Its been 20 years since Doves put out their debut release, the Cedar EP. I recently spoke to Andy about the EP and the events that lead up to the release of the Cedar EP in November 1998.
November 9th marks 20 years since you released the Cedar EP. What comes to mind when you think of the Cedar EP?
Good times! In terms of working, we were so wrapped up in the recording of what would become Lost Souls. It started with losing the studio in 1996, so we had to find somewhere to work out of. Rob Gretton suggested New Order’s rehearsal space in Cheetham Hill. So at that time we were like OK lets try make a record we knew we were capable of making, that would hopefully stand the test of time, that was the brief at the time, something that we could be proud of even if we don’t make another record. Just one record we could all stand by you know. So the Cedar EP was the starting point. I don’t really listen back to the music but you have reminded me of the tracks that were on the EP. Back then It was just a daily ritual of clocking in every day grinding out the work, we started to get on a roll, we would record one song, then another followed soon after, it was a very productive time for us. We knew where we were going with Lost Souls early on, The Cedar EP was about testing the water, trying to get our name out there.
The Cedar Room was an important track for us, it was the first track Jimi sang on. Though we had a track called Angel a few years before which was the first thing he ever sang on, Jimi put vocals to an early version of that track. The Cedar Room & Break Me Gently were the first two he sang on properly, that made us think yeah we can do this ourselves, we don’t need to bring in another vocalist. That gave us the confidence to move forward. The reaction we got from the EP was great, that put the wind in our sails really to finish the record.
Did working out of New Order’s room impact the writing & sound of what you were doing?
Yeah most definitely! It was very oppressive inside, there was no windows. It was in a bad part of town, to give you an example I remember when we were recording the EP, the cameras got nicked off the roof! The studio was behind the shops at Cheetham Hill, it wasn’t the safest of areas. In an ideal world we wouldn’t have picked this location but needs must. The studio did have some history though with New Order. At that point in the 90s they had enough of going in there so that’s how we were able to rent it from them. It was good to have our own space, thank god we had the gear from the old studio insured so that enabled us to buy new stuff, we were definitely on a mission to finish the record.
Sounds as if New Order were very helpful early on
It was Rob Gretton god bless him, their manager. We supported New Order at the Manchester Apollo, and would occasionally bump into them at Rob’s Records. Rob encouraged Jimi to sing, it was funny really once Jimi started singing, we all had a go at it. Rob found that amusing that he initially couldn’t get any of us to sing then we were all at it!
We released the EP on Casino which was a subsidiary of Rob’s Records, we didn’t know if it would do anything really. But it got picked up by Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley for their daytime radio shows, that helped massively.
Yeah he saw us really early at the Glastonbury 98 new bands tent, he came to see us with John Peel. John was a fan of Sub Sub, he played a few Sub Sub things on the radio but I’m not sure if he liked our Doves stuff or not. It was good because we didn’t have any money behind the EP, so we were fortunate that it got picked up by those radio DJs, that helped us get some attention in the music press which helped with the momentum going forward. We then got to do the Evening session that too was big for us at the time.
How did the Cedar Room come about? It has been suggested it may have been inspired by a Chicago house track?
Not a Chicago house track, the inspiration kind of came from a track in Europe somewhere that we liked. You reminded me of this, so I had to go looking for it to give it a listen, its so unrecognizable, it’s quite an obscure track.
We got given the record in question years before at a dance shop near Birmingham, when we put out Space Face, which we used to distribute ourselves, it goes back to the beginning of our story with Sub Sub, similar to how we started the whole doves thing really with the DIY ethic. We sold Space Face out of the back of our cars around the UK, we sold 2000 copies like that, different time, a different era really.
But anyways at this dance shop near Birmingham, the guy there gave us this track, I’ve never heard it anywhere else since. It had something about the chords which always stuck in our heads, it transferred quite well to the guitar. If you heard this dance track you would struggle to make the connection to the Cedar Room as its pretty unrecognizable like I was saying, the inspiration came from that.
In terms of the track, We are John Bonham fans, we wanted the drum and bass to have that slow heavy sound, a rib rattler! With the vocals we wanted an ethereal sound.
The lyrics are weird, there is a different version out there with a different chorus, the verse is the same but a totally different vibe vocal wise. So we lived with two versions for awhile, until we finally decided on the version you know that’s on the record.
The Cedar Room is a place we would read about as kids, its in a big old haunted house near us, it was in a story that got published, the name just stuck in my mind, it was always kicking around in my head. The title to me sounded like a good book!
It definitely comes across as a very haunting piece of music. Yeah thanks, the chorus, certainly has that haunting vibe to it and I suppose lyrically it comes across that way.
How did Rise come about? It was a long time ago, so I don’t recall all the details but the key thing with that one and this is a bit train spottingish! We bought a Hammond organ off a friend, the Hammond has a speaker called the Leslie speaker, which is this swirling speaker, which gives off this effect, this is what you hear on the vocals. I think we recorded the vocals dry, we had the Hammond converted so you could input any type of sound into it, that’s how we got that vocal sound, the track came alive once we did that from what I recall. Sometimes you just try something out and it pays off right away, I remember being like wow that sounds great, the vocal being another instrument which is something we did allot whilst making Lost Souls. We didn’t want the vocals right out front in the mix, we wanted to the vocals to be part of the music so you could lose yourself in the music.
So the last track on the EP is Zither, any recollections of putting that one together?
That was just us experimenting, we didn’t want to just be another rock band really, coming from the dance stuff we did, so that was our attempt at being quite eclectic. We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to just bass, drum and guitar. We were always trying to create music you could listen to so to speak, so Zither just comes from that and the love of film sound tracks. Otherwise I don’t quite recall the moment of making that track, though I’m thinking it was around the same time we were recorded Firesuite.
Were there any other songs in contention for the EP?
Possibly Darker, which maybe in retrospect we should have put on Lost Souls.
So why didn’t you put Darker on Lost Souls?
I don’t recall the exact reason, I recall it was starting to become a really long album, we didn’t want it to be that long of a album. We wanted to play it from beginning to end without getting too bombarded with the amount of songs on it, so I don’t know if there was room for it you know?
We also may have fallen out of love with it a little bit. How we work in Doves is its a democracy, and if one of us is like maybe I don’t think the track should go on the album, then that’s that!
When compiling the album there was loads of CDs with different running orders, I know Darker was on one of those. I suspect the album was deemed too long with Darker on it, something had to give.
I too hadn’t listened to these songs in a long time Andy! Last weekend was a bit dreary here in Chicago, almost Manchester like I guess! Certainly reminded me of growing up in the UK, it felt like a Lost Souls kind of day so we put it on for the first time in awhile. Did that environment of Manchester add any flavour to the music?
I wouldn’t say that was a conscious thing, all 3 of us love melancholic music, we grew up with it. Otherwise yeah living in Manchester you just have to accept the weather can be a bit crap! That’s the way it is. There was no conscious decision that we should create that atmosphere. Melancholic comes naturally to us, you know when Jez picks up a guitar the chords have always have a melancholic sound to them, that’s what we’re drawn to. It also goes back to what I saying about the New Order studio we were working out of that had no windows, so that would have been more of an influence on the sound and atmosphere than anything else.
Is there anything in the music that you hear now you didn’t hear or think of 20 years ago?
I don’t really listen to any old stuff to be honest. If I hear the music, its because I’m lucky enough to hear it on tv or radio. Lyrically it can be about something completely different at the time, then you hear it now and its like ok that’s what was about, or what was going on in our lives at that time. At the time of writing, the lyrics could be nonsensical and then later they do take on some meaning.
Ultimately thinking back on it all I think we made a record we are proud of and stand by years later and I think we achieved that, before Lost Souls we had threatened to make an album but we never really achieved something that we could all stand by, there was definitely moments in Sub Sub we are all proud of but we didn’t quite make the record we wanted to make. The EP and Lost Souls was never about lets make a melancholic record, that wasn’t part of the brief at all, we just wanted to get 10-12 songs that would hold together.
Also I remember the time it was all, and I don’t like the term, but Britpop was the thing . We certainly didn’t feel part of that at all. We didn’t feel aligned with any of that. We had our own thing going on, that I’m really proud of all these years later.
Do you ever get surprised by what people read into the lyrics or the music?
I love it when people come up to me and tell me stuff about our music that I never really thought of. People tell me a certain song makes them think about a certain thing that I wouldn’t have thought of to be honest. I always tell people if that’s what the song means to you, then that is great. We always tried to maybe not leave the lyrics open ended but maybe not be quite specific or cut and dry about stuff so people can read what they want to read into it the songs, its up to people to make their own minds up about how they interpret them. Its nice that people can lose themselves in the music in their own way. I’m all for people getting what they want out of the songs.
Did you guys have much input into the Cedar EP artwork or was it all Rick Myers vision?
Rick is a good friend of ours, the original Cedar EP cover is one of my favourites, the one with the film still with the snow effect, I still love that today, I think he really captured something there. But yeah that was pretty much his vision. Where as with the Lost Souls cover we knew wanted a boxer on the cover, so Rick set that up for us. He took the idea we had and expanded on it, I still love it.
In 1998 you started to play live as Doves, was that liberating for you?
Very much so! Also very nerve wracking! We wasn’t sure if anyone was going to take us seriously. The last time we played live before then we were a dance outfit so it was very different. Maybe we were going to get laughed out of the venues, maybe we did at first? I remember the first gig was in Stoke at a place called the Wheatsheaf, literally to two of our girlfriends and the venue staff! But it was good to get out of the studio. Lost Souls is quite a layered sound so we weren’t quite sure how it would come across live. We would use sequencers and samplers that would constantly break down, so we had to deal with that initially but the more we gigged the better we got.
Did playing the songs live impact how they sounded on the record?
Yeah they just evolved over time, ideas would come and go. It was a very productive period for us in the studio and on the road. Actually I’m getting itchy feet now, I’d like to get out and play live again, its been awhile. I like that you don’t have to over think the music playing it live, you just play the music and its done. Yeah its been too long!
So when can we expect to see you on the road?
I hope next year! There are no concrete plans as yet.
The last time we spoke you were putting out the Black Rivers record, what have you been up to since then?
Just songwriting, same as ever. We’ve got a body of work together for the next record.
A couple years back it seemed like you were about to drop a record, then you fell off the face of the earth!
I know, we ended up doing more writing, we’re always writing, We’re hoping to put something out soon, we have a body of work, Our priority is always music, life sometimes gets in the way!
We’ve got 15 tracks, but getting stuff for the record we have about 7 of them ready.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me Andy! Your welcome, and thanks for keeping the lights on with the site and social media, and to all the fans who reach out via the forum, facebook, we really appreciate it.
Further Recommended Reading:
NBHAP – 15 Years of Lost Souls
1 Top Class Manager Memories of Rob Gretton
Manchester Digital Music Archive
Caught By The River Remembering Rob Gretton
Andy & Jez Interview I did back in 2015 for the Black Rivers album
The footage of Andy & Jez on the beach, was taken at Harlech beach in North Wales around New Years Eve 1996.