Sometime in 2005 Al Kent got bored with chopping up disco loops to bosh over house drums, and even more bored with the deluge of pointless disco re-edits flooding the shops. He decided to try taking his music making efforts a step further, using samples and a couple of musicians to create something that sounded authentically disco. So he knocked up some rhythm tracks using drums and percussion sampled from old disco records… easy.
The first musician on board was good pal and keyboard wizard Raymond Harris, an extremely talented jazz player, who added some amazing Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Clavinet parts, plus guide basslines played on a synth. But synth basslines just wouldn’t cut it, so a real live bass player had to be found.
Enter Stephen Westwater… Having never played disco before, Stephen confidently set up his bass and got ready to play, until he heard some of the records Al wanted to emulate, quickly packed up and went home to practice! But, a week later he was back, and this time he was on fire. Over the next couple of weeks he played over the eight backing tracks, and Al set to work editing it all together.
Sometimes it’s a small world – it turned out that five minutes away from Al was a great guitarist, and a true disco head – Kev McShane. Needless to say he was instantly added to the ranks.
Mark Robb, founder of Glasgow’s legendary Buff Club, and now label boss of Buff Records had expressed an interest in the project from the start, and after hearing the work in progress asked about the possibility of a live show at the upcoming Glasgow Jazz Festival. This meant finding an actual band to perform the tracks, but thankfully Al had met a couple of sax players (twin brothers Colin and Alan Train – two of the most talented multi-instrumentalists on earth) and a couple of percussionists (Gary Kainth and Ryan Buchanan), and Mark knew of a great drummer, Jim Gash. So the bones of the band were there.
Raymond was involved in his own gigs at the Jazz Festival, so a replacement keyboard player had to be found. Stephen recommended Charlie Milne who played with him in a band called Quinn, and after a quick audition over a bottle of whisky it was obvious he was the man for the job.
Rehearsals began, and it was quickly decided vocalists would be a good idea, and so Lisa Marie, Rosemary, Susie and Shona of the Glasgow Gospel Choir were roped in (with a guest appearance by Mark Robb). Colin and Alan brought along Douglas West and his trumpet, and the band was complete.
The gig was amazing. Not bad after only eight rehearsals, with only about two of them attended by the whole band. But the choice of musicians proved to be a winning combination.
So now there was a band. It would be stupid to go back to the tracks with all the samples and Al quickly decided to start from scratch, using the tracks as demos for the band to learn. Back to the rehearsal rooms.
Recording a band through a USB device in Al’s spare room probably wouldn’t have worked out too well so a meeting was set up with Marco Rea, whose studio turned out to be 100% perfect. The plan was always to somehow record properly without the aid of Protools, and The Barn is analogue throughout. Add the fact that within five minutes of hearing some disco records Marco was explaining exactly how to get the exact sound required, it was definitely the place to record. So, ten days were booked to record the band and mix eight tracks. Hahahahahaha…. TEN DAYS!!
The recording itself was plain sailing, with everything being done in pretty much one take. But editing took a lot longer than planned, and extra sessions were added all the time. The horn section grew to a four piece with the addition of Chris Pugh on trombone. Rosemary from the choir dropped out and was replaced by Jane, and Lisa Marie buggered off to London.
It was always planned to use strings, and it turned out that those Train twins could also write and arrange them. And they did. And they brought Sarah Wilson, Graham McGeoch, Ruaridh Campbell and Nicola West with them. Possibly the best string quartet in town. And so the strings were added to the mix. Finally, in true MDO fashion, lyrics were written last. And Lisa Marie came home to Glasgow to sing them.
And now, recording and mixing is DEFINITELY over and the project is only a year or two behind schedule. Not bad. The project’s been signed up by BBE Records for an album release early in 2008.