Withered Hand paid a visit to Falkirk. 18th May 2017
The Wine Library has been an establishment of many guises; from the working man’s haunt of the Argyll to the Irish themed Finn McCools then turning full circle back around to the traditional feel of renamed Argyll. Then came 20 Rocks (where we launched Weird Decibels 1) before it briefly became a cocktail bar and now here we have somewhat surprising wine bar in the heartland of Falkirk, The Wine Library.
Admittedly it looked good, although quiet, there was an undiscovered vault of wines and a limited range of beer for plain old rockers like myself. Upstairs, where the event was taking place, was nicely filling up with attentive listeners.
Untitled celebrates the words and art of Falkirk’s finest poets and wordsmiths and they had organised a night of poetry and music titled Louder Than Bairns. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had booked Withered Hand and a rare gig from Sweethearts of The Prison Rodeo.
The sun shone through the blood red blinds and the stage looked like the final scene of a Blade movie with an additional disco ball spinning on the ceiling for Wesley Snipes to slay some vampires under, however tonight’s fare would be more down to earth.
Up stepped a slightly nervous poet by the name of Carolyn Paterson. She spoke of her fear of the current state of the USA and shared then shared her routes of her Polish heritage. John Kennedy mixed raw personal experiences with humour and delivered impassioned poetry.
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo David King managed to have a wee chat before their set and explained that he is working on new songs but the process of recording a new album has been a bit fragmented (i know the feeling); however for tonight’s show they visited much their most recent album, Pigs In the Bull Ring (humans like beasts) and they threw in some older numbers. Adam Stafford also took the time to make a guest appearance. There are several changes to the versatile lineup and the gig was solid; Robbie Lesiuk looked confident and at ease on the guitar using a mixture of loops and floating riffs with the kind of dexterity that is heard on his solo work.
Withered Hand was superb, delivering a good mixture of stories from his travels to the songs he has written over the years including King Of Hollywood from his last album New Gods. He is well known in the Scottish music scene and it was great to see him deliver a fine solo set in Falkirk.
To celebrate the re-release of One More Solo on all digital platforms including Spotify we have a look back the album.
This story can be found on this Bandcamp page but i thought I’d update it for the blog
I loved my time in the Seventeenth, I can say that now as it’s been over 12 years since the band split. However at that time it was a different story. The Seventeenth were going nowhere, songs were hard to come by, Jon and I weren’t getting on musically and Stu was back on the scene.
There was also the small tale of a tiny HMR (Hame Made Records is our hobbyist record label) band called Sllablo. This was a collaboration between myself and Derek at a time when the Seventeenth were struggling to write songs. Born from frustration, we wrote and recorded a rather fun lo fi album in 9 hrs. Now you are quite within your rights to ask what the hell this has to do with Weird. Put simply, Sllablo proved that Derek and I could still hammer out simple tunes. It was to be the catalyst for the (regretful) end of the Seventeenth and for the second era of Weird.
We had no plans to reform Weird; we wanted to start a new band. Myself , Stu, Derek and Greg were all present and correct for our first rehearsal with new musical buddies Chris (Taz) Burt (brother of Jemma who appears on several HMR records) and ex Foam god Kevin Byrne (again another HMR regular).
The six of us booked a slot in Hallglen community centre and wrote a couple of songs ( the Weird versions appear on the extremely rare Official Bootleg 1).
We decided to move our rehearsals back to our old practise room. Other commitments kept Taz and Byrne away from practise so we, the original four from Weird, found ourselves back in the room. We wrote a song called Stand For Your Rights and I’m going to use that tired old cliché, it rocked.
We were back together after a 4 year break. I could not believe the hunger we had rediscovered. One More Solo wrote itself, it was too damn easy; it was to be one of the finest era’s of the band. We recorded the album on a digital 8 Track a Tascam 788 at Derek’s flat. We build a basic vocal booth out of egg cartons. It was a time of beautiful recorded naivety.
One More Solo has many songs we still play live today, Waiting on The Sound Of Your High Heels is a live favourite, Cold Calling, Whiskey In My Head and band favourite The Ending always find a way to get on the set list. Fighting With Forever and Hanging By A Thread show our harder edge with the flip side Trying To Grab Hold redefining the term laid back.
We gigged this record a lot, driving around Scotland in my old automatic Vauxhall Carlton that we called ‘The Vulture’. We could fit the whole band in this wonderful car. We met many bands some who became our friends. Kranksolo, Roller and Popup to name a few. We travelled to the world famous Cavern club in Liverpool to play.
It was the track Easy Way that had us flirting with record label success, This angry kick against modern life struck a chord with a small indie label called Bracken Records (now called Fruit De Mer Records).
In my humble self serving opinion One More Solo is a wonderful record set in a brilliant time. The end of our youth if you like. A time when you could play a gig whenever you wanted, now we have to get babysitters or shift swaps! Listen to the end of Bit Part Optimist Greg has just nailed his bass part in one take, listen to the drunken lads clap, whoop and laugh at the end. This was what it was like at the time. A big party.
Now, I can see my future, I see it everyday
Since this piece was written OMS had a bit of a makeover. The original album was muddy in tone so I attempted to clean it up to some limited success. I found some old CDRs with alternative mixes that worked well. Dereks hated the long fades and to be honest it did show a lack of restraint and discipline; the ‘remaster’ now sounds a bit tighter.
We played a few shows in 2016 and still people (Wilson mainly!) shout for High Heels and for some reason we don’t play it (this will change). I listen back fondly on tracks like the Ending and Tried to Grab Hold two reflective moments on the record. The rest of the disc is balls out rock apart from the alternative mix of cold calling which has a dreamy echo flooded fade out.
Weird Decibels has barely transcended further than our beloved friend and family; One More Solo was no exception. It was a fun album and we made some friends along the way. The fact that our wonderful listeners think this is one of our best sits fine with me. Now that it is on all the digital platforms hopefully this little rock record will find a new audience and join Wilson in shouts for High Heels!
And Kevin Byrne for the photographs used in this blog entry
Thankfully the last time I was at church was for a happy occasion, i’m now at that funny age between christenings, marriages and deaths. I’ve never wandered along at 11am on a Sunday morning in a freshly pressed suit to attend service. My beliefs are another matter altogether.
I do believe the Falkirk Music scene has taken yet another turn in the right direction. This gig, four artists performing live in the Falkirk Trinity Church, a lovely ethereal building in the sadly unhealthy heart of Falkirk’s high street. (all things mend given time)
In my couple of decades frequenting and playing in various Falkirk venues the Trinity Church was refreshingly different from the usual stages within our town. I wandered up through the churchyard hearing the early Friday night revellers in the distance, clearly celebrating that another working week was at an end. An autumnal wind had chilled the air as I adjusted the collar of my coat and headed to the front door, there I met headliner Ross Fairweather who looked quite relaxed. He offered me a warm handshake as he headed out the door into the night.
I met with my good friend Kevin Byrne, one of Falkirk’s leading photographers he was asked to take shots of the pending event. We headed to the ‘bar’, a room set aside within the church for the supply of drinks by kind people who made us welcome and assertively reminded us not to take our alcoholic beverages into the main body of the church.
After a short blether (and plans for our next album) we headed into the main room to be greeted by the subtle but grand sanctuary, we took our seat. The air had a slightly musty tinge and hymn books were nestled neatly under every seat. The arena was an oval shaped room with high ceilings and the wooden pulpit was surrounded by the backline and instruments. The long white pipes of the organ dominated the back of the wall.Two large screens were on standby these would be used to project various visuals during the performances. It was a nice setting for the night that was about to unfold.
Robbie Lesiuk took to the stage and a small but appreciative crowd of early attenders listened attentively to his set. Using a loop pedal and some electronic beats to accompany his skilful guitar playing he played a very accomplished set, I found it very enjoyable. The silence during his set was impressive. I can’t remember enjoying this at a Falkirk gig before (artists love it when the audience listen and don’t talk all the way through sets. Slightly pretentious? I guess but we spend hours, blood, sweat and tears writing songs).
On conclusion of his set I nipped off for some wine and before I had time to speak about the grape type with Kevin we were back though to see Ghost Writer. I’ve seen these guys at Behind the Wall during the loft sessions so I was looking forward to this.
Iain King has grown in stature, he has been busy not only with this band but with Fairweather and the Elements he is a very accomplished guitar player. Scott McGregor donned in white was clearly enjoying the occasion. At the moment Ghost Writer are one of the best bands from the Falkirk scene. Their songs are well crafted and rise above many of their peers. The song I’m Not Trying To Get To Heaven ended their set in style and was apt for the surroundings.
Third act Fly Jackson were very good. mixing guitars, brass keys, drums, bass and vocals to produce grand tunes that the drew perhaps the biggest audience of the night.
The stage screens went black and a clever video of Fairweather and Elements walking towards the church, through the doors and then rather cleverly, the band appeared to take their places on the stage. The visuals would continue throughout the set with a mixture of wonderful art animation and sites of old Falkirk. A slight tinge of sadness overcame me looking at how grand our town once seemed, with bustling marketplaces and shops.
Ross and co played a fine set, if there was anyone who deserved a night like this then it’s Ross. He has grafted on the local circuit and his work appears to have paid off as this was a well attended show.
Deborah Lang has powerful vocals and this was the right venue; the large room would allow her range to be appreciated. I was glad to see the band at the Trinity Church, her vocals seem to thrive beyond the confines of the studio and this is the beauty of live music.
After the final song the hour was late and the punters quickly drifted off to various locations in the town. It was a great night of music in a brilliant setting. The people of the church opened their doors to the Falkirk scene. The church is about community, I saw many familiar faces from the Falkirk music scene. I hope we are cementing our own community to take us forward. We need to nourish our own scene, it has to grow if we are ever to have a chance to get one of our more talented artists to cut through the ever thickening digital mass of bands that swamp the industry. Hopefully with a little bit of divine intervention another Falkirk band will eventually rise above the flock.
The Crowd: Thank you for attending a local gig and supporting the artists. Thank you for staying right to the end.
The Sonic Blues, Rabid Dog: Thank you for playing along side us
Rory (Eindp Photography): For taking photographs for this and many, many local gigs
Juls Sampson (photography and pictures used for this blog): Our friend has shot many pics over the years
Kevin Byrne: for keeping an eye on the desk as we played
North Star staff: for keeping us fed and watered with a smile and allowing us to use the venue.
It’s who you know
I hear the city
Curtain hits the cast
Once more with feeling
Whole lotta rosie (request)
A couple of days before we were due to play, Clubby vocalist with Rabid Dog, texted to say that the North Star soundman couldn’t make the gig due to work commitments.
These things can’t be avoided but I was frustrated as I wanted to record the show. This would put a different spin on things. There were options, to use the house PA but I didn’t know its layout. To be honest it’s a vocal pa and it wouldn’t have been hard to use. Our pa had more versatility to send feeds to the multitrack so I opted for that.
It had (shamefully) been a couple of years since I operated it so that added to the stress. I had to relearn the desk within a couple of days. A few turbulent hours pushing buttons and moving faders I had managed to get to grips with the machine.
Looking back I understand now that doing the sound, recording the gig and playing at the same show is perhaps a step too far. This aside it was a great night.
Once I unloaded the vast amount of gear (probably too much) into the buzzing North Star I got to work setting up the sound, the time was half 6. Unbelievably it was now 8 o’clock and The Sonic Blues were due on in 30 minutes.
I ditched all ideas of checking mic placements for the recording. It was more important to get a decent live sound. That went fairly well, and for the recording I literally flung mics in front of the amps and the drum kit.
The Sonic Blues were up first and played another great set of bluesy rock songs and covers. Greg (guitars vocals) Allan (Bass) and Douglas (drums) are a sound bunch of lads and they are very keen. Their performance went well with the crowd and they set up the night in fine fashion
Clubby and the gang stepped up next; their ultra loyal fanbase was pleased to see them back on stage for the first time in a while. Andy had a cracking guitar sound, he has two amps hooked up and a wave of chords hit the eager audience. Andy on bass and Alan on the drums provide a solid backbone for Clubby to sing their set of punk covers. They played very well.
The gremlins came to visit us, it’s been a while, you can go many gigs without incident before the little creatures visit. Usually in the form of technical glitches and set up problems.
Just as we were getting ready to go on stage the power cut to both the PA and the desk. Scratching my head I looked back to the plug at the rear of the venue. Two chaps had seated themselves the unit in front of the socket and had unwittingly cut the power to the show. (not your fault gents)
Once I got the PA back on and the desk reloaded we were ready to play, only Stu couldn’t get the guitar amp on. (using someone else amp is fine but every guitarist will tell you having your own backline has its advantages). Once that problem was fixed we were ready.
We launched into the first song and the first time I went to hit a chord the lights were right in my eye. Whoops! A bum note right at the first song ain’t good.
To nail the opening track is essential; if you miss it it can unsettle you for the rest of the set. To a certain extent it did; although I have to concede I had been concentrating all night on the sound and with this loss of focus came a pretty standard performance from myself. So i’m a bit gutted about that. Stu, Greg and Derek all played well and helped keep the gig on track
Things did improve. As the night wore on we regained our composure (and confidence) and belted out tunes from both the decibels albums. I was too eager to play Quoted and nearly skipped Curtain hits the Cast! Quoted was manic as usual, Wait was requested and that gelled well with Deliverance and by the time we hit Industry I was scraping the guitar off a nearby pillar without much regard for my instrument.
As we reached the end of the night we reached our zenith and I was pleased it had ended on a high. If we can’t nail the songs we give it all to the performance and personally it was the most exhausting I have delivered for a long time. Our friends requested While Lotta Rosie, who could we be to resist! A little rusty would be an understatement but we had a whole lotta fun playing it!
So as our song Quoted and the politicians it depicts often say lessons have been learned. If i’m playing, I just want to play. I’ve I’m doing the sound, i just want to do the sound. This was the first time I had manned a desk at a gig and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience perhaps this could be an avenue for the future.
All round it was a great hot loud sweaty night, with a little rawness and a whole lot of heart which is what music at its purest form should be.
We started creating Weird Decibels 2 in March 2013 you can read about the first session here. We got many things right when creating our new album but one of the few mistakes we made was the title, Weird Decibels 2. The name put an expectation on us to write an album every bit as good as its predecessor. So when the pen hit paper and the guitars were strummed we were unaware that we were writing the same album all over again.
The three songs from this session were Left/Right ( a father son politically themed song), Rain Parade and Feet First my description at the time?
‘They are quite dynamic, influences so far point to The Pixies, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. We’re not going quietly!’
Despite our early enthusiastic approach none of these songs would ever be recorded.
In April 2013 we had another update (read here) and at this point I start to voice concerns about our new songs, in particular Feet First which I thought was ‘too commercial’. A creeping doubt was emerging that we were not writing particularly strong songs, sure we enjoyed them but they didn’t have the ‘look around the room and grin’ feel that we have when we stumbled upon a great idea.
‘The Stalker Song’ made an appearance here, written about a young man who falls for a woman he sees on the bus. This song would be quickly apprehended and sent down the lost ideas vault.
Here is a wee description I noted at the time.
‘So here we have a guy who gets the same bus every day and at the next stop is a girl who gets her bus everyday. He falls in love with her, he feels like he has known her all his life. He’s a loner doing the same thing day in day out. She simply fills her commute with the usual check on her smartphone. One day he follows her home. I’m not sure where to go from here, my character isn’t a violent guy, just lonely but he has really strong feelings for this girl he doesn’t know’
Jemma Burt and Craig Elder were approached to appear on the album but for various reasons this wouldn’t happen. I guess this was a mixture of time and the desire for the four of us the be the nucleus of our 20th anniversary album.
Derek added his insight to the writing of the album you can read that here. He also shares his concerns about the changes that needed to be made but there is no hiding his delight at starting a new album
As the summer of 2013 moved in and the sun hung in the sky (highly unlikely) we wrote more songs.
Another song, inspired by Alice In Chains, called ‘Miss Asphyxia’ had been floating around for weeks and is first listed during this practise.
‘Small Hands’ would appear in June, by July I was really excited by it. I has asked the guys if they had received my email of a new idea in a 3 / 4 timing, Stu was the only one who listened to it. I carried on regardless and played a hyper riff that I had named ‘Kill it! Kill it! A few minutes later it was our latest song. I described it as my new hope for Weird Decibels 2, we all looked around the room and grinned.
By September 2013 writing was becoming stagnant, however Stu had a new riff that we were attempting to put some music to. At this point it remained untitled. We also agreed on no deadline for the album, perhaps aware we were nowhere near to recording it.
As the masks and costumes of Halloween were don October was the month we made a big decision. We ditched nearly all the songs from the first 6 months and we agreed that the practice room was no longer a place of creativity. it was a dark moment as we sat in silence on the old couches, cold creeping back into the year.
We had decided to keep just Miss Asphyxia and Kill It! Kill it!. Now that we were back to just two songs I had doubts another album would ever happen. So we sat and looked at each other and said. ‘Lets book a wee lodge, take some guitars, a shit load of beer and see what happens’.
Oakley Writing Sessions
Just 20 minutes from our home town is a beautiful little cluster of cottages nestled within the grounds of a stately home. This grand building stands in Oakley a small settlement just outside Dunfermline. So with heavy hearts we headed to Fife.
The lodge was wonderful; with an open plan living room and a fridge nearby it allowed the band to sit in ample space facing each other with our guitars ready to see what tunes we could write. (Blog)
Derek had brought the keyboard as he was keen to try something other than the drums. He had suggested we head up to the lodge without any ideas, basically a blank page.
Well I tried to do that! However I had a couple of ideas floating around my head; I wanted us to hit the ground running and build on any momentum.
We arrived the Friday night and I set up the desk and loosely placed a few mics around the room and set up the Blumlien microphone technique to capture the room sound.
With the headphones places I could hear that we had a nice sound so we grabbed a beer and launched ourselves into writing; well I say launch. We had a beer or two and talked about television and monty python quotes.
Friday 31st January 2014
Little Thoughts Lost which we wrote with some keys over the top. the song on the recording hasn’t change much. I Hear the City was also born on that crisp night, slightly faster in tempo back then other than this it hasn’t changed too much. Derek had suggested ending on a G but Stu said this was too happy!
By now we were for more positive about writing our new album and after a few Tsingtao’s we had another go at City this time more in line with the album tempo and it turned out pretty well.
Towards the night we engaged in some more joyful band banter then wrote another song called Hit me. A depressing little number that did not really make it past Oakley.
After a round of applause for Stu’s beard and a word from his sponsor we scooped a few more beers.
Saturday the 1st of Feb 2014
Four cracking cooked breakfasts wolfed down and coffee slurped we were ready to get the writing caps on again. Kevin Byrne was on his way, camera and mandolin in hand we chapped on the door and was welcomed into the warmth of the lodge as the fire crackled in the middle of the room.
Quoted Not Voted arose from the fumes of alcohol on Saturday afternoon, this is the weaker version which lacks any significant verse vocals this was the 4th song we had written,
Digital takeover, one of those nice riffs we could never finish was attempted on this day. Curtain hits the cast offered a little humour as I tried to play the intro riff (which we’d later drop) several times much the amusement of my fellow musicians.
Oakley: I Hear The City, Digital Takeover, Little Thoughts Lost, Curtain Hits the Cast, Quoted Not Voted, Hit Me.
Heights Session Saturday 22nd November 2014
Heights: Smash the Glass, Almost Beautiful, Car Crash, Once More With Feeling, Away Home.
A few months of practice passed and we polished off the work from Oakley. We had a desire to go back to another lodge, possible the same locale but time, money and real life would get in the way.
Undeterred we decided that a Saturday up at my place with the studio set-up would be a suitable option.
That morning we attended the funeral of our friend Chris Mason; a huge influence on the band. Afterwards there was a sombre mood to the writing. We turned the LED lights blue in respect of the colour of lights Chris had on his Christmas tree which he never took down!
Later, while Stu was watching his beloved Alloa getting thumped by the mighty Bairns (Falkirk FC), we set up and cracked open our first beers.
Again I had a couple of ideas floating around my head. Both The Dancer and Almost Beautiful were sketched by the time Stu arrived. Now that we were all together the songs would be finished. The Dancer sounds intense during these sessions and we lost this feeling for a while; luckily we got it back for the final album version.
Away Home was a long song, it didn’t make the final cut. Its another brooding song with a slightly different structure to the fast punchy pace of Weird Decibels 2.Perhaps this would’ve survived during a different time in our writing career.
Car Crash was another nice sounding song. Sadly it didn’t stick, it had a Americana feel which I guess we are not ready for. The version recorded has a nice mouth organ piece over the top of the guitars.
Deeper into the night Stu and Greg launched into a jam, it was a heavy riff and I struggled to get a melody for it, I sang in a different style and sounded alien on the take. Indeed it would be many months before I cracked it. That song would become Once More With Feeling.
The Shore on My Soul and It’s Who You Know, final writing. January 2015.
As usual I fretted about the lack of songs for the album and I played the guitar for days recording every single idea I had. I brought two ideas down to the room. One song took an age to write another happened instantly.
What started off as Shore on My Soul would eventually end up being Medicine. It developed over a number of months; the ending just grew into a jam and remains one of the best endings we have carved out of our sonic landscape.
It’s Who You Know had the grins from the start. We built this song on a wee into riff and i was amazed that we could still write songs like this quickly. I really felt that this was the last song we would write for the Weird Decibels 2 sessions. We were happy with what we had; a couple of years hard work, a few false starts but now finally we had an album to record.
What a year its been for both Weird Decibels and Pabs solo music. Many highs and to be honest a few lows but a great year.
As the bells sound for the new year and 2014 turned to 2015 I remind myself that in February it will be 20 years since we first stepped into our Grangemouth practise room. Simply unbelievable.
The band head out to Linlithgow to choose a lodge in which to record the new album. We chose Kelso simply for the massive room that would allow for a great drum sound. What an inspired choice it was to be.
Tommy gives us a wee play on the Third Class Ticket ahead of our show at the Buff Club; he has supported us all year and his show goes from strength to strength.
We play the Buff Club in Glasgow. This was one of the strangest gigs we played! Look at the stage! We enjoyed it although it wasn’t our best performance.
8th February we turn 20 years old. We forget that this is an achievement; I guess as we’re all good friends it seems normal that we play music together.
we get a nice article in the Falkirk Herald to celebrate our time together. James Trimble has done us proud over the years.
We release the single version of Easy Way; never heard before until now. This was the version we sent to Bracken records which would never be released. Look out for more rare tracks in 2016 and beyond. There are loads!
28th February to 6th of March
The reason we picked this place was for this set up
A stunning and breathtaking property
This was used to record both the bass and the drums at the same time.
We record some of Weird Decibels 2 over a week in Kelso. Here is the story part onetwo and three. This was one of the best weeks in the bands history.
We continue to record parts for Weird decibels 2. Mixing starts; this turned out to be a long drawn put process despite our attempts to avoid this. Pabs went back onto shifts which helped but eventually he went back to day shift and juggling mixing, family life and work became difficult.
1st November shooting starts for the new video for Kill it Kill It released next year. Thanks to Kevin Byrne, Ruari Pearson and Chris Wilson.
2nd November our new range of tees are launched!
7th November we reveal our favourite song that we have recorded. A surprise result!
7th of November we play a fantastic gig at North Star with Buzzards of Babylon to celebrate 20 years together.
13th November Weird Decibels, like all fellow bands and musicians, are shocked and saddened by the awful events in Paris, including the massacre at the Bataclan where the Eagles of Death Metal were playing.
18th November Weird Decibels and Pabs solo work are nominated for best song, acoustic (pabs) and best rock act alongside many other talented Falkirk hopefuls for the first AMiF awards. Still time to vote!!!!!
18th November Pabs and Stu lay some new alternative takes for Weird Decibels 2.
‘we tried to get it out for the 20th anniversary gig and it became a rush. I wasn’t paying attention to the sound and was determined to get it released.
Derek had listened to the masters on his earphones and voiced his concerns, I lost it! I was fed up, I wasn’t spending time with the family, work was hectic and I was coming home to mix. I nearly canned the whole lot. I walked away from the album and the band.
Stu came up to visit and we had a coffee and a blether. I returned after three weeks and felt great. I could hear all the problems with the sound and EQ’d them out. Now the album has the clarity it was missing. ‘ Pabs.
Pabs takes a three week break from mixing; comes back fresh and sorts out the frequency problems that had been causing issues. Album now sounds epic.
5th December Our first album Whapper Stormer appears on all digital platforms including Spotify.
thanks to Kevin Byrne, Juls Sampson, Gary Ivady and Kirsty Smith for taking photos/videos some of which are posted in the blog.
I burst through the front door of the house exhausted after another day in the office. It was the end of a long week; now I had to jump from one life to another. You can’t beat being the frontman of Weird Decibels but before that I needed a wee 20 minutes nap on the couch. It wasn’t to be.
Mince and tatties in the microwave, I rushed upstairs to grab my gig bag, rushed back downstairs to grab a black tee shirt out of the dryer then back upstairs to check if the printer was working as I frantically tapped my last gen ‘smartphone’ to try and type up the set list.
Then I stood alone in the living room and tried to calm myself down; it worked for a minute as I ran back upstairs to grab mic leads then back downstairs when I heard the microwave ping!
Fed, watered and prepared I heard the doorbell ring and the ever laid back Mr Greg McSorley, 20 years served Bass player, and band gear fixer presented me with his usual enthusiasm for our latest gig. This time it was to be special.
I flung my gear into the back of his car and we set off on the thankfully short journey to North Star in the centre of Falkirk. It had been the best part of four years since we had played locally.
Stu and Derek were calmly setting up as hurricane Smith bashed through the doors with two guitars and a bag of leads. Two sighs later I flung the gear down and with my hands on my hips, I surveyed the scene. North Star looked the part, it was cosy and the tables had been neatly stacked away. I looked down at the empty floor and hoped that the free entry would tempt our loyal fanbase to fill this place.
Some diners were carefully tucking into their pizzas as I started to set up with the guys. It took a wee while to get the balance of the guitars right. Stu grew increasingly worried as he had to turn his guitar amp down 1. That’s -10 from the usual recommended rock level…
We balanced the guitars and then adjusted the bass slightly, Craig was dealing with the vocals and acoustic guitar which he mixed in well. Although there were no monitors on stage but we’ve played many gigs like that so it wasn’t a problem.
Setlist north star
Home sweet home (Riot Act)
Kill it Kill it (Weird Decibels 2)
Educational suicide (Whapper Stormer)
Show your face (Whapper Stormer)
Joker (Weird Decibels 1)
Just for today (Whapper Stormer)
The rain (Whapper Stormer)
Speak (Weird Decibels 1)
Miss Asphyxia (Weird Decibels 2)
The Ending (One More Solo
Culture Creature (Firkin Outburst)
Glass People (Whapper Stormer)
Medley (Mix of One More Solo, Firkin Outburst and Riot Act)
After all the soundchecks were done Kevin Byrne kindly stepped up to entertain the crowd; he played a few acoustic songs which went down well with the audience.
It was fast approaching quarter to nine and the incredible Buzzards of Babylon, great friends of ours, took to the stage. By now numbers were starting to grow and the placed was getting warmer. The guys rocked through a tight and dynamic set with some hilarious banter from their captivating front man Rab Dempsey. A superb set from these guys. Suddenly it was game on!!
More people piled through the door (some literally) as the charged atmosphere added to our excitement. Nerves were kicking in now, we hadn’t played a lot of these songs live for years. I forgot the riff to Home Sweet Home just minutes before we were due on. I was snapping at the guys as the adrenalin was flowing. Guitars weren’t tuning and the mics were squealing feedback.
However when I hit the B chord of Home Sweet Home it all clicked in. The sound settled for a while and we burst into the opener from Riot Act. It was an apt song for playing back to our hometown of Falkirk after a few years trying to spread our name in Glasgow.
Going Back to the 90’s
The first third of the set flew past; after new single Kill it Kill it was nailed I placed the guitar down; in that moment I was transported back to the Martell in 1995 when I was simply a vocalist. We played Educational Suicide and Show Your Face Soon. It was brilliant to be able to run about the stage without the guitar.
I loved singing Just for Today and Vancouver as well; the heat was building and I was gulping more water in between the free beer supplied by the venue (nice touch North Star).
The Ending was a bit wobbly, Greg couldn’t quite nail it and it took us until the end to find our feet. I made a hash of the end as well. So yeah there were a few mistakes on the night but what the hell, it was fun.
I lifted the trusty old Tanglewood which was nestled in its rack; this was the first guitar I had bought and became fused with our late 90’s sound. Culture Creature was the best song to come from that era. It sounded good although I didn’t nail the solo. Stu managed to carry us through that part. Derek and Greg kept things solid.
Glass people was next; the first time in perhaps 15 or so years the public it was pretty much spot on and once again the indefectible Stu nailed the solo; the chatter in the venue had lowered to a murmur as the crowd took in his playing.
The mood was changing though, restless perhaps, it was time to turn it up a notch so we played our first ever medley.
We had many requests from our kind kind listeners; these included Hell Never Felt So Good, Underachiever and Fighting With Forever. We wanted to fling in Brought A Gun and the Nirvana version of the Vaselines Molly’s Lips before leaving the guitars to ring into Wonder.
As we switched from Hell to Bought A Gun I screwed up the change; with a shake of the head from Derek we soldiered on and got the rest right much to the delight of our listeners who were pleased with the new take on old songs.
The Final Straight
Sofa Girrrl was a riot; by this time I had a few beers and was trying to get the crowd to sing along to songs they might not know. So I dived away from the stage in search of some backing singers and a special dancer. Rooz stepped up and we Sofadanced through the 3 mins of punk. A superb moment.
New song it Who You Know burnt out the last strings of my vocal chords but the guys were now in full rock mode. We reached Rosie, our 2nd last song, or so we thought. The chants of (the much missed) Dave Broon echoed through the Star from our friends as Derek and Stu started our famous cover song.
After the guitars rung out my father stepped up to the stage, ‘you need to play Deliverance! There is a guy from Stockport here just to see you!!’ That guy turned out to be Falkirk bairn Harry Watson who had traveled 234 miles to take in the sights and sounds of his home town.
After Craig kindly allowed some more time (past 11pm now..) we launched into Deliverance. I disappeared into the crowd, guitar in hand. Stu was in stitches wondering who was going to sing the choruses!
We ended with one of the most requested songs in our history, it’s always the same voice that shouts for it! High Heels, Wilson’s favourite ended a superb night for us. As Stu And I played back to back during the solo it felt great to be on a Falkirk stage again. I went out into the audience and I was surrounded by people that had came to see us. It was a great moment.
The Merch stand is open!
Merch did well, Derek set it up rather nicely, a great effort. We sold a number of Tee’s that Greg had spent hours making. We shifted a few of the back catalog CD’s as well. Thank you everybody.
The Buzzards were Buzzing!
Rab asked for a guide to Falkirk pubs that would be open until 3am I gulped… the adrenaline was seeping away, and my bones were aching. These guys meant business. Greg was the only Decibel to rise to the Buzzards challenge. They stayed up to 3am downing shots and proving that Stu, Derek and myself may have to brush up on our rock and roll skills.
The Greatest of Nights.
It was a great night at North Star. It’s a neat wee venue for bands to play and we would like to thank Craig for having us on. Both Kevin and the Buzzards were brilliant, the latter clearly looked like they were out for a party all night and morning. The crowd was brilliant as well. Many of you turned up to support us and it was nice to see the place full of much loved friends and family.
So thanks once again for your support. As we say so long to our first 20 years and look to the years ahead.
With a new album due soon we must acknowledge that it would never have happened without you. Our wonderful Weirdos..
Moody teenagers write heavy song; result? Downer. This guitar laden beast stalks near the end of Whapper Stromer waiting for the ear shattering guitar ring; it makes you flinch.
Lyrically it’s not as charismatic as the rest of Whapper, if I remember correctly Stu wrote the riff to this before any vocal melody was in place. As a band we are firm friends but musically we’ve always been a strange combination. Downer is a good point at which to explain.
In 1995 Greg and I were into similar music; although Greg would wander off into the darker reaches of grunge and rock. Later he’d fling in some trance and industrial. We both liked the seattle scene (Nirvana etc.) but I would find myself going to lighter more acoustic music before eventually getting into alternative.
Derek had a lot in common with Greg and I but he liked to lean towards classic acts such as the Beatles and more so Bowie. Of us all it’s fair to say Derek never liked ‘shouty’ metal acts.
Back in the 90’s the three Larbert High students had similar tastes to enthuse upon our new guitarist, the mysterious, unknown Stewart McCairney. As we rolled up outside of our new recruit’s house, the door opened.
As the dry ice cleared, the pyros flared, out stepped the dude, I could tell straight away this guy wasn’t into grunge and certainly wasn’t into Britpop! His hand shot into the air and devil horns were held aloft. This guy wanted to rock.
In the early days I believed we wouldn’t work; but we did. Stu, despite his desire to write heavy music, happily played beautiful melodies over the quieter songs. Eventually he grabbed his chance with Downer and we wrote one of our heaviest songs to date.
As I snarl ‘naughty Mary’ through a distorted mic; I knew we were heading for a big build. I nearly made it! I guess my voice isn’t suited to the heavier echelons of music but I gave it a good shot!
John Baines joined the rest of the band as we crowded around a mic and roared the final lines of the song which we recorded in Dreks flat. A magical time.
Like I say we can flit from heavy to light in a heartbeat; this could be the reason why we have never found a massive audience. I guess listeners like consistency. Who knows. Anyway, i’ve always admired our ability to write a wide variety of tunes; it doesn’t always work but we give it a try.
Dirty Stream is another survivor from the drunken Firkin Outburst sessions. It’s a romantic song about who will be first in a relationship to take the plunge and fall in love. Lines like ‘stones thrown, at a glass ceiling, which one of us gets cut the most’ and ‘ A walk across a frozen lake, just don’t run if you panic’ perhaps point to my thoughts on taking risks and thinking about the worst case scenario.
I really like this song; the chorus ‘we’re gonna have to quench our thirst, by drinking water from a dirty stream’ makes this composition a lyrical highlight of my 20 or so years of writing (in my opinion of course!).
The thing I love about Weird Decibels 1 was our desire to move away from ‘power chords’ that had served us so well then arguably,eventually hindered us. Joker is centred around the guitar riff at the start. Greg stamps on his distorted bass before Stu and Derek break the door down with the rhythm.
The verses avoid chords as well; based around the D chord the riff is a little picked melody that has all the hallmarks of Nirvana.
The lyrics were written at the time of the summer riots in 2011. It felt like the whole country was going to explode. I guess this was our way of writing a protest at our corrupt politicians. ‘what are you hiding from me, I’m the electorate when can i see?’ and ‘money burns floating down, to lie against a riot shield, once held by a broken policeman, fed up defending politician’.
I found the riots disturbing; the wanton violence against innocent peoples property and small businesses give these disturbances a more sinister feel. Was this a reflection of the anger young people felt against their government?
I’ve never embraced politics in our music. I’ve never really embraced political bands. I prefer to hear peoples stories from their lives, but as you get older you begin to understand that politics do affect our day to day lives and therefore become part of your music.
Joker is a band and listener favourite; it was my attempt at making sense of it all.
From British politics to something closer to home, we were are back in the Falkirk night life for the Sound of the Night. I expected Derek to score this highly but it turns out Greg expressed his love for this slow burner.
It starts with a dreamy guitar sequence that we got all wrong when we recorded it. I had to spend days at the mixing desk trying to sort it out,
Sound of the Night is one of those tracks that sounds great live but didn’t translate as strongly on record. I talk of my desire to escape the noise of urban life and my frustrations with modern living.
Not the most in depth story but a nice tune nonetheless.
Probably one of the most fun songs to play. Simple chords, simple arrangement and I get a rest from most of the vocals. Stu and Derek stepped up to sing the verses; this allows me to jump around at gigs whilst battering hell out of my old guitar.
Deliverance makes an appearance near the end of Weird Decibels 1 it questions religion ‘send it to the mountain, send it to the sky, you’re refused deliverance, don’t ask god why’. It’s pretty much a straight forward howl to the skies and an absolute riot to play at gigs 15. Underachiever. Riot Act. 2007
Around the mid 00’s I was taking stock of a lot of things both at a musical level and with my job. (I still do). Underachiever is my envy getting the better of me. You reach an age where people start to overtake you in life and you eventually tie yourself up in knots and
forget the most important things you have. Family and friends.
This tune split the band down the middle; Greg and Stu scored it quite high; Derek and I excluded it from our list.
I think it’s dated, it shows my self pitying mood at the time. That’s the problem when you write songs, sometimes they remind you that your head was in the wrong place.
I remember playing this at the Cavern in Liverpool. It was the only song that made the manager leave his office to come and see us. He doubled the size of the crowd!
At 14 we have the first song voted as a favourite. Just For Today. I love it.
It bursts in with Stu, Greg and Derek playing the rolling riff straight into the first verse. I used to start by whistling the melody but it was dropped as every time I attempted to whistle the intro we’d start laughing. I could never do it!
It’s one of those ‘calm in the storm’ moments. Surrounded by the desperate drug woes of Chameleon (the only Whapper track not to make this list) and the edgy trippy paranoia of Now I Can See His Eye. Just For Today is a dreamy description of a day where everything seems right. It is an unusually upbeat song from me; I was probably under the influence of something ‘I saw the clouds in the dark and I began to stare’.
I remember the night wrote I this; I was heading home from a party looking up at the night sky. The moon lit up the clouds as I tried to keep myself warm for the walk home. Back then we walked home from parties, nights out, gigs and the pub. It was often at these times we would have our best laughs.
The vocals change at the end; Stu doesn’t use distortion on this track, instead we have a jam at the end of the song. That’s what I love about this; it feels live and spontaneous. You can hear the drums and bass changing their dynamics to suit the upbeat mood.
It’s not something we do a lot these days. When you are solely a vocalist you tend to be a bit more imaginative with your voice. Since I have played guitars and sang I haven’t used this freestyle as much.
The line ‘I didn’t care what my appearance was like, maybe I looked a mess’ summed up my feelings back then. With badly fitting clothes and long unruly hair I missed the point at which grunge had left and ‘Britpop’ had arrived.
I’m also offering help to someone; I can’t remember who but the one thing I do recall is that during those Firkin and Pennies days we all looked out for each other.
At just under 4 minutes Just For Today is an example some of our best work; it is the soundtrack to the end of the night, when our young drunk souls would go home and hope that when we stumble into our houses we wouldn’t wake up the parents! 13. Psalm. Weird Decibels 1 2012.
Only Stu and I voted for this and we scored it fairly high for a reason. The arching solos that almost burst out of the speakers.
The track listing of Weird Decibels 1 has divided us. In these modern times of short attention spans, instant music and streaming, people don’t tend to listen to albums. The general rule is put your best track first.
I wanted WdB1 to be an album and I could think of no other epic opening than Psalm. It is Weird Decibels in one package. Heavy guitars, melody, a thread of acoustic rhythm , imaginative drums, growling bass and soaring solos. Sure there are better songs on WdB1 but none are as ambitious as this.
Greg drops tuning for this and we play it in E, unfortunately the down tuned bass is one reason we never play it live. It’s a heavy laden guitar wall of noise, and there is an angry vocal spitting distaste for the class system. ‘Some will be lucky, for others will pave, the path for their children.’
My son had just been born when I wrote this; all your thoughts change. From the delight of life to the unfairness of it. Psalm reflects this in some ways.
Psalm works its way to one of our best endings. frequent collaborator Jemma Burt comes in with some beautiful keys that help change the tone of the song. I sing ‘I lost my way.I lost my way when you asked me to pray’. as Stu starts to build his epic three part solo. I rank up the vox and together as vocalist and lead guitars we meet up at the height of the crescendo before the songs settled into its subtle conclusion.
The old guitar you hear at the intro and end was lying around in Kirsty’s mums place; we were staying there as we waited for our new house to be built. The intro of Metallica’s Battery was a heavy influence here.
Psalm was the opening track to our first album in 4 years; the 6 minute statement of intent. Weird Decibels were back after the barren years of the acts.
Barren years of the acts? I can picture Derek shaking his head as he reads this. After One More Solo we were into an uneasy spell of cover songs; I would often voice my distaste for learning them. We played fewer gigs (although to be fair they were enjoyable) and when we did play live we didn’t play much of our own stuff. We didn’t really embrace the internet like we do today and we rarely stepped out of Falkirk. However there were highlights.
Track 3 on Riot Act Sky Is Falling is another tale of a night out in Falkirk. It opens with ‘Let’s face it she’s not very pretty and she doesn’t look good on the dance floor, I come home from this paranoid city, turn on the news watch religion at war’. The moody apocalyptic theme of the Sky Is Falling is one of the high points. We haven’t played this live for years.
It reflects the unrest around the planet during those times; there is a bit of comedy in the chorus ‘jesus is coming, look busy, your god is calling’. Im sure I got that lyric from one of those mugs that says ‘look busy the boss is coming’.
There is a helpless resignation in the lyrics that contradict the uplifting music; It’s has a really nice ending.
Just missing out on out on our top ten is the first ever song we wrote; it’s not surprising it still has a place in our hearts.
Greg and I wrote this before the band was even formed. Stu and Derek finished the embryonic creation. Strongly influenced by Nirvana, the classic verse chorus verse arrangement is very prevalent here.
I wrote the lyrics in the middle of an IT class at school which goes some way to explain my lack of academic success. Educational Suicide is a wordy shout at the ‘system’ and class.
Smells Like Teen Spirit has a brilliant call to the dance floor; when you hear Cobain hitting those chords you know you need to get up there. I wanted something similar for our song. So when you press play on the Whapper Stormer disc you are immediately met with Stu’s ringing guitar.
Its simple structure allowed us to write the song in our first practice. It settled the nerves and meant that or the majority of the next 20 years we would be playing music together. Educational Suicide is the most important song we have ever written, but not the best. That’s coming…
Friends corner. The photographers.
Many people have taken photographs of the band over the years. Kevin Byrne has been napping portraits for many years. A good friend of the band he has taken many of sleeve artwork photosgraphs, including his work in Riot Act and One More Solo. He also took the recent press portrait that was used in the Falkirk Herald. A very talented and knowledgeable photographer. See his work here
Neil Henderson took photographs during the early years, we met Neil, like many of our friends, at Firkins. He took the Martell shot that is used in Coldhome Street and the live portraits that are used in Weird Decibels 1. Neil went on to photograph many acts throughout the country including Attica Rage.
Lets not forget regular gig snappers Juls and Phil who have taken numerous pictures that have given us many great memories and more recently Eindp Scotland, his pictures of us ended up printed in the Stirling Observer.
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