A dumping ground for stuff that doesn't belong on the other place, or stuff that does belong on the other place but probably looks better over here. You may anticipate my general ramblings with the premise of "hooking you up" with stuff I like.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Art School Science

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Was recently asked to supply some music for an upcoming US tv ad campagin based around a new fashion range in a 'back to school' vein, called 'Fashion Chemistry'.
The initial concept was for a 'mash' / the ad was to suggest that you could 'mix and match' styles etc....

Anyhow, Thomas Dolby's track 'She Blinded Me With Science' was mentioned as a candidate for a combo or makeover and I was encouraged to try some other ideas in the early stages.

So, here are 2 versions that were eventually passed on but I thought you might like to hear:

Black Jam uses The Jam's "Art School" and elements from Black Sheeps "The Choice Is Yours" plus various breaks / beats etc

Science is a reworking of Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science" plus a pinch of Public Enemy's "You're Gonna Get Yours" and other breaks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Handsome Devils

I loved this band with a passion. Still do.
I'll be honest, I was a more a fan of Johnny when I first encountered them back in 1983. Rickenbacker / fringe and stripey jumper (funny how some things don't change).
I must have spent my entire life in the sixth form, bunking off and watching my vhs of them live at the Assembley Rooms, Derby, taped from Whistle Test or something...

But yesterday I had the pleasure of aquiring the 'aborted' Troy Tate sessions for what would have been their first album 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle'...and as much as I embraced 'The Smiths' album like a lifeline......I just feel that these recordings are waaayyyyy better.
My fave was 'These Things Take Time' (ended up being the b-side of What Difference Does It Make) and it's great to hear it in the context of what is a good line-up of tracks:
01 - Reel Around The Fountain / 02 - You've Got Everything Now / 03 - Miserable Lie
04 - These Things Take Time / 05 - Wonderful Woman / 06 - Handsome Devil
07 - Suffer Little Children / 08 - Pretty Girls Make Graves / 09 - Hand In Glove
10 - What Difference Does It Make? / 11 - I Don't Owe You Anything ///
'Jeane' / 'Accept Yourself' and also 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle' were recorded during these sessions too.

Rougher, for sure, edgier, of course but completely compelling after not hearing their early stuff for a good few years now...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Toy Soldiers and a Headful of Whine... whine...
Yes, I'm suffering with a deadly bout of 'having had too much of a good night' feeling this morning and am dearly tempted to climb back into bed....uuurrggghh....
So who said 'you should never meet your heroes'?
I'm wracking my brains trying to remember who told me that, or where I read it. For years I've stuck by it and when opportunities have arisen I've politely declined...until yesterday.

Spent a most enjoyable afternoon / evening over at Andy Partridge's house in (snowy) Swindon. After a brisk train trip from Hertfordshire to Wiltshire via er....London (yes, there is logic), I arrived at his place amidst a seasonal flurry...thus giving a slightly surreal feel to proceedings.
After speaking on the phone a couple of times since November last year, we finally arranged to hook up for an afternoon in his studio shed and an evening in the chinese..great stuff! I played him some XTC remix-mash demo's that have been brewing on my hardrive in recent months and he played me a gorgeous selection of completed / in-progress tunes that he's been putting together of late...and very excellent they are too. The seeds of the mutal admiration for each others 'art' duly sewn.
We listened to and discussed all things Beatles, Aerosmith, Beefheart, Bubblegum, Psychedelia, Ape, Sky Saxon's vocal gymnastics, er....Virgin / EMI and headed out into the cold to indulge in some chinese food.
Delicious! We arrived to the strains of what sounded like 'celtic moods' (very surreal for an oriental joint).
Andy introduced me to the pleasures of Chateauneuf du Pape, an exquisite red that I must admit went down exceedingly well and so the conversation turned to manually recording ones voice onto the play out grooves of vinyl using a needle and paper cone, receeding hairlines and the feather pillow / man-made fibre / firm mattress scenario that is giving me and my wife back trouble....
Back to the house for an inspired DJ set from MrP including some Can, Equals, early Bee Gees, Syd-era Floyd and the genius that is the Fab Fours 'Beatles Christmas Songs', (which has to be heard to be believed).
Just before I left for the train back to wonderful Watford, Andy played the part of the 'Shopkeeper' to my 'Mr Ben' and gave me one of his hand-crafted toy soldiers (see pic)...


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Hotels, Empires and into The Dark(ness)...(CHICANE story part2)

So where were we? Sometime in 1994 I think.......

whaddaya fuckin'

Our last single (as it turned out to be) had done a perfect impression of a brick attempting to swim, in terms of airplay etc. Time to re-think.

I'll leave you in the very capable hands of Alex Comyn:
"By the time of the release of the Goldrush single we’d been able to put together our own studio. Despite the joy of recording in such lovely studios as Blah Street, the cost was killing us, and we were able to set up our own multi track at Hurlingham Road (Putney) for about half the cost of releasing another single.
This allowed us to do two things, which in turn totally reshaped the path of the band.
Firstly, we ditched playing live altogether. It took up a lot of time, had yet to bring any real benefit in terms of growing our audience, and distracted us from writing any new material, which is what we really should have been focussing on.
Secondly, the luxury of our own recording gear freed us up from the usual Vocals/Guitar/Guitar/ Bass/Drums format we’d adhered to, giving us scope to experiment with different instruments, try out different recording techniques and in general have a bit of fun (for once).
The results were some of the best work we never released, and the final recording resulted in four tracks that we hoped would be the basis for a future single and album"

The 4 tracks in question were the following:

MP3 CHICANE - "Dream Chicane" unreleased 1994
MP3 CHICANE - "Walking On Water" unreleased 1994
MP3 CHICANE - "Follow Through" unreleased 1994
MP3 CHICANE - "Killing" unreleased 1994

Alex continues:
"We were really fired up over these tracks and thought we’d finally nailed that elusive mix of experimental sounds with a decent tune.
Our long suffering A&R guy from BMG came over for a listen, and duly trashed the lot, saying they’d sound great on an album, but there was no single.
I think that, given our difficult history, a series of poor managers, promises of record deals and a huge amount of effort by the band, this was the final straw.
A couple of additional tracks were started, but never finished, and we had a final gig at the Dublin Castle sometime in early 1994 that was pretty much a shambles, with no one watching and none of us caring."

So, Chicane (the name at least) was laid to rest...

Chicane 1994: Mark, Jon, Alex, Steve.


A name change....and it still makes me shudder.
I think it made it's appearance on the master tapes and demo cassette sleeves but thank God it never materialised anywhere else.

Alex takes up the story again:
"Later in 1994 we moved the studio to the infamous DeMorgan Road in Wandsworth, the catalyst for many a wonderful happening, and things rapidly changed.
Both Steve and Mark had come up with some new material, none of which was working with me as singer.
I duly stood down vocal duties, concentrating on my guitar playing, and Paul O'Keefe was drafted in under the new, provisionally named, Hotel (unmh).
Initially, this all looked fine and dandy. Paul had an amazing voice, and tunes led the way. It was all pretty good, even though BMG were gracious with their time but not able to offer any more money or help."

We produced a fair amount of new tracks around this time. Quite claustrophobic in many ways because the band now consisted of 5 songwriters. A definite recipe for disaster...
Listening back to this stuff for the first time in 10 years, I think we were very obviously starting to wear our influences on our sleeves. Doors / John Barry
/ Bowie / Brian Wilson......Portishead?

MP3 HOTEL - "Poor Mans Voodoo" unreleased 1994
MP3 HOTEL - "Rotten" unreleased 1994
MP3 HOTEL - "Baby Jane" unreleased 1994

I seem to remember that we compiled these three tracks onto a demo cassette (yes, it was that long ago) and threw it in the direction of anyone who could catch.
Pretty sure we were called into Chrysalis Records head office to meet with some 'suit' who wanted to hear some stuff. Nothing came of it and nothing came of some interest from Madonnas management / label...or was I dreaming that?
Anyhow, I made a sharp exit from the band after laying down some guitar on a final track or two and bid the music biz a fond farewell......

"I guess that’s where things fell apart.
Paul’s lyrics all started to sound the same, and the cheese factor became a little overbearing. We were also becoming very pop oriented, and it got to Mark before the rest of us. He bailed sometime in August 1995, followed soon after by Jon who couldn’t stand to be in the same room as Paul.
Finding a replacement for both was nigh on impossible. A friend of Paul’s was drafted in on guitar, Ben Etchells, but was mad and didn’t really fit in. A new bass player lasted one rehearsal session, then left because he thought we were all over the shop.
Pretty soon after this, me and Steve sat down with Paul and called it quits. It simply wasn’t working and that was that.
I played with another band for a few months, and then went on to manage a couple of bands, after which I went off on my own adventure with a regular job.
Jon got deeply involved in Scandinavian music and set up his own mini music corp.
Mark disappeared....
Meanwhile, Steve and Paul started to put together a new band"


To be honest, this part of the story I've only just caught up on after meeting Alex and Steve recently.

Steve Sargent:
"Not too long after Hotel split, Paul O’Keeffe (now of Intervurt) gave me a call saying he had found a bassist,
Frank Poullian and wondered if Ben Etchells and I would like to start a new band.
I said OK and Empire was formed.
A few months later, Ben (now of Ben And The Pimps) left to join “Catch” and after quite a bit of persuading, Franks mate Dan Hawkins joined us on guitar.
A couple of months later, Dans' brother Justin finished his college course and joined us on keyboards and backing vocals.
Empire gigged and demo’d for about a year or so but “musical differences” lead to a meeting at the White Horse pub in Parsons Green where it was decided we should part company with Paul, the singer.
We spent the next, oh I dunno, 12 months or so auditioning dozens of singers (including Justin!) but with no success. Eventually, the band effective stopped functioning as rehearsal money dried up.
Dan was off doing session work and touring with other artists and Frank was working with his brother in Venezuela. That’s when I parted company and the rest, as they say, is history…"

.....history being that Frank, Dan and Justin formed The Darkness after Justin discovered he had a voice at a karaoke night in a local pub back in Lowestoft.

So that's about the size of it.

Heres a few more Chicane tracks that I recently got my hands on.
Both recorded live at the studios in BBC Radio Leeds....nice and raw.

MP3 CHICANE - "Cut" live session for BBC Leeds 1994
CHICANE - "Elevator" live session for BBC Leeds 1994

The b-side of the 'Goldrush' single:

MP3 CHICANE - "Home Is Where I Hurt You" 1994

.......and a few more interviews / reviews:

Lime Lizard magazine 1992

Siren magazine 1992

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Confessions of shoegazers, who didn't gaze at their shoes...(CHICANE story Part1)

What goes around, comes around.
Thanks to a couple of recent interviews for various radio stations and press, there has been a bit of interest thrown my way regarding CHICANE.
For those not in the know, I was a guitarist in 'said group and all it's variations between 1988 and 1996 (ish). No, we weren't the guy who made chilled-out Ibiza noodlings...Yes, we were a damn site more interesting and if 'Rock & Roll Family Trees' were still all the rage, you'd actually find that we were an early incarnation of The Darkness (more on that later).....

A potted history then:

I first remember seeing them as Fallen Heroes around 1985. They were pretty edgy to be honest. Think New Order without the synths or a wierd hybrid of early U2 and The Chameleons. I'd known Alex Comyn (singer/guitarist) and Jon Morley (bass) since school and was dragged along by a mutual friend to see them play at the Kentish Town Bull & Gate. They were a good draw. It was a good gig. A name and line-up change (Steve Sargent - drums) or two later and they were then known as World Of Music. To this day I still consider it the worst name for a group ever... but they were a much tighter outfit and the demos they had done were pretty impressive.
During this time ('86) I had formed a band called the Reptile House. Conceived at Middlesex Polytechnic under a heavy influence of Doors, Jesus and Mary Chain, Smiths and Echo & The Bunnymen, we made a few demo's and played one gig (captured on film) at St Martins in the Fields.

Anyway, the inevitable happened around 1988 and Alex invited me into World Of Music.
What followed was roughly a year of rehearsing, recording demos and playing gigs between Kentish Town and Brighton. In 1989 one of our tracks "Stop Playing With My Heart", made it onto a free 7" EP with the House Of Dolls magazine. Interesting line-up on that piece of vinyl. Pretty sure the Sandkings and the Wonderstuff made names for themselves...

MP3 World Of Music "Stop Playing With My Heart" (From the House Of Dolls EP)

World Of Music local press interview

At the height of 'baggy' we ended up appearing on Gary Crowley's 'Demo Clash' on his GLR radio show, with a track called "Leper". Up against Sinister Groove from Manchester who sounded very er.......Manchester.
Anyway, have a listen to this edit of the show. When it came to the point where Crowley had to play our track, some studio mishap occured and..................hear it for yourself:
MP3 World Of Music on Gary Crowley's Demo Clash GLR 1990

Shortly after we managed to get a couple of support slots in Nottingham (Trent Poly) and London (Tufnell Park Boston Arms) with Energy Orchard, who were the big new things for a week or two but to be honest we needed to shake things up a bit more............

......moody bastards!

1991 so CHICANE was the new name. We began writing and rehearsing a completely new batch of songs, intent upon getting some sort of success out of it all...
After setting up our own label (Faith Records) we released our first single "Inflammable EP" in September. 12" vinyl only with 'Inflammable', 'When The Truth Hits Home' and 'Asphalt Eyes'.

MP3 Chicane "Inflammable" (From the Inflammable EP)

Lead track "Inflammable" soon received healthy airplay on Radio1 thanks to John Peel (who also played the other 2 tracks), Mark Goodier and Mark Radcliffe's 'Out On Blue Six' show. Gary Crowley and Tommy Vance gave it good airspace on GLR and there was a fair amount of regional play too.

MP3 Inflammable on Mark Goodier's Evening Session Radio1 1991
MP3 Inflammable on Gary Crowley GLR 1991
Inflammable on Mark Radcliffe's 'Out On Blue Six' Radio1 1991

NME and Melody Maker press soon appeared alongside decent reviews in Time Out and Rage magazine.
All in all a good start. Loads of gigs around this time.

Melody Maker live review

Melody Maker Interview
NME Interview
Rage Magazine single of the week
NME live review
Around this time the NME started dumping us in with the so-called 'Shoegazers', including a My Bloody Valentine feature.
More NME 'shoegazing' titbits

In November 1991 "Inflammable" was quickly followed by "Strength Of The Sun", a second 12" EP featuring lead track "Sunrising" alongside "Meet Michael", "The Things We Do" and "From A Garden".

MP3 Chicane "Sunrising" (From the Strength Of The Sun EP)

Melody Maker news

Rage mag singles review

Reviews were hit and miss for this EP but the lead track lacked the bite of 'Inflammable' and airplay
was minimal.


Siren mag review

However, getting more high-profile gigs was a bit easier and some choice support slots came our way as 1991 turned into 1992, most notably with Spiritualized, Catherine Wheel, Half Japanese, Spitfire and a double-headliner with Senser at the Marquee in Charing Cross Road.

Channel 4 Teletext Review of the Senser Gig

.....Radio who?

Around this time CHICANE signed a development deal with BMG. ( I seem to remember after the signing that we blew most of the advance in a Chinese restaurant down the Kings Road hmmmmm). They sent us into the studio to record a third EP with Nigel Gilroy who had recently produced Flowered Up amongst others. The final sessions were mixed by Guy Fixsen who had engineered My Bloody Valentines "Loveless" and worked with most of the 'shoegazing' bands at the time. The results made up the third single "Wanderlust" that was released in May 1992 on both 12" and 4-track CD.

MP3 Chicane "Wanderlust"

NME single review.

Kentish Town, Bull & Gate (Hype Club) 30.5.1992 (Photograph Mick Mercer)

Letters page in the NME circa '92...

Next up was a compilation CD of all the EP's plus a couple of World Of Music era recordings, including the track "Leper" which was used in the Gary Crowley 'Demo Clash' in 1990.
"Firebombs" was released in the summer of 1992.
More of a promotional device than a proper 'album' as such but it sold well and received interesting reviews from Time Out, Select, NME, Melody Maker etc.

MP3 Chicane "Leper" (From the album Firebombs)

Select mag album review

Melody Maker 'Firebombs' review

Some magazine review of 'Firebombs'...

NME 'Firebombs' review
Time Out 'Firebombs' review

After developing a new harsh sound due to doing so many gigs, we set about recording 3 new tracks for BMG. The rusulting "Cut", "Elevator" and "Follow Through" indeed had lots of edge but didn't convince them...tsk.
And this is pretty much where my memory starts to fade.......
We did a radio session for BBC Leeds then prior to a gig at the Mean Fiddler, Steve (drummer) left the band. Ouch.
After finding a hasty replacement (can't remember the guys name but I nearly decked him at a gig somewhere 'up north) we supported a newly reformed Selecter at Bedford College, then set about recording some new stuff when Steve rejoined.
First up was a session for XFM's Neil O'Brian that was aired in November 1993.
MP3 Chicane on Neil O'Brian's show XFM 1993

MP3 Chicane "Goldrush"

"Goldrush" b/w "Home Is Where I Hurt You" was released sometime in 1994 on 7" vinyl. The sleeves were all hand-painted by the band.....ahem ....and number stamped. I vaguely remember 1 copy was left unpainted. One for the collectors then.

Time Out review for 'Goldrush'.

A video was made for the single (stills below) and it got some airplay on XFM and Radio 5 Live (before it went sport) but again the impact was minimal.
MP3 Chicane on Craig Ferguson show Radio 5 Live 1994

Things get a bit hazy for me around this time (again) and after another year or so of travelling backwards and forwards to Wandsworth to write / record new material (which was actually pretty decent), I left the band.

I'll add the rest of the story when I get the facts and figures right and also upload some more mp3's and press cuttings etc.........very soon.


World Of Music
'Stop Playing With My Heart' (appeared on the House Of Dolls EP free with Issue 24)

'Inflammable EP'
Inflammable / When The Truth Hits Home / Asphalt Eyes (Faith Records 1991 FAIRE001)
'Strength Of The Sun EP'
Sunrising / Meet Michael / The Things We Do / From A Garden (Faith Records 1991 FAIRE002)
'Wanderlust' (single)
Wanderlust / Jealous Girl / Walking On Air / CD extra track Inflammable (Faith Records 1992 FAIRE003)
'Firebombs' (album)
Inflammable / Sunrising / Walking On Air / From A Garden / Meet Michael / Asphalt Eyes /
Wanderlust / When The Truth Hits Home / The Things We Do / Jealous Girl / Leper / I Think
(Faith Records 1992 FAIRE004)
'Goldrush' (single)
Goldrush / Home Is Where I Hurt You (Faith Records 1994 FAIRE005)