The Simonsound - Slay It Again Pam
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Those that that listened to the show will know that it was well up to Trunk’s usual high standard of quality original sound tracks, TV themes, library music, light hearted chat and film related irreverence. An ideal show to feature 50% of the hottest beat combo of the moment, Simon James of The Simondsound as we get him to talk more about his the fantastic album Reverse Engineering and assorted matters in a post-Trunk, pre-Gilles Peterson Maida Vale Session interview.
Simon also slipped in a competition of his own to win a copy of their debut compilation Have You Heard…The Simonsound which was far too easy for the Trunk audience as a guess TV theme that’s being played in reverse? “They got it in about 5 seconds!” [it was Simon’s favourite - The Prisoner”]
“It was meant to be easy though and I knew it would pose little challenge for OST listeners!” But I was impressed with Simon’s knowledge of daytime radio and TV in a Loose Women/Radio 5 sense but it’s not a serious interest, “It’s the kind of TV that might be on when I eat breakfast or lunch and its just there in the background. I don’t like ‘radio silence’ so there will always be something on to keep a part of my brain occupied that obviously needs it. If I actually start watching it, it just winds me up, which is what it’s meant to do I guess”.
Certainly gets me every time so what’s with the “very good name The Simonsound” and the Tomorrow People? “The Tomorrow People is a cult kids TV series from the 70’s. A strange science fiction affair that is made even more appealing because it features music from some of the more prolific members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop moonlighting under assumed names; Radiophonic Workshop composers were under contract and thus not allowed to work for anyone else. The music itself was actually made in 1969 for the Standard Library (ESL104) with Delia Derbyshire (Li De La Russe) Brian Hodgson (Nikki St George) Dudley Simpson and David Vorhaus (also in White Noise with Delia Debyshire and Brian Hodgson).”
“There is actually a quite funny interview clip around with Delia talking about making one of the tracks. Initially commissioned for a primetime BBC TV programme featuring a dance routine with Cilla Black, in the end the producer found her music too challenging and it ended up on the Standard ESL104 library album. She mentions it also ended up being used for a toothpaste commercial too.”
This is the type of insight we like and although Trunk played loads of tracks from the new album, the Have You Heard…The Simonsound features other tracks by musical heroes from the past, like “Dick Hyman was a big inspiration for the two uptempo Moog covers on the album, ‘It’s Just Begun’ and ‘Tour de Mars’. Both me and Matt (the other 50% of The Simoundsound) had been big fans of his ‘Give it up or Turn it Loose’ cover which is probably the best of the Switched On Moog craze. They’ve great drums and electronic sounds that just jump out of the speakers. It’s one of those tracks that’s begging to be played in a club (and I have tried) but because it’s mixed so badly it really does frighten people! That’s what makes it so great though, it sounds wild and out of control and Dick Hyman is a great keyboard player.”
And talking of great keyboard player, another one (as Jonny called him) Pete Thomas (not the drummer in the Attractions, the German born composer, arranger, producer etc) better known as The Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra, “Yeah, I’d recommend the album Chariots of the Gods” originally on Erinnerungen an die Zukunft (1970) but there are re-issues and Simon also recommends checking out Raymond Scott and for news on the film (Trunk was very excited about this) and latest news on the 2nd collection of electronic work click HERE.
But The Simondsound isn’t all ambient, easy listening soundtracks or strange electronic synth experimentation as he’s also a big fan of the big wig rockers, The Matadors and their echo machines - Simon knows all about echo machines. “An Echo machine is a device for adding artificial echo to a sound source. Early experimenters used varispeed tape machines or machines on which the record and playback head could be moved (thus changing the delay time), feeding the sound back into a second input to create heavy feedback. Varispeed also allowed you to change the delay time. The Roland Space Echo and WEM CopiCats are good examples of tape echo devices.”
Simon also explained how they used managed to get the period feel to the new album, “warming up” the digital sound with tape and removing the digital blank space so here’s a tip, “We use RMG Studio Master 911 1/4 inch tape and a Studer A70 Reel to Reel machine. That works for us. Sometimes I might use a bit of old tape I found at a car boot sale if I really want things to sound dirty. I’ve also got a 50’s consumer reel to reel machine that’s got a great sound especially if you mic up the speaker.”
Now this stuff is like geek porn to me and whilst you keep an eye open at the car boot, as we’re talking about all things that excite Jonny (even the odd bit of porn), “the strobe thing he was going on about is similar to the dots on the Technics record player” Simon says, “We have a similar design on the label of our LP”. And that led onto Julian House, “He is a graphic designer who creates amazing collage work, a musician and the main person behind Ghost Box Records” who released the album Transactional Dharma of Roj that “Amazing!” says Simon.
And whilst The Simmonsound is tomorrows sound yester-to-day, Simon’s other job is the one that currently pays the mortgage. And by coincidence, if you get UNKLE’s latest album (Where Did the Night Fall that was released last week that also featured our long time favourite orchestra from Jazz Britannia to The Big Chill Festival) it got Simon on it; so what track can we hear Simon’s work on the synth known as The Cricklewood? “Good question. I spent a couple of days with UNKLE laying down lots of electronics and I’ve yet to see a concise list of where these sounds appear. To be honest the electronic stuff is quite subtle so it’s not easy to spot. Pablo and James are great at building up loads of detailed layers which are hard to define but seem to blend perfectly to create the whole.
Now what we love about Jonny (and now Simon) is that whilst there’s a cerebral geekness to all this, in between it all you’ll find a human warmth and whilst DJ Format couldn’t make the show, Simon’s nephew Max took an active part in proceedings; egged on by JT. But we were told he was wearing a Big Brother t-shirt; was this some unknown synth module that Ursula Bogner stored in her basement or from the 70s or a Davina McColl tribute band from Brighton? The truth is, “He’s got a baby sister. I think he was worried people might think he is a fan of the TV show! For an eleven year old he is actually very open to all kinds of stuff. I try my hardest not to force my tastes on him but he generally has to put up with it when he hangs out with me. I think he prefers the current pop parade (Ed. Love it) like Lady Gaga and Kate Nash. He actually loves spending time in the studio playing with synths - I know I would have killed to have access to such gear when I was a kid!”
I’d run with Gaga but Nash was poor on Jools Hollands’ show (the one featuring the brilliant Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA) but then, as a ‘big kid’ myself, I’d love to touch Simon’s keys (Oh! Errr) but can you imagine when Max is as old as Kyle Hall (that’s pretty soon) who knows what he’ll be up to? Perhaps an update to the theme tune of The Tomorrow People? Although Simon recommends as the best TV Theme, “For sheer creepiness it has to be the music from Picture Box - it’s the music from my childhood nightmares and I clearly remember feeling strange whenever it came on.”
Yeah, creepy but still it was great to catch up with Simon and perhaps next time we’ll get DJ Format’s side of the story on The Simonsound (great name isn’t it?) and for that guy that does reviews for the Wire, I trust he’s suitable ashamed of himself for his review of ‘It’s Just Begun’. It certainly does need a synth version by the Simonsound; in fact, I’m thinking everything does! Could they even do remix of recent Trunk Record releases like Kenny Graham And His Satellites’ Moondog And Suncat Suites (JBJ036) or It’s Time For Tristram Cary (JBH035) or even Hear, O Israel (JBH025)! Now there’s a (scary) thought!
IMPORTANT: The Simonsound are on Gilles Peterson tonight and on the play again for the next 7 days - don’t miss it. And if you’re after an Italo-disco-house sounding The Simonsound, check Martians’ Theme Tune EP on Regalia (RGlL001).
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