It was a typical day in the epitome of British suburbia which is the London Borough of Enfield, and 15-year-old Benjamin Charles Maydon, known to his friends and enemies alike as Pooka, was learning how to play the guitar. He wasn't very good at it, knowing, as he did, only one song, but as was the way of things at the time, he kept playing it over and over again until he could do so backwards. It was only when trying to play it backwards that he realised he couldn't do that either. To keep the feelings of insufficiency at bay, and so he didn't have to pick up his violin to keep the music going, he wrote a song the next day, with a rather curious chorus.
"But it wasn't much to do with LSD, it was a bit more to do with ecstasy."
Although the lyrics made no sense, mostly due to the fact that ecstasy is not a hallucinogenic drug, it was a hit with Pooka's family, who still seem to like everything he does, except for when he does something they don't like. Future glory was assured.
After wanting to be in a band for at least five days, it was suggested that Pooka should do a radio session, along with a rather bizarre collection of friends, which happened to include bassist Ed Rainbow, now of Ahymsa, and Jack Robson, now of the Socialist Alliance. It happened one rainy night in London; Pooka played the guitar, and Ed, Jack, Edmund and Danyal sang, and the next week a documentary about the Edelweiss Pirates youth group in Nazi Germany aired on BBC Radio 4. A small group tentatively named the "Enfield Piraten" sang at least an eighth of the Pirates' theme song. In the taxi on the way back, Ed suggested that they do it again some time...
rehearsals of the "Enfield Piraten" were
never that successful, although they managed to nail down a fairly decent
version of Green Day's Warning, which was subsequently lost in the
annals of time. Rather predictably, their biggest fans were Naomi, Ed's
girlfriend, and Laura, Pooka's girlfriend. Soon afterwards, Laura left the
country and is now living in
Skipping forward a few years, and things had moved on; Ed was now in the band Ahymsa, and Pooka still couldn't play the guitar. One morning, however, he arose feeling decidedly creative, and used up the rest of the day recording an acoustic album on an old, clapped-out PC, consisting of all the songs he hadn't thrown away yet, including LSD, and a version of Hump The Animals!, with an exclamation point tacked onto the end, and a guitar solo thrown into the mix for good measure.
The album was a mess, but an inspired one. Casting his eyes around for a title, Pooka settled his gaze upon a fantasy character creation sheet, with an abandoned character's name on it.
Rather surprisingly, quite a few people liked Sappharis Moonstone; not least of all a good friend of Pooka's named David Goldstein, who - through some amazing coincidence - knew how to play the keyboards with quite a degree of skill. Before the day was out, a new inkling had fired up in Pooka's redundant brain; he would start up his dead band afresh, with David in it, and it would be called Unbalanced Grass.
With potential in the air, Pooka played Unbalanced Grass' first gig in the warm September air of the Woodcraft Folk's White Noise festival, and for the first time in his limited memory, people cheered and clapped... although not so much as they did for Ahymsa, later on in the line-up. David and Ed sat on the sidelines, both hearing their own songs played (poorly) by the Unbalanced Grass frontman... for David had written a beautiful love song, entitled Never Touch You, and Hump The Animals! was the majestic closing number.
Singer/songwriter Nick Stevenson was heard to say that the set brightened up his day. Unfortunately for Unbalanced Grass, only Pooka and David were listening to him, but it was still nice of him to hand out some false confidence. The reviews read, "delightfully quirky indie rock". In Pooka's view, this judgement was correct, apart from the words "delightful", "indie", and "rock".
Desperately grabbing at what little chance they had, Pooka and David decided to embark upon a creative venture, and began to write a second album... well, that's a lie, the songs had already been written, all they needed to do was compile them. That, however, required recording them, and for that they would probably need a bigger band. Unbalanced Grass started a recruiting spree for no reason at all, and within a week they had become four. Reclusive guitarist Andrew 'Malefact' Humphrey (aka Adam Three Trillion), and the now-extraterritorial Laura (who claimed to be able to play the xylophone), were both on board (both gleaned, in fact, from the "Knightmare" community - there, TV shows do have their place in society), and the seeds were sewn for the future. Well, they would have been, had the band got a producer.
Pooka had, for a long time, been friends with a rather large person named William Andrew Hayes - then Billy Hayes - then Bill Hayes - then Mortuus47 - and, finally, Morti. The amount of names he had over time are completely irrelevant; what is relevant (though barely) is that he had some knowledge of mixing tracks - emphasis on the 'some'. He was also a pretty handy bassist. He readily agreed to produce the album, little knowing what he was letting himself in for. Later that week, the band managed to persuade friend Keith McDonald to sing backing vocals for them, for they had heard he could sing. It was already more than Pooka could do, and he wasn't even trying.
And so they were six, and all under 25 to boot - not that that matters at all, but you try writing a bio for a band that doesn't properly exist - and raring to go. Or not. Still, whatever Unbalanced Grass were, they had something to do, and that was record four tracks, and burn them onto a CD - a project which was actually going to take them a year to do. Still, at least they were going to try.
At that one moment, in their own minds at least, Unbalanced Grass were superstars.
[ >> ]
[ home ]