Back in 2017, at the end of September, the nights were growing longer. Nestled in the centre of Falkirk there was a small, brief, but memorable alt. rock/punk scene playing its first showcase in Behind the Wall. It was (and still is) called RIFF. The explosive music night was driven by Dolly, the indefectible frontman of Falkirk punks Thirteen.
At the end of the night, when the satisfied crowd disbanded under the watchful ushering of the bouncers the bands involved had a chance to huddle around a table, count the ticket money and plot the next event.
At that point it felt like the start of something new.
A second successful night followed, then the momentum fell away. Thirteen regrettably imploded, leaving Dolly to pick over the remains of what was a successful era for the band.
Over the months and years that followed Dolly sought and found new personal for the band. Then came the lockdown. This didn’t stop them; instead, they headed to the studio to lay tracks for what would become ‘Ego Trap’.
Press play on the CD, and the guitars leap out, they have familiar tone that had me expecting Axl Rose to start screeching ‘You Could Be Mine’, but Dolly bursts in with his trademark vocals and Thirteen come alive with their own classic, high octane take on punk.
It’s an excellent production from Bryan Ramage, the pace is relentless, the second track, ‘I Am the Fire’ sparks off a flurry of snarls and guitar screeches. ‘Pearls and Piss’, perhaps the highlight, is uplifting. ‘How did to come to this? Drowning in Pearls and piss!” asks Dolly.
‘Trampled Flag’ offers a well-judged change of pace before the EP concludes with the squalling menace of ‘Thirteen’. This is a statement from the band; “I will never tire” asserts Dolly, “We are Thirteen” replies the band.
This is a great record; created and recorded throughout the most challenging of years. What once was the Spirit of Resistance now appearing to be the Spirit of Resilience.
‘Ego Trip’ is Spirited call to arms for all the Punks, Rock and Rollers and we know that they are out there in Falkirk, they’re just waiting for the shout. This could be it.
We’re all going to remember this year because we didn’t expect it to be this way. The start of a new decade, a new year, always brings a sense of hope and optimism. We raised a glass with our loved ones at the start of 2020. Cheers! We shouted, smiled and waited for our hopes to unfold.
Hogmanay, I have always loved it. These days we sit in the house, watch at the crap on TV and sometimes chuckle at Only an Excuse. As 2019 ticked over to 2020 I hugged the family, and we had a wee night of festivities. At the back of my mind was a feeling of excitement.
Weird Decibels had a new album due out in a matter of weeks, we’d release our 9th album on our 25th anniversary. A jolt of pride sparked in my heart; I was still making music with my best mates. Maybe, I thought, we’d get back on the gigs, play a few this year. Yes, 2020 was going to be a good year for the band.
We released our new single Not Giving Up. I’m sure this was one of those songs we wrote near the end of our February writing sessions. The response was just incredible.
We put the video out, a collage of video clips from out recording session in Craigenrae. It proved that as we head through our 40s we are not growing up…The video was very popular, however to see it become our most streamed song of all time (on Spotify) was incredible. I couldn’t wait for the streaming payments to ping on my notifications.
Well, the phone did ping! We received enough money from our streams to buy two pints. However, the fact that people were listening meant I really didn’t care if Spotify et al. paid us or not (not being the default)
We were back at practise! Greg, now a proud father, beamed as he strapped on the bass. We got straight to work, relearning the songs for the new album. At break we started to make plans for gigs. It was exciting.
February arrived on the 21st of…February and we had a brilliant small gathering of friends at my parents wee bar. A small fire crackled as we all caught up. Dad put the CD on the big Hi Fi, it was a sweet moment. A couple of us made mention of the news coming from China, the virus that had spread to Europe. We shrugged and cracked open another beer.
March 23rd We’re all told to stay at home
March 26th UK goes into lockdown.
I remember sitting in the house, our son was going though his lessons. He did really well. I stepped out into the garden. We are under a flight path; the roar of jet engines was a sound we had gotten used to. The silence was just incredible, in some ways unnerving.
This was getting real.
At some point during the lockdown, I picked up the guitar and started playing, I played for hours, most days. Weird Decibels tunes, solo tunes and covers. I even started writing. I hadn’t heard from the guys much. We were all trying to process our own thoughts.
I decided to build a wee set of songs that I would film then share online.
I could’ve streamed a live show, but the sound would’ve been that tinny, thin sound that you get from mobile phones. Instead, I recorded and mixed the live performance. I lifted a few songs off February, flung in a Nirvana cover and played what is perhaps one of my favourite WdB songs A801.
The LiveCast went down fairly well. The band got in touch, pleased that we had found a way to reach out to our listeners.
I text Stu to see if he would help with the second LiveCast I had planned
LiveCast 2 went out to the world, if play counts are your thing then you could say it was going in the right way. Modest numbers but I guess I’ve given up with all that counting nonsense (who am I kidding! Subscribe! Follow pleeease! ). Stu somehow managed to play live solos over my records, the tricky part was syncing them. That took an age. But it was great to see Stu through the lockdown in this weird kinda way.
Now my confidence was growing, and I wondered how to get Greg and Derek involved.
April 16th I’ll Always Be Here
Our second single from February needed a music video. but with the nation on full lockdown i was wondering how we would do this. Based on the LiveCasts I suggested that we film parts of the single to male a video. Derek went further and it was genius. He got his kids involved, playing drums and guitar! it was brilliant and it struck and emotional chord. I got my boy involved and Greg did the same. It was a celebration of friends and family, the antidote we needed for our heavy hearts as the days apart grew longer.
May 15th LiveCast 3
Greg stepped up and we finally got some bass onto the live recordings. Unfortunately recording into a phone is not best for catching lower tones however a bit of magic EQing in the studio helped a bit. For some reason I looked thoroughly fed up on this live show. The lockdown was starting to bite, I probably had had a few beers and nursing a headache.
Then trying to sync a bass and solo guitar onto my recording was tricky but we got there and people really started to get into the casts, some of the support we got was brilliant.
Tommy Clark and Weird Decibels chat over Zoom.
If you are a regular reader of this page, then you will know that our friend Tommy has been a supporter of the band since the Weird Decibels 1 days. He has done so much for the local community and beyond. His radio shows have grown, and he is now heard on a number of stations.
When he agreed to have us on his ‘Next Up With Tommy Clark’ we were delighted. It was a great laugh and he played three songs from February.
May 15th LiveCast 4 A New Hope
It was probably boredom that set in, I started naming the LiveCasts with puns of Star Wars. This recording was probably my favourite, as we were all in this one. Derek had arrived on keyboards. A nightmare to edit all the parts but Greg did wonders with the video editing.
We even managed to fling in a track from the long-lost recordings of Sllablo
On May 24th the Vibration Festival held a live stream of clips of local artists. Hats off to them and I hope they are back in 2021. We appeared amid the numerous local bands. It was a good watch.
We stream LiveCast 5 and this was one of our most popular. In addition to more Weird Decibels songs, we played a few covers and a Smith & McCairney track.
LiveCast 6 and by now my heart was no longer in it. It was a good recording, Stu, Greg and I had a lot of fun with this one but it felt that it had run its course and there were a number of reasons.
I was missing playing live with the guys and it was getting repetitive. It was time to call a halt on this series. I started to plan a new series of LiveCasts that would be the full band in the rehearsal room.
Restrictions were finally easing, soon we would be back in our room playing live
This happened through the summer. We rehearsed our new album. Sure, we wore masks at practise and kept our distance, but it was great to be back making noise.
One night, as we stood in the yard having a break we even started to think about writing again. Everything started to fall in place as the autumn colours appeared on the trees
Then came the return of the restrictions
We fell silent again. I know some bands were still rehearsing through the new ‘teir’ restrictions, but we decided against it. Since then, we have not been in the same room together.
Then around October there was a video call. Derek wanted to make music videos! We all agreed! When we hung up after a slightly awkward video chat (I’m not good with video chats) I picked up my guitar and started to write some music.
Pabs recalls the story of the Seventeenth 2000-04. With help from Jon Shaw, Derek Menmuir, Greg McSorley and Kevin Byrne. As we gather old scrap books and recordings we will edit this document as memories come back to us.
While we often celebrate that the band has managed to stay together for over two decades there was a spell where the band took a hiatus; at the time however I thought Weird was finished. Around mid 2000 an increasingly frustrated Stu announced that he was leaving the band to try something new. I guess we all suspected that it was coming. From our relatively bright start we had withdrawn from the scene and spent months simply putting songs down onto the four track and doing nothing with them. These rough demos would eventually become Coldhome Street.
When Stu announced his departure Greg, Derek and myself sat in Derek’s flat wondering where to go next. I was adamant that we could continue as a three piece just like my sonic heroes Nirvana had done. I was now more confident with the guitar and had a number of ideas floating around my head.
Greg was happy to carry on regardless of the set up.
Derek disagreed; he felt that finding a replacement guitarist would be the best bet and he knew someone that could fill the vacant post. This musician would be Jon Shaw an accomplished bass player to trade but a dab hand on the guitar.
I submitted and agreed that we should meet Jon and it would not be long before we were having our first practise in the very room that Weird had used. I found Jon to be a likeable chap; tall and unimposing he was approachable and open to ideas we had. He had many ideas of his own and a wealth of musical knowledge. I could tell he had a vision for how our sound should develop. He was not afraid to speak his mind, nor was I, this worked for a while but it would eventually lead to friction.
Things started well. Jon had a big influence on our sound, we went from rock to a more alternative sound. He has a very open, flowing, bluesy style that provided a nice texture to complement my more basic rhythm. I toned down the aggressive Weird vocals for something that was more familiar to my solo music.
In the four years we stayed together we wrote 3 eps, a total of ten songs that we released ourselves. I recorded our records and this did cause Jon a lot of frustration. He was keen to get involved however as Greg and Derek would testify I took control of everything. The records had some great songs but the sound was uneven; I was developing recording skills on a small Tascam 788 and I had a lot to learn (I still do). I did however put my own money and time into the recordings, it could be a thankless task at times.
The democratic approach we took to songwriting for Weird was still in place for the Seventeenth, I would arrive with an idea or lyrics, Jon would also have ideas, Derek and Greg would contribute at times as well. It’s fair to say that I liked to have control of the writing process as well, still in my early 20’s, I would be jealous if anyone had an idea that was better than mine and this sometimes created a tension.
EP1 had four songs. Alternative Disco, All the Girls Know (Jon plays a great solo on this track), Pop is Killing Me and You Set Fire which has a nice repeated solo towards the end. The early days were fun, and this showed on some of the first songs with the exception of the sombre All the Girls Know. A lot of these riffs were hanging around from Weird so writing the first EP was pretty straightforward. This did flow over to EP2, arguably the creative peak of the band.
With bright red lipstick, a broad set of eyelashes and a hidden set of sharp claws the unit manager was an interesting character. This particular chap had targets to meet and would go to any lengths in which to meet them. Greg’s looping bass riff opens Unit Manager and Jon’s clean guitar is kept subtle as I create the monster through my lyrics. Staying in this Town was taken off my solo album, the Armour is Broken.
Eight Inches closed EP2 with a sombre look at crumbling relationships. Big changes had happened in my life around the early 00’s, a new job and a new relationship so at the time of writing these songs I was in good place, I guess I had the past to deal with before I could truly move on. Of course the Unit Manager would be one of the early cast members of my characters that I’ve created to write songs. He remains a wicked favourite to this day.
I remember Jon asked someone to listen to the music and offer some advice; it was pretty brutal, with my diction getting the most criticism. I had no idea who this guy was, Jon placed a lot of weight on his opinion. This annoyed me and when we went to write the third EP things were getting difficult.
We recorded all the EPs in Derek’s flat, these were great times. There was a lot of drink in the red bull fridge and friends would come and go as we put the songs down onto the Tascam 788. It was a pretty painless process although Jon wanted to attempt a remix of the songs. He plugged it into his computer and my Tascam crashed. Naturally I flipped but it restarted. I remember Jon and I disagreeing with how the record was sounding but both of us were inexperienced at that time. Jon did like to wind me up, I can remember one afternoon once a session had finished taking the gear back to my old car. There he is, big grin on his face, playing catch with the Tascam 788. Throwing it up, not far, and catching it. It was a small desk, light and portable but at the time it was all I had so that didn’t go down well.
Writing the third EP was difficult, Jon and I argued constantly. Derek had also said that he was leaving for the states for 6 months, he was looking to be away longer, so this had implications for the band. He was there for the writing of the last tracks though.
It was yet another Wednesday night where Jon and I would disagree and argue about the writing of the songs. This was something I was not used to with Weird. The songs were taking ages to write, ideas would be dismissed, riffs would be discarded. Things got so bad that Derek and Greg left the room and stood outside, they were now considering quitting the band.
Despite the difficulties the recording of the third EP went fairly well although it would take a long time to put the record together. Derek had recorded the original takes for the drums but for reasons I can’t recall we drafted in our friend Kevin Byrne. Greg secured us the Three Kings for recording the drums and bass.
Hindsight 2002 was experimental in its sound, influenced by the Radiohead craze of the time (although Grandaddy would be a bigger deal for me). I used delay pedals and distorted the sound by changing the settings on the pedal as I recorded. The Hindsight computer is another character that appears and I guess this fictional machine was someone I created to take the blame for my mistakes.
Pigs at The Gate is one of Jon’s crowning moments with the Seventeenth although the following track Get Home Someday came a close second, Greg’s swaying, flowing bass line is superb on this track. I vaguely recall Jon pouring scorn on the production of this EP, particularity Hindsight 2002. In terms of songwriting and composition I feel we were starting to find our stride as a band. I can hear all the mistakes but I think this is part of the music’s charm. This was the first record that Derek hadn’t been a part of; things were all getting a bit surreal.
The demos and lost tracks
Greg worked at Sky and knew and guy who knew a guy who was a DJ and remixed tracks. He took our songs and attempted to remix them. Eight inches was the only tune for which Jacob and Mendez could work with and it turned out fairly well. Very sombre in its mood which fitted with the Seventeenth; I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this when I first heard it, it was strange to hear our work interpreted in a different way.
There were other songs that we started to work on including ‘Still in the same place that I left you’ but this never took off. Derek had an idea ‘I Talk to You’ but on the recording of this song it appears that Jon and I were not taking this seriously and rather rudely recorded stupid backing vocals as he tried to demo it; this wasn’t a nice way to treat an understandably nervous friend trying to share an idea.
We also managed to capture a live recording of some songs in the practise room. We sounded jovial as we played through: ‘Wishing My Life Away’, ‘Right Back to the Start Again’, ‘Unit Manager’ and ‘Pigs at the Gate’. It’s a rough recording but it sounds like a band having fun.
The Seventeenth Live
We played a few gigs over our four years together. Behind The wall saw us play a stripped down set of our own tunes and some covers. We hit the late nights at Whistle Binkies; we played a couple of gigs there and Derek was in the audience just a weekend after he had returned from the USA. He was watching Kevin play and couldn’t resist asking if he could step up to the stage and drum on a couple of songs at the end of the set. Our highlights was perhaps the battle of the bands at Rock Gardens (now Max’s bar) we had a couple of frantic gigs at that venue. I remember back stage was downstairs and somehow we made it through the first round I can’t recall winning that night but it was a good experience nonetheless.
Our last gig would be at Barfly in Glasgow; we played to just a handful of people that night, including a certain Mr McCairney, by the time we were packing up the headline act were filling the place. The Seventeenth tried to get gigs and we tried to bring a crowd. We had a small following but the momentum never really got going.
Now this is one of my biggest regrets; not being clear with Jon. By chance I had met Stu at Behind the Wall, we spent the whole night reminiscing about the old times so we had an idea to record all our best songs for an acoustic album, a sort of ‘best of’ Weird. It was now nearing the end of 2003, at the time Jon and I had problems trying to write music and we struggled to get on in the practise room. Many of our battles were fought in front of a beleaguered Derek and Greg. Writing was laboured and we could not produce music.
Another nail in the Seventeenth coffin was Slablo (more on this later), a project created by Derek and I. Over 9 hours we wrote and recorded a whole album. Now it’s not a classic but it showed that songs (some of them decent) could be written without the epic struggles that the Seventeenth were experiencing. With our old friend and guitarist back on the scene and the evidence that we could write songs we came to a decision over a pint in the Graeme Hotel that the Seventeenth was not working, Jon was not at this meeting.
We contacted Jon and we all arranged a pint in the Wheatsheaf to discuss the future of the band. Over a few ales we talked about the difficulties that we had and I explained that the band had come to an end in a roundabout sort of way. It was a difficult thing for me to say and I did not handle it well. As we all parted ways at the Wheatsheaf I thought that was the Seventeenth finished. I was now turning my attention to what lay beyond.
However Jon turned up at our next practise and it was clear that I had not been entirely honest with him; there was some sort of misunderstanding. Jon loaded his amp into the practice room and started to set up. I looked at the rest of the guys, they headed outside and it was up to me to ask Jon to let Stu set up instead. That was horrible and no way to treat the guy. Jon sat and watched us jam, it was really awkward and a terrible way for us to part.
Jon and I regrettably lost touch, away from the Seventeenth we had a passion for music and spent a few good nights drinking beer, listening to music and going to gigs, he is a decent bloke. As for the Seventeenth I look back (now) at those years with fondness. We recorded an album’s worth of decent tunes. The sound was uneven; however there were some great moments and I’m still moved by the music.
I want the Seventeenth to have a legacy, as a band we have been forgotten and that is regrettable. We had some good times and thankfully we recorded the few songs we created. It was great to meet and see Jon play alongside us at the 13th Note in 2015. Back on the bass it was clear that this is his weapon of choice as he played superbly. When we caught up it was a pleasant meeting and a good night for all.
The Seventeenth is the forgotten but significant chapter in the history of Weird Decibels. We often share the fact that Weird Decibels have been around since 1995 and we are proud of that. However we haven’t acknowledged that in the four years that Stu was away, Jon and Kevin were in the band and they helped to keep it all together. The Seventeenth was a huge learning curve, I learned a lot about dynamics of being in a band and trying to make things work when you have musical differences.
As I researched our history I looked through the old recording photographs and the sleeves of the eps, there are some great memories of the antics we used to get up to. Some of this spills onto the recordings, particularly the demos where you can hear us having fun, that’s what being in a band should be.
Then there was the music, we wrote some great tunes. Unit Manager, Eight Inches and All the Girls Know saw us come together with force and forge some great songs.
It was just under four years that we were together and we recorded three Ep’s and played a handful of good gigs. Without the Seventeenth, Greg, Derek and I might have lost touch, lifelong friendships might have been lost and many future albums and gigs might never have happened. So I’ll always be grateful that Jon, Kevin, Derek, Greg and I kept the music playing when we could’ve easily given up.
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.
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.
I remember Neil’s cars, he had loads of VW Scirroco’s (in the yard)
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.
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!
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.
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.
I didn’t have my flat then!
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.
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
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.
Is the studio still there? Always look out for it when I’m going past.
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.
We did record in professional studios, most were pretty bad but one did stick out as a fantastic place to record. Split Level studios in Edinburgh; we look back at our first recording. We put down three songs in that session, The Rain,Vancouver and Chameleon.
Pabs We got this studio recommendation from Chris Mason; Cage had recorded their single there, Collapse if i remember correctly, for Baghdad records. He gave us a number and I got in touch with a guy called Neil. We discussed dates and a price and I booked us a slot. I put the phone down and I couldn’t be more excited. We had a few songs ready, The Rain and Vancouver were definite choices. We had entered a competition to write a song for an anti drug campaign in Falkirk. So we wrote Chameleon and decided to record that at the studio so we could submit the song. Greg drove (again), I remember heading to Edinburgh, the studio is just outside the city’s airport, you take a sharp left just after the turnoff for the main terminal. We were heading up this dirt track and i’m thinking we’re lost. Then past the bushes there was this yard, it was a bit of a dump really and there was this cottage and no one was there to meet us. I remember Neil tearing up the drive in a car and parking next to us, out jumped this tall fella with a mop of red hair, he was a friendly laid back guy who fitted into the ramshackle surroundings. He led us up to the cottage and unlocked the front door. I think we first went into a kitchen and it was untidy, then i think there was a toilet. I was a wee bit taken aback. Then we got into the control room and I was blown away.
There was a huge mixing desk ( I was starting to have an interest in recording) a reel to reel and through the window there was a drum kit and a vocal booth. It was amazing. I stepped into the recording room, it was small, cosy, and there was this door that led to the vocal booth. It was padded out in green sound absorbing panels at that time i thought we were now a real band recording in the studio!
This was the first time I was recorded playing the acoustic guitar in the studio, it was nerve wracking! I learned that every chord scrape, every open string was heard and i quickly had to improve my playing.
I can’t remember the order of the songs or even the process of putting the songs down, i do remember screaming my lungs out on the Rain and Neil gently mocking my lyrics, ‘Trousers that keep us alive’ I also remember Greg placing his amp in the toilet to get the sound for the bass.
Derek has always had a knack of putting drums down quickly, I can’t remember how we did the initial tracking but I do remember the overdubbing. I felt at ease in this environment, we’d flop down onto the big couch and listen as Stu laid his tracks, we were well rehearsed so the whole thing went quite well.
I remember having a bit of a jam with Neil on drums at some point. Also that i felt very relaxed doing the recording. It was also the first time you really heard the individual parts being played in isolation as everyone recorded their part.
Remember thinking that was cool. I still love that shot someone took of me taking my bass off in the sunlight from the window. I recorded my parts Sat next to Neil at the desk I think.
The studio was a hidden gem. A bit like Dr Who’s travelling police box. Just looked like a run down wee cottage from the outside… Then once (we got) past the ‘cold trainspotting loo’ a wonderful studio with huge mixing desk and sound proof glass. Amazing stuff I remember feeling under pressure to nail guitar parts but it was quite a relaxed atmosphere so it felt really easy to layer double tracked rhythm parts.
On the track The Rain i use a lot of wah wah and coming back into the studio on the 2nd day Neil had added a delay effect over the top which sounded incredible…..needless to say I had to invest in a delay pedal shortly after this so the overall sound would be replicated live
The mixing was quick, Neil asked if the tracks were for an album or a demo, we said demo, and away he went mixing rather quickly, in the background the tape reel was spinning back and forth. He had an Atari computer with music software and a huge rack of FX. Derek liked the drum sound, later he would reflect that the cymbals could’ve been louder. I was mesmerized at the speed that Neil worked, with a cigarette in hand he flitted between the desk, the reel to reel and the Atari. We started to hear the music back through the speakers and it was amazing, really amazing to hear out songs this way. Neil seemed to like the songs so I guess this made the job easier for him (we’d return a year or so later and it was a slightly different outcome) it wasn’t long before we were done.
There was time for photographs of us larking around in the studio, it was a fantastically optimist time for us, everything was new and we had youth on our side. We thought the world was waiting for us. I guess deep down I knew it would be a long shot making it in 96, Oasis had exploded and our demo that we had just cut was heavier rock. I shook this thought from my mind when I heard the demo played on the car stereo, it sounded amazing on the tape player.
The story of the demo and what it led to is another story, however the legacy of the Split Level sessions would last until this day. These recordings are what we measure our home recording by and they still stand up well today. The three songs would all appear on our first album Whapper Stormer which remains one of our best albums. We recorded the rest of the album some ten years later on an 8 track, the quality of the Split Level sessions forced us to try and match what Neil had achieved. It was a fantastic experience, we would visit a few more studios but they would never match our first studio.
In the years that followed we distanced ourselves from studios, we had a couple of poor experiences and I was getting more involved in sound production. I think the band would’ve loved to have returned to a professional setup, I wanted to learn though, and I suggested we invest in our own gear. Eventually we would take our recordings a step further and higher remote cottages and lodges to record. This was a fantastic experience but we still look back on the professional studio experience with fondness. Perhaps we’ll do it again.
When our long-time friends the Buzzards of Babylon invited us to play at the launch of their new album we cleared the diary and jumped at the chance. We’d be back at the Windsor hotel, the first time we played there was back in 2005, the Buzzards were of course Kranksolo back then.
Sure we were admittedly a little huffy at going on first, no band really wants to open the night; you fear playing in front of the sound engineer and maybe a couple of bar staff, I mean who goes to gigs to see the first band right? However it made sense, we weren’t bringing a crowd with us and we would be able to sink ale after ale as we listened to the metal riffing of Fife’s finest.
Of course we had grand plans when the gig was booked, lets book a hotel, we dreamed, get drunk and have a party! Then I decided to enter a half marathon on the Sunday, looks like I’d be the designated driver then. Greg’s face lit up… I knew that at some point he would go into ‘wee dick’mode. Now this is not a slight on the man, this is a self-confessed state that Greg gets into when he’s had an ale or two. He gets a little annoying but in a bloody funny way. More on that later…
The day arrived far quicker than we knew and it was great to be playing a gig, it’s been strangely quiet year for us, holidays, work life you know the drill. So it was good to be on the road heading over to the Kingdom back to an old haunt to play some tunes.
We arrived in good time at the Windsor, I couldn’t really remember it as much as the Path Tavern down the road (we played there a couple of memorable nights) however when we got into the function room it came back to us. The stage had moved to a better more loftier position and there was now a dedicated sound desk at which Travis Whalley (He is the respected sound engineer who produced Micrometeoroid Modulation, Buzzards latest magnificent album) was attentively caressing a tablet that was mixing the stage sound (technology these days…) so he was able to walk around as he made fine adjustments to the mix. After a quick greeting we set to a soundcheck with Travis and we were ready to go.
By the time we took to the stage, a small but appreciative crowd had gathered to watch our set.
Take the Blindness from Your Eyes
Once more with Feeling
It’s Who You Know
Kill it Kill it
Quoted, Not Voted
My plan had been to try and conserve some energy for the pending half marathon, but that plan went out the window as soon as we started playing. I had no idea how much i had missed playing live and it was great to be back on the stage.
New song Take the Blindness from Your Eyes was an unusual opener for us, we tend to go for easier songs to settle the nerves however we managed to nail this one. The set went well, Speak went a bit wayward when we decided to miss out a couple of bars, no one noticed, including Derek!
I always love playing Quoted, every time I sing it the lyrics always fit in with the latest political shambles, Medicine is now a live staple, it’s such a great tune to play and we finished with old regular Industry. We were tempted with Fathers Verse from the new EP but we hadn’t played it for a while so we went with WdB1’s finisher.
The audience was great, numbers were up a little so it was nice to reach new ears. After we were done the lads made a beeline for the bar and I settled for my Irn Bru. As I supped the soft drink I thoroughly enjoyed the 80’s metal dynamics of Volcano X, they looked like the were having a bawl on the stage and it spread to those who were watching. The vocalist Johnny Steel had a wide vocal range, from deep growls to soaring falsettos. The reminded me of the fun and high energy heard on Helloweens early (and best) albums. Smokestacks followed with a high energy set with some superb guitar work.
Buzzards stepped up a little later than planned, we stayed for the majority of their set (early rise for the big run on the Sunday was now on my mind). Eck suddenly appeared on stage with the first of his masks, he looked the part! No idea how he managed to play the guitar. The band sounded really tight, the new songs from Micrometroid Modulation were solid. Stuart was on form as he crafted his solo work. I had caught up with Rab and Mike earlier in the night and in a similar way to us the Buzzards are happy to keep writing and playing while juggling jobs and families. Fingers crossed this adventure will last for a while yet.
Sadly we had to bail just before the end of their set. Derek and Greg were now giggling and laughing on their way to the car, Greg darted back to the venue for some reason, Stu was sticking up for me telling the guys to get in the car. It was becoming more like a family day out! I started to chuckled as all the nonsense was going on in the background. Greg had previously attempted to pack the gear in the care, that was a disaster…
We set off and Greg went into his Wee Dick mode, being as annoying as he possibly could, it was a laugh. As we left Kirkcaldy we put on Micrometroid Modulation the CD player, tunes blaring, Greg and Derek laughing it wasn’t helping the tinnitus!
As we reached the highway Greg asked if he could vape in the car, before it could answer Stu asserted, nope! Laughter ensued as Greg was shot down, however he had hatched a cunning plan.
I need to pee, was the words that came from the bass player’s mouth. So we pulled over and let Greg out. It was the longest pee ever.. We waited…under the flashing orange of the parking indicators I could see that Greg’s cunning plan was at work! He was vaping! We started to pull away, Greg caught up and laughed as he bundled into the car and we headed back to the shores of Fallkirkshire with Buzzards blasting out of the stereo.
Another good night was had, we should do it more often, except next time I ain’t driving!
(Oh I managed 1:42:38 in the Scottish half marathon)
Seems strange that after over two decades I can’t recall Weird Decibels playing Dunfermline. That was until I remembered a biker rally we played in Crossgates between Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline, but that’s a story for another day.
We were asked to play Montys a couple of weeks before the gig. The venue has a laid back approach to live music, they like to put on bands every weekend, you turn up and you play. The venue itself is a mecca for those who love their rock music. Posters of rock icons are pinned on the wall and the music heard in the background was a playlist of heavy tunes for the punters.
We were made to feel very welcome but the place was empty. We wondered if this would be the first quiet gig for a while. We hadn’t really pushed this one.
We were on first which was fine, we did originally think we’d be on third so we had a longer set so we had to cut a couple of tracks.
I stepped up with my guitar in hand ready to soundcheck. I approached the Marshall stack and switched on the head. Suddenly I heard a electric crunch and smelt burning. It was not I was hoping for. Gav who was on the sound remained calm, he did a very good job throughout the night. The only problem was that we did not have a spare amp head.
Enter Kirby guitarist of The Other Side came to the rescue. He kindly allowed us to play though his valve amp. This saved the night.
By the time half 8 arrived it was time for us to go onstage. The place was empty bar a few eager music fans how had arrived to watch the live music. They were regulars and explained that Monty’s can be packed one week and empty the next.
Undeterred we carried on and struck the first chords of Feeling, once the music was playing the other bands and other people wandered from downstairs and suddenly we had a small but appreciative crowd watching us.
Take the Blindness
Who you Know
I Hear the City
I really enjoyed this gig, Feeling was a little ropey for me but things tightened up when we played Speak. It was wonderful to play Take the Blindness From Your Eyes live for the first time. Finally free from the restrictions of the studio the song felt great to play. A801 was also played for the first time; I only had a light distortion (I didn’t want to muck about with the settings on Kirby’s amp) and I thought it gave the song another edge. It went down really well.
Medicine is now my live favourite, it’s a great song to play. Quoted was angrier than usual and to end with I Hear the City seemed to work well,
After we finished I caught up with the guys from The Other Side and we shared our joint passion for recording our own music; they were friendly bunch of guys who were helpfully sharing contact details of people to get in touch.
We stayed to drink a few beers, well Derek and I did.Stu wasn’t feeling too hot and Greg was working the next day so he was driving back. We took in the sets of Phoenix Lane and the fantastically entertaining AYE Hobos. On last was The Other Side who played many rock songs and a range of brilliant solos that made me want to listen to Dinosaur Jr all over again. Sadly we had to leave halfway through their set sdo Greg could get home but i liked what I heard.
It was a great evening for us, we really enjoyed a night out in the Dunfermline music scene hopefully we’ll be back in the near future and not leave it quite as long next time.
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.
Experience can be a wonderful thing you learn that for every failure there can be success, for every disappointment there is joy and for very lull there are peaks. I can say this now, as a singer who has sung verse and chorus for over two decades I now have the advantage of experience; although I no longer have the distant time of youth. Back in 2008 it was a very different story.
Around 2006 and 2007 Weird Decibels were very much forgotten around the music scene. We were playing an increasing number of cover sets and slowly edging towards the well paid but soul destroying cover scene, Behind The Wall (which thankfully has recently put on a number of local events for original bands) was, at the time, notoriously reliant on cover bands.
I was a guest of many weddings in those years, I’d be sipping away on some overpriced beer listening to some well played but empty attempts of whatever chart hits happened to be popular at the time. I’d look at the band, some would clearly be enjoying the night, after all getting paid a few hundred quid for playing music, not bad… Others would have that dead look in their eyes as the robotically strummed the guitar that they once had a passion for.
Although I felt we were slipping this way in the mid 00’s we were still writing and recording our own material. Riot Act and Quiet Act were released within a year of each other, partly inspired by Foos Fighters double album In Your Honor. (which I feel was also a band going through the motions, in my opinion the 2000’s were pretty poor for music).
Riot Act had come and gone, we didn’t play many gigs to support our 2007 album. We reflected on our next move and Derek suggested an acoustic album. This would be a huge departure from our usual brand of rock. I felt Stu was a little reluctant to switch off the distortion, I was fairly open to the idea. Surprisingly Greg just went with the flow.
Writing the Quiet Act
It was never documented how we wrote the album but it was a fairly quick process, we had a number of songs written. Playing a full set of acoustic numbers was alien to us, it was known that we’d always have a quieter song on our albums but never a full set. Lyrically Quiet Act delved deeper into songs of alcohol and guilt. Riot Act was the night out, Quiet was the morning after.
Back then I was in my early 30’s, married and settling into a modest house on the outskirts of Falkirk. The rest of the guys were still living just outside the town centre (Greg, Stu and Derek all lived fairly close to each other although Stu would soon move away around this time). The booze culture was flowing and there were many party nights. Life had taken the expected course, the house, the car and the microwave.
While the lyrics were were still flowing out of the pen the stories were drying up. I still had many things to say through my songs but i’m not sure i wanted to tackle them at that time, so I took the easy way out and mainly reflected on the boozy aftermath of nights out. It wouldn’t be until many years later that I would find a new way to write lyrics.
We stuck to our tested formula of writing the music. I would create and idea and the band would develop it. It was not the more collaborative method we use today. So I’d be writing solo albums and music for the band. Naturally spreading I was spreading these ideas a little thin. (As I write this I find myself being rather harsh on Quiet Act, and I was for a while, but listening back its not as bad as it seemed at the time. There appears to more depth to my thinking than I thought.)
With the songs not written I turned my attention to the recording. This is where I started to become more enthusiastic. The year before we had headed out to a remote corner of Scotland to record Riot Act and it was a fantastic experience. The thought of doing it all again was fantastic. I spent hours trawling through a printed catalogue of castles and cottages doing research, trying to find if the property I was looking at would be next to no other being. I toiled for days and then weeks before finally my caught a beautiful small cottage nestled discreetly near the shores loch Gairloch. Sealladh Na Mara, a glimpse of the sea was calling us. We packed the van and headed off. The Recording
On the 1st of September 2007 we packed all our modest musical belongings into a hire van. We left around half the van for our carry out and food. The excitement was palpable , this was something different for us. We were getting away from the daily loop of work. All the cover gigs had paid off and now we were able to pay for the hire of the cottage and record the album.
It was a long journey, very much similar to the trek we had for Riot Act however this time we were heading further north. This would be our longest recording trek to date.
The single story cottage, ‘sealladh na mara was perfect for us at the time. The living room had a wooden finish with large glass windows that stretched from floor to ceiling that overlooked the sloping garden that disappeared into the trees. Beyond the thick growth was a glimpse of the loch and Gairloch beyond it. It would be in this room that we would record a majority of Quiet Act.
Using a Tascam 2488 and a selection of cardioid mics including our shiney new rodes (the NT2A) we set up in two rooms. The drums were hustled into the corner of the room, the ceiling was a bit low but the reflective nature of the room lended to a nice open roomy sound. In the kitchen was a makeshift control room with the Tascam 2488 a the centre. A mesh of mic leads from the living room snaked through the serving hatch. Further along the corridor were two drunken musicians Greg and Stu, who during the setup, had been sipping cider in the Autumn sun.
The recordings went well with each song only taking a couple of takes; Derek grew increasingly frustrated at the antics of Stu and Greg but we soldiered on and capture the drums.
All the other instruments were recorded in the living room, much of them picked up by various paired Rode NTA2 formations. Additional work was done once we had returned home and much of the mixing was completed in Falkirk. Kevin Byrne lended an ear to help finish off the mixing, it was useful having a fresh set of ears.
10 Years On.
Quiet Act was more of an exercise for me to explore new studio techniques including better use of EQ. I was cutting more frequencies than boosting and this really helped the sound breath. As an album Quiet Act stands on its own right in our collection.
There are a number of tracks I’m really fond of now. Who Are You is not a cover of the Who song, instead its about four guys reaching an end of one chapter in their lives and heading to another. The music fame dream was distant now and we turned to face a normal life in an average Scottish town accepting that we were fairly content with what we had; albeit with a slight taste of regret.
Woman in My Dreams is hardly ever mentioned these days but it was one song that I felt i had mixed well and that maybe i was string to learn how to record and mix. Buy You A Cape and Breathing Space is the angry strike out section of the album, Grand Day Out celebrated many of our days drinking in either Glasgow or Edinburgh (where the song is based). The second half of the album is laden with guilt and feels like a rather sobering Sunday morning.
It is completely different to what we have recorded before, however it refreshed our musical palette and paved the way for Weird Decibels 1 and a whole new era for the band.