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sight and sound

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computer musicAs listening to music was one of my main interests I guess it was natural that I should attempt to play an instrument and join a band. It all started when I realised I could play three blind mice on the recorder...

The first attempt to learn to play an instrument occurred when my French teacher, Mr Nortcliffe, put a poster up at school inviting pupils to his guitar lessons through the lunch break. I asked my mum to buy a guitar, and turned up to the class with a spangly new Kay acoustic, delivered just days early via Freemans Mail Order Catalogue. The steel strings were so far from the frets that pushing them down required a week in a gym!

The class had about ten student. I can only remember one...Steve Clarke. He was two years above us in school and, for some reason, was sat on top of a desk at the front of the class. He picked up the guitar and started playing some classical piece; to perfection! It made my Tales of the River Bank, plucked on one string, seem rather amateurish. I left the class, Steve joined a band. That band was Def Leopard. Sadly, Steve died tragically in 1991.

I decided a self-teaching guitar route would be better, but made a real pig's ear of it. I still cannot play the guitar properly! But I did enjoy creating noise so, together with a neighbour, Steven Dale, we created a noise band, both playing guitars aud hitting Quality Street tins for make-shift percussion. The noise was recorded on a small cassette recorder. I still have copies somewhere.

Steven was a bit of a whiz with electronics, so I asked him to build me a sequencer so I could emulate the sounds of Kraftwerk. He created a monster...dozens of LEDs and rotating knobs to control the pitch of bleeps. One for speed and one for volume. I knocked up a case, using my woodwork skills and Hal was born!

I bought a Casio VL-Tone and had many friends join me in jamming sessions, David Horton, Steve Rodgers and Phillip Otter are all recorded on tape somewhere.

It was in 1979 that I created a proper band with Mark Holmes. We called the band Mein GlassFabrik (My Glass Factory) and by this time I'd acquired a Wasp synthesizer. I didn't have a lot of spare cash at the time and wanted more versatile sounds so I picked up a Wem Copycat. This echo machine really did change the sounds I could make. Soon after I bought a Moog prodigy synth. It was a wonderful piece of gear with some great sounds.

The new gear was used to make industrial style music, influenced by Tangerine Dream, Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. We created a cassette which we sold in Record Collector. It was reviewed in Tigers on the Moor - an indie fanzine magazine.

I was also creating projects with other friends, forming brief colaberations with Robert and Ray Fitzgibbons and then with Mark Devoto and Roy (can't remember his second name).

Mark and I also joined forces with the saxophonist from An Alien Heat and did a one-off and unrehearsed gig at the Sheffield University under the An Alien Heat name. Mark went on to create the Fatales and then joined The Anti Group with another school friend, Robert Baker. He's now in a band called Siiii

I then had a long break from music when I discovered girls where more fun. I returned with a more modern set up of a Roland JV-30 and Cubase on the MAC and dabbled in self-indulgent ambient including this piece that's playing in the background. A few years ago an upgraded to Logic was made, but I rarely got time to create stuff.

sound of flakThat was until mid 2009 when I decided it was time to get back into things. I upgraded keyboards to a more modern Roland V Synth and formed a band, Flak, with work colleague David Burleson. We rehearsed once every two weeks and finished the first album, The Unbalanced, in June 2010. It's now on sale as a limited edition release - Sound of Flak : The Unbalanced.

Check out the Sound of Flak on myspace

Sheffield Music
I'm glad to come from the city of great music...here's just a few I grew up with: