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Article from Phaze 1, April 1989

"no, no demo tape: if you're that interested, come and see us play in the bedroom." So says Dennis Wheatley - no, not the Dennis Wheatley, yet - singer, guitarist, sample-fanatic, and current spokesperson for Pacific, a band who've shown you can offend most A&R people and still get halfway to the bright lights.

Halfway? Well, how about a first gig in front of a sellout 2,000 crowd at the Town & Country Club? How about zipping into the low 20s in the indie charts with your first EP? How about touring in support of House of Love, the most massive indie crossover band of the moment?

What happened? Most unknowns who play hard to get stay hard to get. The differences with Pacific are: connections, an original sound, and a bit of independent thought. Not the old-school-tie sort of connections, though. Alan McGee, head of Creation Records, took Pacific seriously because he knew them from when Dennis and company had put on some gigs with Creation acts. So when Dennis went to take some photos of McGee for a certain music weekly, they got talking.

The talk turned to technology, to those of computers and suchlike. Now, think what bands were on Creation - like Jesus & Mary Chain and House of Love - and you realise that this was the archetypal indie guitar band label. If you were talking to the head of a label like that, would you start talking about the wonders of sampling sound-effects and the potential of the computer software? Dennis Wheatley did. Result? A pretty useful meeting...

Alan McGee did come and see them in the bedroom. "Quite a busy day in that bedroom, actually", recalls Dennis, "because just as McGee arrived, we were saying goodbye to five Japanese girls who'd sought us out from the time when we were the Doris Days, and had had a certain amount of exposure in Japan. That was an interesting cultural exchange."

Pacific impressed McGee sufficiently for him to offer them one of his weird, no-contract 50/50 deals. A lot of record companies make half their money out of their options to extend the contracts of small bands who start to get big. Either they can continue to pay an unrealistic royalty, or they can get a huge buy-out payment from a major. So it's a nice change to have what's now one of the biggest of the indie labels forsaking this sort of extortion. "The down-side is that the band don't get an advance as such, just the money for producing the records", according to Dennis. But it's a simple system that apparently didn't do House of Love any harm.

"Probably the most useful part of the whole deal is the exposure", Dennis reflects. "Being on the 'Doing It for the Kids' sampler, playing the Town & Country Club twice, and supporting House of Love. We've also had a lot more media exposure because of Creation's fame - like on John Peel, and Music Box, who showed our video a couple of times."

Most of the band have been through the expressive arts course at Brighton Poly, so it's no surprise they did the video themselves, and do their own publicity shots and record covers. The instrumental line-up is pretty artful, too. Simon plays cello, Rachel acoustic-guitar, Nick trumpet, and there are rumours of woodwind and an enhanced string section someday soon. So how does that fit in with the hi-tech side?


"In the studio, no problem", Dennis insists. "Sampled cellos or trumpets sound OK, sometimes they even sound pretty good. But add a few tracks of the real stuff and they all sound amazing. And it's what you need to stop the hi-tech stuff sounding cold."

And live?

"It's not so easy. You can't mike all of them up very effectively, so we got a job-lot of Syrinx transducers - flexible ribbons, stuck on the instruments with double-sided tape. We use a mike on the trumpet and me and Vanessa's vocals, but that's all."

How about backing? Pacific don't have a traditional rhythm section, so what do they use instead?

"We started off using an early version of Steinberg's Pro24 sequencer, and loading the backing track in from disk at the end of each song. It's a bit nerve-wracking. You could alter the running order, and I suppose you could even alter the tempo if you wanted to react to the audience vibe, but it's really limited by the amount of expanders and samplers you can take on the road. With a Roland MT32 and a Casio FZ1 you're limited - especially by the FZ1's sample loading time and monophonic outputs.

"Then we tried a digital backing tape on video format. At least that way you can put exactly as much as you want on it, by mixing stuff in the studio. But you've got no accurate cueing system — the beginnings of songs just happen so that's not ideal either. The best compromise we've come up with at the moment is to transfer that backing tape onto DAT. The big advantages with that are that it will search and find a different track if you want to change the running order, and the ID code is so accurate it gives you really effective cueing. That way you're not taken by surprise when the music starts! It names tracks as well, so there's no chance of getting the wrong track by mistake."

What's next?

More samplers, more expanders, more real instruments, and forget all that lot if we don't produce good songs."

I'll second that.

Previous Article in this issue

Richie Rich

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Jesus Jones

Publisher: Phaze 1 - Phaze 1 Publishing

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Phaze 1 - Apr 1989






Interview by Peter Forrest

Previous article in this issue:

> Richie Rich

Next article in this issue:

> Jesus Jones

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