I think the first Coil track I heard must have been “The Wheel” on the crucial Some Bizzare compilation “If you can’t please yourself, you can’t please your soul.” It was amazing – electro pop gone badly “wrong”. The inner sleeve of the album had photos of the album covers of the Some Bizzare roster which became my first serious trainspotter wants list (and I never did get a copy of that Renaldo and the Loaf LP…)
Weirdly, the 1st Coil LP “Scatology” showed up in my local library shortly afterwards. I caned it on my crappy plastic “music centre” and pored over the all too exhaustive sleeve notes. Classic corruption and subversion – what was a 17 year old doing checking out little pieces about fetish magazines, alchemy, and nodding his head to tracks like “Cathedral In Flames.”? John Balance’s mania on tracks like “Panic” were a shot in the arm… another doorway opened.
Appropriately enough, the chronology is a bit blurry… “Horse Rotorvator” came out around the same time. I went down to Rough Trade in Ladbroke Grove to pick it up and at some point got hold of an autographed 12″ of “Anal Staircase” there as well.
“Rotorvator” blew me away – the same manic vocals, twinned with some more relaxed stuff – strings, sound effects from the bowels of the earth… perfect. “Ostia” was my favourite song for years and years and will probably always be in the top ten.
And of course you could write off and get… stuff. More raised eyebrows from my Mum when I got back from school. Balance would even write little notes on the back of the newsletters or answer questions. You’d get little stickers, newsletters, beautifully produced flyers for zines like Kaos, or the R&D Group’s Coil Booklet. Now the doors which were opening were more like a long corridor… a bit like the hotel in the Shining.
The newsletters had the obsessional quality which was really attractive – lots of ideas being played out, projects which you hoped would come to fruition that never did… hints at limited pressings, live appearances, books to check out.
When “Gold is the Metal” came out in the same week as “Hairway to Steven” by the Butthole Surfers, I was so urgently in need of hearing them that I bunked off college (where I was retaking my A levels, partly because I’d chosen subjects I was crap at originally and partly because I was spending all my time listening to Coil records instead of revising!) to head down to Rough Trade once more.
I had to have that clear vinyl pressing, goddamnit! I think Paul trumped me there by getting the 55 only edition, but I didn’t know him then – and had no idea who these mystery people were who could spend a hundred quid on an album…
By the time “Love’s Secret Domain” came out I’d been in London for a few years. Psychic TV had released about 6 billion albums in the time that Coil had released none, which I think outlines their approaches pretty well (and I think both are valid). I was in regular contact with Justin Mitchell of Cold Spring records who was having a pop at journalism on the side and had blagged an interview, with Coil, at their house.
Scatologically speaking, we were both cacking ourselves. But it turned out alright. They indulged us. Balance was lovely, trying to answer even my most retarded, fumbling questions.
“The Dark Age of Love” – the ‘twin’ album with LSD came out I guess a year or so after. I got sucked into dance music and other stuff after that – Coil splintered into what seemed like a million different projects which I kept meaning to check out but never did.
I bumped into Balance a few times after that but we never really spoke. Everyone raved about the gigs they did in 2002 and like an idiot I never went. So seeing them at Ocean recently was a blast, all sorts of things from my past coming back, a chance to reflect and to enjoy Coil being Coil in public.
I never really knew John Balance, but I know he did things that will stay with me forever.