Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
"It's Going To Be There Forever" part 2
I can't remember exactly when the last recording session for the Gypp EP Yaah! was done but I think it was a weekend in May. Now, for some reason, we found ourself in an old stable block, again on the Herts/ Essex border somewhere near Stansted. Once again, there was some reason why we couldn't record at any of the previous places. We were helped out by a nice hippy bloke called Barry, who was a sort of caretaker ( I think) for a stately home. He lived in a small cottage at the entrance of this place and had installed a primitive home studio in the old stable...This at least is what I remember. As I said, Gypp weren't really very experienced at recording. Peppercorn had experienced a bad time putting his guitar solos and overdubs on and had got a case of what he called 'studio head.' Everything took ages. We needed to overdub the sound of a thunderstorm on the end of one particular song Sister Darling. We spent way too much time on that. Finally, as often happens, everyone lost their objectivity and there we were on a Sunday night, still fiddling around with the final mix till the small hours. Pressure was really on now because the thing was being pressed the next week. I can't even remember how or when we all got home. But it had been compromises all the way and I don't think any of us were really convinced we'd got it right.
Finish it we did, however and off it went to be pressed. The wait for it to come back was interminable. I think we finally got the 1000 copies back at sometime in late June. The sleeve, which we'd wanted to be like a Roy Liechstenstein pastiche was done by our recording engineer Dave, a self-taught artist. It was pretty funny and quite lurid actually, but maybe the finish of the thing at the printing place might have been tighter. When it finally arrived we shoved it on the deck at our new bass-player's house. Although none of us would admiit it, the EP sounded singularly underwhelming. It hadn't been mastered or cut very loud. None of us knew, in those days, that it was a good idea to attend the actual 'cut', get several versions and say, ask for extra compression on it. These sort of things are only learned by long experience, if you do everything yourselves. The EP sounded weak, quiet and a little laboured. Understandably. It had been made in very difficult circumstances, in four separate locations, with a sick singer, a nervous guitarist and hard-pressed inexperienced recordists.
It was however, the very best that all of us could do and not one person involved in it, didn't give it their absolute best. It hadn't been enough though. Now came the killer punch: When the manager, Mr Two Pounds of Raw Mince announced that the records had arrived I said: "Oh great! Listen, I've arranged with Colchester's main music pub, to get it on the jukebox there. We can have it played there everynight. " The twat looked at me and said "'Fraid not. It's been pressed at 33rp.m.."
I practically fell over. I said "Whaaa!!" So we now had 1000 copies of a badly pressed, badly mastered weak EP, that we couldn't even play on a pub jukebox. Perfect. In addition to this, when you examined the label of the EP, above our label name in bigger letters than our own "Shy Talk Records" was the legend ACORN, the name of the firm who'd pressed the disc. In smaller letters above that were the words Transcription from client''s tape. It all helped to make the whole thing look rather amateurish and also, taught me something else about doing things yourself. It is this: In art projects, the minute that you let any production detail slip out of your area of control, no matter how tiny, someone, somewhere will go and fuck it up for you.
The Disc In Question
As we began to circulate the EP, the comments came in from friends ...and enemies. It 'hadn't quite caught our live power' was the kindest.' I took it much more personally than the other chaps in the band. For a start, I was younger and more egotistical. For another thing, I lived in Colchester, where people could be a little bitchier than I ever found people to be in the band's home town of Ipswich. Some musicians just laughed at me. What I didn't understand back in those days, was that your rivals don't slag you off because you haven't succeeded. They slag you off because they fear that you might succeed.
I was in a local rock band, which had toured Germany, which had a good stage act and which even though we were out of sync with the New Wave, looked like we might be actuallly going somewhere. Now we had a record out too. Of course the local knives would come out. My own girlfriend, then temporarily back home, while in company of our friends said to me." Oh Martin. Take it off. You know that everybody hates it."
Our Fans Liked Us, Though
Our loyal fans bought it though, and we gradually began shifting modest quantities at our gigs. Our German fans liked it too. They played it in the Gutersloh bars. I think Radio Orwell might have played it once or twice. It wasn't all bad news by any means. And all of us being stubborn East Anglian boys, we just carried on regardless. A few local papers gave the record reasonable reviews. No-one nationally, reviewed it at all. At first. This was a small mercy, actually, because when, three months later, a national review did finally appear, it would be a humiliation I was destined never to forget.