An Afternoon with Nick Duffy [From The Lilac Time]

6 Nov

Our meeting with Nick Duffy was scheduled for early afternoon. Having done a brief bit of research about Nick and his time in the Lilac Times I wasn’t sure what to expect. Feeling slightly pekish before the meeting. I decided to grab some chips from the nearest chippy and head to his studio.

Arriving at his house, we were led down the garden path to a structure resembling a shed crossed with a garage. Entering what is clearly Nick’s haven, I was struck by the sheer amount of low tech instruments and equipment.

Nick Duffy's Studio

Nicks Studio – Quite Dodgy Photo

Nicks studio is a fantastic place, the building is clearly a  sun trap and unlike many of the dark soulless studios I’ve been too, this one was really refreshing. Slowly the rest of the group arrived and Nick began his discussion. Nick Duffy has always been multi-talented, in the first five minutes of our discussion he hints at various facets of his career. Technically a musician, Nick was once an illustrator professionally. Now it seems Nick spends his time making music, documentaries and anything else that interests him.

As the talk continues, it is clear that Nick is not your average musician. The room is surrounded with most of the technology which we now consider obsolete: cassette decks, turntables, mini-disks and even an old reel to reel machine. None of this tech is relegated to the loft like most peoples.

Taking pride of place in Nick’s Studio is a 12 track Akai recorder, apparently taken as payment from the record companies during the early years as Lilac Times. You would be forgiven for thinking Nick was low tech, this is not the case next to these desks is a pro-tools and final cut set-up.

Akai MK 20J - Nicks 12 Track Tape Recorder

Nicks Akai MK 20J – 12 Track Recorder

Pressed further Nick explains his choice. You get given less choices, your restricted. You have to make decisions. This is what his mantra seems to be about he continues to say sometimes mistakes are endearing. With Pro-tools you can spend so much time making tiny decisions as because you can see the waveform you make decisions you usually wouldn’t. It makes you concentrate on what a piece sounds like, not the technical qualities of it.

Nick names Lars Van Trier document Dogma 95 and restrictive film competitions like Straight 8 [a competition where you make a short film with one reel, but cannot edit or touch the film and send it off to be developed.] In fact this stripped back approach is completely what Nick and especially the Lilac Time were about. Nick names a recent example of this, when the record company wanted to put out a greatest hits of the Lilac Time they stipulated the cd should have the commercial hit ‘Kiss me with your mouth’ however Nick and the rest of Lilac Time gave them a new version which completely altered the synth pop heavy original. When asked about his recording techniques, Nick says he doesn’t concentrate much on the choice of microphones for his own recording. He chooses a mic which he likes and knows the sound of. Nick names the Shure SM57, A Nyuman and a little Radio Shack Clip Mic he assures us he gets good results with. Giving us a quick introduction to experimental music, Nick mentions John Cage, the 1950’s experimental composer and his track of silence 4:33.

Throughout the talk with Nick he shows us some footage from the recent documentary Memory And Desire made on the band, directed by Douglas Arrowsmith. It clearly shows how different the band were at the time. In fact their sound is now as popular as punch, one of the bands most successfully used tracks ‘Trumpets From Montparnasse’ was written by Nick and has been used recently in Flora Adverts and Documentary ‘Honey Your Killing The Kids’

Much closer to our Music video project, Nick shows us an early Lilac Times video and the timelessness of them. Largely influenced by Derek Jarman, the footage shot on Super 8 is a combination between speed up sky, sped up roads and stop-motion quirkiness.

Finally Nick gets us to experiment with recording the whole group singing different songs as seeing what we get. The group asks about the Wurlitzer in the corner Nick sets it up and the remotely musical among us have a go. Nick says he got it off Free-Cycle and it’s clear he doesn’t like to see anything go to waste.

It seems Nick loves to experiment and not to do the obvious with his recording. If I take anything in particular away from the session, it is the importance of not overusing the equipment we have an not discounting what you believe to be obsolete. Slightly controversial I’m sure your agree when your on a Broadcasting course.

Helen Has A Go On The Wurlitzer

Here’s A Selection Of Lilac Time Videos

Return To Yesterday Video 1988

You’ve Got to Love 1988

Black Velvet 1988

The Girl Who Waves At Trains 1989

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One Response to “An Afternoon with Nick Duffy [From The Lilac Time]”

  1. Nick Duffy November 25, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    This is the best review I’ve ever had

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