Category Archives: our albums

we have recorded a few albums over the years; so we have created a guide for you.

Riot Act is 10 (part 2 recording)

There are defining moments in every band; a time where the bond between musicians can be strengthened and the foundations laid for a more positive future. The recording of Riot Act was one of those moments.

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The cottage (centre) surrounded by breathtaking scenery

I packed up my old Ford escort with recording gear, my new Tascam 2488 was carefully bundled into the rather ample boot of the old Maroon car. The rest of the gear was flung in any available space.

I met up with Greg, Derek and Stu. Stu would ride shotgun in the Ford, Greg and Derek would team up in the transit hire van which was packed with enough food and beer to sustain a small country (that likes its drink).

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We headed off up the A9 through the epic Cairngorms. Stu switched on the radio and we were greeted with a radio station that I had never heard before. Gone were the annoying presenters, absent were the frustrating adverts, instead Stu and I were treated to track after track of solid rock. ‘Stu what is this station’ I asked? Stu had no answer; he just made the devil sign and smiled. ‘Well wait until we tell Greg and Derek about this radio station!’ I smugly stated. However I did get frustrated as the music would briefly fade away most notably as Gerg and Derek’s van fell behind.

We stopped for petrol in Inverness. I jumped out of the Ford and ran over to tell Greg and Derek about our discovery. As I explained our find, they started to roll of some of the music that we had heard. Alice in Chains? Yes I said. Guns and Roses. YES I said, did you find the station as well? Nah, said Greg, it’s my iPod I had it set up to a radio transmitter. They both chuckled as they walked away to grab a sandwich.

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The road to the Riot Act sessions could not have been calmer

As we drove on from Inverness towards Cannich I started to realise that we had booked a cottage rather far away. As time passed we were soon sharing a single track road with sheep and eventually deer; then it became clear just how breathtaking the Cannich valley was. Further in the distance, sheltered by some trees, was the Leattrie lodge. It looked just like the brochure, that is until we drove up its steep drive and saw it looked a little run down. Just perfect for four lads who wanted to play loud music and drink a lot of alcohol.

The excitement was palpable, a whole week surrounded by the hills of the beautiful valley. The guys charged into the cottage and as I heard their excited voices fade the deeper they got into house I could hear the silence of the valley and a river far in the distance.

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I turned and headed into the lodge. It was modest, it had small rooms that ran into a narrow corridor. The living room was open plan to the kitchen. This was the biggest area and I suggested we record here but Derek pointed out we’d be dining in this room and we’d have to dismantle the drums every time we wanted to eat.

 

We headed upstairs, the bedrooms were small but Derek’s room was a little longer. There was no escaping the ceiling, which due to the nature of the upper level of the cottage, sloped inward, For some reason we decided to set up the drums upstairs. It would prove to be a mistake.

Once all the gear was dropped into the nooks and crannies of the small lodge we started to pack the fridge with beer and had our first meal. I unpacked the Tascam 2488, marvelling at my new purchase. 24 tracks of digital recording. I carefully laid my first condenser microphone; a cheap Stagg, basically a budget version of microphone that I liked. I had recorded the Armour is Broken (a solo lp) with this mic.

As the light faded on the first day Greg lit the fire and we opened our beers. We wouldn’t be sober for the next 6 days.

We recorded Riot Act in batches. Drums and bass for 3 or 4 songs and then we’d layer the guitars and vocals. We’d repeat this process until we had all the tracks down. The drums were crammed into the biggest of the bedrooms upstairs, the low ceiling made the drums sound a bit flat not that I was aware of this at this time. I used various methods to split the signal of the guide tracks and sent a feed through to Greg and Stu who were in another room. It was a crude method but it worked.

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Derek has fun but the room wasn’t suited for drums

The small rooms lended well to a tight guitar sound which translated fairly well on the record. The bass was a direct input. All of the songs were recorded this way with the exception of Weekend All Over My Face where we used Stu’s practise amp to record the bridge that worked really well and room mics for Only Had A Shandy, but that’s another story.

The vocals were sung in another bedroom where the windows overlooked the valley. I remember the guys headed off to the small village at the foot of Cannich. I was left alone to sing It’ll All Work Out In The End. I’ll never forget that afternoon. Alone in a remote part of Scotland, I was singing a song about hope while my head was full of troubles. My late father in law was very ill and it was the first time I was truly alone to think about it. The emotion would spill onto the record.

Every night the fire would crackle and beers would be drank. The laughs would get louder as the darkness surrounded us. Greg would often go out for fresh air… Sometimes I would join him in the darkness of the night, it was breathtaking, There was no orange glow from any nearby cities. Whenever the clouds cleared, stars would hang in the black sky and I’d sway as I tried to focus on the patterns above.

During the day, at down time, we would hang around the outside of the cottage. At times the weather was good. Sometime we’d go our own way and take a walk. A week in a small cottage with the same guys could be cramped and you needed your own space. Greg and Derek took this to a different level. Literally.

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walks led to beautiful country

They headed up the hill that was our back garden. When I say a hill I mean a proper hill climb, the cottage had no fences or boundaries. The hill rose far into the distance, Derek and Greg filmed the adventure, off they went climbing higher and higher. Stu and I would look up, the pair of them getting smaller.

As they reached the top, flakes of snow started to drift in. Most people would head back. Not Derek, he stripped off and shouted ‘I’m naked at the top of the hill!’ and went off on a merry dance much to Greg’s amusement.

Life in the valley of Cannich was serene, we were visited by a cuckoo on a number of occasions and I managed to capture our visitor on record. The days and nights merged into one long party, recording, beer, jigsaw puzzles and music. At night greg’s fire would continue to crackle as we took stock of life in the band and life in general. We were in our thirties, married or getting married but without kids.

Thursday was a special day, I did a half day of recording and settled down to a BBQ in the small woodland next to the cottage. It was the last change to have a proper night of booze. As I wandered into the woods to gather some firewood I heard an almighty explosion.

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Riot Act… lard bombs aside it was a peaceful recording…

I ducked and turned towards the flash of light…peering through the trees I was trying to make sense of what happened. Then I heard Greg laughing, with Derek proudly standing over the fire ‘Lard bomb!’

Then came the dueling banjos, Stu and I pulled the best banjo posies with sticks, only for Derek to snatch mine and fling it in the fire. He redeemed himself with the BBQ’d chicken which was simply wonderful.

The sun slowly set as we got merrier, I left the gang and headed back into the house to set up some microphones. When I was ready I asked the guys to come into the living room. I gave Stu a guitar and some headphones. He played along to the end of Only Had A Shandy as the rest of us sang a drunken chorus of random words. Derek and I spilled over the couch into the floor, mics came crashing down. It was all recorded.

The night grew longer as we gathered around the now small fire out in the woods. I can’t remember what we talked about but it was probably deep and meaningful. We all headed into the cottage except Greg who waited for the sun to rise on the final day.

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a beautiful moment from the riot act sessions

When I awoke on the last morning with alcohol on my breath and hunger in my belly sadness crept into me. I was hungover and despondent that our recording week had come and gone so quickly. A long quiet drive awaited us, the party was over, our jobs awaited our return on the Monday.
So we set off home; there was a subdued mood in the car as Stu stared out the window. I muttered with anger as a Ford Transit overtook us. As I was about to slam my hand on the horn I saw Derek lean out of the van’s passenger window with a big smile, Greg wearing a smug grin as he was overtaking me.

It was a wonderful experience that changed the band for the next ten years. We hired another three cottages after this one. Each growing in size but we never quite matched the drunken madness of the first time.

 

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HMR CD 030

CD 030

“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.

CD001 P H Smith ‘Twist And A Turn‘ LP 1999/ re 2001

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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.

CD002 P H Smith ‘Monkeys On A Stage‘ LP 1999/re 2001

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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.

CD003 P H Smith ‘Gods In The Kitchen‘ LP 1998/re 2001

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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.

CD004 Weird ‘Cold Home Street‘ LP 2001

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A walk in Beecraigs would turn out to be the cover of Coldhome Street. Weird Decibels most challenging album

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!

CD005 P H Smith ‘Let Autumn And Winter Pass‘ Single 2002

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.

CD006 P H Smith ‘The Armour Is Broken‘ LP 2002

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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

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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

CD008 Weird ‘Whapper Stormer’ LP 1995/2004

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Star Wars has always been a big influence on Weird Decibels

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. 

CD009 P H Smith ‘Mallaig ep‘ EP 2004

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

CD013 Weird ‘Cold Calling ep‘ EP 2004

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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.

CD014 Weird ‘One More Solo‘ LP 2004

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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

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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.

CD017 P H Smith ‘Fortune Favours the Brave‘ LP 2005

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A theme that was with me for many years

A rather pedestrian LP from myself as my solo career treaded water. I was getting fed up with the guitar singer setup. It’s not all bland there were some good tracks ‘Don’t Go Far’ being one.

CD018 Weird ‘Firkin Outburst‘ LP 1997/2010

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Drinks on the cover and drinks in the album. This is a wee table in the quiet corner of Firkins

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.

CD019 Weird ‘Riot Act‘ LP 2007

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That’s real blood. Punching walls not recommended. Probably one of our best covers

During these years Weird reduced their live appearances and played a lot of cover songs however we still had time to release the ‘Acts’

CD020 Weird ‘Quiet Act‘ LP 2008

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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

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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

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Another collection of demos, b-sides and an interesting re-recording of ‘Easy Way’ perhaps not as dynamic as the first bootleg. Not released. 

CD023 P H Smith ‘Creeping Ash‘ LP 2009

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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

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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

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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.

CD026 Weird Decibels, ‘Weird Decibels 1‘ 2012

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Our best album? Its a big maybe! the cover art is straight to the point.

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

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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.

CD028 Weird Decibels.’Weird Decibels 2‘ 2016

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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! 

CD029 Smith & McCairney. ‘Hero or a Villain‘ EP 2016

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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

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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. 

Pabs

One More Solo

To celebrate the re-release of One  More Solo on all digital platforms including Spotify we have a look back the album.

This story can be found on this Bandcamp page but i thought I’d update it for the blog

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i can see my future i see it EVERYDAY!

I loved my time in the Seventeenth, I can say that now as it’s been over 12 years since the band split. However at that time it was a different story. The Seventeenth were going nowhere, songs were hard to come by, Jon and I weren’t getting on musically and Stu was back on the scene.

There was also the small tale of a tiny HMR (Hame Made Records is our hobbyist record label) band called Sllablo. This was a collaboration between myself and Derek at a time when the Seventeenth were struggling to write songs. Born from frustration, we wrote and recorded a rather fun lo fi album in 9 hrs. Now you are quite within your rights to ask what the hell this has to do with Weird. Put simply, Sllablo proved that Derek and I could still hammer out simple tunes. It was to be the catalyst for the (regretful) end of the Seventeenth and for the second era of Weird.

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we played a lot of gigs in support of OMS

We had no plans to reform Weird; we wanted to start a new band. Myself , Stu, Derek and Greg were all present and correct for our first rehearsal with new musical buddies Chris (Taz) Burt (brother of Jemma who appears on several HMR records) and ex Foam god Kevin Byrne (again another HMR regular).

The six of us booked a slot in Hallglen community centre and wrote a couple of songs ( the Weird versions appear on the extremely rare  Official Bootleg 1).

We decided to move our rehearsals back to our old practise room. Other commitments kept Taz and Byrne away from practise so we, the original four from Weird, found ourselves back in the room. We wrote a song called Stand For Your Rights and I’m going to use that tired old cliché, it rocked.

We were back together after a 4 year break. I could not believe the hunger we had rediscovered. One More Solo wrote itself, it was too damn easy; it was to be one of the finest era’s of the band. We recorded the album on a digital 8 Track a Tascam 788 at Derek’s flat. We build a basic vocal booth out of egg cartons. It was a time of beautiful recorded naivety.

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Kevin Byrne takes one of his many pictures to feature in the Falkirk Herald with this article about OMS

One More Solo has many songs we still play live today, Waiting on The Sound Of Your High Heels is a live favourite, Cold Calling, Whiskey In My Head and band favourite The Ending always find a way to get on the set list. Fighting With Forever and Hanging By A Thread show our harder edge with the flip side Trying To Grab Hold redefining the term laid back.

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the only release from OMS

We gigged this record a lot, driving around Scotland in my old automatic Vauxhall Carlton that we called ‘The Vulture’. We could fit the whole band in this wonderful car. We met many bands some who became our friends. Kranksolo, Roller and Popup to name a few. We travelled to the world famous Cavern club in Liverpool to play.

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Weird Decibels live at the Cavern

It was the track Easy Way that had us flirting with record label success, This angry kick against modern life struck a chord with a small indie label called Bracken Records (now called Fruit De Mer Records).

In my humble self serving opinion One More Solo is a wonderful record set in a brilliant time. The end of our youth if you like. A time when you could play a gig whenever you wanted, now we have to get babysitters or shift swaps! Listen to the end of Bit Part Optimist Greg has just nailed his bass part in one take, listen to the drunken lads clap, whoop and laugh at the end. This was what it was like at the time. A big party.

Now, I can see my future, I see it everyday

2016

Since this piece was written OMS had a bit of a makeover. The original album was muddy in tone so I attempted to clean it up to some limited success. I found some old CDRs with alternative mixes that worked well. Dereks hated the long fades and to be honest it did show a lack of restraint and discipline; the ‘remaster’ now sounds a bit tighter.

We played a few shows in 2016 and still people (Wilson mainly!) shout for High Heels and for some reason we don’t play it (this will change). I listen back fondly on tracks like the Ending and Tried to Grab Hold two reflective moments on the record. The rest of the disc is balls out rock apart from the alternative mix of cold calling which has a dreamy echo flooded fade out.

Weird Decibels has barely transcended further than our beloved friend and family; One More Solo was no exception. It was a fun album and we made some friends along the way. The fact that our wonderful listeners think this is one of our best sits fine with me. Now that it is on all the digital platforms hopefully this little rock record will find a new audience and join Wilson in shouts for High Heels!