Famous bands from Milton Keynes

Famous bands from Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes, established as recently as 1967, has produced a surprising number of well-known artists and performers in its brief time as a township. Bands such as Capdown, Fellsilent and Tesseract have emerged from its newly-built foundations in recent years, with distinguished artists, such as Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth marking past years of musical success.

Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth

Originally from elsewhere (Middlesex and Essex, respectively), Cleo Laine and the late Sir John Dankworth found their home in Milton Keynes following great successes in the music industry both individually and collaboratively.

Dame Cleo Laine, born Clementine Dinah Bullock, is well known for her scat singing and vocal range spanning beyond three octaves, demonstrated through both jazz and propular music mediums, as well as theatre performances. Laine's breakthrough into the music scene in her mid-twenties was engineered through a successful audition with a band led by John Dankworth, which led to a fruitful career in both singing and acting and successful marriage. Laine featuring in many notable performances in distinguished London theatres, as well as rising to the forefront of the jazz scene, earning a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' in 2002 at the British Jazz Awards. She is the only female artist to have achieved Grammy nominations in three categories: 'jazz', 'popular music' and 'classical music'. Laine continues to produce excellent recordings and performances, despite her husband's passing in 2010.

Sir John Dankworth showed talent on the clarinet early in life, entered the Royal College of Music at age 17. He quickly gathered more musical proficiencies under his belt through his studies and admiration of great musical figures and emerged as a fine composer and performer to boot. Dankworth produced well-received recordings and acheieved international fame with tours of the USA with his jazz orchestra. He went on to produce numerous movie scores, for the likes of 'The Servant' and 'Modesty Blaise'. His composing career also extended to musical theatre, including two productions that featured his wife, Cleo Laine. Dankworth was awarded an impressive number of honorary degrees, the University of Cambridge among the long list, as well as being named and recognised by many top musical institutions and bodies. He received his CBE and Knighthood  from Her Majesty the Queen in 2006.


Originally known as Soap (perhaps politically inspired by the “soapbox”), Capdown (which stands for “Capitalist Downfall”) are not ashamed of expressing their political beliefs. Often classified as a ska-punk band, they have self-released numerous albums and have self-funded multiple tours, being a true DIY band. The band flourished in the early 2000s, playing with big bands at the time like Less Than Jake and Pennywise. Unfortunately, the band officially split up in 2007, but have reformed especially for a few performances in the last few years including Reading and Leeds festival in 2011. It’s hard to say, but they may still have some music in them yet.


Fellsilent, who was also active primarily in the 2000s was a progressive tech-metal band. Impressively, they are often compared to Meshuggah and are named as pioneers of the “Djent” sound. Kerrang. rated the band well for their “seriously brutal technical bludgeoning riffs” and their “stratospheric choruses”. They gained a serious following by playing with bands like Bring Me The Horizon and even co-headlining with Enter Shikari. In their whole career, they only released one full-length album in 2008, before the band members started dropping like flies, with Acle Kahney (guitarist) leaving first, followed by the bassist, drummer, and auxiliary vocalist.


Acle Kahney, however, didn’t stay silent, and had already formed his new prog-metal band Tesseract by the time he left Fellsilent. It had started out as just a small side-project for Acle, all the way back in 2003, when he put some of his own riffs and technical guitar work on some online forums in the metal community. A whole scene of djent-style bedroom musicians was spawned off this online community, and by 2007 Acle had a full line-up for his new band. The band are known for their specific style of metal and for their distinctive sound, which comes partly from the band producing and mixing all their music themselves, with bassist Amos Williams being a qualified audio engineer. The band are also known for having varied vocal styles involved in their sound, which comes partly down to their changing vocalists in 2012. Original vocalist Daniel Tompkins used a harsher vocal tone with long drawn-out notes, however, when new vocalist Ashe O’Hara came on-board, the band took the opportunity to change to clean melodic vocals, completely bucking the trend at the time. Tesseract is still active and announced last year that they would begin work on writing a new album. 

Photography: Christian Bertrand

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