Formed during the mid 80’s in St Helens, Rawhide Chomp were born when ex Riotous Hues, Phil Smith and Gaz Capper bumped into pie king Paul Cross and his mate Jamie Flannery. Many a happy hour was spent practicing at the Fringe offices before the Chomp played their first gig. This was supporting The Tractors upstairs in McDonalds.
Many gigs, real and imaginary, followed before this Chomp played it’s final show supporting The La’s at the Monro in Liverpool. After a brief spell of laziness, Rawhide Chomp reformed without Gaz and Jamie. Ex –Dixie Cartoon, Mike McCauley joined as singer and Simon Pratt (Kingston and the Hunters) became drummer for a brief spell. Now 29 years later, the Chomp are reborn.
Their first gig was at the McDonalds restaurant supporting The Tractors on Tuesday 17th June 1986. On Saturday August 16th of that same year they supported Half Man Half Biscuit.
In an interview with the band on October 6th, 2015, the band commented:
Paul Cross from the band said, “Other than pubs there were no places to hang out. A group of us decided to put on gigs bringing together small bands from the area. We’d negotiate with pub landlords to put events on. Sometimes in small rooms, sometimes in the main bars. We‘d stay for a few weeks or months and then move on to the next. Eventually a kind of scene did start to develop. Thinking back how we got away with it was remarkable. The pub regulars thought we’d come from “Outer Space” and we thought we’d come from New York!
“Lots of bands sprung up, mostly guitar based like The Riotous Hues, The Tractors, The Waves, Romulan Cloaking Device and Old Ma Cuxom and ourselves, but there were some other more “synthy” bands like The Tiki Rapids. It’s worth mentioning Benny Profane from Liverpool who were really good and always really supportive of us bands ‘from the sticks’.”
Phil Smith commented ” I always looked on “The Hues” as having really well crafted pop songs. Always catchy but somehow off kilter. Phil and Gaz Capper, (our first Drummer) were both in RH. Jamie Flannery a founding member played in an early incarnation of The Tractors and Mike McCauley who became our singer played in a band called Dixie Cartoon. There was a very open attitude to members of various bands just getting together and coming up with something at least half interesting.. I did something with Andy and Pete from the Tractors, just two lowfi slyly jazzy songs, dead simple but OK. Only performed twice as The Revolutionary Biscuits of Italy. Phil jammed with the Tractors for a few weeks. Just trying things out and mixing things up. It was quite a healthy state of affairs with very little rivalry.”
“Like most bands the line-up fluctuated but the “classic“ was Phil Smith, Guitar, Paul Cross, Guitar, Mike MaCauley, Guitar and vocals, Simon Pratt, Drums and the shaman that was Jaques LeFerve on Bass.
Paul added, “Initially, Jamie and I were working on songs together and we were really lucky when Phil and Gaz were looking for something after the Riotous Hues “split”. We all had similar tastes. We loved making a racket with guitars. None of us could sing and when Mike joined from Dixie Cartoon we felt fairly well set. A band with three guitars. What’s not to like. Mike’s voice has that really natural Northern sound. It’s identical to his speaking voice. Listening now, I love that aspect of the songs.”
“It was an office space for an arts organisation. They’d let bands rehearse for free which was really good. Most local bands passed through the doors and also used Dead Fly for demos.
“Fringe put out a compilation LP out of some of the local bands including The Riotous Hues, so they helped out in that way too. Check out “Elegance, Charm and Deadly Danger” if you want to get a feel for the bands around nearly 30 years ago. Not all “C86 ish“ and a bit variable but a good document of the times.”
The band’s first gig was at McDonalds. Phil commented, “it wasn’t a venue, it was actually upstairs in the McDonalds in St Helens! I have no idea how it was arranged. One of the Tractors probably knew somebody who worked there.
“It went well enough for us to keep going. We played without a bass so we hung it round Ronnies neck. Not sure we were too proficient as a band, but just doing it meant everything in a way. Choosing McDonalds was a bit strange and I’m not sure whose idea it was. Phil and I are vegetarians so I suspect there was a bit of mischief involved. The Tractors were a real conundrum. Chaotic, shambolic, sarcastic, you name it, but great songs and again always supportive of other bands. They’d probably hate me for saying that but it’s true.”
Louise published on 13 December 2012
The band’s final gig was supporting The La’s at the Monro in Liverpool.
Phil continued, “The Monro was a great place. Bands like Echo and the Bunnymen would turn up and play a set of covers or something. It was just a pub with a back room to play in. Ernie Woo the manager would lock the doors and then produce food for everyone. Fantastic place. Gigs would go on through the night. The La’s gig was great. It was rammed but not a massive place. The early La’s music is underrated, much more stripped and urgent. Mike Badger, was leading the band at the time and he has a true Rock “n” Roll aesthetic. We put their first ever gig on at “The Lamb” in St Helens and I guess they helped us out in return.
“I think we went down pretty well. During one long song Gaz the drummer just got up went to the bar and got a drink, then came back. We just kept going. I’m sure there’s a tape of the gig somewhere.
“I went back to The Monro a couple of years ago and it’s now a high end Gastro Pub now. I went in for a pint and got talking to an old boy who remembered it back in the day. Sad really. Something gone from the city’s history.
Old Head published on 1 June 2013
Recorded in 1987 in Dead Fly.
“Benny Profane at TUC in St Helens was a big one for us. Good crowd but you couldn’t hear the vocals. Listening to the tape the tunes stand up surprisingly well if a bit linear. I remember thinking no one can her Mike’s vocals and I had to “sing’ the last track A cover of “She Cracked”. I though “Well your gonna hear this one!” That was a mistake, but Phil’s guitar playing is fantastic on it. I wish there were some photos of the night because this guy, George, a sixties veteran did this amazing visual light show, with projections, oil wheels and strobes. It filled the whole hall which was pretty big. I remember turning my back on the crowd and was gobsmacked to see this 20ft projection of Nico coming in and out of focus with acid colours swamping the image. Fantastic. I often wonder what became of George.
“I think it’s fair to say that gigs in the town went from the sublime to the ridiculous.
“The La’s and Benny Profane were great to play with. We wouldn’t have played with any band we didn’t like or feel some kind of affinity with. We were a bit like that.
“Both Phil and I are quite obsessive with music and bands. From slightly earlier, the whole roster of Postcard bands were hugely influential and our love of Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers always kept us going. The Velvets were a key touchstone for many of us. Some of those songs, so simple, didn’t always sound completely perfect but so beautiful. I’d inherited a love of Scott Walker from my dad from the and there are a couple of lyrical references to the great man.
Paul: We were all aware of many of those bands and we really subscribed to that “E A G Now form a band” ethos from the 70s. I really liked The Pastels, The Loft and the Servants. The June Brides too.
I don’t think we felt part of that wider scene in particular but you can see obvious links. Our combined record collections would make a fairly wide reaching record of the times.
Phil: I have just always been obsessed with guitars- The Stones, The Who, The Clash, Velvets, Postcard records, Zoo and Factory Records, the Smiths. Around the time of Rawhide I was collecting Creation Records-they seemed the perfect label for me, with the 60’s influence . We sent Alan McGee a hand painted tape of these songs but it was obviously filed away in his bin.
Paul: It’s probably underneath the Tractors tape.”
The interview with Paul and Phil continues:
How did the creative process work for you guys?
Paul: Usually, Phil or Myself would come up with a simple chord progression and we’d kick it about. I could come up with a basic tune but often Phil would work out where to go with it. He could come up with complete songs. Initially, I started to write lyrics for the early songs then Mike came in and we’d co write them. It was a real collaborative process and we all got on with it.
Phil: We liked to keep things simple – we had one song called ‘The endless joy of Dm’ which was basically the one chord- Dm all the way through. It was a little influenced by ‘Lonely Street’ by the Loft but I still think it was a great song.
I was reading that the amazing song “Louise” will be released as a lathe cut sometime soon. I definitely want to buy a copy of this! It’s such a fabulous song! So I’m wondering what can you tell me about this upcoming release?
Paul: Yeah it’s basically, that’s the single that’s just gone.. It was cut in Manchester each one in real time from the original C15 tape. John the guy who did it had to sort a few “panning” issues but he didn’t mess with it too much. We’re really pleased with it.
There were only 20 available and it was important to add a few small extras to it, including downloads, sorry! Not sure how people got to know about it. Guess that’s the wonder of the internet today.
Phil and I thought long and hard about doing it. Yeah, just digital would have been easy, but we grew up with the excitement going to Liverpool and buying Zoo, Postcard, Factory and early Creation records amongst a million others.
In the end we came to the conclusion that there had to be a physical release and it had to be a 7”. As they say “Small is Beautiful”
I guess you get the same feeling with Cloudberry Records.
Louise released 31 August 2015
Recorded in 1986 at Dead Fly, St Helens, Merseyside. Physical release soon to be available but very limited. Very Limited Edition 7 inch vinyl SOLD OUT!.
Paul Cross, Phil Smith, Mike MaCauley ,Simon Pratt and J. Lefervre guesting on bass. This was his last recording before his tragic demise in a hot air ballooning tragedy over the French Pyrenees.
And if you don’t mind, as this song is so good, what’s the story behind it?
Paul: It’s just about two people with trust issues trying to talk thing out but it ends quite bitterly, and about having to move on. I was also obsessed with Louise Brooks in my younger years. Still am actually. A great actress in some great films.
The other song to be included on the 7″ will be “Old Head”. I haven’t heard it yet, but I wonder, was it an easy pick? And if there are many other songs you recorded waiting to be released?
Paul: We have quite a few songs but only three recorded in anything like demo form. Most are just played live. I think some of them still stand up though. I’m sure we could do something with them. “Old Head” is one of our earliest finished songs so we wanted to include it. Again I think Mike’s voice and Phil’s guitar stand out.
Old Head 7″ published on 28 September 2015
I think it’s fair to ask, because of how good “Louise” is, how come it didn’t get released in the 80s?
Paul: Neither Phil or I are great at self promotion. We’re quite shy really so getting up on stage was quite a feat. Like most bands we sent tapes off but didn’t really get anywhere. Only “The Tractors” got picked up for a one off release and “Old Ma Cuxom” released a single themselves , I think.
We should have done it ourselves back then, but better late than never.
How was the music press and the fanzine people towards Rawhide Chomp, was there good support?
Paul: People really got behind the local bands. I think they really appreciated what we were trying to do. I don’t remember there ever being a big “Punk” scene in St Helens. So this never had the chance to evolve in to what came next. Most of us had to go to Liverpool or Manchester to see bands we liked, so a group of tyro bands trying to do it locally was viewed as quite exciting. There was a “Buzz” about the town with frequent gigs in small pubs. Stuff that wasn’t “Pub” rock or just covers.
We raised a few eyebrows which is always a good thing. There wasn’t a fanzine culture in town and only “The Tractors” got a piece in the NME. It was a good one though.
So why did you split? And what did you all do after? Were you in bands?
Paul: We all had to hold down jobs and it was quite tough going. Phil and I went on to be teachers and moved away. We’re really not sure where Mike is now. We are desperately trying to find him if only to give him a record. Same for Simon. Gaz became a train driver, A dream come true!
It was in 2008 when I read on Myspace that you were back together. How did all that work out? Are you still planning to play and record new music?
Paul: Phil and I still share songs as we said and hopefully we’ll find a bit of time to finish something off. It’s ok doing the Dropbox thing but we really miss that all in a room bouncing ideas about vibe. We meet up a few times each year to see bands and have a few beers.
Aside from music on what other things do you spend your time on?
Paul: by its nature work takes up a lot of time. Here in Sheffield there are some great artists and musicians so I get to gigs quite frequently.
Having done “Louise“ with Rawhide we’d really like to release some of the other songs. Also we wouldn’t mind releasing other bands as limited editions. See how we go.
And just out of curiosity, if I was a tourist in St. Helens, what’s there to see, eat or do?
Well it’s changed a great deal. Definitely go to a Saints Rugby League match (It’s like a speeded up American Football), Track down a Pimbletts Pie, still the best in the world and take the train to Liverpool for a stroll by the River Mersey. Karl Jung called it “The Pool of Life”.
If you’re really lucky you might catch Tenements playing or Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band.
Old Head released 31 August 2015
Track two of three from 1986, Recorded at Dead Fly, St Helens. Old Head will be available as track 2 of a 7 inch very limited single. Limited Edition 7 inch vinyl SOLD OUT!.
Phil Smith. Paul Cross, Mike Macauley, Simon Pratt.
Limited Edition 7″ Vinyl. Edition of package image package image. Individually Lathe Cut in the North West. Hand stamped and numbered edition. Download cards included. Double sided wrap around sleeve. 2 x badges included and anything else left lying around!
Louise/Old Head released 27 September 2015
Clear Vinyl Limited to 40 (2nd Lathe Cutting). Record/Vinyl. Second Lathe Cut Edition of 40 Clear Vinyl 7″. 33 1/3 rpm. Handmade covers, Handmade Marbled Hand Stamped Labels, Numbered. Each one will be slightly different. With two badges, different from the first edition and copies of Gig Flyerss from 1986 and who knows what else we find. It’s a dusty old vault!
Instead of dragging the original, analogue cassette recording into digital age, we decided to have it cut on a 1940s Presto 75A Lathe. So each one is unique and the Lo-Fi nature captures the true spirit of what we were trying to do. You still get digital download cards.
The 7″ vinyl sold out in a day which is something else the band didn’t expect. The recordings were very much of their time, 4 track, in a cold damp room!
Louise published on 19 August 2015
If G W Pabst had kept the cameras rolling after Pandora’s Box and buried the film in the earth… One of three tracks recorded at Dead Fly In 1986.
Fringe Demos released 1985
1. Girl on a Motorcycle
2. The Endless Joy of Dm
3. Everything’s Fine (early version)
4. Young Oldhead
Elephant Lane released 1985
1. Everything’s Fine
Theme From Gulf Blue released 2009
The Space Between released 2012
Rawhide / 31 Dec, 1985
Riotous Hues singer Dave Evans gets in on the act.
Except where otherwise noted, original recordings, videos, artworks etc. are copyright of their respective songwriters/performers/publishers/artists or whatever is applicable to that particular work with All rights reserved.
All links accessed and working on 7 January 2018.
This article was created, compiled and produced by Barry Grady. 7 January 2018.