Personal favorites of avant-garde cinema master Derek Jarman and Trent Reznor (who signed them to his label Nothing Records), Coil were a leading light of experimental, electronic and music community around the world. Throughout years, the band generated enough controversy due to their interest in the occult and exploration of taboo themes, but aside from that, they also produced plenty of great music. Unfortunately, it all came to an end with a tragic death of the band’s leader John Balance, but their legacy remains intact.
The band was formed in the early 80s by Balance (born Geoff Rushton) and Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson. Their first release was “How To Destroy Angels”, which came out on Laylah Antirecords label in 1984 and was reissued in 1988. Remix album of the same name appeared in 1992.
The album contained two tracks, both of which took A and B side in entirety – title track and “Absolute Elsewhere” (with latter contained nothing but silence). Title track was supposed to be released as a b-side to the track “Silence And Secrecy”, but the idea was shelved and “Silence And Secrecy” resurfaced only in partial form on “Transparent”, an early Coil retrospective.
All Music Guide described the record as “an extended duet for percussion and electronics” and “a real alternative to drowning in a wave of groovy rock bands with packaged presentations and looks.”. At the same time, AMG pointed out that the title track could have been done by anyone with an access to gong and its “as much about banging on gongs as destroying angels”, but the record still retains a “surprising charm”.
The early 80s also saw the band teaming up with John Goslin project Zos Kia. They also teamed up with Boyd Rice (NON) and appeared as Sickness Of Snakes on a “Nightmare Culture”, a split album with Current 93.
By the mid 80s, Coil left Laylah and signed to Some Bizarre label, for which they released 1984 “Scatology” LP. Appropriately enough, the album contained plenty of sex references, including anal staircase – both the track of that name and an object that appeared on one of three different album covers . The album also included “Tainted Love” – cover version of Gloria Jones song, which became mega-hit in the hands of Soft Cell.
Trouser Press commented on the album – “Scatology”, the subject of which is a strange mix of fetish, fantasy and religion, finds Christopherson and Balance working with Ruin, Stephen Thrower and ex- Alternative TV guitarist Alex Fergusson. Most of the tracks are built around simple but forceful electronic percussion, with sampler and synthesizer overdubs adding a mood of spiritual despair and decaying grandeur.”
1986 “Horse Rotorvator” featured a photograph of IRA bombing and was influenced by AIDS related deaths of some of the band’s friends (a constant motive throughout much of the band’s 80s work). It was described by Balance as a vision of a “mechanical/flesh thing that ploughed up the earth – a real burning, dripping, jaw-like vision in the night”.
Trouser Press described the album as “a mélange of electronic tone poems of varying textures and styles, from haunting drones to film noir jazz (complete with a Clint Ruin horn section) to quasi-Middle Eastern/African modalities.”
In 1987, the band recorded material for Clive Barker’s movie “Hellraiser”, but it was never used in the movie itself. In 1988 Solar Lodge label produced “Unreleased Themes From Hellraiser”, which was described by Trouser Press as a collection of “eleven short bits of incidental music, some of which are quite good, but most are too brief to leave a lasting impression.”.
1987 “Gold Is The Metal With The Broadest Shoulders” collected an outtakes from “Horse Rotorvator”, “Scatology” and “Hellraiser”. It marked the first release from Threshold House, the band’s own label. TS also produced three more collections of Coil’s rarities – Unnatural History (1990), Unnatural History || (1995) and Unnatural History ||| (1997).
1991 brought “Love’s Secret Domain”, the first collection of an entirely new material by the band since the release of “Horse Rotorvator”. While not intended as a dance record per se, it still contained beats and “Windowpane” and “Snow” from the album were remixed by Jack Dangers from Meat Beat Manifesto.
All Music Guide commented that Coil “retained the gothic synth pop of Horse Rotorvator, but with a special emphasis on stuttered cut-and-paste sections rather than organic instruments and environmental sublimation.”
Throughout the 90s, the band recorded music for numerous movies, including Derek Jarman’s “Blue” / “Angelic Conversations” and a documentaries called “Gay Man’s Guide To Safety Sex” and “Sarah Dales Sensurous Massage”.
By the mid 90s, members of Coil started various side projects, including Time Machines, Black Light District and ElpH. Most of their releases came out on Eskaton, a new label that the band created.
In the late 90s, the band continued their activity as Coil and released 4 singles which were supposed to coincide with equinox and solstice of 1998. All singles were later included on a double-CD set “Moon’s Milk (In Four Phases)”.
1999 full-length “Astral Disaster” marked the presence of a new band member – Thighpaulsandra (born Tim Lewis), who previously worked with Julian Cope and Spiritualized. New millennium saw a steady stream of releases from the band, including 2000 “Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil” and 2004 “Black Antlers”.
On November 13, 2004, John Balance died as a result of a fall in his house and his death was announced by Peter Christopherson via Threshold House website. Although Coil ceased to exist, plenty of post-humous material followed, including live album “And The Ambulance Died In His Arms” and the band’s final studio record “Ape Of Naples”, which came out in December of 2005.
Recent years saw a number of Coil-related projects – one was Threshold HouseBoys Choir, Peter Christopherson project which he created as a follow-up to his last band. In 2008, THC performed live soundtrack to Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversation at the Ambrosio Cinemia in Turin, Italy.
This Immortal Coil was another project created in the wake of band’s dissolution. Its a band that recorded an album of Coil covers entitled “This Dark Age Of Love” , which featured contributions by the likes of Bonnie Prince Billy, Matt Elliott (Third Eye Foundation) and Yann Tiersen, among others.
Danny Hyde (Aural Rage, Psychic TV)
John Balance (Geoff Rushton) (Black Light District, Murderwerkers, Nodding Folk, Psychic TV, Rosa Mundi, Sickness Of Snakes, Stabmental, Time Machines, Zos Kia)
Peter Christopherson (Black Light District, COUM Transmissions, Nodding Folk, Psychic TV, Rosa Mundi, Sickness Of Snakes, Soisong, Throbbing Gristle, Threshold HouseBoys Choir, Time Machines)
Thighpaulsandra (Tim Lewis) (Queen Elizabeth, Spiritualized)
Drew McDowall (Captain Sons And Daughters, Poems, Psychic TV, Screwtape)
Ossian Brown (Simon Norris) (Cyclobe, Nodding Folk)
Stephen Thrower (Cyclobe, Posession, Put Put, Satin Chickens)
William Breeze (Psychic TV)
How To Destroy Angels 12″ (LAYLAH Antirecords, 1984 / 1988)
Scatology CD / LP (Force And Form, 1984 / 1988 / Threshold House, 2001)
The Melancholy Mad Tenant (with New Blockaders and Vortex Campaign) CD / LP / Cass (Self-Released, 1984 / Black Rose, 2005 / Important, 2008)
Transparent (with Zos Kia) CD / LP / Cass (Nekrophile, 1984 / Threshold House, 1987 / Eskaton, 1998)
Panic / Tainted Love CD / 12″ (Wax Trax!, 1985 / 1990 / Force And Form, 1985 / Wax Trax! + TVT, 1994)
Horse Rotorvator CD / LP / Cass (Force And Form, 1986 / 1988 / Some Bizarre, 1986 / Relativity, 1987 / Boudisque, 1987 / Les Disques Du Soleil Et De L’Acier, 1987 / Recordvox, 1987 / Threshold House, 2001)
The Anal Staircase EP 12″ (Force And Form, 1986 / Relativity, 1987)
Gold Is The Metal (With The Broadest Shoulders) CD / LP (Threshold House, 1987 / 1996 / Normal, 1990 )
The Unreleased Themes For Hellraiser CD / Cass / 10″ (Solar Lodge, 1987 / Soleilmoon, 1988 / Torso, 1990)
The Wheel / The Wheal 7″ (Threshold House, 1987 / Normal, 1990)
Unnatural History CD (Threshold House, 1990)
Windowpane CD / 12″ (Threshold House, 1990 / Wax Trax!, 1990 / Torso, 1990 / Wax Trax! + TVT, 1994)
Wrong Eye / Scope 7″ (Shock, 1990)
Love’s Secret Domain CD / LP / Cass (Torso, 1991 / Wax Trax!, 1991 / Wax Trax! + TVT, 1993 / Threshould House, 2001)
The Snow EP CD / 12″ (Torso, 1991 / Wax Trax!, 1991 / Wax Trax! + TVT, 1993)
How To Destroy Angels (Remixes And Re-Recordings) CD (Threshold House, 1992)
Stolen And Contaminated Songs CD (Threshold House, 1992)
Is Suicide A Solution? 7″ (Clawfist, 1993)
Themes From Derek Jarman’s Blue 7″ (Threshold House, 1993)
Nasa-Arab 12″ (Eskaton, 1994)
The Angelic Conversation CD (Threshold House, 1994)
Unnatural History || CD (Threshold House, 1995)
Windowpane & The Snow CD (Threshold House, 1995)
Unnatural History ||| CD (Threshold House, 1997)
Autumn Equinox: Amethyst Decievers CD / 7″ (Eskaton, 1998)
Spring Equinox: Moon’s Milk Or Under A Uniquet Skull CD / 7″ (Eskaton, 1998)
Summer Solstice: Bee Stings CD / 7″ (Eskaton, 1998)
Astral Disaster CD / LP (Prescription, 1999 / Threshold House, 2000)
Musick To Play In The Dark CD / LP (Chalice, 1999)
Winter Solstice: North CD / 7″ (Eskaton, 1999)
Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil CD (Eskaton, 2000)
Musick To Play In The Dark 2 CD / LP (Chalice, 2000)
Queens Of The Circulating Library CD (Eskaton, 2000)
August 18, 2001 New York City VHS (Mute Elation, 2001)
Live In NYC August 18, 2001 CDr (Mute Elation, 2001)
Moon’s Milk (In Four Phases) – Coppice Meat 10″ (Self-Released, 2001)
Пособие Для Кончающих: Волос Злата CD (Feelee, 2001)
Пособие Для Начинающих: Глас Серебра CD (Feelee, 2001)
Live In Moscow 2001 VHS (Feelee, 2001)
Moon’s Milk (In Four Phases) 2xCD (Eskaton, 2002)
Moon’s Milk (In Four Phases) Bonus Disc CDr (Threshold House, 2002)
The Golden Hare With A Voice Of Silver 2xCD (Eskaton, 2002)
The Plastic Spider Thing CD (Eskaton, 2002)
The Remote Viewer CD / CDr (Threshold House, 2002 / 2006)
The Somnambulist CDr (Threshold House, 2002)
ANS CD / 3xCD + DVD (Eskaton, 2003 / Threshold House, 2004)
England’s Hidden Reverse (with Current 93 and Coil) (SAF Publishing + World Serpent, 2002)
Live One 2XCD (Threshold House, 2003)
Live Two CD (Threshold House, 2003)
Live Three CD (Threshold House, 2003)
Live Four CD (Threshold House, 2003)
Megalithomania! CDr (Threshold House, 2003)
Spoiler Talks DVD Series: Coil DVD (Subetage, 2003)
The Restitution Of Decayed Intelligence 10″ / 12″ (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2003)
Black Antlers CD / CDr (Threshold House 2004 /2006)
Selvaggina, Go Back Into The Woods CDr (Threshold House, 2004)
…And The Ambulance Died In His Arms CD (Threshold House, 2005)
The Ape Of Naples CD / LP (Threshold House, 2005)
Absinthe Coil CD (Absinthevertrieb Lion, 2006)
The New Backwards CD (Threshold House, 2008)
The Ape Of Naples / The New Backwards 3XLP (Important, 2008)
Selected Compilation Tracks:
“Red Weather” on Bethel (Self-Released, 1983)
“Here To Here (Double Headed Secret)” on The Beast 666 (Nekrophile, 1983)
“S Is For Sleep” on The Elephant Table Album (X Tract, 1983)
“Neither His Nor Yours” on A Diamond Hidden In The Mouth Of A Corpse (Giorno Poetry Systems, 1985 / Visionary Communications, 1997)
“Restless Day” on Devastate To Liberate (Yangki, 1985 / United Dairies, 1987 / RRRecords, 1987)
“The Wheel” on If You Can’t Please Yourself, You Can’t Please Your Soul (EMI, 1985 / Capitol, 1985 / Some Bizarre, 1985 / Thirsty Ear, 1997)
“Sicktone” on The Fight Is On (LAYLAH Antirecords, 1985)
“His Body Was A Playground For The Nazi Elite” on Ohrensausen (Dom, 1986)
“Dream Photography” on Peyrere (Peyrere, 1988)
“Love’s Secret Domain (Demo Version)” on ! (Wax Trax! Sampler #2) (Wax Trax!, 1989)
“Another Brown World” on Myths 4: Sinople Twilight In Çatal Hüyük (Sub Rosa, 1989 / 1996)
“Contains A Disclaimer” on Pathological Compilation (Pathological, 1989)
“Wrong Eye” + “Scope” + “Meaning What Exactly?” on The Portable Altamont (Shock, 1991)
“Nasa Arab” on Out There – A Thread Through Time (Pi, 1994)
“The Hills Are Alive” on Macro Dub Infection Volume 1 (Virgin, 1995 / Caroline, 1995)
“Lost Rivers Of London” on Succour (The Terrascope Benefit Album) (Ptolemaic Terrascope, 1997)
“Heartworms” on Terra Serpentes (World Serpent, 1996)
“Stoned Circular ||” on Narcosis: A Dark Ambient Compilation (Credo, 1997)
“Blue Rats (Blue Cheese Remix)” + “Heartworms” on Foxtrot (Chalice, 1998)
“Blue Rats” on Torture Garden – Bizzare & Eccentric Music Compilation (Torture Garden, 1999)
“Glisten#2” on Computer Music Journal Sound Anthology Volume 24, 2000 (Computer Music Journal, 2000)
“Time Machines (Excerpt)” on Cornucopea: Two South Bank Evenings With Julian Cope (Head Heritage, 2000)
“Broken Aura” on Emre [Dark Matter] (Source Research, 2000)
“A Cold Cell” on The Wire Tapper 6 (Wire Magazine, 2000)
“Love’s Secret Domain” on Licht + Kraft (Tolkewitz, 2001)
“Are You Shivering?” on Lichttaufe 2 (Goeart + Prophecy Productions, 2001)
“Further Back And Faster” on Rough Trade Shops – 25 Years (Mute, 2001)
“Mayhem Accelerator Part 1” on Brain In The Wire (Brainwashed, 2002)
“Ended” on Rough Trade Shops – Electronic 01 (Mute, 2002)
“Remote Viewing 1 (Excerpt)” on X-Rated: The Electronic Files (Boudisque, 2002)
“Bad Message” on Lactamase: The Closure (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2003)
“The Test” on Mutek 03 (Mutek, 2003)
“The Restitution Of Decayed Intelligence II (Extract)” on The Lactamase 10″ Sampler (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2003)
“Magnetic North” on Tyr: Myth Culture Tradition Vol. 2 (Ultra!, 2004)
“Sex With Sun Ra” on Rough Trade Shops – Counter Culture 04 Best Of 2004 (Mute, 2005)
“Journey To Avebury” on Brainwaves (Brainwashed, 2006)
“Broccoli” on Not Alone (Durtro + Jnana, 2006)
“Coppice Meat” on X-Rated: The Dark Files (Steamin’ Soundworks, 2006)
“Ostia (The Death Of Pasolini)” on Songs For A Child – A Tribute To Pier Paolo Pasolini (Rustblade, 2009)
On a Different Note:
- Archival Mixtape #2 – Coil
- New Music Releases – Coil – Colour Sound Oblivion DVD Box Set
- Coil – Audio / Video Archive
- R.I.P. – Danny Flesher (Wax Trax!)
- Band Profile – Growing