||On January 8, 2012,
flying to Sydney to perform on New Year's Eve and then
taking a few days
'holiday in Australia, the Pet Shop
Boys continued eastward around the world to Los Angeles
where they had decided to make their next album. They
rented a house in the hills above Beverly Hills with a
sweeping view across the city and recorded each weekday
with the producer Andrew Dawson. Full details of the songs
on this new album, and a comprehensive diary of its
genesis and recording, will appear in the next issue of
this magazine. But, fortuitously, literally happened to be
in town during the Pet Shop Boys' final week in Los
Angeles and so is able to offer this preview.
dinner one evening, and a full day's activities two days
later, literally offers the following report:
Literally meets Neil and Chris at one of the
Los Angeles restaurants that has become one of their
favourites since they have been in town, Salt's Curr on
Santa Monica Boulevard. They explain where they have been
living. "We're in between Sandra Bullock," says Neil, "and
Rupert Murdoch." The house they are renting is also, they
have realised, not far from the site of the notorious
houst on Cielo Drive where followers of Charles Manson
murdered Roman Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate, and
four others, in 1969; an event generally presented as one
of the key grim bookends to the sixties counterculture.
(Neil was a little freaked out when he read this on
Wikipedia during their first week in town.) That actual
house was demolished a few years back, and these days the
neighbourhood's problems appear more prosaic.
instance many of the smaller and most windy roads are in
terrible condition: "There’s a thing called the Beverly
Hills Pothole patrol.,, The fourth diner at the table this
evening is the American writer and broadcaster David Keeps
who has lived in Los Angeles for many years.
and Chris have known him since the eighties - when Neil
went to America in 1983 to launch the American version of
Smash Hits, called, Star Hits, David Keeps became its
editor. They explain to him a little about the record they
have been making.
"It sounds slightly different from
our records, says Neil. “Slightly. People’ IL say, typical
pet Shop Boys'. But that's why we came over. (So that it
might be "slightly different", he clearly means. Not so
that it might be "typical pet Shop Boys, ) "Sunshine-y?"
provokes David Keeps mischievously. "And more
optimistic?,, 'No," says Neil. "I wouldn't say that.
They explain that Andrew Dawson has been quite an
influence, not least in influencing which songs they have
recorded. This happened partly by accident. They had asked
for their recent demos to be sent to him beforehand,
intending that he would receive only the songs they had
earmarked as contenders for the album. But a mistake was
made. "He got sent everything we'd written,,, says Neil.
"That wasn't meant to happen,’ says Chris.
Consequently Andrew Dawson encouraged them to work on some
songs they would have overlooked, and they now seem glad
that this happened. "Actually," Chris points out to Neil,
he didn’t get everything. I've got much more. I’ve got a
whole dance album he didn't get." Neil nods. "And he
didn't get... what’s it called? He didn't get Bruce
Springsteen.,, oh 'No," says Chris.
"But he did get
'...we're not going to the opera'," says Neil. "He wasn't
meant to get that. It's a folk song about being gay in the
eighties Food - it's a fairly meaty selection - is
ordered. "You've got some colour, Neil," David observes.
"I've been outdoors a lot," Neil replies. This was
supposed to be the rainy season, but for most of their
visit - apart from occasional days when it being
photographed by the pool of the Pet Shop Boys, rented Los
has poured and they have been able to
observe the traditional site of Los Angeles drivers
skidding and crashing all over the place as though they
had never driven in rain before - the weather has mostly
been glorious. (Right now is one of the colder and wetter
moments.) oh 'We've been lying by the pool nearly every
day," says Chris. This has not been their only routine.
"We watch Chelsea Lately every evening." "I can't help
feeling we should be friends with her," says Neil. Neil
and Chris have to leave town on Friday and they discuss
with David whether they should go out on Thursday evening.
"We could go and celebrate not finishing the album,"
Neil suggests. "You have to leave on Friday?" asks David.
"The ballet previews on Sunday," Neil explains, "and I'm
doing Weekend Wogan." "It'll be nice to get back,
actually," says Chris. "It's spring in London." They talk
about the photo-shoot they have planned for Wednesday.
"We're not doing landmarks," says Chris.
the brief," says Neil. "We had a big idea. And then we
decided not to do it. It's really about getting a photo of
us in LA." "It's about light," declares Chris. "It's about
getting the magic hour." "Are you getting wardrobe?" David
asks. "It's self-styled," answers Neil.
some things." The conversation wanders until Neil is
reminiscing about his time working for Marvel Comics in
London. "People used to write in," he remembers, "and say
'I've got Spiderman #1 - much is it worth I used to write
back and say, not about how much it's worth, it's about
enjoy it."' Our food arrives. "We could become the
restaurant critic for t
LA Times," says Neil. "We've
put the hours in. When they've had time off, they've been
exploring the town. "We've been to places that one else
has ever been," says Neil. "We were if Frog town." "'We
went on the Dearly Departed tour," say Chris. (In this
case the "we" doesn't include Ne Chris went on the tour
with his sister when she visited.) "I didn't like the look
of the van," says Neil As they eat, they talk about life
in the hills. "One night we saw a coyote," says Neil.
"The coyote looked up to no good," says Chris
looked very furtive. Like it had been caught in the act."
They wonder how Beth Ditto's album with Xenomania might be
going. "We had an email, or text message, from Brian,"
says Neil. "He was looking at the Gerhard Richter
exhibition with Miranda and he said it brought back fond
memories of working with us." They've also been to an EMI
party while they were here. "Under much duress," says
Neil. Outside the VIP section they recognized the
unexpected sight of a figure from their past. At first,
the figure from their past did not recognize them. "We got
this cold stare," says Neil. "Like,
'off!, who are
you?"' Then Matt Goss whose teen group Bros used to share
management with the Pet Shop Boys in Bros's brief but
intense eighties heyday – realised who it was. "And then
he was really nice," says Neil.
The Pet Shop Boys also
went to see a band at the Troubadour - the semi-obscure
indie rockers The Archers Of Loaf. "'We went to see the
place, really," Chris explains. "To see where Elton broke
America." Right now, Neil and Chris explain, they are
mixing. It's painstaking work. "In the old days, when you
only had 48 tracks, they were all there," says Neil. In
front of you, he means, each represented by a line of
controls on the mixing desk. 'Now," he says, "you have to
remember them." After briefly considering the pros and
cons of heading on to some other night spot, they sensibly
decide on an early night.
in the kitchen of the house where the Pet Shop Boys are
living, making coffee. It is just after 11 o'clock in the
morning. Today is the photo- session, and once coffee is
made he sits on a chair in the kitchen while a make-up
artist called Chantal applies a little make-up. "You have
good skin," she tells him, and asks what he does to
protect it. "I used Kiel’s SP15," he says. "I never really
go in the sun. I don't really like going in the sun. It
makes me feel sick." Life in Los Angeles, he points out,
certainly offers reminders of the downside: "There are
some real tragedies here." Chris appears from his bedroom
at the other end of the house.
(Neil's is by the
kitchen.) Yesterday they heard the sad news of Eric
They discuss whether or not there is
going to be a funeral, and this eventually leads to a
wider discussion about the manner of one's passing and
what should happen afterwards. "We're doing a family
tree," says Chris, "and some of them in Oldham are buried
in an unmarked grave." As for himself, he says, "I've got
my eye on Hollywood Forever." The previous week they
visited the famous Hollywood cemetery of that name, where
amongst many things they saw Johmy Ramone's gravestone,
from which abronze statue bursts upwards of Ramone playing
"Just hat and glasses," Chris instructs.
"In bronze, obviously." "You could have '...I don't like
much, do I? Suggests Neil (referring, of course, to the
famous reply Chris gave in their early days answering a
question on American TV which was subsequently
memorialised on "Paninaro").
Chris has a better
idea. "I'd probably just have 'violence, religion,
injustice. Death' ." As the make-up ritual continues, they
discuss how much they enjoyed seeing Lars von Trier's
recent movie Melancholia.
Ann Summa photographing
the Pet Shop Boys on Stadium Way. cool love how the same
piece of music keeps coming back," says Neil. "It's Sven's
favourite piece of music - I think it's the Prelude from
Tristan and Insole." Armful after armful of equipment is
carried into the house by assistants. "It's never simple,
taking a picture, is it?" Neil remarks, and describes one
of the last times Eric Watson took their photo. The idea
was to take a straight forward portrait in Neil's house.
"A lorry drove up," he remembers. "We had to get planning
permission..." They talk about the area where they have
been recording for the last few weeks. "God, it's a dump,
Burbank, downtown," says Neil.
And they remain
unimpressed by the roads. "The freeway, it's like driving
in Brazll. You bounce off holes." "They never get
repaired, do they?" says Chris. "If this was London, most
of it would be closed most of the time. If Murphy's got a
foothold here they could make a killing, and then you
could get Camden Council Roads Department to make all the
roads one way, and then there'd be traffic calming, and
narrowing. You could reduce Sunset to two lanes. Speed
bumps the length of Sunset. They would do that." "Do you
need some lip balm?" Chantal asks him.
apply it with a brush?" he requests. As it is applied he
describes his favourite scene in the movie Once Upon A
Time In America, where the boy wants to give this girl he
likes some cake, but as he waits he can't resist having a
taste, and then another and another... until it is all
eaten. "And the swelling Ennio Morricone music," he says.
"One of my favourite scenes of all time." Neil discusses
with their manager, Angela, the hand-back of the house
after they leave on Friday. "One cup has been broken," he
says. "There are cups that were pre-cracked." The first
shots are taken out on the far edge of the property past
the swimming pool, next to a pine tree. "'We're not doing
individual shots, are we?"
asks Chris after a
while. "Or will they be of any use." They discuss it.
"Let's do some," Chris concludes, and a moment later Neil
steps out of the shot. Chris seems surprised. "I didn't
know it was going to be me so soon," he says. Between
set-ups, Chris surveys the city below. "I'm going to miss
this view," he says. "We saw the most amazing moon - a
huge orange ball. I've never seen a moon that big. It
looked apocalyptic, because you had downtown as well - it
We're done here," announces Ann
Summa, the photographer. "Good," says Neil. 'Rock'n'roll
is on the road. First shot is down." "We're going to be
finished before the magic hour," Chris worries. "What are
we going to do?" How, he means, are they going to stretch
out the day so that they are still shooting in the period
before sunset when the light is at its best? He answers
his own question. ool-unch!" he declares. As they wait for
the lighting to be re-set for a new shot in the living
room, Chris searches for songs on his iPhone. "The problem
with these," he frets, "is that you can never find
anything, can you?" He plays Sack Noel's "Loca People".
"This is all you hear on the Mexican radio here. We
thought it was an obscure song but it was number one in
England for weeks.
We missed it, somehow." He puts
on another: Juan Magan's "Bailando PorAhi". These and
others they have been hearing on their new favourite radio
station 96.3. "Los Angeles' only Spanglish radio station,"
says Chris. They sit next to each other on a white bench,
directly facing the camera, with the pool and the sky
behind them, then Chris stands while Neil sits. "Do you
want to switch positions?" asks Ann Summa after a while.
They ponder this suggestion carefully. "Isn't it a bit
pointless?" Neil wonders, though this is only a
proposition at the beginning of a debate, not the final
decision it might seem.
"It might work better," Chris
suggests. "It might work better," Neil repeats, as though
this viewpoint is surprising but worthy of consideration.
They swap places. "I've got one more idea," says Ann after
some more time has passed. "Perfect - we'll do A Bigger
Splash," bhtffs Chris.
Chris will be naked in the
pool," pretends Neil. In fact they pose with Neil just
inside the room and Chris just outside. The session is
briefly interrupted when the pool man arrives. Then they
sit around the dining table, waiting for lunch, and laugh
about an invitation that has gone out to their friends who
are attending the ballet opening which requests that they
"attend a drunk’s reception". (It should, of course, say
"a drinks reception".) "Everyone'll love it," says Neil.
"And it's more or less true. What's the problem?" Chantal
says that she'd heard something about a film they'd
written. "That's not by us," corrects Neil. “Starring its.
You're referring to our movie career. That was in a
surreal way. Our first big disaster. It open in more
cinemas in America than Madonna's r film. It opened in
about forty cinemas." (He is talking, of course, about It
Couldn't Happen I "That's really impressive," says Angela.
"It wasn't there the next week..." says Net both Pet Shop
Boys laugh. Chris reads on his phone the breaking new
about an earthquake in Mexico while Neil check his email.
Chantal begins to speak of earthquake in Los Angeles, a
perpetual concem of most residents. Oh 'Let's not talk
about it," says Neil. We haven't been told what to do,"
says thought that seems to have come to him rather late
in light of their imminent departure." "Go under a table,"
says Angela. "Or star doorway." "We shouldn't hug a tree?"
asks Chris. "M instinct would be to run and hug that
"Why would you do that?" says Neil. "I think
it'd be quite stable," says Chris. H an alternate idea.
"Or maybe go for a swim." Neil plays a song by Bon Iver
from his lap "I don't really like pop music at the moment
he says - and Chris reads about the forth comer of former
PWL artists in Hyde Park. "You know what?" he says.
"That'd be quite a fun concert." Ann joins them at the
table and asks how their time in town has been. They both
say that it's been good.
"I was a bit nervous about
coming over, really," says Nei1. "We've been to Los
Angeles many times, but never for more than a week. I've
never seen it as a city before, I've just seen it as a
sort of thing. To me, it was always from the Chateau
Marmont to Book Soup." Lunch - which has been a takeaway
of chicken kebabs, salad and rice which one of the photo
assistants has picked up from a restaurant some way down
the hill - is eaten at a leisurely pace. Afterwards Neil
takes out the trash and loads the dishwasher, and everyone
piles into vehicles. The second part of the shoot is to
take place several miles east of here in the neighbourhood
of Echo Park.
The Pet Shop Boys' rental car is a
pale blue Mini Cooper with a white roof. "It's the talk of
Los Angeles," asserts Chris as we head off. 'Are we not
taking a detour past Simon
Cowell's house?" Neil asks.
"There isn't time," Chris judges. "There's always time for
Simon Cowell," says Neil.
On the way, they point
out the hedge of David Geffen's property and, nearby, some
graffiti done by the son of someone they know. After we
slide by Simon Cowell's rather odd and formal modern home
(badly-reviewed, Chris says, by the tourists on the Dearly
Departed bus tour) we head down Fountain. Chris is
particularly taken by the old general store on the comer
of Las Palmas: "Why can't they have more of those dotted
around?" he wonders. Neil considers unrealistic album
titles. "I keep saying, olf we were George Michael we
would call it Deep..." He looks out of the window for
inspiration. "Plaza. We could call it Plaza. Fountain."
From the way he says this it seems pretty unlikely that
the new Pet Shop Boys album will be called either Plaza or
Fountain. Or, indeed, Deep. "We found out that there's a
lake in Silver lake,"
contributes, there's also a park in Echo Park, where we
o'And a beach in Echo Beach," offers
Chris. "Isn't that in Canada?" says Neil. "I know it's far
away in time," says Chris. They discuss u, hat they have
learned about the foci of Los Angeles.
really like Mexican food," says Neil. I've tried. God,
I'r.e tried." "It's not haute cuisine." says Chns. "We had
a great one in Palm Springs," says Neil. "But I don't
really like it." "I love the guacamole though," says
Chris. We arrive at our destination - the intersection of
Scott and Stadium Way - but Ann and her crew need more
time to set up, so we retrace our way and stop at a
Vietnamese bakery called Kien Giang Bakery. We order
drinks and also some of their
chocolate chip and
oatmeal cookies, and take a seat outside at one of the
rickety tables in their parking lot.
As we have a
few minutes, they explain a little more of the chain of
events which led them to
being here in Los Angeles.
"'We've been talking about doing an album in Los Angeles
for years," says Neil. "The first person that ever
suggested it to us that I remember was Trevor Hom: 'Oh,
you should do an album in LA and use lots of great
musicians.’ But when we were
thinking about this album
and writing the songs for most of last year we were
thinking really of getting a new angle on electronic music
and take were those two albums that Kanye West made one I
particularly like is B0Bs and Heartbreak. particularly
like the first track on it, actually." "'In fact I only
like the first track... "'teas Chris.
says Neil, "we approached a great work on this album and
we never really got my of a response. And then we were
going to work with a film soundtrack guy and that fell
throu6 and then we went back to the Kanye West albert We'd
also had the idea that we wanted a special kind of backing
vocal sound in some of the so we'd written that we thought
we'd get better ir America, particularly Los Angeles, than
we were in Britain. Not gospel, but a sort of very full
"Something that you didn't get in England
"Anyway, we've ended up with that,"
says "We've got people that sang on Michael Jacks Thriller
singing on the record. Then we came across Andrew Dawson's
name and looked here up on the internet and saw that he
had original a classical background and has worked on a
Kanye West's albums, mainly as an engineer mixed as well.
And also has produced albums people - he's produced rock
"He produced the group Fun.,"
says Chris. "That's what he did before us." "So there we
were," says Neil. "That was decided. After being in
Australia for New Year we came here, having written over
the course of last year - and a little bit before that
even - 20 songs or 22 songs. We went through them all with
Andrew and we've been. working on 16 songs." "We took a
little recording set up with us on the Take That tour,"
"so there was a bit of a 'mid-tempo
thing that might work well in a stadium thing. Just seeing
women waving their arms from side to side." He laughs.
"This album was heavily influenced by Gary Barlow," he
claims, though I'm not sure that this should be taken as
"Anyway, I think it all worked out
very well," says Neil. "I think you've got to do an LA
album at some point in your career," says Chris. "Some
songs we wouldn't have worked on he wanted to work on,"
says Neil. "We discussed with him what we were looking to
do was to base them on the demos but improve it. And there
were a few songs where we were more committed to the
original management than others. He would put in ideas.
When we'd gone he'd work on the tracks." "He does
additional programming, engineering
says Chris. "And he has Netflix on his TV monitor above
the desk. Sometimes we were also watching movies. We
watched Cleopatra." "I'd never seen Cleopatra before,"
"It's good because on Netflix you can
have the subtitles so you can watch it while listening to
music." The recording was mostly done in his small studio
in Hollywood though they also worked for a week in a
studio in Sherman Oaks. "With lots of old synths," says
Neil. "Where Dre had worked and all these people," says
"Eminem's second album was made there," says
Neil. "We wanted a bigger room to record backing vocals."
o'Percussion and choirs," says Chris. "We had two teams of
backing vocalists," says Neil. "One lot were very veteran
Hollywood backing singers who sang on not only Michael
Jackson's Thriller but on 'Got To Be There'." "They sang
'mama se mama se mamakusa..."' says Chris. "We also did an
orchestral session at Capitol records. It's fun being in
there. These are
"We were in the studio
that's just been refurbished and was just reopened," says
Neil. "We were only the second people to work in it, the
first being Paul McCarran."
They were there for one
day. "Tivo sessions," says Neil.
"We whizzed through
them," says Chris.
"We worked on, I think, six songs,"
"We had our own space in the parking lot,"
Chris. "Great, actually." "The other vocal group
we used, Songs, are a vocal harmony group," says Neil,
because on one song we wanted sort of a jazz harmony
"They're really good," says Chris.
'They’re amazing singers," says Neil. "Most of them
studied opera at the University of Southey
They do sort of Swingers Singers kind of stuff." "But they
do all their parts separately," says Chris.
y, and really, really good," says
Neil. "They'd be fun
to tour with," says Chris.
"The song's called 'Ego
music'," says Neil. "I don't know if it's going to be on
the album or not at the moment. It might be simply too
nasty to be the album." They both laugh. "We think
American engineers mix things I different way," says Neil.
"I think they play mc emphasis on the rhythm track. And
have it ma1 dryer than they do in England."
the vocal's a bit louder," says Chris "Also of course
we're working with some much younger than us," says Neil.
"He's only' 32 Back at the new photo location David Keep
who lives nearby, has now also turned up. "'We haven't
spent this much time together," he says Neil, "since..."
'since autumn 1983," says Neil.
The Pet Shop Boys
stand in Stadium Way, the road itself, with traffic coming
worryingly to them, and prepare to pose for photos. Chris
on his hat and glasses.
"There you go," says Ann.
"There you go - it's Chris Lowe," says Neil "You going to
wear your glasses the entire time?" she asks.
"There's a rock version of Paula Abdul's
'Straight Up on the radio," he explains. "It's kind of
made me like the record again." The shot is finished.
"Ann's fast," says David.
"Oh, we like fast," says
"We love fast," says Neil. They pose on the
lawn. "There's lots of little insects," Chris complains.
"I see them," says Neil. "I don't know why they're on you,
"I do. “More photos. “prefix good here, isn't
it?" says Chris.
*We've got the long shadows," says
Neil. "We've got the famous long shadows."
brushes the flies away with a big swatch of twigs, and
acts up in various other ways.
"Everyone's going to
wonder why we're laughing in these photos," Chris worries.
"It's a sunny, optimistic record," says Neil.
to another location in a nearby park. We walk down to a
strange piece of public sculpture. Ahead of us is downtown
Los Angeles and to our left is a stadium. 'oh That's
Dodgers stadium," says Chris. "We've
Scene of our triumph." He takes a photo. It is where they
played with Electronic, supporting Depeche Mode. they sit
down in the middle of the sculpture, waiting.
glass everywhere," Chris observes.
"People pissing on
the streets, you know they just don't care," continues
Neil, quoting Grandmaster Flash. They debate the
differences between teeth in England and America with
David Keeps. "English Teeth," says Neil. "We know that's
what you call them," says
'oh They're also
called Summer Teeth," says David.
"Why?" asks Neil.
"Because some are here, some are there," explains David.
cool know nothing about teeth," says Neil. "know nothing
about the human body, really, not having done biology." Ho
Why not?" asks David.
"I did Latin for flve years,"
Neil explains. Soon, after some photos with downtown
behind them, they are finished.
"Of course!" says
Chris. "Wet Wipes." Oh What a nice photo session," says
Chris in the car.
"It was almost enjoyable," Neil
agrees. "I thought it was enjoyable," says Chris. oh meant
even the photos," says Neil.
"Well, if we don't look
good in this light we
never will, will we?" says Chris.
The studio location is programmed into the sat nav,
but even so Neil suggests that we head left when it
suggests we should go right. "God, why do I always think
right is left and left is right," he wonders. "It' s
amazing." At the studio we are greeted by the producer,
Andrew Dawson, and the assistant Max. Andrew is just
working on something so they decide to go into the lobby.
"We could probably have tea," says Chris. "It's
too late for tea, is it?" "It's never too late for tea,"
"How's your day been?" asks Neil.
"I got 'Hold on'in a happy place," says Andrew. As the
kettle brews Neil explains that most of this studio was
recently rebuilt after it bun down while the Black Eyed
Peas were record here. "Oooh!" says Chris, sharing the
thrill of discovery. "Kit Kat." He opens it. "We did he
Flakes," he says. "But they're all gone." He 6 the three
of us one stick each, and then careful. divides the final
stick into three and passes or an extra third.
be fair and balanced," he Then he goes to the bin with the
Kit Kat wral and his f,nal third in his hand, and absent-
mindedly throws the chocolate into the bin in of the
wrapper. Neil talks about his left and right confusion in
the car. "It's an instinctive thing," he says.
"Instinctively I think 'left' and 'right' are the oh way
round. I think it's to do with the sound of
I've always been like this, all throw my life. And every
now and then I think I've conquered it. But it's what I
did during my drive test. She said, 'Can you park on the
left by the stop?' and I looked over and I thought,
'there's a bus stop . . . where is the bus stop?' And she
si 'On the left' , and I said, 'Yeah, of course'. It tc
three goes, though." Andrew comes out to make some tea for
himself, and they tease him a little.
he's even using a tea strainer," says
been anglicised," says Chris. "He's going to sound like
Madonna soon," says
"Pip pip cheerio,"
Andrew retorts. In the studio, they listen to "Hold on".
"Good," says Neil when it finishes. "Excellent," says
Chris. "Do you think the drums are loud enough?" "I think
they've got to be heavier," Neil agrees. "Also, I think
the voices sound a little bit on top of the track." "Tuck
'em in a little more?" asks Andrew. "Also," says Neil, "I
think you get the live strings, I think you need a little
bit more pad." One more thing. "The clap is coming across
loud and clear, whereas I think the snare isn't really
coming across." Andrew explains something complicated
about mixing and compressors, and then adjusts the mix at
the end of the song's long middle eight. "I'm thinking of
shifting more to the synthetic one in that spot," he says.
"Just shift away from the real strings and more towards
the pads." "Are the string basses not moving through?"
Andrew spends a few more minutes making
adjustments, muttering to himself things like
"yeah, I'11 cut out some of those 808s, that'll help", and
then plays it again. "Sounds nice," he suggests. "It
sounds great," says Neil. "Yeah," Chris agrees. "There
shouldn't be a bass note on the flnal
wonders. "There's no synth bass on this song," says
Andrew. "That's why I can't hear it," says Neil. But then
Andrew searches through al1the tracks. Oh There was one,"
he says. "There was one..." says Chris.
'Many moons ago
in a land far away..." says Neil. "That's why I think it
should be louder - it's
not there." Various parts are
found and played, and then Andrew says, "It's what the
808's doing now same thing." "Oh," says Neil. "So in
effect it is a synth bass line." "We've never used an 808
bass drum to play bass notes before," Chris notes. "I
didn't know it could play bass notes," says Neil.
Andrew delves some more into what is happening and what is
being heard. There is, it tums out, a bass note already at
the end of the song. "It's just the lowest note in the
whole song. It's inaudible. It should go up an octave." He
works on it some more, keying various alterative.
Meanwhile, Chris discovers that David Keeps is on Twitter.
"I'm going to check out just to see if he's saying snide
things about us." Andrew uses a technical term
-'side-chain" - that is unfamiliar to the Pet Shop Boys.
"Side-chain," repeats Neil. "Is that an album title?" asks
Chris. "Pet Shop Boys Side Chain," says Neil. "It sounds
very indie. 'What does it mean?' 'I don't know'. It's very
R.E.M.: Side Chain - The Best Of R.E.M." Andrew plays the
song again. "The drums are sounding very good now," says
"You guys are going the brave route," says
Andrew. "I had it a little safe." "It takes away the point
of the record – you need the contrast," says Neil.
work some more. "Dinner reservations this evening?" asks
'No," says Chris.
"Don't have one," says
Neil makes a joke about the computer crashing now
they've got it sounding so that they al1 like it "Don't
say that," says Andrew, sounding alarmed. "I'm just about
to save it." Neil likes the latest adjustment he has made.
"Oh, that should be in every chorus," says Nei "You've
just made the record flve per cent better.' They start
working on details of the vocal, particularly parts of the
double-tracking. Chris tums to Neil and reminds him, "We
were going to invite Joey Barton, weren't we?" (Presumably
to the ballet.) Then they work on the way different parts
of the track fade out at the very end.
about what is left to be mixed – four more songs - and
discuss which order they should do them in. "Is that your
water?" Neil asks Chris."Es ist mein," says Chris.
goes out to get a bottle of his own. The song plays again.
There got to be after, or the world will end today, sings
Neil from the speakers. “But would there still be a future
if the world ended?" Chris asks Neil. "Not for us," says
Neil. "I'm looking at it from a human perspective."
"Not the futures market?" says Chris.
Neil, "though that would go down the pan too, with the
human race. That would be one of the bright spots." They
talk about what it will be like to go back and see the
ballet. "We might not like what we see," says Neil.
"We might storm out," says Chris, making this sound
like rather an exciting possibility. "High potential of
storming out," Neil agrees. "'This is not what we
agreed!"' acts out
"'Javier!” ‘adds Neil.
Andrew hands them a CD of the new mix. "It's the20th," he
"The last day of winter," says Neil. "In
England it is already spring." (Because in England, eight
hours ahead, it is already March 21.) "Here in Burbank it
is still winter." They discuss which song Andrew should
work on when he comes in tomorrow, and then leave. In the
car they discuss whether tonight's dinner should be taken.
Neil suggests that they go to Salt's Cure again, but they
settle on another of their favourites, a place on Beverley
Boulevard called Cooks County. Neil successfully makes a
reservation over the phone. "People have started to
recognise who we are after two-and-a-half months of being
here," he says.
Chris, as usual, drives.
song isn't typical, by the way," Neil tells Literally.
"The Pet Shop Boys aren't afraid to go to places other
people don't go to," says Chris.
"The whole album,"
Neil lies, "is a tribute to the Fifth Dimension." He
explains how it was actually inspired by a piece of music
by Handel that he heard on the radio and "became mildly
obsessed by", and then Chris set a new melody to it. "It's
so complicated - you really need to get a proof singer
in." 'There's no one else doing that," says Chris.
"Allier" sighs Chris with satisfaction as he takes his
seat at Cooks County. "Excellent. A hard day's work." But
within seconds we realise that if we remain at this table
we have been given, which seems to be directly in the flow
of a ceiling air conditioning unit, we will freeze. We ask
to move. Once re-seated, Neil and Literally have a glass
of wine; Chris, who will be driving, only has water. Neil
raises his glass but Chris does not.
to cheer with water," he explains. "I come from a very
superstitious family. It's like: you can't give someone a
purse without money in it. You heard of that?"
You can't give a purse without money in
Chris repeats. They talk about how much they
enjoy doing late night grocery shopping here, usually at a
large store called Pavilions. "They have so many types of
milk," says Chris. you can get everything vegan," says
Neil. There are some things you can't get," says Chris.
"We couldn't get helium." (He means any kind of helium,
not just vegan helium.) "The bread!" he continues. "When
you've come from Berlin where the bread selection is
amazing..." Then they discuss more general matters. "I was
very aware what a competitive town this is," says Neil,
"because it was the middle of awards season."
it's tough, isn't it, showbiz?" says Chris. In the car,
Neil says, 'we’ll be back in time for Chelsea Lately."
fantastic," says Chris. "I like a routine."
to 96.3. "I'm going to miss this station," says Chris as
Flo Rida's "Sometimes" booms out. When Adele's "Set Fire
To The Rain" comes on, Literally mentions how Robert Smith
from The Cure has chanced into a great pension through
Adele covering his "Love Song" on her album 21. "Why has
this never happened to us?" asks Neil.
annoying, isn't it?" says Chris.
We drive up into
the dark hills and pull into the drive. "Well, it's been a
long day, hasn't it?" says
Chris. “It has," says Neil.
"It's been exactly twelve hours." The day is not yet
completely over. As promised, they settle onto the sofa to
watch Chelsea Lately. Neil makes chamomile tea for himself
and Chris, and they keep up a steady stream of commentary
as Chelsea Lately talks with her sidekicks and her guests.
They even seem to know all the commercials. A ritual to
enjoy while they can: in two days' time, this particular
Los Angeles adventure will be over