18 Apr 2004
Universal 
The Royal Family and The Poor's Mike Keane discusses the new album 'North-West Soul' [Boutique 6607] exclusively for Cerysmatic Factory:

"OK, well, 'North-West Soul' is a collection of songs that were adapted to music I had been working on for some time, others were written from scratch especially for the album.

This was by far THE most difficult album Ive ever had to produce, not least of all because I had lost all of my confidence having not recorded any serious work for so long (10 years) & also coz it's REALLY hard to get the overall sound and balance right on hard drive digital recorders. Life was SO much more simple when everything was analogue..... the problem with digital recording is that it is an utterly NON-musical process/way of recording, for example - with digital recording there is NO preference in the recording hardware towards HARMONICS, it just records a HUGE resolution of non-audible audio, in fact it records up to 80% of non-audible white noise, black noise and all sorts of other non-audible frequencies whicgh are NOT even needed OR wanted as they effect and interfere subtly with the "harmonics" of the notes you are trying to play - what this means is that it makes controlling and manipulating the tracks and overall mix so much MORE difficult coz unless you are adept as knowing how to strip and balance the frequencies for EACH track of audio they cross each other and create discordant sub-harmonics that decrease the clarity of the sound.

Plus I was working with a digital 8 track hard drive recorder and digital recording is VERY difficult to get "just right" ESPECIALLY when your using budget equipment with cheap d/a converters, what this basically means is that you have to be VERY careful not to use the digital connections too often - for example a track might sound so much better recorded digitally but once the master is transfered to a master-cd recorder this means it has already been digitally transfered a number of times within the d/a converters within the equipment used - resulting in serious degradation of the overall signal - AND this gets even worse when it then has to be digitally transfered to somebody else's mastering equipment in order to finalise it for cd manufacture. The long & short of it is that I had to spend a ridiculous amount of time struggling to balance everything out and get rid of a lot of noises."

That was Mike's history and technical analysis, but what about the title, 'North-West Soul'?

"It was inspired by several "sacred" sites that are NW including that Crowley's old house in Boleskine, Scotland is due North-west in the UK. Also coz I live in the North-West. All the tracks are very much influenced by the time of year they were written and recorded (autumn / winter 2003) and how this time of year tends to make me reflect on mortality, death and what it is I love most about being alive, the trees, the sky, the air, dreaming, the long nights, grey skies, etc.... and of course the condition of the human soul, solitary, universal, lonely as hell, immortal but alone, in fact I believe the entire universe was created out of loneliness!! :-) The irony is that despite the fact that we are surrounded by other so-called "human" beings one can still find oneself as isolated and alone as one might in the desert - odd that I sent it? I've been a hermit for over 10 years, what people cannot understand they tend to fear, so despite the fact that my "message" has always been about "love" & "will" people tend to steer clear of me. A while ago I came to realise that people don't love "me", they love the "idea" of "me". Alas, such is human nature I guess."

Coming next: Mike's track by track guide to the album.

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In the grey days of late 1970s post-punk Manchester, youth culture was a serious affair: every musical performance was measured mostly by the conviction of its delivery. The term 'New Wave' opened up free vistas where acquired skills could once again be exercised after punk's monochrome blur. It could be applied to anything from a James 'Blood' Ulmer record to the latest Throbbing Gristle release, Magazine to Swell Maps. Move outside that terrain into Sun Ra, Parliament, Frank Sinatra and Martin Denny, and your options were suddenly without limit...

Then came Tony Wilson's Factory Club (at the Russell Club in Hulme) offering an open invitation to experiment that was taken up when Ken Hollings, Howard Walmsley, Eddie Sherwood and a few others decided to make some noise to accompany their 16mm silent epic Biting Tongues. A further performance followed a few weeks later, when Colin Seddon and Graham Massey disbanded their Post Natals project and joined up. The film itself, a flashing series of negative images, became a memory; the name remained.

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