"Making of" stories

Ice, Darkness and Brandy: the making of Hope of Heaven

Paul Trynka: We didn’t really deal with anyone directly at Beggars, it was a number of people, mostly with the tapes going to Vaughan. We didn’t do things professionally – for instance, we did a Christmas tape, with camp versions of I’m Dreaming Of a White Christmas, complete with Casio drum machine, and Slik’s Forever and Ever. They kept radio silence for a while after we sent them that one.

Tim Allison: This Is Not Your House came from the same Christmas Exploitation Tape. We’d started working on that on the piano at the music shop. We recorded up at Kenny Giles in Bridlington, a cheap session on a Sunday night, just done for fun more than anything, to hand out to friends.

Paul T: I’d met Paul Moller early in 1977 in Sidney Scarborough record shop, went up and talked to him ‘cos he had a leather jacket. He was still at school. He was the only person I know could play the solo to Search and Destroy properly. Then he joined Mental Block when I left (or was chucked out, I can’t remember). We all hung out together, he practised with us in Dave’s era or turned up at shows, and I used to borrow his Strat copy. Although he used to intimidate me bigtime, he was such a great musician.

Paul Moller: I got in with the wrong crowd, Taff, Simms. Nutters. Going into the pub getting paralytic, next thing you’re with Nick Turner running down the road knocking on every door – City psychos. That was more or less the nucleus of the Nyam Nyam following . A bunch of nutters. But we were pretty young. They were good times.

Trevor Simpson: We sometimes rehearsed above Moller’s dad’s shop and I played with him a few times, I played bass and he played violin through an echo. I think Paul [Trynka] bought a violin and gave it to me. We used to chalk the positions on the fretboard.

Tim: We weren’t seeing eye to eye, it was probably over really stupid things. And I was hanging out with other people, probably Neil Scott [with whom Tim formed a band]. There were a lot of things we did, like a show at The Venue that will stick in my mind for ever. But it had got strained. I can’t remember if I left or was sacked.

The main Nyam Nyam line-up, from left Trevor, Steve and Paul. Photos of mad scientist guest sax-player Paul Moller to come, soon as we locate them.

Paul T: I really wanted real sounds, or found sounds, something English, not rock. Moller had his own band, but we got him to guest on sax, a kind of Evan Parker vibe, he used to play me loads of his tapes. And also to add violin noises. And I really wanted more piano, something more intense than synths. Tim maybe came to a couple of the pre-album sessions, and dropped in on the album recording, I think.

Trevor: The songs I enjoyed playing most were The Illuminated Ones… the way the song changes. And Hope Of Heaven. Out of all the songs we do it’s the closest to us and what we stood for and were trying to achieve. When you find your natural place. And the best version is the one on the demo [included on the Architect EP]… we couldn’t get the rimshots right when we recorded the album at Fairview.

Paul T: Around the time we got Beggars really interested, songs were just arriving. Hope of Heaven was me playing something simple on guitar, then wondering if there was any hope for us, for people, whether we’d make it out. My conclusion, upliftingly was, No.

Trevor: Then the songs seemed to write themselves, Hope Of Heaven was such a simple song to play. Although today there seems to be loads in it, the piano and everything. Moller’s violin is really important, sawing away. The rimshots are time ticking away, then there’s this gnawing that adds tension, an edge. The Illuminated Ones was the other one that was on our demo to Beggars before they signed us.

Paul M: Obviously I couldn’t play violin for toffee. But I have vivid memories of just jamming along and fitting it in rhythmically, with two notes marked out on the fretboard. That was at Cargo, in the middle of the night. From what I remember, I was playing sax and violin at the same time period, I think it was all part of whatever songs Paul was writing. And I was quite happy to supply it. My sax skills were only rudimentary but I was able to do what fitted.

Paul T: I feel lucky we got to record those songs, because the best ones – Hope Of Heaven, The Meeting, And To Hold, The House, and later The Architect – were about people I knew, or met. Casualties. Hull could be an extreme town. The Meeting was about a friend who had been raped by two squaddies; what can you say when you hear that story? Sarah, my girlfriend, sang the woman’s part: “how did this happen? Where do we go?”

And To Hold was about a local man, who murdered his wife, called the police and told them not to wake his kids when they came for him. In that atmosphere… I often thought I’d lose my mind and those songs helped exorcise those feelings. I often think back to those people and hope they pieced something together out of their lives.

Trevor: Sarah’s singing was brilliant, the perfect foil. If she was taught, it wouldn’t have had the same effect – non musicians find their own way.

Sarah, the wronged woman on Hope of Heaven

Paul T: And To Hold had the chords of Louise is Asleep, a failed love song. Then it turned into a murder song. You listen to the singer and feel sorry for him, his self-pity and paranoia. Behind his words, Sarah sings the woman’s story.

Paul M: I was at Fairview for the album, even though I only did my recording on one or two nights I was there for virtually all of it. At first it got a bit bogged down with the rhythm tracks. Then the curve went back up and it was off.

Trevor: It was all night sessions, because that was cheaper. You’d get home and even though you’d been at it all night first thing I did was put the tape on, then go to work. It took hours to get the drum sound. By the time I came to do my part my fingers were raw… you want the best take, but when you’ve played it 15 or 50 times your fingers are numb.

Paul T: We asked Colin Richardson, who’d engineered our Cargo recordings, to produce. He was a genius, great to work with on the singing. We couldn’t use Cargo, we didn’t have the budget, so he was in an unfamiliar studio and by the time we got the drum sound Steve was knackered. But mostly, it was silly voices and people taking the piss with comedy names on the track sheets. My key new instrument was the Whoremonium. This Victorian instrument was designed for travelling preachers. It sounded very Ivor Cutler.

Steve Jessop: So it was all late night recording with ‘Joey’ Richardson – top producer for us and all round jumper wearing wing-nut. But he was the master with a back-history of working with Joy Division. What more did you need to know??

Paul M: There were a lot of comedy monologues. Steve always had a cheeky smile, a laugher and joker, and Trevor was and I had my own strange sense of humour. But they weren’t happy holding-hands songs, they were quite dark songs. And I think the fact we did it in the night and all the whiteness of the ice outside added to the atmosphere. I was on speed and brandy. I remember it all fitting, The coldness of the outside and the darkness fitted the atmosphere, trying to be creative.

To be continued…

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