Before I entered Behind the Wall to head upstairs into the Loft (the ale house for the older bairns) I had no idea who was playing tonight. The fact that event organiser Rikki Toner has made so much of an effort to continue his push to rebuild the local music scene has made me determined to go and support it.
Once I had paid at the door, pleased that my fiver would be going towards the bands I met up with the one and only Stewart McCairney, quickly followed by Greg McSorley. We reflected on our last gig (the week before at North Star) and planned our next assault on world music domination.
While we plotted to headline Glastonbury the soundcheck was one two-ing in the background preparing for the night ahead. Just before 9 the first band would adorn the stage.
The tall, confident singer/guitarist Aidan Buhrmann of Falkirk’s Bootsie Blue held things together well and was clearly happy to be upon the loft stage. Dressed in black jeans, that looked welded on, the big chap strutted about the stage. Their drummer, Ian Simpson was manic. This guy truly delivered stunning beats hammering the poor drum kit to within an inch of new skins. You could see he felt every beat, superb. The bass player Callum Barret balanced things by being subtly calm and focused on keeping the Bootsie’s sound tight.
There were great songs unfortunately I don’t know the titles but ‘Bad Apples’ was a highlight. The first half of these guys set was probably the best I’ve heard in the local setting for a long time. The songs were dynamic and well structured. Once they flesh out their set I’d be surprised if they don’t make some sort of impression on the Scottish scene and are one of Falkirk’s most promising bands. (lets hope the scene grows with them)
As the night wore on I sampled more Tryst Carronade and blether to both Stu and Greg about the local scene we were thoroughly enjoying supporting other bands. For a while we, like many other people, stayed away from Falkirk bemoaning the lack of live music in our town. Yet we failed to realise that staying away contributes to the problem.
Up next was Glasgow band The Projection. Now I can be dumb at times so when I explained to Greg and Stu that I was looking forward to a visual spectacle by the projection I was ridiculed. (in my defence many bands use projection, most recently at Shuffle Down, when Paddy Steer was performing)
No offence but these guys are ‘experienced’ and it’s great to see Rikki had booked a diverse set of acts. These guys, bar James Lee Brodie on the guitar, are older and still belting out the tunes.
Stewart Cuthill was shielding his eyes looking for the crowd and eventually he left the stage to dance with the audience. They had a punk ethic with good melodic licks and Stewart had donned a nice ‘London, Rome, Paris, Falkirk’ tee shirt. Its great to see our fine town in the same light as these cities! At one point he explained that there “should be thousands of people here” before launching into No Fracking in Falkirk. Which had the biggest crowd response.
The headline act, also hailing from Glasgow, were Grim Morrison a three piece who borrowed the excellent Ian Simpson from Bootsie Blues to play drums. They grooved well and I thoroughly enjoyed their set. James McManus on guitar and vocals gave it his all and he looked like he enjoyed it, Meg Kenny on bass donned with a floppy hat danced away as she skillfully handled bass duties.
By end of the night I was tipsy; full of Carronade ale and ready to get the train home. There is no doubt that I enjoyed the night with good company and it was good to catch up with Falkirk music scene once again. Long may this continue. Please support it if you can.
There are a few reasons Greg and I started Weird Decibels; seeing Chris Masson on stage was one of the biggest. A truly dynamic singer; he fronted the rock band Cage in the late 90’s. Seeing him play live opened a door for me; he gave me confidence to pick up the mic and try it myself.
Thursday nights at the Martell were a highlight of our week. We’d grab a few Gold Beirs and watch local bands play. Cage were probably the best I saw. They were solid; tight as hell. Ewan is a fantastic drummer and he knitted with Warren on bass. Phil, took care of the guitar. Their music was frantic, aggressive and raw. While the trio played there was a front man who would pace around the stage and as he sang he would scream into the ground, kneeled over trying to get every ounce of young anger from his soul. He would rock back and forth as the music took a hold of him. He was intense and it felt as if he meant every word he sang, he was one of Falkirk’s greatest vocalists. He was Chris Masson.
As I left the Martell with my best mate Greg, I turned to him and said; lets start a band.
There was a cost to the late Thursday nights; we would have to go to school the next day and i guess it had an impact as we stumbled out of school towards Falkirk college to follow hopeless dreams. Chris and I were young and we were having a laugh.
Falkirk College and Firkins.
Chris and I attended Falkirk college in the late 90’s. He was in Cage and I was in Weird; both singers we had a lot in common. I believe he studied sports psychology (i could be wrong) and I was studying computers. Literally just staring at the screen if i’m honest. There were no mobiles then but we would meet in the busy corridors and arrange the weekend which would start on a Thursday at the Martell and end on Sunday morning as we were ushered out of Pennies. These weekends were an incredible time of hope for our bands and our futures.
Then came the day we got our bursary. Chris and I would laugh as we walked out of the college to the pub. We went to Firkins and with our new found wealth we would by some drinks and with our change we would fill the jukebox for the next few hours. Then we’d sit at a table by the window and watch the world go by. We would talk about music, women and anything else that a late teen would want to talk about. They were wonderful times. He was very supportive of our fledgling band. He would give me advice on where to send demos and how to handle gigs. I was unaware that Cage were coming to an end.
It was a gig in Cumbernauld town hall; we were on the bill with Cage. It was to be their last appearance. I truly thought that Chris would find another band and i think he tried different things. Cage came to an end and i was gutted. I thought they would be one of the first bands to break Falkirk; they had been signed to Baghdad Radio and put out a single on vinyl. I was amazed at that. Chris explained that they recorded the record at a studio called Split Level. He gave us the number. It was the greatest studio we ever set foot in.
Chris and I would continue to meet in Firkins and occasionally head out to Glasgow to listen to music. The weekends flew by and we had many, many laughs. he introduced me to a very attractive woman called Kirsty who would become my wife. We were a close knit bunch of friends who would often sit on the floor of Firkins before we would get on our unsteady feet and walk down to Pennies. Then we would dance to Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana and other bands of that era. Chris would try with all his might to get me to fall in love with Faith No More but I was too obsessed with Kurt Cobain. As my relationship with Kirsty developed I drifted away from Firkins and saw less of Chris. Every time I did meet him he was the same warm and softly spoken soul that he ever was.
One of Our Greatest Listeners
Everytime I met Chris he would ask what the next record was or when the next gig would be. When I told him he would be there supporting us and he bought our CD’s. He would tell me what he thought of our work and it was honest. I knew him as a singer so I really appreciated his encouragement. Weird Decibels might’ve been around longer but I always looked up to the frontman of Cage.
Weird Decibels had started a series of podcasts and we had arranged to get Chris to come down and sing some Cage songs with us backing him. Everyone was so excited by the event; we talked about it and we planned it but it never happened. I feel we had let Chris down because i knew he was really up for it; we were playing a lot of gigs at the time and the weeks and months went past. Talking about doing things is fine but doing is so important and we didn’t do it. Life has a funny way of punishing you for not doing the things you say you will.
I stared at the screen of my mobile when the message came through about Chris. Another of our friends taken to soon. I knew someday we would meet again and catch up but i got caught up in the normal life that surrounds me. Time is a funny thing; it takes things away from you. Now it has taken Chris.
Yet time gave me those days with Chris; we sat in our favourite bar and we played our tunes. We would sip our beer together, we would share our stories and our jokes, we would raise our glasses and clink them together then we would look out of the Firkins window and watch the workers go by and we would forget all about time.
Congratulations to our very own Derek and Ann for finally tying the knot in Cuba! He’ll be back behind the kit soon with an extra ring…
Its been a quiet spell for the band, so during this time I have been working on a solo album and its nearly done. I hope to have it uploaded to the big bad web soon, probably via Spotify et all. Its great making music buts its better in a band!
We have a gig next month at Pivo Pivo Glasgow 24th June. New podcasts will also be recorded as we look back on twenty years together. We’ll strip each album down talking about how we wrote and recorded them. So listen out for them soon.
There will be more blogs soon, once the solo album is out. Its called Morningday, I’ll have more details soon. Until then take care.
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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