Claytown troupe



I had been playing in bands in Weston-Super-Mare since 1979, my first punk band supported Vice Squad in early 1980 when I was 15 & even got a mention on John Peel when I sent him a tape but it faded out & by early 1981, after seeing them live a few times around their first single I then formed a Theatre Of Hate style band with members of Weston Punk band Red Alert . We used to rehearse on the Old Pier in Weston & pushed to get TOH to play there in Nov 1981, we didn't do anything much even though TOH asked to see us rehearse & perhaps do some supports, it mutated on until 1984 then split. 

In early 1984 I was well into the early alternative rock scene like The Cult, Sisters Of Mercy, Killing Joke, Play Dead, New Model Army etc...  so decided to start from scratch again, but wanted to use drum machines & keyboards rather than a full band, more along the lines of what Pop Will Eat Itself came out with in '86.

After doing some demos on my own, I met a guitarist Keith Simson who's band I'd help produce at the Foxhole Studios in Henleaze, they split in the summer of '84 & I asked Keith to come in on what I was doing.

In 1985 I moved to Bristol after college & we realised that we needed a full band to create the sound as we had limited musical skills & our first demos reflected it.
So at a Cult gig at the Studio in June I asked Andy Holt who had been in my earlier band & Rick Williams who I knew as very experienced keyboardist & song writer in Weston to join, with an advert in Venue magazine we found Dianne for bass.

Our first gig was the Tropic Club in early '86. It received an excellent live review in Venue from Shane Baldwin (who recently told me that it was his first ever review as a journalist!), & Richard Jones in the Evening Post, then followed a lot of well attended local gigs & we became a good Bristol band supporting anyone that came to town, from Alien Sex Fiend at the Studio, Fields Of the Nephelim, Chiefs Of Relief at the Tropic, great gigs at the Thekla & the odd national one, like The 100 Club.

This demo we did in '87 at Foxhole & it was the best we'd sounded & it helped us to get the gigs & had a unique sound, but ultimately the songs & the band just didn't have the energy or look to take it above being a good local band so we just trod water from late '86 into '87.

We played a gig at the old Mean Fiddler in the summer of '87 & an A & R guy from WEA we knew came along & said that although the band were good, we had to upgrade the guitar & song writing elements which ended up with Keith & Dianne going & Ben Bennet, the guitarist from our regular support band, 'The Temple' coming in, we then found 16 year old bassist Paul Waterson from an advert in a Bath music shop.

Back to ground zero, we dumped the entire set so Rick & I could re-write & re-design the whole sound & vibe of the band which 6 months later really worked & led to us gaining a cult following & some indie label interest, then we released a front cover 7" on the magazine 'House Of Dolls' which got us major record deal interest & ultimately a big deal with Island Records in October after Ron Fair (now president of Geffen) had only seen us live twice & gained us the notoriety of the fastest signing in Islands history which was a week!

Bristol & the West Country was very different for bands in the '80's, although plenty of musicians & bands had come from the area & done okay like Tears For Fears, which gave us all hope, there had never been a 'scene' to gain respect like Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds & Manchester had achieved, other than the 2nd wave of punk with Vice Squad, Disorder, Chaos UK nothng worked until '92 with Trip Hop.

We all just fought tooth & nail to get heard & because it was so hard, I found most of the bands were very wary of each other & it created a kind of 'small town' attitude that later on many A &R guys & Journalists told me they also experienced when coming down to see & meet bands which is why they kept the area on a long leash.

I still keep in touch in a lot of old mates I made from those days just because we were in bands, it's the greatest & worst of experiences playing rock and roll regardless of how much success you may or may not achieve, the first days of a band are always the most exciting & ambitious, I never lost that attitude towards it which is perhaps why the Claytown Troupe did break out from just being a half decent local band.

Christian Riou - Jan 2010