I am a father and husband and love family holidays in the tent visiting Scotland which is perhaps the greatest country in the world. I love music and play in Weird Decibels as well as solo. I love video games but have yet to blog about that.
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.
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.
A801 was the second lift from the EP and we released this video in January.
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.
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.
On the 11th May we released Everyday Heroes a four track EP that we are rather proud of.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I remember Bo driving me home after I passed out, my heart was still racing and he drove like a racing driver!
Ah the days when I had a (relatively) fast car..
Greg’s love of cars and big exhausts goes back a long way.
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?
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!!
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.
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.
The heady early days of being in a band are irreplaceable from the euphoric high of writing your first songs to the adrenalized buzz of playing your first gig. A band in its infancy can produce a surge of creativity often known as the ‘early stuff’. Then there were the large high school Martell crowds, the first articles in the Falkirk Herald all the first targets were being met.
So as the dust settled on our arrival at the music scene we knew that new songs had to arrive. By now we were students at college, drinking at every practise and generally having a laugh. We wrote many songs, probably forgot more than we remember. The tracks that did stick had to be recorded; there was a need to be back in the studio. There was only one choice for us. Split Level. Around the local scene our first demo had been a massive success, The Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon had been well received by the local radio station. With this in mind we had to pick three songs that would propel us further.
So here are our thoughts and memories for what would be our last session at Split Level. Also joining us for a look back is our long time friend John Baines who with our late great friend Dave Brown visited during the session.
The choice of studio was a no brainer, we just wanted to go back to Split Level, it had been around 18 months since we recorded our first demo. The choice of songs would prove to be more difficult. We had written a number of songs, we had forgotten a lot more, so much alcohol flowed and we lost focus, it was just a bit of a laugh at this point. I remember Culture Creature was pretty much certain to be on the demo. Summerhigh was an early choice as well I think but trying to pick the third track was tricky. We couldn’t agree on the third song and the studio was booked so there was like a deadline. So I don’t think we had decided, so on the first day in the studio we were picking the last song and that turned out to be Today Was Insane. I didn’t think it was our best, but we went with it. The excitement was still there are we drove to the studio, the place was still a bit of a scrap yard, a wee house hidden by trees just outside the Edinburgh airport.
I remember Neil’s cars, he had loads of VW Scirroco’s (in the yard)
The set up was the same, the studio hadn’t changed which was fine. Neil arrived, he could remember us from the first time and he still had that laid back approach to everything.
I think the atmosphere was different this time, it didn’t have the same feel for me, I don’t think we were ready to be honest.
It’s all a bit hazy now but from what I can remember you’d blitzed through the majority of the songs on your first day and spent (most) your time there on 1 song. Am I right in saying it got a bit smoky in there too? Bizarrely my main memory is of Dave flicking a lit fag into his mouth. Lit end first obviously!
I would’ve paid money to see that! I must’ve been in the vocal booth at that time, I spent many takes trying to get Culture Creature right, not only the vocals but the little guitar part in the middle. Stu and I play a strange dual solo that I don’t think we’ve properly nailed since!
Culture Creature was difficult, it’s a sad song with dark lyrics, I remember after a few vocal takes coming back into the control room and everyone just looked flat.
I Remember deciding to record Today Was Insane either just before or when we got there. Culture creature depressed everybody! Neil wasn’t quite as jovial as the 1st time. Did we crash at Deeks flat in Edinburgh in between days. Can’t remember.
I didn’t have my flat then!
John and Dave were just sitting on the couch. The rest of the guys were quiet and yeah Neil looked a bit bored. I agree with Stu he didn’t joke or have a laugh like he did during the first demo.
I’ll put my poor recollections down to repeated concussions (and alcohol perhaps). Was it not Culture Creature that took the longest? Well worth it in my opinion
Yes definitely, it took the longest. Summerhigh was pretty seamless, I can’t remember how Today Was Insane took but to be honest I didn’t care much for it. Culture Creature was worth it, it was worth the effort to get it right. I think it is one of our best songs, even if it sits in disjointed (but fun) album, Firkin Outburst.
Is the studio still there? Always look out for it when I’m going past.
It is! It’s still nestled behind the large trees, the airport parking edges ever closer though. I think Neil still works in the studio. I’m the same, I’ll take a wee glance over, we had great times in there but to date, sadly, we’ve not been back.
We did record in professional studios, most were pretty bad but one did stick out as a fantastic place to record. Split Level studios in Edinburgh; we look back at our first recording. We put down three songs in that session, The Rain,Vancouver and Chameleon.
Pabs We got this studio recommendation from Chris Mason; Cage had recorded their single there, Collapse if i remember correctly, for Baghdad records. He gave us a number and I got in touch with a guy called Neil. We discussed dates and a price and I booked us a slot. I put the phone down and I couldn’t be more excited. We had a few songs ready, The Rain and Vancouver were definite choices. We had entered a competition to write a song for an anti drug campaign in Falkirk. So we wrote Chameleon and decided to record that at the studio so we could submit the song. Greg drove (again), I remember heading to Edinburgh, the studio is just outside the city’s airport, you take a sharp left just after the turnoff for the main terminal. We were heading up this dirt track and i’m thinking we’re lost. Then past the bushes there was this yard, it was a bit of a dump really and there was this cottage and no one was there to meet us. I remember Neil tearing up the drive in a car and parking next to us, out jumped this tall fella with a mop of red hair, he was a friendly laid back guy who fitted into the ramshackle surroundings. He led us up to the cottage and unlocked the front door. I think we first went into a kitchen and it was untidy, then i think there was a toilet. I was a wee bit taken aback. Then we got into the control room and I was blown away.
There was a huge mixing desk ( I was starting to have an interest in recording) a reel to reel and through the window there was a drum kit and a vocal booth. It was amazing. I stepped into the recording room, it was small, cosy, and there was this door that led to the vocal booth. It was padded out in green sound absorbing panels at that time i thought we were now a real band recording in the studio!
This was the first time I was recorded playing the acoustic guitar in the studio, it was nerve wracking! I learned that every chord scrape, every open string was heard and i quickly had to improve my playing.
I can’t remember the order of the songs or even the process of putting the songs down, i do remember screaming my lungs out on the Rain and Neil gently mocking my lyrics, ‘Trousers that keep us alive’ I also remember Greg placing his amp in the toilet to get the sound for the bass.
Derek has always had a knack of putting drums down quickly, I can’t remember how we did the initial tracking but I do remember the overdubbing. I felt at ease in this environment, we’d flop down onto the big couch and listen as Stu laid his tracks, we were well rehearsed so the whole thing went quite well. Greg
I remember having a bit of a jam with Neil on drums at some point. Also that i felt very relaxed doing the recording. It was also the first time you really heard the individual parts being played in isolation as everyone recorded their part.
Remember thinking that was cool. I still love that shot someone took of me taking my bass off in the sunlight from the window. I recorded my parts Sat next to Neil at the desk I think Stu The studio was a hidden gem. A bit like Dr Who’s travelling police box. Just looked like a run down wee cottage from the outside… Then once (we got) past the ‘cold trainspotting loo’ a wonderful studio with huge mixing desk and sound proof glass. Amazing stuff I remember feeling under pressure to nail guitar parts but it was quite a relaxed atmosphere so it felt really easy to layer double tracked rhythm parts.
On the track The Rain i use a lot of wah wah and coming back into the studio on the 2nd day Neil had added a delay effect over the top which sounded incredible…..needless to say I had to invest in a delay pedal shortly after this so the overall sound would be replicated live
Pabs The mixing was quick, Neil asked if the tracks were for an album or a demo, we said demo, and away he went mixing rather quickly, in the background the tape reel was spinning back and forth. He had an Atari computer with music software and a huge rack of FX. Derek liked the drum sound, later he would reflect that the cymbals could’ve been louder. I was mesmerized at the speed that Neil worked, with a cigarette in hand he flitted between the desk, the reel to reel and the atari. We started to hear the music back through the speakers and it was amazing, really amazing to hear out songs this way. Neil seemed to like the songs so I guess this made the job easier for him (we’d return a year or so later and it was a slightly different outcome) it wasn’t long before we were done.
There was time for photographs of us larking around in the studio, it was a fantastically optimist time for us, everything was new and we had youth on our side. We thought the world was waiting for us. I guess deep down I knew it would be a long shot making it in 96, Oasis had exploded and our demo that we had just cut was heavier rock. I shook this thought from my mind when I heard the demo played on the car stereo, it sounded amazing on the tape player. The story of the demo and what it led to is another story, however the legacy of the Split Level sessions would last until this day. These recordings are what we measure our home recording by and they still stand up well today. The three songs would all appear on our first album Whapper Stormer which remains one of our best albums. We recorded the rest of the album some ten years later on an 8 track, the quality of the Split Level sessions forced us to try and match what Neil had achieved. It was a fantastic experience, we would visit a few more studios but they would never match our first studio.
In the years that followed we distanced ourselves from studios, we had a couple of poor experiences and I was getting more involved in sound production. I think the band would’ve loved to have returned to a professional setup, I wanted to learn though, and I suggested we invest in our own gear. Eventually we would take our recordings a step further and higher remote cottages and lodges to record. This was a fantastic experience but we still look back on the professional studio experience with fondness. Perhaps we’ll do it again.
When our long-time friends the Buzzards of Babylon invited us to play at the launch of their new album we cleared the diary and jumped at the chance. We’d be back at the Windsor hotel, the first time we played there was back in 2005, the Buzzards were of course Kranksolo back then.
Sure we were admittedly a little huffy at going on first, no band really wants to open the night; you fear playing in front of the sound engineer and maybe a couple of bar staff, I mean who goes to gigs to see the first band right? However it made sense, we weren’t bringing a crowd with us and we would be able to sink ale after ale as we listened to the metal riffing of Fife’s finest.
Of course we had grand plans when the gig was booked, lets book a hotel, we dreamed, get drunk and have a party! Then I decided to enter a half marathon on the Sunday, looks like I’d be the designated driver then. Greg’s face lit up… I knew that at some point he would go into ‘wee dick’mode. Now this is not a slight on the man, this is a self-confessed state that Greg gets into when he’s had an ale or two. He gets a little annoying but in a bloody funny way. More on that later…
The day arrived far quicker than we knew and it was great to be playing a gig, it’s been strangely quiet year for us, holidays, work life you know the drill. So it was good to be on the road heading over to the Kingdom back to an old haunt to play some tunes.
We arrived in good time at the Windsor, I couldn’t really remember it as much as the Path Tavern down the road (we played there a couple of memorable nights) however when we got into the function room it came back to us. The stage had moved to a better more loftier position and there was now a dedicated sound desk at which Travis Whalley (He is the respected sound engineer who produced Micrometeoroid Modulation, Buzzards latest magnificent album) was attentively caressing a tablet that was mixing the stage sound (technology these days…) so he was able to walk around as he made fine adjustments to the mix. After a quick greeting we set to a soundcheck with Travis and we were ready to go.
By the time we took to the stage, a small but appreciative crowd had gathered to watch our set.
Take the Blindness from Your Eyes
Once more with Feeling
It’s Who You Know
Kill it Kill it
Quoted, Not Voted
My plan had been to try and conserve some energy for the pending half marathon, but that plan went out the window as soon as we started playing. I had no idea how much i had missed playing live and it was great to be back on the stage.
New song Take the Blindness from Your Eyes was an unusual opener for us, we tend to go for easier songs to settle the nerves however we managed to nail this one. The set went well, Speak went a bit wayward when we decided to miss out a couple of bars, no one noticed, including Derek!
I always love playing Quoted, every time I sing it the lyrics always fit in with the latest political shambles, Medicine is now a live staple, it’s such a great tune to play and we finished with old regular Industry. We were tempted with Fathers Verse from the new EP but we hadn’t played it for a while so we went with WdB1’s finisher.
The audience was great, numbers were up a little so it was nice to reach new ears. After we were done the lads made a beeline for the bar and I settled for my Irn Bru. As I supped the soft drink I thoroughly enjoyed the 80’s metal dynamics of Volcano X, they looked like the were having a bawl on the stage and it spread to those who were watching. The vocalist Johnny Steel had a wide vocal range, from deep growls to soaring falsettos. The reminded me of the fun and high energy heard on Helloweens early (and best) albums. Smokestacks followed with a high energy set with some superb guitar work.
Buzzards stepped up a little later than planned, we stayed for the majority of their set (early rise for the big run on the Sunday was now on my mind). Eck suddenly appeared on stage with the first of his masks, he looked the part! No idea how he managed to play the guitar. The band sounded really tight, the new songs from Micrometroid Modulation were solid. Stuart was on form as he crafted his solo work. I had caught up with Rab and Mike earlier in the night and in a similar way to us the Buzzards are happy to keep writing and playing while juggling jobs and families. Fingers crossed this adventure will last for a while yet.
Sadly we had to bail just before the end of their set. Derek and Greg were now giggling and laughing on their way to the car, Greg darted back to the venue for some reason, Stu was sticking up for me telling the guys to get in the car. It was becoming more like a family day out! I started to chuckled as all the nonsense was going on in the background. Greg had previously attempted to pack the gear in the care, that was a disaster…
We set off and Greg went into his Wee Dick mode, being as annoying as he possibly could, it was a laugh. As we left Kirkcaldy we put on Micrometroid Modulation the CD player, tunes blaring, Greg and Derek laughing it wasn’t helping the tinnitus!
As we reached the highway Greg asked if he could vape in the car, before it could answer Stu asserted, nope! Laughter ensued as Greg was shot down, however he had hatched a cunning plan.
I need to pee, was the words that came from the bass player’s mouth. So we pulled over and let Greg out. It was the longest pee ever.. We waited…under the flashing orange of the parking indicators I could see that Greg’s cunning plan was at work! He was vaping! We started to pull away, Greg caught up and laughed as he bundled into the car and we headed back to the shores of Fallkirkshire with Buzzards blasting out of the stereo.
Another good night was had, we should do it more often, except next time I ain’t driving!
(Oh I managed 1:42:38 in the Scottish half marathon)
In the 23 years that we’ve played around Scotland we have met many great bands and friends. Time often sees many bands fade as we carry on towards out next musical adventure. There is an exception; the wonderful Buzzards of Babylon.
It was around our One More Solo tour back in 2005 that we first met some of the Buzzards. Back then they were in a different guise, Kranksolo, this is where we met current BoB members Rab Dempsey (vocals) and Mike Gordon (bass). We had played the Path Tavern, a small venue in Kirkcaldy.
The Buzzards of Balyon arose from the unfortunate end of Kranksolo and released a fantastic EP; this included Monkey Knife Fight which became a solid live favourite.
Probably one of the best album names of the year is Micrometeoriod Modulation. Rab, Stuart Gillies (guitar), Mike, Stephen Kirk MacLeod (drums) and Alec have produced a thumping 48 minutes of rock, blues and a tinge of metal brought together by their long served sound engineer Travis Whalley.
Opener I Am Hell has a growl, Rabs vocals are always strong, he has a voice and range perfectly suited to the downtuned rock that plays with him. The huge riffs have a blend of Queens of The Stone Age but meater, perhaps in the vein of mid-early Metallica.
The guitars drive the music, with the kind nature but imposing stature of Alec Raeside and Stuart Gillies assaulting both speakers.
The guys are having fun, embracing their superb music that so far remains unsigned, is being unsigned such a problem anymore? The title of the tracks give away some of the enjoyment they are having B U aWzrd being an example. Its quick riffs show the dexterity of the band before they launch into meaty chorus chords.
Rabs lyrics have always been well written; ‘Be you a wizard or a Mother of invention’ he roars as the band changes pace throughout the track. The beauty of B U aWzrd is the many magical roads it takes you down.
This is what people miss when they only listen to bands from the mainstream, they miss bands who are prepared to take risks, push their music in a different way, bands that are happy to play songs over 3 minutes long. At over 7 minutes this is spellbinding.
Morning After is next, subtle guitars gently bring in the song, giving the record a chance to breath and cleanse the palette before the crunch kicks back in. I thought Mark Lanegan was singing for a minute, Rabs fantastic controlled vocals showing his lower range; arguably this is where he thrives.
When Rab snarls ‘I lost my way, I lift my head towards the sun’ near the end of Interplanetary Convulsion you can feel aggression resonating from the usually upbeat Mr Dempsey, it’s a fine track that slows down with the mood as it fades.
Bi-Polar Bear is blues at its heaviest, this is confirmed when the mouth organ floats over the monolithic guitars, it’s a nice change of texture for the record. I’m tempted to say that this is a direction that suits the Buzzards, the moody blues really fits with the pitch of the vocals. Perhaps a highlight of the album.
Buzzards Of Babylon are a fine band; we’ve played a few shows with them and love it. Everytime we met its never like strangers. They can drink…only our Greg has matched them.
They have finally graced us with an album and it is worthy of a purchase. Sure you could accuse us of being bias towards our friends but those that know me say I won’t say music is great without meaning it. Its excellent and satisfyingly aggressive enough to have you nodding your head in approval. Buy it, support one of the unearthed gems of the Scottish music scene, the Buzzards are soaring upwards.
Seems strange that after over two decades I can’t recall Weird Decibels playing Dunfermline. That was until I remembered a biker rally we played in Crossgates between Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline, but that’s a story for another day.
We were asked to play Montys a couple of weeks before the gig. The venue has a laid back approach to live music, they like to put on bands every weekend, you turn up and you play. The venue itself is a mecca for those who love their rock music. Posters of rock icons are pinned on the wall and the music heard in the background was a playlist of heavy tunes for the punters.
We were made to feel very welcome but the place was empty. We wondered if this would be the first quiet gig for a while. We hadn’t really pushed this one.
We were on first which was fine, we did originally think we’d be on third so we had a longer set so we had to cut a couple of tracks.
I stepped up with my guitar in hand ready to soundcheck. I approached the Marshall stack and switched on the head. Suddenly I heard a electric crunch and smelt burning. It was not I was hoping for. Gav who was on the sound remained calm, he did a very good job throughout the night. The only problem was that we did not have a spare amp head.
Enter Kirby guitarist of The Other Side came to the rescue. He kindly allowed us to play though his valve amp. This saved the night.
By the time half 8 arrived it was time for us to go onstage. The place was empty bar a few eager music fans how had arrived to watch the live music. They were regulars and explained that Monty’s can be packed one week and empty the next.
Undeterred we carried on and struck the first chords of Feeling, once the music was playing the other bands and other people wandered from downstairs and suddenly we had a small but appreciative crowd watching us.
Take the Blindness
Who you Know
I Hear the City
I really enjoyed this gig, Feeling was a little ropey for me but things tightened up when we played Speak. It was wonderful to play Take the Blindness From Your Eyes live for the first time. Finally free from the restrictions of the studio the song felt great to play. A801 was also played for the first time; I only had a light distortion (I didn’t want to muck about with the settings on Kirby’s amp) and I thought it gave the song another edge. It went down really well.
Medicine is now my live favourite, it’s a great song to play. Quoted was angrier than usual and to end with I Hear the City seemed to work well,
After we finished I caught up with the guys from The Other Side and we shared our joint passion for recording our own music; they were friendly bunch of guys who were helpfully sharing contact details of people to get in touch.
We stayed to drink a few beers, well Derek and I did.Stu wasn’t feeling too hot and Greg was working the next day so he was driving back. We took in the sets of Phoenix Lane and the fantastically entertaining AYE Hobos. On last was The Other Side who played many rock songs and a range of brilliant solos that made me want to listen to Dinosaur Jr all over again. Sadly we had to leave halfway through their set sdo Greg could get home but i liked what I heard.
It was a great evening for us, we really enjoyed a night out in the Dunfermline music scene hopefully we’ll be back in the near future and not leave it quite as long next time.
Stu and Pabs take a look back at our first gig at the Martell Falkirk in 1995. Thanks to Derek for the archive flyers, posters and clippings. Stu for the pictures. Not sure who took them.
It was Thursday 17th August 1995, Bill Clinton was still president of the USA, Take That were in the top five and in the the cinema Waterworld was watched by noone. Another seismic event was about to take to place. Weird were about to play live for the first time.
A few months earlier Greg and Pabs had set their first target, to form a band and play the Martell. They created Weird with Stewart and Derek in the deepest of winter in February 95. A few songs later, probably around 6 or so we were looking for our first gig. That offer came from the late Chris Masson who got us on the bill to support Cage, one of Falkirk’s finest and fiercist bands.
We just had a handful of songs, we hadn’t even graced the studio but we had written some songs that earlier Weird followers would enjoy for years namely: The Rain, Vancouver and Educational Suicide, some of our best known tracks. We felt these songs were strong and it made us confident going into our first gig, well fairly confident!
Back then the Martell was a big deal, it, alongside the Happening Club were the places for local bands to play. Greg and I had went every Thursday night for weeks, months even, to drink beer and listen to Cage. When the call came to play the Martell I was excited, nervous, but really excited. Derek kept a copy of our first flyer. We were third on the bill, we would open up the show for Cage and a band called Twister. A lot of bands in the local scene had ‘er’ at the end of their name.
Our first set list was penned in black ink, what a feeling that was, writing our first set list. Six songs. The Rain, Educational Suicide, Show Your Face Soon, Stay In, Vancouver and Go Away. We never recorded Stay In or Go Away.
We pulled up to the Martell and had to load into the side door straight onto the stage. I walked onto the stage as Jimmy and the sound guys were setting up, I had long hair draped over my face I didn’t want anyone to see me. I was just doing vocals, the freedom! I could just turn up and sing. The classic days.
I remember walking into the venue and hearing Ewan the drummer from headlining band Cage sound check and the hairs were standing on the back of my neck.
Sound checking my guitar felt amazing as It sounded huge through the massive pa system.
I remember hearing the kick drum through the PA for the first time. What a sound. We just used a vocal PA down at our practise room. Derek never used mics on his kit in rehearsal so we had never heard the drums like this before.
Derek was the cocky youngster so full of confidence and even in the early days he used to love winding me up. Greg was laid back as always. Stu if I remember correctly seemed quiet and a bit nervous.
Looking up I saw the lights during soundchek, the blotted out my view of the Martell, at this time it was empty, I remember Stu shredding the guitar to test it, it seemed like a huge sound. This was it, we were going live. I can’t remember what song we soundchecked with but I do remember reading about Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Even at soundcheck Vedder would give everything to his performance, so I did the same. I put everything into the soundcheck!
We were about to go on, by this time a crowd had gathered, there were a lot of friends from high school. Phil and Juls were there as well (I’m sure Phil is in one of the photos), they only knew Stu at this time but we all became friends over the years. I walked up to the stage ready to play, I was really nervous. It’s always the first line you have to remember. Do that and the rest of the gig is fine. So I walked up ready to play and Derek was nowhere to be seen…
Stu played a riff as the crowd waited. Then Derek runs up after getting changed in the toilets. I was raging. Finally we were ready to play. I just recall the lights, the music took me and I just went crazy. I had seen Chris Masson of Cage do the same a few times on this stage, he put everything into his live shows so I did the same, it was natural. Something comes out when you play live, its like all the anger that builds up just pours out. My hair was everywhere. I was singing my songs to other people now.
I stood on stage blasted out the 1st song the Rain the crowd went mental I thought that’s awesome but my guitar didn’t seem that loud on stage…I then realised the sound engineer hadn’t mic’d up my guitar amp!
First song done and my confidence grew. The crowd cheered, the folk from the high school, were loving having a few beers on a Thursday!
After I moved the microphone in front of my amp it sounded a lot better and I grew in confidence.I was pretty nervous which I always am at gigs but after I nail the 1st song the nerves settle and after rehearsing at the practice room for months the live sound on stage was incredible.
The gig flew past, it was only six songs but it felt like 5 minutes. It was an amazing feeling coming off stage and our friends were congratulating us. We dissolved back into the crowd and enjoyed the rest of the night. Cage were amazing, Light years ahead of us, they had been together for a while and were getting into their stride. Stu
Our 1st gig flew by so quickly. So many people came up to us after in Firkins on the Saturday night saying how good we had been. Such a buzz. We had arrived on the live scene.
Shuffledown is now ingrained into the psyche of the local music scene; regular Shuffle goers will look eagerly for the line up announcements around the Autumn and plan a day of music and drink ahead. Past years have seen successful, subtle additions to the lineup that have helped broaden the range of people who soak in the sights and sounds at the Dobbie hall. Past lineups have included the impressive headliners Broken Records during Shuffledown’s maiden year to the unearthed gem that was Paddy Steer in year 2. There have been successes and surprises every year.
Gifted to the people of Larbert by Major Robert Dobbie, the hall has matured into a grand building that generations of locals have been proud of. It’s become Shuffledown’s home; adding a touch of grandeur to the festival, many of the bands that play are often used to the trappings of more modest venues.
As I reached the doors, ready to enjoy Suffledown’s fourth year I was greeted by a vocal quartet, food stalls and an area for arts and crafts. Not to mention a warm welcome from the many volunteers. I walked into the hall and admired the well decorated stage, I looked for the trademark Shuffledown lamp and it was proudly illuminated to the right of the stage. In addition to the lamp there was a new lighting rig and a large screen to enhance the visual experience.
Two inviting drinks stalls were set up across from the main bar. I decided against the Prosecco, that stuff goes right to my head, it was Birds and Bees for me. The surroundings gave me the impression that Shuffledown is now well established and the leading music festival of the Falkirk area.
At the back of 2 o clock the early comers were greeted by The Sonic Blues, a late but welcome addition to the Shuffledown lineup. In what is to be their last gig for an undefined hiatus, the Blues looked like there were at home on the big stage. The great sound helped the trios bluesy rock transcend over the hall. They played a few tracks of last years album ‘Something Today’ and ‘Purgatory Blues’ was as enjoyable as ever.
A growing crowd gathered for Fairweather and the Elements; arriving back for a second year in a row. Under the impressive lighting and sound the band put on a great show. They closed with the impressive Go Far, the latest single from F.A.T.E.. This was a confident set from the six piece.
London act Davey Horne and his band arrived to a vibrant atmosphere. With threads of the War on Drugs their edgy southern rock had a psychedelic feel. Davey Horne switched between keys and guitar with ease. It was a very enjoyable set and went down very well with the audience. A highlight of the day for me.
Somehow keeping cool in a large jacket the lead singer of Mt. Doubt and the band delivered a set of pop and rock with some urgency. Reminding me of the Sleepy Jackson they put on a good show. I enjoyed the set and as they finished I headed around the festival for a wander.
This year there was more food stalls which was a good move given the growing army of all day drinkers. I had a few Birds and Bees from the Williams Brewery stall and I was even tempted for some Buckie from the main bar. I left it this time. I grabbed a quick coffee and a roll on pulled pork (nice) before heading back in to the venue from the crisp spring evening.
Refreshed and refueled I grabbed another beer and waited for Fuzzystar. The bands bittersweet melodies are well suited to Shuffledown. Sporting one of the most impressive beards in the Edinburgh indie scene, Andy Thomson, Fuzzystars singer, sang low melodies over the impressive solo guitar work from Michael Morrison. Longest Day was a nice indentation amid the flurry of guitars; its subtle handpicked chords and slow build was a smart change. Given my love for Grandaddy and the National, plus the fact that I enjoyed Fuzzystar at the Artisan Tap back in 2017 this band was always going to be one of my highlights of the day and they didn’t disappoint.
Upstairs in the cloud room there was a bit of retro gaming reminiscing going on. Dusty Hayes played an uplifting set to a busy room, he clearly enjoyed the occasion as both artist and audience were punching the air in synchronized delight. I was mesmerised by the videos of Sonic, F Zero and the Ninja Turtle games. It was a neat touch.
I also caught OntheFly. A live drum kit was set up in the corner of the small stage providing analog beats to OntheFly’s digital mastery. It was an excellent set, a moody mix of driving electronica. This was the last act I saw in the cloud room and I’m glad I took the time to head upstairs this year, there was an intimate but great feel about the smaller stage of Shuffledown.
Back downstairs the main stage welcomed Denny’s The Nickajack men, who flung themselves into an energetic set that went down very well with the crowd. Dead Man Fall entertained the crowd with a lively set, I missed much of this part as I soaked in other areas of the festival. The Birds and the Bees ale was still going down a treat and the end of the night was nearing. There was still time for Colonel Mustard to walk onto a colourful stage donned in yellow mustard hues and big hats. A party atmosphere had taken over (as it often does at the end of Shuffledown), the uplifting mood of the music transferred to the crowd.
Shuffledown was over for another year and with all things you look forward to, the festival was over rather too quickly. The artisan feel of the event lends itself to a welcoming day of entertainment and it continues to evolve every year. It’s now an integral part of the Falkirk music scene; given its location and returning crowds there is no reason why Shuffeldown cannot become the leading indoor event of the Forth valley area.
This was an excellent year, continuing a consistent run of successful events. Next year will see its 5th anniversary, it’s now a young and confident festival, long may it continue.