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Wednesday 18 July 2007

Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations

Likened by many to Jimi Hendrix's band because, well, because their guitarist was a black chap with dreadlocks, Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations were an "an underground indie psychedelic rock band based in the north west of England in the early to mid 1990s" (thank you once more myspace.

From humble beginnings - meeting on a music course at South Cheshire College of Further Education - and taking their name from a Hammer Horror film, the band experienced moderate early 90s success: releasing a couple of albums, a handful of EPs, playing at Glastonbury in 1992 and recording a Peel Session and very possibly a session for Mark Radcliffe.

Unfortunately, once more there doesn't seem to be a lot around to remember the band by, although they do seem to have inspired something of a cult following, leading to a sketchy wikipedia page and a few internet-recorded memories of people, like me, who can say "I saw the band play at [pub] in [town], [supporting/being supported by] [other band] and they were [brief critique]; where mine is "The Wharf", "Huddersfield", "being supported by", "a local band called, if I remember correctly, The Walking Seeds" and "pretty good if you like that sort of thing, but we were only there because they'd serve 16 year olds and there was an indie disco after".

Rummaging around ebay and the like seems to turn up the possibility that there was a 12" version of the 1991 Hazy Lazy hologram EP - of which an mp3 to follow - that included a free copy of the 7" version. This is the lead track from the EP: Dr Phibes etc etc - Hazy Lazy Hologram. This is the radio edit version of the free insert 7" single as, to be honest, the 12" version is rather long and you'll hear everything you need to in this version.


  1. Wow! I've been a Dr. Phibes fans since I saw them supporting Hawkwind at one of their Brixton shows - absolutely amazing. I wore out the grooves on my copy of Whirlpool, their first and best album, and only this week managed to find it and Hypnotwister on CD. Dr. Phibes!

    I heard that the singer killed his mum - any ideas whether this is true or not? I do hope not, but I guess it would explain why there was no third album.

    Awesome stuff!

  2. Ah - now this EP has a memory for me, as it was the first record I listened to when my mother told me that our cat of 10 years - Flossie - had died, when I got home from school. Bless her soul. Still we bought Morrissey, the kitten that one day gave birth to Smithy.

  3. I believe I saw them supporting Fugazi in Edinburgh. Calton Studios 15th September 1990 according to my ticket stub.

  4. I believe that it is true about singer Howard killing his Mum.

    There is some stuff on You Tube - some fan has put some images to a couple of tracks.

    I think I saw the Phibes last ever gig at the Citadel in St Helens. They were superb.

    I kinda knew Keith the drummer and his girlfriend at the time told that Howard had got ME so the band were giving up.

    Real shame, the guys really came into their own at the end and I still listen to the Hypnotwister album regularly. I even managed to get a CD copy on e-bay recently. The three sided vinyl version that I have is good to own but I can now have it on MP3 too.

  5. when i was a yoot we went on tour with phibes, walking seeds, las, boo radleys and shack to Paris. howard was a lovely bloke and we talked about books, one of his faves being 'the master and margerita' if i recall. sugarblast is still a great record

  6. I saw these guys at Glastonbury. I didn't know them, I was just at the front waiting for Teenage Fanclub, but they were pretty good if I remember correctly and the singer had some weird attachments on his guitar.

    Anyway, I'm pretty sure this was 1993, so maybe they did the festival twice.

  7. All I can say is I have woked in the music biz as an Promoter, A&R, manager etc for the 16 years since first seeing DP&HOWE and still not found anything quite like them!

    I think you are right they did play twice. The one you are talking about in 1993 also had the Verve as first band on and Cud!

  8. and here i was thinking everyone had forgotten these guys. I was in Liverpool where they were based when they came out and they released Whirlpool. I still have one of their t-shirts and badges. Saw them a few times live. Happy days.

  9. Anonymous07 May, 2008

    HK Jnr was convicted of killing his grandmother somewhere over Chester/Wirral way. Can't remember if he was sanctioned or jailed. Shame because the 2 albums they did were great but as a live act they were awesome.

  10. Simon (singer from The Headmen) and me also went to see them at The Wharf in Huddersfield. I don't think either of us knew what the music would be like, but the band had a cool name and that was good enough!

    I think we also went to see them play again a few months later at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge and I've still got my copy of Whirlpool that I bought at the gig :-)

  11. I've been a fan of Phibes since I saw them play in a tent at Reading Festival many years ago.

    I recently picked up a CD single on eBay which I've been hunting for years - a 3-track promo which features the infamous recording of L.A. Woman.

    It's a real shame that we never got a third album, the other two were so fantastic. They're still on regular rotation on my CD player.

  12. I was in an crappy indie-pop band based in the Chester/Wirral area and we entered a battle of the bands competition. Unfortunately for us, we were pitched against Dr Phibes, who eventually won the comp. I got to know Howard pretty well, he came to see our band a couple of times and I would sometimes travel back over the water with him from Liverpool where Phibes were recording. He was always really chatty and interested in what you were doing.
    Onstage the band were always superb and really different from what was going on at the time, their version of sid Barrett's Lucifer Sam was awesome. The stage was usually in darkness, all you could see was Keith's arms thrashing about behind his kit, Lee moving as if in slow motion and Howard with those white stripes underneath his eyes.
    I heard about what had happened, it was a real shock.

  13. I was at that competition in Chester too. Girst time I saw them was in a tent at a council fete in Connah's Quay - one of the first gigs - and then in the Tivoli Ballrooms in Buckley a couple of times too.

    We tried to get a lift off Howard back from a Fugazi gig in Liverpool once but his car was already full lol

    He was a nice guy and sometimes used to come and hang out with us a bit when we were skating.

    It was really sad to hear what happened. Still to this day don't have any idea of what went on to cause it.

    I still have the two albums on vinyl.

    They were my favourite band at the time. obviously.

  14. Anonymous16 June, 2009

    damn, kind of shocked to hear what happened with howard.

    totally loved this band at the time. and saw them play in shit venues on a couple of occasions. but I'd drifted fully into electronic music and raving b4 the 2nd LP came out so had no idea about howard killing his mum. anyone got more concrete details about the incident rather than just rumours?

    i just checked their myspace and its shocking how few people seem to remember them. i still play my vinyl copy of whirlpool to this day, and although i listen to almost zero guitar-based music of the last 20 years, dr. phibes remain favourites. for me definitely the best band of the 90s. they deserved more for whirlpool alone. but i guess that crusty vibe wasnt fashionable for long so they never crossed over. a shame for them, i guess.

  15. I love this band!! I live in Berlin, Germany and was so close to seeing them it almost hurts. They where due to play the "Loft" (poss 1992) but apparently the van broke down somewhere on the Autobahn and they didn't make it. Me and my mate arrived in good time, watched the support band (which was crap), and waited for them to turn up. At some point there was an annoucement and we were all turfed out. A cryin' shame.
    Who knows....maybe one day when he's done his porridge they'll get back together (even if just for old times sake). A man can dream can't he?

  16. I love this band!! I live in Berlin, Germany and was so close to seeing them it almost hurts. They where due to play the "Loft" (poss 1992) but apparently the van broke down somewhere on the Autobahn and they didn't make it. Me and my mate arrived in good time, watched the support band (which was crap), and waited for them to turn up. At some point there was an annoucement and we were all turfed out. A cryin' shame.
    Who knows....maybe one day when he's done his porridge they'll get back together (even if just for old times sake). A man can dream can't he?

  17. I believe Keith is playing drums for Ladytron now.

  18. I saw the band back in '92 at the Tivoli in Buckley. My friend who played Bass in 'Scorpio Rising' introduced me to the band after which, I bought 'Whirlpool' and their follow-up album. Never saw them live again after the Tiv gig which is a shame, but I think they toured outside my area to push the 2nd album before, well...we know what (sadly) happened.

    Fantastic band, Keith York = fantastic drummer, now playing for his mates band, 'Love Amongst Ruin' (his 'mate' being Steve Hewitt, ex-Placebo drummer and fellow South Cheshire boy). I'll be writing a piece on my BLOG about the impact of the band on me as a musician anyway...

  19. Anonymous23 May, 2011

    I watched them completely and utterly tripped out on 3 golden om's at the Bath Pavilion,every thrash of the guitar was like a knife through my stomach and his voice was like hearing a cross between Ozzy Osborne and God,freaked the shit out of me but couldnt leave what a night,me and a couple of friends didnt go home for 3 days and we went native in the local woods,fires,acid,beer oh man good times.LOVE THE PHIBES!!

  20. Went to see All About Eve on there Touched By Jesus tour, Manchester Academy. Phybes played along side with them. I remember thinking who the hell are these guys? Then they kicked off. Wow this works i thought! They had a ink blot lighting thing set up which set the mood to there great sound. What a start to a good night.I Picked up there 1st cd and ep at the gig then finaly stumbled on Hyptnotwriter in HMV which took me by suprise! Still have them and play them to this day. THANKS FOR THE TUNES. P

  21. great band I got into them when I was sent a review copy of Whilpool which knocked me sideways as just something so new and fresh (imagine getting 30 records a week to review it takes something special to really get me excited like they did).
    Saw them a couple of times and they were big friends of the legendary Liverpool Band "The Walking Seeds who also were friends of mine so i was able to keep up with them quite well.
    Virgin records give them a humungous advance to record with and I remember the panic in the studio when it was announced that top brass from Virgin were about to visit the studio to see how they were getting on. Suddenly a couple of days Jamming got the album made and Virgin never found that almost all the advance had been used to finance a drink drugs party binge of legendary proportions which had resulted in almost no recording until the announced arrival of the Virgin Top brass.
    I remember how sad I felt when the national papers and even Granada reports TV programmes announced the guilty verdict in Howards murder trial. I think he still has a few years of his sentence to serve what a tragedy as he was a real gentleman every time I met the band

  22. Yep. I too saw the band on numerous occassions around the Northwest and (I think) at Planet X in Liverpool (between 89 and 91 maybe - it is hazy?!) They were all cool, especially Howard. A few years later I was a fully trained and payrolled teacher. I got a student teacher (Hi Jen!) who turned out not only to be a better teacher than I ever was but also the former girlfriend of drummer Keith - small world eh? My friends were all in a band at the time Phibes were around Liverppol, and although probably rather crap (we were all teen goths at planet X - god bless their loose age-restriction checks!) Howard et al gave them loads of time and support. Even let them play an early support slot. Anyway - found my way here after looking up planet X in Liverpool. I was 40 last month and probably going through some existential angst (but for real this time!)

  23. Anonymous23 May, 2013

    I was lucky enough to tour with Phibes helping Keith with his drums. His regular roadie Sharon was away at the time in 1992.
    That was a fantastic opportunity I was very grateful for, got to see Berlin a few years after the wall came down and yes Colin we we're stuck on that f'ing autobahn ages & hated missing that gig :(

  24. Anonymous06 July, 2013

    howard was from connah's quay, drank with him and played pool with him in the boathouse a few times . Thet played at the deeside festival at wepre park if i remember. nice bloke but things obviously went wrong form him. hope you are doing well now Howard

    1. saw em I Barrow-in-Furness 91? an in preston with spiritualized n mercury rev phukkin awesome seem to remember the singer sat on a chair?at bw gig anyhow was good friends in jail with a guy from connahs quay years ago one of only people ive met whooed heard ov em steevie gal a big jock great guy anyone know him?

  25. Hey, Howie I miss you man. I played bass with your band Abstract for a few years. I went more mainstream rock and you continued with your very own style. I learned a hell of a lot from you even when we were so young. I hope we get to meet again. Hello also to James and 'Alf'. Respect.