many bands who took some of their first steps away from obscurity on to the Live festival stage.

There were, of course, many other bands who did not become well known. But, in the festival game, fame is irrelevant. What does count, is good music.

Of all the UK festivals Stonehenge "Free Festival'' is perhaps the greatest and perhaps the most well known. Originally formed as a celebration of the summer solstice, around the ancient stone 'Henge' temple, the gathering became a focus and a haven for the alternative society in the UK. Throughout the late '70s the festival steadily began to grow, even during the punk era, and by the early '80s crowds of 25,000 plus were gathering at the 'stones' for a month of good music, good vibes, good friends and good gear. By 1984, however, the festival had unfortunately attracted an undesirable element and the attention of a government that frowned upon the Bohemian attitudes of the festival 'brigands' who were, in their opinion , ruining the countryside. (This argument proved to be pretty transparent when compared to the destructive antics of the Army only a few miles away.) It was then in 1985, that the Police moved in and violently put a stop to the Stonehenge festival, an event that has not been forgotten in Underground circles (But maybe at least forgiven? - Eds). The festival may, for the moment, be dead but the spirit of the people and the bands who went there lives on, in new and ever changing forms. One of these forms is Ozric Tentacles.

Silly Breakfast Cereals And Other Oddities.

Like many of the '80s Festival bands, Ozric Tentacles was born in the glow of a camp fire on Salisbury plain. Quite often, while wandering around a festival site in the early morning, you run into a gathering of people listening to a group of musicians, playing and singing familiar and unfamiliar songs or just simply jamming and altering their own, and their audiences levels of consciousness (levels which have been altered by other means already!) It was from such a jam session that Ozric Tentacles emerged. Ed Wynne (Guitar), his brother Roly (Bass), Nick 'Tig' Van Gelder (Drums) and Gavin Griffiths (Guitar), happened upon Joie 'Ozrooniculator' Hinton (Keyboards/Noises) sitting by an open fire, at Stonehenge in 1982. They immediately 'hit it off' musically and it was from that moment that the 'Ozrics amoeba' began to grow and multiply. The strange name, that the band eventually adopted, evolved from a joke to do with imaginary breakfast cereals. Ozric Tentacles was one name that was dreamt up during a session of mind expanded lunacy. Other contenders, that fell by the way, were 'Desmond Whisps' and 'Malcolm Segments'! The band was, in the end, forced to adopt a name, when people continued to ask them who they were, at festivals. The inert monicker 'Ozric Tentacles' seemed the perfect choice.

In 1983 a second synth player, Tom Brookes, was taken on board and it was shortly after that, that the band started gigging in clubs, such as the recently closed 'Crypt' in Deptford, London - the venue where they also met their second percussionist Paul Hankin. The Crypt had been the club most frequented by Ozrics and it was a relationship that continued for a number of years. The Crypt became well known as one of London's best known rock venues. Located under the working St. Pauls Church in Deptford, East London, it provided, every friday night, an electric, colourful bohemian psychedelic haven for the flourishing UK 'head set'. Starting at about 9 pm and finishing at 3am, the evenings entertainment usually consisted of two live bands, a light show, a good DJ'd selection of records and reasonably priced beer. The main attraction, however, was the relaxed atmosphere, which unofficially allowed the participants to smoke, trip, and generally 'do their thing'. The Crypt was run by Andy More, a Bill Graham-like figure who was once a policeman! He regularly organised Crypt related events that featured Crypt bands and other forms of entertainment, an example being the 'Psychic and Psychedelic' extravaganzas which attempted to combine Tarot and Rune readings with Trips and Rock'n'Roll.

It was Andy More who brought Ozrics to the Crypt, after seeing them play a gig in Chislehurst caves. After the creation of the Crypt another, even more bizarre venue opened at the Sir George Robey, in Finsbury Park, London. Called 'The Club Dog', it is run by Bob Dog who's previous involvement with music has been with the cult underground psychedelic band The Treatment (an outfit that has been going strong since the first Neo-Psychedelic boom in 1981 - see article elsewhere this issue). The Club Dog meets on a friday night in the 'Robey - a large run down pub, opposite the old Rainbow theatre. A 'freaked out' atmosphere, perhaps one stage higher than the old Crypt, permeates the evenings proceedings and the Ozrics have entertained punters a number of times within the swirling, psychedelic lamplit interior.

Over the years that the Ozrics have been in existance the band has undergone a number of line-up changes. The first major change was in 1984, when Gavin Griffiths, who played guitar in a very similar style to Ed, quit the band to form his own unit called The Ullulators. Basically, Ozric Tentacles contained too many members, hence the decision to split into two bands. Tom Brookes remained on synth keyboards (gubbly noises) and Joie Hinton, likewise continued on more notational keyboards. Nick Van Gelder retained the drum stool, Paul Hankin (Conga's, Marracas') and Roly was on bass for a while, being temporarily replaced by Ed Myer. Ed Wynne, of course, still filled the lead guitar position, but when Tom Brookes finally decided to leave, in 1985, he had to play synth in between his guitar work.

The bands that split from Ozrics have created their own particular brand of psychedelic madness. Joie Hinton plays synth in both The Ullulators and The Oroonies while still retaining his place as keyboard player in the Ozrics. The Oroonies are perhaps best described as a pagan, psychedelic, punk rock band, whos' brand of eerie, unearthly, almost primeval music can not really be compared to any kind of musical style that has existed previously. The line-up of Joie (Synth), Boris (Singing, Poetry, Out-to-lunch guitar), Russ Noden (Lead guitar, Lead vocals, Acoustic stringed things), Jane Noden (Flutes), Tanya (Drums) and Gary 'Geek' (Bass) has recorded four cassettes of woodland weirdness, full of chanting, reggae rhythms, tribal drums, evocations, sampled mayhem and ethereal strangeness. Their 12'' record on Hiareth Records is a good cross section of their styles. The three track EP. "The Woods Are Alive With The Smell Of His Coming'', thrashes its way through the title track with an almost shamanistic energy, summoning up images of beast-like figures prancing around a woodland fire. Bursts of flute and wildly flailing guitar, realise these images around evocative lyrics "Caught in the shackles of the iron age, Heavy goes the heart of man, Until the Goat God comes again...'' The second track on Side A "They Don't Want Us'' shakes a fist at land owners, while the lengthy B Side "Aradia'' is a mysterious aquatic journey, imbibed with an exotic drum beat and yet more occult, poetic images. The Oroonies are certainly a band for the more adventurous listener! (An Oroonies album will see a release in September 1990 on Demi Monde. The band does not now include "Boris'' - who has just left due to musical differences - but new to the line up are Jo (Violin) and Merv Pepler (Percussion).)

The Ullulators, on the other hand, have a rather more straight forward approach, that follows a path similiar to that pursued by Ozrics themselves. Their tapes (listed in the discography together with The Oroonies tapes, at the end of this article) are in places heavily dominated by Dub Reggae, while in others the tone is more South American. Their early releases were entirely instrumental, except for the odd spoken passage, however the addition of Jane Reaction (ex Magic Mushroom band) has meant that the band have been able to explore more vocal directions. The full line up of Joie (Synth), Jane (Vocals), Gavin Griffiths (ex Ozrics ld Guitar), Generator John (Drums), Kay (Bass and Vocals) and Chambers (Percussion and vocals), has released an LP on Demi Monde entitled 'Flaming Chaos' which is a fine testament that gives a good cross section of the kind of sounds that they produce live. The reggae influence breaks through in a number of places but throughout there is also a strong 'World Music' feel. "Sunrise'' is the more interesting experiment on the 'Khaos' side (Side 2) while the 'Flaming' side merges progressive synth - rock with some spacier guitar and vocal passages which work best during the anti-alcohol rant "Special Brew'' ("Special Brew, it will control you''). Ex Mushroom Band member Jane Reaction delivers some evocative Asian style vocals on "Mustaffa Vole'' and "Mr. Buddah Geks'' which are backed up with some strong instrumentation. A promising debut, that has some excellent moments.

Two further Ozric excursion should perhaps be mentioned here. A tape by Evil Edna's Horror Toilet delightfully titled "Too Much Gristle In The Blancmange'' contains a selection of strangely textured, loosely improvised pieces that feature contributions by members of Webcore, The Ullulators, Ozrics, and The Magic Mushroom Band. Joie and Jane Reaction put the tape together and it is a perfect companion to a long, fat, green cigarette on a cold, grey night. Wooden Baby are a combo who have released a couple of tapes in 1988. Ozrics drummer Merv Pepler and friend Charlie have created "Forbidden Pastures'' and "Stuck In The Mind Cage'' two sound webs that follow a similar route to that followed by Nodin's Ictus but at a much more frantic pace. The tapes collect together a varied batch of synth dominated mindscapes that at times work and at others merely function. Heavy bass rhythms, drum machines and washes of sound mix with undecipherable lyrical passages to bewilder, and enlighten. A new line-up of Wooden Baby has just been born consisting of Steve Everett (Synth), Joie (Keyboards), Nick (Bass) and Merv Pepler (Percussion), and we will certainly be hearing more from this band soon.

In 1987 Ozrics were off on the road for three months, when Ed Wynne went to Thailand. When he came back he discovered that Nick Van Gelder had left the band due to disinterest. The replacement was Merv Pepler, one of the bands only West Country connections, apart from Steve Everett who has recently joined on synth as replacement for Tom Brookes.

Marcus Carcus has also spent a short while with the band on extra percussion, while John Egan has been adding flute and occasional vocals for the past year or two.

ERP SONGS FROM THE NODEN ICTUS

The recorded musical output of Ozrics, since their conception in 1982, has been quite staggering. There have been six, all instrumental tapes released since 1985 together with an official outtakes tape, issued under the guise of 'Noden Ictus', and there has also been a wealth of other tapes, put together on the spur of the moment and distributed at Festivals, gigs etc. In addition to this Ed quite happily does compilations of tracks from his vast archive, for whomever sends him a tape (a concession which has recently gotten out of hand!).

The first Ozrics release, 'Erp Songs', appeared in late 1985 and collected together a selection of pieces from the '84/'85 period. The tracks are untitled, on the tape, but recognisable live favourites include "Zelwind'' (Track 1) and "Dots w Thots'' (Track 2). From the opening cut "Zelwind'', it becomes obvious that the tape is a highly professional production. In places a thundering rhythmn section underpins soaring guitar passages that interweave between swirling synth lines and electronic effects, while in other regions strong Reggae patterns weld space rock and dub to create a whole new musical territory. The aforementioned "Dots w Thots'' has a particularly compulsive melody and beat that includes some superb keyboard and guitar runs, bubbling and eddying like currents in a fast moving stream.

1986 saw the release of 'Live Ethereal Cereal', a collection of the best performances from '85/'86, which includes a blistering jam called "Obstacular Explosion'' that has a mid-section reminiscent of Santana. Ed Wynnes guitar work is strong and sharp, recalling not only mid '70s guitarists such as Steve Hillage, but also, at times, San Francisco masters such as Barry Melton and the late John Cippolina. The drumming of Tig and Paul Hankin is precise and dynamic, powered by some strong bass from Roly, while the dual synth/keyboards of Joie and Tom add the psychoactive icing to the cake. Wonderful!

Another studio tape was issued in 1986. Titled 'Tantric Obstacles' it is one of the bands best recorded excursions and opens with the ecstatic "Og Ha Be''. Also included is the eerie "Shards Of Ice'', the live killer "Sniffing Dog'', the dreamy, floating "Atmosphear'', the evocative "Trees Of Eternity'' and the deep Reggae of "Oddhamshaw Style'' and "Sorry Style'', amongst other excellent pieces of music. While Ozrics fans were digesting the many facets of this tape yet another tape was released 'Sliding Gliding Worlds', which developed the Ozrics sound still further, with complicated rhythms and atonal ideas. In a live environment, many of the sounds on these tapes, are transformed with long passages of improvisation and the 1986 tape 'There Is Nothing' demonstrates the possibilities for this, with its rolling flowing musical structures that are continually open ended, leaving the listener always wanting more. "The Sacred Turf'' is perhaps the strongest track on the tape and combines some superb keyboard flourishes with waterfalls of guitar work. "OI'' has a very irregular rhythmn and introduces what Ed describes as "Ethnic music elements''. At moments you can hear the sound of a Japanese Koto or a flute, while at others there is a strong Indian flavour. The gentle soothing sections, such as "Airy Area'' are flowing collages of sound that "Lull Your Skull''. This theme is expanded by 1988's tape 'Kick Muck' , wherein a whole selection of synthesised jungle sounds on "The Green Island'' give the impression of listening to a tribal celebration, deep in the Amazon Jungle. "Soda Water'' has an almost hypnotic quality, with deep rolling rhythms, whereas "Yaboop Yaboop'' incorporates superb flute playing, sampled voices and the usual Ozric embellishments. Some of the ideas on this tape were included on the recent LP 'Pungent Effulgent' which we will examine later.

The eclectic compilation 'Bits Between The Bits' brings together odd pieces from 1985 to 1989 and in places is quite stunning. As an introduction to Ozrics this is easily the best tape featuring all of their styles from the ambient, dreamy Rainforest ether of "Eye Of Adia'' through to the Floyd like space guitar rock of "Health Music''. "Secret Names" is Ozrics attempt at Acid House and it is a marvellous journey into rhythm and sound that blows away all of the competition, because it involves musicianship - something that techno-Freaks have completely forgotten. Commencing with a pounding drum machine and dub beat it gradually evolves into a whirlpool of ethnic sounds and synth patterns that grabs you by the feet and forces you to dance in a kaleidoscope of neural and audio experiences. Ozrics have kindly let Freakbeat use this track on one of our forthcoming compilation albums - we certainly would like it to reach the wider audience that it deserves!

Completeists may be interested in The Nodins Ictus tape 'The Grove Of Selves', released in 1987. Essentially the tape is Ozric Tentacles without the bass, drums and other percussion. Ed thought that, since the recordings were not applicable to the band so much, they'd put 'em out under a different name. The tape is a mixture of relaxing, computerised pieces of music, in a Tangerine Dream vein, utilising drum machines and various synthesised effects. After the release of the tape, Nodins Ictus were actually booked to play some gigs and, occasionally, still do perform. Look out for an LP out soon and a "Live At Club Dog'' tape.

Ozric Tentacles, themselves, often use a drum machine in the studio because, with a live drum sound, there are external noise problems (eg. annoyed neighbours!). In the Live environment, therefore, the band have a slightly heavier sound as a result, however the recent LP was recorded with a full drum kit which has given it a sound more faithfull to that live sound.

AN INTERVIEW OF SORTS

In February last year I payed a visit to the Ozrics HQ, on the edge of Wimbledon Common, and, in the lofty heights of Ed's attic studio, the following conversation took place, between tokes and some some mighty fine mugs of mango tea.

FB:- How would you describe your music?
EW:- As anything that comes along, really. Recording wise, certainly, I don't see it as a particular style. If anything, it's the opposite of that. If I'm putting together one track of a certain style, then I'm sure the one after that will be totally different. The ethereal side to it is definitely there all the way through, and other recognisable bits, but live, I'd say, it's a slightly heavier thing - more like a band than a recording set up. Space rock, really. Full - speed - ahead, cosmic, space music!

FB:- What kind of music do you listen to?
EW:- Well, really nothing but ethnic stuff now. I'm spending all day and night recording, so it's very rare that I get chance to listen to other music, but when I do find the stuff that I really like is Moroccan, Indian and Arabic - stuff like that - hence there's that feeling on the tapes as well.

FB:- There seems to be a lot of Reggae.
EW:- Yes that's an old favourite. It's good fun playing Reggae at gigs, because people just start bouncing up and down!

FB:- There's a sitar sound in there somewhere. Is that a homemade instrument?
EW:- It is, yes. My brother used to make guitars, which was very handy for me. It meant there were always loads of guitars lying about. He started making pick-ups and put together a guitar out of chipboard, to check whether a pick-up worked or not. For a joke people started playing this guitar and then I said "Why don't you put a different bridge on it to make it sound like a Sitar?'' so he did and it sounded very much like a sitar, and I tried it.

FB:- What weird or memorable situations has the band been in?
EW:- Apart from our gigs at festivals in the rain, there was a festival in Kennington, on a green between some housing estates. We went and played there and there were police all round, but they didn't seem to mind too much. Apparently somebody bit one of them! Other than that, we've not had too much contact with the police, which is nice.

FB:- How do you see the festival thing?
EW:- It's different from year to year. I started to get a bit bored with Stonehenge. I thought it would be nice to see some of the little festivals and consequently Stonehenge was 'stopped', to put it mildly, so we started going to the little festivals. It's nice to get a change of scene. The Rainbow Fayre in 1986 was amazing!...really mediaeval. We played at night in the field and in the daytime we played on stage in the marquee.

FB:- How did the record come about?
EW:- The bass player from The Oroonies lived near Birmingham and was friends with Dave Anderson, from Hawkwind. He's got a record label called 'Demi Monde' and Gary mentioned us to him. He phoned me up and asked if we wanted to do some recording. He's got a studio out in the hills, in Wales, and I said yes! At this time a few people were phoning up about records. Dave said come and do it, so we went and did it! It took six weeks sitting out in the fields in Autumn time in Wales, with plenty of mushrooms, getting really spaced out.

FB:- Any of it recorded tripping?
EW:- Pretty much all of it! The last track on side two was completely conceived, played and recorded whilst on mushrooms. Some of the stuff was written beforehand and some was recorded here in Wimbledon, but basically it's very spaced out!

FB:- There seems to be a lot of Indian, mystical elements in your music.
EW:- Yes. We're not deliberately trying to be mystical, in any particular way, but we really like the sound of ethnic music. I like the sound of it and, combined, it does something to a track which you cannot possibly do on your own. Something about the randomness is good and when it coincides, it's absolutely amazing to record. Anyway, you can hear that when you listen to it as well. We've got loads of tapes of solo instruments from when we've all been away, and that's what we use.

FB:- What about the titles of the tracks?
EW:- Being an instrumental band, it's quite tricky to come up with titles. They're just spur of the moment, really. Some have a concept behind them, but usualy they're just a reference - something to call it with no deep meaning attached.

FB:- Have you ever thought of using a vocalist?
EW:- We've got one. The first track on side one of our LP features John's voice, but he's more of a poet than a vocalist. I don't generally like vocals but the singing that he does is semi-sung and semi-spoken. He just writes words and sometimes shouts them out at gigs. It's sometimes absolutely crazy - very random. He plays flute all the time - it just so happens that sometimes he happens to be on the stage near a microphone. He's our driver and sometimes in traffic jams, he gets his flute out, leans out of the window and blasts people!

FB- What are you going to do in the future?
EW:- It depends on what happens. Either it'll work or it won't, and I don't really care either way. As far as I'm concerned, there's no goal in mind. We're just into having the ability to carry on doing music.

FB:- You've no plans to become institutionalised and become a 'name' then?
EW:- Not really, unless other people would like that. All I want to do is keep progressing. I mean I'll never stop making music, I shouldn't think so. To have the freedom to do it is all that's necessary, and we've got that right now. So, if someone wants to make a record, sure, we'll make a record and if it floats off, we'll make another one. It's up to them.

FB:- What about the Demi Monde label?
EW:- The Groundhogs are on it. Dave plays bass with them. I've been in the studio helping to finish off an album Amon Duul started recording four years ago and Robert Calvert's singing on it. Dave was having trouble finishing it so he asked me over to help out with the production and final mixes. I did that for about three weeks and it should be out on Demi Monde soon. Marcus is also on it, talking in German! I also helped out on the recent Gong double LP. Do you know that the LP had to be called G__G because Virgin would not let Daevid Allen use the title Gong!.

FB:- What did you think of the Acid House thing?

EW:- I don't know, really. I thought the music was pretty terrible, but there was an interesting side to it. I thought of all these types going to Acid House parties, taking acid and leaping about, then going home and sitting around completely spaced out! There were a few people who were into Acid House and, by chance, heard one of our tapes and phoned up about it. That's how we got our new synth player. He latched onto the fact that it was quite good fun doing our sort of music, as opposed to commercial rubbish, and he came round here and started playing... And on that note of spontaneity the interview wound up, in a haze of smoke. It wasn't until I was making my way home that I noticed the absence of my rail ticket. I returned to Ozrics HQ too late to save it from the end of a rather long cigarette.

FINALLY....

Ozrics debut LP 'Pungent Effulgent' is a magnificent piece of psychedelic, ethnic space rock and, hopefully, will be the first of many recordings by the band. The complex production is rich and deep, clearly defining all of the elements within the mix, and it is a pleasure to hear the band in their full, swirling, audio glory. Opening with staccato sequenced guitar work "Dissolution (The Clouds Disperse)'' works it's way upward into a spiralling whirlpool of sound that pulls in magical dervish like rhythms. Evoking shifting, cerebral landscapes, guitar and keyboards intermingle with the whole, creating a soundtrack to an alien dream. John Egan's poetry floats to the surface: "Illumination, dissolution, devolution, evolution.....beyond truth, beyond lies....sanity is sane, insane, unsane, unknown, unforming....live to be free!'' There follows a slower funkier version of "OI'' which originally appeared on 'There Is Nothing' tape, and this in turn is followed by "Phalarn Dawn'' which has an Asian feel, complete with delicate, drifting flute tones. "The Domes Of G'bal'' is a reggae/dub piece centred around a 'Middle Eastern' style guitar break. Side two of the album commences with 'Ayurvedic' which builds up slowly into a superb, rolling, explosion of sound that expands upon itself like an aural mandala, before breaking into a slow Reggae beat. "Kick Muck'' a track that first appeared on 'Sliding Gliding Worlds', launches into more Middle Eastern mayhem with a tapestry of musical interplay that includes an authentic snake charmers pipe and some incredible guitar fireworks. The LP closes with "Agog In The Ether'' which has an African feel, permeated with drums, kalimba and synthesised jungle sounds reminiscent of those that appeared on 'The Green Island' also from 'Sliding Gliding Worlds' tape.

Just out is the Ozrics newest vinyl production 'Erpland'. A double album it collects together all elements of the Ozrics universe and blends them into a free flowing whole that fits together with ease. It's hard to review each track seperately since in reality the album is one track that is subdivided into smaller elements, however Ozrics fans will not be disappointed. The title track is an orgasmic explosion of sounds while cuts like "Eternal Wheel'' and "Springtime'' are much more relaxed in feel and execution. Ozrics certainly come into their own with this record and those who accuse the band of retrogression will find little to base their claims on here. The album is available on Dovetail Records and in both Vinyl and CD formats (CD owners will be able to experience the evolving nature of the LP without the hassle of having to keep changing the sides over!)

For now, that about winds up the last tentacle. No doubt 1990/1 will see a surge of Ozric activities and, hopefully, more of their unique music will be made available on disc. I'm off now to tuck into a large bowl of Desmond Whisps!

by Richard Allen.

DISCOGRAPHY

OZRIC TENTACLES

Cassettes:-

  1. 'Erp Songs' 1985
  2. 'Live Ethereal Cereal' 1986
  3. 'Tantric Obstacles' 1986
  4. 'There Is Nothing' 1986
  5. 'Sliding Gliding Worlds' 1988
  6. 'The Bits Between The Bits' 1989

Album's:-

  1. 'Pungent Effulgent' (Demi Monde DMLP 1017) (1989)
  2. 'Erp Land' (Dovetail Records Dove 1/Dove CD1) (Double LP/Single CD) (1990)