Tim Brown (Boo Radleys): Long-form Interview.

Tim Brown is the bass player for The Boo Radleys, who earlier this month returned with their first new song in 23 years. “A Full Syringe and Memories of You,” released on July 8 2021, follows 1998’s Kingsize LP.

A Full Syringe And Memories Of You.

That particular song was one of Sice’s songs. So obviously, well, you know the story that we last met when it was his fiftieth birthday. So it was then we talked about it and working on each other’s stuff. And so the way we worked it really was that Sice would send his demos to me and I would take them and then I would add lots of stuff to them, like the drums and play along to bass, keyboards, things like that, then I would send it back to them and so on. So it was a back and forth thing and well, it was all really enabled by the Internet, of course, and Dropbox and things like that. So, back and forth. So originally that was his song, you know. So then that process that once we knew we had a number of demos there, then I just found a bit of time and well, using our school as a place to record where I worked. And so we got Rob’s drums done at the same time Sice did his vocals. The first time we recorded we did about 15 songs, which was probably too many at the time, to be honest. And then I went away and worked on a bit more and at the same time was working on all the stuff that we were working together. So similarly then, any songs that I had wrote, I would send them to Sice, and he would sing on them and make suggestions and so on. So it’s really more collaborative than it would have been in the past.

Recording – DAW, Interface, Mics.

We used Logic Pro. So even when we recorded the drums everything just went straight into Logic and you were asking about the equipment, I had a Focusrite Claret eight here, but also I had in school another Focusrite, the Scarlet or between them we had enough inputs to record all the drums at once and so on. So just straight into Logic and take it from there.

Certainly the last 15 years I’ve been using Logic, but when I was in the Boo Radleys, I would have been using Cubase, you know, so when we were doing sequencing and things like that. Back in the 90s we had an Atari ST and the very same Atari that was used by my wife now, but not wife then to run Club Boo. She was the original person who ran the fan club. The Atari ST did a number of things, but it was certainly used in the studio, although we didn’t do much sequencing.

I went backwards because I was using Logic and I was using this thing in between Cubase and Logic called Digital Performer by Mark of the Unicorn because I used to have MOTU interfaces and stuff. So I was using that. And obviously I learned how to use Logic, but then I had to learn GarageBand to teach younger kids how to do it. So that’s the only reason I went backwards to GarageBand but GarageBand’s brilliant. I mean the fact that Sice could do his demos on GarageBand and send that and I could import that straight into Logic was a massive timesaver.

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When the band finished I was using PCs, I’ll be honest, but I had a Moog synth that we had in the band and I sold that and I bought a Mac G4, the plastic ones, bright blue plastic. So that was the first one. So that would have been about nineteen ninety eight. Ninety nine probably. So I was using Macs from then on and I just kept buying, you know, spending a lot of money upgrading. I’m only on an iMac now and I like it and that’s what I’ve been using for all the recording and everything.

Acoustics we’d usually use two mics and record in stereo. We kept acoustics to a minimum, there’s not that many on there, but there’s a couple of fake ones on there, too. Don’t tell anyone. Sice had one on his demo and I couldn’t have played it anyway. It just sounded really good. So I just kept them. We used two mics and just captured it in stereo.

There were two mics that came with a pack that we had in school for drumkits, AKG 430s or something, little small ones. They were supposed to be for the overheads, for the drums.

We recorded Sice’s vocals again when he came to Northern Ireland with Rob. Just re-recorded all of them anyway, just to be safe, you know.

Regarding the drums, the only way to make this stuff work, really is to use clicks and everything’s just in time. So I would have put drums on it just so I could play to it and they would have been on it until Rob came along. So Rob just played to what was on there. And then when he finished his drums and Sice would rerecord his vocals, go back and I would just rerecord any bass or guitar and keyboards that I needed to do.

Rob’s always been brilliant at playing along with a click. He’s always been very good at it because we were doing that for years anyway in the band, you know, because that was really down to Sice and Martin’s laziness. So we would play, as we did in the second half of the last five years of it, we would play to a click anyway. So Sice and Martin had just put their quick guitar down and Sice would sing it, and then they’d go and play hockey on the Sega Megadrive or whatever. And then Rob would redo his drums and then I would do the bass and then we’d do the rest because we never really played any of the any of the recordings live really, any of the stuff on the albums, you know, in the second half of it. You know what I mean. In the first half, at the beginning, of course, we had no choice. But as we went through it and we sort of more played everything to a click anyway. And that meant it was just easier. You could have things in and out easy enough, you know.

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Mixing.

The new stuff was was all recorded and mixed by myself as such. And then we did get it mastered at the very end. Once it’s finished, you know, so as a process it took a very long time, to be honest, like. But that would be basically it’s been my hobby.  I would finish work and then after dinner, I’d sit down and make something to try to make something. So actually, the other thing is a lot of it was done on these very headphones because it would have driven my wife insane if she had to listen to those songs for five hours straight. So a lot of it was done on headphones, because I was doing it at night and you couldn’t play it through the speakers. So I would just check them on the speakers, you know, but each one probably took many hours and then once I was happy enough with one of them, I would send it. back to Rob and Sice via Dropbox and they’d give any comments and then I’d do it again and  that’s the process we went through really until they were happy with it. So I’ll be honest: it was a very difficult thing to do, very enjoyable but it took many an hour to do.

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We spent like half of our career not recording like that, because we used to work from Martin’s demos and Martin would send his demos out and they’d be on a tape. And then I would work out what I was going to play before we got down there. But we never got together as a band like that and played songs, you know, we only rehearsed when we were going on tour. So I would say at the beginning of The Boo Radleys, definitely that would have been what we did. We just went in there, heads down, got on with it, and recorded whatever, you know. But certainly as we moved through it, it was more of a strange, separate process where we all worked separately on it.

In The Beginning.

I definitely have a lot of affection for the early stuff, the Rough Trade EPs, Ichabod and I, Everything’s Alright Forever etc. Because that was the beginning of it all and it really felt like then that we’d made it, you know, even though we were just at the very beginning. I remember that period more vividly than probably some of the later stuff that we recorded just because it was such a big deal. We had Rudy from AR Kane and he recorded Kaleidoscope in his studio. That was very exciting when we did that for Rough Trade. Then we quickly got in with Alan Moulder as well. And that was a brilliant time because he was just so good at producing and, you know, mixing. I mean, I have this vivid memory of Everybird, recording that, mixing that Nixon that really with Alan Moulder. And I thought, well, this is just it we’ve made it, the sound is there. It just sounds incredible. But then I think for me, we recorded EAF ourselves anyway. So that’s when we’d moved into First Protocol Studios. Benwell Road, near Arsenal’s ground, and we were working with Andy Wilkinson as our engineer then. So we were recording that. And again, that felt like: ‘We’re grown ups here. We can record ourselves and produce that record.’ And I suppose that the first discipline was then having to then work with Ed Buller. And I found that very difficult at the time because… Just his own methods and his own, you know, it was very difficult to like feel like you were part of that process, even someone who’d be very much like, you know, he just wanted to get on with it, because what I would have done throughout all of those records and I would have always sat when someone was mixing our records, I’d have sat in the studio all day, every minute of the day, whereas the others would maybe pop in and out because I was more interested in hearing it as it progressed and then hearing how each of those producers or mixing engineers or whatever we call them, produce the actual sounds, and that’s what I was really interested in anyway. I just remembered the experience with Ed Buller being very difficult because we were in one of the studios on Oxford Street. And that’s  just a vivid memory, I think. “Oh God, I hate this” when he was mixing it. But I mean, obviously, all the run up to it I loved it and thought the album was brilliant. I thought the songs were brilliant. It was just the mixing of that one that felt very difficult.

Regarding Ed Buller, it was probably just his methods and I didn’t really get on with him personally. I think Martin got on with him quite well. I just found it very difficult. And I always get frustrated, to be honest, when it came to mixing anyway. “It shouldn’t sound like that”. And another example of that would actually be Giant Steps, because when we recorded it and obviously we had a great time recording that: lots of experimentation, messin’ around, really enjoyed recording that record and all the songs that we did record. And then when we mixed it, it just, it just didn’t sound right. And that strange thing is so many people love that record, but all I can hear is that I can’t hear Rob’s drums. Rob’s drums went from sounding like a normal drum kit to like some tiny thing. And part of that reason was they got swamped in guitar, which does make them suffer anyway. But the other part, I think, was just, you know, Anjali Dutt, again, she was a lovely person. We got on really well with her. She wasn’t able to keep things like the drums presence when there were massive guitars, which had been something that Alan Moulder could do hands down, no problem. You know, when he was mixing you could always hear the drums. You could hear really loud guitars. You know, I suppose he had more experience. I think I think in the ideal world we wanted him to do Giant Steps, but then he wasn’t available. By that stage he was becoming very famous and very sought after. So we ended up with Anjali Dutt.

I can’t speak for the others, to be honest, but I’m sure Rob would have liked to heard his drums. (Laughs) There are a lot of effects on Giant Steps. And I mean, I know that a lot of guitar noise and guitar effects takes up a lot of space. So, you know, the reality is it’s hard for the drums to come through some of that stuff anyway. But the other difference was Wake Up. We didn’t record Wake Up any differently than Giant Steps. You know, other than we went to better studio, which obviously had some impact on how things sounded. Much, much more expensive studio. But with that, again, I think that was down to Al Clay, you know, he was a brilliant guy, really good guy. And just when he started mixing he was able to bring the best out of it, you know, and again, he was someone who knew how to have loud guitars and loud drums and bring all that together, you know, so it was really down to his skill, I think, for Wake Up.

Honouring the Boos’ legacy with brand new material.

I certainly felt the pressure throughout, certainly recording and mixing. And that was always in our minds, I think, and particularly mixing, because to be honest, it was difficult to do on my own, but obviously only interacted with the other two via WhatsApp and Dropbox, you know, that way of doing it. But I think it was important that it also that the first record wasn’t too far away from what The Boo Radleys sounded like anyway, you know, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to try and and pretend to be Martin and produce lots of loud guitars. There are guitars on there, of course. But that wasn’t just because he himself wasn’t there, but I just think that the songs that Sice wrote and I wrote and we worked with Rob on them, they needed that space to be able to hear everything. So that was deliberate to not go mad with loud, distorted guitars. And actually, this stuff we’re doing for the second album as such is actually a lot more guitarry. It’s just the way it’s turned out. But, you know, the first record and the songs that were chosen in the end, those 11 are going to be on the album or whatever. They’re quite poppy songs, so they didn’t really need tons of guitar on there. But I mean, it was about having fun and certainly delighted then with, you know, the reaction, which on the whole was very positive, you know, and I wasn’t insulted if someone says ‘that sounds like The Boo Radleys’ because I mean, of course, we are The Boo Radleys. But I didn’t feel that we had pressure that we needed to, like, jump a million miles away from what The Boo Radleys sounded like, because, of course, the main component, I think, for a lot of people, of course, would be Sice’s voice.

I actually think his voice has got better. It’s certainly I would say it’s richer than it was as well. You know, obviously you’ve heard the album, so I think he’s got a great range on there, too, and some of the songs, he sings it deeper and his voice sounds really rich. And it was a moment that when I first heard him singing again. You know, it brought it all back, the hairs on the back of my neck went up a bit because, of course, I’ve been listening to The Boo Radleys whenever I get drunk or whatever on a Friday night But to hear him sing singing live again and what we managed to capture on those records. He’s better than ever, I would say.

Regarding playing live, same as with the record. Looking forward to it but also a bit terrified as well. We have been rehearsing and it’s definitely sounding good. But obviously we’re not bringing six musicians like we used to do on tour. But it’s sounding good, very much looking forward to playing live because even the rehearsals, we didn’t need to rehearse but just felt we needed to do it. And I certainly wanted it to get over the nerves and the questions of whether, you know, what this was going to sound like and whatever. But I’m very happy. Things are going well.

Catholic Guilt by Ed Ball.

I played some of it. I know Rob played on something. I think Martin played on some of it too. I played some double bass on something and I did a live show with him as well. The group did that, me and Rob and Andy from Ride played the guitar. Then of course, Haircut 100, what’s his name? Oh, my God. He was there at that gig too. He played at that gig too. I can’t remember the club in London. Ed Ball was a character and a half. Jesus, wouldn’t even begin to tell you. He’s a very complex person. He upset me every night as well because he used to trash the keyboard every night. So we were actually going around on tour with bags of keys for the keyboard to replace all the keys he broke the night before. Because I was doing all the keyboard programming, like all the sounds and everything. So I have to work with him. And then he trashed the keyboard and then the next night would have to put those little keys back on it.

The Bass.

When I was very young, I wanted to be a drummer, that was the first thing. So I used to walk around the house drumming on things and then I actually learnt to play keyboards. I wouldn’t say it was the piano because my dad had a lot of them family organ things with the beats and everything. So keyboard was the second thing. And then I played guitar and actually my brother taught me a fair bit of the guitar as well. My older brother, he was playing guitar, so he had an electric guitar. So he taught me. So I was playing guitar. And then my first gig was when I was 15 and I was in a band with a fellow from school and a couple of other people. And we were a very strange funk-jazz thing as I was playing guitar, but then we used to do New Order as a cover, just to do a New Order cover. So that was my first band. And at that same time  Sice and Martin were starting their own band. So it was this club in New Brighton we played and we were only 15, but it was like a nightclub thing. And so they asked me after that gig if I would play bass for them. So that’s how I ended up playing the bass, but I actually enjoyed it anyway, you know, playing the bass. I wasn’t upset I was on bass. I wasn’t pushing to be put back on guitar and and I enjoyed playing the bass. Different thing.

My number one bass was/is this one over here, Hold on. (Returns with Gibson EB650)That was a bit later on, but this was the one that did everything else really. It was about halfway through that I got this Gibson one.

Before that I just played all sorts of cheap, nasty basses, you know? But once I got that one, that was it. I played that one forever. We cut a deal with Gibson. So Martin got that lovely semi acoustic. And so I got that. So the deal was we got them half-price,  so that’s when I got that. Now if you ever lock up that bass, the people who play them look atrocious and they’re all like Country & Western people because there were only 500 made of it for some reason. But yeah. So that’s when I got that one. I’ve always had different basses as spares, I had at one stage aBurns bass as well, which ended up south. And we had some other deal with Blade because Martina and Sice had Blade guitars and I ended up with a Blade bass. They were very boring guitars but they stayed in tune. So I got rid of all of those. And that was all I was left with. I actually recently just bought that one as well. Just liked the look of it. That’s a Jack Cassidy or whatever. So that was it. So now I’m actually back to having two basses when I’d just got rid of that and all my bass gear as well, so all my bass amps and everything, I got rid of, sold them.

Northern Ireland.

I’ve been living in Northern Ireland for 17 years. I taught on The Wirral before I finished my degree and got a job even before I got my degree that summer, teaching in the school in Birkenhead. And then a job came up. So I applied for that and got that job. I taught for just one year in England and then moved over to Northern Ireland because my wife’s from Northern Ireland. So her Dad had died so she wanted to move back, you know, to be close to her Mum. And our Niall was born then, I’d have to say and our Daniel they were both born the two kids. So they were three and five. So then we moved over there 17 years ago and I got that job in the school I’m at now. And that was a pallava because you had to fly over for interviews and stuff because we still lived in Liverpool, you know. And my interview was at half-seven in a pub and everyone thought that was hilarious. And thank God I got it because my wife’s a teacher as well. She’s been teaching longer than me, a lot longer than me. So it’s good that we’re both teachers anyway.

Liverpool.

It always felt as though Liverpool didn’t really accept us because we weren’t from Liverpool. You know, they made that clear. They said that that a lot to us and they hated us. If you met someone from a band and the Melody Maker referred to The Boo Radleys as a Liverpool band, they’d be very upset about it. You know, we weren’t claiming that we were from Liverpool, but at that time me and Martin were living in Liverpool anyway, and we moved to Liverpool quite early on. You know, I was 19 or 20 when I moved to Liverpool and Martin lived in the same house as me. And that was also the same house that Steve, who did the covers for us, lived in as well. 58 Huskisson Street. I took my kids to see it. It’s a great address. Brilliant house. Back then it was a bedsit, you know, I was on the middle floor, Martin was on the ground floor and Steve was on the floor above me. So we were all on that one side of the house, you know, and so we had some fun there. And then actually my wife lived the next road down from us, going a bit further towards Toxteth. So she only lived around the corner anyway, you know. And so I stayed in Liverpool most of the time. It was only the one year I moved to London with Martin. And we lived in Tufnell Park for a year. But otherwise I was in Liverpool. But actually by the end, I’d moved back over when the kids were younger, moved back over to The Wirral, you know, but it was very strange. We weren’t really accepted by anyone and certainly we didn’t sound like The Beatles and certainly bands tended to sound like the Beatles or like the Rolling Stones or, you know, they were quite jangly or, you know, souly or whatever, you know, or R&B or whatever. So we didn’t sound like any bands in Liverpool. So that’s really why we ended up playing a lot. We just played indie clubs and that, you know, we played that club, Planet X an awful lot in Liverpool.

The Bunnymen definitely made an impact. Martin would have would have had a better musical knowledge than me. I went to see the Bunnymen in a pub in Liverpool, like they were. They actually played behind the bar in a tiny room, and I thought they were amazing. So, I did love people like Echo & The Bunnymen and I did like Julian Cope, but maybe not some of the others that you mentioned there didn’t really figure. So it was very strange that 10 years later to have McCulloch & Sargent to be playing with Electrafixion and supporting us in Liverpool. That was very strange indeed. A lot of their fans were unhappy that we were on the top of the bill, I can tell you that.

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Heineken Music Festival – Preston, 1994.

Well, I certainly found all of it intimidating, to be honest with you, because they (Oasis) were very large lads and they were living it large. They were nice fellows, nice fellows. I just remember watching them and thinking: ‘why the fuck are they on before us?’ I mean, they were incredible. And you knew it. And for that kind of venue or that kind of venue, you know, like it was basically like a festival type vibe, you know, kids were going to love that. And then obviously we came on with our awkward indie sort of stuff and I thought: ‘Jesus, they’re not going to enjoy it.’ But obviously there were Boo Radleys fans there. And there was another time when they supported us with this radio thing in Glasgow and they supported us at that. You just knew they were going to be. massive – and then we went on, and you know, we weren’t… (laughs), you know what I mean? They were just so brilliant, like amazing. But there were great people, great people.

The accent changes. You can go two miles down the road and there’s a completely different accent, it’s a crazy place. But talking about the connection to Liverpool. My two children are there like you know, my oldest son is doing his Master’s and the youngest son, he’s going into the third year of his degree. So, we’re over there a lot anyway. Nevermind that my mum and dad still live there.

Positive Feedback.

It’s great to see, to be honest, and certainly, you know, certainly the positive comments outweigh the very few negative ones that are out there, but it’s just great to see that those people still love the band. On the whole it’s been very positive. And thanks for all your work that you have done as well, Jules I just got an email from Spotify then literally when you went offline. We got eight and a half thousand plays in one week. Well, that’s not bad. Is that 8p in revenue? (laughs)

But it’s been really good. Back in the day. Certainly looking forward to getting the rest of the stuff out, to be honest. Yeah, so a good range of songs on. But ‘A Full Syringe’ – that’s a brilliant song. I thought that was the perfect song to start with anyway, you know. But I’m impatient and I want everything out quickly.

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