Category Archives: news

The Neon Knight Bows Out

The much-admired Woking, Surrey music producer and sound engineer MARTIN BIRCH died on 9 August 2020.

Martin “the farmer” Birch was closely associated with British rock acts such as Deep Purple, Rainbow, Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath,, and especially Iron Maiden.

BIRCH a.k.a. “the headmaster” is considered to have been (along with Tom Allom) a pioneering Metal producer.

Beck ola
Birch gained his first recognition for his work on The Faces 1970 album “The First Step” (producer/engineer.)

He produced ten Iron Maiden albums, from Killers (1981) through to Fear of the Dark (1992).

His “Piece of Mind” by Iron Maiden (1983) is often cited as the best produced metal record of all time.

He began his career as an audio engineer with Jeff Beck, Fleetwood Mac and Deep Purple, and went on to produce and engineer eleven albums for Deep Purple. In fact, he gained his first recognition for his work on The Faces 1970 album “The First Step” (producer/engineer.)

He began at the old De Lane Lea Studios in London where Deep Purple’s Fireball (1971) was recorded (he worked as an engineer on the project) and later worked at the Battery Studios in Willesden, London (aka Zomba) where he worked on Killers, Iron Maiden (1981) among many other projects.

As a musician, Birch played rhythm guitar on Adam Faith’s “I Survive” (1974) , and he provided backing vocals for Roger Glover’s “Elements” (1978) and tape techniques for Maiden’s “Somewhere In Time” in 1986. He earned writing & arrangement credits for several recordings including: Maiden’s “Live After Death” (1985) and Whitesnake’s “Don’t Break My Heart Again” (1981).

Iron Maiden’s first album to feature vocalist Bruce DickinsonThe Number of the Beast” ( recorded in 1982, at Battery Studios) is often described, by rock ‘n’ metal cognoscenti, as “Metal’s Sergeant Pepper”. During the recording,      Birch was involved in a collision with a mini-bus transporting a group of nuns. According to legend, after the crash he was presented with a repair bill for £666!

Since his semi-retirement in 1992, and after producing Maiden’s Fear of the Dark, Birch had been mainly working on preparing box sets and re-releases.

Engineer & Producer Martin Birch
Engineer & Producer Martin Birch

Selected discography

1969 – Beck-Ola, Jeff Beck (engineer)
1970 – In Rock, Deep Purple (engineer)
1972 – Argus, Wishbone Ash (engineer)
1973 – Penguin, Fleetwood Mac (producer, engineer, mixing)
1975 – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (co-producer, engineer, mixing)
1980 – Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath (producer, engineer)
1982 – Saints & Sinners, Whitesnake (producer, engineer, mixing)
1982 – Assault Attack, Michael Schenker Group (producer, engineer)
1983 – Piece of Mind, Iron Maiden (producer)
1984 – Powerslave, Iron Maiden (producer, engineer, mixing)
1992 – Fear of the Dark, Iron Maiden (producer, engineer, mixing)

ACM Skunk Anansie Scholarship 2018

The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) together with the iconic band SKUNK ANANSIE has announced that NICOLE CANNONIER is the exclusive winner of their 2018 Scholarship.

Since Skin has just received the Music Week Women In Music Award for Inspirational Artist,it is fitting that she transmits her legacy to Nicole, who now begins her own musical journey into the industry via the reputable ACM.

Nicole Cannonier – “I felt to overwhelmed…”

Nicole said: “I didn’t expect to win the Scholarship, I just thought I’d enter it. When I found out that I’d won it was like oh my gosh – I felt to overwhelmed – I didn’t expect it, it was a good feeling. I just feel so grateful.

Worth £27,000, the Skunk Anansie Scholarship is exclusively ran by ACM as part of its £130,000 Scholarship programme.

Awarded based on talent, passion, dedication and commitment to building a long-lasting and sustainable career in the creative industries, Skunk Anansie chose Nicole because of the pure drive displayed in her application.

Skin said: “For me, Nicole’s video really stood out because especially in this industry nowadays, you have to have everything – all of it put together, very good visuals and a musical viewpoint of your whole career. For me what stood out was how fresh and contemporary she was and I thought she was a really good representation of what I think is really cool in the music industry right now. The styling of the video was great, the lighting, the imagery, and the angles.”

Known for its unique approach to education in the creative industries, ACM promotes a “learn by doing” ethos with valuable links to real-world industry professionals and impressive state-of-the-art facilities.

ACM is thrilled that Nicole will be joining its London campus to study vocals at degree level, and hope to be able to support her as she embarks on her career in the creative industries.

Ace, Director of Creative Industry Development at ACM and guitarist in Skunk Anansie said: “I’m really excited to start working with Nicole at ACM, her application was outstanding – it’s great to see such passion, dedication and talent! Our Scholarship is now in its third year and it’s fantastic to partner with ACM on this to give back to the next generation of the creative industries and champion new talent. We are also super proud of Skin for winning the Music Week, Women In Music award for Inspirational Artist – I know she is going to be such a good role model not only to Nicole but all of our student body at ACM.

Link: https://www.acm.ac.uk/

FREDDIE MERCURY SCHOLARSHIP 2018

Each year, as part of a £130,000 program, ACM is pleased to award the exclusive FREDDIE MERCURY SCHOLARSHIP to a talented student, allowing him or her to study in a funded undergraduate course at one of its three campuses, Guildford, London or Birmingham.

This year’s Freddie Mercury Scholarship winner… Picture Credit: Lizzie Cooley

Both the ACM and the Queen are proud to announce LEONI KENNEDY as the winner of the iconic 2018 award. Leoni said: “I’ve recently found out that I am this year’s Freddie Mercury Scholarship winner and to me it means the world, it makes me feel appreciated and that I can actually do what I want to do for the rest of my life”.

A panel of ACM tutors chooses a shortlist before the last ones are shown to Queen’s drummer, Roger Taylor ( a Patron of ACM) and Queen guitarist Brian May. After much discussion, this year’s winner was chosen as Leoni Kennedy for her beautiful rendering and remarkable artistry that both Roger and Brian felt was a perfect fit .

Kieron Pepper, Director of Artistic Development and Creative Production of ACM, said: “After sifting through an incredible amount of outstanding talent, passion and evidence of drive and dedication, I’m pleased to say that the winner of this year’s Freddie Mercury Scholarship is Leoni Kennedy – a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and budding producer. She very clearly has her sights set on creating some amazing work as an artist and as a professional. I’m looking forward very much to working with her, and introducing her to the talent in the ACM student network.”

To celebrate the three years of this reputable award, and the anniversary of Queen’s classic “The Show Must Go On” (October 14), last year’s winner Daisy Phillips and this year’s winner Leoni Kennedy recorded a version at Metropolis Studios [also a campus of ACM]. The informal cover features the two girls on guitar & vocals accompanied by ACM Student Harry Leo on the piano.

As a result of this fantastic version of the Queen’s song, Leoni, Daisy and Harry have been invited to celebrate the release of the Queen’s movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by performing their cover in association with YouTube at a busking event. Check the video below.

Link: https://www.facebook.com/acmuk/

 

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ACM Opens Flagship Recording Studio in Guildford

The Executive Chairman of the ACADEMY OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (ACM) in Surrey UK — Kainne Clements — today opened a new state-of-the-art recording facility on its Guildford campus.

Ribbon-cutting by Executive Chairman of the ACADEMY OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC

The new Rodboro Studio will be used by ACM’s world-class tutors for lectures, workshops and master-classes, such as their annual Audio Production Event (APE).

When the studio isn’t used by teaching staff, all ACM Guildford students will have the opportunity to reserve the space. The facility will be open to students 5 days a week and until midnight. Staff will be available to support students.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, visitors at the event saw the first-ever audio production made at the studio — a song recorded by the 4-piece Guildford band KISSED AND CROWNED who made an inaugural recording in the live room with members of the ACM ELECTRON CHOIR under the direction of Kaya Herstad Carney.

The first-ever audio production, a song recorded by the 4-piece band KISSED AND CROWNED [Kyle Elliott] shown here with Electron Choir… image @neilmach 2018 ©
The Grammy Award-winning Liam Nolan engineered the recording.

The Guildford studio reflects the quality of the largest studio installation in Europe: The Metropolis Studios based in Chiswick, London. Kainne Clements is also co-owner of Metropolis.

Sound engineer Liam Nolan [Adele, Jess Glynne, Calvin Harris] gave a demonstration of the new facilities and said: “It’s a great space, great gear, great microphones, great desk — very similar to what we have at Metropolis — and it’s going to be a fantastic new studio for the students to use...”

ACM has been building sustainable and long-lasting careers for students in all corners of the creative industries since 1995. With a pioneering approach to education, ACM’s “Learning by doing” mantra enables a totally immersive experience for students and ensures they are connected directly with the industry through dedicated workshops and teaching in a real-world setting.

Facilities such as the new flagship studio in Surrey, along with the real-world experience offered by its Industry Link department, mean that ACM students receive an unparalleled learning experience. The ACM aims to increase the number of students from 1800 to 2000 students during 2018.

Words & Pictures: @neilmach 2018 ©

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/acmuk/
https://www.facebook.com/KissedandCrownedOfficial/
https://www.facebook.com/ACMelectron/

Control Room ACM – with Grammy Award-winning engineer Liam Nolan. Photo Credit: @neilmach 2018 ©

SKUNK ANANSIE — Scholarship Recipient Announced at ACM

In June it was reported by AD PONTES that The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, Surrey had announced the launch of their first ever SKUNK ANANSIE SCHOLARSHIP.

The recipient of this prestigious award receives a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000…

The recipient of the prestigious award would receive a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000.

The ACM have now announced that CYREEZ LEWIS will be the first ever recipient of the exclusive scholarship. Cyreez will receive his entire three-year Vocal Degree programme, fully funded at the Academy’s London campus.

After an intense judging process, Skunk Anansie, their management, and ACM tutors agreed that Cyreez Lewis should be awarded this prestigious prize.

Skin, vocalist in Skunk Anansie, had this to say, “Cyreez’s performance really resonated with me. You could feel his drive and passion which reminded me of why I first got into music. It’s fantastic to be able to offer Cyreez this opportunity in partnership with ACM and I believe it will make a real difference in his career. I’m really looking forward to seeing Cyreez progress as a vocalist and can’t wait to see the bright future that lays ahead of him...”

Chosen for his talent and dedication, Skunk Anansie were pleased to award CYREEZ LEWIS

Chosen for his talent and dedication, Skunk Anansie were pleased to award such a deserving candidate with the first ever Scholarship in their name.

As one of the most successful UK charting bands pioneering British Rock, Skunk Anansie have a wealth of musical experience under their belt making them ideal role models for the next generation of the music industry housed at ACM.

Ace, the guitarist in Skunk Anansie and ACM’s Head of Creative Industry Development, broke the news to Cyreez who was ecstatic to have received the inaugural award, “It was brilliant to break the news to Cyreez…” said Ace. “He was clearly over the moon and it feels great to make such a difference to this talented musician’s life. I’m really excited to get started on working with Cyreez in my Industry Link role at ACM this September…

Cyreez said: “Winning the scholarship means the world to me, I am so grateful, excited and privileged that I was chosen as the winner, thank you. Music is all I want to do with the rest of my life and winning the Scholarship gives me the chance to write, produce and share my music with the world. I play keyboard, guitar and use the loop pedal to record my backing sound, so the opportunity that the Scholarship has provided me with will give me the chance to improve and become the best I can be. I look forward to my time at ACM and cannot wait to learn from some of the best tutors and just do what I love doing daily.”

ACM has been building sustainable, long-lasting careers in the music industry for over 22 years. With campuses in Guildford, London and, new for September 2017, Birmingham, the Academy prides itself on delivering a unique approach to education which focuses on learning by doing. Looking for hard work and passion, ACM is proud to now offer more than £100,000 worth of Scholarships to ensure that their sought-after courses are more accessible than ever.

Limited spaces are still available at ACM’s Guildford, London and Birmingham campuses for study this September, to find out more or apply through Clearing please call the Admissions team on: 01483 500 841

Link: https://www.acm.ac.uk/

ACM SKUNK ANANSIE SCHOLARSHIP

The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, Surrey has announced the launch of their first ever SKUNK ANANSIE SCHOLARSHIP.

The recipient of this prestigious award will receive a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000.

All applicants that have successfully auditioned and enrolled for Degree programmes in Bass, Drums, Guitars, Keys or Vocals at either ACM Guildford, ACM London or the group’s newest campus, ACM Birmingham, will be eligible to apply.

The recipient of this prestigious award will receive a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000…

Those applying will submit a video performance for screening by ACM’s world class teaching faculty, with a shortlist delivered to Skunk Anansie for a final decision to be made.

The award winning British rock band has been recording & touring for over 20 years, and have sold over 6 million albums and comleted many sold out world tours.

They’re the perfect role models for ACM’s students. In between studio recording and touring with the band, guitarist Ace works at ACM as Head of Creative Industry Development and drummer, Mark Richardson, is a Wellbeing Coach for the academy students.

Ace said “I’ve been honoured to be working with ACM for a very long time now, booking top industry guests, sourcing real world work opportunities, setting up networking events and advising students on a one to one basis. For three months of the year I pause my work on-campus so that I can tour with the band – bringing back the freshest knowledge directly from the industry back to the students. The music business has been very good to us over the years and it feels incredible to give back and make someone’s dream of studying music a reality.

Skunk Anansie vocalist, Skin, said “We are so excited to be able to offer such a life changing opportunity in partnership with ACM. Starting out in music can be tough financially, so being able to take away that burden for someone who is at the very beginning of their journey is incredibly rewarding. We love the fully immersive experience that ACM offers its students and are so excited to see the shortlist.”

Applications are still open for September 2017 study at ACM Guildford, ACM London and ACM Birmingham.

To book an audition or visit the Academy for an open day go to www.acm.ac.uk or call the admissions team directly on 01483 500 841.

To apply for the SKUNK ANANSIE SCHOLARSHIP or one of ACM’s other scholarship awards (including the Freddie Mercury Award and the BASCA Scholarship), visit www.acm.ac.uk/scholarships

Fun New Video by Local Firefighters — with Fire Safety Messages

A group of local Berkshire RBFRS staff and firefighters  have put their musical skills to good use by releasing a song called “You Can’t Stop the Fire” which is a clever parody of Bruce Springsteen’sDancing in the Dark”.

Staff from across the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service have made a music video…

The key aim of the song is to get fire safety advice out to people in a slightly different way.

The team — led by the inextinguishable rogue Keith Beasley [the lead singer of the Country Rock and Blues band “One For the Road” ] is brought to life with an accompanying video [watch below.]

Staff from across the organisation were involved in the project, including crews from Maidenhead, Whitley Wood and non-operational colleagues based at headquarters.

When they’re ready, here’s some ideas for their next song:

* Burning Down the House — Talking Heads

* Run the Engines Up High — Roy Orbison

* Playing With Fire — Rolling Stones

* Pound the Alarm — Nicki Minaj

* Holy Smoke — Iron Maiden

* Firestarter — The Prodigy

Please watch and share their super video below and consider making a donation to The Fire Fighters Charity —which provides life enhancing services to the fire and rescue community…

Links:

https://www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/donate/

http://www.rbfrs.co.uk/

ROMANS in STAINES at Spelthorne Museum

The Spelthorne Museum hosted a super Family Activity Day this weekend with a Roman theme.

Spelthorne Museum Family Activity Day with a Roman Theme
Spelthorne Museum Family Activity Day with a Roman Theme

On Saturday July 16 local folk were invited to attend a special free day of Roman inspired activities : including producing Roman armor, jewelry processing, production of mosaics and also the creation of slave tags.

There were also Roman games to play, including a chariot-racing inspired board game designed by local schoolchildren and some treasure trails.

There have been bridges over the Thames at Staines since Roman times.

The emperor Claudius invaded Britain in 43 AD and established a base a built bridges at “Ad Pontes” the same year.

The town became an important post during the Roman conquest and was mentioned in the 3rd century registry known as the Antonine Itinerary. This document was a kind of early ‘road map‘ of the Roman Britain.

The Roman-based Family Activity Day is one of several events run during the year by the dedicated volunteers at Spelthorne museum. The museum exhibits the history of Spelthorne from Ice Age to modern times.

Access to the museum is via Staines Library at Friends Walk, Elmsleigh Road. Staines

Link: www.spelthornemuseum.org.uk

STAINES-UPON-THAMES DAY June 2016

This year’s fab STAINES UPON THAMES DAY on Sunday 26th June began with a successful performance by the talented SPELTHORNE YOUNG VOICES — a borough-based community choir, open to those of junior and senior school age, established in 2003 to promote and inspire young singers, as they prepare to develop good musical habits, discipline and musicality.

Shortly after, the Mayor’s Parade marched down the High Street. [Theme: Kings & Queens, to commemorate the 90th birthday of the Queen] with school children and community groups, dance groups and a marching band. This parade effectively opened the event.

As in previous years, there was plenty to see and do in the Memorial Gardens, and also along the River Thames, in the market square and on the High Street. With a Main Stage, more than three performance arenas, and an abundance of interesting & fun activities.

Folk, Blues 'n' Country outfit MOONSHINE ... One of several bands performing on STAINES UPON THAMES day ...
Folk, Blues ‘n’ Country outfit MOONSHINE … One of several bands performing on STAINES UPON THAMES day …

Local surf-punkers CHASING CARA [main photo] engaged the audience from the main stage with their high-energy antics, fast riffs and driving bass lines.

Other music came from the excellent Staines Lammas Band, the talented covers outfit SOUND MINED (their Elle King cover “Ex’s & Oh’s” was a treat) and lots more.

We headed towards the STAINES RIVERSIDE CLUB too, for their free stage. Here we saw the splendid 6 piece Folk, Blues ‘n’ Country outfit MOONSHINE whose wide range of covers we particularly enjoyed.

Another stand-out attraction of the day was the Falconry display with First Class Falconry.

There were also some excellent dance performances in the Memorial Gardens, lots of interesting Arts & Crafts Stalls and Charity & Community Stalls, the exciting Dragon Boat Challenge and the wonderful duck races.

Staines Upon Thames Day - lots of interesting Arts & Crafts Stalls and Charity & Community Stalls, the exciting Dragon Boat Challenge and the wonderful duck races ...
Staines Upon Thames Day – lots of interesting Arts & Crafts Stalls and Charity & Community Stalls, the exciting Dragon Boat Challenge and the wonderful duck races …

Spelthorne Canoe Club and Surrey Canoe Club gave free Taster Sessions for those who fancied splashing about on the water, whilst French Bros organised hourly Boat Trips along the Thames.

The day stayed dry, the Thames Side Brewery served refreshing Ales & Pimms and the Pony Rides were busy all afternoon. And once we had taken in all the sights & sounds and the party-by-river atmosphere we found some tasty morsels to tempt us on the various Street Food stalls before heading for a well-earned cream tea in the Church Hall.

An exciting family fun day filled with joy and activities. It allowed us all to experience a real sense of community and belonging.

Link: http://www.stainesuponthamesday.co.uk/
Story & all photos: @neilmach 2016 ©

Dragon Boats and spalshing about on the River on Staines-upon-thames day
Dragon Boats and spalshing about on the River on Staines-upon-thames day

 

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SKINDRED Share Secrets of Survival for Students of Surrey ACM

SKINDRED SHARE SECRETS OF SURVIVAL FOR STUDENTS OF SURREY

SKINDRED’S frontman Benji Webbe and guitarist Mikey Demus dropped into Guildford’s ACM (Academy Of Contemporary Music) in Surrey to talk to the students about how best to endure and deliver in the music business. They also played a special acoustic set.

Formed in 1998, SKINDRED have gained an enviable reputation for their ultra-high-energy live shows. The Welsh rockers have toured relentlessly, and played to crowds of up to 500K.

Their natural ability, winning ethos and dedication to hard work has earned the band a well-deserved following and durable longevity in an ever-changing industry.

“Once you write a song, you’re stuck with it for life...” SKINDRED addressed popular music students at ACM Surrey ...
“Once you write a song, you’re stuck with it for life…” SKINDRED addressed popular music students at ACM Surrey …

Aspiring students at ACM Guildford jumped at the chance to ask Benji and Mikey what their secrets were, and how they have managed to maintain and continue to build a career within an industry that is full of change.

When asked by a student what advice they would give to bands just starting to write their own songs, frontman Benji responded “Just be true to yourself.

Enjoyment is key” he added, especially when it comes to touring. Benji explained how, for him, the years have flown by and how “passion [has] kept the fire alight.” What’s more, he reminded the students: “Once you write a song, you’re stuck with it for life…

Touring can lead to some very strange experiences: Mikey, for example, told the group of students how it feels to be hit on stage by a dead fish!

What drove you to music?” Asked one student. For Mikey, it was “watching Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page” that moved him to pick up the guitar. The likes of these greats gave him the fire to play. Mikey was also keen to point out that it is important to “Pick your own lane!

An important question was raised during the discussion “Do you think you’d still be where you are if you started out today?” Benji admitted times were different now, “We’re up against an industry that wants you to fit in a certain pocket. We don’t fit in a pocket: We do what we do.” When asked which song they’d wish they’d written – Benji responded “My Way” a song whose lyrics Benji described as “Lasting forever, meaning so much to so many...”

Not only did Benji and Mikey share their insights and secrets of success with ACM’s students, they also played an exclusive acoustic concert, with songs from their extensive back catalog such as “Nobody” and “Saying it Now.”

Links: https://www.facebook.com/skindredofficial
Link: https://www.facebook.com/acmuk
Main Image: @neilmach taken at nearby Redfest, in Reigate Surrey