Why I went digging in the archives - Early Works Volume 2

   The last 18 months have been a wild (and challenging) ride for ATA Records. For many years I have been putting off doing a very necessary renovation on the studio where we make all the music for the label. I knew that it was going to be like pulling a thread on my favourite jumper. If you speak to any experienced builder about time frames on projects they will always shake their heads and tell you to add another 6 months to what you had carefully budgeted for time wise. The same goes for the cost. The reason I had been putting it off was that I always had a record to make. Even after all these years my career is still very hand to mouth and I knew once I started the hand would stop going to the mouth. To offset this I had made sure I had a couple of releases in the can to eke out over the refurb. Get it done and get back to making music as soon as possible was what I thought. Of course, as with every build project this went completely out the window very quickly. The extended never-ending renovation meant that I ran out of releases and no longer had the ability to make new ones. I think the physical refurb of the building took about a year.

 

   One thing I didn’t factor in was how long it was going to take to get the refurbed studio back up and working after I finished the building work. Up in the north of England, we lack the highly experienced audio technicians to do refurb work on studio gear and the ones who are here are so busy they never seem to have the time. So, although the studio is pretty much finished as a place to work, the work can’t yet take place in the way that I want it to as the re-commissioning of the equipment is painfully slow.

 

   Sometimes the solution is staring you in the face and you just don't see it. We had been talking about putting out some digital tracks to bridge the gap between finishing the studio and getting new music made and the physical product produced. I was tasked with going through the archives to source some appropriate material that we could use. Whilst doing this I found myself taking a nostalgic detour down memory lane and revisiting some work that I had done many years before the formation of the label. At this point the label was just an idea and a name ATA (which by the way stands for All Things Analog).

 

   We had just finished getting my 1" 8 track tape machine back up and running and I was itching to take it for a spin. My first version of ATA studios back in 2008-2012 had run off an 8 track and I had loads of archived reels from back then living behind a couch on the top floor of my house. Some of the reels had gone a bit soft but an hour in a food dehydrator brought them back. It was so exciting hearing the bits that came before tracks, laughing, coughing, count ins and false starts. I started unearthing tracks that for some reason I had shelved and was a bit surprised at what I was hearing: great grooves, heavy drums, belting vocals, thumping bass, soulful piano. These tracks hadn't been looked at for about ten years and with my brand new control room I knew that all they needed was a good mix to get them to see the light of day. With a bit of digging I had found six unreleased killer tracks. Four from 2010 and two tracks from 2013 when we first started officially working on music to release under the label name ATA Records. At this point I was starting to get excited as I knew I had over half of a record. We had some tracks from an album that we had always known would work well as instrumentals so I took vocals off and reworked them. Lastly, we had some 7” singles that had long sold out but we were still getting requests to repress so I took the A sides  from them to complete the record. One of these sold-out singles fetches a silly price on Discogs so I felt good answering that need for some folks to own a copy of it on vinyl. Ok, it’s not the original 45 but who’s got upwards of £60 for a 45? Not me.

 

 

                             

 

 

   The early tracks on this compilation hold a special place in my heart as they come from a place and time where there was nobody paying any attention to the music that I was making. It’s good to be reminded of that feeling and I will take a bit of that with me moving forward. We had no responsibilities back then with all the free time in the world. The studio rent was next to nothing and we paid for it with a regular gig in town. A track could be written at the beginning of the week and I could have us recording it before the weekend. That kind of freedom meant we could experiment and develop without deadlines or financial pressure.

 

   Now feels like the right time for these tracks to see the light of day. Having gutted out the old studio and completely rebuilt it there was a certain catharsis or tying up of loose ends about releasing this material. Drawing a line under some unfinished business so to speak and making space for what is to come. My heart was warmed knowing that many of the same players from back in those early days are still making music with me now today. It is not the last collection of music from that period as I have the first album that I ever made under the banner ATA Records which I am very excited about. It is being mixed ready for release later this year.


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