Test Dept were formed in October1981, from diverse backgrounds. They learnt their skills through practical experience, and made their debut performance in February '82. Originally a music company TEST DEPT developed a style outside the 'normal' music industry practices of the 1980's. Through working from a highly percussive basis, they brought about an exciting and physical style forged by use of 'found' objects - metal, wooden and plastic (banging any old bit of scrap they could get an interesting sound out of) - alongside more conventional drums, cello, trumpet, bagpipes and varying instrumentation.
Concerts were frequently performed in decaying industrial locations ironically bringing images of 'work' and 'labour' to areas which were in the process of losing their industrial focus and history. These events grew in scale and ambition resulting in extensive use of film, slides, orators, physical performers, brass ensembles and orchestras. The locations they chose to play ranged between the bizarre to the perilous - such as a Railway Arch Waterloo (arrested there, in '83); Cannon Street British Rail mainline station (''84); an underground car-park in Ljubliana (''85); London Transport Maintenance Depot, Paddington ('86); the Amsterdam Docks; the Monastery in Valladoid, Spain ('87); the Rover Car factory in Cardiff ('88); a stone quarry in Italy, a disused nail factory in Hamburg, an ice hockey stadium in Holland ('89); and the St. Rollox engineering works in Glasgow ('90). In between these often theatrical events they've also found time to play more regular music venues, such as in London the Town & Country Club, Heaven, Subterreanea, Fridge, Hackney Empire, The Grand, Brixton Academy as well as various squatted venues.
TEST DEPT became established at the forefront of large scale performances in unusual sites as well as regular venues and at many prestigious international theatre and arts festivals throughout the 1980's, (such as WOMAD, EXPO '86, Cool Jazz Festival, NY, Beltane Fire, Edinburgh; New Music America in Montreal, etc.). In 1985, TEST DEPT undertook the largest (two and a half months) Eastern European tour by a modern group. Consistently concerts have been also performed in support of causes such as the miners strike of 1984/5, the print workers dispute of '87, the ambulance workers strike of 1989/90, AIDS awareness and the anti-apartheid campaign. Their many collaborations with a wide range of groups and individuals illustrate the diversity of their artistic scope - e.g.: Aboriginal Artists of SW. Australia (WOMAD '83); The South Wales Striking Miners Choir (album & gigs '84); Diamanda Galas (Deptford '85); Dutch dance company Werkcentrum Dans ('88); Welsh Theatre group Brith Gof (album & tour '88); Tony Benn (ICA '89); The Mutoid Waste Co. (Italy '93); Scottish Chamber Orchestra & Choir (album 90); T*A*O* Sound System DJs (gigs & single ''92). Other artists they've shared the stage with include Cabaret Voltaire, Laibach, Sarah Jane Morris, Einsteurzen Neubauten, The Drum Club and Hawkwind.
In 1990, the by-then gigantic-scale performances reached a peak at St. Rollox for the 'Second Coming' performance. Since then their attentions have focused on rave culture, a logical progression for their percussive style. Their 'Pax Americana'' released during the propaganda build-up to the Gulf War featured children singing 'We love Saddam Hussein' to an eastern-flavoured rhythm; on 'New World Order' (a dance-floor hit in the Mid-West of America) at the beginning of the war they sampled George Bush extolling the new world order he was trying to create. This period of their work is now collected together for the first time on the album 'LEGACY (1990-1993)', featuring singles and previously unreleased recordings. Album discography: 'Beating The Retreat' (Phonogram '86), 'Shoulder To Shoulder' (MOP, 1985), 'A Tonal and Hamburg' (live, '85), 'The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom' (Some Bizzare/MOP '86), 'A Good Night Out' (Some Bizzare/MOP '88), 'Terra Firma' (Sub Rosa/MOP '88), 'Goddodin' (MOP '89), 'Materia Prima' (Jungle/MOP '90), 'Pax Britannica' (Jungle/MOP '90), 'Proven In Action' (live, Jungle/MOP '91).