Nick Steer talks about the music programme, So It Goes

I’m a bit a little hazy in terms of the timescale, but I think it was probably… there was two series, and I think in the first series I was assisting Phil Smith and we recorded a band called Asleep at the Wheel at the Library theatre, who were sort of western swing.

Directed by Peter Carr, as I remember.

Correct. And then so a little bit later on, I think we did The Stranglers at a pub in Islington, which was, I mean, when they were a punk band, I mean they became sort of more sort of middle of the road later on. But originally there were right in the sort of punk heyday. So that was fantastic. But the one that I will always remember was we did Muddy Waters at the new Victoria theatre and I got to meet the great man, which was a great memory. But then shortly after that, well maybe Peter Carr was involved as well, because he was, I got on well with Peter and did a lot of work with him. I got a chance to record some, which why they let me do it I will never ever know, because I basically didn’t have a clue what I was doing! So the first one was, it was a triple bill and it was at a club on Oxford Road, a basement club on Oxford Road. It was Sad Café, John Cooper Clarke and a band called Albertos Lost Trios Paranoias, who were an archaic to say the least.

I had zero experience, to be honest. And the other problem being that we really didn’t have the equipment to do it, so we were able to hire in a little bit. So for that one, I had a mixing desk in a converted ambulance, which was parked out the back. We had no talk back. We had no video feed. So basically I was working blind. So we’d done a sound check in the afternoon and basically everything was working, but there was no multi-tracking, so I was recording on to a stereo recorder, and you had to mix it down there and then because there was no chance of altering it later on, which these days you’d think, “No one in the right mind would do that.” But we just didn’t have the equipment to multi-track, so it was quite a lot of pressure to try and get it right in the first go. There was no second take.

I got the biggest mixing desk that I could manage to hire in, which was in this ambulance, and I can’t remember how many tracks that was, but some of those gigs, it was a case of taking a feed from the PA mix, and then augmenting it with anything that wasn’t going into the PA mix. But that one, I think I remember that we had to make everything up ourselves. So we were splitting the feeds from the vocal mics, and then micing the drum kit and the instruments separately ourselves. Yes. And it kind of, well it wasn’t great, but I kind of survived.

Sad Café were kind of fairly organised, and that wasn’t too bad. Yes. When it came to the Albertos, at the end of the gig they started dismantling the drum kit and the band would kind of disappear and then they would sort of be wandering around between all the different microphones and banging drums and things. And because I couldn’t see anything, I have no idea where they were going to come up next.

I thought, “Oh, really! What’s going on?” Because we hadn’t had a rehearsal, so we had no idea. We had only done a sound check, we’d never done a rehearsal, so we had no idea that was going to happen. But as I say, it was not perfect, but they let me do some more. So that was great for some of the, I mean, Tony would sort of come up with – Tony Wilson – would come up with bands that we’d never heard of. I remember doing a heavy metal band called the Tygers of Pan Tang, at Manchester Poly Students’ Union. We just have no idea what they were supposed to sound like. We’d not even heard a record, and we went in, and they were doing their sound check, and it was literally a wall of noise. So it was a case of trying to, “How do we pick something out of this?” But it was great. Absolutely loved it.

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