I headed off to DERBY on a Sunday, on a journey that would lead to FESTIVITY via EXTREME PANIC!
The PANIC began in Marks and Spencers, as it does in all the best action movies. I was on the way to Derby to record this year's Christmas Song, so needed to get some STOLLEN (the Crust On My Pastry had already SOURCED me some mince pies the day before). However, I couldn't find any Stollen in the M&S in St Pancras so asked a member of staff, who looked at me like I was a LUNATIC. She had NO IDEA what I was on about, so went to find somebody more senior, who seemed to think I was speaking LATIN or something. A passing manager claimed to have NEVER HEARD of it and that M&S had NEVER stocked any such thing. It was very strange, especially as the latter two staff members were from abroad, so surely would know MORE about Continental Christmas Goods? Mr F A Machine later suggested that I may have been pronouncing it wrongly, which is the only logical explanation!
I emailed The Band, and a) Frankie said he's already got a stollen also b) Mr T McClure was heading to Aldi to get one too, so all was well. PHEW! At Christmas, The BAND are eating Stollen - it is THE LAW!
I thought the panic was over, but I was SO VERY WRONG. An hour later my train ground to a halt just outside Wellingborough, and a message came over the intercom to tell us that the fire alarms were going off, possibly because some oil was dripping on the engine. I looked up and saw PLUMES OF BLACK SMOKE coming from further up the train, it was ALARMING! The driver and various CREW went back and forth several times checking things, and it must be said that we were kept FULLY INFORMED at all points, I was IMPRESSED. We ended up setting off again and, thanks to the way they build in delays on a Sunday anyway, we arrived in Derby only 20 minutes late.
Frankie came to pick me up and we returned to Machine Mansions where the session was occurring. He has an OFFICE in his basement which is AMAZING, and he'd got it all set up for recording. Tom arrived a little after us, bringing MORE recording equipment, so by the time The Pattisons arrived we had a proper STUDIO set up. We also had a MASSIVE pile of CHRISTMAS FOODS, as everybody had brought something with them, it was GRATE!
In pre-studio email discussions last week Frankie had told us that he'd got something for the session that would increase the Christmassiness by 1100% GUARANTEED. I must confess I doubted him, expecting some kind of sleighbell or something, but when he demonstrated what he'd got I have to say that if anything he had UNDERESTIMATED the increase. I can't say what it WAS just yet, but GOLLY, each one of us was LITERALLY SPEECHLESS when we saw it! It makes The Bob Dylan Christmas Album look like it belongs at EASTER!!
The original plan was for us all to get set up and then record playing live, all in one go, but when we tried that it didn't sound particularly good, so we reverted to the more standard process of layering it up bit by bit, starting with me on guitar and Tim on drums. This was made tricky because a) we were in the same room, so I had to NOT SING and b) Tim had no HI-HATS, which he usually uses for DRUM SIGNALS, so we had to work our way through with NODS and FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, but it seemed to work. What ALSO seemed to work was us all sitting in the room together. Mr Pete Weiss of The Weisstronauts is, as I understand it, a proponent of this method of recording, where the engineer and the band are all together in the same room, and I must say it made it all feel VERY FRIENDLY. We were all filming each other for use in the VIDEO, so we were kept busy, and it was much less LONELY than usual having everybody with you while you did your bits.
THUS I did my vocals, then Tom did Violin, then Emma did HER vocals - Emma's vocals always seem to end up in a group discussion as to what extra bits she could put in, whereas mine seem to be got over with as quickly as possible. I guess this is because there is no way you could possibly improve my singing? Anyway, Emma did a whole bunch of ACE stuff, and then we had TAMBOURINE overdubs, a bit more violin, and then some BASS just for video purposes - Frankie's mixing it all at his house, so as he said, he could do that at any time (along with overdubbing all of our bits etc etc).
We had a VERY quick listen to what we'd done, and it sounded PRETTY FLIPPING GOOD, so we retired to Frankie's local, along with Mrs Machine, for some DELIGHTFUL beer before it was time for me to go and get my (entirely uneventful) train home. It had been, as ever with The Validators, a RUDDY LOVELY day which will hopefully generate something RATHER good. Frankie's hoping to get it mixed so it's ready for release on 11 December, but fear not, I shall let you know ALL about it when it's ready!