An Audience With…

After last month’s Flightpath Estate Zoom meeting with Hugo Nicolson (Andrew Weatherall’s engineer and co-producer on Screamadelica, One Dove and a host of classic late 80s/ early 90s remixes) another Andrew Weatherall collaborator, David Harrow, offered to spend an evening talking to anyone who was interested in listening. On Wednesday night a group of us listened to David talk at length- he said at one point ‘I warned you I can talk’- about his life, from London in the 80s to LA now, a fascinating account of a life spent in music, at times living in a fairly hand- to- mouth kind of way, trying to make a living from what you love. He talked about the problems encountered when musicians have to decide whose work the music is, who contributed what and who gets credited, whose name goes on the front of the record and whose goes in small letters on the back and how this is a big deal when you’re young and hungry- and the problems those things can cause. He found his way in to music working with Anne Clark and then Jah Wobble. David spent a few years in the second half of the 1980s in West Berlin, asking for his tour pay and passport when a tour he was part of the band for ended in the divided city (an Anne Clark tour I think). He described his life as a ‘full on West Berlin goth’ and then his re- entry into London, first with Wobble, and then as acid house kicked off a visit to Shoom and The Clink and the subsequent change in outlook, mood and dress. In a matter of weeks he went from the long black hair and leather trousers of Berlin to brightly coloured cycling jerseys and caps, and the accompanying changes in drug of choice. David ended up not being invited to be part of Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart band and looking for something else began to work with Adrian Sherwood and On U Sound. He talked in depth about his role at On U Sound, what he learnt from watching Adrian Sherwood and working with him and the combustible mix of characters that made up the On U Sound groups- the On U Sound touring sound system, Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge, Tackhead, Gary Clail (and there was much about Gary and the situation that developed there). David’s role in the On U Sound world was pretty central, playing keyboards (and being shown how to do this ‘properly’ by one of the On U team at one point), songwriting, programming and co- producing.

David and Andrew Weatherall’s paths crossed in London in the early 90s and they worked together at various points. In 1990 David produced the London group Deep Joy, a three piece fired up by the acid house revolution and its possibilities. David’s produced their song Fall which was remixed by Weatherall, a chunky 1990 floor filler with saxophone, a choppy guitar riff, some Italo piano, an example of Weatherall’s expansive widescreen remix style in full effect.

Fall (Let There Be Drums)

Fall (Chunky Vocal)

Andrew said he’d release David’s own music on his label, putting out various Technova releases on Sabres Of Paradise, memorably the Tantra 12″ and Tantric album. They went on to develop the Blood Sugar sound, minimal, deep house/ techno, gritty but seductive music for nights in dark basements. David recalled Andrew telling him in the studio that they could only have four musical elements in a track at any one time and that if they wanted to bring another element in, something else had to be removed from the mix, the sort of detail that when you then go back and listen to Blood Sugar’s Levels double pack or the releases they made together as Deanne Day, illuminates the music and its creation.

There are many parts of the story I can only remember sketchily- I should have taken notes I suppose. David wrote Your Loving Arms for Billie Ray Martin (a worldwide hit thanks to its inclusion on multiple compilations), a song David described as financially ‘the best forty five minutes work I’ve ever done’. He talked about his decisions with humour and occasionally a rueful smile. He played keytar bass for Bjork but then turned down the position doing that on an eighteen month tour. He advised Tackhead singer Bernard Fowler not to take up the position of backing singer for The Rolling Stones (Bernard has sung back up for The Stones worldwide since the 90s and now lives among the super rich in LA). He found another musical life after hearing drum and bass and beginning to make music under the name James Hardway, a jazz/ drum and bass project that brought success around the world. He talked about his devastation at the death of Jamaican singer Bim Sherman in 2000 and his subsequent move to Los Angeles. This track has recently been finished, a song with the late Bim Sherman on vocals, remixed by The Orb, and it hits all the spots you’d expect it to.

David has continued to put music out. Sitting in his studio talking to us he laughed about the amount of technology available now compared to the kit available thirty years ago- a sampler, a drum machine, some records, a keyboard. David continues to make music as Oicho, and with Ghetto Priest, and has just put several dubs recorded during lockdown onto Bandcamp. This one, Main Earth Dub, has an elastic bassline, some distant percussion and then some of those rattling snares and kickdrums, dub techno sounds that aren’t a million miles from the Blood Sugar sound of the mid 90s.

101 Steps (Lockdown 2) is cut from similar cloth, a deep, dubby, experimental drive round a city at night, the echo and stop- start rhythms building the tension.

David talked to us for what ended up being three hours, taking questions and speaking honestly about his life making music since the early 80s. There’s loads more he talked about that I haven’t mentioned not least his time with Psychic TV (a big influence on Andrew Weatherall too), the gentrification of Los Angeles, the club Flying Lotus emerged from and Billie Eilish and her mum, and some I’ve left out, but it was an entertaining and fascinating way to spend a Wednesday night.

Isolation Mix Six

I got this dramatic shot of the sky over the Mersey on Thursday night. One habit I hope I manage to maintain once this is all over, whenever that is, is taking regular walks. You miss so much sitting inside and even the most familiar and mundane places can look different when caught at a particular time. This week’s Isolation Mix is a dubwise and post punk excursion from The Clash, some dubbed out Joy Division covers, Bauhaus, The Slits, Killing Joke remixed by Thrash, a bunch of Andrew Weatherall dub versions and some On U Sound from Dub Syndicate.

The Clash: The Crooked Beat

Steve Mason: Boys Outside (Andrew Weatherall Dub 2)

Jah Division: Dub Will Tear Us Apart

Jah Division: Dub Disorder

Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi’s Dead

The Slits: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Dub Syndicate: Ravi Shankar Part.1

Sabres Of Paradise: Ysaebud

New Order: Regret (Sabres Slow ‘n’ Lo)

Lark: Can I Colour In Your Hair (Andrew Weatherall Version)

Killing Joke: Requiem (A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea Dub Mix)

Pounding System

Not far to the north of where we live lies the River Mersey. The riverbanks on both sides are walkable and when you cross by the footbridge up near Ashton- on- Mersey golf club there are a maze of paths that wind their way through floodplains and fields, either east to the water park and then Chorlton or west through to Urmston. Much of this land is known as an Ees- Stretford Ees, Chorlton Ees and Sale Ees. Ees is an archaic word meaning a piece of land liable to flood or water meadow. The footpaths cut their way through the Ees, surrounded by trees, hedges and meadows. The M60 and its link roads are all interwoven but are very quiet at the moment. Usually from our back garden you can hear the M60. At the moment you can hear the birds and the occasional rattle of the tramline, a mile in the other direction. Our daily bout of exercise sometimes takes us along the riverbank, especially in the evening when it’s much quieter and social distancing is easier and less fraught, and through these lanes and pathways. As the sun dips out west beyond Irlam and Warrington you can sometimes get to witness a spectacular sunset. This is one of the positive things lockdown is giving us- finding local moments of beauty, even in our fairly unromantic and ordinary parts of south west Manchester, and this is now life in 2020- taking the time under these restrictions to appreciate what’s on your doorstep.

Here is some dub splendour to match the sunset above from Dub Syndicate, a key part of the On U Sound stable. I was going to post the majestic, far out sounds of Ravi Shankar (Pt 1) but it turns out I’ve posted that before, back in 2017. Pounding System was the opening track on their 1982 album The Pounding System. The bass and drums/percussion are so precise but so loose in Sherwood’s hands. The horns seem to rise up from the mixing desk, levitating. Skanking guitar parts pop in and out. Every element in it’s own space and with room to breathe.

Pounding System

Strike The Balance

Some On U Sound heaviness for Friday, from 1989’s Dub Syndicate album Strike The Balance, a masterpiece of late 80s Sherwood dub production. This song is proper rootsy dub, all bass and echo and delay with Bim Sherman singing and a freaked out metallic Dalek vocal running through it. Towards the end some woodwind floats over the top. The rest of the album rocks too, the chanting of Hey Ho, a cover of Je T’Aime with Shara Nelson and closer I’m The Man For You Baby. Like most of Adrian Sherwood’s back catalogue, it is worth shelling out for.

Mafia

Money Dealers

Let’s end the week with some dub, a previously unreleased track from On-U Sound about to be part of a Dub Syndicate vinyl re-issue set (first four albums) and a cd anthology box (Ambience Dub 1982-1985). This is a heavy duty, wandering slice of Sherwood dub with Bim Sherman’s vocals floating above the rhythms. Echo, reverb, hisses, wobbles, sounds dropping in and out. FRiday has come and it’s not a second too soon.

Ravi

Here’s some spacey Adrian Sherwood dub from 1984 for your Sunday, making use of some Indian vibes and lashings of echo.

I had a longer post in mind but when it came to writing not much came out.

Ravi Shankar Pt 1

Shake The Nation

In 1996 I bought Prince Far I’s Cry Tough Dub Encounter Chapter 3, a dive further into dub. It was a re-issue of an early 80s release, full of deep basslines and space and sound FX, mixed by Dub Syndicate (Adrian Sherwood). I found it again recently when rifling through my records, having largely forgotten about it. The Voice of Thunder, as he styled himself, is in full effect on this album. Good stuff for a Sunday morning in July.

‘Prince Far I come shake the nation, Prince Far I come tell it to  the young generation’

Shake the Nation

Sherwood Forest

That Adrian Sherwood-LSK dub of Space Oddity I posted at the weekend got me back onto a Sherwood and On U Sound tip and going through my folders I found this from the Test Pressing website back in 2010, an hour long mix of dubbed out Sherwood delights. The original page is here, which also reveals the tracklist- African Head Charge, Dub Syndicate, Doctor Pablo (the Dr Who theme) and Creation Rebel. Sherwood’s output is so vast and varied that one nine-song mix can’t hope to do anything more than dip a toe into the waters. If you go here there’s a live dj stunning set done for The Boiler Room, with lashings of delay and reggae vibes, and a crowd who possibly didn’t know what they were in for.

Adrian Sherwood The Producers #1