“Up until the moment I put the needle into the outer groove of Flying Saucer Attack’s ‘Chorus’ I believed several things about recording.
I believed that recordings were made in recording studios, and that recording studios were expensive, and manned by highly trained individuals with specialised knowledge of an obscure and faintly occult progress. Records were expensive to make but that was okay because recording artists sold loads of them, and anyway, record companies paid for all that stuff.
Within the space of forty-five minutes I discovered that what I was listening to was made possible without any of those things being true. Flying Saucer Attack records were made in bedrooms for nothing by people who worked it out for themselves, paid for it themselves and sold in quantities guaranteed to get them dropped by any major label.
I had just bought a four-track cassette multi-tracker, a machine marketed to musicians as a way to make home demos. FSA used them to make whole albums, five in fact – three “proper” albums and two collections of EPs and 7”s. When I first heard the glorious other-worldly tape hiss of FSA, I simply could not believe that something so lo-fi had been pressed up on vinyl and sold in record stores the world over.
The sound world FSA created was baffling and bewitching – I couldn’t believe that this was all done using guitars – surely there had to be synthesizers in there? This was my Punk Rock Awakening. Four-tracks were not for making demos in the hope of catching the ear of some London A&R man who hears “promise” or “potential” in them. Four-tracks were for making whole albums, singles, EPs; records that in their heyday were released by the fearlessly innovative Domino Recording Company. After an impulse purchase in Beggars Banquet Records in Kingston my world changed forever. This was DIY.
At Reading ’95, whilst Smashing Pumpkins headlined the main stage, on a smaller stage on the other side of the site (it may as well have been on another planet), FSA were creating an unearthly racket that Billy Corgan’s tens of thousands of dollars of signal processing couldn’t come close to. Dave Pearce was armed with a guitar, a delay pedal and a set of screwdrivers.
I quickly devoured every bit of info possible on this mysterious outfit – who were they? How did they make those sounds? I soon learned of a like-minded cabal of Bristol musos – FSA, Movietone, Crescent and the, quite frankly, frightening Third Eye Foundation. A jubilant NME review of Third Eye Foundation’s debut ‘Semtex’ opened with the line “I don’t know what to do with this record…”
Choosing a university, I had my heart set on Bristol before I even so much as looked at a prospectus. At that point and ever since when you mentioned Bristol and music you heard the names Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky – all exceptional artists – and a long list of highly respected and frequently innovative dance producers. But it was the sound of a strange group of like-minded autodidacts that left a musical breadcrumb trail to the centre of this extraordinary city, and held me hostage to its heart ever since.”
Gravenhurst’s LP ‘The Ghosts In Daylight’ is out now on Warp.