Several years ago, in what now appears a different age (geologically speaking, as I was underground most of the time), a student asked me one of those questions. You know, the ones where you say ‘sure,’ as they are leaving and then, as the door shuts, you look at yourself. Sternly. ‘You said what?’
You said yes.
In this instance, a student asked me if he could do work-shadowing with me – it was a GCSE thing, or a something thing. In the cold light of my cellar studio, I realised that all I did was practise, teach, write articles and do the odd gig or session. He was going to get laughed at.
‘What did you do in your week, ***?’
Well, I thought to my cat, what do I want his answer to be? Then it came to me.
‘We recorded an album.’
That was what he needed to say. And so I thought about it. I had a little studio, a guitar booth, and a bunch of ideas for tunes in various states of undress. So we recorded an album.
I can’t for the life of me recall the order we recorded stuff in but in five days we laid down ten tunes, with up to eleven tracks of guitars on each one (and one of bass guitar). These tunes ranged from acoustic mood pieces to full-throttle, turbocharged instrumentals in odd time signatures, with rabid tempo changes and in some parts mind-numbingly difficult guitar lines. Most of the parts were first or second take – they had to be. After all, a five minute tune with 12 tracks takes an hour just to play through. Add preparation, run-throughs and stop/start, guitar tuning, guitar sound (once the sound’s been decided on) and each track can easily take half an hour to an hour, if you nail it first or second take. And we had five days. This was survival guitar.
Obviously, we won. But it was a bit of a whirlwind. I called it Dancing with Architects. A name I owed partly to Frank Zappa and partly to a drunken evening of nonsense with Ed Clarke, a fine friend and now a fine theatre sound designer and engineer.
Fast forward twenty-three years and a very ex-student, the shredlicious Jamie Hunt of One Machine, BIMM and numerous magazines asked me if I had a digital copy as he’d worn out his tape. I sent him my MP3s and thought nothing of it. Then he came over for a beer with another guitarist, Pat Heath, and we cranked up the volume and listened. They kept looking over at me as the tunes flew past. Their expressions were a mix of ‘how the hell did you do that’ and ‘what the hell were you thinking?’
‘Thing is,’ said Jamie. ‘We want to do one of them on this guitar clinic tour we’re doing for ESP.’
‘Sure,’ I said. ‘But I’ll be buggered if I can remember how to play any of them.’
‘You’ve got the masters, right?’
‘Well, I guess so, but christ alone only knows what state they’re in, plus they’re an odd format.’
Turns out that there isn’t a commercially working Akai MG 12 or whatever the machine I used was in England. But there was one in New Jersey.
Reader, I digitised it.
It was at some point during this conversation that I had a thought … why not contact all my old circle of musos and refresh the album with real, live and airy drums, a proper bass player, and some guest guitar solos … hell I could duet with old students, now wouldn’t that be interesting …
See also A Second Chance?