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.
It’s strange starting to write a new album. Its not something you do everyday, its like a stamp on a moment of your fleeting time on this planet. As I get a little older these songs are getting more important and as the guy who writes the lyrics for the band I don’t want to screw it up again. Our latest album Weird Decibels 1 is the first record in a while I’ve been happy with, especially the words.
During the March 2013 snow I couldn’t run to work like I normally do so I started walking and I had the old Weird tunes on, reflecting on what I had written. Until Weird Decibels 1 I had not really paid attention to the depth of my lyrics. Our first album, 1995’s Whapper Stormer is strong lyrically for as a young song writer I was bursting with ideas. The five albums after have moments I am proud of but there are a few lyrics I literally wrote in a drunken stupor!
We arrive at Weird Decibels 2 and I have a strong sense of purpose to write songs that will not only mean something to me but to others as well. i would like them to transcend further than the four walls of our rehearsal room.
So far we have three songs in development. They are at an early stage and there are hints of lyrics. Often I sing along to the new guitar riffs and something pops into my head. Working titles are Left/Right, Rain Parade and Feet First. (we’ve had an idea of two word titles for WdB 2 as a follow up to the one word titles for WdB 1). They are quite dynamic, influences so far point to The Pixes, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. We’re not going quietly!
The feedback for WdB1 has been immense so thank you. Does it put us under pressure to better it with WdB 2? No. The advantage of being in a band 18 years old and 7 albums in is that we’ll always try to write our best record. We write with freedom, without a care in the world.
2011 Spring is in the air, a sense of optimism lingers in our practice room. We’ve written ten songs, we could do with more and I’ve started researching possible lodge locations for recording, something of a deadline approaches…
We’d been writing on and off for the best part of three years. Eventually you have to call it a day, an album must be born. We wanted more songs, more choice and more diversity in the works we already had. It was with great fortune that we hit a creative surge. Deliverance Power, Steel, Psalm and Wonder all final session songs, all made the final cut one of which became a single.
Deliverance is a song of such enjoyable simpleness based around an A and G. The lyrics tell of a souls rejection from heaven despite his suffering.
Send it to the mountain send it to the sky (this melody is sung by Derek and Stu, its one of those melodies that just comes to us songwriters, I’ve no idea where the inspiration came from)
you’re refused deliverance don’t ask god why x2
Send it to the mountain send it to the sky
you’re refused deliverance don’t ask god why x2
I’ve—torn—and opened skin
E G E A#
Hands—clasped—and tied (simple song eh?)
Deliverance really helped bring the album writing home as once again it proved simple songs work, we don’t need to labour over writing. Hopefully we’ll take this lesson over to Weird Decibels 2.
Power is the quietest song off the rowdy dB1, clean guitars, A Foo Fighters ‘Big Me’ moment. The lyrics are closer to personal experience than most of the album. It was at a time of uncertainty for me and my wee family. We were trying to sell our house which was too small now that my Wife and I were new and proud parents. We got the news that our house had a major problem growing out the back (Knotweed) and we may be unable to sell. The feeling of helplessness and frustration that the landowner next to us had allowed this destructive weed to grow was unpalatable . It got me thinking about Power and how a minority of people can have such an effect on the majority This was one of the few songs practically written by myself. These days we’re writing as a band and we’re better for it. Power worked though!
Steel is a blood and guts stab at depicting knife crime in Scotland. It is a crime that has haunted our fine nation for generations. Set in Falkirk (which to my knowledge doesn’t have a major knife problem) it tells the story of a family man randomly stabbed on his way home. The verse riff was an idea from myself and Stu stapled on the chorus wonderfully. Derek splashing symbols add the much needed metallic sound, Greg’s bass gives the song a menacing undertone and Jemma brilliantly added Piano over the last verse and the finale. We borrow the Pixies quiet/loud dynamic here Nirvana fans! It was a very difficult song to get right.
Now we were entering the final month of writing, the lodge was booked for November and the long (wet) nights of the summer reminded us that our album was nearing the winter of its creative life. Psalm… where did this epic song come from?
I love Battery, it is a fantastic example of a band at its creative peak. We were ‘borrowing’ ideas hence the start of Psalm, I even dug out an old guitar to try and replicate the acoustic sound at the start of Battery. The riff at the start of Psalm was actually taken from the middle section of Rusted. It worked well on its own as an intro. Stu once again nails the chorus. The verse guitars are a mixture of Stu’s classic guitar and my alternative Nirvana tinged riff. Greg tunes down for Psalm and I take delight in pretending to start the song while he frantically drops an octave only for me to start something else! The end of the song is where I knew that as a band we have never been more cohesive. Stu linked 3 solo’s, I hit a nice vocal, Greg, Derek keep it flowing and Jemma made this track with the church organ. A very apt sound for the lyrical content. Privilege its winners and losers are the subject of my wrath here. I guess seeing Cameron and co tell lie everyday that they want to ‘share the pain’ as they sit on millions does that to you!
Wonder is last, i’m not sure if it was written last, but it was amazing that at the end of writing WdB1 we were given a song that has become my favourite song that we have put to hard disk. Stu played this repeating riff over and over, it reminded me of Smashing Pumpkins 1979. Derek jammed along with a flowing beat, I started singing, just mumbling words trying to find a melody. Sometimes words just pop in my head. So I’d sing ‘I wonder why’, then I’d insert a random line, but I kept singing ‘I wonder why’. The melody was there, the chorus were not. I loved Nirvana’s Lithium, the chorus ‘Yeah yeah yeeahhh’ so hey if Kurt can do it so can I!
I wonder why many things, fall they way they do
I wonder why we conform and struggle to see things through.
The earth on which we stand is covered in Autumn leaf
The signs of winter touch our soul as we feel bereaved
I wonder why we cannot see the people closest to us
I wonder why we still stand there refusing to admit our loss
The bridge on which we stand has crumbled and untied
We can either run to our sides or repair it over time
I wonder why you built a palace, lined it with golden chairs
I wonder why you sit alone and deny your getting scared
The silence of a room littered with photographs
Of people that you still love, but people of your past.
I consider these lyrics to be among the best I have ever written. Wonder went on to become the first single lift off WdB1, we made a video for it.
15 songs done and dusted. We would record them all and how we recorded them will be depicted next. All the Laughs, Smiles, Sighs, and nearly Tears.
Its now late 2010 early 2011 we’ve played and recorded our album ‘Live! Tonight! (Not Completely) Sold Out! On this live album is four of the tracks that would appear on Weird Decibels 1, they would never be heard in the public domain for another two years. The band lock themselves in the practice room and throw away the keys…
So we had Speak, Forward, Pay and Crown four tunes we were pleased with but with album projects it is difficult to keep the standard high and its telling the next phase of writing had the songs that were left off the album. To be fair we didn’t know what was going to be omitted until the end!
I had a riff rolling about my head for a while, that guitar lick would become Joker however we titled it ‘Hiding’ as this was a lyric that I sang over and over whilst trying to nail a melody and lyrics. Stu, Derek and Greg, as with all of WdB 1 had so much more input into this record and Joker is no different. Here is the early demo
A lot of the lyrics are in place on this version but its a bit slower than it ended up. Pleased at how this song was turning out we added it to our set and moved on to writing more. At this time however it was proving difficult to get together as a band. I had changed hours, Greg was working long shifts and Derek was struggling with the pub. It was a frustrating time but we kept it together and we always seemed to arrive with new ideas.
Three songs were left out of WdB1 Bullet, Buddy and Rusted. In their own way good songs but in the end they did not fit into the album. Bullet tells the story of a young couple who have to escape their town and never knowing when the ‘bullet’ is coming. Buddy was stronger lyrically but weaker musically apart from the sublime solo Stu plays at the end of the finished version of the song (hear it on the secret track on the WdB1 CD). Buddy recalls a lover with another man’s wife and as he stares out of the window he sees the riots play out below him. Sometimes I wish I could take these lyrics to another song. Rusted is push against being called Thatchers Children which you are labelled if you fall into the 3o’s age bracket. However Rusted, (known as Decibels at this early stage) despite being Greg’s favourite song of the sessions, Is too similar to a lot of work we had done before.
We hunkered down through the years harsh winter knowing we wanted this album out late 2011 (that didn’t happen then!!). During these middle sessions Wait! and Industry arrived to save the day. Wait is simply a balls out jam with next to no lyrics, it pays homage to Territorial Pissings on Nirvana’s Nevermind. Industry has Alice in Chians all over it. Based on my simple E riff, Stu built the chorus and Derek along with Greg knitted the song to an sinister beauty we’ve never touched on. Industry is less in the way of a story and more psychological… ‘You get inside my head, and dig it with a spoon, lay it on the bed and rummage through’ These tracks reminded us how simple it could be to write decent tunes that different from our earlier output.
I started to look for lodges that would be our remote home for a week while we would record the album. At this point the plan was to do as we did with the Acts and record the whole album in a week. This would change given the scope of WdB 1. We needed some more tracks. We had to finish writing the album in style.
I’ll tell you about Psalm, Power, Deliverance, Steel and of course… Wonder in the next blog.
On the 12th of January 2009 Dave Broon our great friend and avid listener of our music sadly leaves this world in the most tragic of circumstances. The band is stunned, everything changes, our outlook to life and our music. Suddenly everyone takes stock of where they are, what we are doing with our fleeting time on this world. We needed to make a new album.
Quiet Act was fine. We enjoyed writing and making an acoustic record that we had to get out of our system. Now our thoughts turned to a new album, possibly something heavier, back to our roots would be the easiest cliché to fling in here.
The first song was Speak an angsty fist shake at God in whatever form he (or she) may be. I guess as years pass by you say goodbye to more and more people who have filled your life (happily I would learn later, you say hello to new people as well!). Sometimes they way our loved ones leave this world is unjust. In Speak I ask God why this is so.
I was told you work, In mysterious ways
I learned you were liberal, with your selection
I’ve been gifted a life, with wonderful people
Why must you start, to take them from me?
So speak to me
Let me hear what you say
Speak to me
You built this world, in all it’s glory
You gave us greed, to strip it all away ( Worldly themes are spread throughout Weird Decibels 1 and Speak touches on this.)
But I hope you’re there, taking care
Offering refuge, for our weary souls (I believe there is a greater power behind our existence, just not sure who or what that may be)
Speak started life as the simple picked riff from G, I can’t remember how I discovered it, often its strumming the guitar in front of the TV. Anyway I played it for weeks. Stu took the simple riff and added the rest. I was worried by the standard Em G A progression, but the pause after every riff made it work. The verses were based around the initial G riff, I found another picked progression and Stu layers a riff over the top. The verses avoid the pitfall of bar chord riffs that had served us well for many years. It was time to develop our playing. Stu hammered out the chords for the middle 8 and the solo speaks volumes of his form throughout this album. Derek’s tribal beat is now the signature of this song and Greg plays a neat Bass cycle high up the fret board throughout the verse which fits the mood perfectly. It was an easy song to write, it kick started what would be a long development cycle however we had a creative surge mid 09 to mid 2010. I also remember Wilson being a rare guest in our practice room he gave Speak the thumbs up. Phew.
Speak was part of a trio of songs. Speak, Forward and Pay.
I can’t remember what came after Speak but I’m going to put half my chips on Forward
Perhaps one of the last songs I had written about myself, eventually I would turn to writing stories about characters I had made up or politics, I guess this is a sign of getting older.
We have to get in the car and leave now
Dusk is falling and we’re getting left behind (throughout the last few years I have had a fear of being left behind)
The ghosts of our past are going to rob us blind (I have a bad habit of looking to the past)
I cannot pay if you do not show the way
Moving forward can’t see where we’re going
A hand you never see or want to feel now
Pushing you on the back you’d think its real (life turns, eventually you do all the things life expects you to do)
Moving forward can’t see where we’re going
Another guitar riff that had been given to me by either a fluke or constantly playing around with the guitar, the intro. Much of Weird Decibels 1 is a guitar lick that is built upon by the band. This is the first record for many years that I have not turned up to practice with complete songs for the band to either say yay or nay. The first since Whapper Stormer. The long intro goes against all the rules of modern music, (Fast. Punchy. Straight to the Point or Skip)… Forward takes its time. The song progresses to a middle 8 where Stu and I play solos. I struggled for a long long time to nail this. Derek flexes his drum fill muscles and Greg nails another solid bass line. Both knit all this album together in a wonderful way. Makes me want to buy them a beer.
The idea of a rolling riff right through the song was nicked of a Munich band called The Colour Haze, below is a link to the song I love and that gave me the idea for Pay.
If we take this now
will we pay for it later ( often wonder if our early excesses in our youth will come back to haunt us…)
If we take this now
Is it the start of the summer
If I grab your smile
can I save it for later
for every easy straight
there is a difficult corner (another reflection on the ups and downs of life, everything is great when all is well!!)
-but what the hell lets just go for it-
if we take this now
will we pay for it later
the nights are short
and the days are getting longer (I’ll always play this song on summer solstice, love the long nights)
-so what the hell lets just go for it-
At one practice I had the whole band outside listening to this record on my car. Half an hour later Pay was born. Stu and I spent some time trying to nail a riff that would work. Eventually I slipped back to rhythm and Stu just effortlessly poured this beautiful riff all over the track. Derek subtly builds the drums to a perfect beat and Greg’s bass binds it all together with a blend of high and low notes. This was another example of us changing our writing, using our influences to within an inch of plagiarism.
Next blog will tell all about the next phase of writing WdB1 including two of the songs we omitted from the album…
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