Category Archives: Technical

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

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.”

Paper02

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.

TeeShirt Print01

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!

Theatre10
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.

Carolla_1

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.

Kindred01

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.

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

Perspectives

It’s October 2013 now, the album is ‘New Hope For The Dead’ by UK Decay

  • Welcome toUK Decay Communities Top Forum Articles A selection of the best and most read articles that have been published in thepopular UK Decay Communities Forum, between 2004 and the present.
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UK Decay to Nostramus – Interview

Diamond Seeds talks to Steve Spon on matters Nostramus and UK Decay.

We recently caught up with Steve Spon to ask him about his re mastering of ‘Earthlights’ an album that he wrote and produced in 1997 for Nostramus. Steve Spon (aka ‘Spon’) has recently re-joined the re-formed legendary eighties post-punk-goth pioneers, UK Decay.

We were fascinated to gain a glimpse into the thinking behind the re mastering of the classic nineties ‘D ‘n’ B noir’ album.

Which, according to one reviewer is  “probably the best Drum and Bass album you have never heard

Where the worlds of drum ‘n’ bass and post-punk and goth collide, stands a man like Spon

We were intrigued…….

D.S.# You have returned to your punk roots playing guitar again with UK Decay, in your musical evolution how does that relate to your D ‘n’ B oriented Nostramus?

“Although it can be argued that the music of Nostramus is completely different from the music of UK Decay, I feel there are threads of similarities between the two. Born out of the alternative punk-post-punk-early goth mela of the early eighties and like many ex punk types, I moved with the musical underground into the heady nineties rave scene. I sacrificed my guitar and took the technological path. It was important for me to continue to create music with an alternative message to counter the commerciality of popular music.”

D.S.# Would Nostramus appeal to the average UK Decay fan given ‘drum and bass’ surely had so much bad press?

“I know Nostramus’s mix of Drum ‘n’ Bass, Dub and Electronica may not appeal to every UK Decay listener but I know it will to some. Most of the guys in UK Decay, actually love Dub and Reggae music and have done so since the 70’s so there is nothing new there. The D ‘n’ B scene has received a lot of bad press in the past. Understandably, for many, the tragic murder of Sophie Lancaster by ‘hoodie’ thugs has put some people off the musical tastes of these low-life monsters. But I believe that mutated minorities in any genre, should not be allowed to hold good music to ransom.”

D.S.# Drum and bass was cool back then?

“From my point of view, the early hedonistic nineties D ‘n’ B scene was an invigorating and exciting proposition for many who wished to carry alternative music forward. The development in recording and playback technologies opened up a new universe of musical exploration and possibilities. Earth shaking bass lines, impossibly tight drum structures, emotive complexity in keyboard sound-scapes and sampling, all led to a new excitement in the then stale music scene. I took the plunge into this maelstrom, as it’s part of my make-up to explore new musical adventures.”

D.S.# Surely being an ex-punk had drawbacks on the emerging drum and bass scene

Spon comming at ya!

Spon on the run

“The movers and shakers of this emerging British scene were young DJ’s who had no hack with the old ‘rules’ of creating music. Like many others, evolving from the former 80’s punk scene I moved into the D ‘n’ B at a early stage in its development.

I liked the anarchic approach to creating the music and found for a time comradeship and a sense of purpose and enjoyment in the underground party scene. Back then I found a refreshing openness and tolerance to the music and the people generally in the scene…anything went!”

D.S.# What gave you the idea, or set you on the journey to creating a drum and bass album?

“Drum and Bass as well as other so-called ‘rave-music’ was developing it’s own set of rules that related to the flux’s and flow of the dance-floor. My tastes were still on the darker, deeper and hopefully more thoughtful side. At that time I was a recording studio engineer/producer and that made me open to a wide input of styles. Steve Harle introduced me to the D ‘n’ B scene back in the very early nineties. He encouraged me to embark on the musical journey that would eventually create my first album under the name Nostramus.

I called the new album ‘Earthlights’ and it summed up four crazy years of my experience of the underground party scene at a time when the music was at its most vibrant, purist form.”

D.S.# What was your aim in creating Earthlights your first album, how did you go about determining what it would be?

“The album was written using Atari computers, but I wanted it to have a live feel. I invited guests to contribute spoken and sung performances. The tunes included obscure iconic samples to create light and dark moods to give a sense of meaning. My aim was to create the most organic quality as possible, to create a journey for the listener. I wanted something that was easy to listen to, yet also had a deeper, substantial level. As a ‘non’ DJ, I even broke the dance mix rules, making it virtually impossible for DJ’s to mix the album with other tracks. I wanted to make ‘Earthlights’ stand out in a crowd.”

D.S.# Sum up Earthlights message?

“‘Earthlights’ takes the listener on a journey through themes, ranging from our pagan past, to future space travel. It questions and studies the doubts and optimisms of the human race.”

D.S.# How many did Earthlights sell back in the nineties, how did it fit in with the drum and bass scene?

Earthlights original 1997 released in the UK by Recordings of Substance

Recordings of Substance version of Earthlights originaly released in 1997

“I released this album first in the UK in 1997, on ‘Recordings of Substance’, and then licensed it to ‘Shadow Records’ for the US market in 1998. In total, there were 6000 sales worldwide. It didn’t make the top ten, but it sold steadily over a period of time and some of the feedback from reviews and emails have been fantastically encouraging. A review a couple of years back summed it up quite nicely “Probably the best Drum and Bass album you have never heard!”

D.S.# What led you to re-mastering Earthlights?

The new Earthlights 2010 re-mastered

Earthlights 2010 re-mastered CD front

“Although I was reasonably happy with the original mastering of Earthlights, I’ve since become more fluent with audio mastering techniques. In the new edition of Earthlights, I reworked the source master tapes, taking care with every step of the process in order to retain the original concept and flow. I feel I’ve now created a much more considered dynamic to the sound-scape, hopefully bringing the whole thing up to today’s audio standards and listen ability.”

D.S.# Did you just re-master or is there anything else added or taken away?

“Aside from the re-mastering, I have re-edited and re-mixed ‘Babel’ the opening track to the album, mixing in some new warped-up a-men from the un-released Jungle version of Babel. There are also one or two other new samples, subtly crafted into some of the other pieces to spice up the mix. Overall, I am much happier now with the sound and flow of the re-mastered album and I hope the listener will enjoy it even more”

D.S.# What about the rumours of Earthlights II any chance soon?

“I have had most of the material for this sitting on my shelves now for a good few years. Now with the help of Diamond Seeds work is in progress to see this project through. I shall be editing and remixing some of the material and with the addition some new performances and samples, I will collate into the final cut. I am hoping for around March April 2010.

D.S.# UK Decay are famous for being one of the first eighties post-punk bands, to make the crossover from ‘punk’ to ‘goth’

What are your future plans with UK Decay, are you enjoying their revival?

UK Decay on their Italian Tour spring 2009, Spon on the left

Spon back with UK Decay in Milan, May 2009

“I am really enjoying playing live with Decay again. It’s a real buzz playing guitar in a live situation, I had forgotten about that.

Because of commitments however, Decay can only play a few times a year, which is fine by me. UK Decay are currently working on a new album, which is an exciting challenge. Getting wild sounds out of my guitar is refreshing to me after so many years of programming songs together. The guys in UK Decay between them have a wealth of new ideas and experience to draw upon. At the end of the day UK Decay were adventuress in seeking out new sounds, we were ‘dark’ back in the day and that’s partly my fault, so they tell me! I look forward to mashing it up with them.”

D.S.# Any future Nostramus beyond Earthlights II?

“We shall have to wait and see!”

Click here for Earthlights Re-mastered 2010 £10.00 inc. shipping

Click here for Earthlights Re-mastered 2010 £10.00 inc. shipping. thru Paypal

Nostramus is now signed to Diamond Seeds Productions.

Seeded from the Diamond Seeds Blog