Martin McAloon on 'Andromeda Heights'
Reported by Peter Whitfield
I met up with Martin McAloon recently in Newcastle, and we talked about many things – Paddy’s current fascination with synth programming, Martin’s new love affair with the soil, and part of the conversation was directed towards a subject which doesn’t seem to want to go away. Andromeda Heights tends to polarise Sprout fans in a way that most of the band’s other albums do not, so I asked Martin why he thought this should be.
We picked apart the various theories that have appeared in the forum and at length he fixed me with a withering stare, before bursting out laughing. “That’s all a load of bollocks, there is no concept, no big scheme, no mid-life crisis on Paddy’s part, no deep conflicts with his religious persuasion. Yes, we approached the recording of that album very differently, in terms of the new technology that was available to us, but really, other than that it was just the usual case of Paddy bringing all these new songs to the sessions, and the band getting stuck in. There were an awful lot of songs for that project, and we would record each one up to the stage of final overdubs, you know, almost finishing the things, at which point Paddy would say “Nah, it’s no good, let’s start the next one”. The selection of songs was down to Paddy’s vision of a collection of tunes that SOUNDED great together, irrespective of the subject matter.
“The way he approached the recording process was to deliberately de-construct the band, so it didn’t sound like a rock group any more. As you know, this album was cut in a very early form of surround sound, and the hardware was designed and manufactured by the same firm that supplies CAT Scan equipment to hospitals. The process had been used before, but mainly in respect of orchestral recordings, and Paddy wanted to see if he could reproduce that spatial effect that you get when you’re sitting in a large auditorium listening to a classical performance. So, for instance, even though we had a normal drum kit set up in the studio, he wanted to recreate the effect of an entire percussion section. This meant for a very laborious recording technique, because each beat of each drum was recorded individually, then placed somewhere that Paddy wanted it, inside the wide sound arena. Because of this, fans have pointed out that there’s no drum sound, but it’s all there, it’s just spread out amongst all the other instruments. When it was finished, we all loved it, loved the sounds that we’d made. I’m proud of that album. Oh, and another piece of trivia – Andromeda Heights the studio was named after Andromeda Heights the album, not the other way around as most people think. “
So, more AH tales to digest, swallow or spit out depending on your views about the album. It’s still probably not going away any time soon though.