Dark Star (band)
|Genres||Alternative rock, Indie rock, Psychedelic rock|
|Associated acts||Levitation, Mikrokosmos, Dragons, The Hope Blister, Ring, The Jazz Butcher, Cardiacs, The Dave Howard Singers|
|Past members||Christian Hayes
Born from the ashes of the trio's former band Levitation, who split up onstage in 1994, Francolini suggested working together again to Hayes and O'Keefe in 1996, stating that "there was always this sense of unfinished business". Following the demise of Levitation, Hayes began working with Heather Nova and All About Eve's Julianne Regan and O'Keefe collaborated with Dead Can Dance's Brendan Perry, whilst Francolini stopped playing due to disillusionment with the music industry (although he did help Scottish band Octopus get signed to Food Records and produced their debut album From A to B). They booked a studio and started rehearsing the day after they went to see Sonic Youth play at the The Forum in Kentish Town in April that year. After advertising for and auditioning several singers including Daisy Chainsaw and Queenadreena guitarist Crispin Gray, Hayes took over vocals. Francolini commented that the singers they auditioned "seemed to suck the power out of it... it was weird. Really good people we worked with, you know? But once they opened their gob, it was like the power of the group was gone".
The band first signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music. When the A&R man they were dealing with there moved to work at EMI, their first intention in their new job was to sign the band. The band released their debut EP Graceadelica in 1998 on Harvest Records, the progressive rock subsidiary of EMI. They released their second EP I Am The Sun in 1999, along with their debut single About 3am.
Dark Star released their debut album, Twenty Twenty Sound on 21 June 1999. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album was recorded live, with Hayes stating that the band "recorded it all live so basically we just got in there, set up and did what we always do and got the best take. It's the best way to record a record really. If you haven't seen us live you may not think that, but it's exactly like we play it—there's no overdubs. It's basically what we do, it's what we play". Francolini described the band's sound as "Levitation, with all the chrome stripped off and painted matt black", with Hayes stating that he personally thought they sounded "like Hawkwind and The Pixies". The album was followed by re-releases of "Graceadelica" and "I Am The Sun" (albeit in remixed form), which gave the band two Top 40 UK Singles Chart hits.
Following the promotional and touring cycle of Twenty Twenty Sound, the band recorded two tracks with record producer and remixer Danny Saber (who remixed "Graceadelica" for single release) in Los Angeles. Seemingly scrapping that session, the band entered the studio later that year to record their second album. Songs including "Roman Road", "The Last Thing She Ever Said", "Clicky" and "Three Seconds" were played during the band's shows in 2000 including festival dates such as Reading and Leeds Festivals and T In The Park as well as a live show recorded for STV show Boxed Set. Despite lead off single Strangers And Madmen being premiered on the BBC Radio 1 show The Evening Session, the band parted ways with EMI shortly after with the single and album remaining unreleased. Leaks of the album online, such as on YouTube, have included these songs as well as the tracks “Bigger Than Love”, “Valentine”, “Perfectly Simple”, “Blue Murder”, “The Day That Never Was” and “Desert Fever”, as well as the live jam “SYJ”, as performed on the STV show Boxed Set. Commenting on the split with EMI, Francolini later revealed that the band "experienced losing a couple of key players who left the company and that coupled with the fact that we resolutely towed our own musical line, led to the parting of the ways". The band subsequently split in 2001, with no official announcement, to pursue different projects.
An unmastered 7 track version of the album, omitting "Roman Road" and "Valentine", was leaked within a couple of years of the split. Titled Zurich, it is unconfirmed whether this was an official title. In January 2015, Hayes appeared on Brighton & Hove Community Radio show The Real Music Club, where he stated his hope to release the second album this year. He played the previously unheard song The Only Way, which is set to appear on the release. He confirmed that there were no plans for the band to reunite.
Francolini returned to Bristol and set up a recording studio, where he began working on the debut album with his new band Dragons. Initially a studio project with singer Anthony Tombling Jr, news of Francolini's new band was reported in 2003 but the band didn't surface until 2007. Early shows featured both Hayes and O'Keefe as part of the live band, with the band disbanding in 2009. In 2005, Francolini produced and played on the 2005 Julian Cope album Citizen Cain'd under the pseudonym Mitch Razor.
Hayes toured with the Pet Shop Boys as well as working as guitar tech/tour/production manager for the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Kula Shaker and David Cassidy. In 2007, Hayes began releasing archive releases of previously unreleased solo material (recording during and shortly after his time with Levitation) under the name of Mikrokosmos via Ingatia Recordings. A trio of releases, In The Heart Of The Home, The Seven Stars and final installment in 2014 Terra Familiar have been issued. In 2011, Hayes organised and compiled the tribute record Leader Of The Starry Skies in aid of Cardiacs frontman Tim Smith, who suffered two strokes in 2008 which left him paralysed down one side of his body and unable to speak. He also toured with a stage version of Macbeth in 2011 and 2012, produced by Platform 4 and described as "a taut psychodrama that crackles with a wild electricity, brought alive by the sonic experiments of composer and guitarist Bic Hayes and sound designer Jules Bushel". More recently Hayes has been involved in several improvisational instrumental psychedelic bands in Brighton, including ZOFFF and LSD-25 and formed the audio/visual project Cuts, with his partner Jo Spratley.
The cover art on all Dark Star releases up to I Am The Sun in 2000 was by Tom Phillips, an artist from Peckham, South London. The images he used were based on his work A Humument, an illustrative and textual reworking of an 1892 Victorian novel. Phillips had previously contributed similar artwork for the sleeve of the King Crimson album Starless and Bible Black
- Christian Hayes – lead vocals, guitars
- David Francolini – drums
- Laurence O'Keefe – bass, backing vocals
Singles and EPs
- Graceadelica (EP) (1998)
- I Am The Sun (EP) (1999)
- "About 3am" (single) (1999, #50)
- "Graceadelica" (remix single) (2000, #25)
- "I Am The Sun" (remix single) (2000, #31)