Monday, July 27, 2009
800 word feature, LSJ 2009
With a ready smile and mischievous glint in his eyes, Carl Brown, songwriter and part-time front man of Merseyside outfit Wave Machines, exudes charm and charisma, he has brought a flask of tea and two mugs, after a series of pleasantries and jokes we settle down to talk about Carl’s life in music. It is a sunny day and we have chosen to conduct our interview al fresco, on the steps of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, the city where Carl has lived all his life.
Enjoying a couple of days off between the completion of the band’s new album, “Wave If You’re Really There”, and filming of the video for the second single, “I Go, I Go, I Go”, Carl is looking forward to playing the festivals this summer: “I never went to Glastonbury, I always said I’d only go if I was good enough to play there. Now, after 15 years, I am good enough”, he laughs.
Carl has known his life would be in music since he was 10 years old. Growing up in Maghull, a suburb north of Liverpool, the younger of two brothers, Carl became aware of music through his parents and older brother. “Darren, who was 16 when I was 11, started bringing home records by Dead Or Alive, China Crisis and The Lotus Eaters” he muses, “Before that I’d been listening to Shirley Bassey, Barry White and Top of the Pop compilations, records my parents bought”.
Carl left school at 16 and got work as a Tape-Op in a recording studio working for award winning record producer Ken Nelson, who has produced the likes of Gomez, Coldplay and Echo & the Bunnymen. “Tape-Op is just an industry term for a dogs body”, he explains, “But it is invaluable experience and I soon got jobs of my own as a sound engineer”, he adds.
All the while Carl was writing music of his own, recording it and using the studios to rehearse and develop new material. One evening as he was rehearsing, Ian Brody, founder and front man of The Lightning Seeds, overheard Carl singing and offered him to do the backing vocals for the band’s new album, “Jollification”. “In Ian’s studio I came across legendary producers like Cenzo Townsend and Dave Bascombe. I was bowled over by the knowledge and expertise. I think Ian could tell I was totally into it, so he’d let me hang around and absorb it all.”
Around this time Carl was house sitting for his friend, sound engineer Jamie McCarthy, surrounded by Jamie’s unusual collection of instruments and with access to his basic recording set-up, Carl started writing and recording a new collection of songs. “I was playing around really”, says Carl, “When Jamie came back, and he said he’d really like to do something with the new songs. So it was back into the studio, on the other side of the mixing desk this time…” The new songs were rehearsed and performed with Carl’s band at the time, Sizer-Barker, produced by Markus Dravs, who had previously worked with music superstars Tricky and Bjork and were promoted by HUG Management.
With this level of support the first single, “Day By Day”, got plenty of airplay and was “Single of the Week” on Radio 1, Radio 2, XFM and Virgin respectively. However, the extraordinary momentum was ground to a halt when the band decided to withdraw the second single, “Something in the Park”, in September 2001 due to the lyrical content heavily referencing the Twin Towers. “It was gutting,” Carl cringes.
Carl and his new collaborators, Tim Bruzon and Matthew Childs withdrew into the studio, completing the rest of the album by themselves. The final product found its way into the hands of Peter Gabriel via his WOMAD festival, and the rock star signed the band to his Real World label. During the two years between the success of “Day by Day” and signing to Real World, the band severed their ties with HUG management and in 2004 the band supported Peter Gabriel on the last leg of his “Growing Up” tour. “He is so warmhearted and charismatic”, says Carl with enthusiasm, “Joining Peter for his encore at Wembley, coming up through the stage on a hydraulic platform, made me feel pretty special.”
With a new line-up and a new name, Wave Machines, Carl Brown and Tim Bruzon enlisted bassist and keyboard player, James Walsh and drummer and percussionist, Vidar Norheim and are working out of St Bride’s Church in Liverpool. “St Bride’s has been a real turning point. We recorded the new album there, we host events there and we rehearse there.”
After years of hard work and hard luck, it seems that Carl has finally found his footing professionally; he has found a creative partnership in Wave Machines, he is enjoying growing success, now 38 he concludes: “It’s about bloody time!”
Wave Machine’s current single, “The Greatest Escape We Ever Made”, is out now.
Mia Tagg 2009®