Dave Stowell from Stations about Martin Hannett
Hello John, I just read your website about Cargo. My band, Stations, worked with Hannett on a 3-song session here in Chicago back in 1983. We had sent him our first single and had then travelled to Manchester to meet him and convinced him to fly over to Chicago to record us here. At the time I was completely obsessed with the sounds that were coming out of Manchester. I still remember hearing “TRANSMISSION” by Joy Division on the radio in Chicago in the winter of 1980 and thinking THIS IS IT. THIS IS THE SOUND OF THE FUTURE. When we stepped into Hannetts house on Raynham Road in Didsbury there were about 100 copies of that single stuffed between the inner window and the storm window on the south side of the living room, having been rained on and god knows what else. It was a bit sad really. We got to meet the keyboard player from Magazine, Dave Formula that day. So we went through this international courtship of “the great Martin Hannett” and wound up with him as a guest in Chicago. He brought his then girlfriend Susannah O’Hara along with him. At this point Martin Hannett was in a bitter struggle with Tony Wilson at Factory over money, and was a full blown heroin addict. Although we had been in the music business for three or four years before hooking up with Martin, our idea of drugs was the odd joint and his visit to Chicago became a bit of a nightmare as we scrambled around trying to find “proper dope” for he and Susannah. We did wind up recording three tracks, and Martin mixed live sound for us at a gig backing up Killing Joke at Chicagos Metro venue. In the studio Martin didn’t do a whole fuck of a lot, honestly, preferring to let the engineer just get basic levels and EQ. At the end of three days recording Martin took the 24-track master back to the U.K. with him, promising he would mix it properly and send us back a two track master of the result. We did do some interesting stuff with my ARP 2600 synth and my Moog bass pedals on one of the tracks, though. Martin would shift between being very interested in what was happening in the studio to seeming complete indifference to anything but “chasing the dragon,” his term for smoking heroin off of little bits of foil with a lighter held underneath. Well, all we ever got back was a rough mix on a cassette as Hannett seemed to get deeper and deeper into the dope scene and lost his ability to produce much of anything. He got some work doing The Happy Mondays and we never heard from him again. We moved on as a band and got into other things, recorded successfully without a “big name” producer, etc. We assumed that the 24-track master was just going to gather dust at Strawberry Studio anyway and we chalked the whole thing off to youthful folly. Then YEARS later in 1992 we got a call from Studiomedia where we had done the session with Hannett and were asked if we wanted our old masters, they were cleaning house, etc and we said sure and went to pick them up…. lo and behold one of the engineers had made a safety master of the original 24 track session on 2-inch tape. That tape sat around for another decade until I finally hired some time at a 24 track studio and put the thing up on the reel only to find out it was in terrible condition and would not playback properly at all. BASF 2-inch tape from the early eighties was made with a new adhesive which broke down. Then we had the master “baked” in Los Angeles. Still no good. We had it baked again in Portland Oregon. Still no good. Then an engineer friend of mine, Marcelo Spina put the reel into a FOOD DEHYDRATOR with the temperature set at 180 degrees Farenheit and baked the thing again for thirteen hours turning the reel over every half hour. And it worked! We quickly transferred the master tape to digital files at a local 24 track studio and finally got to mix it ourselves. We feared that the tape would self-destruct at any moment. It was leaving a WHOLE lot of gunk on the playback heads as we were transferring it and the studio owner was worried about his gear, for which I don’t blame him at all. It was a very expensive recorder, a pristine STUDER. By bizarre co-incidence we met up with Jim Horn the worlds greatest rock and roll saxophone player at about the same time and he over-dubbed some sax and flute parts onto one of the recordings before we finished the whole thing. Anyway it turned out to be a great Martin Hannett production……years after poor James Martin Hannett died.
David Stowell formerly of STATIONS Chicago Illinois
p.s. I bought the first GANG OF FOUR EP the day it came out in Chicago….still one of my favorite records ever……..great sound from Cargo, John!