They made a truly head-splitting racket that harnessed a frantic celluloid-inspired faux rage, with songs inspired in part by their favourite films, the rest a by-product of living together in an isolated bungalow on the outskirts of Norwich where they rehearsed, wrote songs, made films and lifted weights. This weird art school/redneck isolation led to songs like New York Seltzer, which would become their first, self-financed, release. Its mangled hard-boiled Peter Gunn riff gave more than one critic the idea that Basti was a product of the ghettos of America. The song was actually about a brand of fizzy drink then being marketed in the UK.
Another song sharing this penchant for apparently mundane subject matter was the early live favourite Sticky, a song about things that are sticky, like Sellotape, taco mixture, warm Tarmac and "situations". Further detailing of skewiff domestic minutia came with Soap Opera, a song about a typical day in the Basti household ("…always had to go to the bank first…") The rest were mostly inspired by films: Ro Ro Ro was a paean to Dirty Harry, E.E. was a delirious reading of disaster movies, specifically The Towering Inferno, and Zombies paid homage to George A. Romero's Dawn Of The Dead.
Politics and cultural hysteria also provided material for Basti songwriting; Man At CIA concerned itself with American foreign policy (and Arnold Schwarzenegger), while Cub Crush predicted the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and sampled the Islamic call to prayer for good measure. The political insight may have been simplistic ("That mad bastard sees only what he wants to see…" they screamed about Ayatollah Khomeni, going on to ask listeners what would happen if the west came under Shariah law; "…ever wondered what would happen if the lights went out and the advertising stopped?"), but it was delivered with an urgency that gave Basti unstoppable momentum. In 1988, still without a record deal, Basti toured Poland. When they got back to Norwich, they were quickly signed first by a management company, and then by Way Cool Records. All of Basti's mental chaos was thrown into their debut album, enigmatically entitled B.
It was recorded in 1989 at Suite 16 in Rochdale, the studio formerly known as Cargo, where The Fall, Joy Division and The Stone Roses had all made records, and Basti were rubbing shoulders with studio owner Peter Hook, buying Joe Bloggs clothes in Manchester and were on the guest list at the Hacienda. In the end, none of it got them anywhere. John Peel played their records from time to time, they toured relentlessly, first in their ex-local authority high-top yellow Ford Transit with a tail-lift for wheelchairs, later in Cambridge United FC's former Ford Transit. They shared bills with the likes of Richie-era Manic Street Preachers, The Shamen, Mudhoney, The Prodigy and then-darlings of the indie scene Curve. The NME and Melody Maker pretended to like them and various major labels threatened to sign them for a while, having mistakenly imagined them to be another cute Brit pop group in the mould of Jesus Jones and EMF (two UK bands then enjoying the Number 1 and 2 spots in the US charts).
But after four years or so, Basti ground to a halt. With Way Cool Records folding, and no major label coming in to pick up the pieces, morale collapsed. Despite Radio 1 airing an entire 30 minutes of Basti live the night before, three members unspectacularly quit the band one Saturday in April, 1992. A four-piece incarnation of Basti hobbled on for another year, recording some demos for Island Records and touring with Meat Beat Manifesto, but the band they called Basti was finished. Basti - no one ever really knew what it was all about, least of all the members of the band themselves.
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