Thee Faction – blistering, unpleasant socialist R&B with an explicit political agenda
“Terrific stuff. Well done! Here, we celebrate the successes of the working class” Danny Baker, broadcaster
“..barricade storming, smart, fun, instantly energising” Gavin Martin, Daily Mirror (number 17 in the Daily Mirror ‘Albums of 2011’)
“..bringing down the Tories one song at a time” The Guardian
Formed in Reigate in the late 70s by four schoolmates (Billy Brentford, The Hard Man, Nylons and Dai Nasty), and subsequently joined in the early 80s by Dai’s cousin from Wales, teenage runaway Baby Face. Thee Faction eschewed the traditional routes to musical fame and fortune, refusing to play gigs in the usual venues or talk to the music press. Instead they built up a massive following by playing squat gigs and benefits. Devoting as much time to political activity and propaganda as to their music, they were open in their pursuit of global revolution through the medium of music.
Thee Faction believed in the redemptive power of rock’n’roll, but understood that it could not, in itself, effect change. So they used their unique brand of Socialist R&B to re-engineer false consciousness, to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies, and to exhort the workers of the world to unite and throw off their chains. The songs themselves spoke for themselves, as a manifesto for change and as a critique of capitalism. But in case anyone was in any doubt of the message, it was rammed home between songs by Baby Face, who would launch into vitriolic polemic that would often go on longer than the songs themselves.
At their peak, during the miners’ strike, Thee Faction were attracting two to three thousand people to gigs in reclaimed halls and other unorthodox venues. But they refused ever to release records through corporate labels or give interviews to any publications owned by private shareholders. Yet the word spread, and in any list of the most influential people on the left in Britain between 1981 and 1985, Thee Faction always appeared in the top five, often above union leaders, politicians and opinion formers.
In 1985, at the peak of their influence in Britain, the left was in tatters, and Thee Faction were seen by many as the last hope in the vacuum of working class leadership. And just at the moment that everyone expected them to step up and lead from the vanguard, they announced that they were off to tour on the other side of the ‘Iron Curtain’. That May they set off on a tour, starting in Poland and culminating in the USSR. And they were never seen again in the UK.
No one knew why Thee Faction never returned. There were rumours of them acting as a conduit between the left opposition in the East and the left in the UK. Others simply assumed they had defected. Those who kept track of them in the East realised that the band never stopped moving. They performed hundreds of shows throughout the Eastern Bloc, and by the time of the fall of Stalinism they just kept moving, to each state that still professed allegiance to actually existing socialism.
In Yugoslavia, at the turn of the 90s, Thee Faction suddenly became a 7-piece. The tight knit street-gang of revolutionaries, who had never let anyone come within yards of them since their inception, had recruited two new members. Billy Brentford and Baby Face were working on pirate radio in Belgrade when they found two singers who shared Thee Faction’s unique commitment not just to Marxism-Leninism but also to socialist R&B. Krystina-Prystina Engels and Kassandra Krossing immediately became full members of the band, and added a soulful, but aggressive approach to backing vocals which added a new edge to Thee Faction’s sound.
Thee Faction continued to tour Moldova, Transnistria and beyond, but eventually returned to Britain, devoting themselves purely to political activity.
But in early 2010 rumours began to circulate that they were going to perform again, for the first time since their legendary show in Ebbw Vale 25 years earlier. Thee Faction’s story is not over.
Krystina-Prystina Engels left Thee Faction owing to political differences around the General Election in 2010. Kassandra Krossing introduced Pravda, the organ of truth from the siege of Argos, to Thee Faction’s sound. And with that, the comeback was over.
The fightback began. The struggle continues.
It’s only class war if you fight back. That’s what Thee Faction are doing.
At the end of 2011 Horace Hardman elected to pursue revolutionary activities in Australia where he, unlike the rest of the Guild, felt that the conditions for revolution were in place. He remains a comrade and a geographically distant Guild member. He was replaced by The Citizen, who shares the Hardman’s punk sensibilities, and rhythmic solidity. He joins Baby Face as one of the key theorists in the Guild.
Early in 2012 legendary all-woman horn section Brass Kapital joined forces with Thee Faction to bolster the sound, redress the gender balance, and inject additional revolutionary fervour into our soulcialism.