It was 2001. I began to receive emails from a Swedish person who claimed to see the future of the world in the Jet album, and had done so from the time that it was released. I naturally treated this claim with some scepticism but we established something of a virtual relationship, emailing back and forth about matters of such importance as why did Davey O’List topple over with such regularity. I was sitting one day in Kanlica, Istanbul, seeking relief from the rather protracted Sezen Aksu mixing process. (She is, to quote the UK press, the English Madonna, which rather does her an injustice).
I had, as usual, successfully negotiated the Valley of the Dead Dogs, which lay between my house in Bebek, a suburb of Istanbul n the Asian side, and the Internet café. I can either take the road, which means a trip of about five miles, or I can go cross-country, down one side of the valley, across the dried-up river bed and up the other wide. The valley was as unsavoury as ever, and full of expired canines. So when I reached the internet cafe that was my goal, I was pleased to find an email from Pelle Almgren the Swedish Person rather than the usual pile of junk mail. He said that he had possibly forgotten to mention that he was a songwriter, and a fairly successful one at that – what did I think about a writing collaboration? I was guardedly interested… usually people who express these kind of views turn out to be fundamentalists of one sort of another, one has to be a bit careful, you see. He sent me a CD – when I listened to in Berlin, after the eventual end of Sezen’s album, I was amazed to find that he had a killer rock’n’roll voice.
He proposed a writing session chez lui. I was all set to jump on the plane and go over to Sweden when the phone rang. It was the Sezen Aksu gang again, proposing that I play bass on her European tour as she had just sacked her regular bass player, along with half her band. Naturally, I said yes please, when does the tour start? In two days time, they said, we’ll fax you the material – please learn twenty-five songs and we’ll see you on Friday in Duesseldorf. This was Wednesday night. My girlfriend was most amused by this news of my impending departure; I had told her in December that the Sezen CD would take a maximum of four weeks and it actually took five months.
But regardless, I did the tour, which delayed the Scandinavian leg for a bit but I eventually hooked up with Pelle Almgren in the summer. The tour was great fun, except that there were NO rehearsals and not even a chance to run the material once in a soundcheck – they had faxed me sheet music and I tracked down all the CDs, but of course they gave me no clue about live arrangements. I arranged for a DAT to be made of each night and things got progressively more accurate, but I still spent a lot of time watching Mort the drummer….
Anyway, back to Sweden. I went over there and Pelle (and his partner Pelle – most people in Sweden are called Pelle, it’s a kind of tax dodge) and I wrote a few tunes together, one of which is on the Baboon (‘That Girl’). Slowly the notion began to form that I could do a project with Pelle singing my tunes. So I did and he did. I went back to Berlin, began working more seriously, went back to Stockholm with half of it ready, we did half the vocals, and then he came to Berlin in January this year to finish it all off.
Chris Townson helps me out on drums… It’s always been a great pleasure working with Chris, and musically as well as personally we fit together seamlessly. He came over and we recorded all the drums in one day on a boat (which housed a studio). Thanks to the wonders of technology, he played twice through every song and I took it home and fiddled with it and lo! It’s the best he’s ever played, I think. Someone noted that his playing style sounds like a fridge falling down a flight of stairs but, as Chris says, it probably WAS a fridge.
I am also ably assisted by Andreas Reimer, a local Berliner, on guitar… I saw him play one night in a bar and loved his performance… full of sturm and not a little drang. He’s technically great, has unlimited imagination and is endlessly co-operative. I re-introduced him to Jeff Beck, we listened to a few things together and I must say that one of the great pleasures of this CD for me is listening to his fabulous playing. He’s German, it scarcely needs saying, but manages to transcend it.
The thing is, I don’t remember thinking that anyone would actually be interested in a solo project of mine. I have, from time to time, but mostly immediately post-Radio Stars, tried to get some deluded A&R person interested in my tunes but frankly to no avail. So I think that’s what prompted me to work more with other people and to downplay my own compositions (nobody likes a smart-arse, especially a no-brain, and most of the people in the so-called ‘dance’ world with whom I was working during the eighties and early nineties would fall squarely into the second category).
I wrote a tune with Boy George and Jeremy Healy (‘Mother Sister Father Brother’, released on his CD Tense Nervous Headache, which I was working on); it was actually an earlier composition of mine that I ‘invented’ on the spot when we were composing and nobody seemed to be coming up with anything – but, mysteriously, the writing credit disappeared and no-one could ever find it again. Now there was a thing. (Later, when I was in Bombay and George walked through the door, he was most surprised to see me, especially as our respective managers were at that very moment involved in a bitter dispute about this self-same disappearing credit). But generally, in terms of collaboration and composition, the child geniuses of dance music preferred to come up with their own two fingered-symphonies, and who was I to refuse the offer of gainful employment? And thus I discovered computers and the joys of the digital world, wherein nothing is real.
It was generally the result of email communication that the idea for a solo project first took shape. After the temporary Jet tour in 2000, my Japanese agent suggested that there would be interest in an MG solo project. Yeah yeah yeah, I thought, but began, in rather desultory fashion, to think abut it. I recorded the music for ‘Hit Him On The Head’ and another tune which I later dropped, and eventually plucked up the courage to sing them, something that I am rather reluctant to do. The vocals sounded terrible, I thought, and I mentally shelved the whole idea. Then along came Pelle of the North as noted and provided the missing link and the rest, as they say, is history.
More Mammalian chronology can be found right here.