Legendary early Flying Nun Records band (1982-6) that server as a pre-cursor to The Terminals for members Peter Stapleton, Mick Elborado, and a young Brian Crook (still yet to form the Max Block and The Renderers).
Peter Stapleton brought to the group several songs he’d co-written but not yet recorded with Stephen Cogle in the short-lived Victor Dimisich Band, but Scorched Earth Policy had their own distinctive sound; very dark and foreboding.
Initially Stapleton (drums / lyrics) was flanked by a young Mick Elborado (bass / vocals) and Mary Heney (guitar, vocals, organ and drums) and Mick’s old bandmate Ian Blinkinsop (though he left before their first public appearance). Andrew Dawson soon joined to replace Ian on vocals, and brought around his Knowles Street flatmate, recently arrived ex-Hastings lad Brian Crook who…
Was into German music at the time, y’know, Can and Faust and that sort of stuff. Some weird hybrid between German music and the Beach Boys I think I was kind of thinking about. Yeah, when I finally got to the Scorched Earth practice, the songs were y’know, two minutes long, or something. And Peter was really into that ‘Pebbles’ thing. And Captain Beefheart. Y’know, just, every practice, out would come the Captain Beefheart album.Brian Crook, taken from Wade Churton’s ‘Glam, Punk and Scorched Earth Policy’
Looking through their song-writing credits it’s clear that writing was a collaborative process, with Crook, Elborado, Stapleton, Dawson and Heney all listed as song-writers, along with quite a few contributions from Stephen Cogle.
First of all we’d have … because I had lyrics, plenty of lyrics, that wasn’t a problem. The problem was getting some sort of music for them. First of all, I think, the whole band tried to work out things together and then gradually Brian became the main writer of music and you know quite quickly it became really good. But the whole Scorched Earth thing was this kind of motley collection of just completely different people and there was Andrew singing or sort of singing, vocally declaiming in a Mark E. Smith sort of style. Mark E. Smith was quite an influence.Peter Stapleton – Oral History (Zoe Drayton – Audio Foundation)
Eventually vocalist Andrew Dawson grew frustrated with the group improvising more and more – he felt redundant. He eventually left the group and Andrea Cocks joined from The World (who were breaking up), adding violin to the mix.
Scorched Earth Policies songs are full of tension. The can rise and fall over the course of 3 minutes; with Stapleton’s galloping drums pushing the band faster and faster; Elborado’s Krautrock-inspired bass rumbling around while Crook, Heney and Cocks let loose on guitar, organ and violin.
Mick Elborado was in an out of the band in the last year – temporarily replaced by Campbell McLay of Onset/Offset Records and the group Toerag (who Scorched Earth Policy had toured with down in Dunedin). Once the 2nd EP was released Elborado left again and the group decided to break up.
A few years after the group concluded, 2 incredibly rare DIY cassette releases surfaced – a live recording on Grant McDonagh’s Passage Tapes called ‘A.D‘, and ‘Foaming Out‘ on XPressway, which compiled the groups Flying Nun releases on the A side with a live recording on the B side.
Thankfully in 2000, the Keep Away From The Wires compilation was put out by Stapleton’s Medication label (a sub-label of his well known Metonymic label specifically put together to release his old groups hard-to-find archival material). This was followed by a similar release from US Label Silbreeze in 2013; the LP compilation ‘Going Thru’ A Hole In The Back Of Your Head’.
Peter Stapleton passed away in March 2020 and Mary Heney passed away in September 2020.
- Andrea Cocks (The World, violin / keyboards)
- Andrew Dawson (vocals)
- Brian Crook (Flies Inside The Sun, Renderizors, The Max Block, The Renderers, The Terminals, guitar, vocals)
- Campbell McLay (Builders, Dillinger’s Brain, Offtopsthehead, The Bottletops, The Mammy Whammy Tata Band, The Riptoids, Toerag, bass)
- Ian Blenkinsop (Drowning Is Easy, Gas, The McGoohans, guitar / bass)
- Mary Heney (25 Cents, The Pin Group, The Shallows, Victor Dimisich Band, organ, guitar, vocals)
- Mick Elborado (Minus 2, Alien, Drowning Is Easy, Gas, Negative Nancies, Ritchie Venus and the Blue Beetles, The Palace Of Wisdom, The Shallows, The Terminals, bass, guitar, vocals)
- Peter Stapleton (Cobweb Iris, Dadamah, Eye, Flies Inside The Sun, PSN Electronic, Rain, Sleep, The Pin Group, The Terminals, Vacuum, Victor Dimisich Band, drums)
- Catherine Upson (backing vocals)
- Dust To Dust EP (1984, Flying Nun Records, FN028)
- Going Thru’ A Hole In The Back Of Your Head EP (1985, Flying Nun Records, FN042)
- A.D. Cassette (Live Recording 1986, Passage Tapes, Passage10)
- Foaming Out Cassette (1991, Xpressway, X/Way 20]
- Keep Away From The Wires (Compilation 1999, Medication, MED04)
- Going Thru’ A Hole In The Back Of Your Head compilation LP (2013, Siltbreeze, SB152)