Me versus myself -
The Making of Soho Dreams
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
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it all seems to be about 30 years out of date.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...
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.
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..
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....
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
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...
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
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
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.
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?
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Catalogue Number: I-SPY2012
AVAILABLE AT HMV, AMAZON and signed copies at the shows.