A Witness

A Witness original line up: (L-R) Keith Curtis, Vince Hunt, Rick Aitken

A Witness was formed in 1982 in Stockport. Working on the fringe of independent music and known for their intense, individual style, the core of the band was Rick Aitken (guitar), Vince Hunt (bass, lyrics) and Keith Curtis (vocals).

Initially a drum machine band, they released a 12″ EP Loudhailer Songs in November 1984, which went straight into the NME independent chart. Their debut LP, I Am John’s Pancreas in 1986 did likewise, and the insistent swing of the track Sharpened Sticks was included on the legendary NME C86 cassette.

The seminal A Witness debut LP: I Am John's Pancreas

After a tour of Germany and Holland in 1986 with Ron Johnson labelmates bIG*fLAME, A Witness recruited multi-instrumentalist Alan Brown on drums to replace the drum machine. Brown contributed arrangement and songwriting ideas for the eight songs that feature on the band’s third and fourth Peel sessions. With Brown on drums A Witness released a further two 12″ singles on Ron Johnson (one each in 1987 and 1988) before the collapse of that label.

A Witness live in Paris 1st December 1986 performing Smelt Like A Pedestrian.
Alan Brown on drums.

A Witness 3rd and 4th Peel sessions released by Strange Fruit. Alan Brown on drums

In 1987, following the release of the four-track 12″ One Foot in the Groove, Alan Brown left to concentrate on The Great Leap Forward, and was replaced by Triss King, formerly of Bogshed. A Witness continued to tour, with King playing on the studio version of (I Love You) Mr Disposable Razors as well as the covers of Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles),  Break On Through (The Doors) for The Imaginary compilation series Through the Looking Glass 1966 and Through The Looking Glass 1967 respectively.

However, tragedy struck in 1989 when guitarist Rick Aitkin was killed in an accident while climbing in the Scottish Highlands. An imminent tour supporting The Wedding Present to promote the final single (I Love You) Mr Disposable Razors was cancelled, and the band members subsequently moved onto other projects:

Keith Curtis joined The Membranes and was later a founder member of  Goldblade.
Vince Hunt, along with Alan Brown and drummer Daren Garratt (Pram, and later The Nightingales, The Fall), formed the irregular and part-time Marshall Smith, with Hunt also focusing on developing his soundscape project Pure Sound.

Rick Aitken (1956-1989)

In 2014 to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of guitarist Rick Aitken, founder member and bassist Vince Hunt assembled a new line-up of the band to perform some live dates, with one-time drummer Alan Brown on guitar, Simon ‘Crayola’ Williams (Sarandon) on vocals, and Rob Haynes (Goldblade, Inca Babies) on drums.

The new line-up performed a handful of gigs – notably the NME C86 Show in London, before Hunt – who had previously joined Inca Babies in 2009– moved on to also join The Blue Orchids, as well as developing his journalist and book-writing career. Musically, Alan Brown continued to concentrate on his long term solo project The Great Leap Forward.

A Witness at the NME C86 Show 14th June 2014. Alan Brown on guitar.

For further information on A Witness and Vince Hunt, visit these links:

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