Amy Blue: Where Is The Unwinding?

I haven’t checked the dates, but I think we recorded all the backing tracks for The Unwinding between 2012-2014, with the addition of Simon and Lex working together to lay down barebone tracks for many other songs since then with the intention of me overdubbing them and then doing a mix. So what is the hold up? I know Simon is deeply frustrated by me “dropping off the face of the earth”, which is essentially what I have done. There was a bit of to-and-fro’ing between places that has obviously caused delays, then me investing a huge amount of time in playing competitive MTG (which I stopped as soon as Covid turned up and ruined everything).

There was also the band I started in London with Dan Clancy (of Painting of Ships fame: they’re still going). This band, A Thousand Knives, was more of a Raconteurs type experiment while Simon and Lex were unavailable. T*** had fucked off by this point so there was no pressure to be working on anything at that time, around 2012. I was still in London at the time and was walking randomly one day towards London Bridge station when I bumped into Dan in the street. We had one of those “we should do something together” chats, which you always know means you won’t do anything together, but in fact a couple of months later we were in the rehearsal studio that Amy Blue used and loved which has now gone in Balham. Tom Parr, who came to the very first Amy Blue show and was a longtime friend of Simon joined us on bass. We had no drummer, and only 3 songs, one of which was not a song. No words.

I wrote something called “Turns Out Yr Wrong”, a 3 chord wonder, for Dan because I wanted him to smash out some chords on his Tele. It’s a grim, bitter little number about someone I knew at the time who was a complete cunt who would not shut up, and was creepily sycophantic towards people she felt she could get things from. The song took on different power and meaning later on, but after finding a great drummer called Stu, who I’m sad I didn’t stay in touch with, we recorded perhaps 4-5 demos without vocals with the intention of doing a gig later on.

When the gig swung around, I buggered my ankle by falling down the stairs in my house in Anerley. The gig was on the other side of town and I texted the other 3 to just run through the numbers and I hoped I would be in good enough condition to play at the gig itself which was probably a week later. It got back to me somehow (I forget, it was 10 years ago) that they didn’t do anything with the songs, and I was incensed that we had spent 6 months working hard to prepare for the gig for the three of them to not even bother to rehearse the songs for the show. So I, rather spitefully, took the huff. Shortly after, I fucked off out the UK for 6 months and washed my hands of it all.

Amy Blue were (and still are) a going concern, so I was working on some new things in the countryside with a new amp and no neighbours to annoy. One song, ‘Stabbed In The Back’ came out of this, and was to be played live with ATK II and recorded twice by AB. It is one of the few finished tracks for The Unwinding.

We have always planned the album to be much broader and longer than our previous. Plus, recording ideas, jams, and partial songs and then using these as the basis for our album became very exciting for me as we had spent a long time playing the same song over and over again in the 00’s which Simon and I were bored of, causing conflict with all the weekend bassists who came in to play who were reticent to try anything new. The only person who had the chops for jumping into the deep end was Tom, who after ATK joined us for some sessions and we got some great takes recorded on songs without names.

We’ve also been doing some song-swapping, such as me singing on Simon’s song ‘Low Low Low’ and him doing vocals on ‘Secrets’, which has transformed from the original riffy thing I came up with to something much more sinister, very fitting for the record.

The record has probably been much harder to work on because there has been a lot of soul searching and growing up and life changes going on behind it. There have been several occasions where I found the thought of getting up in the morning very difficult, and my motivation has been low when it comes to doing anything at all, let alone write and record songs. I’ve been stuck in a loop of reading JG Ballard, Michael Moorcock, history books, watching documentaries, and found myself getting sucked into watching every single Hammer and giallo movie ever made (of which I should write two books and/or blogs). Plus, Destiny has taken up a lot of my time since I gave up MTG. Moving to the country has been a struggle; not being able to see my friends or family. I am disconnected and lonely. It would be good to channel this into something, but the honesty of such feelings makes it more difficult to capture now. Instead, I have been trying to avoid it by working on black comedy for my friend’s ears only: 2 albums (one about Corona, one about Trump), plus 2 audio books (one about Corona, one about Omicron) which came out of fits of depressive-creativity on an up day.

On a down day, nothing happens. At all. Maybe just walking the dog.

The irony is I already have enough songs for the follow up record as my brain doesn’t just STOP. There will always be new music. I am glad to not be playing live anymore as I said in my 20s that I never wanted to see fat 40 year old rockers on stage. And yet McCartney is headling Glasto or something again this year. There will come a time when all of the legends are gone and whatever is left will not be rock or feature guitars. As for what I’m listening to these days? Last week: The Wall. Last night: Secondhand Daylight.

The Making of ‘A Hero Of Our Time’ (Or: Why Does It Take 5 Years For Amy Blue To Record An Album?)

Yesterday, I uploaded the new Amy Blue album, A Hero Of Our Time. For most people, that’s not particularly interesting. For the band, who are not world famous or signed to a major label, it ended up becoming the difficult second album. Yet, I’m sitting here now wondering why did take so long.

Some of the songs were written as far back as 2008 but were never considered for our (shorter) first album, The Fortress & The Fatalist. That was our first trip into the studio and was of course an eye-opening experience. But having been in the studio and seeing what it takes to record, I think we all realised that there were other ways of getting the songs done without having to spend so much money and go through the stress and misery of having to plan for a full day out with cars loaded up with gear, grub and grumpy bandmates. We felt the pressure of the clock and at the time were frustrated with our bassist who failed to make any of the sessions. Simon and I recorded the bass parts ourselves, though I have never been confident of my own bass playing. Totally different discipline and I end up playing it like a six string. So inevitably, the parts weren’t complex or particularly interesting.

When we booked our studio time to record AHOOT, we didn’t have an album title in mind nor a real direction – just a bunch of songs that we’d been collecting since Trev joined the band as the new bassist. He’d brought with him a positive attitude and a sense of humour, and slotted into our dynamic well. We loaded up a couple of cars with gear, grub and tired bandmates (we weren’t grumpy at the time) and headed to Random Colours in North London to record with Rich Johnston, who’d produced our first record. This time, we’d decided with Rich to try a different approach to the recording – to capture our live sound by playing together in the open studio space. It didn’t turn out how we’d hoped.

The night before, I was pretty wound up from driving through London past lunatics and from the anticipation of recording. I didn’t sleep a wink. Recording is one of my favourite things to do, and I was looking forward to the sessions. We got to the studio early, set up, had a cup of tea, then cracked on. It was January, and the studio was freezing cold. We had fan heaters blasting and I must have drank about 10 cups of tea before lunch. We cut ‘The Language of Ghosts’ first, a song that Simon and I recorded as a two-piece for our first EP back in 2006 but as a four-piece. This version was heavier and more intense than our electro/demo version and we’d been playing it around London as a full band for a couple of years. I do generally believe that you shouldn’t go back and rerecord a song as there’s always something new to be working on, but I was particularly fond of ‘Ghosts’ and felt we could transform it into something more intense (and shoegazey, which was the original intention).

 

We recorded as quickly as possible, but by the end of the day the strain was beginning to take its toll, and I nearly collapsed during ‘Scissors’, the longest song we had. The band continued working without me while I took some time to lie down in the studio next door in the dark. I was worn out, overtired, stressed out. At the time, I wasn’t in a very good way. Lex drove me home later where I crashed out and slept like the dead. The next day we were back at the studio to continue the sessions.

After hearing the mixes, I think we all agreed that the performances were shit.

Lex was right in saying that we worked best in our rehearsal space, close together and without other parties looking over our shoulders. We needed the pressure off to do our best performances. Even though there was a bit of ‘Urgh, we have to do it all AGAIN’, we… did it again. This time, we kept things simple – recording the drums and bass and a lead guitar track. No vocals, no extra guitars to muddy the basic take. After this, we sifted through these recordings and ditched the duffers – false starts, missed beats, etc. Then comes the overdubbing, which to you recording n00bs means recording more parts on top of the basic take. Simon and I like this stage – we’re often still writing new sections or melodies up until this point, plus it gives you opportunity to experiment in your own time. Finally, the vocals go on the top and the thing gets mixed, mastered, then released.

This time, there were some decisions made that resulted in Trev leaving the band. Simon was unhappy with his part on one of the songs and ‘did a B0lly’ (as we call it) where he took the executive decision to rerecord the part himself. With all of us working, and most of our rehearsals taken up with working on a vast set of new songs that had been written in the months following the January sessions, there never seemed to be the time. I don’t think either Simon or I felt that Trev wanted to put in the extra time to redo his parts either, or that he may get upset that it was decided what he’d done wasn’t good enough. It’s very hard to talk about this sort of thing, particularly when none of us are very confrontational people. You could argue that ‘doing it yourself’ is not the way to handle this sort of situation, but of course, you aren’t in our band or know the personalities involved. In retrospect, I feel it’s a great shame that Trev decided to walk out over a pride issue, as it’s something that we should have talked about, but I don’t think he ever wanted to. He came to the mixing sessions for at least half of the songs and gave his feedback and I think he was pleased with how things were going.

We mixed for around six months. Rerecorded guitar parts. Redid vocals. Our friend Tom came in later on to help with the mixing and I think improved what we’d done a great deal. By the end of 2012, the record was pretty much done with the exception of the artwork. At this point, I sat on it, listening to it over and over and agonising over various things that irked me. I sent it to friends around the world and asked what they thought. The thing got sidelined for a bit while I was playing in A Thousand Knives, and for my short attention span had become a bit stale after 18 months of new songs and jamming that Amy Blue had done before Lex and Simon took a break during last year. We reconvened before I headed out to Japan for an all day recording session, with Tom on bass, and got about 15 tracks on tape. Look for that in 2018!

I’m glad AHOOT is finally out there. It was a slog, but I doubt you’ll hear any of that in a 3 minute pop-punk song. Simon really carried the weight on this one – the artwork (I’d also like the thank AJ for helping out with the cover design), the title, the extensive recordings. It is very much his baby and we’re both proud of it.

 

Amy Blue: “TFTF is on iTunes”

Been a while since I last blogged. Can’t be arsed basically, but there’s been some events in motion, so may as well record ’em.

‘The Fortress and The Fatalist’ has gone off to the great big iTunes heaven in the sky and should be released in a week or so, artwork included. Very strange… I’ve no idea who will buy it or listen to it randomly. It’ll probably depend entirely on the reviews and if people think the record is good (or shit). The CD side of things has been more complicated, what with me having to learn how to use InDesign completely on the fly and working through hundreds of images to find the best ones that suited the piccy/lyrics/stuff idea. Which was pretty vague to say the least. But it’s looking rather nice and colourful, we had space for thank you’s and hello’s. Job done.

‘Who’s Wings?’
‘They’re only the band the Beatles could’ve been!’

We spent yesterday rehearsing in the sweatiest, most evil rehearsal space known to man. I felt like I was about to pass out from heat exhaustion during a rather long bit of playing. Absolutely buggered, I was. Took quite a while to get to, but it was clean. That’s a really unusual thing for a London rehearsal space. Most of them look like they’ve been befouled by Ostrich rapists. The place was also locked down like Fort Knox with the exit code being the date of the Battle of Hastings.