Thursday, January 17, 2013

Punkobit: MJ Drone

Michael Howells, once better known as MJ Drone, has died.

The Drones had originally been a pub rock act Rockslide, and seem to be the only Manchester punk band whose foundation isn't directly credited to the appearance of the Sex Pistols in the city. They'd reformated as a punk act shortly after Howells had joined the band.

They landed a spot on a Stranglers tour after Jean Jacques Brunel spotted them; a tour with Slaughter And The Dogs also saw them on the undercard, much to Drone's chagrin. At the time, the Drones had sold thousands of records, and had been led to believe it was going to be a co-headlining tour; the posters, though, made it clear Slaughter were top dogs.

It's fair to say that The Drones weren't drawn to punk by the political strand of the movement; when BBC Two documentary strand Brass Tacks spoke to the band and asked them to do something "punkish" for the camera, bassist Red Arse Whisper took the opportunity to get his arse out and fart.

They'd released a track, Rollercoaster, in their original incarnation; their first Drones release was on their own label. The Temptations Of A White Collar Worker was produced by Paul Morley - then, not-quite-an-NME-writer. It sold well enough to attract the attention of Valer Records, for whom they recorded a further ep and an album.

Here's where it started to fall apart; the band - apparently irked by Morley's interest in early Joy Division incarnation Stiff Kitten, the band and mentor went their separate ways.

The band signed with Fabulous, an Island Records imprint, but split before anything releasable was recorded.

There was a reunion in 1999, which did generate at long last, a second, final album.

Mike Drone continued to play - here's a performance from 2006:

MJ Drone died January 10th; there are no further details.

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