Big Block 454 was engendered many years ago by Colin Robinson and Pete Scullion. Colin had previously played in bands in Leeds and Manchester and had owned Graveyard Studios in Prestwich; Pete had played guitar in jazz and rock bands in Manchester.
The band's first release was a 12" single, "Know what this is?", on the Theory label.
This was followed by "Strangeways Riot", featuring samples of The Clash, Stuart Hall and the Z-Cars theme. Stuart Maconie wrote about the band in NME at the time (and played Strangeways Riot on his BBC 6Music show last year.)
Big Block 454 have never played many gigs as such; preferring to appear at events and multi-media shows. Their early performances were at art galleries, fashion shows and dance events in the Manchester area.
The band spend a lot of time in the recording process, constructing pieces by means of drastic editing and collaging. Brian Eno's "Oblique Strategies" card pack is often consulted. Lots of strange instruments and found sounds are used.
In 1996, Big Block 454 were commissioned to work with dada artists Russell Mills and Ian Walton to produce the music for their art installation "Measured in Shadows." Russell Mills has worked with Brian Eno, U2 and Nine Inch Nails. The music was created at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios; the installation being shown in Carlisle and Dublin. The opening night in Dublin was introduced by The Edge from U2.
By 2000, the line-up had grown to a 5-piece - Pete Scullion and Alex Stone on guitars, Colin Robinson on bass, Mark Joell on keyboards and Robert Shaw on drums.
The band had released 5 albums by then and were getting into film music.
During the recording of the next Big Block 454 album, "Their coats flapped like God's chops", Robert disappeared and Pete drifted away, leaving the current line-up of Colin, Mark and Alex. The album featured a lot more acoustic instruments. Just as the album was finished, the band was contacted by Stuart Maconie of BBC 6Music, who remembered "Strangeways Riot" and wanted the band to guest on his radio show "The Freak Zone".
To coincide with the radio show, the band made the entire album available as a free download on the Internet. After the show, a Big Block 454 eBay shop was opened and the four most recent CDs are on sale through that.
Over the years, the following people have played with Big Block 454... I may have missed some...
Colin Robinson (everything under the sun and moon)
Pete Scullion (guitars, vocals and "jazz")
Melissa Sinden (vocals on 12" and various albums)
Emma Scott (vocals on 12")
Alex Stone (guitar, vocals, accordion and unpleasant things)
Mark Joell (keyboards, vocals and unnecessary violence)
Robert Shaw (drums and whatnots)
Liam Robinson (live guitar)
Neil Newsome (air-raid siren)
Current line-up (May '07) - Colin, Alex and Mark.
The band is currently working on a new album. There might be a possibility of some live work later in the year, possibly in a light-weight, semi-acoustic, easily-mobile form.
The band intend to do more multi-media work, including music for films and collaborations with artists, and will also be making some short films themselves for showing on the Internet.
Big Block 454 releases:
"Know what this is?"
(Theory Records, 12" single, 1991)
"Measured in Shadows"
(CD box set for Russell Mills / Ian Walton art installation, 1996 - recorded at Big Block 454's studio and mixed at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios.)
"I changed my dentist... I changed him into a horse"
(Raspberry Records, CD, 1998)
"Three Lucky Boys"
(Raspberry Records, CD, 1998)
"They'd Bought a Packard"
(Raspberry Records, CD EP. 1998)
"Rough as Sausages"
(mp3.com CD compilation, 1999)
"Strange Ululations" (film music CD, 1999)
"Fistula !" (film music CD, 1999)
"That's a Nice Hat" (CD EP, 2000)
"Their coats flapped like God's chops" (CD, 2004)