The Bottom Line (the making of the album 2002-2007)
The Bottom Line....our difficult second album. A classic example of the dysfunctional band we we're. After the release of our debut "Generation X-Rated" in 2002 I had already written a couple of songs, which was already in our live set. I cracked on with it until 2005.
We'd already recorded some demos here and there before hand which unfortunately didn't hit the mark. Mixes were left incomplete due to lack of budgets. We sent them off never the less to several labels and got little or no response with. Our style had evolved to much a bigger and harder punk rock sound and we'd pretty much abandoned our rockabilly roots (with exception of the slap bass) in favour of the former, thinking we were moving forward and would reach more people without considering that we may just lose people who followed us for years previous.
These songs had hooks to them and went down pretty well in our gigs by now. There was the bleak minor key epic but kicking tracks like "Americas Tender Mercies" (Strewth, how and what was going on in my head when I sat down and penned that one beats me) "Sacred Ground ", "One Blazing Soul" and "Navigator", the power pop of "Blank Holiday Special" and "When Red Fades To Black", the spiky, stomping, bug eyed "New World Odour" "Return to zero" and "Burnout Row". the seething and scowling "User Vixen" .....oh and the rock steady "Rumble Fish" with a rap interlude from my friend Rossi, which we'd already managed to cause a stir with live. Some people thought we were doing it to annoy the purists, others thought it was to gain a wider maybe younger audience. But I was just simply trying out something new and enjoyed collaborating with Rossi. Though I admit now there an air of arrogance in me, believing we could do whatever we wanted. Not thinking there would be a cost in the long run. Lyrically it couldn't have been any more complex, a gob full in fact that I'm responsible for. There was more of a political roar in some of what was being played and sung, Sacred Ground was about the 2001 race riots in Oldham, The Bottom Line was about the closure of MG Rover plant at Longbridge.
Come early 2005, we became a four piece asking Matt Cooley to join us on second guitar in attempt to progress our sound. He certainly added some depth at the beginning when he stuck to straight rhythm guitar. However that year I wrote a ska punk inspired song which Cooley added some fine riffage in the middle while I hung back and played rhythm until the end where I put a solo in and that song was called "The Bottom Line".
By mid summer Wally had decided he'd had enough and just wasn't enjoying it anymore. We didn't even hesitate to ask our friend and Cooley's bandmate Bundie in their band "The Short Cuts" to come in which he couldn't have been more happy to say yes. So here we were already a new band and Bundie really gave us a shot in the arm for the next couple of years. Bundie had been a friend for a long while when both our bands (Handy Jack Offs and then The Short Cuts) were playing together far as six years previous when we would venture onto the Cheshire circuit, there seemed to be a healthy home grown scene there with underground punk and ska bands.
We played to the end of the year here, there and everywhere and recording the following year in March 2006. Raucous Records said they'll put out our second album when it was done. So It was bashed out in over a week in a studio in Crewe. I was that frustrated by then, we had cancelled some sessions over 2005 and it seemed like it was taking forever. So I went for it full throttle without really feeling it and deep down knew but didn't want to admit wasn't quite right. I thought I should just go with the flow and it would be fine in the end. We had a local artist Chris "Moot" Dorning who work you can find around the city of Preston at certain locations. I think he searched the internet for punk albums and found a cover by the band 'Anti Flag' and based his idea on that. I hadn't seen this until someone pointed out later.
Somewhere along the way Cooley had decided to go off on a tangent playing some harsh metallic like riffs on some of the songs with the exception of the song "The Bottom Line" the rest what should have sounded like a "guitar fusion" sounded more like a "guitar...confusion" I should have put my foot down sooner, but I went along with it being a team player, not that it sat well with me. Bundie convinced me otherwise. Bob said bugger all as usual. I remember one funny moment was when Bob laid down his bass to "User Vixen" a song he found very painful to play, you can just about make out his colorful choice of words at the very end that one.
The vocals were double tracked which was unnecessary realizing only later. But it seemed like a good idea at the time and Bob's bass was just lost. He couldn't even admit it. I think everybody including myself was all looking at each other with the blinkers on and depended on the next persons opinion who said "It'll be fine". I know that I even left an evening for Bob, Cooley and Bundie to mix with Fish (engineer) thinking everyone was on track with the tracks. I think it was a case of the blind leading the blind and in the end the final mix became an elephant in the room.
As much as I thought the waiting around to make this album was frustrating with abandoned recording sessions, the wait for it to be released was even more so. The rest of that year while a lot of bands really do hang on until their album is officially out and hard copies are in their hands. We laboured all the material in our live shows into 2007 and we ran ourselves into the ground. We must have contacted Howard at Raucous a dozen times for an answer on when it was going to be available so we could flog it, promote it ect and the same answer was down to a hold up at the pressing plant and it was in a queue.
So eventually come February the 6th it finally saw light of day. The trouble is by then, we were all fed up of it and of each other. Tensions in the band had come to a head and we had long stopped communicating as a unit. Bob had grown weary and had lost interest in general by then. Cooley was bored with playing the same same old stuff and felt like he was having his nosed pushed by me creatively, Bundie had bigger fish to fry and was about to tour the world with The Business who he'd joined months earlier, making us a lesser priority and I instead of laying the cards on the table with everybody on what would be essential for our future; buried myself into writing new songs for label we'd just been offered for a third album and in order to do that we couldn't have a part time drummer. We played a few more gigs into March and it was agreed mutually that Bundie would leave the band so we could crack on. Well Bundie throughout his 18 months in the band had been the glue that held us all together after Wally left. We tried carrying on into June with another guy (Manning) before we all imploded and the bottom line up was no more.
In one interview at the time of the release I tried to big it up saying it was a killer of an album, well I couldn't have been any more right. It's near enough killed us. "One Blazing Soul" received a single Radio 1 play on the Mike Davis show.
The album was received and regarded as our lacklustre sophomore, hasty sounding and we were trying to be something we weren't. All the fun from our debut had disappeared into something even less so. I imagine Bob thinking at the time "Well if we don't get successful after all this, then I may as well retire". We had been a band for 11 years by then and the cracks were now starting to show.
In a more positive light I look back on those times as when the songs really speaking, was not down on record but LIVE and if you were around at the time watching us then, that's how they should be remembered if you enjoyed them. We were a band like any other, we had some fun times, adventures, misadventures. Good laughs and spats all at at once. Throughout the years since with line up changes The Bottom Line repatoir has all but relinquished from our live set. I've always felt I did everything on the risk of failure and that's just what happened this time. We had gone from freewheeling into freefalling and crashed with a bang. I could carry on in angered hindsight, thinking we could have had a better production, spent more time (God forbid!), been more honest with each other and so on, but I won't. So there it is.... our art... 'The Bottom Line' warts n all. Maybe not our most vibrant release, but certainly perhaps our most daring.
I was my own Navigator....so I believed.
Sam Woods (February 2017)