the arkive

Silverfish

Silverfish were Scottish powerhouse vocalist Lesley Rankine, guitarist Andrew “Fuzz” Duprey, bassist Chris P. Mowforth and drummer Stuart Watson. They formed in the UK in 1988 and were key to the Camden “lurch” scene ; Grunge before it was “grunge”. Lesley was a pioneering, outspoken feminist who popularized the slogan “Hips, Tits, Lips, Power”.

Not long after their formation, Silverfish gathered a huge following due to their unique sound, which had nods to AC/DC, Dolly Parton, Russ Meyer and the Birthday Party. Their uncompromising sound was in stark contrast to the gentler more commercial sound of other UK bands. . Silverfish’s sound owed more to metal, hardcore punk and the industrial sounds of Ministry…demonstrated by Al Jourgensen remixing their 2003 single “Crazy”.

 

What they were doing, was raw….Fuzz’s manic combination of phaser and fuzzbox backed up by Chris’ thick and juicy basslines and Stu’s sturdy economical drum beats topped off by Lesley’s unique vocals and the ferocity with which she propelled herself around the stage. Trouser Press said “Judging by voice alone, Rankine could slam dunk Babes in Toyland, L7 and Courtney Love all in one shot.”

Their live shows are the stuff of legend. Recently, Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin said: “Silverfish put on some the best live shows around this time, whether stuffed into backroom bars at the White Horse or the Camden Falcon or up on the stage of the Kilburn National with a naked man in a cowboy hat setting himself on fire.” A high point for the band was playing Reading Festival in 1991 sandwiched between Nirvana and Babes In Toyland. They have also shared the stage with 7 Year Bitch, Therapy?, Gallon Drunk, Boss Hog, Jesus Lizard, Pigface, Soundgarden, Swervedriver, th’ Faith Healers, EMF and Fugazi among others.

Silverfish blew audiences away, and had legions of fans, yet they always managed to remain on the cusp of fame. Lesley’s influence remains, and today’s “women in rock” have her to thank for her no shits given attitude, and refreshing willingness to speak her mind. The band often commented on the double standards in the music business. At one point Silverfish asked people to sign a petition, as MTV and other shows rejected the band’s video for “Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal” because it contained the word  – “tits” – yet these networks displayed actual tits all day long. The lyrics “Hips Tits Lips Power” were used as a feminist chant, taking the elements of women’s bodies that men usually use to disempower women and reclaiming them. It became a mantra of sorts for young women — foreshadowing and echoing the sentiments of the burgeoning riot grrrl movement.

The audiences at the band’s shows invented a dance that was quickly dubbed by a phrase-coining journalist as “The Camden Lurch.” Hard to describe….you had to be there….and someone was, and gave the band money to record a demo for the newly formed label Wiiija, which was a label founded by staff at the Rough Trade shop in Notting Hill. Wiiija released the band’s first single. Their second single “T.F.A” (“Total Fucking Asshole”) caught the ears of Touch & Go, who compiled their singles into a comp called Cockeye. This was shortly followed up with their first full-length album, Fax Axl, in 1991, produced by Steve Albini (credited as Ding Rollski). The album’s nine songs are unrestrained and uncommercial. Their second album Organ Fan, brought even more success. Produced by JG Thirwell, of Foetus infamy and engineered by Martin Bisi, it was released in 1992 by Creation Records. They disbanded in 1993, and Lesley went on collaborate with Mark Walk as Ruby.

  • Silverfish