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The Ant Band: background info about the individal tracks

info & order | track by track | review | interview | Slow Dance project

Unlike the album by the American band Rocking Horse Music Club, which was released at the end of 2019 and contained mostly cover songs from the lavishly produced albums The Geese & The Ghost, Wise After The Event and Sides, the concept of ANT BAND focused more on pieces that Anthony Phillips himself had recorded only sparsely arranged for various reasons. Many sketches and demos from his album series Private Parts & Pieces would have been suitable for this. These were to be expanded, completed and carefully modernized with new, more complex arrangements. At least that was the idea..

These pieces were on the very first preliminary shortlist:
Lucy: An Illusion, Master of Time, The Beggar and the Thief, Queen Bettine, She'll be Waiting, Sistine, Sanctuary, Stranger, Seven Long Years, God if I Saw Her Now, Unheard Cry, Moonfall (from Masquerade), Alex.

But it was soon clear that the concept could not be kept up too strictly, because these songs predominantly emphasize the pastoral, melancholy-introverted side of Anthony Phillips' work. However, the album should represent as much as possible of his entire wide range, including more complex, progressive and faster pieces as well as instrumentals. Also set from the beginning was the intro to Slow Dance, which opened both days of the Anthony Phillips event and which we recorded in my studio shortly after.

Martin Brilla and Nina Morgenstern helped with the final selection of the pieces, with the latter also providing valuable advice regarding arrangement options through expert analysis of Anthony's often somewhat cryptic song lyrics. The songs from the list above that we didn't record didn't make the cut only due to lack of time. We only had a total of eight months in which to finish recording, with another three weeks needed for mixing and mastering.

These are the pieces we ended up recording:

1. Sistine

(Anthony Phillips, 1981, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces IV: A Catch at the Tables) 80 bpm
Guitars: Sascha (Lakewood M14 /12string /right ch., Squier Telecaster /rhythm), Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string /left ch., Fender Telecaster /E-Bow solo).
Bass: Sascha (Harley Benton PB-50 SB).
Keyboards: Thomas (Sequential Prophet-6, Moog Mintaur /Taurus, M-Tron Pro /Mellotron-choir, Spectrasonics Keyscape /CP-70, Spitfire Audio LABS), Peter (Arturia /MellotronV-strings, Logic Pro X /Glockenspiel), Tom (Electric Grand 80 /piano /intro+middle part).
Drums-Programming: Tom (Toontrack SD3).
Vocals: Robin (Lead & Backing).

The album begins with the historical recording of a real atomic bomb explosion. Then the central theme sets in, a simple piano figure, almost like from a children's song. Anthony Phillips likes to write cheerful melodies to serious themes - a phenomenon that can be observed more often. But in Peter Jackson's great film They Shall Not Grow Old, which consists of fantastically restored footage from the time of World War 1, you can see that the young men actually went to war with great enthusiasm and a happy song on their lips, assuming that it would be victorious, wouldn't last long and they'd be back home soon. This is also what Sistine is about. Peter had appropriately come up with a new cheerful melody for his glockenspiel. Nevertheless, the overall arrangement is a bit more somber, not least thanks to Thomas' bass drones from the Prophet synthesizer.

2. F Sharp

(Anthony Phillips/Mike Rutherford, 1969, Demo from the Sampler Archive Collection Vol. 1) 82,5-126 bpm
Guitars: Sascha (Lakewood M14 /12string /left ch. /picking /standard tuning), Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string /picking /rhythm /F#-tuning), Steve (Lead Guitar), Gereon (Duke Student C-Cut /classical).
Bass: Sascha (Harley Benton PB-50 SB).
Keyboards: Bert (Logic Pro Vintage B3 Organ, IK SampleTank /Mellotron-strings).
Drums: Damian (Sonor Prolite, Meinl and Paiste Cymbals).
Drums-Programming: Tom (Toontrack SD3 /Hi-Hat).

The idea here was to see if it would be possible to take this little demo in a slightly different direction than the well-known one that eventually led to The Musical Box. The eponymous guitar tuning was a bit of a challenge, as there are no reliable records about it. Mike Rutherford once answered a fan's question about it by letter, but made a mistake on one string, as it turned out (if you're interested: the correct tuning is E - A - D - F# - C# - F#). By the way, this tuning can only be found in the demo and in Manipulation from the Jackson tapes – recorded in early 1970 still with Phillips, Genesis had already tried to expand the piece. Sascha plays the second 12-string already in the later normal tuning. Bert was inspired by Tony's organ from Manipulation. In the fast middle section, the harmonies are also a bit different from the chord progression of the later Musical Box. Steve Hackett's solo of about one minute stands out here, of course, especially because he convincingly succeeded in coming up with something completely new for this.

3. Sanctuary

(Anthony Phillips, 1991, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces VIII: New England) 88 bpm
Guitars: Sascha (Fender Stratocaster /solo), Tom (Taylor Academy 12e /rhythm, Fender Stratocaster EMG).
Bass: Sascha (Harley Benton PB-50 SB).
Keyboards: Bert (Kontakt Alicias Keys /piano, IK SampleTank /CP-70 /Mellotron-strings).
Akkordeon: Andreas.
Drums-Programming: Tom (Toontrack SD3).
Vocals: Robin (Lead & Backing), Tom (Backing).

This beautiful song was our first choice. The guide track still had Ant's original piano from his instrumental version, and we had our problems with its somewhat too long ending. There was a suggestion to fade out the song like in the original, but in the end 90 seconds were cut out and so everything was shortened a bit. Unfortunately, the last piano solo is now somewhat lost, but Andreas' beautiful accordion flashes here briefly, which he had sent on the last day shortly before the deadline.

4. God If I Saw Her Now

(Anthony Phillips, 1970, from the Album The Geese & The Ghost) 80 bpm
Guitars: Jan (Cuenca Model 10 /classical), Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string, Fender Telecaster, Rickenbacker 360-12, Takamine EG522SC /classical).
Bass: Tom (Fender Jazz Bass EMG /fretless).
Keyboards: Bert (IK SampleTank /Mellotron-strings, Logic Sampler /Autoharp).
Akkordeon: Andreas.
Flute: Kirsten (Viento).
Drum Programming: Tom (Toontrack SD3).
Vocals: Nina, Robin, Bert (Backing), Tom (Backing).

God doesn't really fit into the concept that well, because the original recording, although only sparsely arranged, is almost perfect - and especially Phil Collins' vocals can't really be topped. But the opportunity was too good, because Nina, Robin and I had already played the song at the Ant event, and besides, an unreleased recording with Nina already existed since 2012, which had gone through several highly different arrangements (the most aberrant one was certainly a reggae version). This old Pro Tools session could now be stripped down and recycled for the project without much effort, and in the process all my guitars and the bass track could be kept. After Robin recorded his vocals in early March (so he's older than his sister for the first time on the recording), Bert took care of the song first, adding keyboards, backing vocals and percussion. The latter were really good, but unfortunately a bit too swinging for this once again quite wistful lyrics - they reminded a bit of the failed reggae version. I already knew Kirsten and Jan from the Berlin folk-prog band (Fauns), for their last two albums I had done the mastering. Unfortunately, they had to cancel their participation in the Ant event at short notice, otherwise they would have played God together with us there. Now the collaboration finally came about, which I was particularly pleased about.

5. She'll Be Waiting

(Anthony Phillips, 1996, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces IX: Dragonfly Dreams) 90 bpm
Guitars: Jan (Chevy ST-Custom /solo), Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string /open D#-tuning), Gereon (Duke Student C-Cut /classical).
Keyboards: Thomas (GG-Audio Blue3 Organ /Hammond, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Behringer Model D /Minimoog), Tom (Korg M1).
Bass: Tom (Hoyer 5048).
Drums: Damian (Sonor Prolite, Meinl and Paiste Cymbals).
Vocals: Robin, Tom (Backing).

Another great Ant song, originally played only with 12-string guitar in open "power chord" tuning (D# - A# - D# - A# - D# - A#), quickly got a kind of US college rock flair with drums and bass, which fits the song with its optimistic, slightly Christian-tinged message quite well. Jan's electric guitar, which reminds a bit of the Scottish folk-rock band Del Amitri, brings a proper rock drive. Then in the middle section, a fantastic keyboard solo by Thomas. At first I found it a bit unfortunate that it runs parallel to the little solo that Ant had also already played on the 12-string, but the two solos complement each other well.

6. Study No.1 In E Maj (excerpt)

(Anthony Phillips, 1980, previously unreleased)
Guitar: Gereon (Duke Student C-Cut /classical)

Gereon suggested to record this composition for classical guitar, which Ant has published so far only in the form of printed sheet music under the title Six Pieces for Guitar (funnily enough, it contains seven pieces), this is the only one of which there is no version played by Ant so far. To get a first impression, I entered the notes manually into the software Guitar Pro 7, so that the piece could be played via MIDI. Furthermore the program generated a tablature, which was almost usable (important for fingering). Unfortunately, the piece is quite long (more than five minutes) and has an exorbitant degree of difficulty in the middle part, which is why we first considered shortening it to about 1:30 min. Gereon, however, wanted to play a bit more of the middle section and finally came up with a version that was just under three minutes long, which he recorded at his second session in my studio at the end of September.The gradually increasing resonance effect is provided by Zynaptiq's "Adaptiverb" plugin - a little reminiscence of Anthony, who himself liked to use such effects on acoustic guitars.

7. Unheard Cry

(Anthony Phillips, 1991, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces VIII: New England) 60 - 70 bpm
Guitars: Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string /open-G-tuning).
Keyboards: Martin (Waldorf Nave, NI Komplete Kontrol), Peter (Oberheim Matrix 1000, Arturia Vintage /Synth-Pads, Chimes /Bell Tree), Tom (Kontakt ESW Dream Box).
Bass: Tom (Fender Jazz Bass EMG /fretless).
Drums-Programming: Tom (Toontrack SD3).
Vocals: Nina.

At first glance, it's not easy to see what this text is about. A sick baby, obviously, but why and what about the mother and what role does the narrator have?

Nina had several theories about the interpretation of the lyrics and she was at first not quite convinced of the idea that she should sing this. A female narrator, she feared, would give the song a false meaning, since a relationship of the originally male narrator (Anthony) to the absent mother might have played a role. But she then found a link in the English Wikipedia to an interview where Ant explains the background: it was a photo of an infant infected with HIV from the mid-1980s, when AIDS was still largely unexplored, and who therefore had to die completely isolated in a clinic, that had inspired him to write this sad lyric.
Since the vocal melody certainly bears a resemblance to a lullaby, Nina came up with the idea of replacing the introductory guitar with a music box, which of course comes from a sampler. Its ambient noises, however, happened to fit well with the (real) acoustic backdrop of an intensive care unit with a heart rate monitor and a respirator - an idea of Martin's that we had already used years ago on one of his own songs. There were several keyboard additions here from Peter and Martin, some of which, alienated by a guitar distortion effect, provide the necessary drama for the arrangement.

8. Salmon Leap (from 'Scottish Suite')

(Anthony Phillips, 1976, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces II: Back to the Pavilion) 81 - 116,5 bpm
Guitars: Tom (Fender Stratocaster EMG).
Keyboards: Martin (Waldorf Nave, The Grand /piano, M-Tron Pro /Mellotron-choir, Steinberg HALion 6).
Bass: Sascha (Harley Benton PB-50 SB).
Drums: Damian (Sonor Prolite, Meinl and Paiste Cymbals).

Actually, this is the complete first part of the 'Scottish Suite' called Salmon Leap, supplemented by the second half of the fourth part called Amorphous, Cadaverous and Nebulous, so Salmon Leap is not quite correct as a title for our version, however, in the original it is definitely two parts of the same recording, which was simply cut apart, while the other parts of the suite have musically nothing to do with each other.
This instrumental doesn't really fit into the concept either, but the arrangement of the original was definitely improvable. In particular, the sound of solo guitar and the drums left something to be desired, and Mike Rutherford on bass obviously didn't have his very best day. The piece was always close to Martin's heart - he would have liked to perform it at the Ant event (instead of Slow Dance),  but we would have rather needed a rock band with a good drummer. Now we had the very good drummer Damian, who joined us only in summer after Bert had "recruited" him - which was not difficult, because they both play in the progressive band Dawnation. He masters the many tempo changes with amazing ease.
Figuring out the notes of the fast piano arpeggios of the original and then recording them was a challenge for Martin. His keyboards occupy a whopping 15 stereo tracks in my Pro Tools session, but of course they don't always play simultaneously. Originally, Steve Hackett was supposed to play the guitar solo here, but at the time of the request, Martin was nowhere near finished with the guide track. Which, in retrospect, might not have been such a bad thing, since Ant's guitar seems to have been only slightly improvised. For Steve there probably wouldn't have been much room for own creativity - or you wouldn't have recognized the piece anymore.

9. Postlude: End Of The Season

(Anthony Phillips, 1976, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces II: Back to the Pavilion)
Guitar: Gereon (Lowden F-12 /12string).

Since Salmon Leap was now no longer part of a suite, it made sense to at least add this little guitar piece from the same album to the end. Gereon had recorded it right at the beginning of the project without solicitation. It is introduced with a backwards reverb - a small reminiscence of Anthony's joy of experimenting with studio technology, which also runs through some pieces of the 'Scottish Suite'. In the original, this piece is played by two six-string guitars, but it also works great with just one 12-string.

10. Stranger

(Anthony Phillips, 1969, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces) 100 bpm
Guitar: Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string).
Keyboards: Martin (HALion /Rhodes Mark I, Steinberg Padshop, Pizzicato Strings), Thomas (Spectrasoncis Keyscape /CP-70, GG-Audio Blue3 Organ /Hammond, Behringer 2600 /ARP, M-Tron Pro /Mellotron-strings), Bert (IK SampleTank /CP-70 /Mellotron-strings /Mellotron-flute /Taurus), Tom (M-Tron Pro /Mellotron-choir).
Accordion: Andreas.
Drums: Tom (Toontrack SD3).
Vocals: Robin (Lead & Backing), Nina (Backing), Tom (Backing).

Again, there was a demo recording with 12-string guitar and Nina's vocals that had been recorded during rehearsals for the Ant event, but it turned out to be more or less unusable for this project. However, I initially wanted to save the sloppily recorded 12-string, as I was reluctant to re-rehearse it. Hence the initial idea of "electrifying" the existing guitar track via effect and rebuilding the piece into an uptempo number, because there were few faster pieces in the song selection anyway and the little boogie-like phrase in the verses seemed to lend itself to that. Also, the idea that the song had once been rehearsed and performed by Genesis was appealing. Contemporary pieces like The Knife could have been thought of as a rhythmic model. The original guide track actually went a bit in that direction.
Unfortunately, I hadn't considered that the lyrics here also revolve around a heavy-blooded wistful theme with pain and loss, where such an arrangement doesn't necessarily impose itself. And unfortunately Nina's veto came too late for Damian, who had already come up with a complete uptempo drum arrangement, and also too late for some of the keyboard tracks, which were already finished. But there was no other way out than to halve the tempo again and finally re-learn and re-record the 12-string guitar.
About the late change all involved were a bit saddened. The (quite justified) question came up, why Ant had composed songs with sad themes in happy D major of all things. This could not be answered conclusively. But perhaps the clearly slower tempo was decisive for him. Finally, Andreas' last-minute accordion brought the piece to a conciliatory end, seeming to float ideally above things with its wistful sounds. Now it's one of my favorites on the album.

11. Lucy: An Illusion

(Anthony Phillips, 1969, from the Album Private Parts & Pieces II: Back to the Pavilion) 85 bpm
Guitar: Sascha (Lakewood M14 /12string), Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string, Taylor Academy 12 e).
Keyboards: Thomas (Spectrasonics Keyscape /CP-70, GG-Audio Blue3 Organ /Hammond, Behringer 2600 /ARP /solo).
Akkordeon: Andreas.
Bass: Sascha (Harley Benton PB-50 SB).
Drums: Damian (Sonor Prolite, Meinl and Paiste Cymbals).
Vocals: Robin (Lead), Tom (Backing).

Fortunately, Damian's drums, which he had originally recorded for Stranger, with minor changes and adapted to the somewhat slower tempo, also fit well to this piece, which we had briefly considered for the Ant event in Welkers. Thomas' keyboards solo here sounds very much like Tony Banks - fits perfectly.

12. Moon's Lament For The Sun (from Masquerade)

(Anthony Phillips/Rupert Hine, Lyrics by Richard Scott, 1981, previously unreleased vocal version of Moonfall) 64 - 82 bpm
Guitar: Sascha (Fender CD140SCE /acoustic).
Keyboards: Bert (Modartt Pianoteq /piano, Logic Pro Vintage B3 Organ, IK SampleTank /RMI Phase /String Machine /Stringpad /Taurus).
Bass: Tom (Hoyer 5048).
Drums: Damian (Sonor Prolite, Meinl and Paiste Cymbals), Sascha (Zoom RhythmTrak 234 /Cymbals).
Vocals: Nina.

Martin had the idea to take the unreleased vocal version of Moonfall from the musical 'Masquerade'. Problem was the text, because our template was a demo with only very modest sound quality. Also because the meaning of the lyrics was not clear to us without the actual title, there were some misunderstandings at first. For the guide track I used Ant's original piano version, which he had released in 1986 on Private Parts & Pieces IV: Ivory Moon. Bert then re-recorded the piano, leaving out the melody parts, of course, since Nina took over those here - her vocals were recorded on February 19, thus the first recording for the project, which, however, had to be repeated on October 20 because of the comprehension errors that had been corrected in the meantime. There were discussions until the end about the pros and cons of drums in this arrangement. There are none in the demo, while I had already programmed drums for the entire song for the guide track. Finally, Damian played in new drums at Bert's request, which were much more sparse – and which finally served the song well.

13. Master of Time

(Anthony Phillips, 1970, Bonus-Track from the Album The Geese & The Ghost) 70 bpm (intro), 80 bpm
Guitars: Sascha (Lakewood M14 /12string), Tom (Ovation 1618-4 /12string /intro only), Gereon (Duke Student C-Cut /classical).
Keyboards: Peter (NI Vintage Organs, Arturia Mellotron V /strings /mixed choir), Bert (Logic Pro Vintage B3 Organ, IK SampleTank /RMI Piano /Mellotron).
Flute: Peter (Yamaha).
Bass: Tom (Hoyer 5048).
Drums: Damian (Sonor Prolite, Meinl and Paiste Cymbals).
Vocals: Robin (Lead & Backing), Tom (Backing).

This song was never one of my favorites in the original. As a bonus track to the first Geese CD simply tacked on to the end, it almost ruined the whole listening experience for me, because musically and technically this demo could not keep up. Thankfully it was put at the beginning of the bonus CD on later editions. We had heard Big Big Train's successful "electrified" cover version, of course, so we were well advised to stay more acoustic here. We slightly deviated from the peculiar structure of the original. There the actual song ends after the second chorus and the rest consists of a rather strangely arranged instrumental part with echo effects and very poorly executed cuts. We shortened it to only 12 bars and Gereon plays a great solo on the classical guitar. At the end there is once again another chorus with a small rhythmic variation.

14. Slow Dance (excerpt from part 1)

(Anthony Phillips, 1989, from the Album Slow Dance) 40 - 66 bpm
Guitars: Sascha (Ibanez GA5WCE /classical, Ovation 1618-4 /12string), Tom (Takamine EG522SC /classical).
Keyboards: Martin (Roland JX3P, Waves Grand Rhapsody /Piano), Sascha (Yamaha CS30 /wind noise, Mellotron M400), Tom (Korg EX-800), Thomas W. (Mellotron M400, Crumar String Synthesizer, Yamaha CS30).
Flutes: Thomas W. (Flute, Recorder, Alto Recorder).
Glockenspiel: Thomas W.
Bass: Tom (Fender Jazz Bass EMG /fretless).
Drums-Programming: Tom (Versilian Studio /Timpani)

This recording was made on 13.4.2014, a Sunday, exactly three weeks after the fan club's Ant event. While everything was still fresh, we wanted to record the piece we had worked on for so long properly. Thomas W. brought his Mellotron (which actually remained the only real Mellotron on this album). At that time, we intended to use as many real instruments as possible, because we didn't like some of the synthethic sounds of the original recording. We couldn't quite keep it up - the piano and the kettledrums were samples. The real ones would have been impossible to fit into my small studio.
Since there were no plans for later use, the recording remained untouched for almost four years until I dared to mix it in stereo and 5.1 surround. For this album, another remix was necessary, which also removed some remaining blemishes.
Slow Dance represents the concert side of Anthony Phillips - which we have covered with this. A nice

Author: Tom Morgenstern

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