....continued from part-1
On the Relaxing with Insert, all your equipment seemed to be broken or in repair, what did you manage to salvage & did the DIY Gaffer Distortion survive?
Still have the Gaffer pedal but don’t use it live. Originally I think it was Jeff Smiths’ of Nailsea’s finest ‘Reich Stag Fire’ fame, a school mate of Delwyns’ and had Fat Paul on the drums.
Only just sold my 18” cab, first cab I ever used but the rest went awhile ago. The Peavey broke, probably due the very damp conditions we practised in. Burman combo was superseded by a Burman 200 head and 4 by 12” cab. Used the combo as a practice amp. Burman amps are great don’t know why they’re never held in the same esteem as Hiwatt or Orange.
Rickenbacker was stolen in Germany the first time we went to mainland Europe. Over partying and the excitement of playing abroad I didn’t pay too much attention to my bass on our first night, fortunately they didn’t take all the guitars but Proff did have a go at the German nutters on a radio interview the next day. Didn’t realise it had gone until we arrived at the next venue (Hannover I think), I thought it was a joke. Motorpsycho’s driver was really kind and let me use his Fender for the next few dates until I managed to buy the Guild, which is a great simple no frills reliable bass.
Sold the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff to Pricey not so long ago. Hadn’t used it for ages after getting an Electro-Harmonix Switch Blade splitter but it started the whole idea of splitting the signal to two different amps for me.
(Hugo's Insert for 'Relaxing With' vinyl)
The Heads, like Rocket share a love for the sound of Fuzz & Distortion, what is it about that particular vibrations of amplified air once its passed through a simple effect box that is so attractive to our ears?
Having experimented with several sorts of fuzz / distortion pedals to find a good one for my set up, I think that i’ve found an overdriven valve amp sounds the best, not necessarily a pedal, just turning up the amp and pushing those valves. But when you’re in the controlled situations of recording or on stage the engineers tend not to be on your side, we’re constantly being told to turn down whereas in the rehearsal room you manage to get the volume and overdriven sound, admittedly this can lead to a volume stand off between the guitars, drums get lost in the mix and if keyboards are involved the piercing sine wave will penetrate every thing else.
I’ve used a 90’s re-issue of a Fuzz Face, original Big Muff and Deluxe Big Muff and although great pedals they seem to lose a lot of definition for the bass in the overall mix of the track. Whether this is because they are primarily guitar and not bass pedals I don’t know. The Gaffer pedal is so basic it seems to distort all frequencies and the CBS Arbiter Octaver / Distortion pedal because of it’s octave function gives a wide variety of tones and sustain with the fuzz. I also use a Rat distortion for the top end.
Remember my first proper stereo I had, managed to plug my bass into either the mic or headphone socket and it sounded awesome, especially loud. That lasted for a bit 15 mins before I blew up the stereo. Didn’t do that again. When you first get a guitar and amp the first thing you do is turn it up and play loud, immerse yourself in the sound, gives you a feeling of trying to tame an almost uncontrollable sound. Also perhaps it stems back to being an adolescent and annoying your parents / neighbours, how could they possibly understand that you need to get that sound, how could they comprehend the rebellion of youth ?
Don’t forget though it’s a great turd polisher, covers so many little mistakes, our tracks played clean would mean trying to record them would be an almost impossible task. It’d be interesting to hear your take on the attractiveness of distortion.
Billy Fuller from Beak> uses a Russian Bass Fuzz Pedal, made from old USSR tank parts, what recycled military hardware would you utilise in the Heads arsenal?
Suppose some people may say we play intense Space Rock, so a bit of military space hardware would be good but can’t for the life or me think of any U.K. space hardware. Also might be made of too light a material to be durable. Would like it to be British. My grandparents used to have an ashtray made from a First World War shell, so perhaps some First World War tank hardware or even from a Dreadnought. I know you wanted me to say something from a German Tiger tank but I think I ought to stick to my British roots.
I remember Lemmy mentioning that he was once wheeled on stage to play when he was in Hawkwind because he’d overdone brainstorming into the void. Have you ever ‘taken off’ too much while you’ve been playing?
A few times i’ve ‘taken off too much’. Probably the worst time was our first appearance at Ashton Court Festival with The Heads. We came on at least an hour later than we had been billed either because of previous bands over running or as I blamed at the time on the Montpelier Bongo Collective doubling the length of their set. I had planned a concoction of H.S.L and weed to be at just the right levels for when we we’re scheduled to play but due to the extra hour of hanging around was a wasted mess, the sort you’d equate with a resident of Turbo Island, not nice. Playing the wrong songs, on footage (yes it was videoed) although some of the poses I were pulling look very Cock Rock, Wayne, who was stone cold sober as he was driving the van that day, was staring daggers at me all the way through. Can’t blame him at all as he’d stayed sober for a good performance only to be ruined by a drunken, stoned messed up knob jock - Me ! Worst thing was it’s the first and only time my parents have seen The Heads. Got the usual response of ‘you’d be disappointed if we said we enjoyed it’ and my Dad was paranoid that he’d get mugged for his Nikon camera. Although he did say he was impressed I didn’t stand on my shades which had fallen off within the first minute of the set.
From that point I tried to keep that kind of inebriation till after the gig, just four cans of HSL and a few smokes before setting foot on stage.
What’s is the weirdest experience you had playing on stage?
There’s been a few. One of the earliest I can recollect was in the basement at the Rummer with Dave Spencer on guitar, there was a girl with dreads wearing dungerees just running round in a big circle in front of the stage throughout our set, with about 5 other people there. Then when we toured with The Mice, on the last night in Worcester they came on behind us with ladders, again to an audience of about 10 people this time.
Two other times youd’ve been doing lights for us in mainland Europe. First at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, your light show made us ‘ disappear’ from the stage utilising strobes with the lights, same night turning round to watch Wayne and seeing him playing in slow motion. Second was in Leuven, in Belgium. We were playing, Simon Healy at the back of the venue with his merch table when the Maastricht Anarchy Posse turned up with an enormous wooden rainbow they had made specially for the event, they even had to saw off the ends to fit it through the door. They decided the best place for this was above Healy and the look on his face was priceless, it certainly wasn’t that of joy. However we did seem to locate the European cousin of the Meakin / Greeny hybrid.
The last one I can think of at the moment was when we played ‘ Pink Altamont ‘ in Newcastle. A small festival in the backyard of a pub down by the waterfront under some railway arches. Jazzfinger and the Sandyford Stooges played and we headlined. Things that stick in my mind is the woman in the ‘ enjoy cock’ t-shirt, lack of stage and us playing an hour improvised set to some very big drunk geordies giving it some down the front, literally a foot in front of me. But what really took me be surprise was when the fire breather started up right behind me. I didn’t see him set up whilst we were playing, first I was aware someone was fire breathing behind me was when I heard a big whoosh of flammable liquid ignite in the air just over my head. After the initial shock and getting a red hot head I calmed down only to find the three pints of Guinness i’d purchased and secreted in a safe place for after our gig had been tainted with paraffin. The bar had closed once we’d finished so I had no choice but to drink them. Paul however had an adverse effect to a little bit of paraffin in his drink. So he got to sit in the front of the van all the way back to Bristol that night even though we had a lady travelling with us. Manners hey - only joking Paul, don’t get paranoid.
(On tour with 'The Mice')
One a number of occasions Ive seen the live monster that The Heads can be, where the rhythm section locks into a Krautrock Motorhead & the guitars conflict sonic weaponry on the senses in a succession of layered Fuzz, this has tended to happen when the sound man has understood what you are about, how important live is it to have someone manning the sound desk as a 5th member that can turn it into the powerful force it can be?
It’s very important, which makes the next statement even worse, we’ve never really had one. Neil ‘Orange Peel’ used to do our sound in the early days. Gareth and Latch have done it a few times in the past but we’ve never had a dedicated sound person. Means it’s a complete lottery if we get a good sound, depending on venue and which night you’re there.
Had a bad experience in Nottingham Rock City on tour with The Mice. Set up in the back room, lugged all our equipment in, only to have the soundman take all my amps apart trying to get rid of the buzzing sound in a very condescending manner. Who the fuck is going to notice a little buzz in the background when we start playing ? But Mr. Soundman was adamant and in the end I had to just d.i., ( direct inject - the instrument is plugged straight into the mixing desk without using an amp and microphone) which sort of defeats the whole point of us playing live.
You live and learn so now I split my signal and d.i. it aswell. I’ve also found being friendly to the in-house soundman helps too, they’re not going to give you a great sound if you rub them up the wrong way, they’re only doing their job and some days you don’t want to go to work. Having said that you can play venues and the sound is amazing
Other thing you’ve got to take into consideration is that we don’t hear what’s coming out the P.A. we just hear the monitors on stage and our amps when we play live. These can be very different, we can come off stage thinking the sound was awful only to be told the sound was awesome. Or the other much worse way of having a great sound on stage to be told it sounded shit out front. We have tussled for years trying to get a good live sound but have never been in the position to be able to pay someone to do it, it’s very much in the Lap of the God’s. Think that would be one of the things at the top of our wishlist, to transfer perfectly our sound in the rehearsal room to the stage.
To be continued.....