Drums and Wires

I remember buying the XTC album Drums and Wires years ago, 1978 I think it was; it’s the album with making ‘Plans for Nigel’ on it [XTC’s breakthrough single moment]. The track that ends side one, ‘Roads Girdle the Globe’, is a favourite of mine, and contains probably the finest guitar solo in the world. Researcher’s claim [it says so in the Chalkhills and Children biography…which is brilliant, incidentally] that it was played and recorded randomly, practically by accident, by Andy Partridge without him being able to hear the track in playback mode. I guess he was just mucking about as you do and it somehow managed to happen at the right time on the right track. It’s an amazing frenetic jaggedy take and it sits just so. It’s brilliant. I’d also like to think that we can get some similar reel to real gremlins working in our favour here at Analogue Cat Studios, so high on the hills above Mosley [where it rains every day of the year and the year after that so they tell me]. I’m all for happy accidents. I also like the rain, and it’s raining when Rob and I arrive just after tea but before supper.

Neil Carter [pictured above], the original rhythmic associate and all round kitchen implement scraper and his son Billy [above cradling a Rickenbacker 360] arrive soon after. We set up drums and test a few bits of gear and with Jools’ help manage to get everything up and running. The romance of analogue recording can never be underestimated says Rob although I’m not quite sure what he means. He’s probably been reading those Oblique Strategies again. We are the first clients here after a summer refurbishment that includes new floors and a hot tub. I’ve bought my shorts just in case the urge takes us [although on my part this extremely doubtful still you can never quite tell what the future moods have in store]; best be prepared like the Villa motto and the Scouts come to think of it.

We load in a set up the drums. Rob directs the microphone placements and revisits a few classic hand signals of old. Neil and I find great amusement in this and get to reminiscing upon the recording of previous VP records notably ‘Ironing the Soul’, which was the last time we worked and played together. We are now officially in the buzzed up to be here at last zone and enjoying it. The laptop syncs up and the tape machine kicks into action both with relative ease. We have a couple of dry runs, mark a few levels and then we’re off for food. I’m in the en suite room, the artist’s number one thinking room as I abandon the facts and return to Ambrosia once again. I’ve bought my lucky copy of Billy Liar for inspiration and prop it up on the desk in the control room. Rob forgot to bring his Elvis picture [which I’m glad about in truth though I’d appreciate if you didn’t tell him as he loves The King and wont have a word said against him…Oh well…at least its The King and not The Boss…that would would totally finish me off].

Next morning we’re up and running and give or take the odd problem with the tape heads the drum tracks fall into place nicely. Rob plays bass through the guides and by three pm on Sunday we’ve nailed nine of the twelve songs. The last three involve some pre recorded vocals and pianos and this is where the trouble starts. We abandon the session after faffing around with the tape sync machine that for some inexplicable reason has decided to die, as they do, just when you need them most. Four hours come and go and still nothing works so we do some last minute percussion and call it a night. Neil arranges to come back next Saturday to finish off the drums and I’m home for match of the day; Villa are last on but I stay up anyway to see Gabby’s hat trick. He’s fast as F**K if you did but know it. I spent the day sorting out the amps, my old fender twin [new valves], the 1964 EKO Herald 1 [making its VP debut] and a 1995 AC30 I borrowed from Will Deagan, Salford’s very own amplification specialist to the stars [this one belonged to the Charlatans so he tells me. We start recording again on Tuesday and expect to finish in approximately 10 days time. I’ll try and update this as we go, Oh yeah, one more thing, do check out the new videos on youtube, the ones that feature the not very sinister minister on guitar. Best wishes, Vinny

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