Imitation of Life – Pete's blog [Nov, 2016]

‘Imitation of Life’ was one of the last tracks that was written for the ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ album and it was around May/June 2014. The original demo was entitled ‘Stuntman’ and at the time we were trying to write something a little less electronic and something with a more ‘New Order & Kasabian’ vibe. This track marked a big change for the band as it was the first song we created in Cubase on the studio computer as previously we were using Logic X so it was a bit of a learning curve at times during recording!
This started out with a very simple vintage drum machine pattern, some basic guitar parts and the prominent lead line in the chorus. It also had the ‘gothic’ style motif in the bridge which I thought sounded similar to ‘The Cure’ and possibly a touch of Peter Hook too. Even though it sounds like a lead guitar, I’m certain it was played on my trusty Squire Fender Precision bass guitar which I paid £71 for on eBay which has to be one of the bargains of the century! It got used on several of the album tracks actually, it records so well and has that Bruce Foxton/Paul Gardiner sound that I’ve always loved.
Quite soon, the track began to develop and I played a guide bass guitar part which really helped drive the track along and we changed the rhythm into a bigger and rockier drum pattern. Geoff had also written a fantastic mid range synth arpeggio in the chorus which really makes it take off at that point. Looking back at the demo versions of the track, unusually for us there wasn’t a huge amount from start to finish. Sometimes we have 30 or 40 different progressions from original demo to finished track but with this track I can only find 7 or 8 versions!
Later in 2014, we began to add some guide vocals and lyrics and the structure of the song started to take shape. Geoff added a few more synths here and there and it was the last recording to feature my Korg MS2000 synth which is in the intro and middle section somewhere. It’s since been sold as it really wasn’t getting used much and I thought it deserved better than lying against the wall in my studio. Over the years it had got plenty of airtime, particularly on the first EP on the track ‘Ice Fields’ which was the name of one of the presets. I was quite sad to see it go but as my wife always says.. “It’s just an inanimate object!”…..
As with all our tracks, it slowly progressed with little tweaks and sounds over the months and then I decided that I really needed to knock the lyrics into shape. We already had the title and chorus lines but no real subject matter until I went to the cinema to see the film ‘Ex Machina’ which I thought was fantastic. It was quite dark and all about artificial intelligence from machines which we’ve both always been very interested in, particularly the ‘Turing Test’. About the same time I was following the brilliant Channel 4  TV series ‘Humans’ (what a coincidence that series 2 has just started as we release this EP!) and I was very taken with both so decided that the song should be loosely based around these themes. We already had the ‘do you really like this?’ hook for the bridge and that seemed to really work well so that was refined slightly and the actual writing was then complete. The final lyrics came together relatively easily as I recall. This is unusual as we find lyric writing to be the hardest part of all and agonize over every single word during our brainstorming sessions. I always liked the process to trying to pluck a pebble from your ear with tweezers!
In May 2015 we decided to ‘road test’ the song at the 2 gigs we had booked and it went down particularly well at both which was very encouraging. We thought that it sounded even better with our new drummer Steve Clark playing the track and I loved the really ‘stompy’ kick and snare pattern he plays for the last 4 bars which I was very keen to incorporate into the recorded version. It brought the track to a brilliant crescendo!
With the track close to completion I decided that my guide bass guitar could probably be played better and we decided to ask our Australian friend Sam Morrison to try and improve on what I’d done. After a little bit of gentle ‘guidance’ he really came up with the goods and a nice biting bass part which was played on his lovely Rickenbacker bass. Sam was originally going to play live for Tenek at the ill fated Alt-Fest Festival in 2014 but unfortunately it got cancelled. It was a great shame as he’s an excellent musician and has also contributed a fabulous ‘Ghostlights’ remix to this release as you will hear on the EP.
We’d also decided that Steve should definitely be involved with the final recordings of the album and so he spent a couple of days at the studio in Devon with his Roland V-Drums kit playing along to quite a few of the album tracks. Steve’s fantastic playing triggered samples in the studio computer and Geoff was able to carefully tailor the sounds to suit each song using the live feel that Steve brought to the them. I wasn’t able to make these sessions but Geoff would periodically send me these clips to my phone which sounded amazing. Geoff and Steve also came up with the harmonised ‘Imitation’ part in the last chorus during these sessions and that was the icing on the cake for the track!
When the album was released, we got many excellent reviews but the one we both liked most was from the legendary Push at Electronic Sound Magazine. When referring to the track he wrote, “The most involved track is probably ‘Imitation Of Life’, which piles the waves of synths so high that the whole thing seems in danger of toppling over.” Probably my favourite quote regarding the whole album.. It’s funny because I regard it as one of our less electronic tracks!
We are very excited to have made a video for this track and would like to say a huge thanks to Vincent Kavanagh and his extremely talented team who have worked so hard over the summer to bring it all together via the fantastic resources of Ravensbourne College in London. We must also credit all the great musicians who have contributed to this release including: Sam Morrison, Steve Clark, Nik Hodges, Matt Jessup, Andy Gray & Martin Swan. As always, a massive thanks to Cheri Freund for all the hard work done on our behalf too.
We very much hope that you enjoy the EP, the CD with bonus tracks and the new video.
– Peter Steer