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Terpsichord was another re-invention for me. It was a record label, a production company, an artistic alter-ego and the beginnings of an all together darker, tougher exploration of my DJ’ing and musical persona. At the end of the 90s, as a new millennium was approaching fast, I felt the need for a studio and DJ rebirth, similar to the epiphany which occurred prior to the Tinman record.
Terpsichord brought out the more uncompromising edge of my personality, reflected too by the large amounts of tech-house creeping into my DJ sets and a general dissatisfaction at the mundane amount of (conveyor belt) house music in general at that time. The first track to appear, influenced by this environment, was ‘The Bells’ – a track which, again like ’18 Strings’, I totally self financed, from the first day in the studio, right up to promo pressings on heavy weight vinyl to be hand delivered to a London distributor.
The track itself featured a re-arranged acapella excerpt from a 1979 underground disco record, ‘Put Your Feet To The Beat’, by the Ritchie Family. I managed to get hooked up with the original record’s producer (French label owner, Henri Belolo, who I’d worked for years earlier and also the same guy who wrote and produced the Village People’s, ‘Y.M.C.A.’ – how ’bout that?!) – and he was kind enough to send me the multitrack vocals.
Forging The Bells
The programming on the ‘Bells’ track consisted of a minimal, driving tech-house beat, a wobbly [mid bass] signature sound, forged with great assistance from long time collaborator and friend, John ‘Moorsie‘ Moores, plus some more messed up sonic experimentation courtesy of my then beloved, Metasynth and HyperPrism sound design tools. The main riff of the track was influenced by Scottish band, the FiniTribe’ and their late 80s, ‘De-Testimony’ tune – The musical notation of ‘The Bells’ hook, though close, was not an exact copy however (Play full length, original mix below).
‘Mitch’ Takes Control
The week before I was due to deliver the 12″ promos to a west London distributor, BCM Mallorca resident DJ and long-time friend, Des Mitchell had popped into my studio. Des grabbed a few copies of ‘The Bells’ promo to take back to the island a few days later and as he had numerous big name jocks guesting at BCM, promised to drop a few into their hands. Unbeknown to me, that very weekend coming, Paul Van Dyk was due to play and Des gave him not one, but at Paul’s request, two copies.
Come to Take You ‘Home’
Within a matter of 3 days, I had a fax sent from Van Dyk’s ‘Vandit’ label, offering to sign the track for European territories. Taking the offer under consideration, the following weekend came, seeing me have a Saturday night off from DJ’ing – Imagine my surprise then when my phone lit up big time around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, saying that Van Dyk had just dropped the two ‘Bells’ copies [mixed together] to the assembled masses at London’s then superclub, ‘Home’, live on Radio 1′s ‘Essential Mix’.
Sure enough, Monday morning came and I walked into the studio to find faxes and messages from various distributors and labels asking for an appointment to discuss signing the track – purely on the fact that Van Dyk had played it to such a rapturous response at ‘Home’ – and that boys and girls is how the ‘industry’ used to roll back then.
The story thereafter can be condensed into me:
- Accepting an offer from Cream records (then financed by EMI if I recall correctly)
- Having the track remixed by the awesome Pascal FEOS (amongst others)
- Producing a ‘bonus’ track (or ‘B’ side) called ‘Two Freeqs’, which Cream liked so much they pressed it as a limited edition 12″ on it’s own
- Going on to do DJ sets (branded nights at London’s, Heaven club for example), remixes (including my super-hard take on Darude’s ‘Sandstorm‘ – see video at bottom of post) and further productions and releases under the ‘Terpsichord‘ branding for the next 2 years
- Being chuffed to mint balls when then numero uno DJ/Producer, Timo Maas declared ‘The Bells’ to be “the best record Cream has ever put out”
The FEOS mix was a gorgeous piece of borderline techno, you can hear it below:
‘Two Freeqs’, aside from the whispy robotic vocal and heavy breaks/electro feel, also contained a live, ‘from the top’ modulation performance on a Roland Jupiter 6 – probably my most favourite of polysynths – listen below..
Surprisingly enough perhaps, and despite the relative success of Terpsichord (and more or less coinciding with the big dance music industry meltdown in ’02), I folded my headphones up, packed up the studio and turned my back on DJ’ing and music production, pretty much for good.It was one of those ‘life needs to change‘ periods. I was getting disillusioned with doing what I was doing and the industry I was doing it for – maybe I’d done ‘enough‘ and wanted something new in life? From 2003 then, life did change and began to get a whole lot different..