Where were we? Oh, yeah …
So, we decided to launch a record label.
Pete Fulwell our manager helped us do all the real, complicated business stuff and he then advised, or should I say told us to crack on doing the important stuff and write, write, write … Then write some more.
So happily we did so …We cracked on and made music.
No money…But we made lots of music.
We had created a small demo and dance track studio in my spare room at my house in Hoole in Chester.
Racks of effects, keyboards, reel to reel machines, computers, DAT recorders, samplers, DJ decks, the lot.
It looked like the deck of starship enterprise.
The same memory and computer power was very impressive in the early 90’s, you could get the same on a cheap mobile phone nowadays.
We started working on new songs, remixes, producing other artists stuff too.
My little spare room saw the emergence artists like Matthew Robert’s ‘Bottom Dollar’ later to be King Unique and tracks with legendary DJ’s Alfredo (the creator of Balearic and the original Ibiza icon and Andy Carroll and James Barton the creators of Cream alongside our Chester pal Darren Hughes).
We also worked with Manchester clubbers and beautiful, bright young things Elton Jackson (later of The Grid and host at Flesh at the Hacienda, amongst other clubs and later on Soho nightlife legend) and Karen Hampson (who went on to discover Gabrielle and lots of other music biz business) a couple of songs which sadly never saw the light of day as releases, but did result in a few fun filled but messy club PA’s for our ill fated label.
We worked long late nights, assisted by booze, coffee and marijuana… I was rubbish at marijuana, I wasn’t to great on booze.
I do remember when Alfredo came to my humble home to begin recording. It coincided with the day I had a sofa delivered.
At the time I was renting a room out to another later club land legend of the 90’s and now documentary film and TV director Piers Sanderson.
Piers went into an almost religious fever when we told him Alfredo was coming to our gaff in Philip St. Hoole in sunny Chester. He was running about screaming and creating about the fact that club land royalty was visiting our domicile to work on a record!
I thought he was going to faint to be honest.
Piers went upstairs to his room to prepare himself for the arrival of his own personal Jesus.
Alfredo duly arrived at the house just as the settee did too. I have always been a practical type so asked this Balearic legend to give me a hand shifting it inside which he quite happily did.
As we did so my two Staffordshire Bull terriers escaped from their room by the back kitchen, jumped over my back and set about barking and licking at our esteemed musical guest.
He took it in his stride in a cool and dignified, slightly macho Argentinian way and grinned and smiled as we put the settee down in the front room.
I did politely give him a cloth to clean the dog spit off his face.
Piers had been watching in absolute disbelief, shock and poorly hidden disgust.
He was somewhat shocked demeanour calmed after he was introduced to Alfredo and his suitably star struck smile said it all really, and we then made our way into the studio to begin making music.
Piers pulled me aside just before I walked inside the room and seethed a quiet word or three in my ears…
‘You can’t have the godfather of Balearic house music carrying a fucking sofa in your house!’
‘I just have’ I replied with a playful smirk ‘He’s stronger than he looks isn’t he?!’.
We worked on a few tracks with Alfredo, also on down time me and Andy Carroll who was co producing the tunes took him out and about round Chester clubs and bars and got hideously pissed a few times as I recall.
Alfredo particularly enjoyed a club called Blimpers, with its chrome, neon lights, pastel pink and blue colour scheme, and the dodgy carpet with its name running through it.
He said it reminded him of clubs in Argentina in the 70’s.
He was an absolute gent, and incredibly interesting when he explained how he had hurriedly left Argentina around the Falklands war as it was getting unpleasant politically back then.
He had been a music journalist for a while but decided to emigrate to Spain and eventually arrived in Ibiza where he worked as a barman but soon began working as a DJ in a small bar called Be Bop.
This is where he started his career as creator of the eclectic mixed up style of music which then got the name ‘Balearic’ … The rest as they say is history.
Around this time our ill fated enterprise ( our record label ) went under pretty much as soon as it began, due to our distribution company based in Manchester going bust.
They took all the money we had made from the sales of a series of singles with them, which left me and Dave and the Sound Foundation pretty much up a creek.
We went into the studio on a job re mixing some tracks for a band who had quite a bit of a buzz about them at the time in Liverpool, called 35 Summers.
I suppose they were a bit like the Scouse answer to Inspiral Carpets and had shifted bucket loads of a t shirt with Liverpool manager and forever legend the great Bill Shankly featured on the front.
My memory is understandably somewhat dazed and hazy from around this time.
They were lovely blokes and had landed a deal with BMG and were working in their first album and also had the great good taste had to ask for us to remix their tunes, which we were more than happy to agree to do.
I was a also a Liverpool and Shankly fan.
The music was excellent, very much of its time, full of great songs and the lads were great fun as well as nice chaps.
We hit it off.
One of the band was a chap called Dave Picchilingi who later on became the main stay and head honcho behind the annual and excellent ‘Liverpool Sound City’. He remains a pal of mine these 20 odd years later. Follow some of his Tweets here.
We were upstairs in the ‘midi suite’ as it was most grandly named. In reality it was a wooden shed stuck on the roof a fit made groaning sounds under any strong wind.
Inside were several state of the art at the time Apple Macs loaded with Sound tools, cu base and several other packages I had no real idea worked.
I was after all there to suggest where to sprinkle gold dust, add pizazz and vavoom to a tune and have a DJ’s ear or some such shite.
It worked though.
When Dave Hassall and I worked together the out come and sound of our tracks or remixes of other folks tunes was always very different than when we worked alone.
We bounced off each other. He understood at an almost psychic level what bollocks I was going on about with my talk of ‘It needs more gold in the strings’ or ‘Can we have more delay on the giggle?’
It was glorious fun, if very hard long hours in a small room atop a concrete slab of a studio somewhere in deepest, darkest Kirby.
We loved every minute of it and were in our element making wonderful music together!
Dave from 35 Summers came in one day as We were busy beavering away on one of their remixes and announced their new A&R man was coming in to listen to their album and pass his sage ‘music biz’ wisdom upon it.
It was a bit of a sticky situation apparently as he was not the man who had signed them to their label BMG.
Their original champion had been summarily given the boot to make way for this new geezer, and he seemingly was not a fan of bands in particular.
So it was an important meeting for them and for us, as we were remixing a few tracks for singles and dance remixes…This guy could scupper everything if he so wished, as was the power of the record label A&R man back then.
Anyways, the day of judgement came.
We were as per usual stuck at it upstairs in the wood hut, smoking spliffs and drinking coffee whilst Dave created magic and I minced about like the sorcerers apprentice requesting more ‘stardust and held strings’.
There was a knock on the door and the band came in accompanied by a man I can only describe as aloof.
They had come to listen to our remixes and reinventions of their hard work and carefully crafted songs.
We as ‘lads’ together often do, exchanged jokes and chat about a variety of fruity, laddish things, including me committing despicably vile acts upon the studio tape op Danny with a barbed wire love glove, which raised huge laughter and jollity amongst the band and us, but just a strange raising of eyebrows and a quizzical almost disdainful look by snooty Mr London A&R man.
Our tape op Danny didn’t look that chuffed either.
The joking over, Dave and Danny set about playing Mr London music biz A&R man and the assembled boys of 35 Summers our remix of their song ‘Really down’.
The golden strings and delay soaked giggle must have worked as Mr London A&R man broke into a smile and began to say nice things.
‘Theses remixes are fantastic!… I love them!’ He exclaimed almost pleasantly but still sounding and exuding the sincerity of a posh Tory boy back bencher.
‘Who are you managed by?… I can work with you boys… Do you know Peter Waterman?…He is my good friend… I think we could do some work together’ he was effusive, superior and for some reason irritating.
It was a bit of a weird and uncomfortable moment to be honest, he didn’t even look at the band. He seemed focussed on schmoozing us.
He said something like ‘Right let’s get downstairs and listen to this album then’ with a hint of boredom in his voice and the demeanour of a disinterested hang man.
As he left the studio I looked at Dave and Dave looked at me and we burst out laughing.
The conversation as I can remember was something along these lines…
‘Is he for fucking real?!’ …’He was like a caricature of everything the music industry is about!’…’He liked the remixes though’… ‘He’s a bit of a c*nt’… ‘I fucking hate the music industry if it’s full of people like him’… ‘I feel sorry for the lads’.
A few minutes past, not long enough to listen to a full album of months of hard work, love and passion and Mr London A&R man reappeared like a dark force in the studio… A bit like slightly camp Darth Vader type figure.
I have only ever shared the next part of what was said with a few folks when telling all the above as an anecdote, as it was not the nicest situation to be put in when we knew how hard the band had worked on their album.
So this is how it went according to my memory of events.
Mr London A&R man announced in a kind of Christopher Lee as Saruman manner…
‘I’ve listened to the album and I am not sure it will be released… But the single is definitely going out with your remixes on the 12′ and the CD… I want those remixes out there’.
Dave and I looked at each other, our glances between us said it all silently… ‘What a c*nt’ was our joint psychic response.
‘I want your number or your managers number … We can do some work together… I have other acts I want you to produce or remix… What do you think?’ He demanded rather than asked.
I thought it best not to say what we actually thought as my Mum always told me to be polite with new people, ‘Yeah… Maybe.. We will have to have a think about it’.
‘Well don’t spend to much time thinking’ he replied ‘What’s your numbers then?’
I scribbled down our manager Pete’s number and my home number (this was before mobiles and e mails kids) and passed the paper to him ‘There you go’…
‘I’ll be in contact soon’ he announced with full self importance as he swanned out of the room.
The next day we were due to complete the remixes and had a chat with the 35 Summers lads about everything and they seemed a bit concerned.
I don’t think they got great vibes of Mr London A&R man either and it seemed to have rippled through the bon amie we all had during the last few days.
The lads did love the remixes though and all was good between us… We didn’t tell them what the A&R version of Darth Vader had said to us … It didn’t seem the right thing to do.
Whilst we spent the next day at Amazon we received two more calls to the studio, one of which we gave two more wrong numbers and the third we said we were busy or some other such excuse.
We finished the mixes.
The singles went out a small bit of success and radio play and the remixes got some club play too.
The album wasn’t released in the U.K. Though.
A few years ago, the drummer of the band contacted me on Facebook and we had a chat about life and what he was up to since the mid 90’s and what I had been up to.
As we finished our chat he said ‘What about that Simon fucking Cowell?… Never released the album in the U.K. but we got a release in Japan and we made some money out of it, anyways!’
I must admit I did think ‘Oh fuck’ to myself as I had always suspected it was Cowell.
He wasn’t ‘The Simon Cowell’ back then though, all that World domination, fame, ridiculous wealth and adulation came later.
Back then he was simply Mr London A&R man with an attitude and an early messianic complex.
I don’t know… Old age has made me less judgemental towards people and maybe Cowell is not as bad as I have made him out to be, or maybe my dour Northern suspicion was correct.
Also the arrogance of youth has dissipated somewhat … I still don’t like plummy voiced arrogant individuals who look down their nose at me though.
Doubt that will ever change.
At the beginning of this piece I asked what regrets you may have over choices you made in the past as a lead up to the tales I have just regaled you with.
Do I personally regret the choices and decisions I made?
A little bit, I admit.
I do imagine I would probably be better off financially, but I then would have missed living in Manchester, making a lot of great friends, meeting amazing people, meeting my beautiful partner in life and much, much more and also wearing my trousers under my armpits.
Nah… I am in a good place… Had a great journey so far and have a few stories to tell too.
So long as you have food in the cupboard, a roof over your head, friends and family who love you and a few quid for a holiday now and then, you are a winner in the great scheme of things, my friends.
Everything is relative, ultimately… No regrets, just adventures to come!
As I always say when making a toast…
‘To old friends, to new friends and the friends I haven’t met yet!’
Big love kids x