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Doctor's Orders

Doctor And The Medics

Article from One Two Testing, February 1986

Psychedelic psecrets psussed

Are this band sick? Or are they the cure for boredom? And how do they avoid getting their flares caught in their effects pedals? Medical report by Tim Glynne-Jones

From the placid surrounds of Greenwich Park I turn the corner into the whacky and sometimes disturbing world of Doctor and the Medics. Bassist Richard Searle and Guitarist Steve McGuire are temporarily discharged from the rehearsal room to account for their reputation as one of the best live bands around.

Steve: "We did a hell of a lot of gigs last year, coming up to 130. We've spent hardly any time in the studio. All we've done is an EP and a single."

Practise makes perfect. But is that all there is to it? What about the tools of the trade?

Richard: "I use a Fender Precision through a Trace Elliot AH250. I chose the Fender because they're cheap and they don't break very easily. In the studio I use an Aria SB1000 because it's got lots of sustain and, through the Trace Elliot, it gets a Fender sound. As a spare I use a Guild which is being repaired at the moment because the neck broke about half an hour before we were due to go on Whistle Test. It's purple; the only purple Guild in the country... and Whirlwind leads. That's important."


Steve plays through a Sessionette 75 twin speaker "because it's small, portable, very loud and you can mix the channels so you can get a clean sound mixed with an overdrive sound. My first amp was a really ancient 1963 Vox AC30 with a home-made tea-towel front to it."

He plays a pink paisley Fender Telecaster and a salmon pink Squier Strat, but his favourite guitar was a 1962 Hafner Galaxy.

"It was a really vivid red. I thought it was great but it was just getting so old that all the electrics kept going so I had to sell it."

"Things wear out very quickly in this band," observes Richard.

"I used to have a Laney 40 watt Session," continues Steve. "That was really good because it was a valve amp and it was really light but it wasn't loud enough."

As Richard rattles off the names of all the basses that failed the medical I reflect on the list of discarded equipment and wonder. Did they have a particular sound in mind while looking for the perfect tools?

"No," replies Steve. "One of the main reasons I play through the Sessionette is because it was about the right price."


"I don't think our studio sound will sound like we do live," adds Rick, "especially on the album."

Steve takes up the thread: "We've just had a meeting with the producer of the album, a guy called Craig Leon, who worked with all sorts of people from soul artists to heavy metal kids. I think he's going to give us... I suppose a sort of American feel."

"American Soul."

"American Soul he thinks..."

"Which is what we're happy about... ...because, obviously, we don't actually look or sound like a soul band," continues Steve. "With that added to what we already are it's a weird combination."


Their records so far number only two; an EP "Happy but Twisted" and a single produced by Andy Partridge of XTC fame called "The Miracle of the Age." I ask them if they feel that they have achieved anything like the quality of their live performances on record.

Steve: "No, we don't think so. I suppose most bands find this — it's very difficult to transfer what you do live onto record."

"We haven't really tried," concludes Richard.

Why Andy Partridge?

"We had a short list of about three producers and we just seemed to like what he'd done with XTC. We thought he might have some imaginative ideas." explains Steve.

Richard: "We wanted to take a big gamble."

"Yeah. Let him take over. We'd just play and he'd tell us what to do. It was our song but he changed most of it about... chopped bits out etc"

"The guitar solo was a cut-up. In other words I just played a solo which involved hitting the guitar with a slipper and wanging the bar up and down. This was recorded on quarter inch tape, cut up, put in a bucket, pulled out and joined together again and it came out like.." Steve emits a stuttered screeching noise which I can't spell. You'll have to get a copy of the record.


Is this a conscious attempt to be a psychedelic band?

"We never have done," retorts Steve.

"And we don't want to, either," stresses Richard. "We just wear flowery clothes. 60s feel music is what we're into."

"We think we like the feel of 60s music because I think songs were better written then. A lot of it's 70s music as well."

Is this the kind of music they all listen to? What are their biggest influences? Richard's number one album is All Mod Cons by the Jam. "The list goes on: Frank Zappa, Devo, Gerry Anderson Theme Tunes," Joe 90 is one of the ultimate 60s sounding tunes, "and the Who. John Entwhistle is one of my heroes you might say."


"I like Pink Floyd. I like all their stuff from the early stuff up to the last stuff because they did change a lot. I suppose you could say they are a boring old fart band though." Yes, I suppose you could. The Doors, The Spencer Davis Group, XTC, A Taste of Honey and then...

"... one record that would have to be in my top 10 is Anthony Quinn and his son, Charlie, singing Life Itself Will Let You Know. It's such a momentous piece of vinyl; I don't know why it never did anything. Mind you, I bought it for 60p."


Moving swiftly on we hit the subject of keyboards. This is one of Steve's domains.

"All I do is play block chords on the synth with organ settings. I like the organ but I never actually had a proper organ sound. Usually I use a DX7; every studio's got a DX7. You just put in the normal organ cartridge so that it sounds almost like it and then you just sort of fiddle about but it never does actually sound right."


What about this jinx which follows the band around?

"It's very real. This'll probably break down when you get it home," says Richard, pointing to the tape recorder. I'm not superstitious.

"Richard's amp busted today."

I start taking notes.

Steve: "The first time it was the actual tape machine. The motor that was driving the reels round just wouldn't go."

Richard: "Then, when we were cutting it one side of the stereo mix dropped out."

Steve: "Andy Partridge had a bad back the day we arrived in the studio and it didn't go until we'd left."

In its most malevolent attack the gremlin sent the Doctor through the car windscreen while the band was in Paris.

Richard. "That night we had to do the gig without him to get the money to go home again."

Steve elaborates. "We had our tour manager standing in. He put on a long wig and spoke in a rough American accent and we got away with it."

Does it worry them?

"No, we expect it," Steve replies philosophically. "We decided after last time that whenever we go into the studio we'll have a bottle of Champagne on ice and as soon as the jinx has happened — we'll know when it's happened — we'll crack open the champagne."

With my faith in machinery shattered and my note paper exhausted I decide it's time to ask the last question and escape before somebody spontaneously combusts.

Steve, what's your favourite chord?


Unlucky for some.

More with this artist

Previous Article in this issue

Roland Alpha Juno 1

Next article in this issue

Tascam 246/Audio-Technica Portastudios

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Feb 1986

Interview by Tim Glynne-Jones

Previous article in this issue:

> Roland Alpha Juno 1

Next article in this issue:

> Tascam 246/Audio-Technica Po...

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