On 16 August, having been booked 2 days previously, I rolled up to a recording studio near King’s Cross (and a 10am arrival counts as an early start for a musician, OK?). After fairly minimal preparation, I (booked on violin, but I brought the viola ‘just in case’), Fraser Parry (cello) and Sam Becker (double bass) were spending the day recording string section overdubs for The Amazing Devil – or, as far as we were concerned, vocalist-writers Joey Batey and Madeleine Hyland, the other active members not being physically present to instruct through the talkback mike or provide much-needed serial coffees.
I’m going to admit that I have little memory of exactly what I played that day. In fact, on looking through the track listing of the finished album, I was sure of some tracks we had played on and not of which of the others I had or hadn’t. There was a lot of dissecting written arrangements, using bits of them, shuffling bits around, using them as little more than guides to harmony and structure in order to semi-improvise new parts, doing repeated takes with different steers as to approach and the decisions on which bits of which takes would be used deferred till later.
However, while I have rarely expended so much mental energy in one day, I remember it being a satisfying and at its best enjoyable day too. Partly because I would have struggled to believe that that degree of collective improvisation of accompaniment (this is nothing near to ensemble jazz) by total strangers could have produced results even as coherent as they sounded in the live room. Partly because it genuinely is amazing music. Perhaps the fact both Batey and Hyland are primarily career actors has something to do with it (though Hyland in particular is a professional (jazz) singer too, and has recorded and toured with a recent incarnation of Dexy’s), but while there is a consistent thread of darkness through Amazing Devil’s music, it has emotional and musical range, from hammering riffs that verge on folk metal through to whispered vulnerability and out the other side to demonic-waltz gypsy-cabaret.
And I mention all this now not just because I wasn’t managing any blogging in the state chronic fatigue was leaving me in back in August, but also because however much of my contribution ended up on it, the finished album The Horror and the Wild is out now on Bandcamp, and will be coming soon to iTunes and Spotify. So go and listen (preferably buy, free music isn’t a sustainable resource) for yourselves!