Read the extended interview with Lad Alive
UK Disco House group Lad Alive (comprising Marc Gibb, Nicolas Hall & Mike Porter) have just dropped their inaugural release, “Everybody Be Uprising”. We caught up with the guys to find out a little more about their artistic journey so far – here’s what went down:
f: Lad Alive, welcome to Feeder! How has your Summer season been?
Marc: Thanks for having us. Mike (keys) has been touring Europe with his other band and Jess (vox) has been touring the U.S.
Mike: Summer festival season has been knackering. Played 40+ festivals so far. I’m currently in Switzerland touring with my other band, Smoove and Turrell.
Marc: Leaving me and Nicolas to deal with all the promo – Ha!
f: Classic vibes on your debut release, can you tell us a little about how the group came to be?
Marc: Me and Nicolas have been in bands together for over 20 years. We met Mike through the Newcastle clubbing/party scene. We basically badgered him for 10 years to play for us. We must’ve finally ground him down. Mike then introduced us to Jess from Sunderland, who had sang for him on previous projects.
Mike: Yeah we kinda all grew up together in Newcastle’s club culture. I’ve known Marc and Nicolas since they were teenagers in a band called kapitahl:a. I was in a band called The Kustom Built at the time. I’ve known Jess just as long. We used to be in a band together with Smoove which were signed to Acid Jazz Records.
f: When did you first start production on ‘Everybody Be Uprising’?
Marc: Wow! Would you believe us if we told you around 11 years ago? – Ha! It’s been proper labour of love. We just couldn’t get it finished or sounding the way we imagined it could. Partly because we were lazy, partly because we weren’t technical enough. I think we got there or thereabouts in the end. Although I still wish we’d got a gospel choir on it… not many of them around Newcastle though!
Mike: Aye, don’t even mention that… I remixed a track they were working on which then became ‘Everybody Be Uprising’. The synth parts were all recorded on my vintage gear. M1 piano, main synth riff on DX7, Jupiter 4, SH101 for arps.
f: With each of you being based in different parts of the world, how challenging was the creative process?
Marc: An absolute nightmare – Ha! I mean obviously the technology is there to do it, so it was just other things getting in the way that hindered it. The good thing about the arrangement we have is we don’t infringe on each other’s separate commitments, we just work at our own slooooooooow pace. Since I moved to London it’s forced me to get a bit more technical and not rely solely on Nicolas to produce, as I have to send him the bare bones of new songs – chords patterns, guide vocals, etc, and then he can do his magic before sending on to Mike and Jess for their parts, which then inevitably means we begin the tracks all over again based on the far superior parts they’ve sent us back. I must admit, I make the whole process harder than it really needs to be. Yesterday, for instance, Nicolas spent 3 hours working on a new acid bassline for the next release and mailed it to me. But because I listen to stuff on the way to graft on a morning, I’m still half asleep, plus can’t hear properly because of the bastard tube! So inevitably I text him that I don’t like it, which puts him in a foul mood for the rest of the day before I listen to it again on my way home and then decide that I actually do like it!
Nicolas: Tracks often start with a lyric, which I’m guessing is unusual for dance music. The idea is sung into an iPhone, then recording basic acoustic guitar or piano chords, which are then emailed as mp3s to the rest to work on independently. Mike mainly uses hardware instruments as he’s a purist. The piano sound on the Anti-Tank version of ‘Uprising’ is from his circa ’87 Korg M1, which he swears sounds better than the vst version, although there is no reason it should as they are both digital instruments – ha! The original version is midi routed to a vst, so take a listen and tell us which sounds best? The Uprising backing vocals were recorded on one of the rare times we all managed to get together. We got a group of friends who are all mint musicians in their own right and booked a session in Blast Recording Studio in The Ouseburn, Newcastle.
Marc: Which also happens to be next to some of the best pubs in the North-East – big mistake when the singers in question (“Hi Mick and Trev”) are partial to a Sunday beer or ten!
Mike: Yeah, I tend to use a lot of vintage gear when recording, as can reference the sounds I want straight away. Some of the presets are instantly recognisable. For example, I used a 303 bass line which needs no introduction for its iconic sound. Same with the SH101. They both work brilliantly together with the TR606. A lot of my keyboard parts for ‘Uprising’ have just been recorded straight in from the original machines.
Nicolas: All the other parts on the original mix are from software instruments. Oh, apart from the guitar part I played on a Telecaster, through a guitar pod line 6 recorded into Ableton then cut to shit to tighten it to the groove, as per Nile Rogers playing – Ha!
f: If you could describe the sound of Lad Alive in three words, what would they be?
Marc: In the words of music journo Danny Slade
“Odd, but good!”
f: You’ve got featured remixes from Anti-Tank & Forriner on the single, how did they both come about?
Marc: Anti-Tank is another one of Mike’s incarnations and I got to know Lee & Oli from Forriner after attending the parties Lee (and later Oli) was putting on around Newcastle’s dance scene. The Anti-Tank remix was actually finished before the original mix. It’s a bit of a confusing story but I’ll try and explain. Are you sitting comfortably? As mentioned Me and Nicolas wrote the song Everybody Be Uprising around 11 years ago, with a vocal from another talented singer from Newcastle called Franki. We then asked Mike to play the piano part. Once he supplied it we decided to scrap the early version and start again, this time built around his piano. In the meantime, he did this amazing remix that sounded so good that we again scrapped ours and started again. We intended the original to be quite a clean-cut, driven by the vocals, but naively had recorded the vocals rather shoddily. They work on the Anti-Tank remix as there’s a lot of reverb and effects which adds to the whole soundscape of that track but just wouldn’t cut it for ours. Franki had lost interest by then, presumably because of the length of time it took us to get anything finished (apologies Frankie), so Mike suggested getting Jess in. After Jess sent her vocal – you guessed it – we scrapped what we had and started from scratch, building it around her vocal take and finally creating the version that is this release. Of course, now Mike wanted Jess’s backing vocals on his mix to add to Franki’s, but by now his computer had packed in and he couldn’t get it finished. So, me and Nicolas ended up having to mix Mike’s remix of our track. Somewhere along the way Lee from Forriner heard it and offered to do a remix, which he and Oli obviously got finished way before the ‘original’ track was ready.
f: And finally, what’s next release wise – moving beyond ‘Everybody Be Uprising’?
Marc: A couple more single releases to hopefully build on the early support we’ve had so far from the likes of Robert Owens of Chicago House legends Fingers Inc., Man Power, Justin Robertson, Ian Blevins, Phil Mison, Rayko, David Dunne and DJ Scratch. Then we’ll try to contemplate how we can get together to do some live shows. The follow up single is called ‘Something So Fucking Beautiful’, so we’re not expecting as much radio play from this one – Ha! It’s another vocal-driven track, with a big chorus, but this time the piano’s in from the start and takes centre stage, as we’ve learnt from this release not to keep people waiting too long – especially not another 11 years!