On 2nd April, the six of us – I, Nick, Nicolas, Chris (the saxophonist), Roxy, Scott, Ryan and Chris (the producer) – arrived at Livingston Studios 1 in Wood Green, London, N22. On 3rd April, we left.
The space is beautiful. A pastiche Mediterranean church turned into a gorgeously homely network of booths filled with a menagerie of vintage instruments and equipment. A playground of the highest order for musicians like us. A candy shop of wurlitzers, organs, Rhodes, the most delicate baby grand, guitar pedals… Needless to say, we had no time to play. All of this was ignored.
But the control room. An SSL 4000 series desk stretching the length of the room. Various configurations of tubes and transistors sitting quietly in racks, radiating heat, ready to share their warmth with sound… Neves, APIs, 1176s, a Tubetech CL1B… A £10,000 Neumann microphone from the 1960s…
It’s hard to describe what happened. It’s hard to describe the feeling of playing in such a beautiful space, surrounded by such beautiful equipment. I’m still trying to process the experience – itself an overwhelming, transcendent 48 hours; but also the culmination of months of work, sweat and heartache.
I will try to keep it brief.
We successfully recorded all 10 songs for the album. On the first day we set up and played three sets all together, all live. The second we did re-takes and overdubs. I estimate 70% remains from the original live takes.
The album already sounds twice as good as I thought it would. Chris (the producer) and Will (the assistant) did stunning work on the engineering. I love the recording as much as its contents.
Everyone played beyond the capabilities I thought them to have. Here is a video of me losing my shit as Chris (the saxophonist) goes full Coltrane on what will be track two on the album. Until that moment I didn’t know he could do that.
Ryan nailed his drum takes on the first day. Same with Scott’s bass. They spent the second day playing Xbox, wandering in every now and then to tell us they had the zombie problem under control. Roxy’s voice is the silver to my dirt as always, but captured in such delicate silken detail…
I don’t want to comment on my own performance, but the 45 minutes I was given just to make noise was the most fun I think I’ve ever had. They laughed at me from the control room as I twisted and jerked around the live room, punching my guitar so hard it broke the skin on my hand.
What remains to be said is thank you. Thank you to all of you for contributing to this. I remain deeply humbled by your generosity and support. I still struggle to comprehend it. I only hope you enjoy the album as much as we did making it.
It might be a while. It still needs mixing and mastering. Then there’s artwork and promotion… But I can honestly say it will be worth the wait. I had my own doubts, but hearing it back in that North London studio did more than put them to rest. It made me so excited to share with you what you had contributed to, to show you what we have all achieved together.
As for what’s next, it’s hard to say. I have retreated to Europe to write – I type this on a gloomy Viennese morning, Monk playing softly on the stereo – Chris is back tinkering with LEDs in his basement studio in Brighton. Roxy designing lighting, settling in to her new house in Hackney, Scott and Ryan gigging every night giving seaside drunks their singalong memories. This record was what we all came together for.
But a few weeks ago. On the train to Brighton for pre-production. I sent Chris a text. It said “I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but I’ve already starting writing the next album. It will explore the intersection between Busta Rhymes and The Fall.”