It wasn’t that long ago that I was playing with my chaps Michael and Tom in Strange Deeds. During recent discussions between Michael and myself, a record that we had made came back into my head.
This record was Strange Deeds’ The Memorandum, a record that, like all Deeds material, was completely improvised, and back to back. It contains six tracks of guitar playing I couldn’t have done on purpose if I tried, and indeed we both reflected on how remarkable this was. It’s one thing to sit down for weeks, maybe months at a time and carefully craft a predominantly instrumental record, but to bang the whole thing out in less than three hours with no arrangement or planning still feels like an achievement.
The musical relationship between Michael and I deserves its own post, something I will tend to in the coming weeks. These records, however, stand outside of us as musicians, in the sense that they existed only then, during those hours in Crown Lane and Muswell Hill studios in London, where we would pitch up with two Zoom hand held recorders, have a chat, then start playing. Whatever happened, after our practice time was up, we had a record.
Naturally, some of it was a bit guff, especially in the beginning as we found our feet. But, centred around Tom’s drums – without which we would have floundered, truthfully – we created a series of releases that were one take each, with no discussion before or during.
Of all the bands in which I have participated, and there are a few, Strange Deeds is the one of which I am most proud. We did one show, which was also improvised, at the Finsbury Arms, and released 8 records that were seldom heard outside of the three of us, but doing it just for the sake of doing it was the whole point. When I met Tom, Michael and I were playing in Conundrum In Deed, who were already completing their first album, and with whom we would do a second. He was a jazz trained drummer and pianist, a very quiet man, despite being built like a tank, and never played the drums harder than he had to. Without this detail, our recordings would have suffered immensely, especially as they were so primitive in nature.
Here it is then, The Memorandum, with some of the best track names we had going. There’s a lot of left turns, but for a record that willed itself into life on the spot, I’ve never topped it.