A tale of a small record label…….
MONDAY 3rd April : A disagreement with a Sunday Night King Prawn and Cashew Nut concoction from the local take-away had left me somewhat jaded and inconvenienced, pottering around feeling sorry for myself. A message from my partner in musical crime Mr Moss indicated that he was aiming to get copies of the debut Four Candles album made for the forthcoming gig at the Eagle so “could I do the necessary background fettling with those nice people at Mint Copies in Stockport?”. The answer was yes of course. A word to the wise “background fettling” is not as glamorous as it sounds, it generally involves several hours waiting for files to upload to various platforms chewing up bandwidth and making it impossible to do any multitasking on the lap-top. Anyhow the job is less onerous this time as the very talented Mr Jon Rowlinson (bass player of this parish) has already done the artwork, which is very impressive. Most of Monday afternoon is spent uploading the ten WAV files for sending on to Mint. It then strikes me, always a glutton for punishment, the Mr Moss might also want a digital release of said album so I put it to him, he says yes. So Monday evening is spent uploading the tracks to Bandcamp, also a laborious process, again chewing up the bandwidth making multi-tasking impossible etc etc….I ask Mr Moss for some liner notes which are faithfully reproduced below……
Four Candles is a band comprising of ex Hamsters / Resist bassist Jon Rowlinson , ex Resist Drummer Phil Peak , Middlesbrough s finest export Mark Taylor on guitar and ex Hamsters vocalist Ian ” Moët” Moss. They formed in June 2016 and it was soon evident the creative chemicals were flowing between the four individuals producing vibrant exciting music. Low on funds they scraped together enough cash for sixteen hours studio time in November , in five hours these ten tracks were recorded in one or two takes with minimal overdubs , the next eleven hours saw the album mixed , now it’s available , the candles are lit and burning brightly.
TUESDAY 4th April – part of the digital distribution means signing up with a company that does the work of sending your releases to all the various platforms out there. We are with a company called Ditto who are very efficient at getting stuff processed quickly. Again there’s the tedium of uploading the files to them, so most of Tuesday is eaten up with that with the usual impact on bandwidth and multi-tasking. There’s also the job of getting the news out to 400 or so DJ’s, Radio Stations, and Bloggers who get bombarded with our releases on a weekly basis. Always a complex process because people want things in different formats so there’s a need to upload things to a cloud for sharing (more time expended whilst that goes on) and to write some promo which “sells” the album, always remembering that a good proportion of the people you are writing to haven’t got a clue what you are wittering on about and , if they are thing like me, get dozens of e-mails from record companies or pluggers on a daily basis. You have to sell the uniqueness of your product. There’s also the need to tell people that we are releasing it via the usual social media outlets… Facebook, Twitter etc and that, hopefully the CDs will be done for Saturday and the gig at the Eagle, where the band are performing with The Get and Cannonball Statman. All the above is dutifully completed by around 9pm which means I can finally get around to catching up with doing work for next weeks podcasts. 40 of the 400 promo e-mails get bounced back for various reasons but that can wait for another day.
WEDNESDAY 5th April – an e-mail from Ipswich Community Radio advises that a track from the album will be played tonight – result! Mr Moss reports that the CDs have arrived, well done Mint. We can let people know we will be selling them on Saturday night. The results of the dodgy King Prawn thing are just about wearing off so I’m feeling more human, better write a review with my schizo blogger podcaster hat on then……..
The Hamsters had to be put on ice in 2016 for various reasons which are too complicated to go into here. Messrs Moss and Rowlinson wanted to continue, the momentum from the Hamsters was good, and Mr Moss needs a “proper” band to properly exorcise his demons, as well as his other projects with brother Nemo and that Space Museum chap. The new drummer is Phil Peak who was in Resist with Jon, and the guitarist is Mark Taylor from Middlesbrough now based in Manchester. Mr Moss tells me is very excited, “we are doing interesting stuff” he says. Money is scrabbled together for a limited amount of time at 6dB studios under the expert guidance of Simon “Ding” Archer. The resultant ten tracks are laid down in one or two takes and mixed in an insanely short time period. Mr Moss circulates it to a few hardy souls, including myself. The general view is it is excellent, “the best band you have been in” say Mick Middles and myself say to Mr Moss almost simultaneously. Gigs occur at the Eagle and Freds Ale House and the audience reaction is extremely positive. Maybe this one gets taken out of the German Shepherd kennel and released by more recognised label? It’s that good. That, for whatever reason, doesn’t come to fruition.
The band continue to rehearse and write, new material starts to emerge on Facebook. We’re close to getting another album done, says Mr Moss, better get the first one out. Can we do it in five days? Of course we can, but let’s not make a habit of it!
As a student, participant, and would be hagiographer of Mr Moss’s body of work I have sensed his frustration at not having a vehicle strong enough to realise the visions in his head. There have been moments, and high points if you will, of course, in the Hamsters, The Dodos, The Stepbrothers and the much regarded Kill Pretty, but there was always a feeling nagging in the back of my head that the propensity of musicians to want to ape their heroes rather than innovate could ultimately stifle Moss’s ambition to deliver something new and different.
I’ll be bold here and say this is Mr Moss’s “In A Silent Way” or “Agharta” – the culmination of a body of work which lead finally to something that stands on its own, and stands apart from toxic genre classification, and breaks the mould.
Why is the question? What is the difference?
One key point is I think, finally, here is a band devoid of ego, where the constituent parts come together perfectly to create a band that stands as unit.
The other key point is the instrumentation.
A drummer who plays an electric kit which can deliver a variety of options with the flick of switch, funk, dub, punk and prog are all deliverable from Phil’s kit. This allows for variety and experimentation across the album, and even within songs.
Jon Rowlinson’s bass has never sounded better melding punk and funk with riffs and runs that perfectly compliment the music.
Perhaps one of the main things though is Mark Taylor’s guitar which comes from a style of music not necessarily associated with Moet’s previous work, there’s an edge, be it Neu-Metal or whatever else you want to call it, but it is different, it adds a symphonic layer which transforms the tunes. There is invention and there are new sounds. The phased/flanged opening of the title track being a case in point.
And Mr Moss, after a period of prolonged ill-health, is back with gusto, and belligerence, and sometime tenderness with his best recorded vocal performance in a long while. At times he pushes his voice to the limit creating a dynamic sound which fits perfectly with musical explorations going on behind him.
The songs contain the usual Moss subjects and obsessions. There is the recognisable rock biog approach (as seen with 4VT and Basically Johnny Moped) with “Napa State” which recounts the tale of The Cramps infamous gig in a mental hospital. There is a sports biog with a tale of the Ali-Frazier “Thrilla in Manilla” in “14th Round”. Moss loves to celebrate outsider heroes and the band deliver a killer tribute to Lenny Bruce with “I Learned The Truth”. Moss’s literary explorations of identity continue with “The Man With No Mirrors” , “Monkey See Monkey Do” and title track “Killing the Image”, and his metaphorical tales continue with the both insanely catchy but sad “Horse”. The lyrically almost world-weary closer “I Was Almost Happy” nods back to the “punk wars” “show business” and the inevitable point in time when your idols let you down, is counterbalanced with a massive martial beat and catchy melody. I reckon with this album Mr Moss can at long last be happy with his lot. There is more but I won’t spoil it for you. This is music you need to explore yourself, and find your own meanings. It is great to listen to.
And there you have it. An album released and promoted in five days with a launch gig on the sixth day. And on the seventh day we rested…….
The CD version will be available at gigs, and via our Bandcamp page from Friday. Digital versions will also be available from Bandcamp on Friday and then via the usual platforms – I-Tunes, Amazon, Apple, Deezer, Napster and countless others too numerous to mention. And no we don’t plan to do a vinyl version so please don’t ask.