In his very readable autobiography Wobble describes the mid 80s as his dark period when the booze took over and his music career suffered. This era ended with him being forced to take a job at Covent Garden underground station.
Well I’m here to tell you all that a lot of good work was done during this time, even as the bourbon bottles were emptied like school milk at playtime. This track is a good example, and I well remember the day Harry Beckett came in to play; as a recorder of sounds, you don’t forget the sweetest ones.
Also Wobble had Ollie Marland, a musician’s musician who could pretty much handle anything you threw at him.
I remember seeing Wobble down at Covent Garden tube, looking cool, holding court, and I knew he wouldn’t be there for long.
When I said this blog would be “mostly chronological” I think I knew I’d have to retrace my steps at times, and so it is with this track by Robin Achampong and Delroy Murray, which I remembered after looking through some old work tapes.
This isn’t my mix but I worked on this track a lot, and I think it might even go back to the old 8-track days of Guerilla. We weren’t just about post modern post punk industrial whatever, we were a working studio and we did a fair bit of mainstream R’n B, especially at the more electronic end of the spectrum.
Robin and Delroy were two of the hardest working guys around, holding down day jobs and booking graveyard shifts at studios around town, and ultimately it paid off when they made #1 on the US Hot Dance Music Chart in 1985. I don’t know much about them since then, except that they put together the oufit Tongue ‘n’ Cheek in the late 80s.
Enter the Slovenians, striding down Blomfield Road in their…alpine hunting outfits, right? Isn’t that what they said?
Laibach came in to mix their Nova Akropola album and everywhere they went heads were scratched in befuddlement. They’d turn up bleeding in their lederhosen or whatever, having just been beat up on the tube ride over, and you were tempted to say, well what did you expect? But these boys really did have the balls to live their art, having survived the suicide of their first singer, the imprisonment of their manager, and a lot of general harassment at the hands of the authorities in the dying years of Tito’s communist republic.
The audio collages of Nova Akropola were some of the most striking and beautiful I’d heard. I often think of this as their last “pure” album before they got Mute’s legal team and the cultural appropriation began in earnest.
Anyway we got on well and somehow I got to mix this track. I think it still sounds pretty damn good. There was also a rather lovely “female version” called Germania that was later released as the B-side of the Life is Life single. This was a collaboration with Graeme Revell of SPK and his wife Sinan Leong, with more vocals subsequently added by a local Slovenian girl, I think her name was Melania…
Some time early in 1985 Torch Song did a soundtrack (Youngblood) and to help with this a fiendish new piece of kit called a synchronizer was procured, a ridiculously over-complicated device which however did allow the syncing up of video machines to our trusty 24-track.
News of this cutting edge acquisition brought back our old chum Jeremy Healy, who had been branching out and applying his turntablist skills to the old disciplines of the Foley Room, to whit the synchronizing of sound to a pre-recorded picture.
Having done a few TV commercials by the older method of lining the decks up by eye and hoping for the best, it was incredibly exhilarating to have everything come back perfectly synced to the frame, every time. Thus a commercial for boil-in-the-bag rice provided me with another major cranial light bulb moment.
Then Jeremy landed this gig doing sound design for Duran Duran’s “Arena” video, which comprised live footage of the band on their 1984 world tour intercut with footage of Milo O’Shea and the Time Bandit guys supposedly trying to sabotage the show, out of peevish revenge for flagrant moniker theft.
In a typical scene (not currently available on YouTube), our heroes grind out their set while dastardly things occur behind the scenes, including, inexplicably but who cares, two robots having sex in a swimming pool filled with green slime. I wish they’d mixed the sound effects a bit higher on that one.
My first proper remix that I did myself and wasn’t rejected.
Test Dept. came to Guerilla with producer Ken Thomas to work on their album The Unacceptable Face of Freedom. We hit it off pretty well and they asked me to do a remix of the track Fuckhead, and I really went to town on it, sending half of the sounds through a massive matrix of triggered noise gates.
The track featured the voice of a certain tory politician, and a guitar sample from a certain 70s glam rock star. Coincidentally, both have been in the news in the days preceding my writing this.
When the 12″ came out the track had been retitled Faces of Freedom3 and there were no credits at all on the disk. This mix was played all over the place, but nobody knew it was me.
Come on though…when fighting the evil forces of Thatcherism, armed only with sticks and dustbins, such concepts as credit and (cough) renumeration were strictly for degenerates.
My first proper remix that I did by myself was a fail I’m afraid, in that it was rejected and passed on to a more happening remixer (François Kervorkian), but my mix was much later put out as part of a box set so there was some vindication, and so it has been immortalized on YouTube.
Listening now I can hear how they couldn’t go with it then, the edit is a bit all over the place, I got a good balance going but when it came time to put it all together I lost it somewhat. My chief memory of the session is Marco sitting behind me, seemingly pulling his hair out. That’s the kind of effect I have on people.
I knew Ivo Watts-Russell of 4AD from The Lines days, he knew our manager Steve Brown and we did gigs with 4AD acts Bauhaus and The Birthday Party. When I found out he’d booked in Colourbox to do some recording I was pretty excited. I knew their amazing psychedelic R ‘n B dub EP Shotgun and was very impressed by it. They were certainly a band apart from their more whimsical label mates. So I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
One day two white boys walked in, they looked about 17, brothers, they weren’t twins but could have been. They didn’t bring any gear with them, just stood there grokking ours for a while, then went to it. This was Martyn and Steve Young of Colourbox. They had a manager, Ray Conroy, who would sit at the back and cheerlead. On vocal day Lorita Grahame would come down from the midlands, sulk a bit, and then blow us away with her incredible voice.
Martyn Young had an amazing ability to incorporate any new technology that arrived in the studio into the track he was working on, almost without missing a beat. For Manic our new Yamaha DX7 and Roland MSQ sequencer were put through their paces. We’d nearly finished the mix of You Keep Me Hangin’ On when a new gizmo arrived that allowed us to pitch change a looped sample held in the AMS digital delay, and that’s how the guitar breakdown in that song came about.
Simple technology, to be sure, compared to what Trevor Horn and his crew had going on a couple of miles away in Basing Street. But for my money Colourbox kicked Art of Noise’s ass any day of the week.
Plus my boy William Orbit ripped out a great guitar solo on Manic.
They only made the one album, then they did a world cup theme, then they had a big hit with Pump Up The Volume, then they got sued by everybody, then they disappeared. I often wonder what they’re up to now. Probably working down at the Hadron Collider with the other geniuses.
Update: I have just learned, to my great sadness, that Steven Young passed in July of this year. My deepest condolences to Martyn and all of Steven’s family and friends. Just when you think 2016 can’t get any worse…