Our Influences. Alice In Chains, Greg

Greg

“First heard Alice in Chains through my pal Phil Harley, former lead guitarist of Falkirk band Cage. He introduced me to a lot of bands but AIC really appealed to me. The heavy guitars, fantastic melodies and just amazing songs continue to appeal to me. I have their logo tattooed on me haha. Mike Inez is a tremendous bass player, using effects in his riffs which I’ve recently been experimenting with in my own writing. Still perfecting that though. I’m not sure if they changed the scene or industry but they certainly helped to make the 90s grunge scene as fantastic as it was and continues to be. Ah the 90s..”

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The summers of your adulthood always seem to be memories of sun filled days and hazy nights. The days spent listening to the new emerging grunge scene with Greg were no different. We were probably just about to leave high school and there were many afternoons spent diving on his unsuspecting parents couches singing Nirvana songs and we’d shake our brains to the fast hyper beats of Therapy but Alice in Chains were different.There was probably a time where Greg and I shared a smoke over the song ‘Rooster’.

The deep sludge sound of Chains was hypnotising and it was the album’s Dirt and Jar of Flies released 92 and 94 respectively that stuck with us. Dirt just pounds you for an hour, epic tune after epic tune. The track ‘Dam that River’ doesn’t just show that AIC can create massive riffs but on lead with Jerry Cantrell dueling for the limelight with the gnarly vocals of the tragic Layne Staley who through his chronic drug use, died like many other troubled musicians, a young man aged just 34.

Greg would be drawn to the bass, and Mike Inez subtly underpinning the dynamic guitars would influence our very own bass player to drive our music.

Down in a Hole changes the mood of this album with its acoustic tones and many of our influences are heavy rock bands that have more thoughtful moments and this can be heard on many of our own albums.

1996’s MTV unplugged would be one of Stacey’s last shows with the band, this epic acoustic album, with stripped down versions of their songs showed their remarkable musicianship.

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AIC still produce brilliant record to this date the Devil Put Dinosaurs Here showed that despite the many setbacks AIC still rose above their peers. Their longevity, their adaptability and their ability to write dynamic songs in about the darkest of matters is incredible. As we advance in years it’s nice to see our musical heroes continue to release high quality albums and it makes us believe that you don’t have to be young to write your best music.

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Weird Decibels in session at Stirling City Radio (the story)

Huge thanks to Stirling City Radio, Stephen Franklyn and Jim Kettles

words Pabs

Social media can be great at times and in terms of raising awareness of the local scene it can work (although I find it increasingly frustrating and the ‘boost’ button is always just a click away asking you for money). So when Stirling City Radio appeared on my news feed I was interested to see what this new internet radio station had to offer. Intrigued, I had a look at the schedule and I was delighted to see that the station, that has been broadcasting on the internet since August 2016, had various shows to cater for all genres. This included rock and live performances from local acts so I sent them a message.

A nice guy called James returned my inquisitive email, he was more than happy to organise a slot on a Monday evening with Stephen Franklyn, a presenter who has an easy approach to playing rock and pop, in addition he hosts live local acts.

Once I got the guys to commit to a night James sent back some instructions, basically head to Stirling arcade and record some acoustic songs and talk about our musical journey so far.

Greg opted to sit this one out, his new house needed a bit of work and this included fitting shelves. More on that later…Derek, Stu and Myself rehearsed a couple of the quieter songs from Weird Decibels 2, we arranged a time to meet and the plan was set.

The train rolled through Polmont and I hopped on, Stu joined me later in Camelon with Derek running a half hour behind us. Stu and I walked onto the Stirling Platform and headed up to the arcade just up the hill from the station. As we approached we could hear tunes drifting out from the main entrance. We walked into the empty corridor of the arcade and headed to the centre where there is a cafe and the radio station itself. There, in the studio booth for all to see, was Stephen Franklyn broadcasting live. Our time to play was 7pm so we had 25 minutes to set up.

After a warm handshake Stephen explained what we needed to set up. It didn’t take us long, as Stu picked up his guitar to soundcheck Derek walked through the door with his beat box that was borrowed from our friend Kevin Byrne.

After some Aretha Franklin we were ready to go live on air, the clock hit 7 Stephen welcomed us to the airwaves. My 5 year old son Lewis was listening and I was told he went crazy at this point! We had a brief welcome and chat with Stephen about the band before we launched into Curtain Hits The Cast.

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Lewis listens to Daddy on the radio.

Thankfully it’s a fairly easy song to play as, surprisingly, the nerves had kicked in. I’m not sure how many people were listening but Stu, Derek and I wanted to get this right. It went well and Stephen asked us more questions about the band. We discussed how we write songs and Derek stated that I have an idea which is developed by the band, I said it was  more a collaborative approach whereas Stu, bold as brass asserted, Pabs comes out with a riff and I make it better! It was a great moment.

After Stephen played It’s Who You Know from the album we moved onto Almost Beautiful. We explained that Greg couldn’t attend the show as he was hanging shelves so we dedicated the song to him and renamed it ‘Almost Level’. It was a stuttery start from me, it’s a tricky wee riff when the nerves kick in but I recovered and it seemed to go down well. Cue another brief chat with Stephen before he closed with a play of Medicine, again from the album.

We had a chat with Jim Kettles who broadcasts on the station, he does rock show just after Stephen and he played It’s Who You Know later in the night which was a nice touch. Then we signed the pillar which was adorned with names of local acts who have played previously. We stood on a table to reach the top of the pillar; all was going well until Stu stood upon the frame, it slid from under him but luckily his reflexes are still razor sharp and he landed like Batman, on his feet.

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This is the view as Stu fell back to earth but like a pro he landed on his feet

We said our goodbyes and headed out of the door back into the arcade as the radios tunes floated across the empty concourse. I was tempted to have a pint but Derek sensibly said he needed to get back for the kids.

Stirling City Radio is a wonderful station set up to serve the local community, it is a fair distance away from the bland automated ‘local’ stations we have on traditional frequency. The station gives local artists the chance to play to a broader audience, the music it plays is varied to try and  capture the ears of the Forth valley. Central FM used to do this before it was turned onto a bland franchise. Now motivated people like Stephen and Jim are staring up their own platforms (Tommy Clark’s Third Class Ticket is also a prime example) and the local music scene can only benefit. Tune in here and find out for yourself.

Pabs

 

Falkirk Live Venues Past and Present. part 2 Firkins

Pabs looks at another iconic venue of Falkirk

Thanks to falkirkmusicscene Eddie McKenzie and David M Lowe. The historic content of this blog is sourced from this wonderful site

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On the corner of Vicar Street.

Where Melville Street and Vicar Street meet there is a corner and in this corner there is a bar called Freebird. Once it was called Burns Bar then Firkins which was our era. This pub would become one of Falkirk’s most loved music venues, not only for live bands but for those who liked to pump pound coins into, what was, the best jukebox in town. Many local musicians would converge on this corner of Falkirk and became a focal point for the formation of bands.

According to the wonderful but underused Falkirkmusicscene website The Burns bar was a venue for folk acts in the 70’s and 80’s. Davy Waugh started to promote blue bands before the Happening Club seeds were sown in 1987. The Burns bar changed names to Firkins in 1988. I was only 11 years of age when this re-branding took place, I would frequent the establishment some 8 years later and it would have a massive influence on my music and that of the band.

According to the falkirkmusicscene site (it will be a crime if this is lost) there were occasional bands played between 1997 and 2005, Punk bands like our friends Rabid Dogs would become the mainstay of the venue in future years.

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I tried! I Tried the Easy Way!

It was in 2004 that we played a gig at our favourite pub (later we would play alongside Kranksolo). We were playing our comeback album One More Solo live. Our friend Kevin Byrne opened up for us with some acoustic songs. After he finished we headed to the make shift stage. We were cramped into the corner of the venue, tripping over each other. The place was hot and sweaty, with only the house lights on, there was no place to hide. The background was the large corner windows so passers by could catch a glimpse of us rocking out the Easy Way.

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Kevin belts out a few tunes

Firkins was an amazing place to drink in the late 90’s and early 00’s. On Weekdays when I should’ve been at college, I would blether with the late Chris Masson of the band Cage. As the week wore on Fridays would be a whole night playing tunes on the jukebox and Saturdays would be a meet and greet warm up before most of us would head down to Pennies (more on this venue at a later date).

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Guess the tee shirt caption

The pub would be packed, not something that has been seen for years. People would sit on the floor, you knew everyone and you felt at ease. This was a crowd of people who repelled the dance scene of Falkirk. I was also Virtua Tennis champ, the arcade which starred Tim Henman and Tommy Haas (who I picked), this helped forge friendships.

One night in I headed into Firkins alone, I headed towards my usual spot on the bar to order a Calders 70. I was always confident that I would meet someone I knew. However a beautiful woman caught the corner of my eye. Her elegance made her stand out amid the hustle of the pub. This woman would eventually become my wife.

Slowly the crowds moved on and the pub lost its feel. Firkins became a shell of what it once was.I’d revisit occasionally just for was last taste of the old atmosphere but it was gone. Then the old corner window from which you would watch the traffic go past, got smashed boarded up and never replaced.

Firkins closed and was reopened as Freebird.

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Drinks on the cover and drinks in the album. This is a wee table in the quiet corner of Firkins. Firkin Outburst plays here