Let’s jump on a number 73 bus and take it to the end of the line…Stoke Newington, London N16.
Jowe Head, of the equally fabulous Swell Maps and TV Personalities, was an early supporter of The Lines, and when he moved down to Stoke Newington he became a good friend. He started a band called the Palookas with local brother and sister Wall of Sound merchants Paul and Trudi Holt. With guitar and Roland Juno 60, their amps on each side of the stage, these two put out a head spinning barrage of strangely melodic noise. This was underpinned by the angular bass of James “Elvis” Rowbottom and the pounding drums of Richie Rich.
I started working with them in 1984 but it took a couple of sessions to capture them on tape; well, I’m not sure we ever really did, certainly not the raw power of their live presence, but we did our best. I’m happy to say that I’m still working with Paul Holt, and betimes Jowe Head, to this day. Here I present the Palookas debut single.
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.
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 Freedom 3 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.