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Fresh blood for Artery

ACCORDING TO popular post-punk narrative, Sheffield never really existed.

Accounts of the genre's movers and shakers rarely look beyond Manchester.

But there's a significant chunk of the puzzle missing - Artery. Their achievements go beyond their timeless post-punk repertoire.

They were one of John Peel's favourite acts and their debut single, Into the Garden, was even voted the fourth best song of 1981 by listeners to Peel's show.

And, more importantly, they changed the life of a young, pre-Pulp Jarvis Cocker, whose future was decided after witnessing an Artery gig in 1980.

"This wasn't a concert," recalls Cocker, "it was a ritual, a summoning of primal energies, a trip – all the things I'd hoped music could be."

Despite the admiration of the young Jarvis Cocker, Artery disbanded in 1985 for what became a 22-year hiatus.

But in 2007 the band, which now comprised a nightclub owner, hair salon owner and a binman - received a phone call from a much older, more successful (post Punk) Jarvis Cocker.

Cocker invited the band to perform at the Meltdown festival, which Cocker was curating at the Royal Festival Hall. The band quickly reformed.

Frontman Mark Gouldthorpe recalls: "During his set at the event Jarvis said 'come and see the band that influenced me' after the show,' so everyone stayed to watch us. We were the last band on that weekend."

The show was fruitful in other ways too. The group were invited to perform in one of Marc Riley's BBC sessions, which was filmed by Sheffield filmmaker Eve Wood.

"We did four songs in the session, which was brilliant, and it was great that they allowed Eve to film them all," says Gouldthorpe.

"Eve picked out all the best things about those sessions - it's called Three Days in June and it's a great documentary of us in recent years."

The band's appearance at the prestigious Meltdown festival led to more than mere BBC sessions: it inspired the band to reform and start writing again - prolifically.

Last year the group released their Standing Still EP and wrote a bank of songs that are yet to be released.

"We've got about an album's worth of new material," says Gouldthorpe, "Some of this material will be released in our forthcoming EP, Civilisation."

Armed with a sizeable 'cult' following, new songs and months of practice under their belt, Artery will perform this weekend at the O2 Academy.

Already Gouldthorpe is psyching himself up for the show: "There is no feeling like the feeling you get as you approach a microphone on the stage," he says.

Gouldthorpe knows this feeling only too well. Since the group's formation in the late seventies he has carved a reputation for being one of the most captivating, unconventional and mesmerising frontmen around.

Gouldthorpe recalls: "A journalist from Melody Maker wrote a feature on us and he said that he had never seen anyone walk up to a microphone and the audience take two steps back."

During live shows Gouldthorpe would climb on to equipment naked - seemingly unhinged and completely possessed, qualities that transcended stage presence and crept into the songs themselves.

Into the Garden is a gripping, building gothic current that drags in the listener, drenching them in layers of beats and cryptic lyrics. According to Gouldthorpe, John Peel said the track sent shivers down his spine.

But in spite of the band's reputation as being one of post-punk's most unhinged, unconventional acts, the group's forthcoming appearance may be their last ever show.

"We have commitments in other careers," says Gouldthorpe. "Part of the frustration with writing all this material is that it never gets heard."

At least this weekend Artery will be able to captivate the crowd once more with a set packed with new material and classics. The group may have formed three decades ago but the enigmatic stage presence that came to define Artery in the early 80s is still at work today.

"A lot of people say we're timeless on stage. It's a totally different me on stage and if people want to see what it is, they will have to come and see us because this may be the last time."

Artery play at the O2 Academy on Saturday (March 20).

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