Thursday, 1 September 2011

Give my regards to Rutland Place

We did a little acoustic gig the other night in Edinburgh. With an acoustic gig you can just turn up and plug in and play. There's no hassle of soundcheck if you dont want one. You also play quieter and it's part of the charm. You leave more space between the acoustic and the voice.

I like the drive through to Edinburgh. It always seems to rain at Harthill. There's also some quirky stuff beside the motorway like the man made pyramids at Livingston and the huge gramophone thing in the trees just outside Edinburgh. I was enjoying it so much that I turned up a one way street into oncoming traffic which was like a scene from Cars 2.

It was Joe's first gig and bizarrely we both had Haynes T shirts on. Mine was of an MG Midget and his was one of those giant legged creatures from Star Wars. It did look like we'd had a dress code but in fact it was random. Fili was pretty funny during the gig and she wasnt that spooked out by the fact that we'd rehearsed sitting down and we had to play the gig standing up. I think I insulted a fan of the band when I said he'd been frowning all the way through the gig. Best of all was the DJ playing Wild Winds are Blowin by Slade as our intro music. Forgotten how brilliant that song was.

Here's my slightly wrong version of the set:

Library Lovers
Boden Catalogue
Pick a loveheart
Mr Rocky
Let's hope it dont cloud over
Hackensack (which Fili announced as the only song she'd really wished she'd written)
Town Centre Car Park
Poppy Day

Friday, 26 August 2011

Barry Tone

It was probably quite a momentus moment in the history of rock. Bowie was making Low in a French Chateau.  He invited Iggy Pop down to the sessions to get a vibe going. Iggy was a kind of ying to Bowie's yang. Anyway as the sessions progressed they decided to start working on what became Iggy's album, the Idiot. Iggy still sang in a kind of Mick Jagger voice from his days in the Stooges. Bowie gently suggested that he should try singing like a crooner. Maybe is went like "Why dont you pretend you are Bing Crosby Iggy?". Maybe I'm making most of this up but that was the start of something. Joy Division, The Editors, The National and that band from the 90's with that song that went Dum Dum Dum (Crash Test Dummies), Mark Lanegan and so on and so deep of vocal. The rock Barry Tone.

If I was starting a band I would probably look for a Barry Tone as the singer. For starters music critics love it. I've never seen a bad Tindersticks or The National review in my life. There's also rule of rock no 78 that a Barry Tone has to wear a waistcoat/suit combo and look like they've lived a bit. We've all lived a bit but the Barry Tone generally has lived a bit more than the rest of us . The other thing is that women love a Barry Tone. They feel sorry for them and want to mother them. In real life they dont go near dishevelled guys in suits with piss stains on their trousers drinking endless whiskies at the end of the bar but in the rock pretend world you'll see millions of girls at a concert by a Barry Tone Band.

There's a few setbacks. You have to stand still and hug the microphone on stage and look like you are seriously down in the dumps even if youre feeling top of the f**king world. You cant wear a yellow jumpsuit. You probably have to put up with loads of muppet rock lifetsyle journalists turning up at your semi detached house in Cheltenham demanding that you take them to a bar in Soho for a 4 days Barry Tone whisky bender when in fact you'd rather just spend the day watching the horse racing and you have to wash your Toyota and buy a lottery ticket and can they just come back next week? The other hard thing about being a Barry Tone is that you need someone else to kick the chorus in. Okay Iggy and the Joy Division man can lift their voices up for a chorus but your typical Barry Tone is bit like a moped. They can do one speed. When you need that lift for the chorus the poor Barry Tone is still mumbling along in his deep voice with the rest of the band saying "come on man it's the chorus can you not sing it like Bon Scott?".

Anyways I enjoyed the National the other night.

Rutland Weekend Television

We've been trying to get our stuff together for this acoustic gig in Edinburgh. The problem is that we have too many songs. We've now done 5 albums in 5 years and if we're been truthful there's songs we've done that we can only vaguely remember. I remember reading this book about the Rolling Stones and they were getting ready for their 1972 tour. They put  cassettes on of their old records and played them through the PA and jammed along  to learn the songs. I thought this was the height of decadence. Until last week. We put the i pod on top of a Marshall amp and relearned our old stuff. I dont repeatedly listen to our music. I do when it's getting mixed but once you put it out you have to just let it go. I used to know this reasonably famous rock singer from Glasgow and whenever you'd go to his flat he'd be listening to himself and asking you what you thought. Seemed so vain that eventually I thought why dont you just put a mirror up and ask me what you think.

We've been a studio band since 2007 and we only play occasional gigs most of which are quite haphazard. Most of the time our attention is focussed on our new record whether that's writing it, recording it or other aspects. We try and do it all quickly because music is just that day or that week. It probably seems a bit strange to people how much music we do. But then people have become used to the way record companies work which to a time traveller from the 60's or 70's would seem extremely odd.

A typical signed band takes a year to write their record. Then they'll spend 6 months recording and remixing and getting hung up about the sound of the snare drum and whether mix A is slightly better than mix G. Then the record company and agent will book gigs and try and promote the record for a year. Then the band will be so knackered that they want 6 months off. So generally there's a 3 year life to most band's records. This was all well and good in the 1980's but with the internet it's hopelessly outdated. How many good bands recently have come back after 3 years and everything has moved on. The internet means that if someone does something reasonably fresh there's another 10 bands doing the same thing within 2 weeks and the shelf life of bands and records seems to be getting shorter with each year.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Please secure your valuables

So we’ve decided on a title for our album after a little bit of debate. Fili’s usually the master of naming records but this time I fluked the above phrase after seeing it on a fairground ride. It seemed appropriate. The record was mastered this week and it’s sounding andy dandy. Now we just need some artwork (hopefully of Fili as the Queen on a stamp) and then get them to the pressing plant. Here’s the tracklisting.

1/ Instruments of the Orchestra
Song about playing in a school orchestra. My school orchestra had 5 members of which I was one. This song is about that orchestra.  Powerpop like the Cars or something.  Excellent little song.
2/ Jenny teaches rock school
A song about a reasonably well known female Glaswegian “rock star” who Fili once saw in the corridor of Tesco screaming that she needed some “Hummus” or “Pine Nuts” while dressed as a rock chick. It really stuck and we built a song around it. The aforementioned “star” teaches rock school at a local college and buying “hummus” and teaching rap seemed a bit weird but then everyone has to multitask in these days of austerity. Maybe it’s also about me and Fili and anyone who’s got a dayjob. Kind of like an old Stax or Motown record.
3/  Neon Triple X
This is just an 8 second loop of Gordon’s drums playing a glam rock backbeat. All the guitars are actually synthesizers (well nearly). Fili wrote the lyrics about a sleazy bed in. You’d have to ask her exactly what it’s about.  Modern glam rock and pretty great track.
4/ Car boot sale
We had to write a song about this much maligned Sunday morning British activity. We didn’t mention the guys who come round at 7am looking for bargains or the old ladies wh will buy any kind of rubbish. Synth bass line.  Very 80’s like windsurfing or an Audi Quattro.
5/ Stars
Fili sang this in a falsetto. There’s loads of room for the heavy guitars and Gordon’s drums just groove with the Ibanez Destroyer and Joe’s  bass (I think it was a Gibson Firebird/Thunderbird bass as well). Got the lyrics watching a tv programme about this famous female British physicist and she said sarcastically “girls cant do physics” and “we are all made of stars”. Really stuck with me .I think it’s the best track on the album.
6/ Last person alive
This song’s about being chased around by electronic airships and computer controlled Nissans and eventually feeling so lonely that you want to end your life as the world’s getting taken over by machines. It’s all a bit JG Ballard but pretty sweet.  Brilliant bassline to go with the instrumental section. Kind of trying to sound like Coffee and TV by Blur. We even nicked the saxophone riff from “Heroes”.

7/ Trenchcoat
Fili wrote the lyrics about a teenage goth who she knows in Motherwell. I also had to add  little bit about Halloween Jack the Hussy’s uber fan as he wears a big black trenchcoat to Hussy’s gigs. The music’s from a little Korg drum machine and a couple of synths. It’s kind of like a quirky little spacey electronic song.  
8/ Daddy Daycare
About guys who don’t work and their wives do and the father looks after kids. Wrote it about a guy called Sice who used to sing in the Boo Radleys and he was in Q talking about how his job is bringing up the kids and he did all his work in the Boos and was now retired. Great band the Boo Radleys. Anyway, takes its musical cue from Fanclub and Dinosaur jr and those bands just before Britpop. Uplifting.
9/ Just about finished with love
I’d seen the Gruffalo on the TV and all the stuff about foxes, owls and the dark forest. Seeped into my unconscious and this song came out. Fili actually did the “aah aah ahh” backing vocals that sound like a sample. It always makes me think of a song called “Berkeley Mews” by the Kinks as the guitar is similar. Fili really nails the soft/loud singing on this.
10/ Caledonian Sun
We had to abandon another song halfway through the album and I had to write this off the cuff. We couldn’t understand why no one has called a song this. Joe said it had to be last on the album and he was right as it has an optimism about it. Great fuzz bass on the chorus. It’s the demo but Jimmy thought the guitars and keys were all on the money so we couldn’t see the point in re recording everything which had been done in an hour on my laptop and had a loose vibe.
Please secure your valuables will be out later this year.

That record you never unwrapped

That record you never unwrapped
Everyone’s done it. You go into a record shop and there’s all these cheap CDs. You pick a few up and then when you get home they sit on your windowsill for a few weeks. You get some more records, the seasons change and then when you’re tidying up your room you find a bag from FOPP with the CD you bought 3 years ago and which you now cant face listening to.
I was like this with the band the XX. There was so much hype about them in the newspapers and I had no idea what they sounded like and I bought the CD. Then I saw a picture of them and thought they’re copying Glasvegas with their black biker jackets and I lost the will to even put the record into my I pod.  I tried but the phone rang and then I had to listen to something I actually liked. But for a laugh I decided to tell my friends that the new XX album had blown my mind.I’d remembered all the London journalists quotes about “mixing dubstep with Joy Division” and “redefining indie music” and it just flew out my mouth like I was working as their record plugger. I decided to just make up their music in my head. To me the XX sounded like all the best bands I’d never heard which is probably completely unlike what they sound like. At one point I was sitting watching Jools Holland and they came on. I grabbed the tv control off Jo and turned it over. “Hey I was watching that!” she said. I said “I cant watch this band they’re rubbish” even though the real reason was a bit weirder. Still haven’t heard them.
I’m going to see a band called the National this week. My mate’s got me a ticket. I bought one of their records in FOPP years ago and never opened it. Hopefully they’ll live up to my every expectation and be as good as the XX .

Friday, 5 August 2011

August 26th Edinburgh

We’re playing Edinburgh on 26th August. We’ve had some of our best gigs there but also strangely all our top 5 worst Hussy’s gigs of all time were all there. Here they are:
1/ Edinburgh Herriot Watt University
Fili had texted the band in the morning to say that she had food poisoning. She hoped to make the gig that night but she wasn’t sure. We turned up and soundchecked without Fili.  She then appeared ashen faced and ran into the toilets to be sick. We’d set all the gear up. Gordy and Greg suggested that I should just sing the songs since I used to be a singer. I wasn’t sure- mainly because I didn’t actually know the words. I spent the next 3 hours with my I pod desperately trying to learn the lyrics to our set-it was maybe the hardest I’ve ever worked at a gig in my life. I knew the choruses and most of the verses but it was just getting the words in order which was tricky. Fili was sick again and then perked up. She thought she’d be alright to do the gig. We went onstage and started doing Marty. Fili ran off to the toilets which were stage left. The venue wasn’t busy and you could hear Fili’s heaving vomit noises echoing round the room. I sang the rest of the set. I’d just throw in some words like “meatballs” and “anticyclone” where I couldn’t remember.  Have to say the version of Jesus we did was excellent-“Oh you dum dum meatballs up a hill since bet me puppy  on the National”. I think Greg told the audience at the end that “I was just the guitarist and a big hand for James singing his first ever gig tonight”.  Cheeky bastard.

2/ Edinburgh University
We’d been told by the promoter that there would be “an audience of upwards of 400”. She said she couldn’t pay us but we figured that by the time we sold say 30 albums we’d break even, pay the van, our soundman and the petrol and have enough for 3 bottles of champagne after the gig.  The PA system was fantastic and we did a great soundcheck and were buzzing about the gig and headed off for some food. When we came back to the venue at 10pm there were 2 bar staff, the PA guy, Alan our soundman and 2 DJs-but there wasn’t even a dog or a packet of crisps blowing around the venue. We did a great gig. I think this may have prompted Rachel to leave the band as she had quite a good grasp of economics. However, Chris, who was drumming at the time was buzzing afterwards and said “it was maybe his best Hussy’s gig”.
3/ Edinburgh Backpackers
The guy wiring up the PA system had a posh public school accent but seemed to be having a few problems with basic electronics which they probably don’t teach at Fettes College. These problems became more obvious when after the gig we discovered that he’d wired the main PA  power  to the band’s onstage monitors and the meager monitor power  to the audience speakers. The effect was utterly misleading. The sound we got on stage was fantastic. Unfortunately the audience were treated to the Hussy’s as bees inside an empty can of Irn Bru wired up to a 1997 Nokia mobile phone. What seemed to make matters worse was a huge shit that someone had done on the floor of the toilet next to the toilet bowl. It’s closeness to the bowl seemed to underline the sheer pointlessness of that particular gig. I mean surely they could have made the extra 2 feet to the toilet?
4/ That place near the Royal Mile
I think I have to step forward and take the blame for this particular gig. That afternoon I’d bought a Boss tuner. I didn’t realize that a small red dot above the A meant A sharp. Ah the small details in life. Anyway cue mayhem. I eventually borrowed Ronnie’s guitar during the last song as I couldn’t get my own even vaguely in tune. Afterwards Ronnie explained how the tuner worked as he had one.  We got a great review in the Daily Record.
5/ Open air fun run gig
The strange thing about this gig was that we played really well and most of the audience liked it. It was just the surroundings that were strange. We were right down in the open air arena below Princess Street. Every few minutes loads of runners would go by in front of the stage and wave at us and the crowd would cheer them. There were also kids doing stunts on BMX bikes on a ramp right in front of the stage. I said at the start of the gig “Do you want to come up here and play this and I’ll have a shot on the bike?”. In a Glaswegian accent it sounded aggressive but I was just joking. The poor pre teen slunk off after being bullied by a grown man with a cowboy shirt on.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


I don’t like watching music on TV unless it’s miming. There I've said it.  Unfortunately The BBC seems to spend most of the summer setting up horrible live feeds from Glastonbury, T in the Park, Reading, V Festival, Clydebank Fete, a couple of buskers in Argyle Street , a duck quacking on St Kilda and so on. A festival is best enjoyed by actually being there, getting loaded with booze or other things and wandering around and seeing something you may like, then getting lost, pissing yourself and having an epiphany to some Dubcore in the dance tent and being unable to hear for a few days. You cant really do that on your couch, although I have known some people that could.
I’m not entirely sure it’s about whether Coldplay will or wont or will or wont or will or wont be able to live up to their headline slot at “Glasto”. Jo Whiley seemed really worried about this. She’s obviously been having sleepless nights. To her this was equivalent to the Greek debt crisis only more important. She asked Mark Radcliffe what he thought. He said something bland like “they’ll be alright” (he’s got to pay his mortgage) but deep underneath you could see him thinking “I couldn’t care less if Coldplay played Three Blind Mice on a Xylophone”. Then Coldplay came on. The singer did his dance like he’s got huge welly boots on and he’s stuck in mud. He shouted “how we doing Glasto?”.  I watched three songs. The lyrics were so non specific that they could be about a cat lying on a car bonnet or love. There was lots of footage of pretty girls singing along and being generally very happy. I’d watched the Human Centipede the night before and I was wondering whether my  imaginary human centipede would utilize all of Coldplay with Chris Martin at the front or would I play the joker and put Jo Whiley there?
There was a kind of soul guy in a zoot suit with a name like Argos Batbug. He was wasn’t very good compared to Bobby Womack or Prince but he had a 60's hat on and that lady TV presenter who 's always advertising shampoo kept saying he was “amazing, that was totally amazing, life changing”. She’d probably been swayed by the hat. Then Elbow came on and the thought came to me that even though Britpop was the last British movement that really took over the charts and the festivals (before music was fragmented by the internet) it was the bands immediately afterwards like Coldplay, Elbow, Travis and all the “tonight Matthew I’m going to be Jeff Buckley” bands that have really lasted and people still buy their records in vast quantities in Tesco. Fair enough. After about 30 minutes I watched Wimbledon which was much better.

Red Mountain

On Wednesday at the studio Jimmy offered me some coffee called “Red Mountain” or alternatively “proper percolated coffee”. He apologized about the Red Mountain. I wasn’t bothered. It’s my favourite. It’s the sort of coffee you get when your car is getting a new exhaust and the guys in the garage ask you to wait. It’s cheap and nasty and very tasty. We spent most of our time complaining about the weather, which is pretty much everyone’s hobby at the moment. Nearly every shop in Glasgow, even opticians and butchers, have cheap tents for sale, usually pitched up outside the shop on a nearby roundabout. The weather here has been so grotesque that these tents seem so shabby and sad and most of them are in tatters.
We were tidying up Caledonian Sun(oh the irony!) and Trenchcoat. Caledonian Sun is basically the demo tarted up. We added a few bits of quick guitar here and there and left it as it was. Fili had done some excellent singing where she sang the song in a high and low register and that’s what you concentrate on when you hear the song. It was just a matter of making the drums and multi layered treebells and tambourines more echoey and turning up Joe’s fuzz bass.
With Trenchcoat, Joe had put down a different bassline than the demo. It sounded a bit like Rapture by Blondie and we decided to take the song on a trip in that direction. Fili’s almost rapping the words. We stripped out the synths and based the song around the bass, drum machine and Fili and the patient started to breathe a lot better. I was thinking it needed whistles or handclaps or even the sound of skipping ropes. Nearly there.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

How long should a record be?

Back in the day the vinyl album determined how many songs you could put on a record. It was like a quality policeman. Then CDs came in and changed stuff again. People thought it was a good idea to put 19 songs on a CD. In the 80/90s records got longer. Then i tunes and i pods came in and it all changed again. We're trying to decide how many songs we should put on our new album. We discussed it a few weeks ago when Fili was singing. I'd quite like 7. I think we decided on 10 at a maximum.

I think our best realised record is Japanese Graffiti. Not because it has better songs than the others or better playing but because it doesnt overstay it's welcome. It has 9 songs. Looking back I would now drop Shop Dummies and make it 8. I guess I'm a bit of a minimalist. I like short albums and short songs. It's a skill to get what you want down on a song in 2 and a half minutes and then get out of there quick smart. Dont get me wrong I like all 11 minutes of "Feels so good" by the Move but it would have been just as good at 3 minutes. The original of "Move on up" by Curties Mayfield is 11 minutes long. The version everyone knows is an edit at 4 minutes.

One song I wouldnt like to be edited is the live version "More than I can stand " by Bobby Womack. There's a 5 minute rap with the audience about finding his girl cheating on him and looking in the window and catching her. He does the stutter of the boyfriend and everyone in the audience laughs and at the end he even pretends the police are trying to close the gig down. It's 10 minutes long and worth every minute but would it still only be 79p on i tunes wheras Blitzkrieg Bop is probably 79p as well. Need to go and download them both.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Caledonian Sun

Fili thinks we should call the album after this song. She cant believe someone hasnt used this phrase before. It's a play on California Sun, obviously. Caledonian Sun is scientifically a much rarer event which takes place for 3 days a year at the end of April each year in Glasgow. In fact it is raining as I type this.

We were trying to to write an acoustic track to put last on the album and I wrote this. I then replaced all the acoustic guitars with synths/electric guitars and got a generic drum loop from pro tools. Fed the drum loop through an echo chamber and put lots of tree bells and tambourines behind it and hey presto it sounds like the backing drums on an old Beach Boys record. Joe played a fuzz bass on the chorus and Fili did some great singing. Sounds fantastic. Actually the even weirder thing about this song is the pro tools drum loops sound uncannily like Gordy. Maybe we should ask him if he's been moonlighting doing drum loops.

So we've nearly got the album in the bag. Just needs mixed and some more recording on Caledonian Sun and Fili needs to do a bit of singing. That's 10 songs. Hopefully we'll get something up on youtube in the next week or so showing what it sounds like.

Incredible string fan

I remember when my Mum came into the kitchen and I had a pot filled with boiling water and I was cooking guitar strings. She turned to me with a pained expression and said "are you making soup?"Obviously being a student I was skint and a friend had told me to boil the strings to get the grime and sweat and rust out of the strings and they would sound like new. Anyway, after I dried the strings on the washing line and carefully strung them back onto my Tokai Telecaster, they sounded like a cat being tortured by a crowd of hard nut sparrows.

Just to explain, in the days before Amazon (say pre 2004) you had to go into town and have a difficult encounter with one of the lads that worked in McCormack's or Sound Control music shop or whatever the equivalent is in your part of the world. It would go like this:
"I'll have a set of 10s please"
"10s?"says the assistant with a pained expression.
"Yes I do a lot of gigs"
"Bit heavy. How can you play a guitar with 10's?"
"I get by"
"You'd be bettter with 9's"
I'd look at the rows and rows of Jackson metal guitars racked up behind him and count to 5 trying to control myself.
"Okay. 9s then"
"No you'd be better with 8's". I could see him smirking at the guy playing with the crappy pub band mixing desk.
"Okay 8s then"
"We've not got 8s. We've got 10s"
"Okay I'll take them"
"Sorry, we dont have them. My mistake.They're only for 12 string acoustics"
"I'll take 9s"
I'm thinking I'll take anything. F**king banjo strings just to get out of there.
"Rotosounds? They went out with the Ark. Sure you want them?"
"That's exactly why I want them"
"OOOOOooo!". The guy playing with the mixer gives him a high five.
Then the guy spends 6 minutes trying to operate a huge calculator with a cracked screen. He then moves on to the till. He calls the mixerman over for help. After 2 minutes they phone the manager.In your mind you are dreaming of the invention of Amazon and the "one click to order button".

Maybe the most important thing about recording guitars is not the age and serial number of the guitar but whether you have a new set of strings and the guitar is set up properly. Some bands take the new strings thing to extreme levels. I remember seeing a film of Metallica playing at Milton Keynes and under Mr Hetfield was a little hatch with a roadie down there restringing guitars, tuning them and sending them up on stage to be shredded. The guitars were then sent back down to be restrung, probably with burn marks from the fingerwork.. It was like sailors loading missiles beneath deck on an aircraft carrier.

Maybe I'm misleading anyone who plays an acoustic guitar or a bass. With a bass you want the strings to be covered in mud, slime, salt, make up, grass, horse manure, yoghurt and to have been left on the bass for at least 9 years. I've heard basses where the bass player has said "I havent had these strings changed since the Elephant Man played this back in 1896" and it sounds amazing. Similarly an acoustic guitar needs the strings to have moved and stretched and that can take from 2 days up to 2 weeks. If you pass by a studio you may see an acoustic guitar player furiously scrubbing away and retuning (over and over and over) like these tests they do on new cars to simulate driving 200000 miles in 2 weeks. It'll still sound like a zither whether he does this or not.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Keyboard not plugged in

On Monday night we were back in the studio trying to get the vocals down for “Neon Triple XXX” and “Have Trenchcoat Will Travel”.  I mentioned to Fili that I was going to see Brian Wilson as I know she’s a big Beach Boys fan. But really, I’m just going to say “I’ve seen Brian Wilson”. It’s kind of like rock tourism. A few of the other rock tourism sites I’ve visited are Slade (f**king awesome), Van Morrison (from a distance in case he cuffed me round the ear), Tina Turner ( bizarrely my old band were supporting her and a guy turned to me and said “sing it every week son” during Simply the Best and I had no idea what he was on about), Randy Newman (f**king awesome) Motorhead (I couldn’t hear for 2 solid days) and that guy who was at Woodstock, whos name always eludes me. What a great gig that was.
I’ve seen Brian Wilson on the tv and he doesn’t look a well man. He has that kind of twitchy thing going on where you’re on prescribed drugs. To be honest it’s just the Wondermints with Brian Wilson standing at the front moving his arms like a thunderbird puppet. Apparently his keyboard and bass aren’t even plugged in. As Jimmy said it could have been a “trophy of Brian Wilson sitting on a plinth at the front of the stage” and everyone would have clapped.  After all the amazing music the Beach Boys made in the 60’s and 70’s you wonder why he bothers touring. Maybe someone’s bribing him. You know the answer. It’s so that plonkers like me can go into their work the next day and say “I saw Brian Wilson last night. It was AMAZING!!!”
Anyway Fili got her singing down on Neon Triple XXX but it was too late to do the other one because we’d spent most of the time joking about. That’s the way it goes. I had a keyboard set up  and was playing along up but Jimmy told me at the end of the night that it hadn’t been plugged in. Bummer.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Autograph hunter

So we've set a date of 30 June to finish recording our new album. The last song we've been working on used to be called Autograph Hunter. That was until last week when Fili rewrote the words and they seemed to fit. The song has a kind of blues thing going on but it's mostly played on distorted synthesisers. Gordy laid down a good 16 second glam rock loop back in November and that's us only getting round to recording it. I was trying to think of the slapback effect to put on the drums and I said to Jimmy "you know like "Rock'N'Roll part 2" by Gary Glitter. We both looked at each other and it was strange because he's kind of become"the performer who's name you musnt mention". So I said "Y'know like Blockbuster by Sweet" and we quickly moved things on. I spent a couple of hours just making up loops of distortion to put behind the synths. A guitar with some humbucker pickups and loads of pedals and just turned all the buttons to 10.  I cant wait for Fili to get her thing going on the song and then we'll be nearly there.

The traffic lights they are a changing

So the wheels of the media went mental last week to tell us Bob Dylan was now 70. Lots of big shot intellectual music critics were wheeled out and gave the world their tuppenceworth. There's a guy at a University writing a thesis on "Knocked Out Loaded" (from 1986) probably. He gets a call from Radio 4. He talks for 10 arsey minutes. I felt like I'd been covered in foam and buried alive in a garden of nettles. Thi s other guy came on (Greil Marcus?) and said "John Wesley Harding" had the best bass playing of any rock record ever, with considerable authority in his voice, as if to say "I know exactly what I'm talking about" even though he's not a bass player, sound engineer or record producer. He may as well have been dressed as a clown and have been throwing silver paper over the radio when he said that. He also said my favourite Bob album "Nashville Skyline" was hated by the critics and was rubbish. There's me been listening to it for years and loving Bob's funny Yogi Bear voice when he's singing "Lay Lady Lay". Maybe I should have checked with the experts before I decided I liked it.

I was kind of wondering whether Paul Westerberg of the Replacements will get the same treatment when he's 70. For me he's made just as many great records (probably more) that Dylan. But no one really has noticed. In fact his last few solo albums which have sloppy drumming, bad out of tune singing (at times) two  scruffy guitars (at the most) are total classics. They are basically shabby little demos and everything is a first or second take but the lyrics and melodies are amazing-and everything is spur of the moment. Plus Westerberg did a whole bunch of brilliant albums with the Replacements which are pretty obscure as well. I suppose him and Dylan have the same experience of touring with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Except the Replacements got drunk and decided to dress up in the Heartbreakers wife's clothes and went onstage in an arena somewhere to see what would happen. They were chucked off the tour the next day. Unfortunately Paul has bust his hand up trying to get wax off a table with a screwdriver. That seems to have put the shackles on his music career. Greil Marcus wont be writing any 950 page books on Paul Westerberg solo albums anytime soon. Thank christ.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Have trenchcoat will travel

Have Trenchcoat will travel
We’ve been recording this song this week.   Fili wrote the words about a Goth she knows who “plays trombone in a marching band” and “drives around in a Micra dressid in lycra". I had an electro type backing track lying around and when we put the 2 together it sounded pretty fine.  The drums come off a little Korg drum machine and the synths are all from the one Roland SH201. I think the marching band bit sounds good because the little drum machine sounds like a mechanical drummer marching along in front of an army of synthesizers, all heading to their electronic park somewhere for a transistor festival .
I’m never too bothered about whether it’s real drums or pretend drums. Drum loops or sequencers- it’s just rhythm. However  I cant honestly remember the Hussy’s using a synthetic drum. It’s always been Gordy or Chris and their playing is of such a high standard that you don’t ever feel like tightening it up. The only loop we’ve used is Greatest Living Actress.  That’s a 16 second sample of Chris playing his drums in the big room at the Byre, repeated endlessly. We were trying to get that Kate Bush 80’S thing and once Jimmy had processed the drums through a set of effects as long as a length of garden hose it did sound like we’d bought a loop of the Cadbury’s Gorilla laying some beats down in his Malibu studio.
Also been reading a book called Mixerman about a guy recording a band on a major record label in California. He put it up as a blog every night and the whole thing was so amusing that eventually the president of the record company that was trying pathetically to get some kind of record out of the muppets in the band started reading the blog and decided it would be a great PR tool for the band. Dead funny.



Noel Edmunds appears wearing a gorgeous grey pinstripe suit with a carnation. His hair is perfect and he has a little beard-just like always. Did he have that beard as a 4 year old? I notice his microphone looks like a silver Berol  Handwriter pen.

Mud are first. They are dressed in bright green teddy boy drape suits. They look like Hibernian Marchers who’ve lost their way and just decide to give Top of the Pops a twirl anyway. They are singing a disco song that sounds uncannily like “Cant get you out of my head” but the singer keeps breaking into that Teddy Boy dance you always see in 70’s documentaries about British Leyland. It’s  “50’s disco”. The bassist has black fingerless gloves with little studs and he has that look which says “I wish I’d left these in the dressing room”.

Noel Edmunds reappears and seems to disapprove. He’s almost saying telepathically “you had your hits in the early 70’s now F**k off mud”.

Next up it’s Frankie Valli. He’s left his Hoseasons behind in New York. He’s got a medallion round his neck like a bin lid from Top Cat. The song’s about a Fallen Angel.  Frankie seems preoccupied with what he’s having at the Indian Restaurant after recording finishes. Pianos and strings.

Noel makes a sarcastic comment about the tragedy of the fallen angel. It’s meant to be funny but maybe he’s seen the future?

Then it’s the Stylistics singing the old Elvis song " Cant help falling in love" . It’s not them though. It’s some dancers called Ruby Flipper.  The Stylistics version of the song passes and disappears into a distant sun on the other side of the universe. There’s a clock on the wall and it says 20 to 8. Pianos and strings and a disco beat.

Noel then introduces Barry Manilow. He’s wearing a white leather jacket that looks like he bought it in that shop opposite TJ Hughes in Argyle Street. For any non Glaswegians, this shop has been there for years and seems to sell leather stuff. I cant remember its name. Barry kind of half stands/half sits on his seat, like he’s got the tag nut blues. There’s a lot of pianos and strings. Cant remember the song’s name. It’s quarter to 8 and I’m thinking have I pumped up the tyres on my bike?

Cliff Richard sings Devil Woman. Things are looking up.

Noel introduces a guy in a green suit with a lovely green shirt. He has the Berol Handwriter microphone as well. I don’t catch his name as a call centre from India calls me up about buying some telecoms. I tell the guy to call back later as I’m in 1976 and they didn’t have call centres then.  He’s confused but agrees. The guy in the green suit looks like the guest in Fawlty Towers that hides the lady in the room. In fact I’m sure he’s got a tiger’s tooth fertility symbol round his neck. Pianos and strings.

Then it’s a guy called JJ Barrie singing a spoken word country song about a kid invoicing his mother 5 dollars for cutting the lawn. Fair enough I think and I’m just about to phone my Mum and ask her for £3.50 (allowing for international currency fluctuations).He spends the next 3 minutes reciting all the tasks the mother did for the little boy as he was growing up while the words “no charge” keep getting mentioned. JJ Barrie is angry and making a moral point . I shout “no one forced her to have kids “ at the screen but he’s in 1976 and doesn’t hear me.

Finally Noel announces the number 1 record. It’s ABBA with Fernando. ABBA’s worst song by quite a distance. Why couldn’t it be SOS or Mamma Mia? They reach the end of the first chorus and it’s back to Noel. He’s looking in a mirror and kissing himself.

Please don’t bring back Top of the Pops BBC.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Kings of the Rumbling Spires

We were  back in the studio last week adding backing vocals to Fili's singing on the new album. It's kind of pointless doing lots of singing until Fili actually does her vocals. It's a bit like building a huge fountain and discovering you dont actually have a pond. Sometimes a song needs just Fili and sometimes Fili and lots of little Fili's singing around her and sometimes lots of little James' singing as well.  It just depends. You kind of get a feel for it the more recording you do. I could have predicted that Instruments of the Orchestra would suit baroque vocals in 2 or 3 part harmonies and that's exactly what we did and it sounded fantastic. Meanwhile Last Person Alive was always going to be just Fili and couple of little bits.

I never actually saw Fili. I was there from 12pm to 7 and she was there from 7 till 11pm. The microphone was like a bus and we were just drivers swapping over after our shifts. I'll hear it all tomorrow.

We did a bit of guitars on Daddy Day Care as well. Jimmy had a Russian made Big Muff pedal. Totally unreliable. One minute it was going fine the next it had disappeared off to the bar for a couple of vodkas. I read that Lee Perry saw someone using one of these in the 1970s and thought it was a funny smutty joke and that the pedal was a one off custom made special. No it's real. Mudhoney had a song called "Superfuzzbigmuff" and that kind of sums up the sound of the pedal.

Singles Going Steady

Picked up a copy of Singles Going Steady by the Buzzcocks in FOPP the other day. I'd lost my old copy. It reminds me of a summer working as a gardener when I was at University. It was my required morning listening. Whenever I hear "Harmony in my Head" I remember cycling uphill at 10am with my head down and then crashing into the back of a parked customised VW Beetle.  I know. I still dont understand it. One minute the road was clear the next minute I was scraping my handlebars down a specially customised bright blue metallic freshly painted back bonnet. I was only 4 doors away from my morning's job. The owner came out in his dressing gown and went mental. I managed to get back on my racing bicycle. I got to the bottom of the road and then decided to walk as my front forks were twisted which made it quite an expensive morning. I went home , made myself some coffee and continued my Singles Going Steady obsession.

I never actually knew what the Buzzcocks looked like. I only had the picture of them playing on the cover of the album. It looked like a grubby rehearsal studio. I think it may actually be Abbey Road. Of course last week I checked them out on youtube and they looked great, kind of like a Mancunian Ramones with Gibson Les Paul junior guitars. Anyway the album still sounds amazing, one of the greatest "greatest hits". And even though they've added all those superflous songs to the CD at the end I still  stopped listening at Harmony in My Head just like I always did. What you like and what you dont like never really changes.

Another funny bit about being a self employed gardener was the guy who kept phoning me from my advert in the local paper. I think I was charging £5 an hour and he said he would give me £55 an hour for a massage . I called my straight, red haired, short tempered brother from upstairs and told him there was a good gardening job for him that I couldnt do and handed him the phone. I went back to my room for some more of "Singles Going Steady".

Thursday, 21 April 2011

We are made of stars

Fili did the last of the lead vocals tonight on Stars and Choices. I turned up an hour or so after proceedings began and there was a bit of self doubt hanging around the room. Fili was singing in a falsetto, kind of like Prince or Barry Gibb -Barry Prince. It only took me 2 seconds to give it the thumbs up. Sounded magic to me. I was acting as kind of human paracetamol to the troubled world of artistic merit, a kind of low rent Simon Cowell without the visits to the gym and slightly more sarcastic. I think just because it was out of her comfort zone and strange she had her doubts.

I wasnt really that involved and leaned on Jimmy's speakers. Nearly knocked them over. He explained that one speaker stand was balancing on an old Sanyo tape deck and he other was balancing on a little Peavey amplifier. Fili asked me to write down the lyrics to Choices which I did. I then checked Fili's lyrics and I'd got them wrong. 

Jimmy's talking about getting my old Roland Space Echo out for some of the mixes. This would involve bouncing some of the synths over to this piece of late 70's machinery which runs on tape and then bouncing it back to the laptop. I need to find somewhere that makes tape for it. Probably some guy hoarded it all and keeps it in his basement in Croatia or somewhere.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

I heard a rumour

I was listening to that Rumer album on Spotify the other week. Anyway, I quite liked it and I could see how it’ll become the top unit shifter this year in the “Garden Centre Rock” stakes. Rumer does the whole Karen Carpenter/Dusty Springfield thing so well that it’s almost creepy how good she is at singing. It’s like she’s had a Ouija board direct through to Karen Carpenter in the studio control room and Karen’s been saying “no , no. Sing it like THIS!”.
The other good thing about the Rumer album is the extremely simple lyrics, mostly about love and failure. People can put records like that on when they meet a new guy, when they’re on their way to a funeral and when they’ve just been made redundant-it’s like anti perspirant-it works everywhere. The cleverness is in the universality of the songs. It takes huge skill to be able to do that as a songwriter.
I  own 6 Carpenters albums. The last couple they made aren’t the best. But the first 5 or 6 years of their recording career they were magnificent. Richard’s songwriting was top notch before he got too far into drugs and Karen Carpenter is such a top, top singer, that listening to her always feels like drinking a fresh glass of ice cold water. 
I think it may just be a few years ago me and a few mates were sitting around, drinking and  everyone was playing stuff they liked. The one thing we could agree on and which we played 5 times was “Goodbye to Love”.  The vocals, the arrangement, songwriting and a guitar solo which you just know was off the cuff. For something a bit  weird try “Druscilla Penny” where Richard does the singing and their version of “Help” kind of shows where they were coming from.

Falling off a Cliff with a good

We were down Jimmy’s doing some vocals on Thursday.  Rephrase that. Fili was singing. I was sitting on a chair listening on a pair of headphones.  I have run out of phrases in the studio to try and describe Fili’s singing. Most of the time I use the word “good” with a few variations along the lines of “really good”, “very good” and “that was good”. I did try “excellent” at one point but Jimmy and Fili took their headphones off and looked at me.  Actually she was singing brilliantly.
We were finishing off “Last Person Alive” and “Car Boot Sale” and "Daddy Day Care". It was going reaaaaaaaly good until Fili mentioned Cliff Richard. I have this instantaneous reflex to the words “Cliff Richard” where I start this silly debate about how he was great in the 50’s and 60’s and that people shouldn’t slag the old tennis playing Alex Kapranos impersonator too much. Also someone I knew who worked with him in the 80’s said he was “an old darling” and never gave him a hard time when working for him at a record company-which is unusual because very famous musicians are always described by Mooks(a record company employee) as "c**ts". Of course Fili downloaded “Saviours Day” or “Lords Prayer” or whatever it’s called and played it on youtube , while pissing herself laughing.  She’s right. All that dressing in white singing songs to cranky old  holy goalies has pretty much ruined his already squeaky clean image permanently and for 90% of the population that's what he'll be remembered for. Which is a shame because if you check out “The Next One” and “In the Country” and even “Wired for Sound” you’ll find he was very good at one time.  
Anyway we had a good laugh and the new album’s shaping up real good. It’s maybe going to be gooder than the last which itself was quite good.  

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Last Person Alive

Last night Fili was doing the vocals for Last Person. It's a kind of powerpop song about a guy fantasising over being the last person alive and being hunted down by machines. He gets lonely and kills himself.It's a great little song. Unfortunately I'd written it and never kept the lyrics and I havent got a clue what some of the lyrics are. I've tried listening back and so has Fili and Jimmy but they dont make sense. One bit where I'd sung "the why's and wherefores" Fili had translated into the "the werewolves in my mind" which was actually better. There's another bit about "concrete pillars and...." and the forensic investigations team for the Metropolitan Police would struggle to know whats' being said. It's backwards singing. Like Russian. Russians always sound like they are talking backwards.

Fili said to me "do you never keep your lyrics?" and I had to say no. For every half decent one there's a few others scrawled on the back of an envelope which dont make the cut. You tend to be trying to write something and you see these terrible unused lyrics and you feel like puking up or sending them to Hallmark or setting fire to your room in a frantic rush to get rid of them. That's why I bin them. They annoy the f**k out of me. Even when Fili sends some lyrics over, I usually chop them up to fit the music, and if you then go back to something that was maybe better originally it's not good for your psyche to know you've actually made something worse.

Still, Fili was using an inhaler and coughing and her voice had lost most of it's range due to the cold so we ended up just scrapping the singing. I've got a week to go back and try and work out what the words are while she recovers.

But that's not the point is it?

We were back at Jimmy's on Saturday doing the bass guitar overdubs. It had been the last few chords of Mr Rocky back in July last year since I'd been there on recording business. Nothing much had changed. There was still the map of the world on the wall and a borrowed White Squier Stratocaster tuned down 1 note from E sitting in the corner. Although quite sparse and hanging together with thread there's something quite sweet about the place, especially when the breeze blows in the window and the leaves are on the trees outside.

We had to start at 10 which is not really a time of the day for rock and roll but who cares. Joe, who is our new bass player turned up with a Gibson Firebird and a Rickenbacker. We set everything up, turned the speakers up and off we went. Everything was finished by 4 o clock. We decided not to redo "Choices" as the original had a good feel and was done in a quick 5 minutes in my house.

Fili turned up and the conversation moved to a youtube video by Carly Simon for a song called "Why" and Fili and Jimmy were ending themselves laughing about it. I need to watch it.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Just about finished with love

Wrote this one last Summer. I'd been for a walk in the little bit of woodland where I live. It's about nature and owls and insects and stuff like that. I think it's just trying to bottle the euphoria you sometimes get when you're out walking in the country and everything seems to be coming together in your head even if it's temporary and you get home and all your problems then weigh heavily on your shoulders again.

I knew it would totally suit Fili when I did the demo because it has a great range between soft gentle singing in the verse and full on in the chorus. The song has only 2 chords in the verse and 4 in the chorus. All the dynamics are created by little overdubs of synthesisers and delay effects. Kind of wanted it to be modern and late sixties at the same time. Kind of like Berkeley Mews by the Kinks mixed with synth pop.

We have been trying to keep the songs revolving around the people in the town and this song is about the edge of the town where you walk out into the country. It's always a metaphor in popular music for happiness and escape, the whole "countryside " thing.  Sounds great, anyway.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Daddy Day Care

Daddy Day Care
Daddy Day Care is about a stay at home Dad looking after his kids, pushing them on the swings, thinking about things. Musically it takes its cue from the early 90’s. Two songs in particular “Wishing I was skinny” and “Barney and Me” by the Boo Radleys. They are only remembered for “Wake up Boo” but before that they were a shoegazing band and a kind of experimental  band with bits of dub reggae and Beach boys. They were an awesome studio band .  “Giant Steps” is well worth sneaking a cheeky wee copy off Amazon for £0.01 or whatever it’s going for these days. I think there must’ve been some subconscious thing going on where you start playing those Dinosaur Jr /Boo Radley chords and rhythms and you just think about some trivial thing you’ve read and put away somewhere in your mind-about Sice the singer(of the Boo Radleys) being a stay at home dad these days, and it just fitted in the theme of songs for this album about people in a town. It’s quite a good subject for a song as well. Obviously there’s songs about missing fathers like “Daddys Gone” by Glasvegas and “Papa was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations  but it just seemed like a good idea to have this dazed father, who’s  struggling but getting on with it, pushing swings back and forward.
Been recording it this week and it’s been good fun. It’s all about guitars and fuzz pedals. Better get back to work…

A few quick words about guitar amplifiers....

Guitar Amps-some practical advice.
I’ve pretty much always owned one of these since I’ve been a musician. Actually, I sound like Napoleon Dynamite there. They sound great on stage but not so great in the studio unless it’s metal/grunge youre playing. As soon as you stand in front of one the words “rock rock rock” start going through your head like some modern day Manchurian Candidate who has been hypnotised by Motley Crue. The main thing about them is you can drop them, throw them in a van, use them as a table for sawing wood, use it as a door stop, and then you can use it to hammer some nails in. After that you take it to a gig, plug it in, and shazam- it sounds great. Made in the UK as well.
These are made in China and look like minature Marshall JCM 900s. They sound like a bee stuck inside a sealed diet coke can. If you ever walk into studio/rehearsal studio and they have these , instantly ask for your money back and go home and do some stretches.
These cost upwards of £2000 and are made in Mesa, California. Obviously you don’t see many of them as most musicians would get rejected on the spot for that kind of credit.The giant panda of amplifiers. Ronnie, our old guitarist, bought one a few years ago, after saving up from his job in Tesco (that’s a lot of shifts). He turned up to the van one morning with a towel over it. One of the band said it looked like he had a budgie in a cage. From then on it was called “the budgie”. We never got to hear it recorded before he left the band so I’m guessing at a price tag of buying a small motorbike that it sounds amazing. Even with the towel over it.
My current amplifier of choice and the size of a big packet of Cornflakes.  Valve driven. Put a SM57 microphone in front of it and it sounds like a guitar on a proper record. It’s actually quiet enough to record in the same room as your wife /girlfriend. In fact it wont wake her up at 1am. I read somewhere that all the great 70’s guitarists used these tiny amps in the studio and then had a huge stack of 16  HI Watt /Marshalls behind them when they went on tour.  You could probably take this to a gig on the rack of your bicycle.
These are fabulous sounding amplifiers. Loads of the Beatles records were made with these from Love Me Do to Abbey Road. From personal experience they are totally unreliable- the secret junkie of amplifiers. Kind of like the £20M soccer star who plays 2 pre season friendlies a year and then spends the rest of the time in a clinic in Switzerland getting fixed. There’s guy called Tam in Maryhill(for non Glaswegians where Partick Thistle come from) and he spends every day of his life fixing valves on old AC30s. You get it fixed, plug it in and then after 10 minutes it breaks down and you get back on to the phone to Tam, whose number you now know off by heart . There’s a company called JMI (Jennings Musical instruments) that’s started making these in Yorkshire using the original designs and apparently they are the business-if you’ve got a spare £2500 and you want to buy my friendship just e mail me and I’ll send you my address.
As  good as the Fender Champ and as small.  Unfortunately they stopped making these in 1976 or something.  Huge chunks of Super Pro and Japanese Graffiti were recorded on one of these little men. I personally get quite excited when I’m watching an old documentary on say Dr Feelgood from 1976 and one of these appears. “That’s a WEM! That’s a WEM!” I’ll shout at the TV and look round to the empty room.
If you see one of these in either a music shop or a rehearsal room leave immediately. Nothing to do with Limmy and a "Priesthill Bandit".

Kind of like a Champ but much bigger and made in the US. They sound fantastic. They have a spring reverb which if you kick the amplifier sounds like the sci fi effects from a monster/horror film and is genuinely scary.  If youre in a band with two guitarists and the other guy/girl has one of these you will spend most of your time asking them to turn down or alternatively having fist fights. Even the drummer will ask them to turn down.  Even the audience and the chip shop next door will ask them to turn down.  People from Google earth in the continent nearby will ask them to turn down.
These are quite rare little amps from the 1980’s. They have one speaker and a picture of a Badger on the front.  They sound quite good but tiny. The main reason for owning one of these is so that someone can say in the studio “I think it’s time we got the badger out”. Everyone laughs even though they’ve heard the joke before. Of course you can only get the badger out at night as it’s a nocturnal amplifier.
I’m surprised that with the whole 80’s revival music shops around the UK aren’t trying to push these. I’m sure it’ll happen but probably once the 1990s revival is underway. As soon as you plug it in you instantly have a quiff and start singing in a mid Atlantic accent (kind of like Hurts) and millions of A & R from London appear in the room asking if you’re the new Hue and Cry and do you want to come outside and see their new  Peugot 205 Turbo?

Great sounding.  If you think of the Marshall as a Tiger then this its rarer cousin the cheetah.  Amplifier of choice for the Who. After two years of using one of these you’ll  be so deaf that you’ll be playing gigs inside one of those plexiglass things Pete Townsend has. If you cant afford that a shower cabinet from a skip will do just as well.

I used to have one of these. It sounded like the guitars on a bad Herman’s Hermit’s outtake (I’m a Hermits fan btw). The second thing I didn’t like about it was the funny crest that looked like a coat of arms from the War of the Roses. But mainly it was because it didn’t have wheels that it was like trying to move a patient around who’s had a stroke. I sold it to a guy in a Christian rock band. That gave me lots of satisfaction.

Maybe the smallest but loudest amplifier ever made? Japanese scientists thought this one up in the Roland/Boss factory as part of the solve the volume/space equation thought up by The Tornadoes in 1962. To make it that loud they put some heavy duty components in it. It’s like one of those joke scenes where you go to pick it up and it’s so heavy it’s like it’s nailed to the floor.  Only people in wedding bands seem to own these. If you see a car on the motorway with its exhaust scraping the tarmac chances are it’s a guy on his way to a wedding gig.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Second band on the Moon with the Hussys

I'm really enjoying making this "The Town" album. Although at times it feels like I'm "Sam" from the film "Moon". We were all in the same room when we did the drums which seems like an eternity ago, before the snow, the ice age, the flu, the broken ankle and Fili putting funny pictures of her dog dressed as a vampire on fartbook. That was the launch pad.  Since then Jimmy the engineer has sent me the edited drums for 9 tracks on a send space(which sounds quite Space Age). I then put down guitars and synths and singings. I send them to Fili who sings along with them and tells me if they are in the right key and if not it's back to the control panel. I then send them to Joe(who's helping out on the bass) and he copies my bass parts or makes his own. Then I'll hand my drive to Jimmy who'll edit what I've done, Fili will sing and we'll do a bit more. And then Jimmy 'll send mixes and maybe Gordy will do some mixing and he'll send some. You see what I'm getting at? Half expecting two guys from Hussys Corporation to come up on my Applemac screen telling me they are sending up a spaceship in 3 days to rescue me.

This week I've been working on a song called "Stars". It's very glam rock. The main thing was just getting that Mott the Hoople/Kiss thing going. The song sounds great just with 2 guitars and the drums although I did put a bit of fairy dust here and there. Fili's supposed to sing it in a falsetto like Prince. Think it's going to be a good one.

The other track is called "Choices" a song about a guy coming back and saying he wants to be part of a family after walking out years ago. The girl in the song tells him he had his "Choices all those years ago". When the album was being written I was listening to loads of 70's soul and it's totally there in this song. I've even played a little flute/sax to give it that vibe. Although trying to get a saxophone in tune is a tricky business because you actually bend notes while youre playing and you have to move your mouth around the reed to get the note at times. The trick is to track a few at once and they bring each other into tune. I could always send it out into space to see if it's in tune.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Dont do it guys

There was a lot of reports in the papers over Xmas about ABBA reforming. Apparently Agnetha, has given up being a recluse and is now open to a reunion. This is the same Agnetha who had a relationship with her stalker. I mean they were offered £600m a few years ago. That could buy a lot of stalkers.

I cant remember any band getting together after splitting for a decent period and actually being any good. All the cult bands like the Velvets, Television, The Pistols, Big Star- they've all reformed at some point in the last 20 years. But why bother? Youve got the records. They are cults because the records are brilliant and no one bought them at the time. What's the point in having your myths shattered by John Lydon at a music festival somewhere telling you you've been had because you spent £45 or Lou Reed grunting at you across a field. There's loads of weird conglomerations of 60's bands touring around Butlins made up of one member of the Searchers, another from the Animals and the drummer from Shriekback, a guy that played keyboards in a music shop in Harlow and someone from Shed 7 mashed together like some kind of weird approximation of the baby with spiders legs from Toy Story 1.

That's the good thing about being a solo artist. You cant split up. Unless you've got multiple personalities, which most musicians have. I'd also have to leave either twins or brothers/sisters out because they may as well be parts of the same person.

They always say "It's unfinished business" but because music is caught in the time and place it's made, linked in with the people that buy the music's personal memories and experiences, you cant go back, and if your band was any good, like The Clash, The Jam, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, ABBA (please guys dont reform!!!!), The Beatles (that Free as a Bird crap doesnt count), Jimi Hendrix and T Rex (tell the promoter to leave the weejjee board alone) the records speak for themselves. There isnt any unfinished business. Plus you'll look like a tit.

Car Boot Sale

Been recording Car Boot Sale this week. The song has to be sparse. I feel like a psychotherapist, sitting in my chair and the song Car Boot Sale is on the couch, being analysed. There's long periods of silence and then I say "Okay that's the session finished I'll see you next time". Over the space of a week I've managed to overdub a bass synth through a Q Tron, 2 guitars, an overdriven organ and a synthesiser. That's all. It's taken about 20 man hours. But it sounds good.

We did a huge amount of drums at the end of November with Gordy our old drummer. We're trying to put an album together around the lives of people in a town and obviously, throws top hat in the air, two of them meet up at the Car Boot Sale on a Sunday. We had a huge amount of songs written last year around the subject and we're just working our way through it, trying ideas, seeing what will work. In proper Hussys style it's very different from our last acoustic style album. Here's the stuff we've got partially recorded:

Car Boot Sale
Instruments of the Orchestra
Just about finished with love
Jenny teaches rock school
Last person alive
Daddy Day Care

Friday, 7 January 2011

Roller Disco

A few people have sent us messages from Peru over the festive period telling us we need to go there. Fili's suggested a sponsor sheet to raise the funds. Our song Roller Disco was the 9th most played song on the main alternative radio station there for 2010. Unfortunately 98% of all music in Peru is downloaded via torrent files so we dont get any real money from this. But still, it's gratifying that there's people on the other side of the world who are into the band and something we've written is playing a little backdrop scene in their lives. Rodney Bingenheimer, the glam/punk legend , also picked up on it and there was a point during 2010 where he was playing it every week on his KROQ show.

It's a funny song for me personally. Just after you record something you always hate it. Then you like it, then you hate it, then eventually you form a kind of married relationship where you like/hate/love/dont care about a song. 

I always thought it should have a disco groove like an old Philly soul record with strings and clean soul type sounds and should just flow from start to finish. What we ended up with was so different. Gordy our drummer at the time made it more complex rhythmically.  I guess I've just got to hold my hands up and say he was exactly right with the way it was recorded. 

After we'd done the drums and bass I was bumbling around in the studio with my old telecaster doing Slade impersonations and Kev just said "that's the one!". The rhythm guitar is meant to be like "Gudbuy to Jane" or "Jean Genie". The crazy guitar solo was played by Gary and he was giggling , doing Eddie Van Halen arpeggios that were going in and out of tune but kind of sounded like Daft Punk as well. Me and Kev (the engineer) jumped on this and made him do it on the track. We had to go and do a gig that night and he had 5 minutes to get it down- but between Gordy, Steph and Gary there's some serious musicianship going on in the song. The sweet part of the song with the strings and harmonies is so lush- there's loads of pretty stuff that you cant really hear because we couldnt squeeze it in the mix. Fili just nailed the vibe of the song at the time.

It's one of those songs that has a little life of its own. Long may it travel.