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Me versus myself - The Making of Soho Dreams

Ian Page talks to Ian Page about the latest Secret Affair Album


Ian: So come on then you arrogant fool, why couldn't you just do a normal interview with a music journalist and talk about your latest album?


Page: You know, I've done a lot, and I mean a lot of interviews - and the questions are almost always identical. And I've often thought - no matter how I try, if the questions are going to be identical - then the answers are going to be at least similar, and that if you are a Secret Affair Fan wanting to read about the band - it must be desperately boring to read any of our most recent coverage because it all seems to be about 30 years out of date. Only a few days ago - Tracey Wilmot, our communications manager showed me a recent, pre-gig piece from a local newspaper with the headline 'Mod Revivalists'. I mean, are you having a laugh? If you want to talk about anything mod, please don't tell me it's being 'revived' for gawd's sake. Sixties fashion, style, design, music have been all-pervading in contemporary culture - at least since the day that someone coined the phrase 'Brit-Pop' - a period in which I took no personal part but considered a self vindication of every lash and slash I took from the likes of NME when it used to be a music paper rather than a music brand and all those other middle class - just out of university - can't get a job on a proper newspaper journalists who worked so hard to steal my livelihood because I said that Punk was disappearing up its own orifice and that it was time for something else to happen.


Ian: You Digress


Page: Yes, sorry i do that - but I think people should know that I am as angry now as I was then about the way that the most significant change in pop culture was covered then and now. Punk was a vitally important catalyst for change - but I think that the advent of say, The Jam, or later on, Oasis was of far more musical/cultural importance in the UK than iconic figures like the Pistols or The Clash. That which endures about Punk remains in the word 'No'. No to the rest of society - no to how most of have to look, live and exist in modern life. I admire it but I always have, and always will admire more the fact that you can acceptably speak on behalf of a Global corporation in a slick, black 3-button suit, button down collar white shirt and slim tie and equally, get that job you desperately need at the local Tesco or High street chain dressed in the same style because style says many things about a person, and nobody trusts a man who doesn't polish his shoes...I'm really digressing now, aren't I?


Ian Yes, I think you've crossed a line there, somewhere...


Page:Ok, what were we talking about?


Ian:The latest album, Soho Dreams - weren't you promising its imminent release to fans years ago? What happened?


Page:Ah, yes - the album - well its all a bit strange. Apart from a couple of meets, Christmas drinks and nostalgic remininsces, Dave Cairns and I never really maintained contact after the demise of the original Secret Affair, and whether we should, shouldn't or danced the light fandango in the period that followed is a subject for another interview. But apart from a dalliance in the 90's, when we were asked to provide some extra tracks for a compilation album we never really kept in contact. But that particular dalliance was very interesting.....


Ian:Are you digressing...?


Page: Yes...but in a relevant, yet convoluted way...


Ian: This is why you should only do interviews with professional journalists who will keep you to the point


Page: Yes, true ...but its their point, and the one they start their interview with, they are rarely willing to journey to another...


Ian: You have now digressed upon your own digression


Page: Look just shut up and let me explain....


Ian: (angry silence)


Page: Anyway...Dave Cairns and I had no proper musical contact after the demise of Secret Affair when, out-of-the-blue Dave called me to say that an independent label had bought ownership of, and wanted to release the whole of the set from our contribution to the Mods Mayday 79 album which had, under dubious circumstances become a seminal album of what was then, honestly termed the Mod revival. The problem was they needed a few more songs and thought we might have some old crap locked away they could use to pad it out.


Ian: And did you?


Page: I'm glad you asked - its almost like doing an interview with someone whose question relates to something I said previously, rather than someone reading from a pre-prepared questionnaire...


Ian: I sense an impending digression...


Page: The thing is....even from our earliest days...Dave and I never wrote crap that had to be discarded. In our Secret Affair days - everything got used, because everything was good enough, because we crafted and crafted (in a songwriting sense) like a sculptor shaping clay rather than trusting to some random sense of...if we keep writing, something good will miraculously turn up. We didn't write in a way that would allow an entire song to metamorphose into crap. Of course we had some songs that were stronger than others - bet even then - there were ways of presenting to the rest of the band and arranging so-called weaker songs to strengthen them and increase their validity..


Ian:I'm sensing digre.....


Page: Yes, yes - the point is we had no old crap stuff hanging around - no crappy demos of unheard songs - I just mean that when Dave and I wrote it was always good and we worked hard rather than trusting to some miraculous muse, though the occasional muse was always welcome- nothing was thrown away - but this album needed padding - so we agreed to meet up and write a couple of new songs and pretend they were old songs because, to be honest we wanted the money.
At the time, Dave was a representative for Gibson Guitars with a base in Denmark Street, off what used to be called Tin-Pan Alley on the Charing Cross road and we agreed to meet there with a Guitar, an amp, me and him and possibly a pencil and paper to write a couple of songs we would then pretend were written and discarded 20 years earlier. And it was weird...


Ian: Weird?


Page: Yes, weird...I had brought a lyric and Dave had brought some chord ideas and i'm not kidding, although 20 years on from our last collaboration we wrote Land of Hope in about 30 minutes.


Ian: The formula still worked?


Page: Thats the first incisive thing you've said all day - but it makes us sound pop-prepackaged type writers which we are not...the chemistry just worked as well as it had in the past - it switched on a light in a darkened room and it startled me.


Ian: And then you wrote Soho Dreams...?


Page: Strangely, no - Dave wasn't interested in any further collaboration, he had an important and meaningful job with Gibson Guitars which would soon call him away to live in America and we just recorded Land of Hope and a weaker song called Soul Foundation plus and 2 other covers we had often put in early sets - sold them and never spoke again.


Ian: Until...?


Page: well first, I have to explain sync rights...


Ian: you're just messing with me now, right?


Page: no, really -you see it's not uncommon for say advertisers to pick up old songs and use them as the music for their adverts. But this can be very expensive due to rights and copyright issues. Ever keen to find new ways of denying musicians the right to be paid for playing their own music there is now a mini industry of getting poor underpaid musicians like myself to re-record any old hits they may have had and then sell on those new sync or synchronization rights at a fraction of their actual value so advertisers can make millions out of the true value of the original song they are using without sharing those millions with the musician who made their advertisement possible. Its actually worse than prostitution but..


Ian:...you digress?


Page: Ok - gonna put my hand up to that one....however....Dave Cairns got in contact with me again some years later - talking about a music publisher called Peer Music who wanted to do some kind of Sync rights deal for Time for Action and My World - which of course sounded hideous to me except for one thing Dave had spotted, and I had not....they had their own recording studio....
(pause)
So this is the deal we figured...Dave and myself would whore ourselves with this bizarre and fruitless duplication of our old hits (Time for Action & My World) in exchange for studio time we could use for our own new songs. And this is where the Soho Dreams album started. Except for one thing...we had no new songs.
We immediately collaborated at DC's Islington flat with the idea that we were going to make a fourth Secret Affair album. It was, for me, a painful process. I had a vast catalogue of material on hand - a lot of it written and recorded already when I was playing as 'Ian Page & The Affair, but Dave wanted no part of that. So we struggled and wriggled and worked on new ideas, and to be honest, I was growing tired of the project. But then - two things happened
The first was that 'The Affair' forgot that we were 'Ian Page & The Affair and treated me in an amazingly disrespectful manner, and the second was that a little light went on with a lyric I had e-mailed to DC. It was the complete lyric for the song, Soho Dreams - based very loosely around a single guitar shape/progression that Dave had been playing every time we met up. The silly way that 'The Affair' guys had treated me acted as a kind of catalyst...and I was reminded of how high DC set his professional standards, and how hard I had strived to sustain those standards with people who really had no idea of what could be achieved.
The lyric seemed to set Dave on fire, and the next time we met he had a raft of ideas based around the Soho Dreams lyric. We then proceeded to write the main part of the song over the course of a few weeks. The album would be called Soho Dreams and the album was truly begun.
During the course of these song-writing sessions, Dave had another riff that kept pulling my attention. To me it was a great r'nb/garage riff from the days when people used to know what r'n'b meant and it kept playing on my mind. At the time, I was involved in a rather delightful, but inevitably doomed relationship with a young pole-dancer who was as bonkers as she was beautiful, but not without brains to match her beauty, It was she who pointed out to me the similarities between what Girl-bands and Britney-type girl artists did in their videos and on-stage and what she did for an honest living, give or take an item of clothing or two.
With this in mind, I scribbled down a first verse at DC's flat based on his riff, and Turn Me On was born, 'Two swells, sex sells, and she sings as well, dances like a stripper, pull her zipper and she'll kiss and tell'..........I can't begin to tell you how long I crafted the rest of that lyric, save to say that Dave and I worked at the final version for a very long time, though the original ideas happened almost immediately.
Love's Unkind was a weird one. As some of you may know, I am a massive Otis Redding fan and had always wanted to do an Otis type song. Songs like 'These Arms of Mine' and many others were often based around a ¾ time with the guitar playing a chord/arpeggio around each chord. I had an intro and most of the lyric, and to my surprise, DC wanted to take it forward. I'm not sure we succeeded in my original aim...but I think it's a song that has real passion and a voice for those when 'love' goes wrong.
So things were going very well, We were accumulating tracks, had the support of a world renowned publisher who, apart from their own studio upkeep were able to support our development, and Soho Dreams looked an imminent release. The next phase went wonk in the oddest of ways...

We met, adored and wanted to work with PP Arnold in 2006 and soon reached an agreement where we would write a song for her, with the support of Peer Music -. We figured this would work well for all. Peer would acquire some catalogue by a supremely respected cult artist, we would benefit by contributing to the re-emergence of a divine singer we genuinely loved and, I don't deny, we traded off this arrangement - as before, with getting to record a song of our own as part of the session - thus acquiring another track for our album. DC's attitude to my own, self penned stuff had softened and we agreed that a song of mine - 'Ride' would be the song we should put forward.
I can't begin to tell you how much PP Arnold dithered and quivered about actually coming to the studio just for one day to perform the song we had written for her and she had already agreed to make. DC, in particular, had gone to strenuous lengths to make it happen, and make it easy, but the truth is we were badly let down. I had already told him she was going flakey but DC can sometimes be a terrier once he has an idea in sight and continued doggedly on. We laid down a backing track in full for a song called This Is My Time for PP Arnold but she never came., she out-dithered her ditherness and Peer eventually, quite rightly, said enough is enough. However we also got to lay down the song,' Ride' in full - but our stock with Peer Music was significantly reduced. In fact, we never got to record for them again.
We had half an album. It did not occur to us at that time that Peer Music would not want to see a return on their investment by completing that album - but that's the music business - and why I love it so,(not) because believe it or not - they did not.


Ian: So you gave up?


Page: Well...given that you're actually me that's a terrifically rude question


Ian: Pff!, I'm just your fictional self, what do I care?


Page: You need to understand that, as the 20th century closed and the 21st Century began - the UK music industry began to shrink and fold in on itself. They, and the Music Press had monumentally failed to understand and embrace the way in which the Internet - and 'New Media' were totally revolutionising the way in which people were consuming, and more importantly, wanted to consume their music. And all in all - they completely fucked it up. On the one hand, I was grateful to see the tumble in greatness of morons like EMI, NME, CBS and other multifarious acronyms; even a great organisation like Virgin became a new brand for uncomfortable train journeys and air flights with prissy stewardesses - but, conversely it had a push down effect on independent record companies, distributors and all the other small organisations who actually made music because they loved it.
Into this void stepped stuff like the X - Factor, And modern music, at least in the UK was cursed.


Ian: You do remember we're meant to be talking about the making of Soho Dreams?


Page: I'm explaining the gap, - between the finishing of what was effectively half of the Soho Dreams album and its final completion.


Ian: Talk to me more about the rest of the album and how it got finished.


Page: You're humouring me now, right?


Ian: I am - I have a deadline...


Page: Ok. Well 3,000 years later Dave Cairns and I had taken the 2002 revival of Secret Affair at the Shepherd's Bush Empire and its original line-up from a yearly nostalgia revival to another level. It had always been clear to me; and rapidly became clear, despite the split infinitive, to Dave Cairns that there was more interest, more at stake, and more to be done than some small time yearly nostalgia party - and we had, after all - half an album of new unheard material in the bank.
So we gigged, and we gigged, and we worked, and for every gig we tried to gross a little more money than we needed until we could establish some kind of turnover we could predict. We ended up unable to work with the other original members whom we dearly loved, but for one reason or another were unable to travel the journey that Dave and I thought was quite clear and with new people, fresh players and undiminished energy pushed ourselves back onto the live circuit.
Because of course, as I was trying to explain earlier, music as an industry had dramatically changed. The download market had made recorded music free. Bands were no longer making money from selling albums that they promoted by playing live - the situation was reversed. Live music was now the key - you had to be able to play , and play well. Here, Dave and I were confident -that if we could get the shows - our value would shine.


Ian:Are you still talking about the making of Soho Dreams?


Page:(sigh) Every spare pound that we were able to gather from the live shows we were able to perform represented investment we could make into completing the second half of the Soho Dreams album.


Ian:and...


Page:And so...in finality, every one of you who likes the band, is a Secret Affair fan, who bought a pin, a t-shirt, an old album, a ticket for a show....this is your album...you made it possible. Soho Dreams is self financed, and it was only by the strength of the support of our small but loyal fan-base that made completion of the album possible. We were able to approach the owner of a top class studio, Kore Studios in West London - stump up some cash and finish the album with some new songs that Dave and I put together in a very short space of time. And we have to be very grateful to George Apsion the studio owner of Kore who risked working with a band without a big label supporting them to make the album happen We owe him a different kind of debt.. And finally, I should give a big up to Dave Cairns himself - who dealt with every business nuance of resurrecting a record label (I-Spy) setting up distribution and licensing and basically dealing with people with whom I cannot speak without bursting a blood-vessel. The way was left clear to arrange, produce and therefore make a professional album, rather than a glorified demo.
Because, when all is said and done ff we can't make an album without class, style and passion - it wouldn't be a Secret Affair album at all, would it?

///end

If anyone would like me to detail how each track was put together happy to do so, but at the time of writing - only 3 people have commented on the new album on our website (www.secretaffair.info) so will wait and see.

trACEy SAYS: Dont forget to tell us what you think of the new album and the interview on the guestbook. AND please LIKE the new Secret Affair Official page on facebook. Cheers!

For up to date fanbase news e mail trACEy on traceymod@yahoo.com

Catalogue Number: I-SPY2012

AVAILABLE AT HMV, AMAZON and signed copies at the shows.

 

 

MY WORLD PROMO VIDEO 1980

This rare and recently rediscovered Secret Affair footage was shot on film (rather than video) and is a real gem.Directed by Steve Barron 1980the video was filmed on location on Primrose Hill and other London landmarks.Steve Barron also directed the first promo video Time For Action.
The line up in 1980 featured Ian Page on vocals and trumpet,Dave Cairns guitar and backing vocals,Dennis Smith Bass and backing vocals,Seb Shelton on drums and Dave Winthrop on sax.

 


My World was the follow up single from the Behind Closed Doors album released Feb 21st in 1980.Penned by Dave Cairns and beautifully produced by Ian Page, this single remains to many the ultimate Secret Affair track and placed the band in the charts yet again-reaching number 16 in the charts on March 8th and remained in the charts for 9 weeks having sold over 175,000 singles. The artwork featured a map of the world in the centre of the disc and for a time you could buy the My World badges with the same logo.Taken from the second album it was the track that featured during the World Tour of 1980.