Ghost Codes: Bingley musician’s ‘lost’ concept album finally released
Almost a decade on from when it was conceived, a remarkable album by an international collective of musicians marshalled by a multi-instrumentalist and engineer-producer from Bingley has finally been released.
Ghost Codes was the vision of Jonathan Taylor, who tragically died shortly after recording sessions were completed. The concept album remained shelved for eight years until John Sessions, its executive producer, shared the recordings with Mick Carter, owner of Guiseley-based second-hand vinyl store Shed Load of Vinyl, who was so impressed he decided to put it out on his fledgling record label.
“It was 2013 when the album was finally finished but it had been nearly two years in the making,” says Sessions, who goes on to explain that its “simple premise” was based on a series of social media messages by cult author Jeff Noon.
“He started to write these little sci-fi snippets that became the ‘ghost codes’ effectively, which is why they’re not really lyrics as such, they’re tweets which is the way they were written. Jeff wanted someone to put music to it and put it out to the wider world. Jonathan Taylor, who was following him, sent some examples of what he thought it would sound good against and Jeff said, ‘That’s fine, go ahead and use it’.”
Over the next two years Taylor enlisted the help of a number of musicians including drummer Leigh Stothard, bassist Hugh Bradley, guitarist Kane Helliwell and virtuoso Uilleann pipes player Becky Taylor, as well as the Canadian film score composer Tom Third and Australian narrator Mandy Gibson, to complete his vision.
But the project became stuck in limbo with Taylor making continual tweaks until Sessions intervened. “I said to him ‘you’ve got to do one of two things – either you’ve got to stop or you’ve got to finalise it’, so that’s what we decided to do,” the producer recalls. “We took the raw material which had been gathered from musicians all over the world...Jonathan managed to strip away their egos almost and get them to do what he wanted whilst giving their best, he was very good at becoming a melting pot for all of these people...and we went into the Chairworks Studio in Castleford with Steve Whitfield, who’s a very accomplished musician in his own right but a great producer also.
“Steve and myself tidied the album up in order to release it, we had CDs on pre-sale, and then sadly as we were about to start putting them in boxes, Jonathan died. He had a massive haemorrhage and died on the spot at home and very sadly that was the end of the project.”
The album lay on the shelf until Sessions got chatting to Mick Carter at his record store in Guiseley. Impressed by the work that Carter had done on a vinyl release of Leeds band Apollo Junction’s debut album, Sessions played him Ghost Codes. “Mick said, ‘I’d love to release it’ and we spoke to the band,” says Sessions. “The conduit to the band is Leigh Stothard and he said, ‘That would be an amazing idea’. The rest of the band gave it a thumbs up and that’s where we were.”
The tapes were remastered for vinyl release by Des Ford of Rocketfuel Records. “It sounded better,” says Sessions, “and it also seemed to fit with the various periods of lockdown. Because there is the ‘No Music on a Dead Planet’ (climate emergency campaign) going around, the whole thing about the opening statement (in Ghost Codes) about a virus seemed to just fit with the changes in the world. Ghost Codes is about a completely dead world, but it’s also about the characters’ change and how they behave in that dead world. It seems to be of this moment.”
The album is now out on limited-edition splatter vinyl. “It was a great thing to work on,” says Sessions, who remembers Taylor as “an edgy character but he was a great friend, people around him knew exactly where they stood in terms of working with him musically”.
“He wasn’t really a producer, he was a musician-engineer who could capture things in the first instance. He then needed it polishing up afterwards, but he was very talented in the studio and very driven, the music was his main driver in life. He managed to take Jeff’s words and make the music absolutely fit.”
Ghost Codes by The Forgetting Room is available from www.shedloadrecords.co.uk.