Rev Hammer regards his music not so much as a passport to fame and fortune but as a ticket to ride. He learned to play guitar and sing at the same time and wisely thought busking was the best way to get to a standard where he could play publicly. Rev spent 18 months busking in the streets before he dared stand on a stage.
Rev’s debut album “Industrial Sound and Magic” was recorded in a cow shed in Essex on a budget of nothing but, given that that the backing band (which gave its services for free) was The Levellers, this offbeat album has opened up intriguing windows of opportunity.
In 1986 he became a founder member of The Red Sky Coven together with poet Joolz and Justin Sullivan. The show mixes acoustic songs, poetry, humour and story-telling in the best traditions of the travelling bards. It continues to sell out within the UK and Europe.
1991 saw the release of Rev’s debut album, “Industrial Sound & Magic” on the Cooking Vinyl label. The follow up album, “Bishop Of Buffalo” (also on the Cooking Vinyl label) mixed acoustic ballads with hard electric songs and was produced by long-time friend Justin Sullivan. The unusual title was arrived at when Rev Hammer (christened Stephen Ryan and brought up near Royston) found that he shared his real name with the 1860’s second Bishop of Buffalo in America. Intrigued by the connection he began researching and wrote to the current Bishop of Buffalo, sending him a copy of his album. The album received the current Bishop’s blessings! “Bishop Of Buffalo” features Dave Blomberg from New Model Army on guitar and Stepan Pasicynyk of The Ukrainians on accordion.
In the winter of ’94-’95 Rev joined the ‘Serious Road Trip’, a charity entertainment troupe, and (along with jugglers, clowns, DJ’s and other musicians) toured refugee camps in Slovenia and Croatia. The camps served as ‘homes’ for thousands of victims of the Balkan conflicts and wars. On arrival at a camp a spontaneous show was performed and workshops went long into the night. The money for the ‘Serious Road Trip’ had been raised by live shows and performances in England and aid was also carried to many of the most disadvantaged areas.
In the autumn of ’95 two songs written by Rev featured on top-selling albums. “Maid Of The River” was featured on The Levellers “Zeitgeist” album. “Searchlights” was included on the record breaking “Help” album which raised yet more funds for the war victims in Croatia and Bosnia.
Rev started work on the “Freeborn John” album late in 1995. It was, like all masterpieces, an ambitious project and it took two wonder-full years to record. It tells a musical story of John Lilburne, England’s first radical and unsung hero of the English Civil War. Audiences and performers, charmed on the wings of great songs and a big issue, revel in the visceral thrill of the words and music of “Freeborn John” and realise Lilburne’s immediate relevance to contemporary England. The songs and characters are populated by Rev, Maddy Prior, The Levellers, Justin Sullivan, New Model Army, Eddi Reader, Rory McLeod, Harry S. Fulcher and Phil Johnstone. Phil produced the album and Mike Gregovich made it sound like les ballons du chiens. The “Freeborn John” show was performed to standing ovations on all three nights of the 2005 Beautiful Days Festival and toured the UK in 2008.
In the summer of 1996, immediately after the Freeborn John album was finished, Rev recorded the acoustic “Green Fool Recordings” album in five days.