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Dear Sir or Madam...

The John Lennon Series
by Jude Southerland Kessler

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Comment? Question?

Reference Library: Paul and the Fireman

From: (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 Sandwich.

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 for it." 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.

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