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.