The Steve Hall Story
by Lance Baresi
don’t recall how I first learned of Afflicted Man, but I do know that the instant I heard the music, I was infatuated. I immediately tracked down all the Afflicted Man records and proceeded to dig up as much information as I could about Steve Hall. Even in the age of the Internet, I wasn’t able to come up with much outside of a few semi-inaformational blog postings and a short article in a vintage Forced Exposure magazine. A few years ago, after exhausting my research options, I ran into Byron Coley at a record fair in Chicago and asked if he knew anybody who might have further intel. He was as baffled as I was about what had become of Steve Hall and who had bootlegged the Afflicted Man Complete Recordings double CD on Senseless Whale and / or written the liner notes. I loved the Afflicted Man records so much that I contemplated bootlegging the whole catalog on vinyl, but my conscience got the better of me. So, I had no other choice than to post the following in the comments section of an Afflicted Man entry on the Detailed Twang blog: “If anyone knows the URL of Steve Hall’s website or his email address, please get in touch with me. You can reach me at permanentwax (at) Gmail Thanks! Lance.”
I heard nothing for two years, until December of 2012 when I received an email out of the blue saying: “Hello, I stumbled across a blog in which you enquired about making contact with Steve Hall the guitarist. I know him and he is currently working on some new stuff. Let me know if you wish to make contact. Regards, Dave.” I jumped for joy upon receiving this email and got in touch with the Afflicted Man himself. I asked him a bunch of questions about Afflicted Man and his other bands and actually worked out a deal for the first ever vinyl reissue of Afflicted Man’s 1981 LP I’m Off Me ‘Ead. I couldn’t be more stoked about having finally tracked down the elusive Steve Hall.
As a record collector, store owner, and label operator, this is truly one of my proudest moments. Steve’s discography is relatively small, but incredible, and I’m ecstatic to finally have first hand information and a specific reason to write about it.
Afflicted Man’s second LP I’m Off Me ‘Ead incredible record, but don’t stop there…Steve Hall’s entire catalog is well worth investigating. Since my initial discovery, Still Single’s Doug Mosu-rock has written this: “Afflicted (later Afflicted Man) was the recorded moniker for one Steve Hall, who bashed his way through the ‘70s and early ‘80s with a series of self-released records that would touch on barmy punk, excessive high-power guitar psychedelia, and home-taper lunacy, never settling in one area for too long.”
Tom Lax’s Siltblog hosts the following post: “Afflicted Man’s style could best described at stock-in-trade Brit DIY w/an almost Street Level sort’ve quality to it…Too freaked out for punks, too punked out for freaks.”
Geoffrey Weiss’ is one of the most venerable record collectors in the world. He summed it up like this: “Deliriously incompetent, frighteningly direct, and bafflingly out-of-time, there is no doubt that Steve Hall is in touch here with something most of us can’t get near.” Also, not so surprisingly, John Peel played Steve Hall’s records on his show back in the day and Henry Rollins has declared himself a fan on KCRW more than once. The following information was culled from various email interviews with Steve Hall and everything else I’ve ever read about his projects.
Influenced by Jimi Hendrix, early UK punk bands, and heavy substance abuse Steve Hall formed his first punk band called Head-case 2. After
a few rehear-sals and a couple of gigs with The Vamp, Headcase 2 dissipated and in 1978 a 17-year-old Steve Hall formed the Afflicted. In the beginning, Afflicted were a seven-piece band with two sax players! According to Steve, “it was quite a different band — playing in pubs, Iron Bridge, St Albans etc. We actually signed a contract with Decca Records Covent Gardens, London — but never produced anything under their label. Afflicted got complex — size, following, etc so I decided to break away and set up again as a three-piece band. The members were: Bill Frater on drums, Steve Hall (me) lead guitar (vocals), various bass players but they include Paul Mason and Billy Graham… We played lots of gigs round London; St Albums, Egham, Deptford.”
Hall self-released the first two Afflicted singles “I’m Afflicted” and “All Right Boy” on his own Bonk Records imprint in 1979. Bonk only released five records, all Steve’s own. Both of these singles are quite rare, but absolutely worth tracking down.
Later in 1979, Steve released Bonk’s first LP The Afflicted Man’s Musical Bag (not to be confused with the Nurse With Wound’s An Afflicted Man’s Musica Box comp from 1982) again on Bonk. But this time the he band had added a masculine suffix to their name and become Afflicted Man.
I asked Hall about the name change and he explained it this way: “We had a heavy skinhead following, which also made me want to pull away as I was in it for the music — Hippy Punk — definitely not for the values of the following we had. I did pull away and recreate the band again — this time, Afflicted Man. Billy Frater (drums – who was in it from as close to the beginning as I can clearly remember) stayed with me in this new band — and another string of bass players. As Afflicted Man, we produced & released the Musical Bag. Musical Bag is an eclectic affair and the LP format really allows Steve the time to display his psychedelic tendencies. The debut LP includes quintessential Afflicted Man songs (“Hippy Punk,” “Glue Sniffing”) alongside more meandering acid-damaged jams (“Musically-Insane,” “Why”). Musical Bag kinda reminds me of Faust IV had it been a little more Oi! and a little less Neu! Open minded punks and psych heads will surely dig this one as will fans of outsider / real people rock. The LP is housed inside a pink and white striped paper bag with a hand-stamp that simply states “AFFLICTED – LIMITED EDITION.” When asked about the packaging, Steve replied that he did it that way “to be different at the time; I was saying I wasn’t selling the cover, it was about the music (& it was cheaper).”
A year later, Afflicted Man released their second LP, I’m Off Me ‘Ead on Human Records. I’m Off Me ‘Ead is DIY psych punk (or Hippy-Punk as Steve Hall calls it) at it’s finest. By this time, Afflicted Man had a decent following and caught the attention of a small independent label. Hall recalled: “Human Records [was] a label of an old music shop called Bonaparte Records. They released a one off batch of I’m Off Me Ead (about 2,500 I think). Was never repressed…” Doug Mosurock hit the nail on the head in his review.
“To say that his I’m Off Me ‘Ead LP has a lot in common with a visionary freak like Michael Yonkers is not so ridiculous…the record consists of seven raucous blues-punk dirges, restless with anger and dirtier than ever before, a righteous and indignant irritant in the same way that Billy Childish or Dan Melchior would later conjure. Even the master volume fader gets a workout.”
Byron Coley says, “The slurred psych blues of I’m Off Me ‘Ead were so unlike anything else going on at the time, it almost seemed like the whole thing had to be a put-on of some kind. There had been those earlier records, sure, this one felt way different. The concept of UK stoner-punks had existed for a few years, but their output had tended towards the arty end of things before this. There’s a latent brutality to I’m’ Off that truly lashed our feeble minds. But maybe that’s only because L.A. was awash in very good acid right about then. Still, it remains extremely difficult to place this music inside the contextual history.
“I bought I’m Off Me ‘Ead at the old Vinyl Fetish store on Melrose in ‘81, same year I finally managed to snag a copy of Randy Holden’s Population II, and they were both records I’d play to anyone who dropped by our pad in Santa Monica for a listening session. The utterly fucked-up-ness of both guitarists never failed to astonish anyone who wasn’t too wasted to acknowledge what they were hearing.”
In 1981, Hall released another Bonk single, “The Afflicted Man’s New One” that was also housed in a candy-striped bag with the same stamp as The Afflicted Man’s Musical Bag LP. Although this single is packaged like Musical Bag it follows the lead of the second LP sonically. Both tracks “142” and “Senseless Whale Slaughter” are repetitive punk rippers.
The year of “Combat Rock” brought yet another name change. His band recorded a set of three long jams live to 4-track at Woodwharf Road Studio and in 1982, Bonk released Get Stoned Ezy under the High Speed & The Afflicted Man moniker. All three tracks are repetitive psych jams with insane guitar leads and the B-side “Sun Sun” is a full-on side-long psychedelic ripper! The Get Stoned Ezy LP was bootlegged on Toilet Rock in the ‘90s, but thankfully this long-lost underground psych classic is being reissued this summer on vinyl and CD by the Spanish label, Guerssen.
Maybe Steve Hall realized he could never top one of the farthest out psych records ever and that’s why he decided to go back to his roots and join the Accursed. Maybe he just had undiagnosed ADHD. It’s hard to say, but unfortunately I don’t have the room to go any further into the saga here. Look for part two in a future issue…
Steve Hall Discography
Afflicted “I’m Afflicted” (Bonk 1979)
Afflicted “All Right Boy”(Bonk 1979)
“The Afflicted Man’s Musical Bag” (Bonk 1979)
“The Afflicted Man’s New One” (Bonk 1981)
High Speed & The Afflicted Man
“Get Stoned Ezy’ LP (Bonk 1981)
Accursed “Up With The Punks” LP (WreckEm 1982)
Accursed “Aggressive Punk” LP (WreckEm 1983)
Accursed “Laughing At You” LP (WreckEm 1984)
Accursed “Going Down” 7” (WreckEm 1984)
Metal Virgins “Animal People” LP (Thrash Metal 1984)