My Afternoon With Mr. Nice

Posted on September 06 2015

A couple of years ago I was recording an album in a studio in Leeds. We had this idea for recording a hidden track that was essentially a spoken word track; it sort of summed up the lyrical themes on the album. The only thing was, it didn’t sound especially good when I read it out loud, so we began looking for someone who could maybe bring it to life…

As it happens, the producer told us that the owner of the studio was good friends with Howard Marks, a.k.a Mr. Nice himself. We thought we’d be cheeky and ask him if he fancied doing a reading for us. We knew he’d done similar things before, but as we couldn’t really afford to pay him we thought it was a long shot. The following day we got a text from the owner saying “Howard’s in Leeds at the moment (apparently he has a house there) and would be happy to pop in. Just make sure you have some weed in for him!”

Two days later Mr. Nice turned up in our studio. He was an incredibly polite and charming man. He introduced himself to us all, and within maybe two minutes said, “who wants a smoke?” 

An hour later, after a few spliffs and after going though the text with him, he seemed to be having an issue with one line. I’d originally made reference to Alan Sillitoe with the line “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Mr. Nice seemed comfortable reading it all, but he’d always stick on that one line. I asked him if he had a problem and wanted me to change it.

“Now look here, I’ll read whatever you want me to, but if you don’t mind me saying, I’d like to change just this one bit.”

“Ok, what do you want to change it to?”

“Don’t let those FUCKERS grind you down. I think I can deliver that with a bit more gusto, you know?”

We took him into the studio (photo above). He put on his headphones and instantly lit up. Now, I could sense our producer grimacing because he’d never let us smoke near thousands of pounds worth of equipment. 

“You don’t mind if I  smoke, do you boyo?” he asked, his deep voice echoing down the microphone and resonating through the speakers in the control room.

“No, it’s fine,” said our producer. He was a hard man to refuse.

It took him maybe five minutes to nail the track. I then spent the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening getting stoned with Mr. Nice. 



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