Where do I begin telling the story of this record?!
It's soooo long and full of twists and places and random events...
Let's take it from the very top, shall we!?
It was 2016 and I was working with Monroze, a band I had discovered around Camden. The frontman of that band - nothing less than my now main bud Tom Van Heel - is the keyboard player in Paul Weller’s band and would hang around The Black Barn quite a bit.
The Black Barn is Paul Weller’s studio where The Amorphous Androgynous worked on the infamous Noel Gallagher's record… We both don't know exactly how it went down but Gaz got to listen to some of my productions and mixes, he liked them and got in touch with me.
Was I stoked!? You bet I was!!!!
I’ve always been a fan of Future Sound of London and I got to love the Amorphous when I heard the Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble remixes they made for Syd Arthur. They were unbelievably good, especially I remember playing "Ode (Summer Is Leaving Me Behind)" on repeat for days and days.
So when the wizard behind those sounds rang me up and started a conversation on the possibility of mixing a song together I went:
"Hell yeah mate, anytime!!!"... but then he vanished, and he did for a while.
I played it casual but I was bummed and did not know what to do, so I waited.
After some time Gaz wrote back saying that he was working on the lead vocal with Peter Hammil from Van Der Graaf Generator and they were looking for the right vibe to suite the track.
I was thrilled!
I grew up with Prog-Rock and V.D.G.G. with Hammil were hands down my favourite. So I played Gaz some tracks I loved and when I played him“House With No Door” he was thrilled: that was exactly the vibe he was after. He thanked me and he vanished again, ah!?
A few months later he rang me and said he was ready to start working together. Not only I had helped him by showing that song but my Prog-Rock background had convinced him I was the right fit for the job! Wow…
In autumn 2017 Gaz was still writing and collaging the song and he still had loads of options to explore. Nevertheless he decided to start the journey and he flew to mine with his hard drive full of sounds. Finally meeting him in person was a great moment. While I would go through the tracks to set up the session, he would tell me crazy stories about his many collaborations, Guinness World Record winning gigs on ISDN, his passion for Ayurveda, Yoga and healthy foods, we would meditate before starting the sessions and talk a lot of crap just for fun…
Gaz has an explosive personality, massive amount of energy and he's a big workaholic: my kind of person, we just clicked!
We spent a week cleaning the track, sorting out takes and carving the main sounds. I did that with a fairly analog approach, processing all the core tracks (drums, bass, main vocals) on my Neve VR and through different pieces of gear. Luckily I soon realised that the enterprise was to big to go fully analog.
Why!? Because the song kept on growing and expanding and the track count skyrocketed, together with the amount of edits and mix revisions. Every idea triggered a new one, it was relentless.
I fondly remember suggesting to loop a vocal bit to build a little choir-like section that would enhance the drama of the ending.
Gaz loved it so much that he went: "Hang on a minute bruv!?!? We need to make this a real, massive choir!!" so he vanished and he went and sorted out a choir. I think it took him 8 months to do that. But it was well worth it.
Same happened for the guitar solo and for the strings and for the female floydian adlibs. Gaz had a vision and he didn't care how long it would take to turn it into reality.
I am extremely obsessed with details and when it comes to producing and mixing I never ever let go until nothing bugs me and my client anymore. I am used to that shit. I love that shit. But I have to be honest: Gaz took it to a whole new level.
Not only he would vanish for months to build the next massive pice of music to slot into the song but he would ask countless revisions of the mix just to tweak a specific sound by 0.5 dBs.
And even though I had faith in him I started questioning whether he was enacting the weaving of Penelope's shroud.
While we were dealing with these never-ending sets of mix revisions, Gaz announced his great new idea: making remixes for this song to be released on a Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble before the album on which We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal would have been the single.
Not only he had this idea but he asked me to make one remix with my main project Higher Peaks. During our sessions together I had played him loads of the songs I was producing and he grew fond of the sounds and the vibes Tom Van Heel and I explore on that project. Once again, I was pumped!
So we finished mixing the song and we sent it to master. At the same time we gave various artists the stems to work on the remixes. It was the end of the summer 2019.
A few weeks later Gaz rang me up to talk about another idea that had popped into his mind: he wanted to make alternative versions of the main single - some sort of B-sides - that would go with it to form an LP: “You with me mate? We make an album-long single and print it to vinyl” - he said.
According to this new vision, the B-sides wouldn't have had to be mixed as thoroughly as the single so we would have used pre mixed stem he was building: “You get my stems, clean them up, make them big, work your magic on them, happy days”… so, even tough I had grown a bit weary of the whole thing and some doubts had crept in me, this new method sounded intriguing so I got onboard and we began the process.
We got to November 2019, I was working on getting Higher Peaks ready for the upcoming tour with Band of Skulls and finishing our 1st EP plus I was juggling other clients in the studio and my personal life. Gaz kept on asking for tweaks over tweaks, I would constantly receive messages such as “Great work my friend! We are 99% of the way, let me give you a coupla notes and we nail this”…followed by 20 bullet points email on how to change the mix.
So I lost my shit.
That time I was the one ringing him up. I told him I had massive doubts on the whole project but mainly on the fact that, no matter how thorough I was, he never seemed to be satisfied with the mixes and that I was scared the album would have never seen the light of day.
Back then we were both going through personal stuff and both had a lot on our plate so we decided to step back and take a break.
During that period Gaz worked relentlessly on collaging the single with the alternative versions and made instrumental interludes to help them flow even better. So when we got in touch again around the end of 2019 he sent me a Gargantuan 45 minutes long track saying “I think it’s brilliant bruv, see what you make of it!”
I think I let it sit in my drive without playing it for few days then I though “Oh what the hell!? Let’s see what he did!?”
I rolled a phat one, dimmed the lights and sat in front of my speakers.
I listened to it from top to bottom. I was blown away.
Sure, it was a bit long and could have used some editing but what I had just witnessed wasn’t a main single with some B-sides banged onto a single file, it actually was a brilliantly convoluted and elegant concept album with leitmotifs and recurring lyrics and sounds leading you from one part into the next one and intricate layers forming visionary soundscapes. It was unbelievable.
It was one of those humbling moments. I realised that until then I hadn’t got the whole picture in its complexity but there it was in front of me, crystal clear.
I called Gaz immediately. We were extremely happy to see that we were finally understanding each other completely. We had a long conversation about the aesthetics of the record, the whole vision behind it and how we could sharpen it and focus it even more.
I demanded to get separate tracks of all the stems Gaz had premixed for me. He had a great vibe going but I was sure I could have developed it even further. This was such a chore Gaz had to go through because after sub mixing some parts he had edited them and he had to work quite hard to revert to the original multis and recreate the same edit. But he did and he sent me the whole package.
I started working again on the mixes but with a precise vision in mind everything would flow easily and all the mixes I would hand in would be extremely close to Gaz vision from the very first draft. So that time there wasn’t a lot of OCD tweaking.
Why is that? Because I had finally understood the idea Gaz was trying to create and every choice he made, no matter how extreme, I would understand and most of the time foresee.
It took us few months to finish the record but those sessions were simple to deal with and a lot of fun. Mainly because the communication between me and Gaz was excellent.
By the (crazy) summer 2020 We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal was finished.
What’s the moral of this fairly long story? I guess it’s that the main concern with working with an artist is the communication we set up with them. It’s fundamental that we try to understand each other to be able to develop the vision behind the art.
The communication skills Gaz and I were able to develop played a huge role on how We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal turned out to be. Not only. The same skills mede me shift from the person who should have mixed a single for The Amorphous Androgynous to the person who mixed and co-produced their entire record. Pretty sick!