My music history

One of the most stable, solid things about me throughout my life has been music.

I had been exposed to music and the music scene since I was a baby. I was probably only about 5 or 6 when I first sat behind my Dad’s drum kit which was set up in the garage of our house. Then a little later I had one of those orange coloured Bontempi organs which was powered by an electric fan, so I taught myself to play it. I used an old reel-to-reel tape recorder and me and a friend would record “radio programmes” on it, I’d play the jingles on the organ for the show. Later in the 1980s I upgraded to one of the first portable sampling keyboards, a Casio SK1. The demo tune was “The Toy Symphony” (or at least the most well known part of it. There was a microphone built in, and a little yellow button than when pressed would start recording. So I’d record some noises and then when I played the keyboard it’d used that sampled sound instead of the built in presets. I perhaps foolishly used to take it into school. I had a massive sports bag which was almost the same size as me which I’d fill with my school stuff, and the keyboard. Being portable with music has been a long time thing for me as well.

Something else I used to do in the 1980s, aside from constantly annoy people by drumming, normally with my hands and fingers on everything, was human beat box. I worked out how to use my mouth to make what I thought were pretty convincing drum sounds. Actually, later, as an adult, I did this through a microphone during a band rehearsal and I had people think there were real drums coming through the PA system. One of my things I was known for at school, was performing TV theme tunes entirely with my mouth. I was sort of popular but actually the attention wasn’t always welcome. The other kids would crowd around and practically force me to do things and I’d get overwhelmed by it all.

After the Casio sampling keyboard, I had at one point, 3 small keyboards. One Casio which had a large parameter dial on it and I could make synth sounds with, and which eventually one day I just decided to paint with black gloss paint (along with my TV and a few other things). I also had a couple of Yamaha keyboards and a stand to put all 3 on. I used midi cables to connect all of them and then ran them through an amplifier. This turned out to have a pretty powerful effect, as I could play sounds from all 3 keyboards at the same time, loudly. I used to program the drums and bass into the mainly the Casio, then play along to that. Then I got given one of these Amstrad combined record player and 4 track tape recorders, which I would record music on to. I’m hoping at least one of the tape’s is around at my Mum’s house somewhere. I think essentially I was making my own electronic, dance and ambient music, with some hip hop style beats. I also worked out how to do backwards effects with the 4 track, by turning the tape over, recording parts on that side, then turning it back over so the part I’d just recorded would play in reverse over the main piece. That and creating a fake echo and delay effect. Other than that, with the 4 track, I spent most Friday and Saturday Nights, recording the rock shows off of Radio 1.

Around 1989 I was at a friend’s house playing keyboards to him drumming. His brother’s friend had left a small Gibson short scale style bass guitar lying around. I picked it up and started playing it. I’d tried to play guitar before, had one lesson at school but firstly, I never liked being taught to play anything, I didn’t have the patience and attention span, and secondly I really didn’t like the feeling of trying to twist my fingers into unnatural shapes to make chords, so I quickly gave up. The bass felt different, only 4 strings, more space. I immediately liked the feel of the bass, not the sound, because it wasn’t even plugged in.

I bought the bass guitar for £5 and switched to playing bass mostly for the next 20 years.

When I was 17, I was taken round to a house, by a friend, and met a man named Nick Hayden. Nick was in his 20s, white, with a big baggy stippy jumper (which maybe his nan knitted), skinny black jeans and dreadlocks. I thought he was cool. He had a band called “Flite 118” (named after some pills, DF 118s, not a Tintin book). He’d told me he was from Rugby originally and settled in Oxford after he’d decided to leave his former band, which was about to get a record deal, shortly before a show in Oxford. The name of that band, from Rugby, was “The Darkside”. I’d never heard of them but he also said he once played drums in a band I had heard of, called “Spacemen 3”. My school at the time, had a couple of kids in the year below me, who had a band called “Ride”. I knew they’d done pretty well as I think one day the teachers wheeled in a TV and VHS player and showed us a documentary on them. Nick’s band, Flite 118 had recently been supporting them. Now, I think the previous bass player had left, or been sacked and Nick wanted a new one. So I got a tape to play and learn the bass lines, did a rehearsal and joined the band. Sadly I only played 1 gig with Flite 118. It was at Westminster College, for the Christmas ball in 1992. Just as Nirvana’s Nevermind album was getting very popular. Shortly after that Nick decided to quit completely (although I think he had one music project a while later). We stayed friends for a while though, I used to enjoy going round and visiting him and his then girlfriend, Cathy, who I also thought was pretty cool with her goth looks and hair shaven down the sides. Things were pretty tough for Nick though, they split up and then Nick met another woman and moved to Australia. I didn’t see him again for maybe more than 20 years.

After Flite 118, I continued to be in bands. The next one was less cool though, a country rock covers band called “The Big River Band” which was fronted by a guy, I think called “BJ” who was a Johnny Cash impersonator and appeared on the TV programme “Stars In Their Eyes”. My Dad was the drummer and I played bass. We rehearsed in a room about some dodgy pub in Aylesbury where I think a few years later someone got shot with a hand held crossbow. The pub was next to a taxi rank and my amp wasn’t properly shielded and every now and then, in the middle of a song the voices of the taxis drivers would suddenly come out of it over the music. The track list included stuff like Folsom Prison Blues (which I really like) and Crystal Chandeliers. I think the band peaked at playing Aylesbury Civic Centre to 800 people.

Published by Siobhán (she/her)

Musician, singer, songwriter, producer. Singer and Bass Guitarist with psychedelic rock band The Elephant Trip. My solo project is called Fire Healer. I am transgender and use she/her pronouns.

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