|Genres||Gothic rock, post-punk, alternative rock|
Early history – 1984 – 1988
The Claytown Troupe were formed in 1984 in Bristol by lead singer Christian Riou, who claimed in an NME interview that a local clairvoyant advised him to form a band called "the Clayton Troop" who would have success internationally & spend time in America which is exactly what happened to the band.
By late '87, after various line-up changes, Riou & keyboardist Richard Williams spent just a month writing 10 songs influenced by a wide range of bands from The Cult to the Hothouse Flowers, combining the dark edge of goth rock but with a melodic & lyrical style that would not appear until a few years later with grunge.
After recruiting guitarist Adrian Bennett & bassist Paul Waterson in early 1988, the band created an accomplished live show, & having gained notoriety supporting acts that included Fields of the Nephilim, Alien Sex Fiend, Chiefs of Relief, etc.. they built a hardcore fanbase who followed bands such as The Cult, New Model Army & The Mission.
During the summer of 1988 the band were included, along with The Wedding Present, The Trudy & The Hunters Club, on a 4-track EP on the cover of House of Dolls, a popular mainstream alternative music magazine.
Coupled with a self-financed video of this demo version of the song 'Prayer' & directed by Nathan Richards (who later directed the Emmy nominated EMF 'Unbelievable video), the band started to attract major record label interest and bigger audiences.
Island Records – 1988 – 1991
In September 1988, Riou & Williams spent a month meeting various A & R departments with the novelty of a pro-video rather than the standard demo tape. This generated interest & offers from various labels including Beggars Banquet, EMI, Chrysalis etc... but on meeting A & R man James Dowdall, the band were signed to Island Records (their fastest ever signing) by Ron Fair, who also produced the debut album, Through the Veil with extra mixes by Ralph Jezzard.
With a major record deal behind them but no manager, they met small label owner Steve 'Abbo' Abbott (ex.UK Decay vocalist) & decided a sixth member rather an established team would help build the band, so asked him to switch to management for them.
'Through the veil' spawned three top 100 UK singles – 'Prayer' UK 79, 'Hey Lord' UK 86 & 'Real Life' UK 85 (Christian chose a young artist Will Simpson (comics) to design the sleeve & fold-out poster bag artwork, Will drew Judge Dredd & Rogue Trooper but later went on to eminence with his work on Batman, Aliens & film storyboard & concept art, notably 'Game of Thrones').
After Claytown Troupe played to sell-out audiences from London's famous Marquee Club and Astoria, they were invited to play as support band for The Cult's Sonic Temple tour, at venues such as Wembley Arena and Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.
Following this success, and with a reputation as one of the UK's best live acts, the band toured constantly with a variety of acts including Pearl Jam, The Wonder Stuff, The Damned, Julian Cope, Jesus Jones, The Godfathers, and The Mission, as well as playing the Los Angeles Foundations Forum, which also featured Ozzy Osbourne and Soundgarden.
After Island Records sold to Polygram a new head of A & R came on board who on first meeting, told Christian Riou that he didn't like rock music & would find it hard working with the band, on Ron Fairs advice, the band switched record labels to EMI Records USA, where the second album Out There (1991), was produced by David Bianco at New York's The Hit Factory.
EMI Records – 1991 – 1992
In 1992 as guests of Pearl Jam on their Ten Tour (the only UK act to have toured with Pearl Jam) the CTT were transferred to EMI UK after the US label was taken over by Zomba and the majority of non-US bands were dropped.
This move back to the UK in 1992 proved to be difficult, even after a successful UK headline tour which culminated with a sold out Marquee, rave music & the Madchester scenes had taken away a huge swath of the older audience, leaving the band in no-mans land between the old goth rock scene and the emerging grunge movement.
The track 'Skybound' although hugely pre-ordered, was stopped a week before its release due to the fallout with the label & is now valued at £60 in record collector. The sleeve again being drawn & designed by artist William Simpson.
With perhaps another year's touring off the back of grunge, the CTT would perhaps have had the success that was picked up by Bush in '94, but the lack of support from EMI UK was not there to promote the album so sadly the Troupe ground to a stop commercially.
Still remembered as a great 'nearly made it big' lost act from the UK alternative rock music scene they helped launch many music careers including manager Stephen 'Abbo' Abbott (Big Cat & V2 Records) & ex. CTT follower Jacqui Rice (Domino Records) amongst others.
The Claytown Troupe were very active in championing new bands & directly requesting them as support. Including The Almighty, The Beyond, Terrorvision & Christian Riou initially invited the fledgling Pearl Jam over to the UK as support which was reversed when the latter shot to international success in late 1991.
Reformation – 2004 – present
Riou and Williams continued to stay in touch but decided to go their separate ways, Williams working on various music projects with members of D:Ream & Jamiroquai, while Riou went on to work in film and television, recently producing films on Sid Vicious (Sid! By those that really knew him) and the annual cinema documentary event I, Superbiker.
Then in 2004, they were invited to perform at the Whitby Gothic Weekend, this creating a renewed interest in the band, they then played a handful of gigs in late 2004 with interim members Clive Murray (guitar), Chris Sharp (bass) and Dan Roth (drums).
In 2008, the CTT were added as guests of The Mission's at the Shepherds Bush Empire with Ben Christo from The Sisters of Mercy on guitar & later that year, with Spear of Destiny at the Islington Academy, London.
Will see the band play the Bristol Fleece, 22 years since their last hometown gig.
Bristol Music Archive have released a 4-track 12" on Red Vinyl with the demos that led to the Island records signing the band. Initially a run of 300 but now into a second pressing. ARTIST: Claytown Troupe TITLE: “Hey Lord” RELEASE DATE: 24th March 2017 LABEL: Bristol Archive Records CAT NO: ARC305V
- "Prayer" (1989) No. 78
- "Hey Lord" (1989) No. 86
- "Real Life" (1990) No. 85
- "Ways of Love" (1990) – UK No. 57
- "Wanted It All" (1992) – UK No. 74
- "Skybound" (1992) Unreleased, £60 value on Record Collectors Guide