Greater Than One
All the Masters Licked Me

September 1, 2008

Cover Image

Greater Than One - All the Masters Licked Me
Greater Than One - Trust


US 2xCD Brainwashed Archives BARK001

disc a

  1. Exorcising Julie - [MP3]
  2. The Intelligence of Natives
  3. The Sweet Smell of a Supermarket On Fire
  4. Trendy Afrika
  5. Everything Is In a State of Flux
  6. The Rape of Sam the Fox (Theme)
  7. Kill That Parent
  8. Lost Underground
  9. We Don't Have Weekends
  10. We Are the People with the Human Fist
  11. Psychotherapy
  12. Sweet Satellite
  13. We Hate America and America Hates Us
  14. We're O.K.
  15. Dick Heads - [MP3]
  16. Slog On (Dead Beat)
  17. Straight Plague
  18. Bad Love

disc b

  1. Trust part one
  2. Trust part two

Lee Newman
Michael Wells

GTO's 1987 release was their first full LP, All the Masters Licked Me, originally issued on Graeme Revell and Brian (Lustmord) Williams' Side Effects Records. Trust was its first attempt and later issued on LP and cassette. Both are collected together and issued on CD for the first time, mastered from the original digital production masters. Enhanced content includes unbroken MP3 files for those who want to play the music on their computer but don't want to interrupt the continuity that was part of the original LP release.
It comes with a bonus sleeve for the CD of Kill the Pedagogue

When thinking about the industrial music scene of the early to mid-90's some common names come up. Consolidated, Skinny Puppy, Chris Connelly, Pigface, and the list can go on. This was a period where industrial music was just as it was named. Machine built and not pretty in the least. Harsh beats, lyrics full of political unrest, and random samples from various movies, and news reels all creating a bizarre mosaic that was dancy and thought provoking. I was introduced to this musical revolution when a friend in college forced a box of Pigface, and Current 93 CDs into my hands and said "listen and learn." The obsession started there and hasn't stopped for me. Sadly in all the time I've picked at people's musical knowledge, never once did the name Greater Than One (or later GTO) come up. GTO was a collaboration b/w London-based, husband and wife team Michael Wells and Lee Newman. Starting in 1985, GTO spread their messages via performance, recordings, and art installations. Later their recorded albums were picked up in the US by Wax Trax! and other independent labels, and as with the fate of most underground music labels, vanished from circulation when the label vanished. Thankfully, Brainwashed Archives re-released GTO's entire catalog of works. The collection consists of 3 packs, each pack focusing on one of the LPs, and bundling in additional EPs, enhanced CDs and DVDs within them. Having given all 8 of the CDs a good listen, I'm rather annoyed with the fact that it took me so long to hear about GTO. Dating back as far as 1987, elements of their music can be heard in almost every aspect of industrial music today. I would even venture to say that they explored some musical ground well before many of the noted industrial pioneers, based on the dates of their recordings and the sounds they produced. Greater Than One was well ahead of their time. The first album, All the Masters Licked Me, is largely ambient and experimental. War drums and droning chants bleed gracefully into Japanese flutes and soft gongs, and then back into some dead-like moans with clock noises providing a steady beat. There's not a lot in the way of vocals or lyrics, and the song titles convey most of the messages that the band was putting out to the audience. Names like, The Intelligence of Natives, The Sweet Smell of a Supermarket on Fire, and We Are the People with the Human Fist. If you're a fan of acts like Test Department, Psychic TV, or Hopeful Machines, I highly recommend this particular album out of the bunch. Bundled with this CD is the Trust EP which is only 2 long tracks, running about 30 minutes in length, and an enhanced CD with MP3s, photos, and an art book. The next LP in the collection is London, which was originally released in 1989. This album incorporated more of a pop/dance sensibility in it, and has been said to be the point where sample bands became their own genre. Tracks like Now is the Time and Peace are chocked full of funky bass lines, and a house music style, often looping pieces of historic speeches or instructional recordings over and over to spell out the song's ultimate meaning. In comparison to All The Masters Licked Me, London is a bit more hopeful and optimistic in its demeanor. While the messages conveyed are no less severe, GTO takes a more pop-oriented approach to delivery. Elements of the darker side of GTO emerge in the latter portion of the album on songs like Brick Lane, The Rose The Cross and The Flag, and Crisis. The second CD of this pack is largely the same as the first. Lots of dancy beats, heavy sampling, and overt political themes. There is also a DVD with music videos, and art reel included in this binder. Last but not least we have the final contribution of GTO to the evolving industrial scene, G-Force. G-Force is vastly different to the other 2 albums. First off, it relies less on a collage of random audio samples and focuses more on vocals, synthesizer loops, and very progressive beats. Out of the main LPs that the collection gathered, G-Force is the most club-friendly but impressed me the least. It was hard to distinguish one track from the next when I just had it on in the background. It sounded very generic and not like the pioneering sound terrorists that I had just spent 6 hours listening to. The Utopia EP, which is also bundled in this collection, was much more to my liking. Opening up with the collage-sampled I Don't Need God, it still has that polished engineered sound to it, but maintains the heavy political tastes that the previous albums maintained. I think my favorite track on this EP is Fear is the Agent of Violence which consists of 2 gentlemen discussing Trotsky's theories on communism and art, while war drums and very foreboding horns blast in between the arguments. It is very much a switch back to the ideas that GTO explored on All the Masters Licked Us. The last CD of the G-Force pack is unreleased material that the band had yet to coalesce into an album. These tracks demonstrate where Michael Wells would later go with bands like Signs of (ov) Chaos, and S.O.L.O. So after about a week of listening to Greater Than One, I am reminded of what made Industrial music so appealing to me in the first place. Heavy hitting political commentary, stitched together like some punk scrap book, with a bit of a dance beat to it. The release dates of some of the material, as far back as 1985, makes me think that much of what we enjoy today was cut and tested by this duet out of London. I don't really recommend it for club play, except for the tracks "Now is the Time" or "Utopia AA", but I highly recommend this entire collection to fans of anything early to mid 90's Industrial. Greater Than One fills that odd missing link b/w bands like Coil and Sheep On Drugs. Even if you think committing to 8 CDs of one band could be bit too much I recommend at least sampling the London album. You will not be disappointed. - DJ Kantrip

Back in the mid-to-late '80s, something happened to many so-called "industrial" artists - using the term in its original context, stemming from Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and similar experimentalists. One by one, in seemingly lemming fashion, the acts fell into a discofied dance craze, culminating perhaps in Psychic TV's "acid" techno period of the early '90s. For a band like Cabaret Voltaire, the increasingly danceable beats felt at least somewhat natural, as their music contained a dubby feel from fairly early on. Perhaps the most notorious side-step was SPK's thankfully brief dalliance with neo-techno on 1984's Machine Age Voodoo, astonishingly released by Warner/Elektra. Perhaps the most commercially successful migration, believe it or not (and one of the earliest), was that of Human League, whose coldly electronic 1979 releases The Dignity of Labour EP and Reproduction bore slight resemblance to "Don't You Want Me" and their other early '80s hits. It's safe to say that for most of these bands, the evolution was far less successful, both commercially and, unfortunately, qualitatively. Coil's "Windowpane," while a perfectly good song, remained far from the band's best (and they seemed to realize that, as their club-beat period was brief). Controlled Bleeding, who have wandered from harsh noise to symphonic majesty over the years, did their brief stint at the end of the '80s trying for Wax Trax-based dance success, with distinctly mixed results. Australia's Severed Heads went from very experimental work to far more predictable efforts and never quite recovered. In that case it was via the Nettwerk label which, together with Wax Trax, seemed to be responsible for the vast majority of industrial missteps. For a time, if you saw a recognized experimental group suddenly released from either of those labels, you could reliably bank on it being an attempt at danceable beats and larger audiences. The results were nearly always unfortunate. Greater Than One followed the same path, but were one of the more successful aesthetically (if not commercially), perhaps thanks to the fact that they, like Cabaret Voltaire, were never strangers to the power of rhythm. There are hints of it on their first works, even the first track of their first cassette release, 1985's Kill the Pedagogue: a repetitive beat halfway between tribal and mechanical loops over buzzing noise and slowed-down incantations. There, and on many of the pieces on their first proper album, All the Masters Licked Me, the duo showed that they harnessed the power of rhythm to both provide momentum and maintain interest. Songs that would otherwise float, foundation-less, worked because of the beats, primitive as they may have been. The first volume of the Brainwashed Archive's program to reissue Greater Than One's works contains three CD sleeves. The first two sleeves hold remastered editions of All the Masters Licked Me and Trust, a sort of early-works version of the former. The third sleeve is empty, save for a slip with a URL from which you can download the Kill the Pedagogue material and burn your own CD. But at least you'll have a nice sleeve for it. Shortly after those first works, the duo of Michael Wells and Lee Newman self-released 1988's Dance of the Cowards, then collected it with additional material for Wax Trax, which released the double-album London. This material was far more polished, but while the production could have led to neutered disco, instead it allowed the couple to create finely-honed, subversive collages. In fact, there's more than a passing resemblance to the equally-clever sampler constructions of Steinski. Songs like "Kunst Gleich Kapital" and "Peace" sport solid beats, but are adorned by samples of everything from military exercises to mysterious instructional records, classical breaks to ethnographic recordings. The second volume of the reissues again has three CD sleeves in one outer sleeve, this time containing Dance of the Cowards, London, and compilation tracks from each, plus a DVD of music videos and performance projections with user-selectable soundtracks. The third part of Greater Than One's career, represented on the third reissue volume, shows them becoming increasingly dance-centric, with somewhat dodgier results. G-Force, released in 1989, has the distinction of sounding oddly of today, yet still somewhat off-kilter. Samples crop up from Kraftwerk (on "Alpha 5"), but the songs lack the surrealism that marked London and feel more predictable; there's distinctly less energy, though they're still technically impressive. Index, from 1991, is even more predictable, and while it regains some energy, the duo take things in a more acid-techno direction. Surprises still lurk, but they're hiding among relatively mundane beats and synth stabs. Also included are the singles "Utopia" and "I Don't Need God," which features a truly Steinski-like collection of samples sprinkled through jittery synthetic rhythms. These three volumes all sport new mastering, and sound far clearer than my copies of these albums, and the packaging and attention to detail are impressive. It's surprising to see the effort put forth for a band that was never particularly well-recognized, but the work is also long overdue and welcome. Greater Than One stopped their activities after 1995's sad passing of Lee Newman, but let's hope that this astonishing three-volume set helps solidify their historical position. - Mason Jones, Dusted

During its mid-to-late 1980s heyday, Chicago's Wax Trax! Records was, like most of the seminal independent record labels, its own sort of cult. The risk-taking, dancefloor-friendly releases were the sound of industrial dance music. And the absurdist, anything-goes attitude of many of its artists gave the label its own, unique aesthetic. So well-established and readily-identifiable were the look, sound, and feel, that you could blindly buy a Wax Trax! release and have a pretty good idea of what you were going to get. Now, 20 years later, it's easy to forget that much of the time you got burned. Wax Trax! put out a lot of stuff that was, even at the time, filler. For every intriguing innovator like Front 242, there was a forgettable also-ran like Mussolini Headkick; for every Ministry, a Controlled Bleeding. Greater Than One, the London husband-and-wife duo of Lee Newman and Michael Wells, fell most decidedly into the latter camp. Like many loosely-categorized "industrial" acts, Greater Than One was actually a self-contained multimedia unit. They did all their own sleeves, posters, and videos, and also dealt in performance and installation art. Taking up a proletariat, anti-capitalist cause, their work was heavily sloganistic and iconographic. They took advantage of the newly-unleashed synthesizer and digital sampling technology, using it to make statements in music and sound. Their approach, while rare these days, was not new at the time. Acts like Einstuerzende Neubaten and Laibach had been making politically-inspired, avant garde noise for years. The only real unique aspect of Greater Than One was that they hailed from England, while most of their counterparts were European. Though Newman and Wells went on to score British and European hits in the 1990s under names like Tricky Disco and Technohead, Greater Than One remains a largely-forgotten proposition. That obviously wasn't the case for Brainwashed founder Jon Whitney, who at one time operated an unofficial Greater Than One website. Whitney has launched the "archives" arm of Brainwashed with his dream project, namely, a complete and comprehensive reissue of all the material Greater Than One licensed to Wax Trax! in the United States ... and then some. And you can say without reservation that Whitney and company have done an outstanding job. Totaling seven CDs, one DVD, a free-with-purchase mp3 download, and packed with ephemera in the form of enhanced CD content, this three-part series has to be among the best-executed reissues ever. The packaging and artwork are exquisite, the remastered sound is spot-on, and there's plenty of new-to-CD / previously-unreleased material to go around. Wells has been personally involved, even digging out some of his old Betamax master tapes. Sadly, the redoubtable presentation cannot overcome the fact that most of Greater Than One's music was never particularly distinguished in the first place, and has aged badly. In the mid-to-late '80s, the sampler was so new that the samples alone came across as cutting-edge, regardless of how they were arranged or incorporated. But now, the relatively haphazard, cut-and-paste method of acts like Greater Than One sounds primitive and, more troublesome, helplessly stiff. All the Masters Licked Me, from 1987, and previously available on cassette only, has the distinction of being the most interesting and yet least listenable of the three packages. Riveting, metallic drums, cathedral organs, chants, and operatic moaning attempt to pummel you into another state of mind ... or submission. It's the sound of a very European, very high-minded sampler having a nightmare. Song titles like "Exorcising Julie" (Newman's real first name was Julie), "The Sweet Smell of a Supermarket on Fire" and "Lost Underground" leave little to the imagination. In fact, "The Rape of Sam the Fox (Theme)" sounds exactly like you would expect it to. While the title of "We Hate America and America Hates Us" seems relevant again, the "song" itself is a humorless chant of "The kiss of death tastes of Coca-Cola" laid atop "The Star Spangled Banner". The lack of subtlety would be chuckle-inducing were it not so often harrowing. The graceful synthesizers on "Kill That Parent" provide some respite, and the traditional African percussion and chanting coupled with an electro pulse on "Sweet Satellite" suggests Newman and Wells had some good ideas. By 1987, though, another male/female duo, Dead Can Dance, had already spent a few years shaping and expanding a similar blueprint into something far more evocative. Trust, also included with this set, is a dry run for the album proper. It incorporates many of the same sounds, only presented as two long, continuous tracks. London, from 1988, comprised of the same year's Dance of the Cowards album plus assorted EPs, and 1989's G-Force incorporate house, acid house, techno, hip-hop, and dub. Also, the duo's absurdist sense of humor makes its way into the music. All the Wax Trax! material is here, and while it's certainly more accessible than All the Masters Licked Me, that doesn't necessarily make it better. You couldn't make it on Wax Trax! if you didn't have a bunch of "found" samples of Martin Luther King, televangelists, old movie dialogue, and Mission Control communications, and they're all here, along with other industrial dance trademarks like synth zaps, scratching, and Kraftwerk samples. Greater Than One, though, didn't hit as hard as peers like Front Line Assembly or A Split Second. Consequently, tracks like "Now Is the Time" and "Kunst Gleich Kapital", come off as a cross between Ibiza-period New Order and Snap's "The Power". London mixes up these tracks with moody experiments like "Truth" that sound like early OMD. Occasionally, the samples are employed in genuinely clever ways, as on "Song For England", which employs the maverick English comedy duo Derek and Clive, and the "John Brown's Body" variation "All Men Are Boys". The G-Force material adds acid bass lines, hip-hop rhythms, and breakbeats, making for a more lively experience. "Joy" is basically a redux of M/A/R/R/S's seminal "Pump Up the Volume", but "Pathways" is entertaining, while "I'm Gonna Whoop Your Ass" is influenced by the visceral Electronic Body Music sound. Amid all this barely-controlled chaos, "Black Magic" actually manages a low-key, minimal vibe. Still, these five (!) discs worth of material manage to sound like it was all composed from the same set of interchangeable parts; or, more accurately, the same bank of samples. The rare soundtrack material here, including the Duty EP, is darker, deeper, and less danceable. It also comes closer to the act's original aesthetic as laid out on All the Masters Licked Me. And for that chuckle, don't miss the video for "Pure" on the DVD. Flight of the Conchords couldn't have done it better. Really, there's so much material here that you could spend a long weekend getting lost in it. The entire series is like a very specific time capsule from 1987. While that might make for some great cultural history, as music it's a lot less successful. - John Bergstrom, PopMatters

Greater Than One first caught my ear through their contribution ('The Dark Streets Of London') to the classic 1987 Placebo Records compilation, 'Dry Lungs III'. The following year, I snapped up their CD 'London' on higher profile Wax Trax! Records. The combination of politically-charged commentary, surrealist humour, and avante-electro rhythms was intelligent, and more in line with 'art-terrorism' than 'industrial rock'. Their single, 'I Don't Need God' (which even got airplay on MTV!), further evidenced that GTO were far more than 'a good beat to dance to'. Using the address listed in the 'Dry Lungs III' notes, I wrote Lee Newman and Michael Wells requesting an interview for my zine, Godsend. They very cordially responded, and sent a series of images, art collages, and their early experimental cassette, 'Kill The Pedagogue'. Normally, my zine ran an interview with one musical artist, alongside short fictional pieces. The wealth of info that Greater Than One had sent me was so overwhelmingly pertinent and interesting, I decided to dedicate an entire issue to them, re-collaging and arranging their art around the interview. This 'Greater Than One' issue was printed in a few hundred copies and distributed internationally, and was met with mostly confusion and bewilderment. I continued to follow Newman and Wells' paths for several years towards their techno and rave phase, where I lost touch. Looking back, they created some of the most strikingly original electronic sounds of their day, and unfortunately, most of this work has remained criminally out of print. Thanks to Jon Whitney for making Greater Than One's timeless music available once again. This is the 1987 LP that followed 'Pedagogue', and it's a more highly-evolved and diverse set of moody post-industrial vibes, showing hints of new life amongst the ruins of the industrial culture. Most of the songs here are brief and instrumental, and highlights include 'The Rape Of Sam The Fox' - a heavy-handed, percussive cut that would fit well alongside early Laibach, and 'Kill That Parent' - a lighter, gentler, even contemplative piece with a sort of exotic feel - proving that Newman and Wells were always seeking new sounds and directions, even this early on in their careers. Other vignettes successfully create a series of moods, textures, and atmospheres, most of which border on the late-night and paranoiac. The haunting 'Psychotherapy' brings to mind Anthony Perkins, somehow, and 'Sweet Satellite' visits a far-off tribal ceremony with hand-drums and chants. 'We Hate America And American Hates Us', as well as 'We're OK' herald their heavy-sampling dialogue-oriented later work, as well as highlight the group's humour and political bend. Odd and enchanting sounds that easily double as a surreal soundtrack. Appended to this already well-stacked release is another disc, this one containing the whole of the 'Trust' cassette, which was a 2-track, 32-minute electronic soundtrack of sorts, more in line with the group's earliest post-industrial experiments. - Goatsend

The re-release of all these albums is simply a great idea. Greater Than One has been simply one of my all time favorite 'industrial' bands from the early years. Together with projects like Test Department, SPK, Lustmord ao they simply belong to what seduced me in industrial music. Back in time it was quite common to speak about 'industrial' while now we would speak about industrial, ambient, experimental etc. Greater Than One were like all these styles assembled in one project. Set up by Lee Newman and Michael Wells the debut-lp 'All The Masters Licked Me' originally released in 1987 on Side Effect Records (set up by Graeme Revell of SPK and Brian Williams of Lustmord) was and still is a kind of revelation in sound. A mix of industrial drones, experimental sound research plus manipulations and heavy orchestral arrangements resulted in a few 'historic' pieces from the industrial music. I'm here referring to 'Everything Is In A State Of Flux' and 'The Rape Of Sam The Fox (Theme)'. Both tracks are cold as ice, mysterious as a labyrinth and tormenting as schizophrenia! More than 20 years after their compositions, both of these tracks and the entire album are still surprising and overwhelming! This re-issue also features a 2nd disc, which is the 'Trust'-lp leading us into deep ambient soundscapes. I here missed the harder industrial drones and orchestral arrangements, but you don't hear me complaining for so far! Over now to the 'London'-album, which has been marked as the move and debut-album of Greater Than One on the great WaxTrax-label in 1988-1989. Other influences appeared because of new inputs and trends in music. Greater Than One didn't sell their soul, but left some of their early influences far behind. The industrial side now moves to an exploration of new territories like rap, funk, tribal and even a kind of world-music. They remain however experimental while launching a few cool ambient cuts like 'Computer Dub'. This album was however more noticeable through the 'Now Is The Time', 'Everybody's Crazy' and 'Peace'-tracks. Over the bonus disc of this second album entitled 'Dance Of The Cowards', which delivered a few more masterpieces in the history of Greater Than One. First another ambient cut entitled 'Song For England' and next the more dynamic 'Kunst Gleich Kapital' (a real masterpiece in avant-garde electronics) and 'Dance Of The Cowards'. These tracks evoke some real great memories to me while standing for an evolution in sound of this band. This release also features a dvd including visual material and other extras. The 'G-Force'-album was the final one on WaxTrax. This re-release features different surprises like previously unreleased and rare material. It's also a way to get back some late 'hits' extract from the maxi like 'I Don't Need God' and 'Utopia'. The style of Greater Than One again evolved, reaching more danceable structures. We're now in the early nineties and they for sure got influenced by new styles and fashion trends although holding on their unavoidable experimental and ambient touch. They here brought much more sonic collages mixed with danceable rhythms. A next disc here brings the music from 'Video Drug 1' a rather are Japanese video. We as an extra also get some stuff from Tricky Disco, which was another name the band members have used. According to me the last years weren't the best ones, but they confirmed a band with a sound in constant evolution! All these albums can be bought separately, but you better see and buy it as a compact release of 3 dcd's. Thanks Brainwashed Archives for this amazing initiative! (DP:8)DP. Side-Line

This three-album reissue finally makes available the missing puzzle pieces of the sampledelic underground music scene of the late-'80s London. By lovingly remastering the tracks in this considered series, the techno duo of Lee Newman and Michael Wells offer up a surreal cut-and-paste tapestry. - Robin Rimbaud, Artforum

All the Masters Licked Me was the debut full-length from the husband-and-wife team of Lee Newman and Michael Wells. Originally issued on the Side Effects label in 1987, it is here reissued in a slipcase box along with a bonus CD containing Trust (a two-track, 32-minute program that will be of primary interest to completists) and a third sleeve that is empty. The purpose of the empty sleeve is to allow the buyer to download and burn a free copy of another early recording, Kill the Pedagogue, and store the resulting copy in the box with the other two discs. The reissue package combines vintage album art (crude collages that owe more than a little to Crass and its related projects) with an almost complete lack of annotation or even a track listing, making it a bit difficult to figure out exactly what one has in hand. But the music is generally fairly interesting and provides something of an aural catalog of the elements that would eventually coalesce into a much more coherent musical statement for this duo: ethnic field recordings, dark echoey sound effects, sepulchral organ, industrial electro beats, muttered and chanted vocals. There is also a good deal of tongue-in-cheek humor in evidence here (notice, for example, the self-explanatory "Trendy Afrika" and the very nearly hilarious "Slog On (Dead Beat)"), which was already a good omen for this duo's future. Not an essential purchase, but those interested in early industrial music should definitely check it out. - Rick Anderson, All Music Guide