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Live radio sessions music

Weird Decibels in session at Stirling City Radio (the story)

Huge thanks to Stirling City Radio, Stephen Franklyn and Jim Kettles

words Pabs

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.

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Lewis listens to Daddy on the radio.

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.

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This is the view as Stu fell back to earth but like a pro he landed 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.

Pabs

 

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J O U R N A L music The Falkirk Music Scene weird decibels 21 years

Weird Decibels and the Falkirk Herald

Many thanks to James Trimble, Graeme Smith, Sarah Moyes, Kevin Byrne phtography and all at the Falkirk Herald

It was probably around late 1994 perhaps early 95 when I saw the advert. In plain black and white text it was the description of a practise room in Grangemouth near the docks. There was a phone number. I dialled and spoke to a guy, his voice distant. ‘I saw your ad in the Falkirk Herald mate, about the practise room?’

There was always ads and music guide in the Falkirk Herald; as a fledgling singer I used to study the gig guide and the demo reviews. One day, I thought, Weird will be in the local paper and then after that? The NME. That was when we dreamed of success.

I used to deliver newspapers. The Falkirk Herald was an extra shift. Grudgingly I’d lay down the Megadrive controller on a Thursday afternoon and head out to Charlie Sismans newsagents and pick up my batch of papers to stick through letter boxes with the occasional dog attack tearing up the paper the owner had just paid for.

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Goal 1 get our demo reviewed in the Falkirk Herald. Graeme Smith penned much of the music news during the late 90’s when we first appeared on the scene.

So I always had a connection with our local rag. The days before our first gig I wrestled with the broadsheet hastily flattening the pages to see our band name in print. There it was. Weird. In bold black letters, in print, Goal 1 achieved, now to earn a decent review.

There is a  distracting photo in the slideshow just below, the Martell at just 6 years old celebrating its underage birthday, we were listed on the live night with Nearvana. Every Thursday there was a Martell listing, from Sids Bevy Wheel to Foam nights (not the band..).

The local journalist Graeme Smith seemed to be the dominant force in the local music articles, his writing was sometimes witty, showing a hint exasperation at the various tribute acts and britpop clones floating around every music scene at the time.

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I nervously slipped our chrome 90 tape with our freshly cut demo  (The Rain Vancouver and Chameleon)into a padded envelope to be reviewed by the fearsome Graeme Smith.

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Our first review!!! I could not wait until the Thursday to see this.

The following Thursday I quickly flicked through the vast pages to get to the local music scene column hoping that a review would be there. It was. Our first ever review in print Thankfully the article was positive. Goal 2 achieved.

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Things went quiet after a while as we drifted into even deeper obscurity. We failed to reach many goals after our early successes. Gradually we took a step back from the local scene, every Wednesday we would practise and record for an audience that had gone. Aimless and wandering to an eventual end like so many local bands before us.

A few years passed. We returned to the fury of One More Solo and gigged that album relentlessly. The local scene had changed but the Falkirk Herald was still there, piled in beside the vender, the pages fluttering in the High Street wind.

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We resumed a more restrained relationship with the Herald; there were a few pieces covering the albums that we had recorded at the time. James Trimble now had the reigns of the local music section in the paper. Both One More Solo and Riot Act were covered. By the time we had reached Quiet Act things were, well, quiet.

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This Riot Act feature would be the last for a few years as we stepped further into background of the scene

It was not until Weird Decibels 1 that things changed again. We grabbed our camcorders, drove around Falkirk and shot the Wonder video. It caught the imagination of the town and amazingly (for us) it hit 2000 views. Once again there was some interest and we contacted James at the Herald.

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What followed has been an upsurge of support from James and our local paper. Almost all the videos have had a feature and our new album Weird Decibels 2 is discussed.

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pic Kevin Byrne. James Trimble has written a few pieces about out time together, which is nice!

Of course print is now struggling and this was reflected in our last discussion via email with James; he was understandably frustrated with the state of things. Everyone wants everything for free, music and news included.

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21 years 8 albums in. Much of our story has been written the Falkirk Herald

So as the Falkirk Herald attempts to move to digital hopefully we’ll still get column space albeit pixels instead of print.Who knows what the future of our paper is but when we appear in the centre pages rest assured as I walk down the corridors of work the following Friday someone will say ‘I saw you in the Falkirk Herald yesterday!’ 

 

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the Recording of weird decibels 2

The Recording Of Weird Decibels 2 part 1

The making of weird decibels 2 part 1 Springfield lodge

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Weird Decibels would like to thank our nearest loved ones, our children and our friends for allowing us to be away from you for a week.

We’d also like to thank Guy Scott Plummer for the trust he put in us to take care of his cottage while we recorded.

Friday 27th of February we set off.

PATINNG went my phone. I opened up the message; Derek texted ‘Half an hour to go! Come on!!’ He was working, as was Greg, I was sitting with Lewis waiting to go and I hadn’t slept much the night before.

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An hour later two cars pull up. Its two out of three of my greatest and life long friends, Greg and Derek. A pang of guilt prods me. Stu missed the first night (in the cottage) as the date that I had booked clashed with the end of his holiday in Spain.

We ram packed the two cars full of gear, food and drink. As Greg’s suspension creaked he wandered around his WV Passat with a small air compressor and started inflating his flat tyre. He looked around to me; grinning as he knew I’d be worrying. Don’t worry Pabs slight deflation he said.

To be honest I was slightly deflated. We were heading out to have the time of our lives in separate cars and without Stu. When we left for our last album WdB1 we were all together in a fantastic camper van. This didn’t compare; however things improved when Derek brought out a walkie talkie! Banter ensued…

As we headed down the familiar roads to the borders (this is the second time we have headed south to record) I could not wait to see the cottage we had booked. We were all on good form if a little weary having just completed a week of normal work.

As we passed Lauder I was about to send Greg some more walkie talkie abuse, however the battery failed. We learned later that Greg was wondering why no one was talking to him; he had been talking to static about big plans for the bands 20th anniversary celebrations at the cottage!

The arrival

A stunning and breathtaking property
A stunning and breathtaking property

As we headed out of Kelso into the countryside I caught a first glimpse of the cottage standing alone surrounded by fields awaiting the start of spring. From here I could see we had picked the right location.

We looked for the ‘pyramids’ as described in the directions; there nestled in beside the old stone wall stood two modest ‘pyramids’ we turned into the drive of the estate unaware of how massive this land would be.

We edged along the farm road passed a grand white house that looked over its land; perhaps keeping an eye on its latest visitors. We approached what Derek thought was the cottage, we continued driving. We reached a potholed dirt track no worse than the roads in Falkirk. It seemed like an age as we crept along looking for our temporary home.

Finally as we emerged from a hedge row was saw the sign for Springfield and at the top of a small hill was the cottage standing quietly behind a large tree still bare from the colds of the winter.

As we rumbled up the wind swept dirt track towards the gate the place got bigger. I jumped out and opened the gate, the traditional sounding of the car horns beeped when we reached our new temp studios; Derek and Greg glided past with huge grins beaming from their car windows.

I approached the door and stepped inside. Instantly I was struck by the space of the modern part of the property. We went in further and saw a grand and open staircase. Further on we peeled back a curtain to reveal the main room and older part of the building. I looked down the room to the dormant fireplace then up to the high ceiling. I knew that we had picked our best recording lodge.

We headed back out to empty the car, I heard Derek simply say ‘gents’ he was holding a beer for each of us. Cracking open the cans we slammed them together and knocked back the first of our frothy refreshments, we’ve arrived. We carted all the gear into the hall and picked our rooms.

After setting up the drum kit and some general preparation Derek cooked some food, Greg got the fire going and I set up the nights music. We let Stu know how wonderful the place was.

The three of us sat around the now established fire and enjoyed the first of our nights; myself and Derek would later have a pec dance off (don’t ask) Greg was scarred. When I was a little tipsy I looked around the huge room and thought of all the people that had paid for an album or come to see us and raised my tin of Tenents to them; without them we would not be here.

Saturday 28th February

I got up early and went for a head pounding run around the countryside perhaps not appreciating the distance. While I was running I planned the day ahead; this would hopefully see us record some drums and bass.

Stu was quick to arrive and we gave him a huge ‘we’re not worthy!’ welcome. He rolled into the massive drive and headed into the house. Once he had settled the band were determined to get some tracks onto the drive

Recording the drums and the bass

The reason we picked this place was for this set up
The reason we picked this place was for this set up

I have the use of 12 tracks to simultaneously record on the humble Korg D3200. Not a lot but enough. Tracks 1 and 2 were for the Bass DI and a cab mic; for this I placed a Stagg large diaphragm condenser just a few inches from the grill in the middle of the cab. The cab was placed as far from the walls in the corridor of the modern part of the cottage

Tracks 3-10, 8 tracks to record drums. Not a lot by today’s standards but enough to capture a decent sound. The snare was captured by a SM57, the kick with the Audix D6, toms and cymbals were closed mic’d with Stagg’s, small diaphragm that Derek owns. Overhead were to Rode NT 2A’s; they were raised high thanks to the spacious ceiling. The final two tracks were for guide vocals and guitars.

All leads led to the kitchen where we placed the desk in a semi isolated position. First couple of samples sounded promising; the sound was perhaps a wee bit too bright so a couple of adjustments were made to the close mics on the kit. Overall we were very happy with the sound of the drums. The bass blend was sounding good as well; so we went for our first takes. Miss Asphyxia was recorded first to settle any nerves and it got us off to a good start.

A few hours and a few takes later we were done of the day. Six of the songs now had drums and bass. Greg was trying to record an extremely complex line for the bass on Curtsin its the Cast. We literally had to punch in nearly every part of the song. I lost it when Greg said ‘the up bit comes after an up bit which is not right it should be a down bit…’

I had been at the desk so long everything was sounding like mush; my ears were simply tired

After all his fine and energetic work on the drums Derek prepared a fine meal for the hungry band. We scoffed that and sat together listening to some cracking tunes. Eventually the moon shone through the velux window above us. It was a fantastic sight.

Sunday 1st Of March

This was used to record both the bass and the drums at the same time.
This was used to record both the bass and the drums at the same time.

This was the first of my bad hangover days… We had necked a few the night before, celebrating Stu arriving at Springfield and watching the old Riot Act video. So my heid was fragile. Not great when you want to record more drums and bass.

After a hearty breakfast we managed to lay down the remaining six tracks. It was hard work and would take us well into the afternoon to record. We left the newer songs until last; however they worked well as we had rehearsed them last. There were a couple of changes to songs that I found annoying, one being the intro to our newest song ‘Its Who You Know’. An extra bar was added to he intro which there was no need for. However apart from this it went well.

The Guitars

We headed upstairs to the newer part of the cottage. Up on the open plan area is another sitting room, the bedrooms, a table football room and the balcony that overlooks the massive main room. Having checked all the rooms we decided that the football room would be the best for the guitars. We had nice room reflections from the drums so the distorted guitars would be more direct in their sound to avoid swapping the drums.

I would have regular breaks to rest the ears. I stepped outside into the cold wind and took in the breathtaking views of the countryside

The table football room was already an arena with a history, I had soundly beaten greg 10-3. He was not to have his revenge.

Having carted the entire studio upstairs it was time to sit down to a cracking Steakpie. One of the culinary highlights of the week by Mr Menmuir. A lovely red from Stu was going down well however last night or age caught up with me and I spent the rest of the night feeling sorry for myself. I tried to watch the Quiet Act’ video but the shaky camera footage was making me feel queasy. How rock and roll is that!

So an early night for all; the earliest night in recording history!

Part 2 here..