How we came do be doing Colon's CE Slab…
by Arron Clague
I first met Phil when I used to work Saturdays at a local record shop when I was at school and he would wander in to look at whatever was new & cool that week. At the time I certainly didn't know if he was in a band, and myself and Alistair were just at the stage where we were starting to make our first recordings with old second hand reel to reel tape recorders, borrowed synthesisers, and homemade computer sequencing.
One of the first recordings we made was in response to an advert in an old electronics magazine for music to be written for a BBC educational program. Ever the optimists, we invested heavily in a TDK D45 cassette and a UK postage stamp, and all went according to plan when our submission was accepted and we were off to the BBC's Maida Vale Studios to record with the BBC's Radiophonic workshop.
We worked with a gentleman called Roger Limb, and had a go at re-recording it with their slightly better technology: We had a commodore 64, a Roland SH101, and a Spectrum, all wired together with an old radio to amplify the clock pulse to keep the computers and synth in sync, while they had a G series SSL, Apple Macs, Banks of samplers, 9 DX7's (!), an ELKA Synthex etc. For whatever reason, no one liked the new version, and so they used the original we had recorded on the Isle of Man in the end. This was 1987, and I still have my first recording contract, co-signed by my headmaster giving me the time off school. We duly finished A-levels and headed off to University in England.
During my absence from the IOM, Colon must have started, and sometime in 1990 I believe they were also making the trip from the IOM to Maida Vale Studios, but under the invitation of the mighty John Peel.
I was of course unaware of this at the time, and the first time I heard CE Slab was in 1992 when I was working with another ex-member of Colon, Nicky, on some electronic music. I was always impressed by the sheer power and weight of the material.
So, when Phil asked us to contribute to this project, it seemed like we had quite a lot of affinity with Colon, and so we choose to do CE Slab, thinking we could probably try to make it sound like a more modern version of DAF, Cabaret Voltaire, The Normal type of vibe, as it never changes key, and doesn't contain any chords. So thats what we did. Alistair is singing (well shouting, anyway) and playing violin, and I'm doing the computer programming and speech synthesis.
There is also a strange little story in the middle - which was not on the original - which details the fact that the archive vault for the BBC is also under the Maida Vale Studios, and contains old stuff like old government tapes to be played in case of foreign invasion.
In my head, I'm imagining an old clockwork orange type experiment from the 1940s UK government, where exposure to specific sounds could send you into an aggressive paranoid rage, which is detailed in the original Colon Lyrics. CE Slab sounds like a secret government sonic weapon programme to me.
So thats what we did, and why we did it. Too many coincidences stretching over 20 years to ignore, really!