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Peter Coyle Interview: The Lotus Eaters Founder on His Upcoming Cavern Gig and Tour

Ahead of Peter Coyle’s mini tour and homecoming Liverpool gig, Del Pike chats with The Lotus Eaters frontman about his eclectic career.



Peter Coyle, photo by Richard Purvis
Peter Coyle, photo by Richard Purvis

Ahead of Peter Coyle‘s mini tour and homecoming Liverpool gig, Del Pike looks over his eclectic career and catches the artist for a chat.

If mass media is to be believed, George Orwell only ever wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, Elvis Costello only ever had a hit with “Oliver’s Army,” similarly, Peter Coyle only ever released “The First Picture of You.”

As anyone with an enquiring mind will know, the mass media is a fool, and a little exploration can bring many delights. And so, to Peter Coyle. Kicking off a mini tour this month, which includes a hometown date in Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club, Peter will be performing The Lotus Eaters classic album No Sense of Sin from 1984, which featured the aforementioned “First Picture of You” having already hit No15 in the charts the previous year. It is still a much-played track on daytime radio.

Their mainstream success for Peter and guitarist Jem Kelly was short-lived, and the band split the following year. Their parting gift was the beautiful “It Hurts” single, which criminally failed to bother the charts but remains a perfect 3-minute slice of ’80s indie pop. The monochrome video (taped from The Max Headroom Show and much played in my house) featuring footage of Hollywood icon Louise Brookes also showed Coyle as a striking frontman despite his shy demeanour. The band would reform many years later and continue to play the ’80s revival festivals alongside their Top of the Pops contemporaries.

In the late ’80s and into the early ’90s, Coyle reinvented himself as something of a mover and shaker in Liverpool, setting up his base in the Holmes Buildings, a Creative Hub on the City’s Concert Square. I had a short-lived record shop on the ground floor marketplace, Trading Places (lest we forget Groooovy Records), Peter and his creative partners operated in an office space above me alongside Liverpool photographer Mark McNulty who was capturing the burning Liverpool scene of the times through his ever-eager lens.

Performance Artist, photo by Mark McNulty

Performance Artist, photo by Mark McNulty

Whilst The Farm, the La’s, The Stairs and The Real People were crafting their own brands of post-Mersey Beat – Scouse pop, Peter was curating and producing a group of dancefloor-based acts via his Eight project, often with a slightly surreal twist, more akin to the KLF than those other local acts. Artists, including Connie Lush, Marina Van-Rooy, Jennifer John and G-Love featuring Big in Japan’s Jayne Casey.

The music was showcased via the Eight Label, their Give Love compilation being the most accurate snapshot of the Liverpool dance scene at that time. The CD was a literal rave in your pocket, with a Thank-You list that was a roll call for everyone who was anyone on the Liverpool scene. Further label exposure could be found at the monthly G-Love nights at the Mardi Gras Club with resident DJ John Kelly. It was a zeitgeist moment, no argument.

Bold Street Banner, photo by Mark McNulty

Bold Street Banner, photo by Mark McNulty

Further projects included 8 Orgasms, a series of nights at Macmillans’ basement club, a stone’s throw from the Holmes Building. The night consisted of performance art, karaoke and performances from weird and wonderful acts, including Peter himself under the guise of The Donny and Marie Handbag Experience and alter-ego Slut Warlock. One of Mark McNulty’s images from his 2008 Pop Cultured book shows the artist performing in thigh-length socks, baggy underpants and clutching a Donny and Marie Osmond handbag.

Another image shows me and my mate Stu Johnson from Eat My Dog singing and dressed as Brosettes (female Bros fans); we had earlier been fire-breathing from high upon a scaffold outside until cautioned by the police.

The Peter Coyle album, I’d sacrifice 8 orgasms with Shirley Maclaine just to be there, provided a soundtrack to the whole world he had created and included the sexually charged title track, “8 Orgasms” and “O My God,” which deserve to be heard by all. Check eBay if you have £200 to spare.

Peter has spent the best part of his time since then producing music under his own name from his home in France, away from the noise of the city. He is a quiet and gentle soul who belies the figure we witnessed during his early ’90s ventures. His self-produced work, a steady stream of CDs through the 90s and early 2000s, included the sublime 2006 album Meltdown for the Mindless, but at just 250 numbered copies, it was no music for the masses.

The digital age has been a gift for both Peter and his followers and via Peter Coyle Fractal, a multi-media online project, he has produced a seemingly endless collection of singles and the 2023 album, Phasing, featuring Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware. Putting together a Spotify playlist of songs, just from the Fractal singles, clocked in at over nine hours. “The First Picture of You” was only the start of it.

Dip into the back catalogue of Peter Coyle Fractal, and you will find some of the most beautiful and moving soundscapes you could wish for. I had a chat with Peter about the upcoming gigs and why No Sense of Sin is rearing its head once more.

Del and Stu, photo by Mark McNulty

Del and Stu, photo by Mark McNulty

How does it feel to be re-visiting the album after all these years?

Peter: “It feels weird, actually. Very emotional. Because there are a lot of personal memories attached to the songs. But I feel very privileged to be able to look back and see where we were and what we were trying to do. Trying to make something beautiful is a high-risk venture, but looking back now, I am so glad we took the risk. And I would like to think nothing has changed in that sense. I would much rather take the risk. Even if they fail and the failure is a killer. It doesn’t matter how things are framed and perceived. Trying to dream does matter. No matter what the cost.”

Is there a standout track for you?

“‘The First Picture of You’ because it means so much to people. It is a blessing. The album is very distinctive, and I like that. Even in the day, I realised it was ahead of its time but also so far behind the times with its aesthetic qualities. I like being behind the times. It suits me. Very selfish and self-indulgent, I know.”

What are your memories of those years when you were in the public eye?

“Awful. I wasn’t happy at all. My inner librarian was on a major freakout. I belong in the backroom. Even in the band, I was at the back of the van in my own space reading, staying out of everything. I prefer it that way. It is quieter and calmer. Obviously, it was my job to be the frontman, and I took that seriously and enjoyed being on stage. The personality thing. No thanks. It was all too distracting and got in the way of me getting any work done. It was a difficult time to negotiate. I was very ambitious. I wanted to be like my heroes and create something beautiful that means something and changes the world in a small way. I probably should say that when I say beautiful, it is important to note that I would include the likes of Mark E Smith (The Fall) in that category. The man was an artist and he made a difference under extremely difficult circumstances. Not enough people realise that, sadly.”

How do you feel about playing the Cavern/being a homecoming gig?

“It is home. Simple as. It will be highly emotional, actually. For lots of reasons. I hope I don’t cry because that is not a good look. Most of my connections are there. The connections that made me. Without those connections, I am nothing. I want to do my very best. I will work my hardest to try and make that happen if I possibly can. I am very lucky because I am working with Roger Cartwright on acoustic guitar and Joe Orban on keyboards, and we are looking to bring out the space and emotion in the songs. It will be exciting.”

Will you be playing anything other than the album?

“We are doing two sets. The first set is the No Sense of Sin album. The second set is some of the recent solo stuff and one or two cover versions to break things up.”

Your solo career has been exciting and perhaps a bit more “out there” than The Lotus Eaters; how would you describe the music you have been creating since those days?

“Yes, I am always learning. It is in my DNA. I like to try different things and try and grow. I like to break up the formulas and contexts. Put them in a cauldron and make something unknown and new. That is why I have moved into the visual arts and creating The Theatre Podcasts with Cristiana Turchetti. I have always pushed myself and been very lucky to work with some amazing artists over the years in all kinds of genres and vibes. That is why I am called Peter Coyle Fractal on Spotify, etc., because it is important to have that obscure space to just try things out and see what works and what doesn’t. I remember just between Lewis’s Department Store and Central Station (Liverpool) there was a little cubby hole of a shop that fixed and repaired watches. I used to love going there to just watch the man work away. He was one of my heroes. And that is more or less how I work now. When things become too structured and ossified, things become predictable and ritualistic, which is not my thing. I like open borders and spaces where the deep emotions resonate. Outside all the hysteria and high emotionality and glitz and bling and ideology of the real world.”

Tickets for the 2024 shows are available, and the dates and venues are…

January 31 – The Cavern, Liverpool
February 1 – The Forge, Camden
February 3 – Arts Centre, Barnoldswick

Del Pike is a University lecturer in Film and Media in Liverpool (UK). He writes film, music, art, literature and culture articles and reviews for a number of websites. Del loves nothing more than snuggling down in a dark cinema, getting sweaty at  a live gig or drifting off late at night to a good book. He loves cats. He enjoys promoting new talent online so please say hi if you have something to show.