Early compatriots of Cabaret Voltaire
and Throbbing Gristle
on Britain's experimental/industrial scene, 23 Skidoo
pursued an improvisational fusion of ethnic drumming and post-punk dance on their few recordings of the early '80s. Named after a slang phrase from the 1920s that had originally appeared in the work of Aleister Crowley, the group formed in London around brothers (and martial-arts experts) Alex
and Johnny Turnbull and Fritz Catlin
(aka Fritz Haamann). Influenced by Fela Kuti
and the emerging New York hip-hop scene, 23 Skidoo
released their first single "Ethics" in 1980. For their second, the band recorded at Cabaret Voltaire
's Western Works with Genesis P-Orridge
of Throbbing Gristle
helping out on production.
In 1982, 23 Skidoo
released the mini-LP Seven Songs and the Tearing Up the Plans EP for the Fetish label (also home to recordings by Throbbing Gristle
and Clock DVA
). After replacing their nominal rhythm section with bassist Sketch (who shared the trio's aesthetic), the band continued with 1983's The Culling Is Coming
and 1984's Urban Gamelan
. Their varied influences and occasionally sublime sound confused many critics and listeners, who expected all industrial groups to be as loud and chaotic as the emerging Test Dept.
or Einsturzende Neubaten
. Even after disbanding in 1984 however, 23 Skidoo
continued recording together sporadically during the rest of the decade, and the quartet -- the Turnbulls plus Catlin and Sketch -- formed their own Ronin label in 1989. Though no material from the band appeared in the '90s, they did several remixes and recorded for advertisers including Nike, Wrangler, and Smirnoff. Finally, in 2000, 23 Skidoo
released a new, self-titled album for Virgin.