There are two gatekeepers of the music scene in Scotland. Two. Jim Gellatly and Vic Galloway. You send demos and you hope that they are in the mood to listen to what is probably the 100th WAV file they have heard on a cold damp March morning.
I guess it helps if you are young, energetic, lucky, well connected and to be fair, really good. There are established rock bands in Scotland; a few lucky acts have met the approval and allowed past the gates; however, generally, no one in the mainstream circuit wants to hear it.
Admittedly the Scottish scene had passed over Weird Decibels. It overlooked us and we had left it behind resigned to a life of full time employment with a bit of music on the side.
Then we wrote Weird Decibels 1 and played a one off gig at Box Glasgow. A sparse crowd enjoyed it and our confidence returned. We decided to hook up with PM promotions who asked us to support (the rather good) Life on Standby at the Oran Mor; grudgingly we accepted the harsh ticket deal just to play this venue. It was an incredible night.
The next day I woke up happy and energised then received a message from the guys; this bit is hazy… (hungover) a guy called Tommy Clark liked our tunes and wanted to play our music on his ‘Third Class Ticket’ show. Intrigued I contacted Mr Clark and I received a friendly message from him asking me to send some tracks from Weird Decibels 1 via dropbox.
Tommy posted a playlist and a link to Mesi Radio; we were on the tracklist, I tuned in and since then I have enjoyed hearing our music nestled in beside many other band’s homemade and professional recordings. It is an eclectic mix.
Then there is Tommy. I have never met the man but he strikes me as a friendly individual who simply wants to share as much music as possible. His early shows (from when I listened) were an impressive collection of bands from up and down the UK. Tommy had networked and a wide range of unheard acts were submitting tracks and tuning into the show via the Mesi platform.
At the time Tommy himself was a functionary presenter who stuck to the task of letting Scotland hear as many bands as possible. This included his ‘featured artist’ that would have the privilege of having a few tracks played on a show.
Admittedly I gradually tuned out; my Thursday nights had become more about getting the work week finished and while The Third Class Ticket continuously supported music I had returned to the gatekeepers for musical inspiration. I didn’t find any.
I had promised Tommy a first listen of our new album Weird Decibels 2. When we finally got it finished I got in touch with him and posted out our shiney new CD. Despite the loss of contact Tommy was as friendly as ever and genuinely seemed pleased to be getting first listen of our record. I found that he had moved from Mesi and was now broadcasting on a new platform.
As a returning listener something struck me about the show. The music acts were as delightfully varied as ever but the sound quality of the show had improved. Tommy himself is more confident and relaxed in his role; he adds more of his personality as he introduces the many new tracks that he has discovered. He creates scenes for the listener, in one story he tells of driving to work on a sunny Ayrshire day while listening to the latest songs from hopeful bands, some of which very few people have heard.
Listen carefully to the show. You can hear Tommy switch off his mic as a new song comes on. It adds to the feel of the Third Class Ticket. This is a show, I assume, lovingly crafted in the spare room of Tommy’s home. He plays music that has been crafted in the spare room of the artists.
This is the beauty of the Third Class Ticket. It is a grass roots radio show untouched by critics, demographics or industry influence. This is one man encouraging hundreds of bands to get in touch and giving them their first play on a radio show.
In a selfish way I hope the Third Class Ticket stays underground; that’s its appeal. However if Tommy Clark is to become Scotland’s gatekeeper I hope he makes Weird Decibels his featured artist!
If there are other grass roots stations like the Third Class Ticket please get in touch. We want to listen.
Welcome back dear reader! I hope you are so hyped that you tossed and turned as you failed to sleep; wondering what is the best Weird Decibels song voted by the band. Today we ease your suspense…as we countdown 30 to 21… Not long now!
Guy jumps off a cliff, suddenly wings grow from his back and he flies back to safety. This image would resurface as the cover of my solo album Fortune Favours The Brave. It was always a strange idea I had of people coming back from the brink; it’s more a song of hope than anything.
Long Way Down was recorded years after it was written; it was one of many songs we had written in 1997-98 for our second set of songs that we had to relearn and record. We laid the tracks in Derek’s flat during one of our many recording weekends. Most of the acoustics guitars would be laid at my old Steak Pie Studio. This tracks was put onto the Tascam 2488 at the time our best portable studio yet. Our sound was definitely starting to improve at this point.
The most requested and most played song at our live shows. It is also our favourite title. Waiting on The Sound Of Your High Heels (Baby). A balls out stab at some AC/DC; it’s about getting ready to go on a night out with your lady. Simple as that. It has become a celebratory song that gives us joy to play.
From the simple rock arrangement, to the straightforward lyrics then to the guitar harmony High Heels has stuck with us as many songs have been forgotten.
It’s the opener from One More Solo, the first song people heard when we reformed in 2004 and it set the tone for the album that we still admire today. The sound may not be perfect, a little bass heavy perhaps, but like most of OMS the feeling was there. A band happy to be together again.
So why so low in the list? Maybe we all thought each other would vote for it?
The finale of Weird Decibels nearly failed to make the album. It was one of the last songs we wrote for WdB1 and had not been rehearsed as much as the others.
We enjoyed the song, it was a little different to our normal numbers so we were keen to get it on the album. Problems arose when we came from the chorus back into the bridge; the timing wasn’t quite right on the recording so I programmed some beats to knit the song together.
It’s a rather disturbing song with bold images. ‘you get inside my head, you dig it with a spoon’,’lay it on the bed and rummage through’. Industry is inspired by Alice in Chains; it’s dark brooding mood builds towards a mainc grunge like solo before the end explodes into a wall of guitars (which were intentionally mixed too high).
The often used reverse fx on the guitar was used at the end; it fits the eerie feel of the song. Industry is rarely played live; although it does make the odd set from time to time. I’ll never forget the time a student from England asked to use the song for the soundtrack to her presentation. The images were disturbing…
If you listen to the Foo Fighters ‘All My Life’ you will hear where we got the idea for Home Sweet Home; the opening track to Riot Act. I often feel that One by One was some of the Foos weaker output and sometimes I feel this influence creeped onto Riot Act. We didn’t quite nail this album.
Home Sweet Home is another tale of drunken nights out in Falkirk; largely uninspiring lyrics that float upon a nice piece of music from us. The lyrics do hint at getting tired of the rain soaked Saturday nights in Falkirk ‘Punch drunk, given up, rainfall on leather jacket’.. I talk of aggression; ‘cigarette hung from mouth, you’ve a question will you ask it’; but both the acts (Riot and Quiet) suffer from a narrow narrative, however at the time they were fun albums to record and play.
Forward opens the second side of WdB1 with a long intro that builds nicely into the first verse. I always liked the riff for this song; very Therapy?. It was one of the first songs written for the WdB1 sessions and can be heard on Live Tonight Not Completely Sold Out (unreleased album from 2010). It is also one of the rare songs where I play a solo which helps build towards the end of the song.
The lyrics of forward take second place to the music but the song is about being left behind in life and the feelings of being lost.
Forward is still a favourite of ours to play live (especially me) as it has a good range of dynamics.
One of the strongest songs on Quiet Act, Breathing Space is one of those songs that would be interesting to hear in our normal distorted guise. I like the lyrics in this song, like Forward, (both songs were written around the same time) Breathing Space again talks of feeling left behind ‘And i’m trying, i’m trying to keep up’.
The lyrics also speak of a need to get away from the busy central belt and into the remoteness of our wonderful country. This thought was probably influenced by the lodges we were using to record. They were such peaceful and tranquil places. The lodges idea came from my mother who hired a lodge for her birthday. It was in Mallaig; one still day we drove to Arisaig. I switched off the engine and walked towards the shore. Once the clicking of the cooling engine faded all I could hear was ringing in my ears as the vast landscape in front of me was silent. Breathing space.
This aggressive song bursts into the middle of Riot Act. Another tale of drinking and potential violence in Falkirk. I know exactly the pub I was thinking of when I wrote this. We played a number of gigs there when we were heavily into playing cover songs.
Although the lyrics have dated they are entertaining ‘You, you want a fight, well I say alright, cos you wear a bad tracksuit’.
Stu took his small Peavey practise amp up to the recording session (i can’t remember why) and I thought i’d be a good idea to use it for the little riff we use before we go into the last chorus. It worked a treat. Weekend was one of the best sounding songs on Riot Act, it’s tight and it flows well.
At 23, only the second lift from Whapper Stormer, is Show Your Face Soon. It is a lively teenage dream of finding the perfect girl; knowing that she’s out there somewhere (eventually I married her!).
Stu penned a beautiful rolling guitar riff over my melody; it was such a productive way of writing when we formed the band, Sometimes I wish we could write like that again but all my melody now starts from the guitar.
The use of wah was well measured in this track; it suits the mood of the songs well. Greg and Derek have funky rhythm that adds to the optimism of this track. We used to write up to 5 verses; intertwined with chorus and vocal melodies. I have a particular fondness for this song. I remember when our good friend Rooz DJ’d at Dancing In The Dark. Show Your Face came on over the PA; it was delightful because if any Weird song was to be played it’d be The Rain or Vancouver. A delightful band effort.
A simple balls out rock number Riot Act is us simply having fun. It’s actually not a bad wee riff but the drums suffer from the room in which they were recorded. Riot Act was recorded in the first lodge we hired to make albums. We placed the drums in a small room with a low ceiling; basically doing everything you shouldn’t.
Derek really thumps the skins in this song so you can hear the dead sound of the room. That aside this was one of the laziest songs I had written. ‘You never tell me where you’re going, you leave me hanging at every junction’, basically me moaning about people forgetting to signal at roundabouts. Clearly I had writer’s block at this time….
Writers block is horrible but the one thing you learn about writing songs over a number of years is that it passes. Lyrics are a great way to communicate and when you lose the ability to do that it’s frustrating.
I found some form when writing Weird Decibels 1; Power was one of the songs I enjoyed penning. It was written at a time when I was trying to sell our family home; however our house was deemed worthless as the surveyor had found Knotweed in the field of the landowner adjacent to us.
At that point I felt helpless to move my family all due to a landowner allowing this destructive weed grow in his land.
It’s a quieter song than most of the tracks on WdB1 however its angry; especially the last chorus. Our friend Jemma helped out with violins; it was exciting to hear new instruments on our records.
Our recordings would not be complete without a friend popping in to say hello and offer support. DJ says hello!
We approach the top 20 of the bands favourite tracks; already gone is High Heels what popular tracks will stumble as we make our way to the top ten? Next up 20-11
The countdown to our 20th anniversary gig at North Star is on. So the four of us got together and compiled a countdown of our favourite 50 songs that we have written and recorded. We start of with 50 to 41 keep an eye on the blog over the next few weeks as we reach our favourite song.
A fan favourite Sofa Girl has resonated for years with the people who have followed us from the first album. It is a simple tale of a teenage boy who is not sure if he is in love with an awkward girl who is shunned at school by her peers.
It describes lazy teenage evenings spend on battered couches watching movies on satellite TV. Fairly innocent, it is a song that kicks out at the expected plan that life seems to take. ‘Get a car, TV, Satellite, Get a Life!’
Sofa Girl was played intensively by the band in the early Martell years. Track 5 at 3:38 it is punky in its nature, almost a throw away moment amid the more focused lyrics of Whapper Stormer. It struck a chord, John Baines was keen to supply backing vocals for the recording.
I can’t remember how we wrote this, often, in the early days I’d sing a melody to Stu and he’d put a guitar line to it but something tells me Stu already had something in mind and I sang on top of the guitar riff.
It was recorded at Derek’s old flat on a digital 8 track during our mad recording weekends, more on that later.
Driven by the simple C chord guitar riff I Tried to Fly saw Weird take a more ‘radio friendly’ approach to our music. I started playing electric guitar around this point; sometimes when you’re starting out ideas are easier to come by and at this time I was writing a lot of guitar riffs which would explain why Cold Home Street ended up with more of an ‘indie’ feel.
I Tried To Fly was one of three songs recorded at Red Eye studios, a rough recording to be fair. Thin in its sound, it lacked punch but the song transcended through. The song asks for patience as I explain ‘I’m not a perfect man’ .and that ‘I’m doing the best I can’; lyrically weak, I Tried to Fly is carried by the music which, while not ground breaking rolls along quite nicely.
It what is quiet a punky album It’ll All Work Out in the End is the longest track at 5:44. Starting with the resident Cuckoo this as recorded at the first of our ‘lodge’ recordings I struggled to sing this song; the guys went to a pub in Cannich and I was left in the lodge on my own in a remote valley with only my thoughts. It was a difficult time for me, people close to me were very ill so this vocal performance is particularly charged.
Its a song about a friend who was having a difficult time; this was my way of trying to reach out. It builds towards a nice crescendo; all the band except Greg sang and Stu plays a subtle riff over the top.
We have probably played this live once or twice but it never appears on set lists these days. We played this song live for central FM and can be heard on a bootleg. I guess it all works out in the end.
The second track recorded at Red Eye suffers from the same thin sound as tried to fly but Hope is a more upbeat rock song. Influenced by the ‘lad’ culture of the time Hope speaks of drinking which would haunt a lot of my lyrics for many albums. This song is fun. I recall us sitting in the mixing room of the studio begging the ‘engineer’ to pan the stereo mix. He submitted and the mix is, while slightly unbalanced. More acceptable than what was first presented.
This is the song a which Stu fainted trying to match the prowess of his singer… Greg, Derek and I were in the control room hearing Stu’s remarkable vocal performance. As he reached the long high note everything suddenly went quiet. A bemused sound engineer rose from his seat to look through the window only to see Stu face down on the couch with the music still blaring through his phones.
After the initial alarm Stu got up and brushed himself down and like a pro finished the record.
Its widely regarded that Coldhome street is our poorest record however a number of tracks from that album appear on this list! Its badly recorded; which could be hiding genuine good songs. Sun Shines Brighter was another track recorded at Red Eye in Clyde side. Its nasally sound can be quite off-putting but underneath the harsh intro guitar we wrote a fairly bitter sweet pop song.
The cheery riff that opens up is followed by a double verse’ things get a little moodier with the chorus. Sun Shines Brighter does have weather related cliché lyrics. Its a warm song that sticks to a safe formula; it comes and goes with little fuss.
Definitely one of our more upbeat songs from a generally upbeat album.
Sitting in the middle of One More Solo, Whiskey, as we refer to it, is a bluesy rock number. The lyrics centre around emotions and feelings; laced with drink. This was a common theme for many years with my song writing. The song is carried along with jangly guitars before, in common Weird Decibels practise to ascends into a Zeppelin Esq ending with Stu pouring a solo over the end.
It sounds live on record and we played it a lot during the time of One More Solo but unlike Easy Way and High Heels. Whiskey found itself being left in the bottle more often than not.
The greatest lyrics about male insecurity I have ever written. I must’ve been in a funny mood that day; I still have a chuckle at the lyrics. Very tongue in cheek, dirty and rude but an absolute hoot. Not a bad wee tune as well but the lyrics make it. I guess at this time I did not care if I offended anyone; certainly no-one has complained.
I guess the lack of trust in relationships played a part here and my own insecurities. Being a songwriter you can vent your frustration by writing about them! We never really played this live and it has now been filed away with much of Coldhome Street awaiting a re-master or re-recording.
Recorded on the Tascam 4 track this is another lift from Coldhome street.
Originally performed by the Seventeenth, Cold Calling was to be one of the last songs we would do before the band fell apart. Kevin Byrne was on drums and Jon Shaw played guitar. I had written the music and lyrics so I was able to transfer it to Weird Decibels who were reformed and looking for songs.
Cold calling has a haunting riff that I have always regarded as one of my best. It was borrowed from a solo song I had writing. You can hear it on ‘No Past No Future’ the opening track from the Armour is Broken. I believe there is also a riff from The Mallig EP another solo record.
Put together the riff worked. Its an insecure love song; bands like the Doves and Coldplay were at their peak at the time and I was influenced by them.
Cold Calling received a luke warm review in the daily record demo section. On reflection the song and performance let the song down. It is still played down at the practise room and a live version can be heard on Tonight, Live Not Completely Sold Out!. Played live I still get a buzz from this song that is lacking on record.
The Coldhome tracks just keep coming! I personally love this song; it was an early example of me getting to grips with the guitar and starting explore further up the fret board. Stu and I have separate solos towards the end; there would only be one winner of course. The song takes a wonderful little menacing turn at the end.
The lyrics tell of madness and sadness. Perhaps these were easy words to rhyme; but I do speak of thoughts and feeling once again. My writing would rarely reach further than my own thoughts which limited the subjects I was signing about.
Recorded on a Tascam 4 track Hometown bursts in ‘Do you love your hometown’. Another lift from Cold Home Street there is actually a good song buried under the murky recording. Its a simple guitar riff, I was only starting to take up rhythm duties for the band.
This was one of many songs we recorded in our practise room. At this time we were no longer playing gigs; we would simply arrived every Wednesday and record onto the tape. Unfortunately for some reason the manic end is cut off just as Derek gets in the full swing of things with a tribal chant. The rest of the ending is pasted at the end of the album! Derek has never forgiven me for this.
6 tracks are from our 3rd album Coldhome Street
2 are from One More Solo the 4th album
1 is from our first Whapper
and the other is from Riot Act our 5th.
This concludes part on of our countdown. In the next past of our top 50, 40- 31 we have a greater of contrast of light and heavy…
Its been many months since I scribbled in the Weird Decibels 2 diary; I looked back and it was last year so apologies for that. We’ve been really busy since you and I last talked. So grab a bottle of red and I’ll bring you up to speed.
Back in July 2013 we had a list of around six songs;
1. Standing On a Viewpoint
2. Rain Parade
3. Feet First
4. Miss Asphyxia
5. Small Hands
6. Kill it! Kill it!
The writing session were running like my old Ford Focus (now scraped) there were various reasons why we stopped and started writing. Gigs were a huge drain on our limited time together, Derek hurt his ankle (as you have read in elsewhere in this blog) and we had several work commitments.
Time passed and the songs were slowing so we headed of to Oakley. We hired a small lodge nestled away in a large country estate. We had a wonderful time catching up and drinking beer; our trusted friend Kevin Byrne also turned up. Cracking time. We wrote 6 songs in two days it was a rampage of ideas. I guess the change of scenery really helped the juices flow.
1. I Hear The City
2. Digital Takeover
3. Little Thoughts Lost
4. Curtain Hits The Cast
5. Quoted not Voted
6. Hit Me.
We returned to our old practice room, played a few more gigs and looked up to the 2009 calender as the months flew past we agreed that it would be nice to have a new album for our 20th anniversary. We hoped that a return to Oakley could be booked but this is looking unlikely (although I want do to it. Badly)
We’ve been writing back in the room over the last months; we have another few tracks and ideas to add to the new album.
1. Smash The Glass
2. Almost Beautiful
3. Station Man
4. Untitled jam
Put the three sessions and we still don’t have a full album. Of all the songs the following are likely to make it (singers opinion)
1. Miss Asphyxia
2. Kill it! Kill it!
3. Curtain Hits The Cast
4. Little Thoughts Lost
5. Almost Beautiful
6. I Hear The City
7. Smash the Glass
8. Quoted not Voted
Many of the early songs have been dropped; they scurried from under the shadow of WdB1 and drifted away towards the bootleg vaults.
So we have many songs still to write and we are trying hard. We hope to have them well rehearsed before potentially recording them in the early spring of our 20th year.
All these records will be available to you in some sort of form; a deluxe version of Weird Decibels 2 or a bootleg. All the ideas are worth a listen.
Fast and uncompromising metal Famine, from Germany, deliver a short sharp jab of crunch. Littered with samples of what sounds like physical pain and the odd quote the interlaced tracks on this album are short and brutal. There is not much in the way of information. http://www.wooaaargh.com/ the website takes you to a German site with similar artists and similar themes. This is guid though, that’s if you have a sick fetish for a short and sharp kick in the ears now and again. I love the guitar whammy bend in the riff played on the 53 second track ‘Stacks To Buy’. Try it.
Snappy punk wanders away from the slick sound I often stumble on while scouring Bandcamp. You can here the buzz of the amps, it sounds live and I like that. Its fast and it sounds underground. Their album starts strong ‘Time and Time Again’ and title track ‘Homeward Bound’ are impressive. These guys sounds young, it seeps through their music. The energy flows into your ears, gets the head nodding and the feet tapping. It sounds like one or two takes were played to nail this. Magic. Signed to Specialist Subject Records who seem to share the liberal feel of their music. The slogan, ‘Download Everything Free’ hits you when you navigate to the labels site. A two piece with Lou on guitar and Minty on bass and vocals. A quick look at the photos on Facebook shows you that the energy on their record evidently overflows into the gigs. New Year/New Start finishes the album with a nice acoustic texture, these lads from Bristol (nice city) have been a worthy listen tonight.
The third and final recommendation is from The Lucies, Houston Texas
‘I’m Afraid Of People Cutting Me Out Of Their Life’ is rather beautiful, a sleepy soulful song recorded and written by The Lucies, information is spare . This album is a self confessed lo fi experimental recording and admittedly the 2nd track is too harsh a change from the beauty of the first. If you can climb over this track the rest of this short record is rewarding. ‘Out Of It’ recovers with the title track, tape hiss and all. The beauty of this music is the spontaneous nature of the recording, the hit or miss. This is what is absent from mainstream music. The finale ‘Steamboat’ is a reflective wee song about a presumably drunk or high steamboat lizzy needing a lift to the infirmary. In the background you can hear a strimmer, an unassuming neighbour trying to get to grips with an overgrown lawn. It rips you out of the scene. You hear the artist sigh at this infringement. I smile because I’ve been here in my own home studio many times. That’s why I never record in the summer! That aside this is a great but vulnerable little album.