It’s the home of Strawberry Studios, where 10cc progged their rock. That’s about it. My part in the Stockport rock scene lasted just over a year, between meeting Sam at the legendary Nelson bikers’ pub in Stockport in May of 1993 and going to university in September of 1994.
Sam and I shared a passion for Pantera, Tool and Alice in Chains. We knew that Pantera was Spanish for panther, so we agreed we’d name our band after the next word in the Spanish dictionary after pantera. We looked it up. It was pantufla, which means slipper. As in “pipe and.” Pantufla stuck for about a week until we came up with a new name: Melt. In retrospect, Pantufla was the far better name. And you just know the M in Melt would be spelt with the spiky M of Metallica.
I was a bassist and budding songwriter who found great existential depth in the lyrics of Eddie Vedder. Sam was an amazing guitarist who’d take the day off school to work out all the licks from Megadeth’s Rust In Peace album. Jepp was a drummer whose girlfriend took him to see Whitney Houston at the G-Mex Centre. He said he enjoyed it. That was the kind of band Melt was. We thought we played an intriguing blend of grunge metal with pop sensibilities. In fairness, we probably sounded like a bad copy of Therapy?.
As a bassist I hailed from the Cliff Burton school for bass guitarists who knew not their place in God’s great scheme of things. I’d learnt how to play chords on the bass long before I learnt how to keep time. I owned a wah-wah pedal for one brief, misguided spell. My young head was turned by what was known in the genre as “lead bassists”.
Billy Sheehan of the god-awful Mr. Big was a case in point. I’d watch videos of him and try to learn how to shred. Shredding is a guitar technique in which rapid passages are performed using sweep-picking, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and other techniques. Please don’t be picturing a long-haired bass guitarist feeding potentially compromising documents into a piece of office machinery in the name of rock ‘n’ roll.
Melt Mark 1 included my friend Mat on vocals. He missed our only rehearsal for the first gig because he was out buying a Halloween costume. He disappeared minutes before the gig itself. We found him down the road. He said he was still learning the lyrics, and needed a quiet place to think.
We played our first gig at The Swinging Sporran in Manchester. Yes, The Swinging Sporran. Our audience consisted of the members of Hangnail, the band we were supporting, my sister and her boyfriend, and four friends who left half way through our gig to catch the last train home. Our singer forgot all the words. I broke a string during “Creeping Death”. We broke up a couple of weeks later, then reformed without the singer.
Our main competitors in the Stockport teenage rock scene was a Smashing Pumpkins rip-off called Delaid. Everything about them irritated us, not least that stupid name. Were they saying they were delayed in getting laid, or was it a kind of faux-Jamaican way of saying The Laid? Either way, crap name. The fact that we were called Melt was neither here nor there.
Besides, by the time we got onto the bill for our second and last gig, we’d changed our name and would hereon be called H. Just that. H. We were deep and we knew it. H was taken from the name of my song, “Jazz H”, about the Swingjugend who defied Hitler by listening to jazz. That’s how deep we were. Ignore the fact that the H in “Jazz H” probably stood for Hitler, just ignore it.
Delaid were top of the bill at H’s only gig, a summertime gig at Monroe’s Wine Bar in Stockport. Don’t go looking for Monroe’s now, it got torched. Also on the line-up was a band a year younger than us who did Radiohead and Beatles covers and proper harmonies, and sounded far more like anything the rest of Britain would be listening to over the coming years than the other three bands combined. The other band before us was a punk-ska band called The Screaming Jalapeños, who really thought it was 1978 and were every bit as irritatingly punker-than-thou about it. Then it was the turn of H to take their rock bow.
This was the best gig of my life, and I’ve played at least nine. We’d been rehearsing solidly for three months and we knew we were hot. We had songs about how the IRA was really bad, how Nazism was really bad (two songs!) and how the presence of a god in a meaningless universe was doubtful. That one was called “I Doubt It”.
We ended with a cover of Alice in Chain’s “Would”, because songs about heroin addiction are things that teenagers from Stockport who’ve never had anything stronger than cider can really relate to. The crowd may have extended to fifty people, I don’t know as I’d taken my glasses off, but they loved us and bayed for more. We blew the Delaid wankers off the stage. By the time they came on, the cider had gone to their heads and they abandoned mid-set.
It was a night that will go down in rock n’ roll legend, at least in my rock n’ roll legend mind. A girl came up to me as I was packing away my bass and asked if I wanted to kiss her friend. I declined politely. The high of this gig lasted for three whole days, until my girlfriend dumped me for being an insufferable twat. We reformed without the singer a week later. I celebrated by going to see Tool.
I went away to university in the autumn and the band and the relationship fell apart. I cried briefly, then pulled myself together and sold all my Metallica records for beer money. I gave up songwriting one afternoon in 2003, when I realised with horror that I sounded exactly like Coldplay.