Weird Decibels would like to share the music of our fellow Falkirk acts. Here are some of the records that Pabs has bought, listened to and enjoyed lately. There are a lot of great acts and records in Falkirk just now.
All downloads listened to in full WAV format at 44Hz (or higher) using the wonderful program Foobar 2000. Downloads and CDs paid for through Bandcamp. There are also a selction of CD’s in Falkirk shop Noise Noise Noise.
(recommended listening on WAV downloaded from Bandcamp)
Recorded at a pace in typical punk fashion between August and September 2015 13’s album A Line Of The Dead On Deadline Day is classic punk driven by a tight drum sound recorded in a fairly small room that gives the kit a close up feel; there is FX added to the snare on some tracks. The sound reminds me of the late 80’s early 90’s punk/ grunge scene. The drums are knitted with bass, and in most tracks there is one guitar that delivers the riff. Most modern bands double up, so this record feels live, raw and wonderfully personal.
The drums were recorded at the bunker in Bonnybridge, with the guitars recorded at Dollys; (house i’m assuming) this album has energy and a real underground feel . Dolly is the dominant lyric writer, with a snarl to his vocal delivery there is a political air to his musings.
The beauty of this record is its underground feel, its rawness and its pure punk ethos.
(recommended listening on physical format, Vinyl, (CD, which I have), included is rather nice artwork)
Ewan MacKenzie grew up in the Falkirk area with the same dreams as the rest of us. A musician who would hope to get some recognition for his work. We haven’t quite got there yet but Ewan appears to have made some headway into realising his vision.
He started his musical career as the prolific drummer of Cage, one of Falkirk’s greatest bands. Cage’s life was short; but it burned bright. Post Cage Ewan went on to perform on a number of projects. Recently he drummed for Pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs, a band that is doing rather well. For whatever reason he recently left them in May 2017 and it appears that his focus has turned to Dextro.
In the Crossing is a wonderful, moody and atmospheric piece of electronica. Its production and scope stands at height with mainstream acts which could suggest that Ewan will realise bigger things. Its timing and structure is wonderful, rich textures sweep across the listeners headspace and of course there is the assurance of Ewan’s drumming. The track Clearing digs deep into your emotions, its a beautiful four minutes.
Take this record in, breath it, listen when the sun is setting, you’ll understand what I mean. This guy is from your town, take pride in that.
(recommended listening WAV downloads from Bandcamp)
Iain King, singer and guitarist of Ghost Writer towers over most people he meets. I met him briefly backstage at Shuffledown 2017 and he seems like a nice fella, however there appears to be a side to him that allows him to create the edgy compositions of Ghost Writer. They have two EP’s now. Their first Outskirts Vol 1 is a raucous affair with For Hire (Summer Never Ends) having a riff that has that ability to dig into your ear. Mags Dignan’s vocal are worth a mention, her tone is a good contrast to Kings but there is no doubt she could deliver a song on her own. Last track Way I’m Wired is an example of a band quite happy to take risks, with a distant guitar, backed by fuzzy keys and an exposed vocal. Very nice.
Their follow up Legends is a more measured and professional sounding affair. Recorded at Chem 19 studios Ghostwriter have rolled a dice, paying money to produce an EP that they hope will lift them above their peers.
Its an ambitious EP that throws guitars licks from ear to ear. The last track ‘I’m Not Trying To Get to Heaven’ is a highlight, the EP tries to avoid the formulaic approach of other bands, sidestepping verse chorus verse structures. Have a wee listen to Outskirts, it’s a fine vocal performance from King drifting from baritone to the upper mids with ease.
Turning 30 was a bit painful; there is something visceral about leaving your 20’s. You think your youth is gone when in fact it’s still around for another few years or so. Turning 40 teaches you this.
Riot Act was written and recorded as we were all heading to our 30’s (Stu had already reached that milestone!) Greg and I were nearly there and Derek was planning to have the mortgage paid off by the end of his third decade.
In 2007 the music industry was about to go through a seismic change. Spotify would launch the year after, itunes was in full flow and people were downloading music only to find the quality was nowhere near as good as physical formats. Radiohead were letting you pay what you wanted for the brilliant ‘In Rainbows’ and Kings of Leon were just past their peak.
‘this is the hole dam shooting match
where the victims aim high and the victors aim low
where the self obsessed career animals
who don’t want to know’
Our band was still called Weird and we had had a great ‘comeback’ with One More Solo in 2004. We had gigged that album profusely and after the dust had settled we returned to our practise room and decided our next turn. Derek suggested we started making money from music and that meant learning covers then playing paid gigs. Grudgingly I agreed, the other guys felt that this was a good move. So we learned a lot of tunes and played a number of paid shows. Slowly our band bank account started to look like it had never done so before…it had a balance.
Writing took a back seat; personally I had run out of ideas I thought I had explored all my experiences and thoughts and my pen ran dry. Influences around us were also running low, the Foo Fighters for example were treading water; the albums they released around this time, One By One and In Your Honor could arguably be examples of this (some of the guys will be shaking their heads at this but I feel the Foo’s didn’t return to form until Wasting Light which is superb). Personally I felt that there was no emerging music and even the local scene was not as strong as it is today although its fair to say I was ignoring that as well.
‘Lets face it she’s not very pretty
And she doesn’t look good on the dancefloor
I make my way home from this paranoid city
Turn on the news watch religion at war’
Sky is Falling’
We would attend practise every Wednesday in the same surroundings, low on influences distracted by learning covers and I guess on a come down from the joyful years of 2004’s ‘One More Solo’. Even the very essence of our rehearsal space was changing as the bulldozers came in and cleared the way for another ASDA. Despite all these factors we soldiered on and wrote Riot Act.
Despite my reluctance to learn covers discovering the structure of the songs we were regularly playing in Behind the Wall and other venues that favoured cover acts, I started to become influenced by the punk and rock we were playing. Many of the songs on the album would end up being balls out uncomplicated punk rock that was easy and fun to play.
Our drinking was nuts during these years in the 00’s we drank a lot of beer. Caught up in the insane alcohol deals of the day; we would consume cases of lager without flinching, often during great times at Derek’s old flat. Indeed our old gang of lads were still together; Byrne, Rooz, Wilson to name a few and of course Dave Broon. Unbeknown to us these were the last few care free years and looking back i’m glad we enjoyed them.
Some facts about 2007
Interest rates 5.25%
Tony Blair steps down as prime minister and is replaced by Gordon Brown
US President was George W. Bush
There was the horrific Glasgow Airport terrorist attack
Average price of a pint was £2.51
Best selling album Back To Black Amy Winehouse
Average internet speed 3.3 Mb (three times as fast as ours)
Alcohol was very much prevalent in the lyrics I wrote then, that and nightlife in Falkirk. Home Sweet Home is perhaps a reflection that I was tiring of the nights this would be a theme throughout the album. However it was a limited view and I grew to criticise my lyrics over the following years. Quiet Act, Riots successor, dealt with the same subject albeit from a Sunday morning perspective. (more on that next year).
‘I beat myself up over again
When i realised what i could’ve been
Holding on to a job that pays
For the house and the car and the microwave’.
Personally there were some difficult times in 2007 but I never really learned how to approach them until many years later. Riot Act was like a party with lots of people having fun apart from the one moody guy in the corner ready to start something.
Writing the album was a pretty straight forward, the riffs really spilled out from the covers we were rehearsing. Then one night we heard the scurrying…the rats…even they got a mention on the record.
As we gathered our roster of finished songs I suggested to the guys a new approach to recording; that we hire a cottage in one of the remotest places in Scotland. We now had the money to pay for it. Riot Act would be the first of our ‘lodge albums’ and what a riot that week would be…
I don’t get gig nerves as much as I used to. Of course I still get jitters these days, usually just before we go on stage, when I’d be wondering if I’d forget the first line or drop the first chord. However I don’t get the crippling nerves I used to feel when we first stepped onto the Martell stage back in 96.
Shuffle Down (20th May 2017) was different, I’d been thinking about this gig for the last year.
Let me take you back. Shuffle Down 2016 was well in the the swing and I was tapping my feet, enjoying the bands, the craic and the ale. Rikki Tonner, one of the event organisers, is someone I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years. I believe we share a passion for the Falkirk scene (he’s more pro-active than I am!) so he came over for a chat.
Towards the end of our blether he hinted that Weird Decibels would play Shuffle Down next year. I’m not sure if he was just being nice, but he said it and it got me thinking. A rock band on Shuffle Down? Would it work?
Rikki stayed true to his word, a few months later we got the invite and then the nerves started to gnaw at the back of my mind. Then came the doubts. Would we be on first? Would their be a crowd? Or would there be a vast empty space as people went out for burgers and fresh air as we played.
Fast forward a turbulent year of Brexit and Trump. Now it was the morning of May the 20th 2017, I hadn’t got much sleep the night before but I was full of energy pacing around an empty house. Kirsty had taken our boy out to to stay at her mums for the night so I had silence for company. The nerves really started to kick in. I opened the guitar case and the old golden Yamaha was resting in its cradle. I picked it up and started strumming some of the songs. I forgot the words to Speak…Now I was really nervous.
I packed my pedals and our merch into my rucksack and put the guitar in the case and grabbed a bite to eat. As I picked at my sandwich I wondered what lay ahead. I checked the train times. It was time to leave.
I booted up Spotify and played some Soundgarden; the amazing Superunknown blasted my ears as I walked to the station; I spared a thought for the late Chris Cornell. Gradually Soundgarden’s music lifted my spirits. Now i was getting excited.
On the train I sat down and checked out the instructions for arriving at the venue. The whole set up provided by Afterglow was very professional. We’d be on at five and I had a hunch that this time might work out well for us. The beer would be flowing and maybe we’d get a few people listening.
The Dobbie hall was just short walk from the station (I love those gigs where it’s you, a guitar and a rucksack) I entered the main door there was a busy but calm atmosphere in the venue. The sound crew had already started work on a drum sound and I took a moment to admire the stage on which we would play. It’s easily the grandest stage our modest band has played on for a view years.
I got a warm welcome from an understandably distracted Rikki who pointed me in the direction of backstage where I gratefully laid down my guitar which had now grown heavy. I had a wee peak from the side of the stage, it was a fine size of floor space, very pleasing to the eye of a musician.
Half an hour passed and my phone buzzed, Greg and Stu were stuck in the car awaiting for the rain to stop, it was heavy, bouncing of the pavement as the dark clouds above us emptied. Finally Stu hauled his large guitar pedal case which I rather stupidly offered to carry backstage. It’s a heavy burden of effects!
We had a look at the other room backstage which had a small selection of beers and food, this is a lot more hospitality than many bands are used to! Derek arrived and this was the first time he had attended Shuffle Down and he seemed to be impressed with the set up.
With the soundchecks done we took our place in the audience. I was now observing how many people were walking through the door, looking behind me every couple of minutes like a paranoid spy from a 70’s Bond film (all that was missing was the newspaper and a dodgy pair of sunglasses). At 2 when the doors opened there was a small crowd, my fears of an empty floor for our gig were not easing.
The first acts played, you can read about Shuffle Down 2017 here. More people started to filter in and fill the hall. Now I was starting to feel that there would be a decent crowd. However I was fretting that our music would not sit well among the acts of this years lineup.
Have Mercy Las Vegas we so different to us and the crowd loved them, my anxiety grew. Now I just wanted a beer…Pronto Mama walked on with keys and brass and I thought the worst. Would these guys play music so different to us? However there set was great full of surprising guitar driven indie rock which I felt would ease the listeners into our music.
Now I was starting to get excited. Their set flew past and as I walked towards backstage I heard the crowd cheer their last song, it was quite a noise so I turned around and saw quite a mass of people. I was praying they would stay.
There was a nervous excitement from Stu, he suffers terrible pre gig nerves and he really felt this one. Greg just seems to stroll up and take everything in his stride. Derek is often the most composed. Quietly adjusting the cymbals and snare before settling into his stool prepared to beat the hell out of the kit.
I had to hold to my nerves, I was playing in front of a neutral audience, our friends and of course our peers of the Falkirk scene. We had won best rock act of Falkirk 2016 at the AMIF awards and I didn’t want to let anyone down. (thanks for voting!)
So I didn’t look out to the crowd as I plugged in my leads. Then I strummed the guitar…nothing…I walked over to the Marshall stack…turned up the volume…nothing. Then a slight adjustment and just a faint whimper of distorted guitar could be heard. Time was passing. I took a breath and had a look at the setting of the Marshall amp head. There were presets and I started to select the various settings, one of which said ‘classic’ voila. Sound.
I quickly got a level then scattered the setlists at the four positions of the band, Stu was ready, Greg, kitted out with his Weird Decibels denim waistcoat was ready. Derek was poised. I got a level with Stu and then looked to the crowd. They had stayed.
Ben White was on the sound desk and he picked up our prompt and dropped the background music. Derek started the beat of Speak. I picked the notes…the correct ones. The band blasted into the intro then I stepped up to the mic and sang the first line. Then I relaxed
Once More With Feeling
Kill it Kill it
Who You Know
I Hear the City
The stage was superb, I had room to run around like it was our first gig. Stu and Greg looked like they were have the time of their lives. Derek, as usual, keeping it all knitted together. The nerves were now evaporated. It set up the rest of the show.
When we finished Speak the response was superb and that energised us further, it gave us confidence. The sound was fine for us on stage but I believe that it was well received in the audience.
Our half hour slot felt like five minutes. We extended I Hear the City and I tried to get the audience to clap along, we extended the solos and build up to a finale. The song finished and I knew then we had played one of our best gigs in our two decades together..
The stage, the audience, the setting, it was all superb. 22 years in and we often wondered if we’d ever play shows like this again. I guess we’ve been rewarded for sticking together through the highs and the lows and while we’ve never made any sort of impression on Scotland’s scene we can look back on days like this and take a bit of pride from it. We made some new friends and reunited with some old. There has been some great photos of us on stage having a bawl.
So if you are a young local act, don’t get too obsessed with breaking through, just know that if you stick to what you believe in then there will be good times ahead. You cannot beat the high of achieving something with your best mates. Backstage after the gig was testament to that, bands often feel a closeness that you cannot explain to those who don’t play.
So a huge thanks to Afterglow, Rikki, Laura and the team for having us, indeed for taking a risk. We feel it paid off and we hope you did to. It was an absolute pleasure to play.
Shuffle Down had a different feel about it this year as we were playing! Read more about that experience in our latest gig diary.
As I arrived at the Dobbie hall some two hours before the doors opened there was a surprising calm in the air. The various volunteers and stalls were quietly setting up their various stations, there was an air of anticipation, would it be as busy this year?
Shuttling back and forth from the stage was Ben White who once again had the duties of mixing and amplifying a number of different bands with a wide range of instruments; he did a superb job. Anyone who has ever provided the sound for a gig will understand how difficult this is to do for two or three bands never mind a festival roster! So hats off to Ben and his team they did very well providing a nice meaty kick sound that cut through the full range of frequencies that are needed for a balanced sound. Everything from the guitars to the bass sounded well knitted. I would argue that this year was the best sound, a couple of technical glitches aside (which you have to expect), it was clear the sound crew have got to grips with the acoustics the hall
In the background Jim Dunbar was once again overseeing the task, A stalwart of the local scene for many years. During soundcheck he reflected on his many years hauling speakers to various venues and hinted that it may be time to put his feet up.
He did the sound back in at our first gigs at the Martell some 22 years ago, now here we were in the Dobbie hall about to embark on another Shuffle Down and all the challenges that come with putting on a show that gives local bands an opportunity to reach a bigger audience on a grand stage.
Once the soundcheck was completed the lights slowly came on, the true beauty of the stage was revealed. Shuffle Down always has the personal touch of the loyal volunteers and of course Rikki and Laura Tonner. This year was no different with a waterfall of lights hugging the back of the stage and the ever present Afterglow Lamp, stage right, proudly illuminated..
The heavens opened outside, biblical rain fell as the last of the early bands arrived to drop off gear backstage and exchange handshakes. There was a good air between the artists, mutual respect and a common desire to entertain the crowds that were on their way. The doors opened and the rain started to ease, a good number of punters drifted into the scent of coffee from The Common Grind and a whiff of ale from the Tryst Brewery.
Up first wasKieran Fisher playing an acoustic set of originals and covers; his gravely voice reminded me of Kelly Jones I thought this was a lazy comparison until he nailed the Stereophonics. Kieran looked confident up in the big stage which is a hard thing to pull off given that you’re up there on your own. Continuing the acoustic theme was Robbie Lesiuk, when he took the stage the hall was starting to fill with punters. The noise of the crowd chatter grew as people greeted each other the atmosphere was starting to build; there was now a buzz about the place. Robbie played well, his subtle use of loops is always good to listen to and Fault Lines always gets stuck in your head
I was surprised to see Have Mercy Las Vegas on early but it really did help get the feet stomping. Their charismatic front man had the audience stamping and clapping and for the first time I felt genuinely nervous that our rock set would plummet to the earth like a dropped pint of real Tryst ale. Then up stepped Pronto Mama, whose dynamic sound no doubt tested the sound engineering skills of Ben but I felt that the mix held well. Their set was a good blend of synth, brass and guitars. I really enjoyed their show. There was an intense feel to it.
We were up next and you can read all about that in our gig diary.
We played a half hour show which felt like 5 minutes. As we stepped back stage and took a few photos and admittedly did a couple of high fives the Lonely Tourist stepped up to the mic. The stage curtains were drawn so he had a more intimate platform for which to share his tunes. I caught a couple and I really enjoyed his music; I love the full band sound on his record and I hope he ventures up here with the band in the future.
I headed out the the stalls to grab a fine burger and the sun peaked out from behind the dark May clouds, they broke and scatters of blue sky could finally be seen. Finally I could relax and enjoy some Dobbie Shuffle from the Tryst stall (can I by bottles of this somewhere?! It’s sweet!). The alcohol hit me pretty quick!
I was really looking forward to Ghostwriter who I believe are one of the best bands to have emerged from the scene recently. For Hire (Summer never ends) was a great opener and that guitar riff is one of the most infectious I’ve heard for a while. Technical issues distracted singer Iain King and it caused him frustration. To be honest I felt his anger added a little edge to the performance which I enjoyed; however it proved to be too distracting for him and sadly their set finished early.
Fly Jackson ambled up to the stage they seem to take these events in their stride, I saw them at the Trinity Church gig and enjoyed them but I preferred this performance. It was a very focused set by the band and the sound had a fine clarity to it. They have some great songs on their roster.
Iain King found his composure and joined Fairweather and the Elements for their set. Ross and co headlined a great night at the Trinity church, this performance seemed to have more energy, perhaps driven by the occasion, vocalist Deborah Lang was clearly enjoying herself as she danced about the stage. By now it was clear that the electric atmosphere of Shuffle Down was influencing the artists; the performances seemed more energetic and the crowd were loving it. This is why we need this event.
I felt myself glued to the main stage, the atmosphere, the bands and the beer. In previous Shuffle Downs I found myself wandering upstairs to see some fine acts but this year I couldn’t leave the big room as it was proving too enjoyable. It helped that the bands were really quick to switch over. The hall seemed to be as busy as previous years, those watching the acts seemed to enjoy the various genres and warmly applauded all that played.
Miracle Glass Company were superb, I was transfixed by the drumming of Andy Duncan, he was keeping these Ringo Starr esq beats going at a pace while aptly performing his singing duties. There was good pacing to their set, Trouble is a great song.
Then came a surprise. 57, a hard rocking duo from South Korea, took me by surprise.The crowd loved them. I liked the set it was impressive and it was a huge sound for just two people. I had no idea that this was coming.
By this time I was a little tipsy and thinking of work the next day (started in the afternoon folks) so my wife and I headed off into the night. The sounds slowly faded as we walked away from the Dobbie hall.
Perhaps I’m biased as we played Shuffle Down this year but I felt that this was the most enjoyable year so far. The first year had big acts, the 2nd found its groove but this year felt different. It felt like a big party, a gathering of people who love music and will come to Shuffle Down regardless of who is on the bill and every band benefited from an audience that was open to hearing something new and it was fantastic to witness this.
Was Shuffle Down 2017 a success? If success was a large group of happy people enjoying a wide range of music, surrounded by friends drinking local beer, eating local food and listening to local acts then yes it was a huge success.
I will probably attend another overpriced festival sponsored by Tennents at some point but I doubt that will enjoy it as much as I did Shuffle Down 2017.
So as the bands packed up and the Afterglow lamp was switched off, I do hope that next year it will illuminate the Dobbie hall once more. The Falkirk music scene would miss what is now becoming the most important date on our local live calendar.
Withered Hand paid a visit to Falkirk. 18th May 2017
The Wine Library has been an establishment of many guises; from the working man’s haunt of the Argyll to the Irish themed Finn McCools then turning full circle back around to the traditional feel of renamed Argyll. Then came 20 Rocks (where we launched Weird Decibels 1) before it briefly became a cocktail bar and now here we have somewhat surprising wine bar in the heartland of Falkirk, The Wine Library.
Admittedly it looked good, although quiet, there was an undiscovered vault of wines and a limited range of beer for plain old rockers like myself. Upstairs, where the event was taking place, was nicely filling up with attentive listeners.
Untitled celebrates the words and art of Falkirk’s finest poets and wordsmiths and they had organised a night of poetry and music titled Louder Than Bairns. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had booked Withered Hand and a rare gig from Sweethearts of The Prison Rodeo.
The sun shone through the blood red blinds and the stage looked like the final scene of a Blade movie with an additional disco ball spinning on the ceiling for Wesley Snipes to slay some vampires under, however tonight’s fare would be more down to earth.
Up stepped a slightly nervous poet by the name of Carolyn Paterson. She spoke of her fear of the current state of the USA and shared then shared her routes of her Polish heritage. John Kennedy mixed raw personal experiences with humour and delivered impassioned poetry.
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo David King managed to have a wee chat before their set and explained that he is working on new songs but the process of recording a new album has been a bit fragmented (i know the feeling); however for tonight’s show they visited much their most recent album, Pigs In the Bull Ring (humans like beasts) and they threw in some older numbers. Adam Stafford also took the time to make a guest appearance. There are several changes to the versatile lineup and the gig was solid; Robbie Lesiuk looked confident and at ease on the guitar using a mixture of loops and floating riffs with the kind of dexterity that is heard on his solo work.
Withered Hand was superb, delivering a good mixture of stories from his travels to the songs he has written over the years including King Of Hollywood from his last album New Gods. He is well known in the Scottish music scene and it was great to see him deliver a fine solo set in Falkirk.
All the information about the festival is on this fine website
Back in 2015 I was flicking through the Falkirk Herald when I stumbled across an article about a new local music festival called Shuffle Down. I was aware of this event however they had added the band Broken Records to the lieup. At this point I decided to delve further. Now intrigued, I bought my tickets and was pleasantly surprised at how good the festival was and how good the artists were.
Shuffle Down grew in confidence in 2016; once again back in the impressive Dobbie hall it had a more diverse line up and once again I had a great day with my wife and my mates
Now approaching its third year Shuffle Down is back on May the 20th and we’re playing! So below are 17 reasons why Shuffle Down should take a place in your 2017 musical festival calendar. Please note these are not in numerical order.
It one of Falkirk’s best music festivals. The Falkirk scene is continuing to grow again which is fantastic news for local artists like us, Shuffle down started in 2015, created by Rikki and Laura Tonner with help from their friends including Gavin Brown . There are many great acts playing in a cracking venue and the vibe is brilliant.
It marks the start of the summer. 20th May? Its that time between the end of spring and the start of summer. Shuffle Down is a great day to celebrate the sunny weather we get from May to September (well it seemed that way in the 80’s when I was a kid). If it rains falls head back into the halls and watch the bands!
You’ll discover new acts. I have discovered a few great acts in the last two Shuffles including Iona Marshall, Yossarian, Paddy Steer and Dextro. There are moments when you are enjoying your beer chatting away in company when an artist plays a song that makes you stop, listen and discover which is a hundred times better than letting Spotify (et al) do it for you…
It has a personal touch. Organisers Rikki and Laura plus family and friends put this together; the hall has always been decorated to give the festival a personal feel plus on stage there is a lamp. A little lamp that illuminates the corner which can be seen at many local gigs. A quirky touch that adds personality to an event that is a million miles away from the corporate festivals that clog the calendar.
The craft stalls are a haven of gems. In the past couple Shuffle Down fests I’ve been drawn (pun intended) to the artwork of John Grieve. However there are many stalls populated by local people keen to display their talents.
The atmosphere is fantastic. From chilled out to pulsating to bouncing Shuffle Down has had it all. The crowd is friendly and there is a generally good atmosphere around the venue.
Dobbie hall is grand. This hall is a hidden gem in our area, I’ve been here a few times for various events and the decor is beautiful. From the carvings around the main stage to the high ceilings and decoration this is a hall the people of Larbert are proud of. Its here on the map
It’s easy to get to. Just 5 mins from Larbert train station (hit link map link above), within minutes walk of buses, a ten minute drive from Falkirk, Stenhouse taxi rank just up the road. It couldn’t be easier to get to. Leave the car at home and enjoy yourself!
The food stalls are ace and local. Local butcher R Browns and Sons are just one of the vendors who provide much needed scran to soak up the local craft ales.
Craft ales are yep…local. Tryst Brewery set up stall last year and are returning with a few kegs this year. What better to enjoy local acts while sipping a fine ale from a brewery just a few yards down the road.
The line up is increasingly diverse. 2015 Shuffle Down took its first steps, in 2016 it found its stride with a more diverse lineup from the mad Paddy Steer, the indie tunes of Yossarian and the jumping ska of Esperanza. 2017 promises more with soul pop from Pronto Mama, American country from Have Mercy Las Vegas acoustic loops from Adam Stafford and a bit of rock from ourselves.
You meet old friends. It’s a great day out for friends and family, we go to Shuffle Down as a group and have a great day out however being at a local music festival it’s amazing how many old friends I bumped into the past two years.
Its great for local bands. The first Shuffle down helped raise much needed awareness of the local scene I couldn’t believe how many great artists were on my doorstep (I had lost touch over the years). Looking back at the past lineups I discovered I had missed even more acts that have played locally recently. There are even more local acts this year including to fine acts in Ghost Writer and Robbie Lesiuk to name just two.
The festival contributes to charity. MND Scotland and Strathcarron Hospice have benefited from money raised by Shuffle down. This year the charity will be Kidney Kids Scotland
£19 gets you a day of live music. For just nineteen pounds you will get you a full day of live music on two stages; can’t think of better value than that.
You don’t have to travel to the other side of the country to see a decent music festival. Whether its Glasgow or Edinburgh or even to the middle of a muddy field travelling to a music festival eventually means you have to return, often with a monster hangover. With a local music festival you might still have the hangover but at least you can rest your head on your own pillow.
Weird Decibels are playing! Come on give me this one! You are visiting our website aren’t you? We are delighted to be playing Shuffle Down 2017 and we’ll put everything into this. See you there!!
About to do a take of educational suicide for a demo hence a nervous Pabs
Greg tries to fix things and often it works
Sofa Guys. The great early days of the band. The time we wrote all of Whapper Stormer
It was 1995 and there was a small advert in the music section of the Falkirk Herald; a practice room for hire, kit supplied and there was a phone number supplied.
Greg and I had just put the finishing touches to our new, as yet, unnamed band and we needed a place to play loud. I phoned the number printed and was met with a friendly chap who spoke in a low smoky husk. He explained that the room was near Grangemouth docks, a basement round the back of the bingo hall next to some wasteland. He added we’d be able to play as loud as we wanted. I booked a slot. It was to be a Wednesday night.
February 8th approached and we had bagged a lift off my Dad. Here was four young lads without much in the way of gear and band experience nervously wondering what was to happen next. I jumped out of the car in excitement to collect the keys. I frantically knocked on the door of the address that I was to pick up the keys. In the winter darkness the door creaked open and an elderly man, clearly dragged from his bed, mumbled that I was at the wrong door.
Later we finally found the dude he explained, under a haze of green smoke, the rules. We agreed a time for him to close the room and all was good. He dropped the keys into my hand and I raced back to the idling fiat Uno my Dad drove at the time.
After a great practise and three new songs we heard Greg’s dad Arthur pull up outside. He had kindly offered to take us all home. The hour came for the dude to meet us however there was noone to be seen. 15 minutes later Arthur was no longer waiting and we were to get going. We had to leave the room and all the gear unlocked.
The next week I nervously phoned the dude and for some strange reason he explained the location and rules of the room as if I had never used it and we had spoken for the first time. Then he explained that some arseholes booked last week left the room unlocked. He was so stoned that night he forgot we were even there. Had he remembered that fact we wouldn’t still be in that very room today.
In 1995 Grangemouth was a different place. We were in a basement, above us were various business that have come and gone over the years. There was noone around in this slightly dodgy location it was just a mass of overgrown trees swaying in the breeze from the forth river. The sky was (and still is) often lit orange by the flares of the refinery.
The basement is the size of a fairly large living room with a smaller passageway that leads around the back. There was never a toilet, just a sink. Heating was supplied via a gas heater that we used to huddle around in the coldest nights. We’d pay towards the gas as well as the rent and it was Greg’s job to get it lit.
In the early days there were white washed brick walls that gave it a clean look. There was a couch to dive onto and mirrors to check that the rock poses were all good; it was bright and spacious and a cool place for young musicians to create music. There were a number of bands booked in the room at that time.
In the late 90’s we used to cross the road to Haddows to buy carry outs prior to practising. Greg was now a driver and the rest of us saw this as an excuse to drink a number of midweek beers. It got ridiculous, I used to take down a pint class and sink a few calders creams. The three of us would be plastered and Greg would drive us home via the BP garage at Earls gate where we would buy food and Derek would take on any eating challenge presented to him. This included fitting a whole packet of cheese bites into his mouth.
The owners eventually ditched the room and we were forced to find a new rehearsal place which turned out to be in Bonnybridge. This lasted for a few months but as soon as we heard our old room was back up under new ownership we went start right back
Practise became a drunken stupor, we had lost focus and we stopped playing gigs so Wednesday nights were the only time we’d play music particularly around 1999 2000. The room was repainted by its new owners Frazer Law (Beany) and Russell Dickson in more a psychedelic palette and the drums were placed on a riser. We started taking a four track down and recorded a full album that would become Cold Home Street.
With the band stalling, Stu left for a few years and we became the Seventeenth. The room was now rented from a flower shop owner and we found the space was filling up with pots and flower beds (but sadly with no flowers). The room was split with a third used for storage for the florist. This was unfortunate as the place lost its feel for a while. However we still huddled around the same old gas fire in the heart of winter.
Stu looks dejected as we struggle to finish Cold Home Street
Derek has time for a beer
Time passed and in 2004 Weird reformed, the dividing wall fell much to our delight and the room was whole again however things were changing outside.
The bulldozers rolled in and swept aside the wild trees then an ASDA sign appeared. Our wee secret corner would soon be changed beyond recognition. A building merchant moved in upstairs and a fast food outlet next door to that. Then came the rats.
One cold wintry evening as Greg tried to start the gas fire I asked him to stop, the rest of the guys fell silent as I listened. Then from the pipes came the scurrying. The rats were here and getting bolder by the day. The room started to feel dirty and rundown.
Thankfully the rats were dealt with and Beany made an almighty attempt to clean the room to its past glory, however he was scuppered by the strange appearance of couches. Several monolithic chairs started to appear and we were battling for space with the furniture. Some of it was Greg’s and he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, promise). Then the couches got mouldy, still he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, always tomorrow). Months passed and the mould grew greater; my love for the room was wilting. Finally one Wednesday when i was expecting to open the door to its usual musk I was delighted to see the seats were gone. Once more the room was spacious albeit a little grubby.
Today we still use the room most weeks and at occasionally we use it for recording. We do have to wait for the boy racers to drive out of the ASDA car park with their exhaust blaring. Haddows is gone, now it’s a sober trip to ASDA for water and sweets. Alcohol is gone, replaced by Tea and coffee supplied from flasks that I bring down during the winter months. A Chinese moves in upstairs every few months and one of the delivery drivers spends his life in his car with the engine running all night for some heat or to charge his phone as he attempts to combat the boredom of waiting for the next Chicken Chow Mein.
We’ve adapted. When we get bored of writing songs in the room we hire a cottage to refresh the creative minds however even to this day we are still inspired by our rehearsal space to create new songs. We’ve now used the practise room for 22 years. Recently we moved things around the room and the sound feels refreshed; when I strike the first chords on the guitar and look around the room at the other guys I can’t picture us being anywhere else. Fingers crossed we can stay a while longer as we’ve had many many happy times in that wee basement. We even shot a music video in the room and several songs. Check them out at the top of this post.
It was around 1996 when on a normal Wednesday night we gathered for practice, Stu asked us if we fancied playing a gig in a prison. He had a relative who organised entertainment for the inmates HMP Longriggend (which has since closed). We had reservations, as four young guys all we knew about prison was the stuff you saw on television. Prisoner: Cell Block H was terrifying… However when Stu added that it would be our first paid gig we quickly manned up, did a few push ups and agreed to play.
We had to learn a few of our first cover songs to mix in with our own numbers; and we hired Jim Dunbar to do the sound. For additional support we brought our friends John Baines and Ruari Pearson. For the purposes of security Stu had to phone the prison with the names of our party. For some reason he couldn’t remember Ruari’s surname so under a bit of pressure from the gruff voice of the warder on the line, Stu said Ruari’s name was John, John Ruari…
Longriggend was located near Airdrie and as you drove along the winding B803 taking in the desolate back farmland your eyes would be drawn up the hill towards the walls of the prison, it was an eerie scene often shrouded by the clouds that hung to the hillside.
On the day of our gig we drove up to the gatehouse unsure what lie ahead. It was the late 90’s and while the prisons had settled back to some sort of normally after the turbulent start to the decade there was still an imposing welcome at the gate.
We gave our names. Ruari gave his; Rurai Pearson he said to the guard. Sorry we don’t have that name stated the gatekeeper. Derek whispered, today you’re John Ruari. ‘John Ruari’ said Ruari. Finally we were in.
We were led around to the games hall past the prison wings; the cell windows were adorned with steel bars no doubt there was an unknown soul awaiting his fate from the courts locked within. Barbed wire hung to every wall. Some of the inmates were having a kick about in a five aside pitch they took little interest as we passed.
The guard escorting us pointed to a parking bay and showed us inside the hall. Some prisoners were in the wing adjacent, staring at us through a grill gate as we went in. Intimidating to anyone first entering these institutions however to the guards this was just another backshift.
It didn’t take long for us to set up, Jim turned up the volume and it was loud. Time passed and slowly the prisoners shuffled into the hall in an orderly fashion and took their seats. Derek noticed a couple of guys from our school that had wandered onto the wrong side of the law. Not one of the guys heckled us, indeed they seemed happy to be free from the confines of their cells. When we started playing things changed slightly.
As we launched into our first songs some of the prisoners walked out to the toilet. A few minutes later they came back with toilet roll stuffed into their ears. Others sad impassively, some laughed as I tried to rock out to the music.
It was a fine gig though and our inhibitions were unfounded; for as we neared the end of our set the power cut and the lights went out…that was hairy but we got a warm round of applause at the end. It was nice to get paid, just a bit unnerving seeing the guard counting out the money in front of the captive audience!
A few weeks later Stu and I were in Glasgow picking up our printed demo tapes that were still to be filled with the audio tracks. As we headed down Sauchiehall street back to the station we heard a ‘hello’ from behind us. A young guy staggered towards us, ‘you guys played at the LRU didn’t ye?’ ‘eh yes’ we replied; ‘Brilliant you got me oot ma cell for the afternoon’. ‘I’ll buy wan eh yer tapes’ Stu tried to explain that the tapes were blank but he waved his words away. He handed us a couple of quid and stumbled down the busy street with one of our demos before disappearing into the mass of shoppers.
“I want to look up to a shelf and see it full of our own CD’s” Derek once said this to me as we were putting the finishing touches to an album years ago. I can’t remember which one but it was early in our career and I thought it was a wonderful target to have. Some 17 years into its existence HMR or HameMade Records has now reached its 30th release.
We are not signed to any label, we have, for various reasons, been ignored by the record labels so we decided to catalogue our own releases and this directory became HameMade Records or HMR. Before the taxman knocks on the door HMR is not a record label or a company, but you never know someday we might just make it official. So below is the catalogue and a look at each release; I hope you enjoy this look back at our work so far.
Things are a little back to front in the early years of HMR my solo career started after the creation of Weird but before the start of HMR. The label (let’s give it that title for now) started when I converted my early solo records from DCC tapes to CD. The first conversion was my third solo record ‘Twist and a Turn’ which was an undisciplined record but a guy in his early 20’s starting to find his songwriting guise. It was also my only ‘break up album’; thank goodness.
The second HMR release was my second album the lop sided ‘Monkeys on a Stage’. There were some good moments on this album and some bad, experimenting is so important in music and when you have nothing to lose you take risks. But this was a bit of a mess.
Debut solo record ‘Gods In The Kitchen’ is not great but it was essential to start cutting my recording teeth. Had some good moments like the desperation in the track ‘Isolated’ but I’ve no idea what I was trying to achieve with ‘Gods In the Kitchen’ (the title track) and ‘Eve’s Song’ (sorry sis) messy songs.
The first HMR release from Weird (Decibels) was our third ‘Cold Home Street’ which is arguably Weird Decibels poorest album although it does have its moments. It’s a pity the recording was pretty bad. It’s fair to say that HMR got off to a slow start!
Armed with a new digital tascam 788 the work load did not ease and this song was the only single released from ‘The Armour is Broken’ it also had the errie B-side ‘The Armour is Broken’ this time experimenting went well but this tale of an android getting attacked by his enemies was too abstract to appear on the album.
These moments are why I write and record music. Occasionally you hit form and I feel that I did in 2002. It had moments that I still enjoy today, ‘Let Autumn and Winter Past’ and ‘Frayed Ropes’. You write music to make music you enjoy listening to, I’m not ashamed to say I enjoyed listening to this record and the CD accompanied me on my long walks with the dogs in Killin. God I miss the boxers…
CD007 P H Smith ‘Scraping The Barrel’ LP (b sides) 2003
This was a double CD full of rough recordings B-sides and throw away recording from the early 4 track era. Some interesting stuff. Again it is so important to be able to experiment and discover your musical tastes and ability. There are many moments on this record that would challenge even the most liberal listener! Not released
In 2004 we finally got round to recording the album we had written in 1995 the rumpus grunge infected Weird debut ‘Whapper Stormer’. HMR’s 8th release was the first album we made. This album remains a favourite of mine some 21 years after it was first created. There is an innocence about it; however it does remain sharply observant.
After the ‘Armour is Broken’ I got a bit of that old ‘writer’s block’ and scrapped an album that was in the works. The only tracks to survive the cull ended up in the ‘Mallaig EP’ which had a nice track called ‘The Morning’ and ‘Tied Down and Useless’ was not too bad but the EP trails off towards the end.
CD010 The Seventeenth ‘The Unit Manager’ EP 2003
Things are a little confusing here as the HMR catalogue numbers and release years seem to not relate. Thinking back the Seventeenth EP’s were recorded around 2001/02 but took ages to eventually surface. There was also a reluctance from Jon to add the Seventeenth recordings to the HMR roster; this explains why the 1st EP is not in the catalogue. When he left I catalogued EP2 and 3 which perhaps explains the strange order. Not a bad EP, nice tunes that are not recorded particularly great.Hopefully we’ll be able to re-release this.
CD011 The Seventeenth ‘ep 3’ EP 2003.
The final release from the Seventeenth a rather good EP that highlights the disappointment I felt that The Seventeenth did not do more in our 4 years together. ‘Hindsight 2002’ is a highlight. Hopefully this will be re-released soon.
CD012 Sllablo ‘9 Hours’ LP 2004
the most fun I’ve had recording. This new artist to the HMR roster was Derek and I having a lot of fun recording music. A very limited release and now one of HMR rarest recordings.
I can’t recall why we released an EP which had 3 albums tracks and 1 additional song ‘This Is The Last Time’ which was taken from the Sllablo album. This EP was perhaps a demo that was to be distributed to eager record companies around the world.
Now 14 releases into HMR’s existence and the shelf was now half full; Weird’s comeback One More Solo’ is a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of bass! ‘Waiting On the Sound Of Your High Heels’ remains one of our most widely known tracks. ‘The Ending’ and ‘Easy Way’ help, define this record.
CD015 K Byrne ‘ep’ EP
Great 4 track EP from Kevin Byrne recorded in two sessions; criminality Kevin did not record anything after this despite several nudges from me. (he did go on to have a massive influence on Morningday). Final track ‘Feeling Like I Can’ is a HMR highlight.
CD016 Weird ‘Official Bootleg’ LP (b sides) 2005
I was brought up with bootlegs, my Dad loves them and he played Grateful Dead LP’s throughout the years as my young ears listened. I waited years for someone to bootleg us but it wasn’t happening so I did it myself. I waded through a box of tapes and CD’s and found some wonderfully quirky recordings including a four track capture of us playing at a BBQ ( I think that’s on Bootleg 2). There was radio clips and live performances lying unattended for years. It was wonderful putting this together.
Another ‘finally getting around to recording an album’ record. Firkin Outburst was recorded on several different studios and machines. I stitched it all together, we had to watch old videos of our rehearsals to remember some of the songs. Dam alcohol.
Weirds first fully acoustic album and is rarely mentioned by our loyal listeners. It was also the first Weird album not to have the band name on the cover. This caused a ruckus, I hated the name. Adding Decibels has helped! Its an album we had to do; it would help focus our creative minds for what lay ahead…
CD021 Sllablo ‘The Weekend’ SP 2008
No cover art
More focused follow up to the first Sllablo; it had some good tunes including ‘ The Window’. We never officially released this mini album.
CD022 Weird ‘Official Bootleg 2’ LP 2009
Another collection of demos, b-sides and an interesting re-recording of ‘Easy Way’ perhaps not as dynamic as the first bootleg. Not released.
My 6th solo record had its moments. I couldn’t resist starting another album but this was a struggle to finish and after I had finished I swore I’d never record another acoustic album.
CD024 Weird ‘Live at the Lodge’ LP 2009
This album was a live recording of cover songs; on the last day of the Quiet Act sessions we set up the mics and hit record. A fun record that we have never released but it was included in the HMR catalogue. This was not released.
CD025 Weird ‘Live! Tonight! Not Completely! Sold out! LP 2010
Our first recorded gig up at the Argyll that Derek had owned for a while. A mixture of original and cover songs. The sound was not the best but it had feeling. A limited release.
It’s hard to know where Weird Decibels 1 came from; it hasn’t changed our fortunes we are a still an unknown band but it changed a lot of things for us. We had written a great album, ‘Wonder’, ‘Speak’ and ‘Joker’ were credible singles and the ‘Wonder’ video went down well within our community. We played a number of shows in Glasgow and it felt great to be back on the scene. We even added ‘Decibels’ to our name (try typing Weird into a search engine…). We were still writing songs in the same room, so I guess we hit a run of from. It was after Weird Decibels 1 that I was convinced that your best work does not have to be in your early years. This is a great album, the recording is also one of our best if a little harsh. Remember we do all of this ourselves hence why it’s HameMade.
CD027 Paul Henry Smith with Kevin Byrne and Jemma Burt, ‘Morningday‘ 2014
Despite promising never to write another acoustic album I could not resist. I had a new studio and it gave me fresh enthusiasm to record songs. Halfway through the sessions the writer’s block came back with a big old bang. I remember on a cold December staring out into the garden, my guitar resting on my lap, I thought is this it? I worked through it; armed with a sampler I started to programme beats which gave me a new angle in which to write songs. Then I hooked up with Kevin Byrne and Jemma Burt (now Quinn!) to record Morningday. They were vital to pushing this album in an enitrely new direction. An album i’m immensely proud of.
After a quiet two years 2016 brought in a flurry of celebrity deaths and HMR records. The first of the year was Weird Decibels 2. A short album that was extremely difficult to write. Naming the album Weird Decibels 2 was the first mistake; we had the mindset that this was a follow up to Weird Decibels 1 when really this was an album on its own right. With lots of hard work we turned it around and it proved to be a great wee album with one of our most accomplished sounds to date. It was also our most expensive album to date costing around £400!
With the arrival of children (and jobs) comes ‘downtime’; there were nights when Weird Decibels could not make practice. Stu and I were lucky enough to be able to meet up and experiment with riffs and the sampler. We recorded 5 songs and these lay around for two years until Stu pushed for the record to be finished. When I attempted to mix it things were not as good as they could be so que a few re-records and completely new ideas for the old songs. Stu and I were so pleased with the result; ‘Hero or a Villain’ has an accomplished sound that while not quite up to professional standards, does show that we are making progress and we learned a lot from this record.
CD030 Weird Decibels ‘Live at the North Star’ 2016
Sometimes I over do it. We played a gig with The Sonic blue and Rabid Dogs. The soundman let us down do I was tasked with doing the sound of the night, I also decided to take the desk. I recorded three bands while monitoring the live sound; far too much. We played pretty band that night but I salvaged some of the songs and this album was born which while a little loose, has a lot of passion.
HMR releases without a CD catalouge number.
Weird Decibels, Weird Decibels 1.5
Paul Henry Smith with Neil Logan. Self titled EP
Paul Henry Smith ‘The Man Who Learned to Live Without a Heart’ EP
So it’s all fun, a lot of hard work and it’s all Hamemade.
After the high of playing the Artisan Tap I was looking forward to seeing more bands on the Saturday as part of the excellent One Weekend in Falkirk. Now that I was returning as a listener I felt part of a festival. Both playing and listening to the acts has been a brilliant experience.
Greg and I were keen to get to the Tap to see the first act Callum Baird, we had to drop some gear off at the practise room on the way to Falkirk. (the joys of being in a band, a gig can mean two days of work)
We arrived in time to catch most of his gig. Callum is a confident player who is keen to sing his message to the people who listen. He has a feel of folky blues and there is a brooding anger in his performance which gives him an edge over his singer songwriter peers. Callum thanked the crowd for listening. He politely explained that he had to head off to Linlithgow to play another gig. Here is an artist who plays non stop, hopefully the hard work will pay off.
As Callum Baird packed his guitar into his case to head out the venue a band that I have been impressed by, The Blue Lights, started to set up. Staying High is one of the best tracks I have heard from this scene in many a year. Unfortunately their drummer could not make the gig so they played a stripped back set. Kirsten Hamilton is a powerful vocalist, I preferred their original songs to the their covers. I got the impression that Kristen’s heart was in her own songs and I look forward to hearing the whole band live.
Fuzzystar, from Edinburgh, were amazing . Before they played I had went to the toilet (as you do) and this bearded man in a white tee shirt stumbled into the mens. I thought he looked rather unsteady on his feet as he looked for a cubicle, I smartened up and headed out to get ready for the next band. As I sipped on my Bitter and Twisted (now my favourite beer at the Tap) I couldn’t contain my surprise as the same fellow donned in beard and white tee shirt took up his guitar and proceed to lead Fuzzystar through a wonderful set of bittersweet melodies. Their clean guitar floated nicely then they would lace some distorted tones to change the mood. Their lead guitarist was superb, he provided focus for the band. One of the delights in exploring the live music on your doorstep is discovering bands like Fuzzystar.
After the bearded fellows departed the stage Patersani entered and these guys were slick and reminded me of a Scottish Kings of Leon (if there is such a thing). I was foot tapping to a nice blend of indie rock. Very enjoyable.
Last up was Grim Morrison, a band that I enjoyed at Behind the Wall as part of the Loft sessions last year. For various reasons unknown to me their regular drummer was absent so up stepped one of Falkirk’s best drummers Ian Simpson who is very adaptive and was able to stitch together Grim Morrisons sound. I’m not sure what has happened to their bass player, however the chap who was on the four strings handled his duties well. Lead singer James McManus blended into the crowd all night. He has a mop of jet black hair tinged with a streak of white. He does not stand out in a crowd however it is a different story when he steps onto the stage. While I’m not sure where his band is going he presents as an accomplished guitarist and vocalist. Again luck had departed him as a string broke (The worst thing that can happen to a musician) James had tried to string up this guitar but it wouldn’t play ball so he borrowed a semi acoustic from another musician and after this their set exploded. Whether it was frustration at the events that had unfolded James snarled and belted his way through the remainder of their songs and it was a superb recovery.
I finished the rest of my pint and headed out into the night to hastily catch the last train, it was at Falkirk High. The view from this station overlooks Falkirk. As I waited for the Edinburgh train I turned and looked over the town. In my drunken sway I had a smile for I knew that there is a chance we could have a music scene that we can call great again.