Rio Goldhammer (vocals) from 1919
1919 reformed, revitalised, and resolute - 1919 were originally formed in 1980, in Bradford, UK by two Yorkshire boys: Mark Tighe (guitar) and Ian Tilleard (vocals). Prior to the band becoming 1919, they also featured Aky who would eventually join SOUTHERN DEATH CULT AND ZODIAC MINDWARP’s Mark Manning. Shortly, Mark Tighe and Ian were joined by Mick Reed (drums) and Nick Hiles (bass) - who was eventually replaced with Steve Madden and settled on the name 1919. They were part of the growing post-punk movement, in Yorkshire that included the SISTERS OF MERCY, MARCH VIOLETS, RED LORRY YELLOW LORRY and NEW MODEL ARMY. In 1982, the band released a white label promo entitled ‘Repulsion/Tear Down These Walls’ and as a result, legendary DJ John Peel took an interest in them. They were signed to indie record label: Red Rhino and released their debut album, ‘The Machine’.
By 1984, the band had split into two factions with Reed pursuing 1919AD and the HIVE and the rest of the band forming ANOTHER CINEMA. They disbanded but continued to pursue solo projects. Flash forward to 2015 and the band reformed with new (and much younger), vocalist Rio Goldhammer, debuting with a secret gig at Carpe Noctum, a popular long-running dedicated goth venue, in Leeds - so secret that none of us knew who was playing till the band went on stage! The band were sadly hit by tragedy recently, when original members Mark and Steve lost their lives. But 1919 are determined to continue Tighe’s legacy. They recently organised a benefit gig to aid Ukraine refugees. Using the magic of technology, I had the pleasure of chatting to lead singer Rio about this and his journey with 1919. There was one question, though, that I was dying to ask…
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Hi, how are you?
Rio: I’m good, thanks.
RoD: I’m sorry if you have been asked this question a million times before but how did you end up being the singer of a band that broke up before you were even born?
Rio: It’s very true! Truthfully, I answered an ad from Mark, and he was looking to get things going, have you heard any of the CIRCLE OF THE ABSURD stuff? (A collaboration between Rio and Mark) we were working on this album and we kind of managed to get half of it done, then kind of shelved it cos we were able to get Mick back into the fold as well, so it was kind of a false start so if you saw us at that very first one - that secret gig (in Leeds) that was a bit of a false start really. Yeah, me and Mark had been working together for about a year before it was properly 1919 and yeah, we just kind of started again.
RoD: I did wonder - unless you had discovered the secret to eternal youth or something!
Rio: No, I do sometimes get accused of being the original singer and it’s meant as a compliment - you know, your voice sounds right but it like “How old do I look? I’m 31!” (Laughs) actually when I first started working with Mark, I was twenty-four you know! It’s taken over a big part of my life now! It feels very much like my band even though the first chapter was before I existed.
RoD: That’s good - you know, it’s obviously meant to be!
Rio: Yeah, you don’t wanna just come in and you know, start stamping all over it and saying “This is how it’s going to be; you want to be truthful to the original sound - which obviously when it was just Mick and Mark together, it sounded just like the original cos it was them who were playing it. Steve who was the late bass player from back in the day, he came and guested on ‘Futurecide’, but he had his own health problems as well and he passed away not long after Mark did so we are kind of two original members down really!
RoD: It was quite a sad time for the band, wasn’t it?
Rio: Yeah, it was rough, especially cos I was so young when I first started working with Mark - he was a bit of a music dad for me, you know. I was twenty-four and it was a really important time in my career if you want to call it that - just being able to learn from him and learn from Mick as well. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but Sam’s come in and he is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Mark was like “I’ve not got long left on this earth, but I want this to carry on going and it was really important to get someone who was already family. We were like a little family, and we still are. Sam got married last week and I was best man. It was the same when Karl (Karl Donner was 1919 bass player from 2015-2020) left, we were in lockdown and we did the album, its moving along quite nicely. Every chapter is different, but it still feels like we are doing it for the right reasons. We love making music together and we love performing, it’s never going to be just going through the motions with us.
RoD: It sounds like you have really gelled, it’s great to hear.
Rio: Yes, I mean when the band were first formed, that’s why they only lasted four years. They were all like nineteen/twenty and a bit wild and headstrong and all had their own ideas about what they wanted to do. Now it’s just very organic and truthfully, there’s just never enough money on the table for it to be a thing that you could do just for that, you know.
RoD: No, I don’t think you get into a band to make lots of money anymore
Rio: Exactly, you have to kind of treat it like still professional and it does pay for itself. We’ve got enough of a core fanbase to buy enough records to make the next one. That’s really useful but you’ve got to treat it like you’re never gonna get paid for it almost (laughs) and when you do, it’s a bit of a bonus really. I think if we toured full-time - like fifty-two weeks of the year, then it would be a full-time job, but we only tour like, three weeks of the year. Back in the day, they supported just about everyone - KILLING JOKE, BAUHAUS etc, though that’s forty years ago, they (the original members), probably only have vague memories of it all. Mick has done loads of cool stuff, but he doesn’t like to brag. In the nineties, he recorded a track for a compilation album with Tony Benn! (late British MP).
RoD: So I would like to talk about the gig you did to support Ukraine (in Leeds). How did that go?
Rio: It was wonderful, you should have come down. To be honest, I think we tried to turn it round as quickly as possible, we got a date that was realistically double which I think was about two weeks to turn it around. We confirmed it and got the other bands on board. We managed to raise quite a bit of money for the Ukrainian Centre, which is in Chapeltown (Leeds) and then because of that, we got asked to do another gig with THE UKRAINIANS the following week. Then Bank Holiday Monday, I was actually up there putting on a wrestling show (laughs). You know, like Big Daddy, World of Sport, 1980’s style! It’s with this company called Rise who do a lot of events in Leeds, but they tend to do a lot of the gory death-match kind of stuff. Well, a lot of their usual fan-base have kids who can’t watch those, so with short notice, they managed to get a load of wrestlers to come, and they put on a really fun, family event in the Ukrainian Centre. The Ukrainian Centre have become the de-facto hub for anything that people have been looking to send physical donations of clothes or sleeping bags, toiletries etc or money to Ukraine, they’ve often gone and just dumped it on their doorstep. They’ve had a team of volunteers trying to sort through it all - as well as arranging for people to drive it over there. Sometimes, this meant buying vehicles to drive it over there, then leaving the vehicles over there so they have more vehicles to ferry stuff from Poland to Ukraine.
RoD: Yes, my neighbours are Polish, and they are very worried about the whole situation.
Rio: Yes, one of the reasons why I’m so keen to do what I can, is because my family is Polish, all this happened to my grandad eighty years ago. They actually lived in a house in Lviv, which we now know as Western Ukraine but back then was Eastern Poland. This is somewhere that changed hands a lot so if you’re Polish, this is the equivalent of someone invading Wales in the UK! It’s not just a neighbouring country, you are kind of cousins, you know. There have been a lot of disputes over that territory.
RoD: And of course, 1919 was the year that Russia first invaded Ukraine during the Russian Revolution.
Rio: Was it? I didn’t know that. I knew it had something to do with the Russian Revolution. If you look at the artwork for the Futurecide album, that kind of man with hammer, was from the Hungarian Social Democratic Party poster in 1919. That was on the cover of a history book that Mark had. It was about the importance of that year, and it was a big part of why the band was called that. All these things did contribute to how the band was named.
RoD: So how has the band been affected by the current climate and pandemic?
Rio: When we did the Leeds gig, our bass player came down with Covid, Karl helpfully jumped in with no rehearsal Covid so stepped in at the last minute and LA RISSA drummer got covid, so LA RISSA just performed solo. That’s kind of a common thing. We’ve done a gig in Huddersfield when we had an entire last-minute line-up, the day before because both bands who were supposed to play with us Inca Babies and someone else had to pull out. KLAMMER and IAN FOURCANDLES: a punk legend from Manchester, jumped in. Its hanging over all the bands at the moment and the fans too. We had a tour supposed to be happening in October with THEN COME SILENCE, our dear Swedish friends and that’s been rescheduled about four times. Then there is Brexit and we’ve lost tours to that too. We were meant to be touring in France and we didn’t know if they (Brexit) would apply for an extension, we couldn’t risk it. We were supposed to be leaving the country that day, we decided it was too much of a gamble. Mick said, “I think I’ve got about five years left in me!” That was about seven years ago. We just keep going cos you never know what’s around the corner. We’ve lost two members, and both were healthy, and fate came for them, it’s sad isn’t it, but life goes on.
RoD: You did a charity gig for Marie-Curie in tribute to Mark, didn’t you?
Rio: Yes, we did, they had looked after him and Steve. He (Steve) was a really nice guy and sadly I only got to meet him at Mark’s funeral. They lived just down the road from each other in Baildon (Yorkshire). We talked about him coming in on the last album, he did that, but he was really sick then. It was lovely to get to know his family. It was sad but it was lovely to get to know him and his family. And they are all artists in their own right. Mark’s two daughters are dancers, Steve’s daughter is a painter, so it’s good that they have absorbed that creativity. We had some lovely people like Howard who runs Carpe Noctum, donated and Joel (BYRONIC SEX AND EXILE), stepped in on guitar. There were enough people to make it worthwhile.
RoD: I understand that you wanted to tour America and there was a problem with visas?
Rio: We had everything planned, all DIY, a big, extensive list of wonderful fans, promoters, artists on both coasts all chipping in. Tyler on the team at St VITUS in Brooklyn where our visa sponsors as the paperwork was astronomical, and then there was a federal shutdown so that was that. That included the applications for visas. You have to pay the tax up front as well as the get a reference to prove you are a legitimate band to play. We did still go to Mexico as planned the same time as a band (I’m not going to namedrop), but they had enough money for lawyers, and they got knocked back on the visa too. They expedited it and paid the $2000 dollars, but were still refused. We are still waiting for our sixty-day decision from 2019! We played in Costa Rica, we lost money, but we had a great time. We would still like to go to the US. We sell records there more than anywhere else in the world.
RoD: I saw you at Rebellion, and it was fantastic, I didn’t know that you were on the billing until I got their cos the list is just massive.
Rio: Every year they put on an amazing line-up of bands. Yeah, I would love to be playing there this year, they always have a fantastic line-up. I might just go as a punter, but there is always the chance that you buy a ticket, and they ask you to play at the last minute.
RoD: Are you playing anymore gigs in Leeds this year?
Rio: We’ve not got anything booked. We’ve got some stuff pencilled in for September in London and Manchester, and we might look at doing something in Leeds again.
RoD: And I cannot let this go without mentioning your bid to become mayor of West Yorkshire.
Rio: I was going for the Labour nomination, me and another lad called Jordan – who has since been elected as local councillor. We were outside candidates but got enough support to get to the regional committee. It’s not like the American election where they get the primaries. It’s a shame we couldn’t have hustings because it was during lockdown.
RoD: What does the future hold for 1919?
Rio: Good question hopefully we’ll be able to go out to Germany with THEN COMES SILENCE, and of course there are still Brexit uncertainties and Covid uncertainties. Also, this is the 40th anniversary of ‘Machine’ being released so we would like to do some special gigs and play the album and hopefully sometime this year, we can get to the States too.
RoD: Thank you so much for your time today, enjoy the rest of your day.
Rio: Thanks, you too.
https://1919.co.uk / https://riogoldhammer.com/cota
Pictures by Martha Bishop