Monday, 27 August 2012

SONG FOR TODAY: Witness - Audition


Witness were a British alternative rock band formed in Wigan, Greater Manchester in 1997. The band released two albums via Island Records between 1999 and 2001, before splitting up in 2004.

In the late 90's, singer-songwriter, Gerard Starkie and guitarist Ray Chan set about writing and recording a number of 4-track demos together, which were mixed by their friend, Nick McCabe. Bassist Dylan Keeton became the next member to join the band which would eventually go on to become Witness. After securing a record deal with Island, they went on to add both drummer, John Langley, and guitarist, Julian Pransky-Poole to the line-up. Before settling on the name Witness, the band initially played a handful of gigs in nearby Manchester under the names Siren and High Mountain Jag in mid-1997. Witness' big break came in the same year, as they ventured down to London to watch The Verve support Oasis at Earl's Court in September 1997. Ray, a long-time friend of Nick McCabe's, met someone backstage at the gig who did press for The Verve (Tim Vigon). He passed on a recently recorded demo tape, and just a week later they had signed a three-album deal with Island Records. At this stage, Witness had yet to settle on a band name, and had yet to play a gig under the name "Witness", and, as such, their record contract simply referred to them as the "Wigan Band".

The initial press attention enjoyed by the band came as a result of Ray's friendship with Nick, and so, comparisons with The Verve were rife. In 1998, Witness managed to secure support slots on tour with Whiskeytown, The Seahorses and Gene, before going on to self-release their debut single, "Quarantine", through Valiant Recordings on 23 November. The following year the band's first release for Island came with their second single, "Scars", and their third single, "Audition" followed in June of the same year. Their debut album, 'Before The Calm' was released on 12 July 1999 to critical acclaim. Following Universal's takeover of Island Records, the band continued to pursue a new, Americana-tinged direction on their second album 'Under A Sun', released on 23 July 2001, as their record label's new parent company proved to be more accepting of the band's new material. Like its predecessor, 'Under A Sun' garnered a notable amount of critical attention, though not on the same, universal scale as that of their debut. In December 2001, Julian was asked to leave the band, for reasons unknown and by March 2002, in the midst of demoing what would have been their third album, it had been announced that Witness had been dropped by their record label. The band  returned to the studio to record an EP's worth of new material, slated for release in early-2003. In January 2003, a hometown gig was announced at Wigan's 'Mill At The Pier' for 5 April, set to promote the independent release of the planned EP. Yet, despite the gig being a sold-out success, the EP was never issued.

The band 'split up' in February 2004, but continued as 'Gerard Starkie' with the same personnel. The following year the band split properly when Ray left, moving to Hong Kong to teach English. Throughout 2005, Gerard continued to perform solo gigs, whilst August 2006 saw the self-release of his debut solo album, Drawbridge. In August 2008, it was announced that Gerard and Ray would reunite to play a one-off gig of Witness material in Hong Kong..."






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