This epic single took a lot of making, in many different studios. Started in the Guerilla Studio at Hampstead, the end of the lease on that property rather put a spanner in the works and it was finished at Swanyard and Good Earth, amongst others. Ultimately the Club Mix was done at the new Guerilla Studio in Crouch End.
Good Earth was Tony Visconti’s studio in Soho, a vibey subterranean place, reputedly haunted. Visconti closed it soon afterwards, citing an influx of Akai sampler-wielding types as having brought about the end. Oops!
This record was criticized at the time for being less catchy than its three predecessors, and it only made 21 on the UK chart. There are those though who appreciate it for the deep, funky, spiritual masterpiece that it is.
The temporary Guerilla Studio digs in Hampstead soon became party house central. It was one of those charming old London town homes with wonky passageways and a blue plaque on the front to denote a former occupancy by the great and good, in this case the painter John Constable. There was always a session of some kind going on, generally William Orbit or Laurie Mayer projects, but there was also a retinue of sound designers including Simon Fisher Turner and my old pal Nigel Holland, who could regularly be found attacking pig’s heads with hammers and imbibing alarming amounts of alcohol.
What with all my travels I hadn’t done so much with William for a while. He had released the first of his excellent Strange Cargo album series and had also been going from strength to strength as a remixer. His stupendous remix of the S’Express show stopper Hey Music Lover had resulted in a partnership with Mark Moore that was to produce a lot of great work, starting with this mix for the fabulous french duo Les Rita Mitsouko.
When I was in Paris in early ’86 I saw Les Rita’s Marcia Baïla video and was absolutely blown away. Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer had made their debut album with german legend Conny Plank and it was superb. Their follow-up with Tony Visconti didn’t disappoint. So I made sure I was lurking around the studio when William and Mark were working on this, and in particular when Fred and Catherine came to visit. That’s me on the funky Juno 106 in this slamming remix.
In 1979 Step Forward Records refugee Steve Brown started his own label, Red Records. The first releases were the album Half Machine Lip Moves by Chrome, the single On The Air by The Lines and the 12″ EP Temporary Music 1 by Material. I was present at the mastering of this EP at the Townhouse in Shepherd’s Bush, London. I was mightily impressed by the maturity of sound and playing that these young New Yorkers were capable of.
Fast forward 8 years and a compilation of Material’s output was being prepared. Steve brought the Temporary Music multitrack tapes down to Guerilla and I had a chance, not to remix, but to add a little sweetening, as we say in the trade. A bit of that ol’ fairy dust.
When I got back to London, after the long stint in France and Belgium in the first months of 1988, it was a different place.
To begin with, after 6 years Guerilla Studio had moved out of Maida Vale and into temporary digs in Hampstead, en route to a 10 year spell in Crouch End. More significantly though, there was a full blown revolution going on, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in over 10 years. I went down to Heaven in Charing Cross, just a few weeks previously a hangout for hipster funkateers. Now the scene was like some futuristic Satyricon, a nightly bacchanal. Most significantly, exclusivity was out, inclusivity was in, and the punters were lining up around the block.
And the music, of course, was amazing. I doubt anyone ever forgets their first blast of Acid House on a big sound system. That shit is so powerful you don’t even need the drugs.
Rhythm King Records weren’t releasing much Acid House but they had already scored a number one hit with the fabulous Theme From S’Express. When I got back to London I wasted no time renewing my acquaintance with label boss Martin Heath, and the first assignment he gave me was with whiz kid DJ Tim Simenon and rapper MC Merlin.
I can’t remember exactly what I did on this session, it may just have been an edit, but a couple of memories have stuck with me. Firstly, this was the first time I felt any kind of generational divide, me having reached the grand old age of 30 and my two clients being in their teens.
My son Tom (who some readers may know as Verb T), 7 at the time, was already a massive hip hop fan. So it was good to show him that daddy-o was hip to the scene.
My second memory is that this was the first time I ever used an Apple computer. I was impressed.
This is from the end of ’87, one of the last sessions I did at the Guerilla Studio in Maida Vale. The band mainly seemed to comprise a Canadian chap named Roy, and was signed to Product Inc, the Mute subsidiary that also released the Swans output.
It isn’t a great song, probably not his best song, but listen to the way the overdriven guitar comes in. I was certainly to recall it a couple of years later when the new sound started to come out of Seattle.
A nice surprise: the lads called me up out of the blue, flew me to Belgium, got me ratarsed on that lethal cloudy brew they have over there, then threw me in the studio to record them for a couple of days. Flew Me and Threw Me…sounds like a Robin Thicke song. Somebody get Pharrell on the phone. Lawyers on standby.
I would say this is an unusual album on the “industrial” scale of things; not as overtly political as their previous output, it delves more into the politics of personal life, the power of tradition, the power of the feminine, the incontrovertible power of bagpipes. I like it a lot.
The song Current Affairs features your loyal servant banging away on the studio grand, while the crew man the drums in laid back mode. Somewhere somebody is watching Panorama…or is it Un Homme Et Une Femme…
I’ll have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the original version of Strangelove, the arrangement seemed too busy for the song, so I was happy to get together with Daniel to try a different approach. It was done fairly quickly at Guerilla, with the drum and bass part completely reprogrammed by me on the Emu SP12 and Daniel’s sequencers filling out the groove.
An edit of this mix was subsequently used as the official US single release, and pretty much broke them over there. So there you go: with an SP12 and The Normal on your session, history can be made.
This was also the last time I ever worked on a Depeche Mode track.