Tinman ’18 Strings’ – The True Story

Posted on 15. Jun, 2009 by in Studio Sessions

tinman eighteen stringsIn 1993, I created a record that started life as an underground club anthem, and eventually crossed over into the mainstream pop charts. This track was my career peak, my highest achievement, the laurel I never actually rested on.. It was called ‘Eighteen Strings’, the band/pseudonym, was Tinman! At the time of its high level activity, speculation was rife of who Tinman was, and much talk of whether it was indeed actually ‘sampling’ Nirvana!?! Even though this track was my baby, I don’t recall such a story behind any other club record being so convoluted, surrounded in mystery and having the death of a rock legend thrown in for good measure. So, on with the real story: the truth, the creativity, the frustration and joy behind (what is I’m proud to say) one of the biggest dance hits of its time.

Why was the track made? First confession then.. I had entered the year of 1993 with a steady decline in my production workload. Having enjoyed a longer than normal (well, 5 years actually) ‘flavour of the month’ period with record labels and clients, my particular star was evidently fading. There was no specific reason, just that s**t happens and that was my place to be in at that time. But destiny and fate are curious bedfellows, because at such times when the industry you are connected to kinda turns it’s back on you to concentrate on ‘the next big thing’, you are charged with a massive surge of creative energy to re-affirm your ability, to re-invent yourself and make the people who turned away look back and really take notice again. Yeah, heart on my sleeve I know, but I’m not too proud as I said earlier to give you the truth behind ’18 Strings’..

So, my ‘bulls eye’ target was Pete Tong. I not only wanted him to play my track without knowing who was behind it, but make him join the queue to sign the damn thing! Studio time at DMC was harder to get at this time and frankly I needed to be away from that environment to aid the re-invention process. So, new studio’s, new sounds, new vibes: out with the old and in with the new. I managed to get studio time at a super well equipped studio called ‘Bunk, Junk & Genius’ in west London, and set to work throwing ideas around with an engineer friend called Andy Hughes (who subsequently went on join ‘The Orb’). Things were going ok, but I still lacked that single key element to inspire what was to come.

nevermind nirvana coverShortly after, in a random conversation with a friend, I heard that iconic DJ’s such as Jeremy Healy and Dave Dorrell were ending their club sets with, surprisingly enough, grunge rock anthem ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana. And so the idea was born.. what if I could marry a rock guitar with the ultimate club track?

There was no issue of sampling the 4 chord Nirvana riff. Firstly, because Kurt’s guitar playing was only ‘solo’ at the beginning of the track (and not at full intensity), secondly because I wanted to create and have control over ‘my’ sound, and thirdly, getting sample clearance would be impossible. To achieve the ultimate re-play of  ‘that riff’, I turned to my long time friend and guitar guru, John Moores (now a leading figure on the Apple Logic training circuit). With portable DAT recorder in hand, I sat with John at his studio and asked him to record the riff at 125 bpm and at varying levels of intensity. He delivered passes in a gritty funky style and various ‘thrash’ versions with a generous blend of distortion. He played them that night with particular venom and I left the studio pleased with many options to choose from.

Back at BJG, one track that Andy and I had previously worked on had a working title of ‘Heaven’. I then took the newly recorded Nirvana riff and blended it into various sections of this track but not initially as a dominant part. I remember the ‘Heaven’ demo as the nucleus of what ’18 Strings’ became, but what I had totally forgotten (until I found and resurrected the demo tapes from this session to assist in writing this post), is that we wrote and recorded a ‘female vocal version’. The ‘rap’ chant that appeared on the final record was not even thought of at this point. This vocal version (MP3 link below) has never been heard by anyone other than Andy Hughes, myself and the female vocalist (whose name I’m afraid I can’t recall). Listen carefully and you will however hear a lot of the final elements in this version

PLAY ‘heaven’ vocal demo

Something wasn’t right though.. I wasn’t getting ‘that’ feeling. This mix was not what I was searching for.. My conclusion was maybe I was just trying too hard. With an engineer at my disposal, an SSL desk and more synths ‘n outboard effects than you could shake a stick at, I still did not have that elusive creation. Needing then to go back to basics, I closed off the BJG sessions and took the audio parts back to the modest programming room at my house.  A day or two later, after analysing each of the individual ‘parts’, it occurred to me that John’s guitars should be ‘front, forward and in your face’. They were just too powerful to be a background element! Also, the female vocal was frankly not needed – this track needed to be a raw, energy filled, mayhem inducing stomper (‘Stomp’, now there’s a name for a record label!!). So, sorting some studio time out at DMC’s most basic room, I re-assembled the track again from the ground up.

18 strings track sheetAbove is the actual tracksheet from this session. This represents the audio on a 16 channel 1/2″ multitrack recorder. All the drum, percussion and additional samples were loaded into two Akai S1000 samplers sequenced by Logic Notator on an Atari 1040st computer (this was 1993, and computer based hard disk recording with ‘in the box’ synths and effects were a still a few years away). Now I was gonna get fierce.. The drum programming got tight, funky and with distinctive snare fills. The kick drum was gated to give it a gorgeous click on the attack with the warmth and punch of the low end following. The bass sound (sourced from a Roland Juno 106) was beautiful in it’s simplistic pattern, but complex in its ‘note hold’ LFO to pitch vibrato. With the flavours of the Clash ‘dub’ congas re-triggered to add additional groove texture, even without a guitar, synth or vocal hook, the rhythm track just had ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ was :-)

As this energy filled session continued, I pulled out an old, obscure Sanny X release called ‘Rock Party/Smoke on the Water’ by Da Rock. It was a Beastie Boy’s inspired track which had elements of the Art of Noise and a Deep Purple riff. But what caught my attention was Sanny’s acapella pass. I locked onto two, but on the record, non consecutive vocal lines: “Everybody in the House” and “Rock The Party” – That was it.. I’d found the right vocal element to work with those incredible guitars. And wait, I had three guitar tracks, one thrash and two funky.. three guitars = ‘Eighteen Strings‘!

With the final mix 12″ and radio edit of ’18 Strings’ done, and having decided that I wanted to press a few promo copies on my own, self funded label, I headed off to one of London’s best mastering rooms, called, quite appropriately, the ‘Master Room’. I’d had mixes mastered and cut there previously by a great engineer called Arun Chakraverty. I trusted Arun implicitly to do a brilliant job and half the pleasure for me was just sat with him watching him work. He played the track through. Then he rewound the tape and played it again.. all the way through (without touching a single control on his desk). He turned to me and said “Paul, you have a hit record here..” And that was it.. he carried on with his mastering duties and I left, pleased as punch at what he’d said but thinking that a ‘hit’ was still an elusive dream.

The final master plate was sent to a west London pressing plant where a few days later, I was due to pick up 300 white label promo’s of the 12″ single. My vision of a self owned record label was short lived however. Unbeknown to me, Arun had cut an acetate copy of the track and sent it across to Pete Tong’s office with a note in it that read said something like ‘Pete, this is a hit.. Arun‘ (A man of few words, eh?). tinman 18 strings pendantPete duly played it on his Friday night Essential Selection show and evidently had the biggest reaction to a record played on air to that date. Come Monday morning, my phone rings and it’s Pete Tong’s A&R assistant asking for me to come to his office and see the man himself. I do that.. I sit in a chair at the end of a long desk looking into Mr Tong’s eyes as he says those immortal words.. So, Paul.. how much do you want for this record..?

The rest of the Tinman story would fill another blog post as long as this, so what follows is ‘bullet point’ dispelling of myths and rumours, and some facts ‘n figures to clear up anyone’s memory that can go that far back.. Also, play the MP3 link below to listen to the original promo mix that Tong signed, but, not ‘exactly’ the public released version..

PLAY!! Tinman – 18 Strings (promo)

  • The Tinman 3 layered guitar sound WAS NOT sampled from Nirvana’s ‘Teen Spirit’ track
  • During ’18 String’s’ peak promo activity, Nirvana’s Kurt Kobain committed suicide. The band’s management company ‘Gold Mountain’ were not exactly forthcoming with publishing clearance thereafter
  • Only 300 official 12″ promo’s were the genuine article: Distinctive by the scribed note into the vinyl’s play-out grooves saying “To Danny the ‘Pooch’, New York City to Leeds“. With the radio edit on the ‘B’ side and catalogue number STP12/001 (Stomp records), any other vinyl was a bloody bootleg!
  • The four chord Nirvana guitar sequence had to be re-played (again by John Moores) to emulate the Sex Pistols ‘Stepping Stone’ riff. This was to work around the problem of publishing non-clearance from the Nirvana camp. Ultimately, the version that was released by FFRR in 1994 was, shall we say, not quite the version I’d hoped for
  • Sanny was happy his record’s acapella was used as a vocal hook on ’18 Strings’ – he bought lots of studio gear from the forthcoming royalties :-)
  • The video for the track was directed by a then young, upcoming director, who not only gathered most of London’s beautiful people together in one, and various places, but managed to film the crowd at the Anti Criminal Justice rally, holding ‘Everybody in the house’ and ‘Rock the Party’ banners – Geezer!
  • When it entered the UK top ten, Tinman’s ‘live’ Top of the Pops BBC appearance was sabotaged by some young brit-pop band called Oasis – It got a ‘cut short’ video play instead
  • The record had a ‘pre-sale’ figure of 80,000 copies, selling nearly two hundred thousand within a month and, with worldwide licensing, bumping into the millions
  • The ‘Tinman’ pendant, photographed for the CD/Vinyl sleeve was in fact based on a ‘dancing man’ design made from horse shoe nails (I kid you not). I stumbled upon this on a stall in Dublin whilst DJ’ing out there for U2′s ‘Kitchen’ nightclub. FFRR paid for 100 of these to be made which they subsequently used for ‘promo’ gifts – I’ve since lost mine :-(
  • Although the ’18 Strings’ title came easily, the ‘band’ name ‘Tinman’ came after days of head scratching frustration – Thanks go to a Star Trek TNG episode for a ‘that’ll do..’ moment
  • The dominant bell riff in the track was underpinned by a keyboard line I think played from a Yamaha sound module, inspired by the Two Bad Mice rave classic, ‘Bombscare’
  • The punctuated vocal cuts in ’18 String’s FFRR radio edit was sampled and re-sequenced from a Yello track. I thought I’d got away with that one until their legal guys hit me with a bill for £3,000 shortly after release!
  • The engineer for the Chris and James official remix of ‘Eighteen Strings’, was James Wiltshire: Ten years later, he’s now one half of The Freemasons
  • The follow up single ‘Gudvibe’, should have made the UK Top 30 easily on release, but the label’s distributors messed up: not having sufficient copies pressed for release date – Thanks!
  • ‘Eighteen Strings’ was remixed by myself and some friends in 1999 and sold literally.. nothing…

See more of Paul’s creative output at Dakeyne Photography

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54 Comments

Mike Brown

16. Jun, 2009

18 Strings will always be a classic, love playing it and still do!

James Hyman

16. Jun, 2009

Awesome in-depth essential history; love it!

Paul Crawley

16. Jun, 2009

I still have my “Original” copy of this. Given to me by Mr Dakeyne himself. He also gave me a tinman which, like Paul’s, has long since disappeared. I remember dropping this tune for the first time. It was a Sunday night session @ Epping Forest Country Club’s mega dance venue called “The Jungle”. It tore the roof off the place and the other resident DJ’s were all on my case trying to buy it off me! No chance guys!!!

Paul Dakeyne, a true legend and all round fantastic person/sounding board.

Peace, love and respect to you.

Paul Creepy Crawley
(Divine Inspiration/Erol Levante & Paul Dakeyne Fan!!)

George Lazaros

16. Jun, 2009

Great story Paul, very touching!

Neil

16. Jun, 2009

Great post for a great track! I remember this time well, especially that sunny Sunday afternoon at your place listening to the top 40 the week it was released. Oh yeah, and I still have my Tinman pendant somewhere :)

Semi-D

16. Jun, 2009

Great history lesson Paul,
I never knew the vocals were taken from one of Sannys tracks!

really enjoyed reading this :)

Jagz Kooner

16. Jun, 2009

thanks for sharing that with us Paul. fantastic reading ! :-)

Steve

16. Jun, 2009

Hey Paul, I still have that original copy.

Adam White

16. Jun, 2009

Great track Paul – brings back allot of memories for me DJing at Camden Palace in the late 90s

Keep In Touch
AW

lincoln biggs

16. Jun, 2009

’18 strings’ stills sounds awesome to this day.you could drop it tonight on a dancefloor and it would still take ”’the bloody roof off”’ a timeless classic which has no doubt in my mind helped shaped the music of today.i feel very lucky to have witnessed a flawless live performance of this record at a packed heaven,london.happy tunes go hand in hand with happy times and this tune was in the soundtrack.happy days!

graham noon

16. Jun, 2009

I played keyboards at the live performance at Heaven. Great memories and a fantastic story. Stay in touch. Graham

Ricky Wilde

16. Jun, 2009

Fascinating matey.. top tune, what a talent.. you’re a legend geez! x

Simon Sinfield

16. Jun, 2009

Thanks for sharing another insight into your world Paul. Brilliant stuff mate.

Stuart

17. Jun, 2009

Really great that you’ve put this history down surrounding the mysteries of 18 Strings. As others have allready said, your a top bloke and more hits will soon come from the Dakeyne laboratories ; ) Stuart x

Paul Dakeyne

17. Jun, 2009

Thanks Stuart, and indeed to all you guys above for the kind comments. It was good to finally tell the real story behind this ‘oh so special’ record.
Paul x

Mark Biggus

18. Jun, 2009

18 Strings timeless classic. I have tinman on vinyl and still like playing till this date!

Paul Dakeyne

18. Jun, 2009

Glad it’s still Rockin’ your party Mark!

Paul Harwood

19. Jun, 2009

Paul great to find out about the birth of this track.
I didn’t recognise it from the title (Only ikle then) and just read the blog got the end of the blog and played the track and got hit by loads of happy memories flooding back. Thanks.

Paul

Paul Dakeyne

20. Jun, 2009

Hi Paul, thanks for the comment.. Indeed, quite a few people I guess know the track but not the title.. It’s a great feeling isn’t it when you finally put a title/artist to a much loved mystery track? :-)
Cheers

TimRaidl

01. Jul, 2009

RIP Andy Hughes

Remembered for Basement Jaxx and Orb and (tinman help)

Paul Dakeyne

02. Jul, 2009

Hi Tim, I was shocked to see ‘RIP’ and the name that followed it when I read your reply. I knew and worked with Andy for quite a few years. He was my engineer of choice for many budgeted remix sessions, and was always happy to get involved with speculative work with both myself and Steve Anderson.. We had a good laugh when we did sessions, but the work was always done professionally and with no stopping through the night, into the morning if required. What’s really poignant is that I wrote the Tinman blog post just a few days after he’d passed away, and of course I had no idea he’d gone.. I will be doing a post soon on the Expose, “Tell Me Why” session, that Andy worked on with myself and Mr Anderson (which will include an MP3 of the unreleased 12″ version featuring a really cool ‘Hughes’ programming moment that never made it to the public release as the label thought it ‘too radical!). RIP Andy x

Pope Salty I

20. Jul, 2009

It was fascinating reading about one of my favourite (oops! we don’t spell it that way in the US!) tracks of all time. I remember dropping this in, of all places, a country & western bar in Monroe, Louisiana. And it killed!

God, I miss the days when people would dance to things that weren’t on the radio…

Paul Dakeyne

22. Jul, 2009

First time I’ve heard that it was played in a country & western bar man! Still, good to hear it ‘killed’.. :-)

[...] Teen Spirit’ has been mashed to death since it’s release, from Call It What You Want to Tin man and Smells Like Teen Booty and about 9,000 more of the suckers…’Smells…’ [...]

[...] (Have a read of the making of this record over on this blog here. [...]

Mark

08. Feb, 2010

I stumbled on this by accident while ‘googling’ old tunes from my collection, thanks for a great account which settled an argument from back in the day ..turns out I was right all along that the ‘sample’ wasnt a sample at all ..also thanks for the info that my ‘prized original’ white label copy is in fact a bootleg!

18 Strings is one of those rare tracks that seems timeless, still sounds as good now as it did back then where some huge tunes from the same time sound so dated now.

Top marks for a great tune thats been played at full volume at many a party even if I have been playing a bloody bootleg all these years!

Paul Dakeyne

10. Mar, 2010

Hey Mark
Yeah, this track has certainly bestowed a few good memories for those lucky enough to be ‘living the moment’ back then :-)
Thanks for the comment fella
Cheers
Paul

Colin

11. Mar, 2010

Hello Paul,
I can’t believe it was 16 years ago.
I still have my genuine, signed (by you) white label copy of 18 Strings. I still have the tinman pendant too.
I have vivid memories of you and John working on the follow-up with Ricardo Da Force in the room next door to mine at DMC.
Good times!
Cheers
Colin

Pete

22. Mar, 2010

I never knew Paul was behind that track ! i still have my white label vinyl copy with the original (Nirvana style)guitar riff..

Paul Dakeyne

27. Mar, 2010

Hey Colin, good to hear from you mate. Yeah, they were good times indeed. I sometimes wonder how how you guys put up with the constant looping of sounds over and over again as things were worked out by us in the studio’s. You either had the patience of saints, or you just enjoyed the tunes! ha ha.. All the best fella
Paul

Paul Dakeyne

27. Mar, 2010

Nice one Pete!

Lloyd Hanlon

29. Apr, 2010

Blimey PDK – just read this fascinating story, and remember so many parts of it like it was yesterday. Happy days them !. Hope you are well and keeping busy.

(I still have a white label of Tinman that you gave me all those years ago.

Cheers matey – wish you luck and further success. Lloyd

Paul Dakeyne

19. May, 2010

Many thanks Lloyd.. good to hear from you

Mike Morrison

24. May, 2010

Hi Paul,

Nice story from a good period in time. In fact 86 – 2001 was all pretty good. Then broadband kicked in and it all went down from there. The late 80′s and 90′s were great. Ibiza, Miami, PopKomm and Midem were awesome. Some amazing deals and money was made. Monstrous advances and millions of records sold. Try getting an advance these days… Anyway how are you keeping Paul. Be nice to hear from you. Take care my friend,
Mike…

[...] and joy behind (what is I’m proud to say) one of the biggest dance hits of its time. More here complete with a demo containing a female vocal and a promo [...]

ken grattan

01. Jul, 2010

please,please please send me all your back catalogue. love all your remixes and projects!

Paul Dakeyne

17. Jul, 2010

Good to hear from you too Mike.. You have my mobile no. (yep, still the same).. bell me anytime buddy
Cheers
Paul

Fergus

28. Nov, 2010

This takes me back. Loved it in Swansea 1994. I remember being head down and headphones on my bike along Swansea bay promenade listening to this. I manage to wipe out an entire family cycling in front of me!

Paul Dakeyne

15. Dec, 2010

Hi Fergus,
…well, not quite the intention when I made it to cause a road safety hazard but I guess it may have that affect on the ol’ adrenalin levels :-) Thanks for the comment, all the best
Paul

Jason

09. Jan, 2011

I love this record, everything fits into place perfectly. A well produced and historical piece of pop/dance music. I would suggest a re-release or massive remix, i.e “Eighteen Strings 2011″.

lisa

22. Jan, 2011

Gota say , So proud of u Paul..frm ur baby cousin Lisa x

Paul Bishoprick

22. Jan, 2011

I have read your true story on this a few times and I still find it fascinating. Even more so when you told me personally in a radio interview (which I still have!!) I still love 18 Strings and I completely forgot about Gudvibe which was also an ace tune. May have to dig that one out for tonight……

Biskit

26. Apr, 2011

Excellent read Paul, i can now clear it up on discogs, that nearly all submissions for your track are booties :)

DJ MichaelAngelo

16. Sep, 2011

Paul – I would LOVE to hear your background story on the Expose, “Tell Me Why” remix you did with Steve Anderson! I’m a huge fan of them and just recently heard your remix for the first time, I searched your whole site but didn’t find any blog entry for this :( If you have time to recollect, it would mean a lot to us fans! Your site is amazing with all this cool background info and remix clips, I wish more remixers would do this! :)

dee

23. Apr, 2012

Does anyone know what happened to the rapper from this song? His name is Jason Anderson. He Would be 39 years old now…..was a dear dear friend and lost..
deonnebest@yahoo.co.uk

Paul Dakeyne

05. May, 2012

Hi Dee
Jason didn’t actually appear on the recording of ’18 Strings’, but he was the front man that carried all the subsequent PA’s that Tinman performed (though he did appear on the follow-up single recording, ‘Gudvibe’). I lost touch with him around ’96/7 I’m afraid. Always a nice guy as I recall :-)
Cheers
Paul

[...] Paul Dakeyne’s website features a fascinating and thoroughly detailed account of creating his club classic, [...]

Daz

31. Jul, 2012

This is a fantastic article. I’m currently re-visiting old house classics via ze internet… soundcloud, mixcloud youtube and various other sites etc. Don’t you dare say “mid-life crisis”!!! I’ve never lost my love of club music and still listen to the new stuff – but you can’t beat old skool. thanks for writing this – brought back some great memories!

John P

30. Aug, 2012

Well I cant believe after all these years I found out who made this tune.
Back in 95 I Was clubbing my way through London when I heard this tune, its one of the few I could rember the name and artist of. So with my 40th birthday this year and having a bit of a midlife crisis, I went looking for the tunes that I partied too back in the 90′s and purchased off discogs, TInman 18 strings and Pizaman tripin on sunshine. So your in illustrious company as Pizaman married Zoe Ball. Anyway thanks I loved your tune then and now. Even beter I got a bootleg copy of an underground tune.

[...] known) remixers to enter a remix competition, celebrating the eighteenth year since the original Tinman ’18 Strings’ release. It was a charity based initiative too, with any future royalties from a general public [...]

Daniel Emery

21. Aug, 2013

I actually quite like the Heaven vocal demo :)

Maikel

25. Aug, 2013

Hi, great article on one of my favourite tracks of the 90′s…
…but there’s something I miss. Who was that young upcoming director that did the video?
Guess: was it a certain Guy Ritchie? He did plenty of dance vids back in the pre-Lock N Stock / Madonna days…

Jay

16. Sep, 2013

This is without doubt my favourite track of all time. As a podium dancer in the mid 90′s when this came out – every DJ knew this track would bring out the fire in me!

Wes

17. Sep, 2013

Great track! remember it being segued with the Nirvana track on an early Essential mix on R1…

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