2 x CD expanded re-issue and download
Release date: 4 th July 2011
BELKA RECORDS via CARGO
In their relatively brief lifetime, between 1996 and 2002, Hefner enjoyed an incredibly productive four-album, multi-EP career. Their beautiful, concise, intelligent songs earned a fiercely loyal, cult audience and the long-term support of legendary DJ John Peel, for whom they recorded innumerable sessions.
Originally released in 2001, their final album, Dead Media , found Hefner reaching out and taking risks. Keen to break free of their indie-folk roots, they cocooned themselves in a home studio with broken analogue synthesizers, antique drum machines and battery-powered amplifiers. The band's naivety and guile produced some curiously engaging music, with frontman Darren Hayman's precise, economic, poetic dissections of quotidian romance draped over awkward, fuzzy beats: something like Cat Stevens covering Warm Leatherette.
Dead Media caused confusion at the time and ultimately lead to the band's break up. However, the songs like ‘Junk', ‘The Night's Are Long' and ‘When The Angels Play Their Drum Machines' are among Hayman's most adult and affecting essays and stand out among the finest of Hefner's achievements.
This two-disk reissue tells the full story of Hefner's valedictory folly, with a hefty 20 extra tracks including the complete ‘Hefner Brain' EP, B-sides, live tracks, unreleased songs and an exclusive, unreleased remix by electronic music pioneer Daniel Miller (composer of the aforementioned ‘Warm Leatherette').
Buy it from the Hefner shop
The Original Album
1. Dead Media
OK here it is, our electronic album, the curates egg, the Kid A, the Metal Machine Music. You don't like it? Fuck off then ! I'm listening to it whilst writing this and its the first time I've done so in about two years, and to be honest I find it hard to see what the fuss was all about in retrospect but the fans were really angry about this at the time. It sold about a third of the amount of We Love the City so people voted with their wallets.
In many respects my musical career is still in turmoil because I made this record, and I'd certainly be a lot less poor if I'd made another album like We Love the City. It may surprise you to learn that I have never worked as hard or put a much of myself into a record as I did with Dead Media. That's not said to make you appreciate it more , but it is said to make you see that this wasn't a lazy effort from me. My only regret about this album in retrospect is how little John, Antony and Jack get to do on the album. All the synth programming was by me and at least seven of the songs are pretty much me on my own.
It wasn't through want of trying, the guys sometimes were so easy going and they just let me take over. I would have liked it much more if they'd perhaps complained or bought forward more ideas of their own. Antony particularly doesn't get much to do here because of all the drum programming.
Jack does a little more and it is perhaps the first Hefner album were you start to hear his character coming through. I guess this is due to the fact that me and Jack were making his solo album 'Practical Wireless' at the same time as we were doing Dead Media. I often think of 'Practical Wireless' as a sister album to Dead Media and if you like this album you'd do well to track it down.
I don't feel bitter about the way anything turned out in Hefner. I've never liked my bands to play it safe, I'd rather fall flat on my face once in a while than keep moving forward at a snails place. Listening to it now, I'm struck by how melancholic the album sounds, it's almost like we knew it could be the last Hefner album, and I suppose we did, subconsciously at least.
The thing to realise is that it was a funny time. Too Pure had all but given up on us, and did little to promote the album, we were tired of touring, we had to do something to shake things up. It's not my favourite Hefner album, but I can see a time when it might be and as time goes by more and more people some up and tell me how much they like it. Well, if you'd all told me at the time perhaps there'd be a sixth Hefner album! For those of you who are fans of Dead Media you'll be pleased to know that there is virtually another albums worth of stuff in the vaults from these sessions including one song; 'Your Kitchen' which is one of my girlfriends favourite ever Hefner songs.
What follows is the original 'Making of' feature that appeared on Hefnet at the time, it lists all the released and unreleased songs from these sessions.
The Making of Dead Media
By Darren Hayman
‘We Love the City' represented the most intense period of writing, thus far, for a Hefner album. The lyrics and tunes went under many revisions in the twelve months before recording. The recording itself was also very planned in contrast to previous Hefner albums. John and I had figured out most of the brass and vocal parts before we went into the studio. There was an almost conscious effort on the band's part to make quite a ‘lush' or ‘produced' record, not for purely commercial reasons, but because the ‘up' nature of the songs seemed to demand it. It occurred to me that it was what was least expected of us, appearing to critics and fans alike as an indie band.
I like ‘We Love the City', but was pretty certain I didn't want to do an album the same way a second time. Around this time my friends Mark and Brian had both been telling me that they had been enjoying some of the pre-‘Breaking God's Heart' tapes (some of those songs appeared on ‘Soul' and ‘Pull..'). Though unimpressed by the recording quality I was struck by how cavalier our approach to arrangement and sound was when we thought nobody was listening. The idea started to form that we should make music at home again; private music that isn't made primarily with a listener in mind (at least not until final track listing).
I thought that to make an album purposefully lo-fi would be a contrivance seeing that we could afford not to, but at the same time I didn't want hi-fi sound fidelity to be an issue that held us back creatively. The result was a fairly simple set up with a digital 8-track, valve compressor, a few decent microphones. The 8 tracks would be a big step down from the 24 we're used to at Roundhouse, and we hoped the restrictions would force us to think laterally. When I was at art college, the tutors would often give us odd exercises to make us work within restrictions, like drawing without looking at the page, or not lifting the pencil from the paper. Once we had to paint for a whole morning with a bag of flour tied to our wrist, the idea being that as the arm got tired it would only be lifted when a mark was really deemed worth making. This is what the 8 tracks were going to do for us, no superfluous finger cymbals here, just the meat and bones. I felt I had developed a few engineering skills through recording some b-sides in the past but I also hoped that I could make my shortcomings work for us rather then against us, that there would be something unorthodox about me trying my best when there was an obvious gap in my knowledge.
I guess I was thinking quite a bit about Joe Meek and Lee Perry when thinking of this stuff, both legendary record producers who made fantastic sounds with only limited knowledge and equipment.
The band were also (and still are) listening to a lot of electronic music at the time. (Current stuff like ‘Mouse on Mars' and ‘Plone' but also ‘Kraftwerk', ‘Human League' etc.), and we had been starting to buy up old analogue synthesizers. We knew this factor would inform much of the sound of the next album.
Here is a list of all the songs, with notes, recorded for the Dead Media album. There are a lot and quite a few won't be released for a while. They are placed in chronological order, so as to tell the story of the sessions unfolding.
Half a Life
One of the first we started, and strangely one of the most successful. All of the band appear though every one did their parts separately, in itself a new thing for us. Jack's first lead vocal. An old analogue tape deck was used to reverse the tape to get the backwards synth/guitar solo, it took a whole day to synch it back into the song (and it still isn't in time).
Currently not on the release schedule, this was the original title track of the album (after ‘Dark Days' we went for ‘Love Your Enemies' then ‘Dead Media'). At this stage we were filtering a lot of instruments through our Moog synth, creating those weird high end watery effects that can be heard on Alan Bean and ‘Half a Life'. Jack does a cracking ‘When Doves Cry' guitar solo on this.
The song pretty much only features me and Jack, (Ant does a backing vocal). A lot of these earlier songs were done in tandem with Jack's solo album. Jack had been banned from playing Pedal Steel on ‘WLTC' (due it not being a very London instrument) so he enjoyed to trying to make it sound like it was in outer space on this. Very definitely Joe Meek inspired this one, the lyrics are explained on the back of the single.
The Love has Gone
V. sad countyish song. John got an effect by playing the song through a speaker that sat on top of a snare drum, a mike was placed underneath that caught the delayed ‘flam' sound.
The Nights are Long
Recorded on the same day as the above, this was the only time the downstairs neighbours complained about noise, maybe because Jack was using my entire bathroom as a reverb chamber for his guitar.
Everyone (except John) gets a lead vocal. Quite a few weird instruments on this. Jack played his ‘Black Sun' steel which is made from tin and has no sound hole. The rhythm track was taken from a strange Italian 70's keyboard called a Giaccaglia. Xylophone was also a popular instrument around this time also. I once promised myself I would never write a song about being in a band or the music industry and I kind of broke that promise here. I won't do it again.
Waking Up To You
‘A bit McCartneyish' said Jack. That can only be a compliment to me. As many as 9 backing vocals bounced down onto one track for this. A love song.
All of a sudden ‘Too Pure' decided they wanted ‘Painting and Kissing' as a single, (they later changed their minds). So this and the next three were recorded as b-sides.
This is a song made famous by Toots and the Maytals and also the Specials. A particularly bizarre arrangement in the middle by John, can't explain, you'll have to wait to hear it.
Hymn for the Telephones
V. old song, re-recorded.
The only unreleased song that was written for ‘WLTC'. A waltz time song set in 1930's London, with Jack on fiddle.
A cover of the Human League song.
Call it cowardice, but half way through the album we decided to record a few songs (this and the next four) with Miti again at Roundhouse Studios. Oddly, everyone seems to agree that these recordings don't necessarily sound more produced. This is a song about my first girlfriend at school, (Linda Brockbank if you're reading).
This was one of the most fun times I've ever had in Hefner. We were waiting for Miti to fix something on the desk and John started playing this tune he had, within ten minutes I'd put some unused lyrics on it, and we were ready to record. It was so exciting to have something come from nothing so quickly. The brass section were coming in the next day anyway for another song, so we got them to add trumpets and whistling. My favourite song on the album.
Like many of the songs on Dead Media, this is about growing up, thinking about what truly matters in life.
King of Summer
A pretty shameless attempt by me to write a summer hit. I did write it on the beach in Barcelona though.
Can't Help Losing You
An old time country style song with brass. This uses a pretty common Hefner arrangement trick which is to have almost every instrument playing the bass line, (see also ‘Thatcher' and ‘GLR')
All I Ever Need
Sad piano song about missing your honey. Written in somewhere called Aas in Norway (I think). We played to 8 people that night.
This is pretty shameless as well actually. Sometimes you just want to write a stupid dumb, pop song. Never has there been a more Gary Numan keyboard solo outside of a Gary Numan record, never has there been a more Billy Duffy guitar solo outside of a Cult record. I'm not proud.
Believe it or not I was trying to do a Missy Elliot style production here. At one point I thought this was they key to the whole album. Jack talked sense into me that it was a b-side.
An old verse from about ten years back, bolted onto a new chorus. My girlfriend thinks we're stupid for not putting this on the album, let alone not a b-side. You'll get to hear it eventually I'm sure.
Come on Sister
Song about (hey!!!) my sister. Just me and my synths (aahh happy times…)
Hymn for the 1950's British Folk Revival
So bad I don't think all the band have even heard it. If you ever see me release this, you know I've run out of ideas.
Just Take Care
So many people wanted this on the album but it just didn't come out the way I'd planned it. Myself, Antony and Amelia had all tried singing this until eventually Kerry from Whistler got the job.
With the title for the album in my head I decided to make a song to go with it. Arpeggiating Korgs, I'm sure heaven sounds like this.
It seemed looking back that this rare Hefner song was the start of some of the Dead Media ideas. Playing it through on piano I thought how good it was and that it should be heard by more people. I wrote some more lyrics and got Amelia to sing with us on it. James from Whistler plays Viola.
A Better Man
Once again recorded with Amelia and James.
When the Angels Play their Drum Machines
Pretty much just me on this one with Antony programming the drums. Incidentally I can't play keyboards as well as that solo. Each bar of it was recorded separately and cut together, it took me a whole day.
These last two songs were made to impress someone or other at the record or publishing company and perhaps sound like it. On this we were seeing if it was possible to sound more like the Rolling Stones then Primal Scream do.
The only time we probably resorted to Hefner by numbers for this record, fans of ‘Hello Kitten' will undoubtedly love it, it does have a stylophone solo in it though.
Incidentally for those of you who find the idea of a synthesizer led Hefner a bit hard to take, be warned. After we finished the album I bought a ‘Prophet 5', the mummy of all synths, get used to it kids.