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       Paul Program                       Steven Ayres              Martin Baxter                         Tim Young                        Keiron Standfield

The genesis of The Various Assortments can be traced back to the second Summer Of Love in 1988 when long time co-conspirators Paul Program and Stevo Bliss conceived what they jokingly called a rock opera. Charlie The Chocolate Man was to feature a pot pourri of parody and pastiche songs about the stereotypical characters they encountered in the dull Essex town they grew up in. Using the primitive equipment of the time, they made some 2 track reel to reel recordings, sometimes playing an out of tune upright piano at the same time.

In 1992, Program relocated to Cornwall, and the Assortments project was deemed to have reached a natural and logical conclusion, but around the turn of the millennium emerging technology brought The Various Assortments back together. The advent of semi affordable PCs, DAW software, the internet and particularly MSN Messenger meant Program and Bliss could now work on songs simultaneously at their respective home studios 300 miles apart. Using the rock opera tracks as he slowly learnt how to use this new software, Program enlisted a string of local musicians he was acquainted with to flesh out the MIDI based tracks, and work on Charlie The Chocolate Man (A Rock Opera) was finally underway. Program would send tracks to Bliss, who would add, subtract and remix.

By 2004, the Assortments had experienced their first 5 seconds of fame on the Channel 4 Richard & Judy Show, whilst in 2005 Bliss struck up a correspondence with Public Image Ltd legend Keith Levene, who was slated to produce an Assortments release, although lack of finances would queer this collaboration. Meanwhile, Program and Bliss staged a tentative live debut in Cornwall, playing five songs utilising a mixture of tapes and live musicians Emma Hill and Pete Lawrie. Filmed for posterity by DJ Fromage, The Birth Of The Various Assortments DVD was mastered by Andy Preston.

In February 2006, the Assortments received their first press, a glowing review of four home demos, in Plymouth's respected 24/7 Magazine, with seasoned reviewer Backbone citing their "cutesy, knowing mannerisms".

Later that year, Program was approached by DJ Fromage, who suggested they form a live band. With Fromage on bass, they pieced together the first permanent live Assortments line up. Steve McArthur was recruited on drums, and James Kingham on guitar. The band would play several local gigs, inspiring Lois Gately to join on keyboards, adding some necessary harmonies. This line up released the Bollocks To Christmas EP and recorded a live four song session which was mixed by Shaun Brookes for his Dubsounds website in January 2007. The same month they played at Nicals in Bodmin and February saw them play at the Evening Herald Battle Of The Bands at the Hub in Plymouth. In April, the Assortments' song Sweet Lisa was covered live by Gately's own band The Hulas, and in July the band performed at the Lowender Festival in Cornwall. Later, Fromage would be replaced by Ian Wright on bass and further gigs took place, including the Voodoo Lounge in Plymouth as guests of neo psychedelicists Lemanis.

In 2008, the band reached an all time low when Program arranged some free studio time at his old mate Chris Garnett's Plymsol Studio, and as the date neared, band members dropped off one by one. Ian Wright left, and four days before the session, Program persuaded ex Pulp bassist Steven Havenhand to fill in. At rehearsals, when Havenhand arrived, Program was the only one there. Frustrated, having booked a string of dates for the year, and redesigned the Assortments website to reflect the current line up, Program dissolved the band and began working with a trumpet player, Steven Ayres, an ex American Army trooper who had just relocated to Cornwall. Thus began a second incarnation of The Various Assortments live line up. Ayres introduced a sax player, Keith Burford, whom played on a demo of Wake Up but left before performing live with the band.

In April, Radio Cornwall DJ David White finally listened to the EP he was sent the previous year and declared Tiza G his record of the week, meaning daily daytime airplay but also months of extra airplays on his other show, a local music showcase called Music Extra, which has now been amalgamated into the BBC Introducing brand. The same month, the Assortments supported legendary punk poet Attila The Stockbroker with an ad hoc line up of Program, Chester and Ayres augmented by the trusty backing tapes. In May, the same line up supported adult electro act Kunt & The Gang at Annabel's, a Plymouth burlesque club.

In June, still with no permanent band, director Jon Prinn shot a promotional video for Tiza G on location in Liskeard, Cornwall, starring Chester as Tiza G. Edited by Prinn and DJ Fromage, the promo kick started a second bout of radio play. Sadly the master tapes would later be lost in a house fire.

Program meanwhile met a young bass player called Michael Oliver, and Oliver introduced the drummer from his covers band Black Cab, Ricky Wills. This line up performed at the William Cookworthy jam in St Austell in 2009, attracting the attention of RSAB DJ Rob Moore.

Wills left but Oliver stayed and soon became Program's confidante. Oliver's mother Sue introduced the band to Samantha Ritchie, a 16 year old alto sax player, who stayed with the band long enough for gigs at the Old School House in Truro, and a legendary support slot with Kunt & The Gang at the Fountain in Liskeard in November, still using backing tracks. Steven Ayres then recruited Tim Young on drums, and Program finally found a saxophone player on the internet, Martin Baxter, who also played harp.

Together, Program & Oliver plotted the rebirth of the Assortments, rerecording demos with Oliver's funky bass lines and organising a big charity gig at the Cornish Ivy in their home town. A massive success, with nearly 400 people in attendance, locally people began to take the band more seriously.

Michael Oliver would quit the band at the end of 2009, after the band's first New Years Eve gig at the Barley Sheaf in order to pursue his studies.




                           the publicity shy Stevo Bliss photographed by Joanna Evans

(c) 2011 The Various Assortments