I’ve recorded a cover of one of Colin’s songs – Where the River Bends. It was something we worked on together in his studio in West Cork (more on the studio below). He had recorded it years before, and then worked on a new introduction with Mo Seezer. We then added a few more bits to it, with the recorded ending up on the Any Colour You Like best of compilation.
Colin is often in my thoughts, and so I thought I’d put some words down with some memories and stories. I worked with him in various roles in the 9 or so years up to his untimely death in 2016.
Here’s the first instalment – our first meeting.
I first met Colin at the end of a long arduous journey. I was working for Ian Silvester at the time, on and off – freelance as an operations tech – building Pro Tools systems and supporting them. We’d been planning this trip over to Ireland to install this studio and time and time again it had been rearranged. The ferry trip had been notable in itself. Ian, not a great fan of travelling on the water retired immediately to his cabin, and I made for first the bar, and then with a Guinness in hand to the on board cinema, where the screen rocked from side to side with the waves. (The journey back was more interesting again, for a variety of reasons – very bad weather and jackpots from the fruit machine, but that’s a story for another time). It was the day sailing, so as we arrived as Rosslare Harbour, it was tea time. By the time we made it to Cork it was getting dark. The satnav wasn’t really playing ball, so we used the signposts to try and navigate our way to Colin’s home in West Cork. At some point we took a wrong turning. My memories of the journey have us ending up north of Bantry somehow – an area I’ve not been back to in the daylight, but was stunning in the black of night-illuminated by our headlights.
We eventually made it to Schull and Ian recounted the directions that he had to get to the house. We arrived slightly dishevelled and wary travellers, but as we walked through the door this chap I’d never met before welcomed me warmly into his home with a can of Murphy’s. Ian and CV caught up while I sat happily with my can of Murphy’s and added what I could to the story here and there.
The next few days were spent setting up the equipment in the new building, and then Colin gave us some DVDs which were Pro Tools transfers of the latest tape based sessions he’d completed at Ape Studios and Bryn Derwen (with David Wrench I believe).
BORING TECH CHAT:The studio was based around an Audient console, which I loved working on. There was a RADAR as a multitrack, which came up on the first 24 faders of the 36 channel desk. There was also a Pro Tools mix24 system, with 888|24 interfaces, which in 2008 were starting to get a bit beyond dated, but the AES outs were connected to the RADAR, so we could put the RADAR in input mode and on digital input and the Pro Tools would come up on the first 24 faders of the desk for mixing. Lovely. The idea was that we would record to Radar, then send things to Tools to edit and back to Radar to mix. Once things got into Pro Tools, they never seemed to come back out. Later on we added a couple of plates which lived in a shed outside, but outboard effects in the early days were a few SPX90 units with shared PSU, an 1176, a DBX 160, a Drawmer gate and a GML mic Pre. There was also an Apogee A to D convertor with Mic Pre that we used for printing the analogue mixes back into Pro Tools – either the Mix rig or onto my laptop via a Digidesign MBox 2. Plugins were very basic but serviceable. We were also testing a few microphones. One mic that we tested (maybe this week, or maybe later) was a Telefunken U47, which needless to say, Colin fell in love with straight away. BORING TECH CHAT OVER (for now)
I got to know Colin quite well over those few days, and once the studio was set up, we decided we might run a test session, over dubbing on the sessions from Ape and Bryn Derwen. Colin invited over singer songwriter Fergus O’Farrell (for whom there is also not enough space to write about right now), multi-talented musician Mo Seezer, and friend and Schull local Pauline Cotter. To complete the lineup there was Bertand Galen on cello and Marja Gaynor on fiddle and of course Camilla was around as well. We started with some strings and piano on ‘What Makes a Fool’ which ended up on the Water On Stone album, and then a very special thing happened. Everyone assembled by the main doors to the studio, and Colin’s kids came and joined us to sing the aahs at the end of the song. It’s not obvious to anyone listening, but Ian drove the Pro Tools while I ran across to join in along with Colin’s family and assembled friends including his middle son Marius, whose vocals I can still clearly pick out in the outro. Hearing it takes me back to that moment, and the cloudy smoky studio -with a newly invigorated Colin at this new space he had available to create in.
We finished the setup, and over a meal which Colin had cooked for us (he taught me a lot of things about cooking over the years – another of his passions) he asked if I might be interested in coming back sometime to work with him some more on the tracks. I of course couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
We also enjoyed many pints of Murphys at Hacketts in Schull on that first trip to drink to the new studio, along with watching, amongst other films, Team America: World Police after work had finished for the evening. Snippets of dialogue from which became standard catchphrases in the studio for the years to come. Durkha Durkha Durkha!
I have so many fond memories of my times in Schull with Colin and the rest of the family, and I hope I can share some with you through this medium in the weeks to come. I think this trip was the first genesis of the nickname “Ster” which we had for each other – he was “Col-ster” and I was “And-ster”, mostly abbreviated to “Ster”.
More about “Ster” soon. Here’s the version of Where The River Bends: