Alien Sex Fiend
Alien Sex Fiend
From the band’s moniker alone it is apparent that Alien Sex Fiend have every intention of raising eyebrows, if not shocking completely. However, there is much more to their story than that. Since the early 1980s, the London, England, based outfit have released a slew of records which exceed the status of gimmickry. Like contemporaries the Cramps, Alien Sex Fiend have relied upon a tongue in cheek style of horror film-inspired imagery, setting them apart from a host of gothic rock bands who offer similar theatrics without a glimmer of irony. Unlike the Cramps’ blend of comic-book rockabilly, Alien Sex Fiend base their musical style on a blend of boisterous punk rock and synthesizer driven dance music, looking forward towards change rather than back. As Greg Fasolino wrote in an online article, “Darwin would have been proud of Alien Sex Fiend, a highly successful musical organism that has resisted over a dozen years worth of attempts at pigeonholing and… have yet to stand still in any zone of space and time.”
Alien Sex Fiend’s roots are firmly entrenched in the North London club scene that thrived in the wake of punk rock in the late 1970s. The band’s Nik Fiend circulated among several bands during 1976 and 1977, including the short lived groups Demon and Demon Preacher, both of which left behind few recorded artifacts. Fiend’s penchant for the macabre antics of rock singer Alice Cooper, famous for loading his stage with snakes, guillotines, and other ghastly props, set him apart from many of his punk contemporaries, and after finding a like-minded set of cohorts, Alien Sex Fiend formed to help forge the new genre of gothic rock. Joined by his synth-playing wife Chrissie, who adopted the stage name Mrs. Fiend, Fiend rounded out the original Alien Sex Fiend lineup with apartment-mate David James/Yaxi Highriser on guitar and drummer John Freshwater/Johnny Ha-Ha.
After producing a demo-tape that received good reviews in underground papers, the band was invited by Ollie Wisdom of the group Specimen to play their first live show at London’s Batcave club in December of 1982. It quickly became apparent that stage performance was as vital to Alien Sex Fiend as recording music, and their display of smoke machines and zombie-like makeup played a part in the burgeoning gothic subculture. However, unlike a number of gothic acts that emerged from the same period such as Christian Death or Specimen, Alien Sex Fiend injected a campy self-awareness into their seemingly morbid proceedings, and listeners outside of the gothic lifestyle grew to appreciate the band’s flair. While becoming in-house cult favorites at the Batcave, the group was soon invited to play larger venues, adding to their busy schedule. “The only lows were attempting to hold down day jobs and having to go to work pretending you’d had a normal evening,” Nik Fiend recalled to Mick Mercer in an online article, “when in reality you’ve been up all night recording in Trident studios or doing a gig.”
Beginning a twelve year relationship with the Anagram label, the Fiends released their debut single, “Ignore the Machine” and album, Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain?, in 1983. A landmark of gothic rock, the album offers a unique array of vaguely psychedelic guitar and pulsing rhythm, topped off by the trademark vocals of Nik Fiend, who alternates between a deadpan drone and a wailing tremolo. With such highlights as “Wish I Woz a Dog” and “Wild Women,” Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain? created a landscape of B-movie imagery and hallucinogenic references that usually avoided outright profanity, but was nevertheless sure to shock the conservative listener. The prolific group continued to issue a number of singles that scored high marks within clubs and on independent charts, including “R.I.P,” “Dead and Buried,” and “E.S.T. (Trip to the Moon),” all released in 1984. As evidenced on that year’s Acid Bath album, the Fiends had begun to move away from privileging the guitar as the hub of their music, and increasingly leaned on Mrs. Fiend’s synthesizer and tape loops to provide spooky, yet danceable, electronic tracks. However, the departure of drummer
Members include Rat Fink, Jr., (joined band, 1985), guitars; John Freshwater (Johnny Ha-Ha), drums; David James (Yaxi Highriser), guitar; Doctor Milton, (joined band, 1987), keyboards; Chrissie Wade (Mrs. Fiend), synthesizers and tape programming; Nik Wade (Nik Fiend), vocals.
Band formed in North London, England, 1982; debuted at cult hub the Batcave, December 1982; released debut album Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain? for Anagram, 1983; created the memorable “It” the Album which landed the band a spot of Alice Cooper’s “The Nightmare Returns” tour, 1986; released the breakthrough dance record Another Planet, 1988; enjoyed mainstream visibility when the video “Now I’m Feeling Zombified” was played on MTV’s Beavis and Butthead program, 1990; created the first CD Rom soundtrack album, Inferno —the Odyssey Continues, 1994; released ambient-techno album, Nocturnal Emissions, 1996.
Addresses: Email address —[email protected]
Ha-Ha became a temporary setback in the band’s creative trajectory. The 1985 album, Maximum Security, utilized an often monotonous sequencer in lieu of a drummer, and on the whole the record lacked the kinetic edge that fueled earlier releases. The following year saw the band’s pioneering sound of dance-oriented gothic rock reach maturity with the single “I Walk the Line” and the soon to follow “It” the Album.
“It” the Album represented both the end of the group’s initial phase and its most creative undertaking yet. Moving in directions beyond the scope of goth subculture, songs such as “Manic Depression” and “Get Into It” retained the Fiends’ vision of ghastly kitsch, but delved into realms of extreme psychedelia and techno. While the band had by no means become mainstream, the band had expanded their appeal so much that Nik Fiend’s idol, Alice Cooper, offered Alien Sex Fiend the opening slot on his “Nightmare Returns” tour. Working with a bigger budget and several years of experience under their belts, the Fiends’ all-important onstage theatrics could then rival Cooper’s. As Fasolino wrote of the tour, the band’s live show had evolved into “a creature-feature cabaret with Munsterian magician Nik as ringleader, armed with his array of lethal props, and surrounded by utterly gonzo self-designed stage sets.”
Provoked by mounting tensions within the band, Yaxi Highriser left Alien Sex Fiend in 1987, leaving Nik and Mrs. Fiend alone at the helm. This hiatus quickly ended with the induction of new members Rat Fink, Jr., and Doctor Milton in 1988, who collectively took up the duties of keyboards, guitar, and drums. By this point in their career, the band had largely shed its gothic musical style, as well as its pancake makeup and mascara, and had become more in step with industrial and electronica-music often dominated by aggressive beats and experimental use of new technology. While the 1988 album Another Planet made use of electronically sampled sounds on tracks like “Nightmare Zone” and the crudely punned “Sample My Sausage,” the Fiends pushed the envelope even farther by setting a cut-up medley of their material to beats inspired by American techno music on the single “Haunted House,” released in 1989.
Throughout the 1990s, Alien Sex Fiend continued to break out on new fronts, grafting their dance sensibilities onto the terrain of computers and cyberspace. In 1994, the group again demonstrated their cutting-edge thinking by releasing the first ever soundtrack for a CD Rom computer game called Inferno-The Odyssey Continues. The cool, spaced-out flavor of the soundtrack prefaced the dramatic new direction Alien Sex Fiend’s music took after the formation of their own label, 13thMoon Records, in 1995. Bearing almost no resemblance to the band’s formative efforts save for its aesthetics of shock, the notable 1997 release Nocturnal Emissions was, in Fasolino’s words, “a cybernetic jamboree, opening with 1996’s groundbreaking single “Evolution,” a dancefloor juggernaut full of otherworldly blips, bleeps, and bastard beats… Nocturnal Emissions will take you on a journey farther out than any previous trek in the band’s fabled, frenetic career.”
In spite of the Fiends’ embracing of all things electronic, Nik Fiend has continued to produce work in a much more time-honored medium-oil painting. The selftaught Fiend applied the same irreverence in his painting as in Alien Sex Fiend’s music and his work has been used consistently for the group’s album covers and stage backdrops. In 1996, Fiend’s horrific works, dating back to 1982, were given their own exhibition at the Sussex Art Club in Brighton, England, but the singer showed no sign of conceding to art gallery decorum. “I like to challenge whatever is acceptable,” Fiend told Chryste Hall in an online interview. “When I started to work with oils, the first thing I read in an art book was “do not use black,” so of course I ran out and got a load of black paint!” Fiend has truly established himself as a multimedia trouble maker, and despite the release of a 1998 retrospective of Alien Sex Fiend’s career to date, his journey into the bizarre seems far from over.
Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain?, Anagram/Relativity, 1983.
Acid Bath, Anagram/Epitaph, 1988.
Maximum Security, Anagram, 1985.
“lt” the Album, Plague/Anagram, 1986.
Here Cum Germs, PVC/Anagram, 1987.
All Our Yesterdays, Plague/Anagram, 1988.
Another Planet, Caroline/Anagram, 1988.
Too Much Acid?, Plague/Anagram, 1989.
The Singles 1983-1995, Anagram, 1995.
Nocturnal Emissions, 13th Moon, 1996.
The Legendary Batcave Masters, Cleopatra/13th Moon, 1998.
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