The engine room is overrun by phantoms
In January 2016 we had the opportunity of playing a live session for BBC Introducing in Essex. The session itself was a bit of a disaster, largely as we hadn't thought of taking any kind of amplification but instead took an array of keyboards, a Nintendo DS as a drum machine, a couple of guitars and a mixer. We had no idea of what to expect and were instantly up shit creek when we realised that there was no way of making what we had meticulously rehearsed work. As it turned out we plodded our way through and actually did a pretty good job all things considered - bodging together some kind of makeshift solution that allowed us to plug into the studio's sound desk - but we sounded pretty abysmal on the broadcast. Ridiculously quiet and, well, shit. Totally our own fault. Anyway, that's that. It was uncomfortable, it was embarrassing, it was us. There was then a particularly grueling segment where we were (to our intense uneasiness) interviewed and required to play a game based around guessing the names of notable people named Charlie throughout history. Charlie Sheen. The actress who played Janine from Barry and Janine etc. I digress. Of everything that transpired that night, there is one thing that sticks in my memory above all else. Ollie, the presenter and general Essex music champion, asked us what was next. The answer was 'a ridiculous triple album'.
Three years later, here we are and here it is. Although what you see here isn't the finished album that we'd originally envisaged, because things pretty soon started to get away from us. This is actually the collected tapes of the whole project, mixed down in a largely unfinished state, because it is largely unfinished.
To give some more context: We wanted to make something that was as ambitious as could be at the time. We were, and are, big fans of a deeply peculiar 1998 album by a band named Mansun called SIX. Now, Mansun are commonly lumped in as a 'Britpop' band but actually decided that the way to go after making a huge-selling, critically-acclaimed debut record was to make a 70-minute intense and uncategorisable, genuinely batshit crazy second record. They went into the studio with no songs and made it up as they went along. Commercially it couldn't match the first one and, as a band they never recovered, but anybody who knows it knows exactly what people like us see in it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the somewhat disparate collection of tracks here is our homage to SIX, it's our attempt at making our white album, our Embryonic, and it's our absurd vanity project. We wanted 6 minute songs with jarring changes, odd instrumental interludes, Dominik Diamond, and magicians seeing with the whites of their eyes.
We bought boiler suits and wrote together. Ideas were largely built live and spontaneously for the most part and then developed through sprawling jams. Lance became even more obsessed with Zappa.
Somewhere along the line things got way out of hand though. Bouts of illness and difficulties in getting together regularly enough because of life stuff, meant that New Age Nuclear was never going to get finished. Eventually it became known as Plans To Suit Everyone but still remained too far gone to reign in. Eventually the project got parked and we moved on to something completely new. So here we are, seven weeks into lockdown in 2020 and this is what became of the triple album project. It's called Nuclear Tapes. In a weird way, being unfinished and a real mess in places actually makes more sense now. We'd talked a lot during recording about wanting to make something that was like some kind of insane lost album that was forgotten about and then discovered years later, as if it had slipped through a crack in time, and I think that on some level that's exactly what transpired. Songs drift in and out and cut off abruptly. There are moments that are really tender rubbing up against others that are quite ungainly. Listening through, there's a lot of life wrapped up in these tracks and it's interesting to hear everything in context for the first time.
As I mentioned above, there was another album project (Everybody Earthbound) that we started in 2018 when we realised that this one was going to beat us, which hopefully we can draw a line under in some form sometime too, but we're not really able to work on music together at the moment. We'd been planning to put that out this year, but it's just not feasible really. Things are very different now, with me living with my wife and little boy in Scotland and Lance in Essex, so this is a nice way of putting some kind of full-stop on what we achieved for the time being.
Hopefully we're going to make more music together in future (we have plans) but, for now, this is this. We might do the same kind of release with the Earthbound sessions soon too, but who knows. Anyway, thanks so much for being interested and we sincerely hope that you get some enjoyment from this, because it was great fun making it… until it wasn't.
Nuclear Tapes was recorded at Greenacres between 2016-2019
All songs by Charlie's Hand Movements
Sax by Mick Gawthorp
Art by Matt Purdon
All you naysayers
All you doomsayers
All you soothsayers
Shake on it.