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La's Miserables - Melody Maker - February 2, 1991

PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 2:29 pm
by Syl
Article courtesy of forum member: hottscolland


Publication: Melody Maker (
Country: UK
Date of publication: February 2, 1991
Publication section: Page 43: 'Control Zone Hi-Tech Low-Down'
Photographer: Simon Camper
Journalist: Tony Horkins
Musician: Peter Cammell




Still despondent after the unwilling release of their debut LP, THE LA'S have a cunning plan. Guitarist Peter Cammell tells TONY HORKINS where he's going to take his guitar collection next time. Pic: SIMON CAMPER


Photo caption:
La Guitars: Peter with, from the left, mystery acoustic (nicknamed Coffin), hand made Gibson Les Paul 1971 Black Beauty (in left hand), Japanese Fender Strat, Gretsch Country Gent (upside down), Watkins Rapier (partly hidden), Gretsch Chet Atkins, pre-CBS 56 Tele (in right hand), Hofner Veri-Thin, Fender 72 Telecaster bass, Egmond acoustic and (on foot) Fender 65 with customised C neck.


PETER CAMMELL is signing off. It's nearly two years since he became The La's' guitarist, and in the band's small office above a record shop in the centre of Liverpool his manager reckons life, for Peter, can go on without the help of the social services.

Not exactly the most valorous of moves considering the height of the wave The La's are currently riding. A hit - albeit internally unloved - long player, ardent critical acclaim, regular TV appearances, sell-out tour dates... yep, it looks pretty okay to dump the 30 odd quid a week from where I'm standing.

Peter's earning potential stems from a padded cell they call a rehearsal studio a short drive across town. Littered with guitars and drums, decorated with posters and graffiti, and inadequately warmed by a tacky "real coal effect" bar fire, this modest room is at the very heart of The La's music. It's here, and apparently almost only here, that The La's can sound like The La's. Not in any flash studio that costs a grand a day, not with any flash producer that costs even more, but here in their private sanctuary.

But surely, after all's said and done, Peter's just a little bit proud of his band's stunning debut.

Surely, while singer/songwriter Lee Mavers remains obviously unimpressed with the completed interpretations of his songs, Peter's just a pinch chuffed with his own contribution.

Maybe he can offer just a small ray of sunshine in the otherwise desolate La's camp?

"Not at all, no," he replies in familiar La's style.

"I'm not happy with my playing on it and there's two songs, 'There She Goes' and 'IOU', that I'm not even on. When the record company put the album together, they just took things from old sessions the band had done over the years with other line-ups, mixed things together, slowed bits down - it was a real mish-mash."

Peter puts the reluctant success of the LP down to their fans being sufficiently starved of any output from the band for long enough for them to lap up anything that was physically available.

And, of course, the strength of the songs and their ability to shine through regardless of their production.

"Those songs are just tremendous and there’s not a band doing songs like that anywhere - everyone’s lost the art of songwriting. But the sound is so... plasticky. It sounds like it’s coming from tiny little speakers. I mean, you've heard a Vox AC30 on full belt with a dead hard Telecaster blasting through it. I mean, all the overtones that you get through that amp are tremendous, and you’re supposed to be able to hear that sound. All producers say they can get that sound, but they can’t - they’re all full of shit."

Of course, the problems of capturing the raw sound of a live band on tape are not new, but for The La’s apparently inexcusable.

"There’s a lot of mic art and recording art being lost - in the music business there’s a lot of people who have jumped on the bandwagon and they don’t do their homework. That album's wimpy, too clean, out of time, badly played... you just can’t listen to it."

Though, as we all now know, many thousands do. Recorded at Eden Studios with Steve Lillywhite over a period of four months, the offending items started life after two weeks' pre-production work, where the band could run through the songs, record live to tape, and add a few overdubs. Here songs were finally arranged, and Peter thinks a few of those original backing tracks were actually included on the album. Of course, because they eventually refused to carry on with the project, they're not entirely sure what's on each track.

They are sure, however, that they won't be working with Steve Lillywhite again. But didn't the band realise early on in the proceedings that it wasn't sounding right, and try and do something about it?

"Imagine going into a studio, and you get put in front of these speakers as big as the door, and they're blasting at you. You've had a spliff, or something, and you've got these pot ears, and as you're nodding away to it you're thinking that maybe you could live with that. But it's only because you're getting used to it, and the sound of them speakers. But who listens to music that loud on speakers that big? It's just there fooling you, brainwashing you."

"The thing is, we're just scruffy bastards who smoke pot and play good music. We don't really feel at home in all these places."

So it's home where The La's are going, back to their padded garage. A windowed partition wall has been built to create a small control room, the services of Mark Wallis - that album's engineer - rendered, some recording equipment bought, with a few bits and bobs currently on the shopping list. But bitten once by the teeth of technology, if the band get their way the next album could be restricted to eight track at the most.

"We've got a little Fostex thing and we'll record it all live, maybe add a few overdubs. The vocals actually sound good in the bog - that's our vocal booth. If the band are as tight as f*** we won't need to do it again - all you have to capture is the right take, and everything should be there."

Peter rushes off to play me a bunch of pre-LP demos done in a local four track, with singer Lee pushing a few drum machine buttons live for a rhythm track, and the band all playing along. This apparently, is how they want to sound. It's definitely more raw than the album, and there's a fair dollop of hiss too, but the tracks sound fresh. Listening to "Calling all", which should have been the debut album's title track but didn't even end up on the LP at all, Peter says things like "If you had this you'd want to throw the LP away", and he's totally consumed by the feeling that he's right. The La's next album should be very interesting listening indeed.

WHETHER in the hi-tech surrounds of Eden or their, er... basic but familiar garage in Liverpool, The La's guitars will be there laying the foundations.

Peter, Lee and bass player John have an almost exhaustive of (mainly) old and sparsely strung guitars filling up nearly every inch of space, not all obtained in the most honest of circumstances. Peter's a self-taught player of just three years standing, switching from bass when he fancied a change. Kicking off his collection with a Japanese Strat - still a firm favourite - he's moved on to guitars of more classic origin.

"I picked up a Hofner Very-Thin at Eden Studios - we wanted a semi-acoustic for 'Feelings' - and it was only 90 quid. It had round wound strings on when we got it, so we jazz string - 11s - and they're great. You can't bend them that much, but you get more tone and bass out of it. More of a growl out of it instead of a clang. It's got excellent action on it, and with the four controls and the pickups you can get virtually any sound out of it, though we use it mainly for rhythm guitar.

"I've got a 1956 pre-CBS Telecaster which is good for lead, that the bloke from the record company owns - he's not getting it back though. And a hand made Les Paul too, which has got really good bass on it. It doesn't go in tune all that well, but these P90 pickups are off of a Fifties jazz guitar. You put that through a good valve amp and it shatters the whole room. A Les Paul is great for dynamic sounds, and good for lead as well - though not for La's lead guitar, like the Hofner or Tele.

"Then there's the old George Harrison Gretsch - The Chet Atkins model. That's quite good - the Gretsch pickups are brilliant - and again that's great for rhythm guitar. Lee's got this old Watkins Rapier, which is an old catalogue guitar. It's got about four pickups on it, and it's just a total plank of wood, but it sounds amazing and really, really dirty. You put any of these guitars through a Vox and you've got a great sound."

There's almost as many amps and cabs as there are guitars, lying around scuffed and tatty but each one loved and treasured, from old Marshalls, Peaveys and Voxs through to the more basic Intermusic and Sound City combos and amps.

"And we've got an old Hi-Watt cab that used to belong to Pete Townshend. Lee had been shopping in London and saw the Hi-Watt, and it wasn't until he was given the flight case for it that he realised it was an old Who one.

"But my favourite of all is this old Marshall Artists 50 watt head, which has none of that pre-amp stuff heavy metal heads. You just turn it up and get that natural distortion that all the tone and harmonics come from. I put this mainly through the Hi-Watt cab."

Effects, too, are suitably battered and low tech.

"It's mainly just the wah-wah, which I've had for years - years before all this Stone Roses shite come out. I'm not saying I was the first to use it, but I've been using it for years and suddenly people started jumping on the bandwagon - and they got there before me. There's no other really good effects pedals you can get. The best thing to do is, if you've got just a straight amp, to use the different channels of the amp to get the effect you want. And if you want to thicken the guitar out, there's a WEM Copycat we've got - a really old one. Use one of them, turn the delay off, but turn the channel input on full. It thickens the note by about three times, and makes the guitar sound lovely."

Acoustic guitars too play a big part in The La's sound, and one of Lee's favourites is a battered mystery guitar (which now has a question mark painted on the headstock) that he found in a skip.

"It's had its day now - the bridge has lifted the back - but it's still a good guitar though. and he's got this lovely Epiphone SQ180, which is similar soundwise, but harder to play - Brian Epstein's nephew gave it to us. For live we tend to use Martins with pickups in - we robbed one of them. we've had it four years now and it's started to wear in lovely, like. When you buy them brand new they're shit. The other Martin Lee had bought for him - a collector in London said it was the best one he'd ever played."

All of The La's guitars, amps and acoustics will be put to good use on their upcoming tour, and when that's over, hauled back into the studio for the serious business of capturing The La's sound that's so obviously prominent in the group members' minds.

"It's either going to be done on eight or four-track, no more. The record company will have to put it out because it's the only thing we're going to give them. we can't forget what's happened, but we can just get on with it. And I'm sure whatever we let out through the door we're all going to be happy with."

Here's hoping that everyone who loved the first album so much will be happy with it too.


Many thanks Scott, for the photocopies.

Re: La's Miserables - Melody Maker - February 2, 1991

PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:33 pm
by eggyroader
Been wanting some ifnfo of sorts on the rapier, it currently resides in my flat. Its my mates he bought it off lee , just dont think of its history really. Im allways playin la's tunes on it, playin sorry a lot lately. It is a plank tho but good dirty pick ups. I know he's sayin about it best bein a rhythm guitar. 4 pick ups and any configuration

Re: La's Miserables - Melody Maker - February 2, 1991

PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:14 pm
by Neil83
Good read that. Cheers Scott/Syl.

Re: La's Miserables - Melody Maker - February 2, 1991

PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:23 pm
by Syl
Cheers Neil. I had a thread prepped from 2007.. I didn't think it was on the forum. Just one of those articles that got overlooked.

eggyroader, great to hear. Any chance of a quick picture? ..of the guitar and also the pickups?

Re: La's Miserables - Melody Maker - February 2, 1991

PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 6:47 pm
by eggyroader


a bit knackered lookin these days, sound good tho

Re: La's Miserables - Melody Maker - February 2, 1991

PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:07 pm
by eggyroader
pics of it in action show the pick ups looking a lot less worn than now, couldnt believe they still worked when I first amped it