I started the Sex, Drugs 'n' HIV project 15 years ago in 1995. I wanted to give something back to the charities that helped me on my journey in life. I've had a weird & wonderful life that hasn't been straightforward and had many a strange tangent thrown into the equation. I've almost finished writing a book on my life, which is a memoir of my journey through the sex, drugs & rock'n'roll.
At the time I started recording the first HIV sessions, I had just left punk band CHELSEA and joined SHAM 69. I knew musicians from various bands from being on the road and meeting people backstage etc, a lot of them became my friends, so I asked them to guest on the album.
I had the idea to record an album with different musicians on each track, it originally was only meant to be 1 album but the project grew and more & more people wanted to get involved so it is now a double CD, 40 songs, 20 songs on each album which all join up together. Inspired by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, I liked the way the album was a complete piece of music with no gaps but still had dynamics and took you on a journey with the music.
For the first 10 years or so I was recording at Dave Goodman’s home studio in Gipsy Hill. Dave was known for his work with the Sex Pistols as their sound man and produced the Spunk album & The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. I'd worked with Dave before when he produced the 2 CHELSEA albums I played on: The Alternative & Traitors Gate and later two SPLODGE albums: I Dont Know & Artful Splodger. I liked the way Dave worked, we got on well and he believed in my crazy idea to record the HIV album. Dave & I became very good friends and we produced most of the songs together.
I booked Dave's studio for a month and planned on having all the drummers in the first week, guitarists & bass players in the 2nd & 3rd week and the vocalists in the last week. It kind of worked out quite well and people were in & out of the studio all day & night, sometimes 7 different musicians a day. The album was like a huge jigsaw, filling in spaces with various musicians like a musical collage with many different styles including rock, pop, ska, punk, reggae, rockabilly, heavy metal, funky, R&B, new age, country. Six months after the 1st recording session I booked the studio for another month and recorded another load of musicians.
One of the highlights of the project has to be Max Splodge's trombone solo on the song '667 The Neighbour Of The Beast', it's hilarious, he'd never played a trombone before but insisted the track needed a trombone solo. Max also played trombone on the title track for the album Sex Drugs And HIV, written by Darrell Bath (UK Subs / Dogs D'amour / Crybabys) and Honest John Plain (The Boys / Crybabys). I didn't want to write the title track for the project so I asked Darrell. I also collaborated with musicians on some of the songs for the project, writing songs with: Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy / Motorhead), Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet), Dick Lukas (Citizen Fish / Subhumans), Paul Fenech (Meteors), Micky Fitz (The Business), Frankie Stubbs (Leatherface), Roly Wynne (Ozric Tentacles), Poly Styrene (X Ray Spex), Darren White (The Blood Divine), Chris Bowsher (RDF), Jennie Matthias (The Belle Stars), Jimmy Pursey (Sham 69), Mark E Smith (The Fall), Lee Thompson (Madness), Judge Dread, Angie Bowie, and Afrika Bambaataa.
The entire project has been filmed: Mat Sunderland filmed the first half of the project and Dublin Joe & my son Alex filmed the 2nd half. Mat will be making a rockumentary film about the project for next year. Included in the limited Sex Drugs & HIV box sets (which will later be released) will be 3 memory sticks with 30 one hour documentaries which show the musicians at work, how the album was made and different musicians meeting each other at the studio & telling some great stories. I've been back & forth to Germany for the past 10 years, trawling through the hours of footage (over 150 hours) with my good friend Manni Kusters, who taught me how to use the machines, what to look for, what was no good etc., and how to edit on the computer.
Through 15 years of making the album I went through the transfer period where everything that had been recorded on analogue had to be transferred to digital, not only for each instrument on each song but also all the hours of video tape had to be transferred.
When Dave Goodman died in 2005 I looked for a studio to finish off the project and discovered Panther Studios which was owned by Dick Crippen, ex bass player with Tenpole Tudor and King Kurt. Dick had played bass on one of the tracks for the HIV project some 10 years before and ironically was the same track that Dave Goodman had played on (Cigarette In The Ashtray).
Dick helped me finish off the jigsaw and some new tracks were recorded at Panther to complete the project of 40 songs. Dick is great to work with, he knows how I work which is sometimes relentless but he understood how important it was for me to me to get things right. I finished all the recordings on 16th May 2011, it was 15 years in the making (almost to the day). I mastered the albums at Abbey Road in October and Mat Sunderland put the finishing touches to the DVD ready for pressing. It's a great feeling to have completed the album and I'm looking forward to presenting it to everyone and making some money for the charities.
The songs from the Sex Drugs & HIV album were made available to download on the 1st January 2012. The HIV project band: ROCK 'n' ROLL GYPSIES will also play shows to promote the album release and raise awareness for the charities:- Rape Crisis, Release (drugs), Terrence Higgins Trust (HIV+AIDS) & Cancer Research after my recent fight with cancer. A few musicians on the project have since died of cancer;- Kelly Johnson (Girlschool), Paul Samson (Samson), Jez Bird (The Lambrettas), Paul Fox (The Ruts), Chris Townson (John's Children / Jet / Radio Stars), Poly Styrene (X Ray Spex) - also not forgetting; John McGeoch (Magazine / P.I.L), Wurzel (Motorhead), Min (Splodgenessabounds), Roly Wynne (Ozric Tentacles), Wally Nightingale (Sex Pistols / Swankers), Judge Dread and Dave Goodman who have also passed.
Fund-raising shows are organised to finance the pressing of the Sex Drugs & HIV album. The first, and very successful, was on December 1st - World A.I.D.S. Day - with Rock'n'Roll Gypsies performing a live version of the album joined by many guests appearing from the album.
You can follow the progress of the Sex Drugs & HIV project on the Facebook site;
The project band; Rock'n'Roll Gypsies;
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