Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why did Earache sign Pitch Shifter?

Question from Marshall: Why did Earache sign PitchShifter back in the early 90's? They were highly influennced and sounded almost identical to Godflesh (in the early days), and you have been known to not sign bands in the past(Fear Factory etc) for sounding to much like other Earache artists.

Thanks from

Answer: Good question- I actually dunno why I bothered with Pitch Shifter, what a collosal waste of space that band turned out to be. The short answer is because they were a local Nottingham band, we moved in similar circles, they were on our doorstep and I'd seen their buzz building up close. In truth, the main reason is because they pretty much blagged themselves onto on the label. PSI are the only band I've worked with who kinda begged to be signed up to the label - and during their 4 year stint on Earache released 2 x EPs & 2 x albums. The band later also campaigned and begged- very vociferously, very bitterly and publicly - to be let go from the label deal whilst it was still ongoing. They got their wish.

Here's the early PSI sound on the Deconstruction clip:

It's true that for a few years Pitch Shifter were known within the scene as Poor Man's Godflesh.Also on the circuit were Londoners Sonic Violence who were affectionately known as Shit Godflesh. Both bands more or less aped & copied the Birmingham band's unique Industrialised Metal sound around 1990-2. PSI seemed to do everything Godflesh did, but a couple of years after them. Be it signing with Earache, varying their sound, doing film soundtracks, or signing a major label deal- which PSI inked with Geffen in 1997. Godflesh were released on Sony/Earache in the USA in 1993. They'll probably even reform 2 years after Godflesh!

Pitch Shifter didn't play grindcore or Death Metal, their sound utilised the latest music technology of the day- drum machines, early samplers, but with heavy guitars & growly vocals. It resulted in a sound which was very cool and contemporary for the time. Industrial Metal was widely viewed in the Music Industry as the "next big thing" after Grunge, so the Industrial Metal/Rock scene spawned a ton of major-label acts like Stabbing Westward & Gravity Kills in the early-mid 90s period. Though it must be said that it was Ministry & Nine Inch Nails and to some extent Godflesh who were the innovators and leaders of the scene. They put it on the map.

Back in the early 1990's though, scoring a major label deal was the last thing on the bands mind, they just wanted to get signed, and so Pitch Shifter's debut album "Industrial" appeared on Peaceville. Peaceville were presumably chuffed to get their very own Godflesh sound-a-like on the roster, and the band were up and running with a record in the shops.

During that period, I got on best with original PSI guitarist Stuart Toolin and from memory it was him who opened the discussions with me to see if Earache could get involved with PSI, citing severe lack of promotion by Peaceville as holding them back from progressing. Their shrewd and very persuasive manager Stuart Knight - he's the fella brandishing the flame throwers in the Deconstruction clip - also made the case for the band being on Earache. So a deal was duly signed and PSI walked away from Peaceville to become an Earache artist. Obviously I had no clue at the time they'd repeat the process some years later, to leave Earache and sign with Geffen.

Heres the Triad clip from their debut Earache album, 'Desensitised':

Almost as soon as the ink was dry on the contracts, the problems started. Stuart Toolin was ousted from the group, and in hindsight, it was from this time onwards that ours and the bands ideas began to differ, as the label's main contact in the PSI camp had gone. Frontman Jon 'JS' Clayden became the band leader and its fair to say I've never seen eye-to-eye with him. Despite this, during the course of their two albums for Earache, the Pitch Shifter fanbase grew steadily, and the band experimented with their sound, so as to not follow in Godflesh's slipstream anymore.I encouraged them to listen to The Prodigy and the burgeoning UK underground dance/rave culture for new inspiration, which they were reluctant to do at first. I remember well Jon Clayden's comment on the matter: "Techno scares me". The band seemingly absorbed the advice though, as rudimentary drum n bass/breakbeat samples appeared on 1996's Infotainment album, which finally shook off the Godflesh comparisons once and for all.

The album was a breakthrough of sorts, charting high on the Independent charts, which boosted the bands profile considerably. Behind the scenes though, things weren't as upbeat, as a looming sense of dissatisfaction began to develop between the band's camp and label.

In hindsight, I'm fairly sure the signing of local Notts/Derby hopefuls Bivouac to Geffen had a lot to do with the Earache-PSI deal ending. When Nirvana toured the UK in the early years, a crazy dancer would jump onstage with them. Kurt Cobain took a real shine to the fella, and he became an onstage fixture with Nirvana. The dancer was Tony Hodgkinson, drummer of Biviouc. This chance association with the world's biggest selling band at the time brought Geffen A&R's beating a path to Bivouac's door.

Bivouac and Pitch Shifter shared the same management team so around that time the possibility of Geffen getting involved with PSI too, became apparent. Just one snag stood in their way -Earache held the band's Recording contract for two more albums. It's impossible for me to blame any band for wanting to move onto a major deal from an Indie, because the difference in finances and promotional clout offered by Geffen, when compared to an Indie like Earache is seriously vast.Bare in mind this story happened in mid-90s, and the differences between Majors and Indies is less huge nowadays.

However, the underhanded way Pitch shifter engineered their move showed absolutely zero respect for Earache. Even though I cancelled the contract to allow the band to move on, Jon Clayden made absolutely scandalous and unfounded remarks about Earache for years afterwards, presumably to justify their move to their core fanbase, and themselves. The bloke has breathtaking arrogance, and no class whatsoever.

Pitch Shifter's last clip for Earache- Underachiever.

On Geffen Pitchshifter refined their sound to become a slicker modern industrial rock band and did enjoy a high level of success, with regularly charting singles in the UK and numerous placements of songs in computer games and movies. The band were dropped after a single album on Geffen, before moving onto a succession of other labels- MCA, Mayan/Sanctuary, while later releases post 2003, have been self-released under a PSI records label.

Here's their biggest Geffen-era single: Genius

Nowadays Pitchshifter appears to be on semi-permanent hiatus, consisting of the core duo of the Clayden brothers plus various touring musicians. Ex-guitarist Johnny Carter teamed up with ex-Bivouac Paul Yeadon and together they run a local Nottingham studio/production unit The Moot Group. The ex-PSI management run Xtaster which is a successful UK street team/promotion company for music and film.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Morbid Angel intro to Immortal Rites- how did it come about?

Question: Hi Dig!

Speaking of Morbid Angel, I have one question that has been nagging me since 1989. You are the producer of Altars of Madness, and maybe you know the answer. How did the backward introriff to Immortal Rites happen? From where came the inspiration/idea? Why was it made this way? Was it a coincident that sounded cool? Was it tried (by the producer) on another album earlier with another band? And is it in the same tempo as the "correct" introriff?

Thanks and cheers!

Torbjörn from

Answer: Recording bands in the analog tape era was a real chore. Ampex 24- track tape was one of the most expensive parts of the process, costing about $350 for each reel, which held 15 minutes of music max. That is also the reason why so many classic albums from the time clock in at 40-44 minutes, it means 3 reels of tape were used in the session.Its also the optimum time for sonic quality on a vinyl LP, 20-22 minutes a side of wax.

Back then, the bigger budget recording studios would employ a tape operator (for smaller budgets this was the usually the engineer himself) for the sole task of operating the bulky 24 track tape machine. Their job would be to fast rewind the tape to precise points so that extra overdubs could be added, eventually filling all 24 channels allowed on the tape. It's no exaggeration to state that a single tape would be played and reversed 1,000 times in a session. Think about that next time you point and click to start a song with yer mouse!

Anyway, as Immortal Rites was being recorded it became noticed that when the tape was reversing at normal speed the main opening riff sounded pretty cool when played backwards. It was remarkably similar to the forwards riff, but with a sort of eerie, other-worldly vibe. Since Immortal Rites was decided to open the album, the band and myself figured we needed a cool intro to come before the main song starts. Usually for a metal band that means creating something evil sounding on the keyboards or a sampler or something to begin the album.

Instead of that, the idea came to me to add a small passage of that backwards riff as an intro. It was meant to imply the band arriving from another, satanic dimension or something, and the album itself explodes with a drum hit and goes into the song. I recall Trey loved it because it added an extra insane vortex of sound to the album, much like he was trying to create within the rest of the band's songs anyway.

To prove its the exact same sound as the rest of the song- here is the beginning of IMMORTAL RITES played backwards. You can hear that the intro is in fact the main riff of the song. It's the exact same tempo, in fact it was completely untouched except recorded at slightly lower volume so the song had impact when it began. I've never heard of it being done before or since actually, but I guess it is such a simple idea, it must have been done somewhere elsewhere, I just don't know any examples.

MORBID ANGEL - Immortal Rites backwards intro by digearache

Heres the actual song played normally:

If you believe in the power of backmasking, as this technique is known, then check this out. When Obama says 'Yes We Can', backwards it is 'Thank You Satan'.
Yep, for real:

NAPALM DEATH DVD was banned in Germany

Question: Hi there!

I´ve found something at this german site:


(it´s a list of all censored cd´s movies and so on in germoney)

According to their list, is Napalm Death: the dvd censored in germoney and can not be advertised nor sell to minors... Can you tell something about it, why and how does it come, and so on...

Thanks in advance

Answer: This topic was answered a while back on this blog..heres the story:

Answer: Fora few years Earache had to refrain from selling the DVD by Napalm Death onsale in Germany because the authorities in that country told us its illegal to sell it or even display it. On later editions the offending clip "Breed To Breathe" was removed and the authorities eventually passed the DVD by Napalm Death for sale by allocating an FSK age rating of 16.

The original DVD included a promo clip for the song "Breed to Breathe". The band and the director made this clip is 1997 and if you know Napalm Death's music, they are definately not a gore-type band or a Cannibal Corpse type death/horror metal band, many of their songs have a social or political meaning. The title and lyrics deal with subject of life and death, so the director of the clip made many references to birth, as you can see in the conception footage used throughout the clip. He also highlighted death too, and the clip shows many examples of sudden death and violence.

Meanwhile, to protect the youth of Germany from extreme images, which might cause psychological harm to children, all movies/ DVDs and I think also video games have an age rating system called FSK. A panel of experts sit and actually view the game or DVD, its mostly movies but also Music DVDs, and decide an age rating.The record label is informed of the FSK rating decision, which is final and must be displayed on the packaging, its usually 12, 16 or rarely, 18 if its adult themes.

Every DVD Earache has ever released has been through this process, its pretty routine, and most often our DVDs will come back with a 16 rating. In the case of the Napalm Death DVD, which contains about 6 of the bands video clips and tons of live footage, they contacted us to tell us the news that having watched the many clips on the DVD, they were very disturbed by the extremely graphic scenes in Breed To Breathe. They were actually so shocked - by scenes of burnt bodies in a car, and a guy jumping from a multi-storey building - they decided to refer the clip to a higher court to see if it was actually illegal material.

We were shocked too by the news.To be honest, we had actually forgotten how extreme the parts of the clip actually are, I can only guess that the director had access to some very gruesome footage, and had decided to include it.

In 1997, you have to remember the clip was made before any kind of streaming video was common on the internet, Youtube wasn't even launched until about 6 years later, so it was made with a very small, in fact, tiny viewership in mind.

The ability of DVDs and Youtube to distribute such clips in the last decade has meant many more people can finally see them.

The higher court ruled that the material is actually so gruesome, and graphic, it is akin to "snuff" parts, so was ruled actually illegal. The 18 rating would not be enough. We were asked to remove the offending scenes and the rest of the clip is actually OK, but we refused as it would compromise the integrity of the original video idea. It was easier all round to remove the song itself from later editions of the DVD disk.

Heres the clip: NAPALM DEATH Breed To Breathe

Meanwhile its quite shocking to see this banned products website still has it listed along with many white power Nazi bands and other unsavoury bands. Funny to see also Slayer and Cannibal Corpse also have albums on "the Banned list".