Robin Proper-Sheppard could be described as bloody minded. He would probably take it as a compliment. He should. It is an apt description for a man who has emerged from a harrowing and profoundly disappointing experience and decided to do something about it. Doing his own thing, and making it work, has become second nature to him, and is undeniably something of which he is proud. But it has taken courage and conviction that at times might have been lacked by those with less energy and enthusiasm. And energy and enthusiasm are two things that Proper-Sheppard does not lack. He has them in spades. Without them, he probably wouldn't find himself where he is today, producing a fourth SOPHIA album (released via City Slang), producing further records for - amongst others - artists signed to his own record label (The Flower Shop Recordings), whilst maintaining this self-sufficiency by setting up tours for both SOPHIA and the label's other artists.
It's reflected in Robin Proper-Sheppard`s music, and never more so that on PEOPLE ARE LIKE SEASONS, which, even by his own standards, is a staggering piece of work that brings together the various strands of his musical career. For many people it will be the first time that they have come across SOPHIA, but in actual fact this is the culmination of an uncompromising career that spans almost fifteen years, and begins in San Diego with the formation of a band called The God Machine in 1990. Relocated to London a year later, high school friends Proper-Sheppard, bassist Jimmy Fernandez and drummer Ron Austin secured a deal with Fiction Records and released an album in 1993, Scenes From The Second Storey, which even now sounds as powerful as any of the most intense contemporary rock around. Heavy touring and the success of the single Home brought them to wider attention and their second album was eagerly anticipated. Within days of its completion, however, unforeseen tragedy of the most extreme kind struck when Fernandez died suddenly of a brain tumour. It didn't take long for the remaining two members to realise that The God Machine was no more, and although the release of the album - dedicated to Fernandez' memory and titled One Last Laugh In A Place Of Dying - went ahead, Proper-Sheppard and Austin chose not to support the record's release. Those that remember the band - which include the likes of Mogwai, with whom SOPHIA have since toured - recognise in it the kind of fundamental ferocity and dynamics that are rarely translated to tape in such a pure form. But, for Proper-Sheppard, it was almost the end of his love affair with music.
His response was extreme. Focussing on The Flower Shop Recordings - the label he had set up whilst in the God Machine as a response to the major label politics that surrounded the band, and which was centred around a vintage 8 track recorder that he nicknamed Old Betsy Satan - he withdrew from making music to producing and releasing the work of others. Stalwarts of the UK underground post hardcore scene like Elevate and Ligament emerged from this stable, but it took a while for him to feel capable of recording his own songs once again. When he did - surrounding himself with a number of the musicians with whom he had been working on the label - the music was acutely distanced from The God Machine, although it still maintained a similar sense of intensity. First album Fixed Water (1996) was a painfully morbid dissection of loss and anguish, slow and repetitive but comforting in its familiarity and honesty. Live shows saw the songs fleshed out and occasionally even rocking out, but essentially Proper-Sheppard was finding a way of expressing himself without returning to the volume of The God Machine.
The Infinite Circle, which followed in 1998, followed a similar path and served to build on an audience which had grown through touring and a sense of comradeship. This was happening without the media's permission, and somehow SOPHI
A found themselves selling records without the aid of marketing budgets, selling them in large amounts, and in fact selling considerably more than Polygram / Fiction had managed with The God Machine. Festival appearances in Europe were packed - as is evidenced on the live album De Nachten - and a genuine word of mouth ripple spread across the continent.