Ian Lowery Interview
The following is an abridged version of an interview which took place in August 1981 with Ian Lowery upon the demise of his post-punk band Ski Patrol. Never having before described anything as post-punk, for Ski Patrol there is no other reference. The band clearly came from the punk era, but looked to the future to offer so much more.
We spoke about Ski Patrol and his new – nameless – outfit. For a short while he used the name F for Fake, but Ski Patrol released a fourth and final 7” (Bright Shiny Things / Electric Bell Girls ) on Clever Metal Records in 1982, of which Nick Clift now says “I don’t really remember it as part of this ‘group’. It was Ian and I plus a bunch of friends. Not really worth being part of the legacy, however small.”
Ian was later to reach prominence with his superb Folk Devils, eventually evolving into Beggar’s Banquet bands King Blank and finally, the Ian Lowery Group.
In 2000 a chance meeting with Ian proved to be the last: he died in 2001.
After being ejected from punk group The Wall in 1979, singer Ian Lowery and guitarist Nick Clift (ex-Debutants) formed Ski Patrol, along with Pete Balmer (ex-Stranded, later to record with Fad Gadget) on bass and Bruce Archibald on drums. They released their first 7” Everything is Temporary / Silent Scream on their own Clever Metal label. Archibald was subsequently replaced by Alan Cole for the line –up which recorded the first of two singles for the Malicious Damage label: Agent Orange / Driving and Cut / Faith In Transition. Rumour has it that the anonymous synth player on Agent Orange is none other than Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman.
Pete Balmer was replaced by Francis Cook by the time of the 3rd single, Cut / Faith in Transition, and this was the line up that recorded a John Peel Session for Radio One, including Extinguish / Cut / Where the Buffalo Roam, a title later used by Folk Devils.
IL: We played our final gig at Charing Cross Hospital. The guitarist (Nick Clift) decided to leave and Francis (Cook), the bass player, and I decided we might as well have a complete change so we asked the drummer (Alan Cole) to leave as well. Consequently, we got two more guitars, Adam and Louie, a sax, Matt, and a drummer, Tim. We rehearsed last night and the band is excellent. It’s beyond my wildest dreams, but it won’t be Ski Patrol.
NC: Is it like Ski Patrol, part two?
IL: Well, it’s not really. We’ll possibly only do one song that the old Ski Patrol used to do, which will be Faith In Transition cos it’s that kind of direction we’re heading in. It’s a completely different band. Some of the new song titles are I’m Not Cool, I’m Red Hot, that’s great, that’s gonna be a kind of anthem. Shed This Skin. Silver Bullets. It. Pretending To Be Crazy and Attraction.
NC: Why did you choose the name Ski Patrol before?
IL: It’s just a handle, it didn’t mean anything at all. Some bands pick names that mean what they’re about, but that was just meaningless. I was flicking through some records; it’s an album track off a John Cale LP called Slow Dazzle. I’ve never actually heard the track, it’s just one of those things that stuck in my mind. I couldn’t imagine anyone writing a song about a ski patrol.
NC: How did the transition come between The Wall and Ski Patrol?
IL: The Wall was a band I formed in Sunderland and came to London, as we had a record out on Small Wonder. That went through a lot of line-ups and in the end I got kicked out of my own band, so I just formed another band straightway, which was Ski Patrol.
NC: Is the new group gonna continue the link with Malicious Damage?
IL: That depends a lot. They have shown a lot of interest in what I’m prepared to do because I think they can recognise my immense talent, so they probably know which side their bread’s buttered. Whether we want to continue with Malicious Damage or not is another thing, but it would be silly to carry on now and go back to square one.
NC: Are you thinking of forming your own label?
IL: Well no, cos that would be a step down because Malicious Damage do have certain facilities that I wouldn’t be able to get if I just left and formed my own label. The thing about Malicious Damage is their first priority has always gotta be Killing Joke. It always has been and it always will be. We’ll always be a secondary consideration.
NC: What sort of audiences did you have yourselves?
IL: It’s hard to tell. We did get a few hardcore punks who used to like Agent Orange, strangely, cos it wasn’t an obvious punk thrash. It was a fairly divided audience, which I liked cos it wasn’t any particular tribe. I hate all this tribalism, it’s shit. Agent Orange was our best known song live and we won’t be doing that in this line up.
It’s really hard to gauge it because the gigs we did with Killing Joke, there might have been a few people there who’d come specifically to see Ski Patrol, but they were lost amongst the general mass of Killing Joke fans. I dare say some Killing Joke people enjoyed what we were doing as well, but on the whole it was really hard to tell as most people had come to see Killing Joke.
NC: Did you not do many headlining gigs?
IL: Not really, no. We played the Moonlight about 800 times. We got some pretty good reactions there once or twice, but you just get sick of playing that venue.
NC: What about the artwork for the posters?
IL: That’s done by Mike Coles from Malicious Damage, and the reason our art work’s vastly superior to Killing Joke is that we stimulate his imagination much more, whereas Killing Joke is just four people with a vague and fuzzy idea of what they want to do, whereas we usually have a fairly specific idea, but he must take a lot of credit for it as well. I know for a fact that he likes doing artwork for us. Have you seen the cover to Cut? I think that’s really classy, it just stands out.
NC: What about the Agent Orange sleeve?
IL: He did that, but it wasn’t quite so fully realized. It was meant to look like a devastated earth. I can’t give him enough credit really.
NC: How about the poster for Cut and Faith In Transition with the people on the grass in front of the cricket match?
IL: That’s a bad one cos the original one we did was like a colour Xerox with all the colours blurring into each other, but we had to get some posters printed…It’s a scene from the film Freaks. I just like that. It’s a great kind of collage. It doesn’t mean anything. It could mean something. You could read something from the titles into it. Is the bearded woman on the bed going through some kind of transition?
NC: How about the John Peel session?
IL: That was one of the real high points. It’s amazing how many letters we got in where people were wondering when the songs we did on it were coming out as singles. Cut was on there, it might have been a superior version actually, and Where the Buffalo Roam which was always a stage fave. We never got around to recording that, again, which I do regret a bit, cos it’s a good song. The thing is, we went in the studio a week before we split up and we did three songs which were really good. One of them especially, Concrete Eternal, was brilliant, but the thing is they’re redundant now.
NC: Malicious Damage could put out a Ski Patrol retrospective record.
IL: That’s all they could do really. It could make sense. It could be a four track maybe, with Where the Buffalo Roam from the BBC and the three tracks that we did, but it costs about £600 to licence a track from the BBC.
Ski Patrol update. In April 2014, American label, Dark Entries Records, is releasing a retrospective Ski Patrol album called Versions Of A Life (Recordings 1979-81).
The LP will consist of the following Ski Patrol tracks:
1. Everything Is Temporary
2. Silent Scream
3. Agent Orange
5. Extinguish (March ’81 Dub Mix) (Previously unreleased)
6. Cut (Alternate Version) (Previously unreleased)
1. Faith In Transition (Alternate Version) (Previously unreleased)
2. A Version Of A Life (Previously unreleased)
3. Concrete Eternal (Previously unreleased)
4. Extinguish (April ’81 Vocal Mix) (Previously unreleased)
Josh from Dark Entries said “I had the Agent Orange 7″ when I was in high school and I heard the unreleased songs that Nick Clift – Ski Patrol guitarist – posted on Soundcloud, so I reached out. Nick Clift will release a CD and digital version. Our UK distro is Cargo.”