Josef K (band)

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Josef K
Origin Edinburgh, Scotland
Genres Post-punk
Years active 1979–1982
Labels Postcard Records
Les Disques du Crépuscule
Website http://www.josef-k.org/ Josef K (unofficial site) – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Josef-K/295108347268770 Josef K Facebook Page
Past members Paul Haig - Guitar, vocals
Malcolm Ross - Guitar, Violin
David Weddell - Bass
Ronnie Torrance - Drums

Josef K were a Scottish post-punk band, active between 1979 and 1982, who released singles on the Postcard Records label. The band was named after the protagonist of Franz Kafka's novel The Trial. Although they released just one album while together and achieved only moderate success, they have since proved influential on many bands that followed.

History[edit]

The band was formed in 1979 originally as TV Art by Paul Haig (vocals, guitar) and Ronnie Torrance (drums), later joined by Malcolm Ross (guitar, keyboards), with Gary McCormack added on bass guitar, who soon left (later joining The Exploited) with David Weddell replacing him.[1][2][3] After recording a ten-track demo, their first release was the "Romance"/"Chance Meeting" single on Orange Juice drummer Steven Daly's Absolute label in December that year.[1][2] They were then signed to Postcard Records, the label founded by Daly and Alan Horne, releasing a string of critically acclaimed singles in 1980 and 1981.[1][3] The band recorded their debut album, Sorry for Laughing, in 1981 at Castle Sound Studios in Pencaitland, but it was shelved, with the band unhappy with the clean, polished production, Haig describing it as sounding "flat and disinfected",[4] with only a few copies being released.[1][5] They returned to the studio in Belgium to record The Only Fun in Town, opting for a more 'live' sound and recording the whole album in two days, Haig later expressing a measure of regret that "we decided to make an almost unlistenable record with the vocals mixed down really low".[3][4] It was their only album release while together, and while it placed well on the UK Independent Chart, it received a poor critical reception.[3] Their earlier unreleased Sorry For Laughing album was eventually issued on a 1990 CD reissue of The Only Fun in Town.[1]

The band split prior to the release of the 1982 single, "The Farewell Single" through Les Disques du Crépuscule, which included the Peel session track, "The Missionary", Haig deciding to call an end to the band while they were at a creative peak.[1] Torrance joined Boots for Dancing and later (with Weddell) formed The Happy Family with Nick Currie (aka Momus).[1] Haig embarked on a long solo career, releasing a string of albums on his own Rhythm of Life label between 1984 and 2008, while Malcolm Ross joined Orange Juice and then played with Aztec Camera and Blancmange before embarking on a solo career. Ross and Weddell later reunited in Magic Clan.[1]

Musical style[edit]

Musically, they resembled their label mates Orange Juice in fusing post-punk guitars with funk and disco rhythms.[3] They were influenced by American bands such as Pere Ubu, television, Talking Heads, and The Voidoids, and British bands such as Subway Sect.[3] However, in terms of their lyrics and image Josef K were always far more downbeat and austere than Orange Juice, and were never to match Orange Juice's commercial success. They were also described as sounding similar to Joy Division but "less doomy".[5] Haig was a fan of Joy Division and "It's Kinda Funny" was inspired by the death of Ian Curtis.[3] Haig's lyrics were also inspired by the works of Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Hermann Hesse, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Knut Hamsun.[3][4]

The band adopted what was described as an "anti-rock stance", most members eschewing drink and (most) drugs, and the band never doing encores, which Ross considered "patronizing".[3]

Influence[edit]

Josef K would prove to be a major influence on several later 1980s bands, including The June Brides and The Wedding Present (who also never do encores).[3] They also influenced later bands such as Franz Ferdinand,[6] The Futureheads, and The Rapture, and they were described in 2006 as "one of the most influential bands in Britain".[7]

"Sorry for Laughing" was covered by German synth pop group Propaganda on their 1985 album A Secret Wish, and again in 2004 by French New Wave/bossa nova band Nouvelle Vague, on their self-titled debut.

Several notable labels have reissued Josef K albums and compilations, including Creation, Domino and LTM Recordings. In 2014 Les Disques du Crépuscule issued remastered vinyl and CD editions of The Only Fun in Town.

Band members[edit]

  • Paul Haig – guitar, vocals, songwriting
  • Malcolm Ross – guitar, violin
  • David Weddell – bass
  • Ronnie Torrance – drums

Original founding members included Neil Shah-Shah (Guitar) and Matthew Cocks[8][unreliable source?] (Bass), who left the band due to increasing press interest.[citation needed] Gary McCormack briefly played bass before joining The Exploited.

All of their songs were written by either Paul Haig or Paul Haig/Malcolm Ross.

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

Year Title UK Indie Chart Position[9]
Dec 1979 "Romance / Chance Meeting"
Aug 1980 "Radio Drill Time / Crazy To Exist (Live)" No. 27
Dec 1980 "It's Kinda Funny / Final Request" No. 12
Feb 1981 "Sorry For Laughing / Revelation"
May 1981 "Chance Meeting / Pictures (of Cindy)" No. 12
Feb 1982 "The Missionary / One Angle / Second Angle" ¹ No. 5
Mar 1987 "Heaven Sent" ¹ No. 12

¹ post split

Studio albums[edit]

Year Title UK Indie Chart Position[9]
Jun 1981 The Only Fun in Town No. 3

Compilation and live albums[edit]

Year Title UK Indie Chart Position[9] Notes
Jun 1987 Young and Stupid (1979–1981 singles/session cuts, released with different track listing on CD in Sep 1990)
Mar 1989 Endless Soul No. 7 (best of)
Sep 1990 Only Fun in Town (contains the album "The Only Fun in Town" and the unreleased album "Sorry For Laughing" from 1980)
Oct 2002 Crazy to Exist (live recordings from 1981)
Sep 2003 Live at Valentino's (live recordings from 1981)
Nov 2006 Entomology (mainly culled from Postcard and Les Disques Du Crepuscule 1980–81)
Nov 2012 Sorry For Laughing First vinyl issue of their unreleased debut album (includes 12-track bonus CD of TV Art's original 1979 demo recordings)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 386
  2. ^ a b Larkin, Colin (1998) The Virgin Encyclopedia of Indie & New Wave, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0231-3, p. 232
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reynolds, Simon (2005) Rip It Up and Start Again: postpunk 1978–1984, Faber & Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-21570-6, p. 349
  4. ^ a b c Smith, Aidan (2006) "With Franz like these...", Scotland on Sunday, 15 October 2006, retrieved 27 May 2011
  5. ^ a b Kellman, Andy "Sorry For Laughing Review", Allmusic, retrieved 27 May 2011
  6. ^ Cooper, Neil (2006) "Shooting stars are back with a bang: They released one album, then split up. But Josef K's influence survived for much longer. Just ask their biggest fans, Franz Ferdinand and Morrissey", Glasgow Herald, 9 December 2006, p. 2 ('Guide' section)
  7. ^ Petridis, Alexis (2006) "Josef K, Entomology", The Guardian, 15 December 2006, retrieved 27 May 2011
  8. ^ "All The Acts / Bands Who Played The Kinema Ballroom Dunfermline – 'J'". Kinemagigz.com. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Lazell, Barry (1998) Indie Hits 1980–1989, Cherry Red Books, ISBN 0-9517206-9-4, p. 124

External links[edit]