Episode 6. Vow Wow and Recording 'V' in Ibiza
Yesterday I bought myself a new ghetto blaster for this journey and it was the last thing I put in the van before I drove to the port of Dover at 2am in order to catch the early ferry to Calais. I checked all of the equipment through customs and boarded a ferry named The Spirit Of Free Enterprise. After clearing customs in France at 7:30am, I headed straight to the motorway for the long drive south to Denia in Spain where I will take another ferry to the island of Ibiza. About an hour later, I was stopped by the French police and they asked to inspect the van and all the equipment inside. I protested and showed them the paperwork that says I had just cleared customs an hour ago but to no avail. I had to empty the truck on the side of the motorway while they went through everything looking for…well, actually, they never told me what they were looking for. Thirty minutes later, I was told to put everything back in the truck and to drive on. The only possible reason for any of this is because I had British licence plates and the French hate the British and decided to have some fun with me. I drove steadily through the day arriving in Lyon at about 7pm and looked for a hotel. I found one that quite amazingly, had no guests other than me. After dinner, I checked my case and discovered money had been stolen: it could only have been the French police. Feeling somewhat tired and grumpy, I went to bed but couldn’t sleep through the constant noise coming from the other rooms which were now filled with prostitutes and their clients.
Arrived at the studio just after midday after another 24 hours of driving and ferries. Ibiza is a small island off the coast of Spain, very beautiful and Mediterranean with glorious blue skies and sunshine. The studio is residential meaning that we will eat and sleep there as well as recording and the studio manager is Bill Cayley who used to work for Thin Lizzy so he already knows the producer we are using, Kit Woolven, as Kit worked on several Thin Lizzy albums. The local staff are polite and welcoming and the studio itself is very spacious and comfortable, set up in the hills about twenty minutes drive from one of the main towns. There is a Table Tennis table, large outdoor swimming pool with patio and a bar and a magnificent dog called Ike who seems to have taken an instant liking to Kyoji. Today we will settle into our accommodation and tomorrow I will start setting up equipment, putting on a complete new set of drum heads and helping Kit to get sounds; the next day we will begin to record. I’m very glad I brought my camera on this trip and I’m also very glad the French police didn’t steal it.
(click images to expand)
Ibiza Sound Studios in its heyday in 1987. Located in the hills near the town of Sant Llorenç, it was completely destroyed by a fire on 7th February, 1990.
Backing tracks are being recorded with Toshi and Neil drums and bass which means I am generally free for most of the day. So far I have played a lot of Table Tennis:
Kyoji; Played 19 games. Kyoji 19 Glenn 0
Genki; Played 3 games. Genki 2 Glenn 1
Rei doesn’t want to play Table Tennis.
The studio has spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and is only accessible by driving up private dirt road that runs for about a half a kilometre. The speed limit of that road is 10km per hour due to its uneven surface. Today I had to go into town and do some errands and Kyoji asked if he could come along for the ride. On the way down I asked him if he knew how to drive and he replied that he didn’t. ‘Do you want to try?’ I asked knowing that it was a private road we were on and therefore anything that happened would not have any criminal repercussions. We changed seats and after a brief instruction from me, Kyoji didn’t so much as drive as chug and bounce our way down the dirt road with a big grin on his face. At the bottom, without warning, he turned left onto the main road and started to move up through the gears. This was worrying. Kyoji doesn’t have a licence to drive in Spain and any accident would have us in deep trouble with the local authorities. Thankfully after a kilometre or two I suggested he turn around and we head back. This he did with great confidence and he drove the short distance to the dirt road. As we approached it, I told him to turn gently into it but a slight rush of adrenalin caused by oncoming cars or seeing how narrow the entrance was, caused him to turn the wheel too far, press the accelerator too quickly and the next thing we know is that we have crashed into a tree. The big grin on Kyoji’s face had gone and was replaced with one of disbelief. Fortunately neither the tree nor the van were badly damaged (the indicator on the van is broken which the French police might stop me about) but I fear Kyoji’s driving confidence has been shattered. I told him not to worry but I think from now on, I’ll do all the driving.
All the backing tracks are finished and now it’s time for the guitar tracks. We didn’t bring our own Marshall 4 x 12 cabinets which is unfortunate because the ones here sound terrible. I had to take them all apart and rebuild them with extra baffles and wiring to get them sounding right. Then we had buzzes in the guitar leads and amps which were caused by an earth loop on the Rockman II. That was quickly solved by lifting the earth on the Rockman unit but all this cost us half a day in the studio.
Took Toshi to the beach for a few hours. In the evening he was suffering from sunstroke as he hadn’t applied any sun cream so I ordered him to bed with a big bottle of water. I finally beat Kyoji at Table Tennis today, twice.
Me looking remarkably fit and healthy emerging from sea on one of our frequent trips to the local beach.
Even though I have been working with Vow Wow for a few months, today is the first day I’ve had to set Rei’s keyboards up on my own. He’s using a Roland Jupiter 8, Yamaha DX7, Minimoog, Novatron, Roland S-50, Korg Polyphonic Ensemble and DSS-1 and two effects racks containing a DCB Converter, Ibanez Reverb, Dimension D, Roland Delay, TOA mixer and expander, a Yamaha midi router, Roland Stereo Chorus and a Korg DVP-1. There are some other effects in there but quite frankly I have no idea what they are or do. Everything is connected by a bunch of leads that can best be described as spaghetti.
Yesterday I pleased everyone by repairing the VCR which has been broken since Tuesday. Today we start recording the vocals so this morning Neil and myself went into town for a couple of hours for a bit of shopping and a beer. I’ve known Neil for several years but only socially at gigs or parties. On this trip I have been very pleasantly surprised to find out how intelligent he is and also how dedicated to his instrument he is. He practices for two hours every day whether he’s recording or not. He’s also a very good practical joker and several members of this trip have already been the butt of his jokes.
The studio had the reputation of having some of the most sophisticated equipment around,. The lounge, rather less so.
Last night after recording finished we went to a party at house owned by a friend of Dave Holland. Dave is the drummer in Judas Priest and quite what Dave’s friend does for a living we were never told but he’s obviously very wealthy. I started talking to a guy about my age who lived on the island whose father is a film director; the guy himself modestly told me that he dealt drugs in the clubs to support his lifestyle and then produced a bag of cocaine about the size of my fist asking me if I’d like some. Later on, we spotted luminaries including Roger Taylor from Queen, actor Denholm Elliot and racing driver Niki Lauda. I wanted to talk to them but couldn’t think what to say.
I have a terrible hangover from last night. So do Kyoji and Toshi. Neil seems to be ok and Rei is 100% because he was sensible and didn’t drink much. John Pearson, Vow Wow’s UK manager, vomited in the sink when he arrived back at the studio and is still in his room asleep as I write at 3:20pm. I wandered into the studio tonight to watch Genki record some vocal tracks. He’s a perfectionist doing take after take until both he and Kit are satisfied.
Band and producer meetings were held by the pool. Left to Right: Toshi, Kyoji, Genki, Kit, Rei, engineer Dennis Herman and Neil.
Time to go. It’s 10:35am, the van is packed and I’ll do one last check around the studio before setting off for home.
Arrived back home at 2:10pm. I had a three-hour sleep in the van somewhere around Vichy so it was about 48 hours of driving. Coming back seemed longer but I had a new tape of Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits in the ghetto blaster and the bonus of the French police not stealing anything.
Post Script 30th May 2020
It was about a month after that last entry and I was sitting at home on a Sunday evening when my phone rang. It was Bill Cayley and he said he was leaving Ibiza to return to England and wondered if I would be interesting in taking over as the studio manager. We talked for twenty minutes about what it would entail, salary, etc and I said I’d seriously consider it but a few days later I called back and declined the offer.