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
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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
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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.)
There are defining moments in every band; a time where the bond between musicians can be strengthened and the foundations laid for a more positive future. The recording of Riot Act was one of those moments.
I packed up my old Ford escort with recording gear, my new Tascam 2488 was carefully bundled into the rather ample boot of the old Maroon car. The rest of the gear was flung in any available space.
I met up with Greg, Derek and Stu. Stu would ride shotgun in the Ford, Greg and Derek would team up in the transit hire van which was packed with enough food and beer to sustain a small country (that likes its drink).
We headed off up the A9 through the epic Cairngorms. Stu switched on the radio and we were greeted with a radio station that I had never heard before. Gone were the annoying presenters, absent were the frustrating adverts, instead Stu and I were treated to track after track of solid rock. ‘Stu what is this station’ I asked? Stu had no answer; he just made the devil sign and smiled. ‘Well wait until we tell Greg and Derek about this radio station!’ I smugly stated. However I did get frustrated as the music would briefly fade away most notably as Gerg and Derek’s van fell behind.
We stopped for petrol in Inverness. I jumped out of the Ford and ran over to tell Greg and Derek about our discovery. As I explained our find, they started to roll of some of the music that we had heard. Alice in Chains? Yes I said. Guns and Roses. YES I said, did you find the station as well? Nah, said Greg, it’s my iPod I had it set up to a radio transmitter. They both chuckled as they walked away to grab a sandwich.
As we drove on from Inverness towards Cannich I started to realise that we had booked a cottage rather far away. As time passed we were soon sharing a single track road with sheep and eventually deer; then it became clear just how breathtaking the Cannich valley was. Further in the distance, sheltered by some trees, was the Leattrie lodge. It looked just like the brochure, that is until we drove up its steep drive and saw it looked a little run down. Just perfect for four lads who wanted to play loud music and drink a lot of alcohol.
The excitement was palpable, a whole week surrounded by the hills of the beautiful valley. The guys charged into the cottage and as I heard their excited voices fade the deeper they got into house I could hear the silence of the valley and a river far in the distance.
I turned and headed into the lodge. It was modest, it had small rooms that ran into a narrow corridor. The living room was open plan to the kitchen. This was the biggest area and I suggested we record here but Derek pointed out we’d be dining in this room and we’d have to dismantle the drums every time we wanted to eat.
We headed upstairs, the bedrooms were small but Derek’s room was a little longer. There was no escaping the ceiling, which due to the nature of the upper level of the cottage, sloped inward, For some reason we decided to set up the drums upstairs. It would prove to be a mistake.
Once all the gear was dropped into the nooks and crannies of the small lodge we started to pack the fridge with beer and had our first meal. I unpacked the Tascam 2488, marvelling at my new purchase. 24 tracks of digital recording. I carefully laid my first condenser microphone; a cheap Stagg, basically a budget version of microphone that I liked. I had recorded the Armour is Broken (a solo lp) with this mic.
As the light faded on the first day Greg lit the fire and we opened our beers. We wouldn’t be sober for the next 6 days.
We recorded Riot Act in batches. Drums and bass for 3 or 4 songs and then we’d layer the guitars and vocals. We’d repeat this process until we had all the tracks down. The drums were crammed into the biggest of the bedrooms upstairs, the low ceiling made the drums sound a bit flat not that I was aware of this at this time. I used various methods to split the signal of the guide tracks and sent a feed through to Greg and Stu who were in another room. It was a crude method but it worked.
The small rooms lended well to a tight guitar sound which translated fairly well on the record. The bass was a direct input. All of the songs were recorded this way with the exception of Weekend All Over My Face where we used Stu’s practise amp to record the bridge that worked really well and room mics for Only Had A Shandy, but that’s another story.
The vocals were sung in another bedroom where the windows overlooked the valley. I remember the guys headed off to the small village at the foot of Cannich. I was left alone to sing It’ll All Work Out In The End. I’ll never forget that afternoon. Alone in a remote part of Scotland, I was singing a song about hope while my head was full of troubles. My late father in law was very ill and it was the first time I was truly alone to think about it. The emotion would spill onto the record.
Every night the fire would crackle and beers would be drank. The laughs would get louder as the darkness surrounded us. Greg would often go out for fresh air… Sometimes I would join him in the darkness of the night, it was breathtaking, There was no orange glow from any nearby cities. Whenever the clouds cleared, stars would hang in the black sky and I’d sway as I tried to focus on the patterns above.
During the day, at down time, we would hang around the outside of the cottage. At times the weather was good. Sometime we’d go our own way and take a walk. A week in a small cottage with the same guys could be cramped and you needed your own space. Greg and Derek took this to a different level. Literally.
They headed up the hill that was our back garden. When I say a hill I mean a proper hill climb, the cottage had no fences or boundaries. The hill rose far into the distance, Derek and Greg filmed the adventure, off they went climbing higher and higher. Stu and I would look up, the pair of them getting smaller.
As they reached the top, flakes of snow started to drift in. Most people would head back. Not Derek, he stripped off and shouted ‘I’m naked at the top of the hill!’ and went off on a merry dance much to Greg’s amusement.
Life in the valley of Cannich was serene, we were visited by a cuckoo on a number of occasions and I managed to capture our visitor on record. The days and nights merged into one long party, recording, beer, jigsaw puzzles and music. At night greg’s fire would continue to crackle as we took stock of life in the band and life in general. We were in our thirties, married or getting married but without kids.
Thursday was a special day, I did a half day of recording and settled down to a BBQ in the small woodland next to the cottage. It was the last change to have a proper night of booze. As I wandered into the woods to gather some firewood I heard an almighty explosion.
I ducked and turned towards the flash of light…peering through the trees I was trying to make sense of what happened. Then I heard Greg laughing, with Derek proudly standing over the fire ‘Lard bomb!’
Then came the dueling banjos, Stu and I pulled the best banjo posies with sticks, only for Derek to snatch mine and fling it in the fire. He redeemed himself with the BBQ’d chicken which was simply wonderful.
The sun slowly set as we got merrier, I left the gang and headed back into the house to set up some microphones. When I was ready I asked the guys to come into the living room. I gave Stu a guitar and some headphones. He played along to the end of Only Had A Shandy as the rest of us sang a drunken chorus of random words. Derek and I spilled over the couch into the floor, mics came crashing down. It was all recorded.
The night grew longer as we gathered around the now small fire out in the woods. I can’t remember what we talked about but it was probably deep and meaningful. We all headed into the cottage except Greg who waited for the sun to rise on the final day.
When I awoke on the last morning with alcohol on my breath and hunger in my belly sadness crept into me. I was hungover and despondent that our recording week had come and gone so quickly. A long quiet drive awaited us, the party was over, our jobs awaited our return on the Monday. So we set off home; there was a subdued mood in the car as Stu stared out the window. I muttered with anger as a Ford Transit overtook us. As I was about to slam my hand on the horn I saw Derek lean out of the van’s passenger window with a big smile, Greg wearing a smug grin as he was overtaking me.
It was a wonderful experience that changed the band for the next ten years. We hired another three cottages after this one. Each growing in size but we never quite matched the drunken madness of the first time.
Shuffle Down had a different feel about it this year as we were playing! Read more about that experience in our latest gig diary.
As I arrived at the Dobbie hall some two hours before the doors opened there was a surprising calm in the air. The various volunteers and stalls were quietly setting up their various stations, there was an air of anticipation, would it be as busy this year?
Shuttling back and forth from the stage was Ben White who once again had the duties of mixing and amplifying a number of different bands with a wide range of instruments; he did a superb job. Anyone who has ever provided the sound for a gig will understand how difficult this is to do for two or three bands never mind a festival roster! So hats off to Ben and his team they did very well providing a nice meaty kick sound that cut through the full range of frequencies that are needed for a balanced sound. Everything from the guitars to the bass sounded well knitted. I would argue that this year was the best sound, a couple of technical glitches aside (which you have to expect), it was clear the sound crew have got to grips with the acoustics the hall
In the background Jim Dunbar was once again overseeing the task, A stalwart of the local scene for many years. During soundcheck he reflected on his many years hauling speakers to various venues and hinted that it may be time to put his feet up.
He did the sound back in at our first gigs at the Martell some 22 years ago, now here we were in the Dobbie hall about to embark on another Shuffle Down and all the challenges that come with putting on a show that gives local bands an opportunity to reach a bigger audience on a grand stage.
Once the soundcheck was completed the lights slowly came on, the true beauty of the stage was revealed. Shuffle Down always has the personal touch of the loyal volunteers and of course Rikki and Laura Tonner. This year was no different with a waterfall of lights hugging the back of the stage and the ever present Afterglow Lamp, stage right, proudly illuminated..
The heavens opened outside, biblical rain fell as the last of the early bands arrived to drop off gear backstage and exchange handshakes. There was a good air between the artists, mutual respect and a common desire to entertain the crowds that were on their way. The doors opened and the rain started to ease, a good number of punters drifted into the scent of coffee from The Common Grind and a whiff of ale from the Tryst Brewery.
Up first wasKieran Fisher playing an acoustic set of originals and covers; his gravely voice reminded me of Kelly Jones I thought this was a lazy comparison until he nailed the Stereophonics. Kieran looked confident up in the big stage which is a hard thing to pull off given that you’re up there on your own. Continuing the acoustic theme was Robbie Lesiuk, when he took the stage the hall was starting to fill with punters. The noise of the crowd chatter grew as people greeted each other the atmosphere was starting to build; there was now a buzz about the place. Robbie played well, his subtle use of loops is always good to listen to and Fault Lines always gets stuck in your head
I was surprised to see Have Mercy Las Vegas on early but it really did help get the feet stomping. Their charismatic front man had the audience stamping and clapping and for the first time I felt genuinely nervous that our rock set would plummet to the earth like a dropped pint of real Tryst ale. Then up stepped Pronto Mama, whose dynamic sound no doubt tested the sound engineering skills of Ben but I felt that the mix held well. Their set was a good blend of synth, brass and guitars. I really enjoyed their show. There was an intense feel to it.
We were up next and you can read all about that in our gig diary.
We played a half hour show which felt like 5 minutes. As we stepped back stage and took a few photos and admittedly did a couple of high fives the Lonely Tourist stepped up to the mic. The stage curtains were drawn so he had a more intimate platform for which to share his tunes. I caught a couple and I really enjoyed his music; I love the full band sound on his record and I hope he ventures up here with the band in the future.
I headed out the the stalls to grab a fine burger and the sun peaked out from behind the dark May clouds, they broke and scatters of blue sky could finally be seen. Finally I could relax and enjoy some Dobbie Shuffle from the Tryst stall (can I by bottles of this somewhere?! It’s sweet!). The alcohol hit me pretty quick!
I was really looking forward to Ghostwriter who I believe are one of the best bands to have emerged from the scene recently. For Hire (Summer never ends) was a great opener and that guitar riff is one of the most infectious I’ve heard for a while. Technical issues distracted singer Iain King and it caused him frustration. To be honest I felt his anger added a little edge to the performance which I enjoyed; however it proved to be too distracting for him and sadly their set finished early.
Fly Jackson ambled up to the stage they seem to take these events in their stride, I saw them at the Trinity Church gig and enjoyed them but I preferred this performance. It was a very focused set by the band and the sound had a fine clarity to it. They have some great songs on their roster.
Iain King found his composure and joined Fairweather and the Elements for their set. Ross and co headlined a great night at the Trinity church, this performance seemed to have more energy, perhaps driven by the occasion, vocalist Deborah Lang was clearly enjoying herself as she danced about the stage. By now it was clear that the electric atmosphere of Shuffle Down was influencing the artists; the performances seemed more energetic and the crowd were loving it. This is why we need this event.
I felt myself glued to the main stage, the atmosphere, the bands and the beer. In previous Shuffle Downs I found myself wandering upstairs to see some fine acts but this year I couldn’t leave the big room as it was proving too enjoyable. It helped that the bands were really quick to switch over. The hall seemed to be as busy as previous years, those watching the acts seemed to enjoy the various genres and warmly applauded all that played.
Miracle Glass Company were superb, I was transfixed by the drumming of Andy Duncan, he was keeping these Ringo Starr esq beats going at a pace while aptly performing his singing duties. There was good pacing to their set, Trouble is a great song.
Then came a surprise. 57, a hard rocking duo from South Korea, took me by surprise.The crowd loved them. I liked the set it was impressive and it was a huge sound for just two people. I had no idea that this was coming.
By this time I was a little tipsy and thinking of work the next day (started in the afternoon folks) so my wife and I headed off into the night. The sounds slowly faded as we walked away from the Dobbie hall.
Perhaps I’m biased as we played Shuffle Down this year but I felt that this was the most enjoyable year so far. The first year had big acts, the 2nd found its groove but this year felt different. It felt like a big party, a gathering of people who love music and will come to Shuffle Down regardless of who is on the bill and every band benefited from an audience that was open to hearing something new and it was fantastic to witness this.
Was Shuffle Down 2017 a success? If success was a large group of happy people enjoying a wide range of music, surrounded by friends drinking local beer, eating local food and listening to local acts then yes it was a huge success.
I will probably attend another overpriced festival sponsored by Tennents at some point but I doubt that will enjoy it as much as I did Shuffle Down 2017.
So as the bands packed up and the Afterglow lamp was switched off, I do hope that next year it will illuminate the Dobbie hall once more. The Falkirk music scene would miss what is now becoming the most important date on our local live calendar.
About to do a take of educational suicide for a demo hence a nervous Pabs
Greg tries to fix things and often it works
Sofa Guys. The great early days of the band. The time we wrote all of Whapper Stormer
It was 1995 and there was a small advert in the music section of the Falkirk Herald; a practice room for hire, kit supplied and there was a phone number supplied.
Greg and I had just put the finishing touches to our new, as yet, unnamed band and we needed a place to play loud. I phoned the number printed and was met with a friendly chap who spoke in a low smoky husk. He explained that the room was near Grangemouth docks, a basement round the back of the bingo hall next to some wasteland. He added we’d be able to play as loud as we wanted. I booked a slot. It was to be a Wednesday night.
February 8th approached and we had bagged a lift off my Dad. Here was four young lads without much in the way of gear and band experience nervously wondering what was to happen next. I jumped out of the car in excitement to collect the keys. I frantically knocked on the door of the address that I was to pick up the keys. In the winter darkness the door creaked open and an elderly man, clearly dragged from his bed, mumbled that I was at the wrong door.
Later we finally found the dude he explained, under a haze of green smoke, the rules. We agreed a time for him to close the room and all was good. He dropped the keys into my hand and I raced back to the idling fiat Uno my Dad drove at the time.
After a great practise and three new songs we heard Greg’s dad Arthur pull up outside. He had kindly offered to take us all home. The hour came for the dude to meet us however there was noone to be seen. 15 minutes later Arthur was no longer waiting and we were to get going. We had to leave the room and all the gear unlocked.
The next week I nervously phoned the dude and for some strange reason he explained the location and rules of the room as if I had never used it and we had spoken for the first time. Then he explained that some arseholes booked last week left the room unlocked. He was so stoned that night he forgot we were even there. Had he remembered that fact we wouldn’t still be in that very room today.
In 1995 Grangemouth was a different place. We were in a basement, above us were various business that have come and gone over the years. There was noone around in this slightly dodgy location it was just a mass of overgrown trees swaying in the breeze from the forth river. The sky was (and still is) often lit orange by the flares of the refinery.
The basement is the size of a fairly large living room with a smaller passageway that leads around the back. There was never a toilet, just a sink. Heating was supplied via a gas heater that we used to huddle around in the coldest nights. We’d pay towards the gas as well as the rent and it was Greg’s job to get it lit.
In the early days there were white washed brick walls that gave it a clean look. There was a couch to dive onto and mirrors to check that the rock poses were all good; it was bright and spacious and a cool place for young musicians to create music. There were a number of bands booked in the room at that time.
In the late 90’s we used to cross the road to Haddows to buy carry outs prior to practising. Greg was now a driver and the rest of us saw this as an excuse to drink a number of midweek beers. It got ridiculous, I used to take down a pint glass and sink a few calders creams. The three of us would be plastered and Greg would drive us home via the BP garage at Earls gate where we would buy food and Derek would take on any eating challenge presented to him. This included fitting a whole packet of cheese bites into his mouth.
The owners eventually ditched the room and we were forced to find a new rehearsal place which turned out to be in Bonnybridge. This lasted for a few months but as soon as we heard our old room was back up under new ownership we went start right back
Practise became a drunken stupor, we had lost focus and we stopped playing gigs so Wednesday nights were the only time we’d play music particularly around 1999 2000. The room was repainted by its new owners Frazer Law (Beany) and Russell Dickson in more a psychedelic palette and the drums were placed on a riser. We started taking a four track down and recorded a full album that would become Cold Home Street.
With the band stalling, Stu left for a few years and we became the Seventeenth. The room was now rented from a flower shop owner and we found the space was filling up with pots and flower beds (but sadly with no flowers). The room was split with a third used for storage for the florist. This was unfortunate as the place lost its feel for a while. However we still huddled around the same old gas fire in the heart of winter.
Stu looks dejected as we struggle to finish Cold Home Street
Derek has time for a beer
Time passed and in 2004 Weird reformed, the dividing wall fell much to our delight and the room was whole again however things were changing outside.
The bulldozers rolled in and swept aside the wild trees then an ASDA sign appeared. Our wee secret corner would soon be changed beyond recognition. A building merchant moved in upstairs and a fast food outlet next door to that. Then came the rats.
One cold wintry evening as Greg tried to start the gas fire I asked him to stop, the rest of the guys fell silent as I listened. Then from the pipes came the scurrying. The rats were here and getting bolder by the day. The room started to feel dirty and rundown.
Thankfully the rats were dealt with and Beany made an almighty attempt to clean the room to its past glory, however he was scuppered by the strange appearance of couches. Several monolithic chairs started to appear and we were battling for space with the furniture. Some of it was Greg’s and he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, promise). Then the couches got mouldy, still he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, always tomorrow). Months passed and the mould grew greater; my love for the room was wilting. Finally one Wednesday when i was expecting to open the door to its usual musk I was delighted to see the seats were gone. Once more the room was spacious albeit a little grubby.
Today we still use the room most weeks and at occasionally we use it for recording. We do have to wait for the boy racers to drive out of the ASDA car park with their exhaust blaring. Haddows is gone, now it’s a sober trip to ASDA for water and sweets. Alcohol is gone, replaced by Tea and coffee supplied from flasks that I bring down during the winter months. A Chinese moves in upstairs every few months and one of the delivery drivers spends his life in his car with the engine running all night for some heat or to charge his phone as he attempts to combat the boredom of waiting for the next Chicken Chow Mein.
We’ve adapted. When we get bored of writing songs in the room we hire a cottage to refresh the creative minds however even to this day we are still inspired by our rehearsal space to create new songs. We’ve now used the practise room for 22 years. Recently we moved things around the room and the sound feels refreshed; when I strike the first chords on the guitar and look around the room at the other guys I can’t picture us being anywhere else. Fingers crossed we can stay a while longer as we’ve had many many happy times in that wee basement. We even shot a music video in the room and several songs. Check them out at the top of this post.
“I want to look up to a shelf and see it full of our own CD’s” Derek once said this to me as we were putting the finishing touches to an album years ago. I can’t remember which one but it was early in our career and I thought it was a wonderful target to have. Some 17 years into its existence HMR or HameMade Records has now reached its 30th release.
We are not signed to any label, we have, for various reasons, been ignored by the record labels so we decided to catalogue our own releases and this directory became HameMade Records or HMR. Before the taxman knocks on the door HMR is not a record label or a company, but you never know someday we might just make it official. So below is the catalogue and a look at each release; I hope you enjoy this look back at our work so far.
Things are a little back to front in the early years of HMR my solo career started after the creation of Weird but before the start of HMR. The label (let’s give it that title for now) started when I converted my early solo records from DCC tapes to CD. The first conversion was my third solo record ‘Twist and a Turn’ which was an undisciplined record but a guy in his early 20’s starting to find his songwriting guise. It was also my only ‘break up album’; thank goodness.
The second HMR release was my second album the lop sided ‘Monkeys on a Stage’. There were some good moments on this album and some bad, experimenting is so important in music and when you have nothing to lose you take risks. But this was a bit of a mess.
Debut solo record ‘Gods In The Kitchen’ is not great but it was essential to start cutting my recording teeth. Had some good moments like the desperation in the track ‘Isolated’ but I’ve no idea what I was trying to achieve with ‘Gods In the Kitchen’ (the title track) and ‘Eve’s Song’ (sorry sis) messy songs.
The first HMR release from Weird (Decibels) was our third ‘Cold Home Street’ which is arguably Weird Decibels poorest album although it does have its moments. It’s a pity the recording was pretty bad. It’s fair to say that HMR got off to a slow start!
Armed with a new digital tascam 788 the work load did not ease and this song was the only single released from ‘The Armour is Broken’ it also had the errie B-side ‘The Armour is Broken’ this time experimenting went well but this tale of an android getting attacked by his enemies was too abstract to appear on the album.
These moments are why I write and record music. Occasionally you hit form and I feel that I did in 2002. It had moments that I still enjoy today, ‘Let Autumn and Winter Past’ and ‘Frayed Ropes’. You write music to make music you enjoy listening to, I’m not ashamed to say I enjoyed listening to this record and the CD accompanied me on my long walks with the dogs in Killin. God I miss the boxers…
CD007 P H Smith ‘Scraping The Barrel’ LP (b sides) 2003
This was a double CD full of rough recordings B-sides and throw away recording from the early 4 track era. Some interesting stuff. Again it is so important to be able to experiment and discover your musical tastes and ability. There are many moments on this record that would challenge even the most liberal listener! Not released
In 2004 we finally got round to recording the album we had written in 1995 the rumpus grunge infected Weird debut ‘Whapper Stormer’. HMR’s 8th release was the first album we made. This album remains a favourite of mine some 21 years after it was first created. There is an innocence about it; however it does remain sharply observant.
After the ‘Armour is Broken’ I got a bit of that old ‘writer’s block’ and scrapped an album that was in the works. The only tracks to survive the cull ended up in the ‘Mallaig EP’ which had a nice track called ‘The Morning’ and ‘Tied Down and Useless’ was not too bad but the EP trails off towards the end.
CD010 The Seventeenth ‘The Unit Manager’ EP 2003
Things are a little confusing here as the HMR catalogue numbers and release years seem to not relate. Thinking back the Seventeenth EP’s were recorded around 2001/02 but took ages to eventually surface. There was also a reluctance from Jon to add the Seventeenth recordings to the HMR roster; this explains why the 1st EP is not in the catalogue. When he left I catalogued EP2 and 3 which perhaps explains the strange order. Not a bad EP, nice tunes that are not recorded particularly great.Hopefully we’ll be able to re-release this.
CD011 The Seventeenth ‘ep 3’ EP 2003.
The final release from the Seventeenth a rather good EP that highlights the disappointment I felt that The Seventeenth did not do more in our 4 years together. ‘Hindsight 2002’ is a highlight. Hopefully this will be re-released soon.
CD012 Sllablo ‘9 Hours’ LP 2004
the most fun I’ve had recording. This new artist to the HMR roster was Derek and I having a lot of fun recording music. A very limited release and now one of HMR rarest recordings.
I can’t recall why we released an EP which had 3 albums tracks and 1 additional song ‘This Is The Last Time’ which was taken from the Sllablo album. This EP was perhaps a demo that was to be distributed to eager record companies around the world.
Now 14 releases into HMR’s existence and the shelf was now half full; Weird’s comeback One More Solo’ is a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of bass! ‘Waiting On the Sound Of Your High Heels’ remains one of our most widely known tracks. ‘The Ending’ and ‘Easy Way’ help, define this record.
CD015 K Byrne ‘ep’ EP
Great 4 track EP from Kevin Byrne recorded in two sessions; criminality Kevin did not record anything after this despite several nudges from me. (he did go on to have a massive influence on Morningday). Final track ‘Feeling Like I Can’ is a HMR highlight.
CD016 Weird ‘Official Bootleg’ LP (b sides) 2005
I was brought up with bootlegs, my Dad loves them and he played Grateful Dead LP’s throughout the years as my young ears listened. I waited years for someone to bootleg us but it wasn’t happening so I did it myself. I waded through a box of tapes and CD’s and found some wonderfully quirky recordings including a four track capture of us playing at a BBQ ( I think that’s on Bootleg 2). There was radio clips and live performances lying unattended for years. It was wonderful putting this together.
Another ‘finally getting around to recording an album’ record. Firkin Outburst was recorded on several different studios and machines. I stitched it all together, we had to watch old videos of our rehearsals to remember some of the songs. Dam alcohol.
Weirds first fully acoustic album and is rarely mentioned by our loyal listeners. It was also the first Weird album not to have the band name on the cover. This caused a ruckus, I hated the name. Adding Decibels has helped! Its an album we had to do; it would help focus our creative minds for what lay ahead…
CD021 Sllablo ‘The Weekend’ SP 2008
No cover art
More focused follow up to the first Sllablo; it had some good tunes including ‘ The Window’. We never officially released this mini album.
CD022 Weird ‘Official Bootleg 2’ LP 2009
Another collection of demos, b-sides and an interesting re-recording of ‘Easy Way’ perhaps not as dynamic as the first bootleg. Not released.
My 6th solo record had its moments. I couldn’t resist starting another album but this was a struggle to finish and after I had finished I swore I’d never record another acoustic album.
CD024 Weird ‘Live at the Lodge’ LP 2009
This album was a live recording of cover songs; on the last day of the Quiet Act sessions we set up the mics and hit record. A fun record that we have never released but it was included in the HMR catalogue. This was not released.
CD025 Weird ‘Live! Tonight! Not Completely! Sold out! LP 2010
Our first recorded gig up at the Argyll that Derek had owned for a while. A mixture of original and cover songs. The sound was not the best but it had feeling. A limited release.
It’s hard to know where Weird Decibels 1 came from; it hasn’t changed our fortunes we are a still an unknown band but it changed a lot of things for us. We had written a great album, ‘Wonder’, ‘Speak’ and ‘Joker’ were credible singles and the ‘Wonder’ video went down well within our community. We played a number of shows in Glasgow and it felt great to be back on the scene. We even added ‘Decibels’ to our name (try typing Weird into a search engine…). We were still writing songs in the same room, so I guess we hit a run of from. It was after Weird Decibels 1 that I was convinced that your best work does not have to be in your early years. This is a great album, the recording is also one of our best if a little harsh. Remember we do all of this ourselves hence why it’s HameMade.
CD027 Paul Henry Smith with Kevin Byrne and Jemma Burt, ‘Morningday‘ 2014
Despite promising never to write another acoustic album I could not resist. I had a new studio and it gave me fresh enthusiasm to record songs. Halfway through the sessions the writer’s block came back with a big old bang. I remember on a cold December staring out into the garden, my guitar resting on my lap, I thought is this it? I worked through it; armed with a sampler I started to programme beats which gave me a new angle in which to write songs. Then I hooked up with Kevin Byrne and Jemma Burt (now Quinn!) to record Morningday. They were vital to pushing this album in an enitrely new direction. An album i’m immensely proud of.
After a quiet two years 2016 brought in a flurry of celebrity deaths and HMR records. The first of the year was Weird Decibels 2. A short album that was extremely difficult to write. Naming the album Weird Decibels 2 was the first mistake; we had the mindset that this was a follow up to Weird Decibels 1 when really this was an album on its own right. With lots of hard work we turned it around and it proved to be a great wee album with one of our most accomplished sounds to date. It was also our most expensive album to date costing around £400!
With the arrival of children (and jobs) comes ‘downtime’; there were nights when Weird Decibels could not make practice. Stu and I were lucky enough to be able to meet up and experiment with riffs and the sampler. We recorded 5 songs and these lay around for two years until Stu pushed for the record to be finished. When I attempted to mix it things were not as good as they could be so que a few re-records and completely new ideas for the old songs. Stu and I were so pleased with the result; ‘Hero or a Villain’ has an accomplished sound that while not quite up to professional standards, does show that we are making progress and we learned a lot from this record.
CD030 Weird Decibels ‘Live at the North Star’ 2016
Sometimes I over do it. We played a gig with The Sonic blue and Rabid Dogs. The soundman let us down do I was tasked with doing the sound of the night, I also decided to take the desk. I recorded three bands while monitoring the live sound; far too much. We played pretty band that night but I salvaged some of the songs and this album was born which while a little loose, has a lot of passion.
HMR releases without a CD catalouge number.
Weird Decibels, Weird Decibels 1.5
Paul Henry Smith with Neil Logan. Self titled EP
Paul Henry Smith ‘The Man Who Learned to Live Without a Heart’ EP
So it’s all fun, a lot of hard work and it’s all Hamemade.
To celebrate the re-release of One More Solo on all digital platforms including Spotify we have a look back the album.
This story can be found on this Bandcamp page but i thought I’d update it for the blog
I loved my time in the Seventeenth, I can say that now as it’s been over 12 years since the band split. However at that time it was a different story. The Seventeenth were going nowhere, songs were hard to come by, Jon and I weren’t getting on musically and Stu was back on the scene.
There was also the small tale of a tiny HMR (Hame Made Records is our hobbyist record label) band called Sllablo. This was a collaboration between myself and Derek at a time when the Seventeenth were struggling to write songs. Born from frustration, we wrote and recorded a rather fun lo fi album in 9 hrs. Now you are quite within your rights to ask what the hell this has to do with Weird. Put simply, Sllablo proved that Derek and I could still hammer out simple tunes. It was to be the catalyst for the (regretful) end of the Seventeenth and for the second era of Weird.
We had no plans to reform Weird; we wanted to start a new band. Myself , Stu, Derek and Greg were all present and correct for our first rehearsal with new musical buddies Chris (Taz) Burt (brother of Jemma who appears on several HMR records) and ex Foam god Kevin Byrne (again another HMR regular).
The six of us booked a slot in Hallglen community centre and wrote a couple of songs ( the Weird versions appear on the extremely rare Official Bootleg 1).
We decided to move our rehearsals back to our old practise room. Other commitments kept Taz and Byrne away from practise so we, the original four from Weird, found ourselves back in the room. We wrote a song called Stand For Your Rights and I’m going to use that tired old cliché, it rocked.
We were back together after a 4 year break. I could not believe the hunger we had rediscovered. One More Solo wrote itself, it was too damn easy; it was to be one of the finest era’s of the band. We recorded the album on a digital 8 Track a Tascam 788 at Derek’s flat. We build a basic vocal booth out of egg cartons. It was a time of beautiful recorded naivety.
One More Solo has many songs we still play live today, Waiting on The Sound Of Your High Heels is a live favourite, Cold Calling, Whiskey In My Head and band favourite The Ending always find a way to get on the set list. Fighting With Forever and Hanging By A Thread show our harder edge with the flip side Trying To Grab Hold redefining the term laid back.
We gigged this record a lot, driving around Scotland in my old automatic Vauxhall Carlton that we called ‘The Vulture’. We could fit the whole band in this wonderful car. We met many bands some who became our friends. Kranksolo, Roller and Popup to name a few. We travelled to the world famous Cavern club in Liverpool to play.
It was the track Easy Way that had us flirting with record label success, This angry kick against modern life struck a chord with a small indie label called Bracken Records (now called Fruit De Mer Records).
In my humble self serving opinion One More Solo is a wonderful record set in a brilliant time. The end of our youth if you like. A time when you could play a gig whenever you wanted, now we have to get babysitters or shift swaps! Listen to the end of Bit Part Optimist Greg has just nailed his bass part in one take, listen to the drunken lads clap, whoop and laugh at the end. This was what it was like at the time. A big party.
Now, I can see my future, I see it everyday
Since this piece was written OMS had a bit of a makeover. The original album was muddy in tone so I attempted to clean it up to some limited success. I found some old CDRs with alternative mixes that worked well. Dereks hated the long fades and to be honest it did show a lack of restraint and discipline; the ‘remaster’ now sounds a bit tighter.
We played a few shows in 2016 and still people (Wilson mainly!) shout for High Heels and for some reason we don’t play it (this will change). I listen back fondly on tracks like the Ending and Tried to Grab Hold two reflective moments on the record. The rest of the disc is balls out rock apart from the alternative mix of cold calling which has a dreamy echo flooded fade out.
Weird Decibels has barely transcended further than our beloved friend and family; One More Solo was no exception. It was a fun album and we made some friends along the way. The fact that our wonderful listeners think this is one of our best sits fine with me. Now that it is on all the digital platforms hopefully this little rock record will find a new audience and join Wilson in shouts for High Heels!
“First heard Alice in Chains through my pal Phil Harley, former lead guitarist of Falkirk band Cage. He introduced me to a lot of bands but AIC really appealed to me. The heavy guitars, fantastic melodies and just amazing songs continue to appeal to me. I have their logo tattooed on me haha. Mike Inez is a tremendous bass player, using effects in his riffs which I’ve recently been experimenting with in my own writing. Still perfecting that though. I’m not sure if they changed the scene or industry but they certainly helped to make the 90s grunge scene as fantastic as it was and continues to be. Ah the 90s..”
The summers of your adulthood always seem to be memories of sun filled days and hazy nights. The days spent listening to the new emerging grunge scene with Greg were no different. We were probably just about to leave high school and there were many afternoons spent diving on his unsuspecting parents couches singing Nirvana songs and we’d shake our brains to the fast hyper beats of Therapy but Alice in Chains were different.There was probably a time where Greg and I shared a smoke over the song ‘Rooster’.
The deep sludge sound of Chains was hypnotising and it was the album’s Dirt and Jar of Flies released 92 and 94 respectively that stuck with us. Dirt just pounds you for an hour, epic tune after epic tune. The track ‘Dam that River’ doesn’t just show that AIC can create massive riffs but on lead with Jerry Cantrell dueling for the limelight with the gnarly vocals of the tragic Layne Staley who through his chronic drug use, died like many other troubled musicians, a young man aged just 34.
Greg would be drawn to the bass, and Mike Inez subtly underpinning the dynamic guitars would influence our very own bass player to drive our music.
Down in a Hole changes the mood of this album with its acoustic tones and many of our influences are heavy rock bands that have more thoughtful moments and this can be heard on many of our own albums.
1996’s MTV unplugged would be one of Stacey’s last shows with the band, this epic acoustic album, with stripped down versions of their songs showed their remarkable musicianship.
AIC still produce brilliant record to this date the Devil Put Dinosaurs Here showed that despite the many setbacks AIC still rose above their peers. Their longevity, their adaptability and their ability to write dynamic songs in about the darkest of matters is incredible. As we advance in years it’s nice to see our musical heroes continue to release high quality albums and it makes us believe that you don’t have to be young to write your best music.
Social media can be great at times and in terms of raising awareness of the local scene it can work (although I find it increasingly frustrating and the ‘boost’ button is always just a click away asking you for money). So when Stirling City Radio appeared on my news feed I was interested to see what this new internet radio station had to offer. Intrigued, I had a look at the schedule and I was delighted to see that the station, that has been broadcasting on the internet since August 2016, had various shows to cater for all genres. This included rock and live performances from local acts so I sent them a message.
A nice guy called James returned my inquisitive email, he was more than happy to organise a slot on a Monday evening with Stephen Franklyn, a presenter who has an easy approach to playing rock and pop, in addition he hosts live local acts.
Once I got the guys to commit to a night James sent back some instructions, basically head to Stirling arcade and record some acoustic songs and talk about our musical journey so far.
Greg opted to sit this one out, his new house needed a bit of work and this included fitting shelves. More on that later…Derek, Stu and Myself rehearsed a couple of the quieter songs from Weird Decibels 2, we arranged a time to meet and the plan was set.
The train rolled through Polmont and I hopped on, Stu joined me later in Camelon with Derek running a half hour behind us. Stu and I walked onto the Stirling Platform and headed up to the arcade just up the hill from the station. As we approached we could hear tunes drifting out from the main entrance. We walked into the empty corridor of the arcade and headed to the centre where there is a cafe and the radio station itself. There, in the studio booth for all to see, was Stephen Franklyn broadcasting live. Our time to play was 7pm so we had 25 minutes to set up.
After a warm handshake Stephen explained what we needed to set up. It didn’t take us long, as Stu picked up his guitar to soundcheck Derek walked through the door with his beat box that was borrowed from our friend Kevin Byrne.
After some Aretha Franklin we were ready to go live on air, the clock hit 7 Stephen welcomed us to the airwaves. My 5 year old son Lewis was listening and I was told he went crazy at this point! We had a brief welcome and chat with Stephen about the band before we launched into Curtain Hits The Cast.
Thankfully it’s a fairly easy song to play as, surprisingly, the nerves had kicked in. I’m not sure how many people were listening but Stu, Derek and I wanted to get this right. It went well and Stephen asked us more questions about the band. We discussed how we write songs and Derek stated that I have an idea which is developed by the band, I said it was more a collaborative approach whereas Stu, bold as brass asserted, Pabs comes out with a riff and I make it better! It was a great moment.
After Stephen played It’s Who You Know from the album we moved onto Almost Beautiful. We explained that Greg couldn’t attend the show as he was hanging shelves so we dedicated the song to him and renamed it ‘Almost Level’. It was a stuttery start from me, it’s a tricky wee riff when the nerves kick in but I recovered and it seemed to go down well. Cue another brief chat with Stephen before he closed with a play of Medicine, again from the album.
We had a chat with Jim Kettles who broadcasts on the station, he does rock show just after Stephen and he played It’s Who You Know later in the night which was a nice touch. Then we signed the pillar which was adorned with names of local acts who have played previously. We stood on a table to reach the top of the pillar; all was going well until Stu stood upon the frame, it slid from under him but luckily his reflexes are still razor sharp and he landed like Batman, on his feet.
We said our goodbyes and headed out of the door back into the arcade as the radios tunes floated across the empty concourse. I was tempted to have a pint but Derek sensibly said he needed to get back for the kids.
Stirling City Radio is a wonderful station set up to serve the local community, it is a fair distance away from the bland automated ‘local’ stations we have on traditional frequency. The station gives local artists the chance to play to a broader audience, the music it plays is varied to try and capture the ears of the Forth valley. Central FM used to do this before it was turned onto a bland franchise. Now motivated people like Stephen and Jim are staring up their own platforms (Tommy Clark’s Third Class Ticket is also a prime example) and the local music scene can only benefit. Tune in here and find out for yourself.
Thanks to falkirkmusicscene Eddie McKenzie and David M Lowe. The historic content of this blog is sourced from this wonderful site
Where Melville Street and Vicar Street meet there is a corner and in this corner there is a bar called Freebird. Once it was called Burns Bar then Firkins which was our era. This pub would become one of Falkirk’s most loved music venues, not only for live bands but for those who liked to pump pound coins into, what was, the best jukebox in town. Many local musicians would converge on this corner of Falkirk and became a focal point for the formation of bands.
According to the wonderful but underused Falkirkmusicscene website The Burns bar was a venue for folk acts in the 70’s and 80’s. Davy Waugh started to promote blue bands before the Happening Club seeds were sown in 1987. The Burns bar changed names to Firkins in 1988. I was only 11 years of age when this re-branding took place, I would frequent the establishment some 8 years later and it would have a massive influence on my music and that of the band.
According to the falkirkmusicscene site (it will be a crime if this is lost) there were occasional bands played between 1997 and 2005, Punk bands like our friends Rabid Dogs would become the mainstay of the venue in future years.
It was in 2004 that we played a gig at our favourite pub (later we would play alongside Kranksolo). We were playing our comeback album One More Solo live. Our friend Kevin Byrne opened up for us with some acoustic songs. After he finished we headed to the make shift stage. We were cramped into the corner of the venue, tripping over each other. The place was hot and sweaty, with only the house lights on, there was no place to hide. The background was the large corner windows so passers by could catch a glimpse of us rocking out the Easy Way.
Firkins was an amazing place to drink in the late 90’s and early 00’s. On Weekdays when I should’ve been at college, I would blether with the late Chris Masson of the band Cage. As the week wore on Fridays would be a whole night playing tunes on the jukebox and Saturdays would be a meet and greet warm up before most of us would head down to Pennies (more on this venue at a later date).
The pub would be packed, not something that has been seen for years. People would sit on the floor, you knew everyone and you felt at ease. This was a crowd of people who repelled the dance scene of Falkirk. I was also Virtua Tennis champ, the arcade which starred Tim Henman and Tommy Haas (who I picked), this helped forge friendships.
One night in I headed into Firkins alone, I headed towards my usual spot on the bar to order a Calders 70. I was always confident that I would meet someone I knew. However a beautiful woman caught the corner of my eye. Her elegance made her stand out amid the hustle of the pub. This woman would eventually become my wife.
Slowly the crowds moved on and the pub lost its feel. Firkins became a shell of what it once was.I’d revisit occasionally just for was last taste of the old atmosphere but it was gone. Then the old corner window from which you would watch the traffic go past, got smashed boarded up and never replaced.