It’s the best time. When you go into record the vocals over the tracks with the headphones on or when you open your lips to sing that first line at a live gig to a big crowd – there is nothing quite like it.
I wasn’t blessed with any great voice and so I had to work my way into it. I just knew that I wanted to sing.
Singing with Louise in the early days of Negative Theatre – no mics most of the time but she had a great voice and we sang well together. The importance of clarity in enunciating the words was key and we would spa off each other to deliver the stories. We didn’t get to record Negative Theatre till the last few months so we didn’t really know what we sounded like.
It’s very strange the first time you hear yourself – disquieting and you have to get used to it pretty quickly.
There was always a sense of angst in my vocal even then and with a very English accent that is embarrassing to me now. That all carried over into my vocals in the early Spines and the post-punk influence – I tended to sing in tune though and managed to voice the characters that were inherent in my songs. I was good at phrasing and I wrote songs I was able to sing.
By the mid-80s I had started to sing more soulfully – putting more of my subconscious into what came out and letting loose the animal. I would shape up the lyrics to new songs in live situations – just sing what came out and work out the finished lines later. It was a far cry from the word perfect early days.
In some ways my voice has always followed my guitar style and in the 90s I was playing more blue notes and solos. The singing rode along with that and into a wider range of material as well. Neill Duncan and I would work out harmonies and answering lines.
Over the years I’ve worked with some really good producers, they knew how to get the best out of my vocals – Ian Morris or Greg Bryce or Mark Austin or Brent McLaughlin. Usually, after the guide-vocal and the instrumental tracks were down, I would go in with my lyrics for the album and record the lead vocals in one big hit – pace it so that the raunchiest ones were at the end of the session. This is the shot and you’re going to have to live with this vocal till the end of your ears.
Like the songs and the guitar, my singing has always been a signature of the Spines and has evolved along with them. I’m not sure that anyone else sounds like me or would want to but I’m really enjoying my voice as it is now – I have the words I want ingrained, I can still hit most of the high notes.