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monday, september 27th - saturday, october 2nd 1999

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The day to-day journal / diary seems inappropriate for this last week. After having reviewed it, it reads as if I’ve become a kind of unofficial spokesman for the band – which is bollocks quite frankly, as this is obviously not the purpose. That may be the knock-on effect of having 'Select' magazine print some of it up. You know you can get a bit too self-conscious in this business and forget why you initially shared something. And what were those reasons? A mixed bag really, a bit of an attempt to de-mythologise this whole process of making a new record. It might be of interest to some to hear from one of the horses' mouths (or arses) what is going on with us. And it’s actually pretty interesting for us if only to reassure me/ourselves that there are patterns which emerge, only when documented in the way we work; that ensures you don’t get too down when things aren’t going to plan.

A lot of this week was spent setting up. The right environment to work is crucial. If your going to attempt to do anything vaguely different, then your surroundings have to reflect that. Equally so, what has become increasingly evident is the need to change our approach to recording on a lot of the songs. The approach or set-up is crucial. For instance the way we worked on the last record was to rehearse everything up to such a standard, where most of the parts have been so finely tuned, that recording was largely a matter of capturing the best performance. And that’s fine, but recording in this way tends to mean that the songs have a certain way of sounding, i.e. – pretty good in a live/band context.

Well that’s not enough now, and I think there is a feeling that unless we change our approach then we're just going to become (?) of ourselves and ever so dull. There was a wonderful moment this week when we were all crowded round the TV watching this programme documenting the story of hip-hop; and it was the classic years from ’86 through to ’92 with RUN DMC, Public Enemy and NWA, etc. Some of the greatest records ever made. And they interviewed Hank Shouclee – he was the fella who produced Public Enemy in the early days – and made the great 'It Takes A Nation Of Millions...' album. And he was explaining their methodology – the way they recorded. Basically they all set-up with samplers, Devo, drum machines in the same room and recorded. Now most of it, he said, sounded like a mess, but apparently there were great moments, that were then cut up and from that the basic track was constructed. The effect of hearing this was like 'Well, why the fuck can’t we do this?' – it could be so exciting. We have the means to make a communal racket so why not harness some of this technology and use it within our own sphere. I mean we’re not going to make a hip-hop record, much as we’d like to, but what was exciting was the idea that kind of approach, or something similar offered us a necessary alternative to the way that we have largely worked until now.

Once we have done this then we might really get somewhere.
monday, october 4th 1999

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Start working on ‘Knives Out’ and ironically after Fridays night's talk of new ways & approaches, we set up as a 5 piece and play it live. Not really happening & it feels as though we’re heading down ‘Say The Word’ territory like last week. Thom wants more energy in this version, in contrast to Copenhagen's version which ‘floats’ along. It's decided that Thom and Phil should play it together. The energy levels are noticeably higher. They bang out about seven takes & Nigel does his thing editing together the best bits from different versions. Bangin!
tuesday, october 5th 1999

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Pick up from where we left off on ‘Knives Out’ - it's felt that we ought to try and finish it or at least something. Coz overdubs bass, then Jonny follows on guitar. It doesn’t seem to be happening. Then someone puts the Copenhagen version on - it sounds better in terms of how it actually puts the song across – Nigel loves the feel of this version, but doesn’t think it’s quite good enough. The prospect of restarting & attempting to copy this version is too daunting. This also adds to the anxieties of not completing stuff – Nigel says we should be. It feels like we need a break. (not the holiday type – we’ve had enough of those) no, the watershed type.
wednesday, october 6th 1999

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Start working on a band loop called ‘Fast Track’ - Thom did a rough arrangement on Cubase last night. Nige and I then do some guitar sounds using my new toy - the first Roland guitar synth, which sounds pretty different. Jonny does a couple of (?) radio tracks. We then do a bit of editing and pruning. Nige is really into this thing of throwing down random shit and then simply keeping the really good stuff. It’s a cool way of writing, if only because you end up with things that you couldn’t possibly contrive to do. Set up sounds for 'Optimistic' – to be played tomorrow. Phil is playing this old jazz kit which used to belong to Plank's great uncle, but it’s ended up here via Coz’s double bass teacher.
thursday, october 7th 1999

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‘Optimistic’ is possibly my favourite ‘band’ song [that] is played together live in a room. Sounds fucking great. We do about 9 versions, in most there are some amazing moments. The penultimate take would seem to be the one. As it's Thom’s birthday today recording takes a backseat in the evening – but we do manage to have a small reunion of the conga’s on percussion at about midnight - they do add their customary sound to ‘Optimistic’ - their last gig was on ‘Paranoid Android’ at St. Catherine’s. Brilliant day.
friday, october 8th 1999

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A slack day. Nursing hangovers & generally tired from the previous night's celebrations. Nigel wants to do a bit of editing on Optimistic – thinks we have a better ending on one of the other versions. Do a 'head count’ on songs & their current status; it’s pretty encouraging as there are about 5 or 6 which could be finished fairly quickly. But of course we don’t want to do that yet – that would be far too pragmatic. Thom and Nige download a loop of Thom’s onto tape to be added to it. As I write he is attempting some vocals. A weekend is nearly here – good timing. Completely knackered.
tuesday, october 12th 1999 - friday, october 15th 1999

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"we’re smashing our heads against the wall"

"This week we have been mostly working on Optimistic"

"It would be ideal to finish Optimistic"

"Let's just do the end & edit onto the original take."

"The drums for Rachel’s Song sound like nothing else."

"Jonny, how the fuck did you manage to get them sounding like that?"

"Oh yeah"

"I’ve been doing this all afternoon & need to get out."

"I can’t play that on this guitar."

"Gorgeous smell in here, Nigel."

"Eddy & I like the Mach 3"

"I really like the really late roll, the long one."

"It’s not as sleazy as the one before."

"I can't stop wondering."

It’s Friday yet Tuesday feels like yesterday – have we finished Optimistic? No. And it could be tempting to abandon it in favour of starting something new - but then we know we aren’t too far away. We must see this thing through, if for no other reason that it’s needed confidence-wise.