Sunday, 4 September 2011

Work starts on new Inca Babies album

September the third, 2011: work starts on the new Inca Babies album, the day after a live appearance at The Beat Club in Blackpool. This was an interesting affair in a well-run club just north of the Tower. The Friday night was also the night of the Illuminations switch-on, so we had a plate of chips and curry in a cafe overlooking the 'Switch-on Arena' also known under normal circumstances as the 'Central Car Park'.
The switch-on seemed to go quite well though the lights only came on halfway up the prom at first. When they eventually came on there was a big cheer from the crowd of people walking along it: then they flickered off again. Deep groan. Lights back on: big cheer. Lights off again.. deep groan. On. Off.. until finally.. on. Hurray.

Anyway. On a four-band night we finally took to the stage at 2330, with a midnight curfew, so had to cut chunks out of our set to finish in time. That's always a shame because you shape a setlist for good reasons and having to whack ten minutes out because of a slow changeover or because one band went on ten minutes later than planned (who knows what the reason was?) is a bit of a drag.
We had a few new ones in the set from the album we're recording now and actually they're shaping up really well. There's only really one way to get a song in shape and that's to play it live. That irons out all the shaky bits because you have to make it work in a live situation.
The gig was fine and the people were great so we headed back from Blackpool quite happy with the night's work, though a bit disappointed that we didn't get to work through the full forty minutes, as we have a hectic autumn coming up in Amsterdam, Italy and Warsaw and it really helps when you're slick with the order.
So just ten hours after we arrived back in Manchester from Blackpool, Harry (guitar and vocals) and Rob (drums) reported for recording duty at Courtyard Studios in Stockport (above).
Courtyard's run by Tim Woodward (right), a guitarist and engineer who's been beavering away in the air crash district of Stockport for .. well.. I've been going there since the mid-1980s when I used to rehearse there with my first band A Witness and we'd write songs for Peel sessions in the gently-collapsing practice rooms. Hopes Carr, the area is called. There was once a nasty shotgun murder at a scrap yard up the hill: Tim swears he used to see the ghosts of the air crash on those quiet, spooky winter nights.
Nowadays no-one remembers the Stockport air crash and only a pair of troll-like stones just before the turn for Gorsey Mount Brow marks the disaster, still one of the worst in British aviation history.
Strawberry Studios is just up the hill too, so it's a pretty famous part of Stockport we're talking about here. Round the corner from the Rhythm House.. you know...
We recorded our first album of this Incas line-up with Tim: Death Message Blues, starting the winter before last, and we've played it through Poland, Italy, Los Angeles, in Milan, Manchester, Brighton, London, the Lake District.. all over. So it seemed a reasonable idea to go back there.
Going into the studio is exhausting, exhilirating and  profoundly odd all at the same time because it messes up your focus. Suddenly you have to concentrate like a madman on a passage of music like your life depends on it and a string keeps buzzing.. it never did that before.. why is it doing it now.. and you're distracted because someone is walking in front of you during a take, or gesturing towards you and you can't afford to stop concentrating or you'll make a mistake.
And then I looked at the tuner I was using to tune up with and realised that actually, yes, that really belongs in a museum. My old bandmate Keith Curtis - yes, Keith from Goldblade - gave me that in about 1985 and I've used it ever since. It's about the only thing he did ever give me but I'm grateful for it.. and I've got good use out of it. And, as you'll see in the days to come, it's not the only piece of ancient equipment we found in Courtyard....

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