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ARTICLE
By Paul Dakeyne.
At the time of its high-level activity, speculation was rife as to who Tinman was, and there was much talk of whether ’18 Strings’ was indeed actually ’sampling’ Nirvana?! Even though this track was my baby, I don’t recall such a story behind any other club record being so convoluted, surrounded in mystery, and having the death of a rock legend thrown in for good measure. So, on with the real story: the truth, the creativity, the frustration and the joy behind what is, I’m proud to say, one of the biggest dance hits of its time. I had entered 1993 with a steady decline in my production workload. Having enjoyed a longer-than-normal (five years, actually) ‘flavour of the month’ period with record labels and clients, my star was evidently fading. There was no specific reason, just that shit happens and that was my place to be in at that time. But destiny and fate are curious bedfellows.

When the industry you are connected to kind of turns its back on you to concentrate on the next big thing, you are charged with a massive surge of creative energy. You want to re-affirm your ability, re-invent yourself, and make the people who turned away look back and really take notice again. I’m not too proud to give you the truth behind ‘18 Strings’, but this was indeed my motivation.

SET TARGET… FIRE!

So, my ‘bullseye’ target was Pete Tong. I not only wanted him to play my track without knowing who was behind it, but make him join the queue to sign the damn thing! Studio time at DMC was harder to get at this time and frankly I needed to be away from that environment to aid the re-invention process. So, new studios, new sounds, new vibes: out with the old and in with the new. I managed to get studio time at a well-equipped studio called Bunk, Junk & Genius in West London, and set to work throwing ideas around with an engineer friend called Andy Hughes (who subsequently went on join The Orb). Things were going OK, but I still lacked that single key element to inspire what was to come.

Shortly after, in a random conversation with a friend, I heard that iconic DJs such as Jeremy Healy and Dave Dorrell were ending their club sets with – surprisingly enough – the grunge-rock anthem ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana. And so, the idea was born: what if I could marry a rock guitar with the ultimate club track? Sampling the four-chord Nirvana riff was not an option.
Firstly, because Kurt’s guitar playing was only solo at the beginning of the track (and not at full intensity). Secondly, because I wanted to create and have control over ‘my’ sound. And thirdly, I knew getting sample clearance would be impossible. To achieve the ultimate re-play of that riff, I turned to my long-time friend and guitar guru, John Moores (now a leading figure on the Apple Logic training circuit). With portable DAT recorder in hand, I sat with John in his studio and asked him to record the riff at 125 BPM and at varying levels of intensity. Playing with particular venom, John delivered passes in a gritty, funky style as well as various thrash versions with a generous dose of distortion. I left the studio pleased with having many options to choose from.

Back at BJG, one track that Andy and I had previously worked on had a working title of ‘Heaven’. I then took the newly recorded Nirvana riff and blended it into various sections of this track, but not initially as a dominant part. I remember the ‘Heaven’ demo as the nucleus of what ‘18 Strings’ became, but what I had totally forgotten – until I found and resurrected the demo tapes from this session to assist in writing this article – is that we wrote and recorded a female vocal version. The rap chant that appeared on the final record was not even thought of at this point. And the female vocal version has never been heard by anyone other than Andy Hughes, myself and the vocalist (whose name I’m afraid I can’t recall).

Something wasn’t right though. This mix was not what I was searching for. My conclusion was that maybe I was just trying too hard....


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