Insights into fatherhood

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 October, 1997, 12:00am

Scotland's renowned vibesman Howie B has stopped twiddling knobs to make others sound great to produce his own ambient debut, Music for Babies.

The album, the first release as part of a substantial deal with Polydor, is packaged with poetry, prose and an animated video.

Howie B says much of the material was fuelled by his emotional response to becoming a father. He now has a daughter, Chilli.

'The set is accompanied by a book of prose by writer Michael Benson,' Howie B said.

'The graphics have been drawn by Japanese producer Toshi and the cover on all formats comes from Icelandic artist Hubert Noi.' A short film by animator Ruk Warke is also part of the project.

Music for Babies, which took just 18 days in the studio, includes vocals from former singer with The Band, Robbie Robertson.

Howie B says his own 'unusual shouting' also pops up on the album, a collection of tracks where sounds float and drift through a faintly coloured mist. 'It is an ambient record but an innocent one . . . for the child,' he said.

Away Again, for example, is a poignant song about how a father feels when he must leave his child to concentrate on work, while How to Suckle is mellow jazz fusion, mixing samples of 15 or so jazz tunes with the instrument of his voice.

From the itchy, corrugated riffs of Allergy to the idyllic tone-and-timbre poem Here Comes the Tooth, Music for Babies is virtuoso 'sampladelia'.

In 1995, Howie B's career received a welcome boost when his talent and humour found favour with U2's Bono; he produced Bono's contribution to a Leonard Cohen tribute album.

Howie B's name was again in illustrious company on the Passengers film soundtrack project which involved the likes of Brian Eno and Luciano Pavarotti, while Bono asked for further contributions on U2's Pop.

The Scotsman has worked with East 17, Bjork, Tricky, New Order, Annie Lennox and Simply Red.

While other youths in Glasgow were learning the guitar, Howie B was taping tracks off the cult John Peel radio show on to a two-track tape-recorder and making mixes.

Howie B worked on Soul II Soul's first album, Club Classics Vol. One, and has also joined forces with the likes of Goldie and Massive Attack.

What is his secret? Why does everyone want him on board? 'I know how to talk to people,' he suggests. 'Humour, social stuff. Bono, Bjork, Siouxsie [and the Banshees], these people can express themselves. They can pick up the microphone and they move you.'