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Monophobia

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Street-level UK hip-hop collab...

I first met Steve Pelly at West Herts College, Watford, April 1991.  Ali G didn't exist then, but if he had been around SP could have hired himself out as a double.  However, SP would have had no truck with the gangsta rap subculture of the Staines Massive preferring crusty eco-warrior garb to bling bling.  SP's hobbyhorses are the environment, hypocrisy and privelige, inequality, racism, the vote, mental health, unemployment and many other street level issues.  He has always put his money where his mouth is working on the breadline for charities doing unglamourous jobs that benefit the type of people we don't normally like to think about, the people that slip through the cracks in the grid.
 
Back in 1990 he was rapping with a loud funk rock band called A Space + A Half (with guitarist John Turner) and had a great collection of old-skool hip-hop vinyl and bootleg tapes to fuel his fire.  They recorded their first demo at West Herts College in 1991.  It was good shit and everyone on the HND Design Communications (Media Production) course dutifully trotted along to support them at every gig they played in Watford and London.
 
The band went through 2 major changes of line-up.  I was a faithful fan of the first incarnation (with Dave and Clyde on drums and bass) which lasted for almost two years.  
By the third year (1992-93 with the 2 Kevs - Kevin McCullagh and Kevin T Sheil - on BVs and drums and Stuart the funky acid-casualty on bass) I was involved as a general technician/studio engineer/cameraman.  Dave and Clyde had left college but SP still lived in Watford and John Turner had stayed on to run the Student Union.
The fourth and final sporadic year (1993-94) had become a 6-piece free-for all with a whole bunch of inexplicably motley misfits replacing the drummer and backing vocalist (including a transvestite drummer, a trumpet player and a rhythm guitarist who dressed like Austin Powers and played like Andy f**king Pandy).  John Turner had rejoined the alumni for a third year, SP was STILL living in Watford (rapping about unemployment, exploitative manual labour, sleeplessness and alcohol) and I was promoted to occasional co-songwriter, backing singer and video editor, but it was getting a bit disjointed.  When that fourth college year ended SP was the only one left living in Watford, and A Space + A Half was over.
 
During that final year SP had already recorded a solo session under the name Mr. Dogbite, which showed that SP's lyrics were the real spirit and essence of the old band, although the backing music for the sessions rarely did justice to the subject matter. 
 
In the mid '90s he fronted a thrash metal band called Sonic Jihad.  The band did well, touring Europe in 1996.
 
Earlier this decade he joined a fabulously upbeat, retro (proper London-style) punk rock band called CopCar PileUp who played gigs, punk festivals and animal rights benefits all over the UK, with SP often singing rather than rapping, because the genre suited his singing voice well.  All new material, all very political, but he had also written a lot of "spoken word" material that didn't fit the band's style, which is when our paths crossed again.
 
I had been wanting to work with SP since I heard what a terrible job the engineer had done on his Mr. Dogbite demos back in 1994.  I had already recorded a crappy Space + A Half demo back in 1993 but I knew I could do a lot better, plus I had always loved SP's writing.  Steve had been hoping to put together a collection of punk poetry by different writers, but he didn't know anyone else who was doing punk poetry.  In 2002 we started recording what I perceived to be a new Mr Dogbite album, initially under the altered name Dogbyte but eventually renamed Spaghelli (SP's nickname).  The first few tracks were just poetry with no backing, then basic beats were introduced to subsequent tracks to break the monotony and add some dynamic, then finally we ended up doing fuller productions and having the vocal delivery tailored to the backing music. 
 
We finished the eponymous experimental mini album in 2003 (exactly 10 years after I had recorded the dodgy Space + A Half demo), and in 2004 we started work on some new tracks for a new album.   By this time we had ditched the spoken word concept and were working on the new tracks as integrally musical productions.  We met less frequently during 2005, but did a few more tracks in 2006 and put them together to make Spaghelli's final EP The Calm Before The Storm.  By this time we had attracted the interest of three more musicians: ex-Monophobia members Steve Hearne (guitar) and Dave Bateman (drums), plus Phaser bassist Adam Mycroft on keyboard.  We started rehearsing in the summer of 2006 and by November were calling ourselves Spaghelli and the Dogbytes.  The rest is another story.

Spaghelli - the first album (2003)
The cover of the eponymous first short Spaghelli album, 2003

Spaghelli, Greenford, summer 2002
During the 1st Spaghelli recording sessions, London Greenford, 2002

A Space + A Half, West Herts College, Watford 1994
The earliest Spaghelli/Monophobia collab

Spaghelli, London Brixton, 2004
Spaghelli, London Brixton, 2004

CopCar PileUp at The Windmill, Brixton 2004
CopCar PileUp at The Windmill, London Brixton, summer 2004

Doing shots for the first Spaghelli CD
Shoot for the finished Spaghelli CD, London Nunhead, December 2003

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