Neil arrived at the date of
August 11, 2001.
"Wow," he exclaimed. "Something
astonishing here. A day when I didn't write in my diary."
"Very lax," chided Chris.
"Throughout the making of
the new Pet Shop Boys album Neil, as usual, kept a
diary.Neil and Chris recently went through the diary with
Literally. Neil consulted the diary (without letting Chris
or Literally see whatever else he has written there) and
described the events relating to the album: Chris
intermittently chipped in with a recollection of his own.
Midway through this
"I just think I didn't get round
to doing it," Neil said. "That is the one day of my life
in the last 25 years I have no record of what happened.
There's a missing day. How fascinating."
2001, being a Saturday, was however not a day when any
significant work was done on the album. Those days - with
no such omissions - begin here:
On March 21 we went to Berlin. This album had a sort of
false start because afier we finished the Nigh life tour
in February 2000 it was planned that we would put out a
Greatest Hits album in the autumn of 2000. There's that
rather annoying thing that you're meant to suddenly
produce a hit single, or preferably two, to go at the end
of your Greatest Hits album, and so we set about that
process. We'd actually started at the end of the Nightlife
sessions. The last track recorded for Nightlife was
"Happiness is an option" which was the first track
recorded at my studio in the north-east, and we started to
write another song the same day called "Somebody else's
business". We also started, at some point around that
period, to write a song called "Positive role model" at
Pete Gleadall's studio in London. We thought that, between
"Positive role model" and "Somebody else's business ,one
of them had the potential to be a single. Maybe both of
them did. But I can't for the life of me remember why we
decided to work in Berlin.
Chris: I don't know.
Neil: Maybe we just wanted to go to Berlin. And we have a
friend there who runs a dance/techno
record label, and
we asked him if he knew anyone it'd be good to work with.
Re recommended Chris Zippel who is a programmer/producer.
We wanted someone who was a good programmer. We stayed in
Mitte, the area in former East Berlin where all the clubs
Chris: There's a record called "Berlin Mitte Boys"
which is based on "New York city boy". It was done by lots
of the club bouncers, and it's sung in German.
With new words. It's about clubbing in Berlin and being a
bouncer, I think. It's very silly. Anyway, that evening we
went to Chris Zippel's flat and talked through the tracks.
Neil: We went back to Chris Zippel's flat in
West Berlin, where his studio is, and worked on "Positive
Chris: The demo we'd done in England
started off with a Barry White sample from "You're My
First, My Last, My Everything" which I took off the Barry
White Greatest Hits CD. The idea was that it was like punk
electro disco. Typically, it worked best as an
instrumental. Once we started having to make it into a
song it lost something on the way.
Neil: I'd had the
idea of the title lying around for ages.
demo was just like a Tamperer record.
Neil: In fact the
Tamperer was the inspiration for
didn't really have a verse and chorus.
Neil: Chris and
I used to like eating bratwurst in Berlin.
always liked our German sausages.
March 23 and 24.
Neil: We carried on working on "Positive role model".
Neil: Astonishingly we worked on a Saturday.
We start work on "Somebody else's business", a song which
was started off from a sample from the Isley Brothers'
"Behind A Painted Smile", though we ended up taking the
hasn't been released yet, "Searching for
the face of Jesus". After dinner we wrote "It's just my
little tribute to Caligula, darling!". That's a day of
musical contrasts, it has to be said.
Neil: We carried on with "...Caligula..." and then we
started the "K-hole" piece of music for the musical. Chris
worked on that while I went for run.
Neil: We worked more on "Between two islands" and then we
started a track in 7/4 time which has never been finished.
It's just called "7/4" at the moment. We went back to
London that evening where, spookily enough, I had dinner
with Courtney Love.
Neil: We went back
up north - Chris, Pete
Gleadall and me - and carried on
"Between two islands".
Neil: Chris put a rhythm track on "Searching for the face
of Jesus" which had started off as an acoustic-y thing.
Neil: We worked on "E-mail" and on
another new track, "Time on my hands", which has never
been finished though I think it's rather good.
Neil: We finished "E-mail" and did a new
track, "The samurai in autumn". Then we watched Top Ten
Boy Bands on television.
finished "The samurai in autumn", I did the vocals on
"Between two islands" and we went back to London.
Neil: We went back to Berlin on October 15
and the next day we went to Chris Zippel's studio and made
some decisions about "London" and
business", and worked more on "Positive role model". We'd
been playing "Positive role model" live over the summer,
and we decided to add a second verse and take out a whole
section of the song.
Neil: Worked more
on "Positive role model".
Neil: We left
Chris Zippel working on "Positive role model" all day long
and then we went in to his studio in the evening. Chris
Zippel played us his new version of "London" and we said:
"Right, that's it - don't work on it any more".
He ignored us, though.
Neil: He carried on working on
it. He's probably still working on it now.
Neil: We listened to a new riff sound on "Somebody else's
business". The second version of "Positive role model" was
finished by Kai and Florian. That's as far as we ever got
with "Positive role model" as a Pet Shop Boys record. It
later became the final number in the musical.
Neil: Chris Zippel did a final mix of "London".
Chris: The first of many final mixes.
Neil: We finished the mix and edit of "Somebody else's
business", and then flew home the next day. That was the
end of the Berlin phase. We used to like going there.
Chris: I'd still like to go back. I could go to that
restaurant with the Weiner schnitzel.
October 25 to
Neil: We went to Cuba on holiday with some
friends. The song "Between two islands" had a brass part
Chris had put in which had sounded vaguely Cuban or sort
of Miami Latin, and we had discussed the idea of recording
in Cuba. Mitch, our manager, actually arranged for the
musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club to record with
us, but we decided just before we
Chris: I always like
to keep the sample in.
Neil: We didn't take it out for
any sample-clearance reason - the song just seemed to move
away from it.
March 27 and 28.
Neil: We carried on
working on "Somebody else's business
We reworked the structure of "Positive role model" and I
did a vocal for "Somebody else's business". We were in
Germany for a quite a while.
March 30.Neil: We finished
"Somebody else's business". Chris Zippel had wanted to
write a song with us and we'd discussed this beforehand,
and as we were coming to the end of our time in Berlin he
was very keen for us to do something. He played us this
piece of music he'd written which was quite nice. Chris
wasn't very keen on doing it so [see page 26] he went to
the cinema. I made Chris Zippel's bit of music the verse,
and combined it with a bridge and chorus I had already
written for a song, "London". I wasn't really very keen on
doing it either.
Neil: The next day we
came into Chris Zippel's studio and he'd done loads of
work on "London" and it was actually quite good.
I didn't mind it at all. I just didn't want to be there in
the studio any longer.
Neil: That day "Positive role
model" was also mixed by two friends of Chris Zippel's,
Kai and Florian. They mix a lot of German pop records. We
went over to their place. The next day we went back to
London. We thought we'd finished "Positive role model" and
"Somebody else's business", and I'd done the vocal for
"London" which is more or less the one on the album.
April 10 to 12.
Neil: Chris went into the studio for
with Pete Gleadall.
Chris: What was I
Neil: I seem to remember you announced you
wanted to go into the studio with Pete Gleadall without me
being there. I think you did the music for "Nine out of
ten" for the musical.
April 13 to 14.
Neil: We did
the arrangement of
"Homosexuality" for the Washington
Chris: We should record that as a b-side and
Peter Rauhofer to remix it.
May 1 to 5.
We worked in New York with Peter Rauhofer and spent
four-and-a-half days trying to do a version of this song
"Kitsch" by Barry Ryan from the late Sixties.
But it wasn't going anywhere. Neil: We finally gave up.
Chris: It was rubbish. It was very, very chord-y.
It's not that complicated. It was just the wrong kind of
chords. It just didn't seem to go anywhere.
was tim being in New York anyway. Neil: All the time Peter
Rauhofer was trying to persuade us to do a version of
"Break 4 love" and finally on the last day I gave in.
Chris: You did one of your best vocal performances for a
long time on that. I think you should win a Grammy for
Neil: After that we had the musical workshop and
then we started our summer tour in Tel Aviv. At some point
over the summer we decided not to put out a Greatest Hits
then. We didn't feel we'd earned it and we didn't feel
enthusiastic about the whole idea.
Neil: Chris came up to my house in the northeast. The
first song we wrote was "Out of my system" for the
musical. We'd re-planned the musical and we knew that we
had new songs to write.
started a new track, which hasn't been released, called
"Between two islands".
started working on another song that
went to Cuba that
it was too much like cultural tourism and that we didn't
want to do it. It would have been kind of fascinating if
we had done it.
Neil: We went to Pete
Gleadall's studio and wrote the music for a new song
called "Motoring" which we don't like. We started another
song, which is really good but we haven't finished it,
called "Only love". It has a Cuban sample in it.
Neil: We carried working on "Only love" and
Chris did a quick dance track called
Neil: We wrote the basis of
a new song called "Can I be the one?". It's rubbish,
really. Well, not rubbish - it's like a boy band song. The
chorus goes "can I be the one to share your love life?" We
were working on the idea: "what would it be like if we
were S Club 7?". Then we did a cover version in an
Eighties style of the Billie Trix song "Run Girl Run".
Neil: We worked more on "Can I be the
one?" and "Motoring".
Neil: The day
before, Pete Gleadall, Chris and I drove up to the North.
We started driving because there'd been that train crash
so we stopped getting the train for quite a while. On this
day we finished "Between two islands" and started a new
song called "Transparent". Very electro. There was a whole
subplot we considered later that we would do an electro
dance album to go with the song-based main album, rather
like Relentless with Very, though we decided against it in
Neil: We finished
"Transparent" by tea-time then
wrote "Home and dry"
Chris: So the album started at this point.
Neil: I put vocals on "Motoring" and we went out to
celebrate my sister's birthday.
We spent the day writing and recording a
new song "Love
is a catastrophe". Chris: We were on a real roll, this
week, weren't we?
Neil: This was when the album started
coming together. We did most of "Love is a catastrophe"
that day. The next day we drove back to London.
Neil: We'd flown to Los Angeles to discuss
Wotapalava and we met Camara Korman, who is Dr Dre's
programmer, because we had the idea that the album had a
hip hop feel and we wanted to work with a hip hop
producer. He's a very interesting guy.
Classically trained. Very nice. He seemed a bit puzzled by
Neil: He said that "Home and dry" had "a
very tight chord change". We thought he wasn't very
enthusiastic but it turned out afterwards we'd read him
completely wrongly and he was quite enthusiastic. In the
New Year we thought about going to Los Angeles to record.
We'd had this plan to record an album in Los Angeles,
which I'd still quite like to do.
We drove to the North-East again the day before, and we
wrote a new track called "Limbo"
which is a really good
track but it's only half-finished.
Neil: We wrote a new song called "Sexy
then after dinner we started
work on a new song called
Neil: We continued
working on "Birthday boy".
Neil: I put
the vocals on "Birthday boy" and after dinner we finished
Chris: Didn't we get some guitars during this
Neil: Just hold your horses. The next day we
drove back to London.
Chris: I can't believe we hadn't
bought the guitars yet.
Neil: The following week we
found out that the musical would open in April in the Arts
Theatre and then we performed "It doesn't often snow at
Christmas" on TEI Friday. And then it was Christmas.
January 8 to 12,2001.
Neil: I spent the week in
Metropolis working on remastering for the reissues, and I
think this is when I bumped into Johnny Marr and he said
he'd play on the album.
Neil: We went to
my house, back on the train again. We played through old
DATs of demos and started to work on an old song, "How
lucky I am", turning it into "The night I met Eminem".
Neil: I put vocals on "The night I met
After dinner we wrote music for a new song, "I
Neil: Chris and I drove to
Newcastle and I bought three guitars. We worked more on "I
get along". So my memory is a false memory - I thought we
bought the three guitars and I came back and played the
start chords of "I get along" but in fact we'd already
started it the day before.
finished working on "I get along". So
I'd written all
the words by then. Then we started
writing a new song
for the musical, "My night".
did more work on "My night" then
Chris and Pete went
back to London.
Neil: "The night I met
Eminem" became "The
night I fell in love". I put the
vocals on "I get along".
finished working on "I get along", then we started working
on a new song for the musical called "Mid-life crisis".
It's supposed to be sung by Vic and Flynn. Vic is talking
about what a mess he is and about having a mid-life
crisis. I wrote loads of words for it - it was like a
flinny, sad song. At the time there was a feeling we
needed to know who Flynn was and who the father was.
Neil: We finished the music to "Mid-life
Nothing happened to it.
Neil: Chris wrote music for lyrics I'd already written:
Neil: We worked on
finishing "My night", fitting the dialogue over the music.
We had Jonathan Harvey e-mail us all the dialogue and I
said all of the character's parts. The next day Chris and
Pete went back to London, then I went back two days later.
Neil: We went back up to the studio on the
train and I did the vocals for "You choose". After dinner
we did the slow version of "Closer to Heaven" for the
Daily Telegraph CD.
Neil: We finished
the slow version of"Closer to Heaven" then started a new
song for the musical called "The night is the time to
explore who you are" which we completely finished. It was
meant to be sung by Billie Trix. After dinner we started
working on a new song for the musical, "Home".
Neil: I put the vocals on "Home" and then went for
a run while Chris worked on the backing track. Later we
worked on a reprise version of
and Pete Gleadall came up to the North, where I already
was, and we did extra work on "E-mail". This is when we
were very much aware that we were starting to finish off
the songs on the album - we'd decided we had enough songs
Neil: We worked on "E-mail" and
started new overdubs on "Birthday boy".
Neil: We finished the overdubs on "Birthday boy" then
started working on "I didn't get where I am today", adding
a sample.from an old Sixties song called "Father's Name
Was Dad" off a psychedelic compilation I had. We
discovered it was in the same key, so we started to rework
the song with that in it. That day we also did some more
work on "Home and dry".
Neil: I spoke to
Johnny Marr about coming up north the following week, and
we carried on working on "Home and dry".
Neil: We carried on working on "Home and dry" and Chris
went back to London.
Neil: Johnny Marr
arrived, then Chris and Pete
Gleadall arrived from
London. Johnny played
guitar on "Home and dry".
Neil: Johnny played on "Birthday boy" and
then after dinner Johnny played on "You choose".
Neil: Johnny played on "E-mail" and, later on, after
dinner, "I get along". My sister was lying in bed upstairs
listening to Johnny Marr playing a guitar solo.
Neil: Johnny played on "Searching for the face
Jesus". After lunch he played on "Love is a
catastrophe". After dinner he played on "I didn't get
where I am today".
Neil: Johnny left
after breakfast. We carried on working on "I didn't get
where I am today" then we all went back to London.
Neil: Chris, Pete and I met and came up
north on the train, and worked on the track "Always".
Neil: I sang the vocals on "Always" and we
finished working on it. We then carried on working on "I
didn't get where I am today", filtering guitars, and Chris
added keyboard parts.
Neil: We finished
working on "I didn't get where I am today". We took out a
whole middle section. It made much more sense without it.
After lunch we edited the guitars on "Home and dry". I
doubled the backing vocals on "Birthday boy" and Chris
added the string part to it.
Neil: I did
a new vocal on "You choose" then scrapped most of it. We
went back to London, then we went on holiday to Nice.
Neil: We're now in finishing-the-album
We went to Sony studios in London with Pete
Gleadall. We did some more work on "E-mail" and decided to
put strings on it, and phoned up Richard Niles to ask him
to hear it. Johnny Marr had recommended a percussionist
called Jodie Linscott who came in and she played on
"Email", "Birthday boy", "I get along" and "Home and dry".
Neil: Jodie played percussion on "The
night I fell in love". I went outside and spoke to Kevin
Wallace on the mobile about Closer to Heaven and came back
into the studio to discover
"Something special" - on
our demo for the musical "Something special" goes into
Neil: We did a seven-inch
version of "My night" and a new version of "For all of us"
with revised lyrics then went back to London on the train.
The next day we went to Moscow to see Marilyn Manson.
Chris: That's a weird one, isn't it?
Neil: We get
around. The following week, on February 28, I had dinner
with a friend and Wolfgang Tulmans, which is when I first
met Wolfgang Tillmans. The next day he came to my house to
photograph me for a French magazine Purple.
Neil: Pete Gleadall and I went up to the studio and I did
backing vocals on "Home".
arrived from London. I had to do another set of lyrics for
"For all of us", as requested by the director, and Chris
worked flirther on the ballad version of "Closer to
Heaven". After dinner we worked on a new song, which
unusually I can't remember, called "Tomorrow". I have no
recollection of that whatsoever. Oh! I know what it is!
Neil: I did backing vocals
on the ballad version of "Closer to Heaven" and after
lunch did the lead vocals. Then I went for a run while
Chris worked on the cut-up version.
Chris: There was
that track on Daft Punk's album that sounded like they'd
cut up "I'm Not In Love" by lOcc - I don't know if they
had or not
- and I thought, "Oh, that's what I'll do to
'Closer to Heaven"', so I just randomly cut it up and
reassembled it into something else. So that's how that
came about. It's quite good, cutting up chords.
It's an interesting idea.
Chris: You get some really
good chord changes. It's a bit like David Bowie and
William Burrough's cut-ups.
worked on a new version of "Shameless" for the musical.
Neil: We carried on working on the new
version of "Shameless" and worked on "Tomorrow", then we
started a new track called "Diddly squat". "Diddly squat"
turns into a new song called "All or nothing" which has
now been recorded by a young Japanese singer called Miu.
We were on a whole new thing here - we'd lost interest in
the guitar thing and had started doing very electronic
stuff. After dinner Chris played this outrageous keyboard
solo on the demo of "Diddly squat" because he was showing
off in front of Janet Street-Porter. The next day we went
back to London.
April 4 and 5.
Neil: We went into
Sarm and Goetz mixed "Friendly fire" and the long slow
version of "Closer to Heaven" for the Telegraph CD.
Neil: We started recording the musical album
-on the first day Paul Keating put vocals on "Positive
role model". We were now concentrating on the musical. The
first preview was on May 15; it opened on May31. For all
of June the musical album was being recorded and mixed at
RAK studios with Stephen Hague and Bob Kraushaar.
3 and 4.
Neil: We went to Pete Gleadall's studio to
on the 1971 version of Biflie Trix's "Run Girl
July 23 to 24.
Neil: We went to RAK studios
and worked with a different programmer, Chuck, on a new
song "I didn't get where I am today", a sort of
Sixties-ish sounding song that was sort of inspired by
seeing The Strokes at Heaven. I thought of some of it
actually while I was watching them. On the second day we
gave up because we didn't think it was working very well.
Gleadal] - he'd played with George Michael before.
Neil: We worked on "Home and dry", taking
stuff off the master to make it simpler, interestingly.
Steve Walters came back in and played on "I get along", "I
didn't get where I am today" and "The night I fell in
Neil: We worked on "The
night I fell in love". I changed the words right at the
end of the song
Neil: I re-sang
the middle section of "London", changing one word of the
lyrics. I changed the word "died" to "fought".
Neil: This is the final week at Sony studios. We
made small changes to "I get along", "Love is a
catastrophe" and "Birthday boy"
Johnny Marr came in all day, corrected the guitar arpeggio
part on "Love is a catastrophe" and played on "Between two
Neil: We worked on "Between two
islands" and edited in a new instrumental section.
Neil: Chris's birthday. We did a quick mix
of "The samurai in autumn" and "You choose". I changed one
line in the vocal of "I didn't get where I am today".
Recording of the album finished. The studio bought in a
October 15 to November 3.
started mixing the album at Olympic studios with Michael
Brauer. We'd go in every day while he gradually mixed
them. He was going to do it in New York but because of
September 11 and then the anthrax thing, we persuaded him
to come here.
Neil: We did a recall of
"Home and dry" because we were never pleased with the mix
of "Home and dry" so we listened to the demo and worked
out what was wrong with it. We did the running order of
the album - originally 11 tracks - then Miles from
Parlophone came in and we played him the completed album,
which was very exciting. At that point we considered the
album to be finished. Four songs we'd finished were left
off: "Between two islands", "Searching for the face of
Jesus", "Always" and a piano version of "London". "Home"
was now called "Here" because at this stage we were
thinking of calling the album Home. And then we decided we
preferred the title "Here" for the song anyway.
Neil: At Sony studios we had a playback of
album with various people, including Wolfgang
Neil: Chris and I went to
Parlophone to discuss the album with Miles Leonard, and
he, Keith Wozencroft, who runs the label, and Tony
Wadsworth who's the chairman of EMI, all thought that "I
didn't get where I am today" didn't fit on the album. We'd
been listening to it over the weekend and sort of thought
it belonged to a different album as well. And also we
liked the idea of having ten tracks, so we took it off.
And that, quite frankly, was that. We felt a real sense of
achievement with this album.
Chris: We had a feeling of
everyone watching CNN:
two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center in New
York and another one into the Pentagon. We stopped
recording and watched TV as the events unfolded. I walked
home. There was a breast cancer benefit show of Closer to
Heaven at the Arts Theatre which we didn't go to, and the
party afterwards was cancelled. I went over to Chris's
flat for dinner and to watch TV with friends.
Neil: We decided to carry on. Jodie came in and
played percussion on "I didn't get where I am today",
"Love is a catastrophe", "You choose", "Searching for the
face of Jesus", "Always" and "Home".
Neil: Richard Niles came in to discuss the string
arrangement of "E-mail", we finished "I get along", I sang
some harmonies on it and that was the last overdub on
Neil: Kevin Wallace told us that
Closer to Heaven would close on October 13.1 sang the
vocals on "I didn't get where I am today". I was always
changing the lyrics on that. It took ages to write.
Neil: Back at Sony studios I did more
vocals on "I didn't get where I am today".
Neil: Finished work on "I didn't get where I am
Neil: We worked on "The night
I fell in love". Mitch came down with Miles Leonard who
was the A&R at Parlophone and who during the course of all
of this had been listening to the songs and had actually
advised us to produce it ourselves, which we'd decided to
do. He had also recommended Michael Brauer to mix it
because he'd done Coldplay's album and some stuff with
Neil: I put harmonies on
"Searching for the face of Jesus", and we finished work on
it. We also worked on "Home" and took off some of the
backing vocals then we worked on "The samurai in autumn"
and made it shorter. We edited it right down.
Neil: Johnny Marr came to Sony studios and
corrected the guitar part on "Love is a catastrophe" and
replayed the guitar on "You choose" because I think the
tuning was slightly out. In the evening Richard Niles
conducted the string session for "E-mail" which,
interestingly, was attended by Uri Geller who is a friend
of Richard Niles. On my mantelpiece at home I have a
teaspoon bent by Un Geller and signed by him. He was very
Chris: He claimed he could only bend one
- it's too draining.
Neil: It was interesting
watching him bend the spoon. He goes like that [mimes
stroking] and the spoon bends.
Chris: It keeps on
bending once he's let go of it.
Neil: Weirdly, when you
see it happening, you can sort of weirdly understand why
it happens. And when he says if you put it down on metal
it bends much more, there's some weird thing that you can
vaguely understand. It's very interesting. I didn't think
he was a con man in the slightest.
Neil: We worked on "E-mail" and "Between two islands".
Neil: Jodie came in and played congas on
"Between two islands". A bass player called Steve Walters
came in and played bass on "Birthday boy" and "Home and
dry". I think we didn't keep him on "Home and dry" in the
We'd never used a bass player before but we
thought it'd be quite interesting to see what he did on
the more guitar-based tracks. Sometimes we just used bits
of what he played, like on "I didn't get where I am today"
we used those bass swoops. He was recommended to us by
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Taken From Literally 2001 Issue 25