Archive for March, 2013

And now the end is near. Analogue Dreams… Part Four

Where was I? Oh yes the metal years and the unreleased album. What could go wrong next? It wasn’t like I was going to record an instrumental album in folk rock obsessed Ireland was it? Yeah, of course I did. Regrets? Not at all. So, we come to an album ‘The Lateral Line’. It is a familiar tale by now, feck all money, feck all time and a recording in the middle of nowhere in a county called Kildare. Oh, and a musician by the name of Barry Whyte. Barry is a true virtuoso and all round good guy and is the only musician I have played with that has a seven string guitar. The year is 2011, Barry and I get together with Eric and lay down tracks with Leo, Leo is in the middle of renovating an old house and it is in the sitting room of said house that we set up and get about to business. Five songs are recorded in a live situation (harking back to my first recording in 1995) they are: Egbert Returns (swinging tune with an early Pink Floyd type moniker), Dee(a beauty of a laid back song), Till We Meet Again (a real Manchester vibe, there is a sample below), The Walker (The Police meets Red Hot Chilli Peppers in a Satriani soundscape) and The Good Old Boy (flat picking country).Added together with The Lateral Line and Not in This World we have seven songs and only one left to put down, called The Lizard King, and we will have an album. We are a marketing dream. We are in our thirties (the wrong side by the way), we are playing instrumental music and the music has a metal edge. we should be topping the charts (are there charts anymore?) Why has it taken so long? Life, that is why. Family and jobs is why. Age is why. But I can tell you this, I am so proud to be part of this album, to play with great musicians and to have a say in the process of putting it altogether. No regrets!

Barry Whyte

I have been thinking of late, why am I writing all this, and by this I mean a trip through my discography. Well, firstly I want to record the experiences I have had. I want to say this is what I have done playing music. Secondly, I just want to have some small corner in the world to show all the effort and time I and the musicians I have played with have put into playing and recording. Thirdly, there is a large part of me that realises that all the albums I thought I would make are now probably never going to happen and that these blog posts are, in a very real way a requiem for a dream. But in another very real way the posts are also a celebration of the journey and a letting go.Why? Well so i can open up the next chapter and record the albums I am going to record,free of the shadows cast by the lost ones I never have. I am aware that there is one constant in all the recordings and that is me. I have to realise that maybe the reason I haven’t had the best experience recording is this: I never really paid that much attention to my playing and my sound, I forgot to let myself be the player that I can be. After I left my last band, I lost a whole network and I thought I wouldn’t find another but I quickly realised that I was wrong.Music is about people and as long as you put yourself out there you will meet other people to play with. I am going to take a Sophists view, this has been all about the journey rather than the destination.One last thing, to all the musicians I have played with I just wanted to say thanks it has been a privilege and an honour. I sincerely hope you enjoyed playing with me as much as I have with you.

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The metal years. Analogue dreams…part Three.

In the midst of all things Substance the majority of the members had side projects, one a ska band and the other a folk, harmony group, which was essentially the members of Substance minus the rhythm section. As a consequence ,I was knocking about at a bit of a loose end during this time but a chance encounter with an old friend on a night out in the pub was to open another chapter in my recording ‘career’.I joined a metal band. We were a three piece called Blue Phoenix (and then Reever) with Dave Barrett (guitar/vocals) and Purcy(drums) and, rather predictably me on bass! I joined this band fully expecting to play nothing but covers and whilst we did indeed play covers I was to find that Dave had also been busy knocking together the blueprints for an album. We got together in 2009 but by January 2010 Dave and I started to knock his demos into shape and I got in contact with my old band mate Poggy to get into his home studio and get together and start laying down the songs.Dave left me his demos (on tape i should add!) some with bass ideas and some without and I started writing and messing around adding basslines and grooves. Percy added drums and before we knew it we had eight originals.

The band

Again, I returned to the wilds of Kildare and we started recording in the summer of 2010. Now, life is an odd thing and we all have someone or something that gets away from us, be it a lover or an opportunity, the stars don’t align or the time just isn’t right and things don’t work out the way you thought they should. Well dear readers, this album is one of them and let me tell you that I still regret that this didn’t come together.

Why the regret? Well Dave was/ is an excellent writer of riffs and one of the juiciest lead players I ever played with. His understanding of rhythm and dynamics was a joy to behold. Purcy drums with heart, soul and infectious happiness and even though we could all argue a point we really enjoyed playing together and for a three piece we rocked hard and heavy. The songs were great: Bar Dancer(Guns N Roses swagger),Adrenaline(crazy fast thrash), Serpentine(melodic metal, see link below), Wolfs Blood (chugging riffs), Regression (progressive metal), Lost Cause (all groove), an untitled song that had a Steve Harris tribute solo and the epic Hulk, so called because it had a piano coda that we thought had a similar vibe to the The Hulk TV series of the 1970s.

Bass and Brotherhood

Alas, this album was never mixed as we ran out of money and all that remains are unfinished songs. Both Dave and I clashed over decisions and directions that were being made by all of us during the recording. However, Dave would always speak his mind and then move on, he never held it against you that you disagreed with his point of view, an admirable quality at the best of times. So, even though our album was never released we can all still sit around and have a pint, talking shite about bands or whatever takes our fancy. I got to know the two men better and for that alone I will always look back fondly on the gigs and time we spent together recording.

The Substance of things. Analogue Dreams…Part Two

After my recording hiatus of eleven years between 1995-2006 I was determined to make up for lost time and get recording just a little bit quicker! Happily this proved to be the case. My second major band (and the one I dedicated most of my life to date to) Substance set about recording from 2006 onwards. We had now fully entered the digital age, which meant we could record a lot cheaper and easier than before and we worked furiously on demos of our own material. The first recording that emerged was a four song eight track demo. It is a bit of a curio this one as it had very early efforts on it and it is more a document of a band finding its sound than a fully fledged release. The first song was a funk number which included a fantastic saxophone breakdown. Entitled (somewhat cheesily) Summer Love it really had its moments and is indicative of the bands love of all things funk. This was followed by Things Fall Apart (yes Yeats again). This had real spikey guitars laid over a running, looping bass motif. It was a great tune that never really seemed to fit. Con (guitar)and Danny (vocalist) had written a song called ‘Shoot Me Down’, which was like a soundtrack song for a cowboy flick that never got made. Finally, there was a slow and darkly introspective vibe of a song which we called Universal. Both the latter songs had bass lines written by me, two of the few I ever wrote for the band. Suffice to say this was a very rough and ready recording and was never released but it did end up on the jukebox of not one but two local pubs!

Underneath all of these songs we were working on another dark number called ‘Twisted'(see below). This was based around an Egyptian/ Arabic vibe that the main songwriter Mark had been working on. I contributed lyrics but Mark was the real driving force behind this song and, truth be told, behind Substance especially in terms of writing the music. Anyway, Twisted went through various demo versions before being recorded  properly by Poggy in a secluded house in Kildare, Ireland and was included on my second official release: a compilation called ‘Stranded in Paradise’. The albums raison d’etre was to raise money for a local art initiative called The Culture Factory. I also played bass on the track ‘Long Time Coming’ by a friend called Appo but the real bonus was to appear on an album alongside both Luka Bloom and Christy Moore.

Stranded in Paradise

Lifted by the fire that was lit Substance set about recording our debut EP but not before recording  our debut gig in Whelan’s Dublin! Alright I am talking it up, the Whelan’s gig was recorded through the desk and wasn’t mixed or anything. But I used to use it when I was practicing on my own and it had some great songs that never made the EP. Boys in the Backroom and Run for Cover being two that really showed that we could rock! Anyway, back to  the EP which was recorded over a year by Con and Mark and was called Intercession. (See song below)
Intercession

The track listing for those that care:Turn it On, Any Fate, Open Wide, Denial and Turn it On (remix by Co Brady ex Super Extra Bonus Party). As i mentioned it was recorded by Con and we all spent many a long hour on bringing it to life. We released it in 2012 and it stands as a testament to six years hard work by the band. However, (and I know he will hate this if he ever reads it) it is a real testament to the songwriting ability of the guitar player Mark who is one of the most talented musicians I have ever played with and, I have to admit left me for dust musically many years before hand!

So, where is the tragedy? Well after all the time we had spent getting the songs together our drummer, Eric, left and I joined him not long after. We never had an official launch for Intercession. When I am teaching I tell my students to be honest when they write and keeping that in mind I have to follow suit. I miss that band and I miss the friendships I made in that band. Having to leave it and living without it and the people in it is one of the hardest things I have ever done and as a consequence listening to the recordings can bring back bittersweet memories. Wherever the lads are tonight I salute them and I hope they know the difference they made in my life.

Analogue Dreams and Digital Bubbles Part One

I was listening to the radio recently and the guest was talking about his life in general and his career in music in particular. It was both an insightful and entertaining conversation but the thing that really piqued my interest was the section on his time spent in the studio recording albums. It got me to thinking about my own time recording and the experiences I have had putting down songs, both good and bad. My first band, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, was called Mythical New Underground and back in the dark and grimy recesses of January 1995 we recorded our one and only release: Newspeak. It was a demo tape and consisted of four songs namely: Start a revolution, Proof, Confessions and Concrete. A demo, for the uninitiated, was a demonstration, usually of risible quality, of a bands oeuvre. We recorded it in Poppyhill Studio, Co. Kildare. The demo was part of an exam by the budding producer Shane Leigh (who later worked on national TV on a programme called 2phat).I mention it was part of his exam brief as because of this the recording only cost us the princely sum of sixty pound.
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The night before was spent practicing for the day to come and when it finally arrived we all bundled into a van and set about on our merry way. I can remember being very excited at the prospect of getting into the studio and the band belted into the four songs. That I was so excited might seem a bit odd in the digital age but back then to have something recorded was alien and new. We quickly realised that there was a lot more to recording then we had previously envisioned and that we were a lot looser then we actually thought. Still, we had a tape and I couldn’t wait to hear it. However, when I got home it was really disappointing as it was very muddy sounding. Little did I realise that I was about to learn a hard cold truth :recording and the word disappointing were to go hand in hand. All that aside listening to it now transports me back to the writing of the songs and a more innocent time in my life. Start a revolution was the first song that Con (the guitar player) wrote and the first I had a hand writing the bass line to, our drummer, Mark added the beat and our singer Poggy added vocals and lyrics, it was a real collaborative effort.Proof was written by a friend called Joe ‘O Sullivan, Concrete was ,lyrically, a real Poggy number and Confessions had a funky, jumpy little bass riff and an intro that both myself and Mark made up in his parents garage.
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I thought this would be the first of many recordings under the band name and as time progressed Con and I honed our skills and started to write songs that had tasty little hooks. I am not too proud to admit I miss that songwriting partnership as it was a fruitful one but none of those later songs got recorded (there is a live recording of our one and only reunion show from 2008 I love it but it has no new songs on it) they remain but a trace in my memory. Again, recording and disappointment.

Even though the end result of my first foray into recording was a mixed bag I thought I would get chances to rectify my mistakes and learn more about the studio environment. However, the next time I had anything complete and recorded was a live gig from 2006! This was another collaborative effort with a singer/songwriter friend of mine by the name of Pierce O’ Donnell. We both spent the June of that year writing together,in his house and down in a shed in Kilkenny, to produce and bring to the stage his songs. Pierce had hit a songwriting vein that saw him tackle both the political and the personal and we really followed a muse over those thirty days. I learnt so much about my playing during this time and even though the recording of the gig was never released when I listen to it I am transported back to that summer night. There is just an energy and a joy that was captured that makes me think of this recording as part of my discography.

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The band that night also included Domo Thorpe(percussion),Davy Long (drums),Gordon Turner(guitar, Ashling and Laura Cahill(backing vocals) and Imogen Gunnar(violin). The set list read Times Like These, Cool, Two Cars in the Drive, Just Another Shadow, Who Showed You How to Groove, Pinches, The Scent of Your Skin, Afterglows, Night Out With the In Crowd, Almost an American and the beautiful After The Rain (see link below). It would be remiss of me not to mention that Pierce sung a song that was originally written by his late mother, and was entered into the Eurovision Song Contest, called Walking the Streets in the Rain. Listening to him sing it, is without doubt, one of the most emotional and affecting experiences I have ever had on stage. I had hoped that those songs would be recorded in a studio but alas, the fates had again conspired. Surely it had to get better…