Tuesday 5 February 2008

English boys wondering how to play our old songs

Our Russian distributers MALS have asked if they can re-release our CD from 1997, English Boy Wonders. EBW was deleted by our then record label GEP a few years ago and we've been looking at options for making this music available again, so this is a very timely opportunity.

Rather than simply re-release the album as it was, we thought we'd go back to the existing tapes and brush them up a bit. EBW was a difficult release for BBT as it was recorded during a period when we were not sure about our future with GEP and, indeed, what direction we wanted to take with our music. We could only afford short periods of time in the studio back then before we had to stop and save some more cash to progress the recordings (and, in fact, we blew most of our budget doing a grand-piano session in a hideously expensive studio.) Money problems led to the album being recorded over a protracted timeframe and, what, with all the uncertainty over the future of the band, EBW never quite hung together as I intended it to.

Furthermore, the reviewers in 1997 didn't get the album at all; the combination of influences on EBW from the pastoral English pop of XTC, via the doom and gloom of The Cure to the dynamics and complexity of Genesis and King Crimson didn't impress. So, it sank without trace taking with it, into the undertow, our recording contract with GEP.

Now, more than ten years on, we think we can make EBW the album it should have been. We're currently going through the process of doing some extra work on each of the songs before we do a complete re-mix. Just transferring the keyboard parts onto the much better sounding samples of organ and Mellotron which we use now has made a huge difference, but we're doing a fair bit of additional recording as well.
In addition to the recording work, which is now well underway, our artist Jim Trainer has been working on some additional paintings for the album cover (a slide show of his paintings can be seen on our MySpace page).
Technically, the redux version of EBW has been an interesting experience. The album was originally recorded on three TEAC digital 8-track tape machines (the ones stacked up behind me in thie picture above from 1996). These were Rob's replacement for his 2 inch tape machine on which we recorded our first album.

Rob was getting rid of the machines a couple of years ago and he and Andy backed up the original multi-track session onto Pro-Tools. We had no idea whether there had been any deterioration in the tapes before we transferred them, but in fact they were in pristine condition. (when we did a similar exercise with the 2 inch tapes for Goodbye to the Age of Steam, the tapes had to be baked to restore them.)

Whilst the tapes didn't let us down, there were a couple of problems with some old midi files that had been saved on an ancient version of Cubase which ran from two floppy discs (which Andy had lost.) Dave Meros (thanks Dave) managed to retrieve the files for us and e-mailed them back over.

I'll finish with another couple of photos from the days of English Boy Wonders. Here we are rehearsing for the album sessions:

And here are Tony and Andy recording the piano ('every fuck-up costs an extra £200, but no pressure, Tony.')