Freaky creaky rollercoaster of a weekend so far!Mark Wilkinson left on Friday with Rob Ayling, my distributor and project manager but not until after crossing with Chris Kimsey at the Tyneside.Imperial guard reunion.
Chris is up here to begin forwarding the “Fellini Days” and “Field of Crows” remixes which exist on old and dusty hard drives that are held in metal trays with handles that lock into a unit that feeds into the old Mac I have from days gone by.It’s called a Glyph system and I bought it at the close of the last century.It’s ancient tech, clunky, slow and feeds into the Mac using a scuzzy drive!I’d held onto the Glyph rack only because I had old drives and this was the first time it had been wheeled out since 2004 when we’d recorded the “Crows” tour on the road.It had taken long enough to get the Pro Tools up and running with all the missing cables and then a missing i-lok key which was eventually found in an old chest containing master tapes and tour itineraries.Huge sigh of relief that lifted the roof that day.
Friday was beer, curry and back to listen to “Fellini Days” loud and hard on the Quad and Tannoy Golds in front of the fire with chilled Savvy Blank.
The sore head on Saturday didn’t help matters as we weighed up the task ahead.
The old Mac was wheeled out, dusted down and linked up to the Glyph.It all looked so simple until Chris pointed out we needed a small barrel key to lock in the drives to the rack and mount them into the ports.
It should have been in the machine.It wasn’t.
And that was when the weekend became like some sort of treasure hunt.
I searched cupboards, drawers,bags and boxes three times over by the beam of a mag light.We couldn’t do anything with out the key and the rack wasn’t something that you’d find easily these days as it had been superseded by far more glamorous and glitzy equipment.
I tried to visualize the key and ran through my memory with possible scenarios of where I could have put it or where it could have ended up.
Trawling through wire boxes in the garage,in old microphone cases,jiffy bags and tool cases, nothing glinted that served a purpose.
A call for help to Calum Malcolm sent us hurtling down to North Berwick along empty East Lothian back roads that had Chris open mouthed mentioning that it took him 40 mins to drive 2 miles to his local Sainsbury’s in Putney.I think he was getting slightly agoraphobic!
It was a fine moment introducing them to each other when we arrived at Calum’s studio.Two great friends of mine and two iconic producers who have contributed immensely to my career over the years.Calum’s son Cameron was there too and we caught a spare moment while awaiting the arrival of Paul Buchanan,the singer of “Blue Nile” who’s solo album Cameron had just produced and which they were about to listen to the master of.
As the banter flowed and compliments were exchanged the dilemma of the missing key was momentarily forgotten.I wished we’d had the opportunity to share a bottle of red wine or two and open up the story box as it was obvious the two producers hit it off as they started to wax lyrical about studio gear, microphones and the like.I just stood and listened in wonder and wished I’d remembered the camera!
Despite the desire to continue the conversation time was creeping along and we all had to return to our respective duties.Calum had found a key for a similar hard drive rack and we bid our farewells and headed back to my studio clutching our little silver token.I was sorry to miss catching up with Paul Buchanan again, a singer and person I greatly admire.
Returning elated to the control room our happy bubble was burst on discovering the key given to us by Calum didn’t fit the Glyph rack.Phone calls and texts to Stuart Hamilton at Schoolhouse studios in Pencaitland and again to Calum and Cameron who thought there may be someone in Glasgow with a Glyph rack wielded nothing although it was great getting in touch with old friends in the chase.
The search continued and widened as the afternoon wore on and down.Extremely unlikely options were pursued and I was going through the cupboards in the mail room when I noticed something shiny on the floor by the photocopier.It looked right but more in desperate wishing than expectancy I inserted the key in the rack.I was delirious with laughter when I not only discovered it fitted but actually worked and locked in the drive.
Chris and I were ecstatic and much hugging and jumping around in glee took place.
I couldn’t understand why it was there where I found it.The cleaner had been in there on Friday and there was no way she would have avoided seeing it.
I put it down to the poltergeist.
When Chris was here producing the first ever album in the studio,”Internal Exile” there had been strange goings on with equipment and things being “misplaced”. It caused a lot of tearing out of hair at the time and eventually Thomas our German engineer, who had been getting freaked out completely by affairs, even refusing to go into the main room to switch of lights the end of sessions,declared there were ghosts on the premises.
It got to him so much that while on a break for a short holiday in Italy he consulted a medium who advised him to light some Italian sage and let the smoke waft through the studio.
He returned and did as he was told.Amazingly the incidents stopped, equipment that had erratic malfunctions worked smoothly and the vibe of the studio changed into a far more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.
What raised the hair on the back of our necks was when I told them that the building before it was converted into the studio had been used to house Italian prisoners working as farm laborers during WW2!
Another medium I met later put it down to energies being disrupted by the massive building work and moving of walls and foundations when the studio was built and the sage had calmed down the spirits upset by the upheaval.
(I actually found an Italian military button while digging holes for the trees in the orchard a couple of years ago)
Maybe it was the poltergeist recognising Chris on his return and decided to play with us?
The session began for real and the 9 Glyph drives were ready to be downloaded to the Mac.
Or so we thought.
That was when we realised the Mac had been upgraded and the newer software version wouldn’t “talk” to the Glyph.Cue the beginning of endless calls from Chris to his tech advisor down in London which resulted in him having to “dumb down” the computer to an earlier version.
All the workings in the various pieces of equipment were so agonisingly slow the job took on epic proportions.
These were relics Chris was dealing with from just past the age of clockwork.
The drives started to deliver information on screen and we found “Field of Crows” material from live and studio sessions.They were all vaguely marked and there was no catalogue information to hand.Every drive that I’d found in the equipment drawer had a film of dust that had crept in when I’d sanded the control room floor in 2009 and we feared the worse every time one was inserted.
Only one I had found in my desk,wrapped in a jiffy bag upon which was written “Fellini Master”. The only one in pristine condition.
And as was the curve of our weekend it was the only one that wouldn’t load up.The hard drive didn’t move or make a sound in the rack when it was locked in.And there didn’t seem to be a copy!
We’d got really excited the previous night listening to “Fellini Days” and our disappointment was tangible.
I Skype called Elliot Ness in Israel on a juddering connection to see if he could remember anything about other copies that could be around but he couldn’t remember.A pointer to Calum maybe having a copy on his files led us nowhere and I was left facing the prospect of having only one damaged hard drive that would somehow have to be opened unless another showed up out the blue or the Poltergeist left one lying around somewhere.It was unbelievable that there wasn’t a copy made.
Chris, as he was to do all weekend, continued to be positive and I went in search of the possibility of a copy somewhere in the studio.This time it was a fruitless search.
The night drew to a close and a Chinese takeaway lifted our spirits while the white wine took away some of the pain from the gnashing of teeth.A fine evening before the launch of a new set of problems next day.
Chris was up and at work early.I couldn’t help with anything and was redundant in the face of techy dealings.
The day wore on as the old mac wouldn’t talk to the new Mac where the pro tools were linked.Reboots of the ancient versions took forever,loading info was e mailed up from London to be put on a disc to reboot the forever crashing programmes that crawled onto the screen.
I take every hat that I own off to Chris.He was brilliant.An occasional scream was soon replaced by chuckling and whoops of celebration, his moods only darkened for an instant before he buoyed himself, regained composure and found another surge of positivity.
At the end of the day he had discovered the multi tracks of the entire “Field of Crows” album, downloaded them to 2 separate hard drives outside the Glyph and workable on a more modern mixing set up in his studio in London.
At least we had one album to hand and when listening to the existing CD that night and comparing it to the “Sunsets” sound, ideas of approaches to mixes began to take shape.
I am genuinely excited at what Chris will bring to the album after all these years and I am sure it will take on a very different dimension to the 2004 version.
The only downer is the missing “Fellini Days” master.
Chris researched the possible avenues and I have been in contact with a couple of labs today to see if it is a possibility.
I too am staying positive about the outcome and just praying we don’t find unusable data, or worse, that the material on the hard drive are not the multi tracks we need.
Part of my mind is still raking though possibilities that there exists somewhere in this building one, if not two, Glyph drives containing the songs.
It was magical having Chris up here again in the Studio.He met Tara for the first time and she now has a new “uncle”!:-)
My parents were also delighted to see him again and as always he charmed and smiled throughout the weekend.
I love the man dearly having both been through the mill over the years and both surviving the sharp rocks that have sometimes been thrown at us, it’s truly wonderful to be in his company.
We know that somewhere down the road we will be in a studio together again creating some diamonds from the rough.