MM: The standout songs for me in those early years would be “She’s So Fine” (later covered by Lord Litter, I believe), “Liars In Love” and “Bing Crosby.” BUT… there were also tracks like that silly (but very enjoyable) space song, “Captain Largactyl,” on the album, so I wasn’t really sure what you wanted to be. Where were your hearts actually at and what had you grown up listening to that provided your inspirations?

  If ever a band truly represents what can be achieved by hard work and determination, it's The Conspiracy, leaping from obscurity to become one of Music & Elsewhere's best sellers. I caught up with Duncan Pope and Dave Bell to get their recollections and see what they're up to nowadays and definitely not mention Ashley from "Coronation Street"...

MM: First of all, congratulations on making 4th place in our all-time best selling artistes chart, no mean achievement. The Conspiracy have been a part of my life now for nigh on 20 years, incredible as that may seem. It was April 1993 M&E released the initial pair of TC cassettes; “The Inside: Story!” (M&E 153) and “Pop!” (M&E 156), can you give us a brief history of TC up to that point? And I seem to recall it was Duncan & Craig then, rather than Dave, is that right?


DUNCAN: It’s pleasing to know that TC are 4th in your all time best sellers list despite our first 3 cassettes selling zero copies! The Conspiracy started in 1988 when I met Craig Swain. At first it was just a home recording musical hobby and we didn’t become a proper live band until 1992. During this period (88-93) we made up a lot of original songs in Devon. I was also composing with my Cousin Dave Bell in London and this would bear fruit in later years. All the early recordings were made on 4-track portastudios, on cassette. Dave moved to digital equipment in 1996, a Roland 8-Track initially, for the “Sword of Damocles” Sessions.


DAVE: Thanks Mick, very nice to have the recognition, though I don’t think that it was much down to my participation at that point as I didn’t come into the picture TC wise until later on. However, Duncan & I had been writing stuff & recording together as the Cuz since the late 80’s, mainly butchering cover versions though…


MM: I remember not being too sure after listening to the original demo you sent us (4th best seller of all time, I know my stuff!), there was a lot of promise there, but it was quite different to regular M&E territory. You won me over with enthusiasm and dogged determination, my review from The Catty Log says; “We tried boarding up our mailbox, but they STILL got through!” The project obviously meant a great deal to you, what were you hoping to achieve and how did your involvement with M&E affect things?


DUNCAN: By the end of 1992 TC was a popular live band in Plymouth. Musicians such as Mark Baker, Bill Jones & Colin Lesley joined Craig & myself. We had loads of original songs, but no idea how to reach a wider audience. THEN I discovered the “UNDERGROUND MUSIC NETWORK” of largely unknown artists, labels, fanzines & even Radio, via the “CASSETTE MYTHOS” book by Robin James (Autonomedia Press (1992). I started releasing cassette albums all over the world. We weren’t expecting to set a big record deal, but just wanted to be heard & get some feedback. In the end I discovered MUSIC & ELSEWHERE, my favourite tape label (even if Mick didn’t like us at first!). We grew in confidence & by 1995 were very well known in the Underground Scene. I got through about a million stamps & envelopes , sending a Zillion paper flyers far & wide. The word (+ Music) spread like a virus….


DAVE: Yes, Duncan does like to write a letter or two!


Right: Dave & Duncan pop round to see if things are okay. I mean, it's a nice place, you wouldn't want anything to happen to it...





DUNCAN: Like most artists we were all immersed in music since childhood. We liked a lot of diverse stuff. I made a decision to record anything we fancied and not aim for one limited genre, even if it meant commercial suicide. One of our albums was called “ECLECTOPHRENIA” which pretty much sums up the approach. It was open minded & creative, that was the consolation for not having a record deal…. We did what we liked!... & had lots of fun!


DAVE: “Liars in Love” & “Bing Crosby” were my covers of Craig’s songs that I thought needed some balls. Great songs but the originals lacked a bit of oomph! I think these were the tracks that got me accepted into TC as an honorary member to start with though I’m not sure if Craig was too happy with my treatment? I think both of our influences are pretty varied, though Punk was what inspired me to pick up a guitar in the first place & we’ve both been in our share of loud thrashy bands. I actually tried to quieten things down somewhat with a lot of TC stuff and minimise the guitar solos a bit for good measure… Though the volume has crept up again in recent years!

MM: Either you had quite a prolific work rate or you already had an extensive back catalogue before you came to us, it was only three months before the next album went out, “Sounds Of Pleasure” (M&E 197 – July 1993). My review is a lot more enthusiastic, so I’m guessing the former. We’re now up to Duncan, Craig, Mark & Bill (and I’m seriously starting to believe Dave is just a mate from the pub) and the sound seems to be growing, though you still hadn’t touch our charts by the end of that year. The flip side of the tape was a live recording, what was the gig scene like in your area and how fondly do you recall live work from that era?

DUNCAN: TC played many live gigs in the South West of England up until 1996. Then Craig moved to North Cornwall & Mark simply disappeared! So, Dave Bell & I took over TC, which returned to being a Studio entity, but far better quality than in the early years. 

DAVE: Ha, not a mate from down the pub (As Duncan said, I’m his Cousin), but living in London, the geography thing made it impossible to be a full gigging member at that time. I started getting a semblance of a studio together up in London to improve on the quality of my earlier efforts and start seriously songwriting with Duncan whenever he came up.. We did play one gig together as an acoustic three piece in Plymouth, with a fellow contributor Gerald Clark on bongos… Attended by a man & a dog I think?

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