I have known Peter Boyd Maclean since he was a lad in the late 70s, at that time living in the same Essex village (Wivenhoe) as The Lines’ official photographer Martin Mossop. Then he popped up in London in the mid 80s as part of the Duvet Brothers, the ground-breaking video production team that made the Torch Song Don’t Look Now video.
Around 2010 he made the hilarious and criminally overlooked film Lummox, in which he gradually intrudes on his own reality show about somebody else’s life. It’s a little hard to describe but if you get a chance to see it you definitely should.
Six years ago he came down to the final incarnation of the Guerilla Studio in Islington, ostensibly to film my drum robot, but he also had a song in his head, a tune in his heart. He strapped on a guitar and within about half an hour laid down a bunch of parts for the song Killing Pickle.
After that he began to take this music thing seriously, and he recruited crack musician (and Stoke Newington’s leading violin repair man) Gary Bridgewood. Gary’s wife Jo added her excellent vocal arrangements. They started sending me songs, which I would arrange and mix. Ultimately they got confident enough to do the whole thing themselves. When they added veteran percussionist Fergus Gerrand they became, to all intents and purposes, a pretty serious band.
Their finished album has been getting quite a lot of positive attention and you should check it out. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but Peter most definitely has a knack for matching clever lyrics with a catchy tune.
Torch Song and Sting did a few sessions together around 84-85, until he decided to ship out to the Caribbean and make his album there. This is the one track that was almost completed, although it lacks the middle eight added to the final version.
It was decided to include this version on the 12″, and I got to do the mix, my first major mix to be released. I can’t take too much credit for it though as William Orbit had practically mixed it onto the multitrack tape.
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.
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.
After the previous year’s YoungbloodI 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.
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.
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.