Test Dept were an industrial music band formed in New Cross, London, by unemployed musicians (including Alastair Adams, Paul Jamrozy, Angus Farquhar, Graham Cunnington, Tony Cudlip, Toby Burdon and Paul Hines) from Glasgow, Scotland, where the band later re-located. Comedian Vic Reeves played bass in an early incarnation of the band. Formed in 1981, they are hailed by many musicians as one of the most influential early industrial music acts. Their approach was marked out by a strong commitment to radical politics.
Their discography spans a wide variety of influences and styles, including a collaboration with the South Wales Striking Miners Choir in support of the Miners' Strike of 1984. They were particularly notable for complex and powerful percussion, as well as high-energy live performances. Like the German band Einstürzende Neubauten, with whom they are often compared, Test Dept used unconventional instruments such as scrap metal and industrial machinery as sound sources; however, Test Dept's use of these objects was far more rhythmic than was Neubauten's, and was often accompanied by film and slide shows. The band played concerts in a number of unusual site-specific locations, such as Waterloo, Cannon Street station, Stirling Castle and the defunct St Rollox Railway Works in Glasgow.
In later years the band's music became less industrial and took on many of the properties of techno. The band's political stance was energised by the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The band split up in 1997, but its former members have continued to work in the fields of art and culture. For example, Angus Farquhar re-established the ancient Gaelic Beltane Fire Festival, held yearly on the night before/morning of the first of May on Edinburgh's Calton Hill. Farquhar also formed NVA, an innovative theatre company specialising in large-scale site-specific events. Cunnington, who suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, produced a one-man show in 1996 called Pain, recounting his experiences as a sufferer from this condition.
Test Dept - Faces Of Freedom 1
Test Dept - Faces Of Freedom 2
Test Dept - Faces Of Freedom 3