You Cant Hide Beat

You know I'm a massive David Bowie fan, right? I'm not ashamed to say I'm a little bit obsessed. Hidden away in private fangirl seclusion, I've often enjoyed bashing out the odd cover version to myself - mainly the piano-driven ones (Time, Changes, both Ladies, Grinning Soul and Stardust, that kind of thing). Almost like a ritual, it’s another way to experience and appreciate the music from the inside out. Generally speaking, I despise most cover versions of songs that I love - why mess with something that already exists and is pretty much perfect? For this reason, I've never done this sort of thing in public often, and when I have it's only ever been for an audience of friends and fellow fans.

The first of the three Bowie cover gigs I’ve performed was for Trevor's 49th birthday party. Trev is a lovely man and Bowie fan of legend who I had gotten to know through BowieNet (www.davidbowie.com). He had asked my band to come and play the gig - I was fronting for Helzuki at the time. The band couldn't make it but I decided to offer to play some covers instead. Lugging my red furry piano, I pitched up and played a set of slightly more obscure/unobvious numbers. I met a few quizzical looks, but on the whole it went down pretty well. He invited me back the following year for his 50th birthday party - again with my piano, again with a new set of slightly off-kilter interpretations. Standout surreal moment of that party: singing Under Pressure with a Bowie impersonator.

The third, and last, time I did this was for Phil's 40th birthday party in February 2010. For Phil (another lovely man and Bowie fan of legend whom I had gotten to know via BowieNet), I wanted to do something a little bit different. With the party being held in a venue in SE London, it was impossible to lug my heavy piano across the city on the Tube. I decided to perform with my keytar, doing a set of songs in an electro style. I thought it might be funny and give the fans a bit of a laugh (while solving my
transport issues, since the Roland AX-7 weighs about the same as a cricket bat). I created some backing tracks in the studio, going for a Lady Gaga meets Goldfrapp kinda vibe. I cut the drum loop from the beginning of Soul Love and used it to accompany my new version of Always Crashing In The Same Car. I took the piano riff from Aladdin Sane and used it to flesh out the backing for I'm Deranged. So cheeky, I thought, and only a fan would have the awareness to spot it. After the gig, I had mixed reviews - in the eyes of some I had desecrated the holy relics, others loved it and asked if they could buy recordings from me. This was the best reaction yet, I thought to myself. Mental-note: I should record these for a laugh.

Once the summer hols had started, and I had a bit of spare time, I decided to get Liz to come up to Bedford and help me get the vocals down. I'd chosen six tracks, some new and some from Phil's electro birthday set. We got drunk on Jack Daniel’s and I bellowed out the lyrics while she pressed record in the control room. It was FUNNY. The productions were crude, bashed out quickly in a DIY-bedroom style. We joked about getting gothed up and posing for a cover photo in the woods sitting in a tree, and about how horrified the fans would be when they heard what we had done.

But, as time passed, it started getting serious, with the suggestion of a possible news feature about it on BowieNet. Liz arranged for the artwork to be done by the infamous Rex Ray, whom she is friends with. I started to panic - I enlisted my friend Paul Ross to help me with the productions. I started all the arrangements again; for the first time I had to really think about what I wanted to do with these songs - how could I put a modern spin on this, without taking the piss?

Inspiration came from everywhere - starting with Bowie's own back catalogue, which I scoured for usable samples to embed in my arrangements. Anyone who reads my blog will know that I'm really into this idea of using recordings as resources to construct new things, so I figured why not try it out here? At best, it might suggest new shades of meaning through association and memory; at worst it would be a type of treasure hunt/guessing game for the fans. Other inspiration came from a general desire to make a modern sounding trip-hop record - something that I have wanted to do for ages now; mixing the deep downtempo sounds of 90's-style trip-hop with more modern timbres you might associate with current pop or dubstep.

I've worked hard on this, and I'm proud of the result. I'm honoured and humbled by the volunteered involvement of so many talented and creative people:
Kristian Purcell painting my face to look like Screaming Lord Byron and taking the cover photo, Rex Ray volunteering to design the cover and make a fangirl's dream come true, Matt Greasley and Izzy Foster for making those beautiful videos, Paul Ross, who helped me raise the bar on this project and spent many long evenings after work making my voice sound good, my boyfriend Matt for putting up with my absenteeism and helping with the mastering... and not forgetting Liz Tray who was there, drunk and giggling with me in the beginning, who really championed this project and pushed it from being nothing more than a joke to something we can both be proud of.

Here it is:

You Can't Hide Beat