Weird Decibels 2018

Credits: thanks to Andy Gee, Banks Radio Australia, Scott Swanson design, Montys, Buzzards of Babylon, CAMRA Larbert, Rocker Bob, Moments of Eclection, Tommy Clark.

And most importantly you, our, family, friends, fans, listeners, readers and rockers. 

In 2018 while the world around us was circling in a political hurricane we were very much at the calm centre, battening down the hatches, taking stock of whats coming next and where to go. We’ve been around long enough to appreciate that years like 2018 happen, we went a bit quiet if you like but we spent a lot of time reflecting and the latter part of the year discovering that our love for our music had not waned. We have our 25th anniversary coming up and we’ve been trying to put all our history together, we’re getting there, once its done we can look forward.

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In January we faced a huge hurdle, we were faced with losing our beloved practise room that we had spent over two decades writing and recording in. One cold winters day Stu and I had returned after the festive break to finish our EP Everyday Heroes only to discover it was invested with vermin. Sadly we had to wave goodbye to the room as the risk to our health wasn’t worth it. Thankfully we moved to a new location but for a couple of weeks we really did wonder where we would go. So I’ll take this moment to say a huge thanks to Beany (Fraser Law) for letting us call the room home for so long. We even had our own keys and could spend as long as we wanted there. I hope he gets it back on track some day.

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A801 was the second lift from the EP and we released this video in January.

In March Quiet Act turned ten, the story of that album is here: Quiet Act 10 years on. 

Prior to the release of Everyday Heroes we rated all our recordings and it led to some interesting results in the following posts:

We rate our recordings part 1. 15-11

We rate our recordings part 2. 10-6

We rate our recordings part 3. 5-1

We went along to the RiFF showcase, while we were not playing it was still nice to be involved. Its hard to say what will happen to this movement. I’m sure it will return.

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Greg and Peter (Blind Daze) share a beer, tunes and compare beard notes at RiFF 2. Will RiFF return? Hope so.

In April we played a covers set for the first time in a while at the Larbert Beer Fest. It was fun, although I was far too sober… We had also settled into to our new practise room and started to write new material.

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On the 11th May we released Everyday Heroes a four track EP that we are rather proud of.

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The reflection continued as we looked back to Our First gig. Martell. 17th Aug 1995 

Pabs put out his 8th solo record A Chorus of Lawnmowers

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We played a great wee gig at Montys in Dunfermline and we met some new friends while we were out there including Kirby and his band The Other Side. Kirby came to the rescue when he loaned me his amp to get through the show after the venues cab blew.

Gig Diary. Montys Bar Dunfermline 22/06/2018

Gee Force radio played us for the first time. Andy Gee was one of a few presenters who have played our music this year, our good friend Tommy Clark of Third Class Ticket gave the EP a spin. We thank you all!

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In August we were due to play at The Big Picnic at the Helix but the dreaded Sma’ rain put that gig to bed and it was cancelled.

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On the 23rd of September we played at an old haunt of ours, the Windsor Hotel with our great friends the Buzzards of Babylon. We had no idea that this was the last time that we would be playing alongside Rab Dempsey who announced that he was leaving the band. This was a bit of a shock but we hope that we will see him on stage again.

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Gig Diary 22nd September 2018

We had a wee look back at studios we had recorded at. It’s not something we normally do as we have our own setup (for better or worse) however we are heading to a new studio in January 2019.

Studios in which we have recorded part 1. Split Level

Studios In Which We Have Recorded part 2. Split Level ’98 (2nd session)

Studios In Which We Have Recorded part 3. Red Eye Studios (1999)

In December we found ourselves on more radio shows, Moment of Eclection with Rockerbob and Banks Radio Australia  a huge thanks for playing us.

So that’s 2018 then, a fairly quiet year? Yeah maybe but things have been happening while we’ve not been looking. All these brilliant radio shows playing our music has kept our name out there. The latter part of the year has seen us strip down some of our best songs to acoustic. We’re really encouraged by these sessions and we will be recording live in January 2019. So while the world around us is unsure of where its going; we have a few goals next year, bring on 2019 and a new album to distract us from all the bedlam that’s coming our way…

Pabs.

 

 

 

 

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The Seventeenth

Pabs recalls the story of the Seventeenth 2000-04. With help from Jon Shaw, Derek Menmuir, Greg McSorley and Kevin Byrne. As we gather old scrap books and recordings we will edit this document as memories come back to  us. 

While we often celebrate that the band has managed to stay together for over two decades there was a spell where the band took a hiatus; at the time however I thought Weird was finished. Around mid 2000 an increasingly frustrated Stu announced that he was leaving the band to try something new. I guess we all suspected that it was coming. From our relatively bright start we had withdrawn from the scene and spent months simply putting songs down onto the four track and doing nothing with them. These rough demos would eventually become Coldhome Street.

When Stu announced his departure Greg, Derek and myself sat in Derek’s flat wondering where to go next. I was adamant that we could continue as a three piece just like my sonic heroes Nirvana had done. I was now more confident with the guitar and had a number of ideas floating around my head.

Greg was happy to carry on regardless of the set up.

Derek disagreed; he felt that finding a replacement guitarist would be the best bet and he knew someone that could fill the vacant post. This musician would be Jon Shaw an accomplished bass player to trade but a dab hand on the guitar.

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Jon Shaw, an accomplished guitarist. Pic Kevin Byrne

I submitted and agreed that we should meet Jon and it would not be long before we were having our first practise in the very room that Weird had used. I found Jon to be a likeable chap; tall and unimposing he was approachable and open to ideas we had. He had many ideas of his own and a wealth of musical knowledge. I could tell he had a vision for how our sound should develop. He was not afraid to speak his mind, nor was I, this worked for a while but it would eventually lead to friction.

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A pensive Greg ponders life? Pic Kevin Byrne

Things started well. Jon had a big influence on our sound, we went from rock to a more alternative sound. He has a very open, flowing, bluesy style that provided a nice texture to complement my more basic rhythm. I toned down the aggressive Weird vocals for something that was more familiar to my solo music.

In the four years we stayed together we wrote 3 eps, a total of ten songs that we released ourselves. I recorded our records and this did cause Jon a lot of frustration. He was keen to get involved however as Greg and Derek would testify I took control of everything. The records had some great songs but the sound was uneven; I was developing recording skills on a small Tascam 788 and I had a lot to learn (I still do). I did however put my own money and time into the recordings, it could be a thankless task at times.

The democratic approach we took to songwriting for Weird was still in place for the Seventeenth, I would arrive with an idea or lyrics, Jon would also have ideas, Derek and Greg would contribute at times as well. It’s fair to say that I liked to have control of the writing process as well, still in my early 20’s, I would be jealous if anyone had an idea that was better than mine and this sometimes created a tension.

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Our first ep released in the early 2000s

EP1 had four songs. Alternative Disco, All the Girls Know (Jon plays a great solo on this track), Pop is Killing Me and You Set Fire which has a nice repeated solo towards the end. The early days were fun, and this showed on some of the first songs with the exception of the sombre All the Girls Know.  A lot of these riffs were hanging around from Weird so writing the first EP was pretty straightforward. This did flow over to EP2, arguably the creative peak of the band.

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2003 saw the release of the Unit Manger ep

With bright red lipstick, a broad set of eyelashes and a hidden set of sharp claws the unit manager was an interesting character. This particular chap had targets to meet and would go to any lengths in which to meet them. Greg’s looping bass riff opens Unit Manager and Jon’s clean guitar is kept subtle as I create the monster through my lyrics. Staying in this Town was taken off my solo album, the Armour is Broken.

Eight Inches closed EP2 with a sombre look at crumbling relationships. Big changes had happened in my life around the early 00’s, a new job and a new relationship so at the time of writing these songs I was in good place, I guess I had the past to deal with before I could truly move on. Of course the Unit Manager would be one of the early cast members of my characters that I’ve created to write songs. He remains a wicked favourite to this day.

I remember Jon asked someone to listen to the music and offer some advice; it was pretty brutal, with my diction getting the most criticism. I had no idea who this guy was, Jon placed a lot of weight on his opinion. This annoyed me and when we went to write the third EP things were getting difficult.

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Jon in Derek’s flat beside the small 8 track Tascam 788. We recorded all the eps on this.

We recorded all the EPs in Derek’s flat, these were great times. There was a lot of drink in the red bull fridge and friends would come and go as we put the songs down onto the Tascam 788. It was a pretty painless process although Jon wanted to attempt a remix of the songs. He plugged it into his computer and my Tascam crashed. Naturally I flipped but it restarted. I remember Jon and I disagreeing with how the record was sounding but both of us were inexperienced at that time. Jon did like to wind me up, I can remember one afternoon once a session had finished taking the gear back to my old car. There he is, big grin on his face, playing catch with the Tascam 788. Throwing it up, not far, and catching it. It was a small desk, light and portable but at the time it was all I had so that didn’t go down well.

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The third and final ep released early 2004

Writing the third EP was difficult, Jon and I argued constantly. Derek had also said that he was leaving for the states for 6 months, he was looking to be away longer, so this had implications for the band. He was there for the writing of the last tracks though.

It was yet another Wednesday night where Jon and I would disagree and argue about the writing of the songs. This was something I was not used to with Weird. The songs were taking ages to write, ideas would be dismissed, riffs would be discarded. Things got so bad that Derek and Greg left the room and stood outside, they were now considering quitting the band.

Despite the difficulties the recording of the third EP went fairly well although it would take a long time to put the record together. Derek had recorded the original takes for the drums but for reasons I can’t recall we drafted in our friend Kevin Byrne. Greg secured us the Three Kings for recording the drums and bass.

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Recording at the Three Kings

Hindsight 2002 was experimental in its sound, influenced by the Radiohead craze of the time (although Grandaddy would be a bigger deal for me). I used delay pedals and distorted the sound by changing the settings on the pedal as I recorded. The Hindsight computer is another character that appears and I guess this fictional machine was someone I created to take the blame for my mistakes.

Pigs at The Gate is one of Jon’s crowning moments with the Seventeenth although the following track Get Home Someday came a close second, Greg’s swaying, flowing bass line is superb on this track. I vaguely recall Jon pouring scorn on the production of this EP, particularity Hindsight 2002. In terms of songwriting and composition I feel we were starting to find our stride as a band. I can hear all the mistakes but I think this is part of the music’s charm. This was the first record that Derek hadn’t been a part of; things were all getting a bit surreal.

The demos and lost tracks

Greg worked at Sky and knew and guy who knew a guy who was a DJ and remixed tracks. He took our songs and attempted to remix them. Eight inches was the only tune for which Jacob and Mendez could work with and it turned out fairly well. Very sombre in its mood which fitted with the Seventeenth; I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this when I first heard it, it was strange to hear our work interpreted in a different way.

There were other songs that we started to work on including ‘Still in the same place that I left you’ but this never took off. Derek had an idea ‘I Talk to You’ but on the recording of this song it appears that Jon and I were not taking this seriously and rather rudely recorded stupid backing vocals as he tried to demo it; this wasn’t a nice way to treat an understandably nervous friend trying to share an idea.

We also managed to capture a live recording of some songs in the practise room. We sounded jovial as we played through: ‘Wishing My Life Away’, ‘Right Back to the Start Again’, ‘Unit Manager’ and ‘Pigs at the Gate’. It’s a rough recording but it sounds like a band having fun.   

The Seventeenth Live

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Derek has a laugh at behind the drum kit, Behind the Wall

We played a few gigs over our four years together. Behind The wall saw us play a stripped down set of our own tunes and some covers. We hit the late nights at Whistle Binkies; we played a couple of gigs there and Derek was in the audience just a weekend after he had returned from the USA. He was watching Kevin play and couldn’t resist asking if he could step up to the stage and drum on a couple of songs at the end of the set. Our highlights was perhaps the battle of the bands at Rock Gardens (now Max’s bar) we had a couple of frantic gigs at that venue. I remember back stage was downstairs and somehow we made it through the first round I can’t recall winning that night but it was a good experience nonetheless.

Our last gig would be at Barfly in Glasgow; we played to just a handful of people that night, including a certain Mr McCairney, by the time we were packing up the headline act were filling the place. The Seventeenth tried to get gigs and we tried to bring a crowd. We had a small following but the momentum never really got going.

The breakup.

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Jon and Pabs. pic Kevin Byrne

Now this is one of my biggest regrets; not being clear with Jon. By chance I had met Stu at Behind the Wall, we spent the whole night reminiscing about the old times so we had an idea to record all our best songs for an acoustic album, a sort of ‘best of’ Weird. It was now nearing the end of 2003, at the time Jon and I had problems trying to write music and we struggled to get on in the practise room. Many of our battles were fought in front of a beleaguered Derek and Greg. Writing was laboured and we could not produce music.

Another nail in the Seventeenth coffin was Slablo (more on this later), a project created by Derek and I. Over 9 hours we wrote and recorded a whole album. Now it’s not a classic but it showed that songs (some of them decent) could be written without the epic struggles that the Seventeenth were experiencing. With our old friend and guitarist back on the scene and the evidence that we could write songs we came to a decision over a pint in the Graeme Hotel that the Seventeenth was not working, Jon was not at this meeting.

We contacted Jon and we all arranged a pint in the Wheatsheaf to discuss the future of the band. Over a few ales we talked about the difficulties that we had and I explained that the band had come to an end in a roundabout sort of way. It was a difficult thing for me to say and I did not handle it well. As we all parted ways at the Wheatsheaf I thought that was the Seventeenth finished. I was now turning my attention to what lay beyond.

However Jon turned up at our next practise and it was clear that I had not been entirely honest with him; there was some sort of misunderstanding. Jon loaded his amp into the practice room and started to set up. I looked at the rest of the guys, they headed outside and it was up to me to ask Jon to let Stu set up instead. That was horrible and no way to treat the guy. Jon sat and watched us jam, it was really awkward and a terrible way for us to part.

Jon and I regrettably lost touch, away from the Seventeenth we had a passion for music and spent a few good nights drinking beer, listening to music and going to gigs, he is a decent bloke. As for the Seventeenth I look back (now) at those years with fondness. We recorded an album’s worth of decent tunes. The sound was uneven; however there were some great moments and I’m still moved by the music.

I want the Seventeenth to have a legacy, as a band we have been forgotten and that is regrettable. We had some good times and thankfully we recorded the few songs we created. It was great to meet and see Jon play alongside us at the 13th Note in 2015. Back on the bass it was clear that this is his weapon of choice as he played superbly. When we caught up it was a pleasant meeting and a good night for all.

Legacy

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Listen to all the recordings here

The Seventeenth is the forgotten but significant chapter in the history of Weird Decibels. We often share the fact that Weird Decibels have been around since 1995 and we are proud of that. However we haven’t acknowledged that in the four years that Stu was away, Jon and Kevin were in the band and they helped to keep it all together. The Seventeenth was a huge learning curve, I learned a lot about dynamics of being in a band and trying to make things work when you have musical differences.

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As I researched our history I looked through the old recording photographs and the sleeves of the eps, there are some great memories of the antics we used to get up to. Some of this spills onto the recordings, particularly the demos where you can hear us having fun, that’s what being in a band should be.

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Jon and Greg relax with a beer

Then there was the music, we wrote some great tunes. Unit Manager, Eight Inches and All the Girls Know saw us come together with force and forge some great songs. 

It was just under four years that we were together and we recorded three Ep’s and played a handful of good gigs. Without the Seventeenth, Greg, Derek and I might have lost touch, lifelong friendships might have been lost and many future albums and gigs might never have happened. So I’ll always be grateful that Jon, Kevin, Derek, Greg and I kept the music playing when we could’ve easily given up.

Words Pabs

Additional editing Jon Shaw

 

Studios In Which We Have Recorded part 3. Red Eye Studios (1999)

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We are heading into our first professional studio in nearly 20 years in January 2019 so we are looking back at our previous experiences before we went DIY.

The end of the 90’s was a strange time for four musicians who loved their rock. Grunge was long gone, rock was out of fashion (again) and Britpop was now a bloated mess of champagne and coke. Everyone apart from the general public were panicking about the millennium bug.

The band was drifting, by now we were treading water, turning up every Wednesday to play some tunes then we would head home for another week. We were no longer playing gigs or making any attempt to promote the band. We were writing songs though, a lot of songs, now we were away from the ‘classic’ Weird setup, I was full time on rhythm guitars.

After the slightly disappointing second return to Split Level we decided to look for a new studio to record some new tracks. I can’t even remember how we booked the place.

Located in Clydebank, just a short walk from the river is Red Eye Studios, an unassuming single story brick building which seem tacked on the old Clydebank Cooperative. Like many studios it’s not obvious that a fully functioning music studio is set up inside.

Greg drove the first day, I had my license by this time but Greg always seemed to find himself behind the wheel in the early days. We arrived at the studio, rather excited to what lay ahead and this time we were prepared. Derek and I would return for a second day of mixing. So here we look back at our session in this studio.  

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Stu looks dejected in the practise room as we struggle to finish Cold Home Street.

Pabs

I thought the studio didn’t look like much when we arrived but this is normal, its whats inside that counts. I couldn’t wait to see inside. I was now getting an increasing enthusiasm for sound engineering. We walked in and there was a long corridor, the guy met us and took us into the control room. We were met by a large control desk and a window that looked into the live room. It was a fairly big room, I think we did all the drums in there, in fact everything. There was no vocal booth or anything like that.

We picked three songs to record. ‘I Tried to Fly’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Sun Shines Brighter’. They were probably our most ‘pop’ sounding songs, quite far removed from the heavier rock we had done previously. They were fairly easy arrangements and pretty straight forward to record. Even when I recorded the vocals I didn’t go for the louder vocals, my style was changing, looking back it kind of lacked the passion that I usually have

I always thought the guitars sounded a wee bit tinny, a bit thin, but we didn’t really cause a fuss, I was starting to wonder if we’d be able to record our own music. On reflection I think my setup didn’t help either.

By the end of the day the only thing left to record was the backing vocals, Stu headed through and started singing the backing vocals to Hope, is quite a high key. There is a bit at the end, ‘la la la la laaaaa’ or something as we head towards the finale of the song. The music was blaring and I looked up, Stu was in the room singing his heart out. I looked back at the desk listening to the rough mix when suddenly the singing stopped. I looked back up and Stu was gone! We all rushed out of the control room, into the live area and there was Stu face planted into the sofa with the music blaring through the ear phones. He’d passed out, it was for a couple of seconds and then he was back up, if a little stunned.  

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I looked up and Stu was nowhere to be seen!

Stu

I remember Bo driving me home after I passed out, my heart was still racing and he drove like a racing driver!

Greg

Ah the days when I had a (relatively) fast car..

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Greg’s love of cars and big exhausts goes back a long way.

Greg

For Redeye we recorded it all one day but only Pabs and Deek went back for the mixing and mastering. I seem to remember Pabs getting excited about a snare ring?

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For some reason Pabs and myself went back through, just the two of us to finish the mix, was it the Monday? I remember listening to it in Pabs old Toyota on the way home marvelling at the reverb on his vocal at the end of Sun Shines Brighter like we just invented vocal reverb!!

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I remember the mixing of ‘I Tried to Fly’ the engineer had everything panned centre apart from the toms of the drums, so they really stuck out. The bass had a nice tone, the guitars tone was not too bad although having them all panned centre meant the tracks lacked stereo width. So when it came to Hope I asked the guy to pan the guitars, it did make a difference. I found it strange that I had to ask for this, it was another step to the bands eventual hiatus, we were just letting things pass over our head. I think these songs would have sounded brilliant had we not settled for these mixes. Maybe the sound engineer thought we just wanted a demo, I’m not sure. Maybe the guy was just starting out, you have to remember this was twenty years ago.

We didn’t go back to Red Eye studios, the songs were used on the album ‘Coldhome Street’ an album that arguably proved to be our weakest. This wasn’t the studios fault, we had kind of lost out way at this point, this is the only album that we haven’t released on digital distribution but it can be found on Bandcamp.

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I’ve always had a soft spot for Coldhome Street, despite its sound. Pabs

Red Eye looks like it is still going strong today, judging by the photos it looks well kitted out with rehearsal rooms and the studio is well connected with the local scene. We still had lots of ideas that we wanted to put down for our third album so it was back to the yellow pages to see if we could find another studio. One caught my eye in Stirling.