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  • Rob Butterfield

WELCOME TO THE PEOPLE FACTORY

Updated: Apr 20

The tale behind a recent self-indulgent video project.


For those of you that have read the original ‘UPSTARTS AND OLIGARCHS’ blog post you’ll know that this whole blog site idea came from a concept I originally had for an album. At the end of the piece I commented that maybe, one day, that album would become a reality and that’s still the case, although I’m not entirely sure of the format it’ll take.


Over the years I’ve been involved in many a music project and I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate and play with a whole host of interesting and talented musicians. I’ve also recorded a lot of stuff in my numerous home studio set-ups – I got the recording bug in my teens and my first collaborations were with my long-time and dear friend Martin Olyett.


Me and Martin were mates from junior school. At the age of 16/17 we’d form a mod band together (The Scene/The Seen) and we’d have a modicum of success for a year or so albeit locally. Following that Martin and I would have our first foray into recording together by bouncing tracks back and forth on two cassette players. The results were pretty rough but it gave me a taste for multi-track recording and as soon as I was able I’d invest in my first Teac 144 Portsastudio. Without wishing to bore the non techies among you it was the first ever portable multi-track studio cassette recorder. Martin would be my main collaborator on this machine and we’d record a number of projects under the curious guises of ‘Casual Agents’ and ‘Canadian Fish’. I’ve still got all of those recordings on cassette safely stored away. One day we may even re-record some of the more listenable tunes.


Recording with Martin early 1980's

Recording with Martin early 1980's

Time moves on, we both had careers and relationships; in 1984 I got married and for a good few years I hung up my bass in favour of building a career and a family. I always kept my hand in though, dabbling when I could with my Portastudio.


In 1995 I lost my sister to cancer and that was the catalyst for me getting back into music properly – life was simply too short. Playing in a band again re-ignited my passion for recording and I’d once again invest in a home studio set up. This time I would opt for Cubase on a mac (musos will know what I’m on about) using a bunch of midi stuff and ‘Band in a Box’ to create backing tracks.


It would be the late 90’s before myself and Martin got together for a musical project again. Martin had been consistently writing music over the years and had a few tracks he wanted to record. I recall that he sent me some acoustic demos and I set about building some backing tracks for those songs. One of those would be a song called People Factory which has always been a favourite track of mine. From memory I created the drums, piano and synth/strings backing track using midi files and would play the bass myself in readiness for Martin’s vocals. We recorded it, mixed it and did nothing with it.


Over the following years I’d work with Martin on a few occasions. He’d hone his talent as a highly respected folk singer/songwriter and I’d produce a few demos for him in my home studio – which in later years would be based around a Roland VS2400 DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) set-up.


Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 and I’m selling off all of my home studio bits. I’ve not really been doing a lot studio wise and my gear has been gathering dust – I’m also thinking of changing the set-up I have for a more compact laptop-based logic/pro-tools set-up, but that’s another story. In clearing out I’m going through a bunch of old recordings and I stumble across People Factory. I’d remixed it in recent years and again just stuck it away. But this song has always been in the back of my mind and I wanted to do something with it. The song is probably getting on for 20 years old now but there’s just something about it. So I came up with this crazy idea of putting together a video for it…


I scoured YouTube for videos of ‘mannequin factories’ hoping to find some suitable footage that I could cut up and edit together. Unfortunately there’s not too much usable stuff online – although I did find some rather well shot footage of expensive ‘sex toy’ dolls being manufactured but it didn’t really seem appropriate (I must delete it from by browser!).


Then I happened across an old music video of a song called ‘The People Factory’ by a band called Tesseract. I tried googling Tesseract but could only find reference to a prog metal band from Milton Keynes and this definitely wasn’t them. The People Factory video was created by Ed Mellnik and Tesseracts leader Randy Lewis and posted on You Tube some 12 years ago with very little information - I think the song and the video pre-date that. It had some pretty cool retro footage that kind of worked. I’ve edited the hell out of it but have to give full credit to Mr Mellnik for the content. Mellnik is from the United States and I’ve tried to make contact with him for his approval.


Anyhow, here’s a link to that video. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but hopefully some of you will enjoy it: https://youtu.be/kHfMrckQN-E



I’ve got a bunch of other tracks on file that I’m really quite fond of and these may, or may not, form the basis of that Upstarts and Oligarchs album. I might even make a few more videos when I get the time. It’s fun and in true Upstarts and Oligarchs style it’s completely self-indulgent!

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