Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD)

Universal

1995, The Townhouse, London, Goldhawk Road

My part in the making of this album, whilst there are a couple of incidents that are quite clear to me, is largely very foggy as I was deeply entrenched in heroin and crack addiction at the time. My friends Dave ‘Chipper’ Nicholas and Matt Vaughan, who were producing the album, had asked me to play bass for them and I also ended up doing some backing vocals and playing some guitar, some of which is on Walking On The Milky Way but has gone uncredited for some reason.

I’d got myself into such a muddle as I was, at the same time as this album was recorded, also on tour with Alison Moyet supporting her greatest hits release. I was trying to do sessions at The Townhouse in Goldhawk Road in between coming and going for Alison which in itself turned out to be a nightmare of scoring loads of drugs, running out of drugs, leaving Alison's tour in way off parts of the UK to get back and score, going into heavy withdrawals on the road, getting doctors out and lying to them and then having to do gigs in that terrible condition. You see, when you’re drug dependent you can’t take your dealers on the road with you !! I really should never have committed to going on tour with Alison but I really didn’t know what I was doing. It would have been much safer to stay at home and do OMD’s album and stay close to my drug source and at least stay ‘well’ whilst recording. 

I remember one incident when I’d played a couple of nights in Glasgow with Alison, which were both recorded for her ’live’ album, and I was in such a state of panic, having been sick since Dublin a few days before, that I left the Glasgow hotel first thing the morning after the gigs, got a cab to the airport and took a plane to Heathrow. I landed at Heathrow and went straight to Twickenham to score heroin and then went straight to The Townhouse for an OMD session. That’s how I was living during the recording of Universal; I was completely mad !!

The album itself is, for my part, a minor miracle. I love this album, particularly the title track. I was trying to approximate the sound of a ‘pick bass’ sample which was used a lot on keyboards during the 80’s and 90’s. I’d had to learn a while back how to get sounds on a bass guitar, that keyboard players were getting with samples and factory generated sounds, so I could compete with those keys players and their sounds. The issue for me was always that a keys player could never think like a bassist and would invariably play something that didn’t sit right, feel or note wise. Once I’d mastered how to get these sounds with my bass and hands it was then a case of playing a riff, in Universal’s case with those short clicky notes, as accurately and as ‘computer like’ as possible. 

I shouldn’t really endorse heroin use but I will say that many of the tracks I laid down ‘under the influence’, not just on this album but other stuff like ‘Let Love Be Your Energy’ and ‘Love Supreme’ by Robbie Williams for example, have such an unwavering hypnotic feel and are generally SO accurate !! It’s the space and place that the drugs put you in; some kind of distant, untouchable world with no cares or worries.

Everything was usually done in a very short space of time once I’d got the part, feel and sound right. Chipper and Matt were great too, very supportive even knowing the state I was in, the same as Andy was. I wondered why Andy wasn’t playing bass but didn’t ask too many questions. I think Andy wanted someone who could approach the songs a bit more technically and, for all my faults, I could at least still play great. 

After all this time I still listen to Universal in my own time for fun. I shudder when I think of what I was putting myself through at the time but I had to learn the hard way like most addicts. I’ll be forever grateful to Andy, Matt and Chipper for having faith in me and letting me do this album. Walking On The Milky Way is still played a lot on the radio so I’m still getting paid for it after over 20 years !! Can’t be bad !!

PS 2018

Album cover

CD back cover

CD booklet back

CD label