This band came from the split up of Tarragon, where Steve, Debbie & Dave left and wanted to go in a direction of weird, musically challenging and barrier breaking, influenced by the likes of Frank Zappa, Gong and the Ozric Tentacles. Steve’s song writing had been starting to get a bit stranger in the latter days of Tarragon but when into hyperdrive weird once with the blank canvas of Fremsley Starecase. He’s never really fully recovered …or wants to tbh! You’ll still see these influences in today Nepenthes Sloth recordings.
The set was one theatrical song, a story, with narration and lots of musical passages, some a few seconds long some a full separate song structure held within the story. It even had spoof advert breaks. Steve wrote the whole concept and the words and set them to the basic chords/timings/arrangements format and this was then developed by the whole band, which also included Steve (another one) on bass and Pete on percussion. Debbie sung the lead vocals (where proper singing was necessary) but Steve, supported by the all the others, led the narration.
Probably the key influence on this to Steve was discovering Frank Zappa’s ‘Live at the Filmore’ album, which was one long weird and amusing story.
The band managed to find someone renting out a derelict old factory building very cheap and rehearsed intensively for almost a year working on this very complex arrangement. There was quite a lot of local intrigue when we finally announced a concert and it went down really well. We thought it would appeal to the crowd of people we knew in our social circles, but to the band’s happy surprise it went down really well with students, doing some very well received university concerts. It seems to take everyone by surprise and the musicianship was also becoming very creditable and certainly different. No least was that we came on stage and declared we were going to do the shortest set ever, trashed something for about 3 seconds and walked off stage, saying thank you, you’ve been a wonderful audience and good night. It all kind of depended on the audience then asking for an encore, which happened to be one song almost an hour long! Luckily we always got it! We had a second encore of Peter Gunn, a bit like the Art of Noise version.
It was the first band Steve was in that wasn’t chasing gigs, people were coming up to us wanting to book us, which was a great sign and a happy place. Sadly though, after only a handful of concerts Dave the drummer decided he was going to go travelling to India. The band felt it couldn’t draft in another drummer, not without months of rehearsals again and we didn’t even know anyone suitable to Dave’s high standards, and it was something we had worked on and grown between us, it would have felt wrong getting in anyone else. And so Fremsley Starecase was sadly no more.
It was in this band Steve’s playing and understanding of music greatly improved, from 3 times 6-7 hour rehearsals per week and playing non-stop in-between. Everyone in the band had a huge desire to technically improve and it rubbed off on us all; we didn’t want to let the others down maybe. It also was the joy of experimenting with song writing, breaking as many rules as possible, certainly partly in a backlash to the synthetic music dominating the charts at the time.
Steve has very fond memories of this band and the close friendship and shared goals we had between us. It was a joy for Steve to play in a band with 4 such talented musicians all keen to experiment and be different. He always felt he had to work really hard to keep up with appearing-to-be natural talents of the rest of the band. Dave was developing incredible skills on the drumkit, Pete was a real natural with rhythm and a great addition to the humour aspect of the set. Steve was a gift natural on the bass, such a good feel and Debbie was wonderful singer and had amazing feel and talents on the keyboards too.
It was a shame that the band split up when it did, we were becoming very popular in a niche market and could have got many bookings across the uk and at festivals. Sadly, no definitive recording exists of the band. A studio would have been to expensive and complex to record at, at the time. Steve did have a 4 track and ‘almost’ completed a recording before the band stopped.
Someone also did a bootleg recording of the band at a concert in Coventry and has posted on soundcloud (with text 'No idea of the titles, so they were just called Exotic Narcotic. Very theatrical performance from an excellent band. Whatever happened to them?' which made me smile! I'm here!, link attached.
There is also a video recording of the same concert, except the tape ran out at about half way through, and the VHS camcorders didn’t pick up very well on the weird lighting show (it wasn’t that dark in real life!) – link to this on youtube.
Steve maybe hopes to revamp the 4 track at some point, if any demand, but it needs a lot of work to bring it up to todays expected minimum standards of audio quality.