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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