Alan (Paul) Brady, better known as apb to Macjammers (note: he has no affiliation with the police), is a veteran Scottish rocker living in Sweden. He employs a wonderful combination of highland folk and mainstream rock. He’s been a Macjams member for two years and has collaborated with many here. He’s one of those MJers who creates a positive synergy whenever he gets involved. This was one of the reasons I wanted to learn more about him…
Alan comes from a musically enthusiastic family but is largely self-taught. In his final years as a student, he was in the same band (“Catch”) as MJer’s steck and MySpacer iainondrums in the early 90s in Scotland. After graduating (in computer science), and after being in a bunch of other bands in England, he got caught by fatherhood in Sweden… and wound up crying “Freedom!” at MacJams…
My favorite apb tracks include:
– Where there’s a will (there’s a way) and the new version (w/Estellie)
– Long way home (w/Allen Dean) based on We can but dream
– Dusty Rode
– Would it be different and the new version (w/sonny jim/jiguma)
– Waxing lyrical
– Let it all fade away
– Down and out (performed by the group “Catch”- w/steck)
– Takin’ it all down (by steck, performed by the group “Catch”)
– Porcelain Dolls
– You make me feel
– Say you don’t love me
– Letting Go
– Take me down easy
– Park Rd
– Sit it out
and these collaborations:
– Storming heaven by apb (w/echoroom/Ian Baird)
– Cigarette Man by estellie (w/APB & Musichead )
– So Invisible by craft (w/apb/I.Spike/António Louro/racerat)
– Free To Be My Self by caroline (w/apb/slimgirlfat/lee)
– Quando não estás by craft (w/apb)
– Screwball by musichead (w/apb)
– Puski duski (w/secamode/blaky smith/wildcat/Estellie/cameron/haribo)
– Minister’s Daughter by apb (w/Didge-ache & ‘The Winch’)
– Remember December by apb
(w/slimgirlfat/ moorlandt/ jiguma/ j.a.stewart/ rocha malhada)
Did your name ever get you mixed up with Carl Reiner’s TV character, Alan Brady?
“Who? lol… I had to google it. The Alan Brady Show? Not a US import I have seen in UK or Sweden, I’m afraid. The Brady Bunch, Major Brady (in an old James Cagney movie), Irish singer called Paul Brady, and, of course, Mrs. Brady (Old Lady from Viz comic). lol. That’s about the most stick I get for my surname”
I knew the character from “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one of my favs from childhood. I thought it would be a funny icebreaking question to start things off. Oh well. I’ll go back to my standard opening question…
“*Doh* – wait, now that you say that, I think Harold mentioned the Carl Reiner character from Dick Van Dyke….. the 60’s? Before my time!”
When did you start playing music?
“I guess I started playing my own first instrument at around 8 years old. It was a ukulele my father bought me. But I recall writing a song earlier than that (‘Baby baby’, that was the main lyric, and some melody) and sang it to my mother… who didn’t laugh and, instead, encouraged me. I told her it was a work in progress. Two of my three older sisters play classical guitar (finger-style), so we had guitars in the house. My father had one too (and a violin, etc). I dabbled a bit on their instruments, but favored badminton rackets at that time. More strings. Hard to tune, though.”
What drew you to music?
“I guess it started as just something to do, like another unexplored toy at my disposal in the house. No one forced me. I just decided to give it a go – since I’d heard my sisters play and I’d get praise for performing for house guests. I remember writing my first guitar ‘song’ picking the open strings with my right-hand, remembering the order I did it in. When I showed this to my sisters, they started to tell me some chords.
“I started to write mostly as no one else I played with seemed to be able to. I think later AC/DCs Back in Black album was seldom off my little Tandy record player. (It kept getting stuck on the thing in the middle… was a nightmare to get it off.)”
Bands, musical experiences, highlights?
“I’ve played in bands since I was about 16… friends that lived in the neighborhood first, then bands formed from auditioning personnel. Apart from my sisters’ help and one guitar class I attended at my first school, I’m basically self-taught. No formal music training what-so-ever. I can’t read sheet music, well, not at any useful speed. But I have a Computer Science Degree (BSC with Honors) from Strathclyde University in Glasgow which comes in handy these days with production, etc.”
What do you actually do for a living?
“I’m what is called a ‘Systems engineer’ for a large Swedish telecoms company. I started as a lowly computer programmer, I seldom code these days. We do studies for new GSM BSS mobile/cellular features: feasibility, cost, requirements, trouble-shooting, that kind of thing. Then are responsible for the feature through all development and in-house testing; then out to our customers”
Are many of the songs you’ve shared at MJ revamped versions of songs from earlier in your career?
“Yes, and earlier ideas that never came to fruition. The earliest song uploaded at MJs from my ‘career’ timeline *ahem* *cough* *splutter* is: Let it all fade away by C. Craig, an old pal from Scotland I still meet up with whenever I’m back in my homeland. I did this when I was playing and gigging in another rock/metal band. He got me interested in the sequencer side of things (on an Atari ST running Cubase v1). I uploaded it with his permission as part of the Analogapalooza event.
“Some of the songs I wrote around that rockier period I have re-vamped and uploaded to MJ with the help of many MJers: Long way home (w/Allen Dean) and Storming heaven (w/Steve Craig/Ian Baird) and some very early ideas from that time (never performed) like Riff’06/Slipped my mind which I’ve re-vamped a bit myself and uploaded.
“That band drifted apart after the bass player and lead guitarist had a major fallout. But I still meet the drummer when I return home.”
You seem to know a few Macjammers from the ‘old days’… Tell us about that.
“I had the good fortune to audition and get hired as guitarist for a group calling themselves Catch in my homeland of Scotland, featuring the song-writing talents of MJer steck and the drumming talents of iainondrums (only on MySpace so far). I’ve kept in touch with both. Tell Me and When The Rain are songs I got to learn for the audition. I was very impressed by their sound and musicianship. A definite huge step up in overall professionalism. Having said that: My audition was funny. The singer at the time (Steve) got upset and stormed out – I can’t recall why – seemed I was walking into a room with a lit fuse. Good start, I thought.
“We rented our own office space rehearsal room in Bridgeton (next to the cemetery – the neighbors seldom complained) and had the good fortune to recorded with Catch at the BBC. Here’s a few songs from that era of time featuring me in those line-ups:
“We never got a deal or signed, but had some good gigs. A definite highlight, lots of fond memories. Sadly, I had to make a living, which meant moving down to England for work. Thus, in October, 1992 I left to pastures new.”
“Steck, yes, iain from ‘Catch’ is just on myspace so far. I also recruited ‘kallocain‘, a very talented Swedish artist, in my opinion.”
How does a Scottish rocker end up in Sweden?
“I graduated in Scotland in 1992, same year I left ‘Catch’, moved down south (England) to my first (and only) job with a Swedish company. It was the reason I left the band, to earn a living. I’ve been working for the same company for 16 years, 8 in England and 8 in Sweden. My ex-wife is Swedish, so transferring over to Sweden made sense.”
Did you miss making music, after leaving Catch?
“In England, I missed the band life, so I formed and wrote for a folk-rock band called BOPH (Bunch of Piss Heads) with my flatmate Chris Cleverly and some other new friends and, curiously, an old University buddy (who suggested I try applying for the job that brought me to England). It was during this period I first wrote and rehearsed songs like: Park Rd, Where there’s a will (there’s a way), Minister’s daughter, Real world, Would it be different, Spacehopper and Waxing lyrical. This fun group only played live once.”
What year was this?
“Late 1993 (I think). The first song we tried recording was Spacehopper – in a farmhouse akin to Wuthering Heights, called ‘Lone Barn’ in Sept, 1994″
How long did BOPH last?
“Until August, 1996- when we recorded a farewell CD for ourselves/prosperity in ‘Tweeters’ in Leatherhead, Surrey: ‘Sex, drugs and sausage rolls’ …that I treasure.
“After we disbanded – at the violinist’s wedding – we hijacked the wedding band’s gear and did Where there’s a will. Awesome, another highlight.
“The drummer and I sought some slightly less drunk band members with a view to playing live more regularly. With that new band, Nobody Knows, and then when we changed singers, Scooped, I wrote and performed live the songs Say you don’t love me and Sit it out. We had some fantastic gigs. The Bar Mambo club (Guildford) and Oxford College (Oxford) were awesome. Great crowds, great buzz, and we played well. Kinda half covers half original – we were good at picking songs that played to our strengths. The members of that group have all been over to visit me at one point or other here in Sweden.
“More recently (last year) I had the good fortune to be invited over to MJ UK at Caroline’s and had a grand time with the crew, you can hear that too here: MJ UK 2007 – live jam and had the good fortune to be on the podcasts #3 and #7 of MJer Epileptic Gibbon which can be found here.”
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
“Apart from ‘Baby baby’? (which I don’t remember now how it went) – I do remember the first guitar song. It was more ‘co-wrote’ as I jammed with the lead guitar player that lived down the road. It was called ‘Spider’ (because a spider ran out across the carpet while we were playing it). It has a lot of sentimental value, but wasn’t particularly fab. We were just amazed we could play something that worked together!! I could play my part still, yes, and a little of how the lead went. I have an old cassette recording of a rehearsal; even then, we played it nostalgically.”
Do you have a band now?
“I don’t currently play in any offline band and have no real inclination to do so. I very much enjoy collaborating online with MJ artists when I have time and have been lucky to have done so in various capacities: guitarist, bassist, singer, producer. Offline, I’ve been intrigued by Grammofon and what that Swedish band community has been doing in a neighboring town. I went to visit them recently, courtesy of MJer kallocain. I was very impressed. I have some collabs online in the pipe. Never seems to be a shortage of things to get through these days when I get home. lol.”
What are your musical goals now?
“Nothing really, keep improving, I suppose, keep collaborating as time permits, perhaps to slowly produce the material I have so that I could make a decent CD/download of them. Perhaps play live in Second Life via streaming. Help my nephews and niece (and my own kids) to get the most out of their music/talents.”
What is your impression of the Macjams community experience?
“The community and site at MJs is particularly brilliant if you ask me (my friends are sick of me going on about it): I was completely new to on-line communities in general, never mind ones for musicians. Many characters. Helpful informed advice and encouragement from peers and listeners alike. Most are thick skinned and will give you the benefit of the doubt. I was fortunate to get noticed (thanks to drakonis) and welcomed with open arms… and that inspires me to try to do and encourage in turn. I think insight-wise it has opened me up to other genres I was less familiar with before, that I perhaps would never have realized I could enjoy so much. There is such variety and thus more threads of inspiring ideas. It was cool to exchange some small podcast video’s with Steve (echoroom) during a tune we worked on together. That was cool… and another first for me. Strange man – lol ;o)
“I do enjoy techy bits of information in feedback. I gives me something concrete to go in and figure out. Many MJers have left me invaluable advise on such things since I started, which has really helped me to get better at getting my own music across. It’s a continuous learning process.”
How did you collaboration with Allen Dean (Long Way Home) come about?
“I had heard Allen’s songs on MJ and really enjoyed them. He in turn seemed to enjoy what I was producing too. I hadn’t uploaded at the time much of my earlier heavier songs. His work inspired me to do so. I had him in mind for vocals for the instrumental We Can But Dream (which later became Long Way Home). I just waited and hoped he would like it, as I thought it really would suit him. When he did leave a nice comment on the instrumental track, I asked him if he would give some vocals a go. He was working on the much darker metal opus “razor’s kiss” at the time and asked me to provide the lyrics… and we were off. I was amazed at the result. It was cool to read that the ‘fake live’ idea subsequently inspired MJer Rik Berryere to get his chocolate rabbits out for a tour… lol.”
How about the collab “Storming Heaven” – how did that come about?
“Again, I had admired a lot of Steve‘s songs for some time – and he in turn had shown an interest in my uploads. I don’t recall exactly. I think I asked if he had time to try something for Porcelain Dolls?? (I had in fact had plans for ‘slumbering’ to try that one, but she turned it down due to lack of time.) Steve was also too busy, but said he would love to try something when he got a window. Then he contacted me when he was available and I had been working on the beginnings of what became ‘Storming Heaven’ and sent that to him instead to see if it suited him, which it did. We worked a bit back and forth with little videos, resulting in a mix of vocal melodies ideas. Ian Baird I’ve known for some time at MJs, but we had not worked together. I asked him for some feedback on an early version with DoD drums. He liked it but really felt it needed real drums. So I asked him if he had the time; doing the bass seemed logical too, rhythm section and all…
What MJ track are you most proud of?
“It’s hard to pick one .. but I really thought the multi collaboration song Release me by Estellie turned out swell. I liked it for many reasons. I really thought Estella was/is a very talented (singer/songwriter) and had started out under a pile of technical deficiencies. I (with the aide of jgurner, musichead and joshnyberg) got a chance to help her ‘shine’ a bit, and everyone’s input just fed off each other and kept making it better and better – I was glad it went down so well.
How old are you?
“I’ve just turned 38 – despite some sites still saying I’m 37 – and live in Sweden. I’m divorced and have two daughters aged 7 & 6. This both inspires and limits my time for music ventures.”
Can you share something about yourself most MJers don’t know about?
“Er… you mean like my great ear folding and peanut firing trick!?…
“I sometimes pop into the virtual world of Second Life where I have land and a castle and go to listen to live performers from time to time when the urge takes me. I’m also not too bad at art. I inherited this skill from my father (who was an art teacher and studied art). I once won a bronze medal for a drawing I did at the Art Galleries in Glasgow in a competition they ran with entries from all schools in the region, but I’ve never done it since Higher/A-level at school. Gave it up to be a scientist instead.”
What instruments do you use?
“First: Electric and acoustic guitar first. Second: bass guitar, mandolin and keys. Third: stylophone and tambourine. Oh, I can also keep a beat on real drums, but haven’t done that for years.”
“Intel Mac mini 1.66GHz + 2GB RAM, Mark of the Unicorn ‘Traveler‘ Firewire audio/midi interface, GarageBand v3, Logic Pro v7, Drums on Demand Vol 1 & 3, Jampack 4, Yamaha MSP3 monitors, Rode NT1-A, Shure SM58 microphones, Sennheiser HD212 Pro headphones. My favorite plug-ins at the moment: Ozone 3 and Ampeg SVX. You can get a more comprehensive but short guided tour here.”
Tell us about your mixing process:
“I start mixing at the recording stage. really. I spend time getting a ‘good sound’ on whatever I want or have planned to record, which is like ‘sub-mixing.’ Then make a preset: presets are your friend. This can include these days using Izotopes Ozone 3 on some tracks locally prior to final mastering. They also have good presets for some instruments like acoustic guitar, etc. As I add each additional layer, I sub-mix a bit, seeing where the new track fits not just in volume but in stereo field. Sometimes it is at this point I decide one of the previous or new track needs to be duplicated and panned – and perhaps then the paired image lacks some spice or depth and needs to be non-identical, so some FX or EQ variation is added at this stage. Drums come in early. Then ‘a’ lead instrument. Vocals I always do last, starting with lead, then backing vocals.
“Mastering, I have no set process. I’ve learnt to use 5 of the 6 functions in Ozone 3, going back and forward tweaking things I just hear/heard while listening to various mix-downs needed some attention.”
How do you come up with a song?
“It really varies for me, but usually the melodies/chords come first. Then the lyrics. But on occasion a lyric has driven or written a sub-part of a song. A concept/idea or just title can evoke much thought and dictate or lead me forwards. Sometimes I can be playing with just a sound and that twiddles out something I can build from too or use as a sub-part of a song.”
What do you consider your strongest point, musically?
“I think it’s my complete disregard for trying to conform to anything anymore. Just do what I want to do or feel like doing, irrespective of genre or whether it’s just plain silly. Complete artistic freedom. Freedom!! …lol.”
“Oh, loads… Writing bridges, singing and playing at the same time. I used to write things deliberately so that I could play and sing, when I was performing live. Recording is different. Bridges: I just gave up writing them; problem solved. Oh, and perhaps not being musically trained. But it seems I do things that there are proper terms for and it’s great to get told politely what they are. :o)
“I also have a tendency to plunge head-first into a song, which is ok, as long as there is some water there. And I get easily… er… distracted :o) Oh. I’m hopeless at remembering lyrics too. I’m looking into software teleprompters/autocues to get round that.”
“If it’s becoming a chore, stop doing it, take a break, sleep on it. Come back to it. Don’t force it or accept deadlines if you do music ‘just for fun’ and are not comfortable with it. Listen to mixes in your car, hi-fi, buds, headphones; get perspective. Keep listening to old/new songs you like the sound of… try listening to them with different ears/perspective: what do I like about this? Is it the production? Is it the playing? Is it the variations? Is it the lyrics? Is it the sound/instruments? Is it all of these things? Learn from many… so you don’t just copy. Be open minded and be open to learning new tricks with your recording approach/technique, and take time to learn all the nice software/hardware and features of your set-up. It really does help, but takes time. And, er, use the force!! lol.”
Anything you want to add that I didn’t ask?
“That’s a tricky question… I tend just to recall things when someone says something that reminds me… so, here is a list (in no particular order). Those that read this can request a story from this selection:
A) The “yeah, they played well” story…
B) Who turned out the lights?…
C) Coffee machines vs gig…
D) Last chord of first song at first gig ever…
E) How to handle a drummer with a stutter…
F) Backing vocals… don’t always have the same meaning when heard from outside of headphones…
G) How not to play bagpipes…
– APB’s MySpace page
– APB’s Homepage
– APB on ReverbNation
– APB on iComposition
– APB is known as “Daft Berger” in Second Life.
– APB’s nephew Michael’s band page on MySpace
– APB’s Profile Page on MacJams