"Thoughts on Slow Dance" - Photographs by Ted Sayers and Jonathan Dann.
Here are a few of Ant’s own thoughts on the album…
The reworking of Tarka was done at the end of 1987 with Harry (Williamson) who came over from Australia between September and December and we finished it then. Then I got some new studio equipment at the beginning of 1988 and set up the studio so I was able to do slightly more complex recordings as I upgraded to sixteen track and so it changed and I was able to do large scale things. I put off stating as I was quite frightened of going back to a proper … large scale, fully orchestrated album. I was quite unsure of myself starting and I put it off but once I got going I got very inspired actually.
I wrote a twelve string side and I wrote a piano based side and I wrote two more sides which were more varied and slightly filmy and then it was a question of what to choose? I flirted with the idea of trying to record them all and it just went so well when I just got into it hat I wrote it all in two months which was really quick.
Luckily my American record company (Passport Records) went bankrupt AFTER I had done the writing. Had they done so beforehand, I would probably have capitulated. I thought maybe I should stop this and look for some TV work but then I thought that this problem was going to come around again when I approached a record company and they say; ‘well, what have you done?’ They want to hear something, so I decided to carry on with it. I needed to do it, if you like, as a bargaining tool with the record company and publishers as well.
|So when I came back from the USA I was very depressed about the whole thing and I had to start again from scratch on a very complex instrumental album with all he click tracks and the drum box patterns and different time signatures . And on the fourth day back I managed to erase all the drum box programmes which I had put in! There were so many things going on and I was working on another piece, an attempt to do a single which took another week (this can finally be heard on the bonus disc of the current reissue - AH) . It didn’t work out. Nobody thought it quite worked. They thought it had potential.
The first side of the album tended to draw more from bits from 1984 to 1987, not really old material. I went for the most strong… atmospheric filmy sort of pieces. Somebody said they would love to set it to a film but I don’t think it will ever happen. There was no central programme to it . I did, I suppose, want to get some of the best section and tie them together but once it did start to tie in there did seem to be some sort of flow to it.
The title was one of those millions of titles written down over the last eighteen months and people at Virgin tend not to like anything that is overtly “New Age” and I didn’t manage to come up with a really oddball one as it is difficult and seems to conjure up so many things that unless you get the title for an album at an apt time, anything you come up with is going to sound rather contrived and it is better to have something neutral. I wanted to call it “Responses” but nobody reacted to that and so right at the eleventh hour I found a couple of musicians who came through and said, ‘yeah, I really like that’. It was going to be called “Millennium” at one point.
There was an outside string session at CBS which saved the day. I mean, I was obviously trying to keep the money very tight with the record company advance having gone west and Simon Heyworth came in and offered to put up the money for the string session and he felt that the first part… the synth Jupiter string sound wasn’t really strong enough to carry it and there was a lot of trouble tuning between the real strings and the synths especially this odd vibrato sound on the synth and when the real guys play it, it is rather different, quite strange. We started with them both straight in and it just didn’t work. What it is, is it begins with the synth strings and then gradually the real ones get pushed up and so we adjust to the change and lots of woodwind solos were done here and though they played quite beautifully they just didn’t work. The sound was either too big or too full and in fact the saxophone on side two just didn’t work and I went back to my own sample.
|The album was recorded on 16 track and some of the album was done on two 16 track machines hooked together on two desks. There were some sections where full strings took up six or seven tracks, the synths run out of tracks pretty quickly. The desks were a Soundtrack desk and two Fostex E16’s. the synths I was using were, I suppose, t rather primitive but I tried not to use sounds that were ultra fashionable. Certain sounds everybody has, you can tell them when you hear them. Generally I tried not to use the likes of a Yamaha DX7. There seems to be a style of DX recording too, I mean, while I was in the US on tour promoting Slow Waves, Soft Stars some guys said if they heard another DX7 record they would scream! At least this is different. It doesn’t begin like a typical New Age album, but basically I used Emax, and all the samples, woodwind and stuff on Jupiter 8 which had a better string and horn sound on it. You see, digital synths have the space but they don’t have the body to them,. But they became popular because you can use them for a more airy type of sound and then use the analogue synths for the more gutsy sounds.|
I still use the same old guitars, my old red Strat and there is a bit of electric guitar on the album and there’s a bit of twelve string at the end of side two and that is an Alvares twelve string. I am still using the same Yairi classical guitar that I used on Antiques and it is still as out of tune!
The guitar may be out of tune but the resulting album is anything but! Do your ears a favour and grab a copy of the Esoteric Records reissue!