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Influential music group The Test Dept to launch career retrospective anthology at Aston

Total State Machine

22 April 2015

The influential radical music group The Test Dept will launch a career retrospective anthology at Aston University next month. 

The book, Total State Machine, will reflect on the impact and importance of the band, which formed in 1981 and made stridently political and socially conscious music until disbanding in 1997. 

It will feature a series of reflections and evaluations by experts and aficionados of Test Dept, including Dr Stephen Mallinder, lead singer of seminal art-pop group, Cabaret Voltaire. As well as manifestos, excerpts from tour diaries and many previously unknown stories and documents, the book also contains hundreds of photos and pieces of artwork from the band’s archives. 

Test Dept were well known for their involvement in various political causes, particularly their support for the miner’s strike of 1984 during which they collaborated and went on tour with the South Wales Striking Miners Choir. The band are also seen as a pioneering industrial music act, using ‘found’ materials such as factory equipment and everyday objects as unconventional instruments to produce a uniquely jagged, metallic sound. 

Many of the contributors to Total State Machine will speak at the launch event on 28 May, which will be opened by Aston academic and resident pop music expert, Dr Uwe Schütte. The event will be capped by a Q&A session with Test Dept founders Paul Jamrozy and Graham Cunnington. 

Dr Schütte, who convened the first ever academic conference on Kraftwerk earlier this year, said: “It is a real honour to host the launch of Total State Machine. Growing up in Germany, I became aware of the Test Dept for their reputation as political radicals on the left wing of industrial music. I am really looking forward to hearing more about them and reacquainting myself with their work beyond music again.” 

Test Dept’s impact on a variety of musical genres is well noted. Throughout the course of their career, they experimented with and influenced house music, break beat, industrial music, synth punk and electronic body music. 

Dr Peter Webb, co-founder of PCP Press who will publish Total State Machine, said: “Test Dept were a massive formative influence on me. I was attracted to them by their independent spirit and the way they used sound and force to make deeply emotive music. I have always felt that their influence and importance was unwritten in the archive of popular culture. This book redresses that balance and presents a document that examines their work as well as representing it.” 

For more information and to attend the launch of Total State Machine at Aston University on 28 May from 1pm, contact Dr Uwe Schütte via u.schutte@aston.ac.uk 

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For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or j.garbett@aston.ac.uk