– Gene – In concert at Newcastle Riverside – Oct.29, 1998 – BBC Radio 1 in Concert –
Heading into the 90s with a set (very short 3-song set) by Gene, a band who were very popular in the 90s – swore up and down they were Alternative, but had a fanbase which insisted they were Brit-Pop.
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, 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 fueled their early success where they mixed with the Camberwell scene mingling with members of 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 vocal style.
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.
Featuring strongly in both critics and readers end of year polls, Gene were the recipients of the inaugural NME Brat Award for ‘Best New Act’, and as such played at the sold out Brat Award ceremony at the London Astoria. They adorned the covers of both the NME and Melody Maker, who voted them their ‘Brightest Hope’ for 1995. Their fourth single, ‘Haunted By You’, became the band’s second Top 40 hit (reaching number 32), whilst their debut LP Olympian reached number 8 in the album chart following a plethora of excellent reviews. The album also gained Gene their first silver disc, recording sales of over 70,000 in the UK alone, and when the final single from the album was released (“Olympian”), it went into the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart.
This concert comes from their 1998 period, which was a fallow year for the band, used for writing new material as well as a few low-key shows and events such as Radio 1’s Sound City. In fact, the most newsworthy article about Gene during this year was of Martin Rossiter’s ‘drastic’ change in image. Gone were the suit jackets with white shirts and the floppy side-parted hair, in favour of the mod-like Fred Perry polo shirts, jeans and a very short haircut. The new look was to be reflective of the band’s rockier forthcoming studio LP, Revelations. On their return from relative wilderness, it appeared that Gene had lost a lot of their prestige during their year out of the limelight, and were no longer the golden boys of the indie scene. First off the LP, released in February 1999, was a Jam-like political single called ‘As Good As it Gets’, which entered the charts at number 23 to lukewarm reviews. Revelations was released that March to very mixed reviews; the NME awarded it 5/10, concluding that the album was “pretty thin on the ground”.
Despite further successful live shows in subsequent years including a set at the Morrissey curated Royal Festival Hall Meltdown Festival in June 2004, Gene opted for an amicable split later that year. Gene’s last live performance was played on 16 December 2004 at the London Astoria.
In case you missed them the first time around, or are just discovering them now, crank it up and relax.