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Freak Shop

LR: Pete 'Cyd' Lindsay, Steve 'Mac' McLennan, Ron Bult, Justin Nagariki Bolth.
Photographer Nadine La Palma

Burn baby burn ...
Photograph from 'Drum Scene' courtesy of Kevin Chisholm

The Great Freak Shop Fire
The true story from Steve Mac.

No, Phil Screen had nothing to do with the 'Freak Shop' fire.
His fire episode was when he set himself alight at the Town Hall with 'Rabbit'.

I was the fire bug in 'Freak Shop'.

I'd been lighting fires since I set the front fence alight as a 5 year old. We made our own pyrotechnics way back in 'Barracuda'. It was just an unfortunate moment. I guess I'd done it so many times I got careless.

The coroner's report found all of us, (me, the venue management, the council), at fault. He told me I was "inherently dangerous".
As a rock 'n' roller I thought that was pretty cool at the time, I even got a T-shirt made up.
I'm just glad nobody got hurt, although a number of people got taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. Justin Ngariki Bolth went back inside to check that nobody was trapped.

It was very scary.

I thought it was going to be the event that catapulted us into the next level. We all know what chickens did for 'Alice Cooper', bats and doves did for 'Ozzy Osbourne', Mars Bars did for 'The Rolling Stones', etc. A little controversy never hurt anyone.

It was not to be.
Whenever we were booked, venues copped grief from the licensing police, and it all turned very negative. At one stage we were even getting death threats, from disgruntled family members of people who'd been traumatised by the event.

Don't shoot me, I'm only the fire breather.

The band self imploded a few months later when I set fire to Cardiff Workers Club.

I still love a good fire.


12 track CD 'Freakshop' (1995)

The drum kit belonged to Darren Brollo.

Comic strip comes from Mac, via Ngariki, via Cyd.


Photographer live shots Monica Jaegger


All photo's courtesy of Steve McLennan and Trevor Dare.

What you are about to read is not a definitive history of the band featured
in the bio below. It is a very subjective snap shot of a specific moment in
time. It just so happens that I was "there" in that moment and the snapshot
was taken from my point of view. These are my memories and any scholar can tell you that memory and history, though related, are not the same thing. I hope any and all readers who can offer a different perspective, alternative point of reference or personal insights will add them to the page. I would love to know what was going on in other peoples heads at the time....these bios are a way for me to assess what was going on in mine. To anyone who feels in any way misrepresented I feel compelled to
apologise...however...keep in memory of you from that moment in time may be very different to your own. Just for starters...I'm color blind.
God bless you and all who sail in her...MAC

Intoxicated by the process / success of fronting The Glam Gods and the
experience of playing original music to an eager and receptive audience in the last few bands I'd been in (Mega Boys, Witchdoctors, Raiding Party) I set about putting a band together to play my own songs. Ronnie Bult was somehow coerced into playing drums with me again, (he's a glutton for punishment), and somewhere in the audition process we found Nick "Mate" Rosetti and Mark Black.
The band was doing lots of gigs, I was honing my song writing with Tinno as well as collaborating with Ronnie & Nick Mate. Then, as happens so often, the band kinda lost focus momentarily and Marcus The Black and Nick Mate were gone. Ronnie & I recruited Ngariki in a beer fuelled
back yard jam and we went looking for a bass player. Cyd turned up to a Glam Gods Xmas Show in a snakeskin leotard and leather- man cap. If he was interested he was definitely freaky enough!!!
The definitive line-up was in place.
Ngariki brought not only a strong & unique guitar style to the band he also brought a swag of songs which were incorporated into the set. Cyd also had a few quirky little tunes songs which fitted the developing Freak Shop style wonderfully.
By the time this line-up was consolidated I was in a re-hab program at James Fletcher and had been prescribed Lithium & Prozac which seemed to be doing the trick. I was focused, far less eratic and seemingly less volatile.
The Freaks as we were affectionately known had taken up where the Glam Gods had left off. Our shows were Dadaist experiments in sight and
sound. I realise that sounds like arty wank bullshit but if you saw one of
our shows I think you'd have to agree there werent many better ways to explain what we were doing. It was kinda like a Heavy Rock Circ de Soleil for bi-polar pyromaniacs.
The music was at turns brutal and abrasive, gently melodic, joyous and
celebratory or cynical and brooding. When our debut album was released in 1994 the Rolling Stone reviewer called it an "eclectic mish mash". Hot Metal claimed it was "big, loud & ugly" while at the same time congratulating us for "Edge Of the World" which they pronounced "Ballad Of The Month".
As I began to feel inadequate in my ability to push the band to the highest levels of popularity I returned to self medicating. Booze, pot, powders and pills started becoming part of my diet again and the cocktail of prescribed and elicit drugs was affecting my judgement. My anger and frustration was
turned outward at venue owners, promoters and lethargic audience members and inwardly on myself. The shows began to lose much of the fun and joy which balanced out the angst and pain portrayed at other times and performances regularly included self mutilation and aggression towards audience members and band members alike. (I especially owe Ronnie Bult a huge apology...I publicly treated him with undeserved contempt on numerous occasions)
It was becoming dangerous to be in a room inhabited by Freak Shop.
Xmas Eve 1994 was the straw that broke the camel's back. We made front page news world wide when our / my fire breathing act went horribly wrong and set the Star Hotel on fire. I had mixed feelings about the incident. On one hand I felt dreadful that I had endangered the lives of not only my
band mates but everyone in attendance that night. On the other hand I was
excited by the prospect that this could be the event in Freak Shop's history that changed our lives forever.
I've mentioned before the comparison to Ozzy biting the head off the
bat or Alice throwing a chicken into the audience. I also had a bizarre sense of pride in the thought that Guns & Roses, Motley Crue or Pantera all layed claim to being "the most dangerous band in the world" but the little ol' Freaks from Newcastle were giving them a viable run for their money.
The band members (which now included Darren Brollo on drums...more apologies) were understandably shaken by the event and demanded I get my shit together. This was like throwing petrol on a fire. I went nuts.
Fire became my obsession. Every gig became an orgy of incendiary delights.We had fire breathing, fire drumming, trays full of gun powder, flash
pots...anything we could light we did it.
Eventually of course it got out of if it wasnt already!?!?
The fire drumming involved me dousing a bunch of drums with accelerant and lighting it while the entire band jammed on this industrial / jungle groove. The flames would go10 maybe 15 feet into the air. It was awesome..a wall of fire.
I tripped while doing this at Cariff Workers (Panthers) and spilt accelerant everywhere. Any normal thinking human being would have curtailed the act at the point. Not me. I could see the expectant look in the faces of the punters pressed up against the front of the stage.
They wanted the fire as much as I did. Whoosh. Drums were ablaze. The stage was ablaze. This time fortunately I at least had a fire extinguisher handy.
But it was too late.
Once again we were being pulled off stage before our set had finished.
People were running for exits. Girls were crying. The place stank of burnt carpet and fire extinguisher powder. Management was screaming at me. The other bands on the bill were pissed off and my own band of Freaks were laying down ultimatums.
Even they had finally had enough.
As I stood there in my leopard skin lycra skirt and my steelcap boots, eye liner and lip stick smeared garishly across my face I caught a glimpse
of myself in the band room mirror, the centre of all this negative
attention, surrounded by chaos, panic and fear, and I couldn't help but smile.

It had been a Hell of a ride.