This is an augmented version, with vital extra trivia and more embarrassing photos, of the sleevenotes for LTM’s upcoming reissue of Hope of Heaven.
Part 1: the road to the first recorded Nyam Nyam song, Knowledge, only available on the ultra-rare Hull compilation Mrs Wilson’s Children, released in March 1980.
Trevor Simpson: I’d known Paul since the age of 4, we were at Primary School together. When we were 15 I started playing drums. I remember rehearsing in my front room with Paul, and Nick Hunter coming round with a bass he couldn’t play. But he also brought Raw Power and that’s the first time I heard it. Before that I would have been glamming it. Obviously Paul chose Grant over me on drums because he could actually play. Then I think Mental Block split up, we kept in touch and used to meet at the Welly Club
Paul Trynka: I’d formed Mental Block, Hull’s first punk band, with Nick Hunter – we first played in October 1976, and used to phone up and gossip with Malcom McLaren and Lee Childers.
Ian Priestman: I remember you at a gig (your first perhaps in Mental Block) one sunny summers afternoon at David Lister around 1976. I was in my hippy gear and you were performing punk, if I remember, with some tin foil on your head.
Paul Trynka: We played The Bull, a pretty tough docker’s pub, and maybe half a dozen other places – including the Welly Club, which at the time was split between hippies and bikers. There was a riot, we ended up barricaded in the dressing room but couldn’t call the police because there were so many drugs in the place. I was 16, it was great. But it was nearly all covers. Then I started trying to write songs. Trevor had been trying the bass, and we started working on songs together. The first public gig as Nyam Nyam was Dec 13, 1979, supporting the Rezillos.
Trevor: Our drummer, Dave Jones, was a friend’s brother, he was slightly older than us and would hang out at the Welly [Club]. He was into Jean-Paul Sartre; I was sitting with him, he was leafing through Nausea, we said we’d point to a word and that would be the name of the band. He pointed – and there was Nyam Nyam, an African tribe. We said we’d go with that name for now.
Paul: Dave learned drums from scratch, more or less. He didn’t play conventional drum patterns, he just played the song. He was very specific about what sounded right and what didn’t.
Trevor: Dave and I would rehearse in his garage trying to come up with a sound. I was listening to a lot of music, Pere Ubu, Final Solution, where the bass would have a more dominant role.
We used to go to the Welly a lot, I’d go on my Honda 50. It was Thursday night and you’d see a band every week.
Kari Brown: I had the privilege of running the Wellington club – “the welly” to its 500 capacity friends and fans. We were host to many bands who went on to become household names – Magazine, Psycheledic Furs, Monochrome set, Echho and the Bunnymen, The Beat, The Specials – and so many more.
Paul: We had a lot of material, but Knowledge was the first song that really worked; minimal, with spookily simple drums. Dave in particular was a hard taskmaster, maybe some of the other songs had little retro or, I dunno, Beatles touches, and he would zero in on them and complain. So right from that moment we were trying to get something more stark.
Trevor: Knowledge was definitely our best early song. It was a case of, because of the way we were going, Simple was better.
Dave Jones, at the Welly.
Kari: Every Thursday night one of the bands we read about in the NME each week took to the stage supported by one of the very many members of the Hull music scene. At some point – I know not when – we decided these bands should be celebrated. Spurred on by the success of sheffields Bouquet of Steel and Brighton’s Vaultage 78, we went in search of 12 bands. The title of the album was provided courtesy of The Sons of the Pope, the youngest of all the bands and the ones who were often at the sharp end of the Wellie’s owner, Mrs Wilson’s, tongue. The spirit of her lament being “you wouldn’t do that in your own home,”.
Paul: Knowledge was our contribution to Mrs Wilsons’ Children, a Hull compilation that came out in 1981. It was the start of a beautiful time when you’d be listening to John Peel and your own record would come on, maybe with a couple of words of approval, little moments that felt life-changing.
Trevor: We played at the Welly a lot, and lots of Rock Against Racism gigs. Then shows on the East Coast. Including one at the Hornsea Floral Hall I will never forget. No wonder Dave never played with us again.
Paul: The Floral Hall had a raked wooden stage. We’d start with this bass and drums buildup, then I’d run to the mic, hit the opening chords and start singing. Except for this gig, when my trendy Chelsea boots skidded, I smacked into the mike and split my lip while the kids in the front row fell over laughing. Meanwhile, Dave’s drum kit was constantly sliding away from him. In the stress, he simply forgot how to play the drums. He left the band, insisting he was no good, despite our entreaties. I had to play drums for our demos for a bit.
Trevor: We were rehearsing in Sculcoates Lane next to the graveyard in an old house that someone had managed to wire up with electricity. The Defectors used to rehearse below us, we’d have to wait for one of their songs to finish before we could start ours. Very democratic.
Paul: If people thought our music was depressing, they should’ve seen this house in the middle of a graveyard. We had a punk friend, Concorde, who occasionally roadie’d for us, and he had the bright idea of stealing a skull. Someone spotted this Victorian mausoleum had been broken in to, there were headlines in the Hull Daily Mail. Then he went round the local antique stores trying to sell the skull. When they caught him he was held up as an example of punk depravity. I think he got several years, poor fella. The house would be broken in to regularly, so I’d often be there in the middle of the night, playing The Defectors’ drum kit.