Hi, I'm Steve Millie and I was the engineer/co-owner of Pullman Sound Studios at Knutsford about 15 miles south of Manchester, where Geoff recorded I May Sing Grace, Psalm Enchanted Evening and a few demos.

I May Sing Grace

I met Geoff through the Chapman Stick/Bass player Keith Gould and liked him from the moment we said hello and shook hands. Keith had done a lot of recording here and used to rehearse in the studio if there wasn't a session on, so we were a natural candidate when Geoff got the backing to do the album.

After some get togethers in peoples front rooms and so on for the basics, the band started rehearsing in the studio which at that time I was totally re-soundproofing and rebuilding. We were in a really mad place, a station building much too close to a railway line, though actually the trains weren't much of a problem. Once I'd fully floated the floor and inner shell only occasional freight trains in the early hours of the morning meant acoustic guitar takes etc would need redoing. Fortunately, I don't think that we ever lost "THE" take of anything the whole time we were there. We actually had a train time table pinned up near the mixer and used to check if anything was due before doing a crucial take on a quiet instrument! The name Pullman was a tongue-in-cheek reference to our rail proximity, but was supposed to convey a message of "first class" too!

I think that for the first rehearsal Geoff and the guys set up virtually in the middle of a building site. LOL! Brickpiles, bags of cement, lots of chipboard and rolls of rockwool. They tightened the arrangements and the band up as I re-built the studio. Each time they came we were both a little further on, and Geoff was highly amused at the whole notion at first, though I think he was getting pretty worried in the final week! The last day before recording began, I stayed up through the night to finish up the final wiring and testing.

When the band arrived next day, I crawled out from under the mixing desk, put the screwdriver back in my toolbox and we started mic'ing the drums for the first track. I made the deadline - but boy, it was close. :) I remember too that Geoff was very concerned about me - both about my own health and whether I was going to be alert enough for the task. I have a distinct memory that as that first long day flew by into the small hours, I did indeed fall asleep at the controls briefly. I think that I nodded off during a long tape rewind and seem to remember Keith prodding me awake as the tape ran out and flew off the spool. All tired, we had a final listen to the last take and went home for the night. We'd spent most of the first day getting everything set up, mic'ed up and sounding good, listening to the pre-production demo's from portastudio and getting the basic core of a couple of tracks on tape.

Geoff was an easy person to work for and a wonderful person to be with. I spent quite a lot of time talking with him during the rehearsals and subsequent sessions and felt that we'd hit it off really well. I think that was an intrinsic part of Geoff’s personality though, the ability to establish a good rapport quickly with a wide range of people and we had some long and interesting talks about everything and nothing. Clever, witty and considerate, he was possessed of an immense talent and while I can only applaud and admire his dedication to the service of God, I always feel a tinge of regret too that his total commitment perhaps kept him from a much wider, more general audience. Of all the people who passed through the Pullman studio over the next twelve years, including some small "names," he remains foremost in my mind as a true star.

It was a pretty eclectic and diverse group of people that gathered in Pullman's undersized control room to create or capture Grace. The Still Owl was bound by other commitments and unsure whether he could actually be on someone else’s record. Keith was his usual highly-strung self, even more hyper with the pressure of the situation and firing off hilarious cynical comments and impersonations as he often does.

After all this time I can't remember track by track detail, just vivid recollections of certain events. Most of the tracks were put down as a performance of the live band, with everyone in visual contact and monitoring on headphones. The only parts always replaced later were vocals, the one from the live take just used as a guide due to the leakage of other instruments onto the mic. Later in the week, the guitarists’ battered Carlsboro combo amplifier developed a bad intermittent fault and I had to repair it. His Ghastly Green Les Paul guitar finally killed it off completely by the end and Dave gave me the smoking remains for spares.

The Still Owl used his Stratocaster and mine, usually through a valve pre-amp/distortion unit that I had built and I think either a combo that I had also built or through Keith’s Marshall on one track, if I remember correctly.

The door slam is the sound of the studio buildings outer door and the sounds of the passing cars were captured from the road outside - eventually. It was about 2 am and there wasn't much traffic. I remember much spoof, giggling and sarcastic comment as we waited to catch a good sample. The cough is Geoff getting ready to sing on another track as an intro played through.

I remember that week as a great deal of fun, despite the increasing pressure as time got a little short towards the end. The exceptions to the "live" take method were Green Paper Snow and Slow one. Work on G.P.S. began with getting about 5 minutes of drum machine on tape and the other parts were all added singly or two at a time as overdubs. That was one track where there was probably no clearly defined goal at the start of what the finished thing should actually sound like. I think we all just followed Geoff’s lead and went where it took us. Actually, I think that quite a few times during the week, Geoff himself was just "winging it" and going with his gut instinct of the moment. I also remember one time when he was sat writing lyrics as the track went down. I can't remember which song it was now, but I clearly remember making a quip to him about getting finished as the other guys were on their way in to listen to the playback!

The other exception was Slow one. We didn't put this down until near the end of the session and Geoff and his wobbly guitar were the starting point, recorded together, just the man and his music. We tried a couple of lines to get levels balanced and so on, then I said OK, Ready and Geoff performed. I had not heard the track at all up to that point and was stunned. That first take of the song was in my opinion the one that we should have used. Geoff's performance reduced me to tears and I was sobbing like a baby when he came back into the control room for the playback. Geoff was deeply touched and his eyes filled up too. He quietly said to me afterwards that it was the best compliment he'd ever been paid. Despite my desperate pleas, he felt he could do better and had another couple of goes at it. Eventually that first take was erased and recorded over, but my opinion then and now was that the first take was the definitive one, complete and finished in itself with just Geoff's heartfelt singing and wobbly guitar and capturing an indefinable magic that was missing from the released version. Ah well.... we'll never know now... Even so, it's still probably my favourite track. It has a direct sincerity somehow that always reaches me...

The Still Owl read dots and had his part for Slow One all written out so that he could play it in reverse. We swapped the spools round on the recorder and ran the tape backwards while he put the guitar down. Played back the correct way round later, it gives that unearthly sound to the guitar.

I engineered, problem solved and contributed a couple of ideas. The overall production was a band collaboration although Geoff obviously had the major influence and final say.

With more time, more money and perhaps more skill from myself, the finished product might have been "better." In retrospect, I think that what we needed most was a professional producer- someone to say when enough was enough and to be able to take control of the project and give it more of a gloss.

The Cut

In the way of those days, Grace had been recorded on mutitrack tape, mixed down to a stereo tape master and a cut to vinyl had been arranged at CBS in London. I went down with Geoff and Keith, mainly because the engineer wanted to minimise variations during the transfer by using the machine it was recorded with as I had used the DBX noise reduction on it. Geoff drove us and the machine down in a hire car and it was a long day.

The journey gave us the chance to pick up some of the chats we'd had during the session when Geoff told me about his faith and his desire to join the ministry. I was still surprised at how conservative a view he had of the church, given his background and the era that he had grown up in. We discussed the adventures and mistakes of our youth and found much common ground during our teens.

There were a few minutes panic when we arrived at CBS too, as our machine wouldn't link up to the professional gear properly and it took a while for someone to uncover an adapter box that would overcome the problem. I remember a desperate drive through the rush-hour traffic too, as Geoff strove to get the master discs to the plant before closing time. If I remember correctly he had to stop and telephone to persuade them to hang on for just a few minutes after closing until we got there.

Like most things, more time and more money would have improved the finished album, but it is perfectly listenable, was enjoyable to make and preserves a unique slice of Geoff's talent.

Psalm Enchanted Evening.

This was a different kettle of fish entirely.

Geoff hired a Linn-Drum machine and the recently available Emu Emulator. It's harder to remember or tell details about this album. It was done in less overall time with less money and more pressure due in part to the expensive hire rates of some of the gear.

One of my clearest memories from that session concern a particular drum sound, for two reasons. First, I thought one track, I can't remember which now but it might have been Dance, was crying out for a big "bish" snare drum on the offbeat, but Geoff thought it was too clichéd and was adamant that he wouldn't do it. So convinced was I that we should, that I stayed after everyone else had gone home and did an alternative mix of the track with a fat snare on it convinced that once he'd heard it, he would prefer it and change his mind. It didn't work though; He insisted that he preferred it without, so next day we went back to the original mix.

The other problem was the bass on Dance. The part just wasn't working, in spite of several people having a go at it. Asked what I thought, I said that they were being far too clever and should just have a simple line, playing a few bars to show the general idea. Everyone thought that it was finally sounding right so Geoff said why didn't I just put the it on myself, so I did.

The coda to that little tale comes from my last ever conversation with Geoff. We met by chance and exchanged a few pleasantries about life in general and his progress towards the priesthood. It was a brief exchange and we soon set off again on our separate ways. As he was saying his goodbyes, Geoff suddenly said "Oh yeah .... you were right about that snare drum ..... we should have used it." :)

Over the coming years, the expanding capabilities of home recording started strangling the small studios, the pre-programming aspect was becoming more and more dominant and was not much to my taste and I felt that my precious years were passing me by. Eventually I quit the studio business and after a brief European tour as front of house engineer with a band, I set up a group of my own and gigged round the club circuit playing covers. Recently I suddenly lost interest in the guitar altogether and after nearly forty years of almost obsession, these days I rarely even pick it up.

I regret that I never did get to see Geoff perform live before an audience. I was immersed in trying to keep my studio running and kept putting it off until "next gig." It is a great shame that more of the world did not see, hear and experience Geoff, but I am glad to see his musical legacy still thriving and hope that his music continues to bring enjoyment and understanding to people for a long time to come.

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