Here’s a performance with William Orbit featuring my automated drum setup. If anyone out there is interested in enhancing their presentation with this kind of thing, please contact me.
A big barney in a big barn. We were on just before the superb 23 Skidoo and we stuck around long enough to see their set. Later I had the pleasure and privilege of doing a few sessions with the Skidoo boys, although I don’t think anything was released that I worked on. Excuse the cliché, but that really was a band ahead of its time.
In other news: a nice review of Frogmore on the Cold War Nightlife website…thanks to Simon Helm for caring.
Last but not least, we salute another music giant lost to us this week, the great Glen Campbell.
This album was a long time in the making, as I have previously mentioned. Laurie Mayer started demoing it in 1988 at a studio called Bedlam in Wandsworth, owned by the Thompson Twins. She was aided initially by one Rik Kenton, a man whose immortality is assured by his short tenure with Roxy Music, and the fact that he played bass on their classic debut single Virginia Plain.
We then developed it for a while in our home studio and at Guerilla in Crouch End. But other projects kept getting in the way, and it wasn’t until 1993 that William Orbit started to mix it, a mix that ended up taking a couple of years. When William landed a label deal with Warner Brothers we finally had the means to finish it and release it, along with William’s Strange Cargo: Hinterland and his first volume of classical arrangements, Pieces In A Modern Style. These albums were unavailable for a long time but Warners have now kindly made them available on YouTube.
I feel that William’s mix of this album is one of his very best, and it still sounds good to me more than 20 years later. Uniquely, there was also a live performance, which took place at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and can be viewed here. Yes reader, that is me lurking behind Laurie, with the untenably long hair. I’m happy to say that my barber-phobia is now cured.
It’s here! 33 years after recording, 11 years after the edit was done, with the excellent help of Dan Selzer at Acute Records and our friends at Carpark Records, we have finally marshaled the resources to release The Lines’ album #3. Ladies and Gentlemen, for your entertainment and delight, we present hull down. Here is the lowdown, for those who wish it.
After the completion of Ultramarine in April of 1982 the chickens came home to roost, financially speaking. Label boss Steve Brown had managed to keep the plates spinning for a while but now they were crashing down. We no longer had our Aberdeen Road squat to rehearse in. Nick was busy with Fad Gadget. Mick went to Thailand, Jo went to Turkey.
Nothing happened for a while. In June me and Jo started the tracks Raffle and Haberdasher at his Old Street flat, and also the first Flat Feet version at the earliest incarnation of Guerilla Studio, in the anarchist squat on Harrow Road. When Mick got back from Thailand we demoed Single Engine Duster and Archway at his place. When Guerilla went 8-track and moved to Maida Vale they offered me a job as engineer, an event which brings us back to the beginning of this blog.
Having access to down time at the studio meant that these demos could now make the transition to 8-track tape, aided by the burgeoning synth arsenal of the super-evolving band Torch Song. Finally, we were in complete control of our sound.
Thus the sessions which make up hull down proceeded through the winter of ’82 and the spring and summer of ’83. We discovered the modern disease of endless choice; with no studio deadlines, we could tweak and redo and then tweak some more. Later in 1983 the studio was upgraded to 24 track and down time became more scarce. We had some good-sounding rough mixes on cassette tape but nothing was finished, and so it remained.
In 1987 there was an attempt to complete an instrumental version of the album for Miles Copeland’s No Speak label, through which William Orbit’s excellent Strange Cargo series was launched. However they weren’t very into what they heard. Material like Haberdasher was a bit too ambient and repetitive for their particular brief. So again, it wasn’t finished. A few elements of the 8-track masters were sampled, which aided in the ultimate construction of hull down.
In 2004, having completed the premastering for the Memory Span and Flood Bank compilations, I dug out the original cassettes from 1983 and flew them into Pro Tools. I made an interesting discovery: in certain cases, by blending the earliest, often improvised demo with the later, almost-finished backing track, I could find some kind of completion for ideas that had seemed hopelessly open-ended. Flat Feet, Raffle, Archway and Haberdasher contain such mixes.
Thus was The Lines’ third album finally finished. Here’s a run-down:
Flat Feet was originally demoed on the 4-track machine in Torch Song’s earliest studio on Harrow Road. What you can hear is that earliest version running concurrently with a backing track recorded in the 8-track studio. Nick’s jazzy drums really took this one to another level.
Single Engine Duster was demoed at Mick Linehan’s place in Archway but what you can hear on this one is a vocal version from late ’82 followed by a coda made from an ’83 remix, when trombone and Linn Drum were added. The trombone was sampled from the multitrack during the ’87 sessions, which allowed me to add it to the ’82 mix. Unusually, Mick is playing both bass and guitar on this track.
Nicky Boy’s Groove came from the purchase by Mr Cash, as soon as he could get it, of a Roland TB-303 Bass Line. Within minutes of unboxing he’d programmed this catchy riff. When recording it he had a play with the filter, and we all agreed that it was an odd but great sounding filter.
Zoko Am3 is a live jam, a staple of our rather rare gigs of the time. It’s actually the last of this set to be recorded, in the summer of 1983. My part is a kind of duet with a Watkins Copicat. The harpsichord at the beginning is a remnant of some ancient 60s session already on the tape, which was recycled from a dumpster left in front of the old Advision Studios on Gosfield Street.
Where In The World is almost live, it was thrown down in an improvised manner to test out the tape machine and desk connections, and to demonstrate the fab new Roland gear, including an 808 drum machine and an SVC-350 vocoder.
Raffle is from Jo’s place on Haberdasher Street, where he had a cool setup with a Tensai rhythm machine/ recorder, an Electro Harmonics Electric Mistress flanger and a Watkins Copycat tape delay. We used this setup to do the demos for Raffle and Haberdasher. Raffle was expanded in the studio with sequencers and gated rhythms.
Archway came from a demo made in the attic of some friends of Mick, who had a Hammond organ up there. The original demo is here blended with Nick’s vibraphones and percussion recorded later.
Haberdasher is the nearest thing here to a remix, as I had sampled some bass parts and Roland Juno 60 arpeggiations into my Akai during the 1987 sessions. The remixed section sits between the two earliest demos from June 2nd 1982.
In July 1968 my dad’s secretary Sandra, of whom I was very fond, gave me the princely sum of ten shillings for my birthday. We took a walk into Macclesfield town. Vacillating between toy shop and record shop, I decided to invest this money in a recording called Yummy Yummy Yummy by the Ohio Express.
Although it was a monumentally stupid song, even my newly-turned 11 year old self could recognize that Yummy Yummy Yummy was a true punk record with its heavy clipped guitars on the 8th note and strong backbeat. Having brought the record home and stomped around to it a few times with my siblings, we decided to check out the B side, and were confronted with a whole new mystery. The instrumental cut Zig Zag sounded like an unhappy fairground organ had somehow gotten involved in an episode of Dr Who and was falling into a space-time vortex while intoning its melancholy song. Recognizing that this was a backwards tape I recorded it onto my little Japanese 3″ reel to reel and then flipped it, only to find a rather boring track which I now know to be Poor Old Mr Jensen by the 1910 Fruitgum Company. That was an early sound design lesson, and of course my young mind had no thought of drugs or satanic influences. I just thought Zig Zag sounded cool.
Fast forward 14 years to the Ultramarine sessions. We decided to flip the tape on Stripe for some swelling piano overdubs, and were captivated by the new and different track that we heard. We decided to try our best to mix it as a forwards track, using some excellent new units called Dyna-Mites, from Valley People in Nashville. These units allowed one to control the envelope of a sound to an unprecedented degree and we were able to get the drum sounds a tad less backwards-sounding. Respit is actually the best mix on Ultramarine, but because it was a backwards song it garnered some jeers and accusations of hippiedom.
As an unplanned track it also extended the length of the album, which caused a new dilemma in the cutting room. The legendary and jovial Porky (of Porky’s Prime Cuts) informed us that the increased duration meant we’d have to cut the album with smaller grooves, hence (eek!) less loud. He offered an alternative: if we sped the whole thing up a few ticks he could make it all fit. So that’s what we did. I completely forgot about this until years later, when some observant folks inquired why the newly reissued Ultramarine tracks were a couple of seconds longer than the vinyl originals.
The dilemma occurred again when we compiled Flood Bank and there was no room for Respit. This time, rather than speed up our whole oeuvre, we decided to leave it off and give it away on the Acute Records website, where it can still be found.