Switched On Radicals Album
September 17th, 2021!
“…like Gram Parsons on a Pavement trip…a night out on the Mescal with all your best mates if all your best mates are incredible instrumentalists.” Adam Walton, BBC Radio Wales
Lockdown shut down a lot but also lifted the lid on a whole new world of creativity, evidenced not least by Horse Trader, the brainchild of Swansea musician and artist Paul Battenbough, whose inspired idea it was to call in some flavours from trusted, formidably accomplished partners to make ‘Switched On Radicals’, an album of textures rich in imagination and style. Paul Battenbough tells the ‘Radicals’ story below, and it’s a fine tale bespeaking an album made by friends, with all the warmth and intimacy, mutual trust, and adventuring that brings. It’s a beautiful, gentle album.
Featuring an all-star cast of Welsh artists, including members of various Welsh bands including No Thee No Ess, The Cosmic Array, The Caves, Filmore, Everyone Else But Burt and more.
Horse Trader…this ride:
Paul Battenbough – artwork, songs, samples, electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards & vocals Huw Rees – drums & percussion | Mark Estevans – electric guitar, bass, mixing & mastering Bruce fellowes – electric guitar, bass, keyboards & vocals |Doug Stephens – synthesiser & bass
Horse Trader is a lockdown concept. All recording was done remotely in various homes and the tracks mailed to one another. Huw and I are long time collaborators, and we recruited a few friends to contribute who had home recording gear to be able to do it. I [Paul] wrote all the songs and recorded them to a click track. This was the first step. I then sent the lot to Huw to add drums. Huw then sent the tracks to the next in line. I think 7/8 tracks went to Bruce, Doug got 3/4 and Mark had a couple. There was no plan. It was an organic experiment. We did it like this because there was no other option to making a recording. I’d call it a recording band, not a real band as such. We don’t have any plans to play live or for the band to continue once things revert to normal, well not at present anyway.
The important aspects as far as the writing went, was to let it be a document of exactly where things stand for me in the present tense. The perilous political situation, the isolation, with some sci fi flights of fancy and general remarks on the philosophic and some psychedelic references to the death rebirth cycle. Fixing the lens on the embarrassingly wealthy despots who run the world and are taking us to the brink of extinction, felt necessary.
For this album we had a slightly different line-up to the first one, that was dictated by who was available.
I gave very little instruction to any of the other contributors. I just told them to play what they felt like expressing. It was all done on trust and knowing each other well. I knew exactly what each would bring from playing together previously. It gave everyone room to be creative and not have any limiting parameters. There were a couple of things that were corrected or changed, mostly over the awkwardness of my songs, which don’t really follow any kind of recognisable songwriting template, as I use tunings and have developed my own way of doing things. I’m sure they’d have liked charts or chords as guides, but I don’t work that way. Giving them the key was about the only clue I gave them, hence on occasion some difficulty in translation. I’ve no idea what the chords are anyway. I just draw chord shape diagrams and note the tuning to remember them. Sometimes I don’t even do that, so after a while they become unfathomable to me as well!
It’s a very loose, organic, intuitive process, with chance elements and happy accidents.
I find this lack of conscious intent helps rather than hinder the creative process.
Huw collated all the tracks, as he has lots of recording experience as he owns his own studio. He is far more experienced at this part than I am. Mark offered to mix and master the recordings.