This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This!
Kerry Hammond was a scary character. He went to the rougher school up the road from the rather stuffy King Edward VI frequented by me and Clint. He was a few years younger but still led the Redhill posse of nutters hell-bent on causing trouble and making our life a misery. He was the hardest person i knew. He was always flanked by two short-arsed grinning tossers called Wayne and Steve. He recently cornered us in the local record shop and smacked our mate 'H', leading to a right old tussle across the record decks. 'H' stood up pretty well in fairness but he was our biggest mate, me and Clint i feared, would not be quite as durable. Maybe having a girls name made Kerry so aggressive, I considered asking him, after all, I was getting to grips with psychology at school and fancied doing a bit of research. Thankfully I had the sense to keep quiet.
Clint was always the first guy in our small crew to have the cool stuff....the leather jacket, the dyed hair and more recently brothel creepers just like those worn by Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten and Billy Idol. Unfortunately, these were Kerry's heroes and he took a shine to Clint's shoes, so much so that he demanded Clint remove them and hand them over. This was in broad daylight in the centre of Stourbridge. He was quite mad! We legged it...fast!
The next time we saw Kerry he was dancing next to the Damned's Captain Sensible, having crowd surfed onto stage at Digbeth Civic Hall. He was resplendent in red beret and white teddy boy jacket. He had no fear and cared little that the Wolverhampton Hells Angels did stage security at all the local punk gigs. Needless to say, me and Clint spent most of the gig trying to work out whether Kerry and his henchmen would most likely be on the bus, or the train back to Stourbridge. If we got it wrong it would spell disaster. After witnessing his antics during the Damned's fantastic track 'Smash It Up' we worried so much we decided to stop at Clint's cousins' house, who, conveniently lived the other side of Birmingham and most certainly not on route to Stourbridge.
The fact we were all into the same music slightly dispels my theory that in the late 70's, in small town England punks gravitated together with a common love of music, fashion and a sense of boredom. I no longer recall how such things happened but over the course of the next 30 something years, Kerry Hammond would become our first sound engineer and later join Pop Will Eat Itself. His grinning henchman Steve Westwood would become our monitor engineer at the 2005 Reformation shows, his other sidekick, Wayne Hall now works with me delivering parcels around the Black Country. I got him the job. Poor sod! But may i say, a fine bunch of fellows they are too.
Kerry Hammond never did quite manage to 'put one' on me and Clint. After finishing school he sort of disappeared, then re-appeared again around the time PWEI started to get gigs. He had his own band called Yeah God! and from memory i think we put our differences aside and tried to get gigs together as a package. He was a brilliant guitarist and we thought someone that practised that hard on playing an instrument could't have a lot of time left for beating people up. We had a great laugh together, he told wonderfully crude stories like we had never heard before, about fighting and about girls. He was a massive fan of his own penis which had seen more action than the combined antics of all four PWEI 'members!
He played guitar with his dick at an early Birmingham Barrel Organ gig and in support of his new found friends would often engineer our front of house sound totally naked. On one occasion, Yeah God's van overtook us whilst Kerry, his legs hanging out of the window would wave his large angry and erect penis at us. I had never seen another man's erect penis before and I think I still feel inadequate as a result. Frightening!
Wayne Hall had been violently ejected from Yeah God! After mis-judging the journey time from Stourbridge to London for a gig supporting PWEI at Bay 63, and arriving late, Kerry had to be restrained from ripping his head off but satisfied himself by leaving Wayne and his girlfriend stranded in London, penniless and with no way of getting home. They did make it up, though Yeah God! now boasted two other mad-cap characters, 'Snap' and 'Frank from Yeah God!'. For many years they would support us as we started to get a bit of a name for ourselves on the circuit. We soon realised the fun tokens to be had by having a great bunch of people around you, both as crew members and in support bands.
One thing would have to give though, it happened one day in a Mcdonald's next to the gig. Kerry had taken his love of erections into his chosen profession, and made very good money in industrial steel erection. As a result he would, unlike us poor full-time musicians have plenty of cash to feed himself. On that said evening he proceeded to push two Big Macs into his mouth and devour them instantly. Rich proclaimed him a buzzard, I think he meant a vulture but the name stuck and forever more he would be known as 'The Buzzard' and thankfully no longer have a girls name. He seemed pleased....and celebrated with another visit to the popular fast food retail outlet, this time settling for just the one Big Mac.
Proud label mates with David Bowie and Elvis we set about making our new record. Graham and Clint had been busy writing tunes and as you apparently do now as major label artists, you go into a studio and demo the songs relatively cheaply to play to all the big wigs at RCA and prospective record producers. Ok we thought, seemed like a bit of a waste of money recording the songs twice but we could go along with it. After all it sort of wasn't our personal cash, it belonged to RCA or Elvis. Why not, Viva Las Vegas.
Our Las Vegas was a recording studio on the Stafford road just outside Wolverhampton, it meant we could all stay at home with our moms and dads. We had three days paid for in advance by RCA. We got down to work, the songs were already demoed on our portastudio so the initial recording went quite well. To celebrate we decided to spend the second day at Alton Towers theme park instead of the studio. We soon learned how to waste money. The third and final day was a bit of a rush, i remember we spent half the day trying to run over a three legged mouse in the van that the studio cat had partially eaten. This was a mercy mission after none of us had the guts to drop a house brick on the poor critter.
This wasn't easy as the mouse was running around in little circles and the van had no power steering so i never did manage to flatten poor little Jerry. In the end we thought we had better do some work as RCA were expecting a fist full of tunes.
I remember 'Wise Up Sucker', Can U Dig It?' and 'Not Now James, We're Busy' being quite fast punky tunes with pretty basic drum machine beats, 'Wake Up, Time To Die', 'Inject Me' and 'Preaching To The Perverted' were more like the finished recordings, already being sample heavy. 'Def Con 1' and 'Radio PWEI' were already recorded at Fon.
From the tunes available, along with our manager CJ and Korda Marshall our main man at RCA, we decided to record both 'Can U Dig It?' and 'Wise Up Sucker' as prospective lead singles.
The Fine Young Cannibals had recently had chart success and Korda suggested Dave Steele and Andy Cox from the band would be good for us. We had no real thought for a producer and went with the flow. We liked the fact they were original members of The Beat and from Birmingham.
It was our first time in a proper posh studio. Just off Fulham High Road, it had a Neve mixing desk, 48 track recording and its own kitchen. Dave and Andy brought with them their own Brazilian chef who would cook us an evening meal and then Dave and Andy would retire for the evening. They refused to work after 9 O'Clock. Was this really true rock and roll?
Generally 'Can U Dig It?' went well, Clint added numerous samples from 'The Warriors' we had both seen numerous times as the support film for every new release ever shown at our local Cradley Heath cinema fleapit. Dave and Andy encouraged more of a disco beat and some high NRG sequencing. I think because of the tightness of the track some questioning on the ability of both me and Rich to play guitar to the required standard was politely aired.
Neither of us were precious musicians, no offence was taken, but who did we know who was a really good guitarist?
The Buzzard flew in next day.
He played most of the guitar on 'Can U Dig It?' and we were pleased with the results.
'Wise Up Sucker' was trickier. It had a nice punky edge to it and Clint would often prefer the sound and feel of his original demo. Dave and Andy didn't like the double kick drum pattern programmed throughout the song and insisted on using a very distinct snare sound sampled off Prince and used on their latest Fine Young Cannibals hit. They had a distinct hatred of the double kick drum pattern insisting it made people fall over on the dancefloor. We managed to get away with them in the bridge part of 'Can U Dig It?' but they were insistent they weren't gonna happen on 'Wise Up Sucker'.
They also mooted for the song to have real chart potential, the chorus vocal would benefit by a more radio friendly voice and suggested we use their friend who had just formed a band in Birmingham called Ocean Colour Scene.
I cant remember what happened but we never finished the track with them. A specialist guitar producer Mark Dodson who worked with Suicidal Tendancies was drafted in after The Buzzard had recorded some fantastic off the wall lead guitar influenced by Vernon Reid from Living Colour who had played on Public Enemy's 'Sophisticated Bitch'. We fused the original feel and double bass drum pattern of Clint's demo and mixed in this great lead guitar style over an old skool hip hop beat. It worked a treat. Before the track was mixed and maybe due to the experience we now had and the desire to get the right producer, we got our man.
Around this time we all fell in love with the debut album by Renegade Soundwave. The style and sound was amazing, we wanted their producer to make our record. Korda was in agreement, we all knew Flood was our man.
He started off as studio tea boy with The Cure and their first album 'Three Imaginary Boys'. He had worked his way up and produced PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Depeche Mode and most recently finished Renegade Soundwave and a remix of Happy Mondays 'Wrote For Luck'.
We met him in Korda's office at RCA, he was available and we instantly loved him.
Flood was a magician with the sampler and introduced us to sounds, styles, cut-up's and studio trickery that we never imagined. He worked tirelessly and studio life was fun.
The aforementioned songs made up the basis of the album. Others like 'Sixteen Different Flavours Of Hell', 'Poison To The Mind' and 'Shortwave Transmission On Up To The Minuteman Nine' were crafted as short remix or sample heavy oddities influenced by studio trickery and turntables by Mastermix. Graham had the foresight to collate much of his sample library and have a small run of 12" records made so that his samples from TV adverts, films, radio commentary etc could be scratched into the songs. Genius!
We were a few songs short, Rich had written and recorded an uptempo instrumental tune and whilst Graham wrote vocals for what would become 'Satellite Ecstatica', an old tune that never really went anywhere was resurrected by the rest of us. Flood cut up some of Graham's drum loops and saturated them with heavy FX, I came up with a nifty keyboard line and Clint wrote the lyrics to 'The Fuses Have Been Lit'. Flood used a different vocal sound or FX for almost every phrase or word throughout the song. A patient man.
Things were going well, i remember the beat to 'Not Now James, We're Busy' took hours, cutting up numerous sections of obscure loops and getting them in time. I still remember trying to get my head around the timing, it was at that moment i believed we were doing something totally different to any other band. I could take little credit personally for what was being made but i still felt a part of it. Clint and Graham led the way but we were still a gang, a bunch of mates who had been skint for years, had sacrificed parties and lad's trips to pay for equipment and rehearsal time. Finally things were paying off, this record began to sound amazing.
'Preaching To The Perverted' was one of Graham's finest moments. How he managed to get so many random samples in tune, in time and in melody to make up a chorus is beyond me. RESPECT! Never heard it then, never heard it since!
Josh aka Robert, aka Frank Booth from Loop was drafted in to play wah guitar. Josh and Jeff Barrett (later head of Heavenly records) had travelled to Stourbridge to court us for their Head record label before we eventually signed to Chapter 22.
We all liked Josh and we all liked his wife Bex, we often stayed in their Croydon flat, staying up till 5:am playing obscure vinyl.
One night we ventured out, and dropped our trousers to the wrong people. I remember me and Graham hiding under our transit van, the police shone their light on our embarrassed arses, told us to grow up and sling our hook. Fair enough really.
Just before the record was complete I plucked up courage to play the guys something I somehow managed to record on the portastudio. Basically I had thrown together a load of samples from my ever growing library. Graham came up with a great title 'PWEI Is A Four Letter Word' and wrote some vocals. Flood spent hours replacing my gentle basic drum loop, insisting on programming numerous drum rolls throughout the song, each one different from any other. We now had a short intro track to the album that would become the PWEI norm.
The album received mixed reviews.
'Can U Dig It?' produced by Dave and Andy came out as a single before we finished recording the album, we were generally happy with the song but wished we had time in the studio for Flood to remix it and work his magic. I don't remember anyone thinking the song would enter the UK top 40, the industry mid-week chart position didn't suggest so anyway. When signed to a major label you got word an hour or so before the famous Sunday night top 40 rundown live on Radio 1. No word had come my way so i pretended not to care, and wishing to appear cool, I didn't listen.
I remember lying in bed later that night thinking this was it, i would never have to do a proper job like drive a van for a living. I was made for life, in at number 39...with a bullet. Get in!
An expensive video was made and a snippet played on Thursday's 'Top Of The Pops'. This was major league. The following week 'Can U Dig It?' dropped out of the top 40.
The following single 'Wise Up Sucker' had another expensive video filmed in a dis-used mental asylum. A guy from The Shaman came round with something that made us laugh all night and Rich got RCA to pay for a taxi home from London to Birmingham. The taxi driver waited about two hours whilst we tried to stop laughing and finish the video. His meter was running and 'Wise Up Sucker peaked at number 41. Not so funny.
To me 'Wise Up Sucker' was great. Radio 1 didn't like the word ass in the verse, those were different days. Youth the bass player from 'Killing Joke' was one of my heroes and produced a fantastic remix.
To this day I still have my heroes, people I consider myself unworthy to share a room with. Basically I am a fan!
Recently I had a boys night out in Bristol to see Big Audio Dynamite and met Mick Jones outside the pub. I was starstruck to be honest.
It was unbelievable to think Youth would work with PWEI, with us, with me. Youth also did a remix of 'Preaching To The Perverted' and we worked on a charity tune, a cover of the Elvis classic 'Rock-A-Hula Baby'. Magic!
'Preaching To The Perverted' was released with an early version of '92 degrees F.' and 'PWEIzation'.
Pretty much a low key release, I think it peaked at number 45. No video was made, it was the fourth single from the album if you include 'Def Con 1'.
It sort of filled the gap between 'This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This!' and our next long player.
By now, chart position did not concern us, we were having the time of our lives in Australia, New Zealand and America..now this really was rock and roll, but shush!......don't tell the Mrs.