Fly on the wall..
Over the last year I’ve been privileged and humbled by the fly on the wall opportunities I’ve been afforded by the band. Last week I was lucky enough to join them in the rehearsal studio after a day of exploring then driving back from Clitheroe to get a sneak preview of some of the treats in store for Rock City. Of course, I couldn’t write about it then as it would’ve spoiled some of the surprises – but I can now!
It is a small glimpse into the work that happens behind the scenes from the band – after a gruelling three days with Ken suffering from what turned out to be laryngitis it was essential they got some time in to run through some of the finer details. Les and Scott had never played Pocket full of Madness before, John had a few times and the rest of the band hadn’t played it in ages (nor had Kyle!).
Whilst Chloe and Megan had worked out their dance routine it was important to get a chance to practice with the band – timings between live and recorded songs can differ quite dramatically, and then of course there was the extended version of Freeborn John to work through with The Afterdark Movement rapper Bru-C (as an aside, since then I’ve been listening to a bit of The Afterdark Movement and I really like it (aside from referring to my favourite football team as Notts Forest – haha!)).
Scott was kind enough to provide tea to us whilst we waited for the rest to muster – first order of business was Pocket Full of Madness, and this was a first moment of thinking ‘wow’ for me – Scott listened to it once, played through my phone speaker into a microphone, and sat down for a first run through and getting it pretty much bang on (to my ears, obviously he wasn’t happy with it!). Now I know the boys are talented musicians but that kinda blew me away – big up Scott!
Pocket Full of Madness is a cracking song – it was great to hear a few run throughs of it giving Scott, John and Les in particular the chance to get comfortable with it and Kyle to reactivate those muscle memories. I was shocked how quickly this portion of the session was concluded – and I’m sure you’ll agree it sounded great on the night. I love that Ferocious Dog hadn’t forgotten this piece of their history for their big night.
Next up was adjustments to Freeborn John – an initial run through of the song (there wasn’t any room to surf!) sorted where Bru-C was going to come in, then between him and the band they worked out the right level of backing so as not to mask his words too much, it took around four or five iterations, agreements over signals and well, I was genuinely scared they’d ruin my favourite song – they didn’t, they made it better. I’d love to hear a proper recorded version of it one day.
Finally Megan and Chloe joined us in a run through of Lyla – already tired from practising to the recorded track in another room. It went really well as far as I could see from a slightly dodgy vantage point behind John’s amp, with the promise of a further run through during the sound check at Rock City. Come the night, well, it went tremendously – again, lovely to see artists who’ve helped the band along the way rewarded with a spot in the limelight on the big night.
After finishing up Les had a four hour plus drive back to Kent (it seemed only fair to carry his amp down the stairs for him – stairs were his nemesis on this tour without lugging a heavy amp!), Ken was obviously really under the weather – barely offering much more than a placeholder in the form of vocals, and well, I’m sure everyone was exhausted from the rigours of Telford, Manchester and Clitheroe and desperate to get home and rested.
Just a small glimpse into a small part of the work that goes into creating the wonderful experience we had this weekend just gone. That’s without considering other practices, songwriting, travelling, learning to play in the first place, signing a thousand odd albums – hmm, maybe a fly-on-the-wall songwriting blog is something to consider for the future! Despite being knackered they still welcomed us outsiders in to witness what they were doing – it’s greatly appreciated.
Colin was there too with an assortment of photography and videography equipment so there should be better footage available in due course than I managed to snag for here on my phone, maybe it will find its way on to the Rock City DVD when it’s released? Speaking of Rock City – take time out to check out Ella’s photos and Jared’s photos of the evening, some amazing shots capturing wonderful memories.