Random Hold to open show for old friend

Gail S Tagashira,
San Jose Mercury, 20th June 1980

BOTH Peter Gabriel's band and Random Hold arrived from England five days ago, but after that, it's been each band for itself. Gabriel's the headliner on this concert tour, so he has two hours of stage cues, lighting effects and even a tryout performance near Los Angeles before his official opening here in San Jose, Saturday night. As the opening act, Random Hold has only 45 minutes onstage, almost nothing in the way of special effects.

The band finished a similar tour of England last week. So, to pass the time, all four musicians have been typical Los Angeles tourists for several days, enjoying the corniest sightseeing trips around Southern California.

"Isn't this great?" synthesizer and singer David Ferguson bubbled in his British accent, watching an "Ironside" rerun in his hotel room. "The other night, we saw 'The Shining,' then last night, we went to Graumann's Chinese (Theater) to look at footprints in the cement and today we're off to Disneyland. I hope they let us in. If we're not careful, suppose they don't admit us?"

Outside, the sun was shining and Ferguson said he missed the English rain. He's spent a fortune on tanning lotions. When Random Hold opens Peter Gabriel's show in Civic Auditorium, it won't be just the band's Bay area visit. "It'll be our first gig in the States - ever," Ferguson said.

Nothing has been handed to the band or been easy despite the impressive track record of its members. When Brian Eno's temporary band, 801, made its final performance, with Phil Manzanera sitting in as guest performer, Ferguson and guitarist David Rhodes decided something was missing at the final concert. The next day, on Sept. 4 1976, the two set out to discover the missing element.

Rhodes had studied fine arts in Leeds and London. It seemed logical for him to sing and play guitar. Ferguson had studied Serbo-Croat at the London School of Slavonic and East European Studies, worked as a sound engineer and written scores for theater productions in Edinburgh, London and Stoke. Long determined to remain a non-musician, he broke down and bought and old bass guitar and a stylophone. Together, Ferguson and Rhodes formed Manscheinen, a group devoted to experimental music. Tapes were recorded, mailed to record companies and ignored. They wrote the soundtrack for a puppet theater production titled "The Long and Lonely Voyage of the Sole Spermatozoa." When Manscheinein quietly faded into the London fog, hardly a soul noticed.

Early in 1978, former 801 singer arid guitarist Simon Ainley was recruited, along with a drummer - the first of several - and Random Hold was formed, to underwhelming corporate response. "In England," Ferguson recalled, "with the punk thing, so popular at the time, if you weren't punk, it took forever to get the labels to hear you. Now it's ska."

Forced to take action to survive, bassist and financier Bill MacCormick allowed himself to be drafted; in a moment of weakness. A cabinet shuffle followed; complete with dismissals of managers and drummers. To add an element of new technology, former Plesseys Electronics drummer David Leach was introduced. After more tapes, a few performances and word of mouth, Random Hold finally signed a recording contract. Then Ainley and Leach left. The new manager decided that what the band needed was a good looker, some glamor. Enter Pete Phipps, the tall drummer formerly with Gary Glitter and the G Band.

Through Gabriel, the band connected with Peter Hammill, who produced record after record - albums, singles, extended-plays, 12-inch mini-albums, in the rural setting of Startling Studios. Gabriel was an early supporter of the band and is now regarded as a true friend. On the recent Gabriel-Random Hold tour in England, he called them "one of the best bands he'd heard in the last year." Without hoopla, the once-charismatic performer with Genesis quickly scooted on and offstage minus regalia, costumes and disguises before anyone realized who he was.

"Fashion's really boring," Ferguson said, thinking about Random Hold's stage personae. "It's always last year's thing anyway. David and I wear parachute trousers because they're the most comfortable to move in. Bill's always got a hood on and Pete wears tennis gear because he prefers playing tennis to playing drums."

Random Hold's been compared to Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Roxy Music.

"Different people read different things into different songs. We like to think we're fairly eclectic rockers. Except for knowing Peter quite well, we're not influenced by Genesis." Both bands play "rock with a slightly new angle to it," the synthesizer specialist said. "It's not get down and boogie. It's fairly real."

Shows are Saturday at 8 pm in San Jose Civic Auditorium, Sunday and Monday at 8 pm in Fox Warfield Theater, Market and Sixth Streets in San Francisco. Tickets are $8.50 and $9.50.

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