Five Pence Game
Rock / pop / electronic / collaborative
Contact: fivepencegame @ live.co.uk
For all releases go to: fivepencegame.bandcamp.com
Ally Morton - Bass, Production, Programming and various collaborators (some of which are shown below)
Five Pence Game is the collaborative DIY side project of Ally Morton (Massa Confusa) from Durham, UK (formerly based in Newcastle, UK but now based in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain).
Taking influence from the likes of UNKLE, Your Code Name Is: Milo's ‘Print Is Dead’ project, and Massive Attack; Ally invites artists to co-write tracks in his studio. The songs themselves are recorded in the moment, usually in 1-3 sessions, with little or no preparation. Musicians and vocalists sometimes bring lyrics, a riff, or nothing at all. Ally composes tracks around what is recorded in the session, chopping, looping, manipulating, and often altering the contributors’ original idea. He also does Internet collaborations.
Ally primarily performs FPG material as a solo musician with live bass looping, mixing and samples, but has also performed three full band shows.
On the 20th July 2019 FPG released the latest album 'Formoterol', which features 3 video singles: 'Motionless feat. FYB', 'Red Sun Smiles feat. Jackie Purver' (Pit Pony / ex-Retriever) and 'Struggle 98288 feat. Miss Danby & The What'.
Collaborator focus #20 Aiur Retegi (Pixalino)
My story with Ally is like a Five Pence Game song: accidental. It all started on a summer’s evening in San Sebastián where I met my old Sevillian friend (who I met in the Netherlands) and whose girlfriend back then was an English student of Ally's. Anyway, it all started when she said, "You know what? Ally plays music!"
To cut a long story short, one day Ally came with his stuff to my house in Durango and sat in front of my computer while I had my guitar and pedals. He told me to play something and that was it, an unstoppable rush of sounds started bleeding through the speakers.
I enjoyed that day so much we already have three more songs recorded and I am willing to make many more, even if they don’t finally make it into FPG's already amazing collection or not. It is an addictive experience for me. Thanks Ally!
Collaborator focus #19 Matt O'Brien (Massa Confusa)
I first met Ally at a year 7 birthday party at Wet 'n' Wild (the North East's premier Chernobyl-esque water park), a place that perfectly summed up Massa Confusa: a bit dark and grimy at first glance but full of hidden silliness.
Ally has a habit of catching me unaware, recording bits of soundcheck or daft twiddles and then basing amazingly elaborate compositions around something I don't even remember doing, so it felt a bit alien to be given free reign to consciously record a full song in one session. I guess the self consciousness coupled with a particularly shit week got to me and this was nearly left instrumental, but let's be fair...despite 6 years of doing this weekly with Massa it's still an honour to be part of a collaboration as big and as ambitious as Five Pence Game. It would have been a wasted opportunity to be left unfinished so apologies to Tony as always for the last minute extra work.
Collaborator focus #18 Mama Lips
I remember feeling uncertain about how relaxed Ally felt creating a song in just a few hours. I only bought the bare bones of a song, it was very hard to resist finishing it before recording it with Ally. I'd never wrote/recorded in that way before so it definitely took me out of my comfort zone, which I'm sure is a good thing. Ally has a way of bringing out parts of a song you never knew existed and honestly my favourite parts of the song wouldn't of happened unless it was written on the spot while recording for Five Pence Game. It's a reminder to take more chances.
Collaborator focus #17 FYB
We had followed Massa Confusa on the Newcastle scene for a while, so we both jumped at the chance to work with Ally on a track for five-pence game. It was great to work with Ally as the way he works aligned with our own practice perfectly. It was a pleasure to work with a musician who not only has a good ear for his own music, as Ally does, but is passionate about the collaborative process and executes it without dominating the musical dialogue, which is the tendency for many artists who attempt this kind of work.
Collaborator focus #16 Miss Danby And The What
Miss Danby - Vocals, Guitar:
Massa Confusa discovered us. The duo came to our attention after a few underground gigs at the original Little Buildings. Their DIY set up appealed and the music, often cracking, was the kind of movement on the local scene we wanted to be a part of. As a band though, we had many songs to write, spit out and polish before we moved into the live circuit, playing the shit out of them. Our attempts to remain relatively incognito, at this time, didn’t work and we were soon asked to play at one of Massa’s stupendous events. Honoured we were, ready we thought and then we realised our drummer wouldn’t be available on the date of the gig. Another ship sailed I thought but no… Months later we were surprisingly asked again to play at a more mellow affair, acoustic no less. This time we had recruited a deputy drummer, in the interim, to fill in for our intrepid travelling sticksmith who was once again playing on another dusty track off the beaten path abroad (lucky gal). The gig went well and meeting the Massa Confusa lads felt like the beginning of a friendship forming.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and Ally asked if the Five Pence Game project was something we wanted to be a part of. A few scrawled rough sketches of ideas for songs, written on my phone, was all I was going to take with me. Unwritten, unplanned and a bit nerve wracking to comprehend developing into an off the cuff song. Our improvisational writing and recording session was planned; armed with said phone and my brilliant band member Alex, we set off for Ally’s studio, stepping into the great unknown.
Alex James - Bassist, Backing Vocals:
Ally welcomed us to his home studio on a rainy summer evening and fuelled by herbal tea, he set us off with an improvised drum loop. I then layered some synth over this and the bones of the song began to take shape. On top of this, Bry had some rough ideas for lyrics, inspired by the tattoo stamp of a Holocaust survivor (98288), Leon Greenman, whose story of hope in adversity echoed through her sparse and arresting words. I then played some bass chords over the chorus, whilst Ally worked his technical wizardry. Around two hours after we soakingly splodged through the door (it really was a very wet day) – Struggle 98288 was complete. The experience was great fun and really inspiring, particularly Ally’s enthusiasm and encouragement throughout the process. The only negative was that Ally was soon to move to Spain…and that we hadn’t done this more often.
Collaborator focus #15 Alex Malliris (Kobadelta)
Back in 2015 I remember hearing a Massa Confusa track - ‘Secret’ if I remember rightly - on the BBC Newcastle Introducing show. Me and Dom (Kobadelta lead singer) really liked it so we asked them to support us at an EP launch we had at Think Tank? back in 2015 and got to know Ally well after that, playing with them again and bumping into him the odd gig in and around Newcastle.
Ally asked me if I wanted to collaborate as part of Five Pence Game back in May 2017, and I jumped at the chance. Coincidently it was just as Kobadelta was coming to end, and felt like a good way to let loose and try something new at a point when my future in music was (and still is) pretty unknown.
As daunting as it was both in terms of sharing new ideas with someone other than the lads in my band and also working with an electronic backing track, it felt exhilarating and exciting working in a way so different from what I was used to for the past 6 or 7 years. I tried not to go into the session with any preconceived idea of what to expect, and consciously tried not to use any riffs or ideas I had stored up, and just went with the flow, bouncing ideas back and forth with Ally. I really feel like that completely improvised approach shows in the song, and I’m chuffed to be a part of such a diverse and interesting project.
Collaborator focus #14 Tony James Morton (Preqwal, Symmatik)
I endearingly refer to Ally as "the task master." I often regret asking him about his music as I always seem to be given a long list of deadlines to mix and master, this music. You would think I would get special dispensation being his brother, but alas, I don't. It's due to this drive and tenacity that Ally has managed to build up such a following and almost cult status within Newcastle. His attention to detail and passion for music shines through in every one of his projects and I'm sure everyone he's ever worked with would agree.
The Five Pence game project was an extremely ambitious one. Not just musically, but logistically. Trying to pin down his favourite Newcastle based musicians and organise time to compose and record must have taken one hell of a spreadsheet! Ally was clearly never phased by such a feat, and the result of the project was certainly worth such time keeping. Over the years I've become a "silent" member of the mass group, becoming their resident mixing engineer and general technical dogsbody. I feel like we've all worked hard together to achieve a certain house sound for the band. This project was then quite a challenge as each song is sonically unique to the next. However, I feel like I've been able to keep faithful to the original raw sound of Massa Confusa while also give justice to the more produced sound of Five Pence Game.
I think this project stands as testament to the amazing alternative music scene in Newcastle and everyone involved should be very proud of what they've been able to accomplish.
Collaborator focus #13 Fintan Dawson (Slurs, Retriever, Cult Image)
I spent ages just recognising Ally as 'that fella from Massa Confusa who goes to loads of gigs' then finally got introduced to him properly and we clicked pretty quick. I started attending the shows he was putting on, then he put on my band Slurs' EP release show. At the start of this year, after only knowing him a few months he asked if I'd like to join him and Ian Cowie in the band for a Five Pence Game live show. It was awesome when Ally asked me to get involved, though I was a bit surprised. For someone who is famous for meticulous planning, I was surprised at the amount of free rein Ally gave me in coming up with guitar parts. Over many weeks (months) of intensive practicing with a carousel of incredible local talent, it was fun working out what I could bring to the party. It was an absolute honour to collaborate on stage with so many talented musicians from all over. It'd be great to do it all again in Spain once Ally's finished setting up his empire...
Collaborator focus #12 Faithful Johannes (Outside Your House)
My first contact with Ally was on soundcloud when I commented on FPG’s ‘Cadence of Your Voice’ track in a positive manner. Shortly after I clocked him at a show in Empty Shop Durham. He identified me by my Her Space Holiday t-shirt and we got talking in real life. From then on I have seen him everywhere. Ally is at every local gig anyone has ever attended. If you’re popping out to buy lettuce chances are you’ll pass him on the street on his way to see the Fuzzbots EP launch or similar. We made ‘D Minor Disappointment’ in one session at Ally’s house. I got a parking space outside and was fed pizza. I was grateful. Ally talked a lot about all sorts, I was a little nervous and quiet. I was surprised how much progress Ally had made while gassing on. I threw down some words, melodica and a simple guitar line. We decided I’d used too many words so took some out, then declared it complete.
Collaborator focus #11 Jenny Gilberg
I met Ally whilst studying on my Fine Art degree at Northumbria University. We bonded over our love for music and all things quirky and ridiculous. After graduating we were involved in a number of group exhibitions and participated in various graduate schemes including Unfinished Business at Wallington Hall, Northumberland.
I have always had a multidisciplinary approach to the arts and really enjoy fusing different mediums both in the visual arts and in music. We created the tracks together in a home recording session improvising flute and steel pan to beats and riffs.
I have worked on numerous fusion projects including Balkan Organ Project with the London Gypsy Orchestra and travel to Trinidad annually to take part in the Trinidad and Tobago Championships.
Collaborator focus #10 Bea García Cisneros (Twist Helix)
When Ally asked me if I'd like to be involved with 'Five Pence Game' I was thrilled, if not a little bit nervous! Under instruction not to prepare anything in advance, I soon found myself in Ally's studio and after looping some keys and drums, we pressed record. The resulting track "Desesperación" is the result of this spontaneous leap into the unknown.
Those familiar with Ally's work [musically] as Five Pence Game/ Massa Confusa will know of Ally's love of music and his unwavering commitment to the DIY music scene. Five Pence Game is a testament to that, and I'm delighted to be featured on this latest collaboration which amplifies the talent and diversity which is so abundant in the North East music scene.
Collaborator focus #9 Kate Edwards
Ally and I had the idea of making a track that was minimalist and melodic - starting with a central motif and building around it. After messing around with a few samples, we found one that sounded like it was from the 90s TV show Twin Peaks. Being fans of the show, we talked about Audrey's Theme and how it's quite sultry and mysterious, much like the lady herself. I remembered a quote:
Dale Cooper: 'Secrets are dangerous things, Audrey'.
Audrey: 'Do you have any?'
Dale Cooper: 'No'.
We both agreed that the line 'secrets are dangerous things' fit with what we were trying to achieve with the track, and turned it into the central lyrical motif. Ally then started building up the instrumentation, adding bass and lots of other ideas to keep the track moving. I improvised some vocal takes which he chopped up and messed about with - the overlapping vocals contribute to the track gaining momentum, as well as sounding canny creepy!
Collaborator focus #8 Jackie Purver (Retriever)
My experience of working on Five Pence Game was very different to what I'm used to. I've been in a loud band writing songs in a practice rooms with 3 others in one go. Ally and I met properly at his Massa Confusa show at the O2 Academy Newcastle 2 and soon after my band split up, so Ally and I never got to play any gigs together. He approached me a few months after to do some bits of vocal on a couple of Massa Confusa songs and that evolved into getting involved in Five Pence Game. We exchanged ideas via dropbox (and my phone voice recorder as i'm not up on technology) and I did some crude vocals using old and new lyrics on top of what Ally sent. He worked his magic on recording them in his studio and then arranging them. It's a much softer approach to what I've done before but Ally knows what he's doing so he's pulled it all together nicely.
Collaborator focus #7 Andrew Paget (Tighten Grip)
I can safely say that Ally Morton is the busiest man I know. He's the only one of my friends that knows what he'll be doing most weekends 6 months from now. If Ally isn't putting on / playing / or attending a gig, then he's rehearsing or working on other projects such as Five Pence Game. It's really great to see Ally and Massa Confusa getting recognition after witnessing all the time and effort he puts into the Newcastle scene.
I first met Ally when I started working with him in 2013, and the band I was in played with Massa Confusa at one of the first gigs he put on. I think Five Pence Game is a great experimental project and the song we ended up with quite easily came together. It was very much a collaborative process, but for me represents what's best about making music, which is hanging out with a friend(s).
Collaborator focus #6 Tom Hollingworth (therunningchelsea)
Having spent some time away from Newcastle, I am pleased a Massa Confusa demo submission for NARC. Magazine drew me into their world from afar. Returning to town, I got to witness the positive communities Ally and Matt were feeding through organising regular music nights at Nerd Hutch, and other venues. I am not alone in acknowledging Ally’s work ethic around music is extremely disciplined and inspiring.
This Five Pence Game project seemed another huge endeavour on top of an already packed schedule, but it represented to me a bridging position between what Ally expresses through his own music, and the supportive work he does for others. It’s engagement with a great number of musicians from around Newcastle forecast the result, whatever the content, to be a document of certain styles, and tastes from his greater musical community in 2015/16. It was very kind of him to ask me to be part of this, to jam with Ally and see what would happen for our piece of the pie. From an enjoyable night riffing and playing, the odd little thing that is Tuft was made for the 2nd EP. I still don’t know what it means, but “keep your elvis” is probably the best lyric you’re going to hear this year.
Collaborator focus #5 Rachael Whittle (Ilser)
I met Ally through a Massa Confusa presents show. We contacted him to play when my band ILSER were starting out. We loved their style so we kept in touch and we later asked Massa Confusa to play with us at a video shoot gig. I can’t remember exactly when it was, or very much else from that night in all honesty but I do remember Ally asking me to be part of the Five Pence Game project.
In ILSER we call Ally the mad scientist because he has so many ideas and is always working on something new. So the recording process was great fun and I enjoyed working on projects in a different way. Sometimes it’s hard when working with new musicians to get things to flow properly, but Ally is very easy to work with and when we finally stopped writing songs about Elephants on Monkeys backs, we used an idea I had written previously as the basis for stay.
Alongside the recording project Ally also wanted to do a live show. Myself, Ally, jack and Ian made up the live band, all three of them are awesome songwriters so we created a diverse set that incorporated a very wide range of genres. I would love to be involved in the live shows in June if Ally will have me!
Collaborator focus #4 Ben Bowsher (Get Into It Records, Magnetic Tape Zine)
Working on the Five Pence Game project is an interesting proposition for me. I’ve done kind of insignificant things on the edges of the DIY scene in Newcastle, none of which consisted of actually playing music in front of people. I’m perhaps the least talented musician and songwriter of the bunch on here and I came to Ally with the bare bones of a song and through collaborative trial and error he turned it into something quite beautiful. I was doing a lot of research about protest and labour movements at the time, hence the trot-lite lyrical content… but fuck it, here’s to more political music. (Ben is talking about the "Withered Hands" track.)
Collaborator focus #3 Jack Fallows (Skull Puppies, FOMO, Sleepwalk)
Ally Morton is probably the most industrious person in the North East music scene. Have you heard that thing about how, if a shark suddenly stops or goes backwards in the water, it'll die? That's a bit like how I'd describe Ally's work ethic; if he's not moving forwards all the time, I'm not sure he'd be long for this world. That being said, the process of working with him - either in the studio, on stage, or putting together shows and events, is always an easy and natural process. When I went in to record my tracks for Five Pence Game, I had a handful of chords and some shitty cowboy poetry, and I left not long after with two tracks that I wasn't just stoked on, but that felt like genuinely fresh and new additions to my discography. Ally surprised me, as he often does, chopping things up and rearranging them like some brilliant and demented scientist from a Universal monster movie, and I surprised myself too. Surface Sickness is a song about one of the most awful coach journeys I've ever taken - eight hours back to Newcastle from London, where I had marched against the Tories and was left sweating, having a panic attack and unable to think about anything other than how catastrophically fucked we were with Cameron as a leader (and a year on, at least least I can say my suffering was justified). The Crease In Your Shirt is a little more sappy. It's about being an anxious, asexual mess; not knowing where to look when you talk to someone you like, not totally trusting your own feelings, not knowing what happens next. Thematically, I suppose, the tracks aren't too dissimilar to my other work in music, comics, writing and so on. But I hope fans of my other stuff find something new in here to enjoy.
Collaborator focus #2 Ian Cowie (Spacehawke)
In this life I've played and collaborated with great musicians and song writers. There have been great bands, great people and great times. I’ve been lucky. Each city I’ve lived in, from Aberdeen, to Hanoi, Buenos Aries and Newcastle I’ve managed to meet like-minded musical maniacs. Until Ally asked me to write this, I had never considered how this happened.
When I moved to Newcastle I met Ally sitting in the same teacher's room at Newcastle College. Moreover, I discovered the freakish humanoid ‘Andy Haughton’ (co-founder of Spacehawke) was my immediate neighbour. I came to understand that these meetings could not be explained by 'luck'. Something beyond comprehension was at work. A power far greater, far heavier than gravity and even a lorry carrying oversized horses filled with lead. I put it down to cosmic magnetism and vibrations from the frozen moon of Europa. This was written, pre-destined. This was out of our control. (Either that or the Machiavellian powers of manipulation, which Ally and myself share, used to covertly strategize our separate quests for musical revolution, are to blame for our ‘meeting’. Of course, this is fucking ridiculous, it could be nothing more than coincidence. However, I’m a firm believer in nonsense.
I am lucky to have met the people I have in Newcastle. I am eternally grateful to Ally and admire his gentle insanity, restless workmanship, ethics and discipline. If it wasn't for Ally, life might not be so interesting. As for the tracks, they're just songs with lyrics on the cusp of intelligibility. They don't mean more than what they did at the time and hopefully people like them.
Collaborator focus #1 Aran Glover (We Are Knuckle Dragger)
‘I have never let my schooling interfere with my education’ Mark Twain.
I came to Newcastle Upon Tyne from Belfast in 2004 to study music, but it was only after I immersed myself in the local music scene that I truly earned my honours. I played in bands and as a solo artist, taking my music on the road, seeing amazing things, hearing incredible sounds, and meeting inspiring people. One such person was Ally. He contacted me regarding a support slot at a Knuckle Dragger show. Eventually I was able to oblige him. We became friends and met regularly at gigs, both local and out of town acts. When he explained his idea for Five Pence Game and asked me to get involved I was only too happy to accept. We met at his place, I tuned an acoustic guitar to drop B, and Toffee Hammer was born. I remember less about the recording process and more about cups of tea, rollies on the back step, great conversation about everything and nothing, and, most importantly, laughter. To me, that's living the dream! I hope you guys enjoy my track, and the full album. I'll leave you with these words. Support your local music scene! It is so important not to have your music spoon fed to you by people who tell you what is ‘cool’ or ‘in’ or ‘now’. These people can fuck off in my opinion. We need to search for our own treasure, and a good first step is exploring what is on your doorstep, and then...get involved. The possibilities are endless.