The Making of the "Have You Got It Yet?" Series (1)
At the beginning of the nineties, a project from a Yahoo Group called Laughingmadcaps began. Fans and collectors got together in order to compile any unreleased piece of music of Pink Floyd’s founder member Syd Barrett. The man behind the curtain of this Project was Kiloh Smith: “We wanted to leave the listener wanting less not more”. Have You Got It Yet?, the name that was given to the collection, contains songs in which Syd Barrett participated with and without Pink Floyd: Studio outtakes, live recordings, homemade sound mixes, interviews, pictures, articles, essays, TV documentaries, song covers recorded by fans, design covers for the (so far) nineteen discs, all kinds of unreleased video material, songs dedicated to Syd Barrett, and even tracks in which his participation was put into question. No one earned a single penny; the fans traded bootlegs or just sent blank CDs in exchange… and sometimes they received them as presents from someone unknown from the other side of the world. The team who made this possible was interviewed for this article.
Kiloh Smith and Pschnob speak:
1. In order to begin a Project like this, you must love music. How was your first contact with Syd’s music?
Kiloh: My first contact was the live part of the Ummagumma album. Then, A Nice Pair. I came of age during the great progressive rock explosion of the seventies. Groups like Yes, ELP, UK, Gentle Giant and King Crimson were popular. King Crimson was already like... a legend because they had broken up and left all of this amazing music. However, in my neck of the woods, the people who really had the prog thing together listened to Syd Barrett. My friend, Robert Jewell, bought the double LP issued in the USA and I immediately fell in love. As with all artists who I REALLY like, I began collecting bootlegs and trying to learn about them as much as I could. Around 1985, I met Steve Czapla and we began trading bootleg tapes in earnest. This went on for over fifteen years. I still have all of my bootleg cassette tapes and recently purchased a Nakamichi tape deck to continue to enjoy them on. Analog!
Pschnob: I got a copy of piper as a teen and didn't care for it. I was more in a (hard) rock/alcohol phase and didn't sync with gnomes and fairies etc… until after I'd started to use drugs. Sometime in college (or late high school) I first heard Syd's solo work and quite liked it as the madness of it synched with the madness of my drug experiences :) I'm still a bit aberrant amongst Syd fans in that I prefer Syd solo and Pink Floyd post-Syd (before The Dark Side of the Moon), that said, of course I've come to love The Piper at the Gates of Dawn but it wasn't my first love. On a visit to a friend in Harvard I found my first Syd bootleg, the Vegetable Man LP in a Cambridge MA record store. When Opel came out it was my first CD purchase; I had to wait a few weeks until I could afford a player to listen to it.
2. How and when did the idea for Have You Got It Yet? started? How was the material gathered?
K: By the early nineties I had accumulated thousands of hours of bootleg cassettes. By the way, we only traded on metal particle, chrome dioxide, cassettes. Those were the best. Of that, I had a few hundred hours of Pink Floyd. Almost all of the Syd Barrett was filler on some tape or another. Filler was where the piece of music wasn't long enough to warrant its own cassette tape and so was tacked on as filler at the end of some other recording. All of my bootleg Syd Barrett was in my collection in this manner. I thought: "Wouldn't it be nice to record all of this Syd music onto its own tape(s) and then be able to enjoy it all at once?" And that's exactly what I did. I ended up with like... 3.5, 90 minute cassette tapes of Syd Barrett music in chronological order. I played the shit outta those tapes too.
After the Laughing Madcaps group was started (around 1998), and I had all of the fans and Sydiots under one roof, I began thinking back to those 3.5 cassettes of Syd. See... this was the dawn of being able to burn CDs on your computer. The discs had just gone to 80 minutes long and people were availing themselves of this wonderful new technology. Torrents were still years away. So, aaaaaaaanyway... the Roky CD Club was rolling along. That's where the original Roky Yahoo Group (then: Texas Psych) took rare recordings on tape and converted them to CD for free distribution. I thought: "Why not make a CD copy of my tapes and we will get people to all send in their recordings and then pick out the best quality?" I then pitched the idea on the group and... re-pitched it. And... re-pitched it. And... re-pitched it until I got this guy named Rick, with his own recording studio in Connecticut, interested in the idea. See, Syd Barrett fans are, basically, really, really lazy people unless it comes to fighting amongst themselves on some message board.
But anyway, I got Rick on board and then we had a place to mail submissions to. That went on for several months. And I even went to visit Rick in Connecticut. Rick is also Jefferson Starship's Webmaster. After awhile, it became clear that Rick wasn't into going through all the material and picking out the best quality. He had a different vision for the project which involved just putting everything out and letting the fans assemble their own collection. That wasn't going to work and so I removed the project from Rick, which had grown to almost a hundred discs of submissions. I took my toys and went home.
Then I began lobbying my old friend, Steve Czapla to join the project. I was like: "Dude! I have over a hundred discs of Syd Barrett material and we need to percolate it down to the best shit! Also, I am running this Syd Barrett group full of crazy motherfuckers! Join up and I will make you a Moderator!" Steve didn't want to join anything that was being pitched to him as owned by me and full of crazy motherfuckers. I had to really work on him to join the group. I guilt tripped him, everything... Finally, he joined up.
So... the hundred discs were sent to Steve who had a bootlegged copy of Sonic Solutions which was like... a $5000.00 sound editing program back then. The idea came about that, not only would we pick the best recordings, but we would run them through Sonic Solutions. Then, Pinnacle Pschnob joined up and he had his own professional recording studio in Massachusetts. Then ChrisM joined up and some other guy named Swan Lee. These people: Steve, Pschnob, ChrisM and Swan Lee were true Syd Barrett Experts. They made copies of all the discs for each other and then began the long, hard, work of picking out the best version of each piece of material. After awhile, Steve and Swan Lee didn't see eye to eye anymore. Steve didn't like Swan Lee; said he was a douche. Swan Lee told me that Steve had committed the unpardonable sin of messing with his "work" on the project. Adios, Swan Lee.So we began to get a running order of the discs and comfortable working together. Basically, ChrisM and Steve slogged through the tracks and found other stuff. Then Steve and Pschnob would process the results through Sonic Solutions. Then, we would all listen to the various results to pick a “best" version of the processing.
Then we began getting discs together to release to the fans. This was before torrents, so we traded the discs via a tree and leaf network. I am the one that set all that up and I ran the networks too. Basically, a trunk was given a lossless version of the disc. He made lossless copies for the branches who made copies for the leaves. I set this whole thing up by continents and I ran the distributions too. This is where I invented the word Sydiot. This was for all the people who signed up to be branches who should have just stayed home sucking on their bong. They'd be like: "PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME!" and I would and then I would hand them the ball and they would throw the thing right into the dirt. Basically, the distributions, of hundreds of discs by continent, were like running gun battles but everybody got their discs.
3. Why is there still so much material unreleased?
K: I don't know what's still unreleased. We put out everything that was floating around and shut down the Syd Barrett Bootleg Industry.
P: That seems like a question better directed to the record company. I can only presume if Syd's solo records or Opel were big successes they'd have released much more… but we did get a lot of extra takes on Fish Out of Water... and “Bob Dylan Blues” and “Rhamadan”, so...there are trickles anyway...
4. Some volumes are being updated. Any plan on sight?
K: We are going to update everything. Ever since we put out HYGIY? that established us as THE Syd Barrett Audio People. So... we have gotten LOTS of upgrades and even some new shit. Yes, I want to put it out. It's up to Steve Czapla and ChrisM because they have the tapes and the track listings and all the upgrades. It's up to them. I want it to come out. The fans want it to come out.
P: Steve has some long term plans; I don't really; I've been working on Roky material for some time now but getting very slow...approaching retirement...
5. Is there an ultimate HYGIY goal?
K: To put the best stuff into all the fan's hands.
6. Was it easy to make fans cooperate?
K: No, they were a bunch of idiots but I ended up assembling a good team.
7. Did everything follow the same path with the Roky Erickson material?
K: HYGIY? was more organized than the Roky initiative. Also, the Syd fans don't think that I am Satan for doing it.
8. Who decided the title Have You Got It Yet?
K: We had a contest on the Laughing Madcaps Group and some woman thought it up. She won the big NO PRIZE.
9. What do you think is EMI’s opinion about it?*
K: I think EMI put out more Syd material because of HYGIY?
10. Ewgeni Reingold made a superb DVD with every visual Syd/Floyd material. Are you in contact with him for future collaborations?
K: We were going to do a HYGIY? video collection and assembled a LOT of video. Steve Czapla is a perfectionist. Sometimes I think that he thinks that this Syd Barrett material is like fine wine or something. Like... it needs to be aged more or something. JUST PUT THE SHIT OUT!!! Anyway, Pinnacle Pschnob got tired of waiting around for Steve to decide something so he gave copies of all of our video work to this Weenie guy. He did a bit of his own work and then put it out as his project.
P: I sent Eugene a lot of that material, the first version contained a lot of flv/mpg1 sourced material but subsequent versions have been upgraded from more mpg2 sources; yes we communicate. Due to a lack of motivation and unique material (no point in duplicating releases others have already done) there are currently no plans to release a HYGIY? DVD (as you know there were several VCDs); that actually was what I was hoping Eugene would do but Kiloh and he got into some dispute so…
11. What was the biggest surprise among the material?
K: Finding the “In theBeechwoods” backing track.
P: Yes, I suppose getting uncirculated material like the “Vegetable Man” and “Beechwoods” sessions recording with Nick [Mason], et.al.
About the finding of this particular track, designer Jean-Luke Epstein has first-hand information. He saw a projected tracklist for HYGIY, and noticed that he had something unique.
Jean-Luke: I went to the French Lycée in South Kensington in London. As a big Floyd fan, I'd often notice Nick driving around in his yellow Lotus Elan and Syd was also occasionally spotted too because he lived in 3-4 locations nearby as well ... The interview came about when I approached Nick after a very strange poorly-attended gig the Floyd did in February (1969). Suffice to say, that Nick was very amenable - we had friends in common - and he was up to giving an interview for my school magazine. He was living nearby in Sydney Street at the time. The meeting was very agreeable: he's a very pleasant individual - I met him again 5 years later, when he was living in Camden: he had no memory whatsoever of our '69 encounter but was still just agreeable to give you a sense of how fairly easy-going he is. The only pressure we had was that Nick was going to have to start recording that night - on what was to be the first of the recordings we now know as the More soundtrack. Though the film was still called The Last Drop then. I had a Philips cassette recorder for the interview and brought a friend called Nico Preston (who had first turned me onto Arnold Layne ...) So the recorder was just running when we talked, during which Nick played us some of his parts for Ummagumma which he'd recorder with his girlfriend / fiancée, Lindy, whom he shared the flat with. His recordings were played on an Akai 4-track he had. It was from that that he also played the Vegetable Man backing track - which I recognised from John Peel's broadcasts - and “Beechwoods” that little gem which it still amazes me we haven't heard more examples of ... And it's something of a miracle that the piece you know survived because: My original copy of that recording was stolen - with a few other rarities of that period - a few weeks later. If Nico, who was something of scientific whizz-kid, hadn't made a copy for himself, we wouldn't have had that copy of a copy we're talking about today.
For my part, it was in 1997 that I was working on my Syd tribute album (Dream Divers: In My Infant Air), and, on its release, got to start exchanges with Steve Czapla and, in due course, Kiloh and their Laughing Madcaps project. Shortly after, David Parker published his Random Precision book. We got to exchanging too and, in the process; Steve produced a lot of clever strokes in extracting remarkable audio, in the circumstances, from the recording which Nico had, by now, digitized to preserve from his dub copy.
The Making of the "Have You Got It Yet?" Series SOON!