When BAiT got their KIT together to go LIVE back in 1997, a TASCAM 440 8-track (cassette-based) machine was seen as necessary to supplement the PA, back-line, monitors etc. It was Andy who had some studio experience (following his Irish Music larks back in '93), so he bravely took up the challenge of helping engineer BAiT's music onto tape.
I'll let him continue with his story of how BAiT's first DEMOS took shape:
Outta Lunch was our first try at capturing the great vibe we all felt when performing our music for the first time. It consisted of 3-tracks: 90s Girl, Certainty Sir and Just Breathe the Air. Owing to our lack of tracks, equipment, expertise, bottle etc., we got John to use his Roland electronic drum-kit (which could be plugged-in to 2 tracks & sound half-decent even without equalisation). The rest was done using direct input from the guitar and bass amplifiers. It was a case of press record. 1-2-3 GO!! Vocals were added later via a rather nice Beringer compressor/limiter using (of all things) a £5.99 Tandy Condenser Microphone. Mixdown was haphazardly performed almost at random with reverb off Dan's guitar pedal and mastering direct to cassette tape via a HI FI.
The result: CRAP... nevertheless it was intriguing CRAP.
Rough Cuts proved that we were big enough to acknowledge and thereby start learning from our mistakes. Although the basic recording principles remained the same, we used the free Lunch sessions to point out some discrepancies in our performance; particularly in the vocal department. RC contained Okay UK, This Wonderland, Hell for Leather and Wired. We added special effects overdubs from The Italian Job on Okay UK.. (Yeah Stereophonics, we did it first)
We were lucky enough to have this DEMO ready for the Summer 97 touring season and it secured us a few great gigs. Although still flawed, Rough Cuts also got some good reviews from local newspapers and a favourable report from Ronnie Gerr (formally of V2 Records). Okay UK was also a regular play at a notable nightclub in York, although I can't remember which one.
Propellor Head (yes, we know it's spelled propeller) was a bit different. Proper concept, photo-session, time set aside for recording. By now we had learned a thing or two about how to perform when recording. Although we were still buggering about with ridiculously primitive microphones and forcing poor John to slug it out on plastic drum pads, the Prop sessions saw the introduction of MASTERING TO MINIDISC. BAiT had entered the digital age.
Before our investment in a minidisk recorder, a fairly tight instrument performance on the Tascam, would be reduced to limp lettuce-leaf dribble out of the master cassette, courtesy of the home HI FI. NOW the guitars would stay crisp, the drums powerful, the bass punchy and even the vocals clear and present. Okay, so we still had a few issues with timing and vocals, not to mention EQ and tinny guitars, BUT we were well on the road to producing something we could be proud of.. proud enough to sell!!
Let It Go was a fu#king disaster. There!! I can't put it more plainly than that. We were riding high from Propellorhead which (although still flawed again) was a fairly close approximation of how we sounded live. The demo had got us a stack of gigs and introduced us to a promoter/impresario/producer called... well for the sake of professional decency we shall call him MR T. A thoroughly nice bloke really, he provided us with cheap rehearsal rooms and storage, introduced us to the darker side of the music business (its realities and pitfalls) and arranged regular work for us IF we learned a few covers. Now no matter what cobblers went on during BAiT's association with MR T we realise now that (by default) he showed us what NOT to do whilst climbing the pro-music industry ladder, and for that we OWE HIM A LOT. Unfortunately what we really couldn't hack was the stale faecal matter that was produced out of a series of sessions at his well-stocked studio.
He made us nervous, gave contradictory instructions and had no real empathy or insight into the kind of music we were producing. On a single positive note, John did get to have his REAL drumkit miked-up though, which sounded great.
Ok, so during the recording it was six-of-one and half-a-dozen with the blame, but I personally supervised the (last-minute) mixdown of Let it Go with MR T. I don't mind admitting that he had botched it so badly that when I left the studio I was nearly in tears, considering our career in music to be just about char-grilled out of existence.
But a BAiTer does not give in so easily.
Plan B. We needed a good sellable demo to take on tour with us the South of France. Problem was we'd sold our trusty Tascam for more live gear and because we believed in the power of Mr T. In a fit of mad self-belief the 4 shareholders of Fiddler Crab Music decided that (until we got signed) no other shyster-with-a-studio would be put in charge of BAiT's recording destiny. So we went out one Saturday afternoon and reclaimed our recording heritage, grabbing it by the balls with a two-grand investment in a Roland 1680 (16-track Digital Studio). Getting to grips with this MAGIC BOX was hard work. I slept with the manual for a least a fortnight (much to my ex-girlfriend's disgust). During this period I was regularly dehydrated due to excess dribbling over the many sleek functions of this machine. I knew that IN OUR HANDS it would revolutionise BAiT's recorded catalogue (if Roland are reading this then how about some sponsorship?. or at least a decipherable fu#king manual). In one week we had a seven-track Original Song demo, mastered to minidisc and copied onto COMPACT DISC for the first time. And despite my feelings about it now, we did sell over 150 of them (both in France and at home).
Fixed/Clockwork was BAiT's first Double A-Side release. It saw the beginning of a truly professional and highly quality-driven approach to recording. By now we had regular use of Silke Studios in Coventry and were able to mic up all the drums and be as loud as we wanted to in a relatively sound-controlled environment. Not only were we able to take our time, we could also begin to think seriously about arrangement and performance issues and for the first time feel really proud about the results. Also, John's purchase of a CD writer meant that BAiT were now in complete control of their recording, from first warble to last tweet.
Live - 15th September 2001 is BAiT's first foray into proper live recording. Recorded in front of an appreciative audience during a spell of great activity (two live recordings in two weeks and a day in the studio), the double CD (29 tracks, including 5 BAiT originals) has Dan, Andy, Ben and John exposed (in the nicest possible way, of course) to the scrutiny of the 'real band' test. Clearly showing how BAiT have come together as a tight musical unit, the CD includes BAiT's arrangement of their regular covers, with the band's own material earning a particularly good reception from the audience. An honest piece of work, the CD conveys BAiT's energy and strive for quality performance, whilst showing that these guys actually do have fun on stage.