Thursday, 26 September 2013

Birth of a band 3

You know what? I’m not the world’s greatest producer and I don’t have extensive recording facilities. I do, however consider myself to be very lucky in that I have a little ‘cave’ at the bottom of my garden, sound proofed, warm, full of gear and with a couple of Macs that can do some pretty high level recordings. It’s not Abbey Road – I can’t really record anything live – it’s just a single room – with not much room in it – but it is a recording facility and one where I have recorded four albums, so I’m pretty pleased with it. It has served me well and continues to do so…

So why, then, was it that Nige, before any discussion of what could or couldn’t be done, said: “I know you have recording facilities of some kind Andy. Would it be suitable to purpose because I get the feeling we're a band who would be better live and should record that way.”?

Hmm… Why am I suspicious of this? No matter, I said I would be happy to consider the alternatives. These turned out to be studios and services that ranged from £160 to £380 per day… the Yorkshire element – and I, to be perfectly honest, balked at the idea.

Nige’s ‘would it be suitable’ email was on Jan 8th. On Jan 11th, after realising that pro studio services were probably a little more than we wanted to pay, he wrote: “I recall you saying you have some recording equipment Andy? I wondered if it was in any way portable at all and, if so, would it be attainable to achieve anything decent with it down at the rehearsal rooms?”

How odd. Anyway, yes, I did (do) and, to be perfectly honest, no, I wouldn’t be able to get anything decent at the rehearsal rooms. From here, however, things began to move quickly. By the end of the day on the 11th, we had arranged dates for Neil to come over to do the drums, Nige to come over to do his guitar and George to come in on the 27th (the day after our next scheduled rehearsal).

Once Nige and I get into gear, things do get done, but we do faff about a lot before that happens! Then, of course, the snows came and George couldn’t make it down from Yorkshire…

Thus, by Sunday 27th Jan, I had four of the five parts for five tracks recorded and George due down on Feb 3rd. By Friday February 8th I had also recorded audience responses from my open mic night in Marlow, which I mixed in to our recordings to give them an authentic feel. I quite liked it… But I was really worried about Neil’s drumming. There were moments when it seemed almost random – and not in a good sense.

I broached the subject with Nige and discovered that he and George had had reservations from day one! (You can read about that here.)

He had to go – and we had to find a new drummer. It was February 10th. The project had been on the go for nearly five months. Was it really worth continuing?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Birth of a Band 2

I’m not sure why men seem to think that ‘meeting up for a drink’ is some sort of positive, ‘getting-things-done’ sort of activity, but generally they do – while women do not. Usually, I would concur with the ladies on this one. Not that I’m averse to a drink – on the contrary, I love a beer, but I almost never mistake having a beer for having a meeting.

In this case, of course – as you can read here – simply seeing each other was in fact a proactive step towards actually doing something.

The emails from this late November period seem a bit strained. Neil and Nige were both obviously keen to be seen as easy going and humorous, but trying too hard in these areas tends to have exactly the opposite effect.

We met up on Saturday 15th at half two at the George & Dragon in Wargrave. During this meet (at which we all got along swimmingly) we heard George’s first reference to his having played in a gypsy jazz band and Neil’s first ‘well, we’re just hobbyists, aren’t we?’ comment. I suppose I should have seen the danger signs here straight away…

The really good thing about the meeting was 1) we set a date of January 5th for our first rehearsal and 2) what had started out as a good feeling became an excellent one. Again, I really don’t know why, but I knew this was going to work – and it seems that Nige did, too.

By Tuesday 18th The Rhoom had been booked for rehearsal and Nige was going through some odd explanations of how he and George would be playing Saw Her Standing There by The Beatles (“It would, on the surface of it, appear to be a simple evolution of both George, and myself to play our (completely different roles), put the two together, and hey presto (hopefully) it's the Beatles live on stage! Lennon is kinda working along with the Bass line creating a driving sound in the background, whilst Harrison seems to be kinda vamping along with the chord work and fills. Seems quiet simples"). 


Interestingly, however, is that a song list with ‘arrangements’ (read as: “keys and who will be playing the solos”) that Nige sent through on December 18th contains 26 songs of which only seven are no longer part of the set – one of them, of course, being Saw Her Standing There!

And so it all went quiet for the Christmas period and, following a brief reminder email from Nige on Jan 4th – he really is good at that. I guess it is the being prepared army training or some such. We met up for a six-hour rehearsal on Saturday 5th

Sunday saw various emails thrown about regarding song arrangements (Roadhouse Blues and Worried Life Blues) and a call (from me) for more rehearsals during the week with just Nige, Neil and me. I note there is no hint that we might be unhappy with Neil from these mails.

A word is spread that we can meet as a trio on Tuesdays and Nige is desperate to be out and gigging by the end of February.

Neil then comes back and says he can’t rehearse before 4pm… useless for me. In the end we went for a Wednesday from 6 to 9pm. Neil also sent through a couple of songs he’d like to do – one of which was an out and out country number. He never really got it, did he? Nige and I discussed the possibility of doing Spoonful, Crossroads and Voodoo Chile. George added Hey Joe.

(Nige also suggested Born Under a Bad Sign at this point, saying it was “a nice easy one”… I finally nailed it for our most recent gig on September 21st!)

By the time we tried to get booked in The Rhoom, we had missed the chance. The Rhoom was fully booked. We called off all rehearsals until George could next make it down on Jan 26th. In the meantime we started discussing recordings…

I was, by now, getting pretty frustrated…

Monday, 23 September 2013

Birth of a Band 1

If you scoot back over the news section of the Mechkov website, you will see that (apart from news of a cracking new soundscape album) there is a flurry of news regarding my new band, Custard Cream. From this flurry, it is also (I hope) clear that the band has managed to cement itself into the local gigging scene with some speed following its first gig on May 11th this year (2013).
I thought I ought to get down how this came about…
There is a rather spiffing little website here in the UK called joinmyband, through which musicians and singers can find other musicians and singers, and which I had been trying (unsuccessfully) to get people to hop in on my projects.
Ah! We are a funny bunch, we musos. We seem, when we are together, to have so much in common when together on a stage, but when a person has his own plans and ideas, getting others involved is a tough ask. They are all far too busy trying to find others to join them on their projects.
So, having had limited success on this, my wife suggested I join in on someone else’s project – and maybe earn some money while I was at it.
Unfortunately, the ad I followed up on the site is now long gone, but it went something along the lines of: “Custard Cream is moving to Berkshire and needs a drummer, bassist and a singer to join lifelong pals Nige and George on guitars for a blues and rock band. We have a lot of experience and our own Sharon Osborne.”
Can you tell what the clincher might have been for me here? Yes, of course, as with any musician, the thought of having someone actually taking on the responsibility of marketing, managing and promotion was too much to ignore – let alone hope for. I answered the ad immediately and pretty soon Nige and I were in correspondence. I’m guessing that he was attracted to me as an option because I could both play bass and sing AND I had my own website with original music. He wasn’t interested in this, but it does show I have some capability without having to go through the pain of a crap rehearsal.
The email chain goes back to September 26th 2012 and it appears that Nige had said that the band would be able to meet during weekdays – this really did sell the project to me. Nige was moving to the area from Cornwall, so I figured it would be best to leave him and his family to the horrors that are moving house before pushing for anything more.
By mid-October, Nige informed me that he thought he had found a drummer – and, what is more, one that could rehearse on a weekday (one day per week), but that, following the move, he would have to spend a few weeks doing the house up before ‘Sharon’ would even let him think of going out to rehearse. Fair enough, I thought.
By October 19th, we had shared set lists and George had come through with a sort of hybrid list based on all of our contributions of song titles and Nige was saying we would be in rehearsal by December at the latest and gigging in January. ‘Bloody perfect’ was my thought on the issue.
Come the end of November, I was champing at the bit to get into rehearsal, but Nige still hadn’t finished his ‘house work’ and so we agreed to postpone until after Christmas and meet up in the New Year. It also turned out that George (the other guitarist) would NOT be able to rehearse on weekdays… hmm…
In the meantime, the drummer, Neil, suggested that we meet up for a drink. Yes, all of this planning and we hadn’t even met – yet, for some reason, I felt sure this was going to be a good project…
Why? I have absolutely no idea. Normally when I have a gut feeling for something, I end up being so wrong, I have to pretend I was never really interested in the first place, but of course at the time it all seems to make perfect sense. I really did not see this as being something that was dragging on.