INSIDE THE MUSIC ONLINE - October 2020

New Jerusalem

(Part 2B - Drums & Recording Notes)

L o s t   I n   S p a c e

Between May 1982 and August 1988 we spent a lot of time at Spaceward Studios, Cambridgeshire, initially finishing off tracks we'd started at Trident in central London, then branching out into fresh projects. During this period we struck up a positive working relationship with the studio's sound engineer Ted Hayton, an affable Cumbrian who remains an essential part of our creative set-up to this day. Despite growing up in a small northern town miles from the UK's music scene hot spots, it seemed that Ted knew everybody: walk down Oxford Street with him, and you could virtually guarantee that within minutes he'd bump into some friend or associate. He worked with us on some of our most challenging tracks, notably the 48-track extravaganza 'Busy Doing Nothing', a veritable maelstrom of overdubs that would confound a lesser man. Ted always got a handle on the chaos, and understands our music perhaps better than anyone else.

By the time we started work on 'New Jerusalem' in January 1988 Ted had left Spaceward for the bright lights of London. We were now working with Owen Morris, a likeable young Welsh guy who had answered the studio's advertisement for a sound engineer at the age of 16, quickly learned the ropes under Ted's watchful eye, and now had an impressive command of the mixing desk (an idiosyncratic home-made affair with a very handy auto-mute system). If 'Busy Doing Nothing' was a challenge, 'New Jerusalem' was a sound engineer's worst nightmare. The overdubs proliferated at a rate of knots, and soon the 24-track tape was a maze of disparate instrument, percussion and vocal sounds. To keep track of what was going on, we sellotaped ten track sheets together and folded them up like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Fully extended, the sheet is five feet wide - see it here (click and zoom in to read the details!)

This was undoubtedly one of our most complex recordings; the studio had no automated mixing facilities, and the density and ever-changing nature of the overdubs meant we had to mix each section separately and join them together later. I complicated matters further by deciding I wasn't happy with the first verse, going away and re-recording its backing on my home 16-track. Fortunately, technological advances meant we could now use digital editing to stitch everything together, a far less nerve-wracking procedure than the elaborate 1/4" tape splicing we had to do on our earlier recordings.

Spaceward days
(Clockwise from top left: Dave, Owen Morris, Ted Hayton, Barbara. Ted photo Air Studios 1987, others Spaceward Studios 1988.)

D r u m   R e c o r d i n g

We first met Gavin Harrison in 1984 at Tapestry Studios, SW London, where he was working on our guitarist friend Jakko Jakszyk's album project. Some time previously, Ted had played me a tape of Gavin messing around on his kit, playing intricate 32nd-note hi-hat patterns over a slow half-time beat - I'd never heard anyone play a hi-hat that fast while simultaneously holding down a steady backbeat, so wrongly assumed he must have overdubbed the kick and snare. When I realised my mistake, I made a mental note to keep tabs on this brilliant young drummer.

In August 1984 we set off for Spaceward Studios to record a cover version of Caravan's 'Golf Girl' for Nigel Planer's 'Neil's Heavy Concept Album'. This was our first session with Gavin on drums, and it went well - having witnessed his accuracy, musical acumen and general cheery demeanour, we invited him to play on some Stewart / Gaskin album tracks, and have happily continued to do so ever since. Nowadays Gavin has his own studio and enjoys complete mastery over his drum kit recordings, but in the '80s getting a good drum sound was something of a lottery. The absorbative soundproofing adopted by many studios had a deadening effect on drums, and while Spaceward's dry acoustic had worked OK for the Caravan song, I wanted something more epic-sounding when we recorded 'New Jerusalem' there in January 1988.

I was a fan of the big, ambient drum sound pioneered by Phil Collins and Public Image, which we managed to achieve in 'New Jerusalem' by a somewhat circuitous route. Gavin set up his kit in Spaceward's office, now empty of furniture and clutter after the owners had shipped out. Adjoining the office was a large, high-ceilinged, stone-floored workshop room where we placed a spaced pair of microphones, leaving the office door open to allow sound to spill through. The addition of this big echoey space's natural reverb to Gavin's hard-hitting performance made the drums sound huge - the resulting thunderous, clattering racket ticked the 'epic' box and gave the track the requisite wide-screen atmosphere.

In fact, Gavin uses the same approach in his home recordings to this day: the natural reverb of the big live room adjoining his studio's recording space can be blended with the kit's close mics to taste, allowing him to vary his drum sound from close-up and intimate to a massive John Bonham / Taj Mahal ambience simply by lowering or raising the level of the room mics.

Gavin Harrison, racing drummer
Gavin Harrison

R h y t h m i c   I l l u s i o n s

On the choruses of 'New Jerusalem' Gavin plays the kind of slow, stately backbeat feel notated in Example 1 below. When we arrived at the final instrumental verse I felt we needed something more intense, fast-moving and climactic, but thought that a straight double-time feel (as shown in Ex.2) would be too obvious. When I explained this to Gavin he said, "I've got an idea" and retreated to Spaceward's office, where he worked out an ingenious cross-rhythmic plan for his drum part.

In this early example of Gavin's 'Rhythmic Illusions', the 16th-note pulse of the main 4/4 rhythm (Ex.3) is divided into groups of three which become the basis for the 6/8 'shuffle' pattern you see in Ex.4. The 6/8 pattern repeats with ad lib variations under the 4/4 riff played by the other instruments, setting up a rhythmic counter-current in which two different metres share a common pulse. In order to keep the ship on course, Gavin throws in tom fills (marked in blue) at the end of the fourth and eighth bars which temporarily restore the sense of a unified 4/4. The idea is that the listener feels the main 4/4 rhythm while hearing the 6/8 drums pattern pulling against it - as Gavin put it, the three-based 6/8 beat lies halfway between normal and double 4/4 time, so you get the feeling of the drums playing a busier, more intense groove without breaking into a double-time gallop!

Drum rhythms

Ex.1 - Slow 4/4

Ex.2 - 4/4 Double time

Ex.4 - 6/8 Shuffle

So far so good, but Gavin then muddied the water by displacing the start of his 6/8 beat by five 16th-notes (the arrows in the score below show the 6/8 pattern's relationship to the main 4/4 beat). Though such displacements are now an accepted weapon in his rhythmic armoury, the choice of start point remains a mystery. Neither of us has the original drum notation, but when pressed for an explanation Gavin said, "I can't remember why I started the pattern in an odd place - maybe there was a musical reason that the drums lined up better with the underlying riff - or I just liked the way it felt syncopated against the rest of the music? All good fun in any case."

Good fun it certainly is. But although the brain-twisting maths hold some interest, the resulting musical effect is more important. To the listener (including me), this rhythmic illusion sounds like a crazy, chaotic and unpredictable syncopation, a kind of musical conundrum with no obvious solution. In retrospect, its turbulent, tumbling, oppositional atmosphere is an apt analogy for the divided political times we currently live in - a loud bipartisan debate in which two rhythms collide and talk over each other, but, unlike in the political sphere, somehow manage to find a compromise and end up in the right place.

Here's Gavin's drum part for the final instrumental verse of 'New Jerusalem':

Gavin's drum part

Drum notation key

Hailed as 'the next big development in kit drumming', Gavin's book Rhythmic Illusions is available here along with his other fascinating and insightful rhythmic treatises.

K e y b o a r d s   O l d   &   N e w

Growing up in England, one hears a lot of pipe organs. Whether singing in the church choir (as I did, till my voice broke), enduring TV's 'Songs of Praise' on wet Sunday afternoons or attending a funeral, there's always one wheezing away somewhere. I loved the sound, and was eternally frustrated by not being allowed to play my school's organ, for reasons I never understood - maybe they thought I would smash it up, or do something sacrilegious like playing a jazz chord? In any case, the organ music I most fancied playing was Hubert Parry's immortal intro to the song 'Jerusalem', which we quote in the middle of our song (it's marked with a big 'J' on the track sheet). Many years later, my opportunity finally came when Denys Darlow, father of our pal Simon Darlow and choirmaster at St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London, kindly consented to me recording the part on the church's magnificent pipe organ.

This was not my finest hour. It took me about thirty takes to perform four bars of music, the problem being I had no organ pedal chops and kept playing wrong notes with my left foot, often inadvertently tramping on two pedals at once (not recommended). Seeing my struggles, Denys gently suggested it might be easier if I took my shoes off, but by then I was sweating so much I was afraid the church's pleasant incense aroma might be overpowered by my foot odour. Finally, with Ted manning a pair of Sony PCM-F1 stereo digital recorders (one to play the backing track, the other to record the organ), we got there in the end. It's a highlight of the track for me, and a moment I always look forward to when playing 'New Jerusalem' live.

Playing a solo over the 'mad verse' at the end of the song was a good deal easier: I ran my Prophet-5 synth through a feedbacker pedal, threw caution to the wind and generally went berserk. The sound was piped into a pair of speakers in Spaceward's live room, with Barb and assistant Marie Timms whirling microphones around by their cables, Roger Daltrey-style, to create a real-life 'rotating speaker' effect. It's a wonder they didn't break anything, but at the time I wouldn't have cared - my only concern was trying to come off my last high, screeching note at the same time as Gavin played his final smash on the drums, which I was lucky enough to get right first time.

Pipe organ, St. Georges Hanover Square
(Pipe organ, St. George's Hanover Square)

T h e   A m o r p h o u s   C h o i r

Barbara Gaskin: With our ironic - and some might say cynical and angry - take on the dangers of nationalism, it was only natural that we would want to make a reference to the singing of Blake's Jerusalem at The Last Night of The Proms, except we wanted our choir to have 'natural' voices and not sound classically trained and 'plummy'. I may be doing the Royal Albert Hall's promenading music lovers a disservice here, but in 1988 in Thatcher's Britain the singing of patriotic songs seemed to us to be a political issue. So where could we assemble such a choir? Luckily I had a good friend who could help.

Annee Griffiths and I had met in India, trekked together for weeks in the Himalayan foothills in Nepal, become firm friends and discovered that we had a mutual love of singing. When we returned to the UK and went back to live in the cities where we'd attended university - Canterbury in my case and Bangor (north Wales) in Annee's - I joined an all-female punk rock band and Annee joined a local acapella singing group. By the time Dave and I were working on The Big Idea Annee knew lots of people in and around Bangor with good voices.

After some research we found Sain Studios in Llandrog, Caernarfon and were initially confused when they answered the phone in Welsh, but they had very good facilities, experience in recording choirs and were only about 15 miles or so from Bangor. I'd sent a cassette tape of the individual vocal parts to Annee who rehearsed them with her group The Blue Belles (later to become The Flying A's), and this provided a solid foundation for the others to join in with, which they did with gusto. On a very dark and foggy night people gradually arrived from the surrounding areas and sang our choruses with vigour and attitude. After that night they became The Amorphous Choir. We remain grateful to them - it's a sound we really like, and have used again on our album Green and Blue.

The green and pleasant land

F u r t h e r   R e a d i n g

New Jerusalem (Part 2) - Parts & Arrangement
Last month's article New Jerusalem (Part 1).

~

New Jerusalem (D. Stewart)

I close my eyes and hold my head in shame
As we sink beneath the waves
I'm still wondering who to blame
There's no sun in the sky and no birds left to sing
In the country of the blind no-one notices a thing

See the lords of this land rub their hands in glee
'Cos the green fields and mountains are their private property
And the sound that we hear as we stumble down the road
Is the ticking of a time bomb getting ready to explode

But we don't worry 'bout a thing
When we can sing Jerusalem

Sing Jerusalem with your banners flying
It's a requiem for a nation dying
Lift your voice but don't lift a hand
To build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land

Home is the hero with medals on his chest
Free to push a broom in the land he loves the best
For the green fields of England are like a foreign land
Where once lay pleasant pastures now shopping centres stand

And the hills of the north have been stripped of every tree
While the mad men of industry pump poison in the sea

But we don't worry 'bout a thing
When we can sing Jerusalem

Sing Jerusalem with your banners blazing
Sound the horn and beat the drum, oh what hell you're raising
National pride our favourite theme
Sing Jerusalem but remember it's only a dream

I close my eyes and in my dream Brittania comes to me (and she says)
My ships are sinking, my hopes are drowning, set me free

We don't worry 'bout a thing
When we can sing Jerusalem

Sing Jerusalem with your banners flying
It's a requiem for a nation dying
Fly the flag but don't lift a hand
To build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land

Sing Jerusalem, you're not singing any more
Too tired to carry on as you march to war
Raise your voice when things go wrong
Sing Jerusalem but remember it's only a song

Oh my country (sing Jerusalem)
Oh how I love you (it's a requiem)
Hand in hand, divided we stand
Gonna build Jerusalem way up on these clouded hills
Just like we always planned

To build Jerusalem...
In the country of the damned

*

Thanks for reading!

Dave Stewart, UK

'New Jerusalem' by Dave Stewart, © Budding Music 1990.
From the album The Big Idea by Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, ℗ Broken Records BRCDLP-03.
See Inside The Music Vols. 1 & 2 for more Stewart / Gaskin song deconstructions.

Stewart / Gaskin home page

Return to top

All text, images and audio files copyright of Broken Records, UK.
Please do not reprint, upload or share without permission. Thank you!