Southern California’s PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN are ready for the curtain to rise on the group’s world debut. Inspired by Universal horror movies, the literature of Edgar Allan Poe, and the chaos of the world around them, the four veteran musicians who comprise PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN are co-frontmen / songwriters Alfie Agnew and Sean Elliott, alongside the legendary rhythm section of drummer Rat Scabies and bassist Paul Gray. The group’s new album, Disintegrate Me, is released on LP/CD/DL by FullerTone Records on February 23, 2018. It marks Gray's debut in the group.
Co-produced by the band and David M. Allen (The Cure, The Damned, The Sisters of Mercy), Disintegrate Me’s nine tracks encompass elements of British Invasion rock, Britpop, psych, Prog, power pop, and even country, all underpinned by the melodic punk energy so clearly imprinted on the band’s DNA. Agnew and Elliott are credited with the lion’s share of the song and lyric writing, and the two take turns singing lead. There’s a deep sense of introspection at the heart of Disintegrate Me as songs grapple with lack of direction in life, dreams unfulfilled, and coming to terms with the loss of friends and family. However, these themes only surface if you dig deep. On the surface, the album is an energetic, instantly catchy hand grenade.
The origins of PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN reach back to the early 1990s, when both Agnew and Elliott were guitarists in the punk band, D.I. Playing together, the pair hit if off immediately, both musically and personality-wise. They both loved punk but also felt confined by its strict parameters. Elliott taught Agnew jazz chords. Agnew played Elliott some of his piano-based compositions. The two realized they could collaborate and write songs more musically adventurous than the D.I. mold. But other life pursuits, most notably Agnew studying for and earning a Professorship in Mathematics, ended up derailing the emerging partnership for two decades. It wasn’t until 2014 that the two reconnected and started laying the groundwork for PATM.
An unexpected third member arrived as a Christmas gift in 2015. Agnew and Elliott were playing a holiday-themed gig with a different punk rock side project, introducing The Damned’s “Smash It Up” as an encore, when founding Damned drummer Rat Scabies was coaxed on stage to join them. Scabies happened to be in Los Angeles and some friends had brought him to the show. Agnew, Elliott and Scabies were exhilarated by the performance. To such a degree that they all convened at Agnew’s home studio, Hollydale, to take a shot at recording a song together. Pleased with the results, Scabies offered to drum on all the tracks for PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN’s initial pair of digitally-released indie albums, Elixir I: Good Evening, Sir! (July 2016) and Elixir II: Election (November 2016). Sessions were recorded via file sharing — Agnew and Elliott in Orange County, Scabies in London.
Paul Gray was brought into the fold when Elliott located him on Facebook. Although he hadn’t communicated with Scabies since a run of Damned reunion shows in the early ‘90s, Gray was open to the idea of listening to a few demos Agnew and Elliott had written for a third LP. Gray liked what he heard and agreed to take part in the project. He appears on eight of the nine tracks on Disintegrate Me. He also re-recorded the basslines for “Nightmare,” a cut which originally debuted on Elixir I.
Gray is currently back in The Damned and completing sessions with producer Tony Visconti for a spring album release.
Scabies and Gray played together on two classic Damned albums, 1980’s The Black Album and 1982’s Strawberries. Prior to The Damned, Gray was the bassist for Eddie & the Hot Rods, a poppy, high-energy rock outfit now widely recognized as a crucial link between Britain’s pub rock scene and the punk explosion. They are best remembered for “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” a #9 UK hit in 1977. Immediately following his time in The Damned, Gray joined long-running English rock band UFO for four years. Presently, Scabies also records and plays live with The Mutants, a rock group which includes Chris Constantinou (The Wolfmen, Sinéad O’Connor, Adam Ant), Paul Frazer (Black Futures, Subsource), and a revolving cast of guest musicians.
Since Scabies and Gray reside in the UK, the studio lineup of PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN have yet to make their live debut. Instead, PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN’s current live lineup consists of local SoCal rock veterans.
The idea of UK concert dates with Scabies and Gray remains a possibility. To be continued...