PragVEC – Existential

4th October 2022 · 1970s, 1978, Music, Punk

Looking back from more than half a century later, it’s astonishing how rapidly the primitive pounding of punk evolved into the questing experimentalism of postpunk. PragVEC were one of the first to embrace the avant-garde.

The DiY anything-goes ethic of punk is still there, but the furious thrashing and declamatory sloganeering is nowhere to be found.

Formed in London in early 1978 (eliding the random words “pragmatism” and “vector” for their name), PragVEC featured ex-Derelicts members Sue Gogan (vocals) and John Studholme (guitar), plus bassist David Boyd and Nick Cash (not the 999 singer) on drums.

Their first release was the four-song Bits EP on their own Spec Records label, and this was the first track, Existential. I’m sure people at the time said it was “pretentious” because of the French lyrics and in the seventies nobody liked a smartarse who spoke foreign languages.

The band was ubiquitous on the live circuit, supporting the likes of The Psychedelic Furs, Au Pairs, Magazine and The Teardrop Explodes, as well as Cabaret Voltaire, Wire and Scritti Politti, who seemed to be cut from the same cloth before the latter moved into blue-eyed soul.

As ever, John Peel was a big fan; by the last of their three sessions, in late 1980, the group had developed a different synthy sound with the addition of Jim Thirlwell, and both Gogan and Studholme playing synths.

They split in 1981 with Cash joining Fad Gadget, Gogan going to The Atoms and Thirlwell forming Foetus and its many multi-named incarnations.