It all started, like most things, with the Sex Pistols.

If punk had been the Cultural Revolution of the seventies, in the eighties it became the great escape, a resource to be tapped if you lived at the furthest point from the bright centre of the universe.

There were other, more immediate ways to escape, but they weren't legal.

The Pistols flung open the door, granting the disaffected permission be themselves and scream blue bloody murder at the world. Punk wasn't about the hair or the tightness of the trousers, it wasn't about the Queen or the government. It wasn't even about the music. It was all about discovering your own voice and not taking no for an answer once you did.

Jude Rawlins went through the door in 1983 at the tender age of eleven, entering a world wherein there were no creative boundaries. Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths represented the natural extension of the ethic. If you were prepared to dig, the eighties weren't quite the failure they later appeared to be...

In 1987, after a few years of fronting an inconsequential punk band playing appalling but mildly controversial gigs around his native Birmingham, Jude landed a "development" deal with local indie label CTT. Initially it seemed like a potentially massive break for the 15 year old singer, but he soon discovered he had neither the inclination nor the will to be made into some kind of "solo Musical Youth" affair, and, in a move that he knew would result in his contract's termination, he formed Angelhead with Neil Gardner, Richard Cole and Mat Hook.
It was a glorious, lawless mix. Mat was the band's nutty professor, utilising every utensil he could lay his hand on to create insane electronic backdrops. Neil was the star on guitar who valued artistic direction above all else and refused to compromise. Richard, affectionately known as Coey, was the flamboyant bassist who constantly reminded everyone what they were about. The platform they gave Jude was exactly the right one at the right time. Just as he was making the great leap as a songwriter and performer, he found himself in the company of a motley gang who wanted to see him do it and wanted to share in it for all the right reasons.The music industry came calling before long, and Angelhead looked at their erstwhile career prospects, and decided to answer the call. It wasn't the smartest move. Although, unlike almost all of their contemporaries, they still refused to compromise, they had to fight every step of the way. Eventually the fighting took its toll. Mat left in 1989, on the eve of their greatest accomplishment, Rain Goddess. Angelhead did the "correct" thing and got a real drummer. It didn't work. They had lost their rogue element and attempted to replace it something completely ordinary. They realised, and the drummer was eventually dismissed, much to the dismay of their ever changing management. They continued to throw up gems, but the moment had passed.

Angelhead played a concert at Cambridge University in 1991 at the invitation of Carl Homer. It was to be their last. Carl had worked with Angelhead on a couple of video projects, and had taken up guitar himself before heading off to do an English degree at Cambridge. In his first year he was enlisted into a university production of Pink Floyd's The Wall, which ran for ages in Cambridge and at the Edinburgh Festival, eventually driving him to distraction. At the end of the year he returned home to discover Jude seeking out musicians to work with him on his first post-Angelhead project. The first demo they recorded included "Dream Fades Into Dark", which Jude sent to some of the friends he still had in slightly elevated places. Jude's then manager Tora March booked him to play a gig in London, which he did with Carl on bass and Neil Gardner on guitar, playing mostly Angelhead songs. If nothing else, it proved that for Jude there could be a life after Angelhead if he made a complete break. Ongoing to-ing and fro-ing with Sony Music only served to reinforce his resolve not to compromise. He simply told them everything they wanted to hear, then went off and did exactly what he wanted. He left the Midlands, moving to Exeter on the south coast, where he set about writing an album in 1992. He then took the project to Cambridge, where he and Carl brought it to life as April May June. The album's title was taken from a line in Jean Paul Sartre's existentialist essay Nausea, which pertains to the struggle of self-expression being as inevitable as the progression of the days and months.

Billy Mackenzie asserted that plural band names were best. He cited examples: Beatles, Stones, Stooges, Pistols, Bunnymen, Smiths, Banshees, Ramones. The evidence was irrefutable. "The Associates?" proffered Jude. There was one on Bowie's Low album that Joy Division had never used; Subterraneans.

There were the playings of live concerts, several projects with performance artist Judy Neville, the Slide EP, which Jude and Carl insist seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, just as they were finally gearing up to do the next album, bad things happened. Several friends left the planet in succession, and it all seemed a bit trivial. Live performance was abandoned, though work continued on the album sporadically. It was 1999 by the time it was finally finished. Mona Lisa was a great step forward from April May June in every respect. It was a troubled but deeply honest record, and it got there in the end. Making it had knocked the wind out of Subterraneans. It felt like a real achievement that had all been for nothing. There were no live plans, they still didn't feel like it. There was nothing written for a follow-up. There was no momentum at all.

Then a strange thing occurred. A new print of G.W. Pabst's groundbreaking 1929 movie Pandora's Box was announced by the Louise Brooks Society, as part of the ongoing 70th anniversary celebrations of the film which had changed cinema forever. And, unbelievably for a movie of such stature, it didn't have a soundtrack. Even the existing videos didn't have any music on them. That's why they never showed it on television...

The chance to be involved in the cult of Pandora's Box was just too irresistible. The organisers said there's no money in it, Subterraneans said they didn't care, and the project got the go-ahead.

It was Paul Haig who subsequently turned everything around for Subterraneans. He was determined that the soundtrack could make for a great instrumental album in its own right, and suggested it to his partners at the Rhythm of Life label. Subterraneans said there's no money in it, Rhythm of Life said they didn't care, and the album got the go-ahead too.

Out of nothing and against the odds, Subterraneans had a new album, and not just any album, but just about the coolest project anyone could ever hope to be involved in. Moreover, against the group's own expectations, the response was universally positive. A whole new dimension had been added to Subterraneans. Whilst the seeds had been sown during the earlier collaborations with Judy Neville, the sheer scale of a feature length movie soundtrack had forced a complete rethink.

The knock on effect was that they wanted to swing the other way again, create some rock music again, and play it loud. Not because that's what was expected, or because that's what Subterraneans do (it no longer necessarily is). But because they felt like it.

Angie Bowie felt like it too.

Jude had an idea, thought it was probably a bit nuts, but suggested it anyway. A completely wild, seething and animated version of the Rolling Stones' classic "The Last Time", interpreted as if it were yet another argument between lovers. It would need sass and glamour and an American touch. As soon as he heard Angie's performance on "Fires Are Burning" from her Moon Goddess album, he popped the question. Besides, hadn't the Stones written a song about her? Fair's fair...

Angie understood the vision instinctively and delivered a performance of ingenuity and suss the like of which is all too rare these days. Together Angie and Jude duelled playfully with the verses, creating a uniquely special take on a song you all thought you knew.

The trials and tribulations of Mona Lisa were finally wiped away. A return to live performance was announced in 2002, with Robin Philips (Solstice) on bass and Guy Evans (Van Der Graaf Generator) on drums.

The boards were cleared with the CD release of the Slide EP (originally a cassette only release available exclusively at live shows in 1996) and the release of the internet-only compilation album Orly Flight. Containing mostly cover versions, including Subterraneans' version of Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" (a live bootleg of which had been already doing the rounds for over a couple of years), Orly Flight was meant only as a means of closing the chapter on the first decade. It was far from being a "new" Subterraneans album, but contained some real highlights, including the sublime "Frozen Warnings", which Jude had been periodically performing since 1987 but never previously recorded.

Subterraneans announced that their next album would be titled Soul Mass Transit. Work began in London in December 2002, picking up in Cambridge in early 2003. Word got out of the studio that both Jude and Carl had quit smoking, and as a result there were a lot of guitars on the new record, as they had to have something to do with their hands (in fairness, this never previously stopped Carl). Jude modestly speculated that if the album were anything less than the greatest English rock record since The Queen Is Dead he would retire and begin a new life as a Bond-style international supervillan (he immediately retracted this on the grounds that people who choose to live inside volcanoes probably deserve everything they get...)

From the outset, Subterraneans cited themselves as, literally, "an underground sonic orchestra". Their music is created as high art and is intended to be taken as such. They have always been and remain elusive and ferociously independent. Where the muse takes them next is anyone's guess, but wherever it is, George Bush and Tony Blair won't be there.