Ed Wynne plugs himself into the making of Ozric Tentacles’ 1991 indie dance smash ‘Sploosh’
“The band came together at Stonehenge in 1983, at an amazing free festival. Me and a bunch of friends hired a generator, got our instruments, went there, set up and just started playing. I looked up and saw about 200 people watching us and thought, ‘Wow, we seem to have a gig going!’. At the end, somebody asked who we were, and I said, ‘Ozric Tentacles’.
“I was into guitar-based stuff, but had started to explore some of the stranger, more esoteric bands like Gong and Hawkwind. I wanted to get into synthesisers, but I didn’t really know what to get. Then I found out that somebody down the road from me was selling a synth, which turned out to be a Sequential Circuits Pro One. He said, ‘You can have it for £60, it’s broken’. He hadn’t realised the cut-off frequency knob was right down, which was why there was no sound coming out. I turned the knob up, and it made this amazing noise – so I quickly turned it down again, and said, ‘Yeah, it does seem to be a bit broken’. I couldn’t believe it! At home, I found it had this nice sequencer, and that was the doorway into the electronic world.
“My friend Joie Hinton, who was also in the band, got himself a Korg Poly-800, an early MIDI synth, but our sequencing at the start was all very analogue. I realised I could get the Pro One playing along with tunes if I recorded myself tapping in time on the table, and sending that into the back of the Pro One, which would sequence against it. So it was all very organic, even though we were pulling some quite modern-sounding tracks together in that way.
“A little later, when the acid 303 thing became popular, some of those sounds were the same as we were using so we were able to get away with playing as a rock band at raves, in between the other acts. It was really fun. ‘What are these dinosaurs doing on stage? Oh wow, I can’t stand still!’ We were giving out enough energy for people to lose themselves.
“When I first started going to free festivals, it was all space rock music. Then one year it all went reggae and dub, and then acid and techno started creeping in as well, and the sounds kept getting madder. I remember trying to get to sleep in my tent at a festival, but all I could hear was this number that had a sample of somebody laughing, and I was thinking, ‘This music has really started to get strange now…’.
“‘Sploosh’ was a funny track, a throwaway tune really. The reason it came about was I’d bought myself a new sampler – a Roland S-330 – and I saw it had this primitive, but quite interesting-looking sequencer inside it. I thought, let’s see if I can get this thing working. I needed a sample, so I went to the kitchen, filled up the sink, and recorded myself pulling the plug out, and that’s literally the noise at the start of it. Then I got the Pro One and did a little bass loop, put a quick drumbeat down, and by the end of the day I had this little thing chugging away. The next morning, I played it to someone and they said, ‘What on earth is that? It sounds great, you should finish it’. And it was just my little test piece.
“‘Strangeitude’ was one of the rare albums we recorded in an outside studio rather than at home. ‘Sploosh’ was pretty much done, except it didn’t have real drums on it, so the idea was to put my 8-track version of the song into the 24-track and get our drummer Merv Pepler to play on it. The melody line on top is quite woozy because it’s not in time. When Merv was playing along with it, he said, ‘It’s flying round my head and freaking me out’, so we had to mute that part while he was playing.
“Temple Studio was hidden in a suburban road in Croydon. It was owned by Jon Hiseman, the drummer from Colosseum, so it had a good drum sound, which was exactly what we needed. It looked like a totally normal house except the windows had been bricked up. There was an intercom where they could buzz you in, but in the studio, the button was broken and was often left on, so the entire session was coming out of this speaker on the front door and being broadcast to the street. Really bizarre for anybody walking past…
“‘Sploosh’ was one of the most successful tracks we did, and it was one of the easiest and quickest. Sometimes it’s not how much effort you put into a tune, but how little, making it light, casual and fun rather than cerebral, dense and complicated. It went to Number One in the indie charts and was being played in clubs, which was amazing, because it was only an experiment really. We’d also managed to do it totally independently. It wasn’t through hype, it was because people actually liked the tune. After that, when our next album ‘Jurassic Shift’ got to Number 11 in the charts, we could have been taken on by a major label. It was probably a good thing we weren’t, though, because we’ve kept our individuality and quietly bubbled away under the surface.
“I’m still using the Pro One. I had to get a new version, as mine was getting a little tired, so I got the tiny £250 Behringer version. Having owned a couple of Pro Ones and knowing them very well, it’s great how close they’ve got. I thought, ‘Let’s see what it does’, and ‘Popscape’ from the new album is what came out. Just like ‘Sploosh’, pretty much a test track.”
Ozric Tentacles’ ‘Space For The Earth’ is out on Kscope