FACE ACADEMY
Face Academy
Warriors of Style What Love Is Metal Boy Modern Disguise Photocopier Heart of Tears Electric Dance Seedy Pimp The Outsider The Golden Age
album Sex Dummy 2003 pictures Face Academy Andy Hollingworth  2004 lyrics Photocopier 2004 song Ballerina 2002 video Ballerina Edinburgh 2003
GENERAL INFO Gary’s second full-length album, clocking in at a respectable 42 minutes. A limited run was pressed in July 2004 and sold out within a few months. A digital download was released on May 15th, 2013. RECORDING VENUE & DATES 27 Maude Terrace, Walthamstow: September 18, 2003 - June 11, 2004 COVER IMAGE A close-up detail of Gary’s immaculately made-up eye, photographed in a studio somewhere in South London by the great Andy Hollingworth. I should have chosen a different pic for the Edinburgh poster - maybe one of these - but this was perfect for the album. Partially inspired by The Human League’s Dare (which also features close-ups of partial faces, though not quite such silly ones), but mainly I just thought the eye make-up was so good. Sadly, I’ve forgotten the name of the woman who did it, but here’s a picture of her in action:
more soon…
album notes Polaroid Suitcase 2012 cd packaging Face Academy 2004 originals
2004
LISTEN/BUY
album notes Face Academy 2013 video Loose Lips Living TV 2003 song Photocopier 2004 album Polaroid Suitcase 2003
CD PACKAGING As well as the front cover, I splashed out on a slightly more lavish eight-page booklet for the CD, which you can view and/or download here. Heavily inspired by the mock-pretentious stuff Paul Morley used to write for Zang Tuum Tumb, it’s arguably better than the music itself. I can well imagine some excited soul chuckling away at the packaging, only to be monumentally baffled and disappointed when they put the disc on. THE MUSIC Ten silly electronic pop songs about conflict, misery, cruelty and doubt, sung by an overconfident man who’s just been given a mandate from the comedy establishment to do whatever he likes. THE RECORDING PROCESS The main watchword was pragmatism. There’s far more detail in my extensive notes here, but basically I’d just won an award at the Edinburgh Fringe and had just less than a year to go back there with an even better show. This meant making an even better album to go with it. But because my act was suddenly in demand, I had far less time to do it in. Early experiments were fruitful but way too time-consuming, so I drafted up a viable plan, creating a sonic template (loosely based on The Human League’s Mirror Man) that I thought my crappy computer software could cope with, and forging all the tracks in the exact same way, without deviation. The result is a surprisingly professional set of ten tracks with a uniform, spartan sound, which all sound goofily electronic while somehow stubbornly resisting the influence of dance music. It’s still all made with the same set-up as before, using samples from MTV Music Generator on the PlayStation2 to create backing tracks which I remixed in Sound Forge and Adobe Premiere, before overlaying a vocal. In fact, this album’s much purer in that regard - where the first album was full of sound effects and sampled synth tones, with one track created almost entirely in Fruity Loops, this second one is virtually all PlayStation. Apart from my own voice and the sound of a printer at the end of Photocopier, everything you hear on Face Academy was made on a PS2. The biggest change from Polaroid Suitcase is the voice. One thing I’d learned over the previous year was how difficult it was to mix vocals with a backing track - especially if you actually wanted your words to be heard (pretty essential for a comedy song). Turns out it isn’t just a matter of turning up the volume and involves lots of fiddly technical wizardry. Also massively helps if you have a decent microphone. My budget still wasn’t too hot but I struck gold with the Studio Projects C1, which gave me a really great, crisp, warm, upfront sound for just over £200. Fed through an M- Audio Audio Buddy pre-amp, if that’s the sort of thing you like to know. Can’t tell you how much easier this made everything to do. What’s that? You want me to tell you more technical details about how I mixed the vocal track? Well, if you insist. The new mic didn’t just make the syllables crisper. It also saved me time. On the first album, I’d swamped a lot of the vocals in delay, which embedded them in the track quite well but took more time to master. With the new mic, I found I could just add a bit of EQ and compression but leave it otherwise dry, and it sounded great. This also means you’re not having to listen to the words rebounding back on themselves all the time, so it’s much easier to hear what Gary’s saying. And it means you can occasionally punctuate the dryness with a sudden line or word drenched in reverb, for added dramatic emphasis. So even though, on the face of it, this is a much simpler piece of work than its predecessor, it’s technically just a little bit more advanced. My gear might have been a cobbled-together load of cheap rubbish that no one in their right mind would have used to make a piece of recorded music, but I was using it to a higher professional standard than I had hitherto managed, and basically as far as it ever got. After this, I decided to ditch the PlayStation and get some proper gear. And then all Hell broke loose. THOUGHTS & FEELINGS When I wrote the sleeve notes to accompany Face Academy’s digital release in 2013, I said it was probably my favourite [Gary Le Strange album]. It came closest to achieving the vision I had in my head and, at the time, I considered it far superior to its predecessor. The lyrics were cleverer, the arrangements cleaner, the performance more confident.” Listening to it now, I feel pretty much the opposite. I mean, yes, it was the most successful in terms of achieving what I set out to achieve in the time I set out to achieve it. The wordplay’s more ambitious, it’s technically superior and the singer is a much, much better singer. But I just don’t like it as much as the other albums. Like the show it accompanied, this album’s more professional than the first - the guy who made it is so much better at what he’s doing. But the thing he’s doing just isn’t as good. The first album does a pretty good job of placing you inside the head of this eccentric dreamer, who isn’t afraid to show you his dreams. It may lack polish but it’s got positivity and (weirdly for a guy who sings about how much he likes drawing triangles and raping shop window dummies) it’s got a lot of heart. And for every pretentious flight of fancy, there’s something waiting round the corner that’ll bring it right back down to earth. Gary Le Strange might be a weirdo, but he’s a sweet weirdo who deserves to find a place to be heard. Face Academy is entirely different. It’s the product of success, made by a man with way more confidence but far less time to think things through. I can hear the influence of the BBC radio sketch shows I was working on, resulting in much more professional pieces you have to listen to and think about, but they rarely ever grab you in the gut. I mean, obviously, it had to be this way - it’s the situation I was actually in and the album reflects that perfectly. And no doubt it’s still very original and interesting and creative. But I listened through it just now for the first time in almost a decade and it only made me laugh twice. I found it hard to care about the things Gary seems to care about, probably because I’m not really sure what they are. Unlike the earlier Gary, this guy isn’t really a weirdo - he just says he is. And when you couple that with extended verbal diarrhoea inspired by the more obscure works of Bowie and ABC, it ends up sounding less than genuine. No doubt I’ll feel differently again if I’m lucky enough to be here in another ten years, but right now I’d say approach Face Academy with caution. It’s nowhere near as good as it thinks it is. BEST TRACK Photocopier or Seedy Pimp, with maybe What Love Is and Metal Boy as runners up. Most of the others make me cringe.
video The Chinese Ghost of Christmas  London 2014 song The Chinese Ghost of Christmas 2003 radio The Day  The Music Died  2003
FACE ACADEMY
song  Photocopier album Face Academy video Loose Lips pictures Face Academy
more soon…
lyrics Photocopier notes Face Academy Face Academy
Warriors of Style What Love Is Metal Boy Modern Disguise Photocopier Heart of Tears Electric Dance Seedy Pimp The Outsider The Golden Age
GENERAL INFO Gary’s second full-length album, clocking in at a respectable 42 minutes. A limited run was pressed in July 2004 and sold out within a few months. A digital download was released on May 15th, 2013. RECORDING VENUE & DATES 27 Maude Terrace, Walthamstow: September 18, 2003 - June 11, 2004 COVER IMAGE A close-up detail of Gary’s immaculately made-up eye, photographed in a studio somewhere in South London by the great Andy Hollingworth. I should have chosen a different pic for the Edinburgh poster - maybe one of these - but this was perfect for the album. Partially inspired by The Human League’s Dare (which also features close-ups of partial faces, though not quite such silly ones), but mainly I just thought the eye make-up was so good. Sadly, I’ve forgotten the name of the woman who did it, but here’s a picture of her in action:
CD PACKAGING As well as the front cover, I splashed out on a slightly more lavish eight-page booklet for the CD, which you can view and/or download here. Heavily inspired by the mock-pretentious stuff Paul Morley used to write for Zang Tuum Tumb, it’s arguably better than the music itself. I can well imagine some excited soul chuckling away at the packaging, only to be monumentally baffled and disappointed when they put the disc on. THE MUSIC Ten silly electronic pop songs about conflict, misery, cruelty and doubt, sung by an overconfident man who’s just been given a mandate from the comedy establishment to do whatever he likes. THE RECORDING PROCESS The main watchword was pragmatism. There’s far more detail in my extensive notes here, but basically I’d just won an award at the Edinburgh Fringe and had just less than a year to go back there with an even better show. This meant making an even better album to go with it. But because my act was suddenly in demand, I had far less time to do it in. Early experiments were fruitful but way too time- consuming, so I drafted up a viable plan, creating a sonic template (loosely based on The Human League’s Mirror Man) that I thought my crappy computer software could cope with, and forging all the tracks in the exact same way, without deviation. The result is a surprisingly professional set of ten tracks with a uniform, spartan sound, which all sound goofily electronic while somehow stubbornly resisting the influence of dance music. It’s still all made with the same set-up as before, using samples from MTV Music Generator on the PlayStation2 to create backing tracks which I remixed in Sound Forge and Adobe Premiere, before overlaying a vocal. In fact, this album’s much purer in that regard - where the first album was full of sound effects and sampled synth tones, with one track created almost entirely in Fruity Loops, this second one is virtually all PlayStation. Apart from my own voice and the sound of a printer at the end of Photocopier, everything you hear on Face Academy was made on a PS2. The biggest change from Polaroid Suitcase is the voice. One thing I’d learned over the previous year was how difficult it was to mix vocals with a backing track - especially if you actually wanted your words to be heard (pretty essential for a comedy song). Turns out it isn’t just a matter of turning up the volume and involves lots of fiddly technical wizardry. Also massively helps if you have a decent microphone. My budget still wasn’t too hot but I struck gold with the Studio Projects C1, which gave me a really great, crisp, warm, upfront sound for just over £200. Fed through an M-Audio Audio Buddy pre-amp, if that’s the sort of thing you like to know. Can’t tell you how much easier this made everything to do. What’s that? You want me to tell you more technical details about how I mixed the vocal track? Well, if you insist. The new mic didn’t just make the syllables crisper. It also saved me time. On the first album, I’d swamped a lot of the vocals in delay, which embedded them in the track quite well but took more time to master. With the new mic, I found I could just add a bit of EQ and compression but leave it otherwise dry, and it sounded great. This also means you’re not having to listen to the words rebounding back on themselves all the time, so it’s much easier to hear what Gary’s saying. And it means you can occasionally punctuate the dryness with a sudden line or word drenched in reverb, for added dramatic emphasis. So even though, on the face of it, this is a much simpler piece of work than its predecessor, it’s technically just a little bit more advanced. My gear might have been a cobbled-together load of cheap rubbish that no one in their right mind would have used to make a piece of recorded music, but I was using it to a higher professional standard than I had hitherto managed, and basically as far as it ever got. After this, I decided to ditch the PlayStation and get some proper gear. And then all Hell broke loose. THOUGHTS & FEELINGS When I wrote the sleeve notes to accompany Face Academy’s digital release in 2013, I said it was probably my favourite [Gary Le Strange album]. It came closest to achieving the vision I had in my head and, at the time, I considered it far superior to its predecessor. The lyrics were cleverer, the arrangements cleaner, the performance more confident.” Listening to it now, I feel pretty much the opposite. I mean, yes, it was the most successful in terms of achieving what I set out to achieve in the time I set out to achieve it. The wordplay’s more ambitious, it’s technically superior and the singer is a much, much better singer. But I just don’t like it as much as the other albums. Like the show it accompanied, this album’s more professional than the first - the guy who made it is so much better at what he’s doing. But the thing he’s doing just isn’t as good. The first album does a pretty good job of placing you inside the head of this eccentric dreamer, who isn’t afraid to show you his dreams. It may lack polish but it’s got positivity and (weirdly for a guy who sings about how much he likes drawing triangles and raping shop window dummies) it’s got a lot of heart. And for every pretentious flight of fancy, there’s something waiting round the corner that’ll bring it right back down to earth. Gary Le Strange might be a weirdo, but he’s a sweet weirdo who deserves to find a place to be heard. Face Academy is entirely different. It’s the product of success, made by a man with way more confidence but far less time to think things through. I can hear the influence of the BBC radio sketch shows I was working on, resulting in much more professional pieces you have to listen to and think about, but they rarely ever grab you in the gut. I mean, obviously, it had to be this way - it’s the situation I was actually in and the album reflects that perfectly. And no doubt it’s still very original and interesting and creative. But I listened through it just now for the first time in almost a decade and it only made me laugh twice. I found it hard to care about the things Gary seems to care about, probably because I’m not really sure what they are. Unlike the earlier Gary, this guy isn’t really a weirdo - he just says he is. And when you couple that with extended verbal diarrhoea inspired by the more obscure works of Bowie and ABC, it ends up sounding less than genuine. No doubt I’ll feel differently again if I’m lucky enough to be here in another ten years, but right now I’d say approach Face Academy with caution. It’s nowhere near as good as it thinks it is. BEST TRACK Photocopier or Seedy Pimp, with maybe What Love Is and Metal Boy as runners up. Most of the others make me cringe.