Having been drawn to the punk movement during its initial stirrings in 1976, Sid and Zillah Minx (born Zillah Elaine Ashworth, 31 March 1961, Birkenhead). became increasingly committed to its lifestyle alternatives, taking up residence at a large commune that included the Poison Girls, located near to Crass’ Dial House headquarters. Zillah had been with Sid during the first attempt of putting the band together with Anxiety, Fender and Stone so offered to replace Anxiety as vocalist on the same night she left. Fender and Stone were the son and daughter of Poison Girls singer Vi Subversa. The band used Poison Girls equipment to jam and write songs and their first real performance with Zillah was when they took to the stage at a Crass/Poison Girls concert. They had originally been called Rubella Babies. The band's first arranged gig was a fundraiser for the Theatre Royal in Stratford, supporting The Poison Girls which ended in a riot. The band played frequently, often asking audience members to put them up after gigs. The newly formed group took to the road with Crass and the Poison Girls, quickly establishing a unique niche and standing out from the multitudes in black combat wear with their vibrant visual image.
Always looking beyond the anarcho scene’s encroaching orthodoxy, Rubella Ballet assembled a diverse range of material that encompassed all points from perky to doomy, with lyrics that juxtaposed protest and dissent against more impressionistic themes. Having made an immediate impact with their groundbreaking ‘Ballet Bag’ cassette pack, recorded in 1981 for Poison Girls' XNTRIX Records, Rubella Ballet gigged heavily, presenting a celebratory spectacle of ultraviolet defiance that was driven relentlessly onward by Sid’s mighty tribal rhythms and given context by Zillah’s siren-song vocals. Pulsating with energy and colour, the group burst forth from the then-ubiquitous shadow of Crass to headline their own shows and transcend narrow genre definitions. Given the band’s singular nature, it was hardly surprising that they soon came to the attention of legendary DJ John Peel who commissioned the first of two sessions from the band, a five-track set that aired in July 1982. The summer saw Rubella Ballet’s vinyl debut, the 4 track 7" EP, Ballet Dance (1982), which emerged to considerable critical acclaim and subsequently topped the then-influential Independent Chart, necessitating a second pressing. This success attracted the attention of some major labels, which the group dismissed in favour of retaining their independence.
After recording a second John Peel Session in January 1983, they supported Death Cult on their nationwide tour, their genre-spanning sound and image appealing to the large goth and post-punk audiences. Rubella Ballet’s inclusive ethos not only transcended the established boundaries of youth culture, but also became evident in the support and assistance they offered a wide range of newly formed bands including Ritual, Sex Gang Children, Ausgang, the Skeletal Family and 1919. This period also saw Rubella Ballet appear regularly across the music press with high profile features in magazines such as NME, Sounds, Melody Maker, Zigzag and Punk Lives. True to their principles, the group contributed heavily to the burgeoning DIY fanzine culture, helping raise the profile of a multitude of photocopied publications with their approachability and readiness to be interviewed. In addition to the group undertaking their first European tours, 1984 saw the release of their first twelve-inch single ‘42°F’, released on the Jungle label in April.
Indicative of their expanding creative horizons alongside an assuredness developed through constant gigging, the single appealed to a wide-cross section of alternative cultures and again hit the Independent Top Ten. Weary of the atavism that existed even within the independent music scene, Rubella Ballet’s next releases – 1985’s long awaited At Last It’s Playtime LP and the non-album ‘Money Talks’ twelve-inch would be issued on their own Ubiquitous label. As well as bringing their riot of day-glo energy to pubs the length and breadth of Britain courtesy of the developing trend for video jukeboxes, establishing their own label would see the group embark upon their most prolific period of recording. Their increased profile led to an enthusiastically received first American tour, with both Playtime and ‘Money Talks’ topping the KXLU Radio Chart in Los Angeles. Rubella Ballet’s third twelve-inch single, ‘Arctic Flowers’ followed shortly after, while their second full length vinyl set, ”IF" considered by many to be the group’s finest release to date – hit the streets less than a year after their debut album.
1987 saw the group re-energize their back catalogue with the Cocktail Mix LP, before the live double album The Ballet’s Birthday Box captured their live power with tracks recorded at their 7th Anniversary Show at London’s Savoy Ballroom, alongside material recorded on their first US tour. At The End of the Rainbow, an album bringing together a selection of the band’s back catalogue, emerged on the One Little Indian/Brave imprint in 1990. After embracing the nascent rave culture as Xenophobia, Sid and Zillah reactivated Rubella Ballet at the end of the decade to embark on a long series of celebratory live shows that would see them traverse the UK and Europe throughout the next ten years, including appearances at the popular annual Rebellion Festival. The warmth that greeted the band provided testament to their legacy; a lifetime spent in pursuit of individual freedom and creative expression in defiance of a society that seeks to monitor, exploit and oppress. In 2008, the earlier corpus of the band’s back catalogue was released by Overground Records as the Anarchy In The UV compilation, with subsequent material being collected on Never Mind The Day-Glo, issued by the same label two years later.
Recent gigs have shown that their power continues undiminished, with an original, atmospheric black UV light show and performances that continues to defy stereotypes. Their songs that have politically and ethically more than stood the test of time, showing how groundbreaking and ahead of the curve Rubella Ballet’s stage show, music and ideas really were. Further evidence of Rubella Ballet’s enduring impact came from acclaimed British fashion designer Louise Gray, who acknowledged Zillah’s influence upon her work: “She was one of the originators of punk in London,” Louise asserts. “She wore colours and ultra-violet paint to make her clothes and sets for gigs, so everything was illuminated – I love her!” Another aspect of Zillah’s range of talents became evident in 2010 with the release of the She’s A Punk Rocker documentary, which she devised and directed. Now, 35 years on from their inception, Rubella Ballet have issued Planet Punk – their first album of new material for over 25 years.
Already, lauded as the group’s crowning achievement, it is quite evidently a labour of love, and that love shines through – a beacon of positivity illuminating the multilayered mists of lies, disinformation and obfuscation. “The overriding message of the album is not to believe everything you hear on the news, or read in the newspapers – as the very same people we are protesting against are those compiling the news” explains Sid. Throughout Planet Punk, both the medium and its message are rendered with skill and passion to produce an album that equals, and in some respects exceeds, the best of Rubella Ballet’s back catalogue. In particular, Sid’s abilities as a multi-instrumentalist and producer are made manifest, while Zillah’s vocals display impressive authority across several of the disc’s 15 tracks.
Providing a neon-lit route map of post-millennial oppression and exploitation, the album hits its lyrical targets with precision. Planet Punk also contains highly motivated and political songs about a variety of subjects including the Illuminati, government brainwashing, the New World Order agenda, global corruption, the creation of new strains of flu virus to reduce the human population. It covers issues such as what really happened during 9/11 to atrocities that have taken place closer to home, including the police cover up of the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster. Whatever expectations you may have about this album, be prepared to have them both confounded and surpassed.
‘Planet Punk’ is not only a superb summation of everything that made Rubella Ballet unique but also takes the group into new, exciting realms. The LP was on green vinyl with 12 tracks with a cd enclosed with 15 tracks and a 20 page full colour lyric booklet released on the 31st of March 2014 on Overground records. After selling out of the first press the band rereleased the LP on coloured splatter vinyl. The album has received critical acclaim by many mainstream magazines and websites and has proved that Sid was always the driving force behind the bands music. He has recently changed instrument and is now playing the guitar and singing on stage next to Zillah.
The band were booked to play the Alt Fest in 2014 but it fell through and was cancelled but the band was asked to support The Dammed at The Forum in Kentish Town, London as an alternative gig instead. After receiving the new album from Sid and Zillah after the show Captain Sensible commented later on Facebook that Rubella Ballet were his new old favourite band now after hearing the album. The band are booking gigs for 2015 already with a headline spot at a festival in Brighton, UK in March. Music also at; facebook.com/rubellaballet myspace.com/rubellaballet twitter.com/RubellaBallet rubellaballet.bandcamp.com reverbnation.com/rubellaballet last.fm/music/Rubella+Ballet instagram.com/sidtruelove/ You Tube Channel; http://youtu.be/Lg3IesCi0bs?list=UU83-abEpfgK45f62Jtk0tUw Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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