Tank Motors, Spiralling Cranes and Tearing Paper

Interview with John Archer in relation to sound effects on the Jaws album.

Author: Cathy Gray, Sonics.

Date: April-June 1985.

Original URL: N/A.


Article Text

Q. There are some interesting sounds on the Jaws of Life album – sounds that give particular flavour and mood to the songs. The beginning of Hayley’s Doorstep, for example, is reminiscent of the soundtrack to Hitchcock’s The Birds.

That’s what it is – birds. We were just sitting at the back of the studio looking out across the wastelands and about 300 ‘cranen’ – cranes – flew overhead. And just about where the studio was they obviously hit a thermal because they suddenly started spiralling around and screaming – making this incredible noise.

We’d been going out recording things with these shotgun mics that we use live for drum overheads, so we ran and got them and pointed them up at the birds, and, because they were 300 feet up and circling around it was an amazing sound – really weird on headphones – plus you’ve got rumble in the distance from jets and trucks on the autobahn.

For ‘I couldn’t give it to you’, we used the sounds of running water and tearing paper. Geoff, the keyboard player, tore some paper and recorded it, then found a section of tape that was a continuous tear, put it into a loop and let it run for about five minutes. We use a cassette of that live too.

Q. Do you think of things like that in the context of the song, or have the sound and find a place for it?

We certainly didn’t have the sounds to start with. We wanted a ‘wispy’ or ‘distant’ sort of sound in the case of the cranen. And the truck at the start of the album was this enormous six-wheel-drive tow-truck they had for pulling semi-trailers back onto the autobahn after they’d rolled off. It was a huge thing with, I think, a tank motor – a V12 diesel air-cooled tank motor – and because it was air-cooled there was nothing to quiet it down, so the noise was phenomenal.

Q. How did you record it?

A deafening experience! We climbed up and pointed one mic at each stack – because the V12 fires one stack and then the other – so again, it sounds amazing in stereo with headphones on. We didn’t have to treat it at all; it was so ridiculous to begin with!



Thankyou to Stephen for typing up this article!