Here and Now
[ROCK] [UNITED KINGDOM]
Currently: "Next stop - Alchemy Festival!"
A (VERY) BRIEF HISTORY
After untold earlier attempts, the line-up that was to define the shape of things to come finally gelled at the WATCHFIELD FREE FESTIVAL in 1975... The line-up featured Steffe Sharpstrings (gtr) Twink (aka Paul Noble) (synthis), Keith tha Missile (bass) and Kif Kif le Batteur (drums) Their first ever show was in the form of a free-floating, anarchical 6-hour jam in front of 15,000 people. Amongst the musical luminaries who joined them that night were ARTHUR BROWN (as in: "THE CRAZY WORLD OF...") and REEBOP KWAAKU BAH, the percussionist from TRAFFIC - whose bandleader, STEVIE WINWOOD, was watching avidly from backstage, along with VIV STANSHALL (of the infamous "BONZO DOG DOODAH BAND"), who would have joined in but was too paralytically drunk to climb the steps onto the stage - a star-crossed meeting indeed!
In 1976 the band undertook their first tour - "electrically busking" their merry way around France, and riding a crazy roller coaster that took them from extreme poverty to comparative affluence every couple of days - stopping at all points in between - and which lasted 3 months... Their first show was in a circus tent near Versailles, after which they travelled south to pick grapes and play "anywhere that would take us". The tour finished up with a 5-night stint at the "CLUB GIBBUS" in Paris, a bit like the Marquee in London, and a live nationwide broadcast for "RADIO FRANCE" - which, to those who've heard it, offers some indication of the wild and unpredictable musical anarchy which was to become their hallmark.
By this time, they'd evolved a uniquely tight yet shambolically loose - but above all very powerful - style. Mike Howlett - then bassist with GONG - spotted them at a typically anarchic gig in Notting Hill's "Tabernacle" venue and recommended them to DAEVID ALLEN, erstwhile GONG leader, who was looking for just such an outfit to help him out with a "Space-Punk" project he had in mind...
Thus was the legendary "PLANET GONG" formed - a combination of DAEVID ALLEN and GILLI SMYTHS' subtle and mystical subversion and HERE & NOWS' in-your-face anarchism. It was a deadly combination, and was - not unnaturally - massively successful, leaving behind a 250,000 selling album - "LIVE FLOATING ANARCHY '77" - and a legend which lives on to this day. HERE & NOW went their own way from there on out - their fiercely independent attitude reinforced when DAEVID ALLEN had to pull out on the eve of the projected follow-up tour in spring '78 with a collapsed lung...
They went on to record two major selling albums for indie label CHARLY records - with whom LIVE FLOATING ANARCHY '77 had been released - respectively entitled "GIVE AND TAKE" and "ALL OVER THE SHOW", before changing label and line-up to record their third album - the legendary "FANTASY SHIFT" - which gained them, with the exception of a few disgruntled trendy music-paper critics, massive acclaim. This period (from '78 - 83) was intensely productive for them - they played something like 12 U.K. and 3 major European tours - taking in Holland, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy - as well as finding the time to write and record "FANTASY SHIFT" and the follow-up album, "THEATRE", not to mention countless other never-recorded pieces, of which quite a few could have made respectable selling singles, had the band and their various label bosses been of the mind to release them...
But they still found the time and energy to help provide the P.A., staging and lighting for the STONEHENGE FREE FESTIVAL every year! It cost them a lot of money and effort, but that festival was a creature very close to their collective free-floating-anarchic heart indeed, and ensured them a likewise warm place in the hearts - and an almost mythical status in the minds - of everyone who took part in those mystical, magical events...
Indeed, they became - along with the legendary HAWKWIND - the musical focus of the phenomenon, playing their unique, rhythmically driving brand of cosmic-harmonic space music to anything up to 50,000 very - shall we say - "elevated" people (and that was only according to police estimates!) - invariably on the night leading up to the mid-summer solstice.
Experimenting constantly with both material and line-ups (around the bi-polar core of GAVINDA BLITZ and KEITH THA MISSILE BASS), the band stayed on the innovative cutting edge of the alternative music scene throughout the '80s, releasing another couple of albums and several self-produced cassettes along the way.
However, by 1992, the band was beginning to lose its way, stifling itself with a stable but creatively no longer stimulating line-up, which was when GAVINDABLITZ finally threw in the towel in favour of having a real home life... That, oddly enough, was when KEITH THA MISSILE re-encountered STEFFE SHARPSTRINGS... They were both playing in the GONG line-up for a re-union TV show broadcast by Central TV in the U.K. KEITH had already enlisted the help of - on keyboards - the weirdly wizard-like ANDY ROID, and, when Steffe introduced sticksman STEVE "ONE DREAD" CASSIDY, a potent alchemy emerged - an alchemy which was to give birth to a truly wonderful piece of work - "UFOASIS". "UFOASIS" synthesized a unity between the widely divergent paths of STEFFE and KEITH, forging an unlikely link between the world of Hip-Hop and funk that STEFFE had entered, and the looping, asymmetrical riffing that THA MISSILE had been perfecting. Sprinkled liberally with stardust from the, at times, awesome ANDY ROID, and driven by the crisp, attacking, powerhouse drumming of STEVE "ONE DREAD" CASSIDY, the album ranks as their best ever for most of their ever evolving following.
The new millenium sees HERE & NOW as alive and kicking as it's ever been - now functioning as a loose collective of vocalists and musicians. Any number of soloists and accompanists have been known to show up at their concerts - and sometimes none at all – although for their next tour (April/May 2003) they featured JOIE (keys/synths) from tecno outfit “EAT STATIC”, and also “OZRIC TENTACLES”.
2007 has so far seen the departure of Steve “One Dread” Cassidy for pastures new – (Good luck Steve – we still love ya!) and the arrival of new “hotseat” man MERV also of EAT STATIC and OZRICS fame, with whose help, and with the band currently in a slightly “warped tecno-retro” mode, their shows still have all the wild unpredictability for which they are so justifiably legendary... 2011 update brings MARK ROBSON (Synthis/vox), SLIM VERHOEF (gtrs, devices) and NIK NIMBUS (drums/perc) into the fold - along with KEITH THA MISSILE (bass/vox) establishing a new dynamic and new directions...
AND THEY HAVEN'T FINISHED YET! ..