Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Empti Fish.....possibly the most under-rated garage band to have come out of England !

I spent some of the happiest times of my teenage years following these guys, they were the real deal, never taking themselves seriously, unpretentious and extremely good fun....they really did practice in a garage too!
From Portsmouth (Pompey), Hampshire in the UK, they formed in 1983 with their first 'real' gig supporting Goth band 'The Skeletal Family' in Nov 83. The line-up was George (Hart) Wipeout vocals and rhythm guitar, Ian (Parmiter) Sonic lead guitar, Ricky (Hayes) Sonic on bass and Damien (O'Malley) O'Delic on drums.

Ricky (R.I.P.), Ian, George and Damien circa late '83

Taking their cue from The Sonics, Bo Diddley, Link Wray, Hamburg Era Beatles, The Trashmen, Surf and The Cramps, who were a major influence on Ian in particular as he was a serious Crampophile, they wrote all of their own material with very few covers even in practice sessions. Unfortunately due to the quasi exclusive nature of the Garage punk, Trash scene in the UK at the time which was very, very London centric and the guys not having the slightest interest in relocating, finding a label to release their material wasn't the easiest so they simply released a couple of 7"s themselves, both of which are seriously worthwhile tracking down. The first was a 4 track EP called 'The Branksmere Sessions' with the archetypal, garage band pose on the cover. (You can find the individual tracks on Youtube).

The first release from Empti Fish.
Both Ian and Ricky favoured Hofner guitars, Ricky using an original 60's violin bass and Ian partnered his selected model (He has a collection) with what seemed at the time, a very beat up WEM copycat tape echo unit. This gave them a seriously unique sound which very few bands were capturing at the time. Their second release was 'I Want That Girl' a 3 track single.

A fish eye lens no doubt.

In the summer of '84 Empti Fish did something extraordinary, rather than get some of the more attractive female followers to form a troop of 'Go Go' dancers, they got several of the ugliest guys (including George's brother Tim) to form the 'Shakin' Sharks'. The core of this dance troupe were Perry (Goble), Tim (Hart), Sean 'Foxy' (Fox) and Wayne (Godley) although it was subject to spur of the moment changes (I even had the honour several times of standing in for my flatmate of the time, Wayne, when he was otherwise disposed). Bizarrely enough they were so well received that they eventually went on to gig as a name in their own right !

The Shakin' Sharks. L-R. Foxy, Tim, Perry, Wayne

Things got a bit skewed for the lads late '85 when they received some adverse attention in both the local and national press due to a bit of fighting (Oh, and a shark being dumped in a city centre fountain), rarely at home venues it must be said and in the main unprovoked (ahem), Empti Fish had a strong local following which crossed all genres (Punks, rockabillies and soccer fans alike) often travelling to away gigs with several coachloads of friends and fans. Unfortunately, after police had been called to various venues in the south of England the guys were on their radar which led initially, to a local ban and eventually to a wider reaching regional ban. Instigated (by all accounts) by local councillor (and alleged perve) Mike Hancock leading to the subject being debated in the houses of parliament. Stifled from not being able to play anywhere the group fizzled out and eventually called it a day late '86 early '87......They did however reform for a good few gigs in the mid and late '00's.

L-R. Ricky, Ian, Tim (George's brother) and George in the studio.
There are a good few live tapes out there, as well as at least enough unreleased studio material for an album or two, their two singles and a couple of comp appearances and a pro video from '85.....dig them up, you'll enjoy them without a doubt.            

1 comment:

  1. Interesting stuff there Darren.Im from Reading,Berks.I was well in to the Rockerbilly,coffin nails,KingKurt stuff.Me & my mates used to do to the Paradise club in Reading.Thats when I saw the Emptie fish,along with the coffin nails & I think the Long tall Texans. We saw them last at the Klub Foot..well what can I say !! They were (are) brilliant & just unique.Beige chinos,roll necks...leather jackets...slick back hair,dark glasses...ohh & some dangerous dancing...what more could you want...Cheers,,Steve,Devon England.