Jim Betteridge witnesses the advent of the Screaming Blue Messiahs at the Town and Country Club
BAND: Screaming Blue Messiahs/Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction
VENUE: Town and Country Club, Kentish Town
DATE: June 5, 1986
PA: Raper and Wayman
The last time I saw Mick Anthony was in 1983 at a college ball in Oxford. All around was total chaos. Due to a miscommunication I had turned up a few minutes after the band I was meant to be reviewing had finished their set. A fine and drenching drizzle blew across the college quadrangle threatening every electrical connection in sight and collecting in deep sploshy puddles on the uneven tarmac protecting the well kempt grass beneath it. However, any cause I thought I had for concern dissolved into insignificance as Mick related how some unfortunate assistant had managed to drop something heavy on the stage-to-mixer multicore before it had been properly strapped down thereby ripping the vast majority of the mike and line leads from their XLRs.
His hands were a mass of blisters and the soldering iron was still hot from its work, but even so, not all lines had been fully restored and only part of the rig's bottom end was working properly. An ironic smile had cracked awkwardly across my face thinly concealing a strong urge to return to the warmth and civility of the local restaurant from which we'd come. But no, this was after all a PA Column and I needed the money. And so it was that I got to see the excellent Higsons and to witness Mick's consumate engineering skills. You'd hardly have noticed that the rig was depleted; the sound was full, tight and punchy. I was unusually impressed.
More than three years later and his card's come up again. He was at the Town and Country Club with his rig, and engineering for the two support bands and setting up everything for The Screaming Blue Messiahs who had their own engineer. It was a 5kw three-way rig crossing over at 250Hz and 2kHz as follows (per side):
Top: Two JBL2350/2445
One JBL 2385/2445
One JBL 2345/2425
Mid: One Court Acoustic 2x12
Two Court Acoustic 1x12
Bass: One Court Acoustic 2x15 (Gauss 4582A and JBL E140)
The main desk was a TAC 32:8:2 grouped as follows:
3&4 Bass and guitar
The monitor desk was a Soundcraft 400B 24:10 with 10 Rane 27-band graphics driving the following cabs:
Eight 1 x 15 wedges (E140/2425 pepper pots)
Two side fills (E120 x 2 and EV1829)
One drum fill (JBL4560 + Gauss4583A + HF4000 on 2395 lens)
The mike list was as follows:
Bass drum Sennheiser 441
Snare Top Shure SM57
Snare Bottom Sennheiser MD421
Hi Hat AKG451
Toms Sennheiser 421
Guitar, Shure SM57
Bass DI and Sennheiser 421
Vocals Shure SM58s
Mick did the sound for Zodiac Mindwarp and I have to say that once again it was really excellent. Big tight punchy drum sound, mental guitar raunch, weighty but cutting bass and still with the vocal really clear and well out above everything else. Amazing.
Jah Pinkie, the Messiah's engineer, had a fairly unpretentious start to his career, helping his mates' bands set up for pub gigs with 12 channel stereo MM desks and simple 1kw rigs. By means of 'keepin' on going' and 'being in the right place at the right time' Tim and his mate finally got their own 1kw rig and convinced the management of The 100 Club to give them a virtual residency doing Reggae bands every Thursday night; that's where he got the name — well, it's got a bit more colour than Tim. From that came a lot of work all over the country including a good many gigs with The Morrisey Mullen Band who apparently always declined the offer of a soundcheck irrespective of the size of the venue. That's Jazz/Funk for you. Then in 1982 he gave it all up to look after his 12 year old son who wasn't appreciating his Old Man's late nights and early mornings. The Messiahs is his first proper professional gig since.
"I did one gig for them as a sort of stand-in for someone else, but I explained that I'd given up and that I couldn't do it on a regular basis. Then they wrote to me asking me to do the sound for them at Hammersmith Odean, supporting Ian Dury — I just had to say yes. And that was that really; since then I've been here. They're the only band I do, so it's kind of part time which suits me with my son."
Mr Pinkie has to make the most of whatever rig he's given which can still range from 2kw to around 10kw.
Mick had set everything up in terms of mikes, compressors, gates and basic eq so that Tim could just come in and sub-group as he wanted it and add a few effects as he felt like it. He has no great theories or systems by which he drives the board, he's undoubtedly a 'feel' merchant, which suits the Messiahs. Drawmer gates were all over the kit. Drawer compressors on vocals and bass and for effects there was a Yamaha SPX90 multi effects unit across the stereo outputs of the desk, plus a Roland SRV2000 digital reverb and Yamaha D1500 DDL.
Bill Carter plays a couple of Fender Telecasters in series through an HH amp, a Gauss 2x12, and a WEM Copycat tape echo machine — we are not talking fancy. That is to say he plays one while his guitar roadie repairs the other. He isn't a man overly concerned about cosmetic perfection or technical precision. He plays without a pick, crashing the flesh of his fingers into the strings with little regard for its mortality. Blood can often be seen splattered across the scratch plate — or the place where the scratch plate would be if it hadn't been removed.
The Strat I saw was only a few years old, but there was very little paint on the thing and only the bridge pickup remained, the other having been taken off the week before and not replaced with anything. It wasn't that he never used it but more that it stood as another obstacle of destruction to his much abused mits. Though his nails are largely things of the past, he does coat his fingers with clear nail varnish before gigs to mitigate the carnage, but to little avail. Now that's what I call a Rock'n' Roll manicure (hey!). To avoid completely razoring the top of his fingers off, and I suppose also because he likes the sound, William uses unusually heavy bottom strings: Rotosound (and nothing else will do) 56, 48, 28, 16, 13 and 12, But he gives 'em such a sound thrashing that one string breaks at least every couple of numbers and often one a number, and I don't just mean the top strings; Es and As cop it an' all. In the words of his roadie, "He goes fooking bonkers".
It's always best if you can.
Feature by Jim Betteridge
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