The Container Drivers
The Container Drivers, June 2003 The Ex-Members of The Fall Club

How we came to contribute a track to the Woog Riots' 'A Tribute To The Fall - Perverted By Mark E.'
We were invited to submit a song for the Fall tribute by one of those happy coincidences.
After a hiatus of six years, the Container Drivers duo of Keg and Rik got back together in February 2003 to write a song for Falling Uphill, a compilation CD being put together by a friend in America called Darrell Whitbeck. "The Girl on the Bus" was the result. We recorded the song three months later with help from a workmate of mine, Glyn Bailey (of him you'll hear more later). The Woog Riots had also submitted a song for Falling Uphill. They spotted our band name amongst the other contributors and not unreasonably suspected that we could be fans of The Fall. They got in touch with me via email in March 2003 and asked if I would be interested in submitting a song for their planned Fall tribute.
It just so happened that for several years I'd had the idea for a Fall pastiche rattling around my head. All I had written in my mind at the time the Woog Riots got in touch was perhaps a fragment of the lyrics and an idea of the kind of shifty rhythm it would have. So here was an excellent opportunity to get the song out of my head and onto tape. Over the next couple of months I slowly wrote more of the lyrics and jotted down ideas for the music. I was certainly guilty of not exactly rushing myself over the project, and almost before I knew it, the month was May and the deadline for sending in the song was looming. I checked again with Marc from the Woogs at the beginning of that month, and he confirmed that all submissions had to be in by the end of June. Yikes! So I had to get my skates on, particularly as I hadn't even finished writing the lyrics at this point...
My mate Glyn from work generously said we could use his 16 track portastudio to record the song on, with him acting as engineer / producer. Rik and I used his home studio facilities on Wednesday 28th May 2003, when we recorded 'The Girl on the Bus'. We used a drum machine for that track, as it suited the mood of the song. Up to that point, all previous Container Drivers recordings had been made using a drum machine, but I knew that the shuffling Fall-like rhythm I had in my head ideally needed a proper drummer to do it justice. But where could I find one to help out? Rik's old friend and former housemate in Leeds (Bryn) played the drums, but unfortunately he was away on a year-long backpacking trip. I knew a guy at work who was in a band, so I asked him if their drummer could help us out. Unfortunately, this avenue proved to be a dead-end and time was running out. To further complicate things, Glyn had other interests that meant that he wasn't available at weekends, so any recording session would have to be done mid-week. May then slipped into June and at last our luck changed. Bryn returned from his trip just in time to play on the recording. Due to work commitments, Rik was unable to come over for the recording session, so Glyn manfully stepped into the breach, armed with his Telecaster.
On Thursday 19th June 2003, we assembled in Sawmills rehearsal studio in Blackpool. The main aim of the evening was to record the drums; we could overdub everything else back at Glyn's house if necessary. A couple of weeks earlier I'd recorded a demo of the song on my four-track, manually tapping out the drum rhythm on a drum machine key pad. Boy, was that fun to keep up for three minutes! I'd sent Bryn the tape, so he knew what I had in mind. Our session was the first time that he'd played the drums in a year, but he soon got into the swing of things. We recorded a couple of live takes, with vocals as well, until we were happy with the results. Glyn then re-recorded his guitar, taking advantage of the studio environment to crank up the volume. The playback sounded great - I was still on a high when I got home!
The following evening, I went to Glyn's house to resume the recording. When Glyn had set up his equipment back at home, he discovered that the bass drum microphone hadn't worked properly, so all that had been captured was a rather muffled thump. He did what he could to boost the bass frequencies. There was no time to arrange another session, so he had to do the best he could with what had been captured that night. I re-recorded my bass track that evening, in addition to adding vocals. Glyn put down some keyboard sounds as well. We reconvened the following Tuesday, with Vicky as our guest vocalist. I'm not sure if she knew what she was letting herself in for. "I thought I would be singing but it's just weird!" she exclaimed, probably after I'd asked her to yelp like Brix! After having our photo taken in the garden, we bid Vicky goodbye with our thanks, and finished off the recording process with the addition of kazoo, violin and harmonica. We also dubbed the background conversations that you can hear in the linking piece between the two parts of the song. This was Glyn's idea and was great fun to do. By the way, I had planned to have a third part of the song. I'd envisaged a waltz beat to fade in after the main song had ended, with some lo-fi noises recorded on an open mic in the room. I thought we might tune through some radio stations, or have a TV on in the background, with added conversation and perhaps a door opening and closing (reminiscent of 'God Box'.) But at five and a half minutes, I felt the song was already long enough.
That was the recording finished. Mixing the song proved to be less than straightforward. We started on Thursday 26th June. I came away with a mix that evening, but after listening to it at home I felt it could be improved, so we remixed it the following Wednesday. There were a lot of things to be punched in and out of the mix at different times. Although Glyn was able to automate many of these, he still had to do some of them manually, as well as sliding the faders up and down to accommodate the changes in recording volume. The megaphone parts had been recorded on the same track as the standard vocals, so the volume had to be adjusted each time this was used. Of course, one error meant that we had to scrap that mix and start all over again. We must have mixed it 20+ times. We were crawling up the walls by the end of the session, absolutely sick of hearing our song! We eventually got a decent mix, looked at each other and cried, "that will do!".
Incidentally, the second vocal that appears during the list of Fall members in the second part of the song (after "Tommy Crooks") was the result of an accident. That's actually the original live vocal take from the Sawmills studio session. During mixing, Glyn left the fader up during a playback and it fitted perfectly, so we left it in.
Thus, "The Ex-Members of The Fall Club" was complete.
Even though it was recorded in a bit of a rush and without any real rehearsal, I think it captures the spirit of The Fall and I'm proud of our little tribute to Mark E. Smith and the many others that have come and gone through those revolving doors...
Keg, 26 April 2004.
Back Home