There isn’t much to say about the small Midlothian town of Bonnyrigg. It is located a few miles outside of Edinburgh, it has a statue dedicated to a leader of the miners in its park. It has several churches, and a decent Italian. It also gave us the hugely influential post rock band The Trappists.
The Trappists were artistes who refused to compromise. They were a band who tore up the rulebook, threw it away, then wrote their own rulebook which they then ignored. The Trappists didn’t tour, they didn’t do interviews, they issued very few promotional photos, they never appeared on the radio, and they only ever wore brown.
There was of course a reason why the Trappists didn’t tour, didn’t do interviews and issue photos. They were Trappists Monks and upon entering the Order of Silvino Francisco (which was a small monastery located just behind Dundas Park, home of Bonnyrigg Rose FC) they swore a vow of silence and as such became the most punk rock band to have ever driven along the A7 in a clapped out minibus without even knowing it.
The Trappists were formed of three brothers, (who were not actually brothers in the Noel and Liam sense but in the professional sense) Thelonius (born in Grimsby) who played guitar, Garry (born in Ormskirk), who banged the drums and Adrian (born in Akron) who played bass. They did not sing on any of their releases, not only because they had taken a vow of silence, but just like Mogwai they preferred to let the music do the speaking.
The legend goes that one day after prayers and a short pilgrimage to a Dalkeith bakery, the three brothers were in the monastery’s music room tidying away the pan pipes and simply started jamming together. Within an hour, they had recorded their first track, their instrumental take on Madonna’s ‘Erotica’.
Despite its tough and ready nature, they were confident enough to offer it immediately to the one person allowed to utter any words within the monastery, their head abbot, who had taken the holy name of Russell when entering the order back in 1946. He gave it a thumbs-up, but after a second listen, he felt it would benefit from a minor contribution, around the four-minute mark, by some of the nuns who lived in an adjacent convent.
Erotica – The Trappists (1992, Cachinno Records, Taken from ‘Trappist Music Vol. 1’ – the complete collection’)
Thus, The Trappists silently announced themselves to the musical world of Midlothian. The abbot was approached on their behalf with the opportunity for the lads to have a Saturday night residency at nearby Danderhall Miners Welfare Club, as the Committee considered them as the perfect opening act prior to the bingo and the headline show performed by the legendary Englebert Humperdinck.
The abbot was tempted, but he decided that their musical careers would always play second fiddle to their commitments to the brotherhood and their other extracurricular activities. Because of this, recorded material was eventiually restricted to just one album – ‘Aprilis stulti locus’ and one very limited edition EP ‘Hoc est ventus est’.
The album itself took five years to record as Thelonius was regularly called upon (not in the vocal sense obviously) to play the harpsichord at local schools and at the convent. Garry was also employed on occasion as a football manager for the local church side and under his silent but incredibly detailed diagrammatic team talks, the local church side won the Scottish Challenge Cup twice in the late nineties (beating Raith 4 – 1 in 1997 and Airdrie 3 – 2 in 1999). Adrian meanwhile spent a year working as a consultant detective in the Chicago Police Department, in that time he was also briefly employed as a session guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins, and despite his vow of silence, still managed to talk more sense than Billy Corgan.
The album was a post rock masterpiece, it drew comparisons to recently released works by the likes of Tortoise and Slint. It consisted of fourteen tracks all of them instrumental post rock versions of eighties and nineties alternative rock classics, many of them had a religious (in name at least) theme to them. Like this one for example.
Jesus Christ Pose – The Trappists (1996, Cachinno Records, Taken from ‘Aprilis Stulti Locus’)
The limited edition EP- which was only made available in the gift shop at the Francisco Monastery in Bonnyrigg for six weeks, now changes hands on Discogs for around £1000 a time.
Here is one track taken from it. The EP was actually produced by the abbot, who sadly forgot that he had left his own mic on during the process, and the three words he actually knew from the original are occasionally and accidentally chanted.
Holiday In Cambodia – The Trappists (1995, Cachinno Records, Taken from ‘Hoc est ventus est’)