A major part of the unique style in the Tribe is the music used in the series and that has been recorded for the first Tribe album. The Tribe has its own distinct music style that contributes to the drama and overall “feel” and identity of the series.
This Tribe Style article is about the recording of the first Tribe album in New Zealand in September-October 1999.
Members of cast have been interviewed – as well John Williams and Matt Prime, the songwriter-producers of the Tribe album – and there are some exclusive pictures behind the scenes about the album that have never been seen anywhere else!
It all started in early September 1999 when John Williams and Matt Prime flew to the Cloud 9 production centre in New Zealand, where they were to stay for two months away from their homes in the UK to record the first Tribe album!
John Williams and Matt Prime are highly respected and talented songwriters and producers who have worked with some very famous and successful artists in the music industry. They both love the Tribe and had written some original songs that were inspired by the Tribe and these were the main songs to be recorded during their visit to New Zealand.
“The Tribe album is totally inspired by the Tribe,” says producer John Williams. “Every lyric was written with the Tribe lifestyle in mind, and each song attempts to endorse the Tribe philosophy. Musically we wanted it to be pop but with an emphasis on drums and percussion creating a Tribal atmosphere”.
John Williams likes that the Tribe has “no adults, which gives the characters a chance to recreate a better society that attempts not to repeat the mistakes of the past”.
To begin with, members of cast were given CDs containing “first drafts” of the songs showing how the songs and vocals went. The cast in the Tribe are not only talented actors and actresses but are singers, dancers and musicians, and listened to the CDs to learn the songs.
Filming on Tribe Series 2 started in August 1999 and cast members had a very busy schedule due to their work on Tribe Series 2. In addition, there was also schoolwork to do in between filming.
Due to the nature of the production schedule on Tribe Series 2 there were some breaks in filming and cast members would travel to the music-recording studio to record music with John Williams and Matt Prime. Says Michelle Ang (TAI-SAN) “We were told the day before and had a scheduled time put into the call sheet (this shows what filming is to be done for the next day)”. Ari Boyland (KC) says “we fit it in between working and school work”.
“In New Zealand there were three of us in the recording studio – Neil Mallender was the engineer and Matt Prime played a lot of the musical instruments. I attempted as the record producer to make sure the ship was steering in the right direction. Matt Prime and I wrote all the songs which were generally a 50/50 collaboration both lyrically and musically,” says John Williams.
On arriving in the recording studio, cast members would sit down and chat with John Williams and Matt Prime about what was to be recorded that day. “At the studio John and Matt would run through the song we planned to record” says Michelle Ang. “Then I`d go into the sound booth and we would record the song in parts”.
“I practiced the songs when I arrived there, then John explained what was going to happen and then I went into the sound booth and started to sing!” says Jaimee Kaire-Gautalu (CLOE).
“The atmosphere in the studio was quite relaxed with John and Matt,” adds Dwayne Cameron (BRAY). “We could all have a laugh and still go in and pull off a good job as the results show. You would be called whenever you had time away from shooting”.
Different members of cast would be in the studio on different days depending on their filming schedule. Sometimes Meryl Cassie (EBONY) would record in the morning and in the afternoon there might be two hours with Caleb Ross (LEX) and then a couple of hours with Sarah Major (PATSY). After recording with cast members, John and Matt would work together on recording instrumentation and trying out different elements for the songs.
“A typical day would be to arrive at the studios at 09.30 am to start recording and we finished at about 10-11 pm at night – of course, we took breaks to eat!” says John Williams.
Did you enjoy recording the album?
Antonia Prebble (TRUDY): “Yes, I really enjoyed it. John and Matt were really relaxed and made you feel very comfortable. They were also really supportive”.
Caleb Ross (LEX): “Loved it! Every moment. John and Matt were great to work with”.
Michelle Ang (TAI-SAN): “I love singing so it was good to get a chance to work with John and Matt. I did get a little bit nervous but once we got going my tummy stopped churning and I had heaps of fun”.
Ari Boyland (KC): “I didn`t feel that nervous but it was fun”.
Ashwath Sundaresan (DAL): “I felt nervous at first but John and Matt started supporting me. I really started getting excited”
Jaimee Kaire-Gataulu (CLOE): “It was loads of fun and Matt and John were both great people. You didn`t have anything to be nervous about!”
Dwayne Cameron (BRAY): “I wasn`t really nervous, I saw it more like a new challenge”.
Ella Wilks (DANNI): “I loved singing in the studio and yes, I was quite nervous at first but it did get a lot easier as it went on”.
Meryl Cassie (EBONY): “It was a great experience especially because I like to sing! The songs we recorded are very catchy and cool to sing. Getting into that recording studio was a great thrill”.
John Williams: “I had a fantastic time in New Zealand. Everyone from Cloud 9 was friendly and helpful and excited by the project. We were constantly amazed by the professionalism of the Cloud 9 team”.
From recording to record
All of the vocal tracks were recorded by cast members during John Williams and Matt Prime`s two-month stay in New Zealand. Musicians also worked on different tracks in New Zealand and the UK.
After the tracks are recorded, the next stage is to mix them all together. How loud should the vocals be? Is the guitar too quiet? Should the drums be louder? Should there be more percussion? All of these issues and more are determined in the mixing process. Each track is mixed and all the vocals and musical elements – and the balance between them – is sorted out.
“Making a record is like creating a painting. You have to keep layering with vocals and instrument effects. Each song takes on a life of its own and often some of the last musical additions arrive accidentally although most things are planned. It is an organic process until the record is completed,” says John Williams.
What are the songs about – “Abe Messiah”?
One major song – that is performed by all main cast members – from the Tribe album is called “Abe Messiah” and viewers in the UK will recognise this as the end theme tune for Tribe Series 2.
Abe Messiah is in Series 2 as it concerns some fundamental storylines in the second series that are crucial to the Mall Rats and future of the world of the Tribe.
“It is a celebration of life with a positive message to make the most of each new day, and how important it is to work together as a team and to believe in ourselves,” says John Williams.
Caleb Ross adds it is about “the dawning of a new way of life filled with hope, love, and harmony”.
We cannot reveal too much of what the song is about, as we don`t want to give away what happens in Tribe Series 2, but Michelle Ang says, “Abe Messiah is foreshadowing some events in the second series. It involves a baby being born”
What are the songs about – “This is the place”
This track is performed by Caleb Ross, Dwayne Cameron and Daniel James (ZOOT).
It is “a love song, remembering past times and wondering whether one can relive old memories” says John Williams.
Caleb Ross agrees and “the song tells a story about someone losing a loved one and then realising how much they meant to them. It`s that you don`t know what you`ve got till it`s gone”.
Dwayne Cameron adds, “it`s about a lover leaving you. It`s about memories of all the good times and bad times that you shared with that person – and this is the place where it all happened”.
As many of you will know, extracts of “Abe Messiah” and “This is the place” from the Tribe album are now available for listening on the Tribeworld website. Both songs can be heard in the CLIPS part of the DOWNLOADS section under CLUB – you can get there by clicking the CLUB section on the left and then the Downloads link in the CLUB menu.
– The Tribe album uses all kinds of instruments from the classic rock music set up of drums, bass guitar and keyboards. “But we also had the opportunity to work with the NZ Sinfonia and we used orchestral instruments such as French horns, violins, cellos, flutes, clarinets, oboes and tympani. We also used a Samoan gospel choir, a horns section and of course – the Tribe!” says John Williams.
– Famous musicians who appear on the record include Steve White – who plays drums for Paul Weller – and Gavin Wright – who played violin with Oasis.
– The song “Abe Messiah” features 65 separate musicians and the entire cast of the Tribe.
– Meryl Cassie (EBONY) sings “The dream must stay alive” on the opening credits of Tribe Series 2.
John Williams and Matt Prime are currently in the UK and are working on mixing the tracks together in the Tribe album.
Recording of the first album has finished but the two hope to return to New Zealand in the near future to get recording with the cast again for a second Tribe album.
Cloud 9 are finalising details with a major record company and the Tribe album will be released in the year 2000.
There are also plans underway for the cast to make a world tour that will include them travelling from New Zealand to the UK and Europe, including live performances and appearances.
As soon as we have more info on the album then we will advise. You can get the very latest developments by checking out News in the GUIDE section.
In the meantime, John Williams has the following advice for anyone who has dreams of going into the music business and one-day recording their own music – “Go for it! It is a very competitive field and if at first you don`t succeed then keep trying! It would be a good idea to enroll on a course that will give you some essential information and training, for example, sound engineering. Also you must develop your musical skills. Above all, you must be patient – success is 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration!”
We hope you enjoy the extracts from “Abe Messiah” and “This is the place” from the Tribe album – and there will be more extracts in the near future.