Monday, 4 March 2019

Unfathomable Lyrics

There are many songs on Dayglo Fishermen's vast back-catalogue of albums that contain quite unusual lyrics. This is part of the appeal of the band, but it can also cause confusion and even frustration as to what the meaning behind the lyrics actually is. There is never an official explanation, and that is probably because the band wants the listeners to make up their own minds, or interpret things in relation to their own lives.

One song in particular has been the subject of great debate, but so far a comprehensive and widely accepted definition of its true meaning has yet to emerge. That song is, of course, 'Flaxen', from the band's 1993 album, 'Animate'. It's heavy drums and bass, drenched in gated reverb, pound away relentlessly as some of the most unfathomable lyrics in history are unleashed.

The cover image for Dayglo Fishermen's 1993 album, 'Animate'


The song contains four distinct sections of lyrics, so let's take each in turn. First I will attempt to explain the story. Only then can a possible meaning, if indeed there is one, become clear.

Part One

Listen, extraordinary
Legendary, driving, pounding
Disenchanting harmonies
Need settlement inside a globe
Relocate the spinal chimes
Within its clamouring confines
Of masquerading slimy, shiny
Apple-feasting fools
I consider the 'harmonies' mentioned in line three as some kind of intelligent beings. The preceding adjectives suggest that they are quite amazing, famous, but ultimately disappointing creatures. They need to be moved into some kind of globe, for protection from something yet to be revealed. Within the globe are apple-eating entities, but they are 'masquerading'. This suggests that they cannot be trusted. But what else can the harmonies do but join them?

Part Two

Phantoms silhouetted sharply
Petrify the incandescent
Bodies that revolve around and round
The focal point of sound
Eradicate with shrewd precision
Dissonant, mischievous tones
Purify and fully mend
The madness: it must end
The phantoms are without doubt what the harmonies are fleeing from. Whatever they are, they appear suddenly from the direction of the light to mask their approach. They terrorise the harmonies as they go about their business at 'the focal point of sound': their home. The time has come for the phantoms to be destroyed. The whole area must be cleansed of their presence before peace and sanity can return.

Part Three

Shadows casting incantations
Spectral ghouls from fiendish nations
Trample massively upon
The sound assembled cunningly
Grievous situations need
Omnipotence excessively
The Mystic Mite of flaxen flesh
Must rule the waves of pain
A great war takes place. 'Spectral ghouls' - beings from numerous worlds - unite against the phantoms, but the phantoms prove to be a formidable foe. With the situation becoming desperate, and defeat almost inevitable, the harmonies and their allies call upon the 'Mystic Mite', an immortal and golden-skinned entity, for help.

Part Four

They caterwaul atrociously
Then stress-fully depart the sphere
As glowing grinning escalating
Soaring symphonies unfold
'Agonising tones!' they wail
Cringing as their size reduces
Flinching densely as coercion
Shapes a singularity
The Mystic Mite's almost god-like powers prove to be most effective. The phantoms, who had surrounded the globe where the harmonies had fled to, scream and disperse as the Mystic Mite's extraordinary capability is unleashed. But they cannot escape. The Mystic Mite forms a singularity - a super-dense point of matter with an inescapable gravitational field - right next to the phantoms. They are crushed by the singularity's incredible forces and effectively vanish.

Peace returns. The harmonies are safe, or so they may think.

Choruses

The choruses are filled with quickly spoken and often mumbled Japanese, which is largely incomprehensible. The final chorus closes with a repeated phrase which translates to English as follows:

This is the facsimile mode

How does this relate to the story? Perhaps this is a warning to the harmonies? Perhaps the apple-feasting fools are not really their friends? After all, they are described as 'masquerading'. Perhaps they are involved in some sort of cloning activity, and invited the harmonies into their globe with malicious intent? Could the globe be the 'facsimile mode'?

It seems that the harmonies, desperate to escape the phantoms, failed to see the mortal danger that faces them once the Mystic Mite leaves. Their fate within the 'facsimile mode' may well end up worse than the one they would have suffered at the hands of the phantoms.

The Meaning?

I have let my thoughts dwell on these lyrics for quite some time, but any deep meaning eludes me. I suspect there isn't any. At most it is telling us that there is safety in numbers, and that it is wise to maintain a good relationship with those that can help you in a crisis. And it is also useful to know someone very powerful who you can call on during the very worst times.

But it is also telling us to beware of those that offer help too readily. However desperate you become for help, always remember to read the small print.

If there is a deeper meaning then the lyrics will need many more years of study to uncover it. That is no bad thing. Many works of art are discussed and reinterpreted again and again for decades, even centuries. Such efforts can arguably be more enjoyable and satisfying that the artwork itself. That may well be the case here.




Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Quietly in Production

It's well over three years since the release of Dayglo Fishermen's last studio album, 'Midnight Souls Still Remain'. But there still has not been much official news about the new album that's currently in production.

The first, and barely noticeable, confirmation that a new album is in the works appeared on the band's official website early in 2017. Look at the first entry on the history page for 2017. It's probably the most low-key announcement of the commencement of a new album that the band has ever made.

A year later on this blog a little bit more information on the new album was revealed in the article 'Instruments of Mass Destruction', indicating that it will be largely instrumental. It is mentioned as almost an after thought: a casual comment to finish off what is a remarkably insightful read. That brief comment will certainly have set the minds of fans racing.

Unfortunately no more details than that are available, and it's unlikely that anything else will be officially revealed until very close to the album's release. But, for well over a year now, there have been numerous signs that things are progressing steadily. A sustained increase in activity has been noticed at the band's main production facility, Cozmic Studios, and also at their South London production suite, Mammoth Studios.

Such activity does not provide any clue as to what the new album will sound like, but the more observant among you may well have noticed other recent changes that could offer up some idea as to the sound of the new album. For example, it did not go unnoticed that the band debuted a new synthesiser at their 2016 Limelight Theatre concert - the Roland FA-06.

A major clue as to how the new Dayglo Fishermen album might sound was spotted at the band's most recent Limelight Theatre concert in 2016. That clue is the band's new synthesiser, the Roland FA-06, which was debuted without warning. It can be seen here being played by Peter Fothergill.

The rich sampled and synthesised tones of the keyboard can be heard on the recording of that concert, titled 'Midnight Souls Come (a)Live', and on the numerous concert DVD exerts on the band's YouTube channel. Listening and watching those gives tantalising hints as to the aural textures that can be expected on the new album.

More unconfirmed information seems to have been leaked directly from Dayglo Fishermen's production facilities. It's been said that there is a new guitar and new effects equipment at Cozmic Studios. And there's even another new synthesiser at that studio: a Korg Krome workstation.

Cozmic Studio's new Korg Krome Workstation, seen here in an exclusive photo taken in the facility's digital composition suite. 

Finally, it's no secret that Cozmic Studios was recently converted into a state-of-the-art 32-track recording studio, which will certainly influence the sound of the new album, and add new depth to the band's compositions. Recording and mix-down will now remain entirely in the digital domain, which will result in a clarity of sound never before heard - an intoxicating prospect.


Daylo Fishermen's new 32-track digital recording suite

All of the above shows that the band are investing heavily in keeping their sound current and relevant, and are maximising their ability to realise their creativity.

Of course, trying to imagine how the new album will sound is an almost impossible task, even with the clues mentioned above. Dayglo Fishermen are never predictable. It's best to just wait for the album's release, however long and grueling that wait may be.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Painting Aliens

It's 20 years since the release of Dayglo Fishermen's now classic pop album 'Painting Aliens'. Written, produced, engineered and released over the course of only one year, the album is a remarkable blend of the band's unique quirkiness with traditional pop.

For many the album is quite simply Dayglo Fishermen's finest collection of songs ever.

The CD cover image for the 'Painting Aliens' album. It was designed by former band member David Fothergill.

Almost immediately after the release of their album 'Space Dog' in August of 1997, and no doubt on a high from that album's reception and success, the band reconvened in Opium Studios, their main production facility at the time. With intense focus, and with the level of creativity at its most potent, several tracks were recorded within just a couple of months, including 'Love Rescue Me', 'Voodoo' and 'Circus'. The new album was rapidly taking shape. Its feel and direction were clear.

In early 1998 production had to be halted for a while as the band and its equipment moved to a new recording facility, Aqua-Lisa Studios. The band used that downtime to organise a photo shoot for the new album's cover.

The band photo for the album cover, taken in early 1998 by photographer Steve Wright

Moving to a new recording facility was a risky move while in the middle of a production; one that had the potential to disrupt the creative flow. But fortunately it seemed to have quite the opposite effect. A desperate desire to get back to writing and recording resulted in another couple of months of frenzied work, with the likes of 'Something's Watching', 'Underground' and 'Passion' created during this period.

By the time summer arrived the music for the album had been completed. The band contacted former band member David Fothergill and asked him once again to design the cover. The design he created was a perfect fit for the songs, and has become as iconic as the music itself.

In August 1998, exactly a year after the release of 'Space Dog', Dayglo Fishermen released 'Painting Aliens'. It was a remarkably fast turn around, and yet the 13 tracks on the album feel in no way rushed. The album received immediate praise, and it is now generally accepted to be one of the band's most finely crafted collections of music.

Calls were once again made for Dayglo Fishermen to perform live.

Six months later those calls were answered. The 'Painting Aliens' concert tour started in February 1999 at the Rock Garden, a subterranean venue in London's famous Covent Garden.

Dayglo Fishermen performing at the Rock Garden, London in February 1999. It was the first concert of the 'Painting Aliens' tour. This image shows the band in the closing moments of what was a truly epic performance of the song 'Voodoo'.

The final concert of the tour took place in October 1999 at The Garage, in Buckinghamshire, very close to the band's primary production facility. It was an intimate and private affair, with specially invited guests only: a fitting way to end the album's promotion, and the perfect way to thank the band's closest supporters.

It's time to review the music itself:

The album's title track, 'Painting Aliens', starts things off. It was written late on in the production process and is an energy-packed and instantly appealing sci-fi themed song tinged with the expected Dayglo Fishermen oddness. The song is about an alien that visits Earth in a red and blue saucer ship. The alien reveals he has learned our language from our books: not the easiest way to do it when you're not on this planet. And he also knows how to cook. He eventually takes someone for a ride in his saucer, leaving them in a daze. It's a light, catchy and amusing way to begin the album. And things only get better.

The second song, 'Underground', maintains the tempo but alters the mood significantly with a much denser sound. The track begins with a rough distorted keyboard sound, accompanied by a mournful guitar. The rhythm soon kicks in and a strong synth bass and chugging guitar grips the listener as the verse begins. The following chorus oozes smooth power as the now echoing vocals become serious and determined. And if that isn't enough, the middle section contains what is probably the most intense and dramatic keyboard solo in the band's history. It's no wonder that this is the most eagerly anticipated track whenever the band play live.

'Something's Watching' slows things down a bit, but despite its highly melodic nature there is still an air of tension as the song's subject matter - paranoia and alien impregnation - mesmerises the listener. The percussion is light but relentless, and is accompanied by a smooth bass and a gentle guitar line. As the verse progresses subtle pitch-bended keyboard sounds are introduced in the background, enhancing the sense of eeriness. Sliding guitars in the chorus boost that sensation even further. It's easy to see why this song has become one of Dayglo Fishermen's most popular tracks, and one that's been performed live at every concert since its release.

The inside image of the 'Painting Aliens' CD cover

The next track. 'Blue', lightens the mood significantly. The brushed drums, plucked bass, acoustic/electric guitar mix and electric piano give the song a soft Jazzy feel, with Ginny's confident and gentle vocals lifting things up to something that is truly pleasant. The track gives the impression that the album is switching direction to something happier and more carefree. But that is not the case.

Deep strings and a distant distorted guitar herald the start of 'Voodoo', a re-recording of a song the band originally released on their eponymous album, 'The Dayglo Fishermen', five years earlier in 1993. This version feels much more orchestral as the rich keyboard string section leads the listener through the entrancingly sung verses and choruses, all accompanied by heavy drums and a rich bass line. Dropping right down to almost nothing, the middle section slowly builds to an epic keyboard and guitar solo leading into the final chorus. It's a magnificent experience. 

'Appetite' comes next, and is actually a re-working of the song 'The Sense of You', which featured on one of Richard and Peter's other works titled 'After the Storm', released in 1992. It's an enticing and joyful high-tempo track with punchy drums and bass. Light guitar and a dominant piano riff fills the chorus and the lengthy middle section, which at times seems to drift into a Latin feel. It all results in a positive and fun piece of music.

There are many aspects of circuses that are often considered disturbing (clowns in particular). The next track, 'Circus', seems to capture that feeling quite well. With a very light up-tempo feel the verse starts things off nicely enough, accompanied by soft vocals. But the chorus that follows descends into something quite threatening as harsh guitars, an unnerving synthesiser riff and a forceful vocal performance change the mood significantly. 'Circus' was performed live only once at the Redeye in Islington, London in early 1998 as part of a short preview concert for the album.

The only known images of Dayglo Fishermen performing at the Redeye in London in February 1998. The exclusive event was a preview concert for the 'Painting Aliens' album, which was released six months later. The songs played were 'Love Rescue Me', 'Appetite', 'Blue', 'Voodoo' and 'Circus'.

'Love Rescue Me' is an edgy high tempo song. Its straight but powerful drum track races along with synth a bass that pulses in from nowhere to complete each bar. The guitar is particularly good, with distant arpeggios and staccato power chords in the verses. A pitch-bending keyboard riff sits ominously behind the vocals in the chorus, with more distant guitar finishing things off. This song was written very early on in the production of the album which is why it would have been a good fit for the previous album, too. It has a sound that seems to straddle both.

Songs about predatory females are not common, so the next track, 'Sharks', is a welcome addition to the genre. With its squidgy bass sound, electronic drums and its spooky goings-on in the background, the song paints an eerie picture in the listener's mind. Its message is basically beware, be wise, and know what you're getting yourself involved in - important in all aspects of life. After this, the third rather tense track in a row, it would be right for things to lighten up.

'Foreign Affair (JS Bach)' is one of the gentlest songs that the band has ever written, and it comes at just the right moment on the album. Its soft percussion, which ebbs and flows beneath the melodic guitar arpeggios, perfectly complements the beautifully sung vocals. Underpinning all of this are mellow and wispy keyboards sounds, with a swelling synth lifting the middle section. There's an unexpected and almost groaning keyboard sound ever-present right in the background. It's a subtle touch that completes what could be considered the perfect song to drift away to.

The cassette cover for the 'Painting Aliens' album

The band raided Richard and Peter's other work once again for the next song - a new version of 'Another World', featured on the 1990 album 'Love's a Dangerous Language'. With its title shortened to 'World', the track oozes menace from the outset; an almost shocking contrast to the previous song. A punchy bass and a powerful synth line start things off, with a simple and relentless drum track pounding throughout. Dense distorted guitar fills the background. Richard's incredibly rough vocal fits the verses perfectly, with Ginny taking over for the choruses. The track develops some space towards the end, and then fades out: a rare event on a Dayglo Fishermen song.

The penultimate track on the album is widely considered to be the band's dance floor classic. 'Passion' wastes no time in getting down to business. Its deep bass, orchestral stabs, electronic drums and sensual and suggestive vocals entrance the listener with immediate effect. Subtle guitar licks skirt around the soundscape, turning into an echoing riff as the chorus take hold. It's an energising experience, and the song is demanded for every Dayglo Fishermen performance. The reaction of audiences whenever it's played makes it easy to understand why the band are more than happy to oblige.

Dayglo Fishermen excel at instrumental tracks, and 'Irritating Cliché', the final track of the album, marks a welcome return to such compositions after being noticeably absent on 'Space Dog'. A rough breathing sound introduces us to a gradually building symphony of breathy keyboard sounds. This is soon joined by a fast percussive sequence, and string sounds are quickly layered into the mix. At the halfway point this all drops away and is replaced by a soft synthesiser pad and mellow, almost melancholic, guitars. This continues, building once again, until the breathing returns and the track finishes as it starts. A sudden and perfect way to end the album.

Those who have heard 'Painting Aliens' would be forgiven for thinking that Dayglo Fishermen had sold out to commercialism, and that the band were chasing some easy hits and even adulation. But there's nothing to suggest that in the production notes. The band were simply writing and recording what they felt like doing, just as they always have and always will. Nothing was contrived. Nothing was planned. Each track on the album is of its time: created in the moment, and for that moment.

And what a fine collection of moments that turned out to be.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Shooting in the Woods

When it comes to locations for band photo shoots Dayglo Fishermen almost always chose somewhere local to where they are recording or performing. There is never a desire to go anywhere even remotely exotic. The band likes to keep things authentic and maintain as close a connection as possible to the music.

During the band's early years, from 1990 to 1994, there was one location in particular that Dayglo Fishermen visited for photo sessions: the woods on a hill to the west of Hexham, Northumberland, just a short walk from what was then the band's only production facility: Artlite Studios.

The first major shoot in those woods was in early 1992 during the recording of the 'Magic Organ' album. The photographer, Mark Chapman, masterfully captured the tension of the music and the mood of the band, with the straight and almost bare trunks of the trees in the background adding a level of bleakness and melancholy to the scene.

The official photo from the first Hexham woods shoot in 1992, taken during the production of the 'Magic Organ' album. From left to right: Peter Fothergill, Sean Wills, Richard Burton and Eamonn Maddick.

Another photo from the 1992 shoot.


An excellent group photo, but missing the dramatic angle of the one finally chosen


The second major shoot was a year later in early 1993. Dayglo Fishermen now consisted of just Peter and Richard, and the shoot was for the cover image of the forthcoming album 'The Dayglo Fishermen'. The photographer, J. Lorne Inglis, needed to create a lighter and more contemplative impression, and he succeeded. The resulting photos, especially the one finally selected for the cover, illustrate the dramatic change of mood in the band from the previous year. It was a perfect complement to the album's music.

The success of the shoot is all the more impressive if the weather is taken into consideration. It was a bitterly cold and grim day, and the lack of any insulating clothing meant that the band suffered considerably, with fears of hypothermia mentioned in the notes. Such torturous conditions are not apparent in the photos, which is a testament to the band's professionalism. Or perhaps the band was simply in a state of cold-induced delirium...

The photo chosen to feature on the cover of the band's 1993 album 'The Dayglo Fishermen'. Peter Fothergill (left) and Richard Burton.

The chosen photo as it appears on the 'The Dayglo Fishermen' album cover. Design by J. Lorne Inglis.

Interesting close-ups, but not quite right for the album

If a print of this photo was found in an attic it could well be mistaken for one that was taken in the late 19th century

Within a couple of years of that 1993 photo shoot the woods were cut down. The landscape became truly desolate, but it may well have appealed to Dayglo Fishermen had they not long since moved south to a slightly warmer climate. The woods, so I'm reliably informed, were soon replanted and have since grown back to their former glory.

If the band becomes nostalgic perhaps they'll be found in those woods again one day.


Thursday, 1 February 2018

Instruments of Mass Destruction

In an exclusive article, Dayglo Fishermen band member Richard Burton finally reveals the influences and secrets of the incredible guitar sounds he creates for the band's albums...

Through the years fans have continually asked me how I achieved certain sounds and effects from my guitar as heard on classic Dayglo Fishermen songs. Now I’m finally going to reveal all! 

Northern Days

The first ever recording of my guitar work took place in March 1988 (yes that long ago!) at Peter’s studio on a track called ‘Secrets of Passion’ which employed my first classic guitar set-up of Hohner Stratocaster (the blonde one, below), Carlsbro Hornet 45 watt combo and Pearl chorus and Ibanez analogue delay pedals. It's a very 80’s sounding set-up which can be heard all the way through our first solo album ‘L’Amour de la Vie’, think Andy Summers, The Edge etc.

The guitars used on Dayglo Fishermen's albums, seen here at the band's Cozmic Studios production facility

This sound was soon supplemented with an Ibanez flanger pedal which featured heavily on the next couple of ‘solo’ albums with Peter ‘Sensations Without Thoughts’, ‘Love’s a Dangerous Language’ and especially on ‘Curious Comforts of Obsession’ on tracks like ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opium’.

In a parallel universe a band called the Dayglo Fishermen was stirring! Enter David (Dave) Fothergill who would use my equipment on the first Dayglo Fishermen album ‘Drenched’ to great effect. There is some nice ambient guitar throughout the album especially on ‘Easy Projector’.

Loving the first Dayglo Fishermen album so much, and having worked with Peter over the past few years, I pushed myself into the band! And so began my journey with the Dayglo Fishermen.

The first album I worked on was ‘Strange Plaice’ from 1991, which is probably the most fun I have ever had in a recording studio – lots of jokes and cartoons come to mind! But as far as the guitar was concerned I was finding my feet, trying to mesh with the keyboards and add something original to the mix. The sounds were a mix of delay, chorus and flanger with occasional overdriven guitar (through my amplifier), trying to emulate the sounds/styles of Prince, Cocteau Twins, Def Leppard etc.

Recording 'Strange Plaice' at Artlite Studios, circa January 1991. I'm in the centre holding my Hohner Stratocaster. Such sessions were cramped, frenetic and fiercely creative. The other band members (left to right) are David Fothergill, Peter Fothergill (back left), Peter Carmichael and Eamonn Maddick. Top right is Richard Carmichael, who was a guest artist on the previous album, 'Drenched', and who just happened to be visiting the studio.

This sound was employed for the next few albums – ‘Fresh Gin’, ‘And So It Is’ – but change was on the horizon.  Around early 1992 the musical world was waking up to heavier guitar oriented music in the form of Grunge and ‘Achtung Baby’. Not that we could ever emulate this sound, nonetheless we certainly went for a heavier guitar sound which was reflected in our ‘Magic Organ’ album, along with darker lyrics and more metallic keyboards. The main guitar sounds on this album were compressed distortion from guitar effects (various boss effects borrowed from fellow band member Eamonn Maddick) and an over-driven guitar amp along with some delay – please note that there was little chorus or flanger used which was unusual for me at the time – have a listen to ‘Hate’, ‘Silent Scream’ and ‘Burn the Flag’.

More change was on the horizon with a major line-up change to the band, or should I say split. To cut a long story short we parted ways with Sean and Eamonn and so it was back to just me and Peter. The resulting album ‘What the Hell’ saw a more refined guitar sound, and so did the following album 'Keep to the Path' – check out ‘Loving the Enemy’ – with a strong use of delay and chorus, but it was with the next album that the guitar stepped up a gear.

The ‘The Dayglo Fishermen’ album from 1993 was our most accomplished to-date, incorporating a mix of ambient, dance, prog. and rock influences and this was reflected in the guitar sounds and set-up. The set-up included a new guitar – a Fender Stratocaster (the Black one in the earlier photo) and new effects - Boss Compressor/Sustainer pedal (see below) and most notably an Ibanez Wah Wah pedal. Songs which showcase the new sounds include ‘For a Day’, ‘Trash’ and ‘Down and Out’.

The Boss effects pedals

The following albums ‘Animate’ (1993) and ‘Big Spoon’ (1994) featured a similar guitar set-up but more refined. And so ends our Northern Chapter.

South Bound

In the autumn of 1994 the band relocates to the South East of England (London and Buckinghamshire) and we start work on a new album in late 1995 with a brand new member - vocalist Ginny Owens. The 1997 album ‘Space Dog’ features an eclectic range of guitar styles and sounds, which fit the broad pallet of songs. Two songs which stand out from a guitar perspective are ‘Worlds in a Room’ and ‘Space Dog’.

A more complete and assured guitar delivery was achieved on the next album ‘Painting Aliens’ (1998), featuring new sounds from my Fender Deluxe 122 50W amp, Aria Pro multi-effects unit (chorus, delay and EQ) and Boss Turbo Distortion pedal (shown above). A bigger much fuller sound was achieved throughout the album but most notably on tracks like ‘Underground’, ‘Passion’ and ‘Painting Aliens’. Of note during this period I was influenced by guitarists such Robin Guthrie, The Edge, Johnny Marr, Robert Fripp etc.

Rare images of me during the recording process - Left: preparing to record for the 'I Can See a Boat ... It No Longer Floats' album in early 2006. Right: working with Peter on the 'Midnight Souls Still Remain' album in 2014.

Over the next few albums - ‘Comet Nerdlinger’ (2001), ‘Queen of the Sunset City’ (2003) and ‘I Can See a Boat ... It No Longer Floats’ (2006) - the guitar sounds mature and are supplemented by new guitars - Fender Stratocaster (the red one), Epiphone Les Paul, Takamine acoustic guitar, and my favourite effects unit – the Boss ME-50 multi-effects unit (see below). From a guitar perspective, highlights include ‘Requiem I’, ‘Soncabaret’ and ‘When Summer Ends’.

The Boss ME-50 multi-effects unit

Recent Times

And so to recent times with the release in April 2010 of ‘Moons That Cast Their Light’, and ‘Midnight Souls Still Remain’ in October 2015. Both albums are the pinnacle of the creative path the Dayglo Fishermen have undertaken over the past (nearly) 30 years, with strong creative songs and some of my best playing and sounds to date. All this and Sean coming back to the band, too! 

Songs ’Never a Shadow (Without a Light)’, ‘Out of the Picture’, ‘Fractured Heart’ and ‘Midnight Souls Still Remain’ encapsulate this new found song writing confidence and creative streak.

My latest guitars

From a soundscape perspective the guitar sound benefited from new equipment including new guitars - Schecter Omen Extreme and Fender Telecaster (the blue one, above), Marshall 100w combo amp (see above) and Zoom G1XN multi-effects unit (below).

The Zoom G1XN multi-effects unit

A New Chapter

The story does not end there though. Work is already underway on our next album, which promises to be predominately instrumental and a return to some of the themes of earlier albums such as ‘Big Spoon’. Already there is some interesting guitar laid down on our new state-of-the-art 32 track recording system… so watch this space for more news.

In the meantime, happy plucking!

Richard Burton - 12 January 2018

Full Equipment List


Effects:

Pearl chorus pedal
Ibanez analogue delay pedal
Ibanez flanger pedal
Ibanez Wah Wah pedal
Boss compressor/sustainer pedal
Boss turbo distortion pedal
Boss flanger pedal
Aria Pro multi-effects unit (Chorus, Delay, EQ)
Boss ME-50 multi effects unit
Zoom G1XN multi-effects unit

Guitars:

Hohner Stratocaster (Blonde)
Fender Stratocaster (Black)
Fender Stratocaster (Red)
Fender Telecaster (Blue)
Epiphone Les Paul
Schecter Omen Extreme
Takamine acoustic guitar
Custom Precision bass
Yamaha TRBX174 bass

Amplifiers:

Carlsbro Hornet 45w amp
Fender Deluxe 122 50w amp
Fender Mustang practice amp
Marshall 100w combo amp


Monday, 1 January 2018

Space Dog - The Pound of the Hound

The summer of 2017 was the 20th anniversary of the release of Dayglo Fishermen's 'Space Dog' album. The anniversary passed without fuss, which is a shame as the album was a significant milestone in the band's history and development, and something well worth celebrating.

Now is certainly a good time to look back on how that album came about.

'Space Dog' CD album cover - design by David Fothergill

In late 1994, following the release of their album, 'Hocus-Pocus', other commitments forced Dayglo Fishermen to place all production on hold. The two band members, Peter Fothergill and Richard Burton, were heading south to London, and their Northumberland production facility, Artlite Studios, where the band's first 11 albums were recorded, had to be closed.

It was not until March 1996, 17 months later, that Dayglo Fishermen began working on their next project, this time in their new Buckinghamshire production facility, Opium Studios. More importantly, though, the band had recruited a new lead vocalist, Ginny Owens.

Ginny was not given much time to settle in. A few months after she joined the band they performed live at The Garage, a small private venue not far from the band's production facility. Unusually the audience was given a sneak preview of some of the songs already completed for the new album. It was no doubt a tantalising event.

A rare image of the band performing at their first 'Garage' concert. It is the first time Ginny performs with the band. The select audience was treated to several songs from the unreleased 'Space Dog' album.

With the release of the album approaching the band arranged a photo shoot. It was very formal, conservative, and even a bit sombre considering its purpose. It was not at all what would be expected. Perhaps that was the intention: to confuse and surprise, even to shock.

The unexpectedly formal band photo for the 'Space Dog' album cover

Following the photo shoot, former band member David Fothergill was asked to design the cover image and inserts. An image he had designed the year before, showing an unusual dog in a snow-covered country lane, was chosen for the front cover. It was that image that gave inspiration for the album's unusual title.

Dayglo Fishermen performed another live concert in the spring of 1997 at the Rock Garden in London's Covent Garden. Again many of the new songs were played, including the recently completed title track, 'Space Dog'.

Dayglo Fishermen performing at The Rock Garden in London during March 1997. The gig was largely a preview concert for the 'Space Dog' album (released several months later). Songs performed included 'Under the Water', 'Worlds in a Room', 'Turn You On' and 'Space Dog' (which was the opening track performed).

After a year and a half in development, and after being digitally mastered (a first for the band), the 'Space Dog' album was released during the summer of 1997, and for the first time a Dayglo Fishermen album was available in CD format, as well as cassette.

'Space Dog' album cover - cassette tape inlay - design by David Fothergill

It's time to examine the album itself...

Composed to accompany the iconic album cover image, the opening track 'Space Dog' is an epic song about an awe-inspiring, reality-splitting and space-travelling dog.  The dog arrives on Earth in England during the depths of winter. She travels to the far north of the country, apparently having a great time, and then heads back into space to continue her interstellar quest, the nature of which is never revealed.

The song begins with a slow countdown, and then a hard rhythm kicks in, accompanied by guitar and a rather grungy keyboard riff. The mid section drops down to drums and guitar for a while, before building up to a new synth arpeggio and guitar solo. This is followed by a verse filled with a sample of the NASA radio conversation with Neil Armstrong as he prepares to step down to the Moon's surface. Perhaps it's that transmission that Space Dog detected, and which persuaded her to head in our direction.

At almost eight minutes long the song is the longest track on the album, so starting with it could have been an unwise decision. Fortunately the track is one of the album's most memorable. It's a fine way to kick things off.

The much lighter-feeling 'Turn You On' comes next. It is catchy pop song, dominated by melodic bass and guitar, and punchy drums, with organ keyboard sounds lifting the chorus. The song is an ideal live track, and was performed many times, including at the first Limelight Theatre concert in 2008.

'Worlds in a Room' brings the tempo of the album right down. The verses are mellow, with a gentle chugging guitar, soft keyboard tones, and Richard's spoken and almost whispered vocals.  But the softness vanishes in the chorus. Sustained and distorted guitar, accompanied by a rather sinister synth line, fills the soundscape. Ginny's vocals take over the chorus with the now classic line 'I surrender to you, I give you all I can'. This song works particularly well played live, and has been performed several times, including at all of the band's Limelight Theatre concerts.

The tempo stays low for the next track, 'Fly in the Wind'. But, perhaps thankfully, the tension has all but gone. Despite a decent dose of melancholy, the track manages to relax the listener with its smooth guitar and mellow synth brass melodies that seemingly drift off to infinity. Ginny's vocals enhance that effect even more, and exhibit a fragility that she would come to develop and use to great effect on later albums.

There are actually two earlier versions of this song, both of which were featured on the 'Animate' album in 1993.

Coming next is 'Things Fall Apart (The Centre Cannot Hold)'. Edgy and mildly disturbing, it builds slowly from a repeating synth, adding drums and then bass and then guitar, and finally vocals. Feelings of menace and even dread are evoked as the hypnotic rhythm grips the listener to the end. It's quite a contrast to the previous song, and perfect preparation for the next.

Continuing on from the edgy and menacing feel of the previous song, 'Under the Water' starts with a tense siren sound before launching straight into a heavy rhythm. Soft and distant synth melodies add to the atmosphere, with occasional calmer sections of electric piano providing a respite from the tension. The song is one of the standout tracks on the album and has been performed live several times.

'Cool' is a melodic mid-tempo song that sits well at the album's halfway point. The song seems to be about someone experiencing a form of extended consciousness, or at least some wild visions. As the song progresses things get even stranger, with mention of 'The Guardians' (perhaps the same ones mentioned seven years earlier on the song 'Easy Projector') and a golden dome. Interesting. Very interesting.

A smooth synth bass line kicks off 'Half Moon Junction'. It's a light mid-tempo pop song with Richard singing the verse and Ginny taking on the chorus. The middle section drops down to a swelling synth pad before the rhythm and guitar return, culminating in an unexpected pan pipe solo. The track has a very clean and refreshing sound to it, and certainly deserves its place on the album.

Dominated largely by a continuous and heavily reverberated piano line, 'Diving For Pearls' brings the tempo and mood right down. It's Richard''s turn to demostrate fragility as his vocals convey an impressive sense of suffering. As the song progresses the soundscape is developed by deep and echoing sounds. A gentle synth brass sound - a common theme on the album - fills the middle section. Distorted guitar makes an appearance in the closing moments of the track, rightfully kept in the background as the piano plays its final notes.

Although appearing towards the end of  'Space Dog', 'Shadowlands' was the first song to be recorded for the album. Most notably though, it is the first ever Dayglo Fishermen song to feature Ginny's vocals. The track begins with mellow synths and guitars, and then a gentle vocal by Richard eases us into the first verse. The first chorus erupts with drums, bass and piano, with Ginny's voice taking control. It's a simple and melodic composition that sits well within the distinctly lighter second half of the album.

The next track is 'It's Only Pleasure', which is actually the third incarnation of the song. The first version of the song appeared in 1993 on the 'Animate' album. Its catchy delayed synth and guitar riffs proved so popular with the band that a new version was recorded for the 'Hocus-Pocus' album the following year. This latest version rides on the success of the first two with a simpler and less delayed arrangement. A worthy addition to the album.

Adding '2000' onto the name of things seemed to be a fashion in the nineties, and Dayglo Fishermen follow that trend here. 'Minneapolis 2000' is remake of 'Minneapolis' which featured on their 1994 album 'Big Spoon'. Everything about the track is pleasant, from the smooth keyboards to the silky deep bass and the gentle guitar. Unlike the original, which featured the casual ramblings of a native Minnesotan, this version paints a lyrical picture of the city of Minneapolis, including a reference to the Claes Oldenburg sculpture 'Spoon Bridge and Cherry' situated in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an image of which was used on the 'Big Spoon' album cover. A reference is also made to 'The Tower' (known officially as the 'IDS Center'), which is actually the skyscraper on which 'DGF' is written on that same album cover.

The album finishes with 'Close Your Eyes'. It's a simple and mellisonant track, most notable for its frail and nervous vocals sung by guest artist Kate Archibold. The song was not originally recorded for this album, but for Richard and Peter's other work, 'Opium', in 1994. This is that exact same version. According to the production notes Kate was not used to singing in a studio environment so the nervousness in her voice is probably genuine, which makes the song all the more endearing.

It's interesting to note that there is actually an earlier version of the song. The original version of 'Close Your Eyes' was released in 1992 on the album 'After the Storm', another of Richard and Peter's other works. That version features Richard's voice, is much longer and consists of a more complex arrangement. It was certainly wise to create more space in the instrumentation for Kate's voice in the later version.

I've left 'Night Boat to China' until last. It was not included on the original release, the reasons for which will become obvious if you listen to it. It was later added as the album was made available to download. At over seven and a half minutes long 'Night Boat to China' is the second longest track on the album. It excels in monotony, but it can actually be quite hypnotic if listened to in the right mood. Amazingly the song was the first song played at one of the Garage concerts. Worth a listen, though perhaps just one time.

The 'Space Dog' album was the beginning of a new era for Dayglo Fishermen, an era of more structure and polish, and of more considered orchestration. It saw what appeared to be the end of the band's wild experimentation, and with it the apparent loss of innocent fun. But actually the band had simply evolved and steered itself in a new direction. The band were now operating on a completely different level.  The album demonstrated that Dayglo Fishermen had not lost any of their creativity or passion - far from it, and it laid the groundwork for what was to come: a series of intensely original and professional collections of work with a maturity rarely apparent on the early albums.

That space-faring canine is to be saluted. Long may she roam the galaxy.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Bizarre Song Titles

With well over 300 tracks available to download on their official website, Dayglo Fishermen have created an incredibly varied back catalogue of music. It's a tremendous collection of emotive, inspirational, serious, haunting, and more often than not, bizarre compositions that can impress and bewilder in equal measure. And that is probably the intention.

But it's not just the content of the songs that can leave the listener perplexed. Some of the song titles can have the same effect, and more often than not seem utterly disconnected from the lyrics or music. Here are some of the strangest, and the story behind them (if there is one).

Blue Container

The song 'Blue Container' is the opening track of the band’s debut album, 'Drenched'. Released in 1990, the track is the aural equivalent of Red Bull, and a highly potent way to kick off the band's first ever release.  It's also likely to be have been the first experience of Dayglo Fishermen's music for many.

The Italian/piano house-influenced track begins with someone arriving at the door asking about a party. Judging by the echo the party is in a large stone building, maybe a castle - a premonition perhaps of the band's first live event at the ancient Moot Hall in Hexham the following year.

A blue container, photographed by the band on the Northumberland coast in 1990, shortly after the release of the 'Drenched' album

The unusual name of the track has no deep meaning at all. It is simply a variation of 'Black Box', the name of a popular house music group at that time. Apparently the band thought the piano on the track was very similar to that on on the song 'Ride on Time', which indeed it is.

T.E.S.

Like all the band's early albums, the album 'Strange Plaice' contains many bizarre song titles. One of the oddest is 'T.E.S.'. The track features lengthy samples of tribal singing, recorded by chance as the band flitted through radio stations searching for inspiration. The samples are underpinned by a melodic reggae-style bass and guitar rhythm, and pan pipes.

Tribal singer

Dayglo Fishermen had no way to translate what was being sung, and to this day the language of the tribe remains unknown. Without inspiration from the lyrics the band had no choice but to name the song 'T.E.S.', which is apparently an abbreviation of 'Token Ethnic Song'.

'F' Creeky Siren Nook

The band's third album,'Fresh Gin', is by far the band's strangest, with almost every song and title oozing oddness. ''F' Creeky Siren Nook' has to be the strangest song title on the album.

It's almost impossible to figure out where such a name would come from until you realise that the backing music of the track is simply the band's earlier song 'Free Roky Erickson' played backwards. The title, in case you haven't guessed, is an anagram of that song's name.

But Where Were the Mice?

'And So It Is' is a short album, recorded over a very brief period in January 1992. Despite that, Dayglo Fishermen managed to create one of their most iconic songs during that session: 'But Where Were the Mice'.

Most of the lyrics were written with relative ease, but the band struggled for a while with the last line of the second verse which required a suitable rhyme for 'ice'; one that would be a fitting end to the story being told. Eventually, and in true Dayglo Fishermen style, the rather perplexing line 'Salvation was his, but where were the mice?' was chosen. After that the most appropriate title for the song must have become glaringly obvious.

Welcome to the Pteranodon

The 'What the Hell' album, released in 1992 was in many ways a transitional album. After the tense and often torturous recording experience of the previous 'dark' album, 'Magic Organ' (see the article 'The Art of Darkness'), only Peter and Richard managed to stay on as band members. The new album was lighter, fresher, and devoid of the harsh synths and guitars of its doom-ridden predecessor.

The album's final song is 'Welcome to the Pteranodon'. It has a relentless and hypnotic quality, due mainly to the heavily delayed drums, random radio tuning sounds and melodic guitar. Only the chorus contains lyrics which state 'I'm looking for the perfect life'.

A Pteranodon such as this should indeed be welcomed

Unfortunately there is no clue from either the music or the lyrics as to why the song was given its title, and certainly the countdown at the end, and the massive explosion that follows, further clouds the issue. There could well be some unfathomably deep meaning in the name somewhere just waiting to be revealed. Perhaps the Pteranodon, a huge flying prehistoric reptile, is intended as a metaphor for 'the perfect life'? That is something to be pondered.

Nag Lisa

Why 'Nag Lisa' has such a title is unknown, which is a shame as the track (featured on the 1993 album, 'Animate') is one of Dayglo Fishermen's greatest instrumentals. With a powerful non-sequenced synth line and guitar playing off each other through much of the track, and a spacial and rather dreamy mid section with its echoing piano and strings, it delivers an almost symphonic experience.

It's a truely epic composition.

'Nag Lisa' proved so popular it spawn two sister tracks on the 'Big Spoon' album the following year: 'Lisa' and 'Lisa Composed', with the original making a reappearance six years after that on the 'Dayglo Pizza' album.

Space Dog

In 1997, after a long break following their relocation to London, Dayglo Fishermen released the much anticipated 'Space Dog' album. With a new vocalist, Ginny, on board, the album took the band in a new but no less interesting and unusual direction.

The album's title track, 'Space Dog', is a bizarre tale about an interstellar dog, much revered throughout the galaxy, that travels to Earth and lands in England during a particularly cold winter. She is compelled to head north, enjoying 'a chilling place of mirth' on the way. But her visit is brief. She soon departs from what appears to be the far north of England and heads back into the void.

Space Dog

Unusually the image for the album cover and the album's title were decided long before most of the tracks were even written and recorded. The song 'Space Dog' was written to fit in with the image, which has become one of the band's most loved and recognisable album covers.

Irritating Cliché

Dayglo Fishermen's classic 1998 pop album, 'Painting Aliens' contains some of the band's most recognised songs, but the album's final track, 'Irritating Cliché', is often overlooked. This is a shame as it's another one of the band's great instrumentals.

Beginning with a deep and almost vocal synth it quickly builds to a crescendo of orchestral keyboards and guitar, before falling back to mellow and slightly melancholic second part played at half the tempo.

The original name for the track was actually 'Irritating Chloe'. Apparently it was written to intentionally annoy a local newspaper reporter who was not too complementary about Dayglo Fishermen's music. The band eventually decided against it and altered the name, perhaps because it would not be so annoying to her after all.

The music was used to great effect on the opening titles and closing credits of a short animation film, 'The Creature from Devil's Gorge'.

Nerdlinger One

The 'Comet Nerdlinger' album, released in 2001, featured a couple of unusually named songs, but 'Nerdlinger One' is certainly the oddest one.

The album name was decided during a visit to a pub not far from Dayglo Fishermen's Buckinghamshire production facility. The album was about half way through the recording process at the time. A group of grey, bearded and slightly unkempt men were seen entering the pub, and the band joked that they were there to celebrate the discovery of a new comet. The name 'Comet Nerdlinger One' was given to that fictitious comet.

Comet Nerdlinger One - the original image for the album cover that was eventually replaced by a lighter version

After a sample-filled intro of unusual sounds and the voices of child and of something not human, the track thumps to life with a high tempo bass and drum pattern and mellow synths and guitar. Those instruments soon build to a harsher sound, dominated by guitar, and then everything drops away as a spoken vocal tells the story of the comet's approaches Earth. But it's no ordinary comet. As our planet passes through the comet's tail microscopic alien life forms rain down, infecting all human life. We evaporate, and rise up to join with the comet.

Chilling stuff...

(J) Hoedown on Mars (Marsbard)

This final song title is definitely the most peculiar and surreal of them all, and we need to go all the way back to the 'Strange Plaice' album to find it.

'(J) Hoedown on Mars (Marsbard)' begins in a dreamy fashion, with the Korg M1 keyboard's signature 'Universe' sound, before a high-tempo drum and base rhythm kick in. A voice begins singing a song that is obviously unrelated in any way to the backing music. The song, sung by a local folk vocalist, is actually Plasir D'Amour by John Baez.

The track is an incomprehensible mash up of genres that must be baffling even to hardcore Dayglo Fishermen fans (and even to the band itself).

The song finishes with cheers, shouts and a round of applause from a very excited audience. Whether that's for the performance of the vocalist, or for the bravery of the band to close the album with such a song is up to the listener to decide.

It's a classic early Dayglo Fishermen experience.

There are many more bizarre song titles in Dayglo Fishermen's vast collection of music. Most of those are to be found on the early albums, but the later albums also have their odd moments. Visit the music page on the band's official website and see what you can find.