Ian Paul Lowery was born in 19XX in Hartlepool.
He formed and fronted many bands during a long and prolific musical career, gaining critical acclaim both within and outside the industry. Many claim that his music deserved and still does deserve a wider audience.
A reputation for his snarling style and bluntly putting forward his satirical lyrics on issues that interested him, gained him a loyal following throughout his career.
Ian Lowery’s career in music began at Sunderland Polytechnic Art Foundation course in 1978. Ian formed and put together his first band; The Prefabs.
They played at many of the live venues in Sunderland including the Old 29 and Lees Club together with gigs in local pubs and Working Men’s Clubs.
Their set list included many songs that Ian would take with later when he formed The Wall, including ‘ Another New Day’ which featured on The Wall’s third single plus ‘Uniforms’ and ‘Manchuria’
In late 1978 after the demise of the Prefabs Ian formed The Wall with some more friends from Art College; John ‘Joe’ Hammond (lead guitar) Andy Griffiths (bass) and Bruce Archibald (drums).
Three tracks were recorded at a studio in Newcastle –upon-Tyne and sent to London based Small Wonder. Lowery was inspired by Small Wonders roster of bands including The Cure, Bauhaus, Angelic Upstarts, Crass, etc. a record deal quickly followed and 7” EP was released of the three tracks; 'New Way', 'Suckers' and 'Uniforms'. The single sold well (over 10,000 copies) and was featured on John Peel’s radio show. This connection with Peel would continue with two more of Lowery’s bands.
The Wall toured with Teardrop Explodes and Patrick Fritzgerald and a publishing deal was signed in August 1979 with Small Wonder for the second single ‘Kiss the Mirror’/’Exchange’. This was produced by Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. Shortly after its release and following a dispute about personnel changes Lowery was unceremoniously kicked out of the band he formed and fronted.
Never one to be thwarted by minor set-backs Lowery quickly formed a brand new band with a new approach. Ian contacted a guitarist friend from his days at Art College, Nick Clift, who like Ian had re-located to London. They decided to work together and Ski Patrol was formed (named after a John Cale track that had caught Ian’s eye!). The line-up was completed with Pete Balmer (ex-The Prefabs) on bass and Bruce Archibald (ex-the Wall) on drums.
In December, 1979 two songs were recorded and released in early 1980 as Ski Patrol’s first single ‘Everything is Temporary.’ Bruce moved on and was replaced by Londoner Alan Cole and later in 1980 Ski Patrol’s biggest single success 'Agent Orange' was released. The band had come to the attention of Brian Taylor an owner of Malicious Damage (Killing Joke’s label).
In January, 1981 Ski Patrol did a session for John Peel’s radio show which included the epic 'Where the Buffalo Roam' (later re-worked with Ian’s future band; Folk Devils). March 1981 saw them record their third single, now with Francis Cook on bass; 'Cut' / 'Faith in Transition'. A month later another recording session produced three classic tracks 'Extinguish', 'A Version of Life' and 'Concrete Eternal'. The latter of these being a highly rated track, that was only released in 2014 on the Ski Patrol compilation album ‘Versions of a Life’.
In early 1982 following a final bust-up between Lowery and Clift Ski Patrol ceased trading. In December that year a fourth and final single was released ‘Bright Shiny Things’/ ‘Electric Bell Girls’ which featured only Lowery and Clift plus saxophonist Matt Fox- and viewed by all parties as “unexceptional”.
In true Lowery style following the folding of yet another band Ian immediately set about forming a new experimental jazzy based group; F for Fake. Named after the HG Wells film it was a form of musical collective based in a squat in Talgarth Road.
Lowery recruited Francis Cook (ex-Ski Patrol, bass player) two guitarists Louis Sasportas and Adam? plus Matt Fox (ex-Ski Patrol saxophonist) and Tim? (drummer).
They rehearsed a lot did one gig and made a demo of four tracks ‘Spook,’ ‘It,’ ‘This Night’ & ‘Attraction’ and then folded.
Never daunted by the break-up of a band Lowery then enlisted the help of his old friend from The Wall; Joe Hammond( guitar) and together with another friend Dave Cringle on drums and a bass player (?) Phantom white Limb was born.
In May, 1982 they recorded 4 tracks ‘Albino,’ ‘Art Ghetto,’ ‘Ink Runs Dry’ and ‘Uncondition Myself’ (Lowery used the first three tracks again when he formed Folk Devils).Malicious Damage Artwork virtuoso, Mike Coles, had designed a cover for the EP that would feature these four tracks but MD imploded before they could be released.
Lowery now retreated to lick his wounds and recuperate from the pressure of constant band break-ups and starting over again. Working on the M25 motorway construction and living in caravan in Chersey he decided to re-assess his options.
In late 1983 Ian met guitarist Kris Jozajtis via the Ladbrooke Grove squat scene and approached him to join Lowery’s new venture; Folk Devils. Ian had heard of Stanley Cohen’s classic book “Folk Devils and Moral Panics” and decided on the name before he even had a band.
Lowery wanted to produce music that was ‘a cross between Country Blues and Einstuzende Neubaten.’ Kris and Ian shared an interest in the Berlin Music scene and the swamp blues of Gun Club and Birthday Party. Alan Coles (ex- Ski Patrol) was recruited as drummer and a friend of Kris- Mark Whiteley a brilliant fresh –faced bass player. Folk Devils were born –all determined on a new direction for music.
Ray Gange (of Clash Rude Boy fame) heard the band rehearsing and Folk Devils now had a manager. In early 1984 they recorded their first single - the classic ‘Hank Turns Blue’/ ‘Chewing the Flesh.’ It was released on Ray’s own label (Ganges) in March 1984 and within weeks was high in the Indie charts and being played, once again, on John Peels radio show. This was quickly followed by the first Folk Devil’s session on John Peel’s radio show. The producer was a certain Mark Radcliffe, who, now as a BBC6 Music presenter, still remembers the session.
In August their second single; a 12” version ‘Beautiful Monster’/ ‘Nice people’/ ‘Brian Jones Bastard Son’/’Art Ghetto’ was released and by September was No.3 in the indie charts and, of course, a further Peel session followed. The Devil’s performances earned them a reputation as one of the most explosive live acts in Europe and led to them sharing (and sometimes upstaging) the bill with Nick Cave, The Fall, Sisters of Mercy, Gun Club and Screaming Blue Messiahs.
In July 1985, now managed by Nick Jones, they released a third single/EP on Nick’s record label Karbon - the exceptional ‘Fire & Chrome’ 4 brilliant tracks-‘English Disease’/’Where the Buffalo Roam’/’Wail’/ ‘’Evil Eye’. The release followed a third Peel session.
By early 1986 things were starting to fall apart, inevitably disappointed after two years hard work and glowing reviews, Folk Devils still had no tangible signs of success. After a final Dutch tour in March Lowery saw another of his creations fall apart.
He decided, this time, to keep the name Folk Devils and start again! A new band was put together, Ian and Whiteley joined forces with Nick Clift (ex-Ski Patrol) and a new drummer, John Hamilton. The line-up changed again with Robert Mune now on bass, and Saul Taylor on saxophone (Lowery again exploring his sonic landscape).
In early 1987 this new incarnation attracted the attention of Beggars Banquet independent label; Situation Two to sign Lowery (aka Folk Devils). They were soon in the recording studio and in July 1987 a 12” single was released ‘The Best Protection’/’Your Mistake’/’Third Stroke.’ It was not a memorable record and not particularly successful.
In October a final recording session took place laying down five tracks ‘Goodnight Irony’/ ‘At night the Goats howl upside down’/ ‘Nothing but Grief’/ ‘Unconvincing Tragedy’/ Bulletproof Crucifix’/ ‘Mouthoff’. Nothing was released and the tracks would be re-worked and released through Lowery’s next band; King Blank. Folk Devils Mk2 ended. Ironically, at the same time Situation Two released ‘Goodnight Irony’ a brilliant retrospective album of all Folk Devils Mk1 classics.
Lowery now had a major recording contract but no band! He was essentially operating as a solo artist but working in collaboration with other musicians, he called this new project; King Blank.
The first fruit of this form of collaboration was in May, 1988 with Bill Carter of the Screaming Blue Messiahs (a band the Folk Devils had supported).The result was a 7”/12” single ‘Mouthoff’ recorded with the Messiahs and which made crucial inroads into the US imports and College Radio circuit.
This success paved the way for King Blank’s first album ’The Real Dirt’ recorded with a bunch of hand-picked musicians and released in July 1988. Ian had linked up with musician, Nigel Pulsford (later of Bush fame), who Ian had seen perform and who knew Ian knew from interviewing Folk Devils back in 1984. Kris Jozajtis (ex-Folk Devils) guitarist joined forces with Lowery once again together with Hugh Garrety on bass, and Kevin Rooney on drums (both former bandmate of Nigel’s from The Charms)
The album was well received by the critics and established Lowery in the UK, European and USA markets. Two excellent singles were culled from the album ‘Blind Box’ & ‘Uptight’ released later that year. Beggars Banquet were pleased with Lowery’s work and commissioned a promotional video of ‘Uptight’ directed by Viv Albertine(ex-The Slits); who was then into freelance directing
After the success of ‘Uptight’ and after numerous live gigs in August 1989 King Blank morphed into The Ian Lowery Group. A 12”single ‘Need’/ ‘Sailor on Horse’/ ‘13th Floor’ was released together with a further promotional video.
In September came the classic word play album title;’ King Blank to: The Ian Lowery Group’. Kris, along with Kevin Rooney, had departed and been replaced with Joe Hammond (ex-The Wall, Phantom White Limb) on guitar and Alan Burgess (drums).
Once again this new album was well received by music critics in the UK, Europe and USA. In January, 1990 the band did a short tour of Holland and in February Lowery, together with Nigel Pulsford, undertook a promotional tour of the USA. Playing in clubs, radio stations, TV Networks together with the RCA Boardroom and the Record Canteen at CBGB’s etc.
Unfortunately, despite widespread critical acclaim of music journalists and excellent live performances the general public did not buy into Lowery’s work. In April, 1990 Beggars Banquet finally had to call it a day and did not re-new Lowery’s contract.
Once again, having to rise from the ashes, Lowery continued with grim determination. In early May, 1990 Ian attended the wedding of one of his friends in Holland and on his return went from Customs straight to the recording studio again with Hugh Garrety (ex-King Bank, Ian Lowery Group) on bass. The sessions took place in Kick studios in Soho Square and Ian and Hugh were joined by the musicians in Kick; Rick Mulhall, Terry Neale and Ian Nicholls.
5 tracks were recorded and a further 6 tracks at the end of May. In November everyone reconvened to record 5 more tracks, they were joined by Joe Hammond (guitar).The bulk of these tracks formed the basis for ‘Get out the sun’ and ‘Ironic’
The restless Lowery returned to the recording studio once again in March 1991 to re-record 4 of the tracks recorded in 1990. Ian, Joe & Hugh were joined by a new drummer, Charlie Gurney. The result of this session was Ian’s final vinyl single; ‘Time is Gone’/ ‘Sucker Punch’ on his friend Aron Hegarty’s Zen Vinyl label, released in early 1992.
In February, 1992 Lowery, looking for new inspiration re-located from London to Edinburgh. This break from London seemed to produce one of Lowery’s most innovative and creative periods for music production and poetry. He quickly teamed up with some local musicians and the band Drug of Choice was formed. Initially with Douglas Wilmot on guitar & bass he was back recording 3 new tracks and experimenting with a new soundscape.
In August 1992 with Douglas and Robert Hancock (bass), Karl Buckley (drums) he re-recorded his previous epic work ‘Agent Orange’.
By early 1993 Lowery was once again recording, now in Edinburgh’s Pier House Studios. This was an album of 9 new songs; titled ‘Cooler’. Drug of Choice was still Lowery & Wilmot but with Gordon Yeoman (bass). The album was released in September 1993 and received glowing reviews in Europe.
While recording and producing Drug of Choice, Lowery also found time to record and produce EP’s two other bands; Dundee based Yellow Car and Brained. Although he was living in Edinburgh Lowery continued to keep in touch and visit his friends in London. He managed, on these visits, to write and record in Kick Studios with Rick, Terry and Ian.
Between May, 1992 and April 1993 they laid down 5 brand new tracks, one of which would be used by Kick as the soundtrack to a mini-movie.
In conjunction with all this recording and producing Ian also continued with his poetry. Rebel Inc., the iconic Scots counter culture magazine that published works, by Irvine Walsh (before he was famous) and also featured work by Ian’s favourite; Alexander Trocchi. In September, 1993 the magazine had scheduled to publish some of Ian’s poetry in Issue 5 but the magazine folded before publication.
Once again, before full fruition of his work, fate intervened an urgent family crisis in early 1994 meant Lowery had to return to his native North-East. The Drug of Choice project had to be abandoned.
It was inevitable that Lowery would return to his spiritual home, London. Once he had re-established himself he wasted no time in putting together another band. Operating under the name ‘Blacklist’ it consisted of Ian (guitar/vocals), Hugh (ex-Ian Lowery Group) and Charlie Gurney (drums).In July, 1995 they recorded 3 tracks and played numerous live venues.
By May, 1996, now renamed ‘Memory Zero’ Ian & Co. were back in the recording studios laying down three more tracks and still playing live venues (Crypt, etc.).
By 1998 Lowery had decided on another change of direction. Himself on acoustic guitar and two female violinists; Anne-Marie and Gwen. This new configuration was known as SquareJohn. In August, 1998 Lowery was back at Kick Studios recording 4 new songs with SquareJohn plus Rick and Terry. Lowery plus violinists also recorded a further 3 tracks at Ian’s good friend Nigel’s (ex- Ian Lowery Group, Bush) studio. SquareJohn played numerous live venues throughout 1998 such as Acoustic Café, Central Bar and world famous 12 Bar Club.
By 2001 Lowery returned to his roots and formed yet another band, this one with a typical Lowery slant on it; SlumRich; with Ian were Jim Ledbetter (drums), Nicky Green (guitar) and Joe Griephan (bass). On Friday, 13th July, 2001 they were rehearsing at Bush Recording studios the next day Ian Lowery died.