Life In A Black World: The Colour Theory


Ever since I’ve started going to see local shows in Salt Lake, my friends have told me I needed to check out The Colour Theory. I’ve always been intrigued by their flyers and the artwork they use to represent themselves, but until recently have never seen them perform a show. As the stage filled with smoke, audience anticipation rose higher. The band came on to play a powerful hour-long set, marked by heavy drums keeping time to the bass and guitar riffs with deep, rich vocals poured over the top of this musical concoction. Add to that an impressive visual element that complimented the music and you have the essence of The Colour Theory as they perform live.

It’s been four years since The Colour Theory formed in Pocatello, Idaho. In 1988, after losing their drummer, Dury and Orchard moved to Salt Lake where they began playing gigs at The Word. 

After various lineup changes, founding members Paul Dury and Rob (Ziggy) Orchard have added drummer Van Christensen to round out the band. Christensen also plays in Bohemia and Shadowplay, as well as an other unnamed band. Christensen originally sat in as studio drummer for the band’s tape Steel Glass Shadow and then signed-on as a permanent member. Although they’ve tried to incorporate others into the band, The Colour theory has remained at three people.

The band has been quite prolific in their recording output. They have released three EP’s and a full-length cassette, Steel Glass Shadow. A new 7” single, “Flowers In The Garden b/w Victorian,” should be available at Trash or Raunch Records by the time you read this article. Dury says the band has plans to remaster and re-release some of the earlier, now unavailable Colour Theory tracks on a compilation EP, enhancing the sound quality and returning many songs to their original lengths. It’s also chance for the band to get their music to sound more up to their standards. “When you’re in the studio at twenty dollars an hour … I spend hundreds of hours just sampling sounds, the backwards things—everything like that to get the perfect tones.” This meticulous process is evident in The Colour Theory’s recordings as well as their live performances. The band will record another, hopefully full length, work in early 1991 with plans to release it on CD. The band is currently working on a promotional video to send out to record companies and out of state clubs in order to build more interest in the band nationally.

Although they put out a lot of recordings, their main emphasis right now is on playing live. According to Dury, “My attitude, and I think the band’s attitude right now is we’d rather play out than record. Recording’s nice but if you don’t have all the material and all the money to do the recording then it’s kind of difficult to do. We’re trying to get an audience built up. It’s kind of hard.” The Colour Theory’s audiences have ranged from seven people to two hundred, fluctuating from show to show. While this is frustrating at times, The Colour Theory continues to have shows and is slowly building a bigger, more loyal following. 

The Colour Theory has come to terms with the “Gothic” label and is even using it now to promote their image. The band dresses in black for their stage shows with smatterings of lace and leather. Thick fog fills the air, while strobes and colored lights add depth to their performance. While none of the band members can be found hanging upside down in belfry’s or wandering graveyards at night and are even seen about town by light of day, they still have strange reactions to their “gothic” image. Says Dury, “Even people who know us kind of look at us strange, like the music is real dark. We’ve talked about it as a group and we don’t think of the music as dark. We think of it as normal. Most of the subjects we write about don’t really deal with death. They may seem dark, they may use real dark terms in them but a lot of out stuff is oriented to dark music. We don’t go around drinking blood or anything.” The band members seem the antithesis of the “Gothic” lifestyle. They’re just average guys working in a musical medium that they enjoy. The band has also been labeled “Industrial.” Finding a musical genre to classify The Colour Theory is not as easy as it seems. The Colour Theory is not a trend. Rather, it’s a way for the members to express themselves.

Drury says The Colour Theory draws more on the chord progressions of the Ramones than the traditional two chord “Death Rock” mode. “Then we try and throw an off note in there so it just kind of gives it a dark feel. But we have a tough time writing an up, heavy song.” The band is trying to move in this direction though, along the lines of Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland album. The Colour Theory finds themselves comfortable being classified with Sisters, having that same moody, guitar based sound, but also claim influence from Bauhaus and Joy Division

Comparisons have been made to The Damned and Killing Joke as well. 

If you’re still not convinced of The Colour Theory’s importance in the Salt Lake scene, then why not pick up one of their recordings or see them live at one of their many shows around town. Seeing and hearing may just turn out to be believing. 


For more from the SLUG Archives:
Radio Free 91 KRCL: Open Your Eyes To Public Radio
The Metal Scene: Scatterbrain