Sting “Set Them Free” (Torch Song version) 1985

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.

Advertisements

Torch Song “Toward The Unknown Region” 1995

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.

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.

 

 

The Lines “Blisstability” 1980

We started gigging, at first parties at such environs as North West London anarchist squat hideout Centro Iberico, where one William Orbit was residing in the lodge. We soon graduated to supporting better known bands such as Bauhaus, The Cure and Charles Shaar Murray’s excellent blues combo Blast Furnace And The Heatwaves.

A slightly awkward thing was our reluctance to play White Night, which at that time just didn’t feel like something I wanted to play, it seemed from the dim and distant past, and in any case was rather hard to pull off without Hywel’s guitar. Naturally, a lot of people who came to see us were hoping to hear us play that song.

Before long it became obvious that, with or without White Night, we needed another guitar, and so a new member was added in the form of Mick Linehan, Alternative TV refugee and general poet of sound.

We did a heck of a lot of rehearsing, and Mick fit right in immediately, as evidenced by a John Peel session in January 1980 which really shows us gaining tightness and confidence.

Then a couple of months later we checked into Alaska Studio on London’s South Bank, with Pat Collier of Vibrators fame at the controls. In one day we threw down every song we had at the time, one of which was Blisstability. Although the vocal is ropey, and the Talking Heads influence perhaps a tad too obvious, I think this illustrates quite well the heights of tightness we were able to attain by intensive rehearsal.

Of course, having attained that, we soon got bored with it.

Blisstability was re-recorded once, at our second John Peel session. “Cumbersome title” opined Mr Peel, sounding uncharacteristically irritable, not without reason I suppose.

It was finally released on the Memory Span compilation from Acute Records, and also on the highly recommended compilation Messthenics #102.

LAPD “Sexploration” 1990

This fun frolic was one of many Crouch End jams that helped launch the short lived but influential Guerilla Records label.

Built on a rather ubiquitous drum loop (sorry ’bout that) the track also features my trusty duelling Roland MC202s, the funky guitar stylings of William Orbit and…well, maybe I should keep quiet about other source material, and simply point out that as always, the vocals of Laurie Mayer take this to a whole new realm.

The track starts at 9:50 in this video.

William Orbit “The Story of Light” 1991

A trip back to the UK to sort out my visa proved fortuitous, in that I got to join in the sessions for the classic William Orbit album Strange Cargo III, then in full swing up at Crouch End.

Of course, the best known track from this album is Water From A Vine Leaf, featuring the very wonderful Beth Orton, back when she was just a slip of a girl.

I played on three songs: A Touch Of The NightTime To Get Wize and this one, featuring the classic Roland JD800 in all of its glory.

This post was fun to research due to the wonderful proliferation of amateur videos set to William’s music, and quite a few set to this song. I chose this clip but it’s worth  researching further. Kudos to all you content creators out there.

Les Negresses Vertes “Zobi La Mouche (William Orbit Remix)” 1989

Back to the spring of 1989, where we’re keeping it furiously and fabulously French with a stomping remix of the excellent Zobi La Mouche by Les Negresses Vertes. This one features Laurie Mayer on backing vocals as well as me on synth and William Orbit at the controls. If this track doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know, you’re too cool or something.

Unfortunately, for the first time, I am unable to post the track I’m writing about; for whatever reason this one has a very stringent copyright protection. I love it too much not to mention it though. If you want to hear it I’m afraid you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way and plunk down some ducats.

Update: it seems the Zobi La Mouche blackout is geographical in nature. Only those of us living in the americas are forbidden to listen. I recommend the deployment of Hola or similar.