So, a good friend of mine Steve Watts, who I did teacher training with a few years back at the University of Bolton, would you believe? Asked me to lay some bass on a track for his second solo album An Adolescent Fantasy Vol. 2.
Steve Watts was the principal composer for the new-wave heavy metal band Demon. During his tenure with Demon he was part of the changed and developed direction of the bands musical style to that of the progressive genre.
Steve and I bonded straight away at University, although Steve is (nearly) twice my age, we had that instant connection of being uber-geeks of the progressive rock genre. Steve lent me some real obscure prog that has since become some of my most favourite.
At University, Steve was in the final stages of releasing his first solo album under the guise of Demon Dudes Revenge (DDR) titled “An Adolescent Fantasy Vol. 1.” He asked me if I would be ok to play some bass on his next album. Of course I agreed, not only was he a friend, he was composing prog music.
Three years passed since we graduated, and in mid 2013 I receive an e-mail from Steve Watts asking me to play bass on his second solo album. He states in his e-mail that he wants me to play on the planned (at time of writing) epic 20+ minute track “Throwing The Switch.” I was honoured, humbled and bit his hand off (for the second time) to be included.
Steve sent me an e-mail attachment containing a short complex riff, primarily in 13/8, to see if I could manage. Looking to impress, I sent him my bass parts back within an hour, albeit a bit rough round the edges. I had to work out all the parts by ear, with Steve giving me the structure and chords as a guide.
I wanted to impress, to show a real statement of intent – “I am professional, efficient and more importantly I can cope with the complexity of this material.” I wanted this gig, I wanted to play this music in the style I am a fan of. I mean it doesn’t happen very often. As a bass player, I have been asked to play music from all different styles; the progressive usually isn’t one of them.
Steve seemed to be really impressed, mission accomplished. I got the gig. We then met in a pub in Todmorden to discuss the track, what Steve’s compositional intentions were and what he expected from me. He wants the bass and drums to lead the track, for it to be rhythmically driven with all the time signature and tempo changes, with a lot of aggression in places… Now that I am committed, the worry starts to show. “You’ll be fine, you’re more than up to it.” Steve says. I just hope he is right.
In the meeting, Steve lays out a plan of how we are going to record this piece. Steve is going to build the piece up from the drums, bass and keyboards. Recording these parts, then layering other instrumentation on top of that.
To achieve this Steve will continue to send me short riffs that he wants me to practice at home. Then Steve, the drummer Lee Hudson and I will meet for a rehearsal, to practice the short sections together. Then the week after rehearsal we are going to record the sections we had previously worked on in rehearsal. Then the process will be repeated until all the sections are recorded and Steve has all he needs.
I have got to admit; I have never recorded something so huge, which requires us to record the sections in bite sized chunks, that are going to be pieced together in an editing process. But I do think that it will help with the complexity of the music. So it’s all very exciting, I am nervous, but nerves are good, it means I care, no?