‘Turn The Dying Pig Up To 10!’ – Tales Of In-The-Studio Insanity

The revelation that Gallows’ new album ‘Grey Britain’ features the sound of a pig getting slaughtered (and this will sound different from their normal racket how?) raised a chuckle, if only for the way it made me picture the look on Morrissey’s face when he hears about it.

But Gallows are by no means the first band to employ bizarre studio techniques.

Famously, Scott Walker utilised an unusual percussion instrument on his harrowing 2006 album ‘The Drift’ – namely a giant slab of frozen meat, which he punched in time to the music, on the song ‘Clara’. He repeated the stunt at live shows – although interviewers who ventured a ‘beating the meat’ gag tended to be greeted with glacial stares from the former teen idol-turned-shrieking avant-garde nutjob.

When it comes to eccentric percussion, though, Walker pales in comparison with Jamie Muir, drummer with prog-rockers King Crimson, who frequently whacked his sticks against clocks, bits of sheet metal and bowls of nuts – an approach that proved artistically fruitful right up until the moment he abruptly quit the band to become a monk.

Still, at least Muir was (by and large) in his right mind. Al Jourgensen of industrial pioneers Ministry claims he was once so strung out on heroin he ceded production duties to a chicken. If the animal pecked at one end of the mixing desk, it meant that fader should be pushed up. An unusual approach – although as Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen would attest, sometimes having your album produced by a cock can work wonders.

But it’s not just opiate-addled drug pigs who exploit their inner psycho in the studio. Whale-noise enthusiasts Sigur Rós have displayed equal levels of swivel-eyed weirdness. Drummer Orri Páll Dýrason insisted on recording one of the songs on 2007’s ‘Hvarf/Heim’ while being slowly lowered into a colossal, disused herring-oil vat. “We tried many different vats”, bassist Georg Holm told me at the time. “The exact dimensions were crucial.”

And of course that’s before we get on to Brian Wilson, the Grand Vizier of in-the-studio loopiness. Everyone knows about the sandpit; marginally less well-known is the LSD-frazzled Beach Boy’s insistence, during the ‘Smile’ sessions, on everyone in the studio wearing identical red toy fireman’s helmets.

And this really did mean everyone. One eyewitness recalls a visiting crew including Wilson’s cousin Steve Korthoff and his wife and sister, Wilson’s secretary, and a journalist from the ‘Saturday Evening Post’, all of them obediently wearing helmets in a bid to placate the increasingly unhinged songwriter.

Really, Gallows’ pig-slaughtering stunt looks drearily sensible by comparison. Can you think of any other examples of bug-eyed studio insanity?