Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wayne Jackson - The Storm


Bill Shankly the legendary football trainer of Liverpool FC in the 60s and early 70s once famously said…..”Football's not a matter of life and death ... it's more important than that.” He was mistaken of course. If he’d substituted music for football he’d have been much more accurate.

Aged 15, in an average rainy Manchester suburb, Wayne Jackson informed his sports teacher he would no longer be participating in the school football team and in future would be spending his time in other more productive ways. Typically, this would be attempting to play an electric guitar at deafening volumes through an old WEM amplifier belonging to his oldest brother.

Sadly it all sounded rather uninspiring until one day the very same brother returned home from work with a tape delay echo effect machine. Immediately after plugging it in and wiring it up, Wayne was able to replicate the more ambitious sounds of his favourite bands U2, The Chameleons and Joy Division. From this point on, it was obvious where his passions lay. Manchester City Football Club would have to look elsewhere. Over the course of the following years, the echo machine remained on. It became part of the fabric of his guitar sound.

Switch scenes to the Hansa studios in Berlin, 20 years later, and Wayne can still be found playing his electric guitar at deafening volumes through an old Vox amplifier this time, but the old tape delay is still there. Not the original one of course. This was lost along the way, swapped in a misguided attempt at progress in the early 80s for a plastic digital effect from Japan. Everybody makes mistakes. But this time he’s laying down guitar tracks for his first solo album with the renown Swedish producer and mixer Michael Ilbert (The Cardigans, The Hives, Supergrass, The Hellacopters).

The intervening years were not uninteresting. Wayne’s brother again reappeared as a catalyst when he left his day job and became a live sound engineer. Over the next 15 years he would work for a whole host of seminal groups; New Order, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Happy Mondays, Electronic, The The, Primal Scream, Oasis and The Chemical Brothers. Wayne was often invited along to shows as a teenager and was able to see things from the shadows of backstage.

Wayne left Manchester to study at the University of Wales aged 18 and never stopped moving. He graduated with a degree in English Literature and formed a band called the Dostoyevskys. They signed to Go!Discs in London and began touring extensively in the UK and Germany. They crossed paths with fellow Mancunians Oasis and supported them at the height of their fame on two legs of their European tour.

Eventually Wayne decided the band no longer fitted his needs and he split the group to focus on his more personal solo material.

He fell in love with a girl from Berlin, packed his possessions and crossed the channel heading for the old German capitol.

His new Berlin life offered fewer distractions. It was a kind of spiritual exile. He wrote songs prolifically, day after day sitting in the small Berlin apartment he shared with his girlfriend. He started to train kickboxing and several years later entered into the German championships achieving a semi-final spot.

Along the way he co-produced, co-wrote songs and played his echo guitar on the solo album of German punk legend and friend Bela B. He also joined Bela on tour as part of the Los Helmstedt band. The Echo Award nominated album peaked at number 2 in the German charts and achieved wide critical acclaim. They headlined at Rock Am Ring, Rock Im Park and the MTV Campus Invasion.

He also played a similar role for another member of the flourishing Bela B. family, Lula. Her delicious album entitled “Lost In Reverie” will be released this year too.

Switch scenes again. It’s December 2004 and it’s the birthday party of world famous Trance DJ Paul Van Dyk. Wayne’s manager hands Paul a demo featuring a few of Wayne’s songs. Paul was so inspired by the voice, he immediately wrote a track for Wayne to sing. The layout was sent and over Christmas Wayne furiously added lyrics, a vocal melody and guitar harmonies and the track Glorious was born. Paul then asked him to do a similar job on a second track called The Other Side which. This appeared on Paul’s Politics Of Dancing 2 album and was released as a single world wide. Wayne also sang live with Paul at a number of live shows culminating in a performance in Central Park, New York in front of a sell out crowd of over 10,000 people. Glorious will now finally see the light of day as Wayne’s first single.

Record deal offers came and went with the seasons, but none of the situations seemed right. Pavarotti once said “Compare music to drinks. Some is like a strong brandy. Some is like a fine wine. The music you're playing sounds like Diet Coke.” Sadly the labels chasing Wayne seemed to be more interested in no name cola.

For a brief period it looked like Wayne might relocate to the US, after whisperings of typically fabulous record deals, but unsurprisingly he returned to his second home Berlin and signed to the fledging label BPX 1992 headed by the iconic figure of Fitz Braum. It was no coincidence it was also the home of Bela B. and Lula. For the first time since leaving Manchester it felt like he had found a new family.

Wayne’s new album has fittingly enough been recorded in Berlin. It features a guest appearance on violin from Goldfrapp’s Davide Rossi who has also recently added his flavours to the new Coldplay album. Apart from the drums which were played by Swedish maestro Christer Jansson, the rest of the instruments were played entirely by Wayne himself. Producer Michael Ilbert also managed to organize the first live recording in the Meistersaal in Hansa studios, the room where Bowie’s Heroes, U2’s Achtung Baby, and many other important songs were recorded. It was the first session there for 17 years. The studio was closed and stripped soon after U2 left in 1990.

The songs unashamedly hark back to the kind of sounds Wayne was listening to all those years ago in Manchester. It’s time. The circle is complete.

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