‘Brutalism’ is a brand new compilation album by the British band Cubanate. It covers the years 1992 to 1996 and features 14 songs from their first three albums, including remastered versions of singles such as ‘Oxyacetylene’, ‘Body Burn’ and ‘Joy’.
First UK live shows since 1999
28.04.17 GLASGOW Saint Luke’s
30.04.17 LONDON O2 Academy Islington
At their peak, Cubanate’s techno-rock crossover was controversial and influential, with their importance still resonating today. They were one of the few UK bands tagged as ‘Industrial’ to cross over to a mainstream audience and were regular fixtures in publications as diverse as Kerrang! and Melody Maker (receiving several Single of the Week accolades in both), as well as on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. They also toured with stalwarts such as Front 242, Gary Numan, The Sisters of Mercy and Front Line Assembly. The band later signed to the seminal Wax Trax! Imprint in the USA and their songs have appeared in film, TV and game soundtracks. But, with the demise of their European label Dynamica in 2000, Cubanate’s early work has long been out of print. It’s time for a reassessment.
Cubanate was formed in the summer of 1992 as a four piece centred around the duo of Marc Heal (vocals) and Phil Barry (guitar). Their early sound fused the rhythms of the then nascent techno scene with the lo-fi grunge rock sound emanating from the US. Although the band later became adopted by Goth audiences, early Cubanate were more influenced by Joey Beltram, Baby Ford and Nirvana.
On their first UK tour in November 1992 Cubanate played with leftfield UK electronic duo Sheep on Drugs, who were enjoying a brief burst of chart fame. The studio demo of a song entitled ‘Body Burn’ was played on Kiss FM in early 1993 and sparked record industry interest. The band signed to the Berlin based Dynamica Records and ‘Body Burn’ was subsequently released as the first Cubanate single to widespread acclaim. It was later used in the final series of The Sopranos TV series (2007).
The ‘Metal EP’ was released in the spring of 1994, by which time the group was being increasingly adopted by Goth and Industrial crowds. Mass media attention came later that year when they were paired with extreme metal outfit Carcass for what turned out to be a notoriously violent UK tour. Heal’s antagonistic on-stage style resulted in death threats and an on-air confrontation on the Radio 1 Rock Show with Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.
Cubanate’s second album, ‘Cyberia’ (1995), spawned the revered ‘Oxyacetylene’. Released as a single, it also featured on the 1996 compilation album ‘Mortal Kombat’ and was later used as the theme tune of the original PlayStation game Gran Turismo (1998). It is regularly featured as one of the definitive Industrial songs of all time. 1995 also saw the band tour both Europe and the US extensively as a quartet featuring Heal and Barry plus Roddy Stone (later the frontman of UK metal act Viking Skull) and David Bianchi (later a leading manager of acts such as Charli XCX and Carl Barat).
The third Cubanate album, ‘Barbarossa’ (1996), continued the industrial metal format, spawning the single ‘Joy’ and live dates with Gary Numan, Rammstein, The Sisters of Mercy and Front 242. Heal struck up a friendship at this time with Jean-Luc De Meyer of Front 242 and the pair later released two side-project albums under the name C-Tec.
By 1997, seeking a change of label and direction, Cubanate signed to Wax Trax! for what was to be their final album to date, ‘Interference’ (1998), a musical departure displaying a strong Drum and Bass influence. The band split in 2000 but reformed in September 2016 for a performance at the Cold Waves Festival in Chicago. They are returning to UK live action for the first time in nearly two decades with dates in Glasgow and London in late April, and will also play the Terminus Impact Festival in Calgary, Canada in late July.
‘Oxyacetylene’ – video
‘Brutalism’ showcases a band that was certainly ahead of its time. These days, when fusion is all the rage, it is hard to understand the fury of rock purists at Cubanate’s pilfering of genres. However, not only were they influential, but they also brought back a genuinely confrontational live approach after the bland, big-hair stylings of the ’80’s.
Marc Heal comments: “Listening back to these old tracks and hearing them remastered I’m pleased and surprised how fresh they sound. We had so little time to record them, it was all done on the fly. These days, with EDM now big corporate business, it’s easy to forget how wild and anarchic that early techno scene was. Anything went. One thing to remember was that it was only ten or twelve years after punk. If you had been a 16-year-old punk in 1978, you were still barely in your late 20’s when all these mad raves were happening so a lot of people who were a bit older in the scene were people who had been punks and still carried that spirit.”
As for the ‘industrial goth/rock’ tag that was so de rigeur by the mid-90’s, he continues: “The whole ‘industrial’ scene was different in 1992. It was just before fetish became mainstream. Before Torture Garden and all those places, Industrial clubs were the only places you could go if you wanted to wear PVC or clingfilm. But I also think Cubanate could never have happened without the destruction of that awful 80’s rockist thing by the Seattle bands. They made rock dirty and experimental again and for a while everything was blurred and up in the air. So, although we were grateful that Cubanate got taken up by Goth audiences, in a way it distorted the way that the band developed.”
Summarising ‘Brutalism’, Heal concludes: ”The nature of being experimental is that sometimes experiments don’t work. On ‘Brutalism’ you get the moments where it all seemed to come together.”