Membranes ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’ has had amazing reviews across Europe most of them are here
Many websites and magazines are calling it one of the albums of the year
The bands’s first album for 26 years is the best selling album in their history
Membranes played an acclaimed gig in Estonia with a 30 piece choir which got a 2 page review in Mojo
The band played several festivals in 2015 and will be playing a lot more in 2016 – they are supporting Therapy on their sold out February UK tour.
The album has had lots of radio play on 6music and the band are booked for another session on Mark Riley’s show on 6music – their second in six months.

After John Robb saw an Estonian choir and collaborated with them in Tallinn for a sold out event the gig has been much in demand across Europe with festival and headline dates throughout 2016.

The choir weave in traditional fold songs and drone melodies written by the band into the groups songs from the acclaimed Dark Matter/Dark Energy album which has been getting great reviews in the press and lots of radio play on 6music. the band’s first album for 26 years is a double album about death and the universe and has somehow become their best selling album and seen the group tour the world.

The concert will be unique one off event and is also a launch party for the band’s remix album called ‘Inner Space/Outer Space and features remixes of whole of the Dark Matter/Dark Energy album by Killing Joke, Manic Street preachers, Einsturzende Neubauten, Therapy, Cosey Fanni, Keith Levene, Reverend And The Makers, Mark Lanegan, Clint Mansell, Godflesh and many others…

WATCH ! youtube of Membranes ‘the Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light’


In 1977 fired up by punk rock 16 year old John Robb has an idea for a band and tries to find like minded people. The idea was to make music that you heard in your head and not in a conventional sense. Robb had already tried to make music with tape recorders, recording drum breaks from AC/DC albums and playing riffs with rubber bands over cigar boxes on a second tape recorder.



Mark Tilton is persuaded to join the Membranes who are formed at Blackpool Sixth Form College. Inspired by punk rock and the DIY ethic of punk, they start a fanzine, Rox and The Membranes at the same time. Tilton, who lived a few doors down the road from Robb, bought a ‘Woolworth’s special’ guitar from a junk shop, while Robb built his own bass out of spare parts and a slab of wood from a local DIY store (along with dustbin lids, the band having no drummer at this stage). they had no idea how to tune their guitars and made up their own chords. “it was whatever sounded right to us’



They then enlisted a singer Martin Critchley and Martin Kelly joined on drums. Critchley subsequently left, with Robb and Tilton taking over to share the vocals, Martin Kelly moving to keyboards with a WASP synthesiser and a 13 year old kid called Coofy Sid joining on drums. Their first recording was “Ice Age”, which appeared on the Blackpool Rox EP which Robb put together featuring Section 25, Syntax and The Kenneth Turner Set on Robb’s Vinyl Drip label. John Peel plays their track several times.


After a flexi-disc debut, the Flexible Membrane EP in 1980 which they pressed 4000 and Robb glued the sleeves together by hand as he hitch hiked around the country, they released the debut single proper “Muscles” in 1982. The single was raved over by both the music press and John Peel. Martin Kelly leaves and is replaced by Steve Farmery on guitar. The critical success of ‘Muscles’ sees the band sign a deal with Rondolet Records who issued a follow-up, the Pin Stripe Hype EP (the only Membranes record to feature guitarist Steve Farmery). Rondolet folded and the band signed to Criminal Damage Records. The singles saw a schizophrenic Membranes – on one side the northern guitar quirk of Muscles which was a big club hit in New York (which in pre internet times the band didn’t even know about until years later) and the noisier tracks with feedback, tribal drums and metal percussion which the band preferred.


After Steve Farmery left, the band went deeper into their new noise direction that they were already working on. Coofy Sid’s drumming became more tribal and the guitar and bass wilder and heavier. Tilton went back to made up chords and Robb’s violin bass was perfect for the heaviest bass sound ever.

Audiences are confused and react chaotically to the band who are already deep into the discordant noise thing. They are very much on their own.

They release a six track mini album called Crack House on Criminal Damage records. It’s not about crack- no-one has heard of crack at that time. The songs are darker and more experimental, the bass is heavy and the guitar discordant scree. Apart from a few people no-one else gets it. This makes the band happy.

Membranes - Band pic 2


One of those people who get it is Alan Mcgee who persuades them to play in London after they had vowed to never play the city again.

The Membranes would have been the first band to sign to Creation Records the label that Mcgee is setting up and the label’s first release would have been “Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder”, but Alan McGee had no money for the studio so the band stayed with Criminal Damage and released Spike Millions Tape Recorder as a seven inch single.

Described in ZigZag (magazine) as “not only have The Membranes wiped the floor with the opposition, they redesigned the tiles”. They were awarded single of the week in all four music papers, and Spike Milligan reached number six in the John Peel Festive 50. John Peel played the record a lot and even played the free jazz noise of the b side All Skin And Bone and the band started touring- building up a loyal live following, many of which ended up in their own bands inspired by the noise, energy and vision of the Membranes and their Death To Trad Rock banner.


In January 1985 The Membranes appeared on The Tube TV programme playing one of their best known songs, Myths And Legends, from their newly released Criminal Damage EP, Death To trad Rock which was their second indie chart top 10 single and widely given great reviews and used as a bench mark for a dark and heavy noise record and placed the band with contemporaries like Einsterzende Neubaten and Birthday Party as well as Black Flag and Dead Kennedys.


The Death To Trad Rock EP went to number 8 in the UK Indie Chart and saw the band on the front cover of Sounds. The bands gigs were increasingly chaotic- a show at Reading University has gone down in band history with a PA getting kicked over – after the gig a thrilled Alan Mcgee formulated allan to recreate the riot like atmosphere with his new signings Jesus And Mary Chain and on his drive back to London gave membranes fan Fat AMrk a life. Doors fanatic mark told Alan that he should get the membranes to wear leather trousers- Alan suggested the idea but the band who were living in penniless chaos could not afford the trousers so the idea was passed onto other bands on the label.

In early 1985 Mark Tilton left the band: he was replaced shortly after by Stan Batcow, who came in on bass with Robb moving to guitar.

The new line-up signed to Creation records and recorded the Gift Of Life album but without the studio engineer John Brierley, who had worked on their last two releases and with a rookie engineer on board, the band’s resulting debut album ‘The Gift of Life’ didn’t quite capture their massive live and discordant sound the way Robb heard it but still came out to rave reviews and went to number one in the indie chart and saw the band become a big cult group.


After a gig in London, a Creation Records night, in 1986 the band left/were sacked from the label after an argument. The gig was booked as The Membranes headlining with The Pastels and Slaughter Joe on the bill. It was decided by someone, not the promoter, to draw lots for the billing and the lots surprisingly came out with The Membranes going on first and Slaughter Joe headlining. This meant that the bulk of the audience who had come to see The Membranes missed the band, and let their feelings be heard during Slaughter Joe’s set and because Joe was helping to run Creation records, The Membranes were off the label. The Pastels walked out in support of The Membranes.

Shortly afterwards Stan left the band and Wallis joined on bass.

The band then signed to In Tape, the label run by Marc Riley where they released their second album Songs Of Love And Fury which was produced by german indie legend Phillip Boa who tidied up the chaos but left in the important eccentricity and the album was another big indie records with lots of great press and attracted the interest of many world wide labels.




The band toured Europe several times becoming close friends with the Ex in Holland and Phillip Boa in Germany- who released their albums in Germany resulting in several top top albums there. They signed to Homestead Records in America and did two big tours of the USA where they were welcomed as part of the post hardcore underground of bands like Sonic Youth, Big Black, Mission Of Burma, My Dad Is Dead, Volcano Suns etc and were supported at gigs by Pussy Galore, Afghan Whigs and White Zombie.


Sharing a house in West Didsbury (in the garden of which Dinosaur Jr recorded their “Freak Scene” video), The Membranes created a Death To Trad Rock scene of like minded noise bands and got themselves back to their leanest and meanest since Mark Tilton left with Nick Brown joining full time as well as Keith Curtis from A Witness- both on guitar.

The resulting ‘Kiss Ass Godhead!’ album in 1988 was far better for the constant touring and tougher sound. It was also one of the first records that Steve Albini recorded who had just started working with other bands and the band spent time in his cellar in Chicago recording some of the tracks. They were surprised to find that Albini had all their records as well as several early copies of the Rox fanzine.


The band releases their fourth album To Slay The Rock Pig, which apart from a couple of tracks they hate and recommend that you don’t bother with.



The Membranes decided to take a couple of weeks off.


The Membranes return with a new line up with mainstay John Robb with Keith Curtis and Nick Brown joined by Peter Byrchmore (Goldbalde and former Nightingales) and Rob Haynes from Goldblade. They regrouped after My Bloody Valentine asked them to play ATP and their really well received set spurs them on to play a handful of other gigs in places like Istanbul and London.



The band released their first single for 20 years on record Store Day, ‘If You Enter The Arena, You Got To be prepared To Deal With The Lions’


The Membranes start work on a new album. A 300 pressing single, ‘the Universe Explodes Into A Billion protons Of pure White Light’ is released by Tim Burgess on his O Genesis label. The band are now full time and the offers are pouring in…

to slay the rock pig - membranes bio page

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