You may have noticed that I'm gradually making this site into a receptacle for my various projects over the years. It's been fun rediscovering things I'd forgotten about. Like this GIF for instance which was created to promote the release of 'Mountain Rescue' in 2008. I've also been trying to track down the album notes I wrote for all the albums I've put out. Here are some notes I wrote for 'Mountain Rescue' which were sent out to the press. They explain the process of recording and how I lost my marbles a bit in the process. Oh dear. I'd forgotten about that. Anyway, it's all a bit "TL;DR" so, I will absolutely not be offended if you don't read it (not that I'd know anyway.) The previous album, 'Local Honey' had received a lot of positive press which is where our story begins....
The making of 'Mountain Rescue'
It's praise indeed - and a huge relief - that people want to hear more from The General Store. It's even more of a relief that I can now deliver 'Mountain Rescue' especially since I came close to abandoning this project altogether. Initial recording began in Brighton (see 'How Massacres Start') in November 2000 and would continue at various locations whenever I had the time. By November 2002 the album had become a 32-track monster, clocking in at just under 2 hours in length and recorded entirely on 4-track. These were indeed dark times for me but back then I saw absolutely nothing wrong with this, possibly because I had lost my mind! I began working on the sleeve artwork, which depicted diagrams of black holes swallowing faceless astronauts, the insides of the human body, mutilated prehistoric computers, the twin towers splattered with blood... pretty dark stuff.
Further and further into apocalyptical obsession I would descend, re-recording tracks, changing lyrics, growing more and more confused about what I was trying to achieve and struggling with the obvious sonic limitations of recording on 4-track. I reached a point where, although I could see the makings of a great album, I just didn't have the drive or enthusiasm to finish it. By this time I was living at my mum's house, constantly in the grip of panic attacks, unable to leave the house for days on end, convinced that this was how my life was going to be from now on. For the next 6 months 'Mountain Rescue' lay dormant and while I occasionally attempted to jump-start the project again, deep down I felt it just wasn't good enough. Taking a break from the whole project, I headed off to Cornwall and spent a few months working on Louis Eliot's debut album, 'The Long Way Round.' It was a welcome distraction and thankfully, after a few months of working on someone else's material, I felt the urge to start afresh, this time at Airfield studios with Paul Reeve at the controls.
August in Cornwall can be like being abroad: great weather, long lazy days, barbeques on the beach, surfer girls... Not that Paul or I saw much of that. We were busy making this record! Old friends came along to play and sing, beer and pizza were consumed, doobies rolled, a calm atmosphere prevailed and much laughter was had. It was a contrast to the paranoid state in which the original album sessions began. Not that the Airfield sessions were without danger. In fact, they were fraught with it: electric shocks off Leslie speakers, windpipe mishaps with Dairy Milk chocolate, not to mention the usual anxieties that are all part and parcel of making an album. But, it was all worth it and in March 2004 Paul & I reconvened to mix the album. I'm so glad Paul and I made such a happy, optimistic album as opposed to the sonically dense, sprawling, paranoid opus I'd originally had in mind (I'm not sure that the world is ready for 'Country Goth' just yet.) 'Mountain Rescue' has a hope and optimism that, I feel, 'Local Honey' lacks. I guess it has a lot to do with the headspace I was in plus the fact that other people were involved this time around, giving this album more depth and texture. Special thanks to everyone who gave their time and talent to this project.
With one thing or another, I've had to put the release of this album on hold for longer than originally planned but hopefully, folks will see it as one of those "timeless" records! That was always the plan from the start anyway: to make a record like they used to, one that would - hopefully - improve with age. And now I've handed it over to Walter at Brewery in California who, I believe, cares enough about this record to launch it out into the big wide world. What happens next is in the lap of the Gods...
Reviews for 'Mountain Rescue'
"The gorgeous strains and influences of World Party, "Harvest"-era Neil Young, early 70s Elton John, CSN&Y, Quiver and The Travelling Wilburys are present but filtered purely through Johnstone`s immense talents. This is a very special record – not just because it’s a true-gem, but it articulates a ‘soul-spirit’ few records are able to tap into; it’s one of Johnstone’s many gifts. The wait for this one is well, well worth it" - Not Lame recordings
"A Modern Day Masterpiece! This new album brilliantly combines lush Beach Boys and CSNY-style harmonies, the West Coast country of The Flying Burrito Brothers and Beatles-inspired melodies to create an album that can only be described as a true masterpiece. Any fan of West Coast rock 'n' roll will LOVE this record from start to finish...guaranteed!" - CD Baby
This week I have been mostly digging out old recordings and videos from bands I used to play drums with, dating back to the '90's. This is just a smidgen. Enjoy!
Paint was a band formed by ex-members of Starclub who I auditioned for and became great mates with. "Whitey", their original drummer, left to join Oasis and I stepped in. Lots of Camden gigs (you know the ones), some great recordings produced by JJ Burnel and a deal with Sacred/Sony. It all fell through as these things sometimes do. Shame because, as you can hear, we kicked serious arse.
After all this time, I still find it a bit difficult to talk about Glass Shark. It exploded very quickly for us - albeit on a local level - and then, equally quickly, it fell apart. As is often the case with difficult life lessons, I wish I'd dealt with it differently. What can I tell you? I was young and reckless. Looking back now, I'm incredibly proud of what we achieved and, to this day, people tell me how much they loved the band.
Between 2009-2013 I lived in Dearborn, Michigan. A covers band from Detroit called, Fifty Amp Fuse approached me with a view of bringing me over to work with the band. Since I was a kid I'd dreamed of living in America and this seemed like the right time to go for it. Towards the end of 2010, I hatched a plan to spend the next year making a song and a video every week, partly out of restlessness but, mainly to sharpen my songwriting skills and learn how to make videos. I called the project, Tam Johnstone's Song Explosion. I've taken the videos down now because they're not that great but, I'd like to remix all the songs and re-edit the videos someday.
PAINT London, 1995-1996 / Drums, vocals
"PAINT: three peroxide geezers, dressed in black, forging a tune-tastic post-punk strop. Yikes! They froth. They ferment! Their guitar goes "dagga-dagga!! Paint are precisely the kind of ragged rompers you fall over at 11pm away from the fashionable spotlight. Smashing!" NME (1995)
GLASS SHARK Cornwall, 2006-2008 / Drums, lead vocals
"The chorus power of prime time Nirvana, the danceability of the Gibb brothers on E and the 21st century techno-nous of New Yorkers like The Rapture. They have rapidly become one of the best live bands in the South West" Cornish Guardian (2006)
TAM JOHNSTONE'S SONG EXPLOSION Dearborn, 2011 / Instruments, vocals
A song and a video every week for a year. 13 of the 52 songs became my 2012 album, Fantastic Animals which was put together in order to help with my O1-Visa reapplication. Is this the first album to be released for such a purpose?