Announcing their arrival on stage with a short and punchy blast of ‘Peter Gunn’, it was clear from the off that Terminal Gods were here to blow the joint apart, and attempt to leave a lasting impression on the gathering before them. Just in case anyone had any doubt as to where they were going the Gods cemented mine and the vast majority of everyone else’s attention by going straight into full on no holds bar heavyweight round of the Velvet Underground classic ‘White Light/White Heat’.
And then we were off – the incessant drum machine behind a wall of sound from maximum fuzzed up guitars pumped through amps dialled well beyond 11, all behind a virtual wall of dry ice and strobes. The foursome wouldn’t look amiss in a scene from Rumble Fi
Firing non-stop through their set by the time we got to the finale, latest single, ‘Cold Life’ I was completely sold (Hell, I even bough a t-shirt. What’s even more shocking is that they had one big enough) and simply had to find out more …
So tell the world about Terminal Gods…
‘We are Cowlin on vocals, Maisey on guitar and in charge of drum machines, Josh on guitar and Jon on bass, and we are ostensibly from North London.’
How did you all come together?
Cowlin – ‘Maisey and I met through following the same post-punk bands in the early 00’s. The rest of band came together through friends and competitors.’
Maisey – ‘Aye, Cowlin and I masterminded it long distance while I was living in Leeds. I was able to move to London thanks to Josh offering me a place to live, shanghaiing him into the project in return. Jonno was headhunted later on. We found him making filthy crack rock in a tiny basement somewhere a few years ago.’
What kind of sound would you say you are aiming for?
Cowlin – ‘We try to sound like Big Black but we can’t seem to shake those big choruses.’
Maisey – ‘We try to sound like Billy Idol, but can’t shake the noise.
But if people come up to us in the street and ask us who or what we sound like, we just let them know we’re Terminal Gods and we are a rock n roll band.’
Having just seen you live and having heard your recorded stuff it’s easy to draw comparisons to the likes of Sisters of Mercy and The Cramps but what would you say are the bands that have influenced you and brought you together as a band?
Maisey – ‘We have quite a broad musical taste. Cowlin and I come from similar musical backgrounds, but have developed very different ideas of where those ideas should progress. We all agree on The Stooges. Everyone always agrees on the Stooges. One of the first records that really got us all on the dance floor together was Fire Woman by The Cult. You can probably tell.
We’re always grateful when people compare us to Depeche Mode (which they do often), David Bowie (which they do sometimes) or Debbie Harry (which someone did once).’
Cowlin – ‘Influence is in a constant state of flux. I’d never been influenced by Brian Eno until I wrote Cold Life with the aid of his Oblique Strategies’.
Maisey – ‘Cowlin puts it nicely above. Many of the artists that currently inspire the sound of Terminal Gods I hadn’t even heard of when we started the band. Playing and writing music, especially under public scrutiny, constantly opens up new paths and opportunities for development. When we started I was listening almost exclusively to James Rays Gangwar and Ulterior. These days I’m mostly listening to Pulp and Leonard Cohen. I just bought The Beautiful South’s second LP, so who knows?’
Where did it all begin?
Maisey –‘I started writing demos from my flat in Leeds almost as soon as I started learning to play guitar. I’d pass them back and forth with Cowlin for lyrical and melodic ideas. Once I’d moved to London we roped in Josh and put an ad out for a bassist. Our original bass player joined after recognising us from an Ulterior gig.
Our first gig was at St Moritz Club, Soho. A dank little hole where Josh used to DJ old rockabilly and garage records (DJ Trashman Josh). It was enthusiastic, with a lot of grand intentions. We’re still working on it. I dare say we still haven’t got it together. We’ve been learning our instruments as we’ve been writing and performing.’
How did the latest single, ‘Cold Life’ come about?
Cowlin – ‘The music and lyrics were written very quickly, but it seemed to take an age to transition from it being just an instrumental to a full song. We wanted to do something in the vein of Big Black, but I thought it needed a pop twist. I decided to name it after the early Ministry single because I felt it posed an interesting connection between the wave chorus versus the rattling rhythm. You can make further obvious Ministry connections if you want. With Sympathy is their only worthwhile LP.’
Maisey – ‘I’d been experimenting with incorporating 12 bar blues into our song writing for a while, with limited success. The embryonic Cold Life was a sort of do or die moment for us as a blues band. We just kept hitting this riff over and over again, getting more and more furious and then suddenly Cowlin’s voice just opened up into this almighty wail and that was it. A deeply satisfying moment.’
Maisey – ‘We recorded the single at The Blues Studios, which is where I work. It’s a rehearsal space in Dalston. We’re still building our recording studio, so we’ve set up a guerrilla studio – which is a rehearsal room that’s been converted into sort of writing/recording space. It’s where we keep all the interesting outboard gear that’s waiting to be installed into the new studio upstairs. Cold Life was engineered by myself and the other technician, Nathan Smardina (who also produced the final mix), and provided us both with a chance to get to grips with using our workplace as a recording environment.’
Does your song writing follow a particular process?
Cowlin – ‘Maisey will write a skeletal guitar track which John and Josh will write their parts over. I like to write lyrics to finished instrumentals so the guys will demo the track a few times and work it out, then give the final draft to me for (de)constructive criticism and eventual lyric writing or scrapping/recycling. Sometimes I feel that the guys aren’t too keen on this method, but it’s resulted in some of our strongest tracks and makes for excellent quality control.’
Maisey – ‘It’s not necessarily the most emotive way of writing music, but we do find that it ultimately produces the strongest, most complete arrangements. There are times when I’d much rather “jam” out a track to completion and the process of drawn out de-and-reconstruction becomes rather draining, but it’s worth it when it comes together into a fully realised, complete song. I like to think that this is what separates us from some other bands who, despite having a great sound, have more or less interchangeable songs.’
‘We tried to make it sound like War.’
How would you describe your live show?
Maisey – ‘Presumptuous. We’ve got a very strong idea about what constitutes a good live show – and it’s all about the way it makes people FEEL. We always try and be bigger than the space we’re in. At best it’s theatre and at worst its car crash cinema.’
What about other bands? Anyone you think we should be taking note of?
Maisey- ‘There are loads of great bands in London right now. Many of whom we play shows with regularly. Dressmaker, who have a wicked Birthday Party meets A Place To Bury Strangers vibe. There’s the wonderful Desperate Journalist, who are forever getting compared to The Smiths, but I think they’re way more exciting. Then there’s our big sister band, Cold In Berlin, a fantastic doom/disco combo that we played support for many times in the early days. I could certainly go on. Go on down to heavyleathersex.wordpress.com to read what’s tickling our fancy week by week.’
You mention dressmaker, you’re currently coming to the end of a UK tour with them what’s that been like?
Josh – ‘It’s been excellent, thank you. This was the first time either band have done a UK tour (or played outside of London without needing a power adapter and a passport, for that matter! ‘
Jon- ‘It’s strange that we’d been abroad a bunch of times but never played Scotland or Wolverhampton before. I think we were all pleasantly surprised by how well it went, the nights were well attended, the promoters looked after us, no one died’.
Josh – ‘We started in Scotland, the guys up at Danse Macabre (Glasgow) were amazing. Probably some of the best people we’ve had the pleasure of working with, they were very enthusiastic and keen to show us what their city had to offer. This meant Buckfast, and a lot of it.
Jon – ‘The show was loud as well, in a tiny basement venue, it set the bar high and the gigs pretty much just got hotter, louder and sweatier from then on. But it was here that we went to the only Brazilian bar of the tour. Dressmaker got us kicked out so it was onwards to Edinburgh – cans of Buckfast in hand.’
Josh – ‘With the sun out in beautiful Edinburgh, we stumbled around the city trying to find a bar in the sunshine to have a pre-soundcheck pint or two. Mission accomplished, then back to Bannerman’s. It’s a cool venue – a sweaty little cave of rock – which we proceeded to fill with smoke, strobe lights, noise and egos. Big thanks to Sacre Noir, who played a great set as well, for sorting out the venue. The accommodation was, by comparison, distinctly less cave-like. In fact I think the flat above the bar will go down in TG lore as one of the best flophouses we’ve been entrusted with keys to yet.’
Jon- ‘After the gig – what can I say? Plenty of Buckfast was consumed, so at some point we attempted to go clubbing but ended up, like drunken bees drawn inexorably to the nectar of sweaty bromance and stag-night techno, in some awful shithole which our lawyers have advised must remain nameless. The kind of place where, to quote an Edinburgh resident who warned us against it, ‘you could probably catch an STD off of the walls’, and where the only thing more fluorescent than the security guard jackets was the £1 shots of absinthe. Maisey got us kicked out after crowd surfing to Bon Jovi (what the fuck else was he supposed to do??), so we headed home and everyone went to bed leaving only Josh and myself to keep the spirit of rock and roll alive. This was swiftly aborted when we were told sternly to go to bed after playing Rammstein and jumping off the furniture.
Josh – ‘We were lucky in Leeds, a lot of us have friends from there so the show was busy and we all had a place to crash without really having to make any plans. This was my favourite of dressmakers performances too, the Wharf Chambers is huge so there was loads of room for Charles (dressmaker’s lead singer) to climb about, he spent the show wandering around and spraying people with dry ice. This is, until he wandered right out the venue causing Tom to take up vocals during their cover of ‘Be My baby’. But he made it back again for the finale, it was fucking wicked.
It was a long night so we stuck to a short set, got people riled up and dancing, and got off. I think somewhere around this point we ran out of Buckfast and ended up in a park somewhere.’
Jon – ‘At this point we were suffering some serious ‘tour related’ collateral damage – Maisey’s toiletries were in London, his amp had given up back in Edinburgh (it goes up to ’12’ apparently), Tom’s bass hadn’t made it out of Leeds alive, both my strobes had blown their fuses, Charles’ bag and house keys were probably in a forest somewhere near LS6, a bouncer in Edinburgh had Maisey’s shirt, we had matching (yet all correctly spelt tattoos), and there was no Buckfast to be had for love nor money anywhere. I reckon if the tour had lasted another week we’d have come back to London with a big red ‘negative’ on our gear balance sheet.’
Josh – ‘What can I say about Wolverhampton that hasn’t already been said? It’s a city, and it’s in the Midlands. Despite the various setbacks to equipment and sanity listed above, I’d like to think we all played a good set in Wolves, and the guys at the Gifford Arms certainly did a good job despite our depleted equipment and waning sobriety, but the most important thing was that we had fun. At least I did, I think.
So cheers dressmaker, cheers venues, cheers promoters, cheers everyone with a floor for our sleeping bags, cheers for wanting to get know about us.
Now pass me my fucking Bucky!’
Terminal Gods will be playing the final gig of their current tour at Buffalo Bar, London on Friday 24th July, along with dressmaker and Retrofuture. It’s gonna be loud,very loud. There will be strobes, lots of strobes and lots and lots of dry ice – there might even be some Buckfast to hand. Can’t think of a better way to kick off the weekend!
Details here – Some Weird Sin #2
Terminal Gods are:
Robert Cowlin – Vocals
Robert Maisey – Lead Guitar and Drum Programming
Jonathon Campbell Ratcliffe – Bass Guitar
Josh C – Rhythm Guitar