Welcome to the second part of our Wax & Seal Studio Diaries retrospective! (If you’re starting here, you might want to go back and read the first part.)
By this time in the recording, I was struggling badly with my voice. I was lucky enough to never have any real issues with my voice in the past. If it was ever hoarse, it recovered quickly, and I was used to getting a fairly clear sound. This all went awry in Freiburg. I tried everything from homeopathic treatment to coating the back of my throat with iodine*, but we were clearly trying to treat the symptoms of some other problem which went undiagnosed. Whenever I returned to Ireland everything cleared up – and whenever I was there I began to suffer again. I realised a year or two later that I used to get a slight upset stomach from Weizen (wheat beer) when they started serving it in Dublin. It was not enough to be very noticeable – but I eventually put two and two together. I had been suffering from acid reflux overnight, after drinking weizen beer – which explained why my voice was at its worst in the mornings, and began to improve as the day went on. So, to this day there are certain vocals on the album that I’m not happy with because I can feel the effects of my suffering vocal cords. At least I figured it out in the end!
* I do not recommend this. It is RANK!
Wax & Seal – Day 237 – 6 September 2004 – Freiburg
For “Withnail & I”, Bruce Robinson wanted to describe Marwood’s current state of mind and his surroundings to the actors. (If you haven’t seen it, do so immediately). He wrote something like this…
Dostoyevsky described hell as probably no more than a room with a chair in it. This room has several chairs.
We’re knee deep in backing vocals country right now. Experimentation and a little bit of messing going on. Not sure what it will sound like. It’s kinda funny when you’re in the middle of it, because you have the backing vocals up unnaturally loud in the mix so that everyone can hear what you’re doing… This has the strange effect of turning every song into Bohemian Rhapsody. Which I have no major objection to really, but it does sound a little out of place.
We’re moving to Temple Studios on Thursday. It will be good for everyone methinks. The change of scenery will lend an air of progress to the proceedings. It will be nice to hear everything in a different environment too.
As Nigel Tapley once said, “anything starting with ‘this bloke…’ is bound to be legal”. True enough….
[NOTE: This next paragraph was prompted by me waking up to a text message from an old friend from Dublin who was at the time living in the UK. I decided to recount the tale without mentioning too many names for fear that they may be identified. Harmless fun, but still not strictly legal!]
So, this bloke and his mate, decided after having a nice little lock in, to go down to Asda at about four or five in the morning. So, they get some grub and a mini-golf set (obviously). Then they stroll across the car park to a very well known English Premiership football team’s grounds. They proceed to scale the wall (still drunk) and make their way onto the hallowed turf, where they commence a game of mini golf and their own little mobile-phone photo session. They then stroll out the large gates of the ground at about seven in the morning (Yes, in broad daylight. God only knows what the night watchman was up to).
NOTE : Around this time, we moved from Ivy Court studios in the centre of the old town of Freiburg, to Temple Studios which was a bike ride or tram/walk along the Dreisam river past SC Freiburg (the local and impossibly tiny Bundesliga team stadium). Temple Studios was a mastering studio, and had the right equipment for the job. It was a bad fit, and the process took FAR longer than it should have, which took valuable funds away from our promotional budget and funnelled it towards needless studio days.
Wax & Seal – Day 246 – 15 September 2004 – Freiburg
I have begun to pick up the strange and unusual (to me that is) local dialect, adding “le” to the end of words, like “Hallöle!”. Or using shortened everyday expressions like “Tach” which is how they seem to pronounce Tag or Guten Tag. It’s interesting (to me alone, probably).
I’m over in Temple Studios now. I have a routine. I set out on a bike I borrowed from Shane and ride alongside the Dreisam River all the way out to the studio (which is situated on the Schwarzwald Strasse … or Black Forest Road). It’s a lovely ride, and It’s downhill on the way home which has got to be a plus.
We’re transferring all our recordings over from Ivy Court to Temple Studios, getting every track lined up and ready to go, and in the meantime listening to albums and songs we like to help keep us focused. I’m in good form and enjoying the change of scenery and fresh forest air. The equipment in this place is pretty cool. The kind of place where you wouldn’t mind go shopping with decorating your bachelor’s apartment in mind. It’s wall to wall iPod, iMac (the one that looks like half a football lying down with a screen sticking out of it on a protruding metal bar… nice), PCs, scanners, faxes, … that’s before I even mention any of the sound equipment which I must admit I do not understand or even recognise… only that it must be good. There is an implement Shane brought over called a Joe Meek Compressor, named after a mad London-based sound engineer and producer who revolutionised all sorts of sound equipment and produced some of the strangest records of his time… Met a sticky end too if I remember correctly.
I’m reading a book called Stasiland, about East Germany and the effects the Stasi had on its members, informers and victims. It’s essentially a collection of the personal accounts of these people’s experience written by an Australian writer who interviewed them while working in Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There are some mind numbing tales about how far a state will go to retain control. Brilliantly written. I haven’t been able to put it down, which makes eating tricky.
I’m beginning to think about lunch… mmmm
Der Teig (mmmm… bread…)
Wax & Seal – Day 284 – 23 October 2004 – Freiburg
George’s St Arcade is done now too. Monochrome will be done within the next hour I would estimate. We’re working at tremendous speed now. We need to. It’s a bit of enjoyment finally after so much stress and worry. Worries not over… but then sure if they were, where would the excitement be? Suppin’ tae in the Phoenix Park tea rooms bored out its mind after seeing the barmy polar bears, no doubt.
The deadlines are encroaching so we must work fast. Apparantly Monochrome sounds like something Pink Floyd should have done. I don’t know about that. I’ll tell you later when I’ve formed an opinion. In the meantime the view is quite nice from the fence.
We took some nice photos with Britt recently. Some great ones. Maybe one or two will find their way onto the album sleeve. No decisions made yet.
So, that’s all for the moment. I may write something this evening too, depending on my mood. Take care now.
Wax & Seal – Day 287 – 26 October 2004 – Freiburg
Six O Two was being tackled this morning. It’s nearly done now. It sounds sweet with all that pedal steel madness going on in and Niel’s other guitar bit too. Very nice. Like a lullaby.
Just heard that John Peel, the DJ on BBC Radio 1 has died. A sad day for the music world. He was only 65.
So anyways, Frank is eating a banana beside and making me feel a little bit hungry. What to eat? What to eat?
There’s a sign by a part of the train station in Freiburg used for dropping off passengers, that I was told said “Kiss & Ride”. Disappointingly, it says “Kiss & Rail” or something like that. I thought I had stumbled upon the best thing since sliced bread. The Irish would be queueing up for it.
While We’re on the subject, English phrases have infiltrated almost all aspects of life over here. It’s disturbing. A lot of the phrases are completely misused too which adds to the peculiarity of it. TV is the worst though. It’s like watching the Fast Show sometimes… “welcome to dee Big Show”. Don’t get me started on MTV though. Such abuse of the word music I have never before encountered.
Um, yes… sorry about that rant.
NOTE: This was the final entry in the diary. The end of a tough marathon… and the start of a fight to get the album out there onto the airwaves, into the newspapers, and magazines, and your CD collections. Never underestimate the struggle you’ll have. Never mistake another starting line for your finish line!
Day — – 11 November 2004 – Freiburg
So we’ve secured the album release for early 2005. Probably february. We’re still planning and adding dates to our tour of Ireland (and the town of Freiburg!) at the end of November. Rehearsals are going well.
Big congratulations to Phantom FM. They’ve worked hard for that licence. Of course all of us Irish artists are selfishly rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of more airplay… well, We’re not all saints! I’d write something entertaining now but Bell X1 beat me to it (can you find that post & hyper link?!). They’ve started recording their eagerly awaited third album in Dublin and their studio diary is worth a read if you have a few minutes. Anyway. Congrats again to the Phantom crew.
Everyone is rallying around getting stuff done at the last minute for our flights, van rental, accomodation, music gear, etc etc etc. Times have been pretty frantic lately. I don’t know where I am. The main thing is that We’re now at the “selling” point of the record’s lifetime. I’ll get myself together sometime soon I hope. Sure there’s always Christmas. As Phil Hayes would say I’m looking forward to a Whopper Chrimbo.
In lieu of having the liner notes to read now, and before we start entering the crazy period of touring and radio gigs, I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in the production of the record. Also, a big hug to all the people here in Freiburg who have been real friends to me during my stay. Without them it would have been really really tough. Also, to all my friends and family who have gone through a lot of hard times in the time that I’ve been away. I shouldn’t gush… but yeah, they’ve all been fantastically understanding and supportive, when they had enough strife of their own. Anyways. Yiz all know who yiz are.
Adieu, Adieu, Der Teig
And so to conclude, and to finish disputes… that was the final entry in the Wax & Seal studio diary. The rest is history. (Well it’s all history, technically.) The album was released on Friday, 4th March 2005. It received some great reviews, but got very little airplay in Ireland until we released the second single, “Know You Hate Me”. That got a lot of play which was heartening. Probably the best support I received was on BBC Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle, which I’m forever grateful for. Honorable mention for Cherrie McIlwaine, and of course, the late great Gerry Anderson who played me every morning for months.
If you find yourself wanting to read the diary in full, and in order, you’ll find it here ( It’s as it was typed back in 2004 on the hand-coded php-driven website). I haven’t gotten around to making those pages prettier, replacing all the question marks with apostrophes (damn german keyboards), or slotting the entries into proper individual blog posts, but some day soon I will.
I made a playlist of some of the songs we were listening to, inspired by, or obsessed with around the time of the record! It’s really all over the map, but I’ve tried to arrange the playlist so the transitions don’t jar too much. You can listen to it on spotify here.