I lost my phone last year. I never lose anything as everything has a right place but it slid out of my bag, onto the backseat of a taxi and into oblivion on my way home from dropping off gear at the studio after a gig in Liverpool that received pathetic dribbles of applause from the littering of Wednesday night drinkers.
It was at this point I realised I could get my grubby mitts on an iphone. So, naturally, I did. While exploring this lovely reactive object I found the voice memo application. These things are usually crap but the condenser mic on the iphone is a massive upgrade from the distorted flam delivered by the nokias I’ve whistled ideas into in the past. Hence, this here concept was born…
I make a track a month for a year. Each track is built of found sounds from the month and made and mixed only within that month.
So here be the first instalment. It’s called January for obvious reasons and I’ve put a wee list of all the sounds used below … in case they happen to be of interest.
Bathroom extractor fan –
I was lucky enough to spend new years in Portrush in Northern Ireland in what can only be described as a glass box on the beach. Some friends have just moved out there and scored this flat on top of a cocktail bar overlooking the shore and the skerries (a littering of rocks a few miles out – I spent a good while smoking on the balcony and watching suicidal waves throw themselves against the things). The wind around there is dense and squeezes through any gap it can, so the extractor fan in the guestroom on-suite would rattle and whistle almost constantly. This noise comes in about 2 and half minutes into the track providing a clacking beat.
Portrush Pub –
We ended up in this pub after a stunning meal in a restaurant I’ve forgotten the name of. Four of us were sat in this back room with an open fire having a quiet one when a salty dog with shaved head, watery eyes and guiness in hand interrupted to tell us how much he loved coming to Manchester to get pissed and watch Man U play. That was it, we were soon joined by the campest man with 2 kids (and came on to me when we were outside, fag in hand) and a family, mum, dad and 2 girls. I soon found myself uninvolved, thankfully silent in the corner while everyone split into grouped or paired conversation, gaining momentum and overlapped one another. At times like these I like to imagine I have a hearing aid that can’t quite pick out one thing from another. So naturally I recorded it. This sample is in the first real break.
Train home –
This is the opening of the track. What made it in wasn’t what I made the recording for (I originally made it of this strange whirring noise that would tunefully elevate every time the train left a station – fascinating I know). The whistling on there is the alarm that lets people know the doors are closing and the door closing is the start of the beat, conveniently providing the bass drum (with help from a real bass drum underneath). The train took us from Manchester aiport to Picadilly after a hellish 8 hours spent at Belfast aiport waiting for the snow to subside and to be let out for a smoke. I was only let out for said smoke after we’d been told that our flight had been cancelled and it didn’t get much easier when we got to Manc and the free bus betwixt airport and train station took Vee (my partner), myself and 3 other poor sods around the loop of its route and right back to the airport as the driver had completely misplaced a stop.
Snow walk –
This is self explanatory. Everyone made this noise this month. I made this one on the way to work in my ugly walking trainers that despite boasting incredible grip, forced me to learn a new way of walking. There’s only a about a bar of straight walking noise and the rest is a cut up loop in the right ear – if you bother to listen on headphones.
Wee symbol –
This is actually an instrument so it might break the rules I haven’t really made. I found it when rehearsing with Mr. Heart, a band I play bass with. I was over at the singer/guitarist and drummer’s gaff where we occasionally rehearse in this tiny box room when we can’t sort anywhere else. I found the wee symbol near the unused and unusable sofa-bed that takes up half the room and flicked it with an index finger, as you do. It wasn’t the initial ‘ting’ that got me but the absolutely audible resonance – you could hear the wave in it, coming in and out. So it appears about a minute into the track, but flipped, so a section of resonance precedes the ‘ting’.
Washing machine –
Most people are lucky enough to have one. They’re great. Insane neighbours aren’t. Now, I get home from work at about quarter past 7 at night and on this particular night it was my turn to cook but the sofa wanted me for a good half hour or so before I could even think of anything worthy of gracing our stomachs. I finally make to the kitchen by about 8 and start looking at things, wondering what things would look like fried with other things and start putting something together in my call-centre-phone-burned brain when someone knocks at our door. Vee opens and for the next 10 minutes I’m stood listening to the conversation that goes like this …
“whatever it is you’re doing, stop doing it!”
“I’m sorry, is the TV too loud?”
“No! it’s not the TV. My boyfriend is trying to sleep and theres this ‘BANG BANG BANG’”
“We’re cooking our dinner. It’s 10 past 8 in the evening.”
“Can you not cook earlier. It is really annoying. We even hear you walking up and down your stairs!”
“How else do I get up the stairs? Do you expect me to float up?”
it basically transpired that any move we make in our flat is the cause of crippling emotional stress to a new born baby and a bus driver that gets up for work at 5am. That, according to them, we could only cook before 6pm and no later to stave of any further nerve damage. The washing machine that never gets switched on past 5pm because we know how loud the rattling fucker is was one of the biggest offenders so it made it in. It’s just before the Portrush pub sample. Washing machines are better than insanely in-empathic neighbours.
Chipmonk Drums –
This is a plastic toy that sits on someone’s desk at work, the origins of which I suspect lie near Burger King or thereabouts. It’s a chipmonk from The Chipmonks; the one with the drums and has 2 buttons protruding from it’s back that control it’s arms and trigger what sounds like someone sneazing through a megphone. It wasn’t until someone other than myself who has the pleasure of working on the phones in a customer care centre said that ‘it will probably appear on your next track won’t it’. So, yes, it did. It’s the first snare–type beat and comes in within 30 seconds.
The bits used that had to be used were a bass drum and ride sample from apple loops; my Gretsch semi-hollow guitar made the melody; the free version of Nlog synth app on my iphone made the bass line and also the bit of synth at the end.
The track doesn’t really kick off until about 3 minutes in and could do with a better mix but what can do, I didn’t have time.