I’ve recently invested in an iPad mini and I’ve been having fun with the music making tools that are available on iOS. When playing around with a sequencing/sampling/synth app called Nano Studio I found myself returning to a melody that started life as the middle movement of a string quartet I wrote at University. The string quartet movement itself is quite a sombre affair (there are shades of Barber’s Adagio for Strings in there) and the recording I made of it had added poignancy as the first violin had recently lost her father. In the year following University I was back in Oxford sharing a house with my friend Chris from Uni (he’d got a job (that we’d both applied for) at a local studio technology company) and one of his colleagues. During this time Chris and I worked on a few musical projects together and one of them is this re-imagined version of the string quartet theme. One of the biggest records of that summer had been Children by Robert Miles and the sound of that record is definitely part of genetic makeup of this track. We actually recorded this at the demo studio of the company Chris worked for – I can’t remember if we lugged my PC in (I think it would have been running Windows 3.1 with the Cakewalk sequencer software) or if we MIDI dumped everything to a floppy based MIDI recorder I had. Either way we multi-tracked the parts onto tape so we had more flexibility with the studio’s setup of effects, compressors and EQ. Sadly I never got a proper ‘master’ on DAT – this was copied from cassette – but listening to it now I’m surprised at how well it stands up. It does sound unmistakably mid-90s, but the arrangement is great and the key change (which was the cause of much debate) still makes me smile.
Sadly I lost touch with Chris (and indeed all the folk I knew at Uni) after I moved out of the house share and bought my first flat. Last time I looked him up he was still working for the same company, based out in China, so he seems to be doing OK. One thing that looking back on this track does remind me is that I work best in collaboration. This track is 15 years old now and is probably the high point of quite a creative time…
These two instrumental tracks both come from the same melodic source. I really can’t remember which version I wrote first – it was such a long time ago! I can’t quite decide if they are remixes, re-interpretations or independent tracks in their own right. Certainly they are musical siblings, if not twins…
This version is an ambient soundscape and gradually evolves.
This is a more structured ‘dance’ take on the same theme.
Another song from my final year at University this was written and recorded in the winter of 1995.
This song is about a very specific person and situation though I’d like to hope it can be interprited more generally. It’s about people that are very lively and talkative but you never really know them….
Words pass like someone else’s story
I know you have a past, why won’t you talk to me?
Yet you tell me things you think I ought to know
Are you a martyr to the cause?
So self assured, yet scared inside
So open, but what’s on your mind?
You seem so free but the chains they bind
Talk to me…..
Tell me how it felt when you lover died?
Tell me when was the last time that you cried?
Do you think I can’t see the pain you hide inside
I can see behind the facade
You’d help anyone, does it ease the guilt?
You’re so alone, why did you need to escape?
You live with this but you know its too late
Talk to me
You’re a contradiction
Words and music by Foxbase Alpha
Stewart Tolhurst: Synthesisors, programming and string arrangement.
David McLean: Guitars
Eleanore Thomason: Singing
Philip Rawson: Saxophone
The voice of Matt Gunby
Strings conducted by Alastair Warwick
Violins: Elisa Bergenson, Oliver Ogg, Anne Renshaw, Ben Selby, David McLean
Violas: Erika Brunnen, Ben Harris
Cellos: Kristian Hibbard, Hannah Payne
Recorded in Edit 1 and Studio 2, University of Surrey Department of Music, October 1995.
Written and recorded in spring 1996 at the University of Surrey this is one of my favourite songs and was submitted as part of my portfolio of recordings.
The song is about how people get into the same kind of relationship over and over again. Even though you know that the relationship is totally self destructive you still go on…..
You said you would leave, but what about me?
That’s not the way that I want it to be
I’ve been there before
If you walk out that door
There is no way you will see me again
If we want the same thing
Then you’ll want to stay
Could you walk out without a word
But if you go I want you to know
I’d do it all over….
And over and over again
I’ll find someone new
He might be like you
He’ll tell me the things that I wanted to hear
If it happens again would anything change
Would I be the victim I’m getting to know
But what is the point of wasting my time
Just carrying on when I’m not really sure
I know there’ll be more after you
It’ll never be over….
Written and performed by Foxbase Alpha
Stewart Tolhurst: Keyboards and Programming
David McLean: Guitar
Eleanore Thomason: Singing
Recorded in Edit 1 and Studio 2, University of Surrey Department of Music, spring 1996.
The genesis of this song was experimenting with Apple’s Garageband when I got my first Powemac. I’m actually pretty pleased with how this turned out. It is very 80s, with more than a touch of The Human League about it. I’m not sure how successful my attempts at being sexy and breathy are…
Skin on skin
Sweat on sweat
Draws you in
And you want it
Moist hair clings
To your chest
You gotta have it
You want it
And you want it
You want it now
Gotta have it
This song was written in the summer after my first year at University. I wrote it with a view to recording it with a full string section. The song isn’t really about anything much. It’s a “love gone wrong” song in the same vein as early Pet Shop Boys and yes the chorus does sound a bit like New Order’s “True Faith”! The drummer went on to great things as the regular engineer for Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne (AKA Perfecto) and is now a producer in his own right, having worked with bands such as Blur and Doves.
My life’s a mess
And it’s over you
You’re not leaving yet
But it will be soon
It’s happening again
Always the same
Why couldn’t I see
I thought that you’d need me
I used to think that my time would one day come
I didn’t think I would have to wait this long
I always thought that I’d get what’s due to me
That’s not the way life is meant to be
We’re at the end
Our dreams turn to dust
Our hearts we must mend
No need for a fuss
Don’t scream and shout
The fire has gone out
It’s not what I want
It’s just what we’ve got
Music and words by Stewart Tolhurst
Stewart Tolhurst: Synthesisors, Programming, String Arrangement
James SImons: Guitars
Ben Hillier: Drums
Strings conducted by Matt Potter
Violins: David McLean, Elisa Bergenson, Ben Selby, Chris Hatt, Bryony Fisher
Viola: Daniel Woodall
‘Cello: Kirsty Whalley
Bass: Nick Hughes