So here's the tale; come the weekend, Nik “I’ve Got A Dick Like An Exocet Missile” Morgan, our youthful punk houseguest at the time, suggested I should go with him to watch highly popular local band, The Charles, play at Frimley Community Centre. “Take a tape along,” he said, “Chris likes weird shit.” Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t the most alternative type. Basically, you had a married 28 year old office worker with dubious taste in Rupert trousers at best, so I was a tad sheepish about the idea, convinced everyone would be asking if I was Nik’s dad and just looking at me blankly when I joked how untidy his room was (that’s actually true). I don’t recall quite how he talked me round, but I’m pleased he did, as such was the beginning of my escape from the undead. The Charles singer was one Chris Carter, veteran (whilst still being younger than me) front man from punk era bands like Lethal Dose and Panzer Korps. I knew him well enough to say “hi” and “sorry I broke your nose” to, so I said “hi” and “sorry I broke your nose” and showed him my tape. “Oh wow!” He exclaimed, grabbing it from my hand, “I’ll put it on over the PA.” But we were at a gig. There were fans of his band there. They were young people. They might hear it. I figured if worst came to the worst, I could always deny all knowledge of it and hide in the toilet. Five minutes in to the opening track, “Story X”, Chris put my mind at ease, running over excitedly with a big smile under his top hat. “It’s so weird, it’s beautiful!” He said. “Can you do all this live?” I nodded. “Then you should support us!”



MAGIC MOMENTS AT TWILIGHT TIME: Mr. & Mrs. Mick Lancaster, Teddy & Nik Morgan (now Lewis). "We may look normal, but we sound amazing..."

Now it was definitely the confidence I got from that warm welcome which inspired me to start mailing out demos and trying to take things a step further. The first response to these came the following weekend when I got a phone call from local music journalist, Adrian Creek, not that I really had much to tell him at the time as nothing had really happened thus far. I’m not quite sure when it was that Chris offered me a live date, but when it came, that date was Saturday 9th May, which could have only been some five weeks away at the most. But I had no band as such, it was just me with a bit of spoken word help from my then wife, Shona. Still, we had a whole month to iron out problems like that, so what was the rush? First step was getting some promo photos done for the advertising, so we blagged a cut-price shoot at Ron Francis Studios in Camberley; me in a boiler suit and mask, Nik smirking a-la Billy Idol, Shona in a leotard, stockings and hat, and her big teddy on a Casio keyboard, nothing that hadn’t been seen a thousand times before. Then, in the space of twelve days, I found a singer called Anna Haigh, we had an extremely promising rehearsal, I lost a singer called Anna Haigh, and we still had a fortnight before our live debut. Some begging later, Shona agreed to take the job on and demoed “Trois”, “State Of The Art” and “Blitzkrieg!” that very afternoon. So there we were, an office-working husband and wife duo from north west Surrey with a name that sounded like an afternoon tea dance orchestra, all set to support the local gothic punk heroes at a regular alternative gig. 


To get the ball rolling, I’d suggested Chris and I did some recording together, thinking it may also be a useful way to help the bonding process and promote our upcoming joint live show. Having spent the weekend recording with Shona, then doing “The Eddie Irwin Song” with Nik on the Monday, I was well in practise for Chris’s visit on Wednesday 29th. I’d been working on a conceptual piece called “My Acidic Heaven” and thought Chris, with his natural gift for improvisational vocals, would be perfect for it. Turns out I was right. The subsequent recording was the highly popular 23 minute work that filled the opening side of our “Mick & Chris On Acid” collaborative release (C-4005, May 1987), the flipside featuring two of the three MMATT tracks Shona had recorded the previous Sunday afternoon, plus three by The Charles from their earlier demo. The session had been a great success, resulting in the first co-production for what would soon become The Grain. I asked Chris what he remembered of our first time working together? "I recall being high on LSD on a sunny Sunday," he began, "looking for munchies. I was with my girlfriend, Elaine, and we had been taxiing around with Tim Blim. I can't remember why, but it seemed a good idea to pop by Mick's. The concept of a collaboration was born furled with a few bongs and the promise of a tape of 'Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters'. With some Can chucked in. The next few weeks saw me prancing round Mick's house, in full Charles regalia, attempting to sing. Fond memories of how awful it all sounded, but also the marvelling at all the new technology." Actually, Chris, you sounded fucking amazing.

Chris Carter prancing round my house attempting to sing, 29th April 1987

Although I’d sensibly only sent a handful of demos to record labels, two days after Chris’ visit, I received a positive response from London independent label, Earworm Records. With confidence at a peak, Shona and I recorded a full live rehearsal of our 45 minute set on 4th May. Two days after that, “Mick & Chris On Acid” was 'officially' released. Two days after that, on the eve of our live debut, we saw most of our name in print for the very first time, there in the gig listings in the local paper, courtesy of "Adrian Creek’s Pop Scene"...

The day after that, the gig was cancelled at the last minute, due to the The Charles' soon to be ex-manager (to protect the innocent, we'll refer to him as 'John Pryer', coz that was his name and he wasn't innocent) not managing to book the venue. And that, as things turned out, was the catalyst that actually launched The Grain…