Pop Bands and Lifelong Dreams

July 19, 2013 by  

One of my all-time favourite bands, believe it or not, is Duran Duran.

I’ve upset more than a few people with that revelation!

I remember sitting at a train station with my guitar and gear bag, having just arrived back in the country from our last Japanese tour, waiting for my train home when a long-haired guy wandered past. He noticed me in my ripped jeans, hi-tops, leathers, sitting next to obvious musical gear, and he stopped and goes “Oi mate, what’s yer favourite band?” I think he had a partial stroke when I answered “Duran Duran.” “Oh,” he says after a while, “I thought it would be Metallica or Guns ‘n’ Roses or something.” and then he walked off with a confused look on his face.

Sorry dude! I’m a proud metalhead but I’m just as proud of the other styles of music I’m into, and Duran Duran will always mean something really special to me.

Ever since I first heard them, their music spoke to me like few other things had done. Clips for “Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Rio” and “Save A Prayer” were epic, even for the over-the-top 80s, but when they released “The Reflex” everything changed for me. I remember distinctly going from someone who just liked their songs and enjoyed their clips into being a massive Duran Duran fan.

That song, and that clip was a defining moment in my life. The way Simon Le Bon moved across the stage, the way the crowd reacted, the energy… that was the defining moment that I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. If I could get that incredible feeling just by watching them do this, what would it be like for me to actually be up on stage doing this myself?

I remember being an excited 14yo, running into the local music store to grab their new album “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.” I was surprised to find this came with a 12″ extended mix of “The Reflex” as part of a bundle deal. I’d never heard of extended mixes before so I was intrigued.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. It was the song I already knew back to front but chopped up, rearranged, parts I never really noticed before now taking the forefront in the mix… it really made me think about how music was put together. It was no longer just “that song I loved,” it was something that made me think about what the bass guitar was doing, how it locked in with the drums, why the vocals sounded different (Was the echo on them different? Was there a different harmony?). I needed to understand this more.

That started me collecting extended mixes – initially from Duran Duran, but that spread to other bands that I was getting into at the time, thanks to Duran Duran opening the door for me. Kids In The Kitchen, Pseudo Echo, Koo De Tah, Go West, Icehouse… all of these bands had fantastic 12″ extended mixes of their songs, and the more I heard, the more I learned about music arrangements.

I wanted to become a singer in a band because of Simon Le Bon, but now because of these remixes, I had a passion for learning about not only writing music and performing it, but working out how it was all put together, recording it, editing it, changing it…

Not long after that I bought a keyboard (an awesome Yamaha DX7 FM Synth – pretty much a staple of pop bands in the mid-80s) and taught myself how to play it. I didn’t have any recording gear at the time – back then, even basic recording gear was still quite expensive and definitely out of the reach of some teenage kid who just dropped a huge wad of borrowed money on a pro keyboard! What I did have, however, was a couple of tape decks and $50 mic mixer from Tandy, and a bit of electronics know-how.

I would record one layer of sounds (say a kick and snare pattern) onto tape, then, while that tape was playing back through my $50 mixer, on a second tape deck I would record that and me playing the next layer (hi hats, bass synth, whatever) live over the top, so that second tape deck would have the rhythm section. I’d then swap tapes so I’d have the rhythm section playing and then I’d play another layer over the top live. Anyone who has dubbed a lot of cassettes back in the day will know where this is going… by the end of the process it was nothing but tape hiss and sounded terrible, but it was enough for me to work out how sounds worked together, and I would try and recreate the kind of arrangements from my favourite songs. Usually poorly, mind you, but I was learning as I going along.

DX-7

I’d even go so far as to try and remix these songs by carefully cutting the tapes and splicing sections together, or trying my luck pausing the recording at the right place and resuming for the next part. It was very hit and miss, as you’d expect!

Eventually I got my first 4-track tape recorder and things improved dramatically! Finally free of having to do stuff live over the top of 8th generation tape dubs, I started thinking about effects. How were these bands getting their vocals to sound so lush? It was delay and reverb. Why was that guitar so wide and swirly? Chorus or flanger. I spent a long time at the local music shop trying out guitar effects pedals and I got quite a collection of classic analogue pedals that I used in my mixes, learning how everything worked together.

Well, you guys know the rest of the story from about this point. I eventually got together with a few friends and we started what was to be Dungeon.

Dungeon 1990

We did our first real demo in Sydney in 1992, which was the first time I’d been in a pro studio. It became apparent that the engineer was on an entirely different page to us as far as sounds and mixing went (not necessarily better or worse, but different to what we were going for) so I offered to have a try at mixing in a real studio for the first time… which, for what it was, turned out great! I spent a lot of time in that studio with one of the other engineers, learning more and more about recording and arrangements.

Well, here we are in 2013, nearly 30 years on from that defining moment when I first heard “The Reflex.”

I’m now running SLS Studios, and I’ve lost count of the number of internationally released albums we’ve done here now, either completely or elements that have gone on to be mixed elsewhere, and I’ve worked with some of my heroes in huge bands from around the world who have sent their performances in to be used on products created here. It’s a far cry from that teenager with a couple of tape decks in his bedroom that was inspired by extended mixes by Duran Duran!

But the point of this story is, the inspiration has to come from somewhere. To a lot of people into the music I do, the absolute last thing they would expect to associate with it is an 80s pop remix but without that stuff, there’s no way I would be doing what I’m doing now, and LORD simply wouldn’t have existed as we know it.

It’s funny now that things have come full-circle.

Today, we took pre-sale orders from something I’ve been wanting to do since I was 14 years old: a 12″ extended remix of one of our songs, “Digital Lies,” released on vinyl with an authentic looking 80s style jacket. The mix is in the spirit of those first 12″ remixes that inspired me to do everything I’ve ever done musically.

Finally, after all this time we’re releasing an actual record. Yes, of course it’s exciting releasing albums on CD (and great when it’s really well received like our last album “Digital Lies” has been) but this is something different. This is going back to where it all started for me and is kind of surreal whenever I think about it. I’m sure I’ll have a moment when the shipment arrives and I hold the record in my hands! (I’m sure it’ll just be dust in my eye or something.)

Haven’t heard it yet? Here it is:

And if you’d like to get a copy, you’ll find it HERE IN OUR ONLINE STORE.

Who knew a bunch of kids from Birmingham would go on to inspire a kid from the outback and have it end up here hey?

Cheers, Duran Duran! It’s been quite the journey indeed! đŸ™‚