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The Secret Diary Of The Manic Street Preachers - Melody Maker, 17th July 1993

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Title: The Secret Diary Of The Manic Street Preachers
Publication: Melody Maker
Date: Saturday 17th July 1993
Writer: Dave Eringa and Tom Doyle

MM170693 - DEDiary.jpg

It took five months and four studios for the Manics to make 'Gold Against The Soul', and producer Dave Eringa kept track of every moment. TOM DOYLE takes a peek at his diary.

Twenty-one-year-old producer Dave Eringa first Street Preachers on the Heavenly singles "Motown Junk" and "You Love Us", which he engineered and played Hammond organ on. Throughout the summer of 1992, the group were holed up in a Welsh rehearsal studio, writing the songs for "Gold Against The Soul", with Dave drafted in to engineer the demos. Suddenly the band announced they wanted him to produce the album. Here's a blow-by-blow account of the recording sessions...

DECEMBER 7-18: James plays Dave rehearsal tapes of the new stuff and they begin demos at Impact Studios in Kent and at "gothic residential studio" called House In The Woods in Surrey. Working at a rate of one track a day, they record the original versions of "Sleepflower", "Drug Drug Druggy" and five other songs.

JANUARY 3-8: Back in to House In The Woods to do demos for "Tristesse" and "Symphony Of Tourette". At this point, Sony MD Rob Stringer gives Dave the go-ahead to produce the album. He is understandably ecstatic.

"I'm sure they had to fight for me," says Dave. "Although they'd probably hate to admit it. A lot of it wasn't down to the fact that, 'Hey, I'm a great guy or anything. It's just that we'd done good work together since 'Motown Junk', and I suppose they don't like working with new people a whole lot."

JANUARY 25: Work on the album begins at Outside Studios, based at Hook End Manor near Reading, a residential studio complete with gym, swimming-pool and live-in caterers. The first day is spent setting up equipment and "acclimatising".

"It's a phenomenal studio - a really big control room with an SSL desk and 12 channels of FocusRight, so you never have to use an SSL mic amp which l hate. It has a really big live room, there's a stone room for the drums and dry room for the vocals and there's two doors which open up onto a massive courtyard at the back."

JANUARY 26: Drums, bass, lead and rhythm guitars recorded for "From Despair To Where".

"We didn't want to sort of do 10 drum tracks and then ten bass tracks because that means the drummer doesn't have anything to do for the next two months, so we set out to do drums-bass -guitar on one track and then drums-bass-guitar on the next and try to fit in bits of lead guitar and vocal so Sean and Nick were kept busy right until the very end."

JANUARY 28 - FEBRUARY 1: Drums, bass and four tracks of rhythm guitar recorded for "Drug Drug Druggy". Drums, bass and seven tracks of rhythm guitar recorded for "Sleepflower".

"We got really far pretty quickly with these ones because we all loved the demos so much, so it was just a case of recreating the vibe of that with better sounds. We worked really fast because we were quite excited about it all."

FEBRUARY 2-3: Vocals for "From Despair To Where"

"This was the easiest track to do because we had very clear idea of the drum sounds and guitar sounds we wanted. We got quite a long way into this one, as you can tell by the fact that we were beginning on the vocal within a week!"

FEBRUARY 4: Drums and bass for "Life Becoming A Landslide".

"I had maybe 25 mics on the drums: two or three on the bass drum, three mics on the snare, double mike the toms, six or eight ambient mics. I did tend to use maybe 14 or 15 tracks of drums on the first multi-track, but if you've got the luxury of 48-trackdesk then you can get away with it. When we mixed "Landslide -we faded the ambients in and out to make the drums get bigger as the song goes alone. "Nick uses an Ampeg amp for his bass and the tracks were quite painless because he's a different player now than he was in the days of "Motown Junk' On all but two tracks he used his Fender Precision, but on 'Yourself' we used a Rickenbacker and 'Despair' we did with the Thunderbird he uses live."

FEBRUARY 10-17: Drums and bass for "Yourself" and "La Tristesse Durera" . Guitar overdubs and vocals recorded for "Drug Drug Druggy" and "Landslide".

"We used the new Ampex499 hi bias multi4racks, but it doesn't pack very well because the machine kept on trying to put kinks in it. During this time we'd nearly finished 'Druggy' when the tape machine went mad and screwed up the tape right in the middle of song! It was four o' clock in the morning and l was almost in tears while James was sitting there being very calm and philosophical about it all. So we had to do a multi-track copy, did an extra copy of the third chorus, edited out the second chorus where the tape had chewed and luckily it worked. Pure luck. I was freaking."

During this time Richey records his first guitar part on a Manics record for "La Tristesse Durera".

"We cleared everyone out and it was just me and Richey and he did pretty well. He was nervous and he was like 'Oh we're going to be here all night, Dave', but he just played it. No one laughed at him at all. Except Richey himself, of course."

FEBRUARY 18-25: Guitar overdubs on various tracks. Dave plays Hammond on "Despair" and "Druggy". Session man Ian Kewley plays Hammond on "Landslide".

"Ian used to play in Q-Tips, the band Paul Young was originally in and Sony arranged for him to do the session. It was brilliant working with him because he's such a great player and he really enjoyed himself-he was dancing all around the studio! His playing really put me to shame."

FEBRUARY 26: Vocals for "La Tristesse Durera". Drums recorded for "Roses In The Hospital" with the doors of the live room open and ambient mics placed in the courtyard outside.

"It was a huge sound, but the owner of the studio was complaining about the noise a bit. He'd come in and say "How much longer will you be doing the drums?’ and we'd lie and say 'Oh, just another couple of takes'. At one point Sean got a bit frustrated because the ambient mics were heavily compressed – if someone had dropped a coke can half mile away you'd have heard it - and he was getting the sound of these ducks quacking really loud in his headphones and it was putting him off. Every five minutes wed hear him get up from his drums, go outside and scream 'Shut the f*** up" at these ducks!"

MARCH 1-11: Drums programmed and bass recorded for "Nostalgic Pushead" . Mammoth sessions of James playing guitar and singing.

"It's very hard to get him to use anything apart from his Marshall amp, even though he uses this little thing called TransAmp for his clean sounds, so we'll use those combined with the Rockman processor. Halfway through the album I managed to get hold of this amp called a Burman which James used on 'Motown Junk". It's got three gain stages, so if you distort them all it really screams. "James really likes to do sort of 18 hour days. It’ll be four in the morning, I'd be dying to get to bed and he'd say 'Let's just go the extra mile ' and then nine times out often he would play something which was a real eye-opener."

MARCH 12-15: Vocals for "Sleepflower" and "Pushead".

"You've got to know the person pretty well when you're doing a vocal. I kick everyone out the studio, cover up the windows with blankets and light candles and stuff – not because James is a hippy, because he's quite obviously not, but it helps with the atmosphere. You've got to get on the same level as the singer to help him get the best performance out of himself. James is a real perfectionist-I'll be going 'Oh yeah, vibey' and he's going 'No, it's f***ing out of tune ' and I'll be like, 'Oh, cool, we'll do it again'. Rather than singing in one take, we tended to centre on a verse at time. Especially with the lyrics being as important as they are in this band, James has got to concentrate to get the right moods across."

MARCH 22-28: Sean completes the drum programming for "Gold Against The Soul" and the bass track is recorded. Strings added to "Despair" and "Landslide". Percussionist Shovel plays on all tracks except "Gold Against The Soul".

"Sean's very into technology, he's Mr Gadget. He was at music college and he's a very competent musician, happiest when he's in front of his Cubase. When Nick Ingham came down to do the strings, Sean was giving it all this 'Can't we change this to a triplet quaver? 'type of thing. There are two tracks that are deliberately meant to sound programmed and Sean did them himself. The snare drum on 'Nostalgic' is meant to sound very industrial and metallic and we created that by sampling a pool ball being dropped on to a frying pan!

APRIL 1-20: Mixing begins at Olympic Studios. Dave mixes all tracks except "Sleepflower", "Tristesse" and "Yourself" which an mixed by Dave Bascombe.

"We went to Olympic, basically, so that we could get to some different types of monitors and effects. Then we had our fair share of problems with tape machines, because at Olympic one of the machines blew up! There was smoke and flames billowing out of "'It was great to get Dave Bascombe in to mix some of the tracks because he brought in something new, whereas I suppose the ones we mixed were us just taking the ideas we had to their logical conclusions. None of the mixes that l did had the band jumping around going 'That's brilliant’ because they sort of knew what to expect, if you see what l mean. I was doing 'Despair' downstairs while Dave was doing 'Yourself` upstairs, so it was a proper factory effort. My favourite track is 'Druggy' and I was so deflated when we finished it because that meant it was the last time l could play around with it. 'Symphony Of Tourette' took a long time because I'd get the drums sounding big then stick up the guitars and the drums would still sound dry and horrible, so that definitely the hardest one.

"For weeks after we finished mixing l still wasn't convinced work I'd done, but as time goes by I'm growing to appreciate it more. I suppose that's just Producer Paranoia Syndrome..."