If you were born at the tail end of the 70s or later, you would be excused if you’d never heard about the band Naked Lunch. In their first active years between 79-85, you could count their single releases on the fingers of one hand. However the band had substantial and loyal underground following with a lot of press, radio and TV attention, stemming from their electrifying live shows but also for their encyclopedic knowledge of the burgeoning electronic dance music scene they were a key component of.
Singer/writer Tony Mayo was instrumental in working with fellow DJ Stevo to A&R and assemble a compilation that defined the electronic sound of the eighties. Released in 1981, the Some Bizzare Album saw Naked Lunch’s dark arpeggio-driven ‘La Femme’ alongside other artists from the scene including Depeché Mode, Soft Cell, The The and Blancmange. While Naked Lunch did not quite reach the “household name” status that some of their contemporaries would go on to enjoy, it’s clear from their history that they were an innovative, powerful force in the development of a growing and important music scene in the UK.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and Tony Mayo and Paul Davies decide to reform the band to play at the BAS II festival. The show is a great success with many of their original fans excitedly attending, prompting a veritable army of followers on Facebook clambering for new dates and new material. It’s time finally, after 30 years, to make the debut album. Beyond Planets.
I was introduced to Tony through Naked Lunch guitarist Paul Davies and collaborator Jay Payne, who I have worked closely with in the past with their Sunkings project. We had a brief meeting at Paul’s to listen to some new material, and I knew it was going to be an interesting project to work on.
This would be the first time that Naked Lunch would work on mixes remotely, so a lot of trust was involved as well as lot of liaisons between myself and the band. Recorded material would come in one song at a time, along with Tony’s notes regarding creative development and direction. Despite some explicit instructions for each piece, I was allowed an unusual amount of creative freedom in producing the final mixes. Far from being a straightforward level, EQ and compression job, I would also at points program new layers of sound to add depth and texture, even inserting entirely new parts and tweaking arrangements. At times dehumanising the natural performances, pushing the songs further into a deep dancefloor groove and at other times teasing out the raw punk elements and adding a touch more organic life to the sequenced electronics. With a number of songs that their old-school fans have been living with for 30 years, we were obviously treading a very thin line between keeping the underlying spirit of the originals and also keeping the new versions fresh and relevant to a brand new generation of fans. Here, the input of new band recruit Jet Noir, synth player and backing vocalist extraordinaire proved invaluable. Jet knew the original songs well but was also stepping up with her own contemporary objectivity.
As new versions of their songs were released as singles, they prompted swathes of very positive comments from both fans old and new, as well as the underground radio and music press. In fact as the project progressed, I think the great feedback encouraged us to steer the songs even further into uncharted waters rather than stick religiously to the roots.
This is the first time that Binary Feedback have been so deeply involved in an album project, proving additional programming and edits, mixing and also mastering the CD and download release for the album. It’s been intense but highly rewarding experience, being relied upon as a technical professional but also being welcomed as part of the creative team.
The lloonnngg awaited album Beyond Planets is available right now to stream in full for free, or to purchase as CD or download directly from Naked Lunch here > http://nakedlunch1.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-planets, also available from mainstream stores such as iTunes, Amazon and 7digital.