Tuesday, April 04, 2006

INDIEOBIT: Martin Gilks

Martin Gilks, drummer with the Wonder Stuff and the Mighty Lemon Drops, has died.

Gilks left the Lemon Drops after an argument about his hair – the others wanted it cut, he wanted to keep it at the usual length and joined the nascent Stuffies, who at that time were emerging from the remains of From Eden. The MLD went on to briefly blossom without him, as part of the C86 crowd.

Boosted by the blessings of the staff of Record Mirror and Janice Long's night-time Radio One show, the Wonder Stuff was able to choose between a slew of major labels, eventually plumping for Polydor in 1988 and setting up a not-quite jetset lifestyle of travel between London and Stourbridge. Martin relocated to share a London house with band roadie Adam Booker – a house which would slowly attract much of the rest of the band and the mayhem which that would imply. The first couple of singles under the Polydor contract struggled, but the album, The Eight Legged Groove Machine, made the top 20, kick-starting the bands' success and also starting them on the route to intraband fighting.

The battle for the band's direction between singer Miles Hunt and bass player The Bass Thing Rob Jones led to a mix of rows and tantrums – a headline gig at the Town & Country wound up with only Martin Gilks onstage.

Not everything was fraught during this period – the band were able to wallow in a metaphoric jacuzzi of cash and, on a trip to the states, used the metaphorical jacuzzi of cash to wallow in a literal jacuzzi; Martin also met press officer Penny. She would eventually become his wife, despite his choice of a Fields of the Nephilim gig for a first date.

A second album, Hup, was well-received, although the promotional tour nearly broke the band – by now The Bass Thing was drinking so heavily he could hardly play; Hunt tore strips off him during a Liverpool gig. Almost as soon as the band returned to start work on the next album, Bob quit the band. Originally, Bob's departure was taken as a cue to break-up the band, but after a two-month head clearing period – during which Martin travelled to Thailand – an announcement appeared in the pop papers:

Amicably, Bob has left The Wonder Stuff. The band have not split up. Martin Bell (the fiddle player with whom they work with) is now a full-time member and we will continue with a new bass player.
Love Martin, Miles, Martin, Malcolm.

Rob Jones died at the age of 29 from a heart attack in April 1993.

Through the Never Loved Elvis album and the Vic Reeves fronted Dizzy Number one hit, the Stuffies continued to be the leading West Midlands band, but Hunt's passion for loud suits and constant touring was leading the band to be a less than fun place to be. Martin and fiddler player Fiddly wanted out, and decided that their performance at the 1994 Phoenix festival would be their last. The Wonder Stuff were over as a going concern.

Martin was part of the post-Stuffies, Hunt-less Weknowwhereyoulive, who seemed to exist only in the smallest of photos on the news pages of the pop papers – they replaced Miles with Ange Dolittle, hitherto best known as "the singer out of Eat who did a gig naked for a bet." They were, it's kindest to say, for aficionados. They managed two eps before they ran out of steam.

A Wonder Stuff reunion followed in 2000 with a brief series of gigs – these days, reunions after five years seem restrained; back then this rekindling seemed like indecent haste; a live album of one of these dates inspired a further mini-tour. Marting had taken over management duties for the smattering of ad –hoc Stuffies events, which left Miles Hunt free to concentrate on his solo career, such as it was. The band were also lined up to provide music for kids TV series, including Underground Ernie, a series about a tube driver which might turn up sometime soon on CBBC. But just as the group seemed to have found a way to rub along together…

In a bid to boost his struggling solo career, Miles tried to annexe the Wonder Stuff brand. The others weren't happy:

It may not have escaped your notice that there is a band out there purporting to be "The Wonder Stuff" who are touring in October. As we see it, we feel that you are owed an explanation. This band is releasing a solo album by Miles Hunt provisionally titled, "Escape From Rubbish Island" and has re-branded it under the name of "The Wonder Stuff" (to be released on IRL recordings, an independent label associated with Spirit Music & Media, Miles' management company). However, we feel it is only right to point out that Martin Gilks & Martin Bell, along with Stuart Quinnell and Peter Whitaker, have nothing whatsoever to do with either this tour or the recording. We perceive this as merely a marketing ploy by Hunt & IRL. It appears that Malcom Treece will be making an appearance with this group, although we have had no confirmation from Malcom at this time.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported us since the reformation concerts in December 2000 and are sorry that things have ended up the way they have. But this situation is not of our making.
Martin Bell & Martin Gilks.

Miles continued to plough on with his vision of the band; stuffed with exiles from the likes of Republica and – god help us - Amen, they weren't very good. Teletext did offer a nine-page interview with Miles, but that was kind of the high-water mark of the flag of convenience version of the band.
Although the band ended in acrimony, Hunt was always generous about his former colleague's talents, if not his business choices:
"When I was working with Clint from the Poppies on a couple of film scores recently, I played him some of the songs and he said to me that they sounded “more like the new Wonder Stuff album than anything else you’ve put out since you disbanded”. The record company said the same thing, so we decided that it WOULD be a Stuffies record. We started having talks about reforming the band to make it, but obviously talks didn’t go too well because Messrs Gilks and Bell decided to fall out with me in the meantime and stop returning my calls. I thought long and hard about it for ages – whether it was the right thing to do, putting the album out under the name of The Wonder Stuff…or “branding” as Gilks likes to put it when wants to take a swipe at me…but then when Malc said “Yeah, these are great songs! Let’s do it!”, I thought “Well, I haven’t thrown anyone out of the band; those guys have decided to quit; we’re all grown ups so fuck it – it’s a Wonder Stuff record” [Malcolm and I wrote the songs], but I still think Martin Gilks is a fucking phenomenal drummer, and on all our previous albums he put his stamp all over them, so I can kind of understand why he’s upset. Same with Fiddly (Martin Bell). Hopefully we can patch things up eventually but I think that’s going to take time."
Martitn Gilks reportedly died in a motorcycle accident on Monday.

[Thanks to Karl T for the news]


Claire Fun said...

awwww. That's sad. :-(

Anonymous said...

...he was also involved with late-80s Julian Cope, i believe.

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