Updated: Mar 3, 2020
With an American/west-coast sound and Tom Petty influences front and centre, The Stormkeepers were very different to The Room. The writing process was a bit easier this time around and we developed quite a nice repertoire. But as good as the songs were – and as brilliantly as our audiences responded to them – at heart, the guys thought my style was far too poppy. Plus ça change… They aspired to Bon Jovi rockerdom and my hooks and stage persona tended to thwart that ambition. But we soldiered on.
Our guitarist's brother-in-law was Tony McGuinness from Aslan, who took a bit of an interest in us. He put us in touch with Mark Cagney who was then a big-name radio presenter with a sideline in music production - he has since migrated to daytime TV. (Incidentally, fact fiends, this session was also engineered by Louise McCormick, who had twiddled the knobs on my 1987 tracks). We spoke about recording a demo but Mark encouraged us to aim higher and record a single instead. With his guidance, we chose two songs to record: Let It Go and audience favourite One Of The Broken Hearted. He felt that Let It Go was the main contender and, if One Of The Broken Hearted turned out well, we’d use it as a second single.
The finished track was catchy, polished and eminently radio friendly. Even today it sounds great, if slightly over-produced. Getting to that point, however, was fraught with technical problems – with the band, not the studio. In the end, so much time had been eaten up trying to tackle the issues that only the first track could be recorded.
Learning from the experience – and determined to iron out the problem once and for all – we introduced some changes for rehearsals. But, despite huge effort, nothing really helped. The more the problem persisted, the more frustrated I got. When we listened to recordings of our gigs, we heard what we hadn’t noticed before: that the problem had been there all the time. Now that we heard it, we couldn’t unhear it. As far as I was concerned, this was a big problem. If we couldn’t resolve this issue, how could we realistically ask record companies to take us seriously? I argued that if we were as ambitious as we claimed to be, we had no choice but to make some line-up changes. But this wasn’t welcome. Ultimately, the band just stopped functioning.
“Musical differences, etc.”
As a result, plans to release the single lingered on the back burner. Eventually, it was agreed to place the track on a compilation CD issued by Danceline Records, with a view to putting it out as a single later on. If we could sort out our issues, that is. The agreement we had signed stipulated that any act included on the CD had to be available for ongoing promotion. When we were cornered at the launch party by one of the label bosses about a rumoured split, we lied through our teeth. But that party was the last time we were all in a room together. Despite everything, we managed to end things without any lingering acrimony.
Click here to listen to LET IT GO by THE STORMKEEPERS
A short marriage…
Tony Cantwell was keen to keep something going and he and I met up once a week in his house to do some writing. By then, we had discovered Massive Attack’s Blue Lines album and wanted to do something in that vein. We wrote just a handful of songs together and did rough demos of three under the name Model Husband. We weren’t a prolific writing team and there was no potential for live work, so the process lacked some essential energy. In any event, Tony soon got a brilliant job offer in the Netherlands and our little arrangement came to a natural end.
Happily, the writing relationship with The Stormkeepers and Model Husband had yielded a crop of decent songs and, with the agreement of the others, I decided to record some of them myself. Once more, I mobilised my savings for studio time and the services of producer, Robert MacLeod. The songs were given a fresh makeover and I loved the results – even if, from a technical perspective, the recordings and mixes lacked finesse.
During the final recording sessions, our regular guitarist wasn’t available, so Rob called in a young trainee engineer he knew, who was also an excellent guitarist. Gavin Murphy played on Spite – an old Stormkeepers song that had been the subject of some disagreement between me and Rob. I had had some ideas that steered it into an alternative dance direction, but Rob was insistent that it should retain its Americana feel. He argued that if I had hired him to produce, I should let him do that. Foolishly, I capitulated and the end result sounded tinny and dated. But at least the 10-song set (a de facto demo album) was complete.
I began circulating the first sample demo package - a selection of three of the recordings. The reception was reasonably positive but not enough to unlock any major doors. Which certainly made me open to the next developments...