March to you own beat (the making of the album 2014/2015)
The making of March to your own beat.
Early on in 2014 I regrouped with Liam and Neil to get the band up and running again properly after taking 3 years out. In that time the old line up of myself, Bob and Wally had done a few "one offs" which were good fun but I knew it could never continue.
I got the urge to start writing again and some old songs from way back when could be reworked and rewritten. We picked up where we left off working on the songs like "Whatever happened to the krewmen?", "Carats, briefs and boils", "Hard knock chops" and "Staring out the old guard" which we're playing back in 2009. 'Carats..' the only way we could decribed it would be "DeathSwing". If I was to pretentiously review it, it would be Duke Elington or Benny Goodman doing some ultra powerful speed and then spireling out of control before doing a big dirty drop down the Cotton Club in 1934. "Ha ha! Bullshit!" We all impressed oursleves how well we pulled it off just the three of us and contemplated eventually recording it with a brass section before going "Nahhhh"
Further back than that the a song called "When my rocket lands" got gigged to death and I decided not to include it on our debut album, probably because I thought the lyrics were too weak. So by now I had rerecorded it on my GarageBand app as " Blood & sand" Liam and Neil thought it was a winner straight away, so that November it was done properly in Wigan by the three of us. I had it in mind to use producer John Kettle after recording some songs in time of the hiatus with the side project "Loveless Bastards" who did a sterling job then. I knew I had to make another Hyperjax album with him eventually. His new studio premises were in The Old Courts, Wigan. That year I quit social media to focus on writing more, I managed to pen "Sweet solitary" and "Burn in your own flame" with my new found tranquility. I never felt more liberated and more music came bursting at the seams. This album had to be done carefully at a time unlike our previous releases which were all crammed in a week or so. We wanted the best result.
The start of 2015 we had studio dates booked and Liam dropped the bombshell saying he couldn't commit any longer due to work, stress and anxiety ect. I couldn't let that stop us knowing how far we'd got with the new music. I called upon Dan Clark who I'd worked with in The Go Katz a couple of years earlier and straight away said yes. Dan came in the studio and nailed the bass parts to two new numbers like water off a ducks back. We had the right man for the job, a bass players bass player. While Liam was stronger on the backing vocals front, Dan had mastered the double bass like a fully pledged Shaolin Monk who'd mastered martial arts throughout his life.
On the song "Sweet solitary" I had wanted against Neil's cynicism to have an Accordian on. I had searched everywhere I could think then one night in one of my local drinking haunts in Preston, me and my mate came across the local folk group jamming away. There I found James Tween on a melodeon, so I wrote him a note to get in touch if he fancied cutting an album track with us. It took him week to wonder whether or not it was a piss take, then got in touch and agree to come down the studio. Neil and John were taken back with this new dimensional Poguesy track on the album in the making.
Me and Neil pushed ourselves further into writing and arranging "Three Sheets to the wind" which is a lament for our favourite deceased drinking legends and there was the all mighty rocker "Blast me into outer space". The weekend sessions became perhaps the highlight of the year for me. Everything just came together like clockwork. We even managed to get to the pub while John worked his magic. We still needed more though.
Back in 2008 when our old bassist Keith Green said he had to quit due to tinnitus. We promised to keep him on board to guest for the next album. I wrote "Its the nature of the beast" back in 2011 and envisioned Keith playing this samba style bass line through it.
Keith got lost traveling to Wigan as usual. (What is it about the place guys?! Is it some kind of black hole?) But when when we rounded him up and it was his turn to record, we all gathered round the mixing desk and peered through the window to the live room as he just made that double bass sing. We were all in awe. Even the old courts caretaker Derek had to come and have a look. We now had a rather lush acoustic salsa rhythmic tune in the bag.
Our final two tunes which were cut were "The City of broken rain" which was inspired by an old Tom Waits songs sped up (can you tell me which song it is Tom Waits fans?) the other was "Angry young man". This was known back in our 90s lineup as "When the blues start knocking". Again it got dropped and replaced in the live set because I thought the lyrics were lacklustre, the tune always made me smile but never thought it belonged until now. It could have been inspired by The Caravans at the time or possibly a Johnny Burnette song. But I wanted some good time honky tonk piano in. Neil's friend Harry who's a classically trained key master, came down and hammered out the boogie woogie jams like a man possessed.
So the album was now complete. I think the whole key factor for this album was simplicity. That's why we thought the album cover a picture of us all rocking out. No challenging artwork ect. We realised and acknowledged that being a three piece again back in 2008 when Keith left and Liam dropped rhythm guitar for bass that there was more space to do more, less is more, more or less. The fact that's it's been 7 year wait between our last studio album, I see now more as a virtue than tardiness. The songs written before have been distilled and released in a greater manner or form. The newer songs were written with all that in mind, that we are what we are at the end of the day. Are we Psychobilly? (I wouldn't say so in the pure sense) Are we Rockabilly? (definitely not in the traditional sense) Are we Punk Rock (the same) But call us what you will. We won't deny our influences. We are a Rock n Roll band anyway you want us, doing are our own thing hence the title of this album. It's everything we aspired to be from day one, hyper and jacked up!
This album to me is a dream come true.
Sam Woods (Jan 2016)