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Studios In Which We Have Recorded part 2. Split Level ’98 (2nd session)

Split level part 2 February 1998

Split Level Facebook page

stu firkin outburst era
The Firkin Outburst Era and the around the time we headed back to Split Level.

The heady early days of being in a band are irreplaceable from the euphoric high of writing your first songs to the adrenalized buzz of playing your first gig. A band in its infancy can produce a surge of creativity often known as the ‘early stuff’. Then there were the large high school Martell crowds, the first articles in the Falkirk Herald all the first targets were being met.

So as the dust settled on our arrival at the music scene we knew that new songs had to arrive. By now we were students at college, drinking at every practise and generally having a laugh. We wrote many songs, probably forgot more than we remember. The tracks that did stick had to be recorded; there was a need to be back in the studio. There was only one choice for us. Split Level. Around the local scene our first demo had been a massive success, The Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon had been well received by the local radio station. With this in mind we had to pick three songs that would propel us further.

So here are our thoughts and memories for what would be our last session at Split Level. Also joining us for a look back is our long time friend John Baines who with our late great friend Dave Brown visited during the session.

Pabs

The choice of studio was a no brainer, we just wanted to go back to Split Level, it had been around 18 months since we recorded our first demo. The choice of songs would prove to be more difficult. We had written a number of songs, we had forgotten a lot more, so much alcohol flowed and we lost focus, it was just a bit of a laugh at this point. I remember Culture Creature was pretty much certain to be on the demo. Summerhigh was an early choice as well I think but trying to pick the third track was tricky. We couldn’t agree on the third song and the studio was booked so there was like a deadline. So I don’t think we had decided, so on the first day in the studio we were picking the last song and that turned out to be Today Was Insane. I didn’t think it was our best, but we went with it. The excitement was still there are we drove to the studio, the place was still a bit of a scrap yard, a wee house hidden by trees just outside the Edinburgh airport.

Derek

I remember Neil’s cars, he had loads of VW Scirroco’s (in the yard)

Pabs

The set up was the same, the studio hadn’t changed which was fine. Neil arrived, he could remember us from the first time and he still had that laid back approach to everything.

I think the atmosphere was different this time, it didn’t have the same feel for me, I don’t think we were ready to be honest.

John Baines

It’s all a bit hazy now but from what I can remember you’d blitzed through the majority of the songs on your first day and spent (most) your time there on 1 song. Am I right in saying it got a bit smoky in there too? Bizarrely my main memory is of Dave flicking a lit fag into his mouth. Lit end first obviously!

Pabs

I would’ve paid money to see that! I must’ve been in the vocal booth at that time, I spent many takes trying to get Culture Creature right, not only the vocals but the little guitar part in the middle. Stu and I play a strange dual solo that I don’t think we’ve properly nailed since!

Culture Creature was difficult, it’s a sad song with dark lyrics, I remember after a few vocal takes coming back into the control room and everyone just looked flat.

Stu

I Remember deciding to record Today Was Insane either just before or when we got there. Culture creature depressed everybody! Neil wasn’t quite as jovial as the 1st time. Did we crash at Deeks flat in Edinburgh in between days. Can’t remember.

Derek

I didn’t have my flat then!

Pabs

John and Dave were just sitting on the couch. The rest of the guys were quiet and yeah Neil looked a bit bored. I agree with Stu he didn’t joke or have a laugh like he did during the first demo.

John

I’ll put my poor recollections down to repeated concussions (and alcohol perhaps). Was it not Culture Creature that took the longest? Well worth it in my opinion

Pabs

Yes definitely, it took the longest. Summerhigh was pretty seamless, I can’t remember how Today Was Insane took but to be honest I didn’t care much for it. Culture Creature was worth it, it was worth the effort to get it right. I think it is one of our best songs, even if it sits in disjointed (but fun) album, Firkin Outburst.

Culture Creature

John

Is the studio still there? Always look out for it when I’m going past.

Pabs

It is! It’s still nestled behind the large trees, the airport parking edges ever closer though. I think Neil still works in the studio. I’m the same, I’ll take a wee glance over, we had great times in there but to date, sadly, we’ve not been back.

 

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Gig Diary. 20th Anniversary gig at North Star, Falkirk 7th Nov 2015

Gig Diary.

thanks to Kevin Byrne, Juls  Sampson, Gary Ivady and Kirsty Smith for taking photos/videos some of which are posted in the blog.

Lets raawwwk. pic Byrne
Lets raawwwk. pic Byrne

Upstairs Downstairs

The ever laid back Greg McSorley. Pic Byrne
The ever laid back Greg McSorley. Pic Byrne

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.

Snappy Singer

Snappy singer. pic Gary
Snappy singer. pic Gary

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

Setlist north star

  1. Home sweet home (Riot Act)
  2. Kill it Kill it (Weird Decibels 2)
  3. Educational suicide (Whapper Stormer)
  4. Show your face (Whapper Stormer)
  5. Joker (Weird Decibels 1)
  6. Just for today (Whapper Stormer)
  7. The rain (Whapper Stormer)
  8. Speak (Weird Decibels 1)
  9. Miss Asphyxia (Weird Decibels 2)
  10. The Ending (One More Solo
  11. Culture Creature (Firkin Outburst)
  12. Glass People (Whapper Stormer)
  13. Medley (Mix of One More Solo, Firkin Outburst and Riot Act)
  14. Wonder (Weird Decibels 1)
  15. Sofa girrrrl (Whapper Stromer)
  16. It’s who you know ( Weird Decibels 2)
  17. Vancouver (Whapper Stormer)
  18. Cold calling (One More Solo)
  19. Rosie (AC/DC)
  20. *last minute request Deliverance (Weird Decibels 1)
  21. High heels (One More Solo)

Our guests

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

Derek on fine form. pic Byrne
Derek on fine form. pic Byrne

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.

The 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

Stu gets the crowd going. Pic by Gary
Stu gets the crowd going. Pic by Gary

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!

friends! Pic by Juls
friends! Pic by Juls

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.

A fine night in the North Star. Pic Byrne
A fine night in the North Star. Pic Byrne

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..

50 weird decibels songs as chosen by the band. part 5. the top ten.

So here is our top ten songs from the last 20 years. Lets hope the next 20 years bring as many good memories, and tunes.

Drink makes you 'cuddly'
Drink makes you ‘cuddly’

10. Trying To Grab Hold. One More Solo 2004

Pabs voted it in 18th place out of 20, Stu N/E (didn’t vote for this) Greg 9th Derek 7th

stu rocking out in the studio flat
stu rocking out in the studio flat

A real favourite with Greg and Derek, Trying To Grab Hold is one of the most laid back tracks we ever put down. Reminiscing is something I find myself doing on a regular basis; the early days with the band were a riot and sometimes I wish we could turn back the clock and change some of the decisions we made.

The second verse; ‘summer breeze whispering we were laughing, watching the red sky fade to black, then we would gather, around a fire and talk about this and that’. Im convinced that I’m recalling the time that Greg, Derek And I went to T in the Park at Strathclyde in the mid 90’s We had camped in a site away from the festival and there was a group of revellers around a fire passing around a guitar singing various well known songs.

I sat, drunkenly swaying, one eyebrow raised, awaiting my turn while taking in the folky atmosphere. When the guitar reached my eager hands I started belting out a song we have long forgotten called Brilliant at the top of my wayword voice. A silence descended over the rest of the circle

In my self absorbed gleeful bliss my eagerness grew; I was about to hit the second verse when the guitar owner promptly asks for his guitar and storms off! The three of us laughed our hearts out that night.

Like I say it was good times and Trying To Grab Hold is looking back at these days that seemed a bit less complicated.

This was another song recorded at Derek’s flat, at the end of the track you can hear me leave the vocal booth made of egg cartons. You can hear Derek explaining to Gav McVicar that we were always looking to try new ideas. I kept that in to give us a sense of those recording sessions.

A really nice song.

9. Vancouver. Whapper Stormer 1995.

Pabs 5th Stu 3rd Greg NE Derek  NE

I lay the vocals for Vancouver at Split Level
I lay the vocals for Vancouver at Split Level

Yet another split opinion between the band. Early favourite Vancouver was rated highly by myself and Stu. Vancouver is somewhat surprisingly is pegged down at 9.

One of the first three songs we created; Vancouver is about Kurt and Courtney, the John and Yoko of my generation. I remember being obsessed with Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. Like millions of  others I watched his helpless dive into a heroin abyss.

It’s strange starting a band only to hear your favourite artists moan about how much they hate the fame and fortune they have found. I guess we’ll never understand what it is like to see the music world from these lofty heights.

For the lyrics of Vancouver I imagined this world; placing myself in the shoes of Cobain and others. The song is called Vancouver because it was an easy place with which to rhyme with other cities like Hanover which I could rhyme with hangover. Then it was easy to link it in with ‘the Camera the microphone it’s blown your cover’.

I love these lyrics, some of my best, even after all these years I still have a fondness for them; I just don’t write like that any more. It was another melody that I had in my head. I would sing it and Stu would play the tune.

Backing vocals from Derek
Backing vocals from Derek

The line ‘you try to make yourself look bad, but you only look better.’ was an observation made about artists those days. They would descend into deeper trouble and yet still manage to look cooler in the eyes of their young impressionable audiences.

Vancouver was recorded at Split Level studios, this was our first proper studio sessions and one of our best. Neil the engineer did a really good job with the production. It was brilliant walking past the massive desk into the vocal booth. I felt like we had arrived!

Vancouver was a live favourite in the early days; it was always well received at gigs. It was a setlist regular for the first few years before we laid it to rest; I do recall us getting a bit tired playing it which in hindsight is no longer a concern I have;  If we are lucky enough to have someone love our songs then I’ll play them . A truly wonderful Weird Decibels song.

8. The Rain. Whapper Stormer 1995 Stu’s top track

Pabs 7th, Stu 1st, Greg NE, Derek NE

‘I love the rain cause it’s got loads of wah wah and a huge end and it’s a classic.Takes me right back to the martell gigs.’ Stu

Stu loves the Rain. The recording at Split Level worked out really well
Stu loves the Rain. The recording at Split Level worked out really well

First there is the splash of the cymbals, then Stu & Greg launch into the riff before I sing the word ‘The Rain’. Once again we have a band divider. Another surprise as the Rain, an early favourite for top track drips in at 8. Recorded in at the same sessions as Vancouver, the Rain is one of the most refreshingly original songs we have ever created.

The lyrics were written during the massive rainstorms of 94 when the Dawson mission near the Carron Works was flooded. A religious building at the mercy of the heavens (well the river Carron).

In 95 I was only 18 and I guess that I leaving high school to go out into the mercy of the big bad world was worrying me so I went for another two years to Falkirk College. It’s a huge change especially when, like me, you don’t have a plan for the future.

Back then I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of my lack of direction and how it would effect my future. This explains the chorus ‘Stored in houses known as clouds, leaves the clouds and hits the ground.’

Throughout the verses are lines that have little relation to each other that, ‘the rain’. I’ve always liked walking in the rain and I remember the velux window in the ceiling of my room in my old house. When the rain fell it was a beautiful sound.

‘the rain, a beautiful sound on the window pain, a musician who has no composition’.

As Greg and Derek  maintain a nice groove; Stu lets a nice lead flow over the lyrics. Neil at Split Level added a little FX onto the guitar which gave the guitars a liquid feel.

There is a pause in the song for a middle 8. Then it builds to the double distorted guitars and loud vocals.

Educational Suicide, Vancouver and the Rain became the original three we wrote at our first practises. They were played relentlessly during the early years and gained attention from Central FM who were excellent at supporting local acts back then.

Eventually as we tried to move away from the early dominance of Whapper Stromer we would stop playing them. A classic Weird Decibels track. Makes you wonder what came on top!

7. Glass People. Whapper Stromer 1995

Pabs 8th, St 9th, Greg 12th, Derek NE

Amazingly we recorded a full band version of Glass People here; no one has heard it yet…

The finale of Whapper Stormer Glass People is one of our longest songs; originally a full band  track, the album version features Stu and I on acoustic guitars for the one and only time in the history of our 7 albums (and our upcoming 8th).

Glass People was written in my head over many Saturday nights at Pennies, the run down alternative disco that was hidden away down the old Coasters ice rink. We had wonderful times in there. Every weekend we would head down and join our music community. All the songs of the times would play and strong friendships were forged.

No matter where I went I always found that there were people I could ‘see through’; there was a big act hiding the real person under the surface, hence Glass People.

‘It was a rainy night,for the night I was going to witness

people who are desperate, to escape all that lies before them,

all are congregated, maybe not at church but a place we can worship

our freedom and our choice, the only play where I can let go for recreation

but I noticed , I noticed something spectacular.

Glass People’

For the few hours that Pennies was open every weekend we did feel like we could be ourselves. Most of us didn’t really embrace the night clubs in Falkirk, it just wasn’t our scene.

Glass People was the first guitar riff that I had written for the band. The chord progression, Dm, open F, C to G was easy to play!.

At the time of Stu’s hiatus we bumped into each other in Behind the Wall. After a few pints we reluctantly accepted that the band may never get back together so we decided to start working on a ‘best of’ acoustic album. The first track we recorded was Glass People. During the wintery recording session it snowed, we strolled through the falling flakes to the off licence to collect a carry out. We returned to the studio and cracked open a fresh beer. Stu then laid the most incredible acoustic solo for the end of the song and the album.

Luck had it the band got back together; we gathered all the recordings, old and new and tracklisted Whapper. When we all sat and listened to the acoustic version of Glass People we all looked at each other and agreed. It had to stay on the record.

The band version of glass people can be heard on our bootleg and there is another version floating around somewhere.

6. Now I Can See His Eye. Whapper Stormer. 1995

Pabs 2nd, Stu NE, Greg NE, Derek 4th

A rare picture of us doing a lost recording for the Falkirk hospital.
A rare picture of us doing a lost recording for the Falkirk hospital.

Scored highly by Derek and myself the incredible Now I Can See His Eye breaks in at 6. This, often ignored, track of Whapper is another of the more imaginative songs we have written. I would be lying if Now I Can See His Eye wasn’t written without any substances… Singing about yellow brick roads, eyes in the ceiling and the rather obvious lyrics ‘ the sky the sky , it’s just a trip a little day out’,

Greg and I fell into a good group of friends who wandered slightly off the straight and narrow. You do experiment with life when you are young and I look back fondly at the parties we used to have, but we could’ve easily slipped into another way of life.

Now I can See His Eye subconsciously speaks of this fear of following the wrong person into a chaotic lifestyle without much hope for a future. It also speaks of the desire to be successful with the band.’Now I can see the crowds and my friends stand beside me’.

A wonderfully spiky and diverse track.

5. The Ending. One More Solo 2004

Pabs  9th, Stu NE Greg 15th, Derek 2nd

1000412_633101920048233_114988496_nScored highly by Derek and propped up by myself and Greg, The Ending breaks into the top 5 tracks we have done. To be honest the verse and choruses of the Ending are fairly standard arrangements

I remember getting the idea for the lyrics when I visited Edinburgh museum; looking down from the high balcony to the floor below I thought of the lyrics. ’ I’m tempted by the rush of the ground as the season flow I will never now how many people I’d have hurt.’ Strange times…

It’s the ending of the song that has always been a pleasure to play. The chord change after the build. E C A, then it drops to G. When we first played it I had one of those moments where I’d look around the room and see everyone grinning (the last time was when we wrote the end of Medicine for the new album).

So the Ending has one of our best endings!

4. Easy Way. One More Solo. 2004 Greg’s favourite track.

Pabs 4th, Stu NE, Greg 1st Derek NE

‘I love (the) Easy Way as it’s a great energetic, heavy song which drives all the way through. Great fun to play.’ Greg

perhaps the coolest pic of Greg
perhaps the coolest pic of Greg

Another top 5 track from One More Solo; loved by myself and even more so by Greg. Easy Way  is a thunderous track with two versions. The album take above and the re-recorded single here. One of the best lines I have written is ‘I can see my future, I see it everyday!’ A lot of One More Solo speaks of being stuck in a rut.

We were approached by a small record company called Bracken records, this was to be the first record company interested in our material. We were asked to think about re-recording the song. So we duly tried to recapture the original One More Solo performance but it didn’t quite hit the raw aggression of the original. We didn’t hear from Bracken records again (not sure if they are still on the go); eventually an ‘unsigned’ band learned to live with the knockbacks as there are always high points around the corner; perhaps this is one of the reasons we have lasted 20 years.

The original is a powerful take; the sound isn’t the greatest but underneath the murky frequencies there is a frantic few minutes of rock. I really go for it on the vocals at the last chorus: ‘I tried ! I tried the easy way!’

A remaster has been attempted on One More Solo, but it had varying results on the album. Some of the songs turned out well. Easy Way was certainly one of those moment where we were all glad the band had got back together.

3 Culture Creature. Firkin Outburst 1998

Pabs 3rd Stu 13th Greg N/E Derek 6th

SCAN0015
recording acoustic at split level

The first open string picked chords on the slightly out of tune acoustic, followed by Stu gently picking a couple of muted notes before Derek and Greg ease their way into the intro. Culture Creature is based on the darker side of the drug culture that hovered around our community. It’s surprising that one of our darkest songs has made its way to the dizzy heights of 3. (given that Stu, Greg and Derek are constantly telling me to cheer the f*** up!)

‘We wanted jobs, we wanted to escape, but we ended up like cars with no brakes’

We were all leaving school, some with hopes, aspirations and career plans others with an uncertain future. Culture Creature was strange phrase I used to try and describe people who were drawn into the late 90’s booze. music and drug scene. This transition from childhood to adulthood is such a difficult time for young people, as it was for us, not everyone made it. One of the perversions of life

It ends with the line

‘I’m the one blame, do I see my reflection?’

I’m sure I’m finally blaming myself for not trying harder during my education when I finally realise how important it was as I walked out the school gates for the last time. I almost felt like turning around and promising the teachers that I’d given a hard time I’d try harder! ( I wasn’t that bad to be honest)

Culture Creature was recorded during the 2nd session of songs at Split Level. As previously mentioned; Neil wasn’t quite on the ball this time, the sound is slightly thin. I can remember everyone being drained during the recording of this song. The vocals took a few takes; we played it over a few times and the song’s mood brought everyone down!

I left the vocal booth to see John Baines, our guest at the recording, looking totally despondent on the couch!

Despite the slightly wayward sound and the subject material Culture Creature has stood the test of time. It’s a haunting piece, beautifully played by Stu. It’s a reminder of what could’ve been.

1995
1995
Weird Decibels
2015. Picture by Kevin Byrne

2. Wonder. Weird Decibels 1. 2012 watch the video

Pabs 11th, Stu 4th, Greg 6th Derek N/E

A fly past of Pennies
A fly past of Pennies

At the end of writing Weird Decibels 1 we were fairly confident we had a strong set of songs for our album. Stu was playing around with the guitar as we prepared to rehearse. He played this really cool looping riff. I asked him to keep playing it; I simply held a E and the rest of the band joined in.

We kept playing the song and I started every line with ‘I wonder’ as I tried to find a melody. The line stuck and I fleshed out the lyrics. When we finished the basic track, Jemma Burt stepped in with the violin, it was a really nice touch that added to the mood of the song.

‘The bridge on which we stand has crumbled and untied, we can either run to our sides or repair it over time’.

I guess I’m thinking of relationships with friends and family, as we all get busier and more distracted by life we must try harder to stay in touch. This seems a bizarre thing to write in the age of social media and instant communication. In many ways this technology makes this worse.

Wonder is now one of our best known tracks with thousands of views on Youtube. The video was shot around our old haunts of Falkirk: Pennies, the doorway of the old Clydesdale bank (where we used to sit after the night out had come to an end) and Firkins a pub that used to be a meeting place for all the fans of alternative music.

The scrolling landscapes (influenced by the start of the film Lost in Translation) and drive by shots capture the mood of the song; a wintery grayscale hue over the places where we spent our youth. It’s a video full of memories; and famous sights of Falkirk which seemed to strike a chord with fellow Bairns.

Wonder found its way on many of our sets after the launch of Weird Decibels 1; it remains a favourite of our regular listeners. Its funny how at the end of  writing sessions these songs can come along…

so

with 51 points out of a possible 80 its…

1.Speak

Dave and Su
Dave and Stu. Not sure if they are playing chess and its Stu’s move…

the videothe song.

Weird Decibels 1. 2012

Pabs 13th, Stu 8th, Greg 7th, Derek 5th

Track 2 from our last album Weird Decibels 1 gathers the most points from our voting and is crowned our top track.

Speak to meee! Picture by Eindp Scotland
Speak to meee! Picture by Eindp Scotland

Written around late 2008 and early 2009 Speak has significant meaning. The riff, picked around a G bar chord, was around for a while and the song had been building into an upbeat rock number. It starts with the toms pounding through the intro, the riff, then the whole band launches a sonic assault. It was one of the first songs we had written for the then untitled Weird Decibels 1.

Songwriting came to be in my late teens, I grew up surrounded my the music that my father played and would always hear my mother singing away whilst making some delicious pancakes. Lyrics were my way of communicating. I’ve written many many songs, a lot bad, some ok and a few that I am proud of. Speak falls into the latter.

The sudden passing of our much loved friend Dave Broon brought my thoughts into sharp perspective. I no longer wanted to write about beery nights in Falkirk; now I wanted to make sense of my world and the lives that we lead.

The lyrics.

I was told you work, In mysterious ways I learned you were liberal, with your selection

I’ve been gifted a life, with wonderful people Why must you start, to take them from me?

So speak to me

Let me hear what you say

Speak to me

You built this world, in all it’s glory You gave us greed, to strip it all away

But I hope you’re there, taking care  Offering refuge, for our weary souls

So speak to me Let me hear what you say

Speak to me let me hear what you say!

Speak video final scene
Speak video final scene

Speak was always going to be a single and like Wonder before it a video was released, set in our practise room that we’ve used for the past 20 years it’s a mix of live action and stop animation. It was a well received video.

This song has started many setlists; it is a very hard track to leave out, its fast pace and aggression help liven up our sets.

Like the majority of Weird Decibels 1 Speak was recorded at the 4th lodge we hired in Ettrickbridge. The drums were recorded in the practise room prior to us doing the guitars at the lodge. Speak was one of the few songs to feature doubled up vocals to enhance the chorus and it is something we use a lot more now.

Speak may not be the favorite track of anyone from the band, we all rated around the upper middle of our top 20, but the difference this time is that we all voted for it and has ended up as our number 1 song.

It’s not a complicated number by any means. It’s just balls out rock, a bit like AC/DC, which happened to be Dave’s favorite band. I wonder if the big man would agree with our top track!

Wilson is not happy high heels did not make number 1
Wilson is not happy high heels did not make number 1

Some facts about the top 50

The Top Ten had 2 tracks from Weird Decibels 1 the top two tracks! Whapper Stormer had 4 in the bottom 5, One More Solo had 3 and Firkin Outburst had 1 top ten track.

In the whole of the top 50 the breakdown from each album was

Whapper Stormer 9 out of 10 (possible) tracks

Weird Decibels 1 9 out of 12 tracks

One More Solo 8 out of 11 tracks

Riot Act 8 out of 12 tracks

Cold Home Street 8 of 13 tracks

Firkin Out Burst 5 out of 9 tracks

and Quiet Act 3 out of 11 tracks

I asked each band member to list their top 20 tracks the points were 20pts for 1st then 19 for 2nd and so on. This was all added up then compiled into a top 50.

Well if you have read this far then I must thank you! I hope you enjoyed this article.

Do you agree with the top 50 then? leave a comment or two below

50 Weird Decibels songs as chosen by the band. Part 2 40-31

In the run up to the launch of Weird Decibels 2.0 we look at part 2 of our countdown to the bands favourite song…

Here comes the acoustic album. We have done one acoustic album to date.
Here comes the acoustic album. We have done one acoustic album to date.

40 Grand day out, Quiet Act 2008

The first pick from our acoustic album Quiet Act, Grand Day Out describes a day out in Edinburgh drinking with close friends. Indeed much of this album’s lyrics were about drinking; 6 albums in it was becoming clear that my song writing was getting lazy.

Grand Day Out is a warm upbeat song that builds to the sing along finale. At the time I was pleased with the sound. We were learning more about recording and thinking more about where the drums should be recorded; this album has an airy feel, more open thanks to the acoustic guitars and more subtle drums. Much like the album, Grand Day Out doesn’t change our musical landscape but it is good fun. It was recorded at a beautiful lodge in Gairloch near Baddachro. We had a grand day out at the Baddachro Inn. Pure heaven.

39 Woman In My Dreams Quiet Act 2008

It was a laid back approach to a laid back album
It was a laid back approach to a laid back album

Another take from Quiet Act; this time a pretty obvious love letter! At its heart it is a simple two chord song summed up in the title. I really liked the way we recorded this song, it felt like we were making progress. Stu plays an effective guitar pick over the rhythm, we doubled his part and you can hear the slight differences in his takes panned left and right. It gives the track a kind of ‘sparkle’ which suits the lyrics well. The track ambles along nicely with Greg’s acoustic bass and Derek’s gentle drums giving it flow. Certainly one of our best sounding songs

Like Grand Day Out before it and most of Quiet Act, Woman in my Dreams is simple in its nature although I do feel the lyrics were stronger in this track than most of the album. Not everyone who listens to the band liked this direction… it would not be long before we switched the distortion back on.

38 Fighting With Forever One More Solo 2004

Fighting with Forever sessions recorded at Dereks flat no beer in this shot?
Fighting with Forever sessions recorded at Dereks flat no beer in this shot?

Distorted guitars? Check. Screaming vocals? Check. Clearly this wasn’t from Quiet Act; One More Solo’s final third kicks off with this belter. It bursts in with a solid rhythm before we stop for some toms and guitar build before the song launches into an exasperated look at the formula of adult life, the lack of sleep and fear of getting left behind. ‘Night and day, it just seems the same to me’.

Fighting rolls along before the satisfying screams at the end; my voice barely held out for those as you can hear it burn out towards the end, hence the big FX.

We still play Fighting With Forever at practise but it hasn’t made our set lists for years.

37 Crazy Head Coldhome Street 2000

Crazy head was originally on my solo album ‘A Twist and a Turn’; it had found its way onto this album as have one or two tracks over the years. The rattle at the start of the track is my broken acoustic guitar! We did mention the budget for this album, didn’t we?

This is a bitter tale of broken romance and blaming someone’s past for their actions. It is not a song we have played for years and it is very much of its time.

36 All Good Things Firkin Outburst 1998

That old bridge is now the blue bridge on the Camelon bypass
That old bridge is now the blue bridge on the Camelon bypass

From Firkin Ourburst one of the songs that survived the alcohol laden writing sessions that had an impact on our second album. We were flying high after Whapper Stormer, our first gigs had been a success, we had recorded our first demos and our friendships were growing. There was a Haddows off license across the road from the practise room. We frequented this place every week.

Often we would head home so drunk we wouldn’t be able to remember the songs we had written; All Good Things was one of the 9 that made the album (we recorded 10, Today Was Insane did not make the record).

This track was recorded on our 8 track years after we had written it, again at Derek’s flat during our mad recording weekends.

It has the acoustic/ heavy mix sound that we adopted after Whapper when I was playing more guitar but had yet to purchase an electric.

Lyrically simple there is no complexity to the song, it’s a good riff and has a slightly different feel to our usual tracks.

35 Summerhigh Firkin Outburst 1998

Look at that hair!!
Look at that hair!!

‘Summerhigh, a good day to die’ a lyric straight from Star Trek and the Klingons! This upbeat tune was one of three recorded at our second visit to Random Rhythms, a great wee studio hidden in the outskirts of Edinburgh near the airport. The first sessions, for Whapper, were excellent however this time the recordings did not reach the previous heights. The sound engineer seemed to have lost interest this time around.

Summerhigh sounds slightly thin but the performance was good that day, particularly from Derek who really enjoyed recording in that studio. I sing of getting older (despite being in my early 20’s…) and starting to realise that I had to take some responsibilities; however there was still time for days in the sun.

There is a good live version on our first bootleg, Central FM were very supportive of the local scene during the late 90’s, they had recorded the gig which was part of an all day festival. This Martell performance reflects much of the swagger we had then.

34 Love Hate Thing Riot Act 2007

there is something amazing about rocking out in the remote parts of our land
there is something amazing about rocking out in the remote parts of our land

Sometimes you get a little fed up of the town in which you live; then you go for a stroll look over the forth valley and think, it’s not so bad. Love Hate Thing describes those feelings when out at night. Much of Riot Act is based around nights out in Falkirk (or the aftermath)

Nestled near the end of the album Love Hate Thing starts to wind things down with its moderate pace; at nearly five minutes long it includes a build and a solo. Riot Act is a mixture of fast 2 minute rock and this more measured number.

‘Streets with no name, streets with no shame’ Its not a song we visit much any more. It’s perhaps overly long but not a bad number.
33 Beauty Queen Coldhome Street 2000

This was us doing the 'live' guitars. Made it up as we went along well i did...
This was us doing the ‘live’ guitars. Made it up as we went along well i did…

Given the throwaway nature of Coldhome street it would be surprising if there was not a live jam on the album. That’s what Beauty Queen, the last track on Coldhome, was. The track was recorded in a small studio just outside the centre of  Stirling. I believe we recorded the drums prior to Greg, Stu and I jamming the guitars in the studio. Much of the solo work and possibly the vocals are improvised.

We mixed it on the same day, the engineer seemed to struggle a little and asked if we would mix the track. It’s quite a poor mix; the drums lack the impact needed for a live jam but it is a fun song with some daft lyrics. ‘oh my beauty Queen she loves technology, My beauty queen wants part in a home made movie!’

We all have a soft spot for Beauty Queen; perhaps because it was the song that was never finished. To my knowledge Beauty Queen has never been played live

32 Stand For Your Rights One More Solo 2004

Pensive? Or empty beer bottle?
Pensive? Or empty beer bottle?

Another album ender comes in at 32. A long slow burner of a rock track Stand For Your Rights is the first song we wrote when Stu re-joined the band after his brief hiatus.  Big choruses , dueling solos and a big ending this was our first hint at writing about politics. I’ve always liked the line ‘if you stand for your rights you’ll die young but you’ll die healthy’ it’s a bittersweet statement.

Recorded onto the 8 track along with the rest of One More Solo it was fairly straightforward to record despite the number of different sections of the song. While we were laying tracks at Derek’s flat there was a biblical rainfall shower outside. I grabbed a mic, careful not to get it wet I recorded to the sound of the rain. It was so heavy it ended up sounding like static. My shitty Renault 19 was flooded where it was parked, pity it didn’t float away. I added a little bit of keyboard to give One More Solo the closure it deserved.

31 Crown. Weird Decibels 1

we always look for a recording location with a good pub. Ettrickbridge had the wonderful Cross Keys Inn
we always look for a recording location with a good pub. Ettrickbridge had the wonderful Cross Keys Inn

At number 31 the first track from Weird Decibels 1, a high point in our history, the album was a return to more meaningful lyrics and carefully considered arrangements (well most of it!). Crown is one of the many ‘character’ songs. I was fed up writing about getting drunk at weekends, to be honest I had little to write about so i made up characters. Recorded in Ettrick Bridge (nice pub here as well) we were on a working farm in the middle of the borders. Stunning.

Crown was the murderer, the guy who snapped. He had committed a horrific crime but still attended his mundane office work as normal. ‘Perfect smile it makes me sick, he shakes my bleached hand,  i wonder what makes him tick’. I enjoyed writing about the meeting between the murderer and his perfectly groomed boss.

Crown also asks what happens in our town and cities that we don’t know about as people go about their own business.The vocals during the crescendo are ‘borrowed from a certain Mr Vedder and the song Jeremy. A similar story!

This concludes part 2. nearing the mid table now. next part has a rather big surprise for regular WdB gig goers…