From Scotland, Alan Davidson records under the moniker, The Kitchen Cynics. I had heard about his music for a long time before I actually got any of my own. When I finally got my own copy I was delighted by his very personal, charismatic and subdued style. Yes, I have compared him to Roger Waters/ early Floyd but that can be misguided because the breadth and width of his style is very much his own and in many ways, much finer than his influences. Yes, a sensitive singer-songwriter but not all gooey and schmaltzy. Confessional perhaps but with some kind of universal emotional understanding.
home recording musician, Alan Davidson. Picture taken at radio station WFMU during a 2002 visit to the USA.
I began playing bass in a school band, c.1972…….it was pretty easy -listening stuff, as the guy whose band it was (Paul Hansford) liked Paul Simon, Harry Nilsson etc I was more into Syd-era Floyd, Roy Harper and John Martyn, but was happy to plonk away. We only did one live gig at a church youth club, but recorded a few cassettes by arranging amps etc varying distances from the microphones to get a vaguely OK balance.
After school we reconvened, and made an album called ‘Strange Stone’ which is now rated at £300 plus in Record Collector (although I think that’s about a hundred times more than its actual worth). It was all home recorded on stereo reel-to-reels, bounced from one onto the other, and our schoolmate who recorded it made his own mixing desk! The drummer had to play out in the garage, which led to a visit by the police when the neighbours complained.” I suppose this made me realise how easy it was to record your own stuff, but it wasn’t til I was fired up by punk that I started writing my own songs.
In the late 70s/early 80s I had a band called ‘Original Kitchen Features’ (named after plastic lobsters in a local shop window), and we did simple 3 chord fuzzy stuff which was a lot of fun. Gradually this evolved into another band called ‘The Flexible Members’ and we geared up to playing live, at local rehearsal rooms, but never quite made it.
We recorded quite a few cassettes onto an old music-centre…no overdubbing though. I got a portastudio in the late 80s or early 90s, and was enthralled by it. I was instantly hooked, and loved bouncing my first 3 rhythm tracks, and slowly building up a hissy but much-loved song. I suppose I was still influenced by Syd, and bands like Television Personalities, Desperate Bicycles etc. I didn’t think anybody would care much for what I was doing, but the Bi-Joopiter cassette label liked it enough to put out my first cassette on their label, which thrilled me to bits. Other labels such as Grimsby Fishmarket, Acid Tapes, Bliss, Best Kept Secret and Bacchanalian Revel followed suit, and even though I was hell-bent on recording forever, and whatever, it was great to get positive feedback from enthusiastic people.
Achim and Markus Buss at Roman Cabbage Vinyl gave me my first ‘real’ Records (albums and singles), and I had some more out on Farce, Magical Jack and Hoppel-d-Hoy. It was also a boost being on compilations such as those on the Eiswurfel Tontrager, Little Teddy, Mermaid and Secret Eye labels, alongside bands whose music I really liked (and in one case, Tom Rapp, whose albums I’d bought when I was at school).
Another massive help was getting thumbs-up from fanzines such as the Organ, Broken Face, Ptolemaic Terrascope, Dream Magazine etc. Sometimes, if my music was compared to that of another band whose music I hadn’t heard, I contacted them to swap cassettes/records. I’m still very friendly with some of these folk, such as P G Six and the Iditarod (now Black Forest Black Sea). In fact it was they who encouraged me to perform my own music live for the first time, in (I think) 2003.
Nowadays I’m still obsessively recording ( I called a CD ‘Compulsive Songwriting Disorder’)….in 2007 I did ‘A song a day’ to raise money for repairs to my flat. About 50 people paid 30 pounds upfront, and I sent an album out at the end of every month. It was hard work, but I still really enjoyed it.
I use a stand-alone 8-track CD recorder. It works almost exactly like my old cassette portastudio, so this old dog didn’t have many new tricks to learn, fortunately. My most recent release was a 2 disc set called ‘Flies’ which has just come out on ‘Perhaps Transparent’ records, run by Stephen Connolly of Pothole Skinny, another tape-friend of long-standing. The next one is due sometime soon on ‘Almost Halloween Time’ records of Italy , and is called ‘Wooden Birds’.
See more cassette covers here.