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Experimental Beginnings - 1980

The Angstrom Unit was my first band. A synthesizer duo formed with a friend from school. We wrote and performed instrumental pieces using an old 2 track tape machine to record as well as performing live in local pubs. We were influenced by artists such as Brian Eno, Human League, Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Tangerine Dream, Yello and David Bowie.

History Part 1

Vocals - 1981

By ‘81 I had started to write lyrics and to define the change we renamed the band Sister Europe after the old Psychedelic Furs Track. The sound gave way from experimental ambient to a more pop feeling.

Time For A Change - 1984

I broke up Sister Europe and headed for new pastures with a slot playing organ in the alternative rock band Jake The Pilgrim. It was an intense time of playing live and musical exploration. My musical influences expanded to bands such as the Doors, Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Nick Cave, The Cure, Killing Joke and Led Zeppelin.

Move To London - 1987

I got my first studio job working as a Tape-Op at Falconer Studios (no relation) in Camden. I studied under the wonderful Keith Hancock. The man that taught me to really LISTEN as well as the beauty of natural room acoustics. By ‘88 I had graduated to Engineer and my first sessions of note was as Assistant Engineer on the Patti Palladin and Johnny Thunders album Copy Cats.
1988 saw me working on a diverse range of projects, but two of my favorite acoustic projects from this time were sessions with Jack the Bear and Percussion A, featuring the legendary jazz pianist Keith Tippett. It was a time of the demise of CV and GATE and the birth of MIDI and the AKAI sampler. Music production was never going to be the same again. Even then we had no real concept of what would end up coming out of the Pandora’s Box we had opened. It was the first nail in the coffin of the traditional Big Studio.

Studio Manager & Freelance - 1989

‘89 was a busy year with projects diverse as engineering contributions on Ex-Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Paul Rutherford’s solo album as well as work with the one and only Eartha Kitt. I moved from Chief Engineer at Falconer Studios to Studio Manager, and over saw the technical re-fit of the new Kentish Town studio complex. Having taken a break of a few years I had also started to write and record my own material again. This period of writing was very much influenced by the excellent room atmospheres available, and the studios gorgeous grand piano. It was a very experimental time and I really started to explore the possibilities of using the recording studio itself as an instrument and sound source. Unfortunately virtually no material from this time period remains intact. Differences of opinion with the studio owner led me to resigned from  Falconer Studios and I quickly found work as a freelance Engineer working in some of London’s top recording studios.

Art Of Noise, Psychic TV & Other Audio Adventures - 1990

1990 was a great year. Radio and TV adverts. Film soundtrack work and an ever expanding pallet of musical genres and contacts. As well as working extensively out of Berwick Street Studios in Soho, my international work began to expand. I also oversaw the complete build and installation of The Beat Farm Studios. Including the design of the studios extensive patch-bay and complete cable systems. Having got The Beat Farm up and running it was a pleasure to engineer and mix the studios maiden projects. Two critically acclaimed albums for the alternative collective of Psychic TV. It was during sessions at the Beat Farm that I also worked for Ex-Soft Cell member Dave Ball from the GRID as well as the Jungle Brothers and The Rebel MC. Apparently directly afterwards I did an ambient remix of the track Dream for the band Insync as well as working on the 12” version of Carol Kenyon’s single Never Let Me Go. I say apparently as I  must admit that I had forgotten both of these until someone recently reminded me of them while I was preparing the Afp History.
Other important work from this time period include remix work such as Kalied for Depeche Mode. Also album mixes such as the highly acclaimed Off Abbey Road. Recorded live at the Willisau Jazz Festival and mixed at Berwick Street Soho, and it was while engineering and mixing the Art Of Noise “The Ambient Collection” that I met the Producer Youth and the DJ Alex Patterson. Alex had been called in by Youth to provide the ambient bridges between tracks and we hit it off straight away. At the time Alex was working for EG records, the label of one of my all time hero’s and ambient master Brian Eno. We immediately understood each other’s view of soundscapes and the use of unorthodox samples and effects. It was this meeting that would lead to Alex inviting me to join his fledgling ORB project.
It was also the start of an period of work on various projects for Youth.  Almost immediately after Art Of Noise I was involved by him with the hit single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” and some tracking for the debut album of Pink Floyd backing vocalist Durga McBroom.
It was during this time period that I joined forces with the fantastic Beat Fantastic management company. Run by Alison Hussey and David Hedley Jones from their offices in Ladbroke Grove London. It was a wild time with great people. Who can forget the Gold Room!

All Things ORB - 1990

As a result of working together on the Art Of Noise project, Alex decided to use Berwick Street for the ORB debut album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. I was contacted and asked if I would take a technical driving seat and engineer and mix for the album. It was during the course of the recordings that I was also asked to contribute a track for the album. As well as my track Into The 4th dimension, there were a whole cast of contributors to the album with each of these guests bringing the basis of a track. Amongst the cast of thousands, a young face that appeared early on and stayed for the duration and beyond was that of Kris (Thrash) Weston. Even though at this point Thrash suffered from a lack of technical skills, Alex asked me to take him under my wing and make room for him on the desk. He was a very fast learner and what Thrash did have in abundance was the skill to energize a mix through use of the Cut ands Solo buttons. We had no automation on the DDA mixing desk and in many cases the elements of the tracks would  simply be recorded all the way down the tape from beginning to end. Therefor the only way to make an arrangement from the available elements was by playing the cut and solo buttons and this was where Thrash would really come into his own. In most cases I would get a mix up and then run off onto DAT a full version with particular care being taken to get a good start and finish. Then Thrash would get up on the desk and run off to DAT a variety of versions. After Thrash had exhausted his possibilities Alex would normally get on the desk and also run off a version or two. By this point we’d have a couple of hours of material on DAT. I would then select the parts that I wished to use and run them off onto a stereo 1/4” Studer, and simply cut everything together for the final arrangement. We had some truely great sessions and the studio became a sound source in itself with a lot of experimental use of effects. Not least of all the rather wonderful cyclosonic auto panner which used phase shift to create 3D sound movement within the conventional stereo environment. It was a great mix of contributing talent with a wonderful feeling of free for all where any idea was followed. I was aware we were creating something special, but did not want to stop and think about it too much in case the bubble burst.
Shortly after the completion of the album Alex reconvened the team once again at Berwick Street. Under the name Apollo XI and with a few other guest contributors he wanted to do a one off track Peace In The Middle East. However this session was a departure from the atmosphere of the Ultra World album. This was mainly down to Thrash being rather dictatorial and even coming out with the phrase “Nothing gets on this track that I don’t approve of”. I was rather perplexed as at the end of the day it was Alex Patersons band. It was his concept, his deal, his vision and now suddenly the kid was bossing everybody about. I wanted to corner Alex to ask “What the hell?”, but he brushed it off and said not to worry, and so not wishing to make further bad vibes I went with the flow.
It was around this time that there was also a remix for Erasure of their hit Ship Of Fools. This also took place at Berwick Street Studios and the strange atmosphere just seemed to get worse. From my point of view I remember it as not one of our most shining moments of creativity.
After the release of the Ultra World album there was quickly enough buzz to generate an invite to the BBC to record a John  Peel Session. I was to perform Into The 4th Dimension and as well as Alex and Thrash, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy were in attendance to perform Back Side Of The Moon. It was a fun session to start with but then Thrash continued with his “I’m in charge” attitude. This time deciding that nobody else was allowed to touch the mixing desk apart from him. For me the magic that had existed during the recording of the Ultraworld album, and the vibe from being part of the ORB was well and truly dead.
It proved to be the end of our working relationship as the ORB as Alex decided to continue with just Thrash, for which I bore no grudge. I had plenty of other projects and the ORB was great for me while it lasted, and it was an honor to have been involved and be part of the family. I remained in friendly contact with Alex and we did work together again on Steve Hillages System 7. Later when I moved to Germany Alex kindly suggested that I get together with his friend and future ORB member Thomas Fehlmann. However having heard some of his work I found the Techno from Thomas a little cool for my taste and so declined, especially as I was more interested at this point in exploring my own solo work. It would take nearly 30 years before we would reunite again.

An ORB Footnote

For further thoughts on my ORB experience and in particular my reply to certain comments from Thrash, please click HERE.

In Demand - 1991 & 1992

My first big post ORB project was working with Tony Martin on his Hypnotone Ai album for Creation Records. This was a fun record to make with recording taking place in Manchester and London. I Engineered, Mixed, Co-Produced, Co-Wrote  and Wrote the tracks “God’s CPU” and “Airwalk” for the album. I also oversaw the final Post Production Pro-Tools work on the record which was done at Berwick Street Studios.
There then followed sessions with ABC for their album Abracadabra. Cool guys and rather surreal to be working with pop-stars from when  I was a teenager. I also found myself back at Berwick Street with the Trance Master Ollie Olsen formerly of Max Q, which had been a side project of Michael Hutchence from INXS. We worked on his self titled album Third Eye while Ollie regaled me with stories of the old days and “Cooking up” instant coffee and main-lining white wine. I’m not sure I believed a word, but he made me laugh till I cried.
Unfortunately you can’t please everybody all of the time. I was mixing the track “Let’s All Dance” for the Gibson Brothers (Cuba) and decided that the arrangement should be changed a little and I just did it. Rod Gammons who was not only producing the track but had also arranged and co-written it, loved my changes. The Gibson Brothers came by and they loved the change. However it was then that Dave Christie (main writer) turned up and he just wanted to kill me. Rod and a couple of guys had to more or less drag him out of the studio while he cursed and screamed that I had ruined his song. We still kept my changes.
Then it was off to Condulmer Studios in Italy just outside of Venice to mix the album Mosaic for the highly acclaimed Japanese artist Mimori Yusa. The executive producer Tomo drove me mad and at one point in an arrogant sulk I phoned my management to ask if we could give the money back and could I come home. NO was the answer. I pulled myself together and finished the album. In retrospect I realised that Tomo had simply being pushing me and confronting me to try to drag the best out of me, and it worked. I’d become very lazy and complacent and Mosaic was my wake up call and the best mixes I’d ever done up to that date. My lesson had been learned.
Back in London and it was another Japanese project with some work for Keiichi Suzuki from the Moon Riders and his solo album White Report. I produced and recorded one track myself and mixed another for Toni Martin who was also doing a remix for the album. Keiichi had heard my work on the Art Of Noise Ambient Collection and the ORB Ultraworld album and was mad about the ORB. There was one particular phased cymbal effect that he was very keen to have on his album but I was not so thrilled with the idea of copying the work. So as well as employing myself he got Alex and Thrash in to do a mix and they were happy to please him with the cymbal effect.
I was then on my way to Brussels and once again working with Toni Martin from Hypnotone. This time I was pushing the buttons and  mixing for a remix he was doing for Dominique Dalcan on Crammed Discs. The remix was from his French language hit “Comment Faut-Il Faire?”. We had a great time. Not least of all with us climbing the natural stone clad wall of the control room at Daylight Studios, and evenings bar hopping in the Moroccan quarter and taking in the excellent Arabic street musicians.
In Soho doing some tracking with Rob N Raz and Leila K. The boys were great guys and fun to work with which is more than you could say for Leila. Once the main track was finished she turned up for the first time in a huge fur coat with her minder in tow. She just teeth-kissed the boys, had a row in Swedish with the manager and then flounced into the vocal booth in VERY bad grace where she proceeded to neither speak, sing or rap a single word till the manager threw his hands up in despair and got her back in a taxi. End of session, end of working relationship between Rob N Raz and Leila K.
Working with Youth once again mixing the single Ever Lasting Day for the band Magik Roundabout. Youth was in the Producers seat for these really nice group of guys from New Zealand.
Recorded and mixed this beautiful little self titled ambient record from Red Sun. I can well remember the great lengths that we went to get the sound of just the right sort of waves breaking on the shore. The sand had to be not too soft and the pebbles not too hard. The project got me my first Name Check on MTV.
Another Japanese project. This time for the band Fairchild and their album Gimix. Basically I got the complete multitracks  and in both cases just threw everything away but the vocals and wrote, recorded and mixed new songs from scratch, one per evening. The first song went well but the second track was a bugger. I had a real big orchestral arrangement in my head, and having worked half the night I ended up with something that sounded like a funeral march and it sucked big time. I told the tap-op to erase everything and I went for a walk through Soho in the early hours of the morning. I came back and with only a couple of hours to spare till my time ran out I  wrote, produced and mixed a beautiful ambient master piece that the client just loved. The muse was suddenly with me.
Our paths cross again and the old team reconvenes. Back in the studio with Alex and Thrash, but this time as guests on Steve Hillages new project System 7. I co-wrote a track for the album as well as doing some additional engineer, mixing and co-production work. Paul Oakenfold turned up for 1/2 an hour, told me the bass line I was playing was good and he got a writing credit for that. Nice work if you can get it Paul.

Papers Please - 1993

I moved to Germany which was not a problem for my work as I still had my management in London and was living near an  International airport. My first domestic project was Producing the album Violence for the band Invisible Limits.  The residential studio was great, the label manger worshiped the ground I walk on, the band were serious and at the same time it all sucked. It’s the first time I’m having thoughts about quiting it all and going and doing something else. Anything else apart from staying up all night working  to try and polish somebody else’s dream.
Back in the UK once more and this time it was to remix the track Private Pride for the Japanese band Soft Ballet. I end up in a studio in Sheffield and ran off three completely different versions in one night and then head straight for the train station/airport at dawn. I’m in good company as other remixes on the album are by by Fluke, EMF, Pop Will Eat Itself and Adamski to name but a few.
Back in the UK again and once more working with Steve Hillage as well as the legendary Salif Keita, the voice of god. Things have gone full circle for as well as working at Marcus and Landsdown Studios I also found myself back where it all started for me at Falconer Studios. One of several film soundtracks I’ve worked on during my career, but certainly the most interesting. As well as recording and mixing I also have a credit for sound design. It was also the first time I had the opportunity to mix in complete surround sound.
Next I headed over to Malibu California to do some work with the Space Bambi’s. It was Disney land all over, 24/7.
I was invited to record an album of my own material and headed down to a little studio near Frankfurt with my old friend Nigel Butler. The little town was provincial with a capital P and we wondered where the hell we’d ended up. Technically the place left an awful lot to desire but they were eager to please and I could do anything I wanted. So I settled in to have some fun. Everything was done on the fly on the day. I ended up with a groovy record full of gags and surprises and one that I have recently been re-mastering and is available for download at the Store.