Original punk legends CHELSEA have been in the studio recording a brand new album. Bassist Mat Sargent got in touch to let Vive Le Rock know how things have been going down…..
Saturday Night Sunday Morning in 2014 was Chelsea’s first album in 10 years so the fans were ready for a new album. A killer line-up with James Stevenson from the first recording line-up and Nic Austin from the Evacuate period both on guitar. The album did very well and for the 40th Anniversary the record company released the three Chelsea Anthology box sets of the complete studio recordings and unreleased demos. All the studio albums were also reissued on limited edition coloured vinyl, which got the collector fans wanting more.
The record company, Westworld Recordings, asked us to record a new studio album for the bands 40th Anniversary so in January 2016 Nic and I worked on demos, writing 4 tracks together – ‘You’re No Fun’, ‘Control’, ‘Sun Stop Shining’ and ‘I Can’t take This’.
Nic and I both wrote the lyrics and music for ‘You’re No Fun’, it was the first track we wrote for the album. Nic came up with a haunting riff for ‘Control’, I did a ‘Shakin’ All Over’ type bass line for the verses and we wrote the lyrics together, Nic wrote the hooky chorus. Nic and I jammed ‘I Can’t Take This’, it just happened, it was a telepathy like when we’re on stage, we just knew where we were going with that song. Nic wrote the lyrics for the verses and I wrote the lyrics for the bridge. ‘Sun Stop Shining’ was a song I wrote with a friend in mind, the late Tony Van Frater (bass player for Cockney Rejects / Red Alert) who had passed away a few months before. Nic wrote the lyrics for the chorus and added the Chelsea morse code guitar.
Nic had written 4 tracks of his own – ‘Fashion’, ‘Suit In The Spotlight’, ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘Something In The Air’. I’d also written a track ‘Old Town’ whilst I was in Florida visiting my Dad. I had a dream about going back to my old town in Yorkshire but everything had changed and everyone had moved on. It was the first time I’d written a song from a dream, I jumped out of bed one morning around 6am and scribbled the lyrics down around. I remember an alligator swimming past in the lake in front of the house whilst I was writing it.
I went over to Gene’s place a few times times for writing sessions in February and March 2017, we wrote ‘Jackie Got A Gun’, ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Sands Of Time’. Gene had already written some lyrics so I strummed the guitar and we wrote some extra parts for the songs. I’d already written the music for ‘Jackie’s Got A Gun’ and Gene’s lyrics fit the track really well. Gene had the idea for ‘Mission Impossible’, he even had a riff for it which he sang to me whilst I strummed along and wrote the chorus & solo. When Gene sang me ‘Sands Of Time’, it reminded me of the Dave Goodman ‘Rocks Off’ era of Chelsea. Straight away knew it was asking for an acoustic feel.
James came to a couple of writing sessions at Gene’s place when we wrote ‘I Don’t Know, I Don’t Care’. Gene and James wrote the chorus and Gene and I wrote the verses. James also played through an old song called ‘Just Like Me’ which he’d written in 1978 for Chelsea but had never got used. When Gene heard it he said, “That old thing, sounds alright though, why don’t we do that then?”… So we did.
I went over to Nic’s in April where we demoed the tracks I’d done with Gene and James. Nic and I also wrote a new song ‘Make It Happen’ which just happened. Again it was the telepathy between us both, it just came from nowhere, we wrote the lyrics and music together.
After listening to the demos on CD for a few weeks, Nic, Lee and I rehearsed the album in the basement of the ‘Hand In Hand’ pub in Brixton during April and May before we went into the studio to start recording.
On the 3rd June we went to Panther Studios in Surrey and ‘Mr. Lee’ laid down all the drums for 15 songs in just under 6 hours. The following day I put all the bass down which took around 5 hours and we started on rhythm guitars. On the thrid and fourth day we cracked on with guitars and did the backing vocals. A friend of mine Sam Jones popped over to the studio and played piano and flute on a track, James also recorded some rhythm guitars and did a few solos. On the sixth and seventh day I worked on tidying the tracks up with producer Dick Crippen getting the backing tracks ready for Gene to do his lead vocal. I redid a couple of bass tracks and Lee did some tambourine & shakers.
On Saturday the 10th of June after the first week in the studio, we played at the Camden Underworld for Gene’s birthday bash. Playing a gig just before going into the studio was a great way to warm Gene’s voice up for the recording session. It was an excellent show with Chron Gen and Department S supporting, opening up the show for us.
A few days after the gig, Gene came to the studio and spent 3 days recording the vocals. James came back to the studio and finished his guitar tracks for all the songs. I spent a couple of days sifting through the tracks with Dick, getting the best takes and getting the tracks ready for mixing. Nic, Lee and I spent the last few days of the recording session doing final over dubs and mixing the tracks.
The album was initially to be called Mission Impossible and with 15 tracks to record & mix in just under 3 weeks it seemed an apt title. Mission accomplished!
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