Where on earth does the time go? One minute it’s Christmas and I’m rushing about wondering whether we’re going to get the eBay auction finished, or whether it’s going to finish us first. Suddenly, I look around to see that the Latin America leg has begun and it’s nearly March.
Before I start telling you how lovely it is to be in Argentina, howsabout I fill you in a little on what’s been happening since we last spoke?
Firstly, the Beehive is really beginning to feel like home. The builders’ dust has settled, the smell of paint has faded and we’ve all established our little workspaces, spreading instruments, equipment and tea cups around the place in equal measure.
I’m sure there’s a word to describe the psychological phenomenon of moving into a new place and automatically thinking that someone is going to break in. It’s not quite like we’re living here (although a few notable persons are coming close…), but everyone is beginning to feel comfortable and it’s natural to want to keep the less pleasant aspects of the world out. The alarm system arrived a few days after all the equipment, which may be what kick-started my paranoia.
Not long after the alarm is fully installed, I drop in late at night to drop off some cable and gave it an unplanned test. There is the customary set of hoops to jump through if you arrive and have to open up. I’ve had all of it explained to me and am confident I can come and go as I please. My first attempt reveals that there is a detail with one of the padlocks that I haven’t completely grasped. As I stand repeating the number to myself and reading it off the padlock, the beeping of the alarm counts down my allotted time to get inside and identify myself. It gets more and more impatient before finally throwing an almighty strop and calling the police.
I call Dan Green on my mobile who can’t hear me over the din of the bells and wailing alarm. He quickly understands what is occurring and explains the missing trick. I’m in. I placate the alarm system and phone the head office to ask them to call off the police. They ask me if I’d like them to call Phil Harvey back and tell him that there are actually no intruders. I groan and text him. “Can confirm alarm fully functional and very loud. Please continue with your evening…”
The following Friday, I’m hit with a migraine that leaves me unable to see daylight without severe pain. Not unusual for folks in our line of work, but entirely booze-unrelated in this case (I hardly drink these days…). I miss the day completely, but am recovered and wide awake in the evening. I decide to head into the Beehive and get a bit of work done. I manage to get inside without incident and make my way up to my office. It’s Friday and being an industrial area, all around is deserted. To feel a little less alone I hop online and see that, despite the hour, Anchorman is logged into chat.
It seems he’s about to appear on the radio. I decide to tune in, but I’m quickly distracted. There is a noise downstairs. Not a squeaky boards noise, or a grumbling of the boiler noise. This is like something very heavy being knocked over. The way the staircase echoes does nothing but make it sound more huge. (Mental note: experiment with Led Zeppelin drum-sounds…) I cut the radio and scan my office for a weapon. I have a large metal tripod. Before I go off for a look around I message Anchorman. “Big noise downstairs. Think someone is inside. Going to investigate. Text me in 15 mins. If no reply, call the police”.
It’s funny how big a building can start to feel when you’re not entirely sure if you’re alone. I feel a bit of a tit wandering about with a tripod raised over my shoulder but eventually convince myself whatever it was, it’s nothing to worry myself about. I get back to my chat with Anchorman:
“Thank God for that. Right, I’m off to bed. Mrs. Anchorman has just asked me what I’m doing up so late and I told her I thought you might be dead”.
I’m led to believe that her response was a bleary, “OK, well don’t be long”. How reassuring!
So that’s me and my security-related escapades (I won’t even recount the night I met the new cleaner at 11pm and introduced myself by emerging from my office at the top of the stairs with a metal table-leg raised above my shoulder…). What of the band? The new songs?
Well, the ground floor of our new home has seen a bunch of fresh tunes being moulded, shaped, kicked around and sometimes changed beyond all recognition. I’m constantly surprised by exactly how much work gets done in a day. I figured (like pretty much everyone else who’s not spent much time in a studio), that making an hour or so of music over the course of a year works out as a lot of tea breaks and time to read the paper, whichever way you slice it.
This being Coldplay though, it’s nothing like that at all. Work begins brisk and early each day with minds focused intently on the job in hand. If a song is deemed not to be working, the root of the pain is sought out and generally identified very quickly. New approaches, slight massages or even radical amputations are approached with urgency.
A single song can exist in several very different forms all within the same day. The mood can go from elation at striking upon a new melody, to a complete loss of confidence and then back to "I can’t wait ’til Brian hears this" all within a few hours. The rate of progress is astonishing.
The impending three week working-holiday in Latin America has not just served as a tantalising escape into the sunshine; it’s also focussed work within the Beehive’s six-sided rooms into a very powerful and concentrated team effort in the weeks leading up to departure.
Just as one pays off bills, empties the fridge and has a mad tidy-up session before leaving for a holiday, so the band are making sure to leave a neat place in the recording to walk back into once the tour is done and they’re back at it. Some songs sound ready, some barely started, some may never see the light of day, but they’ve pushed everything to as complete a state as they can before they pick up the suitcase and head out the door.
As a tangible representation of this, co-producers Rik Simpson and Dan Green have put together a bunch of rough mixes and sequenced them together according to the "possible running order" that Chris recently wrote up (on the Beehive wall, naturally). There is now a file all locked up in the depths of the building that they can huddle round and listen to from start to finish. They can judge their progress now – and then again when they get home.
What’s that? What does it sound like? Well, it sounds like this:
So, that brings us up to the now. We’ve arrived in Argentina – truly one of the most wonderful places on earth. The pace of life, the passion and warmth of the people, the gorgeous weather – it’s all about as different from the London winter we’ve left as it’s possible to get.
By a strange and wonderful scheduling quirk, we’ve somehow arrived on Tuesday with no show to do until Friday. Talk about result! The crew has been drawn back together from all manner of spots across the globe, so a wander round the town on our first day here means soaking in the very foreign-feeling surroundings, whilst constantly bumping into old friends and having reunions in the middle of the street a few thousand miles from home.
Dan Green and I wander through the old part of town and wind our way through the antique shops into a gorgeous piazza, complete with a couple dancing the tango to a distorted boombox running off a car battery.
And what do you know? We’re looking for the best spot to stop for a sit and a drink when a voice calls my name from over my shoulder. Who should it be but Bash (Will’s drumtech). He’s sitting in the sun nursing a beer and watching the world (and the women) go by. We pull up a couple chairs and join him for an hour. In the corner of the square, there is graffiti in Spanish, none of which I can really understand.
One word looks familiar though.
I have a feeling we’re in for a fantastically pleasant few weeks.