Ian Paul Lowery was born on March 27, 1956 in Hartlepool in the North-East of England.
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 is still deserving of a much wider audience.
A well-honed gutter poet since the early days of punk, Ian developed an idiosyncratic style, fusing a natural gift for sly wordplay and a well-turned snarky phrase with his often vitriolic and poignant lyrics channeled through an explosive onstage persona. All of which gained him a loyal following throughout his musical life.
Ian Lowery's career in music began at a Sunderland Polytechnic Art Foundation course in 1978. Ian formed and put together his first band; The Prefabs.Ian on guitar and vocals,Peter Balmer-bass/vocals,Gordon Craig-guitar and Alan Henderson-drums
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 consisted of many songs written and composed by Ian that he then later re-worked 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 revered London indie label Small Wonder. Lowery was inspired by Small Wonder's roster of bands including The Cure, Bauhaus, Angelic Upstarts, Crass, etc. A record deal quickly followed and a 7" EP was released featuring three tracks; 'New Way', 'Suckers' and 'Uniforms'. The single sold over 10,000 copies, and regularly featured on John Peel's radio show. Peel continued to feature two more of Lowery's future bands.
The Wall toured with Teardrop Explodes and Patrick Fitzgerald and a publishing deal was signed in August 1979 with Small Wonder for the second single 'Kiss the Mirror'/'Exchange'. This had the distinction of being 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 had formed and fronted.
A variation of The Wall continues to this day, and they still perform many of Ian's songs in their present set list such as 'Ghetto', 'Another New Day', Exchange' and 'New Way'.
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, named after a John Cale track that had caught Lowery's eye, Ski Patrol was formed. 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 then self-released in early 1980 as Ski Patrol's first single 'Everything is Temporary'. Bruce soon moved on and was replaced by Alan Cole. The band had come to the attention of Brian Taylor, a co-founder of Malicious Damage, which was Killing Joke's label and management company. Malicious Damage funded their next releases, and later in 1980 Ski Patrol's biggest single success, 'Agent Orange' was released.
In January 1981, Ski Patrol recorded a session for John Peel's radio show which included the epic 'Where the Buffalo Roam' - which was 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'. These three songs never saw a commercial release until 2014, when Clift released all the material in remastered form on the retrospective Ski Patrol album 'Versions Of A Life'.
Despite the band having officially quit in late 1981, a fourth and final single was released in 1982 - 'Bright Shiny Things'/ 'Electric Bell Girls', which featured only Lowery and Clift plus saxophonist Matt Fox
In true Lowery style following the folding of yet another band, he immediately set about forming a new experimental jazzy based group in late 1981; F for Fake. Named after the Orson Welles 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 Walmsley (drummer).
After much rehearsal, F for Fake only managed one gig and made a demo of four tracks 'Spook,' 'It,' 'This Night' & 'Attraction' before folding.
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 Nick Clift (this time on bass), Louis on guitar and another friend Dave Cringle on drums, 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 later formed Folk Devils. Malicious Damage artwork virtuoso Mike Coles had designed a cover for the EP that would feature these four tracks but the label imploded before anything could be released.
Lowery retreated to lick his wounds and recuperate from the pressure of multiple band break-ups and the constant starting over. Working on the M25 motorway construction and living in a caravan in Chertsey, he decided to re-assess his options. In late 1983 he met guitarist Kris Jozajtis via the Ladbroke Grove squat scene and the pair shared an interest in the Berlin Music scene and the swamp blues of The Gun Club and The Birthday Party.
Jozajtis was swiftly approached to join Lowery in a 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 wished to produce music that was 'a cross between Country Blues and Einstürzende Neubauten'. Alan Cole (ex- Ski Patrol) was recruited as drummer and a friend of Kris; a brilliant fresh-faced bass player named Mark Whiteley, completed the line-up. Folk Devils were born – all determined on a new direction for music.
Ray Gange, of Clash/Rude Boy fame, heard the band rehearsing in the basement of his South London squat, and in no time Folk Devils 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 once again aired on John Peel's radio show. This was quickly followed by the first Folk Devils session for the great man. The producer was a certain Mark Radcliffe, who now as a BBC6 Music presenter, still remembers the session fondly.
In the August their second single; a 12" EP 'Beautiful Monster'/'Nice People'/'Brian Jones Bastard Son'/'Art Ghetto' was released and by September was No.3 in the UK indie charts and, of course, a further Peel session followed. This single, together with all their subsequent releases, was produced by the legendary, Richard Mazda. The Devils' performances earned them a reputation as one of the most explosive live acts in Europe and led to them sharing bills with the likes of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Fall, Sisters of Mercy, The Gun Club and Screaming Blue Messiahs.
In July 1985, now managed by Nick Jones, their third release appeared, an EP on Nick's record label Karbon - the exceptional 'Fire & Chrome' containing four brilliant tracks - 'English Disease'/'Where the Buffalo Roam'/'Wail'/'Evil Eye'. A third Peel session was also recorded.
By early 1986 things were starting to disintegrate. After two years of 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 in early 1987 with Robert Mune now on bass, and Saul Taylor on saxophone (Lowery again exploring his sonic landscape).
This new incarnation attracted the attention of Beggars Banquet, who agreed to sign Lowery(also known as Folk Devils), to their Situation 2 label. They were soon in the recording studio and in July 1987 a 12" single was released 'The Best Protection'/'Your Mistake'/'The Third Stroke'. It was, again, well produced by Richard Mazda, who had worked on their previous EPs, but despite some press and radio exposure, it was not particularly successful.
In October a final recording session took place, comprising six tracks 'Goodnight Irony'/'At Night The Goats Howl Upside Down'/'Nothing But Grief'/'An Unconvincing Tragedy'/'Bulletproof Crucifix'/'Mouth Off'. Nothing was ever released, but some of the tracks would be re-worked and released through Lowery's next band; King Blank. Folk Devils Mk2 ended. The 'Goodnight Irony' title came in handy when that year Situation 2 also released a brilliant retrospective album of all the Folk Devils Mk1 classics, later to re-emerge in 2016 in digitally remastered form as the anthology 'Beautiful Monsters-Singles and Demo Recordings 1984-86'This release resulted in the remaining Folk Devils reuniting as Folk Devils Mk3 and playing to rave reviews-a wonderful legacy to Lowery.
Also available 'The Best Protection and the BBC sessions'
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 fruits from this collaboration came in May 1988 with Bill Carter of the Screaming Blue Messiahs -interestingly, a band the Folk Devils had supported. The result was a 7"/12" single called 'Mouth Off' which was recorded with the Messiahs and 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 hand-picked musicians and released in July 1988. Ian had linked up with 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) joined forces with Lowery once again as second guitarist together with Hugh Garrety on bass and Kevin Rooney on drums (both former bandmates 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). Lowery as King Blank appeared on an early edition of the iconic BBC music show SNUB TV playing a superb live rendition of 'The Real Dirt'. In June 2018,following the upsurge of interest in Lowery's work, Beggars Banquet re-issued a complete compilation of King Blank; 'The Real Dirt Album plus Singles A & B sides'.
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 wordplay 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. They performed at clubs, radio stations, TV Networks, the RCA Boardroom and the Record Canteen at CBGB's and others.
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 renew 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 four 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. The name came from a book Ian had read about Democracy. Initially with Douglas Wilmot on guitar and bass and Lowery on vocals/guitar - 3 brand new tracks were recorded as Lowery continued 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 entitled 'Cooler'(named after a character in Graham Greene's 'The Third Man') . 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.'Cooler' would be the last album Ian Lowery would record and release.
While recording and producing Drug of Choice, Lowery also found time to record and produce EP's for 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; 'After Celia' starring Derek Fowlds( ex- Yes Minister, Heartbeat)
In conjunction with all this recording and producing Ian also continued with his poetry. Rebel Inc., the iconic Scots counter culture magazine, that had published works by Irvine Welsh among others, had scheduled to publish some of Lowery's poetry in Issue 5 but the magazine folded before publication.
Once again, before full fruition of his work, fate intervened in the form of an urgent family crisis and in early 1994 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.
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 with additional musical input from Rick and Terry. Lowery plus violinists also recorded a further 3 tracks at Nigel Pulsford's 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 and the next day Ian Lowery was tragically found dead in his London flat.
Three albums of Ian's unreleased material, recorded in the last decade of his life, have been produced by Spectacle Music Ltd. which exemplify Ian Lowery's talent with tracks as diverse as'Get out the sun','All She Wrote' 'If I could Sleep Forever' 'Love To Come'
Ian Lowery's music can be purchased at Bandcamp