Monday, 23 May 2016

Family of Noise - New Golden Age (1992) C90

Family of Noise was what I did after Illyana Rasputin - same kind of deal but with a slightly different approach to composition. This time if I fucked up, I recorded it again, and kept on doing so until it sounded all right - as opposed to just deciding that'll do and leaving in the mistakes because I'd read somewhere that mistakes were interesting. Having been recording my own stuff for about a decade by this point, I was getting a bit pissed off at the continued failure of my work to translate into cocaine and blow jobs, so Family of Noise - name taken from a shared love of both Luigi Russolo and Dirk Wears White Sox - was a sort of year zero thing, going back to the start and trying to not fuck it up this time. Most of this cassette was recorded in a single week of May 1992, as noted in an audio letter to Tim Griffiths dated to Saturday the 9th of May, 1992:

It's about a quarter past ten and I've had an absolutely brilliant day. I'm on holiday this week, and instead of going away as I was going to do - I was going to go to Glenn's place in Norfolk - I'm going to stay at home. I've borrowed a mountain of stuff - instruments and recording equipment  - from Carl and Andrew. I've been going at the music like nobody's business today. I haven't felt this good in years. I've recorded three unfinished pieces, unfinished because they still require vocals. It's been good stuff. I've been very pleased with it.

The other good news this week is that I got a letter from Paul Mex. He's given me the go-ahead to do a cassette of the very best of Mex, the early years, taken from the cassettes he did in the early eighties which I always thought were brilliant. Earlier today I recorded a cover version of one of his songs as it happens, although it's instrumental only. I won't be able to record vocals on any of this stuff until the end of the week at the earliest when I've mixed all the music down to two channels.

Anyway it's about half past ten now - time for a cup of tea and a fag, read a few comics and then go to bed. Tomorrow I'll be up about six, go for a walk, go to the bottle bank, walk over to Greenwich park, get some inspiration, come back and have breakfast, and then I'll get down to some more recording.

Then in an audio letter to John Powell dated Thursday the 4th of June, 1992, I report:

I was on holiday recently for a week and I was going to go and stay at Glenn's place but I just couldn't get my act together to save up some money for it, so I stayed here and borrowed loads and loads of equipment from Andrew and Carl and spent an entire week recording music. It was a really good week. I really enjoyed it. I'd get up at half past six every day or something ludicrous, then just get out, go for a walk; I've got my bus pass so I would go somewhere I had never been before, then walk around and think about it. It was nice weather that week as well. I'd get a bit of inspiration, come back, have an enormous fried breakfast, and get down to recording at about ten, sometimes working solidly right through until eight at night. I got most of the music for the Family of Noise tape recorded then, including also a version of Have I the Right? by the Honeycombs for the Joe Meek themed compilation that Chainsaw Cassettes are doing. It's probably the worst bit of music I've ever done in my life, but I'm quite proud of it in a funny sort of way. It sounds like a cross between the Bonzo Dog Band and something off the first Psychic TV album.

Back to the Family of Noise tape, I did quite a few cover versions. I had a system of working which was to do a cover version - something I insisted on doing such as Song of the Snake; then an updated version of an old Do Easy track such as Knife in My Side or Kick the Dwarf; then do a new bit, which is just something I'd have roughly worked out like Charlotte or New Face in SE13. I recorded about three tracks a day, and when I'd done that I'd go over to Carl's place and mix them all onto chrome tape, and because Carl's portastudio runs at ordinary tape speed I could then take that tape and add a couple of vocal tracks on what would ordinarily have been the second side. Some of it worked out okay, but I only have a very rough mix at the moment. The vocals on Rain are appalling. The mix will be different on the final thing, as well as the running order because the last two tracks, Theme and Interlude were really just an afterthought and to make up the time on the cassette, because it was the end of the week and I didn't have time to record anything else.

As you will have noticed I did a version of your own Psychosis, which I'm very pleased with actually. I borrowed Andrew's sampler and managed to lift some of the original sounds from your tape. I've been listening to your tapes and have only just realised you did a vocal version, because what I did was lift phrases from your letters and use those, to do nothing is to do everything which was something you said of Sid Watches Telly, that sort of thing.

Some of the stuff could be better, I mean in the case of tracks like Knife in My Side and Within These Walls. They're both quite old and I could have changed the lyrics because they're not quite appropriate to me in 1992, but I couldn't be bothered, so they're more or less the same as they were first time around.

That's probably more information than you really need. To condense it further, Knife in My Side, Kick the Dwarf, Within These Walls, and Mеня Зовут Яд are revised versions of old Do Easy tracks, the latter having originally been titled Image Control; Into the Valley covers a classic by Mex rather than the Skids, and Rain was originally written and recorded by Exhibit A and appeared on The Thing from the Crypt compilation on Mex's Dead Hedgehog label (still available here); the Virgin Prunes-esque Song of the Snake was my cover of the superior Thomas Frenzi original, and was apparently about Porridge based on some unfortunate personal experience; Psychosis and Tin Men were similarly covers of songs by people whose fame was about equivalent to my own, tape-wise, respectively John Powell of Hoax! zine with his musical hat on, and Paul Mercer of Envy - who appear elsewhere on this blog.

As noted above, I never actually finished this tape in that this was never intended to be the final mix. I think I just began to feel a bit self-conscious about having borrowed Carl's portastudio for probably a year or more, so when I gave it back and failed to buy one of my own, New Golden Age was pretty much forgotten. I suppose it's a shame, maybe. I still quite like some of this, or at least the ideas were decent, if not the execution. You can probably tell I was listening to the Severed Heads quite a bit.

As for what any of it's about: mostly about it having been a great many years since I'd previously had sex with a naked lady and my frustration with this sorry state of affairs, about what total knob's certain people were (my friend Rajun's girlfriend and her SWP pals in the case of Charlotte, then a fanzine editor and and some guy from a band I was in - but not Glenn or Carl, obviously) in the case of Life's Mistake; and about attempting to remain optimistic despite reasons as to why this might seem foolish in the case of the title track.

1 - Theme
2 - Into the Valley
3 - Sometimes I...
4 - Knife in My Side
5 - Song of the Snake
6 - New Face in SE13
7 - Kick the Dwarf
8 - Psychosis
9 - New Golden Age
10 - Interlude
11 - Mеня Зовут Яд
12 - Rain
13 - Mean Streets
14 - Within These Walls
15 - Tin Men
16 - Charlotte
17 - Life's Mistake

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1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. Really enjoyed it and thanks for letting me hear this cover I never even knew existed.
    I once had what I thought was a spectacularly creative day - recording 7 or 8 multi-tracked accapella songs from dawn till night when I was living on Campus - basically I only stopped at about 1am when my nieghbours started banging on the wall. Anyway - at the time and for some weeks after I thought these recordings - which included a tune that sounded suspiciously like Rupert the Bear - were release worthy - infact now that I think of it I recall sending it to you as "From the Mouth of Frenzi" but no one I knew shared my enthusiasm.
    Anyway - great blast from the past/