Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Vintage Synth: Roland MKS-70

In an earlier article I discussed the Yamaha TX81Z, the classic synthesiser module that has featured on all of Dayglo Fishermen's albums.

That module is not alone.

The Roland MKS-70 is another classic synthesiser module that has also featured on all of the band's albums. Pictured below, the module, first released in 1986, was installed in Artlite Studios in 1989, shortly before the formation of Dayglo Fishermen. It's warm analogue sounds, still used in many studios today, added a depth and richness to the band's music - a perfect complement to the harsher FM synthesis tones of the TX81Z.

Roland MKS-70 - featured on every Dayglo Fishermen album

There are hundreds of Dayglo Fishermen tracks that feature this module's sounds, and there are some where the module almost takes over. One of those is 'Fish', the band's first ever song, recorded in 1990. The fast squidgy bass line that feaftures throughout is one of the MKS-70's signature patches. The relentless use of that sound is one of the reasons the song had such an impact when it was released on the album 'Drenched' later that year.

Another song on that debut album that features heavy use of the module is 'Easy Projector'. The entire intro sequence features four of the MKS-70's sounds, and the whole song is underpinned by one of the module's mellow pads, ensuring a wide and relaxing soundscape.

Surge forwards 25 years and that same module can still be heard. The final track on Dayglo Fishermen's latest album, 'Midnight Souls Still Remain', titled 'Cool People Meet', features a spacious flute-like sound that fills out the choruses. It shows the great versatility and timeless quality of the MKS-70, and illustrates just why such an aging sound module still has so much to offer, and why its popularity has yet to fade.

Despite the recent aquisition of a new state-of-the-art Roland synthesiser, the band's classic old Roland, the MKS-70, is certain to feature on Dayglo Fishermen's future albums and projects.

Long may it do so.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Publicity Machine

For any band, once a new album is due to be released, or a concert tour schedule is confirmed, a publicity machine whirs into action and a promotional campaign begins. This is usually a carefully planned and highly coordinated sequence of activities to make the most of all the avenues of publicity possible, both digital and traditional.

Dayglo Fishermen, however, prefer a more organic and random approach to publicity. And the promotional campaign for their upcoming concert at the Limelight Theatre, Aylesbury, UK, in September, 2016, shows little deviation from that approach. Here's the sequence of events:

Dayglo Fishermen's concert was announced on the band's official website in February 2016:

Soon after, the concert was listed on the Limelight Theatre website.  A banner with a link to it was placed on the band's website homepage:

In April 2016 the Dayglo Fishermen Tweeted the news about the concert:

And that was closely followed by the publication of the concert poster on their official website. The poster will eventually be seen around the theatre's locality (which will be the only non-digital promotion, apart from word-of-mouth):

The poster was shared on Facebook:

A teaser trailer for the concert was published on the band's YouTube site in June 2016:

The video was shared on Twitter:

And then on Facebook:

The band hopes, no doubt, that such Tweets and Facebook announcements are shared, and that the video teaser goes viral - possibly the best publicity of all.

This may well be the end of the publicity campaign for Dayglo Fishermen's 2016 concert, or there may be a lot more to come.  It's hard to tell when there's no strategy or plan to speak of.

What is clear, though, is that on 10th September 2016 at the Limelight Theatre in Aylesbury, UK, there is going to be an event not to be missed.  Take note of all this promotional material and book your tickets now.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

TX81Z - Vintage Synth

Over the decades since they formed Dayglo Fishermen have used quite a number of different synthesisers. Some come and go within a few years.  But a couple have stayed with the band from the beginning, and are still in use today. Let's have a look at just one of those: the Yamaha TX81Z FM Tone Generator.

The actual Dayglo Fishermen Yamaha TX81Z FM Tone Generator

The band's Yamaha TX81Z sound module was actually purchased in 1987, three years before Dayglo Fishermen formed. It was used in Artlite Studios on all of Peter and Richard's early work that was the precursor to Dayglo Fishermen. As part of the studio's core equipment at the time it was destined to become a major element in the band's music. And that is indeed what happened.

The TX81Z nestled within an equipment stack at Mammoth Studios in 2012

The module itself became very popular in the 1990s with hip-hop and dance music producers, mainly for its bass sounds, most notably 'Lately Bass'. That bass sound was most famously used for the bass line on Madonna's 'Vogue', and also on several Dayglo Fishermen songs, such as 'Minneapolis', the opening track of the 1994 album 'Big Spoon'.

The TX81Z module has featured on every one of the Dayglo Fishermen's albums, and on hundreds of their songs. Here are a few of the many tracks where the module really stands out:

Nine Point Nine Five

Featured on the 1992 'What the Hell' album, 'Nine Point Nine Five' utilises one of the TX81Z's fine bass sounds, which makes good use of the module's portamento effect as the bass line often slides from one note to the next. The higher keyboard sounds are also classic TX81Z tones, including the bell-like intro sound that is featured throughout the song.

The bass sound mentioned above is also used to excellent effect on 'Words and Pictures', from the band's debut album, 'Drenched'.

Church on the Hill

'Church on the Hill' is one of the more unusual tracks on the band’s 1993 ‘Animate’ album. Apart from some Korg M1 piano and strings, all of the keyboard sounds, including the percussion, were generated solely by a Yamaha TX81Z FM sound module, highlighting its versatility.

For a further example of a TX81Z rhythm track try 'Stairway to Hebburn' on the 1991 'Strange Plaice' album. Take care, though. This track is quite odd and potentially irritating, so you may not make it to the end, despite the fact that it's just over three minutes in length.

Angel City

The 'Queen of the Sunset City' album, released in 2003, featured a huge variety of music, and the TX81Z is exhibited on most tracks. The rasping bass line on 'Angel City', one of the album's standout songs, is an excellent example of the module's range of sounds when compared to the smooth bass line on 'Nine Point Nine Five' mentioned earlier.

Also listen to 'Turning Gold' on the same album to hear the module's take on a bass guitar.

Sinking Deeply

The module was used most recently on the 2015 album ‘Midnight Souls Still Remain’. On 'Sinking Deeply' it provides the main keyboard sound, the sound that is featured from the very start of the song. This proves that, with the help of of a decent dose of effects, the TX81Z is still able to produce original and compelling sounds such as this, even after almost 30 years of use.

If you're familiar with the sound of Yamaha's FM synthesisers you should be able to spot the TX81Z in many of the band's songs. Just pick an album and see what you can find.

That simple little sound module has, without most people knowing, had a significant influence on the evolution of Dayglo Fishermen’s unique sound. And as long as its incredible internal battery lasts, it will continue to do so in the future.

Friday, 1 January 2016

The Hexham Courant

During the early years of Dayglo Fishermen (1990 to 1994), when the band was based in Hexham in the far north of England, the band received regular interest from the local press. This is not surprising, as the band's unique and distinctive sound was far removed from the usual school rock bands that were commonplace in the town at that time.

The band's first two albums, 'Drenched' and 'Strange Plaice', featured some highly original dance tracks, and offered a quirkiness level that was off the scale, or at least it would have been if there was a scale of quirkiness to measure it by. It was a sound that had never before been created in the town, and it is unlikely to be again. It was a special time.

The town's local newspaper, The Hexham Courant, first published a feature about the band in October 1990, giving their debut album an outstanding review. The photo below shows one of the band members in the recording suite of Artlite Studios, Dayglo Fishermen's first production facility. The full article is included, too:

The Hexham Courant's first article about Dayglo Fishermen, published in October 1990.

The paper went on to publish two more album reviews. The band's 'What The Hell' album was described as being 'as uptight as one of Bryan Ferry's loose silk shirts'.  Later the band's eponymous 1993 album 'The Dayglo Fishermen' was described as 'an engineered piece of chilling, synthetic sound with a distance and apparent sophistication that rock could never manage'.

On 22nd December 1993, just a couple of months after the production of the 'Animate' album (which was, for some unfathomable reason, to remain unreleased for several more years) the band performed live in Hexham's ancient Moot Hall, an imposing building that was once a medieval courthouse. The following month The Hexham Courant gave the concert a rave review, praising the band's 'unique and well-orchestrated sound' and describing their songs as 'well polished, original and atmospheric'. Along with the review the paper published the photo below:

Dayglo Fishermen live at the Moot Hall, Hexham in December 1993.  Published in The Hexham Courant.

This was to be Dayglo Fishermen's last appearance in Hexham's local paper, for the following year the band uprooted itself and headed south, departing the town for the last time in search of new inspiration. The ten albums that followed are unquestionable proof that they found it.

Dayglo Fishermen were featured many more times in other local publications, such as The Evening Chronicle and The Crack, but it's The Hexham Courant articles that matter the most to the band.

The support of such local media is hugely important during the early stages of any new enterprise, and should never be underestimated.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Midnight Souls Revealed

After a five and a half year wait, the immense patience of Dayglo Fishermen fans was finally rewarded in October 2015 with the release of the band's new studio album.

'Midnight Souls Still Remain' CD cover image - front

Titled 'Midnight Souls Still Remain', the album's 12 tracks have already firmly embedded themselves as part of Dayglo Fishermen's immense back catalogue.

That's all well and good, but are any of them destined to become classics?

Let's find out.

Track 1: Fractured Heart

A crash of thunder and a two minute rainstorm herald the start of the album, something only a seasoned and established band could get away with. After an aching guitar strains to break through the storm we hear the welcome tones of a slow base rhythm. As a distant police siren appears the song's main section thumps to life. It's a rousing piece of work, and features what is probably the best keyboard solo on the album.

According to the production notes, as well as being the first track Fractured Heart was the first song written for the new album way back in 2010. The notes also show that the original intention was to have the rainstorm intro as a separate track, allowing listeners to easily skip it if preferred. Bravely (and thankfully) that idea was dropped. The stormy introduction works well, and is essential to guide the listener into the right mood to feel the full benefit of the song that follows.

Track 2: The Great Unspoken

A short and powerful drum roll shocks the listener into the high-tempo sound of the second track, immediately followed by a rapid synth arpeggio. The song seems to build and build, before dropping right back to a relaxing interlude, complete with spoken french vocals - a tradition now on Dayglo Fishermen albums. Such tranquility does not last. A guitar solo leads the song back to a crescendo of choruses, with the synth arpeggio taking the song to its conclusion. It's a wonderfully retro-sounding track, and one that would have been a chart-topping hit back in the early 1980s.

Track 3: Midnight Souls Still Remain

The title track of the album creates a lighter and more melodic feel as its mid-tempo, off-beat bass line confidently strolls along. With sparser guitars and keyboards, and gentle piano chords filling out the chorus, the song's dreamy vocals are given the space needed to flourish. They key change for the final chorus, and the vocal leap up another octave, take the song to its final satisfying peak, before letting the core rhythm play out. One of the stand-out tracks of the album.

'Midnight Souls Still Remain' CD cover image - inside

Track 4: No Questions Asked

The tempo rises once more, quite considerably in fact as according to the production notes this track has the highest tempo on the album. After a rapid bass drum and guitar intro the song bursts straight in with two vocalists who continue together for the whole track.  This dual and mainly spoken vocal, combined with a frantic and almost panicky bass line and regular offbeat synth stabs, creates a strong sense of intensity, and even anxiety. Wisely this lets up for a short time in the middle section of the song, but it comes back as expected, finishing with a long rock guitar solo.

Track 5: I Cannot See Your Face

Things need to slow down a bit, and the fifth track on the album obliges. The song, about missing someone that has headed off to a war they will never return from, is a melancholic theme for the band, but this is offset by the unexpected guitar style of the verses and the highly melodic synth sounds of the chorus and solo. The song finishes with more unexpected guitar that emerges from the final instrumental chorus. As the sound of distant warfare haunts the end of the track the innocence of a child singing brings us back from the brink. A memorable and poignant addition to the album.

Track 6: One Day I'll Sleep

This song is brimming with paranoia, making it a match with 'Something's Watching', featured on the band's 1998 album 'Painting Aliens'. This time though the subject matter is demonic visitation within dreams. While not as horrific as alien impregnation, it is enough to bring back the feelings of anxiety aroused by the earlier track, 'No Questions Asked'.

As always with Dayglo Fishermen's less positive songs there is some quirkiness to act as a counterbalance. In this case it's the vocals on the verses, which are sung in an almost country and western style. What inspired this is not mentioned in the production notes, but it was certainly the right thing to do. With tense choruses, and an even tenser keyboard solo, the track progresses without remorse. It finishes with a short verse ending with the ominous line 'One day I'll sleep, and they'll be there'.

'Midnight Souls Still Remain' CD cover image - back

Track 7: Out of the Picture

With a punchy up-tempo beat, this bass guitar and guitar heavy song lifts the mood at the album's halfway mark. Borrowing one of its chord progressions from 'Soncabaret' - one of the highlights of the 2001 album 'Comet Nerdlinger', the track cruises along, its momentum maintained by the captivating rhythm of the vocals, particularly in the verses.

The long solo section in the song stands out as a classic Dayglo Fishermen arrangement. Starting out with a haunting violin, it moves without warning to a series of rapid trumpet bursts, and then on to a pleasantly upbeat guitar solo, a solo that soon transforms into something much more edgy during the lead up to the final chorus.

Track 8: Sinking Deeply

Notable for its complete lack of cymbals on the drum track, 'Sinking Deeply' was actually the second song written for the album, sometime during the autumn of 2011. With odd lyrics that at one point compare the freakiness of snow to tangy fruits, the track features some highly original synthesiser sounds and patterns that flit across the upper octaves - a great contrast to the deep and dependable bass line that stomps along far below. The guitars complement all that perfectly, chugging along in the verses and sliding through the choruses.

Track 9: After Hours Down Empty Streets

A single deep piano note immediately draws the listener into this song. As the brooding low tones of a sustained synthetic sound develops, pulsing up and down in volume rather than pitch, a gentle high piano melody takes us on to a trumpet and then the vocals of the first verse. This is the slowest song on the album, but despite that, and the gentleness of all the instruments and voices, the track somehow possesses a power and strength above all others on the album. Remarkable.

Official band photo for the 'Midnight Souls Still Remains' album

Track 10: Will the Stars Come Out Tonight?

Featuring a dual vocal throughout, and also a dual bass line of guitar and keyboards, this slow melodic song creates a sense of peace and joy that's almost impossible to put into words. Every instrumental line is kept simple, allowing the vocalists the space to carry the song in a seemingly effortless manner. Its purity is almost perfect, and a fitting song to follow the gentle power of the previous track.

Of course, this is still a Dayglo Fishermen song, and the signs of that are obvious. The cymbals are not acoustic samples but synthetic, quite a contrast to the natural-sounding bass and snare drums, and the odd guitar at the start of the middle section is typical of the band, yet still unexpected. This song will become a favourite for many.

Track 11: Running Through My Dreams

By far the shortest song on the album, ‘Running Through My Dreams’ is a frantic and quirky little track – an interlude of sorts before the grandness of the finale that follows. The vocals match the pace of the music, and the thickening layers of voices on the chorus, along with the alternating piano notes, gives the illusion of an ever quickening tempo, adding to the interest. There’s a lot of fun to be had here.

Track 12: Cool People Meet

The track’s vocal-only introduction sounds like it has a strong Gaelic influence, which doesn’t seem too unusual when you consider the band’s Northumbrian origins. With its slow tempo and folk-like melodies the song oozes power and emotion as the deep bass, spacious keyboards and mellow guitar create an epic soundscape. It’s a magnificent way to end the album, and to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary.

Cover images of the albums from which 'Cool People Meet' samples were taken

The song 'Cool People Meet' is all about the early years of Dayglo Fishermen, and features numerous samples from the band’s earlier songs, especially from the first few albums. Some are used quite subtly. Here’s a list of the songs used. See if you can spot them:

Free Roky Erikson’, ‘Easy Projector’ and ‘Fish’ from the album ‘Drenched’ (1990).

Marsport’, the introductory sequence on the ‘Strange Plaice’ album (1991).

But Where Were the Mice?’ from the ‘And So It Is’ album (1992).

Love as Emotion’ from the ‘Keep to the Path’ album (1993).

Nag Lisa’ from the ‘Animate’ album (1993).

Space Dog’, the title track of the ‘Space Dog’ album (1997).

Underground’ and ‘Voodoo’, from the ‘Painting Aliens’ album (1998).

Nerdlinger One’ from the ‘Comet Nerdlinger’ album (2001).

My Friend’ from the ‘Queen of the Sunset City’ album (2003).

Screams Inside My Head’ from the ‘I Can See a Boat … It No Longer Floats’ album (2006).

A final note: on the very limited edition CD version of the album tracks 1 to 6 and tracks 7 to 12 are all linked, providing an even more satisfying experience for the listener as the songs flow together. If you are not lucky enough to have a CD copy you can now download the linked versions of the songs in two parts. Just click on the links below, or go direct to the album page on the website.

‘Midnight Souls Still Remain’ – Part 1 – CD version tracks 1 – 6

‘Midnight Souls Still Remain’ – Part 2 – CD version tracks 7 - 12

So, are any of the songs on the new album destined to become classics? The answer is a most definite yes.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

New Album Teaser

The release of the new Dayglo Fishermen album feels tantalisingly close. And it is, according to the information in the video teaser trailer published this month. We can expect it no later than November 2015.

The trailer gives the viewer a brief glimpse of parts of the album's cover image, and more crucially some excerpts from a few of the tracks. It's essential viewing for fans, and indeed for teaser trailer enthusiasts everywhere:

Such teasers are rare for Dayglo Fishermen. The band usually keep everything under wraps until the moment of release. But there have been some previous examples.

The band's 1993 album 'The Dayglo Fishermen' had two tracks released three months early under the name 'Horoscope'. The tracks had different names and lyrics to the final album tracks, but they certainly pleased those finding it hard to wait for the full release. And the bizarre and disturbing cover artwork made it something hard to ignore.

Horoscope Cover Artwork

Two further teasers were released, but in the less generous form of posters.  The 'Painting Aliens' album was announced two months before release.  The poster was a little too revealing, giving away the album's full title, but at least it refrained from revealing the striking cover image, which was to become one of the band's most memorable.

Painting Aliens Pre-Launch Poster

In January 2006 a poster appeared to promote what was to become the 'I Can See a Boat ... It No Longer Floats' album. Part of the albums glorious artwork was revealed, but thankfully the title remained a secret.

'I Can See a Boat ... It No Longer Floats' Teaser Poster

The poster announced that the album was due in the Spring of that year, but for various unfathomable reasons it was not released until October. It must have tried the patience of those keen to get their hands on the much anticipated release, after having waiting more than three years since the release of the previous album.  It would certainly have induced a sense of stressful desire to hear the album.

But that is the power and the point of a good teaser release, whatever its form. It should do more than just wet the appetite. It should initiate a feeling of tense anticipation, and grow enthusiasm with every viewing or hearing.

Dayglo Fishermen's 2015 teaser trailer certainly succeeds in that respect.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Layers of Video

Music videos can often look simple, but such simplicity often consists of many layers of visuals to create the final result. Dayglo Fishermen videos are no exception.

To illustrate this, here's a break down of the final scene for the band's 'I Can Dance Now' video, a promo for their 2010 album 'Moons That Cast Their Light'. The scene utilises a still photo of the band several times with many effects, pans and zooms applied, creating a drifting and calming effect as the end credits are played

First, on top of a black background, a layer featuring a slow zoom in to Ginny's hair is added. The hue and saturation of the colour is enhanced, an animated CRT TV simulation is added, and finally the brightness raised to create an over-exposed look:

The next layer features a close up pan of the band photo from left to right. Again the hue and saturation are enhanced and an animated CRT TV simulation added. but this time the brightness is lowered to create a dark and shadowy impression:

Next a layer is added featuring a slow zoom out from Ginny to reveal the whole band. Initially the hue and saturation colour levels are high, but they reduce throughout the sequence until the image is black and white. The CRT TV simulation is also present once again, but softened to remove the grid effect:

And finally, a white text layer is added featuring a black outline and shadow to ensure the production credit is readable against the ever changing background:

The finished scene is remarkably mezmerising, compelling the viewer to watch right to the final fade. Watch it now, along with all Dayglo Fishermen promo and concert videos, on the band's YouTube channel.