The week’s conversation between the band started with a phone call to me from Hugh. “Hi mate, hope you are well, apparently we might be in the studio on Friday” I answer: “Really? Who with?” “Not sure buddy, Paul seems to know a little more, that’s all I’ve been told. Nothing definite yet though.” I said, “thank you.” After that I phoned Paul immediately. He also explained that he did not really know much more, but said at this stage it is just an enquiry for recording an advert.
I can never contain my excitement about anything we do, I love playing and spending time in a studio for somebody else was thrilling to say the least. The next day I finally got the phone call I was waiting for. Paul: “Hi, can you be at Hugh’s house in the morning for 6.30am? We’re heading into London to record the Nike 2010 World Cup advert.” Actually it is not even worth trying to describe what I said. I think it was a combination of strange noises and running about the place in excitement. I was at work and I’m sure the guy trying out the new guitar in the corner thought he was in a mental asylum rather than a music shop.
After I calmed down, the reality of the situation started to hit me. We were to be employed as session musicians for the soundtrack to the advert. At this point we didn’t even know what we would be playing. I have been a teacher for many years and researched drummers working in this situation. Ralph Salmins is one of London’s top session players. Ralph has worked with many artists including Robbie Williams, Van Morrison, Tom Jones; the list goes on, why wasn’t he doing this gig? Why us? I shouldn’t really knock it, but we are just a small time Rock & Roll band.
After a relatively excitable sleepless night, I met the guys and we headed to London. The company we were working for was called A-Bomb. A-Bomb has been a major leading force in creating adverts for many companies. Past clients have included, Adidas, Audi, Coca Cola, Fosters, Guinness, Heineken, Lynx, Vodafone, VW and of course Nike. With a client list that long, this was clearly the real deal. The place the recording would be done was The Garden studio in Shoreditch. Again it was clear they meant business, the studio is equipped with vintage gear throughout, so they were hoping to create a realistic fifties sound. Past clients of the studio included the Happy Mondays and the Arctic Monkeys, we were certainly following in the footsteps of giants.
It soon became apparent that they were looking for a standard Rock & Roll band that was used to playing together. I guess that makes sense, considering what they were trying to achieve. At the point of entering the studio I thought we had got the job already and we was to be the soundtrack of the World Cup. I guess we can all get a bit carried away sometimes, but as far as we were concerned, that’s what was happening. The reality of the situation soon became apparent as we settled into the day.
A-Bomb was a company tendering for the soundtrack along with many others. At this stage, they were not guaranteed the recording. Over the past months they had been working on another idea, but had a last minute change of heart with the style choice. It was down to us to recreate this idea. I guess the key words here are, “last minute” and “idea”. Usually they do not go well together, but I was confident we could nail this. The producer handed out our charts so we could start working through the track. Me? No problem, read the entire time- boy, was I ever in for a shock?
It wasn’t a chart in the traditional sense, but just a map of instructions. Twelve bar here, nine bar here, solo for two bars and finish; you know the kind of thing. That was the problem though, NINE BAR? The whole piece was written around an advert that had already been filmed and finalized. Everything that we played would be synced along with the action and content. Whilst my kit was being covered in microphones, I found a quiet corner and tried to work myself through the track and decide how I was going to approach it. There wasn’t any pacific way; they were looking for ideas, so I really had to think how I was going to play this. It’s never easy when you have only heard the track a few times.
I have mentioned before about the different personalities in Wild, but it concerned me when Hugh walked out of a meeting we had with the producer. I quickly followed and asked him what was wrong? He answered, “I think this is all a bit out of my league, it’s alright for you, you read.” I disagreed with him and reassured him that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. My reading skills are with proper transcripts, this was just a map of changes, and we are all on the same level. Deep down I was just as nervous as Hugh, but I knew what a great bass player he is.
We got our heads around the track reasonably quickly; the problem being was the different time changes and odd bars. Everything we did was not the usual format for Rock & Roll. With the extra demands from the producer, I was starting to feel the pressure. Firstly I tried playing the track with sticks, it sounded fantastic through my headphones. No, that wasn’t the sound they wanted. “Try it with brushes… No that’s not right, go back to the sticks… Sorry Glenn, I think I prefer the brushes… Glenn you’re doing a kind of double thing, can you just play it straight?….” “No problem, this okay?” “Yep that’s fine just go crazy over this bit, no not that much- Just try it with the sticks again” etc, etc. We hadn’t even played the track all the way through.
The reason for all the changes became obvious when we finally got to see what we were working with. We retired for a break in the control room where they had the advert running along with what we had already done. You have possibly seen it by now, but there are varying degrees of moods that Rooney experiences. By using different dynamics it accentuated the atmosphere of the advert. I understood what they were trying to do, but the frustration of everything was still getting to me.
Because the track was so unconventionally Rock & Roll, I found myself having to count every section out loud. This was a massive help to us all, but unfortunately it was being picked up over my drums microphones. Could anything else cause us problems? Luckily Paul came up with a great idea. He asked me to go into the Control room and count out the whole track; they would record me and then play it through our headphones. I’d never experienced this before, but it worked brilliantly. Back in the room and we are finally starting to play it all the way through. Smiles start appearing, we could actually get this right. After three or so successful takes the producer shouts, “We’ve got it” and gives us the thumbs up.
Even though we had got this far, the job wasn’t quite complete. I was quickly sent back into the studio and told to go nuts. The intro to the advert involved, as did most of it, a tackling scene finishing up with a goal. Drum solo? I don’t mind if I do, Paul was then left to do all the “overdubs” on guitar.
At this point, I need to explain what happened to us. We got stressed with each other, we argued, we played great and we did it. I knew that I could do the job confidently, what I didn’t know, was how hard it would be. With all the experience I have, I still managed to learn a lot that day. We often have a bit of friendly banter between us about who is the most talented member of Wild. That day we came out as equals. Hugh drove that Bass like a train, tuneful, killer and spot on. Paul kept his cool and played like the most amazing guitarist I know he can be. What did I do? I played my heart out and experienced what a lot of musicians strive to become. I often hear from music graduates, “I want to become a session musician.” Trust me, you are going to need more than a degree for that. I feel that I am a better musician and teacher for the experience, but most of all we created music. That’s why I started playing drums and that ‘s why I shall carry on.
Our sound track didn’t make the final choice, I think we were a strong contender, but I guess the better man won on the day. The advert is now being shown between each football match during the World Cup. Did we miss out? Possibly, but I got to experience what it’s really like to do a top session recording. I also experienced working with some brilliant musicians who happen to be great friends.
Maybe we’ll hit it big next time with a Washing Powder advert, you never know!
A few weeks ago I received the final copy with our recording on it. Unfortunately I cannot put it online because of various legal reasons. Do I like it? I love everything about it and I am not even a football fan.
Thanks for reading!