The Loft Sessions (BTW) 24th March

The following people and artist made this blog possible

The Audience

The Sonic Blues

Pleasure Heads

Ghost Writer

Afterglow Promotions

Photographs by 

Eindp photography  also on Facebook

AMiF

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The Sonic Blues. Brilliant.

Behind the wall has never been one of my favourite haunts; when I heard that a new local music event was happening in BTW I felt a tinge of disappointment that they picked that location. I headed through the main doors and passed by a relatively quiet bar with Thursday drinkers enjoying a week day pint perhaps glad that Easter had afforded them a long weekend.

I headed straight upstairs to the ‘Loft Sessions’. A different atmosphere presented itself here; there was a pleasant welcome from the gentleman collecting door money and promoter Rikki Tonner. Rikki looked happy, he offered a handshake but he was slightly distracted. He told me one of the PA speakers was down; underneath his calm exterior was a slight hint of exasperation. Immediately I could tell the guy puts a lot into these nights and he feels all the highs and lows.

There was an expectant air about the venue; the bar was the same as I had always remembered the Ale House to be (it’s in BTW). I grabbed a nice ale and enjoyed a cheeky school night pint (I was not off for Easter).

I bumped into Ranny, an old music friend who started a band around the same time as Weird Decibels. We had a wee chat about the old practice room and times gone past. With a nostalgic smile on my face I headed through to the stage area.

I was impressed. They have changed the layout for the live nights. Most of the tables are gone; under the soft blue lights lies a bigger stage than before. The darkness was pierced by the stage lights which remained static for the night and added to the intimate feel of the venue.

The sound desk and PA  was provided by Jimmy Dunbar who has presided over much of Falkirk’s live sound for years. I expected loud. However he has handed the reigns over to a younger chap, Ben White. The drums were excellent. The kick and toms were deep without muddy overspill and the snare cut through as expected. The band sound checking were The Sonic Blues.

I admit this was the reason I was here. Weird Decibels had a gig at the Kilted Kangaroo in Stirling, the Sonic Blues were on the same bill as us. I saw these guys soundcheck and I was impressed. We rudely left (to get a train) before they played that night. I had listened to their tracks online and wanted to see these guys.

11167960_525395094299516_6594349464135157036_oThe Sonic Blues have great invention; if you listen to their tracks you can hear many many influences straining to be heard. The blues feel is very much in their sound, they play really good Zepplin esq jams. They started the first half of their set with covers and they picked songs that suited their sound. The band members changed instruments and Greg Breen, a friendly guy who is very enthusiastic about his music, seamlessly switched from an excellent drumming performance to some, quite frankly, stunning guitar work.

They started to play the songs I heard online. Like many bands when they play live they sound  not better but free to improvise. Sometimes the thrill of the live performance outweighs the discipline of the studio. This was an excellent gig.

As The Sonic Blues jammed Rory passed with camera in hand and ear protectors in place. Tireless is a word I would use to describe this guy who is capturing the many events around Falkirk and the surrounding area.

They finished with ‘I can’t Get You Outta My Head’ by Ms Minogue (soon to be married, celeb goss on the WdB blog). It was fun and had me laughing as I made my way to the bar to meet my friends.

I spoke to Greg after their show and he shared the most common of ailments for any local musician. He’s moved to a new flat and this has curtailed the recording of drums for now. Hopefully he and the rest of the guys will get round this and released more music soon.

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Dressed for the occasion. Good set by these guys.

Pleasure Heads were next. The sharp dress code matched their music . The singer tall and dressed in a shirt and tie commanded the audience to move towards the stage and promised he wouldn’t bite. Those in attendance moved towards the stage. Their set was good and they had an enthralled audience watching their every shuffle.

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The mix of vocals between Iain King and Mags Dignan is very effective.

Last up were Ghost Writer. The crowd had thinned by the time these guys came on. One or two punters were talking of heading to City to no doubt listen to club music which, if that’s your thing, is fine but they missed a treat.

These guys take risks with their music. The singer Iain King stood taller than the rest and commanded the stage. Mags Dignan, on keys, shares vocals and this mix reminded me of Low and Foals but without the doom of Low, if that makes sense.

12916381_525526614286364_5480002945239723970_oThe different textures (keyboards and female vocals) in their sound was welcome and their songs were ambitious. I have tried to listen to their music online, so far their fine work is shackled by the 30 sec clip from iTunes. Their Outskirts Vol 1 EP has promise. I don’t do apple. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to download (and pay) for their music on Bandcamp. (if it’s on bandcamp please link, I couldn’t find it)

The proceedings came to a close; for the first time in years I had taken in a night of local music and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rikki, who had been darting around the venue all night, had a moment to chat. He hopes the Loft Sessions will work but I sensed doubt. He is a family man with a life outside music who has appeared on the Falkirk scene with a desire to improve it.

The Falkirk music scene is notoriously unforgiving. It will give you a flash of potential, of promise. Crowds will come then they will disappear for no reason. Scenes have come and gone. The Martell, the Happening Club and Dancing In the Dark I’m looking at you.

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Rikki (far right) chat with Ghost Writer

Now we have Rikki. He has stepped up and accepted the challenge that many have shied from. He and his team have invested time and money to try and make something work in our town. The green shoots of a new Falkirk music scene are all around you.

 

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The Final Touches to Weird Decibels 2

How we made Weird Decibels 2

Deluxe download at bandcamp

In the home studio

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Lewis loves the studio and he is at home there

As the Springfield bags were unpacked and I sat in the home studio I had an optimism about the forthcoming mix sessions. We seemed better prepared; all the tracking seemed to have gone well. There was still a lot of recording work to do but I’d be able to edit the drums and bass.

I looked at the small screen of the Korg D3200.  It’s a horrible tiny basic green lcd display that is your eyes for the whole project; a bit like a Nintendo Gameboy. A flicker of envy passed through me as I yearned for the bigger monitors of a typical DAW setup. Maybe I should go on Tipping Point and win some cash.

Editing is horrible on the Korg so discipline is needed at the tracking stage to make sure you are not wading through silence trying to reach the recordings. The drums generally edited well and sounded pretty good. The bass had a few problems with tone  so some EQ cutting was required. It turned out to be quite drastic and reminds me that I need to sharpen up on my micing techniques.

My concerns about Stu’s distorted guitars were justified. There was a good tone in there but it was laden with low mid eq. This was the biggest mistake I made, I wrestled with this frequency and tried to shoehorn it into the full sound. There was a creeping dread that I’d have to ask Stu do redo the entire distorted guitars.

Mastering?

Mastering is a topic in itself. To say Weird Decibels 2 is mastered would be stretching the term. It does have light compression, some subtle stereo track EQ changes and some limiting but it was also done by the same guy that mixed and recorded it, (me). I can understand why people say that  you do get too close to the sound.

When Derek texted to say that he felt the album sounded poor on his headphones I had a small fit. I knew he was right but wished it had been spotted sooner. The summer months had been a rain filled wash out but I had still spent them in a small room hearing the same songs many times over.

My mood dipped, I didn’t notice it at the time, others did but I did not see a problem. I soldiered on with the record trying to find out what was causing the album to sound muddy.

When I cut into Stu’s guitars it did the trick; his tone was still there but the rest of the album had opened up. Of course it knocked the mix out so that had to be done again. Then it had to be re-mastered all while I heard my son and my wife downstairs playing and possibly wondering when I’d join them.

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Snappy singer. pic Gary

Now I was getting snappy; frustrated that my normal life was getting in the way of the album (even though I had spent half a year on it). I missed the deadline, we wanted the album out for our 20th anniversary gig at North Star. I shouted at the guys that night; moaning at them for trivial things.

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Deadlines are pointless unless you are Guns and Roses. When its ready, its ready.

My wife had asked me to take a step back from it; I reluctantly agreed to take a couple of weeks off but that turned into three.

The Cracks Begin to Show

Things got worse; I awoke on the 11th of November 2015 and read some messages; I had been trying to get the practise room keys to record some vocals. I tried to get in touch with the band to get the keys but nothing happened and I couldn’t record the vocals. It was a small irritance but it infuriated me. I just wanted to get the album finished.

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21 years of band history could’ve been finished by a stupid disagreement. Thankfully it never happened

I quit the messages, cut myself off and walked to work convinced that I had quit the band.A sense of mourning had crept over me as I listened to Spotify while walking through the Quarry park. It was a weird feeling.

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Stu was a constant presence in the studio. Not sure what he is seeing here!

The guys laughed it off; Stu visited that same night and we sat over a coffee like nothing had changed; the dude was there and I was impressed with that. So we mastered the album. A few weeks later it would be done.

At 33 minutes Weird Decibels 2 is our most compact and focused album. It has its flaws; sometimes I think we are better live and there is no shame in that as many bands are the same.

It’s a quiet album by today’s standards; so sometimes it suffers in the ‘loudness wars’ but I think it sounds fairly good overall. This full album was recorded for around £500.

I should bite the bullet and let someone else record our stuff; think of all the spare time I would suddenly have.

The problem I have is that I love challenge of getting that sound; when an acoustic guitar sound crisp or the drums, as in Weird Decibels 2, sound like they are recorded in a grand room. Then the test of putting it all together.

Maybe I’ll leave the mastering to a pro….but how did the pros learn?

Weird Decibels 2 on Spotify

 

Its Ticket Time.

The incredible Third Class Ticket radio show

There are two gatekeepers of the music scene in Scotland. Two. Jim Gellatly and Vic Galloway. You send demos and you hope that they are in the mood to listen to what is probably the 100th WAV file they have heard on a cold damp March morning.

I guess it helps if you are young, energetic, lucky, well connected and to be fair, really good. There are established rock bands in Scotland; a few lucky acts have met the approval and allowed past the gates; however, generally, no one in the mainstream circuit wants to hear it.

Admittedly the Scottish scene had passed over Weird Decibels. It overlooked us and we had left it behind resigned to a life of full time employment with a bit of music on the side.

Then we wrote Weird Decibels 1 and played a one off gig at Box Glasgow. A sparse crowd enjoyed it and our confidence returned. We decided to hook up with PM promotions who asked us to support (the rather good) Life on Standby at the Oran Mor; grudgingly we accepted the harsh ticket deal just to play this venue. It was an incredible night.

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it does take you on a musical journey

The next day I woke up happy and energised then received a message from the guys; this bit is hazy… (hungover) a guy called Tommy Clark liked our tunes and wanted to play our music on his ‘Third Class Ticket’ show. Intrigued I contacted Mr Clark and I received a friendly message from him asking me to send some tracks from Weird Decibels 1 via dropbox.

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Discover these bands and many more

Tommy posted a playlist and a link to Mesi Radio; we were on the tracklist, I tuned in and since then I have enjoyed hearing our music nestled in beside many other band’s homemade and professional recordings. It is an eclectic mix.

Then there is Tommy. I have never met the man but he strikes me as a friendly individual who simply wants to share as much music as possible. His early shows (from when I listened) were an impressive collection of bands from up and down the UK. Tommy had networked and a wide range of unheard acts were submitting tracks and tuning into the show via the Mesi platform.

 

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Tommy wears his ticket tee with pride

At the time Tommy himself was a functionary presenter who stuck to the task of letting Scotland hear as many bands as possible. This included his ‘featured artist’ that would have the privilege of having a few tracks played on a show.

Admittedly I gradually tuned out; my Thursday nights had become more about getting the work week finished and while The Third Class Ticket continuously supported music I had returned to the gatekeepers for musical inspiration. I didn’t find any.

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the many acts who happily send Tommy music for the show

I had promised Tommy a first listen of our new album Weird Decibels 2. When we finally got it finished I got in touch with him and posted out our shiney new CD. Despite the loss of contact Tommy was as friendly as ever and genuinely seemed pleased to be getting first listen of our record. I found that he had moved from Mesi and was now broadcasting on a new platform.

As a returning listener something struck me about the show. The music acts were as delightfully varied as ever but the sound quality of the show had improved. Tommy himself is more confident and relaxed in his role; he adds more of his personality as he introduces the many new tracks that he has discovered. He creates scenes for the listener, in one story he tells of driving to work on a sunny Ayrshire day while listening to the latest songs from hopeful bands, some of which very few people have heard.

Listen carefully to the show. You can hear Tommy switch off his mic as a new song comes on. It adds to the feel of the Third Class Ticket. This is a show, I assume, lovingly crafted in the spare room of Tommy’s home. He plays music that has been crafted in the spare room of the artists.

 

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A cracking wee show created by Tommy

This is the beauty of the Third Class Ticket. It is a grass roots radio show untouched by critics, demographics or industry influence. This is one man encouraging hundreds of bands to get in touch and giving them their first play on a radio show.

In a selfish way I hope the Third Class Ticket stays underground; that’s its appeal. However if Tommy Clark is to become Scotland’s gatekeeper I hope he makes Weird Decibels his featured artist!

If there are other grass roots stations like the Third Class Ticket please get in touch. We want to listen.