Decontrol formed back in 1991. The original line-up consisted of brothers Nick Smith & Lee (Smyf) Smith, John Knowles (Flossy) and Chris Spencer. Originally practising above the iconic Riverside venue in Newcastle, Chris invited Paul Garbutt to audition as a second vocalist.
The original audition consisted of cover versions of ‘Crucified’ and ‘Increase The Pressure’, together with an almost-complete version of ‘Corporate Greed’ and an embryonic version of ‘Blind To The Truth’.
After the rehearsal, Paul was recruited and at this point started song-writing in earnest. ‘Organised Crime’ was the first effort, quickly followed by ‘No Torture’, ‘Stereotyped’ and a completion of lyrics and structure for ‘Blind To The Truth’. Nick completed work on what was to be our ‘anthem’ – ‘Working Class Hero’.
Paul also came up with the band name (of course after the Discharge anthemic) and designed the Decontrol logo, basing it subconsciously and loosely on Disorder’s logo style.
Tightening up the cover versions already played and adding Discharge’s ‘Fight Back’, the band debuted at Newcastle’s Irish Centre. It wasn’t the best debut in the world, but wasn’t the worst either. With no-one really having heard the band before, there was a lack of crowd interaction – frustrating Paul, who’d expected at least one person to get up during the set.
We recorded our first (and only) demo around this time, using the six original songs and our cover of Conflict’s ‘Increase The Pressure’ as an ending track. The demo was recorded in one day at Impulse Sound studios in Wallsend and it was done in pretty much one take for each of us. The original recording order was as follows: Stereotyped, Blind to the Truth, Working Class Hero, Increase the Pressure, Corporate Greed, Organised Crime, No Torture.
Gigs came around faster, with our set now consisting of the seven songs from the demo, plus our 2 new compositions and Agnostic Front’s version of ‘Crucified’ and Discharge’s ‘Fight Back’ making an 11-song set, with the odd time of throwing in ‘Ain’t No Feeble Bastard’ by Discharge as well, for good measure.
We’d sent off for the classic 1” badges that Stick from Doom used to make and sell, so we got a whole batch of them made to hand out with tapes, at gigs, to friends etc.
Paul had also discovered how to make T-shirts using materials and help from the teachers at the school he’d worked at as a technician at the time. Our last gig in South Shields saw us set up a stand selling the classic ‘Thunk!’ demo tape cover t-shirts that had been hand-printed. Paul had even painted up a special one-off ‘Working Class Hero’ shirt for Nick with the classic picture of Harry Roberts, which would have made a great second design to go on sale if the band had survived.
Bands we supported during our short first life included Disaster, Genital Deformities, Active Minds, Hiatus, Mushroom Attack, Armed Relapse, Mutant, and Mortal Remains.
We were featured in some fanzines – the local fanzine ‘Punk Shocker’ reviewed our demo and gave it favourable rating. Paul & Chris were also interviewed for another local fanzine, the name of which is forgotten now.
The exact reason for the band splitting is still not known – there were several factors involved. Flossy – once he’d recorded the demo – seemed to tail off in enthusiasm. Chris and Nick with differences of opinion/not seeing eye to eye/pissed off with each other for any amount of reasons. Nick spending more time with his splinter band Bone Idle and arguably giving them his best work, which may explain the friction with him and Chris. Who knows?
The band was still together in May 1992, but by the end of that summer we had effectively split. Flossy had left first, leaving the band without a drummer and no immediate signs of any replacement.
During the summer, Nick had sent off copies of tapes for compilation tape makers with the best songs from our demo plus good rehearsals of ‘Big Business’ and ‘EMI FOAD’, backed with his Bone Idol demo. Smyf later revealed that the band were in the process of being offered a record deal by some distributor, probably as a result of the submissions/advertising, but by that time it was too late. By the end of summer 1992, the band was no more.
Fast forward to 2014, when after rediscovering the demo tape and scanning the cover in to fix it up as a mini-project, Paul yearned to reform the band. Asking the remaining members if they would consider a reunion was met with surprise but no agreement. Paul pressed on without any other original members, but with their blessing he advertised for musicians on a Facebook group ‘North East Underground’, ran by Alan ‘Netty’ Burnett. The response was immediate and within days had gathered a full set of new members, including two guitarists rather than the original single player.
Robby Robertson (of ‘The Fiend’ fame) and Sean Harrison (ex-Debauchery) were joined by Nick Wood (ex-SORB) on bass and Neil ‘Hursty’ Hurst (ex-Mutant, Incendiary Device – a band which Chris the original singer had also been a member of – and Loaded 44) on drums.
After the initial get-together and a house practice, the reformed Decontrol had one practice with Robby before he had to pull out of the band due to commitments with The Fiend, leaving the band as a four-piece. Originally planned as a double-vocal band, Paul took on the role as lead singer.
Resuming practicing in earnest in February 2015, the band quickly learned the original demo songs plus a few of the remaining set, injecting them with a new structure as well as small changes to lyrics.
The original ‘Thunk!’ demo cover, depicting a policeman in riot gear being struck on the head by a flying brick, was given a modern-day make-over by artist Skinny (of Doom & ENT artwork fame), featuring as the iconic t-shirt design the band have now.
New songs were written quickly, with all members contributing. concert staples were accompanied by new more aggressive songs such as ‘Shop Til You Drop’ and ‘Holy War’.
The second incarnation of Decontrol finally took to the stage again on May 3rd, 2015, supporting The Fiend at The Black Bull. Other gigs quickly followed and the band have now played more gigs in the ten month period after reforming than they ever did during their whole first incarnation, gathering fans old and new to listen to what they have to say.
The songwriting continued, with titles such as ‘Divide & Rule’, ‘Insatiable Thirst’, ‘What is Society?’ and ‘Impale Me’ unleashed on our audiences over 2015 and 2016, eventually recorded on our second album, ‘Fear Is the Key’.
After February and the summer of 2017 closed, we said goodbye to Nick, then Sean, performing a few gigs with Stevie from Force Fed Lies filling in on bass and Stoney on guitar until Nick re-joined in October on guitar now, with Bry from Fed To The Boars (and Mantas 666 back in the day) on bass.
We released a three-way split CD after talking to Frenetix and getting our brothers Anord to create 4 new tracks plus a cover each.
We now plan to release our third album ‘The Inevitable End’ sometime in 2019.
Watch this space!
Decontrol, December 2018.