Granpa

I've been making music since I was 13. Much of my musical development was influenced by my grandfather. Not because I took musical influences from him - I didn't - but because the recording equipment available to me came from him.

My grandfather was a great electrical hobbyist. He rewired his house several times, managing to install all the light switches upside down, and making it an exercise in Kafkaesque experimentation to discover which permutation of switches on which floor would activate which lightbulb. He spent his retirement taking apart nonworking tape decks and canibalising them into...tape decks that half worked. Some of the time.

I remember one system he concocted. By a series of switches, you could play a cassette on one deck, but if you wanted to rewind you had to transfer power to a different deck that could only fastforward. You could record from the radio to a reel-to-reel deck, playing through mismatched speakers.

One day when I was about 17, having actually got a reel-to-reel deck working perfectly, he said he couldn't find a use for it, so offered to sell it to me. I paid £70, and got a wooden box I could barely carry and a stack of dusty spools.

I fixed the deck up to the speaker output of my parents large television, and recorded sound effects and dialogue from TV shows. When I'd composed some music on my Tascam cassette 4-track, I carried the deck upstairs, and selected snippets of television sound to dub over the music. This was my vocal - I never thought of trying to sing, rap, or speak. I made a dozen or so albums that way.

Recently, I've decided to try to recreate the most successful tracks from this early work, using technology I could only dream of at the time. So, sitting in front of me is a stack of analog spools, containing roughly recorded sections of soundtrack from 80s and 90s television.

Tomorrow, I plan to dig out that old tape deck, and sample those cut up snatches of mass media that form most of my pleasant teenage memories.

My grandfather has been dead for over a decade. I have only a few memories of him, as a kindly man, a tinkerer, and a reader of bizzare mystical trash. He died just as I was getting to know him. We had two interests in common - taking things apart to make them work, and music.

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