James Bisset singing on stage at Gullivers NQ
AcousticAid, Manchester 2017. Image copyright © Barnabas Mersich Media

I was in Scotland recently, and bought a copy of the Sunday Herald, for a while there the only newspaper to support Scottish independence. And this in a country where almost half the people support independence too.

Anyway, to my delight I discovered that they’re running a competition to find the next big Scottish band amongst the denizens of the unsigned! I was a little disconcerted to see a lazy and wholly unecessary emphasis on being young, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a mistake. Years ago, a friend of mine pointed out the fun to be had spotting co-locations, where one word is always accompanied by another. It’s never ‘indictment’, it’s always ‘searing indictment’. Ditto, it’s never ‘unsigned’, it’s always ‘young unsigned’.

So, being like totally unsigned and with a view to scoring the chance to open the Belladrum Festival this August as the prize (sometimes described as the Scottish Glastonbury because it caters for all ages and featuring a wide range of music and art), I thought I’d better review and finalise some of those recordings of mine languishing on SoundCloud.

The first step is to take a deep breath, look at all the comments and see what I can learn— oh, there aren’t any.

OK, the first step is to count up all the Likes and see which songs are most popular. ’Cept the Likes are like Frank Sinatra’s regrets, too few to mention. I suppose that’s the price for doing it My Way.

Right. OK, the first step is to fire up Logic Pro and listen to the original recordings. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Dear god, this is as stodgy as a pork pie without any pork in it!

I pride myself on writing songs with built-in push, which means you have to hold them tight when you’re performing or they’ll drag you down the street like a collie on a lead. These recordings have as much push as a drawer!*

If there’s one thing that characterises my performance, it’s energy. I stamp on my BeatRoot. I thrash at my guitar. I have a very loud voice - a what-wuss-set-up-a-microphone sort of voice. And the songs are all build and release structures - well, a lot of build and a wee bit of release. But how to get that energy into a recording?

Whaddaya reckon? Vocal doubling? Parallel compression? First Take Rule? Click track? No click track? I’ve heard of a digital recording plugin called ‘Maximiser’. Maybe that would do it?

Actually, y'know what? Forget all the tech. What I need is a little bit of magic - a little bit of fairy dust.... a little bit of fucking fairy dust.

Just put a little bit of fucking fairy dust over the bastard

*Suggested by my wife when I was struggling to come up with an appropriate metaphor. I’m not completely convinced it works. Drawers push as well as pull. Ach, whatever, they’re more successful than I am in their chosen rôle.