In the 23 years that we’ve played around Scotland we have met many great bands and friends. Time often sees many bands fade as we carry on towards out next musical adventure. There is an exception; the wonderful Buzzards of Babylon.
It was around our One More Solo tour back in 2005 that we first met some of the Buzzards. Back then they were in a different guise, Kranksolo, this is where we met current BoB members Rab Dempsey (vocals) and Mike Gordon (bass). We had played the Path Tavern, a small venue in Kirkcaldy.
The Buzzards of Balyon arose from the unfortunate end of Kranksolo and released a fantastic EP; this included Monkey Knife Fight which became a solid live favourite.
Probably one of the best album names of the year is Micrometeoriod Modulation. Rab, Stuart Gillies (guitar), Mike, Stephen Kirk MacLeod (drums) and Alec have produced a thumping 48 minutes of rock, blues and a tinge of metal brought together by their long served sound engineer Travis Whalley.
Opener I Am Hell has a growl, Rabs vocals are always strong, he has a voice and range perfectly suited to the downtuned rock that plays with him. The huge riffs have a blend of Queens of The Stone Age but meater, perhaps in the vein of mid-early Metallica.
The guitars drive the music, with the kind nature but imposing stature of Alec Raeside and Stuart Gillies assaulting both speakers.
The guys are having fun, embracing their superb music that so far remains unsigned, is being unsigned such a problem anymore? The title of the tracks give away some of the enjoyment they are having B U aWzrd being an example. Its quick riffs show the dexterity of the band before they launch into meaty chorus chords.
Rabs lyrics have always been well written; ‘Be you a wizard or a Mother of invention’ he roars as the band changes pace throughout the track. The beauty of B U aWzrd is the many magical roads it takes you down.
This is what people miss when they only listen to bands from the mainstream, they miss bands who are prepared to take risks, push their music in a different way, bands that are happy to play songs over 3 minutes long. At over 7 minutes this is spellbinding.
Morning After is next, subtle guitars gently bring in the song, giving the record a chance to breath and cleanse the palette before the crunch kicks back in. I thought Mark Lanegan was singing for a minute, Rabs fantastic controlled vocals showing his lower range; arguably this is where he thrives.
When Rab snarls ‘I lost my way, I lift my head towards the sun’ near the end of Interplanetary Convulsion you can feel aggression resonating from the usually upbeat Mr Dempsey, it’s a fine track that slows down with the mood as it fades.
Bi-Polar Bear is blues at its heaviest, this is confirmed when the mouth organ floats over the monolithic guitars, it’s a nice change of texture for the record. I’m tempted to say that this is a direction that suits the Buzzards, the moody blues really fits with the pitch of the vocals. Perhaps a highlight of the album.
Buzzards Of Babylon are a fine band; we’ve played a few shows with them and love it. Everytime we met its never like strangers. They can drink…only our Greg has matched them.
They have finally graced us with an album and it is worthy of a purchase. Sure you could accuse us of being bias towards our friends but those that know me say I won’t say music is great without meaning it. Its excellent and satisfyingly aggressive enough to have you nodding your head in approval. Buy it, support one of the unearthed gems of the Scottish music scene, the Buzzards are soaring upwards.
Stu and Pabs take a look back at our first gig at the Martell Falkirk in 1995. Thanks to Derek for the archive flyers, posters and clippings. Stu for the pictures. Not sure who took them.
It was Thursday 17th August 1995, Bill Clinton was still president of the USA, Take That were in the top five and in the the cinema Waterworld was watched by noone. Another seismic event was about to take to place. Weird were about to play live for the first time.
A few months earlier Greg and Pabs had set their first target, to form a band and play the Martell. They created Weird with Stewart and Derek in the deepest of winter in February 95. A few songs later, probably around 6 or so we were looking for our first gig. That offer came from the late Chris Masson who got us on the bill to support Cage, one of Falkirk’s finest and fiercist bands.
We just had a handful of songs, we hadn’t even graced the studio but we had written some songs that earlier Weird followers would enjoy for years namely: The Rain, Vancouver and Educational Suicide, some of our best known tracks. We felt these songs were strong and it made us confident going into our first gig, well fairly confident!
Back then the Martell was a big deal, it, alongside the Happening Club were the places for local bands to play. Greg and I had went every Thursday night for weeks, months even, to drink beer and listen to Cage. When the call came to play the Martell I was excited, nervous, but really excited. Derek kept a copy of our first flyer. We were third on the bill, we would open up the show for Cage and a band called Twister. A lot of bands in the local scene had ‘er’ at the end of their name.
Our first set list was penned in black ink, what a feeling that was, writing our first set list. Six songs. The Rain, Educational Suicide, Show Your Face Soon, Stay In, Vancouver and Go Away. We never recorded Stay In or Go Away.
We pulled up to the Martell and had to load into the side door straight onto the stage. I walked onto the stage as Jimmy and the sound guys were setting up, I had long hair draped over my face I didn’t want anyone to see me. I was just doing vocals, the freedom! I could just turn up and sing. The classic days.
I remember walking into the venue and hearing Ewan the drummer from headlining band Cage sound check and the hairs were standing on the back of my neck.
Sound checking my guitar felt amazing as It sounded huge through the massive pa system.
I remember hearing the kick drum through the PA for the first time. What a sound. We just used a vocal PA down at our practise room. Derek never used mics on his kit in rehearsal so we had never heard the drums like this before.
Derek was the cocky youngster so full of confidence and even in the early days he used to love winding me up. Greg was laid back as always. Stu if I remember correctly seemed quiet and a bit nervous.
Looking up I saw the lights during soundchek, the blotted out my view of the Martell, at this time it was empty, I remember Stu shredding the guitar to test it, it seemed like a huge sound. This was it, we were going live. I can’t remember what song we soundchecked with but I do remember reading about Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Even at soundcheck Vedder would give everything to his performance, so I did the same. I put everything into the soundcheck!
We were about to go on, by this time a crowd had gathered, there were a lot of friends from high school. Phil and Juls were there as well (I’m sure Phil is in one of the photos), they only knew Stu at this time but we all became friends over the years. I walked up to the stage ready to play, I was really nervous. It’s always the first line you have to remember. Do that and the rest of the gig is fine. So I walked up ready to play and Derek was nowhere to be seen…
Stu played a riff as the crowd waited. Then Derek runs up after getting changed in the toilets. I was raging. Finally we were ready to play. I just recall the lights, the music took me and I just went crazy. I had seen Chris Masson of Cage do the same a few times on this stage, he put everything into his live shows so I did the same, it was natural. Something comes out when you play live, its like all the anger that builds up just pours out. My hair was everywhere. I was singing my songs to other people now.
I stood on stage blasted out the 1st song the Rain the crowd went mental I thought that’s awesome but my guitar didn’t seem that loud on stage…I then realised the sound engineer hadn’t mic’d up my guitar amp!
First song done and my confidence grew. The crowd cheered, the folk from the high school, were loving having a few beers on a Thursday!
After I moved the microphone in front of my amp it sounded a lot better and I grew in confidence.I was pretty nervous which I always am at gigs but after I nail the 1st song the nerves settle and after rehearsing at the practice room for months the live sound on stage was incredible.
The gig flew past, it was only six songs but it felt like 5 minutes. It was an amazing feeling coming off stage and our friends were congratulating us. We dissolved back into the crowd and enjoyed the rest of the night. Cage were amazing, Light years ahead of us, they had been together for a while and were getting into their stride. Stu
Our 1st gig flew by so quickly. So many people came up to us after in Firkins on the Saturday night saying how good we had been. Such a buzz. We had arrived on the live scene.
Photographs Neil Henderson, Sweet P, Kevin Byrne and various.
Don’t you just love countdown list? Yeah thought so! We’ve been rating our recordings and now we reach the top five records that we feel represent our best work. This is all to celebrate the forthcoming release of ‘Everyday Heroes’ EP.
So now that the teacups are running dry and the biscuits are nearly eaten we’ve finally agreed what are our favourite recordings are. All albums are on Spotify, just hit the links. Feel free to follow us so you get notified of our new releases.
Our second album. By this time we were enjoying the freedom of college and the fact that we hadn’t started full time jobs. We drank a lot of beer writing this and probably forgot more songs than we recorded. Nine songs survived.
The front cover sums up the album. Drink and Firkins. We were having a riot. The band was young and we had had a successful couple of years thanks to Whapper Stormer and the vibrant local music scene. This album is messy, it was recorded in two different studios and on three different desks. I remember standing in Firkins asking a guy from Central FM what he thought of the new demo which had Culture Creature, Summer High and Today Was Insane (which never made the album) He didn’t think it was as good as the previous tape (The Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon) I was gutted, raging and walked away.
But the assessment was correct, Firkin didn’t hit the heights of Whapper but it is a fun record that captures a great time for the band. We threw discipline and care out the window and had a laugh.
Big highs, a couple of lows, probably an unfocused time for us but from the practise room point of view it was the best time ever.
It was crazy, taking beer glasses and a carry out down to the room on a Wednesday night. Sometimes we’d drink more than rehearse.
Not as good as Whapper but has its moments. Culture Creature is an absolute classic. Loads of songs lost during this boozy period.
Excellent album, long way down is a totally underrated song in my opinion. Wasn’t quite as boozy a time for me as I was the one driving. Some good vids made then though that are fun to look back on.
Greg drove all the time…He’s one of the most patient people I think I’ve met. He put up with our antics for years. We need to get these vids onto YouTube or something.
Stu returns after a break and we write songs for fun and record in Derek’s old flat with our friends ever present cases of beer and Subways.
All of us apart from Greg gave this the same score. One More Solo was plain good old fashioned rock. We were celebrating getting back together and it shows on this record.
The original master was bad though; in fact i don’t think we mastered anything back then. The bass swamped the record and there was these lovely ringing guitars at the end of nearly every song that Derek was a big fan of.
It was a great time for the band, we still believed that we could make a go of our music career ao we gigged this record quite intensely. We met some great friends on our travels. Its a good record and a wee bit or re-mastering has helped to clear it up.
The remastered version is better. Just think we’ve played the songs on this record so often that they lost out a bit to the other albums on my list.
We haven’t played Waiting On the Sound Of Your High Heels that much.
Not! Great album. Love being back in the fold. Hanging out with my best mates and writing recording and gigging. Remastered version a lot better
Our debut was always our favourite recording over the years, until the Decibels arrived!
I love this record. Three songs were recorded at Split Level in Edinburgh: the Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon. In terms of quality they’re above the rest of the record so in that regard it’s a bit uneven. However the songs were some of the best we ever wrote. This album also has my favourite lyrics; my imagination was firing on all cylinders then, perhaps with the exception of Downer.
One of our first photoshoots for our first demo
Drink makes you ‘cuddly’
It was what we team as ‘classic weird’ I would stick to vocals and Stu would take care of all the guitars. The four of us wrote together. I would sing the melody to Stu, it was a time where i could keep melodies in my head for months. Stu would create a riff from it. I was fascinated by that.
You always remember your first!
Although this album was written in the mid 90’s it would be in 2004 that we would record 7 songs to fit in with the three from Split Level. Just For Today was an early example of progress we were making at recording our music.
The classic Weird album. Still sounds amazing. Timeless. It was so easy to write those songs. Happy happy days.
The first professional recording we did at a proper studio by the chain smoking Neil on a reel to reel whilst muttering ‘the rain..in Spain’ to himself over and over. Was an exciting time.
And Neil added the delay effect over my wahwah guitar in the verses then I bought a delay pedal to replicate it live
Haha yeah I forgot about that, then he sang ‘trousers that keep you alive’ and I’m at the back shaking my head because he’s mocking my diction. It was a very exciting time; it felt like we were living the dream.
The second coming. 4 years after Quiet Act, finally back on the gig scene and about to have our most successful phase some 17 years into our career. Weird Decibels 1 was a defining album for us.
There isn’t much between WdB1 and 2. There would’ve been a bigger difference if WdB1’s tracklisting had been better, WdB1 would’ve been a clear number one.
Ahh the WdB1 tracklisting debate. I stuck firm with this one. Psalm was a statement of intent. It was some 4 years after Quiet Act and we were nowhere on the local scene. Psalm had everything, big guitars, epic drums and bass. The intro is on an old acoustic, similar to Battery by Metallica. The acoustic linked Quiet Act with Weird Decibels 1. The song builds to one of our biggest crescendos. Stu played about three solos while I sang my heart out.
I’m worried about the concept of an album these days. I hope there is not a time where bands stop putting out collections of songs. An album is an experience for me, a beginning, a middle and an end. WdB1 had that.
I see the point that the other guys made about not starting with Psalm but I couldn’t see it any other way. The album starts big and ends big with Industry.
One thing I will say about my favourite recording is that the vocals are loud in the mix and a little harsh, if I had the time I’d have a wee go at mixing this album again.
I like the scope of WdB1, Jemma Burt added piano, keys and violin to three or four tracks but it adds so much to the album, it gives it a lot more texture than it normally would have. Derek and I rated this our favourite recording, there are a lot of solos, guitar riffs and vocals on this album.
WdB1 was also a great era for us. We ventured out of the practise room and started to head out to Glasgow playing some cracking gigs around the city. We shot our first music videos which were watched a few times. Until this time we were a largely ignored band so it was a highlight for us.
Wdb1 is a fabulous record. No acoustics just huge epic rock. So many great songs and still play many of them in our live set. I stand by the track selection although we never really play Psalm live. Love all the videos we made for this record which opened up new listeners to the band. I don’t think Steel had aged too well hence why I rated the album my 3rd favourite.
It’s true what Stu says we do lean quite heavily on this album when building sets. We’ll need to write more!
This album had a limited edition release with hand written lyrics around excellent artwork by pabs which I really enjoyed. I also started making t shirts to sell at gigs with this album cover which seemed to be popular. Good songs which were well received when we played them live.
Our latest album is voted our favourite recording. At 33 minutes it’s a short, sharp burst of rock recorded at our biggest location yet, the grand Springfield cottage.
I voted this my 3rd favourite recording, I like the record, its two years old now so i’ve had more time to reflect on it. It’s probably the best sounding record but it was hellish getting there. Recording the drums in Springfield was a good move. It gave the drums the room sound i was looking for. After the drums and bass things went a bit askew.
Whatever technique or mic placement i used on the guitars I could not get a decent tone for the distortion and spent ages during recording and at mix to get it to sound good. I used to use the Rode for the guitars as I liked the bright tone but the industry standard SM57 gives me more control of the sound. With the Rode I was always cutting a lot of frequencies so I guess it took me awhile to get round to using the SM57; I’m stubborn that way I just wanted to try something different.
I always thought numbering the albums (like Led Zeppelin) was a mistake as it felt like we were essentially doing WdB1 again. We scrapped a few songs at the start and hired a cottage to write, This was new for us and it saved the album. It turned out really good
An album full of excellent songs, some stronger than others but very fun to play. I feel we’re pushing ourselves a bit which can only be a good thing for future recordings.
I rated this my top album as there is not a weak track. It’s our best sounding album recording wise. I had an absolute blast recording my rhythm and especially solo parts (with Bo recording)
Pabs and Stu. Victory coffees
the sun shines through the pop sheild
went with the sm57 for stus distortion it could handle the pressure!
Many many pedals
This was used to record both the bass and the drums at the same time.
The reason we picked this place was for this set up
A stunning and breathtaking property
Yeah I remember Greg recording the solos for me, I had had enough. I set up the mics, got the sound then said to Greg can you do it? Im done… Then I went for a walk in the freezing cold. Derek had went home early he was missing his family. So I’m standing at the end of a farm road, fed up, in the distance I hear Greg and Stu finishing the album and I’m thinking is this it? That was then, time has passed. I think we’re gonna do it again.
Once More with Feeling and Medicine kick arse and love playing those songs live. Plus it was the best lodge we have used to record. Very happy memories. A fantastic album and looking forward to you guys hearing our brand new EP coming soon.
Recently, in October 2017 RiFF was born. The first showcase night saw a collective of four bands playing harder edged songs. Throwing hair that (for some) was slightly longer and wilder, to a loud chorus of music that had a bit of attitude. We were trying to show Falkirk that there was a heavier scene waiting to be discovered. That night there were a few nervous glances at the door; would it be a success? That question was answered pretty quickly when punters started to wander into Behind the Wall. There were fans of the bands present but there were others, genuine hard music lovers who had waited years for a scene like this to fire up again. The place was packed and every member of each band that played that night were buzzing. So it was this success that RiFF 2 was aiming to emulate; another night where the legions of rock, punk and metal lovers would swarm to BTW with their regular punters throwing confused glances towards the many tattooed and pierced music fans heading up the stairs for some colourful mayhem. This time Greg and I went to watch, drink beer and listen to our fellow RiFF bands scream, sing and shred. It was like old times for the both of us; 20 years ago during the 90’s in the Martell on a Thursday night we would be doing the same thing. By nine the doors opened and a decent crowd took their places; staring at the stage eagerly awaiting the first of the bands to appear, RiFF does not tell the crowd the running order of the bands. The message here is to stay and watch all the acts, not just your friends and family. Come and discover something new. Greg and I did just that. It was also nice to see many band members from the first RiFF showcase back to support the fledgling cause.
The Drop kicked things off. The trio were the first of three new bands to join the RiFF collective. Driven by a distorted bass, drums and strong vocals; the Drop’s lack of traditional guitars was not a problem for their sound. Their hard driven rock impressed the crowd and the powerful vocals had me thinking that I wanted to listen to Rage Against the Machine all over again.
One band that is on a rocket propelled trajectory is Sianar, currently impressing much of Scotland with their music. Somehow they managed to fit 7 musicians onto the small stage and they played an excellent forty minutes of rock; full of swirling guitar solos and dueling vocals. Kristian, on lead guitar, appeared not to be distracted by impending fatherhood. He had us on stand by to step in for Sianar should his other half give birth on the day of the showcase. It was good to see the band play on home turf.
RiFF veterans Thirteen picked up the third slot of the night and launched into a roaring set of punk. Tune after tune hitting the audience like a prize fighter. They also flung a cover tune that had me chanting along, by this time Greg and I had few pints under our belts and getting into full flow. Thirteen never disappoint: Dolly likes a snarl when he sings, Craig leaps in the air to slam home a chord on the bass and Greg is one of the best drummers in Falkirk at the moment. His energy behind the kit was felt by the audience adding to a rather brilliant performance.
Not to be undone by Mr Breens masterful performance, Brian now shirtless, took the sticks and pounded the kit into submission for Shatterhand; driving the music veteran’s powerful anthems home. It was the first time I’ve seen these guys, it was a commanding performance from the four piece whose experience lends itself to producing a tight unit. Shatterhand have been around long enough to know how to overcome the hurdles that bands face and it was great to see them in fine form at RiFF. The late hour was not on their side, but the hardy souls that stayed to the end were rewarded by a set that had an urgency about it. The audience had little chance to catch their breath as the four piece launched from song to song. They gave everything to the show and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Having been a member of the audience for this RiFF showcase its was a little harder to gauge the success without the hard evidence of counted ticket stubs. But from what I could see there was no denying that once again BTW enjoyed a busy night and there were far more of the RiFF community members supporting each other. At the start there was a swell of people turning up to support RiFF, packing out much of the stage area and it was great to see that most of the audience stayed all night, (a rare occurrence for local gigs); hopefully the venue appreciates this. The RiFF community is alive and well. This gig proved the first showcase wasn’t a fluke, it was a sign that there are music listeners that want harder edged bands playing in Falkirk. Too see them come back for more was fantastic, let’s turn it up and let the rest of the town hear it.
When you live all your life in Falkirk it’s hard to gauge what people outwith the town really think of our place. As far as 2017 goes Falkirk is having its ups and downs. The high street is struggling but they are trying to rescue it, the football team were humbled in the playoffs then plummeted near the foot of the championship. People come to visit though, the Kelpies and the Wheel are now ingrained in Scottish tourism.
So what about the Falkirk music scene in 2017? Just a few year ago you could argue that it was on tired legs. The last couple of years have been very promising, people would describe it as recovering. Now as we reach the end of the ‘teenies’ I would assert that we have a vibrant scene, there are now a number of excellent bands and events. Here then, is my personal experience of the Falkirk scene; bands I have seen live, played a gig with or albums I have bought. There are many bands that I have missed so any recommendations are more than welcome.
The year started of with an almighty bang as Blind Daze played alongside us at Rock On Tap as part of the excellent One Weekend In Falkirk. These guys play loud, behind the mega sound is a very accomplished band. I caught their soundcheck at RiFF (more on this later) and their guitar work is excellent, finely crafted solos weaving through the tight bass and drums. They are a nice bunch of guys and it was a pleasure to play with the loudest band in town. We were also delighted to have our long time friends Buzzards of Babylon on the bill; they impressed a lot of the locals with their gigantic tunes.
The next night, as One Weekend in Falkirk continued Greg and I went back to the Artisan Tap to see more live music. Callum Baird played a fine set of acoustic folk, he had to nip away after his set as he had a gig in Linlithgow the same night, He’s toured extensively and is one of Falkirk’s hardest working musicians.
Fuzzystar are not from Falkirk but I couldn’t help but being blown away by their bittersweet music. They had a mixture of distorted and clean tones with strong lead guitar. Its was great to learn that they will be returning to these shores at 2018 Shuffle Down. They will be well suited to the Dobbie Hall. A fine band.
I have often said that Shuffle Down is perhaps my highlight of the local scene. 2017 saw it arrived at the Dobbie hall for a third year and there was more a focus on local bands than ever. We had the pleasure of playing this time, it was a fantastic experience. There were many great acts on, Miracle Glass Company,Fly Jackson and Pronto Mana were my personal favourites. There was a strong showing from Fairweather and the Elements and despite tachinal nitches Ghost Writer were good as well. All the bands seem to energise each other. Cannot wait until 28th April 2018!
There was an edge to Fly Jaclkson at Shuffle, my fav show of theirs to date. Pic Gregor Boyd
Ghosts on the stage. Pic Gregor Boyd
Musicians Against Homelessness raised money for the chairy with a number of bands playing at Behind the Wall, including the impressive, youthful trio, SHIVA.
pic eddie mceleney
RiFF was another big highlight of the local scene, 4 bands (again including ourselves. Could be a pattern here…i’m not bias honest!). It was a pleasure to play alongside 13, The Nebulosity and Blind Daze. It was amazing to have these bands come together to achieve what was a successful and busy night. Look out for a showcase in 2018; I hope the RiFF community grows as Falkirk needs a sub-scene of harder edged bands
The Local Records released in 2017 that I had to buy.
There have been many recordings released by local artists this year, I haven’t bought nearly enough and I am looking forward to seeing what I find in 2018. Noise Noise Noise is a great place to pick up CDs from local bands. Just head near the counter at the back of the shop and you’ll find an impressive array of local produced CDs.
Ghost Writers well produced Legends is a great record; it has good pacing with an exciting range of dynamics throughout. 13 put out a strong EP ‘Spirit of Resistance’, its a solid punk outing from the ever busy trio. The Nebulosity remastered their 2015 C+ album this year and its definitely worth a listen to their brand of heavy alternative rock, their music goes places you don’t expect and they are a pleasure to watch live. The Sonic Blues released ‘Something Today’, produced by Greg Breen it has a DIY ethic that I really like, it gives the album a personal touch that can often be missed from over produced recordings.
I have to mention the mighty Rabid Dogs, they released a rare recording of their live North Star show from June last year titled ‘The Best Party in Town’. I fear we will no longer see Rabid Dogs live so if you can, try and get your hands on this record.
The annual AMiF awards are another fine way to discover local talent. Pleasure Heads, SHIVA and Bootsie Blues all have great music (the latter having their track Song For Insomniacs streamed over 10000 times on Spotify). 2017 also saw the arrival of Sianar and Bitter Alice and they have a promising year ahead.
At the end of 2017 Razor Cuts had just run off a print of its 4th edition. It’s packed full of stories, poems, interviews and music reviews. I even managed to get an article about the old alternative nightclub Pennies included. Derek Steel is the passionate editor of the magazine, he is keen for submissions from budding writers email firstname.lastname@example.org with your creations.
There is so much happening in our town now; 2017 has been a stellar year. There were so many bands and events that I couldn’t attend so this look back is only scratching the surface. So if you believe in new year resolutions try to find a wee place on your list to support the local scene, you won’t be disappointed.
We’ve just ‘dropped’ a track; right now people all over the world can listen to our brand new song ‘Take the Blindness From Your Eyes’. This is a far cry from our first ever recorded release. A three track demo tape recorded and released in 1996 on cassette tape. I remember to this day when we drove home from the studio putting the tape into the car stereo and being blown away at hearing our first record.
The Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon were recorded at Split level studios at Ingliston, Edinburgh, it was a great experience for a young band. The reel to reel tape spun at the back of the mixing room as we laid down our the tracks that we thought would break us into the music scene.
The tracks were all mixed down to a DAT tape master and we nervously took this small cassette (which we couldn’t play on normal cassette players) to a duplication service called Chow Productions. While they could print out several copies of the tape artwork and print on the cassette they couldn’t duplicate the music from the master; so they printed off a batch of blank cassettes with our artwork. We had to get the DAT onto a CD and manually recorded the three songs onto the printed cassettes. This was done by a specialist who was able to convert the master DAT to a CD.
Our first demos would be packed in padded envelopes with a typewritten letter explaining who we were (an early version of a bio I guess). There were computers around in 1996, it’s just we didn’t have any. I got some addresses for record companies out of the NME and Melody Maker listings and sent off the package envelopes with the demo tape and hoped for the best.
CDRs became mainstream around the late 90’s early 00’s. The studios we were now working with handed us a shiny disc with our new demos. The world of home studios and doing this for ourselves was still a couple of years away. We would get these CDs duplicated then, in a similar way to the tapes, we would package them in a padded envelope and send it off to record company addresses that we found in NME and Melody Maker however this time we had a PC that we could print of letters with pictures.
As the 2000s surged into middle age we now had our own studio gear and were recording our own demos and albums. The first self recording was Cold Home Street which we burned to CDR. After this we upgraded to digital multi track but CDR was still the format to send stuff to the ever silent record companies.
By the time we were recording One More Solo the internet was screeching (kids won’t get this ) into existence and loading up at around 500k, MP3’s were creeping in and the ipod was taking off. Bebo arrived and we were now sharing our music in a more direct route to our followers. Back then it was customary to let listeners hear 30 second previews of the track and they would buy the full MP3 in a frenzy of rapid Weird Decibels anticipation. They didn’t. However some people were still buying music but there was no doubt that the free tier was on the way and Radiohead’s In Rainbows, pay what you want, strategy was an interesting experiment. To be fair bittorrent, the pirate bay and napster had already set (arguably illegally, but record companies were still in the stone age) new ground rules and while they were now being dismantled by the ever eager record companies (who were still not calling us) the music distribution models had been changed. Many listeners were no longer paying for music.
Riot Act and Quiet Act were never sent to record companies, they were uploaded to the internet however CDs were still very much important to print as we had a fanbase that wanted them, we still have some if your interested. Shop Bandcamp
After a lengthy pause between Quiet Act and Weird Decibels 1 the music industry was changing rapidly. Spotify had arrived 2008 to try and muscle in on iTunes. It did in spectacular style. We were slow to adapt.
Weird Decibels 1 was released in 2011, demo tapes were now a long way off however we were still printing limited batch CDs. We tried to make WdB1 more attractive by offering a tiered approach to our music. You could listen free on Bandcamp, buy the normal CD or order the limited edition CD with added an artwork booklet, which we sold out of.
We also had to consider a growing number of formats including WAV, FLAC and ACC. Streaming was now a growing force; downloads still made us money though. We finally made the jump to streaming via a digital distributor. We could now effectively be our own record company.
Roll forward to 2016 and Weird Decibels was printed on CD and sold less than WdB1 however most of our top stream tracks are from WdB2 . Now we could see who was listening to our music, a slight nod of pride arose when we saw significant activity in South America and other far off lands.
Of course we were still behind the times, many artists were now ‘dropping’ tracks, no hype no fanfare, just uploading songs for people to listen to. Vinyl had also made a massive comeback. This appears to be out of our reach at present. The mastering techniques involved and the cost of printing are out of reach. Hopefully this will change.
So here we are now, we’ve dropped a track but now it’s getting harder to reach audiences without paying for promoted posts given that we’re not paid in the first place! Facebook isn’t helping, people are fed up with it, so we need to find a new way to reach an audience. Until we figure that out feel free to enjoy our new song.
Just a wee note, when we sell a CD at a gig it’s a huge thing these days. The money made from that single purchase can takes us months to raise on streaming services, So if you like a local act buy a CD!
Dear fellow bands please let us know what your first demo was!
It all started on June the 26th; it was a Monday night, Dolly Robinson of 13 asked for local musicians to meet and discuss the possibility of a showcase for Falkirk’s harder edged music. A handful of local musicians wandered into the pub looking around for other band members that they had not yet met.
Peter Gilbert and Nathan Paterson both from Blind Daze, Alan Costello of the Nebulosity, Bob from the Star Inn, Craig Hayworth and Dolly from 13, Rory from Eindp photography and myself sat around a table in Behind the Wall’s conservatory. One of the things I remember Dolly saying was “I don’t want this to be another pub gig”, he had a vision for a showcase for a number of bands.
The venues that were being suggested were bigger than I imagined. The Warehouse and the Loft upstairs at Behind the Wall. I was thinking of smaller, more intimate venues akin to the Happening club, somewhere were 40 people would make the place looked packed. We settled on Behind the Wall, I felt that this was ambitious for the first RiFF showcase. Start small I thought, then build a scene.
One thing was clear from the first meeting that all the bands were heading in the same direction, some felt ignored by the local scene and others felt there was no scene. I was in the middle. We’ve played some great gigs in Falkirk recently and been to see many great bands. One thing that was missing was harder, in your face, alternative music.
We departed from Behind the Wall all with various tasks to carry out. The date was set, September 29th 2017 upstairs in the 180 capacity Behind the Wall. Now we needed to get a crowd through the door…
Rikki Tonner of Afterglow offered much needed advice, Bob from the Star Inn offered help, The Bunker offered gear. It was looking good for the setup. We set up the usual social media pages and I contacted the Falkirk Herald, James Trimble was happy to be on board.
A few weeks later I was back in Behind the Wall. Craig Hayworth and I stood outside the pub at 11am like a pair of keen drinkers waiting for our first pint when we were actually waiting on James. He arrived clearly happy to get out of the office, notepad in hand, pen at the ready.
Alan Costello bounced in the door just as we were starting the interview, slightly harassed having just awoken after a shift he was keen to be part of the article. We repeated the RiFF community’s philosophy that RiFF bands will support each other whenever possible. It was a pleasant chat over a few coffees.
Everything seemed to going well but the tickets were slow in selling. I hoped that the old tradition of an article in a newspaper would help raise awareness.
The bands worked hard to spread the word. It was now just a couple of weeks to go, more people were starting to commit. Craig reported an increase in sales at Noise Noise Noise. Word was getting out, people were sharing posts. Maybe, I thought, we’ll reach 50 or 60 sales and the place will at least look busy.
Now with just days to go, we had more of our fantastic supporters wanting tickets, again Craig said that tickets were selling. We put all the figures together we were looking at around a 100, Now I was getting excited, was this really going to work? Was this going to be more than just a pub gig?
The Night Of The Showcase
It was a bright September day, reds and ambers now appearing in the trees. Time had flown since RiFF was created back in June. Greg came to pick me up around 3 and we headed off to the Bunker, a rehearsal studio in Bonnybridge. Daniel McGibbon was most helpful giving us the backing. Two amps, a bass cab and a full drum kit. Greg recalled his Tetris skills and we managed to carefully pack all the gear into his car.
After fighting through the Falkirk traffic we finally arrived at the venue. Upstairs we were greeted by a cheery Jim Dunbar, he was busy setting up the rig. Blind Daze drummer Craig Scott arrived to help and together we set up the room for the showcase.
The other bands started to arrive and we had a brief soundcheck, the stage was set. I stood at the door with Craig Hayworth; I was getting slightly obsessive about the door opening. Bang on half 7 the first people started to arrive. They didn’t have tickets…they were happy to pay at the door and I saw those guys stay the whole night.
More people arrived, some with and some without tickets. Stubs started to pile up under the cash tin. Craig Scott came over to let Craig Hayworth run the merch, again we were all working for the cause. It was now around 8 and there were people streaming through the door. I looked around after tearing stubs and couldn’t believe that the place was packed.
Our stage time of 9 fast approached. When we stepped under the blue lights I could see rows of people awaiting the first riff to be played. I was stunned and excited. I picked up the guitar, looked at the rest of the guys and started Kill it Kill it. It was an immense feeling and I was driven by the crowd. Every Time I looked up I could vaguely see people appearing to enjoy the music. When we stopped songs there was a great cheer. It was a fantastic feeling.
It’s Who You Know
I Hear the City
The set flew by and it was hot. I’ve no idea how Greg didn’t pass out wearing his big patched jacket. My guitar cut out at Deliverance, three songs from the end, so it was back to old school Weird with myself on vocals and Stu doing all the guitar. Before ‘I Hear the City’ I tried to plug the guitar straight into the amp, passing by the pedal board. It worked and we finished the set with ‘Industry’ now becoming a regular finisher.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
The Nebulosity stepped up next and they played a blinder. I missed the first couple of songs, although I heard them through at the bar as I waited patiently for a pint. The staff looked a little overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, (Derek may disagree with ‘overwhelmed’). However I got back to the door duties. I would like to say I could see them but the place was packed. Alan Costollo looked like he was loving it, flinging his hair about. The music was heavy, this was what RiFF is all about. Again the crowd was brilliant, they got a large response from every song played. The crowd were watching all the bands not just their own and this was fantastic.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
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pic eddie mceleney
The night now jumped into the second half, time was flying. Up stepped Blind Daze to deliver a solid set of rock with some really slick guitar play. Craig Scott’s drumming kept the band really tight it was a great performance and they clearly enjoyed it as much as the previous two bands. It was great to see most of the crowd staying. Peter Gilbert really looks like he’s enjoying life as the vocalist of Blind Daze and Nathan Paterson handles his bass duties with aplomb.
Remember when Dolly said right at the start he didn’t want the showcase to be just another pub gig. When he stepped onto the stage he must’ve felt a sense of achievement. He helped bring it all together and admittedly he had his ups and downs. When the ticket sales were low he wondered if the event should be cancelled given that the bands were paying out of their own pockets. This defines the ups and downs of being a musician yet to make a living out of the art. But he and the rest of the RiFF community stuck through, and together we all stood in the same packed room as 13 played with huge grins on their faces.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
It was another fine set, a mixture of songs from their records and covers. Greg Breen is probably the busiest musician in Falkirk at the moment, now full time drummer with the band and of course he has the Sonic Blues going as well. Craig Scott really took in the event, he was bouncing all over the stage, (thank goodness we extended the size of the platform…). It was an excellent end to the night.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
I was now a few beers in and had a slight sway in my step, last orders were shouted and the crowd slowly started to filter away leaving the RiFF community alone in empty to venue to try and comprehend what had just happened.
The RiFF Collective Look to the Future.
The ticket stubs were counted, 140 tickets sold; this was nearly a sell out. The RiFF showcase was a tremendous success. After all the costs were met the bands evenly split the money, it was a great feeling to get something back and merch had been selling as well.
Our attention now turns to future showcase events; many people in the audience commented on how they had never seen a heavy alternative music event for many years so perhaps there is a scene in Falkirk waiting to be uncovered. So now it’s all about timing and getting new bands on board. We’ll never know where RiFF could go, perhaps it will grow and local bands will have an opportunity to play shows of this magnitude. It’s a hard edged music scene Falkirk really needs.
It’s a night that Weird Decibels that will never forget; we were delighted to be a part of the first showcase and we hope that there will be many more, giving other local acts the chance to meet new friends and a new audience.
Once again RiFF members will gather around a table to discuss the next showcase with a new meeting planned for mid October. Who knows what the next showcase will bring but one thing is for sure the bands involved and the crowd that came to see us will never forget what happened at Behind The Wall on the 29th of September. It definitely wasn’t a pub gig.
Pabs ( a proud member of the RiFF community. Get involved.)
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.
It was around 1996 when on a normal Wednesday night we gathered for practice, Stu asked us if we fancied playing a gig in a prison. He had a relative who organised entertainment for the inmates HMP Longriggend (which has since closed). We had reservations, as four young guys all we knew about prison was the stuff you saw on television. Prisoner: Cell Block H was terrifying… However when Stu added that it would be our first paid gig we quickly manned up, did a few push ups and agreed to play.
We had to learn a few of our first cover songs to mix in with our own numbers; and we hired Jim Dunbar to do the sound. For additional support we brought our friends John Baines and Ruari Pearson. For the purposes of security Stu had to phone the prison with the names of our party. For some reason he couldn’t remember Ruari’s surname so under a bit of pressure from the gruff voice of the warder on the line, Stu said Ruari’s name was John, John Ruari…
Longriggend was located near Airdrie and as you drove along the winding B803 taking in the desolate back farmland your eyes would be drawn up the hill towards the walls of the prison, it was an eerie scene often shrouded by the clouds that hung to the hillside.
On the day of our gig we drove up to the gatehouse unsure what lie ahead. It was the late 90’s and while the prisons had settled back to some sort of normally after the turbulent start to the decade there was still an imposing welcome at the gate.
We gave our names. Ruari gave his; Rurai Pearson he said to the guard. Sorry we don’t have that name stated the gatekeeper. Derek whispered, today you’re John Ruari. ‘John Ruari’ said Ruari. Finally we were in.
We were led around to the games hall past the prison wings; the cell windows were adorned with steel bars no doubt there was an unknown soul awaiting his fate from the courts locked within. Barbed wire hung to every wall. Some of the inmates were having a kick about in a five aside pitch they took little interest as we passed.
The guard escorting us pointed to a parking bay and showed us inside the hall. Some prisoners were in the wing adjacent, staring at us through a grill gate as we went in. Intimidating to anyone first entering these institutions however to the guards this was just another backshift.
It didn’t take long for us to set up, Jim turned up the volume and it was loud. Time passed and slowly the prisoners shuffled into the hall in an orderly fashion and took their seats. Derek noticed a couple of guys from our school that had wandered onto the wrong side of the law. Not one of the guys heckled us, indeed they seemed happy to be free from the confines of their cells. When we started playing things changed slightly.
As we launched into our first songs some of the prisoners walked out to the toilet. A few minutes later they came back with toilet roll stuffed into their ears. Others sad impassively, some laughed as I tried to rock out to the music.
It was a fine gig though and our inhibitions were unfounded; for as we neared the end of our set the power cut and the lights went out…that was hairy but we got a warm round of applause at the end. It was nice to get paid, just a bit unnerving seeing the guard counting out the money in front of the captive audience!
A few weeks later Stu and I were in Glasgow picking up our printed demo tapes that were still to be filled with the audio tracks. As we headed down Sauchiehall street back to the station we heard a ‘hello’ from behind us. A young guy staggered towards us, ‘you guys played at the LRU didn’t ye?’ ‘eh yes’ we replied; ‘Brilliant you got me oot ma cell for the afternoon’. ‘I’ll buy wan eh yer tapes’ Stu tried to explain that the tapes were blank but he waved his words away. He handed us a couple of quid and stumbled down the busy street with one of our demos before disappearing into the mass of shoppers.
Thanks to the crowd, Afterglow and everyone involved in the organisation of One Weekend in Falkirk
2017 was just a couple of days old when the hype for the first ‘One Weekend In Falkirk’ music event was starting to build. It seemed as if a lot of people were genuinely excited and we were delighted to be part of it.
The Falkirk Herald got in the act with a full spread article listing all the events; our picture (taken by Kevin Byrne) took centre stage on the page. It was nice to see the local paper helping to raise the awareness of the gig.
One Weekend in Falkirk was hosted by the Write Angle with a little help from several people including Adam Donaldson and Afterglow music. It was five days of music, poetry, open mic and arts. We were asked to be part of the Rock on Tap, the Friday night at the Artisan Tap (Falkirk’s best new pub in years). We were also asked to recommend a band to complete the lineup and we could not look past the wonderful Buzzards of Babylon.
On gig day I was a little more nervous than usual as there seemed to be quite a bit of gravitas with this event. Also it was the start of January and I was worried that wallets would be lights and that would stop people coming out. After a small bowl of pasta I headed out with my wife kindly dropping me off at the venue. (when you get dropped off for a gig your first thought is often ‘beer’)
I was first, gear in hand it was nice to see the punters opening doors when they saw I was laden with an amp and guitar. In other venues you do not get this show of kindness. There was a good vibe around the Tap as people were tucking into their pizzas and burgers which looked damn nice but my stomach was not up to it.
Given that Artisan Tap had all its tables full of diners the stage was set in the center of the venue; the stage area was small but manageable so all was good. Slowly the bands filtered in, warm handshakes were exchanged between Blind Daze, ourselves and the young duo of Skelfs. When Buzzards arrived it was great to see our friends again and we shared some stories of gigs from the past. These stories often included many an ale and the last time the Buzzards soared over Falkirk they scooped up an almighty amount of beer that only Greg could match however this time it was strictly Irn Bru as some of the gents had commitments the following day including taking the kids to the Marvel stage show!
Soundcheck was fine, quick and straight to the point the mix from the stage sounded great at this point I started to look towards the bar, yearning for a beer but i didn’t want to over do it . Greg in his usual laid back style strolled up and ordered a pint at the back of 7.
The punters finished their meals and most stayed throughout the soundcheck which was a great sign, some of our crowd started to file in and the venue was looking rather busy. Skelfs stepped up first, these guys have only been together a year or so, now on a new lineup they had only played a handful of gigs to date. The played a set of bluesy rock tunes not dissimilar to the White Stripes and they went down well with the crowd.
The Buzzards of Babylon were next; they marched up to the mics and played a blinder. Monkey Knife Fight remains a favourite and they played a ‘ballad’ in reflection of the venue however it was a heavy brooding number. They also knocked out some blues with Eck showing his skills on the mouth organ although at one point it looked as if he just about run out of oxygen belting out the notes. Fine stuff.
Our Falkirk peers Blind Daze cranked up the volume to 11 they have a good mix of melodies and pure rock, the place was busier now and the crowd soaked up the tunes. The band really seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.
Then it was us. We stepped up to a welcome applause and we were determined to blow away the slightly disappointing performance of our last gig. First tune Kill it Kill it was nailed and our confidence grew. As a rule we tend to play an easy track first to set us up.
We belted through the tunes and tonight I felt we were on form, then around halfway through the set, a familiar call came from the crowd. Once again our friend Chris Wilson shouted for High Heels. I asked the rest of the venue and eventually an almighty roar gave us no option but to play Waiting on The Sound of Your High Heels, which is great as I love playing that song!
I loved playing Feeling and Medicine; Curtain Hits The Cast went down well and Industry seems to have growing support as a set finisher which is fine by me!
As we neared the end of the set I could not help but pay tribute to Jim Dunbar who has been providing PA for Falkirk for many years, including our first gig back in 1995. To see him doing the sound for our gig 22 years later is simply amazing.
It’s Who You Know
I Hear The City
Curtain hits the cast
The set was over too quickly and before I knew it I was standing at the bar necking a few pints of Bitter and Twisted. The atmosphere was still great but by this late hour the crowd was slowly filtering out the door, I had the warm fuzz you get when a gig has went well. Stu was delighted, he tends to get very nervous even after all these years and you could see he was floating on the euphoria of a successful night.
I’m glad that rock music got its place in One Weekend in Falkirk and the organisers should be commended for that. The following night I went along to the Inverno event (more on this later) and from my own experience One Weekend In Falkirk has been great success; it’s been years since I spend a whole weekend both playing and enjoying acts from Falkirk and beyond. The venue, the atmosphere and the music all added to a brilliant experience. I hope this becomes our ‘winter’ event from Falkirk, yet another sign that our music scene is back and in good health.
Artisan tap as part of one weekend in Falkirk festival 6th January 2017