Tag Archives: the seventeenth

The Seventeenth

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 From our relatively bright start we had withdrawn from the scene and spent months simply putting songs down onto the four track and doing nothing with them.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.

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Jon Shaw, an accomplished guitarist. Pic Kevin Byrne

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.

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A pensive Greg ponders life? Pic Kevin Byrne

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.

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Our first ep released in the early 2000s

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.

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2003 saw the release of the Unit Manger ep

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.

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Jon in Derek’s flat beside the small 8 track Tascam 788. We recorded all the eps on this.

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.

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The third and final ep released early 2004

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.

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Recording at the Three Kings

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

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Derek has a laugh at behind the drum kit, Behind the Wall

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.

The breakup.

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Jon and Pabs. pic Kevin Byrne

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.

Legacy

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Listen to all the recordings here

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.

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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.

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Jon and Greg relax with a beer

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.

Words Pabs

Additional editing Jon Shaw

 

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HMR CD 030

CD 030

“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.

CD001 P H Smith ‘Twist And A Turn‘ LP 1999/ re 2001

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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.

CD002 P H Smith ‘Monkeys On A Stage‘ LP 1999/re 2001

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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.

CD003 P H Smith ‘Gods In The Kitchen‘ LP 1998/re 2001

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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.

CD004 Weird ‘Cold Home Street‘ LP 2001

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A walk in Beecraigs would turn out to be the cover of Coldhome Street. Weird Decibels most challenging album

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!

CD005 P H Smith ‘Let Autumn And Winter Pass‘ Single 2002

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.

CD006 P H Smith ‘The Armour Is Broken‘ LP 2002

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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

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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

CD008 Weird ‘Whapper Stormer’ LP 1995/2004

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Star Wars has always been a big influence on Weird Decibels

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. 

CD009 P H Smith ‘Mallaig ep‘ EP 2004

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

CD013 Weird ‘Cold Calling ep‘ EP 2004

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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.

CD014 Weird ‘One More Solo‘ LP 2004

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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

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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.

CD017 P H Smith ‘Fortune Favours the Brave‘ LP 2005

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A theme that was with me for many years

A rather pedestrian LP from myself as my solo career treaded water. I was getting fed up with the guitar singer setup. It’s not all bland there were some good tracks ‘Don’t Go Far’ being one.

CD018 Weird ‘Firkin Outburst‘ LP 1997/2010

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Drinks on the cover and drinks in the album. This is a wee table in the quiet corner of Firkins

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.

CD019 Weird ‘Riot Act‘ LP 2007

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That’s real blood. Punching walls not recommended. Probably one of our best covers

During these years Weird reduced their live appearances and played a lot of cover songs however we still had time to release the ‘Acts’

CD020 Weird ‘Quiet Act‘ LP 2008

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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

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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

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Another collection of demos, b-sides and an interesting re-recording of ‘Easy Way’ perhaps not as dynamic as the first bootleg. Not released. 

CD023 P H Smith ‘Creeping Ash‘ LP 2009

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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

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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

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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.

CD026 Weird Decibels, ‘Weird Decibels 1‘ 2012

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Our best album? Its a big maybe! the cover art is straight to the point.

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

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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.

CD028 Weird Decibels.’Weird Decibels 2‘ 2016

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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! 

CD029 Smith & McCairney. ‘Hero or a Villain‘ EP 2016

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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

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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. 

Pabs