thanks to Kevin Byrne, Juls Sampson, Gary Ivady and Kirsty Smith for taking photos/videos some of which are posted in the blog.
I burst through the front door of the house exhausted after another day in the office. It was the end of a long week; now I had to jump from one life to another. You can’t beat being the frontman of Weird Decibels but before that I needed a wee 20 minutes nap on the couch. It wasn’t to be.
Mince and tatties in the microwave, I rushed upstairs to grab my gig bag, rushed back downstairs to grab a black tee shirt out of the dryer then back upstairs to check if the printer was working as I frantically tapped my last gen ‘smartphone’ to try and type up the set list.
Then I stood alone in the living room and tried to calm myself down; it worked for a minute as I ran back upstairs to grab mic leads then back downstairs when I heard the microwave ping!
Fed, watered and prepared I heard the doorbell ring and the ever laid back Mr Greg McSorley, 20 years served Bass player, and band gear fixer presented me with his usual enthusiasm for our latest gig. This time it was to be special.
I flung my gear into the back of his car and we set off on the thankfully short journey to North Star in the centre of Falkirk. It had been the best part of four years since we had played locally.
Stu and Derek were calmly setting up as hurricane Smith bashed through the doors with two guitars and a bag of leads. Two sighs later I flung the gear down and with my hands on my hips, I surveyed the scene. North Star looked the part, it was cosy and the tables had been neatly stacked away. I looked down at the empty floor and hoped that the free entry would tempt our loyal fanbase to fill this place.
Some diners were carefully tucking into their pizzas as I started to set up with the guys. It took a wee while to get the balance of the guitars right. Stu grew increasingly worried as he had to turn his guitar amp down 1. That’s -10 from the usual recommended rock level…
We balanced the guitars and then adjusted the bass slightly, Craig was dealing with the vocals and acoustic guitar which he mixed in well. Although there were no monitors on stage but we’ve played many gigs like that so it wasn’t a problem.
Setlist north star
Home sweet home (Riot Act)
Kill it Kill it (Weird Decibels 2)
Educational suicide (Whapper Stormer)
Show your face (Whapper Stormer)
Joker (Weird Decibels 1)
Just for today (Whapper Stormer)
The rain (Whapper Stormer)
Speak (Weird Decibels 1)
Miss Asphyxia (Weird Decibels 2)
The Ending (One More Solo
Culture Creature (Firkin Outburst)
Glass People (Whapper Stormer)
Medley (Mix of One More Solo, Firkin Outburst and Riot Act)
After all the soundchecks were done Kevin Byrne kindly stepped up to entertain the crowd; he played a few acoustic songs which went down well with the audience.
It was fast approaching quarter to nine and the incredible Buzzards of Babylon, great friends of ours, took to the stage. By now numbers were starting to grow and the placed was getting warmer. The guys rocked through a tight and dynamic set with some hilarious banter from their captivating front man Rab Dempsey. A superb set from these guys. Suddenly it was game on!!
More people piled through the door (some literally) as the charged atmosphere added to our excitement. Nerves were kicking in now, we hadn’t played a lot of these songs live for years. I forgot the riff to Home Sweet Home just minutes before we were due on. I was snapping at the guys as the adrenalin was flowing. Guitars weren’t tuning and the mics were squealing feedback.
However when I hit the B chord of Home Sweet Home it all clicked in. The sound settled for a while and we burst into the opener from Riot Act. It was an apt song for playing back to our hometown of Falkirk after a few years trying to spread our name in Glasgow.
Going Back to the 90’s
The first third of the set flew past; after new single Kill it Kill it was nailed I placed the guitar down; in that moment I was transported back to the Martell in 1995 when I was simply a vocalist. We played Educational Suicide and Show Your Face Soon. It was brilliant to be able to run about the stage without the guitar.
I loved singing Just for Today and Vancouver as well; the heat was building and I was gulping more water in between the free beer supplied by the venue (nice touch North Star).
The Ending was a bit wobbly, Greg couldn’t quite nail it and it took us until the end to find our feet. I made a hash of the end as well. So yeah there were a few mistakes on the night but what the hell, it was fun.
I lifted the trusty old Tanglewood which was nestled in its rack; this was the first guitar I had bought and became fused with our late 90’s sound. Culture Creature was the best song to come from that era. It sounded good although I didn’t nail the solo. Stu managed to carry us through that part. Derek and Greg kept things solid.
Glass people was next; the first time in perhaps 15 or so years the public it was pretty much spot on and once again the indefectible Stu nailed the solo; the chatter in the venue had lowered to a murmur as the crowd took in his playing.
The mood was changing though, restless perhaps, it was time to turn it up a notch so we played our first ever medley.
We had many requests from our kind kind listeners; these included Hell Never Felt So Good, Underachiever and Fighting With Forever. We wanted to fling in Brought A Gun and the Nirvana version of the Vaselines Molly’s Lips before leaving the guitars to ring into Wonder.
As we switched from Hell to Bought A Gun I screwed up the change; with a shake of the head from Derek we soldiered on and got the rest right much to the delight of our listeners who were pleased with the new take on old songs.
The Final Straight
Sofa Girrrl was a riot; by this time I had a few beers and was trying to get the crowd to sing along to songs they might not know. So I dived away from the stage in search of some backing singers and a special dancer. Rooz stepped up and we Sofadanced through the 3 mins of punk. A superb moment.
New song it Who You Know burnt out the last strings of my vocal chords but the guys were now in full rock mode. We reached Rosie, our 2nd last song, or so we thought. The chants of (the much missed) Dave Broon echoed through the Star from our friends as Derek and Stu started our famous cover song.
After the guitars rung out my father stepped up to the stage, ‘you need to play Deliverance! There is a guy from Stockport here just to see you!!’ That guy turned out to be Falkirk bairn Harry Watson who had traveled 234 miles to take in the sights and sounds of his home town.
After Craig kindly allowed some more time (past 11pm now..) we launched into Deliverance. I disappeared into the crowd, guitar in hand. Stu was in stitches wondering who was going to sing the choruses!
We ended with one of the most requested songs in our history, it’s always the same voice that shouts for it! High Heels, Wilson’s favourite ended a superb night for us. As Stu And I played back to back during the solo it felt great to be on a Falkirk stage again. I went out into the audience and I was surrounded by people that had came to see us. It was a great moment.
The Merch stand is open!
Merch did well, Derek set it up rather nicely, a great effort. We sold a number of Tee’s that Greg had spent hours making. We shifted a few of the back catalog CD’s as well. Thank you everybody.
The Buzzards were Buzzing!
Rab asked for a guide to Falkirk pubs that would be open until 3am I gulped… the adrenaline was seeping away, and my bones were aching. These guys meant business. Greg was the only Decibel to rise to the Buzzards challenge. They stayed up to 3am downing shots and proving that Stu, Derek and myself may have to brush up on our rock and roll skills.
The Greatest of Nights.
It was a great night at North Star. It’s a neat wee venue for bands to play and we would like to thank Craig for having us on. Both Kevin and the Buzzards were brilliant, the latter clearly looked like they were out for a party all night and morning. The crowd was brilliant as well. Many of you turned up to support us and it was nice to see the place full of much loved friends and family.
So thanks once again for your support. As we say so long to our first 20 years and look to the years ahead.
With a new album due soon we must acknowledge that it would never have happened without you. Our wonderful Weirdos..
Pabs voted it in 18th place out of 20, Stu N/E (didn’t vote for this) Greg 9th Derek 7th
A real favourite with Greg and Derek, Trying To Grab Hold is one of the most laid back tracks we ever put down. Reminiscing is something I find myself doing on a regular basis; the early days with the band were a riot and sometimes I wish we could turn back the clock and change some of the decisions we made.
The second verse; ‘summer breeze whispering we were laughing, watching the red sky fade to black, then we would gather, around a fire and talk about this and that’. Im convinced that I’m recalling the time that Greg, Derek And I went to T in the Park at Strathclyde in the mid 90’s We had camped in a site away from the festival and there was a group of revellers around a fire passing around a guitar singing various well known songs.
I sat, drunkenly swaying, one eyebrow raised, awaiting my turn while taking in the folky atmosphere. When the guitar reached my eager hands I started belting out a song we have long forgotten called Brilliant at the top of my wayword voice. A silence descended over the rest of the circle
In my self absorbed gleeful bliss my eagerness grew; I was about to hit the second verse when the guitar owner promptly asks for his guitar and storms off! The three of us laughed our hearts out that night.
Like I say it was good times and Trying To Grab Hold is looking back at these days that seemed a bit less complicated.
This was another song recorded at Derek’s flat, at the end of the track you can hear me leave the vocal booth made of egg cartons. You can hear Derek explaining to Gav McVicar that we were always looking to try new ideas. I kept that in to give us a sense of those recording sessions.
Yet another split opinion between the band. Early favourite Vancouver was rated highly by myself and Stu. Vancouver is somewhat surprisingly is pegged down at 9.
One of the first three songs we created; Vancouver is about Kurt and Courtney, the John and Yoko of my generation. I remember being obsessed with Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. Like millions of others I watched his helpless dive into a heroin abyss.
It’s strange starting a band only to hear your favourite artists moan about how much they hate the fame and fortune they have found. I guess we’ll never understand what it is like to see the music world from these lofty heights.
For the lyrics of Vancouver I imagined this world; placing myself in the shoes of Cobain and others. The song is called Vancouver because it was an easy place with which to rhyme with other cities like Hanover which I could rhyme with hangover. Then it was easy to link it in with ‘the Camera the microphone it’s blown your cover’.
I love these lyrics, some of my best, even after all these years I still have a fondness for them; I just don’t write like that any more. It was another melody that I had in my head. I would sing it and Stu would play the tune.
The line ‘you try to make yourself look bad, but you only look better.’ was an observation made about artists those days. They would descend into deeper trouble and yet still manage to look cooler in the eyes of their young impressionable audiences.
Vancouver was recorded at Split Level studios, this was our first proper studio sessions and one of our best. Neil the engineer did a really good job with the production. It was brilliant walking past the massive desk into the vocal booth. I felt like we had arrived!
Vancouver was a live favourite in the early days; it was always well received at gigs. It was a setlist regular for the first few years before we laid it to rest; I do recall us getting a bit tired playing it which in hindsight is no longer a concern I have; If we are lucky enough to have someone love our songs then I’ll play them . A truly wonderful Weird Decibels song.
‘I love the rain cause it’s got loads of wah wah and a huge end and it’s a classic.Takes me right back to the martell gigs.’ Stu
First there is the splash of the cymbals, then Stu & Greg launch into the riff before I sing the word ‘The Rain’. Once again we have a band divider. Another surprise as the Rain, an early favourite for top track drips in at 8. Recorded in at the same sessions as Vancouver, the Rain is one of the most refreshingly original songs we have ever created.
The lyrics were written during the massive rainstorms of 94 when the Dawson mission near the Carron Works was flooded. A religious building at the mercy of the heavens (well the river Carron).
In 95 I was only 18 and I guess that I leaving high school to go out into the mercy of the big bad world was worrying me so I went for another two years to Falkirk College. It’s a huge change especially when, like me, you don’t have a plan for the future.
Back then I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of my lack of direction and how it would effect my future. This explains the chorus ‘Stored in houses known as clouds, leaves the clouds and hits the ground.’
Throughout the verses are lines that have little relation to each other that, ‘the rain’. I’ve always liked walking in the rain and I remember the velux window in the ceiling of my room in my old house. When the rain fell it was a beautiful sound.
‘the rain, a beautiful sound on the window pain, a musician who has no composition’.
As Greg and Derek maintain a nice groove; Stu lets a nice lead flow over the lyrics. Neil at Split Level added a little FX onto the guitar which gave the guitars a liquid feel.
There is a pause in the song for a middle 8. Then it builds to the double distorted guitars and loud vocals.
Educational Suicide, Vancouver and the Rain became the original three we wrote at our first practises. They were played relentlessly during the early years and gained attention from Central FM who were excellent at supporting local acts back then.
Eventually as we tried to move away from the early dominance of Whapper Stromer we would stop playing them. A classic Weird Decibels track. Makes you wonder what came on top!
The finale of Whapper Stormer Glass People is one of our longest songs; originally a full band track, the album version features Stu and I on acoustic guitars for the one and only time in the history of our 7 albums (and our upcoming 8th).
Glass People was written in my head over many Saturday nights at Pennies, the run down alternative disco that was hidden away down the old Coasters ice rink. We had wonderful times in there. Every weekend we would head down and join our music community. All the songs of the times would play and strong friendships were forged.
No matter where I went I always found that there were people I could ‘see through’; there was a big act hiding the real person under the surface, hence Glass People.
‘It was a rainy night,for the night I was going to witness
people who are desperate, to escape all that lies before them,
all are congregated, maybe not at church but a place we can worship
our freedom and our choice, the only play where I can let go for recreation
but I noticed , I noticed something spectacular.
For the few hours that Pennies was open every weekend we did feel like we could be ourselves. Most of us didn’t really embrace the night clubs in Falkirk, it just wasn’t our scene.
Glass People was the first guitar riff that I had written for the band. The chord progression, Dm, open F, C to G was easy to play!.
At the time of Stu’s hiatus we bumped into each other in Behind the Wall. After a few pints we reluctantly accepted that the band may never get back together so we decided to start working on a ‘best of’ acoustic album. The first track we recorded was Glass People. During the wintery recording session it snowed, we strolled through the falling flakes to the off licence to collect a carry out. We returned to the studio and cracked open a fresh beer. Stu then laid the most incredible acoustic solo for the end of the song and the album.
Luck had it the band got back together; we gathered all the recordings, old and new and tracklisted Whapper. When we all sat and listened to the acoustic version of Glass People we all looked at each other and agreed. It had to stay on the record.
The band version of glass people can be heard on our bootleg and there is another version floating around somewhere.
Scored highly by Derek and myself the incredible Now I Can See His Eye breaks in at 6. This, often ignored, track of Whapper is another of the more imaginative songs we have written. I would be lying if Now I Can See His Eye wasn’t written without any substances… Singing about yellow brick roads, eyes in the ceiling and the rather obvious lyrics ‘ the sky the sky , it’s just a trip a little day out’,
Greg and I fell into a good group of friends who wandered slightly off the straight and narrow. You do experiment with life when you are young and I look back fondly at the parties we used to have, but we could’ve easily slipped into another way of life.
Now I can See His Eye subconsciously speaks of this fear of following the wrong person into a chaotic lifestyle without much hope for a future. It also speaks of the desire to be successful with the band.’Now I can see the crowds and my friends stand beside me’.
Scored highly by Derek and propped up by myself and Greg, The Ending breaks into the top 5 tracks we have done. To be honest the verse and choruses of the Ending are fairly standard arrangements
I remember getting the idea for the lyrics when I visited Edinburgh museum; looking down from the high balcony to the floor below I thought of the lyrics. ’ I’m tempted by the rush of the ground as the season flow I will never now how many people I’d have hurt.’ Strange times…
It’s the ending of the song that has always been a pleasure to play. The chord change after the build. E C A, then it drops to G. When we first played it I had one of those moments where I’d look around the room and see everyone grinning (the last time was when we wrote the end of Medicine for the new album).
So the Ending has one of our best endings!
4. Easy Way. One More Solo. 2004 Greg’s favourite track.
Pabs 4th, Stu NE, Greg 1st Derek NE
‘I love (the) Easy Way as it’s a great energetic, heavy song which drives all the way through. Great fun to play.’ Greg
Another top 5 track from One More Solo; loved by myself and even more so by Greg. Easy Way is a thunderous track with two versions. The album take above and the re-recorded single here. One of the best lines I have written is ‘I can see my future, I see it everyday!’ A lot of One More Solo speaks of being stuck in a rut.
We were approached by a small record company called Bracken records, this was to be the first record company interested in our material. We were asked to think about re-recording the song. So we duly tried to recapture the original One More Solo performance but it didn’t quite hit the raw aggression of the original. We didn’t hear from Bracken records again (not sure if they are still on the go); eventually an ‘unsigned’ band learned to live with the knockbacks as there are always high points around the corner; perhaps this is one of the reasons we have lasted 20 years.
The original is a powerful take; the sound isn’t the greatest but underneath the murky frequencies there is a frantic few minutes of rock. I really go for it on the vocals at the last chorus: ‘I tried ! I tried the easy way!’
A remaster has been attempted on One More Solo, but it had varying results on the album. Some of the songs turned out well. Easy Way was certainly one of those moment where we were all glad the band had got back together.
The first open string picked chords on the slightly out of tune acoustic, followed by Stu gently picking a couple of muted notes before Derek and Greg ease their way into the intro. Culture Creature is based on the darker side of the drug culture that hovered around our community. It’s surprising that one of our darkest songs has made its way to the dizzy heights of 3. (given that Stu, Greg and Derek are constantly telling me to cheer the f*** up!)
‘We wanted jobs, we wanted to escape, but we ended up like cars with no brakes’
We were all leaving school, some with hopes, aspirations and career plans others with an uncertain future. Culture Creature was strange phrase I used to try and describe people who were drawn into the late 90’s booze. music and drug scene. This transition from childhood to adulthood is such a difficult time for young people, as it was for us, not everyone made it. One of the perversions of life
It ends with the line
‘I’m the one blame, do I see my reflection?’
I’m sure I’m finally blaming myself for not trying harder during my education when I finally realise how important it was as I walked out the school gates for the last time. I almost felt like turning around and promising the teachers that I’d given a hard time I’d try harder! ( I wasn’t that bad to be honest)
Culture Creature was recorded during the 2nd session of songs at Split Level. As previously mentioned; Neil wasn’t quite on the ball this time, the sound is slightly thin. I can remember everyone being drained during the recording of this song. The vocals took a few takes; we played it over a few times and the song’s mood brought everyone down!
I left the vocal booth to see John Baines, our guest at the recording, looking totally despondent on the couch!
Despite the slightly wayward sound and the subject material Culture Creature has stood the test of time. It’s a haunting piece, beautifully played by Stu. It’s a reminder of what could’ve been.
At the end of writing Weird Decibels 1 we were fairly confident we had a strong set of songs for our album. Stu was playing around with the guitar as we prepared to rehearse. He played this really cool looping riff. I asked him to keep playing it; I simply held a E and the rest of the band joined in.
We kept playing the song and I started every line with ‘I wonder’ as I tried to find a melody. The line stuck and I fleshed out the lyrics. When we finished the basic track, Jemma Burt stepped in with the violin, it was a really nice touch that added to the mood of the song.
‘The bridge on which we stand has crumbled and untied, we can either run to our sides or repair it over time’.
I guess I’m thinking of relationships with friends and family, as we all get busier and more distracted by life we must try harder to stay in touch. This seems a bizarre thing to write in the age of social media and instant communication. In many ways this technology makes this worse.
Wonder is now one of our best known tracks with thousands of views on Youtube. The video was shot around our old haunts of Falkirk: Pennies, the doorway of the old Clydesdale bank (where we used to sit after the night out had come to an end) and Firkins a pub that used to be a meeting place for all the fans of alternative music.
The scrolling landscapes (influenced by the start of the film Lost in Translation) and drive by shots capture the mood of the song; a wintery grayscale hue over the places where we spent our youth. It’s a video full of memories; and famous sights of Falkirk which seemed to strike a chord with fellow Bairns.
Wonder found its way on many of our sets after the launch of Weird Decibels 1; it remains a favourite of our regular listeners. Its funny how at the end of writing sessions these songs can come along…
Track 2 from our last album Weird Decibels 1 gathers the most points from our voting and is crowned our top track.
Written around late 2008 and early 2009 Speak has significant meaning. The riff, picked around a G bar chord, was around for a while and the song had been building into an upbeat rock number. It starts with the toms pounding through the intro, the riff, then the whole band launches a sonic assault. It was one of the first songs we had written for the then untitled Weird Decibels 1.
Songwriting came to be in my late teens, I grew up surrounded my the music that my father played and would always hear my mother singing away whilst making some delicious pancakes. Lyrics were my way of communicating. I’ve written many many songs, a lot bad, some ok and a few that I am proud of. Speak falls into the latter.
The sudden passing of our much loved friend Dave Broon brought my thoughts into sharp perspective. I no longer wanted to write about beery nights in Falkirk; now I wanted to make sense of my world and the lives that we lead.
I was told you work, In mysterious ways I learned you were liberal, with your selection
I’ve been gifted a life, with wonderful people Why must you start, to take them from me?
So speak to me
Let me hear what you say
Speak to me
You built this world, in all it’s glory You gave us greed, to strip it all away
But I hope you’re there, taking care Offering refuge, for our weary souls
So speak to me Let me hear what you say
Speak to me let me hear what you say!
Speak was always going to be a single and like Wonder before it a video was released, set in our practise room that we’ve used for the past 20 years it’s a mix of live action and stop animation. It was a well received video.
This song has started many setlists; it is a very hard track to leave out, its fast pace and aggression help liven up our sets.
Like the majority of Weird Decibels 1 Speak was recorded at the 4th lodge we hired in Ettrickbridge. The drums were recorded in the practise room prior to us doing the guitars at the lodge. Speak was one of the few songs to feature doubled up vocals to enhance the chorus and it is something we use a lot more now.
Speak may not be the favorite track of anyone from the band, we all rated around the upper middle of our top 20, but the difference this time is that we all voted for it and has ended up as our number 1 song.
It’s not a complicated number by any means. It’s just balls out rock, a bit like AC/DC, which happened to be Dave’s favorite band. I wonder if the big man would agree with our top track!
Some facts about the top 50
The Top Ten had 2 tracks from Weird Decibels 1 the top two tracks! Whapper Stormer had 4 in the bottom 5, One More Solo had 3 and Firkin Outburst had 1 top ten track.
In the whole of the top 50 the breakdown from each album was
Whapper Stormer 9 out of 10 (possible) tracks
Weird Decibels 1 9 out of 12 tracks
One More Solo 8 out of 11 tracks
Riot Act 8 out of 12 tracks
Cold Home Street 8 of 13 tracks
Firkin Out Burst 5 out of 9 tracks
and Quiet Act 3 out of 11 tracks
I asked each band member to list their top 20 tracks the points were 20pts for 1st then 19 for 2nd and so on. This was all added up then compiled into a top 50.
Well if you have read this far then I must thank you! I hope you enjoyed this article.
Do you agree with the top 50 then? leave a comment or two below