Die Laughing are mainly remembered for their input to the 90s Goth scene but their roots go much further back into the 1980s.
1986 – 1991
Die Laughing originally formed in late 1986-early 1987 (in the flat above the RSPCA in Radford Road, Hyson Green) from the remnants of Vital Stance – a punk band consisting of John Berry (guitar & bass), Ian Fletcher (drums), and Tina Thurman (vocals.) Vital Stance recorded one three-track demo and played a few gigs around the Nottingham area, but soon after the demo was recorded and with the introduction of Stuart Salt (Johns cousin) on bass, it was a unanimous decision that Alison Turner would replace Tina on vocals, and with this came the change of name and musical direction.
Most people automatically think that the name Die Laughing came from The Missions Wake, but this is not the case. The name was decided when Alison fell about in an uncontrollable fit of laughter. The rest is history. This line up played many gigs and released three demos, including one for a single called Insomnia that never happened, and also recorded a track called Wake which featured on a very rare compilation album called Underground Resistance. During this time the band had only one line up change with Rick Martin replacing Ian on drums towards the end of 1987. The band when into hiatus in 1988 after the release of their final 4 track demo Of Hearts & Tears, when Alison left. Auditions were held but a new vocalist was never found and the line up members simply moved onto other projects.
1992 – 1994
Four years later in 1992 the second incarnation of Die Laughing was born when John Berry (guitars) teamed up with Rachel Speight (vocals) and formed the song writing nucleus of the band.
Within a few months a newly-acquired bass player in the form of Dave Shiner, keyboard player Ruth Tyson and drummer Tom completed the line up. The band recorded their first demo Poems Of Your Life at Cage Studios in Sheffield (recording four early Die Laughing songs) as an experiment to see how things would work. The recording went well but the drummer disappeared soon after and was never heard of again and to this day we have no idea what happened to him!!
After purchasing a drum machine (Dr Duck) and a crash course in drum programming the first gig was on 12 February 1993, held at the Narrow Boat public house on Canal Street in Nottingham at a time when there was little activity on the Nottingham goth scene. The band’s second demo Love Amongst The Ruins was recorded in March 1993 and came with a choice of two coloured sleeves, red or blue. The demo contained four brand new tracks highlighting the band’s writing capabilities and received excellent reviews from fanzines and underground publications around the world.
The band continued writing inbetween a hectic gigging schedule around the UK and late 1993 saw a return to Cage Studios for a self-financed single Nemesis. Four tracks were recorded with the addition of a live session drummer but unfortunately touring and studio costs took their toll on any finances the band had, and the single idea was shelved and the tape released as the Nemesis EP in October 93.
Heavy touring around the UK during the summer of 1994 with Children On Stun had encouraged the band to bring in another guitarist, Ian Holman, which would add power to the live performance of the band. Due to the success of the tour, it was decided Ian should become a permanent member and contribute to the writing of the songs with John and Rachel. October 1994 saw the release of the Shadows & Silhouettes cassette which featured a new recording of Nemesis (back with the drum machine) and two new tracks.
1995 – 1997
Ian made his recording debut with Die Laughing on the band’s final visit to Cage Studios in 1995 after the band had been approached by independent London label Grave News Ltd and ‘Gothic Rock’s Mick Mercer.
Following impressive reviews and gigs the band were contracted to record two new songs, Harlequin for the Dreams In The Witch House compilation (Grave News), and Safe Little World for Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock 2 compilation (Jungle), both released in 1995.
Die Laughing were now getting worldwide attention and Nemesis was receiving lots of airplay in the clubs of New York, and with this came mail and fanzine interest from the United States and Europe. Things were looking good and the band was signed by Grave News to release a seven-track mini-album Glamour & Suicide.
The band chose to record the album at Purple Studios in great Yarmouth (who needs the Caribbean?) rather than return to Cage in Sheffield; this enabled the band to live-in for the whole week working throughout the day and into the early hours rather than having to keep going home each day as was the case with Cage Studios. Shortly after the album had been recorded it was announced that live keyboard player Ruth was to leave the band due to work commitments so the band chose to sequence the keyboards for ease rather than find a replacement.
In August, between recording the album and its release date, Die Laughing played a short tour of the UK with Los Angeles finest gothsters London After Midnight, which ended with a couple of headline dates of their own, including the now legendary Necromantic Encounters festival held at The Marquee Club in London on 12th & 13th August 1995 (the hottest day of the summer). This was a two day mega-Goth festival with several bands each day, and the venue was packed solid with many people spilling outside on to the Charing Cross Road to escape the intolerable heat inside. The upstairs balcony had to be opened for the first time in years to accommodate the many Goth fans from around the world. Anyone who attended the event will no doubt remember Die Laughing played an astounding set and brought the house down to rapturous applause; the bands album was still to be released but the merchandise stall was stripped bare of tapes and t-shirts within minutes. Alas, due to time factors, Die Laughing were not allowed to play an encore and had to clear the stage for the headline act Corpus Delecti.
Glamour & Suicide sold out on pre-orders alone and had to be re-pressed before it was even released. The album sold so well the band were signed for a second full length album to be released in 1996. By the end of 1995 the pressure & workload had took its toll on bass player Dave and he became the second casualty opting to leave in pursuit of other interests. The band chose to let him go in style with a headline gig at the Borderline in London.
In January 1996 the band returned to the freezing cold empty seaside town of Great Yarmouth to record Heaven In Decline.
The band spent one week recording the 13 tracks but opted for a month break before returning to finish and mix the album. The footage of this recording was released in 2012 – The mixing of Heaven in Decline OR How not to record in the ’90s. The album was released in May and saw Die Laughing embarking on a short but very successful first trip to Germany with Vendemmian to promote the album in Europe.
On returning to the UK it was announced that the success of Heaven In Decline as an import was so good the licence had been bought by a Japanese label to manufacture and distribute the album for the Japanese market. The band continued gigging throughout 1996 headlining the Marquee in London on 11th February and taking in the sights of Italy with a flying visit to Turin to play The Drachma Club, but still finding time out to write a new single Queen Of Swords which made its live debut in August at the Sacrosanct Festival at Londons Astoria.
The Temptress EP (Queen of Swords) was recorded at the Vestry in Ealing, West London over the Christmas & new year period 1996-97 but the recording was interrupted briefly when Rachel was taken seriously ill with penicillin allergy induced Stevens Johnson Syndrome whilst the studio and ended up hospitalised.
The EP was released later in the year as a 6 track CD (3 studio & 3 live tracks) and also a vinyl 7 inch. January saw the band heading off to Germany when Shadow & Shade Promotions organised their first headline tour, The Looking Glass Tour. The tour was split into two parts, the first half in January 1997 with the final part in September the same year. The band was treated with VIP care by their wonderful German hosts and friends Thomas & Sandy and very well received at every venue. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances within the band, Die Laughing did not play the second part of the tour so this was given to Emma Conquest and label mates This Burning Effigy.
During the summer the band filmed the video for the Queen Of Swords single at Bolsover Castle, but despite the professional finish the video remained unreleased in the ’90s because not everyone was happy with the finished result. A re-edited version however was released in 2012, Queen of Swords (Intravenous Mix).
The album Caged was released later in the year and was a CD compilation of the band’s discontinued demo tapes recorded at Cage Studios from 1992-1994. This was released to enable new fans to get hold of the band’s earlier material and proved to be a very popular seller at gigs.
1998 – 1999
In 1998 the band were approached by U.S label Cleopatra Records to release a compilation of Die Laughing album tracks together with 4 new unreleased tracks from the third album which the band had started to write. Incarnations (a retrospective) became the final album the band would release in the 1990′s.
The album was a collection of songs put together for the US market from the bands three previous recordings. The four new tracks were recorded at Nottinghams Confetti studios with most of the engineering and production being done by the band. Die Laughing played their final gig at London’s Borderline during the summer of 1999, ironically the same venue at which they had said goodbye to Dave only 4 years earlier.
During their time together in the 1990′s the band managed to achieve so much with the help from fans and promoters of the Goth scene worldwide without whom none of this would have been possible. Die Laughing played both headline and support slots in many cities and at many famous events and venues throughout Germany, Italy and the UK: the Whitby Gothic Weekend, the Marquee, the Astoria, the Borderline, Camden Underworld & Rock City to name a few.
The band drew to a close in the summer of 1999, and the members moved onto new projects. Despite no longer being active, Die Laughing continued to grow their fanbase due to their tracks being featured on a number of compilations including an album which was notable as “a definitive look at some of darkwave/goth-rock’s most innovating female performers” John co-founded In Isolation, Rachel (now Iden) became a fashion accessories designer/illustrator and musically, a member of Pretentious, Moi? and a solo singer songwriter performing as ‘Andraste’. Ian continues to write ‘music’.
2012 saw the 20th anniversary of the second incarnation of Die Laughing featuring the core songwriting partnership of Rachel Speight (Iden) and John Berry. It was announced on 22 October 2011 that Die Laughing were reforming to play the Whitby Gothic Weekend on 28 April 2012. The were joined on stage by new members Mike Uwins (bass) and Bob Malkowski (guitar), and this show was considered by a number of previous fans of the band to be ‘their greatest performance to date’, and won them many new fans with merchandise selling out at the anniversary gig.
A new single containing the track ‘Tangled’ was released on 13/4/12 with a video, and was made available as a free download for a short time from the Die Laughing website. In 2013 band members returned their focus to their other projects with Rachel’s new band, A Ring of Thorns launching their debut track and John continues to write and play guitar in In Isolation.