Andrew Long reports on the London based band FRESH CLAIM led by Mags and Simon Law.
Mags and Simon Law will be most familiar to people as two of the partners of Plankton Records, the label which they originally formed in order to release an album called 'Mirrored Dreams' by Sea Stone which was Simon's and Mags' band at that time. They went on to form another band, Intransit, and eventually Fresh Claim sprang into being in October 1986. Interestingly, the name came from a visit to Stratford unemployment benefit office in January 1987. The band's base is the East London office of Plankton Records.
In almost seven years there has been only one line-up change in the band when drummer Ali Byworth was replaced by Dan Johnston in March 1990. Fresh Claim's brand of heavy, 70s influenced rock takes them to a wide variety of venues though they're not often found on the "safe" Christian circuit, but often play in village halls and are comfortable playing to a crowd of 15 or 1000. They are just as likely to be found playing in pubs and clubs or doing mission work in prisons or weeklong sessions in schools, where they not only play live concerts but also take all sorts of classes from music to maths, bringing an evangelistic element into it all. "It's quite something to see Simon taking a maths class," said Plankton's other partner Keith Dixon, "and relate the whole thing to Revelation and the number of the beast."
Fresh Claim's material is controversial, political and specific about their Christian faith whilst avoiding "jargon". The members of the band have a variety of strings to their collective bow. Simon is a youth worker in Forest Gate and is currently completing a BA in theology at Oak Hill College; he provides vocals and wild guitar solos. Mags plays keyboards and works as a freelance writer, designer and editor; she is currently editing the ecumenical magazine City Cries. Bassist Derek Llewellyn is also studying theology at Oak Hill and tries to bring a bit of funk into the sound whilst drummer Dan Johnston is attempting to earn his living as a musician by playing piano in a bar.
Fresh Claim have released five albums and one cassette single, all on Plankton. They are planning to release an 80-minute, 21-song compilation album in time for Greenbelt this year. It will initially have a cassette only release but may later appear on CD; the working title is 'Outstanding Claims'.
Fresh Claim's current album 'In Time Of Rain' received good reviews in several mags (not including Cross Rhythms): "Applause for the total absence of trivial writing," said America's The Cutting Edge, whilst New Hope International called it "likeable house-music that is good enough to make the lower reaches of the chart." "Noot uleen met woorden, goede muziek," said Dutch magazine De Heisbanier, (which translates "not only good lyrically, but great music"). Fresh Claim are a hard working, committed, serious rock band. Check 'em out man!The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.