We had just finished demoing a track design for life' at the end of the summer 1995, for a very tall ginger giant called Mike Hedges. He was a music producer behind such artists as Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, The Associates and The Mighty Wah!
At this time. a track called Yes by McCalmont and Butler was on the radio a lot they were a duo based in London comprising of Dave McCalmont a soul singer and Bernard Age Butler the original guitarist and co-writer with Britpop band Suede. The track was a Phil Spector-esgue stomper that had a profound impact and inspired us all when times were low, all through the troubles and reflections on Richey's disappearance.
Mike had been our first-choice producer for The Holy Bible' album, but things didn't work out on that occasion. This time things just came naturally together. He loved the track instantly when he heard it raw for the first time live at Big Noise Studio in Cardiff. He said it was 'A jukebox classic' and suggested he would like to explore his newly formed 'Wall of sound' production, which was used on the McCalmont and Butler track.
The sound had been developed with a salvaged EMI TG Mk4 sound desk from Abbey Road Studios which had been put in a skip due to a studio upgrade clear out Alongside two 16 track Studer ABA tape machines and the newly emerging technology of Digidesigns Protools program for recording and editing all controlled with an Apple Mac Ilci computer) a perfect match of analogue and digital was found. This little studio set up was all assembled in Chateau Rouge Motte in the sleepy Normandy town of Domfront, France. This was very long way from the backstreets of Cardiff and Big Noise Studios where we had recorded 'Holy Bible'
The next phase was deciding on what instruments were to be taken over. Yamaha had just offered to supply the kit and as my trusty but slightly battle worn 9000 was a bit worse for wear, I thought a new Maple Custom in black would do the trick; 22. Bass drum. 10,13,16 toms in maple for a more 1960s and and an 'Anton Fig' snare drum with wooden hoops. The whole set was fitted with Remo Legacy heads in an attempt to capture a Motown' feel. As for cymbals. Zildjian K customs and A customs were a great combination of new and old flavours: hi-hat and rides in K's, crashes in Ms. I also changed stick size from 2EI to 5B Shawstks to give a lighter, less rock tone when playing. We also wanted some timpani sounds; from Mikes experience with Budgie (drummer with Siouzsie and The Creatures) he hired in some Ludwig pedal drums, which with my good old brass band days of playing with the percussion Instruments during tea breaks gave me enough knowledge to be able to tune and play them. We were ready!
It was a long and arduous journey to the studio via Waterloo Station, Eurostar to France Gare de Nord, across Paris to Gare Montpamasse, to Laval Station, Bid Mike was there to pick us up. When we arrived at the Studio it ass dark and it looked like something out of a horor movie; a 'Psycho' mansion Thankfully, as we walked through the door waiting to get murdered, we were greeted by a hearty supper and a glorious open log fire where we talked about the coming weeks long into the night drinking red wine.
The next day we started recording. First, we had agreed to a supply a track for the 'Warchild' charity; it was their fist album release made up of covers from mostly Mists. It had to be recorded and delivered within 24 hours, so this was a great opportunity to net up the kit for 'A Design for Life'. We picked the Burl Bacharach song 'Raindrops keep falling on my head. which gave us a great fed of the studio. Having finished 'Raindrops' it was time for 'Design'.
We had placed the drums in the basement a low concrete ceiling and floor with a slightly elevated wooden drum riser. Had sized partition scans around the kit, controlled the close mic and cavernous ambience. The room was entirely covered With a selection of cardioid and ribbon mics to give a depth of classic and contemporary sound capture, as the whole theme of the session had been vintage and new throughout.
Four takes and it was over, with a further two for timpani. That was "A Design for, the rest and foreseeable, Life".