The Fourth Man

These 15 tracks were originally released as two limited run CD pressings between 1994 and 1996, totaling about 1500 copies. The songs were a consolidation of cassettes put out independently between 1992 and 1994. The majority of tracks were initially recorded as demos to be “shopped” to record labels, the intention being that someone would see the nascent talent in the murk and start throwing money at us so we could buy better equipment, get studio access, quit our day jobs, and develop tragic drug habits. Major label interest never really developed, so we just started putting/handing them out ourselves.

Eventually we got the interest of Factoria Records, a very new and very independent label, run by Andrew Amy. Through Andrew, we started getting wider exposure, live shows, and eventually pressed the CD, which at the time seemed like a big deal.

Once the CD came out, internal conflict and other issues flared up, resulting in a very slow and possibly regrettable collapse of the project.

The first time I heard the master pressing of the CD in the summer of 1994, it was with a combined sense of accomplishment and disappointment. Besides some glaring oversights in the mastering process (the 3 tracks from the “Sick” EP were noticeably quieter than the rest of the album – something I chose to correct this time around), our jump from analog cassette to a digital medium seemed simultaneously belated and premature. Many of these songs had been recorded two years previously, and some were finished years before that, so in that particular case the CD was a long time in coming. On the other hand, it had been put out too soon in my opinion, since it had been my intention to eventually have the opportunity to record and mix them in a real studio before having them “released”.

I'd always felt like the CD should have come with a disclaimer, a series of excuses, or some sort of apology for its’ shortcomings. So here it is, 20 years later, as I blink back tears of shame and say... sorry.

T4M 1994 - CD Front Cover Front Cover T4M 1994 - CD Tray Card Back Cover

In our defense, we lacked a proper understanding in the art of getting a good mix. Also, the mixing channels on the four track cassette units we worked with were poorly suited for what we were doing. One consistent issue we came up against during the process of recording and mixing the songs was a bottleneck in terms of our ability to properly separate the various instruments on to individual tracks and “mix” them in the traditional sense. Multiple instruments came straight out of the stereo outputs of the samplers and synths onto the tape, with very little control of the EQ, effects processing, and stereo placement. Having that additional control would have helped in dealing with some of the sonic issues that ended up on the CD. We never did make it into a studio with more than 4 tracks, a larger mixing board, or with any sort of recording budget. We literally recorded in basements, bedrooms, and a walk-in closet. Oddly enough, after hearing these versions so many times, I’ve gotten used to the low fi sound of them – sort of.

It was pretty stunning that, after the CD came out, we started seeing positive reviews in ‘zines and started doing interviews for something that was essentially a demo. Granted, there were some criticisms - observations made that some of the tracks sounded like they’d been recorded in a basement. We really should have had an advisory sticker on the front warning people of precisely that.

Label interest and further releases might have developed on an alternate timeline, but within 6 months of putting the CD out, issues that had been bubbling under between Gabriel and myself continued to ramp up. I started working with Numb at this point, and that became more of a priority. T4M continued to do periodic live shows, as well as nearly an album’s worth of new material, which never saw the light of day. By about 1998, Gabriel and I had completely lost touch with each other, and after 6 years of doing cranky and morose electronic music, I was pretty burnt out on the diminishing returns, so I put T4M up on blocks in the front yard, so to speak.

1988 - Citizen

With no real musical experience, but a lot of enthusiasm to be on the "creative" side of the "music" "industry", I had started to assemble a collection of entry-level MIDI equipment starting in 1987.

The whole idea of MIDI sequencing was pretty alien to me, and prior to the internet, skulking around music stores and awkwardly pestering sales people was my primary means of learning about the gear. Eventually, after getting patchy information, which I promptly misunderstood, I bought the cheapest MIDI synth and sequencing gear I could find to learn the rudiments of the process.

By the summer of 1988, I discovered how little I knew, and could barely put an idea together. I had also realized that certain key elements were missing from the equation, like drums and vocals. Still, within a few days of getting a four track cassette recorder and a new synth module, I recorded a short idea that later became the bass line for a very early version of “Citizen” while figuring out how to use the new equipment.

By the fall of 1988, I purchased 2 more Yamaha products – an RX 17 drum machine (with bonus “latin” percussion), and a “sampling” digital delay pedal. Shortly after that, a reworked version of the original Citizen idea was put together, specifically in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas day. Lyrics were written shortly after, in 1989, but were never recorded with this version.

I met Martin Deyotte around this time, and we started hanging out in a basement studio where I had my gear set up, more “basement” than “studio”. During this period I continued to figure how to use the gear, and attempted to make some sort of music that actually pleased me. Success was extremely limited...

Martin proposed a band name based on hearing a random sound byte from televangelist Jimmy Swaggart shouting about “the Fourth Man”, and it stuck.

There was much meandering for the next few months, still trying to squeeze decent sounds out of the gear. There was also a great source of confusion as to exactly what it was I was trying to do. I had a bit of a New Wave/alternative 80s music hangover, and was still listening to bands like Bauhaus and Ultravox. On the other hand, I was also a fan of the crankier, noisier music one became acquainted with hanging out on the periphery of the punk rock/alternative scene - bands like Big Black, as well as old classics like the Stooges. To confuse matters more, Martin and I were big fans of most of the 1970s David Bowie catalogue, and a steady diet of whatever was being played at the “alternative” nightclubs in the downtown area. 

As an aside – around 1988 I went to see a show at the Vancouver night club Luv-a-fair: a new band called Numb were the headliners, with a band called the Resilient Stomachs as support. I was really impressed with how little gear the Resilient Stomachs had. Also, they had some of the same equipment as I did. Numb had tons of really impressive gear that I couldn’t even fathom. I found out years later that the two members of the Resilient Stomachs were Chris Peterson and Rhys Fulber, later in Front Line Assembly. I ended up joining Numb about 6 years later, and we toured with FLA.

Back in 1988, I was becoming strongly drawn to the industrial music that was coming out at the time, and Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, and Laibach were all becoming increasingly appealing as I moved away from the Goth and New Romantic styles.

Another strong stylistic touchstone was the umbrella term “cyberpunk”. Movies like “Videodrome”, “Bladerunner”, “Alien”, and “The Terminator”, with a gritty dystopian perspective on science fiction were still relatively new and exciting avenues to explore. I had also always been pretty hung up on the odd-ball band Sigue Sigue Sputnik, who had not only pulled together a good cartoonish cyberpunk look, but also had used repetitive sequenced bass lines with plenty of stolen samples and tape loops from movies in the genre.

The term “cyberspace” was still being bandied about as a new concept, and to the public at large, the reality of a ubiquitous internet was still in the realm of science fiction. Both suckers for science fiction and being fatalistic, Martin and I were lapping it up like kittens at a dish of milk.

1989 - Dare, Progress

In the summer of 1989, I bought a Yamaha TX16W sampler, one of most important pieces of gear used for the material on the 1994 CD.
One of the first samples I grabbed was from a construction site across the street, which became the intro to ► Progress (1). During this period, I did a few versions of the idea, which had always been known as ► Progress, well before it became a finished song.

In addition to getting the hang of the new equipment and working out a lot of material during the last half of 1989 that never really panned out, the song “Dare” was completed, including one of my first attempts at recording my own vocals. The only major difference between the CD version and the original is that I lacked confidence and experience in terms of singing. The result was that I ended up sounding like I was 14 years old, and not 22. Most of the early vocals I did sounded like I was a prepubescent, grudgingly singing while being poked with a fork.

“Dare” came together very quickly, considering that it was done on the QX21 sequencer (2 MIDI tracks, dinky screen). You really had to be sure about what you were committing to, because there was no ”undo”, and taking out notes could be extremely time consuming. The other issue was that halfway through the song, “Dare” had eaten up too much memory to finish the song. As a solution, I had just bought this horrendous second sequencer called the Korg SQD-1, intending to synch both of them up together and extend my note memory. There was a problem, however, and I ended up having to port the first half of the song to the new sequencer, and then essentially write a second half without really listening to the first half. This sort of explains why halfway through the song, the verse/break/verse formula ends, and it sort of becomes an extended break for the second half. Essentially, the structure was dictated by limitations of the equipment, which was a typical Fourth Man trapping.