|BYO Records promo shot for Four Letter Word|
We formed in 1991; all of us were from the '80s scene. Kip, the original drummer, had been in the Cowboy Killers, but he was only in the band through the first EP. BYO Records was one of my favourite labels as a kid in the '80s, so I sent our first EP to see what they thought. I'd been writing to Shawn Stern (BYO label head/Youth Brigade) for an interview for my zine, Artcore, previously so kept in touch. I sent Shawn our first 7" which was basically our demo on vinyl. Couldn't believe it when they wanted to sign us.
When we got the offer from BYO, they wanted an engineer to work with us and asked Andy Turner of The Instigators if he knew of anyone. The connection between Instigators and Youth Brigade went back from Instigators touring the US in the '80s, I think. Andy recommended Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface. Shawn was a big Leatherface fan as were we, so I got in touch with Frankie.
I'd been into Leatherface since their first record came out. We knew Frankie recorded bands, so when his name came up as an option it made sense. I phoned him up and met him at the train station to record our first album. We ended up working with him on all four albums, as we got along and he knew what a punk band's record should sound like. He did backing vocals on all those albums, although you have to listen closely.
We basically lived with the guy for over a month over the four albums. We recorded in the Whitehouse Studio in Weston-Super-Mare for years (Chaos UK, Ripcord, Heresy, Can't Decide, Violent Arrest) and stayed in a local caravan (trailer) holiday park as it was cheap. While we were recording, Shawn was asking about Leatherface, and I reported back that they were just reforming as Frankie had said they'd just had their first practice after years. So I was basically the one who got them signed to BYO. Frankie says he still holds me responsible, ha ha.
BYO had told us that they wanted us to work with an engineer not just to record, but also in case they had any suggestions regarding our song writing. When I mentioned this to Frankie, he said "There's nothing wrong with the songs." He'd been taught by Iain Burgess (Big Black, Naked Raygun, etc.) so was very performance oriented. This meant he would rather keep a take with small errors in it if the feel of the song was good.
For our second album, Frankie wanted us to record at Burgess' studio in France, but BYO knocked it back as it was too expensive. There'd be a time each day Frankie would refer to 'Lager O'Clock' which would be when the red wine would be opened. When doing the vocals, he'd insist we had a bottle of Irish Whiskey on hand for smooth vocal progress. Of course, he would have to match the shots of whoever was doing a vocal track.
Always up for a laugh, on the first album we recorded a cover of "Six Pack" by Black Flag, and the end of the song ran into whatever band was underneath on the second hand reel to reel tape (The Whitehouse was an analogue studio). It was some wailing rock shit, and he just left it on there so the end our cover segues into this rock song, and he had us talk and shout over it... The studio owner walked in and just said "naughty." On the second album, my vocal carried on after the song "Playground Politics" ended, and he wanted it to cut dead, so he literally cut the master tape with scissors and when it bounced to digital in the final mix it just played that way and the tape ran off spinning.
It's weird because Four Letter Word got lumped in with the pop punk thing when people think of us, but our first tour was with Spite in '96 which was Steve and John from Ripcord, Becky from Chaos UK and Pete who was later in Icons of Filth (years later Steve and John formed Violent Arrest and when Steve left I ended up joining). Four Letter Words' set had covers of Ruts and Toxic Reasons early on. When we were on BYO, we covered Black Flag and Black Market Baby.
|Chaos U.K. with Sand, Contempt Four Letter Word flyer from 1993 Bristol gig|
|Four Letter Word info piece from BYO Records 1998 catalog|