A brief history
Many years ago (1985) in a town far, far away! Kidderminster to be exact! Two dudes, Ade Scholefield and Rob Lloyd who hadn't come down yet from tripping to the sounds of Syd's Pink Floyd, Gong, Amon Duul, Hawkwind etc began experimenting with their own sounds. With very limited resources and technology they began to create a sound that took the listener to their own warped dimensions! This warped musical vehicle was known as "The Genetics of Destiny"
Meanwhile, up the road in Malvern, fellow sonic audio warpster Andy Jones (founder member of the 'OM band') had also been plying his acid rock musical toil. By a stroke of fate the two factions came together to form the basis of what was to become the “Omnia Opera”
They did a couple of bodged local gigs/indoor festivals! wherein they found the rest of the original Omnia Opera crew such as Mike Tounge and the drones Natalie Jones and Lisa Moriaty. By now this loose collection of inadequate individuals had a purpose in life!
During the latter part of the 80's they went on to support better known acts like Cardiacs, Here and Now, Huw Lloyd Langton, The Pink Fairies, Ring, and Dave Brocks Agents of Chaos and also a million hardcore punk bands of the time! Which was nice! The then drummer 'Toungy' left the band and after many exploding replacement drummers they found Neil Spragg (Sir Real) who has suffered with Omnia to the present day! (All donations welcome!!)
Omnia Opera went on to perform in mud baths at god knows what time of the morning at various free festivals, hence the "festy band" label. Meanwhile the first 'tape' releases "Beyond the Tenth" and “Celebrate for Change" (released in 1986 and 1987 respectively) were selling in their thousands! A self produced effort with no profit added got the attention of various record labels of the time, Omnia Opera ignored most of this attention until Richard Allen of Delerium Records (original home to Porcupine Tree amongst many others) persuaded them to record a couple of CD's. They became rich and lived happily ever after in large mansions....not! But they did start something they couldn’t stop, though they didn’t realise it then!!
After a brief split for twelve or so years in which time Rob [guitar] became a Morris dancer, Andy [vox/bass] became a dentist, Neil [drums] collected stamps for a bit, the drones [Nat and Lisa] hung around in subways, Ade was dehydrated for tax reasons, and finally Stuart who had absolutely nothing to do with the band whatsoever and who had never even heard of Omnia or met them ripped his own head off in anger!! We think he was a policeman.
In 2006 Omnia Opera reformed themselves from their state of hibernation and slumber minus Ade who is currently doing his own thing "Helices Fold" though still collaborating in his dehydrated way! The Drones have been cloned as Plumaris [Plum] and Caitlin [Caitlin] both don’t go near subways!! And now there’s Captain Bagley on keys and stage weirdness! The torture goes on! if you want it we've got it!! And we'll do it subject to further NHS assistance and advice!!!
For a more detailed and an ultimately gripping record of events force yourself to read on...and as the Cardiacs say .."your loyalty demands it."
A brief detailed history of key moments, people, events and line up changes over the last two decades.
After the initial get together in 1985 of the two factions 'Genetics of Destiny' and Andy from the Om band the line up grew with the addition of drummer Dave Hill and guitarist Alan Jones. In this line up with impoverished equipment the band cleaned out Ade’s cellar at Brook Street, Kidderminster, which became the H.Q. for the band and slowly evolved into The “Squalor Studio”. This line up recorded the bands first demo, now mostly forgotten which contained four songs. It was never released because the line up fell apart.
By early 1986 the band - still nameless - was reduced to a three piece again. It was around this time that the band came up with the name “Omnia Opera” which was discovered in writtings on “The Qabalah” - the name appealed and so stuck. The band crawled along without a drummer for a while, but desperate to keep the momentum going, Rob Lloyd sat in on the drum stool until it could be sorted out splitting himself between guitar and drums. Undaunted the band worked towards its first gig which took place at the “Boar's Head” pub in Kidderminster on June 14 1986 (now the Tap House). For this one gig “Julie Roberts” a friend of the band was drafted in by Ade to help play his ever expanding array of synths. Normally a quiet girl Julie went berserk generating masses of white noise on the night making things all very entertaining.
The next few weeks brought on some major recruiting to the ranks of “Omnia Opera”. The band headlined at a big charity gig of the day, the “Music for Life” Concert, organised by Ken Hughes, who was at the time the band's one and only manager. The relationship was a productive one culminating in Kidderminster and Stourport’s response to Bob Geldof’s ‘Live Aid’ appeal (thanks to Ken). The ' Music For Life' event featured shows in Stourport, Kidderminster & Stourbridge on three consecutive nights. There were certainly more collective bands than 'Live Aid' London. It was truly fantastic to be a part of this great and historic event , an event that will probably not happen again, the moment was captured with vigor. At the Kidderminster gig Omnia Opera were honoured & privileged to play alongside other local bands, D Block, Spiny Dog Fish, Vital Organs and the immense “Seventh Era”. . Managing Omnia Opera was an infinitely difficult task for anyone to undertake and despite Ken Hughes's best efforts the band did not respond as they should have and the band/manger union drifted apart but not before a lot of hard work to pull this concert off amongst other things had been put together by Ken. All together an interesting set up that moved the band forward in its thinking and exposure.
The gig took place on July 17th 1986 at Kidderminster Town Hall, this is when Lisa Moriaty and Natalie Jones were coerced into the ranks of the band."We had seen these two totally psychedelic chicks wondering around the town and so we asked them to pose along with the band at a photo shoot. When it went to press we informed them that they were now part of the band. They accepted and started rehearsing their dance routines and singing." (Andy J)
The girls became the “Drone Clones” and for this one gig “Sheriff” - a member of the local biker fraternity - was roped in on drums. The band had also graciously been joined by Phyl Huntsman with his TMA light show. Providing a myriad of organic patterns and slides projected as the band performed, a truly stunning light show.
After this gig Omnia were in desperate need of a permanent drummer, and this they found in the irrepressible Mike Tounge. “Toungy” as he was known was heavily influenced by “Keith Moon” and Punk. His style of play was wonderful and full of energy, intensity and pace, a kind of multi talented drum maniac. He brought to Omnia Opera a dose of the punk scene which combined and mutated seamlessly with the heavier elementsof the band Toungy was the first real solid drummer and the sound and line up and his drumming were the missing ingredients.
It was at this time that Omnia recorded its first ever demo cassette album “Beyond the tenth”. This self produced tape album, one hours worth of Omnia Opera, became a best seller at gigs and by mail order. Recorded with very lo-fi gear using a couple of tape decks, one pathetic mixing console and a lot of tenacity and a non existent budget.
The tape was sold dirt cheap to spread the music around. By now the band had created a name for itself on the underground scene in and around Birmingham, thanks to promoter Daz Russell who provided many bands with the opportunity to expose their music to the masses. In fact the underground scene owes a lot to Daz Russell who ran gigs at the “Mermaid” in Sparkbrook. It was a real dive of a venue but fondly remembered by all who frequented it.
Daz Russell offered the band a fortnightly residency at the venue to be called “Screen Dream” which worked well for a while but became a bit of an overkill so it was knocked on the head. In these early years Omnia Opera played a couple of festivals including Wick, Aldermaston, and some affair in a wood near Milton Keynes in the middle of the night. Toungy cut his hair with a pair of nail scissors and enhanced his escaped lunatic persona.
Someone else who was probably more important to the bands success than any other person was Kev Griffin who owned a huge van and took the band everywhere. Phyl had given up doing the lights around this time but the mantle was taken on by the beloved ”Smi Sme” and Poet “Mik Danby“, who between them provided the same kind of excellent light show people had come to expect at an Omnia Opera gig.
In 1987 Omnia set about recording the second album cassette “Celebrate for Change” having much the same effect as the first tape release. Also around this time donating many songs to various tape compilations for various causes, hunt saboteurs, animal liberation front, and most rewarding “The Organ” compilation tapes. They’re still out there somewhere floating about in the ether. The Organ was a fanzine that was run by truly inspired and hard working people whose policy was to tell the world about bands they liked, releasing the Radio Organ tapes with a multitude of excellent unsigned bands. The ever evolving "Organ" fanzine was something that evolved out of the UK underground fanzine/free festival/punk/metal/hardcore/pronk/alt.rock counter culture of the late 80's and is still going strong (check it out here...www.organart.com)
Sometime around now Toungy left the band, leaving the drum stool vacant for a few months until Omnia found Steve Smith (left) who provided a very solid backbone for the band. This line up went on to play some scorching gigs around the country. After about 8 months Steve eventually left the band to pursue his own thing.
After Steve left it seemed that Omnia were destined to have problems finding a permanent drummer. Posters were put up and out of this along came Neil Spragg, the final missing piece of the jigsaw. Neil was a well accomplished skins beater who also understood and indeed was on the same wavelength as the rest of the band. Neil knew what the band needed and promptly sorted it out, Neil says what attracted him was the wording on the poster - he saw 'New-Age Plasma Rock drummer wanted'... "I saw that and I was sold on the idea of meeting up for an audition." (Neil Spragg on right) Omnia Opera were whole at last. It was the summer of 1988, Omnia banged around with this line up from thence forth.
A recording of a track called “Radar Ghosts” for the compilation album “Music of the Spheres”, which was a rather odd collection of music, was also made. The planned third tape cassette release to be called “Puppets on Actifed” was never realised. The band split up before it could be recorded in 1989 taking a lot of un-recorded songs with it that are now forgotten in the annals of time and only exsit as rough demos. The spilt was due to lack of progress and differing opinions, disputes which are all part of the rich tapestry of any band.
Everyone went off and involved themselves in new bands, Andy Jones formed “Ambelian”, a goth rock outfit, Neil pursued his DJ career as “Sir Real” and played drums with “Blim” and “Pod”. Rob, Ade and the Drone Clones recorded an album under the name of “Omniasphere” and released a tape cassette entitled "Surfing the Zuvuya". Rob Lloyd recorded a solo project called “Q” which was completed but never released upon the world and to this day lurks hiding in a box somewhere un-listened to. Several years later around 1992, after being badgered by Richard Allen of “Delerium Records”, the band were persuaded to reform and record their first album for a record company. Richard Allen’s interest in the band was brought about by hearing one of the early tape releases. Omnia Opera recorded two albums for Delerium Records, many thanks are bestowed on to Mr Allen for having faith in the band in the first place. The albums were the self titled Omnia Opera and Red Shift. The band went on to perform several gigs in between albums, picking up a new light show “Isis lights”. Also “Captain Bagley”, who dressed up a lot and ran about the stage doing very odd things with his live freak show.
It took almost a year to record and finalize “Red shift”, which took its toll on band morale. Unhappy with the situation Neil agreed to finish the recording but would leave after it was finished. The band dissolved and “Red Shift” sat on the shelf until 1997 before being released. After this Rob and Andy carried on playing as a new band calling it just “Omnia” and recorded another cassette album, “Seeking the elusive”, with Captain Bagley and Steve Smith joining in on synths and drums respectively. A more acid guitar orientated band "Omnia" continued to gig in this line up until the end came after banging its head against several brick walls.
There were other people that came and went along the way, Foz and Matt Collins deserving a mention helping out on lights and stuff. So "Omnia Opera" as such ceased activities in 1994 leaving a gaping void where once there had been a plasma rock field.
In 2006, well over a decade later and on the 20th year anniversary of the formation of the band, Omnia Opera reformed themselves. The heart of the old band remained intact, minus Ade Scholefield on synths who pursues other ventures (below left). Recruiting new synth player ‘Alf Hardy’, (below right) who played synth for many a sonic outfit (Tubilah Dog, Agents of Chaos). Also the inclusion of two new female singers ‘Caitlin Beta’ and ‘Plumaris’ who carry on in the tradition of the Clone Drones. A new position of 'second guitar' was deemed necessary to bring the full scope of the Omnia Opera sound into the light of day. So Mr Steve Price (The Om band, THC) joined the ranks on rhythm guitar for this one gig. Thus finalising and providing the finishing touches to a new and improved Omnia Opera for the 21st century!! The plasma flowed once more…
The reunion gig took place in Malvern, one of Omnia Opera's old stomping grounds, in November 2006. The band went on to play in Hitchin at Club 85 with Litmus, then onto Hawkfest in 2007/08 to a very warm welcome from the gathered crowd. Also playing at the Sonic World Festival and a few other gigs along the way. After this the band were invited to support Hawkwind at Wolverhampton at the Wulfrun Hall venue on their 2008 winter tour.
In October 2009, Caitlin and Plum parted company from the band, things just weren’t working out and it wasn’t much fun for them anymore. This happened not long after the band had spent a week in Wales in a secluded holiday cottage writing and recording basic tracks for the new album project. Meantime a few months passed and the bands fortunes changed with the arrival of Libby Vale, the all in one vocal machine. With Libby onboard filling the vacant vocal space Omnia Opera felt like a band once more. The new lineup racked up a few gigs to iron out the kinks, notably playing at the ‘Sonic Rock Solstice’ festival in Wales in June 2010. Alf Hardy (keyboardist) whom the band had not seen really for over a year joined them on stage. Alf's future within the band seems uncertain as logistics prevent his full integration - although Alf is happily working on a new ‘Earth lab’ album, another band in which he is involved.
At this point in time half way through 2010 Omnia stands poised to realise the completion of its long awaited new studio album, and with the effervescent Libby Vale joining the ranks Omnia Opera are now set to invade the future in good stead and fine fettle
This is a brief history thus far and only really scrapes the surface, lots of other faces and stories to be told. Things take a long time to manifest in Omnia land and the band don't venture out very often to play live. A new recording is in the pipeline and the future looks set to have Omnia Opera polluting it for a while yet. The band will keep transforming no doubt as time waves its hand at them but for now may the Plasma flow...Onwards and Upwards people... over and out.
( Below- Omnia Opera 2010)