Artists: John Ellis

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GONZO MAGAZINE: Jon speaks to John Ellis
John Ellis is one of those guys of whom I have been aware for many years. The first punk single that I ever heard was 'We Vibrate' by The Vibrators and I immediately thought "I wanna bit of that!". He has had a long and varied career as this biography pinched from his website shows:
Early days:
  • Studied Graphic Design at Middlesex University.
  • Film librarian for the British Film Institute.
  • Tree Surgeon.
  • Professional illustrator.
  • Formed the legendary BAZOOKA JOE.Band members included Adam Ant. First Sex Pistols gig was as support to Bazooka Joe.
  • Formed THE VIBRATORS. Extensive recording and touring.
  • Released 2 solo singles, BABIES IN JARS and HIT MAN. Tracks now available on MICROGROOVE vinyl EP.
  • Played guitar in Jean-Jacques Burnel’s Euroband for UK tour.
  • Formed RAPID EYE MOVEMENT featuring HOT GOSSIP dancers and electronics. Supported Jean-Jacques Burnel’s Euroband on UK tour.
  • Joined PETER GABRIEL band  for “China” tour and played on Gabriel’s 4th solo album.
  • Stood in for Hugh Cornwell for 2 shows by THE STRANGLERS at the Rainbow Theatre. Album from gig released.
  • Worked with German duo ISLO MOB on album and single.
  • Started working with PETER HAMMILL eventually doing many tours and recording on 7 albums.
  • Rejoined THE VIBRATORS for more recording and touring.
  • Recorded 2 albums under the name of PURPLE HELMETS with Jean-Jacques Burnel and Dave Greenfield of THE STRANGLERS.
  • Played additional guitar on THE STRANGLERS tour.
  • Joined THE STRANGLERS as full time member. Extensive touring and recording over 10 years.
  • Press officer for M11 Link Road campaign.
  • Started recording series of electronic instrumental albums as soundtracks for Art exhibitions. Released by Voiceprint.
  • Worked on JUDGE SMITH’S “CURLYS AIRSHIP” project over 5 year period.
  • Left THE STRANGLERS to work in Internet business.
  • Experimental projects with American accordionist MICHAEL WARD-BERGEMAN.
  • Guitarist on “Jimi Hendrix Welsh National Anthem” hoax. Massive coverage.
  • Occasional session work and soundtrack composition.
  • Started teaching guitar.
  • More sessions for JUDGE SMITH.
  • Started doing live solo work using looping technology and laptop.
  • Created CHANOYU RECORDS to release solo work.
  • Worked in Europe doing live soundtrack improvisation, Masterclasses etc.
  • Formed DREAM DETECTIVES with German artist MOI. MOSER to create multi-media projects and performances.
  • Became one of THE AMAZINGS, delivering group guitar tuition.
  • Currently developing a multi-media guitar tuition project.
With a pedigree like that, this was a man that I had to meet. I arranged a series of interviews which fell through for one reason or another, but on the day before my 54th birthday, I sat down with a small ginger cat on my knee, and a cup of tea in my hand and gave him a ring.

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John Ellis Biography

John Ellis (born 1 June 1952) is an English guitarist and songwriter. He was a co-founder of the pub rock band Bazooka Joe in 1970 and a founding member of the punk rock band The Vibrators. Ellis formed The Vibrators in 1974 while still at art school, studying illustration. The Vibrators released two albums with Ellis and toured extensively. Ellis left The Vibrators in 1978 to form the short-lived group Rapid Eye Movement, before embarking on a solo career in 1979, releasing a couple of singles, one of which, Babies in Jars (a live Rapid Eye Movement recording), reached #34 on the UK Indie Chart.

In 1980 he toured with Peter Gabriel on his Tour Of China 1984, and he appears on the album Peter Gabriel 4. From 1982 on he recorded a number of albums with Peter Hammill, and toured with Hammill (off and on) from 1981 until 1989. From 1981 until 1984 he was a member of the K Group with Peter Hammill. Hammill was "K" (on vocals, piano and guitar), Nic Potter was "Mozart" (on bass guitar), Guy Evans was "Brain" (on drums), and Ellis was "Fury" (on backing vocals and guitar).The Peter Hammill album The Margin is a registration of live-concerts by the K group.

Between late 1990 and 2000 Ellis was a member of the punk rock band The Stranglers, starting with the album Stranglers In the Night. During that period he also created music for European Art exhibitions and several short films. Ellis left The Stranglers in 2000. He is an exponent of the E-bow guitar.

Ellis has contributed to the recordings of Judge Smith, a founding member of Van der Graaf Generator. In 2005 Ellis formed a community organisation called 'The Luma Group', that delivers arts-based training and workshops. In 2009 Ellis started his own record label, Chanoyu Records, in order to release his own music. The first release was Wabi Sabi 21©, an album of electronic instrumentals inspired by the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

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