Harder edged music from the Falkirk area. The music that often gets ignored, hard punk, rock and metal and the three main genres that RIFF shares but there are many more that need exposure to the local scene. RiFF bands aim to support each other by attending shows, sharing and buying music.
Why Would I Be part of RiFF
If you play in a band it can be the most rewarding experience you will have and it can also be the most frustrating. You want to grow an audience, so you start to play shows. When you are in a small band and you play live, you will spend much of the night wondering who will come through the door. Some nights will be busy others not so.
RiFF is a music community. All we ask is that you attend a local gig that is not your own. Not just RiFF bands playing, but any local music event that you find interesting. You don’t get a badge for attending loads of local events but you meet like minded people and many new opportunities open up.
So keep an eye on the RiFF Facebook page, like and follow the bands and if a RiFF band is playing try and get along to the show. You don’t need to go to every single one but if musicians supported musicians just a wee bit more then our scene would grow and more outside parties would become interested. Look at the success of the Fife music scene for example.
Additionally if you become part of the community and you set up a Falkirk gig the RiFF community will do their best to support a fellow RiFFers gig. (we’re not promoters. Occasionally we will organise a Showcase and the costs are met by the RiFF bands taking part.)
What bands are in RiFF (so far)
We have a number of bands that consider themselves part of the RiFF community. Punks 13, heavy rockers Blind Daze, the outer worldly Nebulosity and of course us (Weird Decibels). There will be more bands joining the community, there is no obligation to play gigs etc, just share your music, share others music and promote the scene. We welcome bands from not only Falkirk but elsewhere are well. RiFF has music, will travel.
What’s the Future of RiFF Then?
Time will tell! Riff needs people to be a success! The Showcase is the start and there may be more. The bands involved will play more gigs, the RiFF community will support them. Look out for a RiFF YouTube channel with music videos, future blogs, possibly Podcasts and of course keep an eye on RiFF bands releasing new music.
Thanks to falkirkmusicscene Eddie McKenzie and David M Lowe. The historic content of this blog is sourced from this wonderful site
Where Melville Street and Vicar Street meet there is a corner and in this corner there is a bar called Freebird. Once it was called Burns Bar then Firkins which was our era. This pub would become one of Falkirk’s most loved music venues, not only for live bands but for those who liked to pump pound coins into, what was, the best jukebox in town. Many local musicians would converge on this corner of Falkirk and became a focal point for the formation of bands.
According to the wonderful but underused Falkirkmusicscene website The Burns bar was a venue for folk acts in the 70’s and 80’s. Davy Waugh started to promote blue bands before the Happening Club seeds were sown in 1987. The Burns bar changed names to Firkins in 1988. I was only 11 years of age when this re-branding took place, I would frequent the establishment some 8 years later and it would have a massive influence on my music and that of the band.
According to the falkirkmusicscene site (it will be a crime if this is lost) there were occasional bands played between 1997 and 2005, Punk bands like our friends Rabid Dogs would become the mainstay of the venue in future years.
It was in 2004 that we played a gig at our favourite pub (later we would play alongside Kranksolo). We were playing our comeback album One More Solo live. Our friend Kevin Byrne opened up for us with some acoustic songs. After he finished we headed to the make shift stage. We were cramped into the corner of the venue, tripping over each other. The place was hot and sweaty, with only the house lights on, there was no place to hide. The background was the large corner windows so passers by could catch a glimpse of us rocking out the Easy Way.
Firkins was an amazing place to drink in the late 90’s and early 00’s. On Weekdays when I should’ve been at college, I would blether with the late Chris Masson of the band Cage. As the week wore on Fridays would be a whole night playing tunes on the jukebox and Saturdays would be a meet and greet warm up before most of us would head down to Pennies (more on this venue at a later date).
The pub would be packed, not something that has been seen for years. People would sit on the floor, you knew everyone and you felt at ease. This was a crowd of people who repelled the dance scene of Falkirk. I was also Virtua Tennis champ, the arcade which starred Tim Henman and Tommy Haas (who I picked), this helped forge friendships.
One night in I headed into Firkins alone, I headed towards my usual spot on the bar to order a Calders 70. I was always confident that I would meet someone I knew. However a beautiful woman caught the corner of my eye. Her elegance made her stand out amid the hustle of the pub. This woman would eventually become my wife.
Slowly the crowds moved on and the pub lost its feel. Firkins became a shell of what it once was.I’d revisit occasionally just for was last taste of the old atmosphere but it was gone. Then the old corner window from which you would watch the traffic go past, got smashed boarded up and never replaced.
You never forget your first time, the anticipation, the hope that everything works, getting the mood right and of course making sure the drummer comes out of the toilet before we start. Yes i’m talking about our first gig back in the summer of 1995. We had a setlist of around 6 songs (it’s all we had) and we had a stage. It was a Thursday night, it was the Martell.
Just off Grahams road near the canal sat the Martell. It was hidden from the road by a furniture store. Once you walked past the lastest sofa sale signs you would arrive at the big sign lit up with the Martell font. You can hear the music as you approached the small unassuming front door and when you entered the music hit you. To the left was the till that took the ticket money. Then you would enter the front room, tables often bustling with punters and directly in front the long bar would stretch back to the pool tables.
A small CRT monitor would flicker as the tills rang though the drink sales. Gold Bier £1. This was the mid 90’s and many of the local kids were heading to this venue to see 4 bands on a Thursday for a fiver. Our friends Cage, rock gods Monitor Lizard, the wonderful Foam and various other local acts played through Jimmy’s PA system. It was loud and some of us had school in the morning…
The stage was on the far right of the room, it was separated from the audience by a small brick wall for which many stunts and guitar poses would be struck. Up in the booth was the DJ, big Sid and his clap monitor for measuring the Battle of the Bands victors. (yes that was how it was decided…)
Watching bands at the Martell was brilliant; it was a small but loyal community that attended every week. From watching the bands to shooting pool you would find you started to know people’s names and hang out talking about the bands of that era, Oasis, Nirvana, Blur and various other acts. Some nights were packed, others not so and occasionally the place would be dead apart from the hardcore frequenters.
Our First Gig.
At around 19 years of age I had a mop of long brown hair and a stooped gait. Stu was in full Metallica mode, Greg also donned with long hair often tied up so he could show of his rose tinted shades and Derek the cheeky youngster who infuriatingly got changed a minute before we took the stage. I swear he enjoyed seeing my exasperation as he ran past me towards the drum kit smiling.
The first time we played the Martell was amazing. The lights blinded you, we were probably ropey but we played some of the best songs we had written. The Rain and Vancouver to name two, followers from the start will know these songs well.
The high school crowd that has followed Derek loved it and we were finally part of the Falkirk music scene. What followed was amazing. The battle of the bands.
Our first attempt at the battle of the bands would see our largest crowds swell the Martell to bursting. To date it is the biggest audience we have played original songs to. It was the quarter finals. Thanks to the clap monitor being pounded by the crowd we sailed through to the semis and the dreams of winning started to become a reality. The semi final was another packed gig but it was not to be, we lost and did not make the final.
We played a number of gigs at the Martell during the late 90’s it was like our Cavern, it’s where we cut our live teeth. Gigs ranged from supporting our friends Cage and Turtlehead to opening for cover bands like Nearvana. Eventually another battle of the bands took place and sadly we were not as successful.
The venue opened up a bigger hall at the back where the snooker tables used to be. It felt different and for us it was too much to fill with our small but loyal fanbase. Highlights started to thin out and the Martell’s appeal was starting the wear thin. Eventually we knew all the bar staff, had lock ins with George the bar manager and played live recorded shows with Central FM (hard to believe a local station used to record live local bands). The alcohol flowed, the gigs came and went. One night when I crashed beer all over the counter I knew it was getting out of hand.
We left the Martell for a while, the Thursday nights were no longer a regular occurrence.
In the 2000’s (do we have a decent name for this decade yet?) we were approached to play and we obliged but the magic was gone or perhaps Falkirk had moved from our brand of rock. The Martell, the birth of our gigging experience and the hub of the Falkirk Music scene for so many years had unwound. As we finished our last set at the Martell there was no ceremony, just an air of disappointment. We thought perhaps the next time we play will be better but there would be no next time for us the Martell.
Life went by as it does, new venues opened and I would head down Grahams road sometimes going home in a taxi after a night out up in the heart of Falkirk. For years the neon sign of the Martell would glow statically in the night. You would hear about the Martells reputation for club music and the place became alien to me. Eventually it changed hands, now it’s named the Warehouse and encouragingly the venue puts on bands albeit tribute acts and mid size touring bands. There has been little mention of local artists playing there.
The Martell was one of the best venues we ever had in Falkirk. It worked for years, bringing together like minded people who wanted to listen to or play in bands around Falkirk. Together we created memories that will never leave us. Indeed some of the people who lit up the Martell stage are sadly no longer with us which makes the memories of this iconic local venue all the more important.
Before I entered Behind the Wall to head upstairs into the Loft (the ale house for the older bairns) I had no idea who was playing tonight. The fact that event organiser Rikki Toner has made so much of an effort to continue his push to rebuild the local music scene has made me determined to go and support it.
Once I had paid at the door, pleased that my fiver would be going towards the bands I met up with the one and only Stewart McCairney, quickly followed by Greg McSorley. We reflected on our last gig (the week before at North Star) and planned our next assault on world music domination.
While we plotted to headline Glastonbury the soundcheck was one two-ing in the background preparing for the night ahead. Just before 9 the first band would adorn the stage.
The tall, confident singer/guitarist Aidan Buhrmann of Falkirk’s Bootsie Blue held things together well and was clearly happy to be upon the loft stage. Dressed in black jeans, that looked welded on, the big chap strutted about the stage. Their drummer, Ian Simpson was manic. This guy truly delivered stunning beats hammering the poor drum kit to within an inch of new skins. You could see he felt every beat, superb. The bass player Callum Barret balanced things by being subtly calm and focused on keeping the Bootsie’s sound tight.
There were great songs unfortunately I don’t know the titles but ‘Bad Apples’ was a highlight. The first half of these guys set was probably the best I’ve heard in the local setting for a long time. The songs were dynamic and well structured. Once they flesh out their set I’d be surprised if they don’t make some sort of impression on the Scottish scene and are one of Falkirk’s most promising bands. (lets hope the scene grows with them)
As the night wore on I sampled more Tryst Carronade and blether to both Stu and Greg about the local scene we were thoroughly enjoying supporting other bands. For a while we, like many other people, stayed away from Falkirk bemoaning the lack of live music in our town. Yet we failed to realise that staying away contributes to the problem.
Up next was Glasgow band The Projection. Now I can be dumb at times so when I explained to Greg and Stu that I was looking forward to a visual spectacle by the projection I was ridiculed. (in my defence many bands use projection, most recently at Shuffle Down, when Paddy Steer was performing)
No offence but these guys are ‘experienced’ and it’s great to see Rikki had booked a diverse set of acts. These guys, bar James Lee Brodie on the guitar, are older and still belting out the tunes.
Stewart Cuthill was shielding his eyes looking for the crowd and eventually he left the stage to dance with the audience. They had a punk ethic with good melodic licks and Stewart had donned a nice ‘London, Rome, Paris, Falkirk’ tee shirt. Its great to see our fine town in the same light as these cities! At one point he explained that there “should be thousands of people here” before launching into No Fracking in Falkirk. Which had the biggest crowd response.
The headline act, also hailing from Glasgow, were Grim Morrison a three piece who borrowed the excellent Ian Simpson from Bootsie Blues to play drums. They grooved well and I thoroughly enjoyed their set. James McManus on guitar and vocals gave it his all and he looked like he enjoyed it, Meg Kenny on bass donned with a floppy hat danced away as she skillfully handled bass duties.
By end of the night I was tipsy; full of Carronade ale and ready to get the train home. There is no doubt that I enjoyed the night with good company and it was good to catch up with Falkirk music scene once again. Long may this continue. Please support it if you can.
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.
As the Springfield bags were unpacked and I sat in the home studio I had an optimism about the forthcoming mix sessions. We seemed better prepared; all the tracking seemed to have gone well. There was still a lot of recording work to do but I’d be able to edit the drums and bass.
I looked at the small screen of the Korg D3200. It’s a horrible tiny basic green lcd display that is your eyes for the whole project; a bit like a Nintendo Gameboy. A flicker of envy passed through me as I yearned for the bigger monitors of a typical DAW setup. Maybe I should go on Tipping Point and win some cash.
Editing is horrible on the Korg so discipline is needed at the tracking stage to make sure you are not wading through silence trying to reach the recordings. The drums generally edited well and sounded pretty good. The bass had a few problems with tone so some EQ cutting was required. It turned out to be quite drastic and reminds me that I need to sharpen up on my micing techniques.
My concerns about Stu’s distorted guitars were justified. There was a good tone in there but it was laden with low mid eq. This was the biggest mistake I made, I wrestled with this frequency and tried to shoehorn it into the full sound. There was a creeping dread that I’d have to ask Stu do redo the entire distorted guitars.
Mastering is a topic in itself. To say Weird Decibels 2 is mastered would be stretching the term. It does have light compression, some subtle stereo track EQ changes and some limiting but it was also done by the same guy that mixed and recorded it, (me). I can understand why people say that you do get too close to the sound.
When Derek texted to say that he felt the album sounded poor on his headphones I had a small fit. I knew he was right but wished it had been spotted sooner. The summer months had been a rain filled wash out but I had still spent them in a small room hearing the same songs many times over.
My mood dipped, I didn’t notice it at the time, others did but I did not see a problem. I soldiered on with the record trying to find out what was causing the album to sound muddy.
When I cut into Stu’s guitars it did the trick; his tone was still there but the rest of the album had opened up. Of course it knocked the mix out so that had to be done again. Then it had to be re-mastered all while I heard my son and my wife downstairs playing and possibly wondering when I’d join them.
Now I was getting snappy; frustrated that my normal life was getting in the way of the album (even though I had spent half a year on it). I missed the deadline, we wanted the album out for our 20th anniversary gig at North Star. I shouted at the guys that night; moaning at them for trivial things.
My wife had asked me to take a step back from it; I reluctantly agreed to take a couple of weeks off but that turned into three.
The Cracks Begin to Show
Things got worse; I awoke on the 11th of November 2015 and read some messages; I had been trying to get the practise room keys to record some vocals. I tried to get in touch with the band to get the keys but nothing happened and I couldn’t record the vocals. It was a small irritance but it infuriated me. I just wanted to get the album finished.
I quit the messages, cut myself off and walked to work convinced that I had quit the band.A sense of mourning had crept over me as I listened to Spotify while walking through the Quarry park. It was a weird feeling.
The guys laughed it off; Stu visited that same night and we sat over a coffee like nothing had changed; the dude was there and I was impressed with that. So we mastered the album. A few weeks later it would be done.
At 33 minutes Weird Decibels 2 is our most compact and focused album. It has its flaws; sometimes I think we are better live and there is no shame in that as many bands are the same.
It’s a quiet album by today’s standards; so sometimes it suffers in the ‘loudness wars’ but I think it sounds fairly good overall. This full album was recorded for around £500.
I should bite the bullet and let someone else record our stuff; think of all the spare time I would suddenly have.
The problem I have is that I love challenge of getting that sound; when an acoustic guitar sound crisp or the drums, as in Weird Decibels 2, sound like they are recorded in a grand room. Then the test of putting it all together.
Maybe I’ll leave the mastering to a pro….but how did the pros learn?
You can read about the Springfield session here parts one, two and three . Looking back I’d happily go back there again with more knowledge and perhaps record only the drums and bass along with basic rhythm guitar parts. Time was never on our side and this was often when the mistakes were made.
The recording desk.
Released in the UK in 2006 the Korg D3200 was and still is a classic multi-tracker. By chance there was a music auction where my wife Kirsty works, I put a cheeky bid in for it and it was mine.
In reality it is a fairly basic machine that’s delivered reasonable results. We recorded the album on the desk highest sample rate of 48kHz and 24 bits. Higher quality that a CD but it falls short of what you can achieve on a typical DAW running Pro Tools etc. (digital audio workstation).
The beauty of the Korg was how cheap it was and the number of mic inputs, 12, for simultaneous recording. This allowed us to have 10 mics on the drums and a couple on the bass.
Rightly or wrongly the Korg was used for recording, mixing and mastering. This album as not recorded with Pro Tools etc.
Substantial planning went into preparation for the album, its predecessor had taken nearly a year to mix and master. We were determined not to make the same mistakes, to a certain extent we didn’t, we just made new ones.
From the early mixes I could hear that the drums sounded great in the big room. I had the option for a direct sound or allow some room spill to add a bit of air to the album. The bass came out fairly well, with a mixture of cabin and DI. To this day I’m not sure how effective it was but I found a good sound quickly.
Happy with the drums and bass I had a listen to Stu’s guitar and here was where I realised that I had made a big mistake.
I remember the afternoon that I turned to Greg and asked if the Stu’s guitars sounded too bassy. As he tapped the A and B buttons on the Saturn controller trying to break Derek’s numerous Athlete King records he didn’t seem to think so but to be fair he had been playing the bass all day. I had tired ears as well but something wasn’t sitting right. Against my instincts I decided to keep the mic in place (it was probably too close to the grill) and recorded his guitars.
Back in the studio I wrestled with this frequency for weeks; the mixes were starting to build though. Then came in the indecisiveness.
The vocals recorded at the lodge were a mixed bag. Some sounded really good while others sounded weak. For months we would take the desk down to the practice room and re-record them. Then one afternoon while listening to the ever present influence; Nevermind I heard Kurt’s doubled vocals and decided that would be the key. Eventually double vocals would play a big part in WdB2
Overdubs were next. A few parts of acoustic guitar were added. Sitting back over the whole project there were a few songs that, to my horror, started to sound poor compared to others. Quoted didn’t feel right at all.
I removed the ‘Springfield’ vocals and my guitars and completely re-recorded them in the home studio much to the delight of my neighbours. I had nothing to lose with Quoted so I free styled some distorted guitars in the style of Nirvana; then I added a voice changer to the vocals and recorded the newly written lyrics. Mixing this song was fun, a few automation tricks were used to enhance the middle of the song to build up to the crescendo
Greg had made a mistake just before the end, I couldn’t cut and paste a clean part so I left it out. The part without the bass sounded brilliant (no offence Greg!), it added so much to the build when the bass comes back in.
The Morningday Effect
It’s hard to explain exactly what happened halfway through the recording of this album.Springfield was weeks behind us, the drums and bass were in place. The guitars were touch and go, the vocals were hot and cold.
I was getting fed up with the shouty vocals. Morningday had done reasonably well and for some reason I tried to merge the two music paths which in reality should have remained separate.
The albums balance began to veer towards quiet vocals peppered with acoustic guitar. Medicine was the biggest casualty of this.
I was unhappy with the my original distorted guitar, it swamped the verses and sounded awful so I recorded an acoustic guitar and some guitar vocals and sat with that for a while. On it’s own it sounded OK but within the album it didn’t sit. Weird Decibels 2 was becoming unfocused.
I remember walking out of Camelon Tesco with a couple of bottles of red heading towards Stu and Lisa’s for a wine night, I had my headphones on. The album just didn’t sound good at all.
This was a real low point. The money spent on the cottage, the hours spent recording, re-recording and mixing seemed to be in vain. Every time I saw the guys they’d ask how it was going, it was hard for me to admit that WdB2 wasn’t working. But it’s amazing what just a few changes can make…
I ditched nearly all the changes I had made. The Medicine acoustics were scrapped and replaced with chunky Soundgarden like distortion that was like the original riff but more control. I added double tracked vocals at a higher octave and screamed my lungs out for the ending.
Feeling choruses, the vocals were shortened and more punchy. Sorted
I took the decision to drop Smash the Glass entirely (it is now a B side to Kill it Kill it), the band supported me on this…just.
Curtain hits the cast, end vocals doubled up to epicicity (new word)
Suddenly the album, albeit short, was now leaner and far more focused.
Then there was the Dancer…
The dancer changed a few times, clean guitars were replaced with finger picked acoustic, subtle backing vocals were added. Stu’s acoustic pedal recording didn’t fit so I sample it, delayed it, reversed it and made it sound like rain to fit with the lyrics. It worked. Stu then dubbed acoustic over the verses.
The ending vocals were doubled. The Dancer went from filler to single.
Mixing was still in full flow, mastering was near. I felt happy to announce a deadline date. Something I hadn’t done before. It was mistake and cost us nearly six months and I almost walked away…
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..