Ex Pat Files: Alan Gregg: The little project that turned to Marshmallow
Author: Stephen Jewell
Following the release of Dave Long's 'Come On In', under the moniker Slim Volume earlier this year, bassist Alan Gregg has become the latest former Mutton Bird to show up with an album of his own. And like Long, Palmerston North-born Gregg, now based in London, has refrained from recording under his own name, instead adopting the nom de chanson 'Marshmallow' for the self-titled album.
"There wasn't really a moment when I decided to do a record," recalls Gregg, who is on the line from London. "I've had all these songs kicking around for a while and then I found myself back in London. I started recording them slowly one by one and eventually realised that I had an album's worth of songs. And because the songs were already there and a few more came along during recording, it was quite a natural process."
"But it wasn't like I sat down and said 'Right, I've got to make an album'. I thought 'I might as well play with this and see what happens'. It all fell into place quite nicely, but all along the way, I thought I'd probably get someone else in to sing. In the end, I did a bit of singing myself. I just thought 'Why question this or over-analyse it? I'll just go with it and put it out.' It was just a little project that turned into an album. It wasn't like a big career move but it turned out okay."
Gregg says that The Mutton Birds were his first, truly memorable band, although he admits to playing in "... a lot of terrible bands in my youth." It was Gregg who wrote Come Around, The Mutton Birds' largest UK radio hit and included on their just-released greatest hits package, 'Flock'.
"We were on Virgin Records in Britain for a couple of years and they actually gave The Mutton Birds a big push," he recalls "It got a lot of radio play in the UK but it charted very low. It was everywhere for a while as all the major radio stations, except Radio One, were playing it. It was exciting. I'd be riding in a cab in London and suddenly Come Around would come on the radio."
The recording of 'Marshmallow' was divided between NZ and Britain, where the album will be released early next year.
"I recorded a lot of the basic songs in the attic of the house I've been living in London," he explains. "That was just me with the computer and a guitar. Then I spent a bit of time in New Zealand when The Mutton Birds played the Lord of the Rings premiere last December. I was flown down for that so it was a good opportunity to hook up with some people that I'd worked with in the past in New Zealand, including David Long. I spent quite a bit of time at his place in Wellington and got in a few different players to add things to the tracks. Then when I was in Auckland I added a few drum tracks. It's in keeping with the whole way the album was made which was slowly and letting things take their natural course. The bulk of the songs were recorded in London in a vague form on Pro Tools. I then took those sessions to New Zealand and worked on them."
Recent advances in computer technology have simplified the recording of albums like 'Marshmallow' acknowledges Gregg. "You can do it in people's home studios now," he says. "You can go visit someone, have a few beers and record a pedal steel or another guitar track. It takes a lot of the stress out of recording. If you're a band with a big budget and you've got plenty of time in the studio, that's fantastic as well but technology now allows you to do things in a more leisurely way than if the clock was ticking at a recording studio. You can be in an environment where you feel more comfortable."