Disco Inferno (band)
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(left to right): Ian Crause, Rob Whatley and Paul Wilmott
|Also known as||D.I.|
|Genres||Experimental rock, post-rock, post-punk|
|Associated acts||Bark Psychosis|
|Past members||Daniel Gish
Disco Inferno was an English experimental rock band active in the late 1980s and the 1990s. Although at root a standard rock trio of guitar, bass guitar and drums, and initially writing songs in an identifiable post-punk style, the band pioneered a dynamic use of extensive digital sampling in addition to standard rock instruments. While commercially unsuccessful during their existence, the band is considered to be a key post-rock band.
Disco Inferno was formed in Essex in the late 1980s, by schoolboy musicians Ian Crause (guitar and vocals), Paul Wilmott (bass), Rob Whatley (drums) and Daniel Gish (keyboards). Initially Crause shared the guitar playing/singing role with a fifth (and unnamed) group member who was eventually ousted . Gish left shortly afterwards to join Bark Psychosis, leaving the band as the trio lineup they would retain until the end of their career.
The band took on the name Disco Inferno as a joke, naming themselves after the classic dancefloor track by The Trammps, which was as far from the sound of the band themselves as could be imagined. (Years later, when established as a credible alternative rock act in Britain, the band found themselves losing potential American bookings due to American agents being discouraged by the name. Crause would later describe this situation as "a joke which had long since gone sour.")
The three-piece Disco Inferno recorded the single, *"Entertainment/Arc in Round" with record producer Charlie McIntosh. Their first album, Open Doors, Closed Windows, was released in 1991 on Ché and received positive reviews. The album was characterized for having influence of late 1970s post-punk bands, particularly Joy Division and Wire. Disco Inferno's manager, Michael Collins, had previously managed Wire during the 1970s. The band's next release was the "Science" EP. (All three of these early 1990s releases would later be collected on the 1995 compilation album, In Debt).
By 1992, the band changed their approach. Willmott would later recall that "("Science") got some slightly better press, but were still playing to the bar staff most nights in any venue that would let us play. We were frustrated, ambitious and wanted to make an impression. Bands that we liked were using samplers and there seemed to be no reason apart from the financial that we shouldn't look to use them. We were listening to "Blue Lines", "Loveless", "Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld"; open to possibilities. We were conscious of the clone indie kid and wanted to be anything but tribal. We had been together just over three years and collectively were getting nowhere; it became a @#!*% or bust moment. At least we would die trying."
Move into sampler pop
In 1992, the band released "Summer's Last Sound", which saw the band's increasing use of samples combined with traditional rock instrumentation - particularly Wilmott's bass. This approach continued on the EPs "A Rock to Cling to" and "The Last Dance".
In a 2011 interview, Crause explained "From '92 I had become @#!*% -bent on innovating cos things like Public Enemy and Young Gods blew my mind, but it's when it's allied to a human perspective that technical innovation holds its artistic power otherwise it's just a technical exercise. That's what a lot of that post rock is, as I understand it. So while I tried consciously to innovate... my instincts led me to value the other side of things and that's the essence of the band's appeal, I think. We had both sides... Most of these other what are now called post-rock groups, I think they regarded us as a kind of tinker-toy group because of the pop songs and the sampling so there was little chance of them deciding to follow us in the sampling - no critical consensus had been built for them to aspire to it - we kind of got ours from Public Enemy, who were too black and the Young Gods, who sang in French, for @#!*% 's sake! And it wasn't seen as 'serious' enough, perhaps meaning it wasn't seen as commercially viable enough... who knows. Anyway, I did it 'cos I had the ideas."
The band's musical approach reached its peak on their second album D.I. Go Pop. The album's music was harsh and concise, with the melody on the eight tracks often carried by the bassline, while an array of samples (including running water, breaking glass, car crashes and fax machines) built the musical collages. After D.I. Go Pop the band opted for restraint on "Second Language", which also featured a new-found optimism in Crause's lyrics. The band's next single, "It's a Kid's World" sampled the drumbeat from Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" and added in a series of old children's TV themes.
Final years and split
Despite critical acclaim, Disco Inferno attracted little commercial success. With the band still barely out of their teens, combined artistic and financial pressure began to erode their sense of common purpose and loyalty. The band split acrimoniously in 1995, prior to the release of their final album, Technicolour which was released in 1996.
In 1999, the Tugboat label released the "The Mixing It Session", which featured six instrumental tracks the band had recorded for radio, while One Little Indian reissued D.I. Go Pop and gave Technicolour a belated US release in 2004. In September 2011, One Little Indian Records released a compilation called The 5 EPs, featuring tracks from all five of the now out-of-print EPs released between 1992 and 1995. The compilation had previously been available as a bootleg.
After the split, Ian Crause formed Floorshow who recorded some material for an unreleased album which was to be called 'The Vertical Axis'. Some of these songs later appeared on his solo singles in the early 2000s ("Elemental" and "Head Over Heels"), which featured drummer Ritchie Thomas (Dif Juz, The Jesus and Mary Chain). Crause would then spend the best part of a decade away from music and eventually left the UK to move to Bolivia.
Crause returned to music in mid-2012 with a track called 'More Earthly Concerns', which resurrected Disco Inferno's sample-heavy textured approach and was released via various blogs. This was followed in November 2012 by 'The Song of Phaethon', a long-form single release on Bandcamp inspired by both Greek mythology and British involvement in the Second Gulf War. Several other tracks ('The Vertical Axis', 'Suns May Rise', 'Black Light', and 'A World of Ghosts') were released on Bandcamp in early 2013. Crause's long-delayed debut solo album, The Vertical Axis (also a Bandcamp release) followed in December 2013.
Paul Wilmott formed Transformer, who recorded a cover of Wire's "Outdoor Miner", which appeared on the Wire tribute album, @#!*% (1996). He would later play in the short-lived London Records-signed trip hop band Lisp.
- Open Doors, Closed Windows (Ché, 1991)
- D. I. Go Pop (Rough Trade and Bar/None [US], 1994)
- Technicolour (Rough Trade, 1996)
Singles and EPs
- "Entertainment/Arc in Round" (Ché, 1990 single)
- "Science" (Ché, 1991 single)
- "Summer's Last Sound" (Cheree Records, 1992 EP)
- "A Rock to Cling to" (Rough Trade, 1993 EP)
- "The Last Dance" (Rough Trade, 1993 EP)
- "Second Language" (Rough Trade, 1994 EP)
- "It's a Kid's World" (Rough Trade, 1994 EP)
- "The Mixing It Session" (Tugboat, 1999 EP)
- Kellman, Andy. "Disco Inferno - Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
- Kulkarni, Neil. "A New 90s Part Two: Burning Up With Disco Inferno". The Quietus. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- "A New 90s Part Two: Burning Up With Disco Inferno" – interview/feature in Quietus magazine by Neil Kulkarni, 11 October 2011