Thrash Hits

November 1st, 2012

Midweek Bootleg 003: Pitchshifter – Un-United Kingdom (live at Reading ’99)

If there’s one band from the pre-Millenial Brit-metal set that everyone seems to have a story about, then it’s Pitchshifter. With Guy Fawkes’ Night a few days away, Hugh Platt takes a look at ‘Un-United Kingdom’.

Pitchshifter old promo photo Thrash Hits

So Halloween is over. Done. No Halloween-flavoured bootleg this week. Nosiree. Instead, we’re going to be looking at an altogether more British affair: Guy Fawkes’ Night. Well, more specifically, a song that references it once in its lyrics. Yep, that’s the level of topicality we’re maintaining with Midweek Bootleg. Long-time readers of Thrash Hits might remember a guest column I wrote for the ladies over at Reign In Blonde way back in 2010 on this subject, and yeah, I’m cribbing the focus of this week’s bootleg – Nottingham’s perennial reunion band, Pitchshifter – from that very column.

Since then, I’m not sure whether the prevalence of V For Vendetta masks within the Occupy Movement means that people outside the UK are more or less familiar with the history behind this event now than they were two years ago, but that’s what Wikipedia links were made for, right? Shorthand version: Boy meets boys, boys plan to blow up other boy who they have deep-seated religious hatred for, boys fail in plan to blow up other boy, other boy has boys hanged, drawn and quartered, and organises official public holiday in recognition of said fact. Yeah, you’re probably better off with the Wikipedia version.

‘Un-United Kingdom’ has that charming mix of pre-post-millennial stick-it-to-the-man lyrical rhetoric that Pitchshifter were notorious for, along with the mix of cyber-ish metal, samples, and general punk-ish rabble-rousing that characterised their “peak” period (beginning with 1996’s Infotainment? and arguably ending with 2000’s Deviant albums). This live version of the track from their EP of the same name was recorded at Reading Festival 1999, and falls slap bang in the middle of that era. What’s the connection between ‘Un-United Kingdom’ and Guy Fawkes’ Night? Well, give it a listen and pay attention to the lyrics and you’ll see.

Metal history pays less heed to the memory of Pitchshifter than British History does to that of Guy Fawkes, with Pitchshifter are all but forgotten by the current generation of metal fans. Members of the band have repeatedly said they are working on a new album, but whether or not anything will ever come of it (or indeed, anyone outside Pitchshifter’s dwindling nostalgic fanbase will actually care) remains to be seen. Indeed, the last time Pitchshifter frontman, JS Clayden, made any impact in the public metal consciousness was as an aside in an entry of the Ask Earache blog by Earache Records boss, Digby Pearson. Pearson slammed Clayden with the following:

Thinking about it- yes, we did have one blatant wannabe rock star on this label, the arrogant, bullshitting, ego-on-legs by the name of J.S “Seth” Clayden of Pitch Shifter. That dude takes the honor of being the biggest twat and most ungrateful musician I’ve ever worked with. His managers- yes he employed two of them, a husband and wife team – became desperate to move the band away from Earache to score a lucrative major label deal instead, stirring trouble on a daily basis to sour the deal. It was actually a blessed relief when the band were told they could leave Earache and inked with Geffen.

Ouch. We’ll be returning to Pitchshifter for later entries in Midweek Bootleg – Digby Pearson isn’t the only one with interesting stories to tell about Pitchshifter….


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