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Shooting The Messenger: The Voices In His Head

This is the first in a series of blogs exploring the songs on the Shooting The Messenger album. Nick Toczek explores the origins of the lyrics for the tracks while Signa Alpha's Matt Webster details the creation of the music. Introductions to each track are by Nick Toczek & Signia Alpha's Facebook page editor, Liz Austin.

Liz: 'Most people at some point have had those voices in the head telling them to do or not to do something. Those irritating voices niggling away at you that cause confusion and frustration.

'The short guitar runs placed perfectly with the lyrics are like the repeating niggling voices eating away at you. The saxophone tries to add to the confusion. The pounding drum and bassline is the inevitable headache constant and slowly building. Finally the voices start to fade away with Nick’s perfect delivery of whispered lyrics.

'This song is far from a headache. 'The Voices In His Head', is catchy and grows on you after a couple of listens. It becomes a voice in your head. It has so many influences from funk, punk, reggae and jazz. With fantastic arrangements of instruments which suit each other and the poems perfectly.'

Nick: ‘Back in the mid-1990s, I wrote ‘The Voices In His Head’ as a poem. It’s about a family member who was sectioned and spent more than a year hearing voices. It was a terrifying and relentless experience for him, one which he explained at length when I visited him in the mental hospital. Now, with so many people dealing with mental health issues during this pandemic, the piece has taken on a whole new power and relevance.

‘In January 2020 I had a poetry collection published by Caboodle Books. The poem was included and, partly because none of us can be sure of our own metal health, I called the book ‘The Voices In My Head’. Obviously, the title also refers to the fact that all the poems in the book were mine, and therefore each came from ‘a voice in my head’.

‘Before the pandemic put paid to live gigs, this poem was one I used in a number of my public performances. It’s a powerful piece to read and, because of the familial connection, it’s one which means a lot to me.

‘It’s also the opening track on ‘Shooting The Messenger’. Using it as a lyric has leant the poem a whole new lease of life and, having achieved this by working with Matt Webster plus a plethora of other excellent musicians, has been a total pleasure and privilege.’

Matt: ‘The music for ‘The Voices In His Head’ began with a recording session with me on drums and Mark Cranmer on bass. I had an idea of the kind of feel I wanted for some of the songs on the album so we just jammed and recorded five or six different ideas. On Voices, Mark played a great funk bassline over my groove to which I later added guitars and percussion and edited into a loose structure that would change when we added Nick’s vocals, which we put down next.

‘I already had Keith Jafrate in mind for this track and had sent him a mix to listen to. Keith came to the studio and did his saxophone parts for the whole album in one session, including this track. With Keith we record two takes of him playing the whole song, sometimes Nick’s vocals are on first, as with ‘Voices’, sometimes not. I then go away and use the parts I need for how the song ends up. It’s often a difficult task as it’s more a case of having to leave a lot of great stuff out rather than finding bits to put in!

‘The last thing on this track was some nice guitar runs from Emmanuel Williams who recorded his part on his home set up and sent it to me to add onto the master.’

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