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Members include Duncan X, vocals, songwriting; LeeFraser, guitar, keyboards, music programming. Addresses: Record company--Invisible Records, P.O. Box 16008, Chicago, IL 60616.
Bands in the past typically included a lead singer, guitar player, bass player, keyboard player, and drummer, but Sheep On Drugs followed the lead of other techno bands that have replaced band members with more technically-advanced synthesized music. Industrial Nation #9 called the band, "the prototype of a cyber-rock band... . [who] disregarding all the notions of purity so pervasive in rock today, [have] successfully infused beats and sounds from techno into what is otherwise rock and roll."
"Dead" Lee and "King" Duncan formed Sheep On Drugs in England in 1988. As Lee recalled in Industrial Nation #9, "Me and Duncan met in the gutter in New Cross ... in kind of a drugged haze." Lee and Duncan instantly bonded over Acid House music and because, as Lee recalled, "[Duncan is] someone who's got so much to say but isn't a musician." Lee and Duncan then began imagining the kind of '90s band they wanted to form. Because both liked Acid House, as Lee described in Industrial Nation #9, "a really excellent kind of weird new kind of music ... [with its] blips and bleeps and squeaks and drumbeats," Lee and Duncan decided that Acid House was the way to go. However, Lee and Duncan's ambition was to not be just any band, but, as quoted by The Rough Guide to Rock, "to be the last band ever." They wanted to "push it [in reference to music]," as Lee further told Industrial Nation #9, "change how music is heard."
In 1991, Sheep On Drugs began their quest to achieve their ambitions by releasing their first single, "Catch 22"/ "Drug Music." The Rough Guide to Rock described the two songs as "two sides of sardonic observation of the world of work and the rave scene." Next, Sheep On Drugs hit the road, and soon perfected a live show that MTV.com described as "filled with more theatrics, sexual intensity, and general mayhem than Marilyn Manson." These stage theatrics included, as The Rough Guide to Rock further stated, "buckets of fake blood, syringes and a pulpit from which Duncan could rant...." With their live shows drawing in fans, Sheep On Drugs released an EP of remixed singles including "Motorbike"/ "Mary Jane." This EP caught the attention of Island Records who signed the band in 1992. The release of the band's first major-label single, "Fifteen Minutes of Fame," allowed Duncan to rant about, as Voltage magazine writer Johnny Victory wrote, "a future of dreadful nothingness and torture, caste-system mentalities, letdowns and addiction." Melody Maker and New Musical Express named "Fifteen Minutes of Fame" their "Single of the Week." Lee and Duncan, not about to waste Sheep On Drugs' fifteen minutes of fame, released their first full-length album, Greatest Hits, in 1993.
Greatest Hits offered, as CMJ New Music Report stated, "more songs about sex, death and dance from a mocking perspective." The album's first track, "Uberman," shows just how mocking Sheep On Drugs could be. "Uberman" begins with "the all too familiar goosesteps off the Pistol's `Holidays in the Sun' shot through with cheesy organ rifts which finally succumb to a blistering, rhythmic throb," as Voltage's Victory reported, "leaving only this conclusion: Punk is mere fashion, fashion a consciousness-obliterating disease and the future a bright, bleak wasteland."
Sheep On Drugs followed up Greatest Hits with not only two EPs: From A to H and Back and Let the Good Times Roll, but also a full-length album, On Drugs. However, as The Rough Guide to Rock stated, On Drugs "failed to work as a coherent album; the attempted subtlety and seriousness of some of the tracks fell short of their [the band's] own previous stands." Thus, just two years after signing Sheep On Drugs, Island dropped the band. It seemed Sheep On Drugs' fifteen minutes had expired.
Not ones to pity their separation from Island Records, Sheep On Drugs formed their own label, Drug Squad, in 1995 and released two EPs: Suck and Strapped for Cash. Suck presented a different, balladic sound from the band. "We wanted a definite change to our music," Duncan told Sonic Boom, "to send a message to both our listeners and our former label that we had changed for the better." However, this sweeter sound only lasted until track two--"X-lover." This mixing of mellow with metal caught the attention of Martin Atkins, the founder of Invisible Records. "Sensing their [Sheep On Drugs] lucrative potential," Voltage's Victory stated, "he set about pulling Duncan and Lee under his wing, giving them the resources and avenues to get their product into the grasping claws of their zombie fans."
In 1996, "zombie fans" clutched Double Trouble, Sheep On Drugs' third full-length album. Double Trouble was an "overtly flashy wave of seemingly disposable electrohaze," as Victory reviewed, and "nowhere near as fulfilling as what has come to be expected." Thus, even with their new record company's resources, Sheep On Drugs' had seemingly failed. Yet, the group redeemed themselves on their next album, One for the Money, released in 1997. One for the Money returned to the group to its dark roots. CMJ New Music Reportdescribed the album as "dark and dirty as it comes, uniting speedy electro-percussion, growling guitar bites and layers of industrial noise under a blanket of digitally mangled vocals." One for the Money also earned Sheep On Drugs critical success. The website southwind.net called the album "the best disc yet from England's devilishly fun duo. CMJ New Music Report also praised Lee and Duncan's ability to "transform paranoia into an artform."
Sheep On Drugs released their fifth album, Never Mind the Methadone in 1997. This remix album, as Chris Best described on lollipop.com is "a veritable treasure trove of some of your [audience's] favorite ditties rendered totally unrecognizable by the miracle of modern technology." In 1998, Sheep On Drugs followed up this remix album with Two for the Show, an album of new songs. Yet, Sheep On Drugs found their live performances the most rewarding. "I really enjoy being told how much they [fans] love my music," Duncan told Sonic Boom. "A stroke on the ego is always good."
Thus, rejecting live musicians for technology and sending messages through their songs has not only made Sheep On Drugs a critical success, but also a fan favorite. But what exactly is Sheep On Drugs' message? "SOD is an anti-drug statement," Lee told Industrial Nation #9. "Not just chemicals, but like television or sex or anything else you can be addicted to. The audience, everybody are Sheep On drugs. ... We're about making people look at themselves and break out of this [addiction]."
by Ann Schwalboski
Sheep On Drugs's Career
Formed band, 1988; released first single, "Catch 22"/ "Drug Music," 1991; released debut album, Greatest Hits, 1993; released On Drugs, 1994; dropped by Island, formed own label, Drug Squad, in 1995; met Martin Atkins and signed to his label, Invisible, in 1996; released Double Trouble,1996; released One For The Money, 1997; released Never Mind the Methadone, remix album of previously released singles, 1997; released Two For the Show, 1998.
- Selected discography
- From A to H and Back , Island, 1993.
- Let the Good Times Roll , Island, 1994.
- Suck , Drug Squad, 1995.
- Strapped for Cash , Drug Squad, 1995.
- Track X
- Greatest Hits , Island, 1993.
- Double Trouble , Invisible Records, 1996.
- One For the Money , Invisible Records, 1997.
- Never Mind the Methadone , Invisible Records, 1997.
- Two for the Show , Invisible Records, 1998.
- Industrial Nation #9, Summer 1994.
- Sonic-Boom, May 1996.
- Voltage, Issue 8, 1996.
- "Sheep On Drugs," New Music Report, http://www.cdnow.com (November 15, 1999).
- "Out From Underground: Sheep On Drugs," MTV Online, http://mtv.com/mtv/music/underground/cdreviews/money.html (November 15, 1999).
- "Sheep On Drugs,"The Rough Guide to Rock, http://www-2.roughguides.com (November 15, 1999)
- "Sheep On Drugs: Never Mind the Methadone," Lollipop.com, http://www.lollipop.com/issue43/43-4d-10.html (November 15, 1999).
- "Sheep On Drugs: One for the Money," Invisible Records, http://www2.southwind.net/~markw/cdreviews/money.html (November 15, 1999).
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