A Consequence of Creativity – A time line recounting a body of work with 65daysofstatic by Dave Sanderson (producer/engineer)
Itʼs been a while since I met and began working with an awesome bunch of super creative people known collectively as 65daysofstatic but I will try my best to recall how we got to where we are as accurately and succinctly as I can.
My part of the story in this epic journey starts in the exact same place 65ʼs did. At 2Fly Studios in Sheffield, UK, where their first two full length albums (Fall Of Math and One Time For All Time) were recorded. 2Fly Studios at the time existed in a small concrete bunker and was home to many of the early noughties’ Sheffield bands that carved out a bit of a niche for themselves. For several years prior to our meeting Iʼd been odd job-ing in various studios around Sheffield and the wider nation, discovering on the job how to get good at recording and producing. I hadnʼt had the opportunity to consistently work with artists and bands up until this point but all that changed when Alan (Smyth), 2Flyʼs operator/owner, needed an extra pair of hands due to a large influx of work thanks to his relentless and very popular work ethic.
Alan is the man directly responsible for the success of the Arctic Monkeys and I can say that with a degree of insider knowledge of the work he undertook to get the band noticed. Anyway, thatʼs another story and one to be told by the appropriate folks at some point in the future. My first meeting with a member of the 65 cohort was (I think) with Joe in mid 2007, perhaps? He popped into the studio to drop something off for Alan (probably money) and was taken aback by seeing someone else sitting in Alanʼs chair. We exchanged pleasantries and he recommended I check out his band (which of course I did) and said maybe at some point weʼd end up working together on something. It turns out working together wasnʼt too far away and after investigating their previous material I was very intrigued by the juxtaposition they had to the rest of the Sheffield scene.
So first up…
The Distant and Mechanised Glow of Eastern European Dance Parties. This was worked on by both Alan and I and was an EP mainly recorded by the band themselves but with some additional recording and production undertaken at 2Fly. The session was 3 or 4 days predominantly mixing what they already had, and from what I remember, was productive and quite intense. Little did I know this was the 65 way but was also a walk in the park comparatively speaking!
Next up was another fleeting conversation sometime in 2008 I think, this time with Paul or Rob (canʼt quite remember!!) enquiring about whether or not Iʼd be interested in looking at some live audio that was captured during their performances supporting THE CURE in the US………..er…..nah mate I think Iʼll pass………. Are you freakin kidding me? Of course I jumped at the chance, and sure enough ,a few weeks later, the raw audio capture from places like Madison Square Garden and Radio City arrived on a hard drive for me to have a look at mixing.
Now, I have to be honest, at this point mixing wasnʼt my strong suit, but I think I had an air of confidence that gave people a sense of “itʼll turn out ok”! So, this turned into (youʼve guessed it…) Escape From New York. In hindsight the mix could have been better but the vibe was there and the performances were stellar, apart from odd thing here and there that we shall not mention (Mr. Shrewsbury 😉 ).
A little 2Fly history
In late 2008 Alan and I decided that the confines of the concrete bunker of the original studio that had captured and inspired so much of Sheffieldʼs music was becoming a bit of a limiting factor. We therefore decided that another studio was necessary to grow the studio and expand what could be achieved. We found a suitable unit literally around the corner from the existing 2Fly and began converting it. The new studio was built with the help of many of our friends from several bands weʼd forged good working relationships with. The studio was finally ready enough for a project Alan was about to undertake in early 2009. There was still much painting, wiring and acoustic treatment to be done but it didnʼt stop the session. Both 2Fly(s) were very busy around this time (pre-economic collapse) and this continued for the next few years.
Next in the 65 timeline was a story of experimentation and diversification.
In November 2009 65 booked 2 weeks in the still unfinished 2Fly2 (as it was dubbed) for their next full length album. This time they wanted to change up the personnel and bring in a producer with a higher profile to steer them confidently into a new direction they were heading in as a band. I helped with the set-up and clearly the guy they had hired was a total pro and everything was going swimmingly, so I pretty much left them to it. I checked in with them occasionally to see how it was going and was met with what can only be described as uncertainty. This continued for another couple of days then crunch……..basically, it wasnʼt going as swimmingly as it had appeared.
I got a call from the band one Tuesday morning, asking if Iʼd like to help them start the record theyʼd already recorded?????!!!!!! Of course, again, I jumped at the chance but I must say I was a little apprehensive due to what had happened to the previous guy!. However, we got stuck in with the time left (basically a week) and proceeded to re-record what would become We Were Exploding Anyway all over again!!
They were long days. 16-hour days, that towards the back end of the week became 20 hour days!! Savage but also fucking brilliant. We had a laugh (and several cries!) but we got the job done. Weʼd completed what was seemingly an almost impossible task and at the end came out with what (once mixed) promised to be an incredible record. And it was! Mixed by Alex Newport this record IMO took the band to a higher level artistically than theyʼd previously been. Released on vinyl, the start of the medium’s resurgence, and a tradition 65 have continued with for each major release.
The next project we undertook was in late summer 2011, a re-scoring of the 70ʼs Sci-Fi classic Silent Running. To be performed live at a screening of the film at The Glasgow Film Festival, the band decided to make an album to mark the occasion. This record was meant to also be a bit of a departure from the more aggressive direction of WWEA and to have an almost 70ʼs feel to the audio too. Recorded again in 2Fly Studios, collectively we went for a more authentic sound overall. Although a lot of programming was used, the palette was one of a more limited monophonic texture with much simpler waveforms and processing. I even bought a 1970ʼs Studer A80 1/4” master tape machine for the event! Only really used for this project, at least it looked good in the studio for a few years! FYI thereʼs some great footage from the recording sessions for this record probably somewhere on YouTube.
Ok. Things start getting serious now!
Late spring 2013 saw the band and I change environments from the city to the countryside, to begin recording their first full length on-brand record in 4 years. We relocated to deepest darkest Lincolnshire to the quite famous The Chapel studios. There, we spent around 2 weeks recording and putting together what would become…..Wild Light. A clear change of direction from their main records, it was evident that the process of recording Silent Running had had an affect on how the band wanted to be perceived from now on. A more expansive, more electronic, heavy and subtle record, at first quite difficult to embrace, turned out to be a discovery process as the record was being made.
It was incredibly interesting to see this record evolve, and it felt like our working relationship became stronger due to the journey it took us all on. We also had great food, much wine and a lot of fun making this record. There were dropped bottles of whiskey and on the evening the album was complete, I kicked everyoneʼs ass at pool……man I was invincible! This album went on to gain much critical acclaim and was mixed by the great Tony Doogan (Mogwai), who, once the direction had been established, turned the record into a thing of beauty.
A year or so had passed and 65 had been touring ‘Wild Lightʼ, possibly not as extensively as some previous releases, but still to some pretty far out places, it has to be said. During this period, a very interesting opportunity had arisen at what could be argued the perfect time. 65ʼs music had always had a soundtrack-y/epic/atmospheric appeal, so when Hello Games approached the band to be involved in what was to become one of the most highly anticipated games for the PlayStation 4 platform, it had to be done.
They had already been working on new material and I guess re-purposing older ideas that hadnʼt yet made it to full compositions. For this one we again took up residence at The Chapel Studios. This was in early January 2015. A very heavy winter indeed, and the journey to the studio was at times a little perilous! Once there, we spent another 2 weeks or so recording the main soundtrack album. This would go on to take many other forms and the game itself uses some really clever algorithmic self-generating ideas that were incorporated in the official soundtrack and much more besides. Of course this was No Manʼs Sky.
Much of this material wasnʼt fully realized and we had to work quite tirelessly to get everything done in the time available. We didnʼt quite manage to get the whole project done in the Chapel sessions, so had to decamp back to 2Fly for a couple of further sessions in order to get everything ready for mixing. This was once again tackled by Tony Doogan. He had a considerable task but pulled it off admirably. Iʼm sure you know the story of the game but the epic soundtrack is one of the best soundtracks of anything ever. Full stop! The sound design team on the game were incredible and changed the way game audio is implemented.
For the next four years or so 65 were relatively quiet in the full record dept but managed to venture into areas that were/are a natural direction for them to go in. The first of these experimental forays was probably in 2013 and a leftover remnant from Wild Light. Sleepwalk City was a live A/V installation that was a breathtaking experience and if you saw it you know what I mean, and if you didnʼt you really missed out!
The following year Fugue State was realized and was another experimental installation type affair that possibly went on to influence their writing and creativity for future projects. Decomposition Theory was one such project that I think had a profound effect on how the band were to make music and how they had to almost completely reconfigure the way they had previously worked.
This leads us on to our latest full collaboration replicr, 2019. The album kinda speaks for itself in many ways. Not only an immense musical statement but one of a sociological observation too. Many of the traditional structures previously utilized were gone. A much more refined yet experimental 65 had evolved from the previous few years worth of artistic experimentation. Tonal and harmonic structures had been replaced by microtonal soundscapes and enharmonic melodies, yet still these esoteric concepts yielded a perfectly musical experience. This, you could imagine, would be the hardest of all the previous records to make, but it was for my part quite the opposite. Recorded again at The Chapel, this time over a ten day period at the start of 2019. On this occasion we almost had time to spare at the end! The band did do further work both on their own and with Tony Doogan, where he again worked his magic on the mix. This to me seemed very much like the album the band were destined to make at this time. The ease of the process did confuse all of us to a certain extent. We went with it and held our breath hoping the fans and critics would receive it as well as they had previous releases. And, they did!!
I must at this stage give props to Caspar Newbolt for all the visionary artwork he has produced for much of the band’s catalogue. Every visual concept he came up with has perfectly matched the atmosphere that was attempted during recording. There are also many other very talented people behind the scenes that keep the 65 machine moving.
So, the timeline is pretty much there, finishing with 2019 into 2020 being our busiest year yet, collaboratively speaking. This was obviously down to the amazing project that was U/U (Unreleased/Unreleasable) Vol4. A Year Of Wreckage. What an immense project it was to be part of. Much of it mixed by me and all mastered by me (Iʼm no mastering engineer but managed to scrape by ok).
A series of 12 EPs released at the start of each month for a whole year kicked off with Kazimir in May 2019, which was followed by incredible high quality music month after month. Exvironments1&2 and Ptolyweirds with Miniatures and Tempo Heavy along the way, culminating in Endings. Almost 5 hours of new unheard music, much of which is amongs the best theyʼve ever produced. A total honour and privilege to work on!
Iʼve said recently to quite a few people that I will probably never be part of such an awesome project for the rest of my career (hopefully not), but if this is the only thing like this I get to do, then Iʼm good with that.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank Paul, Joe, Rob and Si for sticking with me for so long. Weʼve debated and agreed, disagreed and resolved, laughed and cried, plus created and achieved and not achieved all manner of things over the course of the last 13 years or so. I hope that, in whatever form, our collaborations continue well into the future.
At the time of writing, April 2020, the last project has ended and so too in typical 65 fashion has most of society! So it just remains to say I would like everyone to stay safe and well and letʼs resume life 2.0 on the other side.
Good night and sleep tight.