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Image of the Shapes from the "More Songs for Sensible People" record

Image of The Shapes from the More Songs for Sensible People record.

Shapes of things to come

It’s hard to miss artist Ben Browton around town. These days, he is sometimes known as Agent Orange, the persona behind the TOXIC project. He has also been Sister Bendy on Eurotrash, and a member of a tranny punk band called Candy Darling. But back in the heady days of punk, Ben was the singer with a legendary band called The Shapes. They have reformed and are currently touring the country on the You’ll Do Yourself A Mischief tour, which ends at The Union Bar on Saturday 14 June. HOT’s Erica Smith gets the back-story, and advises us to get along because this might be the last ever opportunity to see The Shapes on stage…

The Shapes at Northampton’s Hippodrome in 1978, and in 2008 at the Crypt in Hastings © Olliver Tookey

The Shapes in 1978 and 2008 at the Crypt (2008 photo © Olliver Tookey).

Tell me about The Shapes…
The Shapes were formed in 1977 in Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire by me (as Seymour Bybuss) and the bass player Brian Helicopter.  We then attracted other oddballs to join in, until Dave Gee, Tim Jee and Steve Richards took up permanent residence on the sofa. We then played lots of gigs, released two singles, recorded a session for John Peel and then went slightly mad.

What were your major hits?
Our most popular songs were (I saw) Batman (In The Launderette) and Wot’s For Lunch, Mum? (Not Beans Again); these were both on our Part Of The Furniture EP on Sofa Records which we released in 1979. Also Blast Off which was released on Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label from Belfast in 1980.

There’s an exhaustive biography of The Shapes here: Hyped2Death

When did the band split up?
The Shapes never really split up… we just drifted apart to pursue different paths in life. I went to Goldsmiths to study fine art, for example.

Flyer for the 2008 Crypt gig.

Have you done a reunion gig before?
We last got together in 2008 at the request of Rebellion Festival; they had a spot for us playing at the Kentish Town Forum alongside The Damned, 999, Johnny Moped, Goldblade and the Radio Stars. We tacked on some gigs beforehand by way of warming up, and that’s how we got to play the wonderful doomed Crypt in Hastings (thanks to Simon Wilkes) on 10 December 2008.

The current line-up is the original line up from ’77. We are one of the few bands from that era who can boast this longevity/inability to live hard and die young in true rock and roll fashion!

We are also big in Tokyo, apparently. Click on The Phantasms link for proof!

The Shapes flyer 2014 Union Bar gig

Flyer for the 2014 Union Bar gig.

When are you coming back to Hastings?
We will be back in Hastings on Saturday 14 June, playing at The Union Bar (formerly The Tubman) in Cambridge Road. We will be supported by Monkish. Doors open at  8pm and it’s free, apparently. More details (possibly) here: The Shapes on facebook.

How do we get hold of Shapes music?
Earlier this year, Paramecium Records of Madrid re-released our first two singles, the Part of the Furniture EP and Airline Disaster. Then Soul Jazz Records put Wot’s For Lunch, Mum? on a vinyl/CD/download compilation entitled There Is No Such Thing As Society, and finally we are releasing a vinyl 12″ More Songs For Sensible People on Overground Records, which is a reprise of the 1996 CD release of Songs For Sensible People, also on Overground. You can find our recordings on Paramecium Records, Soul Jazz Records and Overground Records.

Was The Shapes your first artistic venture? How has your career as performer and artist developed since those early ‘shaping-up’ days?
The Shapes was my first ‘grown-up’ collaborative artistic venture. However, I did not perform again until the 1990s, when I did a load of solo gigs at places like the 12 Bar in Soho, and I also played bass for a short-lived trannypunk band called Candy Darling. So apart from these Shapes gigs, not a lot of official performance. However, every day feels like a performance for me on the stage of life and I often carry a skull under my arm. I occasionally compose music/spoken word stuff within my current and ongoing The TOXIC project work.

I’m also working with Keith Rodway to develop and deliver the third year of Trash Cannes Festival Hastings this September.

I think this is probably the last time The Shapes will play together. We’re all getting on a bit and it’s a lot of work to get back together. We’ll see. Catch us while you can! Let’s all be Shapes!

Posted 16:27 Monday, Jun 2, 2014 In: Music & Sound

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