But he's in the studio working on new material...

Spiritualized's Jason Pierce has sacked the majority of his band.

Lead guitarist Mike Mooney telephoned NME to say he had received a letter from Jason terminating his employment last week, together with drummer Damon Reece, who's been with the band since 1994, and bassist/ harmonica player Sean Cook, who has been a mainstay of Spiritualized since 1992, shortly after they emerged from the ashes of Spacemen 3.

The letter arrived just weeks after the trio had signed a contract of employment, leaving them "devastated".

Only saxophonist Ray Dickaty, who's been in the band for a year but did not sign the contract, is left in the line-up. It now appears that keyboard player Kate Radley, Pierce's ex-girlfriend and now Richard Ashcroft's wife, left some time ago, although none of the now sacked band members will comment on her assumed departure.

A spokesman for Spiritualized told NME that even he had not heard from Pierce in the past six months and had no means of contacting him.

The trio's official comment was: "In the past few days, we have received notice that we are no longer members of Spiritualized as the notice of dismissal shows. No official reason has been given for the termination. We have asked questions but have received no answers."

The letter to each of them signed by Pierce read: "I refer to the agreement between us dated May 10, 1999. Pursuant to which you provided your service to me as a member of Spiritualized.

"Pursuant to sub clause 1D of the agreement, kindly treat this letter as constituting my one month's notice to you to terminate the term of the agreement."

Mooney, who joined the band in 1996 just after they finished recording 'Ladies And Gentlemen...', said: "Basically, it means that we've been completely fucked. It's really sad, because between us, we've put more than 18 years into this.

"We signed the employment contract thinking we were about to start recording a new album. We had no idea this was about to happen. We're gutted, absolutely devastated."

It's not known if Pierce has written any new material. Mooney said the last time the band had been together was last summer, just after Pierce was diagnosed as suffering from 'nervous exhaustion', when they added final touches to last year's live album. Mooney continued that he'd not heard anything from him since P until last week.

He added that the sacked trio were now seeking legal advice. Spiritualized's manager Frank Gironda, of the LA-based Lookout Management, declined to comment on the matter. However, he did confirm that Jason was in the studio working on a new Spiritualized album.

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