The story of AOS3 began 1990, in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.
We were all doing a lot of ‘visiting the all night garage’ -If you catch my drift.
We were listening to lots of Reggae and chilled out stuff, and hanging out in Andy Brown’s Astra and Colin’s flat in Stockfold, Washington.
The Heart of AOS3 was John, Andy and Colin- although many more served at times over the years. The longest serving drummer was Erl, who was on the stool for at least four years of the first five.
The most important influence for us early on was Culture Shock, closely followed by RDF- we had gone mad for the free festival scene which was amazing in the early nineties- ‘Hunting the Festival’ had been a regular pass time for the last few summers, we just wanted a way to play at the free festivals.
Festivals then were law free zones, and drenched in the sounds of Gong and Hawkwind, with a whole new wave of in–your-face psychedelia/punk also making its way through…They were beautiful anarchic triumphs of Love and Will.
Playing the free festivals was in not a ‘career’ move, we were basically just on the blag.
We began practising at Washington Arts Centre, and playing around Sunderland and Newcastle- often at the Kasbah at home in Roker, where Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface, and of course Fleecey, were both sound engineers.
The Kasbah was over in a single year, but it was vital to the start of AOS3, the Sunderland audience was a tough one to win over…but a good way to start.
We spilled out into Newcastle over the next year, playing sweaty packed gigs upstairs at the Broken Doll with bands like Octafish and Gustav’s Blim, also at much missed venue Newcastle Riverside. Quite early we started to realise we were getting asked to play last.
Word seemed to spread really fast, before we knew it, we were getting calls and letters from distant places like Harlow and London.
We sent Dick Lucas a tape and a blag for support, and it worked! Result!
We did 3 gigs with Citizen Fish that ultimately led to us feeling essentially family with our earliest influence. The same thing happened with RDF, and once we had played with Chumbawamba, our earliest ambition- to play with our three biggest influences- was ticked off. We needed a new ambition.
A few more demo tapes were released, and we managed to book into Durham Street studios in Hartlepool and record a 16 track studio offering that eventually made it onto our first LP .
We were politicised by the events of the 90’s, particularly the Poll Tax.
We often played in support of groups like the Hunt Saboteurs and Anti-fascist Action, and other socially aware causes.
Though not written about now, the UK music scene from 1990 to the end of 1994 was much more politicised than reported- all manner of different musical styles collided and shared eclectic bills, influenced by the free festival atmosphere. Youth tribes disintegrated, realising their vast common similarities and desires. Mutate and Survive. And Everyone was muntered!
There was a wave of ‘festival’ bands that were later separated into genres by bored journalists- ‘crusty’ being the worst, most condescending name they could come up with at the time. I’ve always hated that word, and I don’t think it means anything with reference to AOS3. We are NOT a crusty band, in my opinion.
It was a historical moment when the 90’s kids almost relived the 60’s counter culture events that had been their generations bogeymen since they were small- Kids brought up to fear and disapprove of both the Hippies first, then the Punks. Such fear mongering inevitably created an interest in the people, events, and drugs that had caused such parental concern. Careful who you demonise, folks!
The first stage of AOS3 ended with the departure of Graeme Davies and Jeff Hardy, who went on to form Dub Reggae Groovers, Roughneck Sounds.
Keri McCormack joined on fiddle, bringing us down to a positively svelte 5 piece- (early on we’d been up to 8 piece at one point), and more and more gigs seemed to be leading us to London at the time, and often to the absolute end of Civilisation, the Arch-Duke Charles in Elephant and Castle, RDF home turf, and the most lawless London boozer I ever knew.