There was a period where I recorded with a guy called Bill Mudge a few years ago. We worked on three songs, two of which came out rather well, in my opinion. I believe Emergency, however, was the best of these.
It was quite an effort to get it all together. My memory is that I did the guitar, singing and some kind of click track which I then took to Bill, Perry, a drummer we knew, and (I think) Mark, a bassist I only met for the day of recording. The drums and bass were recorded for all three tracks on one day, I’m sure. I am still particularly pleased with their contributions to this track. The bass especially is played in a way that subtely glues the verse to the bridge to the chorus without ever becoming obtrusive. I remember quoting a Will Young song to Bill, saying that on one of the verses of whichever song it was, there was subtle piano harmonising with whatever Will was singing. Whatever we tried in order to simulate this it didn’t work but the compromise was that Bill added a tiny little piano motif that occasionally recurs in the second verse and colours it beautifully. With all of this in place, there was a big space for a guitar solo, a solo I knew I wouldn’t be able to satisfactorily do myself. I therefore asked my friend Arthur to do one for me. He graciously agreed. I gave him literally about the first six notes of what I wanted, which are exactly what is played on the track. The rest is him using his intuition to turn it into one of the most magical moments on any Coosticks song. Once he got it to me, he told tales of sore fingers and a lot of effort to pull it off but I clearly remember listening to it for the first time and being full of admiration and gratitude at how fantastic it was and more importantly how apposite it was to the track. On listening back to the track, I’m very pleased with the vocals too. They have, for my taste, a perfect mix of emotion and they aren’t perfect which I always prefer. I like there to be a mixture there of confidence – singing the right notes, basically, and vulnerability – the little cracks in a note or subtleties in pitch. There’s a lovely quality to the vocals here which I’m glad has survived intact.
There is also a video to accompany this song. I animated it soon after the track was completed. It’s another thing I’m rather fond of although given more time I would have made it a little more grand. I’ll put it on YouTube soon so you can decide for yourself.
People have said Emergency has a Sixties quality, sounds a bit Beatle-like, is a bit psychedelic. I can’t really hear any of that. I find it very hard to be objective about it as I’m so fond of it. It’s one of our best recordings yet and a testament to the guys playing on it.
This song has a lot of imagery in it. I don’t remember us recording it, really. A vague memory of Steve at the drums, perhaps, but that’s about it. Really like the way it’s turned out. The first verse packs a lot in – I would imagine the more-than-casual music fan would pick up on the references therein and the title is inspired by the Beatles song. I should point out, however, that I don’t have a sponsorship deal with a transport company (not yet anyway). The ‘virgin’ train refers to the first train of this character’s journey into the unknown, ie. he is a ‘train virgin’.
Lighthouse was again recorded in that magical little studio in Brick Lane. I long to be in places like that every day. With this track Simon suggested undoing the snare to create a kind of timbale sound. When I first heard it I was a bit thrown, I think he said it was a bit more authentically folk-sounding. But there was something about the way he said it that made me feel that he’d been really thinking about it so I went with it and it paid off. This track has a real life to it. People generally love it and it was never a song I thought was particularly special but I’m really proud of the reaction it gets and of its sound and its lyrics. Don’t remember who or what I wrote it about but the sentiments are pretty easy to get hold of. I think it’s safe to say Simon was a big fan of this song and spent the time to get it sounding sweet. I remember spending an absolute age on the cymbals at the end and finding a suitable foghorn sound for the end and then another age moulding that foghorn to the right sound. I think the time spent was worth it. Everyone is playing brilliantly on this. The guitar part really reminds me of House Of The Rising Sun. I don’t know if that’s where Ben got inspiration from but it sounds great. Right from the first little shuffle of the drums at the start, it’s a really special track.
When I was in Australia, I kept hearing mention of Erina Fair. I really liked the name and could feel a song coming on. I think the actual Erina Fair has little in common with what I’m singing about.
I still think this song has a great mood to it. I believe the drums and bass were recorded at Brick Lane with Simon but the rest of the tracks are me doing my thing. Got a lot of affection for this track.
In 2008, Ben, Mike, Steve and I went into a tiny studio in Brick Lane underneath a ukelele shop. We recorded four songs over a long period of time, possibly 8 months. We only went into the studio about 4 times in that period, I should add thanks to all the usual constraints, money, time, availability. Three of these songs were connected by theme and the most personal one lyrically for me has to be this title track. We recorded with a nice chap called Simon who was invaluable in finding the little touches that made these recordings special. What I remember specifically about the recording of Identity is Ben doing the riffs. Simon set the amp up in the recording room and Ben sat outside with us in the control room. Simon then turned the amp up amazingly loud and closed the door as much as he could with the lead coming out. Then Ben nailed the riffs in no more than half an hour if my memory serves. I still get a thrill listening to that guitar part – it just sounds so sweet. We would frequent a close-by pub as well at the end of the sessions and were all highly amused by the creative graffiti downstairs. There was also a time when a guy literally walked past a table and picked up someone’s phone that was sitting there and walked out the pub. He didn’t get far, I’m glad to report. I found Brick Lane and the whole of those sessions a magical and exciting time.
Here’s a post with a faintly disturbing actual Umbrella Head in it!
My brother and I have a thing about umbrellas. We’re both fairly insistent that we never owned one as children and I guess we were simply taken with the general oddness of their shape. I have to force myself to keep them out of my lyrics. But this one works with it well. I look back over lyrics and wonder who has heard them, who has been affected by them. I’m quite intrigued when people apply their own meanings. It seems an umbrella head is a popular cultural image.
Recorded this with Arthur on a day full of much mirth and it was also, sadly, the last day we spent together with Ben in the band.