2017 is a year I will quite happily brush under the carpet. I’m thankful for music, Weird Decibels, the fact that we are still recording, writing and playing music around our day jobs and family.
So as the 2017 Curtain starts to fall upon the Cast I thought I’d look back at our year.
Pics. Sweet P Photography. What Eddie Sees. Juls Sampson.
Rock On Tap. Great night for us at the Artisan Tap. we were a wee bit worried about playing a gig so soon after the Christmas wallet apocalypse however our concerns were unfounded as it was a busy night
12th Jan. We release some footage of us playing in our trusty old practise room
Weird Decibels drop a wee hint…
We had a look back at the many years we’ve had in our practise room, this proved to be one of the most popular posts of the year.
Weird Decibels performing at The Dobbie Hall 2017.
Here’s what reviewer, Stuart Ritchie, had to say:
“Weird Decibels are reminiscent of the early punk movement, especially The Clash. They played a bulldozing set of songs filled with no-nonsense Wah-Wah-drenched guitar solos, heavy sounding riffs, and a rampaging juggernaut tempo. ‘In the City’ sounded like a louder heavier ‘Suffragette City’. The singer tried to get the crowd to put the hands in the air but, most were afraid to spill their pints. Overall, a great effort and showing.”
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
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
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
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
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.)
Harder edged music from the Falkirk area. The music that often gets ignored, hard punk, rock and metal and the three main genres that RIFF shares but there are many more that need exposure to the local scene. RiFF bands aim to support each other by attending shows, sharing and buying music.
Why Would I Be part of RiFF
If you play in a band it can be the most rewarding experience you will have and it can also be the most frustrating. You want to grow an audience, so you start to play shows. When you are in a small band and you play live, you will spend much of the night wondering who will come through the door. Some nights will be busy others not so.
RiFF is a music community. All we ask is that you attend a local gig that is not your own. Not just RiFF bands playing, but any local music event that you find interesting. You don’t get a badge for attending loads of local events but you meet like minded people and many new opportunities open up.
So keep an eye on the RiFF Facebook page, like and follow the bands and if a RiFF band is playing try and get along to the show. You don’t need to go to every single one but if musicians supported musicians just a wee bit more then our scene would grow and more outside parties would become interested. Look at the success of the Fife music scene for example.
Additionally if you become part of the community and you set up a Falkirk gig the RiFF community will do their best to support a fellow RiFFers gig. (we’re not promoters. Occasionally we will organise a Showcase and the costs are met by the RiFF bands taking part.)
What bands are in RiFF (so far)
We have a number of bands that consider themselves part of the RiFF community. Punks 13, heavy rockers Blind Daze, the outer worldly Nebulosity and of course us (Weird Decibels). There will be more bands joining the community, there is no obligation to play gigs etc, just share your music, share others music and promote the scene. We welcome bands from not only Falkirk but elsewhere are well. RiFF has music, will travel.
What’s the Future of RiFF Then?
Time will tell! Riff needs people to be a success! The Showcase is the start and there may be more. The bands involved will play more gigs, the RiFF community will support them. Look out for a RiFF YouTube channel with music videos, future blogs, possibly Podcasts and of course keep an eye on RiFF bands releasing new music.
I don’t get gig nerves as much as I used to. Of course I still get jitters these days, usually just before we go on stage, when I’d be wondering if I’d forget the first line or drop the first chord. However I don’t get the crippling nerves I used to feel when we first stepped onto the Martell stage back in 96.
Shuffle Down (20th May 2017) was different, I’d been thinking about this gig for the last year.
Let me take you back. Shuffle Down 2016 was well in the the swing and I was tapping my feet, enjoying the bands, the craic and the ale. Rikki Tonner, one of the event organisers, is someone I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years. I believe we share a passion for the Falkirk scene (he’s more pro-active than I am!) so he came over for a chat.
Towards the end of our blether he hinted that Weird Decibels would play Shuffle Down next year. I’m not sure if he was just being nice, but he said it and it got me thinking. A rock band on Shuffle Down? Would it work?
Rikki stayed true to his word, a few months later we got the invite and then the nerves started to gnaw at the back of my mind. Then came the doubts. Would we be on first? Would their be a crowd? Or would there be a vast empty space as people went out for burgers and fresh air as we played.
Fast forward a turbulent year of Brexit and Trump. Now it was the morning of May the 20th 2017, I hadn’t got much sleep the night before but I was full of energy pacing around an empty house. Kirsty had taken our boy out to to stay at her mums for the night so I had silence for company. The nerves really started to kick in. I opened the guitar case and the old golden Yamaha was resting in its cradle. I picked it up and started strumming some of the songs. I forgot the words to Speak…Now I was really nervous.
I packed my pedals and our merch into my rucksack and put the guitar in the case and grabbed a bite to eat. As I picked at my sandwich I wondered what lay ahead. I checked the train times. It was time to leave.
I booted up Spotify and played some Soundgarden; the amazing Superunknown blasted my ears as I walked to the station; I spared a thought for the late Chris Cornell. Gradually Soundgarden’s music lifted my spirits. Now i was getting excited.
On the train I sat down and checked out the instructions for arriving at the venue. The whole set up provided by Afterglow was very professional. We’d be on at five and I had a hunch that this time might work out well for us. The beer would be flowing and maybe we’d get a few people listening.
The Dobbie hall was just short walk from the station (I love those gigs where it’s you, a guitar and a rucksack) I entered the main door there was a busy but calm atmosphere in the venue. The sound crew had already started work on a drum sound and I took a moment to admire the stage on which we would play. It’s easily the grandest stage our modest band has played on for a view years.
I got a warm welcome from an understandably distracted Rikki who pointed me in the direction of backstage where I gratefully laid down my guitar which had now grown heavy. I had a wee peak from the side of the stage, it was a fine size of floor space, very pleasing to the eye of a musician.
Half an hour passed and my phone buzzed, Greg and Stu were stuck in the car awaiting for the rain to stop, it was heavy, bouncing of the pavement as the dark clouds above us emptied. Finally Stu hauled his large guitar pedal case which I rather stupidly offered to carry backstage. It’s a heavy burden of effects!
We had a look at the other room backstage which had a small selection of beers and food, this is a lot more hospitality than many bands are used to! Derek arrived and this was the first time he had attended Shuffle Down and he seemed to be impressed with the set up.
With the soundchecks done we took our place in the audience. I was now observing how many people were walking through the door, looking behind me every couple of minutes like a paranoid spy from a 70’s Bond film (all that was missing was the newspaper and a dodgy pair of sunglasses). At 2 when the doors opened there was a small crowd, my fears of an empty floor for our gig were not easing.
The first acts played, you can read about Shuffle Down 2017 here. More people started to filter in and fill the hall. Now I was starting to feel that there would be a decent crowd. However I was fretting that our music would not sit well among the acts of this years lineup.
Have Mercy Las Vegas we so different to us and the crowd loved them, my anxiety grew. Now I just wanted a beer…Pronto Mama walked on with keys and brass and I thought the worst. Would these guys play music so different to us? However there set was great full of surprising guitar driven indie rock which I felt would ease the listeners into our music.
Now I was starting to get excited. Their set flew past and as I walked towards backstage I heard the crowd cheer their last song, it was quite a noise so I turned around and saw quite a mass of people. I was praying they would stay.
There was a nervous excitement from Stu, he suffers terrible pre gig nerves and he really felt this one. Greg just seems to stroll up and take everything in his stride. Derek is often the most composed. Quietly adjusting the cymbals and snare before settling into his stool prepared to beat the hell out of the kit.
I had to hold to my nerves, I was playing in front of a neutral audience, our friends and of course our peers of the Falkirk scene. We had won best rock act of Falkirk 2016 at the AMIF awards and I didn’t want to let anyone down. (thanks for voting!)
So I didn’t look out to the crowd as I plugged in my leads. Then I strummed the guitar…nothing…I walked over to the Marshall stack…turned up the volume…nothing. Then a slight adjustment and just a faint whimper of distorted guitar could be heard. Time was passing. I took a breath and had a look at the setting of the Marshall amp head. There were presets and I started to select the various settings, one of which said ‘classic’ voila. Sound.
I quickly got a level then scattered the setlists at the four positions of the band, Stu was ready, Greg, kitted out with his Weird Decibels denim waistcoat was ready. Derek was poised. I got a level with Stu and then looked to the crowd. They had stayed.
Ben White was on the sound desk and he picked up our prompt and dropped the background music. Derek started the beat of Speak. I picked the notes…the correct ones. The band blasted into the intro then I stepped up to the mic and sang the first line. Then I relaxed
Once More With Feeling
Kill it Kill it
Who You Know
I Hear the City
The stage was superb, I had room to run around like it was our first gig. Stu and Greg looked like they were have the time of their lives. Derek, as usual, keeping it all knitted together. The nerves were now evaporated. It set up the rest of the show.
When we finished Speak the response was superb and that energised us further, it gave us confidence. The sound was fine for us on stage but I believe that it was well received in the audience.
Our half hour slot felt like five minutes. We extended I Hear the City and I tried to get the audience to clap along, we extended the solos and build up to a finale. The song finished and I knew then we had played one of our best gigs in our two decades together..
The stage, the audience, the setting, it was all superb. 22 years in and we often wondered if we’d ever play shows like this again. I guess we’ve been rewarded for sticking together through the highs and the lows and while we’ve never made any sort of impression on Scotland’s scene we can look back on days like this and take a bit of pride from it. We made some new friends and reunited with some old. There has been some great photos of us on stage having a bawl.
So if you are a young local act, don’t get too obsessed with breaking through, just know that if you stick to what you believe in then there will be good times ahead. You cannot beat the high of achieving something with your best mates. Backstage after the gig was testament to that, bands often feel a closeness that you cannot explain to those who don’t play.
So a huge thanks to Afterglow, Rikki, Laura and the team for having us, indeed for taking a risk. We feel it paid off and we hope you did to. It was an absolute pleasure to play.
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.
When we started the band in 1995 legacy was not at the front of our minds indeed we were keen to break into the mainstream and become a successful band. Well that dream still floats somewhere between fantasy and madness. 21 years have passed and we enjoy playing in the band more than ever. We have albums and clippings from the papers, scribbled setlists to show our kids, we have a history.
A massive part of our history is the photographs, especially the group pictures or the shoots of us live. I cannot thank enough the photographers who have taken our portraits over the years. So this article is a dedication to the guys and gals who have shaped our image from photoshoots to live captures. Legends.
The Whapper Snappers
Kevin Byrne. Long time friend of the band Kevin has offered us advice since day one. He tears what is left of his hair out when we fail to build on any momentum we ever create. He has taken photographs for years; he took things more seriously 4 years ago when he studied the discipline of photography in Glasgow. He moved to Ettn Luer (a beautiful small suburb in Holland) for employment in photography and snapped some stunning pieces of work. Now he is back home and regularly displays his portraits to eager audiences the latest was the successful Red display.
Kevin has snapped us on several occasions. Some of his work at the ABC2 was iconic and who can forget the ‘lithgae’ snap that would be used several times in our local paper and in our promo work.
Wilson is not happy high heels did not make number 1
A fine night in the North Star. Pic Byrne
Lets raawwwk. pic Byrne
Derek on fine form. pic Byrne
Pic by Kevin Byrne
The ever laid back Greg McSorley. Pic Byrne
Stu rocks the ivory
Pabs sings his heart out
Weird Decibels 2014
Eindp Photography AKA Rory. Rory has snapped bands for some time now, he tirelessly frequents many venues to professionally snap bands that normally would not be exposed to this sort of photography. He is an avid supporter of the Falkirk Music Scene (and beyond, basically he stands up for the wee guys), attends many local gigs and there is a high chance you will hear the click of his shutter as the artists play.
Rory first snapped us in Stirling playing at the Oxjam festival, he since has shot us at North Star and he has kindly shared his work for our blog. I caught up with him once, up at Behind the Wall and you could not fault his enthusiasm. Rory is a musician in his own right occasionally strumming the guitar at the various acoustic gatherings now frequenting the Falkirk scene.
Speak to meee! Picture by Eindp Scotland
Picture taken by Eindp Scotland
Pic Eindp Photography
Pic Eindp Photography
Pic Eindp Photography
Juls Sampson. Juls is a magnificent supporter of the band and has been from day one back in ’95, both her and her husband Phil and daughter Paige are great friends of ours. Juls has taken many pictures of Weird. The Sampson clan have been to many of our gigs over the years and Juls has taken many snaps that we look fondly back on. She took the pics that we used for our rare live album recorded at the Argyle in 2010.
Stu brings in the red
Phil, one of our greatest fans and a friend of the band.
Neil Henderson. Neil was a frequent attendee of the Falkirk scene for many years. He was part of the Happening Club. While we played Neil could be seen darting through various parts of the venue to take ever elaborate shots. Neil’s work can be found on the sleeve of both Coldhome Street and more significantly the portraits in Weird Decibels 1 inside sleeve.
Neil went on to snap several bands throughout the metal hardcore scene. Most notable was his work for Attica Rage (with whom we played a gig in Glasgow Uni).
Gary Ivady took some dynamic pics at North Star among other pictures of us live
Snappy singer. pic Gary
Kenichi images took some great stills from our gig at ABC 2 which were a highlight of our time in Glasgow promoting Weird Decibels 1
Iain Constable who shot the pictures used for the original Firkin Outburst photoshoot; these pictures were taken on the old railway track that would become the Camelon bypass. Iain also shot some of our earliest videos from the Martell
You never forget your first time, the anticipation, the hope that everything works, getting the mood right and of course making sure the drummer comes out of the toilet before we start. Yes i’m talking about our first gig back in the summer of 1995. We had a setlist of around 6 songs (it’s all we had) and we had a stage. It was a Thursday night, it was the Martell.
Just off Grahams road near the canal sat the Martell. It was hidden from the road by a furniture store. Once you walked past the lastest sofa sale signs you would arrive at the big sign lit up with the Martell font. You can hear the music as you approached the small unassuming front door and when you entered the music hit you. To the left was the till that took the ticket money. Then you would enter the front room, tables often bustling with punters and directly in front the long bar would stretch back to the pool tables.
A small CRT monitor would flicker as the tills rang though the drink sales. Gold Bier £1. This was the mid 90’s and many of the local kids were heading to this venue to see 4 bands on a Thursday for a fiver. Our friends Cage, rock gods Monitor Lizard, the wonderful Foam and various other local acts played through Jimmy’s PA system. It was loud and some of us had school in the morning…
The stage was on the far right of the room, it was separated from the audience by a small brick wall for which many stunts and guitar poses would be struck. Up in the booth was the DJ, big Sid and his clap monitor for measuring the Battle of the Bands victors. (yes that was how it was decided…)
Watching bands at the Martell was brilliant; it was a small but loyal community that attended every week. From watching the bands to shooting pool you would find you started to know people’s names and hang out talking about the bands of that era, Oasis, Nirvana, Blur and various other acts. Some nights were packed, others not so and occasionally the place would be dead apart from the hardcore frequenters.
Our First Gig.
At around 19 years of age I had a mop of long brown hair and a stooped gait. Stu was in full Metallica mode, Greg also donned with long hair often tied up so he could show of his rose tinted shades and Derek the cheeky youngster who infuriatingly got changed a minute before we took the stage. I swear he enjoyed seeing my exasperation as he ran past me towards the drum kit smiling.
The first time we played the Martell was amazing. The lights blinded you, we were probably ropey but we played some of the best songs we had written. The Rain and Vancouver to name two, followers from the start will know these songs well.
The high school crowd that has followed Derek loved it and we were finally part of the Falkirk music scene. What followed was amazing. The battle of the bands.
Our first attempt at the battle of the bands would see our largest crowds swell the Martell to bursting. To date it is the biggest audience we have played original songs to. It was the quarter finals. Thanks to the clap monitor being pounded by the crowd we sailed through to the semis and the dreams of winning started to become a reality. The semi final was another packed gig but it was not to be, we lost and did not make the final.
We played a number of gigs at the Martell during the late 90’s it was like our Cavern, it’s where we cut our live teeth. Gigs ranged from supporting our friends Cage and Turtlehead to opening for cover bands like Nearvana. Eventually another battle of the bands took place and sadly we were not as successful.
The venue opened up a bigger hall at the back where the snooker tables used to be. It felt different and for us it was too much to fill with our small but loyal fanbase. Highlights started to thin out and the Martell’s appeal was starting the wear thin. Eventually we knew all the bar staff, had lock ins with George the bar manager and played live recorded shows with Central FM (hard to believe a local station used to record live local bands). The alcohol flowed, the gigs came and went. One night when I crashed beer all over the counter I knew it was getting out of hand.
We left the Martell for a while, the Thursday nights were no longer a regular occurrence.
In the 2000’s (do we have a decent name for this decade yet?) we were approached to play and we obliged but the magic was gone or perhaps Falkirk had moved from our brand of rock. The Martell, the birth of our gigging experience and the hub of the Falkirk Music scene for so many years had unwound. As we finished our last set at the Martell there was no ceremony, just an air of disappointment. We thought perhaps the next time we play will be better but there would be no next time for us the Martell.
Life went by as it does, new venues opened and I would head down Grahams road sometimes going home in a taxi after a night out up in the heart of Falkirk. For years the neon sign of the Martell would glow statically in the night. You would hear about the Martells reputation for club music and the place became alien to me. Eventually it changed hands, now it’s named the Warehouse and encouragingly the venue puts on bands albeit tribute acts and mid size touring bands. There has been little mention of local artists playing there.
The Martell was one of the best venues we ever had in Falkirk. It worked for years, bringing together like minded people who wanted to listen to or play in bands around Falkirk. Together we created memories that will never leave us. Indeed some of the people who lit up the Martell stage are sadly no longer with us which makes the memories of this iconic local venue all the more important.
We had been invited to play a set of cover songs at Whitecriag rugby club as part of their yearly beer festival and family day out. We decided to go along and join in with the festivities.
We do not play a lot of gigs these days and we play cover gigs even less. So this set played at the Whitecraig’s summer beer festival was a welcome change.
For various reasons our confidence hit a wee bump at our last gig at the North Star so some easy (but enjoyable) covers would help us get back on track.
It was also a chance for our kids to finally see the band live.
I packed the gear into the car and this time Kirsty and Lewis joined me, a stark contrast to the normal band banter that the designated driver has to face on the road to the normal gigs! The Scottish sun was scorching the sky, our wee nation looks fine when the blue skies are up high.
We reached the rugby club in Whitecraigs without fuss. Standing proud in the southern outskirts of Glasgow this lovely club had already started the party. When we arrived Lewis helped his dad flit the gear onto the small stage that was sheltered by a canopy tent.
It looked brilliant. The only gig we had played outdoors was years ago at Crossgates (a story for another day). It was a small area in which to play but as soon as i saw the surroundings and felt the atmosphere i had a good vibe about the afternoon ahead.
A DJ was blasting tunes as I met the rest of the guys who were busy setting up. It wasn’t long before we were ready to go. Then there was the power cut.
As guys organising the music were scratching their heads, i was told the sound guy hadn’t turned up. Thankfully our experience has taught us there are always ways around these things. We found the problem with the power, a plug had come loose. Always carry duct tape… we used that to hold the connection together, and viola, the rest of the DJ set went well,
We had a song to soundcheck, no time at all but the sound was floating into the fields below. The vocal PA, as it was setup, was fine so we went with it. The guy who was running the show had a cowbell.. We would hear more of that later. He was in good spirits and introduced us to the crowd that was not interested in us. They were drinking fine ale and basking in the rare sun. We could’ve been naked and they wouldn’t have noticed. Thankfully we weren’t. Now that I understood we were music for the background I was more than content and it was brilliant to see Lewis and Niamh in the front row! (Luke was there as well but I think he went for his nap!)
Fight for your right (to party)
Should i stay or should i go
All or nothing
Ever fallen in love
Don’t you forget about me
Come as you are
Curtain hits the cast
Jumpin jack flash
Sex on fire
Whole lotta rosie
The set went well without any problems and it was a tight gig which we thoroughly enjoyed. A real boost for the band as soon as the set was finished we agreed we had to get back on the live scene. After the first song Lewis covered his ears and walked away. It’s great to i see my kid is my most honest critic. However he came back when we played Wonder (he knows our songs more than the covers). Niamh and Lewis danced away as we played, A sweet moment.
As we packed up Stu and Derek nicked all the beer tokens delighted that Greg and I were driving. With grins and empty glasses they headed to the bar.
Kirsty and I soaked in the family atmosphere and let Lewis jump around on the trampolines before heading off into the sunset.
The Crowd: Thank you for attending a local gig and supporting the artists. Thank you for staying right to the end.
The Sonic Blues, Rabid Dog: Thank you for playing along side us
Rory (Eindp Photography): For taking photographs for this and many, many local gigs
Juls Sampson (photography and pictures used for this blog): Our friend has shot many pics over the years
Kevin Byrne: for keeping an eye on the desk as we played
North Star staff: for keeping us fed and watered with a smile and allowing us to use the venue.
It’s who you know
I hear the city
Curtain hits the cast
Once more with feeling
Whole lotta rosie (request)
A couple of days before we were due to play, Clubby vocalist with Rabid Dog, texted to say that the North Star soundman couldn’t make the gig due to work commitments.
These things can’t be avoided but I was frustrated as I wanted to record the show. This would put a different spin on things. There were options, to use the house PA but I didn’t know its layout. To be honest it’s a vocal pa and it wouldn’t have been hard to use. Our pa had more versatility to send feeds to the multitrack so I opted for that.
It had (shamefully) been a couple of years since I operated it so that added to the stress. I had to relearn the desk within a couple of days. A few turbulent hours pushing buttons and moving faders I had managed to get to grips with the machine.
Looking back I understand now that doing the sound, recording the gig and playing at the same show is perhaps a step too far. This aside it was a great night.
Once I unloaded the vast amount of gear (probably too much) into the buzzing North Star I got to work setting up the sound, the time was half 6. Unbelievably it was now 8 o’clock and The Sonic Blues were due on in 30 minutes.
I ditched all ideas of checking mic placements for the recording. It was more important to get a decent live sound. That went fairly well, and for the recording I literally flung mics in front of the amps and the drum kit.
The Sonic Blues were up first and played another great set of bluesy rock songs and covers. Greg (guitars vocals) Allan (Bass) and Douglas (drums) are a sound bunch of lads and they are very keen. Their performance went well with the crowd and they set up the night in fine fashion
Clubby and the gang stepped up next; their ultra loyal fanbase was pleased to see them back on stage for the first time in a while. Andy had a cracking guitar sound, he has two amps hooked up and a wave of chords hit the eager audience. Andy on bass and Alan on the drums provide a solid backbone for Clubby to sing their set of punk covers. They played very well.
The gremlins came to visit us, it’s been a while, you can go many gigs without incident before the little creatures visit. Usually in the form of technical glitches and set up problems.
Just as we were getting ready to go on stage the power cut to both the PA and the desk. Scratching my head I looked back to the plug at the rear of the venue. Two chaps had seated themselves the unit in front of the socket and had unwittingly cut the power to the show. (not your fault gents)
Once I got the PA back on and the desk reloaded we were ready to play, only Stu couldn’t get the guitar amp on. (using someone else amp is fine but every guitarist will tell you having your own backline has its advantages). Once that problem was fixed we were ready.
We launched into the first song and the first time I went to hit a chord the lights were right in my eye. Whoops! A bum note right at the first song ain’t good.
To nail the opening track is essential; if you miss it it can unsettle you for the rest of the set. To a certain extent it did; although I have to concede I had been concentrating all night on the sound and with this loss of focus came a pretty standard performance from myself. So i’m a bit gutted about that. Stu, Greg and Derek all played well and helped keep the gig on track
Things did improve. As the night wore on we regained our composure (and confidence) and belted out tunes from both the decibels albums. I was too eager to play Quoted and nearly skipped Curtain hits the Cast! Quoted was manic as usual, Wait was requested and that gelled well with Deliverance and by the time we hit Industry I was scraping the guitar off a nearby pillar without much regard for my instrument.
As we reached the end of the night we reached our zenith and I was pleased it had ended on a high. If we can’t nail the songs we give it all to the performance and personally it was the most exhausting I have delivered for a long time. Our friends requested While Lotta Rosie, who could we be to resist! A little rusty would be an understatement but we had a whole lotta fun playing it!
So as our song Quoted and the politicians it depicts often say lessons have been learned. If i’m playing, I just want to play. I’ve I’m doing the sound, i just want to do the sound. This was the first time I had manned a desk at a gig and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience perhaps this could be an avenue for the future.
All round it was a great hot loud sweaty night, with a little rawness and a whole lot of heart which is what music at its purest form should be.
As the Springfield bags were unpacked and I sat in the home studio I had an optimism about the forthcoming mix sessions. We seemed better prepared; all the tracking seemed to have gone well. There was still a lot of recording work to do but I’d be able to edit the drums and bass.
I looked at the small screen of the Korg D3200. It’s a horrible tiny basic green lcd display that is your eyes for the whole project; a bit like a Nintendo Gameboy. A flicker of envy passed through me as I yearned for the bigger monitors of a typical DAW setup. Maybe I should go on Tipping Point and win some cash.
Editing is horrible on the Korg so discipline is needed at the tracking stage to make sure you are not wading through silence trying to reach the recordings. The drums generally edited well and sounded pretty good. The bass had a few problems with tone so some EQ cutting was required. It turned out to be quite drastic and reminds me that I need to sharpen up on my micing techniques.
My concerns about Stu’s distorted guitars were justified. There was a good tone in there but it was laden with low mid eq. This was the biggest mistake I made, I wrestled with this frequency and tried to shoehorn it into the full sound. There was a creeping dread that I’d have to ask Stu do redo the entire distorted guitars.
Mastering is a topic in itself. To say Weird Decibels 2 is mastered would be stretching the term. It does have light compression, some subtle stereo track EQ changes and some limiting but it was also done by the same guy that mixed and recorded it, (me). I can understand why people say that you do get too close to the sound.
When Derek texted to say that he felt the album sounded poor on his headphones I had a small fit. I knew he was right but wished it had been spotted sooner. The summer months had been a rain filled wash out but I had still spent them in a small room hearing the same songs many times over.
My mood dipped, I didn’t notice it at the time, others did but I did not see a problem. I soldiered on with the record trying to find out what was causing the album to sound muddy.
When I cut into Stu’s guitars it did the trick; his tone was still there but the rest of the album had opened up. Of course it knocked the mix out so that had to be done again. Then it had to be re-mastered all while I heard my son and my wife downstairs playing and possibly wondering when I’d join them.
Now I was getting snappy; frustrated that my normal life was getting in the way of the album (even though I had spent half a year on it). I missed the deadline, we wanted the album out for our 20th anniversary gig at North Star. I shouted at the guys that night; moaning at them for trivial things.
My wife had asked me to take a step back from it; I reluctantly agreed to take a couple of weeks off but that turned into three.
The Cracks Begin to Show
Things got worse; I awoke on the 11th of November 2015 and read some messages; I had been trying to get the practise room keys to record some vocals. I tried to get in touch with the band to get the keys but nothing happened and I couldn’t record the vocals. It was a small irritance but it infuriated me. I just wanted to get the album finished.
I quit the messages, cut myself off and walked to work convinced that I had quit the band.A sense of mourning had crept over me as I listened to Spotify while walking through the Quarry park. It was a weird feeling.
The guys laughed it off; Stu visited that same night and we sat over a coffee like nothing had changed; the dude was there and I was impressed with that. So we mastered the album. A few weeks later it would be done.
At 33 minutes Weird Decibels 2 is our most compact and focused album. It has its flaws; sometimes I think we are better live and there is no shame in that as many bands are the same.
It’s a quiet album by today’s standards; so sometimes it suffers in the ‘loudness wars’ but I think it sounds fairly good overall. This full album was recorded for around £500.
I should bite the bullet and let someone else record our stuff; think of all the spare time I would suddenly have.
The problem I have is that I love challenge of getting that sound; when an acoustic guitar sound crisp or the drums, as in Weird Decibels 2, sound like they are recorded in a grand room. Then the test of putting it all together.
Maybe I’ll leave the mastering to a pro….but how did the pros learn?