Music Takes You!

Blame speaking on Radio 1 about the making of Music Takes You

Nice to see or rather hear Contrad Blame on Radio 1 from a couple nights ago talk about the making of his early Jungle/Hardcore anthem classic, “Music Takes You” This was first recorded way back in 1992 at Luton’s very own “33 Studio” at the Art’s Centre in Guildford street and it was originally engineered by yours truly. The original white label I engineered for Blame, “Music takes You” went on to be taken onboard Rob Playford’s Moving Shadow rostrum and became a huge hit reaching number 1 in the Dance Music charts and making the lower end of the national charts.

A  bright eyed youth walked into 33 Studios one day in 1991 and claimed he would receive a grand for making a record. After we ripped a couple of records for samples, we laid out the track added some MIDI synth lines then I suggested we try my Juno 106 for bass sounds. After a twiddling we set upon a big fat sound. He left the studio with a smile and I thought that would be it! Six months later he returned with a 12" and a bigger smile. The record had gone big time in the underground rave scene. Although you won't find me credited on the sleeve, as Rob Playford had seen the potential and took Konrad (Blame) under his wings and produced 3 other mixes and re-released with proper clearances. I recorded and helped Konrad produce the 'Original Mix' and yes, the phat bassline was from my Juno!

Above taken from my Discography
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Optimism/Reject

Cherry Red Music has just released a 4 x CD + book set entitled Optimism / Reject – Punk and Post-Punk Meets D-I-Y Aesthetic: 4CD Deluxe Bookpack Edition. ( CRCDBOX74 )

One of my early tracks is included within this collection.
This collection includes “Exhibition” by Pnemania which was originally on “Plastic Records” (Plas 001) – the split and flip side with UK Decay’s “UK Decay”. This was my first ever published recording, a song I co wrote with Pneu Mania’s Gaynor, (aka Snow White). I joint owned Plastic Records along with Captain B, Steve Harle and Steve ‘Abbo’ Abbott

Optimism/Reject a 4 x CD Bookset collection available from Cherry Red Music
Optimism/Reject a 4 x CD Bookset collection available from Cherry Red Records
CRCDBOX74

“In the wake of punk, musicians in the UK found themselves suddenly liberated artistically and free to think in new terms commercially. The outcome was the independent label boom, and beyond that a certain Do It Yourself aesthetic. Overnight, the possibility arose of recording your own music and releasing your own record, or, if you weren’t musical yourself, setting up your own label to release records by people who were.

Link to Cherry Red Records Product page

Pneumania 1979 myself and Gaynor center
Pneumania 1979 myself and Gaynor center

Castle Party Festival 2019

Bolkov, Poland, July 13, 2019

An ‘Unexpected Guest’ at the 2019 Castle Party Festival in Bolkov Castle, Poland July 13

A month after the rather successful gig at Wave Gottic Treffen in Leipzig, my band UK Decay arose at ridiculous o-clock on the morning of July 13 to set off for Poland. We found ourselves at Luton Airport which to all intent and purpose resembled a building site and headed for check in for the early Wizzair flight to Wroclaw Airport.
We landed at 11am and we drove an hour to the Krokus Hotel in Kamienna Góra where we were staying for the event. Our wonderful host’s there cooked us a wonderful local Polish meal after which we took to our rooms for a short afternoon siesta. I had been up since 3.30am and we had to rest as much as possible for our performance. I guess i got about an hour and a bit nap, better than nothing! At 6pm the minibus arrived to drive us the ten miles to Bolkov and the festival. Apparently the small town of Bolkov does not have enough accommodation for the huge Castle Party Festival.

On arriving at Bolkov Castle Party

Finally we arrived at the small medieval market town and noted the old stone houses, most of which seemed worse for wear and in need of a lick of paint here and there but the overall aura was charming. We turned up a narrow cobbled street and then we found ourselves navigating slowly uphill through a throng of wild black and sometimes colorful dress. Eventually we arrived at an area set with a multitude of stalls selling food, beer and fashion accoutrements of all different shapes and sizes. We were stopped by an official who escorted us to the Festival office round the corner. At this point we had our first view of the castle walls and tower looming impressively above us.

The climb ahead to the Castle

Festival wrist bands now in place three nice chaps took our heavy cases and guitars and led the way up the Castle and from there to our changing rooms which it turned out was high up in a tower behind the taller main tower.
The Castle reminded me of the classic Norman Motte and Bailey Castle which was then rebuilt in stone in places like Wales by King Edward to hold the welsh to check. Built on a high outcrop of stone there was a classic ribbon wall surrounding the Bailey in which area hosted the large stage and crowd. This then led to the inner castle fortifications surrounding the inner halls and towers. So as we walked past the side of the stage we looked across at the impressive audience gathered. Unfortunately Ed our bassist had twisted his back the week previously and the climb up to the castle was taking it’s toll. Now we had a flight of a rough stone block staircase to navigate with the ‘steps’ some 10 to 12 inches (25 cms) apart to take us into the now roofless great hall. Quite a climb even if you are fit and healthy, Ed struggled along but he was in pain. We crossed the hall where several folk were drifting about, perhaps in other bands or working. We passed a row of cannons to get to the other side and now had yet another flight of stone steps to clamber up, to an open hallway that featured a small trebuchet .
Next to this was our changing rooms where a host of people were milling about and to the side was a spread of food and soft drinks people were dipping into.

We found a space and started prepping our stuff for the show. Looking around there were museum exhibits and information boards in Polish. From what I could gather the Castle seemed to have been built by the polish version of the Knights Templar (Tuetonic Knights?) I promised myself I would look into the history later. Meanwhile it was getting closer to our performance time. I looked out of the windows, three of them with magnificent views of the local landscape. There were mountains not so far away and in context it seems Bolkov and the castle are in the foothills of these mountains. Over to the right the sky was looking foreboding. Up until then it was cloudy with warm sunny spells , now a downpour was on it’s way. The band that was onstage before us was still playing when the clouds burst forth with a heavy downpour. Most of the crowd ran for cover and I felt really sorry for the band. The rain continued to pour, the light went dour and dimmed. A word from the promoter said we had to await the storm passing over. Eventually a few minutes before we were due to start our performance the promoter gave us the all clear and we made our way carefully across sodden cobbles, puddles and muddy patches towards the stage.

The author waits on his balcony

We went through a stone lined tunnel entrance and then entered the soggy auditorium which was still largely vacated and quickly started setting up our equipment. The stage manager was keen to get us playing as the storm had caused a considerable 15 minute delay to the proceedings so after a very quick line check and with the audience returning , we opened our set with UK Decay’s classic “Shake Em Up” from the album, ‘New Hope For The Dead’

Time goes on away-day once in performance mode, from my perspective, it was a huge stage to fill and my supplied amp (Marshall JTS) seemed somewhat distant and I struggled a bit to get the guitar to ‘sing’ the feedback especially as I managed at the recent Leipzig gig. Having said that I soon adapted as the songs of our set passed through. Aside from a couple of minor cock ups most of the songs were performed really well, If I say so!
Abbo was with the aid of his Iphone was communicating in Polish with the crowd which they seemed to love! God knows what he was saying but hey, good on him! Before long the last few songs were on the radar the crowd had returned and seemed huge! There were people on the parapets watching us and the sun was setting in the distance. And then we were on the last song. The promoter was looking at his watch, I had no idea of what time it was but he leans over to me and said “last song”, I shouted that to Abbo. We had two songs left on the list, we played through the first which was “Unexpected Guest”. The promoter said that was it. The message didn’t get through to Ray who started to tap the would be final song but Abbo stopped him and we left the stage to thunderous applause.

Our audience taken by Justin from the stage

So we then packed up our gear, chatted to people and caught up with a few beers. Time to chill before the return to our hotel. At midnight the minibus took us back so we could maybe get a couple hours shut eye and a shower before leaving for the airport once more at 3am. We then drove across back road Poland during the night about 70 miles at sometimes eye watering speeds in two vehicles. At one point the van in front swerved and we braked sharply to avoid a wild Boar. Finally we got to the airport and all the rigamarole and eventually flew back to Luton, where we had to wait over an hour for our baggage reclaim. Tut Tut Luton Airport ! I can only assume it will all be so much better when they finish the building works.

So I got back home at 10am, that is 31 hour after I left, what a day!

Wave Gottic Treffen 2019

I have just returned from Wave Gottic Treffen 2019. My band UK Decay were celebrating their 40th anniversary

Crowd-at-WGT-2019

UK-Decay-at-Taubchenthal-WGT

UK-Decay played at the Taubchenthal concert venue in hot style as they return to Leipzig in Germany’s wonderful Wave Gotic Treffen Festival 28

This was UK Decay’s first gig with the full line up in five years and the old magic was still there in the bands spirited performance. Of course it wasn’t without minor hickups, but the sound was absolutely awesome! Those German sound people really know their stuff!

This was our third outing to the Wave Gottic Treffen Festival in a decade and in my opinion and as far as I am concerned our best yet performance. There is always room for improvement but considering we don’t have the luxury of rehearsing more than once or twice before a gig, we played really well. the audience was great too, providing a magical and magnificent atmosphere, which really lifts the soul!

If you have Facebook you may be able to see a video on this link
https://www.facebook.com/cyberpagan/videos/10156443755402685/

2019 Update

Update:

Well it has been a while since I posted here, I have been busy working on a new bunch of ear candies for you delightful people.

First,
I am back on the road playing guitar with UK Decay for a few concerts this year to mark the 40 year anniversary of the band. It has been five years now since UK Decay last played at the Blackpool rebellion Festival back in August 2014. The band is thus far booked to return once more to Wave Gottic Treffen in Leipzig Germany on Saturday June 8th 2019. A month later the band are set to play the Castle Festival in Wraclaw Poland on July 12th. There will of course be UK gigs to be announce for later in the year.

Me at Wave Gottic Treffen in 2009

Nostramus,

Whilst back in shape on the guitar once more I am currently crashing out a bunch of new ideas on my updated DAW. I have upgraded this lately so I have a heap of new software and stuff to aid my quest for the ultimate auditory orgasm. I will be complementing my usual foray into Intelligent Drum and Bass and Ambient Dub with new left of field compositions using cutting edge software plugins and hardware effects. As always I will look to the past to seek out a future that should have been and could never have been within this current timeline. Yes at my time in life I have ideas coming from all directions and I have seldom felt so good about my compositions. There is some time to go yet before anything will be ready for public consumption but currently I am reaching perhaps a couple albums worth with a different feel or style on each. My working title for one of the collections is “Ear Flowers” but that may change once published. It may be another year before I get this shit out but I am sure the wait will be worth it.

5.1 Mixing,

I have made the decision to mix all of the new material in a 5.1 also called Surround format in a way to kind of future proof it. I will also be recording my master files to the 192k bitrate, which currently is one of the highest resolutions possible. All this is to guarantee the best possible quality. In case you are wondering, there will also be the standard CD stereo quality. 

Barney The Musical

Barney The Musical CD - screenshot

Barney The Musical CD – screenshot

2020 Forthcoming

A few years ago I upgraded my DAW with a new Alienware I7 Quadcore PC and my software to the new Steinberg Cubase Pro 8. Now I have Cubase 10.5 with multiple SSD Drives which greatly speeds up playback I am loving it to! I have been using Cubase now since 1990 and the days of the good old Atari putor’s. This one is the best version yet, Steinberg now have the backing and benefit of the Yamaha music group behind this next generation virtual studio technology. So a music tech marriage made in heaven between the Cubase software brains and the Yamaha hardware interface, will lead to further integration into the future with innovative new digital work surfaces and controllers. For the time being I will have to settle with my brand new Steinberg UR22 Audio Interface, which does the job superbly, with as high quality sound as you might need.

The first major project of the new set-up was a slight divergence to the normal musical production and it came as a refreshingly different and pleasant surprise. Ella Jo Street who I have recorded music for in the past , asked me if I would record an Audiobook of one of her kids stories. I was a bit dubious at first, although in the past I have recorded spoken, plays for the radio and podcasts. Anyway we ran through a dress rehearsal of the 6500 word story and I recorded it onto an MP3, it played back at around 50 minutes and in places it was hilarious with EJ Street finding great character in her performance.

I also recently acquired a Rhode NT1A microphone, so after a bit of tweeking EJ and I decided to record the story again , this time obtaining a top quality sound and putting some thought into Foley and other sound effects. We set up the environment with a dampened space away next door, ran cables under doors, set the laptop up on the table for a text read out. Then we sat EJ down comfortably , with headphones, with talk-back. I set up the phantom power on the UR22 and set up the recording levels. I set up a number of Audio channels on Cubase, which I set to run at 24bit and 44.1khz, we did a few test takes until we were happy. Then we started.

We ploughed our way through the first 15 minutes before we listened back. We were largely really happy with the take, the sound was good, the performance was excellent, EJ had really done her homework on the characters voices.. The only things we needed to touch up later was a slight volume adjustment I had to make as it was recording some three minutes in. I had to compensate for this in the post production process. Once the new level was set, it was good for the recording of all the following narrative. Later we went back and replaced the continuity headings narrative.

The new Cubase Pro 8 - screenshot of the Barney The Musical Project page

The new Cubase Pro 8 – screenshot of the Barney The Musical Project page

As time wore on however, EJ tired quicker so we ended up doing more takes, which I knew would have to be edited later. I didn’t want EJ’s voice to give either before the end of the reading. So we stopped for a cup of tea break. Had a listen back to the work so far, hey! It was sounding real good!

We returned to finish the second half, which in fact turns out to be more or less an hour long. EJ needed me to rewind a couple times to check her character voices were right, eventually we got to the end. A great performance but some serious editing was needed to edit the different takes into the right order. I literally had to follow the text and check every line whilst editing, which I needed to do right away, whilst fresh in my software memory! After a few hours of editing I had something to play EJ for her to check, she spotted an ‘audio typo’ or two , we put it right. Set up a soft limiter and slight eq on monitors. We ready for the next stage.

This is where we were to have fun!

“Barney The Musical” is a story from Ella Jo Street’s “A Witch called Gwubbin’s” series aimed at kids between 5 and 11 years. Gwubbins creates magical spells with the best of intentions , but the spells go hysterically wrong leaving her visiting actress sister Alidusta from the end of the universe and her dog Barney in ‘pandabonium’ in a stage musical.

We decided we would make an audio book to remember. As this was a musical we decided that we must depart from a normal narrative (Like most audiobooks) and add some bespoke ‘musical’ songs.
So how would the new Cubase Pro 8 cope with an hour long Audiobook with foley and music?

On another project we started work on the bespoke musical pieces. This was to involve lots of practicing of scales, donkey honking, yodeling, murmuring, whispering. We needed to create the sounds of wonky contraptions, magical broomsticks, dogs barking and running riot.

Using Halion a VST sampler I created an Orchestra on different layers and created a loop on one idea. On another we needed a kind of fanfare so I used the same orchestral multi-timbral in Halion, eventually creating four or five pieces . Once reasonably happy I suggested EJ write some lyrics. In the story she mentioned a few songs for instance “The Dog Show Cabaret”, “Howling Moon Blues”, “Winner by a Whisker” and “Barney in my Dreams”.

Very soon EJ had four short songs to work with, so I got her to drop the vocals onto each of the songs. What a fine job to! She got into full operatic character and before long we were creating mini mixes to slide into the main book.
So we were now armed with most of the sounds and Foley we needed to create our masterpiece!

It was just a case of layering on different tracks, using the new ‘REVelation’ Reverb hosted in Cubase Pro8, I found a general theatrical ambiance for the live on stage stuff. Later we played about with the different characters voices, the elf for instance we transposed up and layered, the magic spells needed a peeling harp and bobs your uncle, there were many other treatments, that all hopefully augmented to a well put together story that is all but graphically animated!

“Barney The Musical” is a kids story at the end of the day, it is kids that it is meant for however in places it reminds me of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End , or Jeeves and Wooster or something similar. This is not a regular audio book in the true sense, it is a listening experience par excellence!

I do have a serious grumble about Cubase Pro 8 however.
Note: This problem has now been resolved on the latest versions of Cubase

Most songs that one might want to record are never more than a few minutes. However with “Barney The Musical” being over an hour long , it did manifest a peculiar problem that made it very difficult to work with. As more tracks piled up over the narration with different sound effects and some control changes, editing got slower and slower. Yes I agree it was a very huge song! But I would have thought Cubase should have coped admirably but it let me down!

Everything was fine when editing near the beginning of the material but after about a third of the way through, editing took longer and longer the nearer I got to the end! At the end each edit would often take as long as two minutes to perform, a real pain in the neck that slowed the work down significantly. I took time out to read the manual and help sections , I tried various setting changes in the audio devices pages. I turned down the ‘undo’ in fact I spent several hours trying to track down the problem. I went online to the Steinberg Cubase forums and tried several searches for others that may have had the same problem. I did find a couple of leads, like turning of the ‘auto-hit detection’ in the preferences (It’s on by default) I removed all of the hit-points which were totally unnecessary in audio book narrative material anyway. There was one tantalising thread that sounded just like my problem but no-one had got back with any answer , so I still don’t know if it’s an inherent problem with the new Cubase Pro 8 or whether it is a setting somewhere! If i am going to use Cubase to create any more audio books I am going to have to nail this problem. When I get a chance I will address the forum with it.

In the nineties I had a similar problem with Cubase when it moved over to VST with audio for the first time. I was getting these timing anomalies they seemed pretty random. I couldn’t work out if it was a multitude of differing facets to do with the multi-track sync or in the software or what. I spent weeks trying to track the problem down and it caused a lot of disgruntled customers to complain which meant I had to compensate with so much extra time in the studio. At that time there was no internet in the studio, in fact it was early days full stop. I never got to the bottom of the problem at the time. It was a couple years later when I was reading through the upgrade history to a later version of Cubase that I came across an entry that stated…

version…such and such…”fixed…..anomalous timing discrepancy” and sure enough it was fixed!

All of that time wasted, hours of trying to track down, the disgruntled customers, the heck!

The fault lay in the software all the bloody time! Since then my lesson learned is to never jump in with brand new software, let someone else be the guinea pig.

So after a few sessions we now have our first audio book. There were many lessons learned in the creating of Barney The Musical, now it’s onto the packaging, marketing and promotion. It will manifest both in a CD form and digital versions. We have plans for more audio books now, I will have to nail the Cubase problem, but I am sure that will be fixed very soon. All new projects are likely to have teething problems, it’s part of the learning process.

Gwubbins The Witch Audio Books – Barney The Musical

40 years of punk in the east documentary

Matt Hudson and Steve Spon discuss life in punk Luton back in the day.

Matt Hudson and Steve Spon discuss life in punk Luton back in the day.

I was featured  recently in an Anglia TV special marking 40 years since the punk movement. This two part mini documentary series is about punk in the Eastern Counties and was hosted by Anglia TV’s Matt Hudson who was a big punk fan and UK Decay fan.

Matt was the same presenter who featured UK Decay and Bauhaus in “The Origins of Goth” feature back in 2014.

Also featured are Steve Ignorant from Crass, Charlie Harper from UK Subs and author and university lecturer Matt Worley whose new book No Future is an in-depth look at the effect punk had on politics and culture.

There are also some still shots of early 1980’s Luton Punks featured on the show taken from UK Decay’s  Communities web archive.

 

It comes in two parts…

 

Marking 40 years since the punk movement

Marking 40 years since the punk movement

Part One

Punk memories: Looking back at legendary venues in our region

Punk memories: Looking back at legendary venues in our region

Part Two

ITV Punk Special in 2018!

Interviewed for ITV Punk Special out in 2018!

Yesterday I returned to the Hat Factory Arts and Media Center in Luton to take part in an interview with Anglia TV’s Matt Hudson.  He is a massive UK Decay fan and sent me a host of live tapes ten years ago when we were getting the UK Decay Communities website going.

Matt is putting together a show that highlights the birth of the punk movement in the Anglia region and what it was like growing up throughout the Punk era.  It is something that he is quite knowledgeable about as he grew up in this scene himself. So we had a couple hour chat with edited highlights to be seen on the forthcoming production due out in the new year. Besides your truly Matt has interviewed Steve Ignorant , Chris Needs who played guitar for The Users in Cambridge, Matt Whorley whose book No Future has just been published by Cambridge University Press and Jonty Young who runs the Punk in the East website. There will also be a special emphasis on tales from the gig at the end of the pier, The West Runton Pavilion. So a lot to look forward to!

Please check back here or visit UK Decay ‘s family of websites for updates on this

Silhouettes And Statues 5 CD Gothic Compilation

Silhouettes And Statues

Silhouettes And Statues 5 CD Gothic Compilation

Silhouettes And Statues 5 CD Gothic Compilation

I have a couple of tracks coming out on this forthcoming release due out in June 2017 on Cherry Red. This will be one of the most compelling Goth compilations ever to see the light of day.

On disc one, I co wrote and performed a  song I brought to the mix after I was ‘poached ‘ by UK Decay  from Pneumania in 1979 –  ‘Black Cat’.  This became one of the most enduring UK Decay live tracks during both the early and later periods.  A few tracks later I appear with-  IN Excelsis on a track called  Carnival Of The Gullible’. I formed In Excelsis with Mark Bond and Errol Blythe formerly from Post Punk legends, Ritual and Colin Rocks who later joined Mark. E. Smith with The Fall..  Errol and Mark were left stranded after drummer Raymundo and Bassist Jamie were ‘poached’ by  Ian Astbury form Southern Death Cult so after UK Decay split at the end of 1982. This was a weird period for me, I flirted with Gaynor and Rick from World Circus, Jammed with Rob from The Wall , then finally teaming up with Mark Errol and Colin to form IN Excelsis in 1983.    Richard Anderson got in touch with me in 2016 explaining his interest in creating the ‘ultimate’ Gothic Rock compilation, so I digitally re-mastered ‘Black Cat’ especially  for this compilation.

Below is a bit of ‘official’ blurb about the compilation

Cherry Red have announced the tracklisting for “Silhouettes and Statues” – A Gothic Revolution: 1978 – 1986 5CD collection, which is due 30th June.  Silhouettes and Statues is described as “an era-defining journey through the gothic revolution that thrived in the underbelly of the UK’s music scene during the late 1970s and 1980s. From Joy Division’s haunted soul-searching to the wild, hairspray guzzling antics of Alien Sex Fiend and everything in-between, the myriad components of that time and place are brought together here for the first time in this kind of detail.”

The set comes in a deluxe hardback book format featuring 80+ tracks, with over 18,000 words of sleevenotes (including artist contributions) and unseen images.

See the tracklisting here