Maniac Squat were the art punk band from Colchester who had a cult hit with ‘F**k Off’ in the mid-90s – a record which secured them the coveted single of the week slot in Kerrang! no less.
Performing over two hundred gigs, including support slots for Babes in Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp as well as tours of mainland Europe, Maniac Squat made their last record in 1996 and promptly split. Now they are back, with three members of the original line-up reconvening to record a stunning concept album of experimental art-rock: The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary. The album leans heavily towards jazz and has been inspired by the work of eighteenth-century Christian mystic, author and philosopher, Karl von Eckhartshausen.
For ‘The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary’ the band have teamed up with an all-star ensemble of guest musicians headed up by legendary Bowie/Iggy Pop sideman, Kevin Armstrong, who also produced the album. Joining Kevin – and the original Maniac Squat alumni of Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto – are Iggy Pop’s drummer, Mat Hector; PJ Harvey’s sax player, Terry Edwards; and rising star Manchester-based rapper, El Zeeko. The release is accompanied by an equally stunning seventeen-minute video by art director/film producer, Robert Russell, whose vibrant, other-worldly imagery deftly captures the intensity of emotions that the band delve into via their experimental soundscapes.
Original Maniac Squat frontman, Tom Wilcox, says: “Our wilderness years were spent stumbling horny from one fix to the next. In the course of trying to repair our complex and multi-faceted personal relationships, Scott, Michael and I were profoundly affected by both the teachings of Karl von Eckartshausen and the key change rubrics of Gustav Mahler. These inspirations provoked us into composing separate elements of a larger piece of music. We gradually brought the disparate movements together to make one work. There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
Producer and guest musician, Kevin Armstrong, adds: “When I was presented with the opportunity to help realize the revival of Maniac Squat little did I imagine that our efforts would produce such a savage and desolate beauty.”
Formed in Colchester, Essex, Maniac Squat pursued their own brand of art punk for five years between 1991 and 1996. They first played at Colchester Arts Centre in 1992 and were immediately banned for using an industrial grinder in their performance and for making a hole in the stage while smashing up a guitar. Maniac Squat persevered and went on to notch up the much coveted ‘Single of the Week’ accolade from Kerrang! magazine for their single ‘F**k Off’. They played over 200 gigs in their career – including tours of Germany and the Czech Republic – also releasing two singles and an album and being the go-to local support act for bands such as Babes In Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp when their tour itinerary took them to Colchester. After splitting in 1996, Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto would later re-appear in the mid-2000s as part of The Chavs, with several of their tracks used as MTV theme tunes, including ‘Nuclear War’.
Tom Wilcox was the front man of Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ ‘F**k Off’. Tom has since produced albums for Gillian Glover and Lisa Ronson; the latter, co-produced with Paul Cuddeford, receiving a 4-star review in Mojo and widespread recognition. As a songwriter Tom has provided material for many bands including Lover, Jesse Smith and Florence Sabeva. More recently, Tom has been the producer and singer with London based art rock band Last Day Sect.
Tom: “I was born in Colchester Maternity Hospital and have lived all over the borough, including Blackheath, Maldon Road, Wivenhoe and West Mersea. I went to Cherry Tree Primary School and Thomas Lord Audley secondary school. A lot of people in Colchester know me from the five years I worked as a barman in The Cups in the 90s, the infamous home of Colchester’s music sub-cultures until it closed in the 2000s. I still have family and many friends who live there. My Dad, Waveney Wilcox, was a renowned character and hellraiser in Colchester, socially active there from the late 60s through to the 90s.”
Michael Giaquinto was bass player with Maniac Squat in the 90s and also played bass with punk legends Vice Squad, touring extensively throughout the US and Europe. He then spent several years in Brazil, where he played in Marca Diabo, the resident house band at the infamous cultural centre Casa Amarela, backing performing artists of all types, from contortionists to beat poets. Returning to the UK with an increased appetite for experimentalism, he became involved with London’s improvised music scene and has played with some its well-known figures, including Eddie Prévost, John Russell, and Steve Beresford. He has worked as a bassist for hire in a number of bands, has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and works in music education.
Michael moved to Colchester aged 15 and sometimes attended Wilson Marriage Comprehensive. After a confused period of labouring, boat building, and tarmacking driveways he dedicated himself to the heady thrills of playing music. His Winnock Road residence became a safe haven for like-minded souls and became the spiritual home and strategic nerve centre of Maniac Squat. It’s close proximity to Winnock Stores ensured a plentiful supply of lager and frozen pizzas and also gave the opportunity for the band to ingratiate themselves with the local community. These happy, carefree days were frequently ended in establishments such as The Bakers Arms, the Oliver Twist, The Cups, The Hippodrome (rock and indie nights), and, on full moons, Fagin’s Den. He sold the band equipment to Cash Converters and fled to London around ‘94. His mum and brother still live in Colchester and he enjoys visiting when he can.
Scott Pearce – (aka Arsepiece) was the guitarist in 90’s DIY punk band Maniac Squat and later in The Chavs who created the soundtrack of MTV/Viacom’s TV series ‘Blaggers’. Scott moved into music supervision and publishing for TV and Films. He now runs his own independent soundtrack label, The Nerve, and has produced over 250 albums sound tracking networks such as BBC, ITV, HBO, C4, Discovery, Viacom/CBS and ABC. He gave up drugs in 2014 which he now deeply regrets, only binge drinks at weekends but still very much enjoys amorality – if only as a keen spectator which, regrettably, makes him a somewhat duller version of his earlier self.
Scott: “I was born in Harold Wood, Romford (now a massive overspill estate for entry level bankers) and headed down the A12 (The Dirty Dozen) to live in Halstead about 20 miles from Colchester. I moved to Colchester and Wivenhoe at 16 and slept in Tom and Waveney’s spare room through sixth form college before graduating to Michael’s sofa in Colchester’s New Town – where we also kept all the band’s gear. I worked for the notorious head shop when they branched out to having a market stall outside The Cups pub where I sold ornamental bongs, pipes and Bob Marley flags. Thereafter it got very predictable and boring as I followed the herd down to London, made a mess of life before selling out. I doubt anyone particularly remembers me for which I’m probably quite gratefully. I still seem to have a lot of friends in Brightlingsea though which is a very odd little fishing community outside Colchester, the only town to welcome the Beeching Axe of the railways after which they fortified their borders with only a single entry/exit point.”
The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is released on 23rd September on all the main digital platforms and in a limited-edition vinyl format, too. It will be available via: http://maniacsquat.com/