In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the release of Boat to Bolivia – yes 30 years - 2016 has already seen Martin playing in peoples living rooms on the sold out ‘Dansette Tour’. Well November and December sees perhaps the biggest and best Daintees tour for years. Fifteen dates across the country, and culminating in a headline spot at The Great British Folk Festival, playing the Boat To Bolivia album in its entirety, along with a few other classic Daintees tunes to boot. This is simply one tour not to be missed.
Tickets are already on sale, and can be found at the links below:
On the eve of the tour, I had a chat with Martin about the making of Boat To Bolivia.
Q: Can you remember the moment when you first knew you were going to be recording your debut album? What did it feel like?
A: Yes but it was way back in 1980, I would head from Washington Tyne & Wear to Hall Farm Sunderland, quite a journey where I’d usually stay over on the couch. My bus from Washington would take 40 minutes and get me to Sunderland’s Park Lane Station. On occasion whilst heading through town to my connecting bus I would be tempted by the draw of the tiny Blandford pub, where on quite a few occasions I would see Anth’s Grandma and buy her a half of Guinness. It was on one of these occasions in the crowded little bar standing as an unsure 19 year old struggling to get served, where a smart old fella sporting a trilby hat sailed past me, getting served immediately and on his way back he winked and whispered, “Always wear a hat son” to me, this was the beginning of Boat to Bolivia. Anth and I had just formed a wee combo called The Caramels, including his 10 year old sister Claire on vocals and an 11 year old Terry on snare and brushes. We would rehearse in the kitchen playing a few songs that I had written, mainly Apples And Down and Smile On The Sunnyside, later Coleen, Watch Where The Kisses Blow, Crocodile Cryer, Louis, Ball Of Fire, The Tremelo Men.
Q: Where did the title Boat To Bolivia come from?
A: The title came from our manager and mentor Keith Armstrong, we were all having a go at picking album titles.
Q: Was it straightforward deciding on the songs to appear on the album – or did you record lots more?
A: We didn’t record lots more, but we had accumulated quite a repertoire going back as far as 1977 with Neon Skies. I would say there were over 40 songs to choose from by 1985, but some just stood out, such as Coleen & Crocodile Cryer! I think we chose a strong pool of songs though, like a football team, 10 players and a goalie!
Q: Tell us about Gil Norton as a producer…
A: Gil Norton was a cheeky young Liverpool fella not much older than us, he was a clever lad and had been around recording early sessions with Wah! Heat and some Bunnymen stuff. He had served his time with the brilliant Ian Broudie, so knew his way around the big SSL desks of the late 70’s and early 80’s. To put it short, Gil Norton was an excellent young sound engineer, he was also an up and coming producer who went on to produce James, Gomez, Foo Fighters and The Pixies.
Q: Was it a relaxed atmosphere in the studio?
A: Very, a lot of fun, Amazon Studios in Kirby. Liverpool was a cool place to work.
Q: How long did the recording sessions take?
A: The first session we were there about 4 days putting down drums, but our drummer Paul Smith was excellent, we were soon way ahead, I mean his nick name was Class! He did most of his parts first takes and we actually had most of the meat and potatoes down in those first four days.
I remember coming back after the weekend and Gil telling me that Ian McCulloch had been down and had mentioned liking the song Coleen! And not long after recording Bolivia our drummer did a session for The Bunnymen, as they were still recovering from the sad and early loss of Pete De Freitas.
Q: John Steel is an absolute star on it, isn’t he? Feels to the listener like he suddenly came into his own at those sessions.
A: Well on a recording level yes, but he was ready and already both an excellent studio and live musician.
Q: Were you pleased with the album? What did it feel like when you had a copy in your hand?
A: Oh it was very exciting. It was everything we wanted to do from being teenagers, so it was huge to us and was a culmination of 10 years hope, dreaming and work!
Q: What were your thoughts at the rave reviews the album received on release? (The Observer said “best debut since Dexys”)
A: We were absolutely knocked out. We weren’t arrogant kids although we knew ourselves, and were very capable. We were very grateful to have come out of the suburbs and made something we could be proud of, all we wanted to do was go out and play it for as many good folks as possible.
Q: Why do you think the songs don’t seemed to have aged at all over 30 years?
A: We were very conscious not to be too filtered by the trendy sound of the technology of the day, Whether it was Depeche Mode, or Orchestral Manouvres in the dark, or Frankie Goes To Hollywood. We wanted to sound more organic, so although we used technology to a great degree, we kept with an organic approach, such as acoustic guitars, acoustic drums etc. We did use early samples of strings, but that was purely down to budget, but the sampled strings performed by Mike Timiny on an Ensonic Mirage, were real analogue recorded strings! For the songs to remain timeless and untainted by an ever changing and fickle technology, was something we all discussed and set out to avoid collectively. I feel we achieved that on the whole.
Support at The Sage, Gateshead comes from local singer-songwriter Simma
Book Sage Gateshead Tickets
‘Aching with giddy emotion…this is an album to savour and cuddle tightly to your breast’ – Mike Gardner, Record Mirror, 24/5/86.
‘Here The Daintees dream in an often brilliant world of their own, laced with country, drenched in tuneful accessibility; crafting idiosyncratic pop from human beings mining hope and honesty in the day to day. A wonderful record which you should seriously consider buying’ – John McCready, NME, 10/5/86.
‘The best debut since Dexy’s’ – The Observer.
‘The album stretches out like a cat to bring you a travelogue of American ethnic idioms as witnessed on the banks of the River Tyne’ – Martin Aston, Melody Maker, 3/5/86.
‘I came expecting to enjoy this album; I went away with it close to my heart’ – Dave Henderson, Sounds, 10/5/86.
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