One Year in Portobello

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Has it really been a year? Tempus fugit.

When we started the recording, Sam had only been in the band two months. He was so young back then. Innocent. Fresh. Now look at him. Tarnished. Spent. Completely ruined as a human being, his hopes and dreams crushed; a soulless, tired hack like the rest of us. Only good for one thing. Jumping about like an idiot, making a bloody racket. And whilst I admit, it is fun, isn’t there more to life? Nothing that’s worth recording, that’s for sure.

Over the last year we have spent a considerable amount of time in the studio, but don’t forget, we aren’t exactly the hardest working band in the world. Whenever we get together there’s usually an hour spent smoking, drinking, talking shite and generally taking the piss out of and abusing one another. Oh aye, you should hear the banter! Even at a three hour rehearsal we’ll spend an hour sitting about scratching ourselves before we even play a note. Sort of getting into character. It’s very important for the esprit de corp. And so it is in the studio. The difference is that we have to be a bit more professional (ha!) and also flexible because we have been sneaking into the studio when we can, doing bits and pieces. Time is money and all that. And of course we aren’t signed to a label or anything, and so we are financing the whole thing ourselves from what we get paid for playing live. It’s quite a lot to juggle; our reasonably busy gigging schedule, the availability of studio, availability of Gav, availability of myself and the availability of whoever has to record. Only a couple of weeks ago Murray was in New York, Tom was in Italy and Matt was in Spain, so as you can imagine, it can be a headache juggling everyone‘s schedule, especially when no one is being paid. Planning is the key, as far in advance as possible. I’m the only person I know with a 2009 diary. I’ve said it so many times over the years, and I’ll say it again. Organising anything involving Bombskare is a bit like invading Iraq: it takes a year to plan, and if you don’t do it right, a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt. I’ve actually used a very similar strategy in the past, for getting the band to gigs that they didn’t really want to do. When we first gigged in Aberdeen, for example, I told the guys we were going up there to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Of course when we got there, the guys realised that this was bullshit, so then I explained that, actually, we were there to bring democracy to the region. They calmed down after that, and didn’t suspect for a second that what we were really there for was all that delicious north sea oil. Yum.

Almost everything is actually recorded now except for keyboards. We had recorded keys at the same time as the drums, followed by some overdubs later, but they were used as a guide for tuning, not the definitive takes. Now that everything else is down we wanted to re record the keys with our new Hammond organ. We were in the other day for five or six hours and got through about a quarter of what we need to do so another few days of that before we’re done. It was sounding great. Matt’s a terrific player and the organ sounds amazing, Ideally I would like to spend a lot of time trying out different sounds and experimenting a bit, but of course, time is of the essence. The trouble is that Matt is so busy working, and he is constantly out of the country, the bastard. He’s missed two out of the last four gigs so getting him into the studio is nigh on impossible at the moment. In fact he’s away for the next two weeks as well, in Ireland, and after checking his diary, my diary and Gav’s studio diary, there simply is no time before November that we can do even one session in, let alone two or three which is what it may well take to finish his parts on all the songs. Which brings me straight to the matter at hand. It doesn’t look like we will have this project finished before the end of the year. We will have the recording actually completed by Nov but its unlikely we will have it completely mixed and mastered before Christmas. We have been pressuring ourselves to have it done and dusted this year, but then there is the danger that we would rush the process, and start making compromises because of a self imposed deadline. We will probably have a single ready by December with some live tracks on it. Maybe. I will take this opportunity to mention again how fortunate we are to have Gav engineering. I’ve worked with Gav a bit before this recording. I played bass in Disciples of Panic Earth, Gav’s old band, for a couple of gigs. After this past year, Gav has become the eleventh member of Bombskare. I quite frankly don’t think that Verden is a particularly great studio, I mean, its OK, some decent outboard and microphones, but in the end its an Apple Mac with Cubase SX. Nothing special. The real advantage to working at Verden is working with Gav who knows his shit and has never once grown impatient or annoyed about the long hours or working with a band like us with our unusual and controversial work ethic. Hats off to Gav.

We’ve had a few gigs since Knockengorroch, the most anticipated of which were the two with Jerry Dammers. Apparently he’s quite well respected as a DJ, which I find quite a bizarre notion. Respecting a DJ? Nah! Only kidding, it’s a real skill (honest, they’re just like real musicians). Both gigs were pretty quiet, being billed as a Jerry Dammers night, with only slight mention of ourselves. The Amphetameanies had been playing with him on the Friday in Glasgow, so the following morning I asked Gordon how it went. He said it was dark, drunk and echoey, and that was just Jerry Dammers. In other words, pretty quiet. So the Saturday night was in Dundee in this mental wee place next to the bus station. Apparently it used to be a casino, and then a strip joint. Nice. We went on around 11pm to a reasonably quiet place. By the second half of our set the place was pretty busy and everyone was bouncing, so by the time Jerry came on to do his thing, the place was warmed up. Jerry himself is quite a reserved chap and didn’t really speak much to anyone, although he did shake Andy‘s hand after our set. We’d hoped to get him up with us and play some Specials tunes but it didn’t happen for some reason. I was a bit disappointed about that, but also secretly relieved (I don’t think he’s really good enough to be in our band). In the end, even though it wasn’t heavily promoted, most people were there to see us and left after we finished. Still, Jerry played a decent DJ set although I personally found it bizarre when he played Ghost Town and other Specials tunes, when he could have actually played them with us, but there you go, that’s the kind of guy I am, that’s the way I roll! The Sunday night was in Edinburgh at the Citrus Club and was basically an exact rerun of the previous night except it was a lot quieter. We hadn’t played in the Citrus since 2003. That was the night we were playing with Bad Manners, and Buster Bloodvessel had a hernia the same size as Oor Wullies bucket, and had to leave the stage half way through the set, leaving the band to finish the set instrumentally. It was awful watching him lurching about, clearly in some distress, trying to sing. He should have been in a hospital. I was convinced he was going to die that night. I was urging people who cared about such things to get his autograph that night, because he definitely looked like he would pop his clogs there and then.

We also played a gig in the student union out at Heriot Watt last week, on a Wednesday night which is unusual for us. We went down well with the students. We introduced a brand new song that night, ‘The Ballad of Lloyd Knibb’ (working title), dedicated to the patron saint of Bombskare, Mr Knibb. Not many people get to meet their patron saint, let alone have a drink and a smoke with them. But we did. That’s why we wrote a song about it. It went down surprisingly well considering it was its debut. One young lady kept flashing her lovelies at the band which was distracting. This has happened a few times of late and although I am a red blooded heterosexual male with all the accompanying benefits and design flaws, I confess to being confused. Is it intended as an insult, like flashing your arse at a policeman, or is it a compliment (‘hey guys, you’re doing a great job, I thought you might enjoy these’)? Don’t get me wrong, I aint complaining. Its just that if I was at a gig and wanted to express approval, I probably wouldn’t get the lad and shout “Hey, you ever seen one of these before? It’s a wee cracker, no?” Quite inappropriate I’m sure you would agree. Anyway I’m going to start calling these people breast hecklers, because their intent is clearly to disrupt our carefully planned and meticulously timed set.

We’ve a couple of gigs up in Inverness and Aviemore next week. However our next big gig is going to be our Skalloween party at the Exchange on the 2nd of November, which we are promoting ourselves. I realise we have over-played Edinburgh a bit this year but this is going to be the one. We are bringing New York Ska legends, The Toasters, up to Scotland as part of their 25th anniversary world tour. This is guaranteed to be a belter so get ready. Tickets will be £8 in advance. It might seem a pricey one for us, but the short answer to that is, buy a fucking ticket ya cheapskate! Do you think good Ska grows on trees! It costs twenty odd quid to watch Hearts ‘perform’ and they usually don’t play longer than a ninety minute set, excluding stoppage time, so in comparison it’s a total bargain. Plus unlike Hearts, after our performance you’re guaranteed to go home with a smile.

(I’ve included some shots with this post, from the last twelve months in Verden. Enjoy.)

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