Welcome to Stop The Rock, the sound of Apollo Four Forty getting down and dirty with a three minute smash and grab of boogie gone bad where The Beasties are in the basement, Kraftwerk are in the bassbin and Aphrodite is at the waterhole. It's all about dancing like Madonna, spinning like northern soul and shaping rocks like Henry Moore to stereo breakbeats in full effect, larynx fizzing vocoders and a shopping list of puns on rock. Stop The Rock is generic boogie done 440 style. An eight-piece, 200 gig strong band rocking out with the funkiest motherlode since George Clinton asked "Who said a dance band can't play rock music?" And there's not a lot of bands could get away with that.
But then not a lot of bands could get away with the things that Apollo Four Forty take for granted. From their position as one of dance music's first bands to use guitars and take things live to their recent hit with the theme from Lost In Space. From their rejuvenating reworkings of those Manic Street Preachers tracks to their current position as the post-dance generation's chosen TV theme-smiths. And then there's Apollo's breathtaking collaborations with some of pop's finest icons, like Jean Michel Jarre, Howard Devoto and Billy MacKenzie, their genre defying homage to Gene Krupa's syncopated jazz style and their reverential cover version of Blue Oyster Cult's heavy rock classic Don't Fear The Reaper. Add to this the soundtrack for PlayStation's Rapid Racer, the adoption of Astral America by the NBA for their basketball assault on Japan, the use of Krupa by Sunkist for their TV ad (and by every sports programme known to man), and if that's not enough already, their nine Top 40 hit singles and the cool-defying fact that they actually own, and use, one of legendary ELP synth king's Keith Emerson's old Moogs, signed by the man himself!
The trio of Howard and Trevor Gray and Noko first formed Apollo 440 in 1990 in their native Liverpool. By '91 their unique brand of epic-techno was creating a huge buzz thanks to the critically acclaimed Lolita, Destiny and Blackout singles, and in-demand remixes for acts like U2, EMF, PWEI and Scritti Politti featuring Shabba Ranks.
In '93 Apollo 440 signed their Stealth Sonic Recordings imprint to Epic Records, inking the deal with the release of the stunning tribal attack of Rumble. However it wasn't until the following year that they were to enjoy their first Top 40 hit with Astral America. Credited to Noko, the brothers Gray, and worthy co-conspirators Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, influenced by French postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard, and dedicated to (among others) post-Freudian sex therapist Wilhelm Reich, Astral America was soon picked as the theme music for no less a bastion of intellectual pursuit than the US basketball body, the NBA. The top forty was once again smashed later that year with Liquid Cool, a sunrise odyssey dedicated to the science of cryogenics (perhaps unsurprisingly, only a month before his proposed cryogenically induced after-life voyage, psychedelic guru Dr Timothy Leary could be found listening to Liquid Cool on a continuous loop - with a track by Londoners The Woodshed - such was his love of 440's sound).
With the '95 release of their third Top 40 hit, the cover of Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper and the debut album Millennium Fever, Apollo's position at the forefront of the dance/rock interface was well and truly assured, and their love of postmodern sex, drugs and rock'n'roll duly noted.
In 1996 Apollo Four Forty returned with Krupa, their first new tune since that debut album. Promoed as a white label and credited simply as Krupa the track caused a huge stir in club land. Editors of the leading dance mags demanded to know more about the track's creators. DJs played it constantly, the legendary jazz drummer's beats lifting the vibe of any club whenever it was dropped. When the official version arrived, complete with a sleeve depicting Frank Sinatra jacking up in his role as a jazz drummer in Otto Preminger's 1956 film The Man With The Golden Arm, it sailed into the Top 30, returning to the same slot only a month later when the tune graced a TV ad for Sunkist, becoming Apollo's fourth and fifth Top 40 singles.
The following year saw Apollo Four Forty take to the festival circuit with a full line-up of the original trio plus DJ Harry K (ex Law One), Rej Ap Gwynedd on bass, drummers Cliff Hewitt and Kodish, and legendary Gaye Bykers on Acid/Pigface/Hyperhead vocalist Mary Mary. The live outings were preempted by the band's first Top 10 hit, the drum'n'bass rising, hard metal rocking Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Dub which went in at number 7. An inspired reworking of Van Halen's Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love, the track not only became an instant live favourite but also resulted in Mr Van Halen demanding a ludicrously huge share of the royalties.
With the subsequent release of live favourite Raw Power they achieved their seventh UK Top 40 hit, while the following single Carrera Rapida (Theme From Rapid Racer) was deemed illegible for chart entry due to it's length. Later becoming the theme to ITV's Pulling Power, it would have been Top 40 hit number eight.
Throughout the remaining year and for much of early '98 the band concentrated on playing live. They performed over 200 gigs throughout the world, stopping only to deliver a remix of Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene 10 and a full collaboration with the legendary keyboard overlord in the shape of Rendezvous '98. The band joined forces with Jarre to perform the track at FIFA's World Player Of The Year ceremony. It was subsequently adopted by ITV as the theme tune for their World Cup '98 coverage and entered the UK charts at number 12 upon its official release. Apollo were reunited with Jarre on July 14th for his World Cup Bastille Day concert extravaganza, La Nuit Electronique, where they performed under the Eiffel Tower in front of an audience of over a million people.
It was during this period of intense gigging that many of the seeds for the band's third album were being sowed. The first clue as to the album's direction came in the shape of their ninth UK Top 40 hit - entering the chart at 4 - the theme to Hollywood blockbuster Lost In Space, which coupled those trademark guitar chops and live drum'n'bass breakbeats with the resounding horn refrain from the cult 60s TV show. It's a massive sound which out-stadiums even the biggest rockers, and despite the tune's instantly recognisable origins, it is in every way instantly recognisable as Apollo Four Forty.
After Lost In Space Apollo were ensconced in their studio Apollo Control working on their third album Gettin' High On Your Own Supply from which the band's soon to be tenth UK Top 40 Stop The Rock is lifted. An album which encapsulates the band's immense live power, it features the current live band line-up (with Kenny Cougar now on bass) including those now trademark duelling drummers - the Glitter band ain't even close.
Throughout the recording of Gettin' High On Your Own Supply, @440 occasionally popped their heads from behind the mixing desk to deliver remixes for Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page's Come with Me and the hit for James with Sit Down 98, and wrote a theme for the BBC's teen pop show Pop Zone. During this time Krupa reached the number 7 slot on the US Billboard Dance Chart, the Welsh Tourist Board adopted their Stealth Sonic Orchestra Remix of Design For Life for their ad campaign, Transco used Vanishing Point for theirs, and Philips commissioned the Stealth Sonic Orchestra to create the music for their new recordable CD ad.
Nine hit singles, two hit albums, three TV themes, a
heap of adverts, a pile of movie tracks including one
Hollywood blockbuster theme, endless soundbeds,
one PlayStation soundtrack, a million remixes, two
drummers, 200 gigs and one Mary Mary. Still getting
away with it after nine years? Let's face it, everyone
knows an Apollo Four Forty tune or two. Whether you
realise it or not, their genetically postmodernised
rock'n'roll is very much a part of your cultural