From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Damon Beals)
Subject: Re: The Fireman - Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest
Organization: Purdue University School of Engr. and Tech.
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 1994 21:50:22 GMT
There was an interview with Youth in one of the recent editions of
Club Sandwich. At the time of doing the 9(?) mixes he was under the
impression they'd turn up on 12" singles or club/dance singles. He was
rather surprised when Paul, liking them all so much, decided to issue
the whole lot as an album. Youth said he'd have done it all differently
had he known an album was in the offing...
Here is the interview from _Club Sandwich_ (without permission)
The Fireman Rushes in..... It was a secret, but not for long - Paul
issued a third album in 1993. Mark Lewisohn spills the beans for Club
Is it or isn't it? Is he or isn't he? And, moreover, Why? and
What the hell...? These were just some of the questions put to us
shortly before Christmas when word leaked out that Paul McCartney might
well have issued a new album under a pseudonym. And here are the
answers: it is, he is, why not and now listen...
He did. It IS Paul McCartney, in tandem with a chap who strictly
formal people might call Martin Glover but who prefers to be called,
indeed is better known in the music world as, Youth. It is they, Paul
and Youth, calling themselves The fireman and their album _strawberry
oceans ships forest_. Why not indeed.
Granted, you might not like the album. It's not easy to like. It's
"ambient dance music" or "trance music" and it's different. But if
we've said it once we've said it a thousand times about Paul McCartney:
he has more strings to his bow that a string orchestra. You try telling
him that he should concentrate only on rock and roll - already this
decade he has co-written a 100 minute classical oratorio, and written and
performed some minimalist music for an animated film about the french
artist Honore' Daumer (shown recently on British TV), quite apart from
all the rock stuff. So why not an ambient dance album too?
It didn't start out as an album, though..but you don't have to
take my work for it-- here's Paul and Youth to explain. Paul first. "I
originally got in touch with Youth so I could ask him to do a couple of
dance mixes from the _Off the Ground_ project. He's a 'buzzy' character
so I was glad when he agreed to do it. The brief from me was that he
should only use stuff from our recordings, because dance mixes often
feature a kick-drum sample or a James Brown snare sound and, as a
consequence, the record ends up sounding a bit like someone else's So I told
Youth that I'd prefer any sound he might select to come off our recordings,
mainly _Off the Ground_."
Now Youth. "I didn't think it appropriate to remix any of the
_Off the Ground_ tracks the way I'd been briefed. I thought it would be
better to do a more conceptual thing - that is, rather than remix a track
I thought we should deconstruct the album into samples and then construct
a new mix from those. And Paul liked the idea. He was into it, so I when
At this point it might be worth looking into who Youth is, for he's
certainly not your everyday music producer. Bass guitarist in the post-punk
group Killing Joke he quit to carve an unlikely but stupendously successful
career as producer, songwriter and remixer extrordinaire, three times
nominated as Producer of the Year in the BPI (British music industry)
awards. Who hasn't he mixed? The Cult, The Shamen, Maria McKee,
Sugarcubes, Transglobal Underground, Wet Wet Wet, Blue Pearl, PM Dawn,
James, The Mission, INXS, Erasure, U2, Wendy and Lisa, The Orb, Marc
Almond, and so on and on and on. He's even mixed Jimi Hendrix,
posthumously of course. He used to run a label called Wow Mr Modo and
now he runs Dragonfly and Butterfly. Butterfly is also the name of
his studio operation in South London, a truly remarkable set-up in a
hippified Victorian detached house, with bands recording and mixing in
every room, even in the toilet. "The idea is to create a very, very
chilled out shanty tranquillity zone." Youth explains. (You can chuckle
at his vocabulary but don't doubt his sincerity, sense of commitment or
command of what's going on.) A 1992 Q magazine article about Youth was
titled "Can this man save pop music?"
On the face of it, then, even allowing for Paul's penchant for
unpredictable moves, this was an unlikely partnership. Youth, though,
is as keen to be diverse as out Mr McCartney. "I like to explore
whatever territories I creatively want to go in," he comments, "but as a
producer you have to be commissioned, you have to wait to be asked.
Okay, you can put a vibe out but you do have to wait to be asked.
Luckily, Paul asked."
So they started work, Youth and his team - engineer Chris Potter and
programmer Matt Austin - taking over Paul's studio for four days early
in October 1992. The first day was spent reviewing the available tapes,
then on the second day Youth invited Paul to join in the fun. It was
memorable session. "He only had four of five hours to spare so we just
had a laugh." Youth recalls. "I got him to play a bit of banjo, an bit of
Bill Black's original stand-up bass from Elvis Presley's Heartbreak
Hotel' session, he played some flute things and did some whispering, and
I just sampled it all up."
"It was great fun," confirms Paul, "because normally these are
the bits that producers try to get me to shut-up about - they usually
say, "Stop messing around, Paul, sing the song properly' - but Youth
wanted all the messing around. It was an interesting release for me."
Apart from this especially recorded material Youth used some
vocal sections from 'Cosmically Conscious', a bass riff from one of the
Off the Ground tracks is playing more or less throughout the album and a
recording or poetry reading first issued as 'The Broadcast' on Wings'
Back to the Egg album can be heard here and there throughout the
production - Youth came upon this programmed on one of the discs in
Paul's studio Chamberlain, like an early Fairlight synthesizer.
"I put all the ingredients together," says Youth, "told Paul I
was going to mix it on the last night and suggested he pop down to have a
look. So he came down with Linda and their children after attending the
opening of Linda's photographic exhibition in Bath, and they all really
got into what we were doing. Paul was blown away because he was hearing
his album in a totally new context. And he also saw how we mixed - using
the desk as an instrument and playing the desk. After I'd done one mix
he asked, 'Is that it?" and I said 'No, we're going to do a lot!' He
ended staying until about four in the morning, and got totally into it.
It was a very special night.
Just how totally Paul was "into it" can be measured by his immediate
decision not to issue one of the mixes as a 12-inch single, as was the
original aim, but to put out the lot as album, all nine mixes, all 77
minutes. "I was planning to edit them into one single mix," says Youth,
"but he said he wanted them as an album. I had slight reservations
because if I had known it was going to be an album I would have done them
slightly differently. As a bunch of 12-inch mixes they're excellent
very spontaneous and, though I don't want to get bogged down in the dogma
of conceptual music, they have a charming naivete. But, to be honest, as
an album it may fall a little short.
"But all due respect to Paul, though: he felt it was valid as an
album and was saying, "I don't care, I think it's great! I want it like
this!" He didn't want anything changed, not even the titles that I gave
to each mix on the night. I wasn't really thinking too much about them,
they came spontaneously - it was a full moon that night so I was getting
quite esoteric - 'transpiritual stomp' had a kind of pagen feel, I could
imagine a cavemen kicking up the dust to it, and 'sunrise mix' was the
last one of the night, done as the sun was creeping up over the horizon.
"What was really nice for me is that I was determined to get back
to the early Wings/White Album vibe. I didn't mention this to Paul but,
funny enough, he said to me, "I've done all this conceptual stuff before,
you know. You might think this is new but we used to do this in the
60's. Have you ever heard the White Album?" And I was saying, 'Yeah!
It's been a big, big influence on me!' One of the most important things
I learnt while working with Paul it that he's as fresh and enthusiastic
as a 17-year-old kid. He's got an incredible supply of ideas, was very
easy to work with and is very open. What's more, he's still hungry for
it. I get jaded and I'm 33 and have done nothing, comparatively. And
there he is: he's done so much and he's still hungry. I found that very
inspiring and learned a lot, a hell of a lot."
In November 1993, after a year on the shelf - which allowed time
for the real Off the Ground and the New World Tour to permeate -
strawberries oceans ships forest was issued. Not for the first time
(refer to "Incognito in CS61) Paul employed a pseudonym for the purpose,
but neither he nor Youth will be drawn on why they chose The Fireman.
"For various reasons it just seemed appropriate," is all Paul will say on
the matter. In a more general sense Youth explains the theory behind the
adopting of a moniker: "We didn't want the album to be seen as a gimmick,
didn't want a big deal over it, although it wasn't hard for people to
gather who was behind it. But we liked the idea that people might
discover it accidently," he says.
"I like it very much as a record and I think Youth did really
good work on it," Paul concludes, "even though we didn't realize we were
making an album and it's all really the same track remixed nine times.
But it was good fun and we kept our integrity because although the sounds
were speeded up, slowed down or whatever it's still us: the ingredients
on The Fireman are still us. Not everyone will enjoy it, and I admit
that your taste has to be in that direction for you to enjoy it, but I
really like it as a record. I think it's a very interesting albums."
---End of article---
Well there you have it in Paul's and Youth's words.... At least Paul
admitted not everyone will enjoy it.