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Recording

ambassadors of doubt

After finishing work on the OPE Pirate Radio single, I stayed in touch with Richard Stockdill, my former Crimson Creatures bandmate, keyboardist and primary songwriter. He told me that he was collaborating with Steve Taylor, a veteran drummer, singer, guitarist and former bandmate. I was invited to join them in the same capacity as before — as guitarist, producer and backing singer.

Twice shy from my experience with Crimson Creatures, I accepted with the caveat of no late night dingy pub gigs to 20 people. I appreciate that this limited us somewhat in sleepy Dorset, where classic cover bands are the norm, but you’ve got to have standards!

In March, Richard recruited singer/guitarist Martin McKendrick, who, like me 5 years ago, had taken time out and wanted to get back into music. This proved to be the catalyst for movement, with Martin’s ideas complimenting our own very well, and the demos progressed at a faster rate.

As we hit July, we’re pretty much on target to finish an album’s worth of songs, which we will no doubt release online later this year. Like with Crimson Creatures, the songs are pretty much grounded in Prog, but contain trace elements of pop, electro, folk and post-punk.

As always, you can occasionally get a glimpse of work in progress on the companion Facebook page.

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Recording

Clearing the Decks

After leaving Crimson Creatures, I had an unused demo left over which I was keen to finish. The song had started off life as a solo recording, which I made in my teens, in the early 1980s. The original demo featured my old acoustic 12-string guitar, mock bass (played on guitar), lead guitar and vocals. The lyrics were about a guitar. Yes, really. I decided that my new version would have new lyrics, and I started to write something about joining the circus. Fortunately, this was a metaphor for something else completely.

I played the demo to Andy Bell. He liked it and suggested that he wrote and sang some lyrics, as part of a new batch of Lowly Man songs which he’d been working on. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to sing it myself. We completed the song quite quickly, and I replicated the original lead guitar part exactly, warts and all.

A few weeks later, we hadn’t made any progress on any of Andy’s demos. We couldn’t agree on how to produce any of the recordings. We eventually decided to give up. Lowly Man was finished, at least for now. And we released Pine Walk (as it was now known) as a single.

Pirate Radio

Meanwhile, Richard Stockdill (Crimson Creatures’ composer and keyboardist) sent me a draft recording he was working on with his synth tutor and his Odd as Per Even drummer bandmate. It had a very eastern flavour, and it had been nicknamed Phyrigian Pirate.

I can’t remember if he was asking for advice on structure or an opinion on the composition, or just showing me what he was up to, but I ended up producing the track anyway, adding ethnic vocal samples, bass guitar and ebowed guitar. We chose to leave it as an instrumental, and release it as a one-off project, under the name OPE (Pirate Radio).

What Next?

As Richard and I work well together as a production team, he’s got me onboard with his next project: which is another Prog band, but more sophisticated, with more influences and more elaborate production. Richard has come up with some new compostitions, which are progressing nicely, and we are recycling some of the leftovers from Crimson Creatures. Waste not, want not.

We currently have 4 people working on the songs, with the sonic palette including: keyboards (3 of them!), guitars, bass, electronic drums, and 3 vocalists. Progress has been quick, so I hope to be able to preview some of our demos on my Yammer Music Facebook page in the not too distant future.

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Recording

‘Fragments’

Crimson Creatures released the Fragments EP in November. We started work on it back in February, but it was shelved while we concentrated on the debut EP and album releases, as well as rehearsing and hunting for a drummer.

Work resumed on Fragments in July. We refined its overall concept and structure, and began adding layers of instruments, voices and field recordings. It’s fair to say that we got a little carried away.

We completed Fragments in late September. Standing back to admire the finished article, we realised that it was possibly too big and strange to go on the second album, and it deserved a release all of its own.

The EP is a single epic track, with a run time of seventeen minutes and twenty-one seconds. As usual, I produced, mixed and mastered it for the band. I even did a scouse impersonation on it. It’s available on all the usual streaming services, and from Bandcamp too.

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Recording

‘In the Green Wood’

Back in October 2021, Richard sent me an overwhelming number of songs in various stages of development by Greenwood (the temporary name given to his and Matt’s new band). We’d agreed that I should tackle two or three songs, by finalising their arrangements and adding guitar parts, and then we’d meet in person to try them out. I started with God Plays Dice, which grabbed my attention first, and then I tackled And the Creatures Laughs, and Shaken in the following weeks.

In the Green Wood
In the Green Wood, Crimson Creatures (2022)

We met in November. The meeting went well. We managed to rehearse two of the songs as a trio, despite a lot of chat before during and after. We’d pretty much clicked after 2 or 3 tries at each song. Later that evening, I was invited to join the band. I must have done good.

Five months later, we had arranged, recorded, and re-recorded a total of twelve songs. I had started to wake up in the mornings with Matt’s vocals already in my head. We agreed to release three of them as an EP first, and the other nine as an album later, when the dust had settled.

I’m pretty pleased with the album. Even though I made minimal contribution to the songwriting, I had a large part in arranging and producing the songs, as well as coming up with most of the guitar parts — which probably make a bigger difference than I can remember. I mixed and mastered it too. I must go back and play the demos some time.

The album was released on the 1st of July, on Bandcamp and all the main streamers and music libraries. I hope you like. If you do, please let us know!