Lee McFadden and Angel Racing Food
I was first introduced to Lee at a gig by The Long Decline at Clissold Park in Stoke Newington in about the year 2000, by their singer Kenny Wisdom. Lee was playing the guitar for Long Decline, I recall; I later ended up playing bass with them for a year or two. Lee is such a tight, organised, inventive player. I later saw him play a few times with the reborn Alternative TV. Hmmm, I thought to myself; he seems dependable and adept!
We started up Angel Racing Food (aka: Arf) with my old pal, the energetic drummer Mick Frangou as a 3-piece in 2002. The aim was to produce deviant noisy pop! The name was accidental. I came in to meet them with a story about how an old greyhound-feed shop in Hoxton Street had sadly closed down, and wasn’t it a funny name? I thought that it might be good in a song, perhaps, but they insisted that it should be the band’s name, and so it was.
Our first song was about another shop, oddly enough. It was a pair of shops actually: Venus and Big Foot, sited on Mare Street in Hackney, opposite the end of Graham Road, where the buses turn. The way that the signs were designed made it look like one whole phrase, so I imagined a fearsome female trogolodite called Venus Bigfoot. Lee and I sang this as a duet, alternating lines, and discovered that our voices worked very well together, Lee’s tongue-in-cheek tenor harmonising with my guttural baritone. Last Servant on the same single, recorded at Toerag Studio with Liam Watson, is another great example of our harmonising – an English version of the Everly Brothers after a depraved night on the town, perhaps.
Through Mick, we were very pleased to recruit Chloe Herrington on alto sax and bassoon. She impressed us with her cheery demenour and wild horn. Mic’ing up the bassoon was “a bit of a challenge”, and the venue ceilings were sometimes too low to accommodate it, but she managed to overcome these headaches later in great style with her excellent work in the mighty Chrome Hoof.
We conscripted my old pal from The Palookas, Nick Smith, on bass for our album. His vocal harmonies were also very welcome addition. Later, Mick left to form Minima, and we invited Jeffrey Bloom (ex-TV Personalities and Househunters) to join. When Nick left, we also had the benefit of Marina Young (ex-Long Decline, Shock Headed Peters) joining on bass for a year, until she left, and the remaining core of the band mutated into The Demi-Monde, but that is another story!
Lee and myself also did a few gigs together as a duo in London, Berlin and Hamburg under the name “Head and Shoulders”. We developed a sort of bizarre cabaret act, singing strange old croony tunes like “Everyones Gone to the Moon”, and “Paper Moon”. We also had two brief outings as the core of a band playing Swell Maps songs as a tribute for the late Nikki Sudden. Both very sad, bleak events for me, in which Lee was very supportive in his quiet way; we managed to turn both evenings into a celebration somehow. It sounded mighty fine!
As well as his exhaustive factual knowledge of musical facts – and any other trivia, come to think of it – Lee is a splendid humourist, and he is guaranteed to get a room laughing with new topical jokes and various puns and running gags. His bawdy humour partially hides a tougher side to his character, and he is not to be trifled with, especially anyone bold enough to question the merits of Joy Division’s recorded legacy!