This is the way it works: no-one ever really leaves Shriekback, except maybe feet-first in a pine box, and we ain’t quite there yet. A few have tried, but sooner or later that strange gravity takes hold and you find yourself back in the soundstorm with a headful of noise and a mouthful of words… out there and back home all at once. Ain’t no bad thing neither.
This time round things started working a year and some back, when I was minding my own business with about 200 people at a party called 49.5 – half a year shy of my half-century, y’see. 199 guests weren’t Barry Andrews but one was, the first time we’d met for quite a while. Old bluffers that we are, we parted promising to exchange musical notes but with no firm plans.
These things often – usually, even – get no further than the end of the evening, but this time, for whatever reason, the machine started. Very slowly, though… I had some of Barry’s instrumentals a couple of months later; ideas were fermenting, but I was not a man possessed. Or repossessed. A farmer, not a hunter. My clocks changed in Spring, when the deadlines swung leering over the horizon, bringing on the fear, the good fear, and the late nights.
Flowers Of Angst was the first bastard dropling, rising like a woken alien from beneath the ice and carrying in its swagger the dna of Nemesis. I think I made this a fire drill, a test to earn my Shriekback badge back – supertense verse structures, cavalier rhyme schemes and a few arty cross-references to keep the pretention police in work. And some shouting. Barry liked it, so I guess I passed. June already, but hey, we’re rolling now.
(As a footnote, this is the first recorded instance of a Shriekback backing track’s working title carrying forward into the song. We have a long tradition of evocative working titles – my favourite, dating from the Tench sessions in KPM Studio, Denmark Street, may be ‘The Return Of The Giant Alco-Pigs’, which is inscribed proudly in chinagraph pencil on a tape box besmirched with lipstick, coffee, grease, beer and spices, hidden in the vaults of EMI Music Publishing: it should be in the Tate Modern.)
Looking for something a tad less intense, I went back to a track with the working title of Shoom Buddha, which had a good first verse but had got stuck and was about to be abandoned. However, inspired by the tracks that Barry was starting to send back – man, he raised the game - and a good response to Flowers, I started again with more intuitive approach … the phrase ‘semidelicious’ duly turned up to save my ass at 3am. I still don’t know how this bit works – but I'm real happy it does.
It now being July, we’d pretty much hit the timewall. Lots of ideas going back and forth – there still are – but nailing time for these. Which meant we’d have to get together in a studio for the first time since finishing Oil & Gold. Yee har. Not only that…. for the first time in my life, I’d have to go to Swindon.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Mission to Swindon, coming soon….