Update #5: From the RAIJ facebook page: "The new RAIJ album, Beauty Will Save the World, will be released on Occultation Recordings in the early summer and will be available on vinyl, CD and download."
Update #4: According to the new Facebook site (see below), the 20 June 2013 show was a hit, though it was not video recorded. However, the group is apparently contemplating shows in Paris and London later this year, and video recording will be a big consideration for new venues.
Update #3: The new box sets are now shipping from Infrastition records. Very high-quality packaging, although my computer wouldn't read the disks to load the songs into iTunes. (Another computer was able to). The remastered tracks sound incredible: for a nice side-by-side, check out "Man of Sorrows" from Mirror. I played it as released on the Gift of Tears+Mirror two-disc reissue CD, followed by the remastered version in After the End. The remastered track has depth, clarity, and atmosphere missing from the original: its got all the warmth and color you could previously only get through the vinyl.
Update #2: RAIJ is back after a very long interlude (this is their first concert since 1998). New box set titled "After the End" coming soon from Infrastition Records. Also, see them live on 20 June 2013 in the UK: http://www.thisisleaf.co.uk/#/on-bold-street/events/revolutionary-army-o....
Update #1: New RAIJ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Revolutionary-Army-of-the-Infant-Jesu....
This page is decidedly off-topic for this website... that's why its filed under "Odd Jobs." If you're a legal researcher who stumbled in by accident, get back to work. If you're a fan of the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus fan who staggered in from the internet, you're invited to continue.
The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus is one of the most interesting and unusual musical experiences I've ever encountered. A mix of Christian, mystic, European, and experimental sound - they really defy the "genre" category in your iTunes collection. They're also notoriously anonymous... it is challenging to find any information about them. Google "Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus" and you'll find a handful of references to the band; most provide a discography without much elaboration. A few discuss the apparently deliberate anonymity the band seems to relish. I built this site to catalog what I have been able to find about the band. I've noted the source for all the info I've posted, though I couldn't guarantee the validity of any of it. If you've got information to contribute here, or if you were a member of the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus and are interested in collaborating a bit more formally on a biographical work - let me know.
The band derived its name from a fictional terrorist group featured in the 1977 movie "That Obscure Object of Desire". They're widely referred to as being based in Liverpool, UK.
Official Site: The closest thing I've found to an official website for the band is this myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/revolutionaryarmyoftheinfantjesus. It features this photo, apparently of some of the band:
The inscription on the photo (i.e. "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent") is from the liner notes of their final release, 1995's Paradis.
The band's discography is available from discogs.com at this link: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Revolutionary+Army+Of+The+Infant+Jesus,+The
Their works include (title / year / label & format)
The Gift Of Tears / 1987 / Probe Plus (LP)
Mirror / 1991 / Probe Plus (LP / CD)
The group also has one track on a compilation:
"I Walk Life's Road," on Intone Unreleased Projects 1995/1997, Vol. 2 / 1997 / Intone
Band Members: The only list of band members I have found comes from a Welsh music website: "Revolutionary Army of Infant Jesus – band (formed 1985), feat; Jon Egan (ex Dead Trout), David Seddon, Paul Boyce, Sue Boyce, and Les Hampson (original lineup from the ‘Gift of Tears,' Probe Plus Oct 87). Bronek Kramm, Angela Taylor and 'Bill' all joined later." Source: http://link2wales.co.uk/liverpool-n-z/liverpool-r/.
Interviews: I've only been able to locate one interview with the band; from 1992, with Cross Rhythms (a UK music website). It is online at http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/music/The_Revolutionary_Army_Of_The_Infant_Jesus_Audio_visual_revolutionaries/35770/p1/ in its entirety; every other interview of the band I have found in fact quotes from this single interview. (The article is re-published, by permission, in its entirety at the bottom of this page).
Other than this, I've found little information about the band members, their inspiration, history, or story of how they met, collaborated, and ended. Here's what I have found:
David Seddon: Apparently has a user profile on a gaming website (http://boardgamegeek.com/user/Admiral%20Fisher) which contains some interesting biographical data. I've left off the stuff more on-topic for the gaming forum, but included some of his profile info of interest to Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus enthusiasts: "I am married with two kids (9 and 7). I am a part-time stay at home dad and part-time supply teacher who lives in the East Midlands of the UK - although I was born and spent most of the first part of my life in Liverpool - the Pool of Life! I've also lived in Southport, Bath, Durham, Darlington and Leicester. Previous jobs include an Arts Officer in Liverpool and a Supply Officer for the Royal Navy...something to do with submarines...very hush, hush, you know!... My Avatar is named after Admiral Sir John Fisher (known as Jacky). He is a big hero of mine and is maybe one of History's forgotten great men. Basically, he formed the fleet that GB fought WW1 with. He was responsible for the building of Dreadnoughts and Battle-Cruisers and he totally revamped the way the Navy worked. He turned it from a self-satisfied, lazy unit full of waste and obsolescence, into a modern unit with the best trained men in the world running the most powerful fleet in the world. Not only that, but he was one of the more fascinating characters of recent history. He was colourful and charming, liked to sing and dance, was full of interesting quotes and was really good to his men. All of that was very different from his dull, beaurocratic contemporaries. He was a close friend of King Edward V11 and Winston Churchill and served Britain late into his life as First Sea Lord. I have visited his house and met his great-grandson.... My other hobbies are watching Liverpool Football Club (and trying not to get upset about it), playing music (saxophone and piano),listening to music and photography. I also write children's picture and poetry books and am attempting to get more of them published. Since my kids are now both at school I have been able to get my sax and pen out more often! I do a bit of juggling when I get the time (3 balls are easy and I can do 4 for a time). If I had more time I could get my real golf clubs out instead of having to play Playstation golf.... However, time has been more limited recently, as I have gone back to university to study Counselling - I've always been interested in psychological matters and find my background in philosophy has helped. I'll end up with an MA and a new career. Philosophy and counseling may have helped me solve a lot of life's problems - but maybe not Age of Steam! My theoretical persuasion is person-centered (ala Carl Rogers), though I have a strong leaning for Existential Therapy and Philosophical counseling, too.... I've played in a rock band, which was the second biggest selling artist signed to Probe Records in Liverpool. We made two albums and two mini-albums in the mid-late 80s and early 90s. We have a My Space page or two dedicated to us...so we're not forgotten! I still like to do a bit of songwriting when I get the urge, but these days other things take up most of my energy!... I'm really into music and have pretty broad taste. If pushed, I'd name The Beatles, Mozart and Chopin as the music I love the most." Mr. Seddon also references That Obscure Object of Desire (the movie from which the band derived its name) in a separate post on that forum: "Have you seen That Obscure Object of Desire? That too, is odd, but rather good.... It's more arty than his other pics and not quite so weird. There is a surrealist group of terrorists, The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, who blow up art they don't like. That's the sub-plot." (Source: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/79915/i-can-recommend-a-game-or-movie-for-1-gg.)(Accessed 17 Sep 2011)
Bronek Kram: Gave a favorable review to an event at which the band either played live, or their music was played. (Source: http://www.chipwork.com/waxery/workhaus/nxn97/opening.html. The review is signed "Bronek Kram, Tutor, Community College."
I've been able to find no other information about band members Jon Egan, Paul Boyce, Sue Boyce, Les Hampson, or Angela Taylor or Bill. (Update October 2014: a few band members have personal Facebook pages, but those are for their FB friends not the publicly accessible internet).
-- The original name of the 1995 release was 'Paradise', but an error happened in the croppping of the artwork. (Source: http://www.automatapedia.com/index.php?title=The_Revolutionary_Army_of_the_Infant_Jesus_-_Paradis). This tidbit is interesting because the attributed source for the information is Samuel Durling, one of the members of the Swedish industrial group Mental Destruction. I would not have predicted or anticipated a connection between the two groups, but there may be one.
That, my friends, is all I've got. If you have more - please send it my way with whatever sourcing you can provide. And to the band, if they ever run across this page: thanks for some amazing music.
The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus: Audio visual revolutionaries
Published in the Cross Rhythms Magazine #10
Saturday 1st February 1992
Re-published here with the kind permission of Cross Rhythms.
Peter Small spoke to the band who shroud themselves in anonymity, THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY OF THE INFANT JESUS
The scene is set. Sheets hang down obscuring much of the stage. Behind, rows of candles glow and at each side a stack of television sets show a slow-moving hypnotic succession of images. Yep, it's another Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus gig, probably different to anything else you've ever experienced, including, for that matter, previous RAIJ gigs. They first appeared back in '87 with an astonishing album 'The Gift Of Tears', released on Liverpool indie label Probe Plus, mainly known for Peel faves Half Man Half Biscuit. Tracks were played on nighttime radio 1 and Melody Maker described it as "haunting, attractive, harrowing and irritating ". Clearly this ain't what they call rock'n' roll. The blatant use of biblical and liturgical words, music and images without apparent irony as well as appearances at Christian festivals suggest that Liverpool is once again home to some mighty interesting happenings. I talked to Jon Egan, Bronek Kram and Les Hampson on the eve of their new release 'Mirror'.
The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus are unique. As far as I can see the only real precedent for them is Andy Warhol-period Velvet Underground, the parallels being their audio-visual all-out assault shows, and the songs, a mixture of fragile beauty and relentless rhythm. But if you think they're just another band out to retread the 60s or anything else for that matter, forget it. Not only have their albums missed the baggy/acid boom by a year on each side, they immediately strike me as about as susceptible to the vagaries of fashion as your grandma; far more interested in exploring Russian Orthodox theology of art as sacrament than pumping up anybody's jam. Attempts to categorise typically result in unending lists like 'avant-garde-celtic- gypsy-industrial-disco-etc'. They use synthesisers, Gregorian-type chants, voice and sound samples as well as acoustic guitar, flute, sax, melodica and lots of percussion. The effect is less House, more Gothic Cathedral but they do share one thing with Michael Jackson which is that it's been four years since the last album. Why so long?
"Various problems and mishaps," says Bronek. Jon continues, "It took about three years from start to finish." This wasn't helped by having to go through six different engineers: one tragically dying suddenly, an¬other seasoned professional giving up in exasperation at their unorthodox recording methods. So which takes the time, writing or recording? "Finding dates when members can actually attend recording sessions," says Jon. Bronek agrees. "It shouldn't have taken as long as it did. We find the recording process happens very quickly. It's what happens after that which takes the time."
RAIJ albums are multi- layered affairs, the actual music being only a starting point. There's always something going on off-camera, a noise, an echo, a snatch of dialogue. I suggest 'Mirror' sounds more extreme, the accessible parts more so, the less accessible parts much less so.
Jon: "There's only 'Nativity' that's (laughs) unbearably excruciating." The others qualify this to "rather hard work". This features the surprise appearance of an electric guitar. A symptom of line-up change since the first album? "Yes," says Jon, "that was one of the reasons we clasped him (Bronek) to our bosom, his snazzy electric guitar." Not just the trendy East European name and moustache, then. In fact, Bronek has always been involved with the video side of their performances.
I wonder what kind of person listens to this stuff? "We don't actually know," admits Bronek. "We get some strange letters from people." The first run of 'Mirror' CDs was sold out before release, a fact which amazes them. "We should've put a questionnaire in with it," remarks Bronek. "Like, 'who are you?'"
With so many strands to their live and studio work I ask where they see themselves primarily coming from - folk, Catholic/Russian Orthodox liturgical music, performance art, rock gospel? "What originally fascinates us about doing an album was making something tangible out of a selection of interests and waiting to see which pigeonhole we ended up in," says Jon. "As it happened, I don't think we did. There were various definitions but none of them really encompassed what we did. But that's because we don't aim to. The finished album is just a by-product, it's not the end to which the work proceeds."
So what is the end? Bronek: "It's the stuff itself. One reason why it took four years to do is that we didn't set out to 'do the second album', we had ideas we wanted to explore."
But what tradition do they see themselves in; after all liturgical art has one function and performance art another. "What's the difference?" says Jon. "One's sacred and one's secular. We're engaged in blurring or breaking down that sort of categorisation." Could this be one of their objectives, artistically? "No," says Jon, "it's that we find ourselves in the process of doing it rather than it being what we set out to do." Bronek takes up the theme. "None of us could really say why and what it is we do. But that doesn't mean to say there's no reason for doing it. But we just don't know what that reason is." Les goes on. "Part of the problem is one of basic perception, whether you see there being a series of categories, and when something fits into it, then you know how to perceive it; but if something doesn't fit into any of the existing categories then you don't know how to talk about it and it means that you can't even consider it. But ironically, if it does fit into a category then you don't consider it anyway because the category itself is the analysis. You have to start looking again at your language of criticism and your language of analysis, maybe, if something is not what you're used to. I'm not saying that's what we set out to do, though."
There are a lot of big words here, often a smokescreen for pretentious drivellers to hide their lack of substance behind. But don't confuse The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus with the art-pseud weird out "if you don't understand, it must be deep, maan" crowd. Perhaps the key difference is that the band's first step is always a creative, artistic one rather than an intellectual one, but the music speaks for itself.
Not belonging to any tradition, without the rules and guidelines, it must be hard to know when you've got it right. "We have rules but they're based on our intuition, "says Les. "But there are also areas of expertise within the group - Bronek's with film, the impact of successive images, Les's theatrical sources for choreography and theatrical stuff, and we look to liturgical sources to induce the right kind of sensitivity in the audience." Jon remarks that people have in the past accused them of sounding childish and twee but it would be wrong to infer that this is due to a naive approach. A lengthy process of refinement has taken place, "having made mistakes, produced tons of rubbish", through which they have developed "some expertise at creating conditions which produce the right atmosphere for the response we look for," as Jon puts it.
It's true their live performances have in the past been erratic, at worst an inaccessible cacophony accompanied by intriguing visuals; but at best they split the audience into those who quickly leave, uncomprehending and those who stay entranced, caught up in a unique total experience. The albums are a safer bet. While not exactly easy-listening they're a strangely addictive blend of childlike innocence, mystery and threat, though not in the 'slicing up eyeballs ho ho ho' Pixies sense, more that of being in the presence of something vast and other, the Holy Spirit, if you like.
Would they describe what they do as Christian Art? They seem equally reluctant to put themselves in this pigeonhole. "We don't really know what resonance that label has for people," says Jon.
"It's hard," says Bronek. "We don't see anyone doing anything like what we're doing in contemporary music. We draw on sources to create things which are not just collections of other people's work, we create something new out of the sources we use. The way we put together pieces, the way we create whatever it is we manufacture and present, there's nobody else who's doing what we do, as far a s I can see or hear." It's a common enough boast, but one probably justified for once. "Enigma?" suggests Jon. "No," says Bronek, "not at all. There's the difference, if you don't hear it, then I don't know what you're listening to."
And yet most of their songs have biblical sources. "What you call Christianity, what is conspicuous, is there because it's a common language between us," says Jon. "It's the only set of images which enables us to express what we want to creatively. The level of commitment to those images varies from member to member but as a group we use them because it's only the language of the sacred which enables us to express those particular impulses which produce the work. It speaks in a tongue which we're responsive to." Les continues, "Artistically it's very satisfactory, a very productive environment."
We discuss briefly the use of Christian symbols and names in pop: George Michael, Madonna and Bros adorning themselves with crosses, band names like JesusJones, Enigma and the KLF using Gregorian chants. Jon announces a forthcoming Madonna cover version. Bronek suggests that it's nothing more than a marketing ploy. Jon's not so sure. "I don't know but I suspect it's to do with the vacuous nature of modern materialistic society, there's a hunger for something deeper."
It's hard to define why one of their pieces should be more profoundly moving than, say 'Go ahead, punk, eat my bible' Christian rock or indeed, Enigma who make music from similar ingredients; but it is precisely this mysterious dimension which gives their music its depth that they are most interested in capturing.
U2's The Edge recently said that one of the reasons they continued was the lack within contemporary music of anything with an authentic spiritual dimension. On that score alone the RAIJ could be one of our most important and undervalued groups.
About Peter SmallPeter Small is the journalistic pseudonym of musician Tim Thwaites.