It's impossible to be succinct over such a long period of time... but I can try:
- I was born in 1962 with a stupid big head. At the time there was a future, and people looked forward to it. My dad, a psychiatrist, read Ballard. He had been photographing the TV stations being built nearby and I have the 35mm slides. TV had run for five years by my birth. It was mostly black and white dead cowboys as far as I can tell.
- My parents recorded me on a tape recorder. I have that too.
- The earliest memories I can positively date are two animated TV advertisements. One was a 1965 ad for the introduction of decimal currency. The other was for the DLP in the elections of 66. I was 3-4 years old and wanted to be a video animator, once I could speak.
- Early in the 70's my parents bought me a tape recorder. My benchmark was the strange noises that came up on The Goon Show. Then, on the same record label (Parlophone) The Beatles. You could learn a lot from just those two.
- Like everybody else spent the next part of my life in children's jail.
- In 1973? Kraftwerk's Autobahn was played on the AM radio. I made a little light show that went with it, using mirrors and a turntable. I read about Wilfred's Lumia, but didn't know where to get the motors.
- In 1975 Coppola made The Conversation. Tape recorders won out over light music.
- In 1977 I inherited a little money and used it to buy a TRS-80 personal computer. My dad and I taught it to spew out psychiatric bullshit.
- Near to my parole date I met Richard Fielding. He had a synthesiser, I had a tape recorder. We swapped and started 'a band' with Andrew Wright. We called ourselves Mr & Mrs No Smokin' Sign.
- I started a cassette label in 1979. Cassettes were cheap and you could DIY. It was first called Discopod but later became TeRSe after my TRS-80. I also started a Science degree, not knowing that computer science or art hadn't been invented yet.
- Before sending a tape to the radio we decided to call ourselves Severed Heads because that was a really stupid name, worse than Mr & Mrs No Smokin' Sign.
- We recorded the first album Ear Bitten in 1979 and pressed it early 1980… an early electronic noise album made by high school students. Rhythyx Chymx were on the other side with some free form art punk. All our copies were destroyed in 1980 when Richard's house burned down.
- In 1981 I championed “cassette culture” with the three tape One Stop Shopping compilation of Australian underground music. The Australian Financial Review pondered the death of vinyl and it was very serious indeed.
- Later in 1981 I started a record label called Dogfood Production System the first LP being Clean, with me as Severed Heads. Also on there: The Slugfuckers, Culturcide, Negative Reaction and Hiroshima Chair, with Garry Bradbury
- Richard left the band ('it's too rockist') to start The Nobodies, being a set of tape recorders, with him as roadie. Many years later, this would become the Loop Orchestra. Garry Bradbury joined in 1982, with Simon Knuckey occasionally lending his guitar. We played live around Sydney and Melbourne.
- Severed Heads met with Stephen R Jones and performed with live video synthesis at Metro Television in 1983 preceding ‘VJ culture’ by about 18 years. In the clip for Petrol you can almost see the TRS-80 psychiatric bullshit at the bottom of the screen.
- Garry left, Paul Deering joined. Too many live shows.
- Late 1983 the 'band' signed to Ink records in the UK, Virgin in Germany and Australia. The album Since The Accident was released worldwide in 1984. The single Dead Eyes Opened got reasonable club play.
- I graduated my Science degree. Computer art had still not reached the university.
- 1984 Paul and Tom recorded City Slab Horror, Garry rejoined, Ink wanted the record finished, we squabble, yada yada, it gets decided that we go different ways. No fun.
HOPEFUL YOUNG ADULT
- In 1985 we (Tom and Stephen R) did a press run in the UK, and an unplanned trip to Canada to sign with Nettwerk Records of Vancouver. We also joined the fledgling Volition Records in Sydney. This is the time we played the same track for 30 minutes at the ICA and the audience thought WTF. Later on this would be called "trance music".
- Promoting Come Visit the Big Bigot, the 1986 World Tour in Hell. Started well with a live to TV on the ABC's Rock Arena, 4 nights at the Chauvel Cinema and many dates across Canada. The European leg turned into a nightmare – use your imagination. American shows were survived by drinking much vodka.
- 1987 wasn't such a great year due to a break up. Bad Mood Guy was the LP. We dropped Ink records because they seemed all messed up. Now I understand that all labels are messed up.
- 1988 was a big year for disco (now called 'dance music') and Rat Parties. As well as exhibits for the Sydney Biennale and Australian Perspecta, Severed Heads played innumerable dance parties as evidenced by the LP Rotund For Success.
- Robert Racic’s remix single Greater Reward became the biggest selling import 12” in the United States during 1989. Frantic attempts to release it within the States came too late.
- The 1990 American Tour encountered a new hurdle: rap music. The Rotund disco boys from Australia have a hard sell.
- Technopop Live at the Phoenician Club in Sydney ushered in Volition’s golden era 1991. Now the leading dance label in Australia… for a while.
- 1992 The Cuisine+Piscatorial LP went nowhere. Nettwerk started to market only their successful acts. This of course is a self perpetuating downward spiral. 1993 I attempt to interest them in the Gigapus album for several months, flying in to Vancouver but they have a bad case of girl folk singer. Stephen R Jones left to get a real job.
- Severed Heads (Paul Mac and Tom) were the first electronic band to play the Big Day Out (in machinery square right after the Screaming Jets).
- Stephen M Jones joined. www.sevcom.com becomes one of the first band run sites on the Internet.
- In 1994 I developed a CD-Rom called Metapus to go with the album Gigapus. This seemingly being the first self made CD-Rom by a band Sony installs computers in key record stores to show off this new format. At the time a blank CD was 80 dollars.
- Robert Racic reworked Dead Eyes Opened. It entered the top 20 in 1994. It became the first Australian online music download (through Rolling Stone). Volition bundle it with Gigapus and a VHS. They develop “The Boiler Room” for Big Day Out. Severed Heads are the headline. The other stages laugh and call it the ‘dodgy boiler room’.
- 1995 the New Media era is in full flight and I'm on the TV everywhere talking cyber bullshit! This sudden burst of advocacy promised a new exciting stage for the band as a CD-ROM powerhouse. In fact it was the death of the music industry, first chapter.
- Gigapus finally released in the USA by Decibel Records, God bless them they tried but the States was back in good old rock 'n roll mode. Also some guy in Germany who isn't worth remembering released a terribly 'remastered' version.
- In 1996, I explain CD-Rom technology on the 7.30 Report to underline Prime Minister Paul Keating’s arts strategy. I get a phone call from a venture capital company, I tell them I have no idea what I would do with all that money. Keating lost the election. CD-Rom was dead not long after.
- Nettwerk Records decides to go full girl power and drops their old bands. Volition Records signs a deal with Sony which essentially promises they will pour out shovel ware. They spend the advances trying to break their rock bands, it doesn't happen, label goes belly up soon after, leaving me poor.
BITTER OLD AGE
- Stephen M Jones and I decide to put every single track SH had ever recorded online for free. There were around 2 million downloads from 40,000 distinct URLs. From this I created the first MP3 album Severything (actually MP2 because MP3 hadn’t been developed yet!)
- Our online store started really happening in 1997. Blank CDs cost $15 each. We lost money. Blank CDs eventually cost 50c. We made money.
- 1998 Haul Ass was the first album we sold on burned CDs by mail order. It eventually sold several thousand in that format. We (Alison and Tom) performed at HomeBake for the 1st and only time.
- 1999-2003 (The next few years were very difficult. During this time I slowly ended up the studio manager for a small design and advertising bureau, with clients in office products, banking, meal delivery and music. I was involved in making album covers for 'alternative' music on major labels. But all bad things come to an end.)
- 2001 saw the first of the Op series. This was originally going to be Laptop Pop, but the laptop got stolen. I made an error in the mastering process, which led to no bass and the promise of a new version Op1.1. The reasoning being that, like software, an album should be upgraded regularly with new features. Op 1.2 came out the next year, Op2.0 soon after that. Op2.5 was nearly a whole new album.
- 2002 we (Stephen R and Tom) show our videos at the Sydney Film Festival. I was now selling DVDs.
- In 2004 I am contracted to score the soundtrack for The Illustrated Family Doctor. The next year in 2005, the film was not successful, but the soundtrack wins an ARIA leading to... nothing. We (Alison and Tom) play live in Antwerp, the first time in Europe in 29 years.
- Throughout 2006 I score a number of TV commercials world wide, but as that starts to dry up I take up teaching music at both secondary and tertiary level. I went back to uni to do a Honours.
- Op3 was released in 2007 online only, offering a very different sound to previous LPs. This was intended to be the last music by Severed Heads. I completed my undergraduate thesis creating a metal case with a survey of recording formats.
- In 2008 I took on a full time job as a lecturer at UNSW., Soon after a demonstration of stupidity by 'fans' Severed Heads was declared dead. Vinyl On Demand released a funereal box set of 5 retrospective LPs Adenoids Severed Heads 1977-1985.
DEATH AND REBIRTH
- In 2009 I was contacted by Sarah Grieve about a seminar and live show for the Sydney Festival. The idea was to talk about the early days of dance music and then do a gig to show it. I was extremely sceptical up to the day of the seminar, when the room filled. I had retreated online, and lost contact with reality! We (Stewart and Tom) also heard from HomeBake, planning a relaunch, but that didn't happen. 2009 was very busy re-creating old videos and music.
- 2010 The Sydney Festival was a success, and we played with The Reels. I create my first Blu-Ray called Showbag HD. I begin a writing a doctorate on visual music.
- 2011 We perform a concert (as Tom Ellard) for high schools called The Shape of A Note. Severed Heads agree to 'one more' tour with Gary Numan, at the end of which we obtain a document saying we cannot play live in Australia again. We then go back to Antwerp instead.
- 2012 The Adelaide Festival commissions a computer game and a concert for 2013. Careful reading of the Gary Numan note allows that 'the last show must be Adelaide'. So OK.
- 2013 I started to record some new music for a disc that would be given out at Adelaide, but it wasn't ready in time. This would eventually become the Rhine album. With a TV crew filming the show I am struck ill, at one point passing out on stage. Apparently no one noticed. I have never watched the footage and I never will. The game went on abc.net which is great, but I don't think many people 'got it'.
- 2014 Severed Heads begin to reissue the old albums on vinyl again, starting with Since The Accident, City Slab Horror and Eighties Cheesecake. This stirs up interest in the band.
- 2015 Rhine is completed. Severed Heads perform in the USA for the first time since 1990 as the Better Dead Than Head tour. The suicide of my partner Stacy Glasier brings much soul searching and I abandon my academic career and doctorate.
- 2016 Severed Heads compose the first new piece of music since Op3 in 2007. We (Stewart and Tom) perform it at FBI Radio, while Stephen M Jones cuts a limited edition of acetate discs. A performance in Poland is announced.