Category Archives: influences

Our Influences. Alice In Chains, Greg

Greg

“First heard Alice in Chains through my pal Phil Harley, former lead guitarist of Falkirk band Cage. He introduced me to a lot of bands but AIC really appealed to me. The heavy guitars, fantastic melodies and just amazing songs continue to appeal to me. I have their logo tattooed on me haha. Mike Inez is a tremendous bass player, using effects in his riffs which I’ve recently been experimenting with in my own writing. Still perfecting that though. I’m not sure if they changed the scene or industry but they certainly helped to make the 90s grunge scene as fantastic as it was and continues to be. Ah the 90s..”

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The summers of your adulthood always seem to be memories of sun filled days and hazy nights. The days spent listening to the new emerging grunge scene with Greg were no different. We were probably just about to leave high school and there were many afternoons spent diving on his unsuspecting parents couches singing Nirvana songs and we’d shake our brains to the fast hyper beats of Therapy but Alice in Chains were different.There was probably a time where Greg and I shared a smoke over the song ‘Rooster’.

The deep sludge sound of Chains was hypnotising and it was the album’s Dirt and Jar of Flies released 92 and 94 respectively that stuck with us. Dirt just pounds you for an hour, epic tune after epic tune. The track ‘Dam that River’ doesn’t just show that AIC can create massive riffs but on lead with Jerry Cantrell dueling for the limelight with the gnarly vocals of the tragic Layne Staley who through his chronic drug use, died like many other troubled musicians, a young man aged just 34.

Greg would be drawn to the bass, and Mike Inez subtly underpinning the dynamic guitars would influence our very own bass player to drive our music.

Down in a Hole changes the mood of this album with its acoustic tones and many of our influences are heavy rock bands that have more thoughtful moments and this can be heard on many of our own albums.

1996’s MTV unplugged would be one of Stacey’s last shows with the band, this epic acoustic album, with stripped down versions of their songs showed their remarkable musicianship.

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AIC still produce brilliant record to this date the Devil Put Dinosaurs Here showed that despite the many setbacks AIC still rose above their peers. Their longevity, their adaptability and their ability to write dynamic songs in about the darkest of matters is incredible. As we advance in years it’s nice to see our musical heroes continue to release high quality albums and it makes us believe that you don’t have to be young to write your best music.

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Our Influences. Nirvana, Derek

 

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Bleach! In Utero! Bleach! In Utero! Bleach! In Utero! etc etc

 

Our dear drummer takes Pabs through the first of his favourite artists in our current series of band influences. Seattle’s Nirvana

It was probably the mid 2000’s when we were re-recording some of our early albums and Derek and I got into a healthy debate about Nirvana. Bleach is best he said. I spat out my Carlsberg and protested, how can Bleach be the best. Surely it’s the raw power of the Steve Albini produced Cobain curtain call that is In Utero? No he said, it’s Bleach.

In later years Derek would confess an admiration for Dave Grohl who as we know has stepped from behind the kit to become perhaps more commercially successful with the Foo Fighters. It was clear that Nirvana would have a huge influence on him, his drumming and indeed the band. Derek explains how Nirvana has influenced him.

When did you first discover them?

“I first heard of them (Nirvana) when Scott (a good friend of Derek and the band) of all people, pointed me in the direction of a tape entitled Bleach. I put it on but at first listen I didn’t really get it, I was 11 and I wasn’t quite into music yet although I was listening to Queen and a bit of Guns n Roses. Then, like so many of my generation, I heard ‘that’ song – Teen Spirit and my mind was blown. The rest is history.”

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Nevermind is a classic.

In the early 90’s as our young minds were soaking up our first musical tastes Nirvana did indeed explode onto the scene with Smells Like Teen Spirit. It would have a huge bearing on our first album Whapper Stormer. Educational Suicide, the opening track, was directly influenced by Teen Spirit. Educational was the first of many many songs we would write. On the same album the song ‘Vancouver’ addressed the tragic events that led to Cobain’s self inflicted demise.

Why do you like them Nirvana?

“Probably the same reason most of us like Nirvana, the utter shambolic brilliance of their music. Scratchy vocals, massive riffs and pounding, pounding drums, how can you not like them? Their almost anarchic attitude was exactly the way to get to a young teenager, who in times of angst, could literally let his his hair down and blow off some steam. Nirvana was the perfect soundtrack for that.”

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I wish i had the guts (and money) to smash guitars, but i get attached to them! Pabs

 

It was true that the punky anarchic attitude of Cobain and co directed our behaviour. Our early practise room videos show a total disregard for our futures. It would be mid week and we would be drinking to excess, generally giving a middle finger to the working life ahead. While our peers were revising for sixth year exams we would be planning our next gig, our studying would suffer and at times so did the music. We got really drunk at practise, we traded insults, dived off sofas (yeah I know anarchic) and hung around Earlsgate garage causing low level mayhem.

How do Nirvana influence you or the band and are they still a favourite today?

“Very much still a favourite today, they shaped my music taste from the word go. I wish we could have got another album out of them, but I don’t think we would have got much more than that even if Kurt was still with us. I would say they massively influenced the band, especially in the early days. For at least 3/4 of us they might not have been our favourite band but they were definitely in the top 10. Probably the reason some of us picked up an instrument. Definitely the reason I picked up a set of sticks. So blame them!

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Nirvana in 1993 (from left): Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl.

Even our latest album has threads of Nirvana. Quoted not Voted is perhaps an example of recording what you want to the harddrive and it paid off. Most modern rock bands still go for the large sounding chorus a technique that Nirvana helped make mainstream. My style of guitar playing is heavily influenced by Cobain.

How have Nirvana changed the music scene or the industry itself?

Difficult one to answer for me, I don’t really take much notice of the scene. I don’t listen to music radio at all and I don’t get too many gigs. As Pabs will tell you I live in the past a bit with music. I don’t download and I don’t stream. So for me to comment on how these, or any bands have changed the scene or the industry would be a bit like me trying to design the instrumentation for an a biomass upgrade of a power station…….wait a minute!

With regards to the structure of today’s music industry you could argue Nirvana don’t have much of an influence as they were at their powers during the CD boom of the 90’s however their song structure can be heard everywhere and they opened the door for a huge alternative rock scene.

There probably would’ve been no Weird Decibels without Nirvana.

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Kurt Cobain of Nirvana (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

 

Our influences. Radiohead Pabs

 

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As I write this blog Radiohead have just shared their 9th album, a Moon Shaped Pool on Spotify. Thom Yorke once described Spotify as the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse” and pulled his solo work and Radiohead’s post parlophone albums from the streaming service.

So what has this got to do with Weird Decibels blog? I want to  explain the influence that Radiohead have had on our band.

Around 1994 95 Radiohead had already released the single ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ my father didn’t seem to care much for the record so he kindly handed me the vinyl and I ran upstairs and played it.

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Anyone Can Play Guitar was hugely influential for a young guy trying to learn guitar. Then there was the song Creep.

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Weird had already formed when Radiohead’s 2nd album The Bends had surfaced and this more accomplished album would eventually see me experimenting with delay pedals and the structure of songs. It also opened up the possibility of mixing acoustics with electric guitars. That would be Firkin Outburst then.

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Greg and I went to see them at the Barrowlands towards the end of the Bends tour. Perhaps one of the greatest gigs I had ever been at (I think Greg would agree). Witnessing Thom Yorke jumping around onstage and publicly displaying his every emotion when singing was now on my repertoire

At this point Derek kinda lost interest in Radiohead, Greg no longer listened to them and Stu would visit the ‘head later in his musical journey, for now Ok Computer was mine. I loved the CD, studied the extensive artwork and slotted it eagerly into my Philips CD drive (again supplied by my ever influential father).

Ok Computer would be the latest album to be imprinted on my psychi. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins had only held this honor until now. Radiohead showed me that British music could be as good as the states.

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Ok Computer… I cannot work out where to begin. My love for the structure and ambition of this album almost frustrated me as I could not reach it. Then I had started to sit up and listen to Nigel Godrich’s spacious production. Steve Albini had been my hero for a while, both these guys would now influence my desire to try sound production. This obsession of mine would influence the sound of Weird Decibels until the present day (for better or worse)

Ok Computer unlocked another band for me, Grandaddy, and well that’s a whole other blog

As I moved away from my grunge rock roots (I was writing acoustic solo albums) Kid A arrived to the distaste of music critics and much of the radiohead masses. Only the true fans clung on after this ( there were many). Kid A was and still is a fascinating record (Derek hated it, Stu and Greg didn’t say much). I conquered Kid A,  listening to it several times and unlocked the beauty of the wonderful sonic landscapes that Yorke and co had created. Then it dawned that you could do anything with music but it was incredibly hard to get right. I recorded a terrible solo ep called ‘The man without a heart’ although I do still listen to it for my own selfish indulgence.

It was now the year 2000 and we all survived the millennium bug but alas Weird did not, the 17th (more on this at a later date) would be formed for a while and I would continue to consume whatever Radiohead had to offer. Indeed Amnesiac would influence my contributions to the 17th significantly. Pyramid Song would forever teach me how to find a mood for a song. Its a beautiful piece of music.

Hail to The Thief was the first kick at the shins, the first stumble from my biggest influence. I found myself floating away from my heroes and by 2004 the punk ethic had gripped me as Weird had reformed to  record One More Solo. In our opinion one of our best.

Radiohead had left EMI and for them things went south, they didn’t record an album until 2007’s wonderful return to form ‘In Rainbows’. We went on to the ‘Acts’ arguably our weakest era.

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In Rainbows was a great album however it wasn’t the shiny disc that influenced us this time. It was Radiohead’s decision to let listeners ‘pay what you want’ for their new album. I remember not trusting this, I wanted a CD not MP3’s so I steered clear, however this would have a profound impact on the industry. People downloaded albums for free, privacy was rife anyway and I think Radiohead were trying to find a new approach,however they alone would be unable to stop the demise of the record industry that had bloated to greedy heights in the 80s and 90s.

Our next album (2012) Weird Decibels 1 would be the first to embrace the online community( we were behind the times). It would be the first album to have different price entries. Free on Spotify, pay for a normal CD or pay more for a deluxe CD, Radiohead’s decision to let the fans pay what they wanted had helped pave the way for what was now an option on Bandcamp.

By the time King Of Limbs had surfaced I hardly listened to them. Thom Yorke started his spat with Spotify, yes it’s shocking how much these services pay and we have to see an increase in payments per stream but his won’t happen until Youtube in particular stops being a free platform for artistic content. .

One of my favourite singers took his vitriol out on the wrong (or flawed) service of Spotify. He took a stance and removed his music.

So where are we now. Have Radiohead been paid a handsome fee to upload their new album? Is it the record company that have done it on their behalf? The bottom line, they won’t lose money (it’s been suggested that streaming sites actually encourage consumers to buy physical products albeit on a far more selective way) on this but bands like us continue to do so.

Thanks to piracy, MP3’s and a general reluctance by the mainstream consumer to pay for music we make nothing yet pay a significant fee to get on these services. The bands who are at the top shouldn’t be fighting against the payment per stream, it’s here to stay until the next industry disruptive format arrives. Perhaps they should be asking a local band from every town they visit to open their shows. This would be far greater that anything they could do including anti streaming protests.

Moon Shaped Pool lands on Spotify on the 17th of June. Click and listen, it’s a sombre but beautiful piece of work from one of my favourite bands.