Part 1 of this interview is here
So for OTH during Lockdown, the new album became the priority?
Yes. That and producing the “Wobble” song. It is being mixed now after getting as many contributions as we could.
One of the positives was that we were able to devote a fair bit of time to thinking about our album. I appreciate that many people lost their lives during the pandemic, and there may be many more to come if we are not vigilant. The people we work with are very much in the most vulnerable category too. So taking the situation seriously and taking all the preventative measures is very important to us. However we had time during the Lockdown to think things through. What did we want to do? How did we want to approach the album? Could we do things differently? We wanted to have a legacy from the Pandemic.
What did you end up doing?
Normally we have very little time. We have to worry about expenses, getting tracks written, working sometimes with inexperienced musicians or writers, studio time, production costs, all of that has to be factored in.
Chip Bailey has been the real Producer on this album he has taken the time and care do bring ideas forward and to help people create the song that is in their head, He has a wealth of knowledge and expertise and working up demos in his home studio really provided the platform to give a real solid foundation to the tracks. Chip has a great knack for making people feel relaxed and not under pressure. This included me as well! I’m not immune to the fear of a recording red light starting. As in previous years we also had a house band which included Chip on Drums, perc, vocals and guitar, Bernard Jackson on Bass and vocals, Liz Kelly on Piano, Harp, Fiddle and vocals and myself on Acoustic Guitar and lead guitar. We also Press ganged Dave to add some additional lead guitar work on tracks. Chips Son also added a bit of Bass on Wobble too.
What we did this time was to discuss the project more than we had ever done before. It was then we then threw open the doors as wide as we could. People were invited to contribute who weren’t necessarily musicians or had any experience writing. Rather than 10 tracks of music with individual artists, we would allow all sorts of contributions, from an older lady who just offered sounds to describe how she felt when she was stressed and used these noises to express very difficult emotions. We decided on making a soundscape out of that. We also added music to poetry and finally short interlude guitar pieces. I think this is the fullest album we have done to date. I’m really proud of all of the collaborations on there.
We wanted to get more people involved and that led us to changing our name to OTH. Many people didn’t feel that they were ready to embrace the term Over the Hill, so we became OTH. On the new album we now have 6 women involved. That’s five more than the last album. I am very happy about that development and we hope more women will come to meetings and be involved.
I should mention that we have had one woman, Liz Kelly, a fantastic musician who has worked with OTH for over 7 years. She has been brilliant to work with but often she would have been one of the few women involved. I am happy that we have more women involved now and I think we should be looking at more advocacy around our work which should include older women in the music industry.
Do you have a title?
Yes. The working title is “Isobars”. That is a term used in reporting the weather and the closer the bars are together a depression forms. So it fits with Lockdown and of course bars as the signature of writing music.
What is the time line for the album?
We are not trying to force the situation, but we are pretty close to having the album completed. We have been working steadily and Chip Bailey is continually producing the album. There are a lot more electronic sounds being sued in this recording which has pushed the envelope for us.
Chip has been working with a woman in South Africa called Juanita and she has contributed material for inclusion. Many of us added parts to her tracks and it seemed fitting we include her work on the album. We have been working in his studio to make sure the backing tracks as are as good as they can be. We also have to make sure that all the people who are going to be on the album need to be as comfortable as possible so that they can give the best performance they can.
We’ve recently started to record some of the main elements safely with our other Producer Phil Dalton in Half Bap Studios. It had been closed like many other places so we requested using a large rehearsal room in Oh Yeah Music Centre to start recording drums. We closely adhered to all health and safety precautions including completing a risk assessment and got six live drum tracks recorded. We then did some electric guitar parts in Half Bap for another whole day, finally we did a small band live tracks with several members well spread apart and another in a vocal isolation booth.
We want people to feel that what they are contributing to turns out to be something they can be really proud of. That is what OTH is all about. A collaborative effort where everyone contributes what they can and we ensure that everyone is happy with the final outcome.
I think the album is likely to be finished in October/November so people will be able to hear what we have working on then. Although again we are not going to rush what we are doing. We will get some vocal rehearsals completed then invite people to have staggered visits to the studio to lay down vocal tracks. We do some final backing vocals and some other over dubs and then get into mixing and finally mastering the whole album.
Is there anything you would like to add you. A final few words perhaps?
There are a lot of people who don’t get anywhere near enough credit for the efforts they have put in to keep OTH going over the years.
Charlotte Dryden, Syd Morgan, Leif Bodnarchuk, Bernard Jackson, Liz Kelly, Jon Moorehead and Sean Maghan, all of whom have given endless hours, energy and enthusiasm to the project. They have weathered many storms, if we can put it that way, to keep OTH going.
I also want to say a huge thank you to all of our members, the people who attend the Monthly meetings, who contribute to the projects, and who make what we all do a reason to keep OTH ticking over.
We need to thank all our funders, Help Musicians, Community Foundation of Northern Ireland, and Black Santa all of whom have all contributed to various projects and had we not had their contributions we couldn’t have kept going.
As a special mention I would like to say that having Chip Bailey on board has been invaluable. He has offered a lot of energy and enthusiasm to OTH and he really gets what it is the organisation is aiming to do. He has a real passion for music, he has a lot of life experience which offers a massive amount regarding opportunities and directions that we may not have thought of had he not been involved.
Phil Dalton as Producer too has added an intergenerational element to our work and introduced us to broadening our sonic pallet to include some really interesting electronic elements as well as some additions to our arrangements. He has been a joy to work with.
We have had difficult times before the Lockdown, we have always had our shoulders up against the wheel to keep going but we have kept OTH rolling along supporting older musicians specifically and older people generally and that is the key reason why OTH was set up in the first place.
Recording “Isobars” as Lockdown eased – Paul Kane and Chip Bailey