Book of Martyrs

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Book of Martyrs, photo from Nexus, 11 July 1991: Francis, Armstrong, Deare and Jagger

Book of Martyrs was initially formed in Rotorua by Jonathan Armstrong (drums, vocals), Alan Deare (bass, guitar) - both formerly of Number Thieves - and Sarah Knight (cello, bass) in 1988. In 1989 they released the cassette Catharsis (BOMB01) on their own label BOMB Records, featuring a fourth member known simply as Will, credited with "feedback - poetry" and with creating the cassette's cover. Will also performed as a live guest musician on certain tracks. They also released the track Cello man on The Mudpool Music Compilation Vol. 1 in 1989.

Will and Sarah were later replaced by Stan Jagger (guitars), formerly of Mudpeople, and Justine Francis (violin, cello, vocals), when the band moved to Hamilton in 1990. Greg Locke of Orange Recordings also became the band's regular live sound engineer. From here they released their second cassette Purified Seven Times (BOMB02) in 1991, with the band's lyricist Alan now stepping up to share vocal duties with Jonny, whilst Jonny in turn adds "whirley pipe" and additional percussion to his repertoire. Although no longer a permanent member, Sarah Knight makes a guest appearance on Purified... performing cello and bass on the song Skin in Blue, which also features keyboards by producer Zed Brookes. Other guest appearances include backing vocals by Gillian Woods (from Jam Sandwich and Sour Grapes) on the ethereal Halo, and Malcolm Lofroth on the track Urban Jangle. Urban Jangle was aptly immortalised in the name of a Hamilton music specialist show run by Adam Hyde on Contact 89FM from 1993 to 1996. The release party for Purified 7X at Ward Lane Tavern featured support acts such as The Haunting and Zangiacomo's Eastern Tour (who had renamed themselves Box of Smarties for the gig), performing covers of Book of Martyrs songs.

Purified Seven Times secured for the band a level of critical acclaim and a national profile seldom accomplished by 'alternative' bands from Hamilton at that time. In 1991 the Martyrs also played support to the Able Tasmans and Bailter Space, and late in the year Stan Jagger left. In keeping with their penchant for unconventional instrumentation, rather than finding a new guitar player the band added bassist Paul Oakley (from Zangiacomo's Eastern Tour). With Deare and Oakley both on bass - sharing interwoven "lead" and "rhythm" duties - this lineup recorded the song Will Shiver, which was later released on the second Flying Nun/Student Radio Network compilation Freak the Sheep 2 in 1992.

A period of inactivity followed, until Book of Martyrs - featuring Jonathan, Alan and Justine only - contributed the track The Man That Said (featuring Justine's vocal debut) to the 1993 compilation Discordia Concors. The band briefly made a much celebrated return to the stage at this time to play at the album release party. The live lineup for this show featured Jonny Armstrong (drums, vocals), Alan Deare (bass, vocals), Justine Francis (violin, vocals), Paul Oakley (bass), and Stan Jagger (guitar)

Published Articles

  • Rewriting the Fashion Book, by Dominic Roskrow, NZ Herald, 3 August 1990
  • Book of Martyrs Interview by Justin Harris, Nexus, 11 July 1991, P13
  • Book of Martyrs interview, Garbage, August/September 1991
  • Book of Martyrs interview, Zone, Issue 1, May/June 1992, P9-10
  • Book of Martyrs interview, by Adam Hyde, Nexus, Issue 22, 29 September 1992, P24-25
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