Dead City Radio

in Features

Dead City Radio on their own words

It’s time to get your record players and your turntables up to scratch again (pardon the pun). The vinyl record album is back and local Rock band ‘Dead City Radio’ are the first band here to release an album in this format instead of the usual CD or digital downloads.

It’s a brave new world and as there haven’t been any local releases by anyone in this fateful year DCR, with support from the Gibraltar Cultural Services have took the initiative to release a vinyl record album in time for Christmas 2020. 

Vinyl is the traditional way of capturing studio performances on record and the vinyl sound, although for the purists it is considered the Holy Grail, has not got the ultra clean sound attributes of digital formats, however the gramophone ‘needle in the groove’ sound has more warmth and vintage charm than the ‘hear a pin drop’ clarity of digital recordings. Hence the comeback of the vinyl format and the growing trend in record sales as opposed to CDs.

‘Dead City Radio’ have been around for a few years now and their ‘take no prisoners’ approach to Rock music has seen them featured in various GMFs where they have carved for themselves a niche group of fans who seem to go for their ‘Led Zeppelin’ type of vocals for which front man James Culatto is locally revered. They are more than that. They put in a lot rehearsal time to forge their original material into concert shape songs and have probably spent even more time recording their musical progress with former ‘Taxi’ guitarist Danni Fa who is responsible for having engineered the sound of this album. 

Rock music is difficult to capture on recordings as high level signals compete with each other for space in the final mix and there is always a danger that taming down the sound of a lively band can totally ruin their projection on the record. This album cheekily titled ‘Album of the year’ by ‘Dead City Radio’ features 8 tracks, among them two new songs and a reworking of an older song, does not suffer from weak sound. It is a challenge on the aural senses and homespun Rock which is not for the squeamish. Original classics which the band are well known for like ‘Valkyrie’ ‘Goddess’ and ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ are reassuringly there. New songs are ‘Fire’- (track1) and ‘Up in Lights’ (track 3) are an indicator against which to compare their old material with the new. In ideal circumstances we would get to see them perform this at a record launch gig but alas this is not possible for now. However take it from me this is a worthy album to add to your Rock collection.

The band is made up of James Culatto – vocals, Robin Batchelor- guitar, Daniel Ghio – bass and Michael Gomez – Drums. Nicholas Anson is credited with drums on the two new songs (tracks 1 and 3) and Richard Camilleri on bass on the reworked ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ (track 8). The album has been produced and mixed by Danni Fa and the cover artwork is by Kane Matto. The album retails at £20 because production costs are higher for vinyl but it’s a fair price to pay to bring back gramophone music into your collection.  You can still get yours now and support local culture.

I recently asked the band to describe their music and the direction that they are taking and bassist Daniel Ghio was the first to reply.“Hard Rock! Our influences range primarily from all sides of the Rock spectrum and I think it shines through on our songs. Our direction has always been to compose, gig, record and enjoy ourselves as much as we can. Looking back on 2020 it has been a challenge for everyone and especially people in the arts. No gigs, no plays, no shows etc… It’s frustrating because the live aspect of what we do is very important to us. We love playing live, playing our own song… for us, it’s a means to de-stress. During the lockdown, many musicians pulled together and started doing loads of live shows and pre-recorded shows for social media with James Culatto covering quite a few songs during the lockdown and beyond with several other musicians.”

The drummer’s seat remains empty-yet to be filled in 2021, have you got any candidates in mind yet?

“We’re currently started working with a new drummer so things are in motion and we’ll hopefully be ready with some new material” was the reply from Daniel, whom I then engaged on how did they come up with the idea of releasing a vinyl record? Front man James Culatto took up the story…

“We had toyed with the idea a couple of years ago and once we’d secured the funding and had the music ready it was a case of shopping online for the right people to work with. That didn’t take long and it was certainly worth it, however nothing’s set in stone for the future, this time we were able to secure the funding by applying for a cultural grant to assist with the costs and we’re thankful that we were able to ‘tick off’ a goal from our list, but it’s a shame that we haven’t been able to officially launch our album with a party and a performance… but who knows …maybe in 2021.” 

How bands work to come up with original songs varies from band to band and I wanted to know how DCR forge their inspirations into songs…

“Usually collectively at rehearsals” said Daniel, “We start jamming or if one of us comes in with a riff or progression we work on it together. I’m pretty sure James’ iPhone is filled with hundreds of ideas that we record as we go along. Some make it into songs others get abandoned and then resurrected along the line. James is quite good at having vocal melodies or even lyrics ready on the spot which he then works on at home.”

My parting question was whether they were already making plans for next year and what goals might they have set for themselves…Daniel replies:

“I guess we all just want to start playing gigs again. I think it’s safe to say most artists miss that the most. We have a good amount of original material now and we’re already working on new ideas but we can create and create however nothing matches the rush of performing live in front of people. Hopefully, once things ease up, we can start looking at booking gigs at home and in Spain… but for now, we’ll continue to work behind closed doors in our band room”… 

One of the first bands that you might wish to check out this year as soon as live music in venues is allowed again because they have a commanding presence and a strong musical statement to make as well.

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