Category Archives: Production

Spon-Abbo-40 years punk in Luton

40 Years Of Punk in Luton..

Abbo  and I recently visited The Hat Factory Arts and Media Centre in our hometown to discuss Punk Rock in the UK’s 40th year. Our performance was entitled “Luton, Centre of the Punk Rock Universe with Abbo and Spon

The chair and MC for the night was Fahim Qureshi from Luton Culture whom was more than well qualified to host the proceedings as Fahim or ‘Fame’ was an active spiky haired punk about town back in the late seventies. Back then he was promoting some of the earliest punk gigs in Luton including the Barnfield College Gigs and was a co-hand at promoting the infamous Crass, Poison Girls and UK Decay gig at Marsh Farm in late 1979.

I prepared a powerpoint slide show of images of gig posters, press cuttings,  punks, punk bands of most of the early events that happened in Luton from 1976 onwards. This acted as a stimulus for discussion with ourselves and the audience.  Forty years is a long time and memories can sometime play tricks, it can be good to share with others that were around at the time. Sometimes forgotten stuff can resurface in discussion with others and alternative insights can enlighten a memory. Hence I think everybody that participated provided real interest and content to the discussion.

Abbo had attended his Mothers funeral late after getting caught up in the ‘Black Friday’ traffic that afternoon so it couldn’t have been more difficult for him. I don’t know how he managed, most people would have been in pieces , I certainly would! You have to have maximum respect for the man’s professionalism.

We talked about the early punk gigs in Luton including the first at the Royal Hotel in Mill Street on October 6th 1976 with The Damned playing their tenth ever gig.  There was a few in that company who had been there all those years ago! Including myself! We talked about the gigs and the bands , the great creativity , the great antipathy that punks suffered in what was difficult times. There was often trouble at gigs back in the day, but this was the price to be paid for deliberately stepping into what was then a tribal culture which to some seemed hell bent on nihilism and disorder, To us it was an exciting new territory of music , sound and anti-fashion  voyeurism to be explored and populated. In an age before the interweb we networked , created anarchistic fanzines, painted our jackets, wore cool punk badges (or buttons as they are called today) , dyed our hair with crazyclour (no wonder many of us ain’t got any hair left today!). Some of us promoted gigs, some of us did poetry, we created artworks and some of us did music , then of course it was the band! Our band.

Of course as Abbo and I were later both in UK Decay, there was a history before Decay in Luton. Of course Luton’s first punk was The Jets who were basically inspired by the Damned gig. They played at the infamous Roxy club in Covent Garden back in 1977 and appeared on the “Live At The Roxy” compilation. Things moved on through some of my other early bands as I eventually moved on from playing keyboards in Toad The Wet Sprocket – which more than a few in the audience remembered embarrassingly! Well perhaps I should be prouder of my history, Toad were a good band! but after seeing The Damned and later that month The Sex Pistols at the Queensway Hall in Dunstable, I started to wonder if the Blues that Toad tws played was right for me! I loved the new energy of Punk. It took me a year or two to realize that I would have to trade in my Vox Continental keyboard for a Guitar. This is what I eventually did in late 1978 when I teamed up with Captain Bluett and a bit later Gaynor (Snow White)

So we squatted an old house in Wellington Street  and turned the coalbunker basement into a rehearsal room. We soon got to know The Resistors another young band of whippersnappers he he!  particularly Martin and Steve Harle. some of the other chaps in the Resistors were in the audience and were delighted to see their younger selves up on the screen!

So there it was, we had created a potential meeting point that would help launch Luton’s Punk scene. Which by 1979 it did.  Snow White had now changed name to Pneumania and The Resistors, now with Abbo on vocals to UK Decay., We collaborated on a ‘Split Single’ , gigs and just about everything else! Later that year I joined UK Decay on guitar and it went on from there! The Split Single was Luton’s first D.I.Y release , we pipped the Jets, now The Tee Vee’s and The Friction’s ‘split single by a few weeks! So the Luton punk discussion for a time looked at this what we called ‘the second wave’ and actually some called it the ‘third wave’ after the initial explosion of 76. I guess the UK Decay part of Luton’s punk history has it’s place and I guess it would be natural for Abbo and I to talk about it!

It wasn’t all discussion either, we broke up the evening with half a dozen or so songs which was the closest thing  we could do to being ‘unplugged’. Justin Saban joined us onstage to help ‘glue’ our performance together. He brought along a bespoke stompbox which provided a rhythm and we played through a number of songs which included our first ever live performance of ‘Drink’ from our recent ‘New Hope From The Dead’ album. For that I created an mp3 of the violin part and played my guitar with my cell with the mp3 playing – all going through my stomp boxes and space echo! It was a first! Being as it was an ‘unplugged’ performance we had every excuse to sit down and play which to some might appear ‘unforgivable’  But it seemed to be about right for the timbre of the evening.

Eventually the evening rolled out to questions then more personal meetups at the bar later. The feedback I got was really good, we had provoked a keen interest and it was really good catching up with some of the peops from all those years ago. I guess next meettup and discussion wil be for the fiftieth in a decades time.

Thank Ron Todd for the pictures and video clips.




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Dumping It On Parliament - The Final Cut - Wrap Party

Dump it on Parliament Revisited – The Final Cut

I am looking forward to the Dump it on Parliament Revisited wrap party on Monday 20 June 2016,  8.00pm at Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, which reflects on last years amazing project I had the honour of being involved with. On the night there will be an exclusive listen to the new post-punk compilation Dump It On Parliament Revisited before its public release on Friday 24 June. The album, which was recorded live last year at Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, will be played alongside the first screening of the accompanying documentary film that explores Bedfordshire’s flourishing 1980’s post-punk scene.

Further info here

and at UK Decay Communities

Dumping It On Parliament - The Final Cut - Wrap Party

Dumping It On Parliament – The Final Cut – Wrap Party

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Dumping It On Parliament 2015 Live Presentation

Dumping It On Parliament Revisited Live Review

DIOPR By 21st century youth and music.
Copied with thanks from Diamond Seeds

Steve Spon note:  “This live performance of which I co hosted and curated along with Dash N Dem, Roshi, Graham Gagarin, Bedford Creative Arts and Mid Bedfordshire Libraries was the culmination of several months of planning , music, artwork, drama and poetry workshops with various groups and bands from Mid Bedfordshire. The project was part of the ‘Libraries As Laboratory’s’ presentation with the aim of utilising local libraries as part of a multifaceted arena and local resource.”

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The amount of work that went into this project was phenomenal. As a bystander, hearing about it as it unfolded and watching the culmination of all the hard work, it was truly breathtaking.

The project was run by Bedfordshire Libraries I believe, in a bid to keep these precious public places alive. Choosing music and its place in the right to protest was a formidable concept. Something that was news thirty years ago was resurrected and held up as an example of how people, working together, make their cause stronger. Well that was the main point, but of course, the history has to be explained, the flavour of the times revisited, in order to give a satisfactory view of how things really were.

I featured some songs from the Dump It On Parliament tape in a podcast. I listened and was impressed at the variety of styles of music and the wide involvement of people dedicated to protest against a nuclear dump near Bedford (yes believe it, it could have happened!)
The tape was made so that proceeds from its sale could provide financial help to those who were arrested and fined for demonstrating against this insane idea. The wider community woke up and participated in voicing its disapproval, and eventually the government dropped the proposal.

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But this incident threw open a door to the times we were living in, times past and unknown to the present generation. History is coloured by the media, and the media can be woefully unfair. The punk scene, which became the alternative music scene, was not populated by drones. Sure the clothes were interesting but there was more to it than the look (which was hijacked as soon as a buck could be made from it anyway).

The Dump it on Parliament tape is an icon for activism, for building communities and for the arts. The 21st Century project ‘Dump It On Parliament Revisited’, directed by the fantastic trio Rochi, Dash and Dem, probes into all the factors that made this tape, connects to the anger of the times, the politics of unfairness and the grassroots effects of fighting back. The drama group of young students that enjoyed the dressing up and acting of the Young Ones gives a nod to the recognition of this phenomena in our country’s social history.

And I have to laugh. Much of it goes back to Luton 33 Arts Centre and the craziness that went on there. I admit I took it for granted, surely every town had somewhere like that? Well it turns out that this arts center was very special, and to think I only went there a few times to rehearse with my band. Discussing 33 nowadays is like talking about Shangri La – there were drama groups, a recording studio, a photography studio, a cafe – decorated with Tony Hough’s paintings (Luton’s incredible fantasy artist). Gorilla Video was based there, developing new film techniques and providing Channel 4 with the stuff that used to make Channel 4 worth watching.

This was the meeting place where workshops took place and bands met, not in competition but in building a community, organizing gigs together. It was the antithesis of X Factor. Of course the council condemned the building, pulled 33 Guildford Street down and no independent place has emerged to rival it since.

Now it has come to pass that the building has gone, and the people have scattered to the four winds; but the music is still with us. So the idea was to revisit the tape itself, and listen to the songs and study the history. Then, to invite bands/performers of today to participate, by commenting about the issues in their lives through their music.

My goodness, the bands that participated are living proof that this project is a bloody good idea. Firstly there was no age restriction, I believe the youngest participant was a very enthusiastic actor, it would be rude to try and work out the eldest, so lets just say this project appealed to all ages!

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Secondly it was a project that embraced all facets of art, not just the music. Tee-shirts and posters were designed. Clothes were embellished and make up carefully applied by the drama group. Films made by Gorilla Video were aired. There was even face painting – where people ‘wore’ an album cover on their face.

An interesting discussion about the times and the action taken by bands and film makers were discussed at a public forum in Leighton Buzzard, hosted by Dave Stubbs from Quietus Magazine.

With music being my main passion I was bound to be drawn in by the promise of live bands, but all this other stuff, the historical perspective, the inclusion of anyone who wanted to be involved in any way, I found this inspiring. And yet all it was, was people, encouraging other people, to discover and evolve their abilities and learn something. I was entertained. More importantly, I was educated about the music scene, and the battles fought with the government of the 1980s against nuclear dumping, among other issues. Things that are not in the National Curriculum, or the newspapers.

So how can you better the idea of asking bands of today to come along and show us what music is about now? The master stroke was this – ask each band to cover one of the songs on the Dump it on Parliament Tape (I also called it the ‘Anti Nirex tape’, as Nirex was the company that the government was going to farm out the nuclear waste to).
This is asking a lot considering that music has moved a long way since the eighties, the words can be lost and musicians are all ego maniacs – well that’s how they are portrayed in the media – right?

Musicians don’t always turn up for rehearsals, well we know that! Sometimes people say yes to things and do not deliver… life can get in the way..sometimes people just cannot make it. I have said it before, musicians are emotional creatures, when you strip your soul naked on a stage it takes courage. But there are plenty of brave people out there.

I turned up on the last night of this project at Leighton Buzzard Theatre and it seemed clear to me that this was going to be a fantastic effort because it was so much more than ‘just a gig’. I was privileged to meet many of the musicians performing that night and their commitment and credibility was awe-inspiring.
I have to say in an industry once populated with men (which is even reflected to some extent on the Anti Nirex tape) the girls have silenced the equality debate, which thankfully, for this project, has gone out of date. Women, dressed in clothes that betray the fact that they are serious musicians and not put together by some creepy media company executive (ie they were dressed normally) performed to a very high standard, as did everyone taking part on the night. Yes the bottom line was that these bands were worth seeing.

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Carolla

I like punky stuff and I like folky stuff, so I wasn’t disappointed. The show kicked off with the Grove Theatre Drama Group (?) Dunstable – performing a song strong on lyrics. We all get how bad it is to be young in a system that does not care about you, but hearing it from kids who are living it and understanding that things don’t have to be that way – made it a powerful performance. I truly hope that these kids do find a future in the arts, even if nobody will fund them.

SlippySkills04

Gary, known as Slippy Skills came over from Luton and rapped a set, and we were off into a night of sheer delight, as I like to say. He was followed by the Council Tax Band, who really don’t care if they cannot be found on Google. This band was tight, political and had a dynamic girl guitarist as well as the singer/keyboard player. They covered the Click Click track from the Dump it on Parliament tape. I enjoyed their defiant style and material.

Grand Mal were excellent too – a Bedford band fronted by bass player, sound engineer and singer Amy Mason, often found behind the bar at Esquires, Bedford.

Grand Mal

Grand Mal

Corolla were something different. Their performance had delicacy and a gentle delivery which completely reset the atmosphere. The girl (I should say lady) singer has a completely controlled delivery of her vocals. Holding back and putting space into the music, captured the attention of the audience, and held us in the palm of her hand. Even though this band was quieter, the sentiment and pace of the music was its strength. The musicianship was exquisite, the moment was precious.

In contrast, everything seems to be in a state of explosion around Nick the Poet. He is like a human detonator. When someone with his energy takes the mike and announces that he will read you his poem, nobody would ever consider heading for the door. Nick has written some wonderful stuff over the years. He has a punk heritage that takes us back to the days of the emerging and pimpled UK Decay. Nick gave himself the job of reading a poem to the crowd while there were band and equipment changeovers on the stage behind him. He loves a rabble to entertain and the rabble loves him for his word-smithing. Nick does not beat around the bush. His poetry will ask awkward questions – and on this evening he brings out a poem questioning what Thatcher and Reagan were up to and the disgrace that was Greenham Common. By the end of the night everyone in the venue will know who Nick the Poet is, and probably go to see him if they ever get the chance again.

Nick the Poet

Nick the Poet

Rochi and Spon performed a song from the ‘dump it’ tape and had the crowd singing a simple song by a bloke named Kev, and I wondered if it may have been a guy I went busking with years ago in Luton. We never found out but the song brought a great audience response with us singing along with the chorus and the drama group really feeling it. Their tutor, Chris performing as Red Lighter Man also gave us a haunting poem about the times we live in.

Roshi

Roshi

The evening was fast paced, so I had a sit down and quick chat with Steve Spon who was co-presenting and co curator of the project. Then I heard someone on the drums and I knew that it had to be Kirk. Halfway through my tea I jumped up and ran to catch the Kindred, because it is the only thing to do when the Kindred get on stage. I have seen this band steam the pub windows up, I would go so far to say that they are rather ‘mighty’.

I just about caught the first song and it was the cover of the Rattlesnakes song ‘No Money’. This being my favourite song of the whole thing, it is not surprising that the pics came out a bit out of focus, I was trying to mosh at the same time. Seems the Kindred were not together as a band at the time but I am hoping they reform and gig because the world is too quiet without their gut ripping energy. All excellent musicians, they seem like direct descendants from some of the bands that made the Anti Nirex tape. Of course I mentioned the Rattlesnakes before, it being Gregg Herbert’s band at one time. It was special to see Kindred, highly respected in my opinion, paying tribute to Gregg and the Rattlesnakes all this time later. It was good too that the boys knew it and felt that respect.

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Kindred and Kin

The evening ended with the Defektors, the other band that I had already picked up on the radar as a bloody good set up. I had a chance to speak to their singer, Cara, the enigmatic front-person before they got on stage. The Defektors were covering a song by Penumbra Sigh and I wondered if she knew that the singer had passed away in the last couple of years. I had tried to contact Spiky Kaz, who had been the singer in Penumbra Sigh when I included the track on my radio podcast, but could not connect with her. Cara viewed this news in a mystical light, she has a spiritual dimension about her, and she paid tribute to Spiky Kaz when they performed the song. The Defektors set was the last of the night and they rounded off the evening with kick ass tracks and lively performance. Cara is totally dynamic, having mastered the art of movement and performance, she gives a masterclass in stage craft to anyone watching who would want to learn. I liked this band before, now I love them!

All was filmed by Andrew and others, and the sound recorded on the desk by Graham, from Pere Ubu who did the engineering single-handedly and must be congratulated for not a whiff of feedback! The library staff involved with this project were so friendly and I glimpsed them support the creators as they cleverly navigated their way through their aims and objectives.

What will be my lasting impression of this whole thing? Well I was an outsider looking in, but for me what sticks is that people were just lovely with each other.

THIS IS NOW

“Film and Video after Punk”

THIS IS NOW POSTER

THIS IS NOW POSTER Saturday 21st November 2015. Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre 2pm – 11pm. Free Entry and Bar

I will be attending a question and answer session at the festival…

“Dumping It On Parliament Revisited”

Dumping It On Parliament 2015 Live Presentation

Dumping It On Parliament 2015 Live Presentation

I am helping host a fiesta of protest, a host of bands covering tracks from the original 1986 “Dumping It On Parliament” and also presenting their own contemporary original protest songs to ‘Dump On Parliament ‘ today…

Dump it on Parliament Revisited

Dumping It On Parliament Revisited!

Dump it on Parliament Revisited

Dump it on Parliament Revisited

As an artist and musician I am currently involved in an exciting new project. Because of my involvement in the Post Punk music culture scene of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in the Luton and surrounding area, I am lending my experience and support in crafting an alternative music culture cross generation dialogue in Bedfordshire.

The aim is to revisit a project born of protest in the mid eighties that galvanised many musicians to contribute to a musical compilation of protest songs. The result was called, ‘Dumping It On Parliament’ a cassette album produced by local musicians on behalf of the ‘Bedfordshire Against Nuclear Dumping’ (B.A.N.D) campaign. The government had earmarked land in Elstow to act as the nation’s nuclear waste dumping ground. B.A.N.D was put together to protest against this.

The wind was taken out of the sails of this campaign however when the government, perhaps seeing the severity of the protest lined up against them in Bedfordshire, backed down. We sensed a victory and our attentions soon wandered to protest elsewhere.

Today there are more issues to protest about than ever before, particularly if you are young. There are many ways to protest and they might say ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ but music is still a great way to get an idea across to a new audience. This project is seeking to find look for new generation to ‘dump it on parliament’ today!

The project run by is part of ‘Library as Laboratory’ an idea funded by Central Bedfordshire Council Libraries, in partnership with Bedford Creative Arts. The artists Dash MacDonald, Demitrios Kargotis and Roshi Nasehi have been commissioned to create a new project, ‘Dump it on Parliament Revisited’ . I will be meeting and mentoring the musicians and bands with the target idea of creating a 2015 compilation album of protest songs by contemporary bands. There will be a recorded live performance , which is hoped will result in a live recording for the compilation.

More information about this project can be found here.

http://www.bedfordcreativearts.org.uk/index.php/library-as-laboratory/

And a great article here

http://www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk/Bedford-Creative-Arts-Dump-Parliament/story-27536795-detail/story.html

Ps. Late Aug 2015, if you are a musician or band and want to protest or are simply interested in being involved in this project there are a few places left. We have had a lot of interest, get in touch!

My role includes mentoring, consultation, creative production and performance.

Barney The Musical

Barney The Musical CD - screenshot

Barney The Musical CD – screenshot

2015

At the beginning of this year I upgraded my DAW with a new Alienware I7 Quadcore PC and my software to the new Steinberg Cubase Pro 8. 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 4 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 practising 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 SE 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.

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

The Pneumania Story

The Pneumania Story: parts 1 & 2

Part1

Pneumania formally known as ‘Snow White and the sic Punks’, were formed early in 1979 in Luton UK by founding members and nihilists, Steve Spon and The Captain (not Sensible!). They had just converted a basement in a soon to be demolished terraced house in Luton, into a rehearsal room and went on a hunt for a Vocalist and Bass player.

Spon, Steve Harle and The Captain
Their search led them to the ‘Grapevine’ public house that was the ‘hub’ of the thriving Luton Punk scene. Amongst the throng of ‘spikey-tops’ and ‘Seditionary’ clothed regulars, one girl stood out from the crowd. Her name turned out to be Gaynor and although she had never sung before, she gladly accepted an offer to come along to a jam session in view of forming a Band.

Gaynor had spent the last year or so, charging tourists along Kings Road in Chelsea for taking her picture. With her bleached white ‘Jack Frost’ haircut and stunning punk fashion clothing she wouldn’t fail to catch the eye, but the ‘real deal’ about Gaynor was in spirit she was a seminal punk Goddess. It wouldn’t matter if in a musical sense whether she could sing or not, what she had to say would be more important.

Gaynor (Sow White) and Steve SponInitially, the Captain who formally played guitars and at the time was currently playing Bass with Luton’s first punk band  ‘The Jets’, would now focus on drums.
Spon who formally played keyboards, would take up the guitar. For the first few sessions this was the line-up and although much ragged round the edges, within a short while a new sound developed with a hand full of songs becoming established.

Recruiting the right Bass Player however, was proving a problem. Cue Steve the Voice, who had been on the sidelines for a little while. An ex-art student with his ‘nose on the streets’ who couldn’t play a note wanted to give it a go. With initial reservations he was given a chance to prove himself on bass, which after a while he did! For the early part of 1979 the new band thrashed away in the basement and gathered together a set of tunes.

 

A name for the band was chosen, ‘Snow White and the sic Punks’ and before long the first live gig was on the horizon. This provided a dilemma for ‘The Captain’ as the ‘Jets’ whom he also played bass for, were booked  on the same bill! This thought the Captain, wouldn’t go down very well with the guys in the Jets. To get round this the Captain played the first ‘Snow White and the sic Punks’ gig completely swathed in ‘Mummy’ style bandages, so as not to be noticed by the Jets or so he thought!. Half way through the gig the bandages inevitably started to come adrift eventually leading to severe embarrassment on the Captains behalf. This led to an altercation the following weekend whereby Captain was indignantly thrown down the stairs to the washrooms at the Grapevine by the guys in the Jets. After this, the Captain decided to move into management, vacating the Drum kit.

The first gig at Luton’s Barnfield College was historical in the sense that this was the location where the Idea of ‘The Split Single’ was first conjured up,  alongside fellow Luton punk band ‘The Resistors’ (UK Decay) who were on the same bill. Putting aside ‘Captains’ embarrassment, it turned out to be a really ‘stunning’ gig. However, ‘Snow White and the sic Punks’ were now in need of a drummer.

Pneumania on insert of The Split SingleCue Nigel Dark, a friend of Steve the Voices, Nigel was an accomplished drummer with a grounding in Jazz as well as ‘Nihilism’. Within a few rehearsal sessions Nigel had fully integrated himself into the sound and it was at this point that ‘Snow White and the sic Punks’ would now change their name to ‘Pneumania’… TBC..

 

 

Part 2

The ‘Welly Street’ abode complete with rehearsal room and outside bathroom – minus roof, during the early part of 1979 quickly became established as the HQ for Pnuemania and The Resistors -who later changed their name to UK Decay. The formal tenancy of the house was at an end and the demolishing contractors were pulling the houses down around to make way for a new development. This sense of uncertainty galvanised much support from the punk community whom rallied round to help.

Punk Girl a disgrace!

The Captain and Spon who were then residing there, decided on a strategy to hang on to the home and base for as long as possible. One day the contractors started demolishing the house next door, the response by the punk residents was to fetch the amplification equipment up from the basement and to set it up in the street outside – then to blast the neighbourhood with loud punk music, in the middle of the working day -in Luton town centre.

Meanwhile Captain got onto to phone to the local press who were based just a few streets away, they could hear the noise from their offices. Very soon, the local press, police and a huge crowd had gathered to see what the fuss was about. Very quickly the demolition work halted and a stay of execution for a couple months was granted for consideration. This created much interest locally and provided motive and a strong sense of mission to achieve as much as possible in the time remaining at ‘Welly Street’.

Around that time a ‘locally -famous’ piece of Luton graffiti appeared – ‘C-O-U-N-C-I-L – V-A-N-D-A-L-S’ – each letter man-sized and painted with a roller-brush of white paint, running along a street full of front doors – each house sadly empty and awaiting demolition. This proved a great spin for the press to use as a certain Mike ‘English’ , made sure he had this as backdrop when the local press took his photo.

It was spring 1979 that the idea of the two bands collaborating came to root amidst this background. Thatcher was now in power, things looked grim all round. An idea was taking shape, the two bands pooled their resources and a new record label – ‘Plastic Records’, was created.

A release date had been set for two months and Pneumania set about writing and perfecting the two songs they had committed for the recording session. Captain now took on a ‘Manager’ role as new drummer Nigel ‘Dark’, who stood tall, aloof and looking every bit a character out of a Hammer movie – took his seat. His style was much more flippant and progressive, compared with the standard ‘2 – 4”s of the usual punk drumming. Grounded on the ‘arty’ and ‘jazz’ side, Nigel’s involvement showed great promise for future progression. He had a highly distinctive and original style. However the nickname ‘Dark’ wasn’t just his punk pseudonym – it was how he was. He would keep everyone guessing as to whether or not he would actually turn up for a rehearsal or even a gig!

Within the ‘Split Single’ development period, the two bands collaborated on a number of self-promoted gigs. They also self-penned their own networking tool – a fanzine called ‘The Suss’ which was released to coincide with these events.
The homogenisation of not just the two bands but by now a thriving community, was working very well. These were very creative times and the whole ‘Plastic Records’ gathering was gaining momentum. The recording studio was booked and the day had arrived.

Pneumania recorded two songs; ‘Exhibition’ and ‘Coming Attack’ that day, it turns out to date the only songs the band ever released. ‘Exhibition’ is the liturgy of a pure raw strangled, angry punk goddess – lamenting the attitudes the rest of society has towards her and her ilk. Her performance on the record was full on with her insides hanging out for all to see. Her ‘naked and beleaguered punkette soul’ – looking into the mirror. The music was raw and cutting with juxtaposed ‘dubby bass’ and ‘staggered drums’. The guitars phaser-slicing – jagged chords from Spon’s five strings. It builds, there’s tension, followed by a finale. “It’s a freakshow – nothing new”. Superficially it was wide open to criticism, but on another level it was a really potent performance by all in the band.

Pneumania side of The Split Single‘Coming Attack’ – the terror at the heart of urban nightmares- is a poem written from the narrative of the deceas-ed’s perspective. The loneliness of the victim succumbing to the inevitable fate in a street attack. Being a ‘Punk’ didn’t necessary mean being any different to anyone else in society. We are all vulnerable and made of flesh and blood. Actually being a punk back in the day, did increase the risk of ‘inviting’ attack.(Sadly, there are still isolated cases today – visa Sophie Lancaster)

This actually happened back in the day, to three of the band whilst returning to the rehearsal room one night. They were ‘jumped’ by a stick wielding thug who nearly broke Spon’s arm.

The music is a very fast paced three-time rhythm with a running bass line, the sheering 5 string guitar plays a single rhythmic chord. It builds, peaks rebuilds and finally crescendos as the knife strikes home. It’s all over in little over a minute – but wow! what a unique idea and production.

The afternoon in the studio had been reasonably successful, the band were happy, now it was time to get the recording released. All systems go on the ‘Slit Single’ project – five weeks to go before the deadline…….

To Be Continued…..

1986 Luton Compilation

Dump it on Parliament: 1986 Luton Compilation (aka the Anti Nirex Tape – BAND)

UK Decay, Furyo and In Excelsis were gone but in their wake, the town of Luton still had a bustling ‘alternative’ scene in the mid eighties. At the time, Click Click, Karma Sutra, the Party Girls, Penumbra Sigh and a host of other acts were ‘wooing’ the local audience’s. Click Click were pioneering new industrial sounds at their Lung Function HQ and Karma Sutra were flying the flag for the ‘anarcho-pacifist’ movement. Both bands were regularly playing gigs out of town and around the country, even playing in Europe by 1986.

Dump It On Parliament - Luton Compilation - Click for stream
Hear this now!

Thatchers government made great issues to protest against, we had seen the Falklands adventure, the Miners strike. So in 1986 when it was announced that an old WW2 supply base near Elstow in Bedfordshire was to be the host of the nations nuclear rubbish dump, it was decided that something had to be done to stop it.
The focus for the towns alternative community at the time bedside’s the obligatory ale houses such as the Blockers Arms and The George, was the 33 art centre in Guildford Street. A three minute walk round the corner in Bute Street was situated the printing workshop. The upstairs rooms hosted Click Click’s ‘Lung Function’ – rehearsal rooms for bands. Both ’33’ and ‘Lung Function’ provided rehearsal spaces and acted as informal gathering and networking havens. So ideas, pre- internet days, would spread quickly.
So it was relatively easy to galvanize the towns alternative community into an action to try and prevent this nuclear waste dump from setting up just 15 miles away. Chernobyl was fresh on folks minds and with this a campaign was started – Bedfordshire Against Nuclear Dumping (B.A.N.D.)
Most of the towns young ‘alternative’ musicians got behind the idea quickly and very soon the idea of a protest – compilation tape would be in order. Bands and individual musicians were asked to contribute a specially written and recorded song or two, protesting against the Governments nuclear agency – Nirex.

In the mid Eighties Government Policy determined that a site in mid-Bedfordshire near Elstow, was to become the main national and an international Nuclear-waste dump.
In the true ‘Punk-spirit’, the Luton ‘alternative’ scene galvanized their protest against Nirex, the government agency responsible for nuclear waste.A 24 track Tape was produced which included works by many local artists.Presented here are the digitized cover scans for the tape and below that, you can download the MP3’s:-

Dump It On Parliament – Luton Compilation

Download

24 Colours-Tortured Soul

Bugsy and the snakes-Open your eyes

Guitars for Ammunition-Brutal

Karma Sutra-The Package

Party Girls-Believe in me

The Click Click-Fear of cats

The Twitch-Look,Look There

Kev- Break DownThe Walls

Occult Radio Disorganisation Unproduction-Dear Mr Nirex

Kull-Carthage

Penumbra Sigh-Televised Murder

Two Little Dicky Birds-Sitting On A Wall

Kul-You’re Not Smiling Anymore

Guitars For Ammunition-DreamPolice

Kev-Men Of Power

and the reverse:-Luton Compilation cover reverse

The Rattlesnakes-No Money

Corpaelia-Mentor Will Rise

Party Girls-DreamHasEnded

Click Click-Shes Chewing Them

Strawberry Speed Trials-The Horror Of Party Beach

Bugsy and J Graham-War Games

Corpaelia-Beyond This Place

Penumbra Sigh-To Serve Them All My Days

The Twitch-Chalets And Bungalows

Windows Media Player required

Play whole selection in windows media player.

It is with good credit to the people involved because an idea is one thing, however turning an idea into reality is another! Recording studios and equipment back in the day wasn’t cheap to come by. The real hard work was holding the idea together until the project was achieved. Most of the tracks ended up being recorded on 4track cassette ‘Porta-studios’ as this was the only method that could be afforded at the time. The process seemed to take forever and at times the project nearly ground to a complete halt. But eventually the tape was finished. According to the hand written text on the back of the Cassette,

“This tape was put together on very cheap equipment, nothing flashy at all. So obviously the quality suffers somewhat and for this I apologise not only to you but to the bands and artists that have contributed their songs and their time completely free. Although it hasn’t quiet turned out as good as it could have done, I think it still proves that anyone can produce D.I.Y. Tapes easily and cheaply. Without the help of the money merchants that control the major record companies but simply with a little trust, solidarity and cooperation”

Profits from the project were to..

to be sent directly to people who have been fined by the courts for their participation in acts of direct action against the plans” (for nuclear dumping)

Ironically it tuned out that soon after the tape was released, the government dropped their plans for Elstow, the whole country at the time was up in arms against the nuclear industry! So victory for the aims of the campaign and reason for the tape, by default! This may have taken the wind out of the sails for the project at the time but today this collection stands as a historical snapshot of Luton’s alternative musicians, community and culture of the mid-late eighties.
In 2004 one of the original artists to have appeared on the tape, Bugsy – digitised and sent the UK Decay Com website the MP3’s to host, which we have hosted to this day, now twenty five years after it was originally released. In 2006 Spon re compiled and remastered using another recently found copy of the original, selecting the best quality to have survived the years of each track on the tape.

So thanks go out to Bugsy, Spon and Ella Jo for the BAND poster and of course all the bands and artists that contributed to this historical and unique Luton collection.

Old anti nirex article on forum

A radical view of Luton’s anarchic past
Straight outta Luton

If you enjoyed this article you may be interested in reading about
Some notorious Luton Punk venues from the 70’s and 80’s.

“Alternative Luton – Grab it, Change it, it’s yours!”

A B.A.N.D. poster