A Day in The Crypt with Short Sharp Scratch
The year was 2020, our way of life had been destroyed by a deadly virus not seen since the plague of 1665...
A little dramatic perhaps but it’s still hard to believe that this was and still is our reality; not the blurb for some dystopian horror movie or an episode of black mirror.
It has been a rough year for everyone and that includes musicians. A lot of us haven’t performed for over a year now. Not only have our livelihoods been affected but also our means to express ourselves, which is essential to our self worth and mental well being. Performing is just what we do.
However, a crack of light, a nugget of hope and a glimpse of normality came for me last September! With lockdown (part 1) loosening, performing opportunities were still scarce but some music studios had begun to reopen under strict guidelines. It was then that I was offered the opportunity to record a coveted Crypt Session.
Situated in the heart of Crouch End, The Crypt Studios has been host to some great performances from Michael Kiwanuka, Bahamas and Travis. Now it was my turn with my funk pop group Short Sharp Scratch.
There was no time for nerves as I had 2 days to assemble my band for the session. On drums the funk grooves of Jonty Finn, sometime male model and always the bringer of good vibes. Singing my latest single (at that time) 'Do You Like It?' Brighton’s very own Aimee Montague; with a soulful voice beyond her 24 years. Myself on Guitar and band leader duties.
We arrived early to setup our gear (oh how I had missed the lug)! In order to get as close as possible to the studio I quickly parked up, blocking the exit to a Porsche so slick it could have belonged to James Bond. Whilst exchanging pleasantries with engineer David we were interrupted by a frantic young fella asking us to move the car. The Porsche belonged to none other than Paul Epworth - producer for Adele and Rhianna...whoops!
Paul Epworth was working in The Church Studios situated under The Crypt with psychedelic pop band Glass Animals. After clearing the way we had a nice chinwag, he was sheepish about bringing the classic whip to work, insisting that his regular ride was in the garage and that the wife had that car to drop the kids off at school. I was just happy to hob knob with rock 'n' roll royalty for a few minutes, I felt energised and ready to jam.
As is usually the way at gigs or sessions there's a lot of sitting around and waiting to play. In this instance, the studio owner Ricky and cameraman Charlie were working on lighting and getting the new cameras just right. I didn’t mind, we had all been cooped up in our houses living this strange new reality for the past 6 months; it was lovely being in the company of some old mates, as well as the anticipation of plugging in and making some noise.
Also, The Crypt is a cool place to hang out with their vintage gear and great live room, not to mention a life size cardboard Harrison Ford. I highly recommend it to any bands that want to record live and raw together as opposed to layering takes, as is often the way.
When it came time to plug in to my trusty Lazy J20 amp (turns out for the last time before I had to sell it, fuck you covid) any apprehension or tightness quickly melted away after the first few bars of 'Do You Like It?'. Even though we hadn’t performed together for an age, I was quickly reminded that we’re pretty ruddy good...
Two takes, bang!
Boss man Ricky had generously asked me to record two songs, so next up was 'Shark Infested Waters', my single from 2019. This is my best received tune so far, having been picked up by Tom Robinson for 6 Music.
Unfortunately the original singer Tobey Couling was also enjoying a rare mini tour of Italy with his band The Noisettes, so I had to find a singer and quick.
Off the back of the 6 Music support I had become pen pals with fellow funky buggers and purveyors of fine Nu Disco PATAWAWA. I took a punt and asked vocalist Sam Wilmot if he would join us for the session, he agreed and, like the rest of us, was excited to jump behind the mic.
I’d not met Sam in person before but was happy when he arrived, with boundless energy and looking like he’d just been on a run, with that Northern swagger that us southern softies can only dream about having.
After Ricky had ensured we weren’t all too shiny for the cameras we were ready to funk again. We didn’t take long to get a nice take, the engineer David had set us up with a lovely rough mix so it was easy to get lost in the groove on this one.
It was a nice little moment of sunshine for all involved in an otherwise grey year, a nice reminder of who we are and to keep hanging in there.
The final tracks were then sent off to be mixed by Millie Davidson.
I am very fond of the studio versions of these tracks but I do think these live recordings have a nice raw energy to them, I hope you enjoy my Crypt sessions.