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(BBCi Gloucestershire)

You won't find Kylie or Hearsay down at The Wasp Factory in Cheltenham.

You will find 'tunes' that will convince your granny the blitz has started again.

The Wasp Factory was set up in 1999 by Lee H as a reaction to the 'lack of interest from the mainstream music media'. The play-it-safe mentality of established labels convinced Lee that there had to be another way.

His band 'Chaos Engine' released two self published albums - the latter, 'Obstinate' to wide acclaim. Lee realised that there was huge scope for recording and promoting 'kindred spirits in the UK electronica, industrial and goth scene'.

Lee explains:"Many genuine talents are quickly lost to the world through lack of opportunities."

He began signing up artists who impressed him through:"Their music, their live shows and general attitude towards life."

It is impossible to categorise The Wasp Factory's artists. Lee accepts that:"They are all defined to one degree or another as sitting in the many grey areas where alternative rock meets contemporary electronica."

The artists Arkam Asylum, Skinflowers, Tarentella Serpentine, Swarf, Exitboy and D.U.S.T have been variously described as Global misfit, cyberpunk transvestite lounge lizards who play mangling drum`n`bass, gabba, hip hop, gonzoid rock. They all have their own sound and vision setting them apart from genre cliches and they all have proven track records in the live arena. Many of the artists frequently collaborate with each other, both in the studio and for live performances.

Remember, this is music on the edge of a nervous breakdown and some of the lyrics reflect the dark underbelly of society. The Wasp Factory was not named after Ian Banks' macabre cult classic for nothing!

(Andy Lapham, Metal Hammer)

This is what happens when you flip that Punk Rock Penny up in the air and lands on its edge. Punk attitude stapled to dance beats and doused in samples and technology - done on fuck all budget, produced by the bands and their mates, gigs promoted through word of mouth or e-mail shots. The music is original, uncomprimising and often punishingly brutal. This is the punk of a twisted future - a venomous could-be soundtrack to a remake of Terminator - where the machines win. Bands like Goteki are the waftier electronic edge, paying the rent to bands like Soft Cell or even Depeche Mode (Gasp!). In contrast, Leech Woman, Arkham Asylum and Squid are harder, nastier and inhabit the Foetus/ATR end of the block. Chaos Engine and Hydra roam about somewhere in between breaking windows and causing trouble. [7/10]

(Alex Whitehead, Rock Sound)

The very, very underground of UK industrial puts together its collective heads. Held together with a rather tasty set of dark interludes constructed by Brighton's Freudstein, 'Working with Children and Animals' gets full on jiggy with chaotic and disturbed noise therapy. Hydra spar pugilistic poignancy with super-heavy EBM and metal bashing, punk-industrial at its best, the severely warped Skinflowers play at country rock, while Arkham Asylum and Leech Woman proceed with their customary intensity. Musically it's hardly advancing on the territory seized by that rather amorphous musical entity categorised as industrial. Quite what any of this lot have to say musically in the long term to the world of noise crafted by Photek, brutalised by the Berzerker and psychoanalysed by Aphex Twin is pretty difficult to assess. 'Working with...' at least shows the UK scene has life left in it.

(Spank Magazine)

A burgeoning cottage industry of a very warped nature bears strange and challenging fruit. Cheltenham's Wasp Factory label has finally shown all its cards in this tour de force of S&M goth industrial pop music. Chaos Engine's opening track, Me & My Army starts just like Radiohead's Kid A opus, but soon starbursts into something akin to Marilyn Manson meeting the urban funk of early Depeche Mode or Fingerprintz. Cross-dressing techno poet Tarantella Serpentine will make you feel nauseous with the debauched Sugar, Sugar. Leech Woman, Goteki, Hydra and Arkham Asylum mess around with bits of metal, drum machines and nightmare sci-fi samples, until the glorious Skinflowers shimmer into a happy ending.

(Pat Hawkes-Reed, Legends)

This is the first compilation released by Cheltenham England-based Wasp Factory. It came out in November 2000 and there are more bands on the roster and quite a few releases since then, but this compilation will give you a decent idea of the various groups on the label. One of the cool things about getting this album is receiving one of the collectable cards with it, featuring one of the bands on this compilation. The label had a release party at London's Underworld with interesting line-up combinations. See the photos. Also, the band Freudstein has elements of their songs spread liberally throughout this album.

The first two cuts are by Chaos Engine, showing off their industrial melange of interesting lyrics, samples and music. I've said a lot more about Chaos Engine in another review found in this month's issue, so if interested take a look there!

This is a Brighton-based band which is a bit reminicent of Ministry with a good measure of gabba thrown in the mix. One reviewer said "it's Rage Against the Machine gone goth" and I think this is an apt description. Arkham Asylum will be one of the bands performing at the April 2002 Whitby Gothic Weekend.

The songs on here do not even come close to the intensity and aural damage one experiences seeing this band live. They are very intense and loud onstage, and parts of this come through on these two sample songs. Just think of smoke, throbbing drums and machinery - this will give you a bit of a clue to their sound.

Formerly known at Sneaky Bat Machine, these are the first few songs of the newly-formed Bristol-based Goteki. There is still quite a bit of the SBM feel to these songs. Their full-length album has taken a different direction: more techno/bleepy than their SBM personna. I still like these songs a lot, but that's understandable since I liked Sneaky Bat Machine a lot. See my Goteki review in this issue for more info.

Tarantella Serpentine (Marcus and James) are very hard to describe. Basically, one man with a boa and police warning tape, and another long-haired man who plays keyboard/synth, onstage with much ranting and raving. Both of the songs on here are remixes and nowhere near as intense as they are live, but they give one a very good idea of what to expect. Seeing Sugar Sugar performed live can be a cathartic experience for the band as well as for the audience.

A London-based band with an industrial sound mixed with punk sensibilities. It's an interesting mix, but not my cup of tea.

I saw this band a few years ago as a last-minute opener and thought at first that they were an alternate-universe Marilyn Manson. They have grown a lot since that night and for the better.

Scratchy, melodic, guitar-driven indie-pop. At least on here and on the first CD. Rumour has it that they are changing their sound a bit for CD number 2, so we will have to see what direction they have gone from here.

(Mark Chapman, Metal Hammer)

The concept behind this show is to take two established bands, put 'em together and see how much they can maul each other's songs. Freudstein's mad electrogoth soundscapes were glammed up nicely by Tarantella Serpentine, but the following set from Goteki/Arkham Asylum was slightly redundant, due to the sonic similarities between the bands (though their cheesetastic take on 'Final Countdown' was hilarious). A mash-up between hardworking techno-punks Chaos Engine and introspective types Skinflowers shouldn't work, but on songs like 'Employee of the Year', they used their four guitarists to stunning effect. Leech Woman and Hydra put on possibly the most intense, angry set either band have ever played - a raw sonic assault from start to finish. [8/10]

(I Khider, !*@#)

A volume of varied dark floor, disco noir and ballads akin to music on the 4AD label, as well as various other influences, like Depeche Mode, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Each artist featured on Working With Children gets two tracks for breadth, and to better showcase their sounds. Bands like Dust, Katscan and Freudstein are for the dance floor, in the tradition of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. With strong, dark techno keyboard lines and deeply rhythmic 4/4 beats, these bands unleash an aggressive execution and maintain a good intensity. Conversely, Spray has a crass Euro trance/big beat quality to their music with cheesy lyrics. For Wasp Factory's sake, I hope these guys are a joke, or at the least, sarcastic. But the best bands on this compilation are Swarf, Psychophile and Seventh Harmonic, likely heirs of the 4AD legacy. All the aforementioned band members have beautiful voices and deeply emotional, yet strong, melodies. In particular, Seventh Harmonic is clearly Dead Can Dance wannabes, yet the vocalist and instrumentalists do manage to do the group some measure of justice.

(Mick Mercer)

Proof if proof was needed that there is real quality and variety in the UK, and Wasp Factory have cornered the mini-market in modern marvels. There's not a bad track here at all, and it's a wonderful guide to their succulent sounds, with the emphasis on modern, but with a keen intelligence, which means no going for any lowest common denominator.

The sultry sparseness or richly interwoven strengths of Swarf give you the modern variables straight off, with oddly mature pop inside it all. There's some gritty Dust capers, wonkier murk from Katscan, who have a wildness about them, but with less instant impact, sneaky moments from Psychophile, and attitude problems gladly shared from Freudstein. Spray show Cruxshadows how it can be done, with tongues piercing their own cheeks, and Interlock throw an enormous grimy spanner in the works, as their vocals need work, and the sound on 'Birdman' isn't big enough, then after their wrath, you have the supposedly demure Seventh Harmonic soundly well uppity.

No dodgy old join-the-dots Goth moods, no time wasted. Just what you want.

(Sabbatha Black, Rhythm US)

Wasp Factory's Working with Children & Animals Vol.2 compilation is a must for those hungry for new sounds. All 8 bands appearing in Vol.2 are brand new acts with mind-blowing styles and sounds. The styles range from Electro Punk, Angry Industrial (Sabbath's musical term: Loud, Fast and Angry), and Goth with heavy loud beats, not your average mellow Gothic sounds. All bands have contributed two songs each to the compilation that I think is unique since most compilations only provide listeners with one song per artist, even if the artist is not a well-known act. I am a huge fan of compilations because it exposes people to different bands and styles. A percent of all the bands I am personally listening to now have been bands that I have heard through compilations. Not all compilations are a must. I would strongly recommend Vol. 1 & 2 of this compilation to anyone looking to add new bands to their music collection.

(Gloucestershire Echo, 6 Jan 2003)

A cheltenham alternative rock singer, who branded the Cotswold village Guiting Power the root of all evil, has won a top industry award with his own record label.

Wasp Factory Records, owned by 31-year-old Lee Holder, has won the Young Music Professionals award for creative and innovative business practices.

The label, home to Cheltenham-based performance poet Tarantella Serpentine, Brockworth band Skinflowers and a host of nu-metal, gothic and techno acts from across the UK, will pick up a 1,000 prize next month at an awards bash in Hackney, London.

Lee said: "We plan to throw a big party in London to celebrate with all of the bands on the label.

"It is just fantastic to receive recognition for everyone's hard work, especially as we try to run our label a little differently to the big-guns of the industry."

Lee set up the label 18 months ago using the money he received after being made redundant from his job on an internet site.

He said: "We've now released 15 CDs, which are distributed all over Europe. All the bands do their bit for the label - they don't just stand around waiting to be famous."

Lee's own band Chaos Engine caused controversy recently when it attacked Guiting Power, for its historic link with early freemasons, the Knights Templar.