Decontrol 2022

The Original Lineup

Decontrol formed in 1991. comprising of Nick Smith on guitar, Lee Smith (Smyf) on bass, John Knowles (Flossy) on drums, Chris Spencer and Paul Garbutt on dual vocals. Paul was the last member to join the band, after being asked by Chris as a second vocalist when they met at a rock night in South Shields bar Trocaderos (Trocs).

Nick, Chris and Smyf
Nick, Chris and Smyf
Paul at the tryout practice
Paul at the tryout practice in Newcastle Riverside, 1991

The band had already crafted one full song “Corporate Greed” and had started work on another “Blind To The Truth.” Paul brought three songs early on: “Organised Crime”, “Stereotyped” and “No Torture” (initially called “Compassion”).

Chris and Paul at a practice at Tony’s practice place, 1991
Smyf, 1991

Nick and Smyf added the almost-anthem-like “Working Class Hero” which completed the original set, boosted by covers of Discharge’s “Fight Back” and Agnostic Front’s version of “Crucified”.

First gig at the Irish Centre, Newcastle, 1991
Second gig at Consett Legion Club, 1991
Second gig at Consett Legion Club, 1991
Second gig at Consett Legion Club, 1991

As time progressed over the year, additional songs of “Forced Values”, “Big Business” and the final original song “It’s Up To Us (part1)” were brought into the set list along with another Discharge cover, this time it was “Ain’t No Feeble Bastard”.

Second visit to the Irish Centre, Newcastle, 1992
Second visit to the Irish Centre, Newcastle, 1992
Second visit to the Irish Centre, Newcastle, 1992

After a tryout at the practice rooms above the Newcastle Riverside venue, the band was complete and practising started regularly at the rehearsal rooms down in Ouseburn, Newcastle, where The Cluny venue is now.

The band outside Tony’s practice place in 1991, just down the bank from where The Cluny is located L-R: Chris, Paul, Flossy (back), Nick, Smyf

In terms of gigs, the original band only performed five times, supporting the likes of Hellkrusher, Genital Deformities, Hiatus, Mushroom Attack, Active Minds and Anemia.

At one gig, Chris couldn’t make it due to illness, so Paul was on solo vocal duty – in some cases very demanding as the vocal tracking was designed for two people, but it worked out without much issue.

Only Paul on vocals for the gig at the Royalty, Sunderland, 1992
The Royalty, Sunderland, 1992

The last gig with the original lineup was at Images in South Shields, where Genital Deformities were headlining. By that point the band had started producing DIY t-shirts to go along with copies of their “Thunk!” demo tape that had been recorded at Impulse Sound studios (where Venom recorded).

Images, South Shields, 1992. This venue is now Aneesa’s Indian Buffet Restaurant

By this time, relations between Nick and Chris were wearing thin, leading to the gradual demise of the band, especially as the summertime approached and Paul spent time studying at college for upcoming exams. By the finish of the exam period, the band had pretty much broken up. Chris had left, Flossy had disappeared, leaving Paul, Nick and Smyf, who tried to have one last rehearsal at The Bunker studios in Sunderland with a replacement drummer (out of One By One?) which didn’t work out, leading to the final nail in the coffin of the original lineup. Paul had continued to write lyrics for new songs should an opportunity arise for a reunion, but it wasn’t to be.

Paul and Flossy at (possibly) a Doom gig in 1992

The Reunion

Fast forward 22 years. Much has happened since the band had dissolved. In early 2014, Paul had uncovered a bag of band memorabilia, including original lyrics handwritten out on A4 paper, along with gig flyers and the odd photo.

Having been involved in running Discharge’s official site and getting to their shows in Newcastle, Paul meets up with Smyf and discovers that the band were almost set to record an album with a record label but as they folded the chance of the recording disappeared with it. Connecting with others from the scene back in the 1990s via Facebook, got Paul thinking about the early days. He thought about how the songs could sound given a re-working and had imagined new tempos and arrangements for the old songs that were begging to be brought to life.

In addition, Paul had curated what photos he could find, captured the original demo and other practice recordings digitally as well as the videos of three gigs that had been filmed and produced a limited run of DVDr-based compilations entitled “Total Decontrol” with the audio tracks being extras available in a folder on the disc accessible by computer.

“Total Decontrol” DVDr cover

A gig in South Shields’ Top Club with Angelic Upstarts and The Fiend, ignited his enthusiasm further and soon after advertised on Facebooks’ “Northeast Underground” group for band members to help out.

Paul had already contacted Chris and Smyf as they still lived locally but were not interested in a reunion due to other projects going on. Nick had moved out of the UK and Flossy was still uncontactable and indeed to all intents and purposes “lost”.

The first contact made was with ex-Mutant drummer Neil Hurst (Hursty) who had been a fan of the band originally (seen in photos above from Consett Legion with long blonde hair) and had drummed with ex-vocalist Chris in other projects such as Incendiary Device.

To Paul’s surprise, Robby from The Fiend offered guitar services, quickly followed by ex-Debauchery guitarist Sean Harrison and ex-SORB guitarist Nick Wood. to play bass. A house session was arranged so that the structures could be reverse-engineered from tapes and Paul’s recollections. With one practice of all five new members of the “V2” band, the songs were defined and given the much needed boost that Paul had imagined they could turn into.

With commitments to The Fiend being too much, Robby bowed out, leaving the remaining four members to continue practising as the “V3” band through 2015, honing the old songs into shape and adding a new cover song, this time a medley of two Rudimentary Peni numbers “The Psycho Squat” and “Nothing But A Nightmare”.

On May 3rd 2015, the first gig of the rejuvenated Decontrol happened at the Black Bull in Gateshead, supporting The Fiend.

Poster for the first rejuvenated Decontrol gig in 2015
Supporting Sanction This! at The Roxbury (now closed) in Blyth

Other gigs followed quickly, with the band supporting the likes of Sanction This!, The Varukers and Oi Polloi.

The rejuvenated band “V3” – L-R: Neil, Paul, Nick, Sean

The band were then contacted by Indonesia-based punks Firstblood, who wanted to record a split cassette, so to make that happen they went into Rocking Horse studios in Durham and recorded all 8 of the original songs plus the new Rudimentary Peni medley (re-titled as “Ignorant Dummy”) so that a selection of those tracks could be sent for the split tape.

The full album was then released as “Still Fucking Angry!” as an initial 100 run on vinyl-effect CDr complete in a poster sleeve in a similar fashion to CRASS, with a second run being produced once they had sold out. The first run had 20 discs already burned and printed when the band got a new mix from the studio, meaning those were shelved for some years before finally seeing the light of day to be sold to Revenge Records in Japan.

The first proper album by Decontrol = “Still Fucking Angry!”

Gigs continued through 2016, supporting the likes of Tools of the Trade and Police Bastard as well as several all-dayer events and finally breaking out of the North East region and up to Scotland.

Songwriting had continued throughout the year and almost 12 months after the first album, the follow-up album “Fear Is The Key” was recorded. Again in Rocking Horse studios in Durham, this time eight new songs were laid down with a new cover of Disfear’s “Misanthropic Generation”, re-titled as “Dead End Breed”.

Second Decontrol album “Fear Is The Key” cover

The album this time was a pressed silver CD in 500 copies, again with a poster sleeve similar to the first album and with first 250 copies coming with a small sticker of the album cover.

The original cover was set to be a gun-toting riot policeman, but last minute decisions changed the character to that of a capitalistic Death instead. For the remaining 100 copies of the album, Paul printed up replacement poster sleeves, featuring the original artwork, given a bit of sprucing up.

The original Fear Is The Key cover
Reworked poster sleeve for the final 100 Fear Is The Key album CDs

Long time friend Brian Lawson from Fed To The Boars came along to the session and for the cover track recorded vocals for what was to be special versions of the song planned to be released as compilation tracks. In addition, Kat Gillham from Winds of Genocide recorded another vocal track in the following weeks allowing for several mixes of vocals to be created, culminating in a three-vocal version by the hybrid band name of “Fed to the Winds of Decontrol”. It was limited to 10 copies, mainly for the band and extra vocalists. A few copies were given away to friends.

Dead End Breed mixes CD front
Dead End Breed mixes – CD back

Gigging continued in 2017. However, in mid June, with relationships worsening between Nick and Sean, Nick left the band prior to two away gigs in July, with Stevie Winter from Force Fed Lies filling-in on bass duties to keep the band’s participation in the gigs active, supporting Cress and AOA on both nights.

Immediately after that, Sean was removed from the band (those who know, know why) and replaced with Stoney from Keyside Strike for two gigs supporting Hellbastard. After those gigs, both Stevie and Stoney left having fulfilled their duties, leaving just Paul and Neil in the band.

Now that Sean was out of the band, Nick wanted to return and he did, but going onto guitar duties instead of bass, which was filled by Brian Lawson after some searching, to make V4 of the band,

Decontrol V4 – L-R: Neil, Paul, Nick, Bry

After a short (ten minute) set at a gig to settle Bry in to begin with, the band went on to record 5 tracks for a planned 3-way split CD with Frenetix (Scotland) and other local band Anord (which means “Chaos” in Gaelic), entitled “…And Still It’s Grim Up North!”. The five tracks included another cover, this time being Chaos UK’s “Four Minute Warning” and again suitably re-titled as “Hiroshima Is Here Again”. The album was released by Paul and Trev (from Anord) on their new record label “Chaos Control” – the ‘Chaos’ being Anord and with ‘De’ removed from “Decontrol”.

The three-way split CD with Frenetix and Anord

Several gigs followed, including further trips to Scotland. However Bry was unable to continue in the band for personal reasons, so the hunt was on for another replacement bass player, which after several leads that ended up fruitless, was filled by AOA’s resident bass player Chris Halliday, creating the current “V5” band.

Decontrol V5 – L-R: Nick, Neil, Paul, Chris

Several songs had been written with Bry in the band and after a bit of rework, two of those songs became the band’s next release – this time as a 7-inch single “Surrogate Suns”.

Decontrol “Surrogate Suns” 7-inch cover

More songs have now been composed and the band are now waiting for the right moment to record the long-awaited third album “The Inevitable End” in early 2023.