By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The two surviving members of one of England’s most uncompromising experimental rock acts look back at their influential legacy when This Is Not This Heat comes to the Chapel Saturday night.
During its brief six years of existence, This Heat laid down the foundation for genres of music that hadn’t even been invented yet with their avant-garde sonic creations. Multi-instrumentalists Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward (drummer in future Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera’s band Quiet Sun) had already worked together in the improv band Dolphin Logic when they teamed with untrained musician Gareth Williams in the south London district of Camberwell in 1976.
This Heat drew equal inspiration from the boundary-breaking sounds of krautrock revolutionaries Can and Faust. iconoclast British art rockers Henry Cow and Brian Eno and the dub science of Jamaican reggae producers Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby with their early bedroom studio recordings. It was one of those demos captured on tape in the attic of Hayward’s parents’ home that caught the ear of legendary BBC DJ John Peel in 1977.
The group would set up its headquarters at a former meat locker, christening the studio “Cold Storage” and refining their mix of tape manipulation, unbridled improvisation, electronic noise and driving rhythms during sessions there and live performances around London. The trio would gradually piece together the songs found on the band’s self-titled debut that was finally issued in 1979, a landmark collection that prefigured the early post-punk excursions of Wire and Public Image Ltd as well as the future sounds of industrial and instrumental post-rock in the ’90s.
This Heat would release the two extended song EP Health And Efficiency the following year, delving further into minimalist fixed rhythms and ambient drones. The band released one more album — Deceit in 1981 — that flirted with more traditional song structures and a higher-fidelity sound before going through the seismic change with Williams departing to study dance in India after the record was completed. This Heat continued for one more European tour, filling out the band with bassist-vocalist Trefor Goronwy and keyboardist Ian Hill before splitting up in 1982.
Hayward would found the like-minded experimental group Camberwell Now with Goronwy and This Heat sound technician Stephen Rickard, releasing a pair of acclaimed EPs and a single album during the ’80s. He would later release solo albums and participate in several collaborative bands, most notably Massacre with bassist Bill Laswell and former Henry Cow guitarist Fred Frith. Bullen was less prolific, starting the solo venture Lifetones that released its single album For a Reason in 1983. It wasn’t until 1998 that he would re-emerge with new dance-oriented music under the moniker Circadian Rhythms. But a 1993 disc of unreleased This Heat recordings entitled Repeat indicated that the band’s story might not be over.
All three members of This Heat reconvened in 2001 for tentative rehearsals with a possible reunion after Williams was diagnosed with cancer, but he would pass away by the end of the year. Hayward and Bullen worked together set up the label This Is! with the idea of reissuing the band’s back catalog. The box set Out of Cold Storage featuring all of the official albums plus an additional disc of live recordings was released in 2006
In 2016, the pair would debut This Is Not This Heat, a project featuring Hayward and Bullen playing new interpretations of the band’s influential music with young collaborators to mark the 40th anniversary of This Heat and the reissue of the group’s classic albums on Light in the Attic. After acclaimed performances in Europe, the U.K. and North America at festivals and headlining shows, the collective finally comes to San Francisco this weekend to play the Chapel Saturday on what is rumored to be This Is Not This Heat’s final round of live dates. They will be joined by experimental guitarist Bill Orcutt, who performs a solo electric set, and DJ Brian Turner.
This Is Not This Heat
Saturday, July 27, 8:30 p.m. $35-$40