Thursday, 24 November 2016

Tales of The Necromancer and the nightmare that seemed to go on for all time


Wow, so here I am sort of in a bit of disbelief at the concept that this album is actually finally finished and released. It's quite a long story this one, the whole thing went through so many stages it is unreal, ten and a half years from playing the first note to actually having a finished CD. Some of this album was recorded under so much duress I am amazed not only that I managed to finish it, but that I survived with my sanity mainly intact. Anyway, enough of that as I wouldn't change a second of it, to me, every note oozes uncompromising belief and blind determination, makes me feel triumphant and I hope folk like it! Yeah, so this is the full unadulterated story from start to finish of The Necromancer.....

Phase one - An unexpected torrent of riffs.

Max sitting on the chair the album began on, note ancient computer with massive old-school cube like monitor, primitive even for 2005 standards.

Like all good things I started this without any plan or concept, at the time the album began I was living in a flat in the Tolcross area of Edinburgh. It was April 2005 and a Sunday evening, at that point in my life I was singing for Man of the Hour and not playing much guitar, in fact I hadn't played for a couple of years. Man of the Hour had recently done some gigs with Black Tooth (a band featuring Guv from the mighty Runemaster) and all of their gear was at my flat. Out of the various pedals they left lying around at mine was one of the early guitar pods, so I decided to mess about with it. To my ears it sounded pretty good and I got a bit inspired and thought I would try writing a song or two as a laugh, bearing in mind they had left their bass as well, I had everything I needed. There was very decent death / grind band that Man of the Hour had played with a few times called Errata, I was really into them and had been quite inspired by their guitarist George to play guitar again, so I decided to write a few Errata inspired tracks (I later went on to play in Errata for two months in 2010, George later joined me in Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves in 2013). This grew legs quite quick and it was apparent that in the previous years of not playing guitar I had a whole stockpile of riffs ready to pour out. So in an unprecedented explosion of creativity I recorded twelve songs in one evening, bass, solos the lot. For drums I used samples taken from Pete Sandovals drum soundcheck which appeared as an extra track on their Heretic album which I had just bought. My extremely primitive copy of Cubasis was stretched to it's limit. So I burned a CD of the twelve instrumental tracks, and played it loads the following week. For a couple of months myself and Mark Pringle (vocalist for Errata) planned on getting a band together to play the songs under the moniker Gloom Raven, we managed to convince Cooky to drum who later went on to drum for Cancerous Womb, although he has no recollection at all of his agreement, probably because the whole Gloom Raven era took place absolutely smashed in various shit boozers around the Cowgate in Edinburgh. The project sort of just faded away when we couldn't get a bassist.

Phase two - Enter the dragon and then exit the dragon.

When it became apparent that it was extremely unlikely that Gloom Raven was ever going to happen, I decided that I would just finish the album on my own, and it would become my second solo album and follow up to We Have Bift Off which came out in 2002. Originally, the twelve songs I put together was in total thirty three minutes.... by a year and a half later, the same songs had stretched out and the length of the album was now seventy plus minutes. This was because, I had just gone completely mad for the project. The album had started out as twelve basic death metal songs but was now packed with acoustic guitars, keyboards, bizarre drum loops and unfathomable arrangements. The original vision had been lost for sure but something far more original and enticing had replaced it. The only problem was, as is the case when composing on a computer, is that I had no real concept of where to stop, so the songs just kept getting weirder and weirder. What had happened was I had created new riffs by cutting up the original takes, the songs had all grown in length, hugely. So I re-recorded all the guitars, as it was so cut up that it sounded totally inhuman. Inevitably, they all got cut up and even more new riffs were created via editing and looping. This cycle of recording, editing, rerecording and re-editing went around at least four times. I decided that they need finishing and so one afternoon took my computer in a taxi to Studio 24 in Edinburgh where Matt Justice who I played with in Man of the Hour was the in house sound engineer. I did bits and bobs of vocals and most of the tracks but didn't finish any. I never got round to it as Man of the Hour where very busy getting ready to record their second album Destroy the Machines of Slaughter. So the project sort of drifted out of my mind. I had given copies out to various folk for their opinions, one of these being Stevie Power who I also played with in Man of the Hour. Now I don't really know how long he spent, but he finished most of the songs off by adding samples from films on them in place of vocals. Now to say these were weird would be an incredible understatement, and the insanity of it gave them a new lease of life, there was talk for a while of them being released in this format under the name Destructorr. So we spent quite a while listening to Destructorr, mainly on tour with Man of the Hour to the dismay of everyone bar me and Stevie. Now I don't mean any disrespect to Stevies contributions, and funny as it was to have the entire thing rammed with samples from Enter the Dragon, Demons 2, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Jaws.... it was sort of a bit shit as well. I really needed to admit it was over, or sort it the fuck out.

Phase three - Midi Doom and beyond the realms of phobos.

Due to various stupid decisions over the previous three years since starting the project, I had not kept any previous mixes or anything and all I had left was Destructorr. I was confused about the project and made a rash decision, that turned out to be a fantastic idea. I deleted it all. Not everything that had happened to the songs in their development had been bad ideas, but I had lost track of what was going on. So I figured I would start again, from memory. My rational was that I would only remember the good bits of each song and the daft and or shit bits would be forgotten. This process resulted in the twelve songs becoming eleven, one song was utterly forgotten, probably for the best. So I set about re-creating the songs from scratch, but I decided that I would first of all program the entire thing as midi information, as I wanted to focus on the music alone and not get side tracked in guitar tones, keyboard sounds and loops and stuff. For those of you familiar with the music in the original Doom game, this is pretty much what the songs were sounding like at this stage. It was an exhausting process that I worked on as good as every day for just over a year. I wanted every note and every beat to be exactly where I wanted it to be. At this stage I was just concentrating on the rhythms and melodies that I could remember from the Destructorr stage. I was not thinking about which bits would be bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals or whatever. What I wanted to achieve was to construct 'music' and think only of the way the ideas interacted with each other. The endgame, was when finished I would replace the appropriate parts with guitars, bass and vocals. This entire process took place when I was living alone in a wee flat on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, now this flat had sort of by default become a party flat for me and a lot of my friends. I was slowly going absolutely mental through a combination of living on my own, undertaking a mammoth musical endeavor and existing in an almost permanent state of psychedelic nihilism. 

Breakfast at the Slateford Ponderosa

Eventually I moved out / fled to live with a bunch of berks in Slateford. We referred to the flat as The Ponderosa, this is where the arrangements were finalised and I started work on putting recorded rhythm guitars on it. The project was finally sounding convincing and impressive. For the first time in the four odd years I had been working on it, I felt like the end was in site. Unfortunately, the living conditions were, let's say utterly chaotic. Sometimes I felt like we were some sort of living experiment in cannabis psychosis, wandering around dressed in improvised jedi outfits, serious as fuck.

Phase four - The blizzard of hell.

A wee video of footage taken from the recording sessions for The Necromancer at Room Room studios in Hull December 2009.

Ok, so in November 2009 Man of the Hour split up. This was a really shitty time for anyone and everybody involved, it was the inevitable conclusion to seven years of absolutely fantastic intensity. Something had to break and it was us. So I was on a massive fucking downer, Man of the Hour had utterly dominated my life and suddenly I felt like I had fuck all. It was at this point that this album got promoted to being the main thing in my life, I really felt like I had something to prove musically and I knew that this album was about to become my first post Man of the Hour release.