We’ve just ‘dropped’ a track; right now people all over the world can listen to our brand new song ‘Take the Blindness From Your Eyes’. This is a far cry from our first ever recorded release. A three track demo tape recorded and released in 1996 on cassette tape. I remember to this day when we drove home from the studio putting the tape into the car stereo and being blown away at hearing our first record.
The Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon were recorded at Split level studios at Ingliston, Edinburgh, it was a great experience for a young band. The reel to reel tape spun at the back of the mixing room as we laid down our the tracks that we thought would break us into the music scene.
The tracks were all mixed down to a DAT tape master and we nervously took this small cassette (which we couldn’t play on normal cassette players) to a duplication service called Chow Productions. While they could print out several copies of the tape artwork and print on the cassette they couldn’t duplicate the music from the master; so they printed off a batch of blank cassettes with our artwork. We had to get the DAT onto a CD and manually recorded the three songs onto the printed cassettes. This was done by a specialist who was able to convert the master DAT to a CD.
Our first demos would be packed in padded envelopes with a typewritten letter explaining who we were (an early version of a bio I guess). There were computers around in 1996, it’s just we didn’t have any. I got some addresses for record companies out of the NME and Melody Maker listings and sent off the package envelopes with the demo tape and hoped for the best.
CDRs became mainstream around the late 90’s early 00’s. The studios we were now working with handed us a shiny disc with our new demos. The world of home studios and doing this for ourselves was still a couple of years away. We would get these CDs duplicated then, in a similar way to the tapes, we would package them in a padded envelope and send it off to record company addresses that we found in NME and Melody Maker however this time we had a PC that we could print of letters with pictures.
As the 2000s surged into middle age we now had our own studio gear and were recording our own demos and albums. The first self recording was Cold Home Street which we burned to CDR. After this we upgraded to digital multi track but CDR was still the format to send stuff to the ever silent record companies.
By the time we were recording One More Solo the internet was screeching (kids won’t get this ) into existence and loading up at around 500k, MP3’s were creeping in and the ipod was taking off. Bebo arrived and we were now sharing our music in a more direct route to our followers. Back then it was customary to let listeners hear 30 second previews of the track and they would buy the full MP3 in a frenzy of rapid Weird Decibels anticipation. They didn’t. However some people were still buying music but there was no doubt that the free tier was on the way and Radiohead’s In Rainbows, pay what you want, strategy was an interesting experiment. To be fair bittorrent, the pirate bay and napster had already set (arguably illegally, but record companies were still in the stone age) new ground rules and while they were now being dismantled by the ever eager record companies (who were still not calling us) the music distribution models had been changed. Many listeners were no longer paying for music.
Riot Act and Quiet Act were never sent to record companies, they were uploaded to the internet however CDs were still very much important to print as we had a fanbase that wanted them, we still have some if your interested. Shop Bandcamp
After a lengthy pause between Quiet Act and Weird Decibels 1 the music industry was changing rapidly. Spotify had arrived 2008 to try and muscle in on iTunes. It did in spectacular style. We were slow to adapt.
Weird Decibels 1 was released in 2011, demo tapes were now a long way off however we were still printing limited batch CDs. We tried to make WdB1 more attractive by offering a tiered approach to our music. You could listen free on Bandcamp, buy the normal CD or order the limited edition CD with added an artwork booklet, which we sold out of.
We also had to consider a growing number of formats including WAV, FLAC and ACC. Streaming was now a growing force; downloads still made us money though. We finally made the jump to streaming via a digital distributor. We could now effectively be our own record company.
Roll forward to 2016 and Weird Decibels was printed on CD and sold less than WdB1 however most of our top stream tracks are from WdB2 . Now we could see who was listening to our music, a slight nod of pride arose when we saw significant activity in South America and other far off lands.
Of course we were still behind the times, many artists were now ‘dropping’ tracks, no hype no fanfare, just uploading songs for people to listen to. Vinyl had also made a massive comeback. This appears to be out of our reach at present. The mastering techniques involved and the cost of printing are out of reach. Hopefully this will change.
So here we are now, we’ve dropped a track but now it’s getting harder to reach audiences without paying for promoted posts given that we’re not paid in the first place! Facebook isn’t helping, people are fed up with it, so we need to find a new way to reach an audience. Until we figure that out feel free to enjoy our new song.
Just a wee note, when we sell a CD at a gig it’s a huge thing these days. The money made from that single purchase can takes us months to raise on streaming services, So if you like a local act buy a CD!
Dear fellow bands please let us know what your first demo was!
“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.