Peter and I had worked together tirelessly in Frenzid Melon from winter 1977 to Spring 1981. The band was our creation and although we went through a whole load of local musicians we were constantly the creative force behind it. Many of our diy cassette releases were recorded as a duo with friends dropping in on occasional tracks. Our live performances we usually managed as three or four piece unit but the constant flow of musicians in and out of the band was proving tiresome. In the Spring of '81 we were back to a two piece and were just about spent. We decided to call it a day and go our separate ways. To this day it's never been easy to separate Ashby & Lamb as a musical partnership and the split lasted from April until September. However, when we reconvened we knew that we needed to form a band that was not centered around us but had at least one more great creative force in it. Owen Turley worked in Pete's brothers record store and had bought the most recent Frenzid Melon album, loved the experimental nature of it and was looking to get out of local heavy rock band Hiroshima. The chemistry at the first rehearsal was amazing as we ploughed through a few Frenzid Melon songs and some songs that myself and Pete had been working on at the time of the split but Owen added such a new fresh dimension and along with Pete and myself was another multi instrumentalist. We invited Lloyd Saich a much respected local drummer to a full rehearsal in a hall to see if we could get a good live sound and the session was really amazing. Sadly Lloyd left the band before we went into the recording studio for the first time but undeterred Pete and Owen shared the drumming responsibilities and that day we recorded "Chaos Control" and "the heartbreak party" both of which sounded so fresh and exciting to us that they ended up on our debut e.p. Later we recruited Chris Chisnall on the drums for live performances. Chris had previously drummed on occasions for Frenzid Melon and was the regular drummer for Spasmodic Caress. We had several really great years together. Every time we played it felt fresh and exciting and slightly unpredictable. Every time we went into the recording studio the songs were deliberately under developed to capture the chemistry and spontaniety and we received consistently great reviews and a good amount of radio exposure.
It was May 1989. We hadn't played together for a while and for the first time we found ourselves without Tony Smith who had been our producer and sound engineer since the beginning. We went into a new studio with Mike Cheal at the controls. Mike had been the guitarist in Hiroshima the heavy rock band that Owen had left to join us several years earlier. We also decided to try out a new bass player in David White and have Owen focus on drumming. We recorded a 9 minute heavy rock epic which was a poor attempt at being Led Zeppelin and such a long way from what the insane picnic had set out to be. Although the track had some inspired moments and lyrically it had the poetic trademark, it very clearly was not us. We left the studio happy enough with what we had achieved though it's hard to be objective when you have just finished creating something. Within a few days there were some rumblings from Owen that he was not happy with the track at all and a strange discontent started to set in.
The weird thing was that there was no formal split or announcements or anything we just stopped calling each other to arrange anything. It was the last time the three of us were in a room together. Since that time I had Owen over to my studio in Braintree a few times and we recorded a few tracks and myself and Peter picked up where we left off in 2001 when invited to record a song for a Martin Newell tribute album. We chose "The world strikes one" and that marked the beginning of a new era of working together which has seen us work with Jasun Martz (Frank Zappa, Michael Jackson), Keith Levene (PiL), Hilda Garman, Tor Cesay (Mongrel), Wavis O'Shave and countless others. I've occasionally thought of trying to pull Owen in and seeing if we can reignite the insane picnic chemistry but it seems we have all moved a long way musically and it's hard to imagine recording again without Tony Smith at the controls. Hilda Garman recorded a really great version of "in the summer rain" ( http://soundcloud.com/barry-lamb/peter-ashby-hilda-garman ) with myself on wind synth and Peter on piano...and I guess that captured a little of the insane picnic re imagined. Myself and Pete have talked about re recording "the awkward cage" as we were never happy with the mix on the album. "Chaos Control" and "the heartbreak party" have both been sampled by Tor Cesay.