Gary, how pleased are you with the GOJO' MUSIC'S debut EP, 'Twenty years of love and pain … they hurt the same'?
We’re chuffed to bits – I mean it was a thrill to work with Martin Stephenson. Myself and Olly (guitarist Garry Oliver) are both fans of Martin’s songs from over the years, going all the way back to his first album 'Boat To Bolivia' around 1986. I was – and still am a big fan, he produced some excellent albums full of gems song wise … and he still does, even more so now that he’s a free spirit and in control you know, not being dragged down by the pitfalls and the pariahs that seem to frequent this business.
|CD cover. Pic: David Clutton|
We feel we’ve totally captured the songs and the feel / sound that we have been after. Being able to work with Martin – someone who understood exactly what we wanted, and of course the thrill of working with him – well it got the best out of us.
Martin’s songs over the years such as 'Crocodile Cryer', 'Running Water', 'Slow Lovin’, 'Wholly Humble Heart', 'Slaughterman', 'Big North Lights', 'Long Hard Road' etc etc, I could go on and on … they shaped my own songwriting.
His skill and experience helped us capture the songs … yeah we’re chuffed mate, really pleased.
How did you end up working with him?
|Gary O'Dea - vocals|
It’s a story that goes across a few months actually. Me and Olly did a support to him at Wolverhampton’s Little Civic venue at the end of November last year. Phil Turner (god bless him) one of the promoters there knew I was a fan of Martin's and contacted me to see if I’d be interested in the support slot – I jumped at it.
Martin was solo and me and Olly did a little acoustic support set to him. We had a great night, we hit it off, had a right laugh – and our set went down a treat. I think we got sprinkled with a bit of magic dust that evening it was a very memorable night... pretty special.
I met Martin for lunch the next day in Wolverhampton. He asked about what I’d done in the past. So, I sent him some rehearsal taped stuff from me and Olly on cassette, just stuff recorded at my house or up at Olly’s. He liked the stuff and I think we got on so well because basically Martin originates from off a council estate up in Washington, Tyne & Wear.
|Martin recording, Olly on the guitar|
He’s a very down to earth working class guy with a great sense of humour and I think there are a lot of similarities between the warm Geordie humour and the Black Country tongue in cheek banter. We kept in touch and Martin told me about this portable studio recording desk he’s got called a Zoom MRS 1266 and that he’d recorded a lot of his CDs on it over the past few years. We were desperate to get some quality recording done and out there on sale and to use for promo purposes etc.
Anyway, it was just after Christmas and we decided we’d have to just pay top dollar and go with someone like Gavin Monaghan at Magic Garden Studios – Wolves, or Mark Stuart at Mad Hat Studios out near Coven. I’d worked with Mark many times over the years and Gavin’s had some great successes – the recent Nizlopi album etc, but it’s top dollar now for these guys and we’d got a limited budget.
Then I called Martin to ask him a bit more about this Zoom desk he’d got, with the idea of getting me one. They were about £500 to buy new … but then the problem would have been me getting my head around the technical side of things and that would have taken time.
|Martin Stephenson at the controls|
So I called him up and we were having a chat. I knew he’d done some recording with other people – recording albums for them etc, well anyway he asked me what I wanted to do and I said a 4-track EP because we’d decided we needed something out pretty sharpish. Well he said “I’d be up for doing it with you”!
I heard him say this to me over the phone, but thought I was dreaming it!!! I carried on talking about something else for a minute but my head was exploding!!! I said “what did you say Martin” – and he was laughing – he said ”I’ll be up for recording you as long as we can do it around my tour dates”!
Well, I couldn’t believe it, I was jumping around my kitchen like some mad man, I couldn’t believe it… Martin Stephenson wanted to record and produce some Gary O’Dea songs… I still can’t believe it!!!
You recorded it at your home in Tipton?
Yes, we started rehearsing the band up – that’s me and Olly joined by my old mate Eric Cox on bass guitar and Tony Bate on drums for the four tracks. Then Martin had a date on his tour schedule for a gig in Stafford at the end of April – the 23rd it was, a Sunday night. He then had the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday free – the 24th, 25th and 26th – so we went for these dates.
|Martin Stephenson and Gary O'Dea|
Martin had some great production ideas – mixing drum beat and percussion programmes in with a live kit – some wicked stuff you can do with the right people who know what they’re doing. I mean there’s hip-hop stuff going on in 'Tell Me Please, Is This How The West Was Won?' - all mixed in with other percussion and drum fills, great stuff.
My old piano / keyboard player Andy Stokes was available and well up for taking part in the recording and boy did he take part. Andy is based in Liverpool, but originally from Bromsgrove and I sent him a cassette with the songs on, he came down on the Tuesday and stayed at his folks and recorded with us across the Tuesday and Wednesday – he blew us all away … brilliant.
What was the recording process?
Well we got together about lunch-time at my house on Monday 24th April. Martin travelled from Stafford where he’d stayed the night before for his gig. I thought I’d make him feel at home by wearing my Tipton Town FC top which is black and white stripes the same as Newcastle Utd who Martin's a big fan of!
|Garry Oliver and Gary O'Dea|
We didn’t actually start recording until about 2pm in the afternoon and we started working on the drums / percussion on 'Tell Me Please, Is This How The West Was Won?' – and then put the guitars and bass down – plugged straight into the desk, having
the drum track to play to using the TV as a sound monitor! and I sung a vocal along to it. We then started to build the track up, Olly and Ecka were on fire I mean they really were – we were flying through stuff, it was two takes average.
We worked until about 7pm – had a break for something to eat for an hour or so, then listened back to what we’d done and started to talk about the songs – bounce ideas across one another. We’d made a start on each track during the first day … me and Martin worked until about 2am in the morning. I remember the last thing I did was what was supposed to be just the guide vocal to 'Time Out' – done in the kitchen, but because it really does have that ‘weary’ feel to it – because by this time I was – then it captured it so we used it as the main vocal!
|Andy 'Hot Gravel' Stokes - keyboards|
We recorded mainly in the living room – everything – vocals, guitars, drums / percussion and piano / keyboards … home recording – keeps the home fires burning – that’s my motto. It was great. By the time Andy came along on the Tuesday we’d started to fly. We worked from about 1pm until about 7pm and it was brilliant – we really knew we’d got it. I think because it was so relaxing to do it at home, you know we could just concentrate on the songs, have a cuppa, talk about the songs, bounce ideas about etc, etc – no pressure so that we really did fly through stuff and got loads done. It was ‘house rockin’ stuff in the true manner!
We took Martin for a curry up the Sharzia in Owen St, Tipton on the Tuesday night – great curries – he was well impressed! We knew we’d have it all done and dusted as far as the recording was concerned the next day so we could just relax.
On the Wednesday it was just putting finishing touches, tidying parts up, adding some vocals, guitar, percussion bits etc, we got Martin playing some funky tambourine on '(Get Me On A Bus To) Betterville!' We started again about 1pm and was all
done and dusted by about 7pm – Martin even got some rough mixes done for us as well. I think the whole thing – including tea/coffee breaks, because Martin and Ecka can drink that for England – took about 22 hours.
Is this the official debut release of the band?
|Martin Stephenson and Gary|
Yes – it’s took a while, but it’s been worth the wait at the end of it.
Tell us about the title and the songs.
Well, the title ‘Twenty Years of Love and Pain… they hurt the same’ came about because there was this twenty year coincidence thing going on. Like, the last time I’d played with Olly was in a local Wolverhampton based band called The Railway Children
- who later changed their name to The Weeping Messerschmitts in 1986. I left to start my own band called The Love Hounds and teamed up with Ecka for the first time – so it was twenty years since me and Olly had been in The Railway Children together, and twenty years since I’d first teamed up with Ecka.
Then Martin's first album 'Boat To Bolivia' was released in 1986 … so this twenty year coincidence kept appearing and well it had been twenty Years of Love and Pain for us all at times – the music biz, life in general etc, and I thought well – they both hurt the same at times as well … so that was were the title comes from.
|Gary O'Dea - drums|
The songs, well the first track ‘Tell Me Please, Is This How The West Was Won?’ I wrote a couple of years ago after watching a brilliant documentary made by Producer Malcolm Brinkworth at Touch Productions and Broadcast on BBC2 to national acclaim,
it was called Afghan Warrior. The BBC should repeat it and put it on BBC1 at prime time – take Eastenders off one night and let the country watch it again to see the charade behind the Afghan / Iran / Taliban / Al Queda conflict.
I sent Malcolm Brinkworth an early demo of the song – recorded with just me on acoustic guitar at my mates house, I sent him a copy of the new EP as well – he contacted me about the song and said ‘It’s a great track and I’m glad the film made an impact on you. Thanks for the CD hope it goes from strength to strength.’
So that was lovely to get that from Malcolm. The song's getting good reviews as well and we’re starting to get some radio plays – both local, national and internet so I’m really pleased about it. To find out more about the documentary your readers can visit this link - http://www.touchproductions.co.uk/films.html
The second track 'Distant Friend' is a song I’ve had for a few years. A bit of a love song really. I’d demo’d it with the original line up of the band a couple of years back and that was a good version – more up-tempo and a little bit funkier, but how I’d always really heard it in my head was with a feel similar to Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers. Well we’d slowed it down anyway and then when Andy Stokes came onboard the session and put that Hammond Organ / Leslie Speaker classic soulful keyboard down – well we were just drooling, I love it – it’s going down a treat as well.
|Olly on guitar, Eric 'Ecka' Cox, bass|
'(Get Me On A Bus To) Betterville' – the third track, is a new number – just a couple of months old at the time of recording. It’s a mix of things really. A bit of it is about dusting yourself down and getting your act back together you know, pulling yourself together and getting out of the grief. Discover something from it - that things that sometimes seem better are not and some things that seem bad can be overcome. I was watching the classic Sergio Leone film 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' –
the DVD full version un-cut.
Betterville is actually a prison of war camp for Confederate Soldiers in the film. The captured soldiers are told they’re going to a better place, out of the war, they’ll be looked after, cared for etc, etc… but it’s actually an extermination camp more or less and they’re treated terrible, they’d have been better fighting on (apparently it’s based on a true prison camp from the American Civil War called Andersonville but Leone reversed the role in the film because the real life camp was a prison camp for Union Soldiers). I suppose there’s a double meaning to the title and chorus in the song…you know like there’s times you cry out for a better place, better things you know – but you can actually get there by not giving up sometimes.
|GOJO' MUSIC, Tipton|
It’s a very percussive, up-tempo groove, a real funky / slide – blues feel to it … a bit Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet period. It’s gone really well live and we nailed a great version on the EP. Like I said earlier we got Martin on tambourine on this – he did a great job … that Geordie got rhythm!
The last song 'Time Out' is a few years old. I wrote it while sitting in a massive traffic jam coming out of the North Circular Road in London, waiting to get back on the M1 back home – it was a Friday afternoon and grid-locked. I was in Ecka Cox’s old car, we’d played a gig in London the night before.
We got stuck in this traffic jam, we were in no particular hurry, it was a lovely warm summer afternoon, we’d got a cassette on of the classic Byrds album 'Sweetheart Of The Rodeo' and we were just watching all these road rage drivers, pulling their hair out, stuck in traffic. You know, all the BMW drivers stuck behind White Van drivers all ranting and raving and there was we two, sitting with the doors open, Byrds on the cassette, totally chilled out having a right laugh at them. I started jotting the words down on a bit of paper and that was it.
|Home recording ... O'Dea Rebel HQ|
Recording it was wonderful, Olly’s guitar and Andy’s piano blend lovely together. The icing on the cake for this song was that when Martin was doing a little mix on the Wednesday afternoon, we’d got it on quite loud listening to it.
I’d actually nipped up stairs on the loo and could hear the track playing downstairs, but with the window open in the bathroom all these birds were twittering and tweeting outside in the garden and it just sounded great. So I came running down stairs and said “we’ve got to get a microphone outside in the garden and record those birds”, and that’s what we did and that’s what you hear at the start and the end of the track. It worked great and I’m really pleased with it.
I really must pay homage to the lads, Olly, Ecka and Andy they were really on top form and of course Martin was just coaxing the best out of us. Like I’ve said it was the most enjoyable recording session I’d ever done – a special time, with special people.
More recording planned?
|Martin Stephenson on the tambourine|
Oh yes, we plan to get some more stuff done with Martin again later on in the year as well. Some more ‘home recording’ – Olly’s just moved into a new house and wants to do it there, we may also be going up North to record with Martin at some point as well, either Newcastle or at his place in Ross-Shire, or both - we’ll just go with the flow.
So how can people get a copy of the EP/CD?
They can contact us at the web site www.gojo-music.co.uk - if they contact me via the contacts page on the site they can order a copy, there’s also details on the merchandise page http://www.gojo-music.co.uk/merchandise.php
|Gary O'Dea pays homage to the lads|
They can also get a preview of the songs on the site and there’s a full download available of 'Tell Me Please, Is This How The West Was Won?' - plus samples of the other three tracks – that were ‘Made in Tipton – with a Geordie at the Controls’
Before I go I just have to say a big thank you to Mr David Tucker for designing our web site and graphic art designer Nicci Hewett for doing the CD cover design.
Thanks for the chat - keep the groove!
EP front cover picture copyright David Clutton / GOJO' MUSIC.
The other pics are copyright of David Tucker / GOJO' MUSIC.