Hi, it’s Guy here with my second posting on this blog.
THE TAPELOOPS – “Fire in Heaven”
4 track e.p., released 1984.
track list; Side 1., Working for the Government/ The Landlord Said
Side 2., I’ve been to Heaven/ Luv Song.
Guy Kats; vocals, geetar. Linda Loop; vocals, trumpet, percussion,
keyboards. John Treason, bass, percussion. Scott O Keefe, drums.
This was the Tapeloop’s first vinyl artifact, although we’d been selling our independently produced cassettes since our inception in January 1981. Our early material tended to the experimental and avant-garde, but by the time of this record our musical skills had deteriorated to your basic three chord thrash. The same thing happened to Split Enz. (This is what happens when you play lots of gigs in pubs, kiddies. You end up doing only your faster, ‘rock’ type songs in order to appease the beer swilling proles.)
Be that as it may, by the time of this recording we had replaced our zither with an electric guitar, the plastic trumpet with a real one, and the percussion flower pots with a real snare and hi-hat. John Treason had been working with the Original Duo of me and Linda Loop for a long time, and we had of late been going through a series of our friends looking for someone who could keep a beat in some sort of fashion. This process ended with Scott O’Keefe occupying the drummers stool until the Tapeloops morphed into Trash of All Nations.
We hired a small recording studio (can’t remember the name), whose main attraction was that they didn’t mind if we smoked pot in the studio. Unfortunately the owner/engineer came with the mixing desk as part of the package. He wanted to play at being producer and he had his own ideas on how we should sound. So the recording became a battle of wills between his efforts to try and make us sound like everybody else, and our pig-headed insistence on doing things in our own primitive fashion. For one thing our primitive/perverse collection of drums and objects masquerading as a drumkit appalled him. He wasn’t impressed with our self-taught drummer’s style either. Our politics also were a mystery to him.
The main problem, from my point of view, was that he had no idea how I wanted my guitar to sound. Not understanding the swamp/grunge aesthetic, he methodically stripped away the lovely wash of lower range frequencies I employed that played such a large part in establishing our “sound” on stage. Alas I was too much of a novice in the studio to be able to seize control, and as a result the guitar on this record is nothing like our live sound at the time.
Nonetheless, ignoring my expectations of what I wanted it to sound like, and dealing instead with the actuality, it has to be said that this recording is not without its charms, in particular the songs on side one where the fabulous Mz Linda Loop (known to her groupies as “the Cockroach Girl” handled the vocal chores. Possibly this is because we spent more time working on those tracks. By the time it came to record the songs that I sang on (Heaven & Luv Song) we were running out of money so we kinda of rushed through it. As a result I’ve never been happy with them frankly. Worked well live running the two songs together and it starts well I feel on the record, but the mix doesn’t build the energy levels up to a sufficent peak. John Treason’s bass sounds really good, as does Linda Loop’s trumpet and my voice is ok too, but the overall mix just doesn’t gel.
Really we should have taken more time and added more layers, built up the sound, etc but “Time is Money (Bastard)” as an old girlfriend used to say, so instead we just mixed down what we had at the end of the studio time. Possibly we should have just released a two track single, but we wanted to give people as much material as possible for their money. In this digital age none of these considerations would come up.
I still like the songs on side one though, both “Working for the Government” and “The Landlord Said”. “Working for the Government”‘s Cramp-esque Hillbilly 12-bar workout with its chirpy-political motormouth spiel was always popular at our gigs, while “The Landlord Said” has a strange, limping industrial charm that builds relentlessly into a fervent pandemonic crescendo, complete with what sounds to me like a wailing cover of the Star Trek theme thrown in over the top. Linda denies this and says its actually a descending fifth harmonic to the bassline, or something like that. She’s the real musician. I was more of a sound artist who liked making different noises. Never could tune a guitar by ear. Well, not the guitar I had, which cost about eighty dollars secondhand. I bought it off a man in Fortitude Valley, out of the back of a station-wagon, one Saturday morning, as I recollect. Seems a bit dodgy now I think about it. Never did stay in tune long, even with new strings and machine-heads. I stuck paste jewels and gee-gaws all over it so no-one would steal it. My strategy worked. Years later when we were on tour in Sydney the locals stole everything from the band’s van except my guitar. It was just too ugly.
Incidently, my other guitar was REALLY ugly. A freak Frankenstein’s monster of a thing from someone’s twisted nightmare of a basement-workshop. Some pervert had taken a Maton guitar and ‘done things to it’. The rusty mutant pickups that had been put in stuck out like the bolts on Herman Munster’s neck, The bridge looked like it was made from a dead man’s dentures and for some reason the sides had been ripped out and replaced with paddle pop sticks, thickly lacquered over. In fact lacquer had been poured over the whole assemblage in an attempt to give it a unifying aesthetic.
It crackled and buzzed and was unusable for anything except playing slide on one or two songs. Ah I loved that guitar. All ‘real’ guitarists looked at it with horror. (you can hear it today on the Trash of All Nations song, “Coffins of Gold” available of course on the A Records site.
Interesting historical sidebar; When we sent the TRASH master tapes to the EMI factory in Sydney to be pressed, they rang us back in a panic, saying that there was this terrible crackling noise at the start of the tape and did we want them to remove it? Oh no, I said, its supposed to be like that. Its just me plugging my awful guitar in. So they left the sound in. But you could tell it bugged them.
Getting back to the record, I am responsible for most of the lyric content, but Linda wrote the words for The Landlord Said, so she is responsible for the lines about worms. As for the lyrics to Luv Song, my only excuse is that I was in Luv, or a reasonable fascimile thereof. Lyrics for Heaven? I was probably on some sort of drug.
We printed the cover out on a photocopy machine and sat around for weeks with our friends colouring them all in, in wildly different styles. Thus no two covers were the same. I’ll include here pictures of the cover both colored in and a plain version so you can colour it in yourself if you like.
Well, I know you young folk don’t have long attention spans so I’ll stop writing now. Bye.