Gene – In Concert from London Astoria – November 13, 1996 – BBC Radio 1 –
Gene in concert – recoded live at The London Astoria by BBC Radio 1 on November 13, 1996.
Gene formed in 1993, they were popularly labelled as a Britpop band and often drew comparisons to the Smiths because of their Morrissey-esque lead singer, Martin Rossiter. Gene’s music was influenced by the Jam, the Smiths, the Style Council and the Clash.
Gene’s origins lie in a previous band which was first called The Go Hole, named after a fictional “Beat” club in John Clellon Holmes’ novel Go, and later renamed Sp!n when they became a four-piece. The band was formed by Lee Clark (vocals/guitar) and Daz Walton (bass). Soon afterwards, Matt James joined on drums with John Mason on bass. Their first single, recorded in the same studios as The Ruts’ “In a Rut”, appeared on their own Big Pop Records label. A John Peel session fuelled their early success, where they mixed with the Camberwell scene, mingling with members of The House of Love, My White Bedroom and Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Self-managed, apart from a couple of brushes with mini music moguls (in their own minds), John Mason would organise and negotiate much of the group’s gigs, contracts and press especially later when they were a four-piece. After 18 months Clark, Mason and James invited John’s brother Steve Mason to play lead/rhythm guitar and thereby free Clark to focus on vocals.
Two singles, “Scratches (In the Sand)” and “Let’s Pretend” were released in 1990 and 1991 respectively as an album had been recorded with Stephen Street as producer. Then, Sp!n were involved in a road accident. John Mason suffered a serious head injury and an 11-day coma. The day prior to the accident, Clark had offered his resignation in a letter to the rest of the band, due to his dissatisfaction with the way the band and its record label, Foundation, were guiding its course. A further EP, titled Hot Blood, was released in late 1991 and the album, titled In Motion, also came out. With headlines of road crashes and injuries, the public perception of a vibrant new band was hard to maintain. Change again was thrust upon them.
John Mason, disappointed with the music business and his ideals of The Clash, Crass and independence overlooked for the limited vision of those caught up in legal wrangling, went on to become a writer. Clark briefly recorded demos with Andrew “Snake” Newton, who had been the live sound engineer for Spin, than gave up music to become a primary school teacher. Clark felt he was getting a bit old to be a rock star and decided to play and record only in his own bedroom and indeed returned to this after a hiatus of about ten years.
Wanting to continue together in a band, Steve Mason and James recruited bass player Kevin Miles, who had a long association with the band. After seeing Watford-based Welshman Martin Rossiter cross the floor of a club, Mason approached him and they began to talk. Their meeting ended with Rossiter handing out his business card (“Martin Rossiter: Soothsayer to the Stars”) and Mason asking Rossiter if he would like to audition with the band. Rossiter appeared on Spin’s last demos as “Martin T. Falls” (a nod to the Mancunian band The Fall) shortly before the decision was made to adopt the name Gene.
As a reminder, here is Gene performing live at The London Astoria on November 13, 1996 via BBC Radio 1’s In Concert series.