Sacha Colgate, a Skullflower follower in the UK, contributed all this swell information about Skullflower (in addition to more info on Ramleh, Ascension, etc. covered elsewhere on the site). Everything on this page is credited to Sacha....
Line up for BIRTHDEATH -- M Bower, S Jaworzyn, G Mundy, S Dennison. Line up for FORM DESTOYER -- as above, plus (of course) A. diFranco and Steve Thrower. S. Thrower was drafted in to play drums as S. Dennison was unavailable for some recording sessions.
After this, G. Mundy left to pursue Ramleh full-time with Phillip Best, leaving line up of M. Bower, S. Jaworzyn and S. Dennison. This line-up recorded XAMAN, with Alex Binnie drafted in to play bass on "Wave." Stefan left Skullflower immediately after XAMAN was complete. Allegedly (and I am unable to confirm this, but I got it from a very reliable source), M. Bower delivered such a completely unacceptable mix from the master tapes that SJ was forced to master the LP and CD from a "working" mix which he had done onto ordinary audio cassette.
A. diFranco was then asked by M. Bower to return to Skullflower on a full-time basis, leaving the new trio of M. Bower, A. diFranco, S. Dennison. This lineup initially recorded material which ended up on singles ("Bad Alchemy," "Evil Twin") and then entered JTI Studio in 1991 to record the material which turned into the IIIRD GATEKEEPER LP and CD. According to an account from A. diFranco, the album was recorded and mixed in three days (for those unaware of recording practices, this is extremely quick, not to mention rather insane!). These sessions went very well, if extremely tiring for all concerned (quite understandable, under the circumstances). Around the time IIIRD GATEKEEPER was released, Skullflower were invited to tour with Godflesh, and did so. Amongst other places, they played in Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham and London. They actually played two dates in London: the first date was at London Borderline in September 1992, supporting God. Lineup was M. Bower, A. diFranco, and S. Dennison, with Alex Binnie on (inaudible) synth, and Phillip Best on vocals for one track ("Avalanche"?). Second date was at London Marquee in November 1992, supporting Godflesh. Lineup was M. Bower, A. diFranco, S. Dennison. They played two numbers in 30-35 minutes (one which I remember being a version of "Wave"). Pardon my opinion, but they were completely incredible, about as perfect as you could expect them to be.
Anyway, a few months after this tour ended, A. diFranco left Skullflower and began work on what eventually became the first AX LP. Around mid 1993, Skullflower performed at Bull & Gate in Kentish Town, London -- Lineup was M. Bower, S. Dennison, P. Best and Simon Wickham-Smith. The audience hated it, and ended up booing them off! (I think some of this performance ended up on the CARVED INTO ROSES CD). This was SF's move into "improv-racket" territory. In July-Aug 1994, Skullflower performed with Bodychoke (featuring K. Tomkins of Whitehouse/Sutcliffe Jugend), and line up was M. Bower, S. Dennison, Russell Smith (gtr) and John Godbert (reeds). Audience reaction was somewhat mixed. Last known performance in London was at a 'Freek Records Night' in mid 1995 (supporting Hair & Skin Trading Co. and Bodychoke). Line up was M. Bower and S. Dennison (on cheap Indian-made violin). I didn't actually see this (I was at a pub instead, but saw the other two acts), but was told that Skullflower were "...a joke, just absolutely awful". Apparently, Gary Mundy was going to perform with Skullflower on this night, as a return to their more rock-oriented sound, but was involved in a horrible car accident. There may have been other performances since then (in fact, I now remember being told by Fisheye's Paul Wild that he saw them in Leeds at the Termite Festival, and he said they were great), but I can't vouch for them.
STUART DENNISON - Playing with M Bower/Formation of Skullflower
As a way of getting a grasp of the history of Skullflower, Stuart documented how he initially began playing with Matthew Bower, and the circumstances which ultimately led to the formation of SF. He then supplied some details of pre-A di Franco live performances, and what becomes clear is how Skullflower began and initally progressed in developing their own unique sound:
"The first band we formed, around the period 1979-80, was Les Fleur de Mal. Following this band were two further groups, who were The Wayward Boys and A Sulphur of Lions. After the dissolution of A Sulphur Of Lions around 1982, Matthew and I went our separate ways for a while. Matthew went on to form Pure, and I formed a group with an unpronounceable title, 00:00. This group/gathering was an Industrial-type thing, and performed two gigs -- one at the Concord Club in Brighton, the other being at some dive place in London (I don't know where!!). 00:00 also made some recordings, mostly in home-improv. studios, but one notable session took place near a disused underground walkway near the Maltings in Farnham. I have examples of all the stuff except the first group..."
"Around 1985, Matthew asked me to help out with his new band, Total. [In addition to playing/recording] we even made a film which he still has (I think). But Total was his project really, and the stuff we did then is very different from Total now! Matthew then involved Stefan Jaworzyn, who he met through a mutual friend of ours [NOTE: This person could be Alex Binnie, who performed with M. Bower in Pure, and also performed alongside Stefan in their own respective units in 1982 - Alex's was Kodak, Stefan's After Sex and Take/Flesh], and we played/recorded a couple of live sessions under the group name Raiders. We then changed the name to Skullflower -- the rest is History..."
"There were several live formative sessions prior to our first release [NOTE: an example of which can be found on the XAMAN CD issue, entitled 'What Did You Expect']. Gary Mundy was supposed to play on some of these occassions, but failed to show up! Skullflower also played three gigs where the line-up was: M. Bower, S. Dennsion, S. Jaworzyn. The first I can remember, and this must have been around 1986-7, was at The Richmond in Brighton, where we supported AC Temple [useless English 'noise' band]. The other two were at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town, London, and I can't remember if other bands played on these occasions... I left Skullflower for a short time after the recording of 'Birthdeath' -- that's why Stephen Thrower appeared on some
FORM DESTROYER tracks..."
Regarding the question of Skullflower's later pursual of 'improv-racket,' Stuart was able to clarify the precise motivations in moving away from a solid Rock base: "...we were always going to break away from the narrow constricts of
always playing rock music. It started in studios/gigs where we just decided to push the boundaries at the end of songs, and I suppose it ended up with us making these moments the focus of our attentions. We always hated rehearsing, as it made whatever you played a chore, boring & the same as the last time you played it. I guess rehearsals are for people who want to standardize what they are doing. Skullflower always wanted to find something new every time we played (and we played it differently every time -- for better or for worse). "
"As for the drumming and vocals - I have always tried to use my voice like an instrument. Although there are lyrics, they were spontaneous and always subservient to the expression/feeling/atmosphere of what we were doing - the vibrancy of the vocal sound, its quality/tone: its 'gushing' and 'sucking' were intended to behave like a spontaneous noise box. I guess I took a similar approach with the drums -- rhythms became stale, all used up & unable to cope with the breadth of expression we were finding in the expansive world of Freeform. So instead of playing a rhythm, I would try almost to play tones (like a tympani player almost), but extended, grinding and utterly exhausting. It was the physical/mental delirium that I always craved - doing was better than listening, creating better than consumption."
"[With reference to the last Skullflower performance w/M. Bower on gtr. and S. Dennison on viola] ...'the joke' was [our] most successful. People were begging for a heavy/lusty riff. We of course refused to give it to them! Instead, a paper thin weave of guitar and viola, used as a weapon against all those who thought they knew something about us, or wanted us to behave in a way that entertained them. One of the many features of Skullflower was that it was never 'entertainment' -- it was always a test of expectations - context/ music/ noise/ audience/ chance expreession."