Music

The Black Dog ‘The Grey Album’ is techno music from Sheffield

In Sheffield, we do things differently, because that’s how we are built.

Sometimes, things “just happen”. For months, we’d been working away at various projects and then, without really thinking about it, The Black EP jut happened. It seemingly appeared from nowhere.

We’d been talking about the old days; making music with friends and dodgy kit, renting small practice rooms and using makeshift recording studios. It was such a common thing back then, you could pick a dusty space in a half-derelict building for as little as £25 a month. In those days, the Cabs and Human League had studios with posh-sounding names, but in reality, they were the same old workspaces long abandoned by the industries they were built for. Nevertheless, the grand names made them sound magical.

Sheffield had thousands of these spaces, and some still exist today, but their abundance and low-cost made Sheffield a very active place. Someone was always doing something. They’d exploded onto the scene in a flurry of excitement before disappearing just as quickly.

There’s something about these little mesters (workshops) that we believe lives in the very consciousness of Sheffield. It’s one of the reasons we never really had big scenes like Manchester or Leeds. The Hacienda would’ve never been built here.

We don’t really do big gangs or have that kind of mentality. We tend to exist in little pockets, often leaving each other alone. It would be 30 years before any member of The Black Dog talked to Cabaret Voltaire. Sure, we’d stood outside their practice room as kids, trying to listen in, but never felt any reason to approach. Sheffield is like that.

Once we had the first two tracks of the Black EP, we set off to see Jon at Do It Theesen, where he manually cut the tracks to an extremely limited set of 7″ singles using a vinyl lathe. It just felt right to go back to the old ways; a small gang creating something special in workshops and sheds. There’s something very satisfying about it, a perfect circle, if you will.

We pushed further by adopting old practices, working with one synth per person and limiting the use of our computers. We only stopped short of putting everything on beer crates. It seems like madness these days, but there is raw creativity within these confines. Pretty much every band started this way. Depeche Mode travelled to the studio on the London Underground for their first appearance on Top Of The Pops, all lugging a synth each. That’s how we approached the creation of this album; stripped back, raw and minimal – it just felt so right.

And then there’s the competitive element that was influenced when the original Human League split and became Human League MK II and Heaven 17. Both continued to use the same studio to write what became the albums “Dare” and “Penthouse and Pavement”. There is something about that drive that is very Sheffield, just making stuff and hoping everything falls into place.

In Sheffield, we do things differently, because that’s how we are built.

artist The Black Dog
title The Grey Album
label Dust Science Recordings
date 5th May 2023
format digital, CD, vinyl
bandcamp

Tracklist:
01. Ghosts Of Decay
02. Let’s All Make Brutalism
03. You’ve Heard This One Before
04. (b) Owls In Tesco Bags
05. Open Your Head
06. Harder Times
07. (b) We Never Wanted You
08. 98 Russell Street
09. (We Never Needed This) Facist Groove Thang
10. Thee Difference Ov Girls
11. Empire Statement Humanoid
12. Circus Ov Daath
13. [b] Let Me Dada
14. This Is Phil Talking
15. Sound Ov Thee Crowd
16. I Dare You
17. Borstal Communications

The Black Dog – The White EP – 7th April
01. Empire Statement Humanoid
02. Let’s All Make Brutalism

The Black Dog – The Reproduce EP – 7th July
01. 4PO
02. Star Dancer
03. Borstal Communications EO314