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Encyclopedia entry for 'Severed Heads' LETTER:

Formed in 1979
StyleElectronic dance
 Original line-up: Richard Fielding, Andrew Wright, Tom Ellard
 Albums: Ear Bitten/No Vowels No Bowels (shared LP, B-side by Rhythmyx Chymx, Terse Music/Wrong, 1980), Clean (Terse Tapes/Dogfood Production System, 1981), Since the Accident (Terse Tapes, 1983; reissued on LP Virgin, 1984), City Slab Horror (Ink/Red Flame, UK import, 1985), Stretcher (Volition/CBS, 1985), The Big Bigot (Volition, 1986), Bad Mood Guy (Volition, 1987), Bulkhead (remix compilation, Volition, 1988), Rotund for Success (Volition, 1989), Retread (remix compilation, Volition, 1989), Cuisine (Volition, 1991), Gigapus (Volition/Sony, 1994), Somewhere Over the Gigapus (multimedia package of Gigapus CD, Videpus video and Metapus CD-ROM) (Volition/Sony, 1994).

Sydney-based conceptual electronic funk outfit Severed Heads started out as an experimental project that produced radical sound collages using computers and synthesisers. With the addition of drum machine dance beats to the music, Severed Heads later became the first Australian independent band to enter the US Billboard Dance chart. Throughout most of its existence, Severed Heads has been primarily the work of the visionary Tom Ellard, who has also worked under the names of Mr Ellard, Coklacoma and Fussssball. Apart from Ellard, the line-up of Severed Heads has changed a number of times. Other members have included Richard Fielding, Andrew Wright, Garry Bradbury, Paul Derring, Pete Rivett-Carnac (on loan from Single Gun Theory) and video-maker Steven Jones. DJ/producer (the late) Robert Rascic also worked closely with Severed Heads, being responsible for many of the group's 12-inch remixes.

Severed Heads emerged out of Fielding and Wright's experimental duo Mr and Mrs No Smoking Sign. Ellard joined Fielding and Wright at the end of 1979. They issued a number of self-financed cassettes, including Mr and Mrs No Smoking Sign Go Cruising fer Burgers! Having adopted the name Severed Heads, the group began issuing a series of challenging releases, either on Ellard's Terse Tapes or the Dogfood Production System imprint. Early reference points were UK outfits like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. The albums Ear Bitten/No Vowels No Bowels (1980) and Clean (1981) appeared in limited edition pressings of 400 copies each. The A-side of the first album Ear Bitten was by Severed Heads, with the B-side by the obscure group Rhythmyx Chymx. Cassette releases on Terse around that time included Ear Bitten (with additional tracks), Side 2 (recorded live), Live 1980/81, the mail-order only Side 3 (featuring two Severed Heads tracks plus solo material by the three then-current members Ellard, Fielding and Bradbury), Blubberknife (1983) and Since the Accident (1983).

UK label Red Flame/Ink issued Since the Accident on LP for the British market, followed by Blubberknife. Virgin issued the Since the Accident album in Australia during 1984. Since the Accident also produced the group's first UK 12-inch EP, `Dead Eyes Opened'/`Bullett', `Mount' (1984). Red Flame/Ink followed that during 1985 with the four-track, 12-inch EPs `Goodbye Tonsils', `Stretcher' and `Gashing the Old Mae West' plus the albums City Slab Horror and Clifford Darling, Please Don't Live in the Past. The five-track, 12-inch EP `Dead Eyes Opened' also appeared on the Canadian label Nettwerk. In the meantime, Australian independent label Volition compiled tracks from various overseas releases for the local album Stretcher (November 1985). It produced Severed Heads' first 7-inch single, `Petrol' (Short Mix)/`Petrol' (Cut Up Mix), `Son of Petrol' (Bigot Mix). The group's next album, The Big Bigot (August 1986), yielded the four-track, 12-inch EP `Propellor'.

The Canadian version of the album Come Visit the Big Bigot added the previously non-album track `Twenty Deadly Diseases' (from the `Propellor' EP), which saw release as a 12-inch EP in North America. During 1986, Ellard and Jones undertook a gruelling, 58-date European and American tour. The Bad Mood Guy album (October 1987) included the popular 12-inch EP `Hot with Fleas' (September). One side of the album featured a continuous flow of Rascic's remixes. To coincide with the album's release, Volition issued the ten-track Severed Heads video collection If I've Told You Once, I've Told You a Thousand Times. The UK and Canadian markets each got a different video collection called Severed Heads which Volition issued in Australia a year later under the title Kato Gets the Girl. When issued in the US, `Hot with Fleas' reached #5 on the American dance chart.

1988 saw the release of the `Greater Reward' 12-inch EP (June) and the remix compilation Bulkhead (both issued in Australia on Volition and in Europe and America on Nettwerk, December). Rotund for Success (October 1989) included the `All Saints' Day' 12-inch EP. The European and American markets also got the `Big Car' 12-inch EP (from Rotund for Success), while the Volition album Retread featured various remixes of tracks like `Big Car', `All Saints' Day' and `Greater Reward'. Severed Heads' November 1991 album Cuisine included five previously unreleased tracks taken from the scrapped Piscatorial project. Cuisine yielded the seven-track CD EP `Twister' (September 1992). Volition also issued the second Severed Heads video collection, I've Told You Twice and I'm Not Going to Tell You Again, in 1992. Severed Heads headlined the techno-focused Boiler Room on the 1994 national bill of the Big Day Out tour.

Later that year, the Nippon Crown label issued the 12-track compilation Severed Heads: Trance Techno for the Japanese market. Local releases continued apace with the ambitious Gigapus album on Volition. The multimedia package Somewhere Over the Gigapus comprised the standard Gigapus CD, the video Videpus (a reissue of I've Told You Twice and I'm Not Going to Tell You Again) and the CD-ROM Metapus. The CD-ROM featured an interactive history of Severed Heads with excerpts from over 100 songs and 40 minutes of video. Severed Heads scored a surprise Australian hit single when Volition issued the `Dead Eyes Opened 94' (remix) CD EP. It reached #16 on the national chart during January 1995. `Dead Eyes Opened 94' also logged the #10 placing on Triple J's 1994 Hottest 100 list. The `Heart of the Party' CD EP (taken from the Gigapus album) appeared in 1995. US label Decibel issued the Gigapus album for the American market during 1996. Severed Heads appeared on the Gold Coast bill of the 1997 Big Day Out (headlining the Boiler Room).

Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd


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