New Model Army (band)

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New Model Army
NMA Forum 111215.jpg
New Model Army at The Forum, London on 11 December 2015 (L-R) Marshall Gill, Justin Sullivan, Ceri Monger, Dean White
Background information
Origin Bradford, England
Genres Punk, Post-punk, Alternative rock, Folk rock [1]
Years active 1980 (1980)–present
Labels Abstract, EMI, Epic, Eagle, earMUSIC, Attack Attack Records
Members Justin Sullivan
Michael Dean
Dean White
Marshall Gill
Ceri Monger
Past members Phil Tompkins
Rob Waddington
Stuart Morrow
Ed Alleyne-Johnson
Robert Heaton
Jason Harris
Adrian Portas
Dave Blomberg

New Model Army are an English post-punk/alternative rock band formed in Bradford, West Yorkshire in 1980 by its lead singer and main composer Justin Sullivan, bassist Stuart Morrow and drummer Phil Tompkins. Sullivan has been the only continuous member of the band, which has seen numerous line-up changes in its 35 year history. Their music draws on influences across the musical spectrum, from punk and folk to soul, metal and classical. Sullivan’s lyrics, which range from directly political through to spiritual and personal, have always been considered as a key part of the band’s appeal. The band has a loyal, global, multi-generational following often known as "The Family".


New Model Army were formed in Bradford, West Yorkshire in October 1980, taking their name from Thomas Fairfax's English Revolution militia. The original line-up featured Justin Sullivan (also known initially as "Slade The Leveller"), bassist Stuart Morrow and drummer Phil Tompkins. By the time they began making their first records in 1983, Robert Heaton, a former drum technician for Hawkwind,[2] had replaced Tompkins. The band have also long been associated with Sullivan’s long time partner, the artist, novelist, and poet Joolz Denby, who was the band’s first manager[3] and remains to this day their art designer.

Whilst having their roots in punk rock, the band have always been difficult to categorise. In 1999, when asked about this, Sullivan said "We've been labelled as punks, post-punks, Goth, metal, folk - the lot, but we've always been beyond those style confines".[4] The band eschews the typical commercialism and trappings of the music business, for example playing charity concerts or benefits without any promotion,[5] and promotes "wariness" about establishment values.[4]

Following a large turnover of personnel, both permanent and as touring members, as of January 2016 New Model Army comprise Sullivan, Dean White (keyboards and guitar), Michael Dean (drums), Marshall Gill (guitar) and Ceri Monger (bass).


Formation and Vengeance (1980–84)[edit]

Justin Sullivan

New Model Army played their first concert in Bradford in October 1980, playing songs based on their shared love of punk rock and Northern Soul. They continued to gig around the United Kingdom with little recognition, but in 1983 released their first singles "Bittersweet" and "Great Expectations" on Abstract Records, assisted by the patronage of Radio 1's John Peel.[2] In February 1984 they were invited to play on popular music show "The Tube", being introduced by presenter Muriel Gray as "the ugliest band in rock and roll".[6] The producers of the show however were concerned about the lyrics of "Vengeance", which the band were due to perform ("I believe in justice / I believe in vengeance / I believe in getting the bastards") and so the band played "Christian Militia" and "Great Expectations". Following this performance, the band's first mini-album Vengeance reached Number 1 in the UK independent chart in early 1984, pushing The Smiths from that position.[7] After a further single "The Price" also reached a high placing in the independent charts, the band were signed by major label EMI.[8]

The major label years (1985–93)[edit]

The band then made a series of albums for EMI, and one for Epic that brought the band chart recognition and sales across the world. 1985's No Rest for the Wicked and associated single "No Rest" both made the mainstream Top 40 in the UK, the latter leading to some controversy when the band sported t-shirts with the phrase "Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin" during an appearance on Top of the Pops.[9] During the "No Rest" tour, Morrow left the band, and after some delay was replaced by 17-year-old Jason "Moose" Harris.[2] However the band were refused work permits to enter the United States, as the US Immigration Department had said the band's work was of "no artistic merit".[10] Manager Nigel Morton commented "If it's all down to the band's politics, it's a bit strange because Billy Bragg and Poison Girls, whose politics are exactly the same as New Model Army's, have all been allowed entry into the States recently."

Nelson, bassist from 1990 to 2011.

In December 1986 the band finally got permission to tour in the US.[11] By this time The Ghost of Cain, produced by notable producer Glyn Johns, had been released. This album provided the band with a number of their best known songs, notably "The Hunt" (later covered by Sepultura on their Chaos A.D. album), "Poison Street" and "51st State", and was named best album of the year for 1986 in The Times by lead music writer David Sinclair, who said that it "was the best thing to happen to English rock music since the first Clash album".[12] Concerts included Reading Festival and a gig with David Bowie in front of the Reichstag in Berlin, and the band for the first time expanded their touring line-up to include a second guitarist in the shape of Ricky Warwick, as well as harmonica player Mark Feltham from Nine Below Zero.[2] There was a short hiatus before the next album, whilst Sullivan and Heaton recorded music with Denby, amongst others.

Thunder and Consolation was released in February 1989, and saw the band moving towards a more folk-rock sound, especially on the tracks including violinist Ed Alleyne-Johnson. The album's title was taken from the posthumous collected works of Edward Burrough, titled "The Memorable Works of a Son of Thunder and Consolation". Described as the band's "landmark" album,[13] it reached No.20 in the UK charts, the singles "Stupid Questions" and "Vagabonds" made an impression in America[14] and the band was able to tour the album there with Alleyne-Johnson and additional guitarist Chris McLaughlin. Soon after, however, Harris left the band and was replaced by Peter "Nelson" Nice, who would play with the band for more than 20 years. 1990's Impurity continued the folk-driven theme, with Adrian Portas joining the band on guitar.

The next album was to be a change of direction, with New Model Army typically moving away from the mainstream.[2] Sullivan later said "just as this folk-cum-rave-cum-crusty-cum-new-age thing broke and became big in the early 1990s, we went - whoosh - done that - and went and made a very angry hard rock album".[12] The Love of Hopeless Causes, released in 1993 and with Dave Blomberg replacing Portas on guitar, led with the single "Here Comes the War", which spawned controversy when it came packaged with instructions on how to construct a nuclear device.[15] The band had by this time moved to Epic Records, but this was to be their last album for a major label.

Hiatus and return to independence (1994–2000)[edit]

The band had previously decided to take a year out to concentrate on personal and other musical issues, and reconvened in late 1994 with Dean White, playing keyboards and guitar, replacing Alleyne-Johnson. It became clear, however, that Sullivan and Heaton's "musical paths had diverged", and it was agreed that they would go their separate ways after the forthcoming album and tour.[2] Strange Brotherhood was released in May 1998 to unsurprisingly mixed reviews, but then Heaton was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He suggested that his drum technician Michael Dean take over from him to tour the album. By this time the band had formed their own independent label, Attack Attack, and former tour manager Tommy Tee had returned to manage the band.[12] A live album "...& Nobody Else" followed in 1999, and eighth studio album Eight in 2000.

Death of Robert Heaton, and Carnival to Today is a Good Day (2001–2009)[edit]

Marshall Gill, guitarist from 2005–present.

After touring Eight, the band again took time out, most notably so that Sullivan could concentrate on his solo album which was eventually released in 2003, and toured by Sullivan, Dean and White.[2] A "best-of" album, Great Expectations – The Singles Collection, was also released in the United States. As the band got together to record their ninth album, Robert Heaton died from pancreatic cancer on 4 November 2004.[16] Carnival was finally released in September 2005, and includes Sullivan's reaction to Heaton's death, "Fireworks Night".[2] Dave Blomberg was unable to take part in touring the album, and was replaced by current guitarist Marshall Gill.

The band's tenth studio album, High, was produced relatively quickly and was released in August 2007. The tour encompassed four continents, despite a change to the North American leg when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services again denied the band visas; this time the issue was relatively quickly resolved.[17] Soon afterwards, the band was again shaken as manager Tommy Tee died unexpectedly at the age of 46.[18] By 2009, though, the band were again back in the studio. Today Is a Good Day was a far more uncompromising album, the heavy rock title track and others directly referencing the stock market crash of 2008.[19] As the tour to promote the album came to an end, it was drawing close to 30 years since the band had started.

30th anniversary to present (2010–)[edit]

Ceri Monger, current bassist.

Towards the end of 2010, the band's 30th anniversary was celebrated with special shows across four continents every weekend from September until early December. In most cities, the shows were across two nights with completely different sets, the band having promised to play at least four songs from each of their eleven studio albums plus Lost Songs and B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks, their rarities and B-sides collections.[20] The final shows at the Kentish Town Forum in London were collected on a double CD and DVD release containing all 58 songs played over the nights of 3 and 4 December.

After the band had played their traditional Christmas shows the following year, the news was released that Nelson had decided to leave the band for personal reasons, a decision that had been taken some time before.[2] A few days later, on Christmas Eve, a fire destroyed the band's studio and rehearsal space in Bradford. Numerous guitars and other instruments were lost along with recording equipment and memorabilia.[21] However, the studio was back in operation within three months, and after a number of auditions, Ceri Monger was announced as the band's new bassist.

In 2013, the band's twelfth studio album, Between Dog and Wolf, produced by Joe Barresi, was released and became the band's most successful since The Love of Hopeless Causes 20 years earlier. The album showed a marked shift away from the band's traditional sounds,[22] including rhythms that were described as "tribal", though Sullivan claimed they were merely different ways of using drums - "We really like complex tom-tom rhythms, we really like that pounding (beat)".[19] A year later, Between Wine and Blood was released, including six previously unreleased studio tracks from the Between Dog and Wolf sessions, along with eleven live tracks from that album. In October 2014, a documentary feature film about the band's career, Between Dog and Wolf: The New Model Army Story by director Matt Reid premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in London and the Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal.[23]

Timeline of major contributors[edit]

"The Family"[edit]

Over the years, New Model Army have gathered a wide selection of fans, many of whom dedicatedly follow the band. Originally calling themselves "The Militia", after the song "Christian Militia",[12] the term "The Family" was later universally adopted for what is a multi-generational and gendered group.[24] Denby has referred to The Family as "not a formal, contrived organisation, but a spontaneous sense of fellowship that has developed over the years".[5]

Other work[edit]

Sullivan plays solo concerts, and in early 2003 released Navigating by the Stars, a solo album recorded with other band members and featuring Michael Dean on drums, Dean White on guitar, Danny Thompson on double bass, and Mark Feltham on harmonica. The group also tours as 'Justin Sullivan and Friends', which means a more acoustic set without some players (which ones varies), and is linked to Red Sky Coven, in which Sullivan collaborates with Denby and Rev Hammer.[1] Marshall Gill also plays solo and with his band Blackballed.[25]



  1. ^ a b "Artist biography by Steve Huey". Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "New Model Army biography". Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  3. ^ "Storyteller: Bob Cornwell Interviews Joolz Denby". Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Ayers, Michael (2006). Cybersounds: Essays on Virtual Music Culture. David Lang. p. 138. ISBN 9780820478616. 
  5. ^ a b Denby, Joolz. "What is the NMA Family". Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Dingwall, John. "Justin Sullivan on his cult band New Model Army and why he's proud they've never had a hit". The Daily Record. Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "Robert Heaton obituary". The Independent. Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "New Model Army biography". MTV. Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Chapple-Gill, Laurence. ""Between Dog and Wolf" review". Louder Than War. Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  10. ^ Strauss, Duncan (14 August 1987). "Two Sides To Every Model Army Song". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  11. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years. London: Reed International Books Ltd. pp. 412–425. CN 5585. 
  12. ^ a b c d Between Dog and Wolf: The New Model Army Story, Cadiz Music/Hustler Street Films, 2015 
  13. ^ Britton, Amy (2011). Revolution Rock: The Albums Which Defined Two Ages. AuthorHouse. p. 139. ISBN 9781467887113. 
  14. ^ Smith, Jason. "Thunder and Consolation review". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  15. ^ Murphy, Michael. "The Love of Hopeless Causes review". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  16. ^ "Robert Heaton obituary". The Independent. 8 November 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  17. ^ "New Model Army - US tour cancelled". New Model Army Livejournal. 5 September 2007. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  18. ^ Rabid, Jack (27 December 2008). "RIP Tommy Tee, New Model Army manager". The Big Takeover. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  19. ^ a b Burrows, Marc. "New Model Army interview". The Quietus. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  20. ^ "30th Anniversary shows". Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  21. ^ "New Model Army studio destroyed by fire". Music News. 29 December 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  22. ^ Myers, Ben. "Album reviews - Between Dog and Wolf". Mojo (September 2013): 88. 
  23. ^ Geraghty, Max (6 October 2014). "Between Dog and Wolf: The New Model Army Story". Film News. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  24. ^ Maconie, Stuart (2013). The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records. Random House. p. 353. ISBN 9780091946845. 
  25. ^ "Rock Bottom Risers / Marshall Gill review". Retrieved 17 January 2016. 

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