I’ve been writing and recording music since way back in 1975, when I was 15/16 years old. The only way I could record then was on cheap cassette recorders, and the only way to overdub was to play the recording on one cassette player, and play along with it while a second cassette player recorded the result. There could be no mixing afterwards. You could keep repeating this process for multi overdubs, but each time the quality got worse. And then there were the times when one of the players (or one of the tapes) went faulty and was muffled or, even worse, wobbled! The end results were not good.
In terms of instruments, I had my own electric guitar and amp, and my brother, Colin, had a jumbo acoustic guitar, which I was allowed to borrow. The electric guitar also doubled as the bass. I had no drums, but chair cushions hit with (usually) bamboo sticks did the job for that early on. Sometimes I could add keyboards, depending on what my dad had decided to buy for the house. At various times I had access to an upright piano and an electronic organ. Whatever was there, I would use. Vocals? Just sang directly into the cassette player while the backing track played on another cassette player. You could say it was a basic setup!
Things did improve, after time. Through friends and band members (once I started playing in local bands around 1977) I had occasional use of various pedals for the guitar, a drum machine, an echo machine and, the biggest luxury, a reel-to-reel tape recorder that had a proper overdub facility (and also double-time to play with and speed some stuff up – although it did change the pitch as well, not like the facilities available today). Generally speaking, I would only have each item for a short length of time, so it usually meant some frantic recording making use of the items, before they had to go back. Much later on, I bought myself a guitar amp with built-in double cassette recorders and overdub facility. Also later on, my brother, Philip, bought a really decent Sony drum machine which he allowed me to borrow. He also bought a dedicated music computer with accompanying keyboard, which I also had use of. Even better, the keyboard and drum machine could sync. My recordings became a lot better around this time (and some of the results are actually up on soundclick, just for fun). At some point I got my first computer and programmed myself a drum machine in Atari BASIC. Eventually I did buy proper drum machine software.
From 1975 through to 1989, I recorded several cassette tapes worth of music each year. That’s a lot of music. And while the recording quality was not great, some of the songs were ok, I think. I stopped writing and recording for a few years then, while things like jobs and real life got in the way (after a combination of unemployment, short temporary work and, eventually, university as a “mature” student). In 1990 I met my future wife, Cathy, and, inspired by her, wrote some more music and recorded the tape simply entitled, Cathy, in 1994. Then I stopped writing and recording again, while married life and kids took priority.
Around 2000 I discovered the website mp3.com – and back then it was a place anyone could upload music to. I also discovered digital recording and sampling, resulting in the album Age (2000), my first digital and CD album (mp3.com made the CDs back then too). It is completely composed using public domain samples. It’s “interesting” now, but it’s not really me. I did a second album with mp3.com, called New Dawn (2001), where I returned to playing real instruments, and singing. Then I stopped, again!
It took the intervention of my son (around 2008/2009), who, by then, was himself playing guitar and/or drums in local and school bands, to bring me out of my self-imposed musical retirement. Looking forward to his 18th birthday (which would coincide with my 50th) he wanted to record an album with me and organise a one-off gig. So was born The 1850 Project, and we haven’t stopped since. You’ll find our albums on iTunes, Amazon and all the usual places.