The Band

China Drum press photo

China Drum were formed in rural Northern England in 1989 by brothers Bill and Dave McQueen, a guitarist and bassist respectively, and singing drummer Adam Lee. Then teenagers, the members first began rehearsing in a local farm's empty pig shed powered by an electrical generator.

 

After four years of extensive local and regional gigging, the band self-released their debut single, "Simple", in 1993 which was championed by the great John Peel, Steve Lamacq, Jo Whiley and Mark n Lard later made Fiction Of Life single of the week on the Radio 1 Breakfast show. They were also heartened when Frankie Stubbs and his influential punk band Leatherface received the single warmly and covered the B-side track "Meaning" on their "Little White God" single the following year.

 

The "Great Fire" single was issued later in 1994 by the London-based Fluffy Bunny Records imprint before a UK tour with Green Day which also included an Amsterdam date, their first international gig. Green Day remained supporters of the group, and bassist Mike Dirnt can be seen wearing a China Drum t-shirt in the music video for their successful single "When I Come Around". Over the next two years, China Drum released the Barrier EP and numerous smaller releases, many of which received national support from such outlets as BBC Radio One.

 

The band soon signed with Mantra, a sub label of Beggars Banquet Europe and Japan and MCA Records in the US who issued a reworked version of the Barrier EP in the United States. They released their debut album, Goosefair, in 1996. The album peaked at No 53 on the UK Albums Chart and saw good critical reception, with AllMusic critic Jack Rabid calling the material a mix of "wild catchy pop and charged rock and roll" and Hybrid Magazine's Tom Topkoff praising the group's heavy pop prowess. Extensive international touring followed in support of the album, including dates in North America, Bosnia, and Sarajevo, and shared bills with Ash and Supergrass.

 

Their breakthrough hit came via a high-tempo cover version of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights", which received its first wide release as the B-Side to Goosefair's lead single, "Can't Stop These Things". This foreshadowed the band's practice of recording punk versions of pop songs: they later recorded Crowded House's "Fall at Your Feet" in a similar vein, and the theme tune to the television programme The Adventures of Rupert Bear also became a fan favourite at concerts.

  • biopic John

    John Steel

    John was born in Corbridge, Northumberland a long time ago. He has consistently failed to grow up but is just old enough to remember the McQueen brothers wearing short trousers. 

    In the 1980's as guitarist in Martin Stephenson's band, The Daintees, he began a musical career so chequered you could play draughts on it. John thinks he has toured and recorded with all kinds of bands in all sorts of places but the first day he played with China Drum was the proudest of his life, which incidentally, is now dedicated to finding the perfect guitar sound, everything else to do with music and cycle maintenance.

  • biopic Adam

    Adam Lee

    Adam made it through school with the help of Dave, He couldn’t have done it without him! They both decided to start a band in the later school years, playing their first gig as ‘Girl Talk’ In the school hall.

    After leaving school both decided to carry on with music as their hobby, inspired by the likes of SLF The Stranglers, The Police, The Clash........

    Soon Dave’s brother, Bill joined and they adopted the name ‘China Drum’ from a trucking magazine article about ceramic braking systems, hence the t shirt slogan “Enough power to stop a Scania” Bands started to emerge like MC4 and Leatherface, the lads were blown away by their anti-glam, punk rock ethics.

    After throwing a demo ‘cassette’ around various gigs, MC4 and Leatherface offered many gigs and China Drum embarked on their punk rock journey. After a meeting with Fluffy bunny records involving bananas and other fruits an EP release was imminent. We were then approached by other leading record company’s but following our gut instinct went with Mantra records, a subsidiary of Beggars Banquet. We spent five years touring, recording, writing, touring and then touring........writing, recording. Oh yeah, and we bought a hovercraft, one seat, great fun......... unless you were trying to sleep on your tour bus, back stage at Reading ’95. (Soz)

    Releasing three albums and singles off each album.

    The year 2000 came and we decided to go our separate ways. After living in each other’s pockets for so long, we all individually got on with our family lives. 13 years later we were approached by a fan who we remembered instantly from the ‘Rupert years’ and asked if we would be interested in doing a one off show in London, it soon became apparent that it was more than that.

    Adam was diagnosed with MS in 2011 (which explained why he kept falling over) he wasn’t drunk!! His drumming days were over, but with the addition of Kate and John (Drums, Guitar) he could still stand at the front and make a racket. Usually starting things off with the cry “Aaaalreet How?”

  • biopic Kate

    Kate Stephenson

    Kate grew up in Yorkshire and started playing drums aged 12. Her parents and their Bingley neighbours were delighted. At 17 she left school to become a professional musician and started her playing career on the northern working men's club circuit. As an impressionable teenager, sharing dressing rooms with jaded strippers and ventriloquists with wandering hands ensured that she quickly became a woman of the world.

    From then on, sticks in hand she travelled far and wide, living in Los Angeles for a while with a band that, according to Warner Brothers was going to be the next big thing. After realising that they wouldn't even be the next small thing, she and her band mates returned to Blighty where Kate struck out on her own and moved to that London.

    The decades that followed saw her honing her craft as a songwriter and session vocalist while drumming in many bands that nobody's ever heard of. On the plus side, she has sung live with Dave Gilmour, Eric Clapton and the Freddie-less Queen, played electronic percussion (including the cak-cow! noise in Vienna) with Midge Ure, and drums for Sam Brown, Marcella Detriot, Honeycrack, Martin Stephenson and the Daintees, Jackdaw 4 and now, of course - China Drum. In 2014 she and John Steel released an album as Myrtle Park's Fishing Club.

    Coming late to punk, Kate is making up for lost time by playing as loud and fast as possible at every given opportunity.

  • biopic Bill

    Bill McQueen

    If anyone finds Bill, please return him to the address below

  • biopic Dave

    Dave McQueen

    Dave joined China Drum before China Drum was China Drum, if you follow.

    Having knocked about with Ad since the age of 4, at High School they formed Girl Talk.....a progressive art rock psychedelic reggae acid jazz bluegrass folk band, which played a mean cover version of 'summer of 69'. Even then we were pushing barriers (man).

    The bass guitar came by default - brother Bill was already a narly guitarist, his twin Stew a drummer so if we were going to be Ovingham's answer to the Jacksons then it was gonna have to be the bass. Who would want to be in the Jacksons....? 

    By this point Girl Talk had spoken its last and Dave convinced brother Bill to join him and Adam's new band. Musical Inspiration came from listening to Adam's brothers record collection which ranged from the Only Ones to the Clash to Love (!). Bill brought in the Stranglers, and his mate Baz came up with the name China Drum...a breaking system in a truck.

    From there it was gigs gigs gigs. Playing working men's clubs and hoping to get paid off at half time, when the committee would inexplicably ask you to conjure up a keyboard player and female singer before going back on. If they let the band back on then a 40 min version of 'Johnny Was' usually led to being successfully paid off.

    All those duff gigs did have some use though and helped finance gear plus the first single 'Simple'. Not to mention if you can play WMC's you can play anywhere.  And the Drum did play anywhere : from Wakefield snooker club to Roskilde to CBGB's to the Viper room.....to the next door neighbour's living room.

    Dave was the band's self confessed gadget nerd. Still is. The best thing about reforming the band is having heaps of essential new gadgets to play with. Even if it does mean he has no excuse to be late anymore.