"Just For The Record" is a brand new section at the RockUnited site where 'DJ Urban' has a look at some old(er) records/albums in the great history of hard rock and metal. It could be some "obscure" minor record label release that simply didn't get the attention it so rightly deserved the first time around. It could also be a what you would call a "classic" album or sort of a best-seller. They all have one thing in common though. They all ROCK and and they all have at least one classy enough band member to answer our q's.
SIGNAL: "Loud & Clear"
SIGNAL and their debut album "Loud & Clear" from the year of 1989 (produced by Kevin Elson of Journey, Europe, and released by Capitol/EMI). The one and only release by the band is pretty much emotional AOR at its very best. A classic album of its genre and one of my personal favourite soft-rock albums. Signal consisted of mega killer vocalist: Mark/Marcie Free (King Kobra, Unruly Child), guitarist Danny Jacob (Sheena Easton, Marc Jordan), bassist Eric Scott (Alice Cooper) and drummer Jan Uvena (Alcatrazz). It's unfortunately another dreadful example of record company's poor business, not giving great bands any support nor promo. Sure, they were perhaps a couple of years late with their sound, but we're talking about 1989 for christ's sake!!! They would definitely have sold multi-millions with the right push. Just look at the Bad English album from the same year and these songs are just as great, plus, the singer doesn't mumble at all. The vocals on this album are really out of this world. A great singer is half of the album, a superb singer - priceless!!! By the way, Marcie Free's in the studio again, recording the comeback album with Unruly Child (see also the 'Just For The Record' episode with Unruly Child). Here to tell us everything about "Loud & Clear" and Signal, that very superb vocalist, the one and only... MARCIE FREE
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
We went into Fantasy Studios in Berkley, California the first week in January 1989 and we were finished around the third week of April that same year. We all were living in Los Angeles area at the time so we needed to rent a place while we were up there. We stayed at some condo place in Emeryville, California. It wasfun. They had a nice gym/work out room which I took full advantage of while I was there.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
The advance on the record was $182,500. I believe Kevin Elsonís fee was $90,000 and 2% of sales royalties. But it may have been 3% I am not quite sure now. Itís been a long time Wally. I am surprised I even remembered what the advance was! The studio pretty much ate up the rest. I recall maybe seeing around $5000 of the advance once everything was paid for. That may even be stretching it a bit.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
Not much. I donít believe we spent anything actually if I remember correctly. We were all very frugal with the money. As I said we needed to watch every penny if we wanted to end up being able to pay ourselves anything.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
If I recall correctly I think we rehearsed for a week in Burbank with Kevin but the production was not far from what we had planned before. Erik Scott had a grip on the reigns and kept Kevin pretty much on the plan he had for how we were to sound arrangement and production wise.
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
Kevin Elson did his thing but Erik had pre produced and arranged a lot of the parts before hand. Especially the keyboards. But Kevin brought his pristine ears and had a nice touch for tweaking things. He was responsible for the placements of the mics on all the instruments at the end of the day.
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
Overall I would say I was pleased to have a record out. But I would have done the drums completely different. I never really cared for the sound of the drums. Too echoy if thatís a word. The snare sound was too rim shotty as well. I like a tight chesty sounding snare myself. Also I heard a lot of complaints that my voice was mixed too low. The sound to me is a bit tin-ee and not a rich as I would have liked the production to come off.
Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
He used an AKG C-12 on me. I recall him saying he was keeping it safe for just this occasion. I was excited at first as I had never sang on one of these mics before. After a while though I thought it was just alright. It looked great. But it never really knocked me out or anything. I thought it lacked richness and body. Not as much presence as I wanted either.
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
WowÖ this is definitely giving my memory a work out here. Letís see, I recall having only two weeks to do all the vocals. I kept pretty much on schedule. The rest of the time was doing guitars and keyboards.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
We all were there every day as we were all stuck there with no where else to go. We went everywhere as a band while we were up there recording. We lived in that studio practically
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
As I said previously we were all there all the time.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
Mark Baker did a lot of the lyrics for most of the songs. He and Erik Scott were the majority song writers before I came onto the scene. Once Danny Jacob was in the band though he and I started to write together. I believe he and I would have made a pretty strong song writing team had we been given more time together. I wrote the lyrics for "Arms Of A Stranger" and "Could This Be Love". I am proud of them as they both were taken from real life situations I found myself in over the years. They will forever (as long as I am alive) mean a lot to me. I suppose for those who are simple listeners of the record though who do not have any emotional investment in the record the lyrics may come off sounding a bit dated. Especially the words "Thunder and Fire". They both seemed to be a popular thing to write about back then, as well as THE most popular word of allÖ "LOVE"
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
Signal actually did perform live about 6 times before our untimely demise. We plugged in and jammed. Keyboards are keyboards and bass is bass. Danny had his rack which he used extremely well. I was very impressed how consistent Dannyís sound and performances were live. He was and is the consummate professional as were all the members.
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
Not really. I take that back now... "My Mistake" was a song not written by anyone in the band that the record company told us we had to record. As it turned out it was my least favorite song on the record.
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
"Arms Of A Stranger", "Could This Be Love", "Wake Up You Little Fool", "Go", and "Run Into The Night". "This Love This Time" would have been one of my favs but I never liked my vocal on it. I wanted to spend more time than I was allowed to make it perfect.
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
No not really... perhaps "My Mistake"
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
Yes. Two additional songs. A song I co-wrote with Peter Glenister called, "You And I Need Love", and a song called, "Runaway" written by Danny, Erik and myself.
What's your honest opinion about the songs and the production today? Dated, fresh, a mess?
I believe I have answered this already in my previous answers.
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
Well... as I told you we had to rent out these condos while we were up there recording the record and Danny and I were roomies together. He and I didnít know each other all that well as this was the first time we had ever roomed together. I'll never forget one morning he popped his head into my room and as quiet as a mouse asked if I was awake, and all would say was, "get the fuck out!" He was like man are you alright, and I kept on saying, "get the fuck out!" Each time increasing the volume until I was screaming at him to, "GET THE FUCK OUT!" I laugh about it each time I think of it as I was just kidding but he thought I was totally serious. And anyone who knows me knows me as a very meek mild mannered mature person who always treats everyone with respect and kindness. It was totally out of character for me. I loved it!! Oh yeah and I did happen to punch a hole in my bedroom door one day and I had to go out and buy a can of spackle and a putty knife to fix it before I left so I wouldn't have to pay for a new door. But that was for something else totally unrelated. I can't remember why it happened now.
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
We were orphaned by our A&R rep and never got the push. Plus we were on the end of the melodic rock phase the business had just gone through with Foreigner, Loverboy, Journey, and the likes. Slaughter was the flavor of the month as we were both released about the same time. Up All Night Sleep All Day became the yard stick by which all new groups were being measured by. That gives you an idea what we were up against. Had I come out with King Kobra then we may have had a shot.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
We were orphaned by our A&R rep Bruce Dickinson who signed us to the label only to leave shortly thereafter to take a Vice President's position with MCA. The Vice President of A&R Jerry Griffith did take an interest in us near the end but the writing was on the wall. We were not to get any support at radio and the company had no plans on promoting us past our initial release of our first single, "Does It Feel Like Love". Technically, "Arms Of A Stranger" was slotted to be the second single on the record. That would have been my very first single.
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
I make it a rule to live by never to have any regrets. I look forward to every opportunity I have always looked back at my lifeís experiences as wonderful and fond memories. I have learned my lessons very well.
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, or promote, please do:
May I just end by saying itís been very pleasant to chat with you Wally. I look forward to meeting you in person some day. Don't forget... ALL YOU KIDS OUT THERE... be on the look out for the new Unruly Child record coming out on Frontiers
Records in or around this spring early summer 2010. All the original members have come back together after 18 years and the record is sounding FANTASTIC!. I know you will all be very pleased. Now in the words of the immortal Al BundyÖ "LETS ROCK!"