‘The Stars Aligned’: Diesel Reflects On ‘Hepfidelity’ 30 Years On

5 August 2022 | 12:54 pm | Mark Lizotte

To celebrate the release of the 30th-anniversary edition of his first solo record, ‘Hepfidelity’, Mark Lizotte aka Diesel looks back on its creation and contemplates what the seminal release means to him in 2022.

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When I listen to Hepfidelity in 2022, I still hear the sound of tremendous growth.

1991 was a year of change for me. I would leave the safety of the band, change management and start carving away at a body of work that started with barely a handful of songs.

It was also the year our first child Jesse was born, and a monumental shift for the better for me.

So, how does it sit with me after 30 years?

Let me start by saying I’ve never been keen on listening to my recordings beyond the realm of creation, ironically the amount of times you hear a track in the process of making it borders on the absurd, then in my case, it’s a vanishing act. Thankfully there have been some very durable tracks from Hep that have proven to be omnipresent both in the outside world and in my live set. Hearing the opening bars of track one, Man Alive there is a feeling of excitement still that is hard to contain. I definitely got more than I bargained for with that track.

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Hepfidelity was to be my first experience in the vast forest of solo artist possibilities and represents a travel log of co-writing experiences from around the world. Looking back, I really feel like the stars aligned with these encounters having reaped the rewards of bearing my soul, often with someone you’ve only just met. These experiences, combined with the musicians that walked through the studio door - Bernie Worrell (Parliament Funkadelic), Wayne Jackson & Andrew Love (The Memphis Horns) and Rhodes, Chalmers & Rhodes (Al Green’s backing singers) along with Tommy Simms on bass and Yak Sherrit on drums, helped me achieve the sound I was hearing in my head. This sound was made into a tangible listening experience through the mixing console by Terry Manning, Don Gehman and Rick Will, who collectively reigned my eclectic desires into something cohesive.

There were times in the making of Hepfidelity where it felt unfocused: the pressures and anxieties of making “album #2” might have caused a few stress cracks, this is where the musicians I had assembled lifted me and thankfully I was able to rise to the occasion. Just like raising a child takes a village, it took a small, eclectic and highly talented village to make Hepfidelity.

It was always my intention with the Hep soundscape to have layers of intertwining parts that would reveal something different with each listen. Growing up, I would spend hours on the floor listening to records with headphones, dissecting every element. The second half of the recording process in LA for Hep was a product of that time. It was in that city that I got to work with maestro Phil Shenale on the under currents: the loops, pads, whistles, and bells from the sessions. We’d spend hours every morning mapping out what I was hearing in my head, with Phil bringing something to the studio for us to record on later in the day. That was always an exciting time: I was a kid in a musical candy store.

After 10 months of stop-start sessions, working in two cities on either side of the country and in several different studios, I had an album. The one thing I hadn’t done was listen to it in its entirety… And it was poolside at Michael Gudinski’s home that I got to do this for the first time. I’ve done that same thing twenty more times since then with other albums, but this remains a vivid and humbling memory.

When I listen to Hep now, to me it sounds far from perfect, but I also hear the sound of an artist reaching beyond, and much to my delight, I still hear the excitement in the live nature of the performances.

It’s easy for me to imagine my entry into being a solo artist a misadventure at best, thankfully this was not to be the case. The road to completion was definitely not the fast lane on the autobahn but I will always hear the triumphant moments that are littered on the highways and back alleys of this record. 

There’s a strange feeling you get when you realise that listening to an album is essentially hearing a bunch of misfits become a family. I still get that feeling when I put Hepfidelity on today.