The Lines “hull down” 1982-3

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 HaberdasherRaffle 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.

 

So there it is, dearest readers. Buy it, then tell your friends and relatives, and all of theirs as well, to buy it too. Or else just listen to it and tell me what you think.

 

 

Torch Song “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” 1986

One more cinematic entry, and then we will leave this glitzy Hollywood environs, like drunken clubgoers stumbling out the back door into an alleyway at 5AM.

By the summer of 1986 Torch Song had completed their second album Ecstacy, and very good it was too. The first single was a cover of White Night, a song I had written back in 1976, and which had been the debut release by The Lines in 1978.

Coincidentally The Fall spinoff Adult Net did a version of this song at the same time, leading to a byline in the London Evening Standard newspaper about a “battle of the bands”.

Personally I thought both were great, but the Torch Song version was the one that featured in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Marking the triumphant return of my man Dennis Hopper from rehab, I can’t think of anything else to say about the film, except that around 3 minutes in the DJ throws Torch Song onto the turntable.

William Orbit score for “Hot Shot” 1986

After the previous year’s Youngblood I guess everyone thought Torch Song were dying to score another sports movie. It was all a bit much for Laurie Mayer though, and she begged off of this one. I therefore took up the slack and helped William finish the score. We were so pressed for time that for years afterwards, “hotshot mode” meant we weren’t getting any sleep for a few days.

In fact this film has a lot going for it, not least the legendary Pelé. I’m sure a lot of young soccer enthusiasts really enjoyed it. William did some good work; four minutes into the movie the score kicks in rather nicely as our hero takes off in his car.

Jeremy Healy “Arena” sound design 1985

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.

This selection is typical: 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.

[UPDATE: The video is no longer available, I’ll repost if and when I can.]

Guerilla Studio

studio

In 1982 after completing the second album by my band The Lines I began engineering in a small electronic music suite called Guerilla Studio (pictured above circa 1984). The studio had been put together by my friends (and colleagues to this day) William Orbit and Laurie Mayer, who had started a band called Torch Song.

At first a modest 8-track, after the band got their record deal a bunch of high-end gear was leased and the 24-track Guerilla Studio was born. With the equipment upgrade a new class of clientele began to frequent the studio.