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Decibel Boy - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 18 / 11 / 2004

Decibel Boy - Interview


Pennyblackmusic writer Philip Vincent has just released his debut album on his own label under the moniker of deciBel boy. He talks to John Clarkson about the recording possibilities that did not exist for musicians even 5 years ago

deciBel boy is the musical moniker of Pennyblackmusic writer Philip Vincent. 21 year old Philip has played in a variety of bands since his early teens, but decided to assume the nom de plume of deciBel boy for his own solo project this summer. Philip, who works as a sound engineer, has just self-released as the first release of his own deciBel boy label deciBel boy's eleven song debut album, 'Una Durate Di Due Lati'. He has also recently started playing gigs in and around his native Hampshire. The majority of the songs on 'Una Durate Di Due Lati' find Philip accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with occasional touches of synthesiser. They, however, otherwise do not slot not easily into a format, and find him successfully experimenting in a wide range of styles and genres including the blues, folk, pop and country. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Philip about its recording of 'Una Durate Di Due Lati'. PB : Why did you decide to call your album 'Una Durate Di Due Lati' ? What does that mean ? PV : : Una durate di due lati means “A life of two sides” in Italian or something like that anyway. It’s a quote a friend of mine gave to me when I was working in a hospital during the day and then sound engineering or playing rock star in the evening and then touring every three months or so. Itjust stuck with me. It was the same with the name deciBel boy really, Per Sellberg, the lead guitarist with the band Renton who I have toured with as a sound engineer, called me in one day after house engineers repeatedly said how loud the band were and then when it came to thinking of a name for myself deciBel boy became the obvious choice! PB : Several of the songs were co-written with Jon Hill ? Who is he ? PV : : Jon Hill is a friend of mine going back to birth. We were in a band together when we were 16 and he is a genius lyricist.I’m not bad but he is awesome. He didn’t write all the lyrics for the album but I think about half of his lyrics are his. Basically how it worked was that he sent me about 50 songs via email that he had written whilst on a gap year in Spain. I then read through all the lyrics, chose the ones I liked the best, edited them a bit and then began to put music to them. Most of this happened in an initial writing session in June in which I recorded about 12 songs straight to cassette tape. I then took these and they grew over time from just acoustic guitar and bass to what you hear on the album. In fact what you will now hear live from deciBel boy is different again from the album. It's much more energetic with electric guitar being used instead of acoustic. PB : The balance of the songs find you merging your acoustic guitar with smatterings of synths and electric guitars. Did you play all the instruments yourself ? How did you record the album ? Was it entirely at home ? PV : Everything on the album was recorded by myself, except the bass guitar on one track 'On or Off' which was played by Jon Hill. The birth of most of the songs were from one session in early June 2004 when Jon and I sat down and hammered out some tunes. We were trying to recapture what it was like to be in a band at 16 years old where the novelty is being in a band and not being really heavy or emo or whatever the trend of the day is. It soon became apparent to me that Jon didn’t have the same outlook on the band as I did and so began thinking about doing it as a solo project utilising the material that Jon and I had created. All the acoustic tracks on the album was recorded in one session in my bedroom over night from about midnight till 4 AM and was originally going to be completely separate to the deciBel boy album which was going to be much more electro than it ended up being. The rest of the tracks came together over the summer of 2004 with the album being finished late August. PB : You've got a day job as a sound engineer. That must have been advantageous in a lot of ways. Was it a disadvantage as well in some ways also ? Is it harder or easier engineering your own songs than those of other groups and acts ? PV : When I began the album I was still a frustrated engineer working in a hospital and engineering for bands in the evening, but I was no way making a living from this! It did teach me a lot about the music scene though, as I saw so many bands from January through to May/June time that it dawned on me that the only thing you could do was to play music true to yourself and see if other people liked it. Anyway back to the question. Being an engineer with my own equipment definitely helps, as it means that I can record at any time and pretty much anywhere which makes the whole music making process much more fluid than I think it has ever been before. I can now with the help of my laptop record my guitar and vocals, add drums, keyboards, string sections, pianos etc, mix it, burn it to CD, publish it on the web, design the album artwork, edit the video for the first single, the list goes on. This was simply not available to a person such as myself even 5 years ago. Of course this does create the issue of when to stop. If you have no financial cut off point and can record at anytime with no limitations when is a song finished? When is the album finished? Issues like this causes me more problems than how loud the guitar should be! PB : It is a very diverse album of many moods and in which you throw in a few shocks along the way. The album, for example, becomes quite mellow towards it middle, and then you throw in 'Dance, Bitch, Dance', which had quite a grinding sound. Did you spend a lot of time deciding on a running order, and what was going to go where ? PV : This change in style happened as I spent more and more time on the production of each song and you could probably correlate the date with the level of production if you were that way inclined! The track order came together quite easily and without going all ippy drippy it actually kind of arranged itself and it just felt right when it was finished. It was the first collection of music I have created that has come totally from myself and that I have had an emotional attachment to. It was a moving on point emotionally for me, of moving out of childhood and into adult life and on an even deeper level it was the musical acknowledgement that music was what I was going to dedicate my life to for a better or worse till death do us part sort of thing. It was also done as a way of giving the finger to people I have met over the last 5 years who haven’t given me the time of day because I have told them I want to do music or because the music I was creating wasn’t to their taste. I wanted to make an album that as many people as possible could and would like but without making it sound fragmented. PB : You recorded over 20 songs before compiling together the album. What criteria, if any, did you use to decide which songs were going to be on the album. What do you plan to do with those songs that didn't make the album ? PV : As I said before the album just kind of felt done. There were some tracks that I knew weren’t gonna make it onto the album from their very inception. 'Dance Bitch Dance' started off as one of these but then I just thought “you know what, Fuck it, that is as much a part of me as one of the gentler songs on the album” so I put it on if just to make people think that there is that part of me that wants to make dirty grinding stuff more at home in a sweaty London basement club than the leafy streets of the home counties. The songs that didn’t make it on mostly didn’t make it on as I felt I was covering territory that was already covered on the album. But for live purposes it means that I can replace various songs in the set but keep the overall feel the same. I am also constantly writing and there are two songs in the current live set that weren’t even written when the album was completed so I may take some of these new songs, add the tracks that didn’t make it on to 'Una Durate Di Due Lati' and create another album eventually. PB : The album has been released on your own deciBel boy label. Why did you decide to self-release it rather than look for a label to put it out on ? Do you see yourself in the future self-releasing other material on the label, either by yourself or other artists ? PV : I decided to self release it out of speed and ease more than anything else. With me funding the pressings and all promotional stuff I only have myself to answer for if it doesnt sell. Whereas If I was on a small deal with a label there would be other issues such as copyrightand so on. I think the perfect way and the way I would really love for deciBel boy and associated record company to progress would be to get a distribution and promotion deal with someone who has a bit more money and industry force and can therefore push the record to local record shops around the UK and give me back the time needed to do this myself. (May I add time I don't really have to spare!) The first run of CDs I did was only 100 strong to see if they could/would sell, so once those hundred go I will have to decide what I want to do then. Part of me wants to release another album every 6 months as long as the previous one sells and part of me wants to do one every year or so and make them a significant change in style and direction. I just can't decide right now! As to releasing other artists, I dont know whether I can actually offer anythign to anyone to make them want to sign with dBb records. As I said I dont have a distribution contract or anything and apart from having a bit of cash and some knowledge of pressing companies and printing companies to get the artwork and CDs made I feel like I'm just an ordinary Joe with aspirations to greater things. Come back in a year and that may all have changed hopefully! PB : Thank you.

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Una Durate Di Due Lati (2004)
Eclectic debut album from deciBel boy, the moniker for Pennyblackmusic writer Philip Vincent, who shows himself able to transcend 'the blues, folk, pop and country seemingly at whim'

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