These texts are reproduced with the kind permission of Lester J. Batchelor
Atmosfear - Original line up
Lester Batchelor - Bass and Bass Synths [backing vocals]
Andy Sojka – Lead and rhythm Guitars
Ray Johnson – Drums
Stewart Cawthorne – Saxophone
Tony Antoniou – Lead & backing vocals
Jerry Pike – Producer [percussion & sound effects]
Peter Hinds [Light of the World] – ALL Keyboards
Leroy Williams [Hi Tension] – Percussion
Keith Northover – Drums
Dave James - Drums
Frank Ricotti – Vibes
Carol Kenyon – lead vocals
Beverly Skeete – Lead vocals
Rick Dejongh – Backing vocals
David Allen – Trumpet
Atmosfear are a Britfunk band from North west London, formed originally in 1978.
lester batchelor and ray johnson
Lester Batchelor, Ray Johnson and Ray’s cousin Louis Russell got together to form a band, they practiced initially in the front room of Ray’s fathers house in South Harrow, Ray’s father would sometimes join in on the sessions playing congos.
Various musician friends came and went as the trio developed. Later Louis left the group to pursue other interests.
In 1979 Ray introduced Lester to his friend Jerry Pike who worked with record store [All Ears] owner - Andy Sojka.
peter hinds, ray johnson, jerry pike and stewart cawthorne
Andy attended a couple of their practice sessions to listen-in having been briefed by Jerry.
Suitably impressed he soon became the band’s Guitarist.
The collective then moved location and started rehearsing in the back room of the record store in Harlesden, following a brief stint of annoying the neighbours in Wembley where they played in Andy Sojka’s garage.
Andy who was already an established businessman expressed an interest in investing in the band by financing their first recordings. Lester and Ray agreed and immediately commenced working on a number of compositions.
Later Stewart Cawthorne [Saxophonist] and Tony Antoniou [Lead vocalist] joined and completed the line up and Atmosfear was born.
The band developed quickly often joined by Lester’s friend Peter Hinds on Keyboards, prompting the ever enterprising Andy Sojka to reduce his involvement in the record store to shift his energies into establishing the Elite Record label.
Atmosfear became the record label’s first artist and [Dazz-1] 'Dancing in Outer Space', the first released recording.
'Dancing In Outer Space' first broke in Bristol through Martin Starr a local DJ.
The popularity of the track grew quickly throughout the UK’s club DJ’s and dancers.
The buzz promptly alerted the interest of MCA records UK and the band was soon signed.
The success of 'Dancing in Outer Space' which achieved a top 30 position in the UK charts was followed up with a Top 50 double A side single – Xtract / Motivation.
With Xtract later being voted club track of that year by Radio one’s DJ Pete Tong who at that time spun the discs at the Hilltop Club at West Kingsdown, Kent, near Brand Hatch.
Atmosfear’s first album ‘En-Trance’ was released in 1981.
However shortly before their debut album’s release cracks began to appear in the collective.
Ray Johnson soon left the band following a disagreement with Andy Sojka.
Tony Antoniou also left the band to pursue a solo project.
Lester continued with the band by bringing in other musicians to complete the recordings.
Lester also wrote the song ‘Xtra Special’ which featured Beverly Skeete on lead vocals - this was to become the final recording of the original Freeway production partnership of Andy Sojka, Lester Batchelor and Jerry Pike.
Unfortunately the release of this single was severely hampered by the actions of a disgruntled business associate of Andy Sojka based in New York.
After a disagreement with Sojka, They decided to re-record and release another version of ‘Xtra Special’ in the USA, with Dolette MacDonald a singer known for her work with Sting and David Byrne.
This version was released just before Atmosfear’s own original U.K. release, resulting in the two versions entering the market at the same time, this had a disastrous effect on overall sales.
Lester soon left the band following this dispute with Andy Sojka sighting lack of trust and irretrievable creative differences, obviously infuriated by the debacle surrounding Xtra Special.
Almost at the same time the production partnership between Jerry Pike & Andy Sojka also fractured.
Andy Sojka tried to continue with Atmosfear by bringing in session musicians and released a few singles and an album, but could never re-capture the groove and chemistry of the original line-up..
Atmosfear are widely regarded as one of the UK’s most influential bands of the early 80’s. and their timeless debut single ‘Dancing in Outer Space’ has stood the test of time and is now considered a dance floor classic that still shakes the bars and clubs around the world today.
So many samples and many many remixes later their music lives on.
New York DJ’s 'Masters at Work' have faithfully remixed their versions of 'Dancing in Outer Space' and 'Alternative ii' a track created by Lester and Jerry, While Paris based DJ 'Dimitri' chose to re-mix several versions of Motivation.
Today the band have recently reformed as Atmosfear|2 comprising the two founder band members:
lester batchelor and ray johnson 2010
Lester Batchelor [Bass] and Ray Johnson [Drums] leading a new collective.
The story continues with the next generation of New BritFunk.
Atmosfears website is at:
Andrzej Sojka passed away from a multiple myeloma at the age of 48 in February 2000
andy sojka's funeral order of service
En Trance (Elite 1981)
First / Foremost (Elite 1984)