History of the Nihilistics (UK)

The Nihilistics (the UK band, not the American) were born in Sheffield in 1987, partly out of the ashes of one of Paul Mills' Media Premonition line-ups. We made no secret of our admiration for Manchester bands - Joy Division and The Fall, but we were also influenced by some of the Sheffield bands at the time (Pulp, Midnight Choir, Dig Vis Drill).

After drummer and keyboard players quit Media Premonition on the eve of a gig, those that were left did a switch around, roped in a new guitarist and formed a new band, called The Atheist Militia.

The line up was:

Nile Manilow (Paul Mills) vocals,
Sex Vicar (Tim Jones) drums,
Mr Pharmacist (Matt Kendall) guitar, and
Phyllis Stein-Geldof (Terry Morgan) bass.

The first gig we did was in December 1986. We wrote seven songs on a Sunday and performed them live the next day at the Hallamshire Hotel on West Street. The songs were made up of repetitive riffs, over which Nile Manilow poured scorn on religion. If one of the songs didn't sound quite right, it was because we were playing two different ones at the same time without any of us realising. The room almost emptied during the first song. One rather large member of the audience sat right in front of the stage, stood up as the second song started, said "you're shit", put two fingers up at us and stomped out. After our performance somebody from the audience got on stage to say a prayer. The band we were playing with turned out to be some kind of Christian rock sad cases. It never got better than that - and the Atheist Militia never did another gig.

After that, in January 1987, we changed our name to the Nihilistics (to rhyme with The Stylistics). Sex Vicar switched from drums to guitar and we recruited Pete Fuck, who spent an inordinate amount of time sitting behind a drum kit, splitting his time between the Nihilistics and his first love - the infamous Fuck City Shitters.

Having Mr Fuck on drums and Sex Vicar on guitar (a left handed Gordon Smith Gypsy II) created a real step change in the quality of our performances and technical ability.

We then started proper practices, gigging and making and trying to sell tapes of our live and rehearsal room performances. One of them, "My heart goes a-flutter" had the following tracklist:

Side 1 - live recording of the band's first real gig, Hallamshire Hotel, 22 March 1987

Nihilistics shithothiphopcraprapscratchtrack
The V.I.L.E.
One way ticket (out of oblivion)
Breathing space

God
Targets
My heart goes a-flutter/Give me precedence


Side 2 - live in the studio March/Feb 1987

Nihilistics shithothiphopcraprapscratchtrack
Breathing space
God
Plea
My heart goes a-flutter
Easter Blues
The V.I.L.E.
Rockin' in the Masons' rehearsal room
Give me precedence


Eventually we had about half an hour's worth of songs, just about as much as any audience would put up with.

We joined Dolebusters, an organisation of unemployed bands, working together to organise gigs and promote live music.

We did a fair few gigs, mostly at the Hallamshire Hotel on West Street, but we did perform at the Leadmill as part of a Dolebusters band night, and at the Maze Bar in the University. We also played a few times at Take 2, out towards Darnall, with the help of Pierre Drezet on the mixing desk. We played in another Dolebusters gig organised in a village called Cefn Mawr,outside Wrexham. This one included a speech by the local Labour MP - who was heckled, and then hounded out by a drunken Phillis, holding up a banner reading "never trust a politician".

Eventually, we started to pick up a few people who would come to see us regularly - and pay for the privilege, including Patrick, who now writes for Sandman Magazine.

One of the best gigs we did was an open air daytime Dolebusters gig in the bandstand on the Moor in Sheffield City Centre. We had a live crucifiction (courtesy of Lou Gilbert of the FCS) and burned a picture of Karl Marx, along with various wooden religious symbols, including a bible taken from the Chrisitian book shop on West Street. Sheffield City Council Health & Safety Committee were not pleased.

One night in August, performing as the Nihilistics Cabaret Showband (because some band members were away on holiday), we played a set comprising our favourite cover versions, ranging from "Cum on Feel the Noize" to the Poison Girls' "State Control and Rock and Roll are Run by Clever Men", Pulp's "Dogs are Everywhere" and one song that became one of our regular crowd pleasers - "What a Wonderful World". Years later, that gig made it into a list of the best gigs in Sheffield, which is what prompted us start discussing getting together again - for one last gig, and another, and another, and another.

Unfortunately, we didn't split up due to musical differences. We finally called it a day when both Mr Pharmacist and Sex Vicar went their separate ways to pursue careers as teachers.

Finally, we put out a last tape - Nihilism Works, which included a short gigography, tapeography and histography of the band.

The tracklist was:

Side 1

One way ticket

Fate has finished
Breathing space
The V.I.L.E
Flatlands
Notanothernihilieboysclassic
Spaced cowboy
It's always the same
It's over forever

Side 2

Blonds in the sun
Pure, honest people
Too nice people
Some things'll never mend
Targets
A reason for living
My heart goes a-flutter
Give me precedence

Jump forward 19 years to 13 September 2006. Upstairs at The Grapes. 50 or so people witnessed the reunion gig. The set list was:

The V.I.L.E.
One way ticket (out of oblivion)
Blonds in the sun
Targets (featuring drum solo by Mr Pete Fuck)
God
It's over forever
Breathing space
What a wonderful world

Fate has finished
My heart goes a flutter
Give me precedence

The encore numbers were cover versions by of songs by Joy Division and The Fall::

New Dawn Fades (featuring guest guitar by Mr Pierre Drezet - the 6th Nihilistic), and
Slates

The gig was reviewed in the November 2006 issue of Sandman Magazine (click here).

Was this to be the end of the Nihilistics? - No!

We played a short set at the Redhouse on 4 November in a birthday tribute to Ernest Cowan RIP with a load of other bands.

We played what was meant to be our last ever gig at a benefit gig for Rare and Racy book and record shop on 17 November 2006, at the George IV with a whole load of other bands.

Was this to be the end of the Nihilistics? - No!

The following year, on 20 October we played a 20th anniversary reunion gig, in front of about ten people, again at the Grapes, and again with the help and support of Dog Canute. With less people watching us than were left watching us by the end of the original Atheist Militia gig, it really looked like this was to be the end of the Nihilistics.

Was this then to be the end of the Nihilistics? - No!

The Nihilistics played a 25th anniversary reunion on 20 September 2012, at Mentholmans, West Street, Sheffield, with The Weird and the Wonderful, Techno Ken and Tarana and Third Gold Bird.

Then, more than 27 years after the songs were first performed, the Nihilistics released their first studio album, Shred the Evidence, on Bandcamp as a free download.

Tracklist:

One Way Ticket (Out of Oblivion)
The V.I.L.E.
Breathing Space
Fate Has Finished
Price of Life
My Heart Goes a Flutter/Give Me Precedence
Targets

Was this then to be the end of the Nihilistics? - No!

Plans are being put in place for a 30th anniversary reunion tour.

We will be playing on 6 October at The Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield.

 

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