I have finished recording my new album, Kaleidoscope, at Radar Sound Studios, London. The studio is situated on an island in the Thames, Platt's Eyot, just down the river from where Dave Gilmour's boathouse studio is moored. It's a fantastic location. The island's only access is via a footbridge; fortunately the bridge is just wide enough for a Bedford Rascal type van to cross it. I duly loaded my gear into the back of studio owner Fuzz's vehicle and headed across the water for six days of recording on tape.
I chose Radar Sounds because Fuzz specialises in analogue recording and has some amazing vintage gear including a Neve desk and an ex-Abbey Road Studer 24 track two inch tape machine (see the pictures and video below). The studio also boasts the plate reverb unit that captured John Williams' Star Wars soundtrack.
At the first couple of sessions I was accompanied by my friends and fellow musicians Hugh Lyford and Joe Brown. Hugh and I met at school in the eighties and he played drums in the first band I formed, Embryo - the name suggested by our biology teacher. Hugh's development as a musician was far quicker than mine, however, and he was soon playing for older bands and having to pretend he was eighteen to get into the clubs where they performed. We had reconnected at the launch gig for my 2018 album Ride, when I discovered that he had moved out of London to Somerset and was only about 30 miles away from me.
Joe and I met in 2006 when I was putting my (now retired) Beatles tribute band, All You Need Is The Beatles, together in Melksham. He answered an ad I'd put up in the local music shop asking for a Paul McCartney look-and-sound-a-like. He fit the bill on both counts and was almost as obsessive as me about the Fabs. He is a wonderful musician and singer and taught me so much about harmonies; not theory - I still don't understand that - but by hearing him identify them in Beatles songs.
At the third session I was joined by another old school friend and original member of Embryo, Richard Kilbey. It was like getting the band back together for the first time in 34 years! Rich added some exquisite Mellotron parts to several of the songs and also played 'sitar' via a Bass VI.
I am very happy with what we have produced, due not least to Fuzz's influence as producer. He was very sympathetic to my ideas and encouraged me to articulate what sounds I had in mind, which he would then invariably facilitate creating. It was the perfect situation for me with my love of all things sixties working with a producer who specialises in vintage gear and prefers twiddling knobs (if you'll excuse the expression) to using a mouse. Fuzz's musical philosophy chimes with mine: tape just sounds better! We also bonded over our shared passion for the colour orange.
I had written about twenty songs prior to the start of recording and selected what I considered to be the best ten to put to tape. I didn't have enough money to record any more, to be honest. This was already a lavish spend on my behalf which was only justifiable because it coincided with a significant birthday. Funnily enough - or maybe appropriately enough - the theme to many of the songs is reflections on the past and identifying what's important over the course of (hopefully half!) a lifetime. Looking back at the past through a hazy, kaleidoscope lens, the whole process has felt like things coming full circle.
Kaleidoscope will be released on Subjangle Records on 4th September 2021.