Tag Archives: alternative rock

Gig Diary Shuffle Down 2017 20th May

Credits

The Crowd

Sweet P Photography 

What Eddie Sees Photography including featured image.

Gregor Boyd Photography

Afterglow events

Ben White sound

words Pabs

 

I don’t get gig nerves as much as I used to. Of course I still get jitters these days, usually just before we go on stage, when I’d be wondering if I’d forget the first line or drop the first chord. However I don’t get the crippling nerves I used to feel when we first stepped onto the Martell stage back in 96.

Shuffle Down (20th May 2017) was different, I’d been thinking about this gig for the last year.

 

Let me take you back. Shuffle Down 2016 was well in the the swing and I was tapping my feet, enjoying the bands, the craic and the ale. Rikki Tonner, one of the event organisers, is someone I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years. I believe we share a passion for the Falkirk scene (he’s more pro-active than I am!) so he came over for a chat.

Towards the end of our blether he hinted that Weird Decibels would play Shuffle Down next year. I’m not sure if he was just being nice, but he said it and it got me thinking. A rock band on Shuffle Down? Would it work?

Rikki stayed true to his word, a few months later we got the invite and then the nerves started to gnaw at the back of my mind. Then came the doubts. Would we be on first? Would their be a crowd? Or would there be a vast empty space as people went out for burgers and fresh air as we played.

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we’re on the bill! A great line up. Artwork Afterglow Events

Fast forward a turbulent year of Brexit and Trump. Now it was the morning of May the 20th 2017, I hadn’t got much sleep the night before but I was full of energy pacing around an empty house. Kirsty had taken our boy out to to stay at her mums for the night so I had silence for company. The nerves really started to kick in. I opened the guitar case and the old golden Yamaha was resting in its cradle. I picked it up and started strumming some of the songs. I forgot the words to Speak…Now I was really nervous.

I packed my pedals and our merch into my rucksack and put the guitar in the case and grabbed a bite to eat. As I picked at my sandwich I wondered what lay ahead. I checked the train times. It was time to leave.

I booted up Spotify and played some Soundgarden; the amazing Superunknown blasted my ears as I walked to the station; I spared a thought for the late Chris Cornell. Gradually Soundgarden’s music lifted my spirits.  Now i was getting excited.

On the train I sat down and checked out the instructions for arriving at the venue. The whole set up provided by Afterglow was very professional. We’d be on at five and I had a hunch that this time might work out well for us. The beer would be flowing and maybe we’d get a few people listening.

The Dobbie hall was just short walk from the station (I love those gigs where it’s you, a guitar and a rucksack) I entered the main door there was a busy but calm atmosphere in the venue. The sound crew had already started work on a drum sound and I took a moment to admire the stage on which we would play. It’s easily the grandest stage our modest band has played on for a view years.

I got a warm welcome from an understandably distracted Rikki who pointed me in the direction of backstage where I gratefully laid down my guitar which had now grown heavy. I had a wee peak from the side of the stage, it was a fine size of floor space, very pleasing to the eye of a musician.

Half an hour passed and my phone buzzed, Greg and Stu were stuck in the car awaiting for the rain to stop, it was heavy, bouncing of the pavement as the dark clouds above us emptied. Finally Stu hauled his large guitar pedal case which I rather stupidly offered to carry backstage. It’s a heavy burden of effects!

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The mega case of effects. Pic Sweet P Photography

We had a look at the other room backstage which had a small selection of beers and food, this is a lot more hospitality than many bands are used to! Derek arrived and this was the first time he had attended Shuffle Down and he seemed to be impressed with the set up.

With the soundchecks done we took our place in the audience. I was now observing how many people were walking through the door, looking behind me every couple of minutes like a paranoid spy from a 70’s Bond film (all that was missing was the newspaper and a dodgy pair of sunglasses). At 2 when the doors opened there was a small crowd, my fears of an empty floor for our gig were not easing.

The first acts played, you can read about Shuffle Down 2017 here. More people started to filter in and fill the hall. Now I was starting to feel that there would be a decent crowd. However I was fretting that our music would not sit well among the acts of this years lineup.

Have Mercy Las Vegas we so different to us and the crowd loved them, my anxiety grew. Now I just wanted a beer…Pronto Mama walked on with keys and brass and I thought the worst. Would these guys play music so different to us? However there set was great full of surprising guitar driven indie rock which I felt would ease the listeners into our music.

Now I was starting to get excited. Their set flew past and as I walked towards backstage I heard the crowd cheer their last song, it was quite a noise so I turned around and saw quite a mass of people. I was praying they would stay.

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Stu settles quickly and nails the gig. Pic Gregor Boyd

There was a nervous excitement from Stu, he suffers terrible pre gig nerves and he really felt this one. Greg just seems to stroll up and take everything in his stride. Derek is often the most composed. Quietly adjusting the cymbals and snare before settling into his stool prepared to beat the hell out of the kit.

I had to hold to my nerves, I was playing in front of a neutral audience, our friends and of course our peers of the Falkirk scene. We had won best rock act of Falkirk 2016 at the AMIF awards and I didn’t want to let anyone down. (thanks for voting!)

So I didn’t look out to the crowd as I plugged in my leads. Then I strummed the guitar…nothing…I walked over to the Marshall stack…turned up the volume…nothing. Then a slight adjustment and just a faint whimper of distorted guitar could be heard. Time was passing. I took a breath and had a look at the setting of the Marshall amp head. There were presets and I started to select the various settings, one of which said ‘classic’ voila. Sound.

I quickly got a level then scattered the setlists at the four positions of the band, Stu was ready, Greg, kitted out with his Weird Decibels denim waistcoat was ready. Derek was poised. I got a level with Stu and then looked to the crowd. They had stayed.

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Big stage to fill time to run around! Pic What Eddie sees

Ben White was on the sound desk and he picked up our prompt and dropped the background music. Derek started the beat of Speak. I picked the notes…the correct ones. The band blasted into the intro then I stepped up to the mic and sang the first line. Then I relaxed

Setlist

  1. Speak
  2. Once More With Feeling
  3. Ms Asphyxia
  4. Wonder
  5. Kill it Kill it
  6. Who You Know
  7. Medicine
  8. I Hear the City

The stage was superb, I had room to run around like it was our first gig. Stu and Greg looked like they were have the time of their lives. Derek, as usual, keeping it all knitted together. The nerves were now evaporated. It set up the rest of the show.

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THAT waistcoat! Pic What Eddie Sees

When we finished Speak the response was superb and that energised us further, it gave us confidence. The sound was fine for us on stage but I believe that it was well received in the audience.

Our half hour slot felt like five minutes. We extended I Hear the City and I tried to get the audience to clap along, we extended the solos and build up to a finale. The song finished and I knew then we had played one of our best gigs in our two decades together..

The stage, the audience, the setting, it was all superb. 22 years in and we often wondered if we’d ever play shows like this again. I guess we’ve been rewarded for sticking together through the highs and the lows and while we’ve never made any sort of impression on Scotland’s scene we can look back on days like this and take a bit of pride from it. We made some new friends and reunited with some old. There has been some great photos of us on stage having a bawl.

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Derek keeps it all together. Pic What Eddie Sees

 

So if you are a young local act, don’t get too obsessed with breaking through, just know that if you stick to what you believe in then there will be good times ahead. You cannot beat the high of achieving something with your best mates. Backstage after the gig was testament to that, bands often feel a closeness that you cannot explain to those who don’t play.

So a huge thanks to Afterglow, Rikki, Laura and the team for having us, indeed for taking a risk. We feel it paid off and we hope you did to. It was an absolute pleasure to play.

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Thank you Shuffle Down! Pic What Eddie Sees

Shuffle Down 2017

credits

the crowd

sweet p photography (featured image)

Gregor Boyd photography

what eddie sees photography

afterglow events

ben white sound

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we’re on the bill! A great line up. Artwork Afterglow Events

 

 

Shuffle Down had a different feel about it this year as we were playing! Read more about that experience in our latest gig diary.

As I arrived at the Dobbie hall some two hours before the doors opened there was a surprising calm in the air. The various volunteers and stalls were quietly setting up their various stations, there was an air of anticipation, would it be as busy this year?

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Capturing the live sound for so many different bands with so many different instruments is a skill mastered by Ben. Pic What Eddie Sees

Shuttling back and forth from the stage was Ben White who once again had the duties of mixing and amplifying a number of different bands with a wide range of instruments; he did a superb job. Anyone who has ever provided the sound for a gig will understand how difficult this is to do for two or three bands never mind a festival roster! So hats off to Ben and his team they did very well providing a nice meaty kick sound that cut through the full range of frequencies that are needed for a balanced sound. Everything from the guitars to the bass sounded well knitted. I would argue that this year was the best sound, a couple of technical glitches aside (which you have to expect), it was clear the sound crew have got to grips with the acoustics the hall

In the background Jim Dunbar was once again overseeing the task, A stalwart of the local scene for many years. During soundcheck he reflected on his many years hauling speakers to various venues and hinted that it may be time to put his feet up.

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Jim Dunbar was doing our sound when we first started playing live. Local legend.

He did the sound back in at our first gigs at the Martell some 22 years ago, now here we were in the Dobbie hall about to embark on another Shuffle Down and all the challenges that come with putting on a show that gives local bands an opportunity to reach a bigger audience on a grand stage.

Once the soundcheck was completed the lights slowly came on, the true beauty of the stage was revealed. Shuffle Down always has the personal touch of the loyal volunteers and of course Rikki and Laura Tonner. This year was no different with a waterfall of lights hugging the back of the stage and the ever present Afterglow Lamp, stage right, proudly illuminated..

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Beauty and the fest, The Everglow lamp. Pic Gregor Boyd

The heavens opened outside, biblical rain fell as the last of the early bands arrived to drop off gear backstage and exchange handshakes. There was a good air between the artists, mutual respect and a common desire to entertain the crowds that were on their way. The doors opened and the rain started to ease, a good number of punters drifted into the scent of coffee from The Common Grind and a whiff of ale from the Tryst Brewery.

Up first was Kieran Fisher playing an acoustic set of originals and covers; his gravely voice reminded me of Kelly Jones I thought this was a lazy comparison until he nailed the Stereophonics. Kieran looked confident up in the big stage which is a hard thing to pull off given that you’re up there on your own. Continuing the acoustic theme was Robbie Lesiuk, when he took the stage the hall was starting to fill with punters. The noise of the crowd chatter grew as people greeted each other the atmosphere was starting to build; there was now a buzz about the place. Robbie played well, his subtle use of loops is always good to listen to and Fault Lines always gets stuck in your head

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A charismatic front man who had the crowds full attention. Pic Gregor Boyd

I was surprised to see Have Mercy Las Vegas on early but it really did help get the feet stomping. Their charismatic front man had the audience stamping and clapping and for the first time I felt genuinely nervous that our rock set would plummet to the earth like a dropped pint of real Tryst ale. Then up stepped Pronto Mama, whose dynamic sound no doubt tested the sound engineering skills of Ben but I felt that the mix held well. Their set was a good blend of synth, brass and guitars. I really enjoyed their show. There was an intense feel to it.

We were up next and you can read all about that in our gig diary.

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Rock comes to Shuffle. Pic Gregor Boyd

We played a half hour show which felt like 5 minutes. As we stepped back stage and took a few photos and admittedly did a couple of high fives the Lonely Tourist stepped up to the mic. The stage curtains were drawn so he had a more intimate platform for which to share his tunes. I caught a couple and I really enjoyed his music; I love the full band sound on his record and I hope he ventures up here with the band in the future.

I headed out the the stalls to grab a fine burger and the sun peaked out from behind the dark May clouds, they broke and scatters of blue sky could finally be seen. Finally I could relax and enjoy some Dobbie Shuffle from the Tryst stall (can I by bottles of this somewhere?! It’s sweet!). The alcohol hit me pretty quick!

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Ghosts on the stage. Pic Gregor Boyd

I was really looking forward to Ghostwriter who I believe are one of the best bands to have emerged from the scene recently. For Hire (Summer never ends) was a great opener and that guitar riff is one of the most infectious I’ve heard for a while. Technical issues distracted singer Iain King and it caused him frustration. To be honest I felt his anger added a little edge to the performance which I enjoyed; however it proved to be too distracting for him and sadly their set finished early.

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There was an edge to Fly Jackson at Shuffle, my fav show of theirs to date. Pic Gregor Boyd

Fly Jackson ambled up to the stage they seem to take these events in their stride, I saw them at the Trinity Church gig and enjoyed them but I preferred this performance. It was a very focused set by the band and the sound had a fine clarity to it. They have some great songs on their roster.

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Iain King found his composure and joined Fairweather and the Elements for their set. Ross and co headlined a great night at the Trinity church, this performance seemed to have more energy, perhaps driven by the occasion, vocalist Deborah Lang was clearly enjoying herself as she danced about the stage. By now it was clear that the electric atmosphere of Shuffle Down was influencing the artists; the performances seemed more energetic and the crowd were loving it. This is why we need this event.

I felt myself glued to the main stage, the atmosphere, the bands and the beer. In previous Shuffle Downs I found myself wandering upstairs to see some fine acts but this year I couldn’t leave the big room as it was proving too enjoyable. It helped that the bands were really quick to switch over. The hall seemed to be as busy as previous years, those watching the acts seemed to enjoy the various genres and warmly applauded all that played.

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Highlight? Yes. One of many. Pic Gregor Boyd

Miracle Glass Company were superb, I was transfixed by the drumming of Andy Duncan, he was keeping these Ringo Starr esq beats going at a pace while aptly performing his singing duties. There was good pacing to their set, Trouble is a great song.

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Transfixed we were, 57 rock. Pic Gregor Boyd

Then came a surprise. 57, a hard rocking duo from South Korea, took me by surprise.The crowd loved them. I liked the set it was impressive and it was a huge sound for just two people. I had no idea that this was coming.

By this time I was a little tipsy and thinking of work the next day (started in the afternoon folks) so my wife and I headed off into the night. The sounds slowly faded as we walked away from  the Dobbie hall.

Perhaps I’m biased as we played Shuffle Down this year but I felt that this was the most enjoyable year so far. The first year had big acts, the 2nd found its groove but this year felt different. It felt like a big party, a gathering of people who love music and will come to Shuffle Down regardless of who is on the bill and every band benefited from an audience that was open to hearing something new and it was fantastic to witness this.

Was Shuffle Down 2017 a success?  If success was a large group of happy people enjoying a wide range of music, surrounded by friends drinking local beer, eating local food and listening to local acts then yes it was a huge success.

I will probably attend another overpriced festival sponsored by Tennents at some point but I doubt that will enjoy it as much as I did Shuffle Down 2017.

So as the bands packed up and the Afterglow lamp was switched off, I do hope that next year it will illuminate the Dobbie hall once more. The Falkirk music scene would miss what is now becoming the most important date on our local live calendar.

words Pabs

 

 

 

17 reasons why you should’ve visited shuffle down 2017

All the information about the festival is on this fine website

Back in 2015  I was flicking through the Falkirk Herald when I stumbled across an article about a new local music festival called Shuffle Down. I was aware of this event however they had added the band Broken Records to the lieup. At this point I decided to delve further. Now intrigued, I bought my tickets and was pleasantly surprised at how good the festival was and how good the artists were.

Shuffle Down grew in confidence in 2016; once again back in the impressive Dobbie hall it had a more diverse line up and once again I had a great day with my wife and my mates

Now approaching its third year Shuffle Down is back on May the 20th and we’re playing! So below are 17 reasons why Shuffle Down should take a place in your 2017 musical festival calendar. Please note these are not in numerical order.

 

  1. It one of Falkirk’s best music festivals. The Falkirk scene is continuing to grow again which is fantastic news for local artists like us, Shuffle down started in 2015, created by Rikki and Laura Tonner with help from their friends including Gavin Brown . There are many great acts playing in a cracking venue and the vibe is brilliant.
  2. It marks the start of the summer. 20th May? Its that time between the end of spring and the start of summer. Shuffle Down is a great day to celebrate the sunny weather we get from May to September (well it seemed that way in the 80’s when I was a kid). If it rains falls head back into the halls and watch the bands!
  3. You’ll discover new acts. I have discovered a few great acts in the last two Shuffles including Iona Marshall, Yossarian, Paddy Steer and Dextro. There are moments when you are enjoying your beer chatting away in company when an artist plays a song that makes you stop, listen and discover which is a hundred times better than letting Spotify (et al) do it for you…

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    Paddy Steer you had to see him to believe it.
  4. It has a personal touch. Organisers Rikki and Laura plus family and friends put this together; the hall has always been decorated to give the festival a personal feel plus on stage there is a lamp. A little lamp that illuminates the corner which can be seen at many local gigs. A quirky touch that adds personality to an event that is a million miles away from the corporate festivals that clog the calendar.

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    From the classic surrounds of the hall to the decor the venue has always looked grand for Shuffle Down
  5. The craft stalls are a haven of gems. In the past couple Shuffle Down fests I’ve been drawn (pun intended) to the artwork of John Grieve. However there are many stalls populated by local people keen to display their talents. IMG_20150529_154054407_HDR
  6. The atmosphere is fantastic. From chilled out to pulsating to bouncing Shuffle Down has had it all. The crowd is friendly and there is a generally good atmosphere around the venue. 
  7. Dobbie hall is grand. This hall is a hidden gem in our area, I’ve been here a few times for various events and the decor is beautiful. From the carvings around the main stage to the high ceilings and decoration this is a hall the people of Larbert are proud of. Its here on the map
  8. It’s easy to get to. Just 5 mins from Larbert train station (hit link map link above), within minutes walk of buses, a ten minute drive from Falkirk, Stenhouse taxi rank just up the road. It couldn’t be easier to get to. Leave the car at home and enjoy yourself! 
  9. The food stalls are ace and local. Local butcher R Browns and Sons are just one of the vendors who provide much needed scran to soak up the local craft ales.
  10. Craft ales are yep…local. Tryst Brewery set up stall last year and are returning with a few kegs this year. What better to enjoy local acts while sipping a fine ale from a brewery just a few yards down the road.
  11. The line up is increasingly diverse. 2015 Shuffle Down took its first steps, in 2016 it found its stride with a more diverse lineup from the mad Paddy Steer, the indie tunes of Yossarian and the jumping ska of Esperanza. 2017 promises more with soul pop from Pronto Mama, American country from Have Mercy Las Vegas acoustic loops from Adam Stafford and a bit of rock from ourselves. 17835062_1395119577198251_8993517791303915887_o
  12. You meet old friends. It’s a great day out for friends and family, we go to Shuffle Down as a group and have a great day out however being at a local music festival it’s amazing how many old friends I bumped into the past two years. 
  13. Its great for local bands. The first Shuffle down helped raise much needed awareness of the local scene I couldn’t believe how many great artists were on my doorstep (I had lost touch over the years). Looking back at the past lineups I discovered I had missed even more acts that have played locally recently. There are even more local acts this year including to fine acts in Ghost Writer and Robbie Lesiuk to name just two.
  14. The festival contributes to charity. MND Scotland and Strathcarron Hospice have benefited from money raised by Shuffle down. This year the charity will be Kidney Kids Scotland
  15. £19 gets you a day of live music. For just nineteen pounds you will get you a full day of live music on two stages; can’t think of better value than that.
  16. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the country to see a decent music festival. Whether its Glasgow or Edinburgh or even to the middle of a muddy field travelling to a music festival eventually means you have to return, often with a monster hangover. With a local music festival you might still have the hangover but at least you can rest your head on your own pillow.
  17. Weird Decibels are playing! Come on give me this one! You are visiting our website aren’t you? We are delighted to be playing Shuffle Down 2017 and we’ll put everything into this. See you there!!

Pabs

Our Practise Room

The Speak music video shot in the practise room

Link to three live performances in our practise space

It was 1995 and there was a small advert in the music section of the Falkirk Herald; a practice room for hire, kit supplied and there was a phone number supplied.

Greg and I had just put the finishing touches to our new, as yet, unnamed band and we needed a place to play loud. I phoned the number printed and was met with a friendly chap who spoke in a low smoky husk. He explained that the room was near Grangemouth docks, a basement round the back of the bingo hall next to some wasteland. He added we’d be able to play as loud as we wanted. I booked a slot. It was to be a Wednesday night.

February 8th approached and we had bagged a lift off my Dad. Here was four young lads without much in the way of gear and band experience nervously wondering what was to happen next. I jumped out of the car in excitement to collect the keys. I frantically knocked on the door of the address that I was to pick up the keys. In the winter darkness the door creaked open and an elderly man, clearly dragged from his bed, mumbled that I was at the wrong door.

Later we finally found the dude he explained, under a haze of green smoke, the rules. We agreed a time for him to close the room and all was good. He dropped the keys into my hand and I raced back to the idling fiat Uno my Dad drove at the time.

After a great practise and three new songs we heard Greg’s dad Arthur pull up outside. He had kindly offered to take us all home. The hour came for the dude to meet us however there was noone to be seen. 15 minutes later Arthur was no longer waiting and we were to get going. We had to leave the room and all the gear unlocked.

The next week I nervously phoned the dude and for some strange reason he explained the location and rules of the room as if I had never used it and we had spoken for the first time. Then he explained that some arseholes booked last week left the room unlocked. He was so stoned that night he forgot we were even there. Had he remembered that fact we wouldn’t still be in that very room today.

In 1995 Grangemouth was a different place. We were in a basement, above us were various business that have come and gone over the years. There was noone around in this slightly dodgy location it was just a mass of overgrown trees swaying in the breeze from the forth river. The sky was (and still is) often lit orange by the flares of the refinery.

The basement is the size of a fairly large living room with a smaller passageway that leads around the back. There was never a toilet, just a sink. Heating was supplied via a gas heater that we used to huddle around in the coldest nights. We’d pay towards the gas as well as the rent and it was Greg’s job to get it lit.

In the early days there were white washed brick walls that gave it a clean look. There was a couch to dive onto and mirrors to check that the rock poses were all good; it was bright and spacious and a cool place for young musicians to create music. There were a number of bands booked in the room at that time.

In the late 90’s we used to cross the road to Haddows to buy carry outs prior to practising. Greg was now a driver and the rest of us saw this as an excuse to drink a number of midweek beers. It got ridiculous, I used to take down a pint class and sink a few calders creams. The three of us would be plastered and Greg would drive us home via the BP garage at Earls gate where we would buy food and Derek would take on any eating challenge presented to him. This included fitting a whole packet of cheese bites into his mouth.

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Haddows and drink; we had a lot.

The owners eventually ditched the room and we were forced to find a new rehearsal place which turned out to be in Bonnybridge. This lasted for a few months but as soon as we heard our old room was back up under new ownership we went start right back

Practise became a drunken stupor, we had lost focus and we stopped playing gigs so Wednesday nights were the only time we’d play music particularly around 1999 2000. The room was repainted by its new owners Frazer Law (Beany) and Russell Dickson in more a psychedelic palette and the drums were placed on a riser. We started taking a four track down and recorded a full album that would become Cold Home Street.

With the band stalling, Stu left for a few years and we became the Seventeenth. The room was now rented from a flower shop owner and we found the space was filling up with pots and flower beds (but sadly with no flowers). The room was split with a third used for storage for the florist. This was unfortunate as the place lost its feel for a while. However we still huddled around the same old gas fire in the heart of winter.

Time passed and in 2004 Weird reformed, the dividing wall fell much to our delight and the room was whole again however things were changing outside.

The bulldozers rolled in and swept aside the wild trees then an ASDA sign appeared. Our wee secret corner would soon be changed beyond recognition. A building merchant moved in upstairs and a fast food outlet next door to that. Then came the rats.

One cold wintry evening as Greg tried to start the gas fire I asked him to stop, the rest of the guys fell silent as I listened. Then from the pipes came the scurrying. The rats were here and getting bolder by the day. The room started to feel dirty and rundown.

Thankfully the rats were dealt with and Beany made an almighty attempt to clean the room to its past glory, however he was scuppered by the strange appearance of couches. Several monolithic chairs started to appear and we were battling for space with the furniture. Some of it was Greg’s and he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, promise). Then the couches got mouldy, still he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, always tomorrow).  Months passed and the mould grew greater; my love for the room was wilting. Finally one Wednesday when i was expecting to open the door to its usual musk I was delighted to see the seats were gone. Once more the room was spacious albeit a little grubby.

Today we still use the room most weeks and at occasionally we use it for recording. We do have to wait for the boy racers to drive out of the ASDA car park with their exhaust blaring. Haddows is gone, now it’s a sober trip to ASDA for water and sweets. Alcohol is gone, replaced by Tea and coffee supplied from flasks that I bring down during the winter months. A Chinese moves in upstairs every few months and one of the delivery drivers spends his life in his car with the engine running all night for some heat or to charge his phone as he attempts to combat the boredom of waiting for the next Chicken Chow Mein.

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We’ve adapted. When we get bored of writing songs in the room we hire a cottage to refresh the creative minds however even to this day we are still inspired by our rehearsal space to create new songs. We’ve now used the practise room for 22 years. Recently we moved things around the room and the sound feels refreshed; when I strike the first chords on the guitar and look around the room at the other guys I can’t picture us being anywhere else. Fingers crossed we can stay a while longer as we’ve had many many happy times in that wee basement. We even shot a music video in the room and several songs. Check them out at the top of this post.

We Played in A Prison (a story from 1996)

It was around 1996 when on a normal Wednesday night we gathered for practice, Stu asked us if we fancied playing a gig in a prison. He had a relative who organised entertainment for the inmates HMP Longriggend (which has since closed). We had reservations, as four young guys all we knew about prison was the stuff you saw on television. Prisoner:  Cell Block H was terrifying… However when Stu added that it would be our first paid gig we quickly manned up, did a few push ups and agreed to play.

We had to learn a few of our first cover songs to mix in with our own numbers; and we hired Jim Dunbar to do the sound. For additional support we brought our friends John Baines and Ruari Pearson. For the purposes of security Stu had to phone the prison with the names of our party. For some reason he couldn’t remember Ruari’s surname so under a bit of pressure from the gruff voice of the warder on the line, Stu said Ruari’s name was John, John Ruari…

Longriggend was located near Airdrie and as you drove along the winding B803 taking in the desolate back farmland your eyes would be drawn up the hill towards the walls of the prison, it was an eerie scene often shrouded by the clouds that hung to the hillside.

WDB Original 3 track demo photoshoot
One of our first photoshoots for our first demo

On the day of our gig we drove up to the gatehouse unsure what lie ahead. It was the late 90’s and while the prisons had settled back to some sort of normally after the turbulent start to the decade there was still an imposing welcome at the gate.

We gave our names. Ruari gave his; Rurai Pearson he said to the guard. Sorry we don’t have that name stated the gatekeeper. Derek whispered, today you’re John Ruari. ‘John Ruari’ said Ruari. Finally we were in.

We were led around to the games hall past the prison wings; the cell windows were adorned with steel bars no doubt there was an unknown soul awaiting his fate from the courts locked within. Barbed wire hung to every wall. Some of the inmates were having a kick about in a five aside pitch they took little interest as we passed.

The guard escorting us pointed to a parking bay and showed us inside the hall. Some prisoners were in the wing adjacent, staring at us through a grill gate as we went in. Intimidating to anyone first entering these institutions however to the guards this was just another backshift.

It didn’t take long for us to set up, Jim turned up the volume and it was loud. Time passed and slowly the prisoners shuffled into the hall in an orderly fashion and took their seats. Derek noticed a couple of guys from our school that had wandered onto the wrong side of the law. Not one of the guys heckled us, indeed they seemed happy to be free from the confines of their cells. When we started playing things changed slightly.

As we launched into our first songs some of the prisoners walked out to the toilet. A few minutes later they came back with toilet roll stuffed into their ears. Others sad impassively, some laughed as I tried to rock out to the music.

It was a fine gig though and our inhibitions were unfounded; for as we neared the end of our set the power cut and the lights went out…that was hairy but we got a warm round of applause at the end. It was nice to get paid, just a bit unnerving seeing the guard counting out the money in front of the captive audience!

A few weeks later Stu and I were in Glasgow picking up our printed demo tapes that were still to be filled with the audio tracks. As we headed down Sauchiehall street back to the station we heard a ‘hello’ from behind us. A young guy staggered towards us, ‘you guys played at the LRU didn’t ye?’ ‘eh yes’ we replied; ‘Brilliant you got me oot ma cell for the afternoon’. ‘I’ll buy wan eh yer tapes’ Stu tried to explain that the tapes were blank but he waved his words away. He handed us a couple of quid and stumbled down the busy street with one of our demos before disappearing into the mass of shoppers.

 

Inverno (One Weekend In Falkirk Part 2)

words and pics Pabs

After the high of playing the Artisan Tap I was looking forward to seeing more bands on the Saturday as part of the excellent One Weekend in Falkirk. Now that I was returning as a listener I felt part of a festival. Both playing and listening to the acts has been a brilliant experience.

On the Saturday we were spoiled with Calum Baird, the Blue Lights, Fuzzy Star, Patersani and Grim Morrison.

Greg and I were keen to get to the Tap to see the first act Callum Baird, we had to drop some gear off at the practise room on the way to Falkirk. (the joys of being in a band, a gig can mean two days of work)

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We arrived in time to catch most of his gig. Callum is a confident player who is keen to sing his message to the people who listen. He has a feel of folky blues and there is a brooding anger in his performance which gives him an edge over his singer songwriter peers. Callum thanked the crowd for listening. He politely explained that he had to head off to Linlithgow to play another gig. Here is an artist who plays non stop, hopefully the hard work will pay off.

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As Callum Baird packed his guitar into his case to head out the venue a band that I have been impressed by, The Blue Lights, started to set up. Staying High is one of the best tracks I have heard from this scene in many a year. Unfortunately their drummer could not make the gig so they played a stripped back set. Kirsten Hamilton is a powerful vocalist, I preferred their original songs to the their covers. I got the impression that Kristen’s heart was in her own songs and I look forward to hearing the whole band live.

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Fuzzystar, from Edinburgh, were amazing . Before they played I had went to the toilet (as you do) and this bearded man in a white tee shirt stumbled into the mens. I thought he looked rather unsteady on his feet as he looked for a cubicle, I smartened up and headed out to get ready for the next band. As I sipped on my Bitter and Twisted (now my favourite beer at the Tap) I couldn’t contain my surprise as the same fellow donned in beard and white tee shirt took up his guitar and proceed to lead Fuzzystar through a wonderful set of bittersweet melodies. Their clean guitar floated nicely then they would lace some distorted tones to change the mood. Their lead guitarist was superb, he provided focus for the band. One of the delights in exploring the live music on your doorstep is discovering bands like Fuzzystar.

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After the bearded fellows departed the stage Patersani entered and these guys were slick and reminded me of a Scottish Kings of Leon (if there is such a thing). I was foot tapping to a nice blend of indie rock. Very enjoyable.

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Last up was Grim Morrison, a band that I enjoyed at Behind the Wall as part of the Loft sessions last year. For various reasons unknown to me their regular drummer was absent so up stepped one of Falkirk’s best drummers Ian Simpson who is very adaptive and was able to stitch together Grim Morrisons sound. I’m not sure what has happened to their bass player, however the chap who was on the four strings handled his duties well. Lead singer James McManus blended into the crowd all night. He has a mop of jet black hair tinged with a streak of white. He does not stand out in a crowd however it is a different story when he steps onto the stage. While I’m not sure where his band is going he presents as an accomplished guitarist and vocalist. Again luck had departed him as a string broke (The worst thing that can happen to a musician) James had tried to string up this guitar but it wouldn’t play ball so he borrowed a semi acoustic from another musician and after this their set exploded. Whether it was frustration at the events that had unfolded James snarled and belted his way through the remainder of their songs and it was a superb recovery.

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I finished the rest of my pint and headed out into the night to hastily catch the last train, it was at Falkirk High. The view from this station overlooks Falkirk. As I waited for the Edinburgh train I turned and looked over the town. In my drunken sway I had a smile for I knew that there is a chance we could have a music scene that we can call great again.

Rock On Tap

Words Pabs

Photographs Juls Sampson.

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photo juls sampson. Look at those lovely shoes I’m wearing.

Thanks to the crowd, Afterglow and everyone involved in the organisation of One Weekend in Falkirk  

2017 was just a couple of days old when the hype for the first ‘One Weekend In Falkirk’ music event was starting to build. It seemed as if a lot of people were genuinely excited and we were delighted to be part of it.

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another fine flyer from Rikki Toner

The Falkirk Herald got in the act with a full spread article listing all the events; our picture (taken by Kevin Byrne) took centre stage on the page. It was nice to see the local paper helping to raise the awareness of the gig.

One Weekend in Falkirk was hosted by the Write Angle with a little help from several people including Adam Donaldson and Afterglow music. It was five days of music, poetry, open mic and arts. We were asked to be part of the Rock on Tap, the Friday night at the Artisan Tap (Falkirk’s best new pub in years). We were also asked to recommend a band to complete the lineup and we could not look past the wonderful Buzzards of Babylon.

On gig day I was a little more nervous than usual as there seemed to be quite a bit of gravitas with this event. Also it was the start of January and I was worried that wallets would be lights and that would stop people coming out. After a small bowl of pasta I headed out with my wife kindly dropping me off at the venue. (when you get dropped off for a gig your first thought is often ‘beer’)

I was first, gear in hand it was nice to see the punters opening doors when they saw I was laden with an amp and guitar. In other venues you do not get this show of kindness. There was a good vibe around the Tap as people were tucking into their pizzas and burgers which looked damn nice but my stomach was not up to it.

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Pic Pabs Greg, Derek and Stu take in the best street in Falkirk

Given that Artisan Tap had all its tables full of diners the stage was set in the center of the venue; the stage area was small but manageable so all was good. Slowly the bands filtered in, warm handshakes were exchanged between Blind Daze, ourselves and the young duo of Skelfs. When Buzzards arrived it was great to see our friends again and we shared some stories of gigs from the past. These stories often included many an ale and the last time the Buzzards soared over Falkirk they scooped up an almighty amount of beer that only Greg could match however this time it was strictly Irn Bru as some of the gents had commitments the following day including taking the kids to the Marvel stage show!

Soundcheck was fine, quick and straight to the point the mix from the stage sounded great at this point I started to look towards the bar, yearning for a beer but i didn’t want to over do it . Greg in his usual laid back style strolled up and ordered a pint at the back of 7.

The punters finished their meals and most stayed throughout the soundcheck which was a great sign, some of our crowd started to file in and the venue was looking rather busy. Skelfs stepped up first, these guys have only been together a year or so, now on a new lineup they had only played a handful of gigs to date. The played a set of bluesy rock tunes not dissimilar to the White Stripes and they went down well with the crowd.

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Pic Pabs. Skelfs debut gig in Falkirk

The Buzzards of Babylon were next; they marched up to the mics and played a blinder. Monkey Knife Fight remains a favourite and they played a ‘ballad’ in reflection of the venue however it was a heavy brooding number. They also knocked out some blues with Eck showing his skills on the mouth organ although at one point it looked as if he just about run out of oxygen belting out the notes. Fine stuff.

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Pic Pabs Nice tee Rab
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Pic Pabs The masses approve

Our Falkirk peers Blind Daze cranked up the volume to 11 they have a good mix of melodies and pure rock, the place was busier now and the crowd soaked up the tunes. The band really seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.

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Pic Pabs Blind Daze crank it up

Then it was us. We stepped up to a welcome applause and we were determined to blow away the slightly disappointing performance of our last gig. First tune Kill it Kill it was nailed and our confidence grew. As a rule we tend to play an easy track first to set us up.

We belted through the tunes and tonight I felt we were on form, then around halfway through the set, a familiar call came from the crowd. Once again our friend Chris Wilson shouted for High Heels. I asked the rest of the venue and eventually an almighty roar gave us no option but to play Waiting on The Sound of Your High Heels, which is great as I love playing that song!

I loved playing Feeling and Medicine; Curtain Hits The Cast went down well and Industry seems to have growing support as a set finisher which is fine by me!

As we neared the end of the set I could not help but pay tribute to Jim Dunbar who has been providing PA for Falkirk for many years, including our first gig back in 1995. To see him doing the sound for our gig 22 years later is simply amazing.

 

  1. Kill it
  2. It’s Who You Know
  3. I Hear The City
  4. Feeling
  5. Joker
  6. Quoted
  7. Medicine
  8. Wait
  9. Speak
  10. Curtain hits the cast
  11. Deliverance
  12. Industry

 

The set was over too quickly and before I knew it I was standing at the bar necking a few pints of Bitter and Twisted. The atmosphere was still great but by this late hour the crowd was slowly filtering out the door, I had the warm fuzz you get when a gig has went well. Stu was delighted, he tends to get very nervous even after all these years and you could see he was floating on the euphoria of a successful night.

I’m glad that rock music got its place in One Weekend in Falkirk and the organisers should be commended for that. The following night I went along to the Inverno event (more on this later) and from my own experience One Weekend In Falkirk has been great success; it’s been years since I spend a whole weekend both playing and enjoying acts from Falkirk and beyond. The venue, the atmosphere and the music all added to a brilliant experience. I hope this becomes our ‘winter’ event from Falkirk, yet another sign that our music scene is back and in good health.

 

Artisan tap as part of one weekend in Falkirk festival 6th January 2017

 

Our year 2016

Words Pabs

Photos. Kevin Byrne Photography, Eindp Photography, Purple Dot Photography Juls Samson.

While the world around us was erupting in unexpected vote results, civil unrest and the Great British Bake off scandal; some of our music legends decided enough was enough and packed their bags for heaven. We released our 8th album Weird Decibels 2, we embraced the local scene and won our first award, although we didn’t play live as much as I would’ve liked. 2017 will be fun. (its got to be!!)

So we wish our listeners, friends and family a healthy new year. Here is our 2016.

January

10th. The master (of Weird Decibels 2) is finished but Pabs went and re-mastered…

13th. January, front cover of Weird Decibels 2 is leaked!

February

17th. Firkin Outburst our second album written years ago in 1998,  is shared across the world including Spotify

27th. We told the story of how we made weird decibels 2 including our temporary studio in the Springfield cottage down in the Scottish borders.

March

4th. Kill it! Kill it! Video is unleashed. Cracking piece of work from Kevin Byrne and a great performance from the indefectible Ruari Pearson.

10th. We are featured artist on the Third Class Ticket. Tommy done us proud with this show. Sadly due to an increasing workload Tommy later closed the Third Class Ticket.

We had a good spread about the album in the Falkirk Herald big thanks to James Trimble and co for the article. 

11th Weird Decibels 2 is released on all digital platforms and a thing called a CD

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29th Great review of the album in the Moshville Times. Thank you!

moshville times review

April

May

8th. Live tracks from the rehearsal room are released and filmed from our practise room that we’ve called home for two decades. Find the videos on our YouTube channel

18th. Another great review from Kenny Bates and Gregor Flynn at Stirling DIY press collective

27th May we rock out with The Sonic Blues and Rabid Dogs at the North Star. This is the story

 

June

20th. We head off for a lovely family day gig at Whitecraigs. Here are our thoughts.

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pic purple dot photography

July

August

20th. Pabs returns to the studio for some solo work. Slow Motion Action Punch

28th. Pabs teams up with Neil Logan and they release two songs hear them here

September

4th. Pabs starts a wee look back at Falkirk venues which proves popular with the community. The Martell and Firkins both feature with more to follow in 2017

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a younger Stu playing the Martell

16th We pay homage to the photographers who have kindly taken snaps of us over the years.

26th. Pabs and Stu release a single Passers By from their EP Hero or a Villain

October

14th Stu and Pabs release their debut EP Hero or a Villain

17th We head through to Stirling City Radio for a live acoustic session. Read about it here

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November

24th. Coldest rehearsal for years but something great happened; you’ll find out next year

December

One More Solo appears on digital platforms commuters everywhere listening to the sound of high heels as they walk to work.

We win our first award! AMiF Falkirk’s Best rock/metal/punk act 2016. Humbled to say the least and you should check out our follow nominees 13, The Animal Mothers, Media Whores and Blind Daze.

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A great moment for us, thank you for voting

26th Stu, Derek and Greg didn’t notice the ‘No Parking’ folder which had been on the drive since early November…in this folder there was a live album…

wedb 20 yrs 8 - Copy

Falkirk Music 2016

 

Pictures Kevin Byrne Photography and Eindp Photography 

Its well documented on this site that I’ve been in Weird Decibels for over 20 years playing in the local scene and sometimes beyond. For a majority of those years I’d admit that I was quite insular and interested in promoting only our band. However time and attitudes have changed and I have found myself taking in more and more of the local music scene around me. I’m not out at every gig or bought every CD (although I’m drawn to downloading from Bandcamp!) from our town, I don’t have the time (and money!) but when I can take the sounds in I enjoy being a part of it  So here is my brief look back at the local music and events I have personally enjoyed (and been a part of) in 2016.  Pabs

Bands/ Artists.

Ghost Writer. I saw these guys at Behind the Wall and the Trinity Church, they have a dynamic sound and really bring something different to the scene. They have been busy recording and released a few singles this year. They’re worth checking out.

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Bootsie Blue. These guys bagged best new comer in this years AMiF awards this young three piece lit up Behind the Wall a few times this year, I saw them in June but they also played as part of the Falkirk Live festival. Looking forward to hearing what they lay down in the studio.

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The Sonic Blues. The Breens (and Douglas Campbell) have had a busy year in the town, they played alongside us in May at North Star and several other gigs. They have regularly been sharing their music to the Falkirk masses via Facebook. I admire their DIY ethic to recording (its what I do)

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Robbie Lesiuk. There is a big acoustic movement in town at the moment and Robbie is very much at the forefront of this. An accomplished live performer, I caught him at the Trinity and Coffee on Wooer where he supported Stirling act Lefthand.

Blind Daze. Its good to see more rock bands appearing on the scene (Falkirk badly needs more rock bands), these guys are playing with us Jan 6th 2017 and have been busy this year.

Albums

I’m still an album guy and there were a few that I discovered from our Falkirk acts this year.

Dextro. In The Crossing. Discovered this sublime electronica while listening to all the acts nominated for the brilliant AMiF awards. This is a well crafted piece of work that flows from track to track. Hunt this down.

13 A Line of The Dead on Deadline Day. Great, raw garage sound, really like this album from punk rockers 13 they’ve played a few times in 2016 and I’ve not been to one of their gigs yet. Need to sort this 2017.

The Animal Mothers. The Incredibly Strange Animal Mothers Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies. Great album full of attitude and fuzz, i’ll be keeping an eye on this band and hopefully I’ll catch then at a Falkirk gig

Live Events

I have a soft spot for Shuffle Down 2016 and it was great to see the festival return this year. The lineup was more varied and better for it. Still grin when I remember how good (and bizarre) the Paddy Steer set was. Great to see SD is back 2017

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Weird Decibels/Rabid Dogs/ The Sonic Blues. Finally we got to play with Rabid Dogs at the North Star and it was a great night you can read about it in the link above. We’re hoping to hook up again in 2017, sound bunch of lads.

The Loft Sessions. Very enjoyable and it’s good to see that BTW have adapted the ale house to have more of a music venue feel, especially when they get rid of the benches. I really hope this continues and it gets busier. There were a couple of times it was busy and a couple when it was quiet.

Fairweather and the Elements Falkirk Trinity Church. A heavenly evening was had by the impressive crowd that attended, read about it here This was another watermark for the scene, new venue, great acts and a great atmosphere.

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Falkirk music business.

Big shout out to Noise Noise Noise a wee music merch shop tucked away in the Avenue on the High Street of Falkirk. Craig is also stocking a number of albums from local acts; he even sets up stall at local gigs which is an inspired idea.

Revolution Music. Just down the street from Noise Noise Noise is Revolution Music, I know you can get strings and stuff cheaper online etc but it is nice to hand over cash to a fellow human now and again. Falkirk has had a long tradition of music instrument shops this is the only one (to my knowledge) still standing.

Honourable mentions

2016 saw an upsurge in Falkirk acts releasing music videos; however a fantastic playlist has been created by Stuart Gray (Children of Leir fame) he has painstakingly scoured the internet for videos past and present and brought them all together in one place. I heard Belt songs for the first time since I heard their tape in high school (that as a while ago) Hit this link and give yourself a couple of hours to discover some great stuff.

Adam Donaldson took the time to compile a playlist of local acts on Spotify and it is a superb way to hear them all in one place (if you use Spotify)

AMiF. The constant local music news updates, spreading the word and of course the AMiF awards has really helped engage the people of Falkirk with the scene and raised awareness among artists. Big congratulations to Fly Jackson on winning album of the year, Nickajack Men on winning song of the year and Sarah Em who won video of the year. The full listing of winners and nominees can be found on the AMiF page (link above). Check them all out, including best rock act of 2016 😉

Falkirk Music Scene 2016

So this was a quick glance from my personal perspective of the Falkirk scene this year but I can guarantee that there is so much more in our town.

The Falkirk scene is in good health but it is still not held in the same light as Fife or even Stirling  I have really enjoyed giving a wee bit back to the scene and hope that all Falkirk artists support each other. If this happens I reckon it’ll get busier and more people will sit up and notice. Download from Bandcamp, go to a gig, write a blog, spread the word, anything to help Falkirk music grow, after all it’s your scene.

Pabs

 

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..”

alice-in-chains-old

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.