50 weird decibels songs as chosen by the band. part 4, 20-11

Sitting down? drink in hand? Headphones on..head? Its the first half of our top 20!

Greg is ready! Let the countdown begin!
Greg is ready! Let the countdown begin!

20 Downer. Whapper Stormer 1995

Probably our best moody teenager photo, except Stu is not a teenager
Probably our best moody teenager photo, except Stu is not a teenager

Moody teenagers write heavy song; result? Downer. This guitar laden beast stalks near the end of Whapper Stromer waiting for the ear shattering guitar ring; it makes you flinch.

Lyrically it’s not as charismatic as the rest of Whapper, if I remember correctly Stu wrote the riff to this before any vocal melody was in place. As a band we are firm friends but musically we’ve  always been a strange combination. Downer is a good point at which to explain.

In 1995 Greg and I were into similar music; although Greg would wander off into the darker reaches of grunge and rock. Later he’d fling in some trance and industrial. We both liked the seattle scene (Nirvana etc.) but I would find myself going to lighter more acoustic music before eventually getting into alternative.

Derek had a lot in common with Greg and I but he liked to lean towards classic acts such as the Beatles and more so Bowie. Of us all it’s fair to say Derek never liked ‘shouty’ metal acts.

Back in the 90’s the three Larbert High students had similar tastes to enthuse upon our new guitarist, the mysterious, unknown Stewart McCairney. As we rolled up outside of our new recruit’s house, the door opened.

As the dry ice cleared, the pyros flared, out stepped the dude, I could tell straight away this guy wasn’t into grunge and certainly wasn’t into Britpop! His hand shot into the air and devil horns were held aloft. This guy wanted to rock.

In the early days I believed we wouldn’t work; but we did. Stu, despite his desire to write heavy music, happily played beautiful melodies over the quieter songs. Eventually he grabbed his chance with Downer and we wrote one of our heaviest songs to date.

As I snarl ‘naughty Mary’ through a distorted mic; I knew we were heading for a big build. I nearly made it! I guess my voice isn’t suited to the heavier echelons of music but I gave it a good shot!

John Baines joined the rest of the band as we crowded around a mic and roared the final lines of the song which we recorded in Dreks flat. A magical time.

19 Dirty Stream. Firkin Outburst 1998

A typical practise room carry out on a Wednesday night...The Firkin sessions suffered as a result
A typical practise room carry out on a Wednesday night…The Firkin sessions suffered as a result

Like I say we can flit from heavy to light in a heartbeat; this could be the reason why we have never found a massive audience. I guess listeners like consistency. Who knows. Anyway, i’ve always admired our ability to write a wide variety of tunes; it doesn’t always work but we give it a try.

Dirty Stream is another survivor from the drunken Firkin Outburst sessions. It’s a romantic song about who will be first in a relationship to take the plunge and fall in love. Lines like ‘stones thrown, at a glass ceiling, which one of us gets cut the most’ and ‘ A walk across a frozen lake, just don’t run if you panic’ perhaps point to my thoughts on taking risks and thinking about the worst case scenario.

I really like this song; the chorus ‘we’re gonna have to quench our thirst, by drinking water from a dirty stream’ makes this composition a lyrical highlight of my 20 or so years of writing (in my opinion of course!).

18 Joker. Weird Decibels 1. 2012 Watch the video here.

P1000928The thing I love about Weird Decibels 1 was our desire to move away from ‘power chords’ that had served us so well then arguably,eventually hindered us. Joker is centred around the guitar riff at the start. Greg stamps on his distorted bass before Stu and Derek break the door down with the rhythm.

The verses avoid chords as well; based around the D chord the riff is a little picked melody that has all the hallmarks of Nirvana.

The lyrics were written at the time of the summer riots in 2011. It felt like the whole country was going to explode. I guess this was our way of writing a protest at our corrupt politicians. ‘what are you hiding from me, I’m the electorate when can i see?’ and ‘money burns floating down, to lie against a riot shield, once held by a broken policeman, fed up defending politician’.

I found the riots disturbing; the wanton violence against innocent peoples property and small businesses give these disturbances a more sinister feel. Was this a reflection of the anger young people felt against their government?

I’ve never embraced politics in our music. I’ve never really embraced political bands. I prefer to hear peoples stories from their lives, but as you get older you begin to understand that politics do affect our day to day lives and therefore become part of your music.

Joker is a band and listener favourite; it was my attempt at making sense of it all.

17 Sound of the Night. Riot Act 2007

The road to the Riot Act sessions could not have been calmer
The road to the Riot Act sessions could not have been calmer

From British politics to something closer to home, we were are back in the Falkirk night life for the Sound of the Night. I expected Derek to score this highly but it turns out Greg expressed his love for this slow burner.

It starts with a dreamy guitar sequence that we got all wrong when we recorded it. I had to spend days at the mixing desk trying to sort it out,

Sound of the Night is one of those tracks that sounds great live but didn’t translate as strongly on record. I talk of my desire to escape the noise of urban life and my frustrations with modern living.

Not the most in depth story but a nice tune nonetheless.

16. Deliverance. Weird Decibels 1. 2012

There is always someone working away on the sound! Setting up bass for Deliverance and others
There is always someone working away on the sound! Setting up bass for Deliverance and others

Probably one of the most fun songs to play. Simple chords, simple arrangement and I get a rest from most of the vocals. Stu and Derek stepped up to sing the verses; this allows me to jump around at gigs whilst battering hell out of my old guitar.

Deliverance makes an appearance near the end of Weird Decibels 1 it questions religion ‘send it to the mountain, send it to the sky, you’re refused deliverance, don’t ask god why’.  It’s pretty much a straight forward howl to the skies and an absolute riot to play at gigs
15. Underachiever. Riot Act. 2007

Around the mid 00’s I was taking stock of a lot of things both at a musical level and with my job. (I still do). Underachiever is my envy getting the better of me. You reach an age where people start to overtake you in life and you eventually tie yourself up in knots and

Weird Decibels live at the Cavern
Weird Decibels live at the Cavern

forget the most important things you have. Family and friends.

This tune split the band down the middle; Greg and Stu scored it quite high; Derek and I excluded it from our list.

I think it’s dated, it shows my self pitying mood at the time. That’s the problem when you write songs, sometimes they remind you that your head was in the wrong place.

I remember playing this at the Cavern in Liverpool. It was the only song that made the manager leave his office to come and see us. He doubled the size of the crowd!

14. Just For Today. Whapper Stormer. 1995 (Pabs top track)

We recorded the missing songs from Whapper on this small 8 track
We recorded the missing songs from Whapper on this small 8 track

At 14 we have the first song voted as a favourite. Just For Today. I love it.

It bursts in with Stu, Greg and Derek playing the rolling riff straight into the first verse. I used to start by whistling the melody but it was dropped as every time I attempted to whistle the intro we’d start laughing. I could never do it!

It’s one of those ‘calm in the storm’ moments. Surrounded by the desperate drug woes of Chameleon (the only Whapper track not to make this list) and the edgy trippy paranoia of Now I Can See His Eye. Just For Today is a dreamy description of a day where everything seems right. It is an unusually upbeat song from me; I was probably under the influence of something ‘I saw the clouds in the dark and I began to stare’.

I remember the night wrote I this; I was heading home from a party looking up at the night sky. The moon lit up the clouds as I tried to keep myself warm for the walk home. Back then we walked home from parties, nights out, gigs and the pub. It was often at these times we would have our best laughs.

The vocals change at the end; Stu doesn’t use distortion on this track, instead we have a jam at the end of the song. That’s what I love about this; it feels live and spontaneous. You can hear the drums and bass changing their dynamics to suit the upbeat mood.

One of the best things about recording at Dereks was our friends popping in for a visit. Rooz says hello and asks for a beer
One of the best things about recording at Dereks was our friends popping in for a visit. Rooz says hello and asks for a beer

It’s not something we do a lot these days. When you are solely a vocalist you tend to be a bit more imaginative with your voice. Since I have played guitars and sang I haven’t used this freestyle as much.

The line ‘I didn’t care what my appearance was like, maybe I looked a mess’ summed up my feelings back then. With badly fitting clothes and long unruly hair I missed the point at which grunge had left and ‘Britpop’ had arrived.

I’m also offering help to someone; I can’t remember who but the one thing I do recall is that during those Firkin and Pennies days we all looked out for each other.

At just under 4 minutes Just For Today is an example some of our best work; it is the soundtrack to the end of the night, when our young drunk souls would go home and hope that when we stumble into our houses we wouldn’t wake up the parents!
13. Psalm. Weird Decibels 1 2012.

For a great sounding record we must be prepared. You would't want to be in remote Scotland with a broken instrument...
For a great sounding record we must be prepared. You would’t want to be in remote Scotland with a broken instrument…

Only Stu and I voted for this and we scored it fairly high for a reason. The arching solos that almost burst out of the speakers.

The track listing of Weird Decibels 1 has divided us. In these modern times of short attention spans, instant music and streaming, people don’t tend to listen to albums. The general rule is put your best track first.

I wanted WdB1 to be an album and I could think of no other epic opening than Psalm. It is Weird Decibels in one package. Heavy guitars, melody, a thread of acoustic rhythm , imaginative drums, growling bass and soaring solos. Sure there are better songs on WdB1 but none are as ambitious as this.

Greg drops tuning for this and we play it in E, unfortunately the down tuned bass is one reason we never play it live. It’s a heavy laden guitar wall of noise, and there is an angry vocal spitting distaste for the class system. ‘Some will be lucky, for others will pave, the path for their children.’

Rooz after several beers
Rooz after several beers

My son had just been born when I wrote this; all your thoughts change. From the delight of life to the unfairness of it. Psalm reflects this in some ways.

Psalm works its way to one of our best endings. frequent collaborator Jemma Burt comes in with some beautiful keys that help change the tone of the song. I sing ‘I lost my way.I lost my way when you asked me to pray’. as Stu starts to build his epic three part solo. I rank  up the vox and together as vocalist and lead guitars we meet up at the height of the crescendo before the songs settled into its subtle conclusion.

The old guitar you hear at the intro and end was lying around in Kirsty’s mums place; we were staying there as we waited for our new house to be built. The intro of Metallica’s Battery was a heavy influence here.

Psalm was the opening track to our first album in 4 years; the 6 minute statement of intent. Weird Decibels were back after the barren years of the acts.

12. Sky is Falling. Riot Act 2007 (Derek’s top track)

Night has fallen; Greg reflects. Stu takes pictures
Night has fallen; Greg reflects. Stu takes pictures

Barren years of the acts? I can picture Derek shaking his head as he reads this. After One More Solo we were into an uneasy spell of cover songs; I would often voice my distaste for learning them. We played fewer gigs (although to be fair they were enjoyable) and when we did play live we didn’t play much of our own stuff. We didn’t really embrace the internet like we do today and we rarely stepped out of Falkirk. However there were highlights.

Derek loves the sky is falling
Derek loves the sky is falling

Track 3 on Riot Act Sky Is Falling is another tale of a night out in Falkirk. It opens with ‘Let’s face it she’s not very pretty and she doesn’t look good on the dance floor, I come home from this paranoid city, turn on the news watch religion at war’. The moody apocalyptic theme of the Sky Is Falling is one of the high points. We haven’t played this live for years.

It reflects the unrest around the planet during those times; there is a bit of comedy in the chorus ‘jesus is coming, look busy, your god is calling’. Im sure I got that lyric from one of those mugs that says ‘look busy the boss is coming’.

There is a helpless resignation in the lyrics that contradict the uplifting music; It’s has a really nice ending.

11. Educational Suicide. Whapper Stromer 1995

Sometimes Stu took a while to nail his incredible solos
Sometimes Stu took a while to nail his incredible solos

Just missing out on out on our top ten is the first ever song we wrote; it’s not surprising it still has a place in our hearts.

Greg and I wrote this before the band was even formed. Stu and Derek finished the embryonic creation. Strongly influenced by Nirvana, the classic verse chorus verse arrangement is very prevalent here.

I wrote the lyrics in the middle of an IT class at school which goes some way to explain my lack of academic success. Educational Suicide is a wordy shout at the ‘system’ and class.

Smells Like Teen Spirit has a brilliant call to the dance floor; when you hear Cobain hitting those chords you know you need to get up there. I wanted something similar for our song. So when you press play on the Whapper Stormer disc you are immediately met with Stu’s ringing guitar.

Its simple structure allowed us to write the song in our first practice. It settled the nerves and meant that or the majority of the next 20 years we would be playing music together. Educational Suicide is the most important song we have ever written, but not the best. That’s coming…

Friends corner. The photographers.

Kevin Byrne has photographed the band for years. For that we are most grateful.
Kevin Byrne has photographed the band for years. For that we are most grateful.

Many people have taken photographs of the band over the years. Kevin Byrne has been napping portraits for many years. A good friend of the band he has taken many of sleeve artwork photosgraphs, including his work in Riot Act and One More Solo. He also took the recent press portrait that was used in the Falkirk Herald. A very talented and knowledgeable photographer. See his work here

Neil took many pics over the earlier years
Neil took many pics over the earlier years

Neil Henderson took photographs during the early years, we met Neil, like many of our friends, at Firkins. He took the Martell shot that is used in Coldhome Street and the live portraits that are used in Weird Decibels 1. Neil went on to photograph many acts throughout the country including Attica Rage.

Lets not forget regular gig snappers Juls and Phil who have taken numerous pictures that have given us many great memories and more recently Eindp Scotland, his pictures of us ended up printed in the Stirling Observer.

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50 weird decibels songs as chosen by the band. Part 3 30-21

Welcome back dear reader! I hope you are so hyped that you tossed and turned as you failed to sleep; wondering what is the best Weird Decibels song voted by the band. Today we ease your suspense…as we countdown 30 to 21… Not long now!

Tense! the tenseness is building!!
Tense! the tenseness is building!!

30 Long Way Down. Firkin Outburst 1998

A theme that was with me for many years
A theme that was with me for many years

Guy jumps off a cliff, suddenly wings grow from his back and he flies back to safety. This image would resurface as the cover of my solo album Fortune Favours The Brave. It was always a strange idea I had of people coming back from the brink; it’s more a song of hope than anything.

Long Way Down was recorded years after it was written; it was one of many songs we had written in 1997-98 for our second set of songs that we had to relearn and record. We laid the tracks in Derek’s flat during one of our many recording weekends. Most of the acoustics guitars would be laid at my old Steak Pie Studio. This tracks was put onto the Tascam 2488 at the time our best portable studio yet. Our sound was definitely starting to improve at this point.

29 High Heels. One More Solo 2004

The most requested and most played song at our live shows. It is also our favourite title. Waiting on The Sound Of Your High Heels (Baby). A balls out stab at some AC/DC; it’s about getting ready to go on a night out with your lady. Simple as that. It has become a celebratory song that gives us joy to play.

mmmm shine the light!
mmmm shine the light!

From the simple rock arrangement, to the straightforward lyrics then to the guitar harmony High Heels has stuck with us as many songs have been forgotten.

It’s the opener from One More Solo, the first song people heard when we reformed in 2004 and it set the tone for the album that we still admire today. The sound may not be perfect, a little bass heavy perhaps, but like most of OMS the feeling was there. A band happy to be together again.

So why so low in the list? Maybe we all thought each other would vote for it?

28 Industry. Weird Decibels 1 2012

P1000913The finale of Weird Decibels nearly failed to make the album. It was one of the last songs we wrote for WdB1 and had not been rehearsed as much as the others.

We enjoyed the song, it was a little different to our normal numbers so we were keen to get it on the album. Problems arose when we came from the chorus back into the bridge; the timing wasn’t quite right on the recording so I programmed some beats to knit the song together.

It’s a rather disturbing song with bold images. ‘you get inside my head, you dig it with a spoon’,’lay it on the bed and rummage through’. Industry is inspired by Alice in Chains; it’s dark brooding mood builds towards a mainc grunge like solo before the end explodes into a wall of guitars (which were intentionally mixed too high).

The often used reverse fx on the guitar was used at the end; it fits the eerie feel of the song. Industry is rarely played live; although it does make the odd set from time to time. I’ll never forget the time a student from England asked to use the song for the soundtrack to her presentation. The images were disturbing…

27 Home Sweet Home. Riot Act 2007

3789921584a3900917949b625738300lIf you listen to the Foo Fighters ‘All My Life’ you will hear where we got the idea for Home Sweet Home; the opening track to Riot Act. I often feel that One by One was some of the Foos weaker output and sometimes I feel this influence creeped onto Riot Act. We didn’t quite nail this album.

Home Sweet Home is another tale of drunken nights out in Falkirk; largely uninspiring lyrics that float upon a nice piece of music from us. The lyrics do hint at  getting tired of the rain soaked Saturday nights in Falkirk ‘Punch drunk, given up, rainfall on leather jacket’.. I talk of aggression; ‘cigarette hung from mouth, you’ve a question will you ask it’; but both the acts (Riot and Quiet) suffer from a narrow narrative, however at the time they were fun albums to record and play.

26. Forward. Weird Decibels 1 2012

P1000958Forward opens the second side of WdB1 with a long intro that builds nicely into the first verse. I always liked the riff for this song; very Therapy?. It was one of the first songs written for the WdB1 sessions and can be heard on Live Tonight Not Completely Sold Out (unreleased album from 2010). It is also one of the rare songs where I play a solo which helps build towards the end of the song.

The lyrics of forward take second place to the music but the song is about being left behind in life and the feelings of being lost.

Forward is still a favourite of ours to play live (especially me) as it has a good range of dynamics.

25 Breathing Space Quiet. Act 2008

One of the strongest songs on Quiet Act, Breathing Space is one of those songs that would be interesting to hear in our normal distorted guise. I like the lyrics in this song, like Forward, (both songs were written around the same time) Breathing Space again talks of feeling left behind ‘And i’m trying, i’m trying to keep up’.

breathing space...derek chills out
breathing space…derek chills out

The lyrics also speak of a need to get away from the busy central belt and into the remoteness of our wonderful country. This thought was probably influenced by the lodges we were using to record. They were such peaceful and tranquil places. The lodges idea came from my mother who hired a lodge for her birthday. It was in Mallaig; one still day we drove to Arisaig. I switched off the engine and walked towards the shore. Once the clicking of the cooling engine faded all I could hear was ringing in my ears as the vast landscape in front of me was silent. Breathing space.

24. Weekend All Over My Face. Riot Act 2007

This aggressive song bursts into the middle of Riot Act. Another tale of drinking and potential violence in Falkirk. I know exactly the pub I was thinking of when I wrote this. We played a number of gigs there when we were heavily into playing cover songs.

Riot Act... lard bombs aside it was a peaceful recording...
Riot Act… lard bombs aside it was a peaceful recording…

Although the lyrics have dated they are entertaining ‘You, you want a fight, well I say alright, cos you wear a bad tracksuit’.

Stu took his small Peavey practise amp up to the recording session (i can’t remember why) and I thought i’d be a good idea to use it for the little riff we use before we go into the last chorus. It worked a treat. Weekend was one of the best sounding songs on Riot Act, it’s tight and it flows well.

23. Show Your Face Soon. Whapper Stromer 1995

At 23, only the second lift from Whapper Stormer, is Show Your Face Soon. It is a lively teenage dream of finding the perfect girl; knowing that she’s out there somewhere (eventually I married her!).

wedb 20 yrs 7
I sang Show Your face at the martell hoping a lady would answer my call eventually she did…

Stu penned a beautiful rolling guitar riff over my melody; it was such a productive way of writing when we formed the band, Sometimes I wish we could write like that again but all my melody now starts from the guitar.

The use of wah was well measured in this track; it suits the mood of the songs well. Greg and Derek have funky rhythm that adds to the optimism of this track. We used to write up to 5 verses; intertwined with chorus and vocal melodies. I have a particular fondness for this song. I remember when our good friend Rooz DJ’d at Dancing In The Dark. Show Your Face came on over the PA; it was delightful because if any Weird song was to be played it’d be The Rain or Vancouver. A delightful band effort.

22 Riot Act. Riot Act 2007

a beautiful moment from the riot act sessions
a beautiful moment from the riot act sessions

A simple balls out rock number Riot Act is us simply having fun. It’s actually not a bad wee riff but the drums suffer from the room in which they were recorded. Riot Act was recorded in the first lodge we hired to make albums. We placed the drums in a small room with a low ceiling; basically doing everything you shouldn’t.

Derek really thumps the skins in this song so you can hear the dead sound of the room. That aside this was one of the laziest songs I had written. ‘You never tell me where you’re going, you leave me hanging at every junction’, basically me moaning about people forgetting to signal at roundabouts. Clearly I had writer’s block at this time….

21 Power. Weird Decibels 2012

Writers block is horrible but the one thing you learn about writing songs over a number of years is that it passes. Lyrics are a great way to communicate and when you lose the ability to do that it’s frustrating.

steamin!!!
steamin!!!

I found some form when writing Weird Decibels 1; Power was one of the songs I enjoyed penning. It was written at a time when I was trying to sell our family home; however our house was deemed worthless as the surveyor had found Knotweed in the field of the landowner adjacent to  us.

At that point I felt helpless to move my family all due to a landowner allowing this destructive weed grow in his land.

It’s a quieter song than most of the tracks on WdB1 however its angry; especially the last chorus. Our friend Jemma helped out with violins; it was exciting to hear new instruments on our records.

Friends Corner

Our recordings would not be complete without a friend popping in to say hello and offer support. DJ says hello!

Say hello to DJ! Sitting in at recordings at Dereks flat
Say hello to DJ! Sitting in at recordings at Dereks flat

We approach the top 20 of the bands favourite tracks; already gone is High Heels what popular tracks will stumble as we make our way to the top ten? Next up 20-11

50 Weird Decibels songs as chosen by the band. Part 2 40-31

In the run up to the launch of Weird Decibels 2.0 we look at part 2 of our countdown to the bands favourite song…

Here comes the acoustic album. We have done one acoustic album to date.
Here comes the acoustic album. We have done one acoustic album to date.

40 Grand day out, Quiet Act 2008

The first pick from our acoustic album Quiet Act, Grand Day Out describes a day out in Edinburgh drinking with close friends. Indeed much of this album’s lyrics were about drinking; 6 albums in it was becoming clear that my song writing was getting lazy.

Grand Day Out is a warm upbeat song that builds to the sing along finale. At the time I was pleased with the sound. We were learning more about recording and thinking more about where the drums should be recorded; this album has an airy feel, more open thanks to the acoustic guitars and more subtle drums. Much like the album, Grand Day Out doesn’t change our musical landscape but it is good fun. It was recorded at a beautiful lodge in Gairloch near Baddachro. We had a grand day out at the Baddachro Inn. Pure heaven.

39 Woman In My Dreams Quiet Act 2008

It was a laid back approach to a laid back album
It was a laid back approach to a laid back album

Another take from Quiet Act; this time a pretty obvious love letter! At its heart it is a simple two chord song summed up in the title. I really liked the way we recorded this song, it felt like we were making progress. Stu plays an effective guitar pick over the rhythm, we doubled his part and you can hear the slight differences in his takes panned left and right. It gives the track a kind of ‘sparkle’ which suits the lyrics well. The track ambles along nicely with Greg’s acoustic bass and Derek’s gentle drums giving it flow. Certainly one of our best sounding songs

Like Grand Day Out before it and most of Quiet Act, Woman in my Dreams is simple in its nature although I do feel the lyrics were stronger in this track than most of the album. Not everyone who listens to the band liked this direction… it would not be long before we switched the distortion back on.

38 Fighting With Forever One More Solo 2004

Fighting with Forever sessions recorded at Dereks flat no beer in this shot?
Fighting with Forever sessions recorded at Dereks flat no beer in this shot?

Distorted guitars? Check. Screaming vocals? Check. Clearly this wasn’t from Quiet Act; One More Solo’s final third kicks off with this belter. It bursts in with a solid rhythm before we stop for some toms and guitar build before the song launches into an exasperated look at the formula of adult life, the lack of sleep and fear of getting left behind. ‘Night and day, it just seems the same to me’.

Fighting rolls along before the satisfying screams at the end; my voice barely held out for those as you can hear it burn out towards the end, hence the big FX.

We still play Fighting With Forever at practise but it hasn’t made our set lists for years.

37 Crazy Head Coldhome Street 2000

Crazy head was originally on my solo album ‘A Twist and a Turn’; it had found its way onto this album as have one or two tracks over the years. The rattle at the start of the track is my broken acoustic guitar! We did mention the budget for this album, didn’t we?

This is a bitter tale of broken romance and blaming someone’s past for their actions. It is not a song we have played for years and it is very much of its time.

36 All Good Things Firkin Outburst 1998

That old bridge is now the blue bridge on the Camelon bypass
That old bridge is now the blue bridge on the Camelon bypass

From Firkin Ourburst one of the songs that survived the alcohol laden writing sessions that had an impact on our second album. We were flying high after Whapper Stormer, our first gigs had been a success, we had recorded our first demos and our friendships were growing. There was a Haddows off license across the road from the practise room. We frequented this place every week.

Often we would head home so drunk we wouldn’t be able to remember the songs we had written; All Good Things was one of the 9 that made the album (we recorded 10, Today Was Insane did not make the record).

This track was recorded on our 8 track years after we had written it, again at Derek’s flat during our mad recording weekends.

It has the acoustic/ heavy mix sound that we adopted after Whapper when I was playing more guitar but had yet to purchase an electric.

Lyrically simple there is no complexity to the song, it’s a good riff and has a slightly different feel to our usual tracks.

35 Summerhigh Firkin Outburst 1998

Look at that hair!!
Look at that hair!!

‘Summerhigh, a good day to die’ a lyric straight from Star Trek and the Klingons! This upbeat tune was one of three recorded at our second visit to Random Rhythms, a great wee studio hidden in the outskirts of Edinburgh near the airport. The first sessions, for Whapper, were excellent however this time the recordings did not reach the previous heights. The sound engineer seemed to have lost interest this time around.

Summerhigh sounds slightly thin but the performance was good that day, particularly from Derek who really enjoyed recording in that studio. I sing of getting older (despite being in my early 20’s…) and starting to realise that I had to take some responsibilities; however there was still time for days in the sun.

There is a good live version on our first bootleg, Central FM were very supportive of the local scene during the late 90’s, they had recorded the gig which was part of an all day festival. This Martell performance reflects much of the swagger we had then.

34 Love Hate Thing Riot Act 2007

there is something amazing about rocking out in the remote parts of our land
there is something amazing about rocking out in the remote parts of our land

Sometimes you get a little fed up of the town in which you live; then you go for a stroll look over the forth valley and think, it’s not so bad. Love Hate Thing describes those feelings when out at night. Much of Riot Act is based around nights out in Falkirk (or the aftermath)

Nestled near the end of the album Love Hate Thing starts to wind things down with its moderate pace; at nearly five minutes long it includes a build and a solo. Riot Act is a mixture of fast 2 minute rock and this more measured number.

‘Streets with no name, streets with no shame’ Its not a song we visit much any more. It’s perhaps overly long but not a bad number.
33 Beauty Queen Coldhome Street 2000

This was us doing the 'live' guitars. Made it up as we went along well i did...
This was us doing the ‘live’ guitars. Made it up as we went along well i did…

Given the throwaway nature of Coldhome street it would be surprising if there was not a live jam on the album. That’s what Beauty Queen, the last track on Coldhome, was. The track was recorded in a small studio just outside the centre of  Stirling. I believe we recorded the drums prior to Greg, Stu and I jamming the guitars in the studio. Much of the solo work and possibly the vocals are improvised.

We mixed it on the same day, the engineer seemed to struggle a little and asked if we would mix the track. It’s quite a poor mix; the drums lack the impact needed for a live jam but it is a fun song with some daft lyrics. ‘oh my beauty Queen she loves technology, My beauty queen wants part in a home made movie!’

We all have a soft spot for Beauty Queen; perhaps because it was the song that was never finished. To my knowledge Beauty Queen has never been played live

32 Stand For Your Rights One More Solo 2004

Pensive? Or empty beer bottle?
Pensive? Or empty beer bottle?

Another album ender comes in at 32. A long slow burner of a rock track Stand For Your Rights is the first song we wrote when Stu re-joined the band after his brief hiatus.  Big choruses , dueling solos and a big ending this was our first hint at writing about politics. I’ve always liked the line ‘if you stand for your rights you’ll die young but you’ll die healthy’ it’s a bittersweet statement.

Recorded onto the 8 track along with the rest of One More Solo it was fairly straightforward to record despite the number of different sections of the song. While we were laying tracks at Derek’s flat there was a biblical rainfall shower outside. I grabbed a mic, careful not to get it wet I recorded to the sound of the rain. It was so heavy it ended up sounding like static. My shitty Renault 19 was flooded where it was parked, pity it didn’t float away. I added a little bit of keyboard to give One More Solo the closure it deserved.

31 Crown. Weird Decibels 1

we always look for a recording location with a good pub. Ettrickbridge had the wonderful Cross Keys Inn
we always look for a recording location with a good pub. Ettrickbridge had the wonderful Cross Keys Inn

At number 31 the first track from Weird Decibels 1, a high point in our history, the album was a return to more meaningful lyrics and carefully considered arrangements (well most of it!). Crown is one of the many ‘character’ songs. I was fed up writing about getting drunk at weekends, to be honest I had little to write about so i made up characters. Recorded in Ettrick Bridge (nice pub here as well) we were on a working farm in the middle of the borders. Stunning.

Crown was the murderer, the guy who snapped. He had committed a horrific crime but still attended his mundane office work as normal. ‘Perfect smile it makes me sick, he shakes my bleached hand,  i wonder what makes him tick’. I enjoyed writing about the meeting between the murderer and his perfectly groomed boss.

Crown also asks what happens in our town and cities that we don’t know about as people go about their own business.The vocals during the crescendo are ‘borrowed from a certain Mr Vedder and the song Jeremy. A similar story!

This concludes part 2. nearing the mid table now. next part has a rather big surprise for regular WdB gig goers…

50 Weird Decibels songs from 1995 -2015 as chosen by the band. part 1 50- 41

The countdown to our 20th anniversary gig at North Star is on. So the four of us got together and compiled a countdown of our favourite 50 songs that we have written and recorded. We start of with 50 to 41 keep an eye on the blog over the next few weeks as we reach our favourite song.

Sofa Guys. The great early days of the band. The time we wrote all of Whapper Stormer
Sofa Guys. The great early days of the band. The time we wrote all of Whapper Stormer

50. Sofa Girl Whapper Stormer 1995

A fan favourite Sofa Girl has resonated for years with the people who have followed us from the first album. It is a simple tale of a teenage boy who is not sure if he is in love with an awkward girl who is shunned at school by her peers.

It describes lazy teenage evenings spend on battered couches watching movies on satellite TV. Fairly innocent, it is a song that kicks out at the expected plan that life seems to take. ‘Get a car, TV, Satellite, Get a Life!’

Sofa Girl was played intensively by the band in the early Martell years. Track 5 at 3:38 it is punky in its nature, almost a throw away moment amid the more focused lyrics of Whapper Stormer. It struck a chord, John Baines was keen to supply backing vocals for the recording.

I can’t remember how we wrote this, often, in the early days I’d sing a melody to Stu and he’d put a guitar line to it but something tells me Stu already had something in mind and I sang on top of the guitar riff.

It was recorded at Derek’s old flat on a digital 8 track during our mad recording weekends, more on that later.

49.I Tried To Fly Cold Home Street 2000

Red Eye studios. They made us a demo I guess... sound wasn't the best
Red Eye studios. They made us a demo I guess… sound wasn’t the best

Driven by the simple C chord guitar riff I Tried to Fly saw Weird take a more ‘radio friendly’ approach to our music. I started playing electric guitar around this point; sometimes when you’re starting out ideas are easier to come by and at this time I was writing a lot of guitar riffs which would explain why Cold Home Street ended up with more of an ‘indie’ feel.

I Tried To Fly was one of three songs recorded at Red Eye studios, a rough recording to be fair. Thin in its sound, it lacked punch but the song transcended through. The song asks for patience as I explain ‘I’m not a perfect man’ .and that ‘I’m doing the best I can’; lyrically weak, I Tried to Fly is carried by the music which, while not ground breaking rolls along quite nicely.

48 It’ll All Work Out In The End Riot Act 2007

It what is quiet a punky album It’ll All Work Out in the End is the longest track at 5:44. Starting with the resident Cuckoo this as recorded at the first of our ‘lodge’ recordings I struggled to sing this song; the guys went to a pub in Cannich and I was left in the lodge on my own in a remote valley with only my thoughts. It was a difficult time for me, people close to me were very ill so this vocal performance is particularly charged.

1000853_631735696851522_520111379_nIts a song about a friend who was having a difficult time; this was my way of trying to reach out. It builds towards a nice crescendo; all the band except Greg sang and Stu plays a subtle riff over the top.

We have probably played this live once or twice but it never appears on set lists these days. We played this song live for central FM and can be heard on a bootleg. I guess it all works out in the end.

47 Hope Coldhome Street 2000

The second track recorded at Red Eye suffers from the same thin sound as tried to fly but Hope is a more upbeat rock song. Influenced by the ‘lad’ culture of the time Hope speaks of drinking which would haunt a lot of my lyrics for many albums. This song is fun. I recall us sitting in the mixing room of the studio begging the ‘engineer’ to pan the stereo mix. He submitted and the mix is, while slightly unbalanced. More acceptable than what was first presented.

This is the song a which Stu fainted trying to match the prowess of his singer… Greg, Derek and I were in the control room hearing Stu’s remarkable vocal performance. As he reached the long high note everything suddenly went quiet. A bemused sound engineer rose from his seat to look through the window only to see Stu face down on the couch with the music still blaring through his phones.

After the initial alarm Stu got up and brushed himself down and like a pro finished the record.

46 Sun Shines Brighter Cold Home Street 2000

We're all wired up to the four track ready to record. During this time that is all we did, for some reason we had stopped playing gigs.
We’re all wired up to the four track ready to record. During this time that is all we did, for some reason we had stopped playing gigs.

Its widely regarded that Coldhome street is our poorest record however a number of tracks from that album appear on this list! Its badly recorded; which could be hiding genuine good songs. Sun Shines Brighter was another track recorded at Red Eye in Clyde side. Its nasally sound can be quite off-putting but underneath the harsh intro guitar we wrote a fairly bitter sweet pop song.

The cheery riff that opens up is followed by a double verse’ things get a little moodier with the chorus. Sun Shines Brighter does have weather related cliché lyrics. Its a warm song that sticks to a safe formula; it comes and goes with little fuss.

Definitely one of our more upbeat songs from a generally upbeat album.

45 whiskey in my head One More Solo 2004

SCAN0041 - Copy
One More Solo often regarded as one of our best albums was recorded at Derek’s old flat on an 8 track

Sitting in the middle of One More Solo, Whiskey, as we refer to it, is a bluesy rock number. The lyrics centre around emotions and feelings; laced with drink. This was a common theme for many years with my song writing. The song is carried along with jangly guitars before, in common Weird Decibels practise to ascends into a Zeppelin Esq ending with Stu pouring a solo over the end.

It sounds live on record and we played it a lot during the time of One More Solo but unlike Easy Way and High Heels. Whiskey found itself being left in the bottle more often than not.

44 Pearl Necklace Coldhome Street 2000

Beer at practise. Yes please! By the time we were recording Coldhome street the practise room had a splash of colour...the last time its had a splash of colour i might add
Beer at practise. Yes please! By the time we were recording Coldhome street the practise room had a splash of colour…the last time its had a splash of colour i might add

The greatest lyrics about male insecurity I have ever written. I must’ve been in a funny mood that day; I still have a chuckle at the lyrics. Very tongue in cheek, dirty and rude but an absolute hoot. Not a bad wee tune as well but the lyrics make it. I guess at this time I did not care if I offended anyone; certainly no-one has complained.

I guess the lack of trust in relationships played a part here and my own insecurities. Being a songwriter you can vent your frustration by writing about them! We never really played this live and it has now been filed away with much of Coldhome Street awaiting a re-master or re-recording.

Recorded on the Tascam 4 track this is another lift from Coldhome street.

43 Cold Calling. One More Solo 2004

This is around the time we recorded One More Solo. Loads of beer and subways made me 'cuddly'
This is around the time we recorded One More Solo. Loads of beer and subways made me ‘cuddly’

Originally performed by the Seventeenth, Cold Calling was to be one of the last songs we would do before the band fell apart. Kevin Byrne was on drums and Jon Shaw played guitar. I had written the music and lyrics so I was able to transfer it to Weird Decibels who were reformed and looking for songs.

Cold calling has a haunting riff that I have always regarded as one of my best. It was borrowed from a solo song I had writing. You can hear it on ‘No Past No Future’ the opening track from the Armour is Broken. I believe there is also a riff from The Mallig EP another solo record.

Put together the riff worked. Its an insecure love song; bands like the Doves and Coldplay were at their peak at the time and I was influenced by them.

Cold Calling received a luke warm review in the daily record demo section. On reflection the song and performance let the song down. It is still played down at the practise room and a live version can be heard on Tonight, Live Not Completely Sold Out!. Played live I still get a buzz from this song that is lacking on record. 

42 Method In My Madness Cold Home Street 2000

The Coldhome tracks just keep coming! I personally love this song; it was an early example of me getting to grips with the guitar and starting explore further up the fret board. Stu and I have separate solos towards the end; there would only be one winner of course. The song takes a wonderful little menacing turn at the end.

The lyrics tell of madness and sadness. Perhaps these were easy words to rhyme; but I do speak of thoughts and feeling once again. My writing would rarely reach further than my own thoughts which limited the subjects I was signing about.

41 Home town Cold Home Street 2000

Our Greg, the most level and sound guy you could meet. After drinking, he's usually the first to fall asleep
Our Greg, the most level and sound guy you could meet. After drinking, he’s usually the first to fall asleep

Recorded on a Tascam 4 track Hometown bursts in ‘Do you love your hometown’. Another lift from Cold Home Street there is actually a good song buried under the murky recording. Its a simple guitar riff, I was only starting to take up rhythm duties for the band.

This was one of many songs we recorded in our practise room. At this time we were no longer playing gigs; we would simply arrived every Wednesday and record onto the tape. Unfortunately for some reason the manic end is cut off just as Derek gets in the full swing of things with a tribal chant. The rest of the ending is pasted at the end of the album! Derek has never forgiven me for this.

Factcorner

6 tracks are from our 3rd album Coldhome Street

2 are from One More Solo the 4th album

1 is from our first Whapper

and the other is from Riot Act our 5th.

This concludes part on of our countdown. In the next past of our top 50, 40- 31 we have a greater of contrast of light and heavy…

Thanks for reading!!

Pabs

Pablo played the Tolbooth Stirling 3rd October 2015

The Tolbooth Stirling supporting JJ Gilmour Saturday 3rd October

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Oh the lights are Blue! (picture by Greg)

The nerves kicked in about lunch time as I walked along Blackness shore with Kirsty and my boy Lewis. What if I broke a strings? What if forgot the words or the chords. I looked over the river Forth; surrounded by the landscape that have provided much of the canvas for my music. I’m starting to hope that tonight will open new doors.

I kiss Kirsty goodbye, Lewis dropped off at his Grandmas (thanks!) and I walk to the train, guitar case in hand ready to catch the 5 past 5 to Stirling.

I crash down with all my gear onto a seat opposite a strange guy who looks half paranoid and half irritated. Eventually he relocates to a more comfortable seat. I turn to look out the window as the landscape rushes past. Alone with my thoughts its usually here I think of Weird Decibels. Before a gig the four of us are involved in some sort of banter; I haven’t played a lot of solo shows but this seems to be recurring thought.

The train wheels into Stirling; the city is bustling with people. I dodge through them and make the journey up the hill towards the Tolbooth. Eventually I reach the venue and I am greeted by Katie and her friendly colleague whose name has escaped me.

I’m lead to the dressing room; backstage there is a fridge with beer. Filtered coffee sits on a percolator and there is a box of curry. I head through to the stage.

I find JJ Gilmour on stage doing his sound check and Phil, his pianist, is in the seats listening to the performance. I’m delighted that the seats are out; it was the same set up used when I came here to see RM Hubbert.

JJ Patiently battles with a poor monitor sound that is eventually fixed by the sound engineers (who did a fantastic job for me). JJ is a perfectionist, he is clearly concerned about the on stage sound and you could tell he was thinking of the audience that would arrive later having paid money to see him.

Eventually the sound is settled; I sit back and listened to JJ and Phil play a few tunes which I really enjoyed. Its my turn to go up and sound check. Those nerves? Yeah they come storming back.

My sound check was terrible, I was all over the place. Usually with the band we settle our sound quickly and confidently hammer through our song. Solo? Much different. The silence of the room, every single string and every word sung is heard. It is a pressure I’m still getting used to. I regained my composure and for the first time I nervously asked the engineers to adjust my monitor sound. Suddenly I realised how important it is to nail your on stage sound. The guys could not have been more helpful; the sound was balanced and now the echo (or latency) from the back of the room was no longer putting me off. I strummed through a number of songs and my confidence grew.

Sound check concluded I stood with JJ and Phil; two cracking blokes who were happy to share stories to a guy who is interested to hear about their successful musical careers. Clearly they have had some amazing times with the Silencers and the many artists they have met along the way. The conversation turns to the present music industry. JJ is visibly frustrated at how musicians are treated these days, he explained that he had went to a TV station where musicians were playing.

(Not his exact words)The receptionist, paid, the guy who escorted me up to the studio, paid, the presenters, the sound engineers, the camera operators, paid. I look at the artists and they are the only people in the room who weren’t paid.

This struck a chord with me.

We all went back stage and had a blether about all things music; I found both JJ and Phil to be great company.

Time was flying and my stage time was approaching. I was escorted by a young stage hand awaiting instruction from the sound engineer; all very professional and certainly not what I’m used to!!

Set list

  1. I Had To Turn It Around

  2. What Are You Running From

  3. Looking From The Outside

  4. Awkward

  5. The Boxer

  6. Let Autumn and Winter Pass

  7. Hard Working Man

  8. Blue lights

The lights went out and I made my way towards the stage. I could feel the presence of the audience and I can’t remember if there was applause or silence. My nerves had really kicked in; I took a moment and lifted my father’s Takamine over my shoulder and stepped towards the mic.

I Had to Turn It Around is fairly easy to play and it went well. The applause was brilliant; I smiled, through the first song unscathed! I slowed things down with What are you Running From, my composure was now on and my confidence starting to rise. Looking from the Outside was fine, I think I hit a wrong note here but I carried on. I loved playing Awkward to an audience that listened to everything I played. Boxer went down well and I dedicated Autumn to Kirsty who had been joined by Lisa and Greg (thanks guys!).

Hard Working Man went the way I wanted; I slowed it right down at the end. The audience were very enthusiastic. I wasn’t used to this and I loved the experience. I went into Bluelights, the lights went blue (like that last time) a nice touch. This is a moment that will not leave me. Then there was the applause at the end, as a grass roots musician you wait for moments like this. I looked up to the lights, bowed, and left the stage.

Backstage JJ and Phil were sipping from what I was assured a nice red, a far cry from Buckfast! I cracked open one of our complementary Becks and took my place in the audience.

I liked their show, a really entertaining mixture of songs from the past and present. Halfway through the set JJ took the time to ask the audience to give me a round of applause; it was a nice touch, its been a while since I’ve been called ‘young Paul’! The stories were brilliant, then the sing along from JJ’s fans at the end was fantastic. I really enjoyable performance from them.

Afterwards, we stood at the merch stand. To top off a fantastic night I sold out my CD’s albeit with a little gentle recommendation from JJ. I signed some of the copies and spoke to some lovely people.

A once in a lifetime experience for me? I hope not!!

Thanks to

Kirsty, Greg, Lisa, Kenny, Katie, the sound team, the staff at Tolbooth and of course JJ and Phil.