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Riot Act is 10 (part 1 writing)

Behind the Wall Photographs Neil Henderson

Stream the album for free here

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Stu in full flow 2007 BTW, Pic Neil Henderson

Turning 30 was a bit painful; there is something visceral about leaving your 20’s. You think your youth is gone when in fact it’s still around for another few years or so. Turning 40 teaches you this.

Riot Act was written and recorded as we were all heading to our 30’s (Stu had already reached that milestone!) Greg and I were nearly there and Derek was planning to have the mortgage paid off by the end of his third decade.

In 2007 the music industry was about to go through a seismic change. Spotify would launch the year after, itunes was in full flow and people were downloading music only to find the quality was nowhere near as good as physical formats. Radiohead were letting you pay what you wanted for the brilliant ‘In Rainbows’ and Kings of Leon were just past their peak.  

‘this is the hole dam shooting match

where the victims aim high and the victors aim low

where the self obsessed career animals

who don’t want to know’

Underachiever

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Our band was still called Weird and we had had a great ‘comeback’ with One More Solo in 2004. We had gigged that album profusely and after the dust had settled we returned to our practise room and decided our next turn. Derek suggested we started making money from music and that meant learning covers then playing paid gigs. Grudgingly I agreed, the other guys felt that this was a good move. So we learned a lot of tunes and played a number of paid shows. Slowly our band bank account started to look like it had never done so before…it had a balance.

Writing took a back seat; personally I had run out of ideas I thought I had explored all my experiences and thoughts and my pen ran dry. Influences around us were also running low, the Foo Fighters for example were treading water; the albums they released around this time, One By One and In Your Honor could arguably be examples of this (some of the guys will be shaking their heads at this but I feel the Foo’s didn’t return to form until Wasting Light which is superb). Personally I felt that there was no emerging music and even the local scene was not as strong as it is today although its fair to say I was ignoring that as well.

‘Lets face it she’s not very pretty

And she doesn’t look good on the dancefloor

I make my way home from this paranoid city

Turn on the news watch religion at war’

Sky is Falling’

We would attend practise every Wednesday in the same surroundings, low on influences distracted by learning covers and I guess on a come down from the joyful years of 2004’s ‘One More Solo’. Even the very essence of our rehearsal space was changing as the bulldozers came in and cleared the way for another ASDA. Despite all these factors we soldiered on and wrote Riot Act.

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Oh Greg! how you’ve changed! Pic Neil Henderson

Despite my reluctance to learn covers discovering the structure of the songs we were regularly playing in Behind the Wall and other venues that favoured cover acts, I started to become influenced by the punk and rock we were playing. Many of the songs on the album would end up being balls out uncomplicated punk rock that was easy and fun to play.

Our drinking was nuts during these years in the 00’s we drank a lot of beer. Caught up in the insane alcohol deals of the day; we would consume cases of lager without flinching, often during great times at Derek’s old flat. Indeed our old gang of lads were still together; Byrne, Rooz, Wilson to name a few and of course Dave Broon. Unbeknown to us these were the last few care free years and looking back i’m glad we enjoyed them.

Some facts about 2007

  • Interest rates 5.25%
  • Tony Blair steps down as prime minister and is replaced by Gordon Brown
  • US President was George W. Bush
  • There was the horrific Glasgow Airport terrorist attack
  • Average price of a pint was £2.51
  • Best selling album Back To Black Amy Winehouse
  • Average internet speed 3.3 Mb (three times as fast as ours)
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A few pounds more and a few grey hairs less. Pabs 2007. pic Neil Henderson

Alcohol was very much prevalent in the lyrics I wrote then, that and nightlife in Falkirk. Home Sweet Home is perhaps a reflection that I was tiring of the nights this would be a theme throughout the album. However it was a limited view and I grew to criticise my lyrics over the following years. Quiet Act, Riots successor, dealt with the same subject albeit from a Sunday morning perspective. (more on that next year).

 

‘I beat myself up over again

When i realised what i could’ve been

Holding on to a job that pays

For the  house and the car and the microwave’.

Razorwire

 

Personally there were some difficult times in 2007 but I never really learned how to approach them until many years later. Riot Act was like a party with lots of people having fun apart from the one moody guy in the corner ready to start something.

Writing the album was a pretty straight forward, the riffs really spilled out from the covers we were rehearsing. Then one night we heard the scurrying…the rats…even they got a mention on the record.

As we gathered our roster of finished songs I suggested to the guys a new approach to recording; that we hire a cottage in one of the remotest places in Scotland. We now had the money to pay for it. Riot Act would be the first of our ‘lodge albums’ and what a riot that week would be…

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the first ever lodge we used to record. Cannich, Scotland

Words Pabs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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influences music P A B L O ' S M U S I N G S Pabs General music thoughts

Our influences. Radiohead Pabs

 

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As I write this blog Radiohead have just shared their 9th album, a Moon Shaped Pool on Spotify. Thom Yorke once described Spotify as the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse” and pulled his solo work and Radiohead’s post parlophone albums from the streaming service.

So what has this got to do with Weird Decibels blog? I want to  explain the influence that Radiohead have had on our band.

Around 1994 95 Radiohead had already released the single ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ my father didn’t seem to care much for the record so he kindly handed me the vinyl and I ran upstairs and played it.

Anyone

Anyone Can Play Guitar was hugely influential for a young guy trying to learn guitar. Then there was the song Creep.

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Weird had already formed when Radiohead’s 2nd album The Bends had surfaced and this more accomplished album would eventually see me experimenting with delay pedals and the structure of songs. It also opened up the possibility of mixing acoustics with electric guitars. That would be Firkin Outburst then.

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Greg and I went to see them at the Barrowlands towards the end of the Bends tour. Perhaps one of the greatest gigs I had ever been at (I think Greg would agree). Witnessing Thom Yorke jumping around onstage and publicly displaying his every emotion when singing was now on my repertoire

At this point Derek kinda lost interest in Radiohead, Greg no longer listened to them and Stu would visit the ‘head later in his musical journey, for now Ok Computer was mine. I loved the CD, studied the extensive artwork and slotted it eagerly into my Philips CD drive (again supplied by my ever influential father).

Ok Computer would be the latest album to be imprinted on my psychi. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins had only held this honor until now. Radiohead showed me that British music could be as good as the states.

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Ok Computer… I cannot work out where to begin. My love for the structure and ambition of this album almost frustrated me as I could not reach it. Then I had started to sit up and listen to Nigel Godrich’s spacious production. Steve Albini had been my hero for a while, both these guys would now influence my desire to try sound production. This obsession of mine would influence the sound of Weird Decibels until the present day (for better or worse)

Ok Computer unlocked another band for me, Grandaddy, and well that’s a whole other blog

As I moved away from my grunge rock roots (I was writing acoustic solo albums) Kid A arrived to the distaste of music critics and much of the radiohead masses. Only the true fans clung on after this ( there were many). Kid A was and still is a fascinating record (Derek hated it, Stu and Greg didn’t say much). I conquered Kid A,  listening to it several times and unlocked the beauty of the wonderful sonic landscapes that Yorke and co had created. Then it dawned that you could do anything with music but it was incredibly hard to get right. I recorded a terrible solo ep called ‘The man without a heart’ although I do still listen to it for my own selfish indulgence.

It was now the year 2000 and we all survived the millennium bug but alas Weird did not, the 17th (more on this at a later date) would be formed for a while and I would continue to consume whatever Radiohead had to offer. Indeed Amnesiac would influence my contributions to the 17th significantly. Pyramid Song would forever teach me how to find a mood for a song. Its a beautiful piece of music.

Hail to The Thief was the first kick at the shins, the first stumble from my biggest influence. I found myself floating away from my heroes and by 2004 the punk ethic had gripped me as Weird had reformed to  record One More Solo. In our opinion one of our best.

Radiohead had left EMI and for them things went south, they didn’t record an album until 2007’s wonderful return to form ‘In Rainbows’. We went on to the ‘Acts’ arguably our weakest era.

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In Rainbows was a great album however it wasn’t the shiny disc that influenced us this time. It was Radiohead’s decision to let listeners ‘pay what you want’ for their new album. I remember not trusting this, I wanted a CD not MP3’s so I steered clear, however this would have a profound impact on the industry. People downloaded albums for free, privacy was rife anyway and I think Radiohead were trying to find a new approach,however they alone would be unable to stop the demise of the record industry that had bloated to greedy heights in the 80s and 90s.

Our next album (2012) Weird Decibels 1 would be the first to embrace the online community( we were behind the times). It would be the first album to have different price entries. Free on Spotify, pay for a normal CD or pay more for a deluxe CD, Radiohead’s decision to let the fans pay what they wanted had helped pave the way for what was now an option on Bandcamp.

By the time King Of Limbs had surfaced I hardly listened to them. Thom Yorke started his spat with Spotify, yes it’s shocking how much these services pay and we have to see an increase in payments per stream but his won’t happen until Youtube in particular stops being a free platform for artistic content. .

One of my favourite singers took his vitriol out on the wrong (or flawed) service of Spotify. He took a stance and removed his music.

So where are we now. Have Radiohead been paid a handsome fee to upload their new album? Is it the record company that have done it on their behalf? The bottom line, they won’t lose money (it’s been suggested that streaming sites actually encourage consumers to buy physical products albeit on a far more selective way) on this but bands like us continue to do so.

Thanks to piracy, MP3’s and a general reluctance by the mainstream consumer to pay for music we make nothing yet pay a significant fee to get on these services. The bands who are at the top shouldn’t be fighting against the payment per stream, it’s here to stay until the next industry disruptive format arrives. Perhaps they should be asking a local band from every town they visit to open their shows. This would be far greater that anything they could do including anti streaming protests.

Moon Shaped Pool lands on Spotify on the 17th of June. Click and listen, it’s a sombre but beautiful piece of work from one of my favourite bands.