"The Shithouse Masters" is the term that we've always used when talking about Johnny Domino's 4-track recordings - everything we did between Summer 1993 up to and including the "Rabbit Themes" CD recordings of 1998.
During these 5 years, we wrote and recorded around 150 songs of varying quality. We also went from being a 2-man operation (with very occasional guest stars) to being a four-headed PROPER band.
This compilation was released as a free download in association with Arts Against Success in 2005.
Back in the early 90s, we used to watch the TV show 'Manhattan Cable', which featured clips from American Public Access TV. I used to record choice snatches of dialogue for inclusion on compilation tapes for friends - and girls I hoped to impress.
One of the bits I recorded was a spoof advert for an album of songs by American publisher and pornographer Al Goldstein; one of its best lines was, "These are the original shit house masters...".
In Summer 1993 I was recording a single with the band Peru which was eventually released on the WAAAAAAAAAH! Singles club as a split with Mary Queen Of Scots. To do this Brian of Peru had borrowed a 4-track recorder for a month and as I would be recording the single as well as appearing on it, I offered to look after the machine (and his acoustic guitar).
At the time, Brian, Giles and myself were in a band called The Millers who had done some recordings for the Norwich-based Wilde Club record label but nothing was happening. Suitably disillusioned The Millers had all but split up, and hadn't rehearsed for a long time.
Having the 4-track spurred Giles and myself into action - we'd been listening to a lot of lo-fi stuff, especially the first Palace Brothers recordings, and decided to record some stuff the way they sounded - like they'd got their mates round and banged through a few songs in a rough and ready fashion. Also, our experiences in a professional recording studio made us determined to capture some of our sense of humour.
The closest we got to a manifesto was when we said we wanted to be a cross between Uncle Tupelo and the Beastie Boys (the name JOHNNY DOMINO came about because we also wanted to record some songs as a joke country band).
We got mates in as and when we needed their help and the first batch of recordings was released through Brian’s fanzine - we got some interesting mail from France, Greece and Germany.
Once the 4-track we'd recorded the first batch on went back to it's owner we had to make do with a totally knackered Teczon 4x4 machine that my old piano teacher had given me. It didn't erase tracks properly, which made for some interesting bleed-though on many of these songs – sometimes it just sounded plain weird.
To be honest, the noises we made within our limitations are part of the charm these recordings hold for me. We didn’t have a sampler, we frequently didn’t have a bass guitar (see New Pink Shirt) and we didn’t know any drummers (we excelled in the two-man-kit – one on floor tom and snare, the other shaking plastic maracas and hitting a cymbal). Sometimes (particularly with the Teczon, which was “retired” in 1994) we didn’t even have four tracks to record on.
But we still managed to record songs that were interesting to us. Frequently, the songs we just knocked together invariably overshadowed the songs we slaved over.