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.”
We’ve just ‘dropped’ a track; right now people all over the world can listen to our brand new song ‘Take the Blindness From Your Eyes’. This is a far cry from our first ever recorded release. A three track demo tape recorded and released in 1996 on cassette tape. I remember to this day when we drove home from the studio putting the tape into the car stereo and being blown away at hearing our first record.
The Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon were recorded at Split level studios at Ingliston, Edinburgh, it was a great experience for a young band. The reel to reel tape spun at the back of the mixing room as we laid down our the tracks that we thought would break us into the music scene.
The tracks were all mixed down to a DAT tape master and we nervously took this small cassette (which we couldn’t play on normal cassette players) to a duplication service called Chow Productions. While they could print out several copies of the tape artwork and print on the cassette they couldn’t duplicate the music from the master; so they printed off a batch of blank cassettes with our artwork. We had to get the DAT onto a CD and manually recorded the three songs onto the printed cassettes. This was done by a specialist who was able to convert the master DAT to a CD.
Our first demos would be packed in padded envelopes with a typewritten letter explaining who we were (an early version of a bio I guess). There were computers around in 1996, it’s just we didn’t have any. I got some addresses for record companies out of the NME and Melody Maker listings and sent off the package envelopes with the demo tape and hoped for the best.
CDRs became mainstream around the late 90’s early 00’s. The studios we were now working with handed us a shiny disc with our new demos. The world of home studios and doing this for ourselves was still a couple of years away. We would get these CDs duplicated then, in a similar way to the tapes, we would package them in a padded envelope and send it off to record company addresses that we found in NME and Melody Maker however this time we had a PC that we could print of letters with pictures.
As the 2000s surged into middle age we now had our own studio gear and were recording our own demos and albums. The first self recording was Cold Home Street which we burned to CDR. After this we upgraded to digital multi track but CDR was still the format to send stuff to the ever silent record companies.
By the time we were recording One More Solo the internet was screeching (kids won’t get this ) into existence and loading up at around 500k, MP3’s were creeping in and the ipod was taking off. Bebo arrived and we were now sharing our music in a more direct route to our followers. Back then it was customary to let listeners hear 30 second previews of the track and they would buy the full MP3 in a frenzy of rapid Weird Decibels anticipation. They didn’t. However some people were still buying music but there was no doubt that the free tier was on the way and Radiohead’s In Rainbows, pay what you want, strategy was an interesting experiment. To be fair bittorrent, the pirate bay and napster had already set (arguably illegally, but record companies were still in the stone age) new ground rules and while they were now being dismantled by the ever eager record companies (who were still not calling us) the music distribution models had been changed. Many listeners were no longer paying for music.
Riot Act and Quiet Act were never sent to record companies, they were uploaded to the internet however CDs were still very much important to print as we had a fanbase that wanted them, we still have some if your interested. Shop Bandcamp
After a lengthy pause between Quiet Act and Weird Decibels 1 the music industry was changing rapidly. Spotify had arrived 2008 to try and muscle in on iTunes. It did in spectacular style. We were slow to adapt.
Weird Decibels 1 was released in 2011, demo tapes were now a long way off however we were still printing limited batch CDs. We tried to make WdB1 more attractive by offering a tiered approach to our music. You could listen free on Bandcamp, buy the normal CD or order the limited edition CD with added an artwork booklet, which we sold out of.
We also had to consider a growing number of formats including WAV, FLAC and ACC. Streaming was now a growing force; downloads still made us money though. We finally made the jump to streaming via a digital distributor. We could now effectively be our own record company.
Roll forward to 2016 and Weird Decibels was printed on CD and sold less than WdB1 however most of our top stream tracks are from WdB2 . Now we could see who was listening to our music, a slight nod of pride arose when we saw significant activity in South America and other far off lands.
Of course we were still behind the times, many artists were now ‘dropping’ tracks, no hype no fanfare, just uploading songs for people to listen to. Vinyl had also made a massive comeback. This appears to be out of our reach at present. The mastering techniques involved and the cost of printing are out of reach. Hopefully this will change.
So here we are now, we’ve dropped a track but now it’s getting harder to reach audiences without paying for promoted posts given that we’re not paid in the first place! Facebook isn’t helping, people are fed up with it, so we need to find a new way to reach an audience. Until we figure that out feel free to enjoy our new song.
Just a wee note, when we sell a CD at a gig it’s a huge thing these days. The money made from that single purchase can takes us months to raise on streaming services, So if you like a local act buy a CD!
Dear fellow bands please let us know what your first demo was!
As we finished the writing of Weird Decibels 2 we had a look at our set and decided that we did not have enough songs for the new album (out at the end of this year). So we wrote Its Who You Know, it quickly established itself as the first single.
Its Who You Know has been used many times in songs by other artists but it was apt for where my head was at the time. The 2015 general election was approaching; when I see many politicians I see people who have got their positions simply through their class and connections. I felt angered that people making the decision that effect my life and that of my family were made by those who were not there on merit (I must add that there are many who have worked hard to get where they are).
Indeed many walks of life are influenced by the people at the top favouring friends, family and people they know. Its human nature to surround yourself with people you feel comfortable with and are unlikely to challenge you. The music industry is a another example of ‘Its Who You Know’.
As my father often said when I was young. ‘its not what you know, its who you know’; he stills believes that to this day. However I believe you can make a difference to your life by working hard and never giving up but it is nice to know people with a little ‘pull’. Anyway this is what the song is about.
At 3 minutes the song is not long but it is an age in a music video. The idea was to have an interview with a pre-determined candidate guaranteed the job and the band being the hopeful applicants who did not stand a chance despite their qualities.
The successful applicant would walk through a door to find the band playing, a symbol of going it alone and doing things for ourselves without the help of other influences. The idea was a simple, realistic and a budget friendly plot.
Kevin Byrne kindly stepped up to the lens and shot the video, he controlled the lighting and directed many of the scenes. His influence was crucial to the final outcome of the video. James Cattanach kindly let us have free roam of the Three Kings and we set up in various rooms to create the interview room, the waiting area and the stage.
Kevin grew slightly concerned about the time we had to shoot the film however once we were set up things quickly took shape.
Chris Wilson: Chris played a cocky applicant who was guaranteed the job. He played his character with a swagger and style; look at the scene where he passes the band knowing he has the job. When he opens the door to see the band play is reaction is priceless.
Chris Burt: Brother of Jemma who appears on Weird Decibels 1 plays the interviewer who grills his victims and draws out nervous ticks and weaknesses of the applicant. A dismissive employer who enjoys wearing a ‘sacking tie’.
Dale Ashworth: Plays another cocky and smug interviewer who plays off his colleague to mock the hapless interviewees. Both members of the board are dismissive of all the applicants until Chris Wilson’s character appears and they shake hands. (which had the director and cast scratching their heads trying to work out the handshake in reverse order)
there were to be three scenes, the waiting room, the interview and the band playing at the end. The first scene had to show that Chris knew the members of the board. The interview displayed the hopeless interviews and the final scene is the band playing the song. We had great difficulty shooting the interview due to uncontrollable laughter! During the waiting rooms scenes I headed out the wrong door and the band followed!
Greg, Derek and Stu did most of the editing with input from Kevin. The first edit of the film was not far from what you see in the final version. I had the idea to put ‘Tarantino’ titles before every scene to help define the story. We had real difficulty getting the timing right, we play our songs far faster live than the recordings. Greg had to use the force to get some of the playing in sync with the music.
Its How You Know is the first of three single from our forthcoming album Weird Decibels 2.0. the single has been well received and its nice to know that after two week its hit over 300 views. Thanks for the support!
Weird Decibels 1 is actually a 2012 album, 2013 was the year we promoted it. Some of the songs were written back in 2009. So our thoughts turn to the next set of songs. We started writing last year but the writing was in fits and starts. Ms Asphyxia has been played live, a few others are holding on, Kill it! Kill it! Standing on a Viewpoint but its fair to say life got in the way and writing halted.
We’ve booked a weekend break in a lodge in Oakley. We’ll take the acoustics and a load of beer and wine, the studio and a dose of hope that inspiration will take hold and some songs will be born. I can see this being the way we write our songs in the future.
….when One More Solo turns ten.
Its hard to believe our ‘come back’ album is ten years old. This is the first album we recorded when Stu rejoined the band. The album was easy to write, we were invigorated, the 2 year break (myself, Derek and Greg joined Jon Shaw and formed the Seventeenth) helped refreshen our outlook. We recorded this album at Derek’s old flat on a Tascam 788. We had one or two mics the best of which was a Stagg condenser. We made a vocal booth from egg cups and it was mixed on my hi fi with two huge Celef speakers as monitors. I’ve learned a wee bit more about sound production. The album has been remastered, it sounds a bit better, more clarity and more dynamics and less guitar ringing! (Derek is gutted) Its a simple remaster, it will sound a lot better on its 20th anniversary when I finally work out how to use multi band compressors. The One More Solo remaster is out soon and will be free to download.
…. Weird Decibels playing live.
Derek is injured so we won’t be playing live until at least the spring. We hope to play new venues and new cities, maybe even new countries. Playing live made 2013 special for us and we met a lot of great new friends. I’d definitely like to re visit the 13th note I love that venue. Another gig in England would be nice…
….when music videos are once again all the range.
Wonder was great in 2013 but we left it too long to record its follow up so this year we’re going to have more content on YouTube. The Speak video will be first, then a video for Joker. We hope to have the film Making of Weird Decibels 1 finished and uploaded into episodes on YouTube. We’ll give video podcasts a shot as well.
…. a new Podcast series.
The podcasts have been popular. Thanks for listening. This year we will reminisce. We hope to have some friends from old Falkirk bands guesting in our pods, some live performances. A look at one more solo and general silliness. Look out for the podcast from the writing weekend where we’ll hopefully have a brand new song or two for you to hear in acoustic format.
…. social networking???
I’ve no idea where social networks are going. We’re signed up to all the major players. Updating them all is a pain in the arse. Engagement is the key… Is Facebook declining? Is MySpace back? Is reverbnation the hub? Is Bandcamp ever going to improve their search algorithm? There is a part of me that says word of mouth is best. I’m at a loss. Where is the best platform for our band? YouTube? See above.
….the solo album
I am writing a lot of songs at the moment. I trying to write my writers block to death! ( writing as much as you can kills block ) Some are for the band others are for me, mainly the tunes that wouldn’t work with the band but I don’t want to throw away. Seriously around early December I was staring at a blank page holding the guitar and nothing was coming. That thought. Is this it? Is this me finished? I played and played the guitar, staring out into the garden. Then stuff clicked and I recorded everything onto the tablet. I took the best ideas and have laid them down but its getting harder, so I have to work harder. Hopefully my 7th solo record will be out this year. However my priority remains Weird Decibels 8th!
…. I will expand ‘Pablo’s unsigned adventure’
Bandcamp, it was a random search and I stumbled upon the Spanish band 9M Lied. Loved their recordings and I decided to write about my favourite unsigned bands. Its not easy, there is so much content on the internet and its frustrating trying to find the hidden gems. The criteria? Unsigned. Not recommend by staff ( I don’t trust this). Not the most popular. I want the bands that are ignored or just starting out. Recommendations welcome. Hopefully I’ll get one new band a month.
…. Fail to hold back the stream
I love CD’s. Want to explore vinyl. You cannot match the sound quality of these physical formats…yet. But i cannot afford it. Bought 5 CDs last month, (still waiting for their arrival…) Cost me a small fortune. I have Spotify premium. ( another can of worms) For now its great but I feel weird using Spotify knowing how much we as artists get paid per stream. Anyway its feeding my music appetite this year as it did the last.
So enjoy your music in 2014 my big hope? Well we get signed, but seriously? A new scene, a fresh batch of new bands. Fingers crossed.