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The Transmitters are a great example of the kind of no-boundaries attitude and creativity that defined the best of the late 70's / early 80's post-punk era, when every week seemed to bring essential and different music. After that, they spread out and connect to all kinds of emergent or obscure scenes. Sam Dodson got involved in the early rave scene, and went on to work as half of Loop Guru, as well as working with Transglobal Underground. It was a fascinating time, when almost overnight friends would be dumping their Guns'n'Roses albums for the Orb and the Shamen, and prowling the M25 for that weekend's party. Now there's a retrospective cd out - "I Fear No-one". We got talking after a recent show in Brentford and arranged an interview. Take it away Sam...

DEN: Can you tell us something about when the Transmitters started out...

SAM: We were just a bunch of guys!

DEN:... and what the music scene was like then?

SAM: Well, this is really the crux of the matter - in the mid 70's there was really nothing left to listen to. Led Zep had become so overblown - I can remember a concert where Robert Plant said, "We're going to take you on a journey," - JEEZ!! All the big bands had become pompous beyond belief. I was lucky I was working in a record shop in the West End between about '73-'78 so at least I had great source material. The only person from England was Brian Eno, whose string of early albums still fascinate. I began listening largely to Jazz and Reggae. Something had to break - the pub rock scene hadn't done that much, tho at least it was never pompous. Then I saw the Stranglers very early on in '74 I think, a friend of mine dragged me to the Nashville Rooms saying "You'll love them - like a cross between the Doors and the Velvets" - YES! Something was going to happen. Then I saw Dr Feelgood, then the Ramones and the Flaming Groovies. The Patti Smith album ["Horses"] came out. Then I was introduced to the first three Pere Ubu singles. The times were getting very interesting. The Nashville was a great place to live near. Then the English punk scene exploded. Enter every kid wanting to be a part of it, and enter the Transmitters!

DEN: How did the ending of the Transmitters come about?

SAM: There were so many ends! The first line-up split after the first album. The two guitarists I think wanted to be more "Power Pop". The remainder of us just wanted to astound people and stretch the boundaries. The next step was the "Nowhere Train" single. We were just a three piece at the time, with a lyricist. We had to expand to go live so imported Simon "Sid" Wells and keyboard player Amanda de Grey. This was the line up that went on to record for Step Forward.  Then we recorded our first session for John Peel. We gigged around London and the Home Counties until we had total burn-out. At this point we went out as Transmitters Presumed Dead, with half of Missing Presumed Dead. Did a few gigs about town, recorded some stuff - later released on the first Missing Presumed Dead album. Then we met up with Rob Chapman (Glaxo Babies). So Jim Chase, Sid Wells and myself were joined by Dave Baby on sax. We gigged around '80-82, recorded "And We Call This Leisure Time" for Heartbeat records via Cherry Red, and recorded a second John Peel session. Then I don't really remember what happened! Music was going down the plug - we had recorded a further album that Ivo was going to put out on 4AD, but that plug got pulled too. The hairdressers had taken over again! We just drifted - I recorded a lot of stuff as No Odd Mass with various Transmitters. Then at a Furniture gig I was introduced to Dave Muddyman (a huge Trans fan [ and other half of Loop Guru - DB]). And thus in 1985 Loop Guru were formed and the Transmitters reconvened, the line-up now being Jim Chase, Tim Whelan, Dave Mud, James McQueen and myself. Later Hami joined on second drum kit and samples. We kept going til 1990.

DEN: From there to Transglobal Underground and Loop Guru is quite a shift ... how did that come about?

SAM: The Transmitters had started using samples quite a lot! Dave and I had been experimenting with tape loops and cassette machines a lot during this period, so the transition from oddball punk to oddball dance seems gentle to me. I think what happened really is that the machinery became available to do what we wanted. I'd been listening to a lot of Indian music and Dave introduced me to Balinese music. And there had always been Fela Kuti. I think that all that happened is that the technology was suddenly affordable, so we could do just what we wanted.

DEN: Listening to some of those sounds again reminded me what a diverse and exciting time the early 90's were musically for the listener, there was so much happening, musically and socially. How was it from your side?

SAM: The post-punk period was to me one of the most exciting times in music - so many great bands then. The Pop Group, Scritti Politti, Prag Vec, PIL - everyone just seemed to be pushing the boundaries. I could never wait for the next record, or next gig!

The early 90's were cool too - Primal Scream, the Orb, the Club Megadog scene - it was a good time to be alive. And of course there was the early House scene too - things like "Hot Lemonade" [by A Guy Called Gerald] spring to mind.

DEN: What other musical scenes have you been involved in since Loop Guru?

SAM: Well, Loop Guru isn't officially dead! I did go on my own for a bit recording as Slipper, which was much more jazz-oriented. Got Rat Scabies in to record brushes, and Linda Finger and Liz Fletcher on jazz twist vocals (from Loop Guru). We released an album on the Aphex Twin's Rephlex label in 2000, then released two more albums on Elsewhen, and an album called "Earworms" for an Italian imprint called Mechanism. It gets blurred because there are two downloadable albums that are free! I just wrote too much stuff!

Slipper merged into Loungeclash who released the "Dread Time Story" cd, with Neil Sparkes, John Woodley (theremin) and Larry Whelan (sax). We did the Glastonbury and Roskilde festivals, and gigged about town a bit.

DEN: Back to the Transmitters - anything you'd like to say about the album?

SAM: It's really compiled as a personal favourite. There was going to be a second cd of the Rob Chapman era, but there's really no market any more.

DEN: What do the other Transmitters do now?

SAM: I wish I knew! Rob has written the wonderful Syd Barrett book ["Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head"] and still writes for "Mojo". Christopher McHallem (Dexter O'Brien) was Rod in "Eastenders" and is now writing screenplays. Dave Muddyman is still creating music and painting a lot. I do that too. I like to hack up wood, burn it, chisel and paint. I plan a series of fish, ha!

DEN: Any more gigs coming up?

SAM: I hope so - the general consensus is YES!

DEN: Any thoughts of recording/working on new material?

SAM: Absolutely - I'm restless

DEN:... you've got the label [Elsewhen Records] too - anything happening there you'd like to mention?

SAM: Oh, it's a disaster so far! [You're too modest Sam! - db]

DEN: Thanks Sam for taking the time to do this, much appreciated...

SAM: Hey I just love talking about music - it's my thang!

The Transmitters - I Fear No-one (Elsewhen Records) 

Interview by Den 01/06/11
Photo by Jane Maskew

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