Jean Encoule traces the history of Lincoln’s finest & chats with Mark Siddy (drums) & John Loonam (bass).
Paul Steel - Vocals,
Mark Siddy - Drums,
John Loonam – Bass
Nick Armstrong - Gtrs
Lincoln’s Pseudo Existors were active on the UK Punk scene between 1978-1980. They released one superb EP on Lincoln’s legendary Dead Good Records: “Stamp Out Normality!”
Their anthem, “Pseudo Existence”, still cuts throats at thirty yards almost 30 years later. One of the fiercest songs of 1979 (period) – up there with The Pack’s “Heathen” – this is one 45 you owe it to yourself to track down & acquire. The other 3 cuts are no slouches either: “Now” is ample proof that Punks had a begrudging respect for Neil Young from the off, whilst “Coming Up For Air” & “Modern Warfare” are full-on examples of what would eventually become referred to as Hardcore (ouch – you know the score!).
“Pseudo Existence” originally appeared in a B&W wrap-around card picture sleeve with a white & pink label & should cost you anywhere between £35 & £50 - depending on condition. The second pressing is more common – this had a red label & a plain white sleeve with the words ‘Pseudo Existors’ stamped on in black ink. This pressing should cost you no more than £30!
The music press of the time were mostly behind the Pseudos – as the following extracts confirm:
The Pseudo Existors – “Comin Up For Air” EP (Dead Good DEAD 2) Adds nothing to the hackneyed sound of someone screaming hectic contempt over a fuzzy guitar, but what the hell. At this level, punk populism still rules”.
PSEUDO EXISTORS: ‘Stamp Out Normality’ (Dead Good Records). God, what a dreadful name for a group. And what an onerous little extended-player there be to go with it: Heavy Metal + Punk ’77 is the fare, and it adds up to a one way ticket to Deletionville. Hatefully dumb. G.Dodomo (Sounds)
The Pseudos (rightly) took umbrage at the last one – especially considering Mr Dodomo’s own band-wagon jumping 45, “I Can’t Come”/”Terminal Boredom” - & duly penned their own personal reply:
Dear Giovanni Dodomo,
That’s a silly name for a start, what a snivelling little shit you are for sure, thanks for the single review.
Pseudo Existors, Dead Good Records, Lincoln.
Not everyone was so (psychotically) negative:
PSEUDO EXISTORS – STAMP OUT NORMALITY
Bloody great EP from Dead Good records of Lincoln. 4 tracks, each packed full of rebellious bullshit. It means nothing that hasn’t been said before but that doesn’t make it any worse to my ears. Peels playing it a lot so hear it and buy it very soon afterwards. You won’t regret it. (Well you might)
PSEUDO EXISTORS Stamp Out Normality (Dead Good)
The label is Dead Good and so is the record. Four tracks of blistering independence from Lincoln.
Intelligent lyrics, powerful backing and yes, wait for it . . . tunes!
This single incorporates everything that’s good about independent records and you should definitely try and hear it for you own good.
It’s encouraging, exciting and should secure the band the breaks they so obviously deserve. Track it down and you won’t regret it.
“Stamp Out Normality” (DEAD 2) - EP – 4-tracks – 1979 – Picture Sleeve
“Pseudo Existence”/”Coming Up For Air”/”Now”/”Modern Warfare”
“EAST” (GOOD 1) - 2 Tracks on the legendary compilation – 1980
“Stamp Out Normality” - LP – 13-track Vinyl - 2003 on Harbinger Sounds – firstname.lastname@example.org
Harbinger Sound, PO Box 7133, Nottingham, NG5 7WE.
This fantastic LP collates every scrap of recorded Pseudos action & comes complete with insert, badge & repro Stamp Out Normality Poster. Essential.
Also available from Wrench Records:
“Pseudo Existence”/”Coming Up For Air”/”Now”/”Modern Warfare”/”TV Scream”/”Peace ‘n’ Quiet”/”Poison”/”Beyond The Zone”/”I Want To Be Me”/”Wildlife Was A Gas”/”Coming Up For Air”/”Summer Nights”/”Pseudo Existence”
Tracks 1-4 – Original 45 – Recorded at Studio Playground – 25/2/79.
Tracks 5-8 – Recorded at Studio Playground – 30/7/79
Tracks 9-13 – Recorded live at various venues - 1979.
“Stamp Out Normality” will also be available on CD some time in March 2006 thanks to those gear types at Overground Records. This release will also feature bonus un-released live cuts:
The Pseudo Existors also feature on a number of Punk compilations:
“Bloodstains Across the U.K. - Volume 1” - 1996
Machines – “True Life”
Machines – “Everything's Technical”
Machines – “You Better Hear”
Machines – “Evening Radio”
Valves – “For Adolph's Only”
XS Energy – “Use You”
XS Energy – “Imaginary”
Lucy – “Never Never”
Art Attacks – “I am a Dalek’
Klips 1988 – “Ultimatum”
Pseudo Existors – “Pseudo Existence”
Pseudo Existors – “Coming Up For Air”
Pseudo Existors – “Now”
Stiffs – “D.C. Rip”
Blanks – “The Northern Ripper”
Blanks – “Understand”
Blanks – “Break Down”
Rivals – “Future Rights”
Rivals – “Flowers”
“British Underground - Volume 2” - 1993 (Also available on CD)
Pop Rivits – “Fun In the U.K.”
Pseudo Existors – “Poison”
Outsiders – “Vital Hours”
English Subtitles – “Time Tunnel”
Outcasts – “You're A Disease”
Prefects – “Things In General”
Disco Zombies – “Here Comes the Buts”
Product of Reason - “Active Repetition”
Disorder – “Air Raid”
Crisis – “Holocaust”
Crawling Chaos – “Sex Machine”
Llygod Ffyrnig – “N.C.B.”
Desperate Bicycles – “Medium Was Tedium”
Kirk Brandon & the Pack – “Heathen”
Jean Encoule spent a few weeks tracking the former Existors via a very helpful Lincoln Groups website (thanx a bunch, guys) - & subsequently caught up with the Pseudo’s drummer Sid & bass player John to bring you this:
trakMARX - What was the first record you ever bought?
Sid – “Must have been “Jeepster” by T-Rex - and “Ernie, The Fastest Milkman In The West”, by Benny Hill, was about then as well.
John – “Coincidentally . . .”Metal Guru”, by T-Rex. I also have a copy of “Ernie”!
trakMARX - What was soundtrack of your formative years?
Sid – “Me and Paul used to listen to a lot of Led Zep, Bowie and Slade.”
John – “All the T-Rex LPs.”
trakMARX - What/who inspired you to pick up an instrument?
Sid – “Well, drums was the only thing no one played - and I certainly can't sing or have got the balls to front a band. When I joined the Pseudos they said I'd only have to play one drum and that seemed easy............little did I know the pain to come.”
John – “Can’t remember, guitar-wise, but switched to bass thanks to the sound of Jean Jacques Burnell.”
trakMARX - Hand on heart now - did you see Punk coming?
Sid – “Not when you're in the backwater that was Lincoln at that time. Though things did change fairly fast when Neil Woolley started promoting a lot of the early stuff at Lincoln Tec College. He booked The Damned & Adverts for the infamous Drill Hall gig where a load of soul boys lay siege to the
place. The Jam were due two weeks later but the council panicked and pulled it. So it was back to the Tec with Chelsea, Suburban Studs and the like.”
John – “No, not at all.”
trakMARX - What was your personal Punk Rock road to Damascus moment?
Sid – “Discovering that you could get right up the soul boys noses by cutting your hair, wearing straight jeans and a getting few piercings. The odd big badge helped as well.”
John – “They used to play this awful record by a self-indulgent group called Gong in the school common room all the time. A mate called Nick Fountain came in one day, dragged the stylus across the Gong record, threw it across the room frisby stylee – then installed the mighty Damned’s 1st LP & proceeded to defend the turntable from all oncomers. A week later his mum & dad took us to Retford Porterhouse to see The Damned (Jan ’77).”
trakMARX - What "pervious" did you have, prior to the Pseudos?
Sid – “None - I think there was only John who had done anything. The truth was only John and Nick had any idea of what they were doing when we started. It took us six months to get to a standard where we could record the EP. Having said that Nick auditioned for the Banshees when John McKay left, so he certainly had his chops sorted even then.”
John – “Naff cabaret bands, even wore a dicky bow!”
trakMARX - The Pseudo Existors is still a superb moniker 25 years past its sell by date - who's idea was it?
John – “Think it was Sid’s.”
Sid – “This was Nick's idea which took a bit of selling to the rest of us at the time. He saw his normal existence as being totally fake unless he had a guitar in his hand. Seemed to fit the punk ethic when he put it like that.”
trakMARX - How did the Pseudo Existors arrive at the line-up that recorded the 45?
John – “Check with Sid – I was the last to sign up.”
Sid – “Me, Nick and Paul were all at school together. After trying several mates who liked the idea of a band but wouldn't commit to it, John's name kept coming up as someone who could play and had a great record collection. We certainly needed another person who could play - so he was in.”
trakMARX - What was the Lincoln scene like back in the day?
John – “Like everywhere else – initially non-existent.”
Sid – “The one thing punk did was galvanise like minded people into hanging out together. There was also the safety in numbers factor from the hassle we got. As I mentioned, Neil Woolley promoted a lot of stuff in the college and then a local small club saw the success and money that the Retford
Porterhouse was making out of punk and changed from a Motown disco into a full-on punk venue. AJ's was born and put on the Lurkers, early Ultravox, Rich Kids, Slits, Angelic Upstarts etc. So we suddenly had two venues in town, the Porterhouse 30 miles away and Sheffield and Nottingham for the bigger stuff. A group of about fifty of us started hanging out at these places and putting coaches on to travel out of town to gigs. When the Pseudos started gigging they came too, as mates as much as supporters of the band. Which gave us a great platform. Strange thing is the characters who went to see bands at that time still turn up in Rock City when you least expect them which is always a good excuse for a few beers and a bit of banter.”
trakMARX - It must have been fortuitous to have a local record label that was willing to take a risk on the latest 'youth cult'. How did you hook up with Dead Good?
Sid – “We got to the stage where we were ready to play live but didn't have a clue about how to get gigs. We thought we would put up posters anyway advertising the band. We happened to plonk one right opposite Dead Good Records office - we didn't know they existed - it didn't take them long to find out who was behind them. They came to a couple of practices and asked us to go into the studio to make a record. We hadn't even gigged at this stage!”
John – “They turned up at rehearsal & offered to put a record out & pay for everything on the understanding we got no money until they had recovered their costs, which was fair enough. We eventually made £27 each out of the whole venture.”
trakMARX - Who else was on the label?
Sid – “XS Energy, Cigarettes, B Movie later on.”
John – “XS Energy was Martin Patten’s band, the guy who ran Dead Good.”
trakMARX - How often did you play out live back in the day?
Sid – “We used to play as much as possible. Three of us were working and Paul was still in the 6th form, which slowed us down a bit. None of us could drive so we were reliant on lifts for everything. But once the EP started getting played we were getting offers from the most unlikely sources.”
John – “We only did about 12 gigs in the life of the group!”
trakMARX - Did you play any interesting support slots?
Sid – “First name band we supported was Punishment of Luxury. There was also Wayne County and The Electric Chairs, a few dates with the Angelic Upstarts. Biggest disappointment was a support we had booked with The Ruts who pulled out through Malcolm Owens sore throat!! Used to love The Ruts.”
John – “Punilux - & twice with the Upstarts?”
trakMARX - What do you remember about the recording of the EP?
Sid – “Not an awful lot. Remember there was a lot of piss taking because my drumming was so bad which ended up on a tape Andy Stevenson from Dead Good made. It was all done really quick in this small studio near Lincoln. I'm still amazed that they managed to make such a good job of it.”
John – “It was like kids being let loose in a sweet shop, the man on the desk said we were the most amateurish group he had ever worked with. The lunch time session in the pub did not help.”
trakMARX - How did you judge the response to the EP at the time?
Sid – “The local record shop - Sanctuary - got so fed up with people asking to hear the advanced copy of it that they had to play it at a set time each hour, so that was a good sign. Then Dead Good got word that John Peel was going to play it. We were all practicing at Nick's place and made sure we knocked off at ten to start listening. We thought we would have to listen for the whole two hours just in case, but he gave us a mention right at the start. He went on to play all the tracks several times with the exception of Modern Warfare. Then Small Wonder Records kept selling out of copies in their London shop. We ended up at number 6 in the independent chart they compiled.”
John – “Some music papers said it was rubbish – Sounds: “a one way ticket to deletionville – hatefully dumb” (see press quotes above). Others were nicer – Record Mirror: “sums up all that is great about the new wave”.”
trakMARX - The second pressing of the EP lost it's picture sleeve in favour of a stencilled plain white bag. Why?
Sid – “The first pressing sold out and Dead Goods cash-flow was pretty poor as it took so long for the money to come in. They therefore offered to do a repressing with the sleeve or with a label instead of a stamp in the middle - not both. Since they had made such a balls up of the pictures on the original sleeve we went for the label on the record.”
trakMARX - The EP goes for £50 in a pic these days? How does that make you feel?
Sid – “I just think it's great that we were a blackhead on punk's backside and some people still want to squeeze it!!”
John – “The monetary aspect means nothing, just pleased people still want to hear it.”
trakMARX - Where did it all go wrong? And how did the wheels fall off?
Sid – “We made the second recording with the money from the EP fully expecting Dead Good to want to release it since the first had sold so well. First they had to release XS Energy's second single ‘Use You’ - which stiffed big time and lost them a lot of money. Martin Patton pressed the panic button and decided punk was over - refused to do a third pressing of the EP and told us they were not interested in a second release. Who's to say he was wrong as they picked up a recording of Tainted Love by a Leeds duo Soft Cell not too long after this and sold the whole company for a lot of money.
The Pseudo's continued to play but we were too naive and green to realise we could get a release somewhere else despite offers of money to press the EP for a third time ourselves. We headlined a dreadful show at AJ's where we all ended up very pissed and people began to tell each other what they thought. Nick was first to leave. We tried out new guitarists for a while until it became clear that we no longer wanted the same things so that was that. I went back to play with Nick in a new band about six months later, Paul went to university and John started up with one of the guitarists who had auditioned for us.”
John – “As Batty says in Bladerunner, “the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long”. We just ran out of steam.”
trakMARX - Any regrets?
Sid – “None at all.”
John – “None. Just pleased to have been involved in the most important musical movement ever!”
trakMARX - A new wave of interest in the Pseudos has resulted in both the Harbinger Sound LP & a future CD release through John Esplen at Overground. How do you feel about a whole new generation discovering the Pseudos for the first time (&, for that matter, straggling members of our own generation actually being able to get hold of a copy of the record &, possibly, discovering the Pseudos for the first time?)?
Sid – “I'm stunned to think that people still think it stands up, in a genre that I still love, and will shell out for it.”
John – “Totally flattered that anyone would listen to it. Great that young kids want to listen to something decent in the face of the onslaught of rubbish that is the so-called music biz.”
trakMARX - Do you have any plans to play out in support of the CD next year?
Sid – “Never say never.”
John – “Sid fancies it, but I understand Paul does not. I’m too busy looking out for my young kids - but I still try & see as many groups as I can.”
trakMARX - And finally, where's the best place for Pseudos admirers to keep up to date with any impending action?
Sid – “I can be contacted through my current band’s website:
We may put up a dedicated site in the new-year.”
Jean Encoule – tMx 22 – 11/05