A total solar eclipse occurred on 11 August 1999, It was the first total eclipse visible from Europe since 22 July 1990, and the first visible in the United Kingdom since 29 June 1927. This was the day when we began work on the biggest musical release of our lives so far; Diphonia's debut EP "Time Well Spent in Oblivion".
We were once again booked into our favorite London studio "The Dairy" in Brixton with Roy Merchant once again at the Engineering helm. This was a little different though, we had money and time and I think we were booked in for about 3 months. At this point we had had funding from various sources (Eve Cantelmi, Island Records New York, some city bankers who had been following The Dip on our London shows, and a fellow called David Feldman)
Some of this money was used by said investors to set up an indie record label called Alien Records Ltd. A great label, great name.
Wolff Olins the company that created London 2012's infamous Olympic logo created the Alien records logo and the Diphonia logo, and did the design for our EP. All of this work was exemplary.
So we went into the studio on this historic day. I was happily settled in Finchley Central, London in a cool 2 bed party house right next to the Tube station. All paid for for the year! We had a solid enough fan base, a cool set of tunes and good people working for us, all of The Dips hard touring had paid off and we had the luxury to focus on creating an EP in a great studio. It felt like the world was ours to conquer almost a year on from our powerhouse New York trip. All the while we were of course partying very hard!
Now, as this was going to be an official release, going to the press, the music stores etc, I now look back and realise one thing. It was an over indulgent use of the bands cash and time, and on top of this we were only adding 3 new songs to the mix. The Dip's earlier 1999 single release of Come Alive and Lost Souls was getting re-mixed and mastered and would also appear on the DIphonia EP.
Anyway the new tracks we were bringing to the table were East 24th Street, a song wrote in the aftermath of our explosive NYC trip along with an old re-worked Spiritual Dip song Vampire, and a new funky little number called "Global Police Force (yep folks, there is the link!)
There was another 2 minute interlude track that was just that. As a review said a copyright loaded changing of TV stations with music that washes over to bridge into the tracks final number Global Police Force.
So we settled into our new home, The Dairy. The recording process for this project was a long, and laborious one. We had decided to follow Trent Reznors creative approach he had used on The Downward Spiral. Just record loads of drums, loads of guitars, bass etc, then take the best bits out, and copy and paste them into an arrangement inside pro-tools production system. I was intrigued by checking out this approach, and we had some laughs but looking back, we were a live band and we
should have smashed these tracks out, captured some soul. I think we probably captured too many zeroes and ones, and the final result was a little too synthetic sounding and over produced.
Anyway – This was the product that was going to market.
So we got some great reviews in the music and London press (see images) and we got some wretched ones. I remember Top of the Pops magazine gave us 5 stars full marks on the day Q magazine ripped us a new asshole and gave us 1 STAR, I mean this reviewer hated us, literally despised us, even though live we were kicking every band on the circuits ass, this dude just listened to the opening track, didn’t review any of the others and based the whole review on the opening song alone – which was East 24th Street. It was a dark day.
Listening back to East 24th Street – probably doesn’t deserve the utter slating it got, but you know, we opened our EP with the weakest track. Global Police Force was the strongest track and that ended the EP, oh how things could have been different?
Either way, East 24th St got airplay on XFM, and we picked up a professional management team RISE Management who were having big success with a band called Republica at the time. (shout it from the rooftops?) This was probably where the music industry started to suck the power, energy and soul from the unit. We had two management offers at the time. Ricochet Management and Rise Management, both big pro outfits.
Ricochet wanted us to scrap Time Well Spent, go back into the studio, with a new producer and capture our amazing raw live sound, as they believed Time Well Spent just wasn’t doing that. Rise management on the other hand said they loved Time Well Spent, and would be able to get us Major label funding for the band AND Alien records within 6 months. We of course chose the latter. How could we scrap Time well spent after all the time and money we had spent on it, and all the promotion...But you know, hindsight is a powerful thing!
This is by no means a slate to Rise management, the team genuinely loved the band and I think they tried everything to fulfill there pledge but the stars just didn’t align, and we as the band were all up our own asses and ended up treating them like shit, the moment the 6 month time hit and we didn’t have what we wanted.....well the writing was on the wall. We went our separate ways.
Through this process we had also cut loose our great friend and original manager Eve Cantelmi. The best and most successful days was with Eve upon reflection. I think if we would have stuck with Eve and kept rolling , things could have really happened for this outfit, I mean live we were a force to be reckoned with. With Alien Records as the figurehead we were getting great gigs lined up, pretty much all the universities, London venues every week, we didn’t need the outside music biz influence, we were taking them on by ourselves. If I could go back in time that would have been the advice I would have given to the naïve band of four.
Anyway the band played on, and we kept touring and writing LOTS of new material. At this point we had stopped using electronic backing tracks and was just pure, sci-fi fueled rock and roll. Bass, drums, one guitar and vocals. And it felt good!
This time, no posh expensive studios. We released a single to a belting live track we had called Fine Edge Line. It reminded me of Oasis's Acquiesce in that Baz would sing the verse then I erupted into the
chorus, it was a great live track (see live videos and sound cloud link). This also got a lot of regular college radio play and started turning heads. We recorded it on a really cheap desktop computer which back in the day I think had a tiny hard drive down in our local rehearsal studio. Then I overdubbed the guitars and vocals at Lozzo's flat. I remember nailing the vocals in his hallway!
So 2000 bled into 2001 and we played more stella shows. One show that really stands out was a headline spot at The Cobden Club on Kensal Road. The night was been filmed for some SKY TV show and was filmed by the legendary Don Letts. Now this show was amazing, a packed out excited audience, in fact we blew the roof off, then partied all night. We NEVER saw this footage, which hurts. Does this footage exist? No way of knowing or tracking it down now. Other great gigs? Too many to list, we had a residency at a venue called Pop just off Oxford Street and had many a great gig there! I remember Canterbury University was amazing, so was Reading. We would play The Monarch/Barfly on a regular basis – One of the greatest Diphonia gigs was on a Saturday night at The Monarch called Casino Royale (see review). We released a 2 track live single taken from this amazing gig at Josephs Well in Leeds, and we around this time started work on our full album, we didn’t know this at the time but it would be called "The Healing Power of Music" and bar a couple of slight problems I believe remains one of the greatest "lost in time" rock albums ever created. The work was painstaking though.
We recorded the initial drums down at our rehearsal studio in Mill Hill. The guitars and vocals were recorded either in Lozzo's flat or also at the rehearsal studios. The albums creative process really came to life though when a friend of mine Andy Elder, let the band borrow a big detached house he owned in Wisbech to go live there and finish up the recording of the album. Magic was captured. I remember us all residing there and recording when the world Cup 2002 was in motion.
The pain with getting this album completed wasn’t with the recording. That was smooth sailing. Once we had completed the recording the real pain came with the mixing. All the information was on Lozzo's computer and trying to get us all round at his place for prolonged mixing sessions was difficult. Baz would be travelling down from Leeds, we as the band were producing the whole thing ourselves but it was difficult scheduling us all. After an explosive, exciting and progressive birth to the band I think it was around this time that the cracks were really beginning to appear. Hey, we had been living in and out of each others pockets for over 5 years. We at one point had the music industry in our hands, but we let it slip away. But you know, some marriages don’t last that long, and all relationships require lots of hard work to sustain and keep growing.
So we completed the album, we got the right track listing and it was sounding fantastic. We booked a gig at Camden Towns Underworld venue for the album launch.
Now the artwork for this album has always been controversial. I cant even remember who did it, but the idea that was subjected was a classic picture of Jesus Christ but instead of holding the crucifix, or the holy water or whatever the original shot was he was holding a necklace with the DIphonia logo (see pics)
I had mixed feelings about this cover art. Nothing else was submitted so we kind of just went with it, thinking it was clever. I still don't know what I think of it, but it is what it is as the saying goes. Anyway we had been sending some early mixes to certain music industry people and one label really wanted a piece of us. Edel records which was part of Sony (I think?). At this point funds had all but dried up so we certainly were looking for fresh cash injection.
So the launch date arrived and we had our headline show at the Camden Underworld. The show was a sell out. We didn’t really know it at the time but Diphonia was really starting to collect mass momentum. We had a following. The show was awesome, we kicked it's ass. We distributed promo copies of the album to the wanton, hungry audience, we all embraced as we knew we had pulled off a truly amazing show. I remember we went back to my flat with a select few and partied all night.
We expected Edel to come to the show and sign us, but we had no contact after the show (they were based in Hamburg – I think?)
We subsequently discovered that the whole labels team had indeed booked plane tickets to London to come to the show and offer us a record deal, however right before our show the division got the plug pulled on it. Fate eh? It's many twists and turns.
So after this show what happened to the once mighty, could have been giant DIphonia?
I remember it was January 2003 and we were in our usual rehearsal studio in Mill Hill. We went in and outside the weather was a bit chilly but just your standard English January. We worked on a new song called Warm Tide (see Global Police Force) and then went to pack our equipment away. As we walked outside we were blinded by a deep blanket of pure white, thick snow. We were pretty stranded, we had to dig our vehicles out and then slowly drive home, a normal 10 minute drive took us 3 hours. This imagery and stark change will always stay strong and poignant in my mind, for the change of times. The end of an era. I remember when I finally got in from the snowy drive I got a phone call that my Father was seriously ill. He had been fighting off the reaper for many years but I felt this time it was the end. And it was. As his life ended, this project that had been my life for many many years also came to an end. Looking back I think it was sad that the band split up. I kind of wish we would have kept it together, but all good things etc. I guess the story had run its course. The arc was complete.
But it was the best of times, it really was an exciting trip with many amazing memories and colossal highs. I still think The Healing Power of Music album stands up very well today and I'm very grateful for all of the amazing times, laughs, gigs, parties and the fact that, unlike other manifestations we got to record the majority of our material. I also find it quite poignant that the last track on the Healing Power album, Closer, kind of end and the music right at the end turns a bit dark. New darker waters lying ahead. It always makes me remember that contrast and change with the snow, and the beginning of the end.
For the first time since I was very young I took a bout a year out from playing and writing music. Baz Bradley and I were to return in 4 years with our next musical project Global Police Force. However great GPF was, and I think we recorded a fantastic album, it never lived up to Diphonia as a live entity. Not until the mighty Dark Science was to emerge 10 years later would there be a project that had the camaraderie and buzz of being in a great rock and roll band...