Subterfuge were formed in Melbourne, Australia in the early 1990’s by Clifford Ennis, along with Rick Mullen and Brendan Toull. After meeting in the late 80’s, Clifford and Brendan began collaborating musically almost immediately and the process of starting a band was underway. Their early influences included the likes of Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and an array of other bands predominantly from the post punk era. In 1990, Rick Mullen joined as guitarist, initially on a part-time basis but by 1991 was a fully fledged member. The three members spent much of 1991 and 1992 writing songs together and developing their sound.
1993 was essentially “year zero” for the band as it was the year that they unveiled themselves onto the public and finally decided upon the name SUBTERFUGE. In September 1993 Subterfuge released their self titled demo tape and their first live show was in December of that year. Subterfuge had briefly been a 4 piece band during this period but by the end of 1993 they were again back to the original three members. And determined not to waste any more time in the search for another singer, Clifford took on the role of vocalist.
On the strength of that first live show and of their demo tape, Subterfuge were approached by Heartland Records to release a CD. “Darkland Awakening” ep was the result but by the time the CD was released Subterfuge had another line up change and were now a two piece band consisting of Clifford and Rick (after the departure of Brendan just prior to the recording of the CD) and it was as a two piece that they remained.
The CD was released in May 1994 to favourable reviews around the world and has since been described as being “one of the most fantastic releases of the genre of that era”. For the remainder of 1994 to promote the release of “Darkland Awakening” Subterfuge played live in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.
Attention inevitably soon turned towards a follow up album. There were some people expecting big things from Subterfuge with one writer at the time saying “given time Subterfuge could reach the mantle of greatness”. Sadly though, a follow up CD, which may well have propelled them to the aforementioned “mantle” did not eventuate despite being promised by the band.
Between 1995 and 1998 Subterfuge continued to play live around Australia including in Melbourne as well as Sydney and Adelaide. During this period new songs were released, such as “Curses” and “The Judas in Me” (among others) on compilation CDs, perhaps enticing people into thinking that an album was imminent but history tells us this was not the case. Subterfuge had made their mark on the mid 90’s goth scene but they became less active as the decade drew to a close.
Clifford has however continually stayed involved in the scene with other projects including Jerusalem Syndrome (which was a side project with Chris McCarter from Ikon in 1996/97). Clifford also has had two stints as a member of Ikon, playing guitar for them between 2004-2005 and again between 2010-2014, and he has also had a foray into the electronic side of things with another side project, this time with Mark Tansley from Suspiria, called Razorfade.
In 2013 Subterfuge released a retrospective CD album called “Reflect << Rewind” which contained their much loved songs as well as demos and some previously unreleased material. The album was released on Strobelight Records on May 31st, 2013.
Subterfuge have rather generously been described as “Australia’s goth superstars of the 90’s” which might seem an undeserving title to be placed upon a band that only had a small output in terms of releases; but in fact it is a testament to just how strong the Darkland Awakening CD EP was, and indeed still is.