Damp Jungle

Before The Loft I did a group called Damp Jungle with Adam Sutherland on bass and vocals, Shaun Belcher and Liz Ayres drums and percussion. It was very much a collective enterprise, in the spirit of post punk in the very late 70s and early 80s.

So, our minds were full of The Fall and the world of music after The Sex Pistols and The Clash; we were coming of age and it was time to push ourselves forward. We’d seen The Pop Group, we’d discovered funk and dub and we were ready to make some of our own songs and sounds. It was also very important that we found a place to record our music that understood what we wanted, or rather, what we didn’t want: ‘80’s slickness. We noticed that our favourite music was recorded at a place called Street Level studios, so we decided to go there. It was run by two characters called Kif Kif and Grant Showbiz, and was in Royal Oak, an area of crumbling Victorian grandeur, at this time mostly enormous squats. Streets nearby had even been the self-declared squatter’s republic of Freedonia. All the signs were right. A day of recording was booked.

We set off from our base in Wood Green, carrying all our gear; me, Shaun, Adam and Liz on the tube, together with a Vox AC50 amp and cab, a Burns bass, a Burns guitar and a drum kit made of Swarfega tins (an industrial hand cleaning product that came in large containers). On our journey, we were accosted by a manic young man, who seemed very taken with our odd-looking musical set up and engaged us in conversation, or rather, as is the case with those in the middle of a manic episode, made significant connections between us, him, and the world in general. He was probably right. Later I remember noticing the same Sean Oliver as a founder member of Rip, Rig and Panic.

When we got to the studio, I remember studio owner and Here and Now member, Kif Kif telling us not to leave any equipment in the hall, otherwise the junkies living upstairs would steal it.  At the time this led to a certain amount of anxiety but looking back, I know it also added the perfect lowlife frisson to our session.

When we’d completed the songs, Kif Kif told us he ran a cassette-only label called Fuck Off Records and did we want to be on the next release? It seemed like a good enough idea, so we agreed. The only problem was that we were so self-effacing that we had no name. We’d been Tiks for a while, but we weren’t happy with that; besides, Liz, our former singer, in true Indie fashion had downgraded herself to second drummer, so the band’s dynamic had changed, with me reluctantly stepping forward to sing. Lacking a band name for our contribution, Kif Kif suggested, on account of our fondness for percussion, we call ourselves, half-jokingly, Pete Astor’s Jungle Orchestra. We settled on Damp Jungle, finding the general dourness and lack of ambition in the name suited us, for those couple of months in 1981.