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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Mike Horne

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT: This is Tony Wright, it’s the 20th of August 2012 and I’m talking to Mike Horne. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    MIKE HORNE: Right, full name Michael Horne, born in Keighley, in the hospital, first year brought up in Denholme, and then the rest of my childhood……Bradford.

    TW: Right. Bradford. And how long did you live in Bradford for?

    MH: ……seventeen years.

    T: Right. Presumably you went away to university when you left there?

    MH: No, no I just……I got out as fast as I could and I went on….a course where I came out as a qualified what was then called a subnormality nurse and a qualified teacher of special needs.

    TW: Right, okay.

    MH: The first year of which was working in a hospital and I did six months.

    TW: Why did you want to get out of Bradford?

    MH: To get away from home……and Bradford…..there was a world out there to have a look at; I only got as far as Southport to begin with, but it was still a bit more exciting than Bradford.

    TW: Okay. So after that…..you went to Southport

    MH: Yeah just outside, that’s where the hospital was.

    TW: Six months you say…….and then what happened after that?

    MH: Six months I realised how barbaric it all was; horribly barbaric and I refused to do some of the things I was asked to do in the end, so I thought ‘there’s no way I’m going to survive the whole course’ so then I left, went back to……went back home to my parents’ house for a month or two, then ended up working for MENCAP in North Wales…..and I stayed with MENCAP for two years.

    TW: So did you do a lot of that sort of work in your……through your twenties and thirties?

    MH: It was all that sort of work; it was all social work based……..right up till…..till 1981 when I went to university.

    TW: Right. And what did you study at university?

    MH: I studied Philosophy basically. It was called Disciplinary Human Studies… it was an American style and you majored in one of the main areas like Psychology or Sociology……what was the other…..English Literature I think and Philosophy, and I sort of majored in Philosophy, particularly Philosophy of Social Sciences.

    TW: Oh right, okay. And once you’d finished that degree, what did you do?

    MH: Then I went to do Post Graduate Research; that was at the University of East Anglia, and that was in Social Work Ethics…how they work in practice, or don’t work in practice as the case may be

    TW: Was your interest in that based on the fact that you’d done that first job that you didn’t really agree with?

    MH: Partly I think…..partly and……I needed to…….I wanted to stay in social work because that’s what I knew and I knew I could get a career there, and the family was growing by then and all that sort of thing, and I wanted to research and I’d been really interested in the philosophy of what I’d been doing; ways of thinking through things and what have you, and critiquing what’s going on in the world, and my experiences as a social worker told me that according to the Social Work Code of Ethics, the professional Code of Ethics, what’s written down doesn’t necessarily, if hardly at all, sometimes translate into practice and your relationship with the people that you’re working with, and I wanted to explore that, because nobody had done it before properly; there’d been a tiny little thin book on it but nobody had actually gone out to talk to social workers and asked, based on particular cases in depth, of why did you make this decision and that decision, and what was going on with regard to social work notions of respect for persons and clients’ self-determination, certainly from my own experience they’re sometimes nonsensical because you’re not just representing the client, you’re also representing the State, and the interests of both might not be running parallel; they might be in conflict, so that was what all that was about.

    TW: So the bits that were written down on paper presumably were these…..not just practice, you know, good practice notes, were they actual legislation and government policies that people were supposed to stick with?

    MH: I wouldn’t…..it never went quite as far as legislation, but it lacked a professional Code of Conduct. This was before the Social Care Council so I think it might be a little bit stronger now, although how you would put legislative teeth on it I’m not quite sure, otherwise….other than in cases of gross misconduct…….so it’s like all professions, all have to have some kind of Code of Ethics…..Code of Conduct

    TW: It seems like that Code of Ethics doesn’t bear any real relationship to the actual work itself……would that be overstating it?

    MH: It’s……maybe…..it really depends because if you work for the State as a social worker and most social workers…..well they still do even though we’ve had various parts privatised, most social workers work for the State and so you’re representing the State and that comes through with bits of legislation – mental health, child care legislation, child protection, that sort of thing……but you’re also representing the individual and you’re working with the individual, for example in a child abuse situation, child protection situation, so quite often you’re having to marry up two conflicting demands; the State demands the protection of our children, but in a sense the state of the culture that we live in also demands that people should have their privacy and rights respected, and you’re balancing the two all the time – with child protection, working with elderly people who may be deemed at risk – anybody who’s at risk really, and so it’s quite difficult to actually do that and still……..it’s quite difficult to do that and still maintain that you’re working by this….this ultimate Code of Conduct that you should respect the rights and the self-determination of the individual, because the individual exists within the context of society and you’re on both sides at the same time sometimes.

    TW: So where did that research take you? Did that take you down a different career path?

    MH: It did; I thought….well I had to get some money, I had to earn money and so I applied for other social work jobs; I applied for two jobs in Calderdale and told I was over qualified, because by now I’d done the Masters Research so I ended up on a one year contract at Bradford College teaching Social Work, and then that led on to another contract at Huddersfield Poly, as then was, then that led on to working at the Hester Adrian Research Centre for a number of years; that’s a centre for research into learning difficulties, and then back to Bradford College on the Campus as a senior lecturer in Sociology and Social Work, and then the University of York.

    TW: So…..I know that you gave that up didn’t you?

    MH: Yeah.

    TW: What were the reasons for that?

    MH: I didn’t so much give it up as they gave up on me. I was suffering from…….I had severe chronic back problems at the time; I split up from my wife……my daughters had grown up and basically I just gave up; I had a mental breakdown……suffered from severe depression. The university stuck with me for a while and I stuck with the university – I kept coming back to work because I didn’t want to give it up – but in the end they gave up on me and decided to pension me off.

    TW: Right. And so what did you do after that?

    MH: Nothing. Until I got my head round……I wasn’t in a state to do anything because I was really quite ill for……for quite a time…..and then I began to think of……as my mind came back a little bit, a bit of energy returned, and I went on this…….like a night school once a week art course at Tod.

    TW: Right. Was that Mary’s?

    MH: No this was…….this was pre Mary; the lady who did the course introduced me to Mary, and then Mary………took me on, I can’t remember what the name of the course was now…….some sort of introductory…..induction sort of art course and then I did the HND with her.

    TW: So do you consider yourself an artist then?

    MH: Don’t know really………in short hand terms, when people ask me what I do, I say I’m an artist because it’s easier than not saying I’m an artist, and I’m not……I don’t feel retired either, so that’s the easiest answer……so I suppose I am. I don’t object to being an artist or being called an artist or thinking of myself as an artist, but……it’s not something you are; it’s not like having a title and you are that title; it’s something you do all the time, so as long as I’m painting and drawing I suppose I am, but it’s not like a fixed thing so in that sense I’m a little bit uneasy with titles such as artist.

    TW: Okay…..okay well we won’t call you an artist then, but we’ll ask about your drawing and painting, because that seems to be the thing that you do. What sort of inspired you in the beginning then? What kind of……was it particular images or a particular attitude; what was it that made you want to do more of it?

    MH: I think it came from childhood really. I was always good at art at school……I actually wanted to go and study art but two things worked against; one was Part O Level, which was two years of drawing with a 2B pencil, drawing dead vegetables basically, in three shades maximum; never saw paint….paintbrush or any paints or anything, so that sort of put me off and I wasn’t allowed to do at A Level where you could actually use paint…….my parents didn’t really want me to do A Levels anyway, because they thought I should go out and get a job, so I was restricted in what I could do and it fell aside really, apart from basically decorating the tops of my daughters’ birthday cakes once a year, so it was always there and I’d always gone round galleries and museums and things all my life, so I’ve always had that sort of liking of art, and liked looking at art, but it wasn’t until I sort of started waking up after the depression that I realised that perhaps I could do something and just have a go at it and see what happens…..and so I’m still doing it and see what happens, so it comes…..it comes from childhood really.

    TW: Well, what particular aspects of childhood because when I was very young, I must have been….you know, pre first year in school, three or four, I still have vivid memories of doing finger painting and splashing about with things - was it that sort of thing - can you go back to things that you did when you were little or is it just the……the kind of freedom about it?

    MH: I remember two paintings I did as a kid - one I think I must have been about seven or eight - I painted a rose………and I had a blackboard and I put it up like an easel, like I was playing at being an artist kind of thing, and I remember that and I remember doing a painting at school of a scrapyard with the…..with mountains in the background; I think I was in junior high school so I would have been about eleven then, eleven or twelve, something like that, and….oh yes and I started drawing cartoons as well when I was a lad……..but that’s it really.

    TW: So when you started doing it again…..were you trying to emulate those kind of images?

    MH: No not at all.

    TW: Well what did you start to do?

    MH: I started doing what I was told to do…..paint this, draw this, do this, do that…..that was in the night school class - well not quite as dictatorial as that but you know what I mean - you’re guided by the tutor to do this and this is how you do that kind of thing, and it wasn’t until….and then I realised I was really enjoying it………and….and then I was introduced to Mary and I walked into….this was before…..this was in ’75, sorry 2005, before the… you know when it wasn’t, Todmorden College, when it was all ramshackled and higgledy piggledy, and I walked into that place with so many different images and colours and the smells of paint and stuff, and it looked wonderful, and everybody sort of doing things and so I signed up immediately and Mary invited me in….and then I began to see what other people were doing, and then on the HND you begin to, because we were at…..some seminars where we learnt about the context of art; different artists through history and the context in which they did their work, and I began to sort of…….to see the possibilities really, so it started off with painting, and that painting there is one of the first I did

    TW: Right. Well landscape I’d call that.

    MH: It is; that’s about number….I think that’s number four…..that I did….so originally I was landscape based because in terms of artists I’ve looked at ever since I was eighteen, Turner has always my favourite artist……..and so I was into landscapes and I liked the way he sort of…..through painting light and diffusions of light, I think the form within the light took second place; he was basically painting light and there was form there but it was secondary, and he didn’t just paint light as a space between one object and another, well I didn’t realise this at eighteen when I was looking, but since that he was actually looking at layers of light by looking through light, like looking through the ground, through layers of rock or something, and so that’s when I started out; I thought ‘well I like landscapes and I like abstracting landscapes’ and I did a piece of work that was actually photograph based, where I took a photograph and the image that came out was almost like an abstract; it was a play of light, winter light coming through a window with lots of moisture on the inside, and then I decided to do something with that and then…..then I sort of twigged that painting and art isn’t about representing what you see and try to replicate what you see; I knew this intellectually anyway because it ties in with questioning the social sciences about what is truth and what is reality, that kind of thing, and then I made the…..the link between that social science philosophical way of looking at things, questioning things, with art, and that’s why I haven’t done another of those…….and then……. I got onto drawing; we had a session on mark making, and I thought I couldn’t really get my head round this, I just didn’t……mark making……just sort of squiggles and shapes and I couldn’t really see what it was all about until one of the tutors lent me a book on contemporary drawing, and there were some drawings in there by various people but one of them was Agnes Martin, the American artist, where she just did lines, just simple lines, and then I had a go and that was it, and I’ve been doing lines ever since; it’s like it all twigged, and it sort of tied in with sort of my interest in Buddhism and meditation because when you’re just sat there for hours on end, just scraping little lines with a bit of ink on the end of a nib, or something, and you can feel the paper, and you can hear yourself breathe, you can feel the paper scraping and hear it, and so it’s a meditative process, and so that’s how I got into that, and that was it really. I’ve started using colour again now, but still based on the drawing.

    TW: So did you title these works?

    MH: Some of them…..I’ve titled them but just obvious like a lot of lines on a piece of paper, that kind of title

    TW: So you didn’t…..do metaphors for landscape or for light effects, like mist under the sun or whatever?

    MH: I did…..I did one picture which was quite a big one, it must have been two…..oh it must have been two and a half foot…..what was it….it was about the width of that, what’s that - about two and a half - just under three foot

    TW: It would….what, that painting?

    MH: Three foot, yeah

    TW: That’s a good three foot I’d say, yeah

    MH: Well it was three foot by just under three foot on a piece of card, and I did it with a biro, just a ball point pen, and it started off……I was bored at college……when I’d done the HND I signed up for the degree course but it was boring so I gave it up, so….but while I was there, I just started doing some lines……and it ended up as a cloudscape……….I sold it as well…..in the end

    TW: Very good. Have you seen Constable’s cloudscapes?

    MH: Not recently no, not to look at. TW: You know what I’m on about? They’re in the…..are they in the Ashmolean or the Fitzwilliam, one of those; there’s quite a few of them that he has there and they’re just these ephemeral brush marks really, that’s all they are. You can tell they’re clouds but then when you actually just look at them they are just marks really.

    MH: That’s the bit that fascinates me….we had to do an artist’s statement for the final show in HND and I wrote something to the….most people wrote about themselves and I didn’t want to have anything to do with that, so I just said ‘every picture starts with a line, it’s like the first line of a story, the first note in a musical score’ or something like that ‘then line on line it adds and adds till you see the picture but you forget the lines, you see the picture but at the beginning of it, at the root of it, it’s just lots of little lines’ hence the consequence of the titles and I looked…..there’s an American artist whose name I can’t remember…….Crotty…..Russell Crotty……

    TW: I’m not sure about that

    MH: He’s an astronomer as well, and he does…..night skies just with biro…..beautiful, so that sort of tied in with Agnes Martin and the lines and stuff that…..that you don’t need a lot of paint; you don’t need fancy this that and t’other, you can do it with just a biro and a piece of paper which appealed to me, and still does.

    TW: Yeah, sure……..I know you…..I’ve seen some of your exhibitions and…..some of them are very large scale. How……how did you come to…..decide to go big I suppose is one way of saying it

    MH: Well it’s partly Mary Loney’s fault

    TW: Oh yeah

    MH: Because she kept telling me to go bigger, do bigger, and it’s partly through looking at drawings and drawings tend to be on the whole rather small, and they tend to be rather fixed………and so I thought ‘well they don’t have to be’ and so I decided to go bigger and see what the accumulative effect is, both of me, the person doing the drawing and just going like that for hours on end on a piece of paper that’s never ending, and what the total effect would be if you have say like tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of small marks on a big piece of paper, how different that is……for the doing and the looking at compared with just a lot of marks on a small piece of paper, and I’ve found some of the effects were……I liked them so I carried on, and I’ve just, well I’ve nearly finished now, four pieces of work which are five foot by just under four foot, and some of the marks are very small detail, very fine, but there are sort of trenches of colour in it as well, but the basis of the four pieces is very minute, small scale marks.

    TW: Right. Five foot by four foot……what kind of marks are they?.......Are they pen and ink

    MH: Pen and ink

    TW: With some colour

    MH: Pen and ink and I’ve used ink as well for washes in places………which I’ve just about finished now so I need to…….I’m sort of looking for somewhere…..well when I get off my boat, I’m looking for somewhere to exhibit because as well as those four big ones I’ve got ten smaller A1 size…..five A1 and about eight……what’s half of A1?

    TW: A2

    MH: Is that how it goes? A2…..and those are for an exhibition which is gonna be called Searching for the Breath of God……which comes from……oh what’s his name….American author………The Road……

    TW: Not ‘On The Road’?

    MH: No it’s called The Road……Cormac McCarthy….it’s…….it’s a quote in the end of one of his books The Road which is post-apocalyptic vision of the world, did you see….there was a film as well?

    TW: I’ve seen a few films like that but I don’t know if one of them was based on his writing.

    MH: Basically what I was saying was that the breath of God and goodness and humanity is within us all, bit like the idea of brotherhood’s within us all, that kind of thing, and I started drawing and……then it tied in with other stuff……of having over the last few years seen a lot of Islamic art, and a lot of Buddhist art, and a lot of Christian art…..specifically going to look at these things in sort of places of worship and…..stuff, and these four pieces are based on…..sort of impressions or expressions of some of the stuff I’ve seen as well as…….things from my own childhood, my relationship with sort of…..going to church and having to believe in this, believe in that and then choosing to believe in some things and other things aren’t right, all coming together…..kind of thing.

    TW: So do you think…..it sounds like you’re on a spiritual journey and art is just part of that

    MH: Part of it I think.

    TW: Yeah. You used to…..include music as well, as part of your work

    MH: I did for the………blueprint for A Benevolent Universe when we had the great big hangings…….which….yes I’m doing a music and a soundscape for this as well, although that’s lagging behind the drawing at the moment but I’m getting there; by the time…..well, hopefully somebody will want to exhibit it; by the time that comes off I should have the soundscape done to go with it.

    TW: Right. So how do you compose?

    MH: Same way as I draw really. Start with a line and see what happens. TW: Right. Is this a melody line, not just a note or……

    MH: There’s notes……it’s a bit…….a tendency when I’m composing is to go for a melody, but this is a bit…..which….that was the case with Benevolent Universe…..this is hopefully going to be a bit different because I’m going to incorporate more……sort of natural sounds and I also want to…..rather than just going for…..there’ll be snatches of melody within this, but I want sort of….there’s two notes……and a lot of space between notes, a lot of silence in the notes, bit like lines and then space, line and space, like that, so in some ways I want to…..this is why it’s slow because I’m…..I’m not doing very well at it at the moment, so that in a sense the music is like a….an oral….complementary experience to looking at the artwork…..sounds ambitious but I’m not quite sure whether it’ll work yet; we’ll see, might do.

    TW: Well I’m curious about your…..the viewer shall we say. If you put, you know, whether it’s a small drawing or a massive big drawing, it goes on a wall and people look at it; a piece of music, even if it’s accompanying that, is it…..one long two hour piece, or is it a short piece that has a loop, or is it just

    MH: No, it’s looped……the piece itself, I don’t think should be longer than fifteen to twenty minutes, that’s including all the sounds and different things that I introduce, and then it will be looped, which is what I did for the Benevolent Universe one, because…..it’s got to somehow got to fit in with the experience of the person looking at the art; now nobody’s going to stand there for more than fifteen minutes, so I wanted it to roughly sort of fit……kind of thing.

    TW: Are you bothered about the acoustics of the exhibition space?

    MH: I am, yeah, and I’m clueless as well when it comes to it………it’s just one of the things I’ve got to do; I’ve got to get guidance from somebody who knows what they’re doing…..in terms of speakers and how to do it, and recording it as well.

    TW: What instruments do you use?

    MH: I’m using an electric keyboard……there’s lot of different sounds on it; I can replicate orchestras and organs, guitars, all sorts of stuff, and I can record on it with a…what’s it called…..is it an SD card or something……and then I can put that into the computer, then I can transfer that onto a CD disc, but I don’t know how I get all the other sounds I want onto, above and below the actual sort of music

    TW: Well there’s software for that, so that you can have multi-tracks. When you put it onto your computer you’ll have to catch it through some kind of a software…….and when you look at it you’ll see all like little lines, you know

    MH: That’s what…..the guy I did Benevolent Universe with, he had….I can’t remember what it’s called now……but every single sound you could imagine, he could play it, so I’m gonna have to sort of look into that

    TW: So are you gonna record your own natural sounds?

    MH: Well this is…..if I had equipment to….perhaps I need to talk to you about this

    TW: Well I have equipment you can borrow if you want to.

    MH: Of just…..natural sounds like traffic and people, that kind of thing

    TW: Yeah, well I have a recorder which, funnily enough, somebody borrowed off me just to do just that, and in the end he never did it…..and so I was disappointed really, because he had it for three months and at the end of that three months someone else wanted to borrow it for……some radio shows they were doing and I did let them have it, and so…..the chap I got it back off, it was like ‘oh well I just never got round to it’!

    MH: So if……what does it record on to then? Does it record on to a CD?

    TW: No, no, it records onto a little square disc really, but it doesn’t…..actually it records into the machine and what you do…..you can have…..it’s got a built-in microphone which is pretty decent quality but I have other microphones that you can plug into it that you can pick up on, but then what you do is, you get a wire, a USB wire or a Firewire and stick it into that machine and then you stick it into your computer and push the button, and there it is on your computer…..and you can download…..I can find out for you…..there’s something called Audacity that you can download for free…….and……you can open up your sounds in that Audacity, and like I say, it will show a big long stream and whatever sounds it gets…..you know the visualisation of sound that’s in these waves….well what you can do is, you can do more than one of those…..you can have multi layers, so you have three things on your computer; one your music, one your natural sounds and one….whatever

    MH: So Audacity will…..through that I will be able to blend in the music and the sounds?

    TW: Yeah.

    MH: Oh good…..I’ll look that up…..so that’s what I want to do.

    TW: Right, so that’s…..that’s very interesting really………you see you’ve got my mind going now! [laughing] I’m thinking…..right, I’m visualising light; I’m visualising light and……mist and fog within the landscape with the sounds on the tops and sounds of curlews and that just wafting through, because it’s all hushed and muffled and there’s a little trickle of water somewhere or other and…..I’m thinking….well that’s my image in my head, and I would try to create something kind of like…… recreate that almost really, but it doesn’t sound like that’s how you would go about it at all; you have a different way of……kind of conceptualising what it is you want to do and it’s……..how would you go about putting these things together then?

    MH: ………..at this stage I don’t really know to be honest. When I did notes for A Benevolent Universe……well I actually did some music for an installation I did before this, never seen the light of day yet, but that was just basically a piano piece, but it started…..it ended with children crying……….and I used children’s voices again in Benevolent Universe…..I know there’s a beginning and an end and that’s sound ; it’s not me at all, it’s just what…..it’s sound that I’ve collected…….and I know that I want water in it, a lot of water…..rains, different kinds of rain, and I also want wind, but I also want all the shitty sounds to go with urban life, so we’re in it as well because the music as it is so far, some of it’s very quiet and meditative, focusing on just one or two notes, but…….it’s sort of…..it’s sort of veering between…….very meditative, quiet, so think sort of John Adams or Philip Glass without the talent [laughing]………but then imagine some of the most horrific organ music you’ve heard in churches…..I’m sort of playing around with those two extremes at the moment, which is problematical in itself because if it’s too……if it becomes too….it can be too……could become so invasive that it takes away from the visual images.

    TW: Well in the same way that you’ve done a number of big drawings, you know, these big five by fours and then you’ve got some A1s and some other smaller things, you could do the same with your music; you could do….not just one fifteen minute piece, you could actually do more than one so one might only be two or three minutes long…..and some might be longer, and then you could actually put them all together so that you have kind of an exhibition of sound pieces that then is looped, and then accompanies the different kind of pictures.

    MH: Well that’s…..that’s one of the alternative….one of the ways that I’ve got of proceeding, that I can have lots of sound and then that merges into…..it’s mostly piano that I’m gonna be using, and then that fades back into more sound, and then it goes through……like that, so it sort of represents

    TW: So it’s like sectioned anyway

    MH: Yeah.

    TW: Oh right, okay…..you don’t use words at all then?

    MH: ……I’ve thought about it and I’m still thinking about it……but it’s a matter of finding the right words. I’ve used words in some of my art…..I did a pray for the moors…….which was….I don’t know if you saw that one; it was a sort of an abstract……image of the moors with…..sort of moor type colours

    TW: Quite possibly; I saw a couple of yours over here and then

    MH: There’s about……there’s eight inches worth of very tiny print going all the way round

    TW: Oh yes, yes

    MH: So I’ve used words before and a piece I did last year, just……just a very simple poem that I wrote……poem sounds too grand…..put some words together, and stuck them on to the picture, and so I’m interested in using words more and more, and I’ve got another idea in my head for uses of words as well, for more use of words in another single picture…..but then if you use words, you’ve got to find the right voice……..so it gets more complicated, and…..words seem more fixed than musical notes because…..this is probably nonsense, but it seems to me like the words have got to be more accurate than the musical notes ever need to be, because people fix into them……but I’m still thinking about it

    TW: Have you seen the Turner Monet and Cy Twombly exhibitions?

    MH: I went t’other week; I even bought the book.

    TW: Oh right, okay. I’ve just been this week again…..because it does seem very apropos to the way you’re talking now, because you’ve got this…..three centuries, the beginning of three different centuries really; people……talking about atmosphere and…..and feelings and emotions going from, you know, there’s a light….a mist over the water with the sunset, and it’s a funeral versus….you know, the sunflowers versus the really abstract things with the scrolls of words in them that are so over-painted you can’t really read them hardly

    MH: I thought that was brilliant. The fact that you couldn’t read them, and I kept going up to them and squinting at them, and I still really couldn’t…..most of the time I couldn’t make anything out; I thought that was superb, doing that

    TW: Well, you said people focus on the words; well that’s one way to kind of…..it makes them focus on something but……the word and the meaning that goes with it….it isn’t there; you have to kind of almost……you know, it’s like listening to some sound….is that a bird call or is that a C sharp? Well I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, you know…..you could do that with letters couldn’t you of some kind?

    MH: I thought that was the best curated exhibition I’ve been to for years; I thought it was brilliant. If they’d…..the weaker one of the three I thought was the Monet.

    TW: I would agree; they were the….I’ve seen lots of Monets, and as examples of Monets they……they weren’t the best shall we say that I’ve ever seen, and they didn’t quite…..I know of others that would have fitted better I suppose, within that thematic thing that they were trying to like contrast and compare really.

    MH: Yeah, but I thought Turner and Twombly, I thought it was genius putting them together…….

    TW: Now I know you were, before your back…..started giving you a lot of problems, you were a great walker weren’t you?

    MH: Yeah, I did a lot of walking and a lot of running as well.

    TW: I’m just wondering whether that…..being out in the landscape, up on the moors and everything……whether any of that….that experience that you had doing all that, whether you pull any of that into…..into the artwork that you do.

    MH: I have done…..very directly at times. I did a drawing……..based on….it looks abstract does the drawing, it just looks like little lines, little…..almost like little twigs, sort of interlocking each other, and people who look at it think I’ve sort of done an abstract moor or whatever, but actually it’s really quite a reasonably accurate picture of what I actually saw, which was lots of dry grass just floating about in a little pool on t’top of t’moors, on top of Heptonstall moor……which I like that because it confuses….abstract….what’s abstract and what’s supposed to be figurative….what’s real and what’s not real, and I’ve used…….that approach a few times……taking things out of their context, and so to the person who doesn’t know the original context they look abstract.

    TW: Right…..well when you used to run or walk up on the tops, was that just for kind of like……..for therapeutic health reasons to kind of like, you had a job and so you did that to kind of like relax and get away from it all, or were you…..because you seem to be on a spiritual quest, journey, not so much quest, an on-going journey, and is that just a variation of….kind of looking for that spirituality within nature?

    MH: There is a great deal of spirituality within nature, I mean you can’t avoid it if you climb mountains…..really, but you don’t need to be up mountains; you can just be on top of the moors in a thick fog or in horizontal rain; it’s there as well……but walking’s different from running. If you’re running, you’re moving through the landscape quicker, and it’s a very different experience from if you’re walking; both good……I’ve been told not to run any more because of the arthritis as well as the back, but it’s…..both are really…..the time in my thirties and forties, mid-thirties up until……..till eight years ago in fact I used to do a lot of running; I used to enjoy doing both, and running…..sometimes if, on a really good day, there’s no sort of strict criteria for what makes a good day but sometimes you seem to not float along, but it seems effortless…..and that’s a very nice physical…..mental state to be in……apart from being a slog on other days

    [laughing]

    TW: Did it free up your mind so to speak then?

    MH: Yeah I suppose so.

    TW: Was it the running or was it like……if you were running in a city for example, around…..I don’t know, around Hyde Park say, or that kind of thing, versus running up on the moors, is it the landscape, the environment that affects you rather than….or is it the running or a bit of both?

    MH: I’ve never run in a city or a townscape apart from through Hebden, but that’s on the way to get up. Running’s more self-contained because you’re more focused on the physical side of it and…..breathing perhaps so that you’re moving efficiently. Walking isn’t self-contained because walking you’re…..well I suppose you could do some meditative walking where you’re just focusing on each foot fall, but you have more time to take in your surroundings, and that’s what you tend to do I think, or that’s what I tend to do…..and if you’re running you tend to be running for a certain amount of time to keep a certain amount of speed up or get…….get from A to B, whereas walking you can be meander and wander about a bit and stop, so if you see a pool on the top of the moors with lots of little dried grass stalks in, you can stop……and you can sit down. But both….I think both are sort of…..both are spiritual if you want to allow that sort of perspective in…..then they both are.

    TW: Up on the tops around here, the moors and what have you……well people would call it bleak really wouldn’t they…..I love it myself, but compared to…..you know, rolling countryside…..in forests or in wood…..you know, sort of glades and glens and that sort of thing….I just want to get your take on this sort of landscape compared to the more lush, or what people would call lush, whereas people would call this bleak. What’s your take on the different kinds of landscape?

    MH: ……some landscapes I like more than others, I take to more easily than others….I mean people call it round here bleak and it can be bleak, but I like the bleakness….. but it’s bleak in a positive way; it’s bleak because the weather’s coming straight at you, and usually horizontal in some form or other….so it’s not bleak in a negative ‘this is an emptiness’ because it’s certainly not empty, but I also enjoy contrasting that with walking in woodland; I love thick forests as well, and coastal areas as well; each has…..each deserves having time spent in if you can, if you’re nearby, particularly at different times of the day like early morning, sunset, early evening, that kind of thing, because then you begin to appreciate…….the way the weather changes, the way the light changes, the way that the light completely determines what you can see and what you can’t see…..and when you’ve had a good walk….I’ve always found this….when you’ve had a good walk, like an all day walk, it stays with you for days afterwards, and that’s because it’s all soaked in I think, breathe it in…..you do a lot of walking, you know what I mean don’t you?

    TW: I do yes, yes, but I just wanted to ask how you felt about it….another thing about that then is……it’s a question about colour. You say you started using colour more, and so when I think of colour it’s……when you’re on the moors around here, you can get wonderful colours in the sky with the clouds changing and the sunlight hitting it and that sort of thing. You can get…..in the…..you know, in the spring when all the buds come or in the autumn when the leaves come and all the heather is there, and you get this…..across light and you get all these…..vague colours shall we say that are quite beautiful to behold, but you can get that in a wood through looking up through the leaves and you get all the flickering, and then you get the sound of the different kinds of leaves hitting each other and……again, more in autumn time you get this different kind of……colour awareness because of the time of year I suppose and the way the sun, whether it comes straight down or right across and on the coast you would look…..you would look out to sea, and the colours in the water change, can change quite dramatically depending on the weather. Is that the way you look at colour like that and think ‘right, I’m gonna use some of those colours in a picture that I do’ or is there a different way that you would decide what your colouring’s gonna be?

    MH: All the colours I use are sky colours or earth colours………in fact…..the use of…..the colour I’ve used in pictures have all been added to areas which are sky or earth….like that down there which…

    TW: I can see all that there, yeah.

    MH: It’s a sort of….it’s the colour of the sea or the earth contrasting with the fine lines of the landscape above…..so it’s…….I hadn’t thought about that before….because in these four great big pieces there’s elements of landscape in them, and I don’t….I can’t think where I’ve used colour in the last year or so where it’s not been part of a depiction of sky or land.

    TW: Oh right. The contrast of the two.

    MH: Yeah.

    TW: Oh that’s interesting, yeah…..right.

    MH: Sky land or water…….

    TW: Well the only other element going is fire [laughing]

    MH: Don’t do fires – I’ve never done fires.

    TW: Well the sun’s a fire.

    MH: Well I’ve done suns, yes, I suppose I have then haven’t I yes….I did a picture last year called A Small Pennine Town Falls Through a Hole in the Universe……which basically was a piss take on Hebden Bridge falling through a hole in the universe, but there was a moorland scene underneath, and on one….it was divided into two; on one side there was a sunrise or a sunset, it doesn’t really matter which it was, and on the other side was a dark sky which I’d done with…..just coloured pencils, and then obviously with the ink as well, the black ink, and that was the same thing.

    TW: Right…..well……I suppose I should ask you…..is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you would like to talk about, to do with your creativity?

    MH: ……..not really…..there’s one area which you haven’t covered, which is…….which is always there in what I’m doing, and that’s the relationship between social science understanding reality, how it makes sense of the world, and how that translates into art, but then that’s another subject really.

    TW: Well now that you’ve brought it up, I mean you mentioned it earlier about the fact that…you know, you’d studied philosophy and working out what’s real…..you talked about what’s real and what’s not real, from a social science way of looking at things, and your art has that mix as well in some ways, whether it’s…..an image or abstract and a kind of blend of it, and does that just come from art study or does that actually come from the way you think?

    MH: It comes from the way I think which comes from the philosophy I’ve studied, the social sciences that I’ve studied and taught……of questioning what is real and what isn’t, and questioning who has the power to decide which as well, and questioning where things actually come from…….and questioning what is taken to be the dominant hegemony of the time whatever we’re talking about, whether it’s in terms of…..social science, truths, sociological truths of philosophical arguments or whatever, and I do the same to some extent in my art as well, because I’ve no time for….well sometimes it’s portrayed as a dichotomy between that which is figurative and that which is abstract, and it’s nonsense….in the same way that I think that some sociological, social scientific arguments and some philosophical arguments that are trying to create these dualisms……they’re nonsense as well, or you can argue that they’re nonsense which is another way of looking at things….it’s a bit like sort of…….bit like Plato’s cave, you know when they’re in the cave just looking at the shadows thinking that that was reality, but reality was the things that were creating the shadows, well there’s a lot of that nonsense in art as well, of looking at the wrong thing and clicking onto the wrong thing. I remember having an argument with some of the tutors at Tod College…. when I tried to say that there’s no such thing as abstract, there’s no such thing as figurative, as givens they’re all constructs….we decide what is what and you could take the same object, look at it from different perspectives, and from one perspective it’s abstract, and one……perspective it’s…..it’s figurative. The…..I thought about this when I was in Liverpool looking at the Monets, the cathedral….is it at Rouen?

    TW: Yeah.

    MH: If you go right up close to it that’s abstract; there’s no way there’s a cathedral there in a sence, but as you walk backwards away from it then you see the cathedral; it’s figurative….and I tried to argue this with one of the tutors and he wouldn’t have it at all……..and I didn’t budge, and he didn’t budge [laughing]…..I mean it was a healthy disagreement of non-budging [laughing]……but I just didn’t see it at all…..it depends; I mean I could…..I could….I don’t know, you could draw that computer….. as it is, whole….. ‘oh that looks like a little computer’….you could paint one small part of it and it would be abstract; it depends on how you frame it, so you can draw that, right, that’s a computer screen; you could frame it by……if you just did that bit there…..and that would be….well you’ve got a block of yellow, you’ve got several lines of blue, some paler blue and some white; you wouldn’t relate…..necessarily associate that with a computer screen, so the person looking at it would say ‘oh that’s an interesting abstract, the use of lines and colours and blocks and things……so……and this is the thing with lines, you can draw one line and it’s like the first….the first letter, but thousands and thousands together, and you may end up with like a cloudscape and that cloudscape, several months before it was finished, was just a few little biro scribbles which some people came and walked past and said ‘what’s he wasting his time doing scribbles with a biro for?’….so it comes into evaluative judgments about the worth of what somebody’s doing, and as well as what they produce in the end as well…..so it all fits in a sense…..well it does in my head anyway.

    TW: Yeah…..so where would you like your….the work that you’re just doing at the minute then, you’re looking to exhibit that somewhere or other

    MH: Yeah, I’ve got to sort something out.

    TW: And what……what kind of audience are you looking for? Or does that not matter?

    MH: …………I’m not sure it matters really….be nice to have an audience…..I mean I’ve been asked in the past…..why do you do it? Do you do it for yourself or do you do it for other people? The answer is a bit of both because each…..because I can do a picture and I see what I see in that picture, which might be… in a sense accidental, not having……not quite sure where it’s gonna be when I started off and then it sort of….a form comes. Somebody else might look at it and see something completely different, and I like that, which is why I tend towards the impressionistic expressionistic rather than just sticking with what is like an ordinary landscape that everybody can say ‘oh that’s haystacks or that’s Great Gable’ or something like that, so that people can read into and draw out, read out of, what they want…..and sometimes that’s…..that’s been helpful to me as well because……then that gives me ideas for….what I can do next sometimes, about what somebody sees in what I’ve done before

    TW: So that feedback is important to you isn’t it?

    MH: So the feedback’s important, yeah…..so…….questioning….appreciatively critical, if that’s not too much [laughing] …….if that’s not too much [laughing]………I think it probably is sometimes.

    TW: Well, Twombley called himself a romantic symbolist, just to confuse them

    MH: Which is not bad that

    TW: It’s not bad at all, yes, because when I first said to you ‘are you an artist?’ you were kind of saying ‘well……no, not really, but maybe, yes’

    MH: I suppose it depends on who’s asking the question, and what they think and artist is or should be, so I prefer to avoid ‘that’s your problem not mine’ so if I don’t call myself an artist it remains your problem

    TW: [laughing]….okay……..well I think we’ll call there, because it’s about an hour now

    MH: Right

    TW: And we’ll stop there if you want

    MH: Okay, that’s fine

    TW: And I would just like to say thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with me.

    MH: You’re welcome; it was interesting.

    TW: I’ll just turn this off now.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Steve Tilston

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: A J Creedy

     

    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the 24th of August 2012 and I’m talking to Creedy, and can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    ANDREW JOHN CREEDY:

    Yes. My full name….here’s one…Andrew John Creedy and I was born in Lincoln in….third of the first 1964.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.

     

    AJC:

    So it’s Andrew John Creedy but not many people know that.

     

    TW:

    Well we can delete it if you want us to

     

    [laughing]

     

    AJC:

    Often known as… more commonly known as Creedy.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.

     

    AJC:

    I’ll let you off!

     

    TW:

    Alright….so, Lincoln; what was Lincoln like when you were growing up then?

     

    AJC:

    Well Lincoln’s very flat, that’s fair to say apart from the fact that it has got quite big hill in the middle of it. It was….where I lived it was a very…..very friendly street really; a lot of my aunties and uncles lived on the same street as me, in fact we had one next door - in fact we had two – one next door and one next door to that, and a couple more across then road so even though…..even then sorry, there was still….everybody down the street was very friendly; it was very much….a local butcher’s; your knew them, it was all very, everyone knew exactly what you wanted….a barber across the road and…..just all your little shops were down that one street; I think the only supermarket that we had was the Co-op at one time when I was very young and that was…..it was always a treat; it was only down the road but it was always a treat…..we was on a big crossroads which was potentially dangerous; there was always car crashes there because there weren’t as many cars as there are nowadays; there were cars, but…..but not as many, so I don’t think we really expected sometimes to see something coming the other way and there was a lot of collisions, often on a Saturday afternoon; we’d say ‘oh there’s been another one,’ everyone would say ….. ‘oh God not again’ you know, but even so there was enough lack of traffic for all the kids to play together down the street which was really really good, so we were street kids; we was always out on the streets, sort of….pick up lolly sticks and make boomerangs out of them and….playing all the classic sort of games…..we used to play statues and things like that, so and of course then my cousin next door…..and next door to that so we used to play together as well, so that was when I was really young.

     

    TW:

    Right….so how long did you live there?

     

    AJC:

    Oh….I’ve got a terrible memory for how long things….it was quite a long time, so I mean I suppose I was….let’s think now…..I think I moved from that house when I was……about….twelve, thirteen maybe or something like that; it was a place called Ripon Street bang in the middle, well….yeah, quite central to Lincoln; we only moved then because the landlord….he was a lovely old bloke….he died and we knew that as soon as he died hid daughter would want to sell the house or put the rent up ridiculously and she did both; she put the rent up ridiculously and then sold the house, so we had to move on and from there we moved….we moved to a council house out in the….what you call the sticks in Lincoln - it’s not really - there was a lot of estates on the outskirts of the city where we moved there; I was quite looking forward to it though because I fancied having a garden, because I really fancied it with my Action Man with his tanks and stuff like that I remember at the time, but I think I was only twelve and so I was still playing with them but of course as soon as we got there and….I didn’t really want the garden any more because I wasn’t playing with my Action Man tanks; the transition was a bit….was a bit crucial really as far as that was concerned on the developmental level! So yeah, it was when I was about twelve that we moved on from there really - I was quite sad to leave it - it was a big house and it used to have…..I used to have two bedrooms because my brother left when I was about sixteen, so I had my little bedroom and I had his big bedroom as well, and on occasion I’d just swap, just for the fun of it, but I had l had loads and loads of rooms and an attic upstairs which was quite good and there was a big brick wash house at the bottom of the garden, well it wasn’t in the garden…it was in the yard as such, and I used to….I used to play in there quite a lot and come up with stuff and friends used to come round and we used to….we used to have some great fun in there; we used to make fireworks in there actually

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, I was quite into the sciences at school and….strangely, I can’t believe that this actually happened, but in those days you could actually go into the chemist’s and buy a box of saltpetre, a box of sulphur and a carbon block; now anybody with any basic chemical knowledge knows if you stick those three together you’ve got gunpowder, so…..yeah, so this little….little kid would go in there, ten year old, and go and buy all these ingredients [laughing] and grind ‘em up and make fireworks! I can’t believe that they never expected us to do that, and because it was a brick shed as well it was a bit safer, but we used to have….we used to have…we used to have experiments; we was always trying to get things to explode properly and we occasionally got it once, where we actually put it in some cling film…foil…not cling film…tin foil, and compressed it with a vice and then put it over a burner, and it shot off and took a little bit of my eyebrow off as it disappeared past my head [laughing] and that’s the closest we got - I did manage to make flares - my uncle used to help me quite a lot. He used to come along with these big tubes that he’d got from the engineering works that he worked at and I thought ‘oh they’re really thick walled things’ and we used to stuff them in there and stuff and we used to make hand flares like you know, sea flares and stuff; we got those made as well, but yeah we did quite a lot of that really [laughing]….bit odd, but there you go

     

    TW:

    So you really liked science at school?

     

    AJC:

    I did yeah, but maths was the thing that sort of….destroyed it a little bit for me really because a lot of the…a lot of the problems that I had with science; I mean I passed all my sciences…because you had Physics, Chemistry and Biology…I was quite good at them, I understood the principles behind all of them but you had to prove it in a mathematical way and that was the difficult bit; I wasn’t very good at Maths. I’m still numerically a little bit dyslexic as far as I can tell; not terribly but I can see what happened, plus the ….the guys…and gals…..like Jimmy Saville….they….they were pretty severe Maths teachers; for some reason Maths teachers were almost as severe as sports teachers, so…yeah, it…force for me was never the way forward; I just became belligerent.

     

    TW:

    Okay….so, when did you leave Lincoln then? Did you actually leave Lincoln to do anything or did you just carry on living

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, after I’d finished at school I went to…I went to art college in Lincoln for a year doing a Foundation course which should have been….it should have been a two year course but I did it in a year, so it was really really intense, but I’d always been good at drawing and always been good at art, in fact when I was at school doing my A Levels I…I used to end up….they didn’t teach me; they left me to teach the rest of the class which was great, but…not really because I never got any tuition at all and I don’t know whether it was because…I never did work it out really. I did see some of the teachers’ drawings and I thought ‘well I think I’m better than them’ [laughing] and I’m not really that egotistical, so I must have been vaguely on the ball there really I think, but anyway yeah, so I went to do the….the Foundation course in Lincoln and the only place at the end of that that I could see to get into, because there was a couple of teachers that didn’t like me again, and I’m an innocent little soul really; I don’t do anything to…..and even then I wasn’t really pushy or anything like that, but again, the guy who really didn’t like me, I looked at some of his work as well and I just didn’t understand it; it was just….it was crap [laughing] and I can remember it to this day, looking at it, it was….I think it was a brown background with multi-coloured Lancaster Bombers on it, because the Lancaster Bomber in Lincoln…..the Lancaster Bomber, and it was just like so obvious and not very good, and he was trying to push me in that direction whereas I was very detailed in what I did so he’d make…..make me do bigger and bigger things in less and less time but I’d still come back with every detail….I beat him at pool once; that was a good day….and anyway yes, so I went to Croydon, the only place I could get in was Croydon College; Croydon College of Art, which I believe was also where Bowie and….Marc Bolan went for some reason; I think they were the only famous people there, but….it was an odd place was Croydon really; I mean I wasn’t a big fan of London but it was the first time I’d really properly been away from home, and I ended up staying in….there weren’t any halls of residence for the artists so I stayed in a bed and breakfast; I went down there on a day trip and managed to get this bed and breakfast place, and what I was actually looking for, I mean Eastenders was at a peak at the time; I did watch television and so I did pick up a little bit on that and I thought ‘I wonder if the East End’s like that?’ and Croydon was a little bit like that, but I wanted a typical Cockney landlady and landlord and they were perfect; it was…..he was called Del and she was called Dor…Del and Dor,,,,it was great [laughing] and he called me ‘Endrew’ [Cockney accent][laughing]….it was fantastic! Loved his boxing; he used to say ‘bit of boxing on tonight Endrew….fancy a fag’ [laughing]……and we’d….and I loved that, I thought ‘this is great’ and not far from where the college was there was….there was a market that was just like the market on Eastenders and again, I loved it down there as well. Typical East End sort of pubs and things like that, but…..but the college itself was an annex separate from the rest of the college and the university so it was….I think it was deliberate to keep the artists away from normality…whether it just distracts them or not I don’ t know, but it was a bit isolated so I was with…..with….with all the artists and I got really fed up with art students to be quite honest; I mean a lot of people would say ‘oh bloody art students’ but I also said the same thing and I was one of them, and I always felt embarrassed for the fact I was an artist because some of them were bizarre for no real reason and….and again because…and the college itself tried to push you once again in a more of an abstract direction and I really wasn’t ready for it and I really did not understand abstract art; never got into it

     

    TW:

    So in what….this is early eighties?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah this is the early eighties, yeah

     

    TW:

    And they were trying to….they were pushing abstract art really.

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, this is….Croydon College was more known for that than anything else, and again all my tutors were trying to push towards that, even….there was an old guy called Gerald – lovely bloke - very posh, but he used to come round and again, he’d see me do my stuff and he used to give me quite a lot of grief about it sort of being….maybe I should have….I mean on the day I went to…..college in Lincoln I had to do either Fine Art or Graphics and I didn’t really know what Graphics was; I didn’t really know what Fine Art was either, I just knew that I could draw, so I threw a coin and I ended up doing Fine Art…..and I often look back and think ‘oh I think I should have done Graphics’ because I think I’m more of an illustrator sometimes - well that’s not really true - I’ve expanded my artistic sort of….pallet in many different ways but I think I probably would have benefited more from Graphics in many ways, but who knows? I could have ended up on some terrible magazine or something like that and had my soul sucked out by capitalism, through advertising and marketing and if you’re in advertising and marketing I agree with Bill Hicks – kill yourself – so I really wouldn’t want to go in that direction, so…..so yeah, in Croydon Art College there’s this Gerald there; he’s giving me grief like the guy who did in….in Lincoln, and again I went and saw his art; it was just quite nice but the big surprising thing was, they always encouraged you to do things in A1and big sort of canvasses, and this fellla’s stuff was like this big, it was the size of a bloody postage stamp; it was a very nice life drawing, but crikey I could have done that in that size, it was like tiny, so again I was always disappointed by my tutors, and after a year I’d had enough, I’d had enough; I’d…….I’d spent all my money; I got a grant but I’d spent far…..quite a bit beyond that….tiniest bit overdrawn and my parents got worried and I got worried, and I left Croydon; I think it was right at the end of the first year and I didn’t want to go back; I left everything there and never did go back there and pick anything up, I just didn’t wanna go back. There was a few people there that I did like but a lot of them were so pretentious.

     

    TW:

    So what did you do?

     

    AJC:

    Well I went back to Lincoln again, so back to Lincoln from Croydon having not enjoyed it. Stayed with my parents again; I had a lot of friends there that I still to this day know very well, and though we don’t keep in touch very often, every time we see each other it’s like we’ve never been apart, so I started at a place called The Community Enterprise Agency; I worked there which was basically a big place designed for…..unemployed people at the time but to give them some like training potential so I thought….and I worked in the……effectively in the graphics department there and we did lots of weird stuff; we’d do sign writing so I was taught how to sign write……we’d often get…..and so the signs for buildings were done by us and they sort of put these signs out to other people so we’d be commissioned to do certain signs, and other things; I think downstairs in the woodwork department they made Wendy houses which was very nice and we painted them, so me being quite creative, we used to like put little pigeons and sort of like backgrounds and stuff on the side of these and they loved that, and I’d end up sort of like……just one of those things that the guy who was running us, who was our boss effectively for our department, would….would often sort of like ask me to represent…..well he instantly assumed that I would represent everybody else because I think I did, so if something went wrong they all got a bit shy about it and I wouldn’t; I’d say ‘right, into your office’ so I’d take him into his own office and give him a telling off [laughing]…..they said ‘how dare you treat him like that – do you know what problems he’s got in his life at the moment? You don’t understand do you?’…. ‘look we’ll try and sort it out mate, you know, I know you’re having a hard’…..and I’d end up having a chat with him and he’d…..he’d pour his heart out to me, and I knew he was going through a divorce and that and I knew his life intimately, so if anything went wrong and somebody was in trouble, I’d take him into his office and we’d talk about it and I’d sort it out for him, so it was….it was a bit strange really, as I say, maybe not that sort of controllable type of person really, but….he did enjoy that fact that he could be completely open with me and I was completely open with him. Everybody thought he was severe but he never was with me, so I ended up doing that and we made a lot of model buildings for this big village that they were wanting to…it was some sort of project that they were doing that required us to make these things and we all did that as well, but it was great fun and a great melting pot of different people, I mean I think I started to listen to a lot of different music then. There was things like Throbbing Gristle and……oh God lots of David Silvian and….stuff like that and lots of weirder stuff that I’d never heard before that I really got into; people bringing their own sort of cassettes I think in those days and stick ‘em on the machine, and I got to listen to a lot of still and while I was working we always had music on, which was very interesting, and….I think I left…..I can’t remember how long I was there but at first you started and you only did a couple of days I think, then that went to three days and eventually you’d go full time, so while I was doing part-time I had to make up the money so I went out on the streets of Lincoln; there’s a big precinct in Lincoln that’s all paved and there was a lot of pavement artists down there, and I thought ‘well this is ideal for me’ so I’d go up there and say about nine in the morning or nine-thirty, I never have been a morning person, I’d go and buy all my chalks and pastels from the art shop and I’d go down with my little box, down to the…..find a little spot, sort of patch, checking all the people on the way, and I’d start drawing, and within about an hour I could usually sort of like fill an area…..six by six, maybe sometimes a little bit bigger

     

    TW:

    What kind of pictures did you do?

     

    AJC:

    Well I used to do….there was a thing that I used to like a lot; I used to love 2000 AD comic, and it wasn’t necessarily for the stories but I used to love the drawings in there which was why I think I would have been better at doing illustrations, and there’s one….it was a big sort of dragon like sea monster pounding out of the sea and when I did….I think it was A Levels or O Levels I copied this thing in inks and….. it was quite heavy, but I always liked the picture, so I actually copied that onto the pavement – huge things – and that was one of the popular ones I did; it was often sort of…..and the other one I did, of course being in Lincoln it’s got an amazing cathedral which you can see from where I am on the precinct, so I used to….I used to draw the cathedral quite a lot and what I’d do, because a lot of these people were…..I mean, I think it was my mum and dad say, ‘you can see them copying, I said I know, this is wrong, so I’m gonna sort of half copy, so what I used to do, I’d have a picture and I’d…in that first hour I would frantically swipe, because I was trained in fine art and drawing really big pictures and so I could do things really quickly, especially with chalk because there’s no resistance, so I’d knock these things out really quickly, so there’s the cathedral there and once I’d got the basic structure of it which didn’t take very long at all, maybe twenty minutes, I’d start to…..I’d start to colour it in because it didn’t matter, I’d decide which way the light’s coming in and so in an hour or so I’d done, and could see the other pavement drawers, and they might be doing something like the Mona Lisa and they’d got as far as the eye, I mean there were some very nice eyes, but it’s like ‘come on!’ they wouldn’t be finished by the end of the day, and of course I’m done and people are wandering by and all I’m doing then because there’s a bit of a breeze blowing across - it blows all the chalk off – I’m heightening the colours as the day goes on, and sometimes I’m moving the sun and changing the actual sky and the shadow as it goes across the cathedral, so that it actually lives as they’re actually passing by, so they can see the changes as they’re going by. I made quite a lot of money out of this and after that I actually teamed up with somebody and we both, together, did enormous pieces and we based it for some reason on…..was it…..Art Nouveau mermaids; it was quite specific [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Right. Why did you pick that?

     

    AJC:

    No idea, so there was all these sea things……I’m saying mermaids, they were all sea scenes but there was a few with mermaids; I’ve no idea….I think we just had a book and we really liked the illustrations

     

    TW:

    Did you think it was a good….like money spinner then?

     

    AJC:

    Well we thought so yeah, in fact what we decided to do was….we decided that the local St Bernard’s Hospice, we had a chat with them and said ‘look, can we give you a donation if we can use your name to go out on the streets and say all profits to St Bernard’s Hospice and we’ll give you….we’ll give you a percentage’ and they said ‘absolutely brilliant; we’ll obviously accept whatever’ and we said ‘well obviously we’ll advertise you as well and we’ll give you some money’ so we did do all profits to St Bernard’s Hospice; of course ‘all profits’ is how much you decide really; we thought……at the time I think it was about twelve per cent so we ended up giving them about twenty per cent, because we thought ‘no, we’ll be far more generous than most people are’ so we thought twenty per cent off whatever we earned, and we could earn like about……getting on for a hundred quid back in that time, just for doing these pavement drawings between the two of us…..I can’t remember the guy’s name….for some reason we used to call him Penny, and to this day I can’t remember why we called him Penny, but we used to have all nicknames and he was Penny and I was Creedy, as I’ve never been called by my first or second name very often; the response is usually, if somebody calls me Andrew, it’s like ‘yes Mum’ so I tell people this and they don’t want to call it me anymore, especially blokes, so…..yeah we did these things. One day we’d done a massive one, and I said these were all water things, and the clouds opened, and it was like the rains we’ve been having in Hebden Bridge this year in 2012, and they literally opened up and poured down, and we could watch and actually saw the chalk illustration lift up off the pavement, float down the street and go down the drain. It was absolutely out of this world; never seen anything like it, because it’s chalk of course, and we’d just about finished this enormous piece; it was probably about…..twelve foot by twelve foot probably, maybe even a bit bigger; it filled the entire area, you couldn’t walk past it without noticing it, so it was gonna be a real extravaganza. We’d pulled out all the plugs for this one, it was just like ‘come on’ and then it rained, lifted off the pavement, went down the drain and it was like ‘what can we do?’ so we drew a big long line and people started following this line, and when they got of the line and this arrow’s pointing in the direction, it pointed to a bench, and me and Penny were just sort of there looking miserable deliberately [laughing] and eventually the press turned up and interviewed us, and we sort of like told them about this, and we got back on board once the rain had gone because it was this huge shower and we started drawing again; we did the whole thing again and we got loads of money and we got the press that came in, the police even came in and started to give us money because they were that impressed that we hadn’t given up [laughing]….we used to take in terms so we’d carry on drawing while the other one went to the pub and had a few pints and came back…..so yeah, pavement drawing was a way that we filled in for…..for cash, and that was it; I was back in Lincoln, but I moved on from there you see.

     

    TW:

    To where?

     

    AJC:

    Well I had a girlfriend in Lincoln that I….it was my first girlfriend ever; I didn’t actually have a girlfriend till I was nineteen, well no…..I suppose it would be a little bit before I suppose, but I’d never…..I’d never had sexual liaisons at all until I was nineteen because it was all very different in them days, even though I do youth work with a lot of people nowadays I wouldn’t have known any of the things that I’m very upward about now, but yeah, nineteen and…..she eventually went over to…..she came over to Halifax…..I’m trying to think when it was…..it was when I was in Croydon. She….no I went over to Croydon so when I was away for the year she was in Lincoln but I came back every other week, believe it or not with my laundry, when I eventually moved out of the bed and breakfast into a flat, I’d no idea; totally wet behind the ears; there was buckets behind my ears, and so I’d bring my laundry back for my mum to do, and to see my girlfriend; I don’t think she ever did come over to London but I sort of didn’t want her to; it was a right tip! I do remember one night in the place where I was, the building where I was with these other two art students; there was…..there was actually…we’d had a party and there was water…..water falling down the stairs; I think we’d been to Tesco for some booze and we came back with the shopping trolley full, and the shopping trolley [laughing] – we had some mad parties – when we used to go in the local pub which was done out like a big Mississippi boat, they used to put The Young Ones on the screen so we did look like The Young Ones!

     

    TW:

    [laughing]….which one were you?

     

    AJC:

    I was the hippy; I was Neil! [laughing]…we had punk Tony and this weird jazz guy downstairs - I loved all the music – I didn’t mind everything, I loved the punk, I loved the jazz and what I was listening to and it was great. But anyway yeah, so when I came back I thought ‘brilliant’ you know, I think we’d……she’d been seeing somebody while I was away and I couldn’t believe this, so I’d resisted heavily, because I’m like that and still am, and yeah she’d gone off with somebody and I knew the guy that she’d gone off with and I knew the guy that she’d gone off with and….I met him and I thought ‘I’m gonna reverse tactics here, I’m not gonna do what normal people do’ I’d never had it happen to me before and I thought ‘what’s the point getting angry with him; he’s not gonna tell me anything is he’ so I actually became very friendly with him, knowing full well what he’d done. I don’t think he was actually with her at the time but he was the reason why we split up…..so I was just really really nice to him and…..I went back to his place and stuff like that; he was really generous; he used to buy me pints and get me stoned and everything, it was great [laughing]….I thought ‘this is wonderful, I haven’t got a girlfriend but I’ve got somebody who I know is gonna tell me something one day!’ and I’m in a pub and he does, he says ‘I’ve got to tell you something Creedy’ and I went ‘alright then mate, what is it?’ he says ‘I’m the reason that you and Debs split up’ and I went ‘I know’….. ‘no no…’ I said ‘no, I’ve known for ages; I’ve known since the day; it doesn’t bother me’ and he says ‘but surely…’ I said ‘it takes two to tango – get me a pint if you want’ he says ‘no I want you to hit me’ I says ‘I’m not gonna hit you’ [laughing]…. ‘why would I do that? What kind of satisfaction is that gonna give you? No, forget it, go and get me a pint, it’s alright, forget it’ and eventually me and Debs did get back together after this, curiously…..and she moved over to Halifax because she wanted to do nursing training, so she came over to Halifax doing nursing training; this job I was doing at…….at….Community Enterprise Agency doing…making the models and the painting, and doing bits of pavement drawing. That came to an end completely; the whole place was shut down; there was no longer any funding for it…..I’d qualified as a sign writer, and just as I was going out to do sign writing, it was nearly on the same week they invented this machine that did plastic cut out letters…..nobody wanted signs, it was ‘ahh, thanks very much’ [laughing] That was a waste of bloody time! [laughing] So I thought ‘right, well everything’s come to and end here; my girlfriend’s over in Halifax’ and I kept coming over and visiting, stayed at the Halls of Res; nobody’s supposed to stay especially blokes, but we did; got to hear a lot of bands that I thought were absolutely out of this world. Lincoln, the problem with Lincoln was, there was no outlet for music. I did do a few gigs while I was over there; I played with a band called…the first band was called The Graveyard Stompers…..which is very interesting

     

    TW:

    So you’d been playing music while you’d been doing all this art then; you’d also been playing at the same time?

     

    AJC:

    Absolutely, yeah, in fact it was music that…..coaxed me away from art really, I mean I used to, when I was a kid I used to draw all the time; I never used to go anywhere, I remember this without a little sketch book, but once I got into music it took over a little bit, and started to get into that, so yeah, as I was away…when I left….when I was at Croydon I probably spent more time playing music than I did doing art, and I started writing a lot of songs there….there was little else to do [laughing]….well there was actually, between parties I’d probably do a lot of playing; it was just one year of parties really……and….and so I sort of brought that back with me, I’m trying to think of when I actually…..no it was while I was away that I got my first acoustic guitar, proper acoustic guitar, it was actually…..in fact the first guitar that was of any use whatsoever I think…..when I was about sixteen my dad bought me my first guitar and, I remember it well, it was a Star…..a Sunburst Eros Les Paul copy and he bought me a little practice amp which I used to have on full with a fuzz pedal…..all the time [laughing]….and the neighbours loved it…..it wasn’t……you could hear it all the way down the street by all accounts, but the next door neighbours….they also…..I think one of them played the drums and one played the bass, and we used to jam with each other; not in the same room; through the walls……the neighbours usually got a bit annoyed by this but my mother was very very good at sticking up for me [laughing]…..because she wanted me to have a good time. My parents were absolutely fantastic, I mean…….I’d had…..because they were a little bit older as far as other parents were concerned, so…..because they had me very late, I mean I was….she was nearer to the age, she was on the age where she couldn’t have any more kids, and my brother’s ten years older than me; my dad…..ten or eleven years older than me…..my dad just assumed that….she didn’t want to have any more kids because she had…..she nearly died and so did he…..my brother, in his birth……so my dad assumed that she didn’t want any more and you know, as you know, assume makes an ass out of you and me, and……and so she did and so that’s fine and I came along; I did have to ask her at one time ‘are you sure I wasn’t an accident? Eleven years mum, what’s going on?’ you know, because my brother left me, well he left everybody but I always thought he left me when I was six; he was sixteen….very very upset about that…..it really did…..in many ways didn’t do any good; he went off to Germany to the RAF and did a lot of that. When I was younger, when I was about eight, I thought ‘ah I’ll join him in the RAF’ until I realised that the RAF was involved with…..with war, and nasty things, and I was……I thought ‘well this is not right; I’ve always been into peace’……in fact until I was five, one of my earliest memories was of the time when they put me in a school and I was sat there with a duffle coat on with my feet against a tree, watching everybody in the playground and argue over a game of football, and I just couldn’t believe this; I thought ‘why has my mother dropped me in such a place as this? This is awful. What are they blood arguing about? It’s only an inflatable ball.’ To this day I still have the same opinion…..and I don’t like any sport because to me it’s just……..over competitiveness that really is not doing anything to instil peace onto the planet, so I’ve always been a little bit like that….so yeah, first guitar, Eros Les Paul, when I was younger I used to play through the walls…..and….oh, let’s see now from there….

     

    TW:

    You were saying you were in Halifax and you were hearing all these bands that you had not heard before, that sort of side of things

     

    AJC:

    That’s right, yeah, because in Lincoln there just wasn’t anywhere to play so The Graveyard Stompers was the first band and it was basically a ridiculous band in many ways; there was a very tall bassist called Bealsy, one of my friends, and this guy on drums that was called Al or Mad Al was……and you think you’ve seen the mad drummer; you think you’ve seen……Keith Moon on a bad day, oh Jesus, you’ve seen nothing! This guy didn’t seem to be able to play more than about, I think I counted three straight beats before he put a fill in and that’s how he played; didn’t matter what he played, that’s how he’d do it, and when we actually…..and it was The Graveyard Stompers…we used to dress for that; I had a long coat and a top hat on with long hair, looking a bit Bolanish, Marc Bolanish, and Bealsy always wore a bowler hat which didn’t fit his head very well, so it wobbled around a little bit, and he had a face a bit like this, quite miserable looking, but he was quite chirpy really, you just didn’t think so, and he was about seven foot tall, [laughing] so he looked really funny; went down really well….we did some odd music, but yeah, so…..when we took Mad Al’s drum kit out of the place we were practising, which was I think Bealsy’s shed, there was just…..you could see where the drums had been by all the cigarette butts that were piled up around it…..cos he chain smoked completely; I think he ended up burning a load of bibles and he was sectioned; I think that’s what happened to him; we never saw him again….not that surprised really, so when I came over to Halifax there was a lot more places to play; there was loads of venues; Halifax was buzzing; there was The George….the top half was sort of like the…..the wallies as we used to call it…the towelling white sock brigade as I tended to call them, and down below was the….the rockers and the alternative crowd; the Goths and things like that, which I was far more comfortable in, but I could reside in the top half, put a jacket on and go to the top half, and mix there as well, but my hair was quite short then, well it was a bit peculiar really, it was like a…….ball-like and standing up, but it was still very curly, so I could sort of get away with either really if I wanted to, but yeah there was loads of bands around and one of the main reasons that I eventually went to Halifax, and I’ve told the band this many times, was the band called Fez; I really, really liked Fez…it was just something completely different; I didn’t have a genre…..it’s sort of prog psychedelic I suppose, even to this day, and they’re still going which is testament to how bloody good they are…..there was a lot of other bands but they really stuck in my mind for some reason, and I thought ‘well if you’ve got a band like that, then this is the kind of place I wanna be’ and I’d come to the end of this thing at the Community Enterprise Agency, and I was in Lincoln; there was nothing really going on, so I thought ‘well, sod it’ and I’d got to that age where I think……I think I’d become a vegetarian; I realised that……well I knew that I didn’t like meat at all; I never really did; I picked out bits, so everything had just changed really; I’d got to that stage in my teens when it was a bit difficult really…..I’d had very little arguments with my dad; not much because my dad was always very placid, and I thought ‘right, sod it; I’m going – I’m off’ and off I went. I remember my mum and dad at the train station, my dad sort of took me to one side and said ‘you know son, you should never trust a woman’

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Really?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, and of course I never did take that advice; I trust everybody [laughing] but he was right as it’s turned out! [laughing] He could have said ‘don’t trust a man either’ but I sort of understood what he was saying; I think what he was saying was ‘I know you’re going up there to be with your girlfriend’ sort of thing ‘but it might not all work out’ – I think that’s what he meant, I think that’s what he meant, cos for me….I tend not to differentiate….to my own sort of disdain sometimes, but, so I thought ‘okay’ so off I went…….to start a new life but actually arrived in Halifax at my girlfriend’s house, Debs at the time…..she was in a really funny mood and I couldn’t quite get this; I thought ‘brilliant, this is it; we can live our dreams darling’ you know ‘together at last…..tripping over the hills, through the corn, listening to Fez’[chuckling]……but she was in a really funny mood and I couldn’t quite work out what was going on, and eventually sort of like she was talking to friends and I was thinking ‘what’s going on?’ and a friend sort of told me ‘well she’s a bit tentative; she thought she wanted this, but now it’s a reality…..she’s a bit doubtful’…..I thought ‘well okay’…..anyway, it eased off a little bit, but I think it was probably about a year or so later, maybe two years that we actually did eventually split up; I think we’d been together for five years on and off, because there was that time when I was at college and…..so this was the last try really, basically, but we eventually got a little house together; we shared and got a little house together and yeah, eventually we just…..we just mutually split up, leaving me with this house and a rent that I couldn’t afford, so I…..I can’t remember; there was another band around at the time called Broadcast that I’d really got into……and that’s the first time I met a guy called Paul Holmes…..there was a guy called Phil Wilson; Ian Watson was a drummer and that was the link; Ian Watson was one of the guys who used to go round to the nursing home…..with a best friend of Debs who I used to go out with, so we used to sort of like you know, get up to antics in the corridors and things like that, and it was nearly……you know, we used to support each other so I got to know him and I got to know his band. The band was called XLab at the time, the original one, then he moved to this band called Broadcast, so I got to know all these and then my mate Shack who I know to this day, was the keyboardist so Paul Holmes was looking for somewhere to…..to live, so he moved in - I think he’d had a similar experience - he moved in with me and instantly it became a party house; absolutely mad house……lots of surreptitious smoking and drinking went on in that house…..lots and lots of music; we combined our musical collections and we had some fabulous stuff so the house was just…..people just used to pop round at all hours of the day; it was generally about thirteen people in the living room, absolutely insane; brilliantly artistic, creative house…..lots of things went on; we did…..I think we hardly ever watched television; we didn’t have to; there was far too much of everything else going on really……wonderful times in many, many ways; hazy days……. [laughing] …..very heady…..I ended up joining Broadcast; they asked me to play - their guitarist had pulled out - and so……obviously I sort of jumped at the chance, went into it and I’d been doing little solo things; I actually did another dream thing when I came over; I actually ended up supporting Fez, doing little solo performances, which to this day I’ve started doing again so it’s….it’s great, in fact the last time they played after me which felt really peculiar, at a recent thing at The Trades, it was just because of the order of things, but I ended up having to play after Fez; it was peculiar, but loved it, you know, it was great; it went down really well, but……so yeah, Broadcast, I went into that, and they were doing really well and I ended up supporting Dave and Allen, they always wanted to support Gong, that’s the closest they got…..doing really well, and…..I met Shack, but the thing is with the band, Ian Watson the drummer……and the bassist Phil Wilson, used to argue like hell and Paul would sort of like join in and sort of….he’d end up being part of this, and the only person that wasn’t really arguing with Shack on keyboards…..I don’t really argue that much, or I didn’t; I have had my moments, but I thought it was a bit like back at that tree when I was five, watching them play football and thinking ‘why are you arguing?’ [laughing] ‘where’s the creativity in that?’ so I’d just like go and lean on the keyboards and have a chat with Shack, thinking ‘just let them get on with it, eh?......What are you doing this weekend?’ blah blah….we got to know each other really well. Eventually I left; they got rid of me out of the band and got another guitarist in; I was always disappointed because he copied all my riffs, that’s great, I thought ‘well, actually on another scale, the riffs were damned good; the music doesn’t sound right but there aren’t many more’ so I thought ‘good, I’m glad you can’t copy my riffs’…..got to know them all a little bit, and kept on seeing Shack, I mean Paul was still staying with them which was a bit difficult, being sacked from the band and sharing a house with the guy, but it was alright; we were really good friends. Incidentally, after a year of Paul being with me, just under a year, he said ‘it’s my birthday next week’ because we got on really well; I couldn’t believe how well I was getting on with this guy, and I says ‘well it’s my birthday’s next week as well’…..he says ‘well, what day’s yours?’ I said ‘well mine’s on Monday’ he said ‘well mine’s on Monday as well’…..I says ‘we’re both born on the third of January! That’s why we get on!’ and we were, and we are very similar; to this day, on our birthdays, we both wish each other ‘Happy Birthday’, and every time we see each other it’s always the same; he’s very creative now, he does a lot of…..video, well not video, visual stuff and he’s….I think he’s Head of Department at Bradford University and….he went quite academic at one stage, and still, right down to earth; still wears his cap, still got his long ponytail, still very much Paul Holmes…….and that’s also the first time I saw Shack, so….and Shack’s somebody that I work with to this day, but mainly in a radio capacity; we never did really get together with much more music….so yeah where’s that brought us to; where are we now?

     

    TW:

    Well you’re through Fez, Broadcast…….you’re still in Halifax

     

    AJC:

    Still in Halifax, yeah, I’m still in Halifax; I stayed in Pear Street for quite some time, but the partying died eventually, after two and a half years and several people….because a mate of mine, Sean, also came there; there were other bands which I’d almost forgotten about actually. There was……a friend of mine, Sean, Sean Williams who now lives in Malvern I think it is, and they….he…..that’s it, when I went out with Debs, before Paul even moved in, I had to take a job; she said ‘you’re gonna have to get a job’ because I was on the dole, and so I thought ‘oh I’ll just apply for any job’ so I applied…..for the first job I saw which was at the DSS, or DHSS at the time, in Huddersfield as a Clerical Assistant; I thought it was a Clerical Officer actually. I thought ‘why not, okay; sounds easy enough; got to do something’ so I was quite chuffed by this and celebrated the night before, a little too heavily, massive hangover the next day and I had a zoot suit which came up to here; it was hardly appropriate but in Lincoln a lot of people wore zoot suits and really old 1950’s jazz clothes, and so I thought ‘well it’s the only one I’ve got’ so I looked a bit strange, and I had to run up the hill because I was late for this interview, and then eventually got there and I was absolutely parched, and in the interview I was looking at this carafe of water and I was licking my lips a little bit because I was dry as hell and they said ‘you can have a drink of water if you want’ and I fills my glass three times and downs it [laughing] and drank the lot - this was the beginning of the interview – and they carry on sort of like asking me sort of silly questions; one was ‘how would you say that sort of like geographically Lincoln differs from Halifax?’ I did A Level Geography and one of the things I did really do was Economic Geography, so I went into this thing called Chris Starmer’s Theory of Urban Revolution and…..and described it all; it’s something to do with….I can’t remember now…..something to do with splitting everything up into hexagons; you split conurbations up into hexagons, so I went into this and they’re like…….it was not what they expected at all [laughing]….I answered them completely literally, and then they eventually said ‘why do you wanna become a……do the job’ I said ‘well I feel I’m really good at working with people’ and things like that, and they said ‘well you’ve got to be good at working with people if you’re a Clerical Assistant’ I said ‘I thought it was a Clerical Officer’ so I even got the job title completely wrong, but ‘there’s no way I’m gonna get this job’ and I thought ‘well maybe good’ but they must have been desperate because they did actually phone me back and I was on a list of sorts and started working there; never my cup of tea, but I met Sean Williams there and….and…….and so he was a bit down on his luck; he’d split with his wife and he was saying ‘can I stay at yours for a couple of weeks’ and I says ‘course you can mate’ so me and him were sort of like thick as thieves; we both joined the union and then, because there was a big party going on permanently, that I didn’t want to miss out on; we were both often off sick on a regular basis, often together, and of course if they ever came and…..and some of them got a bit annoyed and said, you know……’can’t have this’ because once we was in Blackpool; we all sort of like went…..we was together with two other lasses; we weren’t going out, we were just having a great time, and we all decided to phone in sick so we could go to Blackpool, so we went to Blackpool and me and Sean went back to work a couple of days later because we had a day to get over Blackpool, as you do…….and [laughing] this woman was not very happy with us and she was saying ‘what were you doing at Blackpool then?’….. ‘what do you mean?’….. ‘what were you doing in Blackpool? You were in Blackpool weren’t you because I saw you’….. ‘yeah we was in Blackpool; what’s the problem?’ she said ‘well you were off sick!’ and we said ‘that’s right; doctor’s orders……he said ‘go and get a bit of the old sea air’ she says ‘what both of you?’ we said ‘well we both felt a bit crook, we both share the same place….you know, these things just pass around’ [laughing]….and they said ‘right’ and they got very angry about this…. ‘we’re gonna see our union representative about this’ and they said ‘I think you should’ we says ‘well we will’ and they said ‘well I really think you should’….. ‘we will!’ I says ‘do you know who our union representative is?’ they went ‘no’ I says ‘there’s two of ‘em – me….and him’ [laughing]….we were the union representatives…..we says ‘we’ll have a meeting and we’ll have a talk with ourselves about it and we’ll make sure that it comes up at the next meeting; see you later’ so it was like….and I think we took the next day off sick, through stress…..eventually it got to the stage where….I think we were allowed…oh it must have been…..I think it was a year or even two years before they actually…..you had to go…..to see their doctor to prove there was nothing wrong with you; I’d seen something on….Only Fools and Horses about irritable bowel syndrome, and the fact that it’s almost traceless, and you can have any symptom and it seems to go with it, and I thought ‘brilliant….great, I’ll use that’ so I used to put irritable bowel syndrome on the forms when I was sick, and irritable bowel syndrome and eventually it would be…yeah, you guessed it, irritable bowel syndrome…..yeah, definitely, irritable bowel syndrome once more! It was just getting stupid and I thought ‘well they’ll have to suss it out eventually’ you know…..and the [incomp], my officer above, absolutely loved me, because he knew what I was doing – he absolutely knew what I was doing, and he’d have me in his office, and I remember once I’d come in at two o’clock in the afternoon and I was supposed to have been there at nine or something like that; he said ‘go on then, what’s your excuse?’ I says ‘it’s not an excuse, it’s the truth’ he says ‘go on, give me the truth’ I says ‘right, and this is the truth’ I says ‘I had a dream….and the dream was that I was at work, and I went through an entire day at work doing all this mundane stuff that you want us to do’ and I says ‘then I woke up and can you imagine my distress, to find I’d done a full day’s work and I have to come here again!’ and he says ‘oh my God’ he says ‘off you go’ [laughing]…..and it was the truth. Eventually though, I had to leave and it was like on the day that sort of like the…..well on the week that they wanted me to go to see their doctor and I thought, you know ‘game’s up isn’t it; game’s up, I’ll have to come clean’ so I wrote them a resignation letter which was comical…..cos they all had sort of like little acronyms there, sort of like it would be, you know, AA would be Adminastrive Assistant, CEO….it was all that kind of stuff, so at the end of my……I think my, something like, my resignation letter saying ‘I’d like to say what a pleasure it has been working with you all. However, we all know this is not true’ and eventually it said ‘as you probably know, the task of humble Administrative Assistant is hardly my cup of tea’ and then I said something about my potential of going into music and saying ‘one day this might come to fruition and I will be in the position to offer you free tickets to an up and coming gig’ and this was going at the end of it…..I signed it ‘Yours Faithfully or whatever…..A J Creedy AA GONE’ [laughing]…..and the boss, the boss, the guy at the very top of the building who you hardly ever saw, for the first time ever, came down and shook my hand, and says ‘oh we’ve all had a great laught with your resignation letter’ he says ‘we’ve photocopied it and put it up all around the building’ [laughing]….and they had….he says ‘I really do wish you luck mate’ he says ‘obviously this is not the choice for you; I can see you’ve got far more potential than that’

     

    TW:

    Have you ever written a song about that?

     

    AJC:

    No I never have; I never have written a song about that actually; not that I’m aware of anyway [laughing]…..I should do really because it was hilarious, and eventually left there; went to get signed on again and started to do a bit more music, and went back to the party, which finished two and a half years later; we took…..Sean [sp]would bring in another person from the street that he’d met that was homeless or something like that and I’d go ‘go on then he can stay’…eventually the bloody floor was full of people and I’d have my room upstairs…Paul would have his room, then downstairs was basically where anybody wanted to sleep; never did ask any money off them, I don’t know why; I think I’ve always been a bit over generous really, but…..you know, we just carried on; I never asked any money off anybody and I just let them stay and…..they created a mess and occasionally we’d have to sort of put our feet down and say ‘come on guys, can you help us tidy up?’ you know, and occasionally they would, but yeah, eventually that closed down and I was left in…..I think at that time….what was I doing at the time….Sean and myself….and his girlfriend Laurel who also slept downstairs, so they couldn’t go to bed at night until we went to bed, and then they’d put all the cushions together; they had this big elastic thing, a cover, that would keep all the cushions together, and that was their bed for the night. We played in the band; we used to practise upstairs in the bedroom, called The Creed and The Colour…..and we used to introduce it and say ‘we’re called The Creed and the Colour because the name don’t matter…..and we’ll be there…..after the hymn’ [laughing]…….which funnily when we used to sing in assembly at school, it used to be…the song is [singing] ‘and the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter, I was there’ and when it got to the bit about creed, everybody that knew me, which was quite a few people, used to shout ‘creed’ so it would be ‘and the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter’ and the headmaster would look up and he’d never understand what was going on, but that was what was going on, so The Creed and The Colour.....which was peculiar because we hadn’t got…he was the drummer, Sean was a frustrated drummer really because he hadn’t got a drum kit; we hadn’t got any money, we were all skint; couldn’t afford to buy a drum kit; couldn’t borrow one, hadn’t even thought of it; I’d updated my practice amp from years ago, it had a PA now, an H&H PA, which I carried around with me, it was a nice four channel, all lit up in green with a speaker that somebody had made me, which I actually carried across Wandsworth Common when I left Croydon…..along with big canvasses…..I was a donkey; I’ve always been a bit of a donkey as far as carrying stuff….all across Wandsworth Common to get a lift from my…..cousin’s husband or whatever when I moved back to Lincoln…anyway, I’d still got this thing so we had a PA…..and he…..he didn’t have any drum kit but he eventually bought…the first thing he could find was he went in the Argos catalogue……and…. though other catalogues were available… and he found this thing called a Yamaha DD10 which has got loads of drum pads on it, and you can assign different sounds to these drum pads; it was a cheap drum….well drum machine but it had loads of pads, and he played on this and what he worked out was you could actually pre-programme it and do it live, near enough, so he’d play on this drum machine, plug that into the thing and that’s what he’d play on, and he got quite adept at this; his girlfriend, Laurel, could sing a little bit, and she did more of the ooh-aahs behind what I was doing so I’d do the main vocals and the guitar; I’d use a sampler pedal which was quite swish for those days really, a Yamaha thing, a Yamaha DD10; I tried to buy one recently….you can get ‘em, but it would do….was it…..I think it was about….I don’t know if it was in two seconds, maybe it might have been two or three seconds of sample, which was fine because it means that with the volume pedal you can just fade in like a keyboard sound and then lock it and you’d have somebody to play at the top of, so I’d use this quite skilfully over the top and the whole piece of music was basically me and the drum machine; we needed a bassist so we….we advertised and instantly this guy came in, and he was called Paul Walsh, and we called him Turtle……he did look like a turtle; he looked like Touche Turtle a little bit; he had……he had these little round glasses, and I don’t know…..he did look like a turtle; you could almost imagine him with a little beak; he had a beaky sort of mouth, it wasn’t very big, and he still can’t remember why he said this, but he did actually say ‘I want you to call me Turtle’ and he doesn’t remember this, but it could have been worse; it could have been ‘I want you to call me Shirley….I want to have babies’ you know, it wasn’t that; it was…..and he doesn’t remember him saying this; he’s often said ‘why do you call me Turtle?’ and we says ‘you told us to call you Turtle’…. ‘and it’s stuck… you call me bloody Turtle now’ so he’s still called Turtle to this day, but he was…..he was a great lad, good bassist, so this was the band; this was The Creed and The Colour’, and we used to practise upstairs, in my bedroom…..which was blue walls, sky blue walls; it was when we pretty much moved out….yeah, it was pretty much when we moved in……but there’d…..there’d been……posters on there and we’d taken blutac off, so rather than repainting the room which was expensive; I couldn’t afford that much paint, but I did have some white paint thought, that somebody had given me for free, so I painted clouds to cover up….to obliterate….so I had this lovely cloud that was like sitting in the heavens, to cover up where all the blutac had been [laughing]…..so this was where we played. Next door neighbours weren’t that keen on it, but they’d sort of got used to us by now, and…..we was partying all the time, so…..so yeah we practised in there; we did a few gigs and they sort of…..they loved it, it was very alternative; well ahead of its time; nobody was using drum machines, not as cheap as that anyway…..and it was a live drum machine as well so it was, even though it was quite cheap, it was…..it was really peculiar cos I was writing some very expansive pieces that……that totally changed; the time signatures would shift slightly here and there to say the least, they were long pieces; to this day I still write very long pieces of music, and…..yeah we did….we did play a few gigs including a friend of mine’s….a guy unfortunately called…..well his family name’s Sleigh, and his parents decided to call him Bob…….and he’s recently got married…..in 2012; this was his first marriage and he invited us along as the band, to play, and he loved us….to play at…..he was a resident of Pear Street so he used to come round all the time, and get rather squiffy with us, and…..and so, yeah, Bob got us to do this…..this wedding, upstairs at the Brearley Bends, just…..not far from where we are now really, a pub now closed unfortunately, just near Ludd Foot, and

     

    TW:

    The Grove?

     

    AJC:

    The Grove it’s called, yeah…..yeah, so upstairs in there was a function room, that’s where we did the gig, that’s where we did the wedding; it was rather peculiar, and we couldn’t quite work out why he wanted us to play a wedding cos although some of the tunes were okay, we never did any cover versions; to this day I still don’t do cover versions; I can see the point of doing somebody else’s music; you don’t know what their intent was when they wrote it, so I tend to avoid it. I’ve been forced to do it in the past, but never really enjoyed it…..but one of the songs we thought was particularly inappropriate and the one he wanted the most was called Chapatti Kittens …..and it was a little story that I created; there was basically…..in fact I think we just did it one night when we was pretty stoned, me and Sean, and it was…..it was about the….this story of some people that were……poor and on the dole, students I think, and they were really hungry, and a car had run down a kitten and because it was dead - they didn’t believe in death - they ate it, and so it was called Chapatti Kittens; it was quite cruel [laughing] and Sean wrote the lyrics to it which went something like ‘you’re furry you’re black’….what was it…. ‘you’re furry you’re black, and you’re flat’…. ‘you’re furry you’re black and you’re flat on your back in the road now. You’ve had all your dinner, but you’re looking thinner, you’d look well in my frying pan now. Chapatti kitten’s covered in oil, covered in something, chapatti kitten’s covered in blood, covered in goo’ [laughing] so it was a comedy thing, but it was quite…it was quite an eastern sort of…..sound; very very peculiar, again, quite ahead of its time; almost Moroccan, which was odd….so, they loved this, even with the odd lyrics and they all sung along to Chapatti Kittens and I thought ‘this is really odd – a wedding, singing Chapatti Kittens [laughing]….fair enough, fair enough, but that was effectively the first band over here, one of the first bands on my own over here, apart from doing my own solo stuff with Fez and supporting other people……so, that went on for a little while and eventually Sean moved….Sean got a drum kit; he actually got some money, not much, and bought this cheap, shoddy drum kit; it was appalling, it was really really nasty, and I think he…he ended up…..somebody gave him some drumsticks, which came from….I think his parents lived down in Malvern, where he lives now, and has done for years, and the drumsticks actually came from the drummer of one of my favourite bands which is XTC, so we had XTC’s drumsticks which I thought was fantastic; didn’t make the drums sound any better, they were crap, but we got a little mill - I think they do this nowadays - a practice room in Sowerby Bridge, which is opposite the…..the waste site, the waste disposal site, and we used to play in there, and Fez also played in there all; it was all quite incestuous really along the way, so we played in this place and…..horrible, horrible place with just bare bricks….breezeblock walls, a little bit damp but it was alright you know, it wasn’t too bad. We were luckier than most cos a lot of people got their stuff nicked from there; it was regularly broken into, but there wasn’t anywhere else to play really, so we was in there, and by this time we were….we’d changed our name…..and yeah, the bassist had stuck with us; I think Laurel had moved on, who was the backing singer doing the ooh-aahs, and so we had this crap drum kit, my not very good PA [chuckling], some borrowed microphones; there’s a long trail of poverty here…..the bassist and myself, and we….we formed a band called Neat Eric, and for some reason this was just a little phrase that Sean used to have; if something was really good he’d go ‘ah, neat Eric’…..never did understand it, but I thought it was quite a nice name for a band so we were called Neat Eric; I think previous to that we was called Think……not that it really worked….but Neat Eric, so Neat Eric ……Sean really loved…..he got me into……lots of jazz and Gong and stuff like that….Steve Hillage and Herbie Hancock, and stuff that I’d never heard before, and got me into alternative time signatures and….so this band was based around just doing alternative time signatures and….a lot of songs that we did were based around this, and I’d written stuff that was….that was so complicated that I could rarely get to the end of it, nor could Sean, but we loved it, so we kept playing….kept playing with this stuff, and to this day nobody ever did get to hear it and I don’t think I’ve got a copy of any of it

     

    TW:

    Oh really? Not at all?

     

    AJC:

    Not at all. I think

     

    TW:

    Not even the….was it just music or were there lyrics to it as well?

     

    AJC:

    I might have some of the lyrics somewhere, and yeah, I can vaguely remember how to play some of the songs, a couple of the songs…..so one was in like five-four timing; I can vaguely remember that, how to play that stuff……and…yeah, but there was a lot….I mean I think we did play a couple of the tunes that I played with previous…..the previous band I was with called The Creed and The Colour, and there was a few of the stuff that I originally did solo that I brought through into The Creed and The Colour, and still being used in Neat Eric, but we….we never did go out and play live; we….we were just never confident enough to do it; we just never thought we was good enough, but all the bands used to come in and listen to us and go ‘bloody hell’….they were just like mesmerised and……not surprised that we could rarely get to the end of it! I don’t think they ever noticed any mistakes, but we did, and it was just like murderously difficult bits we created for ourselves, but it had to be so…..so we never did go anywhere further from that, and…..but I stuck with it and then Sean eventually, I think….. ultimately cut if off; he went to Malvern and then he went down south; he….he’d met a girl and that was it; he went down south. I think he’s married with kids…..now, and we just lost touch, as I have with a lot of people over the years, because for me, even though I’ve had loads of friends, sometimes when everyone…..usually when they’ve had kids strangely, I just lose touch with them; not deliberately, it just happens that way, and even though nowadays everybody’s completely mad on sort of having so many friends on Facebook and things, personally I’d rather keep a comfortable amount in the focus and the circle that I’m in at the time, and……when I see the other ones that’s brilliant, but otherwise I’d spend my entire life trying to keep in touch with friends and not do anything, so……that was one thing, so Sean was off, and Turtle was still around, and….I think Laurel was still around, and……oh…..what happened then……we did another band and I can’t actually remember what it was called………this is a difficult one…..so we’re still in there…..yeah…..was it Eclipse…….oh what was that band? [laughing]…....we did play…..I was doing my solo thing, and I remember my prize possession that I got when I was in Pear Street, was this red 335….cherry red 335 electric guitar, and that’s what I was using…..that’s what I was using with Neat Eric before Sean left, and left me with this house in Pear Street, the party house; the party was dying …and….one night, just right at the end of being at Pear Street, I mean the house literally was pre-trashed for anybody that moved into it, to the extent that….. we’d seen the carpet, and when I moved the sofa, I was thinking ‘what’s all this basmati rice doing underneath the sofa?’ Never even had a curry or rice or anything like that, then I noticed it was moving, and it was moth larvae, so the carpet had been taken up and it was dumped outside; bare boards, there was nothing in there, the last residents of the party had gone, I was in there on my own, feeling a bit lonely and a bit lost, and my only prize possession was in the corner, this cherry red 335 guitar, and I was in town and there was this friend of mine….of a sort, that I knew, and this guy that was…..I didn’t really trust, well I didn’t really know him that much, but this guy, Mick, he sort of said ‘can he stay at your house tonight? He’s just a bit….he hasn’t got anywhere’…… I went ‘well for you Mick, I will do’ he says ‘he’s alright and stuff’ so he stayed on the sofa, I went to bed; the next day I got up; he’d gone and so had my guitar…….so I’d had my only thing in the entire house that was worth taking, he’d buggared off with it. Police came round and said ‘yeah, we know who he is’ and they says ‘he’s probably half way to Blackpool now, but we know who he is’ I says ‘well is there anything you can do about it’ they went ‘got to say you’ll probably never get your guitar back’ I went ‘ah, brilliant’ so I’d lost the only thing of value in my life at that time, and I was thinking ‘right, well what do I do here?’ and I think I’d got…I’d been waiting to see if I could get an acoustic guitar, and Les, out of Fez, had a shop, Piece Hall Music

     

    ---------------

     

    TW:

    Creedy take Two

     

    AJC:

    So, the 335 guitar was stolen and never got back; had to find a solution; it was that time in my life, as I say, that the room……there was nothing there, and it was quite sad; everybody that had…..the final few people that had gone into Pear Street were all gone and there was just me, and it was expensive to keep the place going. I think previously we had a drum kit in there on a wooden floor, and I think the neighbours got so annoyed, we didn’t hear them one night, and they claimed they were bashing on the glass door, double glazed door, so hard that their hand went through the window, but to be quite honest it looked like a brick to me…..there were the sort of skiing types; they used to have skis on top of their car, and they weren’t very happy with us, and to be honest I can’t blame them…..beg forgiveness guys, sorry about that one

     

    TW:

    So did you ever get your guitar back?

     

    AJC:

    No. Never got it back, so

     

    TW:

    Oh right. Carry on.

     

    AJC:

    Never got that guitar back……so, again, I didn’t have any cash but I think I moved to a……did I move to….I went to Piece Hall Music and asked Les to see if he could find me an acoustic guitar, because I’d seen him so many times in Piece Hall Music; we used to jam up there, which was how I got into Broadcast all that time back; the bassist said ‘can you come and play in our band?’…..so, Les phoned me up and said ‘I’ve got this guitar, this acoustic guitar for you’ and I went ‘is this a Takamine?’ and I hadn’t heard of it at the time; it was quite a good guitar; it’s here now……and so I thought ‘right’ so I got this acoustic guitar and I thought ‘that’ll do…..I’ll form an acoustic band’….no, I’d got this before the 335 actually, now I remember, so all I had left in my room I think I had the acoustic guitar, and I thought ‘right I’ve got the acoustic guitar’ I couldn’t do any of the electric stuff that I was doing, so I……. thought ‘I’ll form an acoustic band’ and I moved house……not so far after that, to a place called Mile End which was just up the road from where I was…..and my cat; there was me and this ginger tom called Red; he was……he was…. a party cat; he used to……there was a little bit of smoking going on in the room occasionally and the cat was hooked on this, and he would actually sit and breathe in……and follow it round the room, and occasionally, as he got to the top of the sofa, he’d go woah! [falling off] and he’d look as if ‘oh I meant to do that, I meant to do that’….tough cat; I saw him outside many a time, with…. I was quite proud of him… underneath a car, he’d got one cat pinned to the inside of the wheel and he was backing off with another paw, with the other paw, another one, and I’d go ‘alright Red’ and he’s still turn round and say ‘hello’…I thought ‘what a cool cat’……so I took him up to this other house, and not long after that he left me as well; it was quite sad, because he’d been my mate, but I watched him go and I always knew he was off, and I sort of followed him for a bit and I thought ‘right, he’ll either come back or’ and he didn’t, and I remember being really sad and sort of calling his name out when I was drunk and being in tears… ‘red’ [wailing] you know, in the night, and he never did come back…..I did find him once…..he was……he’d shacked up a bit further on with this old lady and I thought ‘well, I can’t take him away from her; he’s probably doing her a big service’ and he obviously didn’t want to come back with me; he said ‘hello’ to me then he buggered off; very clever cat; he used to sit on the end of my bed when I was ill; didn’t leave me alone; very clever cat; but anyway, that’s the cat. So there was me, completely on my own in here, with an acoustic guitar, and I thought ‘right, sod it, I’m forming another band’ and it seemed like it was almost in the same week. Turtle was up for playing bass, and a guy called Jez Hellands and his girlfriend Nicky……McCard I think her name was, now married, so both Hellands…..they turned up, and he plays percussion - he was heavily into folk – he had a band called Hills Like White Elephants which was a folk set up really; I wasn’t that heavily into folk music; I always found it a bit over the ear and [singing] ‘when my lassie comes home’……but I started looking to folk a little bit more as a result of Jez, and he played great percussion; he could sing, he was great with harmonies; she used to sing really well, she was great with harmonies; Laurel was still around out of the previous band, who did the ooh and aahs; now there was two of them doing the ooh and aahs, so we had two backing vocalists and me, the bassist and this percussionist guy, and we started off a band, and we practised in….in the room where we were there, and…..we were called Eclipse….which at the time was quite an original name. Shortly after that though, and again it’s a bit like……… the sign writing thing; as soon as I learnt sign writing they came up with the plastic cut-out letters; as soon as I came up with the name Eclipse, everything was called Eclipse…..there was the Ford Eclipse car, there was the washing machine The Eclipse, it was just everything was called Eclipse, it was like…..really stupid…..but we went out and played; we did a…..we used to play at the….The Puzzle quite a lot, and we used to play at The Woodcock quite a lot actually; maybe The Woodcock now I think of it….The Woodman Inn that’s now no more……just beyond Eastwood; we used to play there quite a lot as Eclipse, and they used to book us quite regularly really, even though again, we used to do mainly our own music, self-penned by me, and the band would sort of come up with their version of it; I think we had a cover version that we did which was Make Me Smile by Cockney Rebel which we did a version of, and we did Norwegian Wood which we did, because it’s a very short song, Norwegian Wood, great tune; always loved it, but to make it a little bit different we did it in three different……tempos, so it would start of normal, then when we got to the end of that it would speed up and we do another version of it, then the end of it was ridiculously fast, and audiences really liked that, so you know, at least they could……you know, grasp on something, so we only did two cover versions, but we got booked for quite a few things, and…..the posters, I designed the posters, and what I’d thought of Eclipse, you know…..orbs….so I had these orb shapes, so the letter ‘e’ would be shadowed out so it looked like a……and the ‘l’ would be like a curve, and the ‘i’ would be like a curve with a dot sort of like on it, so all these were joined together to make the word Eclipse, so this was on the wall in the pub, in The Woodcock in Halifax, down Gibbet Street, and one guy said once, he said ‘what you called? Ecogoose?’…cos it wasn’t that readable really from a distance [laughing]; it was clever, but it wasn’t very readable, which is probably why I should have done graphics; it just didn’t, so…..that’s quite a nice name that….so this place where I was staying, I had to get a lodger, and a guy called Adam, and we used to call him Taff, cos he was Welsh [laughing], and…..clever….and he was quite happy being called Taff, and he stayed with me, and he says ‘ah, it’s like a cartoon character’ and he did a sort of drawing of what he thought Ecogoose looked like and I sort of says ‘wouldn’t mind that’ so I sort of did a version of it myself, this….so it was this big sort of….fat-bellied goose…..with sort of like a…..an aphro, and….something hanging out the corner of its beak, and underneath its wing was the world, and this was….ended up being the album cover; under its arm was the world, and under its other wing was a pink feather duster……and it was dusting it off in space, so Ecogoose [laughin]….so this was the….we eventually did a recording…..so what did we do…..I think we did it for….it was very cheap…..I think we were just experimenting….that was it, yeah…there was a friend of ours, or of theirs, of Jez and Nicky’s, who worked at a place that did a lot of stuff, making electronics for the BBC in Burnley, can’t remember what it was called now, and they’d got this….cutting edge thing that was….a hard disc digital recorder, of course nowadays very common, but at the time never heard of, so this machine was there and we’d never seen anything quite like it, and he wanted to test it out so he chose us to test it out on, because he’s seen the gigs and liked them, so he came on to the practice room in Sowerby Bridge; by this time we’d moved to a slightly bigger one with big metal doors - very safe – Fez was in there, and…..and he recorded us over…..I think it was over….it might have been just one…..one day…..might have been a couple of days; over the weekend anyway, so we did everything live and he just recorded it, and then we went over to……to wherever it was….Burnley I think it was, and we were there for the sort of mixing side of it, and we came out with the first album which was called Out of Time…..if we’d have looked a bit further we’d have realised that REM also came out with an album called Out of Time [laughing], but it didn’t matter; it was Ecogoose and it was quite obvious with this huge goose with a blue rinse perm that, you know, it was us, the cassettes went really really well, lots of people really liked it; in fact James Bragg, the local musician, he always loved; in fact we’ve always got on; some people haven’t, but I’ve always got on because we’ve got this musical thing; he loved it; he said ‘the first four tracks on that album inspired me so much’ he said ‘and still to this day one of my favourite four tracks’….so, the album went fairly well, and….so from not having an electric guitar, suddenly we had this band…..which had become Eclipse, then Kev went on to become Ecogoose…..we did a Battle of the Bands competition in….in The Coliseum in Halifax……and there was Fez on the bill who we loved…..I think there was Little Big Man…..and I can’t remember all of the bands but, they were all brilliant, and we got onto stage and…..being an acoustic band we had a certain set up, but Jez used to have this set up where he’d have two congas here and an extendable foot pedal for his bass drum which would be at the other end of the stage, so he could actually run across and play a snare drum on that pedal, but he could also play the congas and keep the bass drum going, so we hadn’t got that; we’d got a drum kit and we’d had to use the same drum kit and all the same amps, which was a bit testing for us because these were all electric bands and we were acoustic, so….we had to go for it; I think I ended up plugging my acoustic guitar into a….a Marshall stack…….not the most acoustic sounding amps in the world; they do now, but not at the time – Marshall stack – so everything sounded really strange; suddenly it was a drum kit behind it; suddenly there was a little bit of distortion to the guitar…there was a guy called Steve Marsden….again, local musician, he was a multi-instrumentalist; he came and joined us as Ecogoose, and he used to play laptop steel, mandola….every week he’d turn up to record the…..the practice with a completely different piece of retro kit, you know, little min reel to reels and stuff like that; he’d have really old pedals; to this day he still likes his old weird stuff….which was fine, so we was all there; we did the…..the gig and came off and went ‘bloody hell that sounded strange don’t you think?’ the audience loved it and we thought ‘that’s not really how we’re supposed to sound’….so it came to the results and we’re all sat there; I think I was going out with a girl called Francis at the time, we were all there looking… and then he says ‘and the winners….Ecogoose’…..and we all looked at each other and went ‘they’ve got it wrong…..they’ve got it wrong…..Fez were playing…..they’ve got it wrong’….and of course we went up and….. ‘well thank you very much’….we’d won it; it was like we couldn’t believe it, but everybody said it was such a great performance….. ‘it’s not really us’…..I have actually got a recording of that; we did actually get a recording of it, and I must admit it does sound quite good [chuckling]……which I was quite impressed by; I never realised; but of course, all these years distant from it, I’ve forgotten about the….. ‘surely you don’t like this’ you know, but we won it, and I think we got a free recording but we never did take it….take it up for some reason; I’ve no idea why, but we got The Courier coming along and they wanted to take a picture of us and they did the usual standard thing….. ‘hold your instruments lads and stand on the bridge, we’re gonna’…. ‘that’s a bit clichéd…’….. ‘no that’s how we want you’ so there we are, so there’s a picture of us just stood there with the guitar and things like that - I used to hate those kind of photographs - typical Courier, but [laughing]….at least we got some good stuff as well; I think at the time I said the best thing I’ve seen in The Courier is fish and chips, but…….apart from us, and….so yeah, we was on our way and people were getting quite interested in what we did, but at the time, Turtle the bassist wasn’t very well and…..he was suffering from depression and it was getting worse and…eventually…and the band was sort of getting annoyed with him, but I would support him and…..and I wouldn’t….so if he wasn’t available for practice, I wouldn’t practise….I wouldn’t do anything cos I was supporting Turtle, and eventually he sectioned himself……

     

    TW:

    Really yeah?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah. He went completely doolally and sectioned himself, so…again, the rest of the band was saying ‘we’ll get the bassist’ and I’m saying ‘no…..no; give him something to aim towards….when he comes out he’s got something’ and they all says ‘no way’ so, the band split up as a result of it, and I sort of stuck to my guns and would not allow it to happen, so band split up; Turtle eventually does get better and….when he comes out, as I promised, I said ‘do you fancy….are you ready to play?’ and he went ‘yeah’…..so I got together another band, so…..I can’t for the life of me think who the first drummer was in this band, but it was….it was called….I called it The Landing Party…..loved Star Trek…loved Star Trek……and I often thought of….I was quite into sort of like…..I’ve always been into weird stuff, aliens and things especially…..and…..so I mean some of the songs that I was doing with….Ecogoose, one was…..was about…..the fact that sort of…..Truman, the President, had covered up quite an awful lot and there’s a vast amount evidence for this…..about alien involvement and…..so one of the band, one of the songs, one of the ones that James liked particularly was this one; very strange, weird, spooky song…….and…..and so yeah, so I…..I’d got this thing still going and so The Landing Party was perfect, you know…..you know, we’re there to sort of greet you; we’re the Landing Party, and I used to get really annoyed because people used to introduce as Landing Party and we’d go ‘it’s THE Landing Party’ – didn’t make any sense without ‘the’ as far as I was concerned, although Pink Floyd used to be The Pink Floyd and that doesn’t sound right, but anyway….so we got together and…so there was me and Turtle as bass and……yeah, I’m trying to think who else was in there…..ah that was it, yeah…..we had…..eventually we got in Pete Gillon who now plays with Fever Trees, has done stuff with Blues Revelator….great guitarist, really good guitarist, and he played with us….and we went through…I think there’s a story goes that we had eighteen drummers in about two years of The Landing Party, maybe two or three years; I think it’s pretty closer to twelve, but we did have a lot and we practised, and some were just terrible…..good enough drummers but…..as people, we just couldn’t work with them

     

    TW:

    Are you of the opinion then like….a lot of musicians, or drummers, are just a species unto their own?

     

    AJC:

    They do have a little edge; I mean I don’t know; I suppose if your main wish is to…..is to….beat things up on a regular basis……yeah, I don’t know, it does give you an edge [laughing]…….but….perhaps they’re a little bit unworkable and untenable sometimes, but……I don’t know, we’ve had certainly many good drummers…..Ady Boyle who to this…..now does drum machines…..great drummer, always loved him; he was one of my favourites because he was such a good drummer. When The Landing Party split up, he wanted to reform it because he was that into it; never did, but……I remember there was a bunch of us, so there was Pete Gillon……and eventually……we had….we had a guy called…..oh, I can’t remember his name now; it’ll come to me, but he was…he was a complete pisshead……and he’d turn up , and he’d be….he’d always have loads of beer, and he’d…..I used to have a swig occasionally; I’d think ‘well, what the hell…..all for one’……and….I remember one gig with this guy…….we…..we was doing a wedding…..somebody’s wedding, no, a fortieth birthday, in this big place, and we’d taken….we’d borrowed this van, which we’d just managed to pack all of our equipment into, and he was…..he was absolutely rat-arsed when he got there, and I remember…..so we played this gig…..and…he was…..he was there behind the drums, and it’s like…..there was a ripple of applause, and I remember us having to speed up and slow down to accommodate for the drums, and the drums were supposed to be keeping the rhythm; in practices he could do it, but it was like he was off his head, and you know, big red sort of [ra ra ra] and there was like a little ripple of applause and he shouted out ‘fucking clap you twats, come on!’ and I thought ‘oh God, no’….and it was quite a polite party…..and it was like ‘oh God’ and when we’d finished the gig, you know, I think there was free champagne and he just went round anybody with a bottle, and he sat in the middle of the floor ith this big bottle of champagne and I thought ‘oh God’….so eventually we sort of like we packed all the equipment in the van; we were not very happy with his….his behaviour, and he says ‘well how am I gonna get back?’ and we says ‘that’s alright; you’ll get a lift in the van’ and what we’d actually thought was ‘right, we’ll put him in the smallest space we possibly can, and just see how….if he just like gets anything’ so we did, and the last time I ever saw him, I think I bumped into him in town a few years later, but the last time we saw him with the band, we’d put him into this van and his face was pressed against the glass, it was that cramped in there; this red, ruddy, pissed face was…..didn’t notice anything; he thought ‘ah, brilliant, they’ve given us a lift’ and we did just pack him into the back of the van and got rid of him [laughing]…..and got another drummer; saw him years later and he did actually say…. ‘so, sorry I haven’t been in touch’ he says ‘so….are we up for a practice soon?’ and I thought ‘oh I can’t believe you’ you know….but eventually…we got Pete Gillon who was still there, Turtle, and we got……it was……I think it was a Riverside gig in Hebden Bridge, and there was a band playing with this…..rasta guy playing on congas, and he just had a big smile on his face; he just had something that….I says…..I said to the rest of the band….I says ‘I want him to play with us’…… I said ‘I’m going to have a chat with him afterwards’ so I did; I went round and he was called Judah, Judah Allen……great guy, and I says ‘would you….would you go for it?’ so he did, so we got this….we was looking for this world sort of feel to the music, and…..and so he joined us….and it really picked up massively; we got Damon, who played with Fez, their drummer, came and played with us, and…..a fantastic drummer, and not your typical drummer, I hasten to add, by the fact that he’s very efficient, very very musical, and he used to come up with some fantastic musical ideas, and……when we went to record the album Making Faces for The Landing Party, which we’d just got some money together and went and did it, he came up with a lot of the harmonies and he was brilliant; kept everything together and he recorded the album Making Faces with the whole lot of us; big popular band around Hebden Bridge; everybody loved Landing Party, you see I’m doing it now, and The Trades Club, we’ve played there loads of times; they always used to bring us in to big the crowds up; people loved us….. World On Your Doorstep, I think we did that as well, certainly did Riverside several times, and did Making Faces, which I think was only….I think there was only…..I think we’d only four to do, about five tracks, so that’s the only album we ever brought out which is a real shame because we’ve done loads of stuff; not many recordings of any of it, but we did loads and loads of stuff…I’ve got loads of cassettes still, which have loads of……recordings of these and I’ve actually put them in shelves this time, and eventually I’m going to listen to some of these things and maybe digitise them, but….so, The Landing Party was going really, really well; people were totally getting off on it…..and…..yeah, my girlfriend at the time, Jeanine, her mother became the manager of us….big mistake……huge, huge mistake; I’ll never do this ever again and I’ve…..I’ve persuaded other people never to go down these lines….basically, don’t get your partners involved in the band. Pete, the guitarist, he had a girlfriend he was going out with at the time called Kate; she didn’t like Glenda who was the mother of Jeanine and the manager, and of course there was loads of problems, and everybody was getting involved in the arguments….apart from me, who would go and sit at the back and have a cup of tea…..and let them get on with it really, I thought…..and it was….to be quite honest I think you’d expect the band leader to sort of like put their foot down, but I never sort of thought I was a band leader even though I was writing all the stuff; I should have put my foot down a bit but I’m not like that at all, so I thought ‘well…..just let ‘em get on with it; I’m sure they’ll sort it out’…..yeah, it got very very bad…….to the extent that the whole band split up as a result of…..of her being involved and all this, and Pete used to get very very drunk and at gigs he would, even though he played brilliantly in practice, sometimes when he’d had a few too many, he made some really terrible lead guitar mistakes, but…..forgave him for that….but he was…he and Kate obviously were on one side and Jeanine and myself sort of on another; I wasn’t, but that’s the way it came across. He fell out completely with…..with me; we got rid of Pete….we effectively sacked him….this was a band decision, and Pete was absolutely furious about this, and the whole band as a result… we didn’t do a version, eventually Richard Dalby came in for the first time and played the other guitar; we wanted keyboards, so he played a bit of keyboards; wasn’t really a keyboardist so it took a long time for him to learn, and….and he played a little bit of acoustic guitar which was amplified up and that was the new Landing Party….we had various different drummers after that, Steve Marsden being one of them, and so this was the new band; this was the new set up. Turtle was still there, I was still there, and there was Richard Dalby and several different drummers [laughing] up to about eighteen…..this was the new band; it had moved on. Pete wasn’t very happy because we was playing stuff that we’d written together and….and he didn’t like that so eventually we stripped those out of the…..of the set and started putting in new stuff. We could have written a lot more stuff but every time we lost a drummer and got a new one, we’d have to do a new version of the song, and have to go through it all again, so constantly redoing the songs so that we could play them, and we knew that the audience knew them so we had to sort of do them, but getting new stuff out was getting more and more difficult…….and eventually, that completely collapsed and I’m trying to think when The Landing Party eventually collapsed; it just didn’t….we were just getting there as well with it, again, as it all fell to pieces…….for the life of me I can’t remember now why; there was a very good reason, certainly the Pete thing was…..was one thing, but that….that all….it all…..all fell….it went ory [laughing]….didn’t work

     

    TW:

    Ory – what’s that?

     

    AJC:

    Ory….that was it….ory…..ory is like when it went a bit…..it collapsed; there was something a bit wrong….it was because……let me think about this…..swig of coffee….swig of coffee break………..yeah….so we had Steve who was with us, who wasn’t actually…..a drummer, but a great musician, but he was so nice to have around; we were very patient with him, sort of doing the stuff and…..he was lovely to have around….that was it……he…..he left….no, we had another drummer, sorry, there was another drummer; he left and…..Turtle….shortly afterwards sent me an e-mail saying that if he was going, he was going as well, which left me with me and Richard, and Judah, and I just….couldn’t think of anybody that could be a replacement bass; I was really angry at the time because he’d let me, after all these years, I’d to wait for him to come out of….the psychiatric ward, after creating a band, after destroying a band before that, he let me know by e-mail that he didn’t want to be with us any more; I was really not very happy about that, and it was the way he did it; Richard was a bit more diplomatic but I was furious. I said ‘no, sod him’ and I didn’t communicate with Turtle for a long time; didn’t sort of say anything nasty, but didn’t communicate with him for a while, so there was me and Turtle left…..the jewellers is closing downstairs [laughing]….just in case you’re wondering…… and….and so yeah, there was me and Richard left and we started doing little bits and pieces together, and…..and eventually started to do…I started to do a lot more solo stuff and….Richard joined me on a lot of that, and we went out as a……as a double act at the time, again playing a lot of my stuff; we played a lot of the…..some of The Landing Party tunes, and still occasionally…..I’m trying to think what we’re playing nowadays….we’ve still got stuff in our armoury that was Landing Party, so me and Richard used to go out and do gigs together after all this; I used to do various other bits and pieces….I created a thing called Electronic Fest around here, because….it was basically Flanny, a guy called Flanny, we were sat in the pub one night and we was talking about….I’d started doing a bit of music technology; I’d moved in…I’d moved into Hebden Bridge; I was in Hebden Bridge for a while before that, I can’t quite remember how long I’ve been here now; fifteen odd years, and we shared a house together so we got to know each other and we started playing…….and yeah, so…..oh……threads……..let me think now……so we were sharing a house……we did that….oh yeah, Electronic Fest, so I was talking with Flanny and….at the time I was working on Reason, a bit of music making software, and I was fascinated by this; I’d finally got a computer; I’d moved in with Richard; we’d bought…..we were sharing a house together, three of us; we had to move out of that house and Richard decided to buy a house, and I could move into it, and I was his lodger, so we was in there together, and I had a computer because I was doing radio for the first time; I was working for Phoenix; we helped create Phoenix, me and Shack, going back a little while; me and Shack sort of once met each other in The Puzzle and he says ‘what are you up to?’ and I says ‘well I’m thinking of doing hospital radio’ he says ‘I’m thinking of doing radio; that’s really weird’ so we both went to do training at hospital radio, and…..while we were doing that, the guy thought we were so ahead of the game that he says ‘oh we’re doing something called Phoenix’ he says ‘it’s live radio’ he says ‘forget the training’ he says ‘come and do that; you obviously know what you’re doing’ so he just…...he just put us straight in on a late night show, and we used to do stuff that he didn’t know how to - this is why he put us in there – with computers, so we did…..we had sound beds, we had features, we had little characters we used to put in, and drop in….at the time on minidisc, and….he just couldn’t believe it; the late night show was a bit comic, but with really weird music and he loved it, so the next time he put us onto Drive Time and we ended up doing Drive Time, put us straight into highlight, and we used to do the weirdest Drive Time because we didn’t mention any traffic and travel, or weather; well we did, but the traffic and travel was a fictitious person called The Man In The Sky, and so we’d prerecord this, so Shack would say ‘now it’s over to The Man In The Sky with the traffic update’ and you’d get the sound of a helicopter behind, because he was saying ‘in our Phoenix helicopter, we’ve got The Man In The Sky’ so they’d go over to The Man In The Sky and he’d go [silly voice] ‘hello, I’m Shack. What’s going on down the road?’…… ‘what?’…. ‘what’s going on down the road?’…. ‘tell you what, my Aunty Alice’s azaleas need a bit of a trim’ and he’s say ‘no no, what’s that? Look down….oh no!’ [shouting] and he obviously had vertigo, so we never ever got any traffic news at all, none of it…..and the weather was…..was Judah again, Judah, and Judah wanted to do this and he….so we had…..the jingle for…… ‘so now it’s over to Phoenix FM….weather update’ and it had this little bed underneath it, and at the end of it, it would go ‘shoosh…Phoenix FM weather’….we took out the middle bit and instead of it going into this bed, it went [singing] and Judah would give the weather; we did nine different weathers, and slotted ‘em in, because we thought ‘what’s the point? Look out the window’…..so, we’d have things like Judah saying [Jamaican accent] ‘you think it’s cold…..you know why? It’s your own fault, living in a place called Colderdale’…..and it would be a ridiculous thing; one of the ones he wanted to do was….and we said ‘are you sure about this?’ he says ‘I really wanna do it’…..it was like [Jamaican accent] ‘you think it’s dark…..almost as dark as me’ [laughing] and we said ‘are you sure you wanna do it?’ he says ‘it’s fine, it’s okay’….so we had different weathers and we used to put those in the day, anyway, that’s radio, and Phoenix was around at the time and that’s when we started using computers because we started training, and then moved into Dean Clough; eventually there was a big fall out….and we started that, and we started by doing…there was a job going for training there, and Shack was more experienced than I was in this one so he went for it, and I sort of….I went there voluntarily and eventually got the job because I’d been working for them for about a year with not much money but thinking right… so we had nine computers in this place, people from random places; youth, you know, bad lads, people who wanted to go into college, older people, disable people, all walks of life came through here, and they all got trained in doing bits of software. The first day I had to teach computers and I’d had an update; forty minutes was how long I got trained on how to use this piece of software which was Adobe Audition, and then I was teaching it, and managed to do it because sat next to Shack when he was working out this stuff that we did for ages, and…..and so I managed to get it until it came round to turning the computer off and I’d never turned one off before, so….I thought ‘there’s a big button there’ so I pressed that and Andrew who was there, was there in the office, he was a bit of a pain in the arse, says ‘are you sure you’re supposed to turn computers off like that?’ I says ‘oh there’s several ways you can do it’ [laughing]….so Shack eventually says ‘there’s a thing called shut down’…. ‘oh okay.’ He said, ‘you just taught that lot.’ Yeah, yeah…so I got into computers and eventually got enough money to…..to get a computer; I think it was as a result of the death of my father at the time actually, who left me some money and one bought the computer; no he bought the computer before he died……insistent on….I think the first amount of money went to bailing me out from some place that I ended up leaving, and I finally got some money through and this time I bought myself a computer, so I got a computer and that’s when I got into doing Reason; I started to do stuff which I started all these kids as well, and other people; adults and kids and the lot…..and so me and Flanny have got well into making music like this in the pub, and I says ‘how many people are sat in bedrooms doing just this? Creating this music and nobody ever hears it’ and…..I says ‘apart from that there must be a lot of people doing computer visuals as well, and where are they?’….. so I decided to take this as a mission, so I created Electronic Fest and ….managed to get together a team of people; the first one…..somebody knew a visual artist and I thought ‘oh brilliant….brilliant’ I had this image of these big projections to this weird bleepy music, and so I had to meet this guy in the same pub, in The Fox and Goose, and…..never met him before; he’s called John, and so I went to the pub and some guy comes up to me with these big thick rimmed glasses and he can hardly see, and he went ‘are you Creedy?’ and I says ‘yes, who are you?’ and he says ‘I’m John’ and I thought ‘no…..no’…..I thought somebody was winding me up completely, so I had a chat with him and I thought ‘this guy knows his stuff’ and that’s all he can do; it was like incredible, and he would get really close to the screen like that and do stuff, but what he produced was out of this world, and he used bits of film loop and….effects to make this incredible thing, which would go along with what people played musically, so Electronica Fest started and we used to have…..we had Joe, we had a guy called Joe Coates and Mick West who was a multi-instrumentalist, and he came up with some of the strangest performances; he had Furbies that he’d reprogrammed to swear and talk when you hit them across the head; he’d have Speak and Spell machines going through pedals; he’d have cassette players wired in wrong so they created a single that he’d manipulate with pedals…..really peculiar stuff, all with these back sort of images…..and we did quite a few of those; became very popular…..and we did the first one for the Arts Fest and we had to go along to the Arts Festival…..it was a guy…..Dave Boardman, not Dave Boardman, another Dave, forgot his second name, said, he was on the committee, he said ‘come along; what we need is something a bit more modern; it’s getting a bit boring all this classical stuff and what they’re doing’ so I says ‘okay’ so I went along, and sure enough this meeting I was in…..when it came round to me saying what I was proposing; they did laugh at me….and I says ‘well, that’s what I’m proposing’ I says ‘you know, it’s cutting edge stuff’ I says ‘it’s modern art’ and I says ‘it’s up to you’ and they was all questioning me and I would give them the answers so I thought ‘well that’s that’ and….and Dave says ‘I’m sorry about that’ he says ‘I told you they were a bit stale’ I says ‘a bit stale; for goodness sake they’re in the Stone Age!’ and….he said ‘I’ll have a chat with them’ so he had a chat with them and suddenly they came round so we did it, but when we did it, it was a sell out and then they were interested, so the next time they wanted us to do it, we didn’t [laughing]….we did it ourselves, and we did it at Machpelah Mill in Hebden Bridge the first one, and I think we did our second one there; we did various places around after that and the committee got bigger and bigger; we had people doing decorations….we had people sort of, again, there was a lot of girlfriends [laughing], and they used to have a meeting in the pub, every week; there was really no need to do it every week, and that was probably a big mistake as well but everybody loved the social……so they all went every week to discuss Electronic Fest and what we were gonna do to make the next gig bigger and bigger and better, and by this time we took over the entire back room of The Fox, and there was too many people; it was almost…..certainly untenable, and it became impossible; there was…….everybody had got so many different ideas that it just wasn’t gonna work any more, and I just like pulled the plug…..didn’t wanna do it anymore; I thought ‘I’m not working with this; we’ve got too big’….just at the time when we could have…we were cutting edge; still to this day there’s not many people do what we did then….to this day though I’m actually gonna bring it back, but that’s another…that is a future story, but….so Electronic Fest fell to pieces, like everything else; just at its peak……so that had gone, so a lot of the time it left me and Richard and I went back into doing acoustic stuff again, with me and Richard doing the solo stuff, which to this day I do really; I do a lot of solo stuff, but also we got to know…..a guy called Mohammed, who was playing….well we got into a band that was called The Magraidibeat, who were doing Moroccan stuff, and I always…I loved what they did, really enjoyed it, and eventually he asked me to play……and so I went along and….I decided that….that….because it was Moroccan music there was something a little bit drone about it – very droney – I sort of understood what was going on, so I decided to totally change the tuning of my guitar to the closest I could get to Moroccan tuning, which is ude, the dacca tuning, so I’d said ‘right, I’m gonna change all my tuning; I’ve never played anything in this tuning at all; let’s go for it’ but because I play intuitively and not by…..reading or knowing anything about the chords, notes, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to me; I can always find the root note and find where I’m going, and then…play it, so I played with Magraidibeat and Richard ends up coming in to join us; we had Steve Grey out of the Owter Zeds, we had Richard coming in there as another guitarist and eventually there was three guitarists, and Mo, and Paul Deer joined us as well, so that was the….the final line up of us; there’d been lots of line ups, but that was the one and it was going really well; we did Soul Fest and the guys who used to be in Electronica Fest….Techie played every Electronic Fest; they were part of the crew but because they were, the played every one and we played Soul Fest on the same day that they did and it was great; we played….they played later on; audience went absolutely mad about us, but…..this was the biggest one we’d done; this was why we wanted to do festivals; we were a festival band , and so really important and somebody had told me…..a few weeks before, two stories I’d heard, exactly the same, about guitars falling down and I’m getting completely destroyed, and I was dead paranoid because it was a big gig; twenty five minutes before the gig I’d put my guitar on a stand and I’d made sure there were no wires near it so nothing could lift it up; I made sure there were no loose boards on the stage so it couldn’t move; I was paranoid as hell about it, and so there was nobody on the stage; this guitar’s on there twenty five minutes before the gig, and….every member of the band saw this – I didn’t – I just heard it; they said what happened was, the guitar didn’t just fall over, it threw itself on the floor…..and I came back to find this guitar, picked it up, and the headstock was hanging off it like that, on a thread….and I thought ‘well what do you do now?’ I’d got twenty five minutes left; I’d taken my Takamine with me, just in case; got a bit bored of playing that, got a nice big new guitar, and it just….committed suicide on stage, twenty five minutes before we played……I had to calm down a little bit, I had someone roll me a big fat one [laughing] and….I’d come round a bit, and I’ll just….. just enough to kill that memory so I could just focus on the music; I’ll play my spare guitar…..so I came back and…..and we played the gig and it went down a storm, and strangely this guitar that I’d got bored with was playing beautifully, and I was tempted to smash this guitar up on the stage but I thought ‘no I won’t do that’…..found somebody to repair it and to this day it’s my main instrument, but after that Magaidibeat was offered one year…..six festivals, three of which were headlines….one was after I think, it was either The Wailers or The Blockheads, so it was……it was a big….big sort of set up, and we were really looking forward to this, but Mo was getting a bit strange….something was going on that wasn’t quite right; he’d moved out of his wife’s and moved in with somebody else, and it was all going a little bit ory [laughing]…..word of the week, and….eventually he just buggered off; he’d been a naughty boy somehow, and we’ve never seen him to this day but we was very very fed up cos he left us with six gigs that we couldn’t play, and we tried to get together but there was nothing we could do, because we were a Moroccan trance band, but without the Moroccan bit, we were a trance band….that’s not what we were booked to do, so we had no vocals because it was all in what I used to call cling-on….it were a bit….but it sounds like cling-on, and so we were stuck, absolutely devastated by this; really really annoyed; it took…..cos we felt really let down by him as much as anything else; to this day we’ve not ever heard anything from him; we didn’t get an apology; he just moved, and….so that was it; again, just got to the peak, all fell to pieces again……bloody devastated…….eventually….that’s why I carried on doing my solo stuff; eventually…..we met a guy called Ade who used to play with the Groovy Beat; felt the same about Mo as we did; we were all annoyed with him….there was Paul Deer and there was Richard….me, Paul Deer and Richard got together, trying to sort of come up with….we thought ‘right, at least we’ll get the trance element there’ so we tried the trance element, came up with some tunes…..we decided….I decided that it was gonna be called Nomos because Mo wasn’t in there, and I thought it was very funny that we called it Nomos but other people were saying ‘ah that’s daft’ so, Nomos we were, so we had…..I think we had Nomos five; Nomos…..Nomos one, Nomos two, Nomos three, Nomos four, Nomos five…..Nomos one I’d written the lyrics to; I thought ‘what I’ll do with the lyrics’…..we played them…..it all went well but Paul Deer said ‘it’s fine’ he says ‘but it sounds like I’m playing our music rather than ours’ and I went ‘fair enough; we need somebody else in’ so Ade comes along…..and we get together and start doing stuff with that, and again, that was starting to get some heads turning; we’d already got re-bookings; a lot of the places we were gonna play said ‘let us know when you’re ready to go again and we’ll book you; we can’t put you on headline but we’ll certainly have you as high as we can’ so we thought ‘brilliant’ so…we all got together…..and then…..unfortunately Richard had a child – not unfortunately – great kid, but his wife went a bit strange and went awol, leaving Richard with the child, and his commitments then were obviously to the child and we understood that completely, but that left us without Richard and it had just got too much by this time, so Nomos died a death. Paul Deer had got….busy doing other stuff, the Cagimore Family, and we…..were left with very little, so again I immersed myself into solo music which to this day, now [chuckling] – we’re nearly there – I do an awful lot of and that’s starting to pick up an awful lot as well; the people are….I’m terrible at self-promotion; I’d not bad at promoting other people which is why Electronica Fest worked, but promoting myself has been almost impossible; I haven’t got the ego for it, and…..so I get offered a lot of gigs, and I tend to play most of them; don’t get an awful lot of money for them but I do enjoy doing them, and I’ve got my….I met….I went to a….a course with…..cos I did an awful lot of radio stuff after Phoenix; I formed a thing called Now I See; there was three of us; me, Shack and a guy called Doug Lyons; we used to go out and do radio training as a form of personal development, but we did an awful lot of work with the Art University of East London and all over the place; we did an awful lot of radio work, again to this day; just starting to pick up on that one….but during that……met Andy Wells, who is a great…..Doug was doing a music technology course and I thought ‘I can learn a bit more about this’ so they was looking for extra numbers - didn’t even have to finish the course - they were looking for extra numbers, so I went along, did it, and met Andy Wells who was one of the teachers there….and he loved what I did, absolutely loved what I did, and says….and we had a studio there; we’d started just recording; he says ‘this is gonna be an album Creedy; I’m up for doing an album’ and I thought ‘can’t be serious’ and eventually left the course, because it wasn’t doing anything for me; it was always going backwards really, for me, and I think it was nearly a year later he phoned me up and says ‘what about that album then?’ I went ‘are you serious?’ he says ‘yeah, yeah’ so I went in and…..and started doing the album with Andy Wells and started recording….he used me for his students to practise on, positioning mics, but then Andy being belligerent and very very…..he knows what he’s doing to be quite honest, would go… I’ll jusr move them around to the right place now… (laughing) and he’d…..so he started recording me and looked at….and he started putting his own keyboards and….his production was amazing and I couldn’t believe he was doing it; the album was going really well and I think I ended up going round to his studio in Wyke….. Hideaway Studios and finishing bits of the album off, and I remember going to the studio in the college one day and I says ‘I don’t get this’ I says, you know, ‘I’ve got no money and you come in here and you do all this wonderful recording for me’ I says ‘I feel like a privileged vagabond’ and he says ‘that’s the title of the album’ and that’s what he said; he wasn’t bothered about the fact that he was doing it for free…..and so he says ‘in fact we’ll make sure that we don’t have to pay for anything; we’ll see if we can get the graphics for free or trade and everything like that’ and I did….Johnny, the guy with the glasses, ended up doing my graphics; he’s still a fantastic graphic artist, one of the best ones I’ve ever known; how the hell he does it I don’t know; he did the album for me in return for me doing something for him; I can’t remember what it was but…we traded and…..and so Privileged Vagabond didn’t cost a penny to produce, and it’s to this day my main album; again, promoted….it was Holyground Records, but they sort of died a little bit of a death; there was no sort of like marketing or promotion in place and it was left to me, and again, I ended up to be quite honest giving most of my CDs away; I think I’ve got one left that I haven’t given away; there was a load at Sid’s I never went and got the money, and it’s just….terrible, and I about a year on after a bit of a tragedy in my life recently, I’ve got to go back and finish off the second album which is gonna be called Where Are You’….. ‘W R U’….. ‘Where Are You’ but ‘W R U’…..tech speak, so the idea of this one is there’s a big stage, there’s something really exciting going on, maybe I’m playing or something like that and all the audience are coming right back to one big sing at the end, and you see all the lights on the phones coming all the way back to the front, and at the front of the album there’s a big sort of tech screen saying ‘Where Are You’……..yeah……yeah, so it’s a statement……and so we’ve started doing this and Andy’s been constantly trying to contact me, saying ‘when are you gonna come and finish this?’ so that’s where the future lies; Electronic Fest I’ve….I’m bringing back cos The Dog House, which is a big organisation, is…..is…..it’s actually got its own place now and they says ‘that’s what we’d like you to come and do’….that and an open mic session, so that’s where we’re at………..

     

    TW:

    There’s one other thing I would…..like to ask you about. It’s about artwork.

     

    AJC:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    I know you did some drawings for….for corporate people.

     

    AJC:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    Can you explain a little bit about that?

     

    AJC:

    Yes. This is a little invention of mine. It’s called a Conceptograph; the word itself is also an invention. It was while I was working with Now I See with Doug and Shack [sp] and we was doing this personal development stuff and a friend of Doug’s …used to go out to these corporate events, and he’d do an abstract painting of their…..meeting, and they’d buy this of him and…..and that was….and I thought, and he says ‘you should do something like that’….I thought ‘well I wouldn’t do it like that really’ because again, abstract, I sort of know now more about abstract but again, when I draw, I always draw something that’s figurative, so I decided to do the same thing myself and was doing a radio…..workshop for Apple Organisation, at the University of East London where we also went and taught…….and, he says ‘here’s your opportunity’ he says ‘we’re doing radio afterwards’ he says ‘offer it for free; take your sketch book; I’ll have a chat with them’ he says ‘and draw the meeting’ I went ‘okay’ so this was the first time I’d ever done it, and they said ‘it’s fine’ so I went to the back of the class…..the room, and so I said ‘I’ll be drawing your meeting and you’ll be to hopefully see where you’ve been’ I said ‘I’m just trying to help’ and….this meeting was huge; obviously Apple Mac, you know, so it’s….they were discussing this new system whereby…..people learn in different ways - people access stuff in different ways - so they wanted a….different learning techniques and….and bits of software developed around it so that people could maybe learn through shapes or colours or whatever, rather than words and….and everything, and they had a big screen there, they were linking in with Macromedia in…..in….I think it was in New York; I think it was about five in the morning over there, so they were part of the meeting as well; big meeting, so I’m away just like, scribbling away and what I’d decided, the only way I could do was to try and remain as subconscious as possible; they were coming out with so much technical detail there was no way I could really know what was going on, and all I did was to like…if something suggested itself to me….three is a magic number…..three times, I’d think ‘that’s not my symbol’ and I’d put it down on paper, and it’d join, and eventually I ended up with the finished piece so at the end of it…then in the afternoon we did a radio workshop which they got an awful lot out of this; we played their….played….the roles were reversed so they experienced what it was like to receive this service when it was developed, and….but after that they said they wanted a big chat and the thing they was more interested in was my Conceptograph, and….they just….they were really perplexed, and for about an hour afterwards until the building had to be shut up, they were…..they were going hell for leather trying to work out….and thinking ‘something’s wrong; it just doesn’t seem to work’ and they weren’t saying my drawing; they were saying ‘something’s just not in place here; it shouldn’t be like that’ and eventually they sort of said ‘is there a pub round here; can we take that?’… ‘oh, go on then’ and I refused….I wouldn’t comment; I let them talk about it so again, they went to the pub and they were saying ‘it’s not gonna work; there’s things like…..the calendar hasn’t quite turned over and it’s next to some other symbol, and it’s suggested that the time’s not right and….and there’s certain pitfalls legally that aren’t gonna work’ and…..they eventually ended up not doing it…..I wish I’d charged [laughing]….if I’d got royalties on that I’d be a rich man now, but it’s not all about money is it you know……that’s only money so really, I am rich, but….so I decided to do a few more of these and so the Conceptograph, I went out and…..again, I’m not goog at marketing, but I did get a few, and went out and drew people’s meetings and stood at the back of the class…. ‘I’m an artist, I’m drawing your meeting in a metaphorical, symbolic way, and hopefully you should be able to follow the story of your meeting, the bigger picture, and you can cut out all the little bits’ and….I went to one thing which was promoting it to businesses…and I went as part of Artworks in Bradford, saying ‘can you show us what an artist do in that’ so I stood at the back, normally I do it A3, takes most of the day; I had an hour and it was like a six foot……roll of paper so I was drawing away at the back while they were having their little meeting, doing workshops, and at the end of it the head of all these business groups sort of said ‘don’t know about you’ he says ‘but when I get to the end of a meeting I’ve got piles of paper and minutes’ he says ‘I don’t read ‘em all’ he says ‘but I can look at that drawing and know exactly where we’ve been, and it gives me an idea of what’s going on’ so, that’s the Conceptograph which I…I haven’t done much of recently but I’d love to get back into.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay, very interesting that…….is there anything…..I mean I know I haven’t asked much, but is there anything I

     

    AJC:

    I’ve never shut up, that’s why!

     

    TW:

    Is there anything I [laughing]….this is what I always say at the end; is there anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to add on? I mean I know you’ve given me quite a full story

     

    AJC:

    I think you’ve got a fair picture of it there really to be quite honest….I think what I…..there is…..there is one thing actually; there’s another one because there’s obviously…being an artist, I mean the reason why I left….art college apart from the fact that I was overdrawn and….and felt a bit uncomfortable in London and there was a lot of…..for some reason people who were sent to do Fine Art were….had rich fathers and stuff like that, and I wasn’t; I was from a very working class family and I didn’t want to get so overdrawn that my parents would end up doing it, so I was….I was playing a lot more music there than I was doing art, so music was….was a sort of extension of the paint brush, so I painted less and played more……and….recently I’ve…..I’ve teamed up with…a guy called Winston, a poet, and a guy called Jason, Caroline; he’s a visual artist, a drawer, a painter, and she’s a movement, dance type artist, and we’ve come together to form a thing called Ecphrasis; don’t ask me what that means because I can’t remember [laughing]

     

    TW:

    How do you spell it?

     

    AJC:

    Ecphrasis; it’s a Greek word

     

    Tw:

    Right, okay

     

    AJC:

    Can’t quite remember what it is, but there’s a website with it on; so….the idea….he came up with this idea saying that we wanted to be in the same room and just like feed off each other, so I could play some…..some incidental music……you know, he’d do some poetry, and I said ‘well’ I said ‘I’m a bit more interested really if……you were all in separate rooms’ because I’ve got a great interest in…in the connection between science and spirituality; I think they’re the same thing and at one time art and science and spirituality was the same thing….and that is coming together nowadays, I mean quantum physics is….the stuff that’s saying they’re there; sounds weirder than anything a mystic’s ever come up with; it’s getting to that stage now; they’re all starting to join, and this project joins it as a lovely solid object which is the most solid object, the triangle, and it is art, spirituality and science, so I separated everybody out in each room, have a fixed half hour, and…..you won’t be able to hear it; nobody knows what each other’s doing; perform for half an hour; everything’s on video, and then at the end of it, we’ll see how they connect; I says ‘I bet you there’s crossover, a synchronicity, that….is dumbfounding; I said ‘I’m so confident with it, we’ll just do it anyway’ and he went ‘right, fine; I like that…it’s okay’ so we all did it; he persuaded the others that it was a good idea….so we did it; we all separated ourselves out and did it for the first time; recorded it all; we did a bit of a settling exercise the first thing to focus ourselves and then we did a…..my idea was ‘talking sticks’ when anybody only gets to talk only when they’ve got a stick in their hand, recorded that as well, so the first one we do……and there’s….there on video, Winston doing his poetry and then somebody…gets his hand and a marker pen, draws round his hand, and then he cuts it out and folds it up in a weird way, at exactly the same time, because we were watching….we’d got these four laptops watching it all as close in real time as we can, all zeroed up; at exactly the same time the artist has like started doing a different drawing….and he turns around; what he’s been drawing….and it’s exactly the picture of this hand……..yeah….so, the synchronicity was pretty obvious; totally separate rooms….unfortunately there was a bit of a bleed in the music so the dancer had a bit too much of a clue of what I was doing…..I was playing acoustically….so we did another one, and….this one I played an electric…..and borrowed an electric because mine’s broke at the moment….I’ve got very into acoustics…..the 335 I love it…..but….and I used the thstch pedals so a lot of it was echo, so she said she could still hear a bit of a bleed, but what she didn’t hear was….was the fact that a lot of it was so…..so what she might have heard was [singing] ‘ding ding ding’ might have been ‘dickidickidicki’ because there was a delay on it….but we haven’t actually viewed this yet, but we….or heard it yet, so I still don’t know if this worked, because it’s been….a few months where everybody’s been on holiday and stuff like that; we’re due to do that very very soon [incomp] and…..but me and Winston….I thought ‘well maybe that didn’t work’ and I says ‘something’s bugging me’ and I couldn’t quite work out what it was, and the second exercise was Winston; he did something with a….peacock feather, and he’s said ‘I just put a peacock feather in front of this just to settle me and then get some focus on something before you went off to your separate places, and eventually it was like ‘so you got…..just feel the weight of it and put it in the middle of your….do you think that’s gonna balance on your hand? Don’t do it, just think….will it? Will it or not?’ and then eventually he said ‘let it go’ and of course a peacock feather’s perfectly balanced and it will balance on your hand without very little movement; incredible…and so we did that….what had happened was the artist had done loads of drawings and Winston had got obsessed with this vessel that was shaped like….almost like a goldfish bowl with a bit of a top to it there, and he says ‘for some reason there’s a spot on the bottom of it’ and he wrote down ‘why….why this shape? Why the spot in the middle of it?’ the shape again….. ‘why this shape? Why’….and that was his piece, and he said ‘I don’t know why I’ve done that…..no idea’ and then the artist had drawn loads of things, but then eventually it just clicked and I said ‘I’ve got it’ …..so the artist had done this drawing of…peacock feathers in his own interpretation of peacock feathers, and the shape was just like that with an eye for the peacock feather, just like the shape with a dot, and he went ‘that’s it…that’s completely it’ and there’s a few other bits and pieces but we’ve not actually explored this, but the synchronicity was there; the future, for me, I’d like now to…because he said to me, he says ‘you are truly an all-round artist’ because I’m very interested in lyric; again lyric and music was the reason why I took up guitar; not to play guitar effectively, though I can play….because of the way I play, I can totally ad lib for hours, which is what I do there, and……I can play in any tuning in because I don’t think about music in the same way, so I’m intuitive, but the lyric for me, also fits in; I like the poetry and the music coming together - it’s the….the big brush – so that with the electronics and everything else, have expanded out, so…..the future for me is….is a web design - I’d like to get a website – once I can finally get a decent internet connection, and put out the Synchronicity Generator, and the Synchronicity Generator is…..we put this out to the world in half an hour; you find out what your time line is and if you want to be part of it, do something creative; it doesn’t matter what it is, for half an hour, film it, and put it on the website; the two rules are: 1 – you must realise you’re part of the same thing; 2 – put your work out for us to see…..with your permission, and then we should end up with a load, and my idea of how it would look would be a fruit machine; pull the handle…………four little blocks come up….those four go into the corner of the screen, and then you watch it in synchronicity and see what the crossover is in them, and it’s a means of bringing all together and realising they’re part of one.

     

    TW:

    That sounds like a lot of work.

     

    AJC:

    It probably is, but we’ll see what happens [laughing]

     

    TW:

    That’s very interesting…..right then, well I’d like to say thank you very much.

     

    AJC:

    Been a pleasure.

     

    TW:

    And I shall….I shall stop there.

     

    AJC:

    Thank you.

     

    [END OF TRACK 1] 

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Steve Marsden

    CAYN WHITE:

    I’m Cayn White and I’m here with Steve Marsden who’s a local musician, apparently not bitter in the least. Steve, you were born in Heptonstall and then you moved up to Canada for ten years, intermittently coming back over here.

    STEVE MARSDEN:

    That’s right, yeah.

    Before settling down here on a more full-time basis. What were it like growing up in two places cos it must have been a bit of a contrast?

    Yeah, it’s pretty strange. It is odd because the life over there is completely different. Fifties and sixties things were plentiful, absolutely plentiful over there. My parents had just come away from rationing here and my dad goes over there to buy as many cigarettes as he blooming well pleased and a lovely home, good food, warmth, cars that had heaters in them as opposed to over here where…nobody wanted to live up Heptonstall in those days, it was too steep and the worried about me pram going flying down, so yeah, quite a change, but I did see a psychedelic band during the sixties set up in the local shopping centre over there. They were called ‘The Warped Minds’ and gosh know where the hell they are now, or whatever happened to them, and I just got sort of really hooked on hearing – I just loved it, I thought ‘I’ve never heard this kind of thing – I love it, where do you get it’ while everybody else is into…the big hit that was out at the time when I left there was a record called ‘Simon Says’ by ‘The Nineteen Ten Fruit Gum Company’ [singing] really teeny-bopper sort of thing, but when I came here, I just seemed to hear new pop music all the time. Everybody had loads of records, I went through my cousin’s collection. It was just a complete…totally different. Slightly harder life, not as luxurious, but culturally, a hell of a lot of things going on.

    With the two different cultures you’re obviously gonna get two different types of music scene, so you’d probably be into both; the music scene what were happening over here and the music scene happening over in Canada at the time. When you did finally come back to here what were it like trying to get your hands on the music made in Canada?

    It was hard….not so easy because….you seem to get all the American music, but groups like – there was a group called ‘Guess Who’ from Winnipeg in Canada, and they were like Canada’s – the big group in Canada from the late sixties early seventies, sorry, mid sixties to the early seventies. They had a hit over here and they were on ‘Top of the Pops’ once with a single called ‘American Woman’ and that’s about it. Or Terry Jacks with ‘Seasons in the Sun’ that was another one, but not much of it, not a lot.

    Do you think people missed out over here by not hearing bands from over there and vice versa really; people over there missing out by not hearing bands from over here?

    Well the funny thing is over there they didn’t get English music. Some of it – some stuff never travelled to – some stuff was too English to travel to North America, but…there was some good stuff over there, a certain amount of it, which it’s a shame we didn’t get more of the quality stuff here, but….a lot of these, like this group ‘Guess Who’ that I mentioned and there was Neil Young of course, they based a lot of their stuff on English bands you know, on people like ‘The Shadows’ and ‘The Beatles’ and that. It’s not been a totally equal swap over, in fact a lot of kids at school over here in Mytholmroyd had never heard of the country of Canada, they only knew about America; this is a really odd thing, very bizarre.

    In 1969 as a fourteen year old you ended up joining the Hebden Bridge Brass Band. How did you come about joining that? Was it the just thing to do at the time, or was it just a genuine interest in music?

    I had a school friend who’d just started it, who played cornet and his dad was in the Hebden Bridge Junior Band, I mean Hebden Bridge Brass Band and they used to have – at Central Street School – not Central…Riverside School, on a Saturday afternoon they used to have a music centre which was like…little orchestras for youngsters to learn to play in. You ought to have heard the sound of it [makes sound of wailing instruments] – you know it was fun, but you could tell it was a little on the amateurish side, but there was a brass section and so I started going in that.

    You were in the brass band round about a year.

    That’s right.

    What brought about the departure from the band? What caused you to leave?

    Well in those days I thought I wanted to be an instrument – to have an instrument you could also play in a pop group, and at that time I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I thought ‘what does it matter? You could use any instrument?’ I thought ‘no no, I’ll learn a little bit and I’ll go and buy myself a bass guitar cos it’s only got four strings, therefore it’s easier to play’. More fool me!

    Coming on to the bass guitar, you bought your first bass as a fifteen year old. Once you’d bought it did you think ‘that’s it, I’ve got an instrument and I want a band, or was trying to getting a band together a more gradual thing?

    Well there was two or three of us that were trying to get one together. The guy with the basic drum kit was trying hard to learn to play it; the guy with the trumpet reckoned he’d got a guitar that he’d stuck a speaker on as a pick up and covered it in house paint it folded in half just like that, it just rotted, and we used to practice at a youth club that used to be up Fairfield, but the thing was, after that, when I got the guitar, I thought ‘right I need an amplifier’ and me dad who couldn’t quite grasp what a bass guitar was, cos he used to say ‘get yourself an acoustic one, get an ordinary one and then learn to play an electric one’ I’d say ‘but dad, bass is different. There aren’t acoustic basses, bass is electric and you need an amplifier’ so he said ‘get yourself an old radio’. Old valve radios have an input for a gramophone cos people used to do that – they’d buy a turntable and plug it into the radio, so I got one of those, damn big thing, and it was loud enough for practice but you couldn’t….you couldn’t play with anybody with it, so it was a matter of saving up enough money and buying a second-hand amp from somewhere because you know, they were expensive.

    So way back then, instruments and amplifiers and stuff, they would have been, as you’ve just said, they would have been expensive. How did other people come about you know, acquiring them instruments? Did they have to save up or did they just make do with what they had, like drum kits I would imagine would have been extremely expensive. How did people get stuff like that?

    That’s a bloody good question is that Cayn. I’ll tell you…I felt sorry for drummers because they had the hardest job. They couldn’t start on something small and portable, not like now; you can get one that you can carry, a load of flats that you can carry in a suitcase, but then they had to scrat around buying stuff, bits second-hand, but if they were lucky, as one guy was, he got an ex-working men’s club kit for twenty-five quid; he was very lucky with that, and another lad, the poor late, bless his soul, Kenny Hoyle], he got his on HP and he spend many years paying that off, so it was either that or go around second-hand shops where there was always one or two hanging up, and then you could pay, like I did. It was in a shop that’s still there, it’s still full of stuff but it’s been closed for about thirty years, twenty-five, thirty years. There was a Harmony semi-acoustic bass in the window for twelve guineas, and you know what a guinea is?

    No, don’t know.

    A guinea is one pound and one shilling in the old money. It was twelve guineas and I went in and I said ‘can I put a deposit on that?’ and my friend said ‘hang on, he’s got another behind the counter that he hasn’t put in the window’, a Hagstrum – Swedish make – a Hagstrum Futurama. And I said ‘how much is that?’ and he said ‘eight pound’ and it could have been a wreck because I didn’t know sod all, I just picked it up and looked at it, nice and red. I said ‘yeah, I’ll have it’ and as luck would have it, it was a perfectly decent instrument. Eight pound…eight bloody quid! [laughing]

    Is that an instrument you’ve got to this day, or have you parted company with it?

    Oh no, I still have it. A friend had it for about two years and then I bought it back and had it made into a fretless. Meanwhile he’d blow-lamped the red paint off it and now it looks like the floor of an old mill, still plays though! But I’ve acquired – I’ve a Rickenbacker now, it took me till I was forty-five to be able to afford it, but….I got it! But it wasn’t an easy thing. Kids were always envious of seeing groups at the Trades Club that had Hofner guitars and Selmer amplifiers, but they were lads who’d been working a year or two and could afford it. A Fender would have cost you…a Fender Stratocaster would have cost you about a hundred and fifty quid then, yeah….a lot of money, a hell of a lot of money.

    Growing up then, in the valley, what was the local music scene like? Was it just one scene or different types of music?

    Until new folk started coming into the area, there were just a few – two or three groups around. There’d been a Mytholmroyd group that apparently had gone as far as getting their photo on the cover of the NME apparently back in the early sixties, it would be some group called….they’re actually in a book on English bands - called ‘The Quear Fellows’ and they had a photograph – and that was the beginning and the end of their fame, but it was just…and a couple…there were an odd one or two in Hebden, groups like ‘The Radiation’ and ‘The Blues Express’ oh there was ‘The Burning Soul’ from Todmorden that had a saxophone player but no keyboard player. I used to look to see if a group had an organist cos I used to love the sound of an organ, and hardly anybody had them cos again…expensive. You were lucky to be able to afford a Vox or a Farfesa. There were just a few of us at school; there were more folk players around and about really, and that would be it really, that’s your lot. It was a struggle finding like-minded people that could play anything at all.

    You started playing in a trad jazz band. How did that come about and what were it like getting gigs? Were venues willing to put on new bands or were they testy about it?

    Well with being still at school it was a bit if a difficult thing. We did an odd – played at an odd school assembly where a teacher was doing a reading about – she was doing Martin Luther King’s speech ‘I Have A Dream’ and at the end of it the drummer had to hit his snare drum really loud like a gun shot and the guy that was reading out dropped and threw himself fell flat on his back, you know, that was when Martin Luther King got shot, it was right dramatic, he literally threw himself flat on his back – bang! And then we broke into ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ and then we did a talent contest up at Old Town Bowling Club, but that was the sum total of it because one of the guys in the band was a bit cocky and clever. He wasn’t really that into music – he liked it but he was more of a – bit sporty, and sporty and me don’t got together, and we eventually, two of us, me and the clarinet player, left a practice after a lot of bullying and shouting and threats and stuff, ‘get it’ ’do this’ ‘don’t do that’ so he said ‘I’ve got a couple of mates who want to play so let’s get out of this’ so gig wise, very sporadic, and at the Bowling Club we didn’t have that much of a chance because we weren’t really old enough to play there, being a licensed premises. We took part in the audition but it was a Roy Orbison imitator that won because they could book him; he was more professional, he had a fancy Gibson guitar and we were going…you know, we were only about sixteen, fifteen and sixteen then, so again, not much gigs and the group after that, ‘The Jug Band’, we rehearsed for nearly a whole year before we….one school assembly. We got a gig at that place just down the road here – the Methodists, Salem Methodist Church. We got a gig playing for the local Multiple Sclerosis Society for a fee of a pound and a packet of crisps each, no a bag of chips each, after a half at ‘The Neptune’ pub which is no longer there anymore, on the canal side, and an odd couple of gigs in a Catholic club in Halifax – Halifax Catholic Memorial Club which was alright but..we had to watch it with one of our songs because it had a line:

     

    I’m going down to your house girl

    Gonna get you in your bed

    Gonna give it to you all night long

    Do you hear just what I said

     

    And we thought ‘God, there’s a priest sat in the front row and he’ll be thinking ‘those boys will all go to hell’. Things like that – just eight quid a time.

    You stated earlier that with instruments, you had to buy the cheapest you could afford basically, and you had other bands which could afford instruments – as you mentioned the Roy Orbison tribute had the Gibson – from that point of view do you reckon there were a bit of jealousy between bands who could afford and those who couldn’t?

    Some people were a bit envious rather than jealous, cos jealousy’s a bit…oh come on, unless somebody is really unlikeable about it and cocky and clever….one Christmas we went to Bradley’s in Halifax, you know the record shop, but in those days, the upstairs sold instruments and amplifiers – tiny room, much smaller than this, but it was crammed with instruments and we went in, and our lead guitarist had a go on an electric that was there, a really nice Antoria semi-acoustic and we really got to hear him playing a decent instrument, and he sat playing this blues on it and this middle-aged woman came in with a little lad of about four and he looked like she’s buying this first instrument, and the guy’s showing him a little acoustic guitar, and he suddenly points at me mate and he says ‘I want that one’ and expected the lady to go ‘ha ha don’t be silly darling, wait till you’re bigger’ and she suddenly opened her purse, got a big was of tenners out and said ‘oh have that one’ and we felt green because that kid doesn’t realise that when he gets home it ain’t gonna sound like that and it’s gonna end up in a corner covered in dust. We were squirming for the rest of the day, we wanted to grab that kid and hit him over the head with something, and his aunty or grandma or whatever she was. We’d never seen so much money in one person’s hand.

    You also mentioned earlier after you were in dross band, you ended forming a jug band. For folks unfamiliar with the term, what is a jug band?

    A jug band is a sort of – they’re also called string bands. They date from the twenties and thirties of the deep south when people…you couldn’t afford a bass so you either used a tea chest with a broom handle and a bit of string on it, or you got a big cider jug and you blew across the top [made blowing sound] and Mungo Jerry, that group I mentioned earlier, the banjo player had a cider jug mounted on like a snare drum stand and he used to blow into that, so we got that, and jug bands – yeah, they tended to play a kind of a lightweight, happy, jolly kind of blues – good-time music, usually with a banjo, acoustic guitar, fiddle of they were lucky, a washboard, that’s right, cos we got a guy – cos there were two guitarists, one with a six string and another with a twelve string and a cheap electric, I had me bass, the clarinet player bought himself a banjo and learnt to play that, and then we had a mate come along who started blowing into a jug and got a washboard which – I have a photograph of this and I’ve been having a look for it but I can’t find it which is a drag, but there you go, and that’s what jug band music is – it’s a sort of a good time, stompy – we had an electric stomp board – we’d no drummer then, which is simply a couple of planks raised at one end and lowered at another, a bit like a springboard that they use in gymnasiums – we copied it from that – nailed an old telephone receiver to the bottom of it and plugged it into the PA so you’d just go ‘duff duff duff’ like that until his foot went through it! You know, really sophisticated high tech stuff! [laughing]. So yeah, it is a sort of happy music and it’s simple to play – three chords and…a lot of fun.

    You later moved to Oxfordshire and then you obviously ended up coming back up to here because, well here you are talking to us. What prompted the move down to Oxford, and also what prompted you to move back up to here?

    Well me dad’s firm which is based in Rochdale moved to Banbury in Oxfordshire to an industrial estate there, and so we went there. Me being just seventeen thought…to heck with it, it’s another adventure, I’ll go down, started going to the tec there, hunted down a few people that were playing and jammed about with some folks but nothing really came of it. There were people that to jam at college and that, but the only owner of a decent drum kit couldn’t play it to save his life, you know, he just sort of about flailed about with it. He looked the part – dead long hair, had a mini, had a fantastic drum kit. He was bloody terrible, you know, but he just kept not getting anywhere. Nothing took off really, nothing really gelled so I packed up and came up here, left home for the first time in life and I thought ‘this is alright, you know, rented a place up Cragg Vale and then….bumped into an old friend of me brother’s that was a drummer and his family had got a pub up the other side of Huddersfield and he was forming a little group there; there’s got an organ there – an instrument called a Lowrey Holiday with one of those right cheap old-fashioned drum machines on it that goes ‘bup bup bup bup’ – like that. There’s one on that record ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ by Ann Peebles [sang intro] that kind of thing, so he played drums, this young lady played organ, and I swapped on to regular guitar – sort of bow tie stuff, playing dance tunes and terrible things like ‘Viva Espana’ – that had just come out and everybody wanted to hear it, so….money for old rope.

    The music scene obviously changes as time goes on and obviously people wanna to hear different stuff. Have you ever felt the urge to…pretty much, just instead of playing what you enjoy playing, play what people wanna hear, or have you stayed true to your own musical beliefs?

    If you really love something, you’ve got to be honest about it. If you’re happy playing - being what we call a human juke box, then I’d say go ahead and do it. There’s more money in it. There would always be work for you doing that, particularly in the working men’s clubs, but….this is difficult this one, because if you say you don’t wanna play that kind of thing, you get people coming out with a really cheap shot; you’ll have probably heard the term ‘musical snob’ and sometimes, somebody that people call a musical snob is just somebody who knows what they like and sticks to it, cos I used to go home after these gigs – well I’d actually go into this flat I was renting; I was actually living in the pub, and after playing a night of ‘Viva Espana’ and ‘Please Release Me Let Me Go’ and backing up these club singers with the same repertoire, I’d sit down and put some stuff of me own on like ‘Pink Floyd’ or ‘The Mothers of Invention’ – Frank Zappa’s and listen to that and think ‘oh God, why can’t…’ to get me back again. I mean, the thing I do now, one of the groups I play in that plays country music, but it’s a kind that I like and as long as they don’t do anything really tacky I’m happy, but I’m also in a group that’s what I love doing. I never wanted..if I have to be in one group it has to be something I dig, cos it’s frustrating playing stuff that’s just to please the people. A lot of it’s ‘oh you’ve got to please the people’ and I think ‘well, you’re best outlook is: this is what we do. If you like it come and listen to us. If you don’t like it, then don’t…force that, don’t come, but don’t try and get us to play what you want, don’t bend us to it you know, there’s loads of people playing that - go and see them’ so I feel you’ve got to be true to yourself as much you can. If you need to do what we call the shit from anything, keep that as a bit of a sideline and change your name, you know, use a pseudonym or something when you’re doing that kind of thing, but never sell out – don’t sell out, that was always the thing. Never sell out because once you do, you get known for doing that terrible thing, like some people that weren’t getting anywhere with their own stuff, they do something really cheap and accessible, it becomes a big hit – that’s it, they’re finished. People will always remember them for that big terrible hit and it sticks with them like…glue you know, so you’ve got to be true to yourself and you probably think a certain amount of that yourself maybe you know. You wouldn’t sing ‘The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck’ just because somebody demanded you to do it; you’ve got to be true to your own heart.

    Do you ever find it infuriating when people are requesting what they want to hear and yet you’re on stage wanting to do what you enjoy doing, or do you find it infuriating that people aren’t more open-minded about it?

    Yeah, that’s a difficult one that one. It’s infuriating if it’s a group that’s playing the kind of stuff we all like and people come on and they start wanting commercial stuff as we call it, for want of a better term isn’t it I think? We’re not about this – go somewhere else but we’re not gonna bend for you because otherwise we’re selling ourselves out. If you keep chasing the crowd around saying ‘will this do? Will this do? Will this do?’ all you’re doing is you’re prostituting yourself, you’re not being you, you’re just being what other people want you to be and that’s backing a loser in my opinion. Some people have to sell out a wee bit in order to pay the rent, and I can’t despise them for that because sometimes…if music is their career and they have no other skills, sometimes they have to do that you know, but some of the fans that say ‘hey man you’re selling out’ – well they ain’t paying your rent, you’ve got to look after that side but fortunately I’ve not been in that situation. I’ve always worked in textile mills – I’ve had a day job so that I wouldn’t have to do that, but those that can do it, I salute them because you’re brave, cos when you go out to make a living out of something like music or poetry or film-making, you’re out on a limb there. You sink or swim by your own efforts and sometimes you’ve got to bend a little you know, heck - wear a mask! [laughing]

    Obviously venues come, go, change, you know, one minute your band will have loads of places to play, and then a few years later they’ll be very limited for places to play. What do you reckon the state of venues and places to play’s like now? I mean obviously you’ve got places like the Trades Club which is still open, still running, still offering people places to play, but then again you’ve got other places which have either just been turned into an apartment or a shop or summat, and obviously you can’t play there any more.

    Yeah that’s hellish is that, yeah. It’s better than it has been because it looks like certain…like there’s more pubs you know, like ‘The Hole In The Wall’, they’re putting bands on an hey presto, they’re paying you! And I think that’s good, there’s the ‘Puzzle Hall’ – the Trades Club is a bit of a difficult one for me that one, because I remember that place as just a place – it’s where people used to hire for dances and to put gigs on. I’m a bit annoyed about them – no I’m a lot annoyed about them because a lot of local bands did a lot of freebies for that place to get on its feet and when it’s got on its feet and they’ve started getting a lot of well-known famous gigs in, it’s suddenly got – it’s harder for local bands to get gigs there and get paid. You’ve really got to put your foot down for them, and a lot of the time they’re getting people to play for nothing – for a benefit – to get money to pay the famous people and I think, well that’s, you know, that’s not strictly fair, so I’m a little….

    Do you think they should just work harder to promote the newer coming local bands?

    They should keep that as a very important thing. I mean I know it’s a business and you’ve got to make money to keep yourself going, but it shouldn’t be the local outfits that get the short shrift of ‘oh we haven’t made much on the door so I’m afraid you can only have this or you can only have that’ and the sound quality there can be – I don’t know whether I’m….sorry, is it on, me criticising this place at all on tape at all, because….yeah, it’s just my opinion. I’ve been round here a long time and I think there’s only me and two or three others that are actually from this area that have been going this long. There’s a guy, John Trewartha who used to be in a Tod band in the early sixties. I think he is about – there’s him and a couple of others that are actually from here that are still going. A lot of people did it for a short while, sold the gear, got married, never touched an instrument again, but I feel annoyed sometimes that it’s an attitude – ‘right, we’ve had your backing, we’ve had your help, we don’t need your lot any more – piss off’ – I’ve felt a bit of that about the Trades and…I’m not the only one, I’m not the only one, I don’t see it as a particularly important venue to miss off. There are nicer places that look after you, they’re friendly towards you, they’ll buy you a couple of drinks and they’ll pay you a certain amount – might not be a great deal but hey, I won’t complain because they’re nice, they’re friendly and…particularly ‘The Puzzle Inn’ in Sowerby Bridge. It’s the only time when I’d been in a band, we did a couple of covers and somebody said ‘play more of your own stuff, we wanna hear that’ and I thought ‘this is one of the things that we’ve been working towards’ – that’s a compliment, and we didn’t do the covers too badly – a ‘Doors’ one and ‘A Beatles’ one but they wanted to hear our own stuff and that’s what you strive for.

    Back to…you know, you started been really involved in music from about fourteen when you were in the brass band to now where you’re in a country band is it?

    I’m in a country three piece that the drummer of the other group, the main group is called ‘The Dreadful Gait’ – guitar, bass drums and saxophones, and it’s a kind of music along the psychedelic, powered-up jazzy kind of thing and that’s our thing. The drummer of that group also plays acoustic guitar in a….well it was a duo doing Johnny Cash stuff and he said ‘do you fancy playing bass for this?’ So it’s either playing bass – in one band it’s playing bass going [dum dum dum – singing steady beat] and another band going [da da da – much faster] – that kind of thing you know, so it’s kind of fun. The country one, we get, a little bit of, you know, a little bit of cash in hand, odd bits, small amounts.

    Throughout the years then you must have some interesting stories – gig stories and stuff. Is there any you’re willing to share?

    Yeah…[laughing]…there’s a couple. The group when I was seventeen taught me about drinking and playing an instrument. I’d hardly touched any alcohol until then but cos everybody else was drinking, the lead guitarist drank quite a bit; he’d started when he was fourteen and he went to work for Webster’s brewery, bless his soul, he’s no longer with us, and I had a couple of halves before we went on and I had to open up a song with a bass line and it had to go – dead simple [sang bass line] and I went [wrong notes] – ‘sorry!’… ‘come on, come on!’ [wrong notes again]… ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’… ‘just get on with it!’ and that was what happened and I felt my face go burning red and I thought ‘never drink before a gig ever’ and I stuck to that for years, and then a number of years later, about ten years later, I got with a group, a Hebden Bridge-based theatre group that was two bands and a comedian with some of the people from Manchester and they got a tour of Holland; somebody said ‘do you fancy a tour of Holland’ and I’d never toured anywhere before and I said ‘yeah – when?’ and they said ‘it’s in September; we need a bass player cos our bass player, he can’t leave his teaching job for any length of time’ so I gotten a gig in Holland and we played…all over the place really. The strange thing was that the comedian we had, he was funny, but he was a bit physical. He was treading on things and when he was over there, there was an oboe player and she had an amplified oboe – a little lead coming from the mouthpiece there, and he was doing some kind of a trick where he was…he had a top hat on and he was throwing a big lump of rubber that looked like a big black penis – it was an off-cut from a cable factory that somebody had seen it and thought ‘I know who’s…this is up his street’ – it was a melted off-cut. They gave it to him and he was throwing it round and he tripped, and he caught his foot on this lead, and this thousand pound oboe went flying up in the air, spun round and landed right on the end and right there and then she had to pack it all up and get on the nearest boat back to England to get this instrument repaired, and then the silly buggar went and trod on a five hundred pound viola bow, silver-chased, and it was leaned at at an angle [cracking sound] – like that – oh it was just….and the poet – we had a poet called Gordon Hoyles that lived up Cragg Vale, he was quite well known around here, and he used to look like Fagin from ‘Oliver Twist’ – long grey hair, big hooked nose and a big beard, and he’d never left – he hadn’t been out their front area – they lived on the moors, they lived like medieval peasants, gathering wood from the forest and very basically, but, and this was the first time he’d been on a tour with a group, and he hardly ever touched alcohol, so when we played a club in Manchester, he started to like it again and somebody had a mask – we used to call it an old man mask that looked like this guy – long white hair, and he had this idea, he said ‘Gordon, put this mask on – hide away, don’t let anybody in the audience see you until it’s time for you to go on, but when you go on, put this mask on’ so he put this mask on and started chanting away, his odd poetry - you’ll have to look up some of it - and some guy at the front’s saying ‘hey man, why are you wearing a mask like, you know? Let’s see your face – come on you, know, what are you hiding behind that for?’ and he just said ‘well, do you want to take it off?’ so he pulled the mask off to see the same face beneath it and this guy…God, if he’d been on any kind of drugs at the time he’d have run out of there crying, near enough, but he just stood and froze and I thought ‘yes!’ but it was.. it was strange and it was very heavy, and the changing room area with the toilets that also shared with the bad disco at the back. You see, you’d go in there changing and suddenly the toilet door opens and there’s some big redneck there – ‘what are you doing?’ [deep threatening voice] ‘I’m getting changed for the band’…’I need a piss’ [deep threatening voice]… ‘oh sorry I’ll be out in a second….. ‘never mind I’ll use the fucking sink then’ [deep threatening voice] and I thought ‘oh Jesus God, I’m gonna die’ and one of the guitarists said ‘oh God I’ve had a terrible experience in them toilets’ I said ‘you too – what happened?’ This was poor Steve Andrews; he said ‘I was in there changing and I heard these voices going ‘I fancy a fight tonight, I think I’ll have a go at the first bloke I see’’ and he said ‘and I just sat in this cubicle thinking ‘I’m gonna go on in a minute but I don’t know what to do’’ and I think they eventually buggered off somewhere, but. ..hairy stuff, hairy stuff.

    Obviously now there’s a load of new bands popping up – in fact sometimes it seems like there’s more bands than fans and for people that are in bands and aspiring musicians, is there any advice for you to give them?

    Yeah….don’t take what seems like the easy way out and join a boy band or a girl band. If you’ve got talent and you really love music, do what you wanna do. Do what you want to do, because if you don’t, you’ll hate yourself, you know, a lot of these poor souls that join up with some outfit – the can’t play a note, they can’t sing, they rely almost entirely on technology, they allow themselves to be bullied into what kind of hair cuts they have, what kind of clothes; stick to your guns. If you love it – if you love music and you want to play, do it. Don’t just do it because you think ‘oh I’ve never thought much about music but it looks like a neat way to get attention and a bit of money’ – don’t do it for that, go and work in a bloody factory or something, be a bloody footballer you know, something like that, but don’t do it unless you really wanna do it and be true to yourself because whatever happens, it won’t be easy. It’s never easy being true to yourself because you won’t always make any money, but you’ll like yourself better, you’ll like yourself better and…there’s some good fun and strange adventures to do, but be true to yourself, always. Never sell out, never sell yourself out. If you must play crap for money, do it and think of it as that; do your best for it because you’re getting paid for it, but do what you wanna do as a main thing and the hell with what anybody else says. If you like a particular band and all your pals say ‘oh it’s crap, I don’t like it’ well, stick to it, don’t just change your attitude to say you like what they do, just to be in with them – it’s a hiding to nothing is that and..yeah, just be true to yourself and learn to play. There’s no easier way or else you want to get one of those computer games where you plug a plastic guitar in and pretend you’re ‘The Beatles’ – that’s such a sad set-up is that, or an inflatable air guitar, but if you want to play – learn, you know - put the time in. I thought bass guitar would be easy because it’s only four strings. Well, it’s easier on your fingers, you know, you don’t get blisters as quickly but it’s still a challenging instrument and you might find you prefer, like I did, I like playing bass better than lead guitar, it’s….yeah, stick to your guns, you like what you like, and find like-minded people and quite often they’re people you don’t already know, you know, you meet some interesting people in it all. It might be somebody at the other end of the country, you might have to go to London to play what you wanna play, that’s life. This was a little backwater at one time, now it’s quite a…as you appreciate, it’s quite a busy musical hub, more than it’s been for years and years and years, and good on it.

    Well from a fourteen year old player in a brass band to now playing in a country band, can you sum up that forty years playing music in one word?

     That’s a good question, but I have to point out the psychedelic band’s the main one; the country band is the sideline, but from all that then to this – sum up the whole experience…journey, a journey, and people who started long since I ever did, people who started five years ago, are famous and touring the world and making a lot of money – it’s unpredictable, but that’s a good thing; there’s too much predictably about now. So in one word….fun and bloody glad I did it, and if I had the time over again I’d…all I’d ask for is more confidence than I used to have, but that’s it really, it’s…I wouldn’t really change it – too much fun.

    That’s all the questions I’ve got so I’d just like to say thanks for your time and insight.

    Thank you for wanting to do this; I hope I’ve not waffled on too much about summat and nowt and that, and that it’s useful for you. Yeah, thank you. As John Lennon said at the end of one of his last interviews – ‘well, fancy that!’ [laughing]

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Steve Grey

    EVA:

    I’m Eva and I’m interviewing Steve Grey, a local performer.

    STEVE GREY:

    Hi Eva.

    What was your first introduction to music?

    When I was fourteen years old which was a long time ago [laughing]. I’ve been into music all my life from the age of fourteen, playing music in bands, always been interested, so always and forever I’ve been interested.

    Who would you say inspired you?

    What originally? People like David Bowie, Mick Jagger, all are heroes of mine, all the old people really cos it was a long time ago now. I can’t think of anyone else off-hand but all the old blues, I was into blues, into old ska, always been into that old Jamaican ska, soul music, I went through a big phase of getting into soul music when I was seventeen eighteen – northern soul and all that, we did a lot of that when I was down south, played with an awful lot of bands, some were good, some were terrible. I’ve done all sorts of things from country and western to barber’s shop quartet when I was younger cos when I discovered I could sing I just wanted to sing anything I could possible sing you know, I had all the enthusiasm for it then you know.

    Barber’s shop quartet – what’s that then?

    Well what it is, it’s four singers, four singers, no music, just singing, acapello, it’s really hard to do, it’s really good fun, it’s beautiful.

    Any certain costumes?

    Barbers, oh yes, yes, boaters, moustaches, handlebar moustaches [laughing], tea towels over the arm, very good yeah, that’s what a barber’s shop quartet is anyway, very close harmony singing, four different parts you know, four part harmonies.

    That’s very hard to do.

    Very hard yeah, a lot of work goes into it.

    Real moustaches?

    No no no, no imitation. I remember I was blonde and I had to wear a black moustache, which was quite amusing! [laughing]

    So do you play any instruments yourself?

    I do yes, I play guitar and I play drums. I started off playing drums and then when I discovered I could sing which was down to my music teacher, which was a very – he was lovely, he was the only person I got on with at school. I went to an all boys’ secondary modern school in London which was fifteen hundred boys; it was terrible and I hated it. I kept my head down, everybody kept their head down in them days, and….they were doing some sort of concert or other, putting on some music hall or other. They sat the whole class down and said ‘right, I want to know who can sing and who can’t so everybody’s - I’m gonna go through everybody one at a time, you’re gonna get up and sing’ and everybody went ‘I’m bloody well not’ so anyway, we did. When it came to my turn I didn’t want to at all, but I just got up and did it and discovered I had a voice and I didn’t know. From then on that was it you know. I learnt to play guitar purely to have something to sing to you know, so yeah I play guitar, not brilliantly cos it’s just been for accompaniment mostly you know, but I’m okay – reasonable.

    So how long altogether would you say you’ve been involved with music?

    How long?

    Roughly.

    From the age of fourteen and I’m fifty-seven now, so that’s a long time – over forty years isn’t it?

    What music do you listen to?

    I listen to everything, I really do, that’s no word of a lie, I listen to everything, and I like everything. If it’s well played and well recorded, it’s good music you know, but I listen to anything from classical down to hip-hop and rap and house music and….you know, blues music, anything. If it’s well played, it’s good music.

    So when did you first start playing in bands and why?

    Well after I left school I did all sorts as I said, but I got really heavily into playing in bands from about the age of about eighteen nineteen when I just wanted to be famous. I was in a few bands. You get in a band, you write a couple of songs and record them and nothing happens, and I went on doing that hoping, hoping and hoping, and I met a guy when I was twenty-two and eventually we got a band together and eventually we went off and became professional, touring American air bases in Europe for about three years which was probably the best time of my musical career I would say. It was jolly good fun and we worked really hard, and the idea was we would come back we would record an LP and it happened and then the guitarist got sectioned; he had to go into a mental institution and the band sort of fizzled apart, but then I came back and a bit fed up for a while but then I joined a band that I still think is the best band I’ve been in to this day apart from ‘The Owter Zeds’ of course which was a band called ‘Travla’ [spelt t r a v l a] and we recorded, we signed a recording contract and recorded more, and very nearly cracked it, then same old story, personnel problems and the drummer got poached by ‘The Joe Jackson Band’ and that was it really, it fell apart, but I was so fed up – that was just before I moved to Hebden Bridge…wow!

    What sort of music did you play in ‘Travla’?

    It was….sort of rocky…it was more, it was quite a glam-rock band actually. I dressed up, I wore make-up, I bought all my clothes in Chelsea Girl or Dorothy Perkins, in them days, wore make-up [laughing], yeah I was a glam-rocker, wore chiffon scarves and things, but it was basically a rock band but they were excellent, they were an excellent band.

    Original music?

    Yeah it was all original music, yeah. Some good songs too, some good songs.

    So what happened after ‘Travla’?

    Well by that time I was fed up, I gave up music, I’d had enough and…I was doing nothing really, and I had a friend that I used to play in bands with, he had a house in Blackshawhead and he said ‘why don’t you come and stay up there for a while?’ so I came up to Hebden Bridge and….fell in love with it, but I didn’t think I’d ever live here. Anyway I went back, visited a few more times and just fell in love with it, what’s more I fell in love with northern people more than, more than anything and that was it – I moved, I made my decision. Within a week I was living in Hebden Bridge.

    What made you like the people so much in Hebden?

    They were just so nice. People talk to you in Hebden Bridge, people are friendly, they say ‘hello’ to you in the streets, took me a while to get used to that. Yeah, people talk to you. I loved it, I met some lovely people, so I ended moving here, just for a time. Anyway I’ve never been back, never been back. Twenty-seven years I’ve lived in Hebden Bridge, but that was it as far as music because I was an ignorant southerner I must admit. I didn’t think there was anything musically happening north of Watford particularly, and so I really didn’t think there’d be any music going on in Hebden Bridge at all you know at that time, but how wrong I was.

    What was going on in Hebden Bridge at the time?

    Well there was loads of music, I was just amazed – musicians on the hills, incredible musicians, nice people, very few egos which I’d had enough of egos in music you know, and I joined a band from Rochdale about six months after I came here. I met somebody and they said ‘come and have a play’ and I joined a band called ‘Shang-Hai’ from Rochdale when I first moved up here and I was with them for about two years. We did some recording, wrote some songs. That was very good, I liked that, but then I met Jim Gole and John Armstrong and then my life changed around. I gave up ‘Shang-Hai’ and started playing with Jim Gole and John Armstrong, playing in scratch bands, doing parties, and we raised some money for the Trades Club when that was first getting off the ground. We did some gigs in there when there was nothing in there, just a bare room, raising money for the Trades Club.

    What kind of stuff were you doing?

    Oh then was just covers you know, all cover songs then you know. The first gig I did with them was at the Trades Club. I met John Armstrong in the afternoon, the Saturday afternoon and he said ‘would you come along and do some singing?’ so I did a gig with them that night, so it was a matter of ‘what songs do you know?’ and we managed to get through a whole night and it was great, I loved them to bits, they’re great people, but…then it was 1984 and ‘The Owter Zeds’ came along.

    So how did ‘The Owter Zeds’ come about then?

    Well it started off…it started off..Jim Gole and John Armstrong got together with Mick Shillerbere, another local singer, and did what they call ‘Reggieburger’ – ‘Citizen Reg’ – which was a scratch band and they started off, got together to raise money for the miners, the striking miners in 1984, but that didn’t last long, I took over very soon after that, singing, cos I was busy playing with ‘Shang-Hai’ still in Rochdale at the time. Yeah anyway we did a few gigs just doing cover songs. We decided – we were all sort of rock and rollers and blues men and we all decided that it would be nice to do some reggae covers and stuff like that. We did a lot of Bob Marley and UB40 stuff and…just did covers, and discovered that people danced to it you know, which was quite a revelation for people that had been into blues music and rock music, so we decided that that was the way to go, so we decided that we would stick together as band when we’d done this money raising thing, but with one stipulation; we wouldn’t do any cover songs, we would do all our own material, all original, and that was exactly where it started from, and ‘Owter Zed’ was born and on the road.

    So where were some of your first gigs then?

    Well we tried cracking Manchester, we couldn’t crack Manchester. We did lots of gigs in Leeds at that time, in and out of Leeds where we met other bands doing a similar sort of stuff to us, so we got quite a following over there and we did a fair amount of gigs in Leeds, but we went all over, I mean we’d go down to London, you know, it was no problem travelling really, we just used to love doing it. There was no pressure, nobody wanted to be famous, it was just for fun, purely for the fun of it you know, and that’s why we’re still together now.

    When was the first time you did a gig abroad?

    Oh that didn’t come till a bit later, about ten years ago. We went to France to do a festival there, through Jim Gole’s sister who lives in France. We went and did this local festival and managed to get some other gigs around the town, and we loved it, we had a good time, so we’ve been back most years since then, and we’re still doing that now, it’s our annual hols every year. What better holiday…playing music?

    What was the French reaction when you first went over there?

    Oh they loved it. There was a big, big ska scene in France and there still is, they love ska music in France, there’s lots of ska bands, lots of French ska bands which are absolutely excellent I might add, but they love ska in France, so everywhere we go, I mean, they just love it in France, they love it, they really seem to enjoy it, you know, and they like the brass, they like the brass playing, the brass section, that always goes down well with the French.

    You’ve just recently celebrated your twenty-five years’ anniversary at the Trades. How did that come about?

    Well it was an idea we had a few years back actually and we all said when we got the twenty-five year, which is a Silver Jubilee, we’d have a big celebration and try and get as many of the old faces….Owter Zeds, there’s so many people that’s been through it, we thought it would be good fun to get as many as we can together and have one big bash on the twenty-five year anniversary.

    How many musicians were playing at the Trades?

    I think we managed to get…twenty I think…twenty-five people, and they were all up at the end, but yeah, I think there was twenty-five we managed, but there’s been an awful lot more you know. Unfortunately a few people have died and a few people have moved away, can’t trace them you know, but I think we managed to get twenty-five or something like that, musicians to come along, and people travelled, people came from down south to play a few tunes that night. It was a good celebration.

    So, twenty-five people. That must have been quite chaotic.

    Yeah it took a lot of organising. We did it in three sets – early years, middle years and later years which is now, you know, and we did three sets, and tried to do lots of old tunes and inviting various people up to play the tunes that were there when they were written basically, and we managed to get most people up throughout the first two sets, and then the last set, just everybody was up, you know, but it did take some organising, some working out, but it worked very well. It was organised chaos, it worked very well.

    You must have had to revamp some old tunes. How did that go?

    Well that was great because we’ve rediscovered some old tunes which we’re actually going to get back in the set again you know, so we’ve discovered some real old pearlers from the past that we’re gonna redo and modernise a bit, so yeah, there’s some really good songs, got some good songwriters in ‘The Owter Zeds’.

    What would you say is the most bizarre gig you’ve ever played?

    I think the carnival gigs, the Hebden Bridge Carnival gigs were very good, they were quite bizarre, cos when I was younger it was always the local carnivals, all the young local bands, all sat on the backs of floats and went round the town you know, but it didn’t happen in the north, so we thought it would be a good idea to play on the floats you know, and go round town, it went down great, I really enjoyed them, they were quite bizarre gigs, playing on the back of a lorry but one of the best gigs I think was a cave gig where we played in a cave…an immense old Victorian show cave, and it was amazing and I remember we’d forgotten the microphones and the acoustics were so good, we managed to get away with using a tape recorder mike, and that was all we had for the whole night, but it was an incredible gig, and incredible experience bringing all the equipment through this little three foot by six foot high entrance to this cave.

    Where was this cave?

    It was in the Dales, I can’t remember the name of it now, but it was up in the Dales somewhere, but that was probably one of the most bizarre gigs I’ve ever done I think.

    How many people turned up?

    Oh it was packed, it was a gig for the Yorkshire Cavers and Climbers Association, we do a lot of gigs for them you know, up and down, they love us.

    So how do we find out more about ‘The Owter Zeds’?

    www.owterzeds.com – that’s o w t e r z e d s [spelt it out], so yes, please log on.

    How did you come up with the name ‘Owter Zeds’?

    Oh well that was…think Jim Gole is responsible for that. It was…it was one night when we were, we were on the phones looking for gigs – early days, and we needed a name and we had a list and I think it was Jim Gole that came up with ‘Inner Zeds’ as in ‘In Our Heads’ and then came up with ‘Owter Zeds’ – Out Of Our Heads, so we just kept at that and the phone call came and we said ‘what are we called? Er, er…’Owter Zeds’ but it’s really stuck and it’s a great name.

    Are you still gigging?

    Yeah as regular as we can, yeah, yeah, there’s not that many gigs around these days because places have closed up, like the music venues, but they’re still out there if you look for them, you know, but we’re still doing quite regular gigs yeah, hopefully we will carry on for many years as well.

    Do you have many albums available?

    We’ve got…one main CD which was studio recorded and we’ve a compilation out called ‘Day By Day’ which is a compilation of the years year by year, a compilation of all sorts of stuff recorded throughout the years you know, we’ve done several short six EP type six track CDs in the past, but you know we’re more into gigging than recording are ‘The Owter Zeds’ you know, it’s not been an over important thing for us to record – we like to record, but we’re more of a live band, that’s what keeps it perpetuating.

    Well thank you very much and we’ll be looking for to the next anniversary celebration.

    Hopefully yes, thank you Eva.

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Simon Partridge

    CAYN WHITE:

    I’m Cayn White and I’m here with a local musician Simon Partridge. Simon, you were born in Stoke and you moved into Halifax when you were ten years old. What are you earliest memories of the Halifax area and the music scene at that time?

    SIMON PARTRIDGE:

    I mean Halifax was a nice place to move into in the early 1980’s things were very promising. You know, the town centre seemed to be developing well, the Piece Hall was coming on extremely well and growing up on Savile Park was a nice place to be, if a little bit of a conservative place to be, certainly in terms of music there. When I started playing music there, there wasn’t many people playing rock music, it was still an alternative kind of thing, even in the eighties and the years afterwards. That’s probably the way I remember it to start with.

    Growing up, what would you say your main musical influences were?

    I think a lot of things…you know people tend to say things that maybe there were the first records that they bought, but I think I was actually taking a lot in when I was a lot younger than the actual record-buying age, so there were the kind of things that my mum and my dad were listening to you know, and I think the older you get the more you realise how much influence those things did have on you, so my dad was listening to things like ‘Rubber Soul’ by ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’ by David Bowie, but he was also listening to a lot of kind of folk records, you know, around the kind of British folk boom, so people like ‘Pentangle’ - ‘Fairport Convention’ – Richard Thompson, things like that, and my mum was listening to things that were much more about words really than…so they were more like poems that were set to music or things that were subtler, so things like jazz singers like maybe Nina Simone, Paul Robeson and things like that. Was that the answer to the question? [laughing

    In the Halifax area, what was the first gig you went to in the valley?

    Ooh first gig, that’s a good question. I don’t really sort of remember it like that, I think one minute I wasn’t seeing bands and the next minute I was seeing bands. Bands were always the thing that happened in the pub, so I’d hear, you know, when I was at school, I’d hear ‘oh there’s so-and-so on happening on at ‘The Clarence’ or you know, was it ‘The Woodcock’ the one on Queen’s Road and I’d think ‘oh I’d quite like to be there really’ but you know I couldn’t get there because it was quite a way from where I lived and I didn’t have any transport, my parents weren’t interested in going to watch music, none of my friends were interested in going to watch music, particularly, so one minute I wasn’t going out and then the next minute, probably eighteen, started going out in Halifax and just going and watching bands at places like ‘Hangovers’ really and you know, then I would see bands lots, you know, all the time, but before that, I mean, I wasn’t seeing many bands at all so one of the first bands I remember seeing at ‘Hangovers’ was ‘McCooney’ and they were a really, really cheesy classic rock band and I remember standing there and slagging them off for playing ‘Whitesnake’ and they were hilarious really.

    In your teens you started playing rock around Halifax. Could you tell us about that?

    Yeah, I think when I was at school and I was learning – I learn things fairly slowly and it took me a long time to get to a point, you know, maybe five years to get to a point where I actually thought I had anything that was even vaguely good enough to play to anybody, but gradually people do get to know, you know, who’s really actually interesting in rehearsing week in week out, and…going off the question yet again, but anyway, the kind of, the first gigs I was going out and doing regularly were with a band called ‘Under Threat’ - now I’d grown up sort of listening to rockier kind of tracks and certainly when I was learning the guitar I was learning rock riffs, and that was what ‘Under Threat’ did very, very badly, so we did lots of that very, very badly for about eighteen months and terrorised various local communities with horrible rackets, such as heavy metal versions of ‘Paint it Black’ which I seem to remember as being particularly awful, but again with that it was nice that we were doing…we were doing the first ones of our own songs and that’s a really exciting experience for a young musician you know, when you’re just starting out and you actually get to go out and say ‘I came up with this at home, we learned it with the band, we made an arrangement and we’ve actually gone out and presented it at a really, really loud volume to an audience’ and the audience either really enjoyed it or responded to it somehow, and once you’ve got into the kind of cycle that’s very, very addictive and I really enjoyed that even though the band wasn’t maybe that great.

    That’s good. So you ended up joining the band ‘Under Threat’. How did that come about?

    I think most of the time you know, bands, when I’ve joined up with bands and players, people have a kind of tentative – it’s like being at a first date, where ‘oh I hear you play guitar’ you know, you’d be chatting to somebody in a pub, with me it was a guy called Kyle Farahearst and I was chatting to Kyle in this pub and then he’ll say ‘oh, why don’t you come down and have a play, it sounds like it might work’ and then that first kind of, that first rehearsal, it isn’t really a rehearsal, it’s more like a try-out you know, and people see ‘well, do I like this band and does this band like me and could this go somewhere’ – the thing I looked for and I think was lacking in a lot of the heavy rock bands was that they actually had somebody that could sing, and once, even though the drums were terrible, the guitar wasn’t great, the bass wasn’t great, they had somebody that could sing so that was kind of what drew me into joining up with them.

    You say ‘Under Threat’ were well received by the local heavy metal scene

    No, absolutely not, no, I mean we were playing things like – there’s a record called ‘The New Wave of British Heavy Metal ‘79 Revisited. Now that has lots and lots of really good aggressive, raw new wave sounds which are somewhere between what most people think as heavy metal and punk, and we were still trying to do that in 1990, but by this time of course most people were really heading towards, you know, the move was definitely towards things like ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ and ‘Mud Honey’ and ‘Sound Garden’ and eventually things like ‘Pearl Jam’ and things like that, but we were still doing ’79 Revisited’ so no, it wasn’t very well received! [laughing]

    You later became involved with the new music scene over in Bradford and which you got out of it a band called Sear Tears which I’ll ask you about later, what was that scene like and how did it differ from other music scenes in the area?

    The Bradford scene was really pretty serious. There was people coming in from quite a wide range and some of the bands were actually making headway and people talk about a band breaking it and what does that mean, but some of the bands out of Bradford were breaking; I think it was led by earlier bands like ‘Sisters of Mercy’ but there was a kind of a response of further more extreme music, like ‘Paradise Lost’ – I mean I remember first hearing them and I just thought ‘what the hell is this?’ you know, ‘why would anybody buy this?’ but one it became clear that that was gonna work and these kind of bands were gonna break, then Bradford was spawning more and more rock bands. Again, bands tend to form up in places where there’s no money so there’s cheap meals or places to rehearse, you know, cheap digs where you can live while you’re at your rubbishy jobs and you get this kind of aspiration and drive to actually get somewhere, and a lot of the bands in Bradford did actually have that, so bands like ‘Terrorvision’ were a good example of that, where you know they actually got together and got on with it and got it done, so it was quite an exciting scene because there was the possibility of breaking and bands were not just playing in Bradford at, you know, places like Rio’s was a place that everybody played, but they were going off on tour, so you know, the excitement was that you could actually see some kind of goal; there was somewhere to go, there was something to do and there was something you could do with the band.

    Round about that time that you’ve just mentioned, there was most probably low employment and people who did have jobs, they wasn’t very good jobs and most probably dead-end jobs. What was it like being a musician in that type of atmosphere?

    I actually really enjoyed that time. You know..you know, I lived in a bed-sit and just worked in an office job to start with and I’d just enough money to get by every week, but the excitement was that you felt like you were getting somewhere and you know, normally a gang of lads get together and they’re trying to get somewhere and they’re going out and people are saying ‘this is really good’ so although in terms of money it was pretty poor, in terms of thinking ‘yeah this is gonna go somewhere, this is fantastic’ – we used to things like – tape trading was very popular and you know, you’d be getting up in the morning and you’d think ‘oh God I’ve got to go to work’ but then on the doormat, you know, the postman’s dropped in this tape from Greece or somewhere with you on this Greek radio show you know, playing some dodgy demo that you’d done in Bradford somewhere, it was…financially poor but, you know, good spirits, and lots of drinking as well as I remember.

    From this scene you ended up joining Sear Tears as a member for their very first gig and line-up. How did that come about and what was it like being involved with them compared to ‘Under Threat’?

     Well I mean, the two bands really were – I mean both used distorted guitar and both had two guitars, bass, drums and vocals but other than, that they were completely, they were realms apart really, I mean Sears Tears was put together – it was the brainchild of two people – there was a drummer called Richard Beaumont who had grown up – his family were all drummers and so he was a very technical drummer, a very unusual drummer, certainly not a straight rock drummer that was what most people were doing then, and a guy called Mark Systarsovich and Mark had grown up listening to lots and lots of different things, and he was into kind of really extremely heavy music, but then quite a lot of sort of things like folk music and music from Eastern Europe and things like that, so anyway they had this sound together, and once that combined with the things that were happening in the Bradford scene that were heavy and down-tuned and you know, a lot of them were really, really slow, the kind of three things coming together was really, really exciting which we’d never have had anything like that in ‘Under Threat’ and instantly when I joined up with Mark it was about doing proper gigs. It was quite a difficult audition actually. I don’t know, you know, if you’ve done various auditions for bands but you go along and everyone’s like ‘go on then guitarist, show us what you can do’ but I kind of cheated cos I pretended I was just going along to listen, but actually I’d gone along and I’d already learned all the songs, so when they said ‘oh can you play something?’ I just started playing their songs and like ‘oh, he can play all the songs’ so I was straight in and we went out, and straight away we were doing things like, there used to be – probably still is – kind of heavy metal all-day events and you’d go along and because you were just starting out, you’d be bottom of the bill and I’ll make no bones about it, we’d just go and blow everybody away, because a lot of those bands were – they didn’t really have very much inspiration – they didn’t have anything different which we always did, and I think people will lie to you and say ‘oh it was all about camaraderie, we all had a bit of fun’ but it isn’t, you want people to thing you’re good, and with Sears Tears straight away, people were like ‘this is really good’ and it’s just a case of where they’re going; we were going somewhere else than other people. The problem was unfortunately I always take all my projects really personally and it mattered to me a lot and straight away I got in – not straight away – within a short period of time I got into kind of power struggles within the band with Mark, and they just got worse and worse, I mean we used to be terrible when we were young you know, we were like a, I don’t know, like a warring couple or something [laughing] you know, with the arguments and we’d end up shouting and we’d be insulting each other’s parents and all that kind of stuff. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we managed to hold it together for a number of years and get through doing an album but it wasn’t easy, it was hard, it was hard going and when you hear about bands falling out due to musical differences it get very personal and it isn’t a lot of fun, but it matters so you try and do it, but yeah, the two bands are worlds apart. ‘Under Threat’ was a bit of a laugh, going round some pubs, learning some craft, doing cheesy eighties stuff, Sear Tears was proper ground-cutting new music.

    But in a load of music scenes you always get factions and different groups. Did you ever experience any of these factions and did they have a positive or adverse effect on any of your bands?

    Yeah, I mean, I think people tend to band together and if somebody says you know ‘I’m a blues musician. I know you’re a blues musician and you’ll probably like my music’ those kinds of things, those can be useful but they can also, they can divide communities as well. I think a little bit of healthy competition in factions is really – you now it’s a great thing you know, so if you say ‘oh their gig was fantastic, I want our gig to be better than theirs’ or whatever, ‘actually that gig last week was fantastic so I’ll go back to that venue this week to see who they put on’. I think if I was saying…I think probably recently actually in Hebden has probably been the worst I’ve ever experienced it, because it seems to be beyond factions to almost sort of an incestuous point really, where you kind of see the same people at the same places a lot but not necessarily other people, you know, we tried to get roots into the Trades and I think for various reasons that was quite tricky, whereas for other people it was very, very easy, so I think you know, within, say for example, when we were doing Sear Tears and that kind of stuff, people were very supportive with each other within a scene. I think in terms of if somebody said ‘my venue does not put that kind of music on’ I’m very happy with that because that’s a commercial decision, and I can understand that, it makes sense. People say ‘look we always have – we always have really heavy music on and you’re not doing that, therefore you know, we can understand that, why you’ve made that decision’. I think where it gets more difficult is if you’ve got, say for example, there’s three or four musicians who have all got bands and they need some help together to set up a rehearsal studio, or something like that and because they’re divided and because they don’t get along, the rehearsal studio doesn’t get set up for anybody at all. Now I have been lucky in that a lot of the time people have helped me in that way, so people like Les Gillon has helped me you know, and other people have helped me, but I think yeah, I mean, I think the dividing factions question is a good one. I think as the scenes have splintered more, it does get to a point where the areas are so amazingly, amazingly small that people can’t actually draw up an audience, and I think to be honest with you, these days there is so many bands and there’s so much material out there, that it becomes like trying to just wade through a mass of stuff that you can’t possibly find anything, and people use – maybe use – ‘oh well it’s this genre’ – do you mean more kind of genre-based ideas or do you mean in different ways than that?

    Groups within the genre.

    ….I don’t know, I mean I think, I mean I stopped doing Sear Tears in ’97 and I think since then I haven’t seen it…or come across it in that way. I think the way I’ve come across it more recently would be just more like what I was saying before, in terms of that some venues will say ‘we only have original stuff’ or ‘we only have this type of stuff’ or ‘you don’t this or you don’t that’. It’s something I’ve experienced recently. Certainly back in the day we always found that there were specific venues that put on that kind of heavy music and that would put up with you playing that kind of music, and they were about…they didn’t pay, they would put on music because it would draw some people in, it didn’t cost them much to do, they were generally fairly run-down as venues, they’d get in a sound man that was fairly cheap, you know, some kind of home-made bodged up PA and they’d put on what they’d call an all-dayer but basically meant they were getting ten bands for next to nothing and hope they covered it on the bar really, which were a lot of fun, I mean I remember doing one of those….we did one for a magazine called ‘Terroriser’ – I don’t know if you’ve come across it – ‘Terroriser’ is still going – extreme metal magazine - and they had a festival in London that we did and I ended up playing guitar for ‘Solstace’ down at that gig, and that was, it really was a lot of fun you know, it was just a load of people piling into a Transit van – ‘off down to London, off we go!’ you know, setting up, everything breaking down you know, people falling off stage cos they were so drunk. There was an Irish whistle player who danced about and then fell off the stage in an amusing way and everybody just thought it was the best thing about the day really, but I think my experience of factions in that way back then was always actually that it was quite a healthy thing. I think when I look at it now from the outside and I see other people going through it, what I see more is there’s just too much stuff out there. There are so many bands and there’s so much stuff that to actually make any headway is really, really, really hard, and to do anything that’s new is…you know, so to phrase a short answer to your original question….there is so much stuff out there these days it’s very, very, very hard to make any headway at all, and I think the more the scene splinters off, it’s not improving things. Sorry, that was terrible, never mind.

    It’s alright. With so many bands coming in and out of the woodwork, a few venues do try and capitalise on this by introducing like a pay to play scheme where you actually have to pay to perform at certain venues. During your experiences in bands, have you actually had to experience that? Have you had to basically swallow your pride and pay to do a gig?

    No, I’ve never paid to play. You know I mean, doing the covers, we get paid a lot of money to do that. Doing the covers band we get a lot of money to do that. When you’re doing original stuff I think if you’re stuff’s good enough it’s fair enough to go out and do a couple of gigs, a few gigs where maybe you’re making money on selling CDs, T-shirts as people have always done, but I don’t think people should pay to play. If you are having to pay to play, the question’s got to be ‘why am I not good enough that people wouldn’t want to pay to see me?’ It is hard getting people to know your stuff, but…no, I think doing supports where you don’t get paid is a much better route.

    Over the years various music venues have come and gone. Have you any good or bad memories from any venues what are either still standing or have bitten the dust?

    Yeah, I mean, I think a good music venue or a good event is…it’s just absolutely priceless because it puts a memory into people’s minds. I mean the stage falling down on the park in Hebden Bridge last year comes to mind as maybe not such a good memory but certainly something that will stick in my mind. The kind of good venues that I remember…I used to hate ‘Hangovers’ at the time which was, it’s now a Chinese restaurant but it was just off Bull Green in Halifax, but these days I look back at it and think ‘actually that was a pretty good venue’ you know, they had a decent sound, they had bands on all the time, they had some different types of band there, you didn’t have too much trouble in there, you know, decent place, clean enough, you know, it doesn’t sound a lot but some of the venues we’ve played have been really disgustingly smelly and foul and horrible, and I guess, I suppose, ‘Rio’s’ comes to mind really. ‘Rio’s’ was the archetypal horrid venue, it had horrid sound, horrid sound engineers, way too many bands so you were just kind of going in there, you never got paid, it was absolutely awful. It sounded foul, but people would go and it was…teeth-cutting you know, you’d go on a do a gig in a really, really difficult situation. I think one of my favourite venues is actually one I’ve never played at, which is the ‘Trades Club’ which I think should be a stunning venue, and I think you know with the right team running that place, that is a brilliant space. It sounds fantastic in there, it looks good, it’s the right size, you can get atmosphere, it’s got a stage in there already, it’s got good lighting, it’s even got decent beer which is, you know, pretty much everything you could ask for, and people keep saying to me ‘why do you never play there?’ or ‘why does it not happen there?’ I think when I moved into Hebden I assumed that what they had on there was world music, and that basically they didn’t have any regular music at all I mean, regular music – I mean kind of rock music, chart music, pop music, blues music, anything like that, but over the years they’ve proved me wrong. These days probably the only reason I don’t get there more is because we’re always out in some hole somewhere doing some corporate do like were whores, you know, which is probably not – not what I should be doing but you now, it pays the bills, so I think, yeah, I’d put the Trades up there as where I’ve had the most magical experiences, I mean we were taking earlier on about ‘Secret Green’ and ‘Secret Green’ was it…last year was just fantastic. I’d been in there watching Wilko Johnson, which I’d got into the gig for nothing. I watched a set that my mates played pretty well supporting him and then he came on and I just thought ‘this is fantastic’ and he had Normal Rock Roy on bass who’s one of the best bass players I’ve ever seen, and I was probably…I don’t know…twelve foot away from the guy and I thought ‘this is just perfect’ you know, sat with a nice comfy beer in a place which sounds good, watching somebody who’s a world class bass player for no money, you know, fantastic!

    After sear Tears which again I’ll get onto a bit later, you ended up going to uni. What prompted the move to uni and what did you study there?

    I think you know, one of the strange things or one of the interesting things for a musician is to reflect on the way that their life is at the time, and when I was in my early twenties I was basically responding to things that had been influenced by my teens, so in my teens I was obsessed with listening to you know, heavy rock bands like ‘Iron Maiden’ and Ozzy Osbourne and things like that, and in my early twenties I kind of responded to that by going out and doing extreme music in a rock band with a load of distortion and for some reason I think I’d read way too much in magazines such as ‘Guitarist’ and ‘Kerang’ which was a big magazine at the time, and I persuaded myself that if I did everything that these magazines said, that something mystical would happen and my life would sort itself out, and when I’d actually done all those things and gone on those stages and been in a recording studio and I realised that nothing was really happening at all, and time was passing by and I needed to do something else. Now, the mystical ‘Hangovers’ served one last purpose in that I was telling this story to my good friend Les Gillon one day, and I won’t do his voice cos that would be very insulting to him, but Les basically turned round and said ‘Look Simon, I’m starting this course – I’m involved in starting this course, it would be perfect for you, come over this week, do an interview and I did, and I never looked back really. I left behind….well, not left behind – I kind of put in a box for three years, the rock things that I’d been doing, but as I was challenged by new musical challenges and new questions I realised that I’d been in a fairly stilted state for a number of years, and that it was time to move on from those, so within six months I was making music in a very, very different way. I was making video installations in ‘Travelling Minis’ I was doing surround sound versions of Buddy Holly, you know, I was getting my performance to dance with nude manikins, and basically actually doing some creative stuff rather than just reciting the things that I’ve learned out of magazines like ‘Kerang’. I will never forgive them!

    Despite the ups and downs with Sear Tears the first time round, back in 2000 you were to re-join them. How did that come about and how did it compare to playing and recording with them the first time round?

    Yeah that’s a good question…..I think we mentioned earlier on about the importance of the kind of personal dynamic in any band and the important personal dynamic in Sear Tears was between me and the singer, Mark, and while I was at university, although I was having a great time, he was not having a great time at all, and when I finished my course I felt really quite guilty and realised that I felt I’d let him down a little bit by leaving him you know, to try and get on with it, and my presumption had been that when I left that things would get better for the band because they wouldn’t have fights and arguments, but what actually happened was that when I left the band they didn’t do anything at all, apart from record one song that I’d written most of the music to. So that was the reason I went back, but I also went back because they had some great music, you know, I dropped in to listen to a rehearsal and they had pretty much two albums of progressive..you know, bass drums and guitar, and Mark said ‘what about coming back and you know, helping us finish this off, it’s a great..’ and a year later we were still in the same room, playing the same tunes with no progress whatsoever, nothing recorded, no gigs, nothing at all, so then I walked away thinking ‘okay, you know, I’ve paid my due here, you know, I haven’t left them, I came back and did everything I could to help them but it just isn’t going anywhere’ so the second time was an unproductive period too; a short answer.

    Since you went to uni you’ve now taken the jump from learning to now teaching. It is actually a bit of a jump. How did that happen and how are you meeting that challenge?

    I think there’s a period, certainly for me, or maybe there’s not one moment but over a period of time you realise that the mirror is turning round so when you’re younger you are looking to other people to help you and other people spur you on. You know, your parents give you somewhere to live maybe, or somebody lends you some money, or somebody helps you by a guitar, or somebody helps you put a gig on, and at some point you start to realise you know, ‘maybe I’ve had that period and maybe what would help me or would benefit me, rather than this being all about myself and other people helping me to do what I want to do, would be about me putting something into helping other people do what they wanna do, and there’s a day that comes up where somebody that’s younger than you asks you something and you tell them what you think’s the answer to it, and then mysteriously you’re on the other side of the mirror, and I actually really quite liked it, and all the different kind of experiences and all the learning things I’d had, which I hadn’t really thought much about at the time, started to become useful in a different way, and when you get somebody coming to you and saying ‘I’m in a difficult spot’ or ‘I need your help with this’ or ‘that what you told me was really, really useful’ then that gives you…it gives you a different, a completely different feeling than when you’ve stood there as a younger person and said ‘this is my big statement. Listen to me, aren’t I good?’ I think the other thing was you know, I believe, certainly in rock music, that rock music is a young man’s game you know, or a young person’s game. I’d kind of moved on from that and if people want help with that and I can help them with anything, then I’ll try to do that. Sometimes…I mean sometimes as a teacher if you think about it too much you end up thinking ‘who am I to say anything and why should you listen to me?’ which I a good question when you listen to this interview, but I think a lot of the time you think ‘well actually if this experience is any use to you, have it’ you know, it’s not ‘you’ll do your own thing anyway’ – young people especially will and that’s what exciting, watching them do it.

    Over the course of your musical career you’ve done gigs, you’ve recorded, you’ve been to uni, you’ve taught. What are you doing now musically and are there any more challenges left for you to do?

    I think you know, I mean, if you said that maybe…as a kid I was loving music as a kid and as a teenager I started to play and you know, I’d aspirations to play in bands. In my twenties I was going through a period where I was making original material and maybe moving to look at new styles of material, and then kind of in my early thirties I was starting to teach things and pass on some of this stuff that I’d learnt. I think…what I keep thinking of is a gravestone really, and just what would be on that gravestone and what would be my marker, what would it be that I’d left? One of the really exciting things about moving on from kind of rock and popular music is that you start to think ‘okay, these people in rock and popular music, they always had to make the best things when they were in their early twenties, capturing this youth and energy, but when you move into more experimental work or art works, a lot of the best works are made by older people because they show that experience and insight that you can only gain through experience, so really I think if I make original works again, as a person who’s in their later thirties I want something that shows all that and I want something when I look at that gravestone from on high or you know, not getting into that kind of stuff, but that says ‘this is a good, clear idea that was actually different and interesting. The problem is with there being that much work out there, I keep trying different ones and I never settle on any of them, and I think the other thing is time as well, you know, people talk about anxiety dreams. My anxiety dream is time goes by and you know, I want that big work, whatever it is, but I’m not gonna make little works that are just what everybody’s done before; verse, choruses you know, this instrument, that instrument. It’s just been done and I need something that is something more than that, so that’s hopefully what I’d like to have, maybe.

    Right, that’s all I’ve got in the way of questions. Thanks for your time and thanks for a great insight into your musical career.

    Well thank you for some good questions. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give some better answers 

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Sid Jones

    EVA:

    Hello, I’m Eva and today I’m interviewing Sid Jones. So Sid, how long have you owned Muse Music?

    SID JONES:

    I opened the shop in September 1997 so that makes it over twelve years.

    Have you worked in music shops previously?

    Yes I helped out in a shop in Halifax for ten years called Groove Records, which was one of the major independent shops in the North of England at the time, but always had a hankering to do it for myself.

    What stuff did you sell?

    Well initially when I first started helping out there it was really meant to be a temporary thing until they got somebody permanent and I ended up staying there ten years, and the music at the time wasn’t on CD it was records in those days, but this was 1980’s. CD had you know only just been launched in a very small way and most things you couldn’t buy on a CD, you had to purchase a tape or a record, usually an LP or a single, and the stock was mainly across the board pop music, some rock, quite a lot of what’s euphemistically called independent rock, indie label stuff, but after helping out there for about a year or so I noticed that the stuff that was really selling well was the heavy metal and the guitar orientated things, and the rock things, so I suggested that the owners concentrated on that and we built it up into a rock specialist shop, at least the upstairs part. The downstairs part was more chart orientated with all the singles and so on.

    Have you ever had any interesting experiences there?

    Many. I’ve met lots of nice people and also some pretty weird ones as well. If you’ve read the book ‘High Fidelity’ then you’ll know the kind of people that frequent record shops cos all that – even though that book’s fictional, it’s based on what’s reality. Record shops tend to attract eccentrics. Nice eccentrics are fine – some of them are….the kind of people you don’t want to meet. One of my favourite stories was a guy who appeared to be absolutely straight as a die, he used to be a regular customer, he used to come in every week, buy music off me, and he bought this album, which I played him some before he bought it and he said ‘that’s fantastic, I’ll buy that’ and the following week he brought it back, and he said ‘I’ve got to bring this record’ oh this would be a CD, this would be about 1990, early nineties, he said ‘I’ve got to bring this back’ I said ‘is it faulty?’ he said ‘no’ and I said ‘well is it – you listened to it in the shop and you seemed to like it then. Have you gone off it or something?’ he said ‘no I like it, it’s a great record’ I said ‘well why are you bringing it back?’ he said ‘I can’t play it’ I said ‘what you mean, your CD player won’t play it? he said ‘no it’s not that, it plays fine, it’s just that I daren’t play it’ I said ‘what do you mean by that?’ he said ‘every time I put it on things start moving around in the house on their own’…that’s a vague example of the kind of strange behaviour that you get occasionally. He just took something else instead and he seemed happy. He kept on coming in the shop and buying stuff and never mentioned it again.

    Do you still get a lot of people buying records then?

    Well LPs are an acquired taste by today’s standards but there are people who prefer them. There are people who won’t have a CD, they don’t like them, they just want vinyl only. I think it cuts down your options down a lot if you just want vinyl only, but there you go.

    What music do you listen to yourself?

    Oh I think the older I get the more I listen to. I like progressive rock, I like psychedelia, I like intelligently constructed music. I began by listening to classical music and then graduated on to Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath and various things, late sixties early seventies. I loved all the punk movement when that came along in the late seventies. There’s always great music around. Every era offers great music – it’s hard to pin down exactly what I like, but if it was ‘Desert Island Discs’ time it would be Pink Floyd every time.

    So would you recommend CD over vinyl?

    I can’t say yes or no because some people prefer……what record companies should do is manufacture vinyl and CD in the same package in a twelve inch LP size pack with the record and the disc in there so you can play your CD in your car or download it, whatever you want to do with it and you’ve still got the vinyl there to play on your turntable, that’s the answer in my opinion, and keep the price down of course.

    What was your first introduction to music?

    Oh probably TV theme music I’d imagine. I remember theme music from….when I was very young and you know, watching TV programmes – things like ‘Watch With Mother’ and that kind of thing that used to be on BBC TV in the fifties, and I always remember the theme music to ‘Flash Gordon’ cos that was what got me interested in science fiction and all the other things that I like as well as music.

    What’s in your CD player at the moment?

    At home? Oh goodness me. Fleetwood Mac I think is what we were listening to last night, and The Alan Parsons Project as well.

    Do you play any instruments yourself?

    I’m a lapsed bass player. I also have a sitar which needs desperate repairs doing to it, and I’ve noodled around on keyboards and things. I have tried playing six string and I’m just not good enough. That’s why I ended up playing the tool of ignorance as Blacky Lowless would call it – a bass.

    A sitar – what’s a sitar?

    It’s an Indian instrument which is multi-stringed. It’s got about eighteen strings on it. It’s made out of a gourd with a…a dried out melon gourd with a fret board on it and the frets are curved so you can bend the strings round and it gives it its distinctive sound.

    What sort of music would that be found in?

    Well, try Ravi Shankar and George Harrison popularised it for the western world with ‘The Beatles’ of course. He was one of the first people to use a sitar in pop music. ‘Norwegian Wood’….

    I hear you’re also very into your comics.

    Oh yes.

    Now how many comics would you say you own?

    Oh I don’t know, I’ve never counted ‘em, never counted ‘em – a lot!

    With your music knowledge, do you ever get asked to do DJ sets?

    Well I used to DJ some years ago and occasionally people do ask me to do it but I really can’t be bothered any more I’m afraid, but if somebody asked me to do a radio show I might be tempted, but not hospital radio.

    In this day and age, how do you compete with these multi-national stores?

    Well I don’t do I? You can’t compete with multi-national set ups, you’ve just got to do – you’ve got to plough along the furrow and do what you do, and be independent and offer something different to what the big store offers. You’ll not get wealthy doing that but it’s the only way I know. I couldn’t work for a corporate organisation.

    Why would you say that buying a CD or vinyl is better than downloading?

    Well I don’t think it necessarily is better – it depends on the person who wants the music. If you want a piece of music which is disposable which a lot of pop music is and you just want to listen to it you know for a few days and then discard it, then downloading’s probably a good idea, but if you take your music seriously and you want to build a collection which you can keep on re-visiting for the rest of your life then you’re better off with the hard copies. Most serious music collectors use that method.

    Do you use computers yourself?

    No.

    Would you say that record shops are dying out?

    Well they are aren’t they? There’s a book about it. It’s called ‘Last Shop Standing’ by Graham Jones and it’s a cracking read. It’s very amusing and….and I’m in it [laughing] as one of the last shops standing.

    So what’s your secret? How do you survive?

    Just do what I do. I just try to offer something a bit different, and it’s just the old-fashioned way of doing things, something which seems to be a dying art.

    If you didn’t do this, what would you do?

    Well that’s something that I haven’t had to think about for a long time. I really don’t know…probably dee-jaying I would imagine, or run a comic shop [laughing].

    Are you a fan of films?

    Yeah.

    What films?

    I like…I like a lot of old films. The black and whites and classics and….horror, science fiction, adventure stuff, I like a lot of different movies, I like a lot of art movies, like Jean Coteau and that kind of thing as well.

    What would you say is your all time favourite film?

    Probably ‘The Big Sleep’. The Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall version, not the Robert Mitchum one.

    And what’s that about?

    Oh that’s a leading question. You have to see it really. It’s basically, it’s a kind of a film-noire detective film, but it’s multi-levelled – the more you watch it, the more there is to see and hear and understand about it.

    What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up their own shop?

    Oh it depends what kind of shop you want to start. If you’re gonna start a record shop I would probably say don’t because you wouldn’t like the money and you wouldn’t like the hours! [laughing] I’d say if you want to work for yourself then do what you know – there’s no point in setting up a business, whether it’s a shop or anything else where you don’t have a feel for it, you’ve got to do something that you like doing and something that you know about, and that’s the only way you’ll be successful.

    So I’m guessing that you’re not in this for the money at all.

    No, I’ve never made a lot of money out if it. I make a reasonable living but it doesn’t pay vast amounts of money.

    So why Hebden Bridge?

    Cos I live here.

    How long have you lived here?

    All my life just about, with the exception of three years in Devon when I was between the ages of about ten and thirteen.

    How has Hebden Bridge changed?

    It’s changed in many ways. It’s a lot more cosmopolitan than it was when I was young. It’s probably more of a good place to live than it used to be in the 1950’s; it was a down-at-heel town – it was suffering from a lack of investment I guess. One of the ways in which Hebden Bridge has changed is that it’s become, thanks to our lovely local council, it’s become rather more ‘twee’ than it used to be and that’s in my opinion a bad thing – I think that part of the character of the town has been erased by the development that’s gone on here, particularly the pedestrianisation of the George’s Square area which a lot of people seem to like but I don’t particularly. Also the traffic system is ludicrous.

    Would you say you get more business now or when you first started the shop?

    Oh I got more business when I first opened the shop. There’s definitely less business at the moment, but that’s possibly because of the economic downturn which is happening at the moment.

    If you could recommend any two CDs to take away today, what would they be?

    ….it depends what you like. Oh God I hate questions like that, it means I’ve got to narrow things down. I can’t really answer that; it depends what you’ve got and what you like.

    Well what would you say is your most purchased CD?

    Well the one that I’ve sold most of is by a group called ‘Arium’ called ‘Into The Electric Castle’. The irony is that I can’t get it now because EMI have bought the label up and EMI are pigs to deal with for a small shop, so I can’t stock it any more, but I got a phone call from a guy from the band a couple of weeks ago and he thanked me for selling so many copies of it. Mr Lucasson himself phone me.

    Do you get to meet a lot of bands then?

    Not usually no, no. A lot of people don’t tell you who they are anyway. I mean apparently a lot of people do come in the shop and purchase things and talk to me but they don’t tell me who they are, and I’m not likely to recognise them because I don’t know what they look like, a lot of these people, and you look at a photograph on a record sleeve and you see them in the real world and they look different anyway.

    Where do you source your CD stock?

    Oh from wholesalers everywhere, from different suppliers, like any shop does. I mean I don’t do secondhand; I don’t rely on people bringing things into the shop secondhand, I have to buy my stock from official distributors.

    What local bands have impressed you now and over the years?

    The best local band I’ve heard in many many years were called ‘The Blues Revelator’ and they were just absolutely great, so unique and nothing quite like them, just great, and I sold a lot of copies of their CD as well when they were around.

    So do you any other strange stories from the shop?

    Yeah, there’s one that stands out in my mind. It one afternoon and there were a lot of skinheads in Halifax at the time, and a lot of them came trampling up the stairs, the shop was upstairs you see where I worked, and it was a Saturday afternoon, they all came tramping up the stairs, up the narrow staircase, making as much noise as possible with their boots, and then they launched into this kind of chaos for ten minutes where they picked record sleeves out and threw them around and stuffed them back in the wrong places, and generally made nuisances of themselves. There were some customers in the shop and the customers disappeared because they were a very intimidating bunch of people, and after this ten minutes of this trying to wreck the place they all stamped down the stairs again in unison and then I heard one set of footsteps coming back up the stairs, and it was one of them who had actually come back to talk to me, and he came straight up to the counter and he said ’you’ll remember me next time because I’ve got ‘fuck off’ tattooed on the back of me head’ and he turned round and showed me and then disappeared again!

    So have you had any interesting experiences in Muse Music?

    There was one particular instance a few years ago. This actually wasn’t me, it was a friend of mine who was covering for me in the shop while I was out doing something else, and apparently this guy came into the shop and asked if he could go into the back room of the shop, i.e. behind the counter, to change his socks and this idiotic assistant that was helping me out let him; it’s something I wouldn’t have tolerated it at all – this is my space back here, and I don’t mean that in a computer way.

    Do you know why he needed to change his socks?

    I haven’t the faintest idea – probably cos he was demented I would have thought.

    Why the name Muse Music anyway?

    Ah I was wondering if you’d ask that one. I racked my brain for many years, well many months, trying to think of the right name, and it just popped into my brain. It’s alliterative and also it’s easy to remember, and I think it’s Greek mythology which contains the legend of the muses, I think there were nine muses and each of the muses represented an art, so there was the muse of dance, there was the muse of sculpture, the muse of music etc so it just seemed to be you know an appropriate name, good logo as well.

    What do you think of typical pop music of today?

    Well I don’t hear much of it. The little bit that I do hear sounds really contrived and rather uninspiring and tuneless.

    If you had to pick an era, what would you say is the best era for music?

     I think the period between 1966 and 1976 is probably the most productive time and the most interesting time, when people were pushing boundaries and playing music that hadn’t been even thought of before. There’s a staggering amount of material there which most people have never heard, even now, and most of it’s available, most of it’s there for people to investigate if they wish to do so.

    So how long have you been involved in music altogether?

    Well all my life. Do you mean on a professional basis?

    Yes.

    Well for over twenty years.

    And have you enjoyed all those twenty years?

    Most of it.

    Thank you very much Sid.

    You’ve been a delightful interviewer Eva. Thank you for your time, and thank you to Mr Creedy for recording this.

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Paul Weatherhead

    View photos of Paul

     

    JAMES:

    Well my name’s James and I’m interviewing the local musician and performer Paul Weatherhead. Welcome Paul.

    PAUL WEATHERHEAD:

    Hiya James.

    So, first things first. How long have you been doing the music thing?

    I’ve been playing music since I was about thirteen or fourteen when I got my first second hand nylon strung guitar and ever since really. I’m forty-two now so…quite a long time.

    Ah, nothing like the specific’s there, nylon string guitar.

    No I’m string guitar.

    What inspired you to begin playing guitar?

    It was…I suppose just the love of music really, from my parents’ record collection when I was a kid. Since listening to that really you know I got into music and the guitar seemed to be the obvious instrument to go for. My dad was a brass player in a brass band and so there was that sort of tradition in the family. My grandma was a ukulele player in a ukulele orchestra that entertained the troupes, so it did sort of run in the family a little bit, but yes, I bought my first guitar when I was about thirteen or fourteen. It was a truly terrible nylon strung instrument, anyway the next guitar was a bit better but it was still pretty crap, but you know over the years I’ve tried to upgrade and get better ones as I went along. 

    But have you been keeping your original ones or did you have to sell them?

    I sold them or gave them away. I really wasn’t sentimental about any guitar that wasn’t any good really, you know the nice ones that I’ve had you know, I’ve maybe been a bit more sentimental about those.

    How many guitars do you have in your collection now?

    I don’t really have a collection. I’ve got one, two…I’ve got four and one of them’s good and the other three are broken or in a bad state of repair.

    Oh fair enough then. How many guitars can you play at once unless you’re some magical musician.

    Yeah I can only play one at a time unfortunately.

    Do you play in a band at all then?

    I’ve played in several bands over the years. The bands that I’m playing in at the moment are ‘The Ukrainians’ which are a sort of Ukrainian language folk punk group, I’ve been playing with them for about twelve years now, I play electric mandolin in those.

    Fair while then, twelve years.

    Twelve years, it is a long time actually when you think about. The other band that I play with is ‘The Electric Brains’ who are a sort of garage psychedelic band based around Hebden Bridge and I play the theremin with that band.

    That’s impressive. A theremin’s not an easy instrument to master.

    Well I mean it’s got a reputation as being you know the hardest instrument in the world to learn, and it is and you know, it’s a challenge and it’s stretching me to try things I haven’t done before, and also it sounds weird which is always exciting for me.

    What inspires you?

    What inspires me? I’d say my main inspirations over the years have been three things. One is – I‘ve a great love for 1960’s psychedelia and the sort of weirdness that came with studio experimentation, the second one would be 1980’s video nasties and sort of cheapo horror films in general, and the third one would be the weird stuff that’s been happening in the Calder Valley throughout history, that’s approx the Hebden Bridge Times from the nineteenth century to the present day.

    Oh right. Is the 1980’s video nasties part of the inspiration behind your labotomist performance?

    It is yeah, and quite a few of my songs feature zombies. ‘Night of the Hippy Dead’ of course is about hippy zombies in Hebden Bridge, ‘Porn of the Dead’ is about zombie erotica, ‘Commy Flesh Eaters’ is about Communists, Marxist Leninists, zombies, so yeah eighties mass films have been quite a strong feature of my songs.

    [‘Night of the Hippy Dead’ excerpt]:

    It was the night of the hippy dead

    The night of the hippy dead

    We rose again

    To eat your brain

    But only if you’re vegetarian 

    That’s impressive. It’s such a wide variation in subject matter. Like you say you’ve got your zombies all the way through to Communist…Communists in general. Where did you get that sort of inspiration from?

    Well I mean I’ve sort of being influenced by Russian music quite a lot because I worked in Russia for a few years, I was an English teacher so I heard the Slavic music and that sort of fed into my playing for ‘The Ukrainians’ a bit later, so I’ve always been fascinated by Russian music, Greek music as well, but that came from my teaching English in Greece for three years.

    [excerpt from one of ‘The Ukrainians’ songs]:

    That’s when he tried to bite me

    Commi flesh eaters are coming

    Commi flesh eaters are here

    Workers of the world

    Cast away your chains

    You’ve nothing to lose

    But your brain

    Is that what brings about ‘The Ukrainians’ unique sound?

    Yeah I mean ‘The Ukrainians’ sort of unique sound is a strange sort of mash of Eastern European folk melodies with Western guitar punk and indie music and that sort of gives it the uniqueness, it’s not so unique now when you’ve got bands like Gorgol Bodello and Balkan Beat, but you know, twenty years ago ‘The Ukrainians’ were pioneers in this kind of music.

    Well, I can imagine back then it was sort of – there was fairly a sort of angle that you went for and everyone followed the main stream.

    [excerpt from music]

    When you started playing out was there anyone that you sort of aspired to be like, or anyone that you aspired to better?

    I’d say musical inspiration for when I was learning to play the guitar and those sort of formative years would be the psychedelic folk bands, especially ‘The Incredible String Band’ were a big influence and the first band or duo that I played in really were called ‘Amoeba Pie’ that featured myself and another local musician Michael West, and we did several home recordings and gigs round the valley when we were…sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and then had periodic reunions after that, but we called ourselves The Incredible String Band of the 1980s and we followed that sort of loose, stoned, hippy folk vibe for the songs that we did with ‘Amoeba Pie’.

    Also, not only who did you aspire to be like, but who would you love to share a stage with, playing even some of your songs and some of their songs?

    That’s a difficult question, probably because there’d be so many people that I’d like to share a stage with, I mean not all of them are alive. Sid Barrett I suppose would have been fun, you know, 1867 Pink Floyd, I would have liked to have played a bit of theremin on some of their earlier songs, that would have been fantastic. So Sid Barrett would certainly be one. Who else? Okay, ‘The Electric Prunes’ were a seminal sixties psychedelic band and I think you know I would have loved to have added a bit of theremin to their backwards guitars and so on.

    It’s always the theremin isn’t it? Is it that sort of eerie noise that you’d like to bring to music because I mean personally I think that theremins add a sort of edge to something, it sort of like, it puts you on edge. Is that the sort of thing, like you were saying playing with Sid Barrett, I mean Sid Barrett’s music that he wrote anyway was trippy enough; is the theremin for you just a way of like making it trippier?

    Yeah and it’s associated with science fiction films and horror films from the fifties and sixties so yeah, it does bring a sort of feeling of unease and weirdness to music so yeah, that’s certainly true.

    How do you remember all the lyrics? Like your song ‘The Wonky Donkey’ – bit of an odd reference, I mean if anyone ever watched any childhood during the nineties they’d have seen ‘SMTV Live’ with their Wonky Donkey, it’s such a strange subject. What brought about ‘Wonky Donkey’?

    I purposefully sat down to try and write the stupidest song that had ever been written. I didn’t know about this TV Wonky Donkey from the nineties, someone told me about it later, but I had heard the terrible joke ‘what do you call a donkey with three legs? A wonky donkey’ and I took that as the starting point and it sort of grew from there. There were only six verses, now there are god knows how many, but yeah I get ‘Wonky Donkey’ shouted at me in the street quite a lot so yeah, that seems to have been my biggest hit so far, in fact I’m still trying to live it down.

    [excerpt from ‘Wonky Donkey’]:

    My donkey’s legs are three

    That’s why he’s so wobbly

    My wonky donkey

    My donkey’s got on eye

    That why he can’t play eye spy

    My winky wonky donkey

    My donkey’s very small

    He really isn’t tall at all

    My dinky winky wonky donkey

    My donkey drinks a jar

    At the local sleazy bar

    My honky tonky dinky winky wonky donkey

     

    How long have you lived in the valley?

    I was born in the valley, I was born in Cragg Vale and moved to Hebden Bridge a couple of years later, yeah.

    Was it the hippy sort of thing that brought – well not obviously it might not have been your decision to bring you here, but was it that sort of hippy, quaint, quiet life that brought you to Hebden Bridge?

    Not at all, not at all no, it was because my parents got a council house in Fairfield in Hebden Bridge that we actually moved there from Cragg Vale.

    And did this growing up in the council area, did that influence anything, bring back to your music? Is there anything that happened when you were growing up on the council estate? Has that influenced anything now, making references to things that happened?

    Yeah I mean, I suppose for a long time I thought songs should be something that’s universal and it was only in the past few years when I focused on specific things and thought you know ‘it’s okay to write a song about Mytholmroyd or Todmorden, even though most of the world don’t know where they are’.

    Has there been any input in your music writing that shouldn’t have been there, for example narcotis, that shouldn’t have been there, or sort of a bad trip made you write a song about….your wonky donkey for example?

    Well ‘Wonky Donkey’ wasn’t the result of a bad trip, although it may have caused a few. Because of my love of sixties psychedelia, that’s reflected in what I write and I mean I would be lying to say that substances haven’t influenced my work, but generally I’ve focused on the comedy aspects, you know, drugs as a taboo subject means that they’re perfect for a funny song in the same way that anything, ...death, or you know, toilet humour, anything with an element of taboo in it automatically becomes funny.

    [excerpt from a ‘Day of the Hippy Dead]:

    I bit my girl, she bit her aromatherapist

    Who ate the sandal-sucking foot of her reflexologist

    Who sautéed her chakra balancer

    And ate him off the bone

    And spit roast my astrologer

    Who really should have known

     

    So I take it all this sort of stuff goes on to your own albums?

    The songs that I’ve been writing in the last few years, I’ve recorded them at home and released them – well, you know, sold them myself at gigs and things, on little EPs. I’ve done about seven of them and am working on a new one that should be out fairly soon, but there’s about seven of them that I’ve either sold them from Muse Music, Sid’s record shop in Hebden Bridge, or sold myself at gigs.

    That’s impressive. So seven EPs…the amount of bands that you see out there that have just sort of done one or two EPs, it just, obviously if you’ve got seven there is definitely a demand for your music, I mean I think it’s great that people in this day and age of downloading music that they will still support local artists, playing their music and buying their music. Have you been releasing other stuff with ‘The Ukrainians’ and ‘The Electric Brains’?

    Yeah, I mean ‘The Ukrainians’ have done several albums over the years. We released the latest one in spring this year, that’s called ‘Diaspora’ that’s been getting really, really good reviews.

    [excerpt from a ‘Ukrainians’ song]

    With ‘The Electric Brains’ we’ve had a track on the vinyl compilation and we’re planning to do some recording this winter, either for an album or for an EP, we’re not sure about where and when but that’s the plan for the winter anyway.

    It’s impressive stuff, and obviously going back to ‘The Ukrainians’ with their eclectic sound and obviously you don’t see many bands, especially sort of around this area, in the north of England, with such and odd…like I mentioned before – the sound, and obviously if anyone’s listened to it, they’ve heard that ‘The Ukrainians’ isn’t sung in English. Did you learn the language from studies abroad?

    Yeah I mean I learnt some Russian of course when I was living in Russia. With ‘The Ukrainians’ I primarily play mandolin, electric mandolin. I do backing vocal, thankfully a lot of my backing vocals consist of ‘di-di-di-di-di-di’ that sort of stuff, but yeah, knowledge of Russian’s helped me with learning some of the other backing vocals, but I mean singing in a foreign language, it’s very interesting for music because it stops people in some way listening to the lyrics and if they don’t understand the language they focus more on the sound of the words and what the music can bring.

    [excerpt from a ‘Ukrainians’ song]

    Several years ago I was in a band with Mick West again called ‘The Babylonians’ and later Lennon McCarthy [sp] where the key thing about the band was every song we sanf would be in a different language, so there’d be a song in Russian, a song in Ancient Egyptian, a song in Spanish, a song in Chinese and so on, every song in a different language, I think that was as far really as it could be taken.

    I’ve noticed a pattern in a lot of your stuff – you sort of go for the weirdest thing possible, something that no-one’s ever done before, something that someone would remember you by. Is that where you hope to be? When that day comes, someone turns round and says ‘I remember that guy – he sang all these different songs in a different language’.

    Unfortunately I think they’re gonna say ‘he’s wonky donkey man’

    [excerpt from ‘Wonky Donkey]:

    My donkey don’t smell sweet

    It’s not his breath and it’s not his feet

    My stinky plinky plonky honky tonky dinky winky wonky donkey

    My donkey wears girls’ clothes

    Knickers bras and panty hose

    My kinky stinky plinky plonky honky tonky dinky winky wonky donkey

     

    I suppose it’s always trying to do something that hasn’t been done before and that’s always quite hard, so I mean with my solo stuff I try and think of myself as an anti-singer/songwriter so that I’m avoiding the usual songs about relationships and you know, how sensitive I am, and instead focusing on, you know, donkies, zombies, drug-addicted cats, and that kind of thing.

    Enjoying yourself.

    Yeah, yeah.

    Living life to its fullest. Do you do any sort of serious songs? Have you written anything that you think ‘I have a lot of meaning behind this song’ or do you prefer to write songs that are – that someone may come home to one night feeling in a really crappy mood and just go ‘I wanna listen to something that’s gonna cheer me up’ and pop that on?

    Yeah, I mean the songs, even though they may be humorous, there’s a sort of dark element to some of them because of the, you know, influence of horror films, but I think comedy songs in general get a bit of a bad rep – they’re seen as being less of an art than say a serious song, but I think writing a funny song is just as hard or just easy as writing a serious song, and I think the art of the comic song generally is seen as second rate compared to so-called serious songs and…I suppose there’s an element of satire and taking the p in a lot of the songs as well. I don’t know, maybe I’m mischievous at heart and so there’s always that element.

    [excerpt from a song]:

    To celebrate the heritage

    Of funky little Hebden Bridge

    A piece of sculpture was commissioned

    And in Saint George’s Square positioned

    A mighty tool for cloth dissection

    A shiny steely proud erection

    And the children sing

    Rubber cub’s cock, Rubber cub’s cock,

    There in the square I saw rubber cub’s cock

     

    Have you brought any of your influences of your own music writing to ‘The Ukrainians’?

    Well they’re for ever always telling me off for singing the backing vocals in a Russian accent and playing Greek style mandolin, so yeah, I suppose that is something that I’ve brought in and I mean ‘The Ukrainians’ has had such a fluid line-up over the years that I think you know a lot of people have….so the band’s changed over the years, different instruments have been added, yeah.

    How did you first start playing with ‘The Ukrainians’?

    I joined for a tour of Poland in 1997 so that was my induction into the band. It was a ten day tour of Poland and that was an eye-opener because for the first few gigs, every gig was the biggest I’d ever played, so you know I was bricking it. The first gig had several hundred people in the audience and then the next one had several thousand people in the audience and then one of them was in a stadium so it was a real…you know it was the time when ‘The Ukrainians’ were big in Poland and folk rock generally was big in Poland, so that was certainly an experience, one that I’ll never forget.

    What’s the biggest crowd you’ve played for?

    It would probably be one of those from the first tour of Poland. It was a Ukrainian music festival on the border with Ukraine, it was in a football stadium, couldn’t tell you how many thousands of people were there but

    Just many thousands. Talking of which, you say it was a Ukrainian musical festival. How do the Ukrainians like ‘The Ukrainians’?

    How do the Ukrainians like?

    As in the actual people from the Ukraine.

    Okay right…people from the Ukraine are among the most hardcore fans I suppose that the band has, you know we’ve been to the Ukraine a couple of times. I went to the Ukraine with them last year and that was – that was a bizarre experience because it coincided with the worst floods for fifty years and a state of national emergency was declared so it was....it was very unfortunate really you know, everything got rained off almost, so yeah that wasn’t a very good introduction to Ukraine unfortunately, but yeah, certainly the Ukrainians and Poles seem to be the band’s most hardcore fans.

    You say that they are the most hardcore fans. Are these the ones that will turn up rain or shine, excusing the pun, or buy all the albums?

    Yeah, buy all the records and will travel from the other end of the country you know to see the band, you know, come to several different shows, you know, follow the band round so yeah.

    Does playing asa part of ‘The Ukrainians’ have a sex appeal about it?

    Playing on stage to a lot of people, especially the style of music that ‘The Ukrainians’ play yeah, it definitely does, I suppose cos it’s fast and furious a lot of the time and then sort of goes into sort of romantic sentimentality and then sort of drunken swagger and then goes all hell for leather again.

    Going back to your sort of three projects that you’re on at the moment, what have you been doing with those so far this year and where have you been this year?

    With ‘The Ukrainians’ first we put out a new album called ‘Diaspora’ and a single, a version of Brahms ‘Hungarian Dance’ this year. We’ve done gigs to tour the album with, we’ve been to Holland and to Portugal to do festival there, we’ve just finished a mini tour of the UK, got back from London last night. With ‘The Electric Brains’ we’ve done several gigs, done quite a lot of gigs over the summer and we’re planning to do a bit of recording, possibly for an EP over the winter time. With myself I’ve been carrying on writing and recording songs, this year I’ve released a couple of EPs – ‘The Hebden Bridge Plastic Bag Preservation Society’ and ‘The Blue Side of Uranus’ and I’m working on another EP of 1960’s style death disc songs and I’m hoping htat will be ready in the next month or so.

    Very impressive. It seems that your madness in writing the songs doesn’t even stop at the titles of them. I think that’s something you really don’t see today. I think too many people take too many things too seriously, and I think that you seem to be a person that really just enjoys the lighter things of life.

    I mean I love humour in music, you know a lot of the early ‘Pink Floyd’ songs and Sid Barrett songs are funny, and the ‘The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’ and ‘The Bonzo Dog Band’ have always been favourites of mine, so yeah, I think music and humour go together very well.

    [excerpt from a song]:

    Who needs a prefrontal cortex anyway

    It only cause problems like schizophren-i-a

    Depression, anxiety, dependence on booze

    Get yourself labotomised, you’ve nothing to lose

     

    What are you currently listening to on your own sound system?

    At the moment I’m listening to ‘Osmotantes’ , I got their new album a few weeks ago. ‘Osmotantes’ were a Brazilian tropicalia – I suppose they were sort of a Brazilian psychadelia from the late sixties and early seventies. I’m a big fan of ‘Aphrodites Child’ which were a Greek psychedelic prog rock band featuring Demis Roussos on bass guitar and Jon Vangelis on keyboards. I was listening to a bit of East European surf music today, I mean I really love obscure compilations of stuff that you don’t find everyday, like East European surf or again comedy songs.

    How can we find out about more of this sort of stuff – more of this sort of – your aspects of music, the things you listen to and your own music?

    I mean…I’m always playing down at ‘The Stubbing Wharf’ open mic session on Wednesday nights, that’s been going for seven years now and that’s sort of one of the things that encouraged me to take up writing songs again and to try and write songs unlike other people are writing. I’ve got a myspace page which is myspace/paulweatherhead, although I can’t say I’m very scrupulous in updating it. ‘The Ukrainians’ you can check out at ‘The Ukrainians’ website which is the-ukrainians.com and of course there are several albums available by ‘The Ukrainians’ as well. My own EPS are available from Muse Music in Hebden Bridge.

    Really there is plenty of places for us to pick your music from and I think personally myself I’m gonna be picking some of it up, and I’m hoping that anyone else listening will pick it up themselves, so I think we’ll conclude our interview there and it’s been very nice talking to you and I hope to see you around some time soon.

    Pleasure.

    Thank you.

    Thank you.

     

    [Wonky Donkey song]:

    My donkey just don’t care

    He’s always pissing in the air

    My sprinkly wrinkly kinky stinky plinky plonky honky tonky dinky winky wonky donkey

    [slowly] My sprinkly wrinkly kinky stinky plinky plonky honky tonky dinky winky wonky donkey

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Paul Roberts

    MICHAEL SETH::

    I’m Michael Seth and I’m interviewing Paul Roberts. There’s lots of stuff that I’ve heard that you actually do like play many instruments and you’ve got many degrees and stuff. I just want you to tell everybody what you actually do.

    PAUL ROBERTS:

    Do for a living like or musically?

    Everything.

    Right. Okay, well musically I play…I play lots of different kinds of music although they’re all related, in my head at least there are all various kinds of traditional or traditional derived music ranging from English traditional dance music, from as far back as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, through to stars like ‘Western Swing’ and ‘Rockabilly’ from the mid-twentieth century. I don’t listen to much music that was recorded after about 1955 [laughing], nor do I play it. Oh and what instruments. Yeah, well these days I mostly play the fiddle until my arm started playing up I did anyway. I suppose since the age of thirty which is now thirty years I’ve mostly played the fiddle. That’s not the first instrument I learnt though. The first instrument I learnt was the highland bagpipes when I was sixteen. I played in a pipe band for a couple of years and then I went on to university and I learnt the guitar. I played blues guitar for several years, more the old country blues style rather than the Chicago style urban blues. Then I got very much into the white equivalent of that type of music, what they call old time, the old time string band music from 1930’s America, and from that I got into styles like blue grass and western swing. Again this is all on the guitar, but all the time I was very interested in English and other British Isles traditional music. The first music I really got heavily into was actually Irish music when I was about fourteen because a lot of our neighbours were Irish back then in the sixties you know, so I always toured around a bit with instruments like the tin whistle and the melodeon and the mouth organ. I got fed up with playing the guitar really towards the end of the seventies because it was too big and bulky to cart round all over the place, particularly hitch hiking and I was moving away from the American stuff, I was going through one of my phases, I was more into the British Isles stuff, particularly the English stuff so I started playing the tin whistle and the mouth organ mostly, and then I learnt the fiddle when I was twenty-nine or thirty. I’d always wanted to play the fiddle but I used to think ‘well I’ve stopped playing the pipes, I’ve stopped playing this and now I’ve stopped playing the guitar. If I start playing the fiddle everything will just go completely’…it was my dad that gave me the money to go out and buy one. He said to me one day ‘you’ve always said that you’d like to play the fiddle so here’s twenty-five quid, go and buy one’ and twenty-five quid was a lot of money in those days as well so you could. At that time I started playing the fiddle. What I didn’t know was apparently my grandma was a fiddle player – Dad’s mum was a fiddle player. I didn’t find this out till much later but that probably gave him some incentive to give me the money. And then I did – oh I should have mentioned – after I started playing the fiddle everything else as I thought did just go by the board, I stopped playing everything but a couple of years after I’d started playing the fiddle I did start playing an instrument called the border pipes, well it’s a kind of bagpipe that used to be widespread throughout northern Britain. The earliest pictures we have of people playing it are from seventeenth century Oxfordshire so it was…the last redoubts were up in Caithness and Aberdeen so it was a very widely played instrument. It’s had different names in different areas and at different times but nowadays people usually call them the border pipes. I played those for a couple of years and then they fell of the edge of the plank and I’ve just started playing them again in the last eighteen months.

    How come?

    How come? Well… as I say I played all these other instruments and they fell off the edge of the plank and I wasn’t really that bothered, but when I stopped playing the pipes I didn’t really want to stop playing them, it was just for reasons of time; I just couldn’t fit them into what was a very very busy life as a young parent. I kept on playing the fiddle because I got money playing the fiddle but the pipes were a bit sort of individualistic I suppose you know. The music I was playing on them was very obscure. Very few other people could play it. They were keyed in B flat which is not a key that most musicians, well not string musicians are happy with and I just didn’t have time basically to keep playing them and it was always in my head I’d like to pick them up again. I started playing them again in the last eighteen months because my children are now of an age where it become possible you know, the youngest is now seventeen and the eldest is twenty-seven, twenty-eight and I just thought it was time to start reclaiming some of these bits of my old life you know [laughing], so I started playing them again.

    Do you find it hard to carry on learning at an older age?

    In some respects yes. The problem all musicians have and it’s not just musicians, I think all human beings have, it’s a problem of life in general. As you get older you develop skills, wisdom, moderation and a refined taste in all sorts of different ways and as you’re improving your body is collapsing around you. I mean particularly now with the fiddle, I can’t play the fiddle at the moment. The doctor’s banned me because I’ve damaged the nerve in my left arm you know and I have arthritis in my fingers now and this is what happens, this is what happens to all of you, so I mean my knowledge about my instruments and the music I play you know is obviously way, way advanced from when I first learnt and potentially my skill in playing would be, it’s just your body that lets you down you know. Your brain goes as well, people don’t allow for that. When I started playing the pipes again actually the main thing I noticed was my fingers were fine, probably because I’d been playing the fiddle in the intervening years so I was still wriggling them about regularly yeah. The big problem I had was actually in my brain you know. I used to be able to just pick a tune up – you’d whistle me a tune and I’d play it, or I’d think of a tune and I could just play it straight off. I never ever forgot anything. I could play through a book of – back in the days when I played highland pipes I could play through a book of tunes and I’d virtually know them at the end of it you know, but all that kind of thing has gone, you get much slower, but your brain cuts out. I found that I’d be playing something and suddenly it’s just like something drops a plank across the road in your head, it just suddenly goes, it’s bizarre you know, so that’s more of a weakness than the physical thing I’d say.

    How did you get into the entire scene of folk and I hear that you’ve played with many big…big people, famous people throughout the years.

    Well, what’s famous? [laughing] I’ve played with people who are big fish in small ponds as the saying goes yeah. Within the genres I’ve been playing yeah. But like over the last decade I was lucky to play with several old American stars from the late forties, early fifties hillbilly/rockabilly era you know, touring over here. People you probably wouldn’t have heard of unless you were very into country music or rockabilly you know. Several of them I must have played with, it pretty might well have been their last performance. There was a guy called Hardrock Gunter, he died shortly after I did a gig with him, and Hank Thompson who was a big country star in the fifties and sixties, he did shortly after I played with him, you know these were all old guys. Some of them are still around I think. There’s a guy called Frankie Miller I think he still is, and Haden Thompson who was one of the sad rockabillies you know, there was Elvis and Carl Perkins and all these people who everyone has heard of, he’s still around, he’s still playing. I’ve met quite a few people who are very very good traditional musicians. I don’t mean by that people out of the folk scene but people who’ve grown up with traditional music as just as their natural everyday music, part of everyday life but…I suppose how far they’d be considered famous is I suppose some people would – yeah, I think people like the pipercWillie Clancy and members of t’other ceilidh band in West Clare, Peter O’Donell and Agnes White, I mean in Irish music terms you know you’d mention to people and ‘you didn’t meet them did you?’ I mean they were just dead ordinary people you know, they weren’t any kind of superstars, they were the sort of people who’ve become famous amongst a small coterie, you know, enthusiasts.

    How do you think Hebden Bridge has actually helped your knowledge and growing in the folk scene?

    I don’t know really, it’s just a nice place to live you know. I mean most my musical contacts are elsewhere you know and I have a lot of friends in Bradford, I play in a Cajun band that’s based in Bradford. I have a lot of musical contacts in Scotland, Cheshire and that way. I tend not to be so much around this area. I’m playing in a band at the moment that’s based in Blackpool in West Lancashire you know.

    Do you also compose music?

    I have done yeah. I don’t think of it as something that I do. I’ve written a few songs that just sort of came out, I never…I don’t sit down and think ‘right I’ll be a songwriter’ you know

    So it mainly comes from the top of your head.

    Just wandering along and it’s come off the top of my head yeah. I’ve written a couple of songs that I’ve tried to pass off as traditional songs…..not to a point successfully [laughing] I’ve had them come back to me you know, ‘yeah I heard this great old song’ and I’m thinking ‘I wrote that’ you know [laughing]. And also when I’m playing stars like the fifties, 1940’s, fifties hillbilly, western swing, string jazz from the thirties, all these improvisational styles and they were essentially sort of making it…you know, you’re composing as you go along really every time you play a break you never play it the same way twice. I’ve composed pipe and fiddle tunes too but I’ve probably forgotten them which is the nature of that kind of music really.

    Have you seen many differences round Hebden Bridge in the last twenty, thirty years since you started playing?

    Hebden Bridge has got a lot more gentrified hasn’t it I think. It’s gone, it’s gone through….it’s gone through this process that you see all over the country, usually in inner-city areas I think, but Hebden’s one of these rural areas I suppose like Stroud is similar I think, where the same thing’s happened. First of all you’ve got the so-called hippies, most of whom would not have called themselves hippies, and not only that – going back a bit to the sixties and seventies when I was young, it used to really irritate me that people would call me a hippy and it used to irritate all my friends. We didn’t regard ourselves as hippies, we regarded hippies as this particular sub-sect who to us were very defined, we knew who they were and they knew who we were, but to the older people, particularly the media we were all hippies. If you weren’t a normal person leading a normal life you were a hippy, so anyway when the so-called hippies moved into the Hebden Bridge area, this process begins I think where you can see the same thing happening in areas of the inner-city of Leeds where I once lived. They start improving the area because they’re fairly enterprising people, they start a lot of little businesses, they’re all going into self-employment because they don’t want to be hired by the capitalist wage machine, and so what was a depressed area which they…they moved into the area because it was run down you see, it was cheap and they could afford to live there, so what was a depressed area then starts to build up and it gets a vibe and there’s lots of things going on, and then the proper middle-classes sort of see it and think ‘what a nice place, they’ve got a health food store, ooh and there’s regular gigs at the pub, we’ll go there’ and then you get the proper gentrification where the media people and the solicitors and what not move in and house prices go through the roof, and every other building in town becomes a café selling food that you can’t afford.

    So really the music’s helped the economy to grow?

    I think it’s probably been part of it, yeah, yeah. It’s like the Trades Club is like a known venue with touring bands playing any kind of roots music from all over the world you know, and it’s just this little room in this little building in this little town you know, and the people who play there is phenomenal you know.

    Do you think it’s harder for my age group to actually get into the entire folk scene, cos some people would say it’s come and gone like the rock scene.

    No I would have thought it was easier if you want to. You’ve got to remember that when people like me got into this kind of music, or these kind of musics, it wasn’t that easily accessible you know, we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have bargain bins in every supermarket and garage selling CDs and cassettes of every kind of music you could think of, you had to really hunt it out, you know when I got into western swing for example which was a style of country music, very jazz influenced, a style of country music that was big in the south west USA in the thirties and forties, when I got into that in the early seventies there were only about four of five LPS of it around and to get them, I had to hitch hike down to London to a specialist record shop, you know, it was like that then and you would find out – in this kind of hunting down you would find other styles of music you know, so we all kind of hunted this stuff and found it for ourselves, now it’s all on tap, so now I would think you could get into any kind of music you wanted very very easily you know.

    Do you have to be able to read music to actually

    No, no, no, not at all. My musical reading skills are very very poor indeed. I was bottom of the class at music at school, literally. I was….none of it made any sense to me, it didn’t relate to me, you know, I had no reason to read music then. They tried to teach us and it just didn’t relate to my life, although I listened to all manner of music you know. They tried to teach me the recorder and I was the only one that couldn’t do it. It was basically that I didn’t want to you know. I learnt to read music backwards, by learning to play and then associating what I’d played with what was written on the page, do you see what I mean? I’d move my fingers in this way and that relates…this is this tune I’m playing, it’s here on the piece of paper, when I move that finger that relates to that dot, that relates to that dot, then you see that the way the notes are arranged relates to the rhythm, the way you play it, and so I kind of learnt to read that way after the event.

    I do exactly the same thing with my instrument.

    I think a lot of people do that actually. In general with musical theory, I just find out what I need to know as I go along and I know quite a lot now actually, not just about being able to read music, I know a lot about musical theory, but it’s what I’ve taught myself as my curiosity has led me on to as I’ve needed to know it, you know.

    Don’t you have quite a few diplomas, like to do with music and stuff?

    To do with music? No, no, I was historian.

    A historian?

    I don’t know if that’s….I won some piping competitions in the eighties which I entered when I was first playing the border pipes, not that there was a great deal of competition in those days.

    So you say you was a historian?

    Well I still am really, it’s like being a Catholic – once a historian always a historian, it’s the way you start looking at the world really. Yes I was always interested in history at school. I went to Leeds University to study History in 1967. I went on to do a PhD, although I never finished it because I……basically I made the mistake….you know in those days you’d get the grant for three years to do the PhD and everyone would tell you ‘do it in the three years otherwise you’re sunk and of course I just wanted to do the best job possible, I was going to write this ultimate thing on the subject I was studying and I’d barely even finished the research after three years, let alone start writing and of course after that you’re on your own, you have to start making a living and it just gets pushed to one side, so I was still theoretically doing it when my first child was born and I agreed to stay at home to look after him and I thought ‘well I’ll just shelve this until he’s a bit older’ you know, and then I split up with my first wife and became a single dad and shortly after that I started up my own business selling World War II flying clothing and vintage clothing and I never picked up the threads of my PhD, but I am still basically a historian – I look at everything from a historical point of view including music and I do – I write stuff – I’ve written quite a bit about traditional music and country music, jazz and stuff and it’s always a kind of historical slant to it.

    So you say you go on tour quite a lot. Do you ever find that that gets in the way of you working?

    Well, playing music’s always been part of how I earn my living, you know, people say – to most people you’re a thing aren’t you, you know – you’re a sheet metal worker or you’re a solicitor or you’re an artist or whatever, but I’ve always done different things you know, so I’ve always made my living both by wheeler-dealing in the clothing, vintage clothing, and by playing music. That’s what kept me playing the fiddle actually, was the fact that through my years as dad, was that I was getting money playing the fiddle you know, and I could justify it whereas the pipes for example, the border pipes, I let them slip because I wasn’t getting money for them and I couldn’t justify the times I had to play them.

    So it’s a career as well as escapism.

    Oh yeah, yeah, it’s part of my living, yeah.

    What musical things are you involved in at the moment?

    I play in several bands. I play in a Cajun band in Bradford, they’re based in Bradford, called ‘The Cajun Aces’, which was probably the best Cajun band in the country in my opinion anyway, but it’s kind of fallen apart now, we just do the occasional gig. Someone phones up and says ‘do you still exist?’ we say ‘yes, yes, give us money!’ [laughing] you know. I play in a couple of English country dance bands based round this area. The main one is called ‘Tenterhooks’ and that’s just a trio. It’s an attempt to re-create the sound of a typical English village band round about the year 1800, the late 18th early 19th Century period, and we play a lot of music from that era. A lot of it is from old fiddlers’ manuscripts which one member of the band has done a lot of research on and the line-up is just a very basic trio which is like the basic English village band at the time – two fiddles and a cello, that was like you know, lead guitar, rhythm guitar and bass, the basic rock band you know, without those things you haven’t got it have you, you know, well it’s the same thing – a couple of fiddles and a cello and you’re off, you’ve got the old English village band so we do that and we play authentic music and play it authentic style. I also play in a band that’s based in West Lancashire called ‘The Del Rio Ramblers’. We play country music from the period about 1945 to 1955 and it’s country music, or hillbilly as it was called at the time, just as it’s turning into rockabilly or rock and roll, so it’s kind of like, it’s very up-tempo, a lot of boogy-woogy, up-tempo blues sort of thing you know.

    So do you still like go out touring quite a lot and whereabouts do you go touring?

    I haven’t done any touring for ages actually. I travel quite widely to gigs, you know. I play down in London fairly regularly, up in the north east to Newcastle, Scotland, I travel all over but we don’t usually do extended tours. It’s usually a question of, you know, you drive up to Glasgow for the night and you play, and then you drive back down, and fall asleep, and you could have been anywhere in the world for all you’ve actually seen of the place you know you’ve just been to, but actually funnily enough, I did a gig in Edinburgh this summer where we actually stopped overnight and that was brilliant because we spent the next morning just walking, the whole band, just walking round Edinburgh. You actually felt like you’d been somewhere because normally you just sort of you know, drive in, do the gig, drive out, you don’t really see much of where you’re going. It can get quite hectic as well you know, travelling really takes it out of you, you know.

    So your interest in music and history seem to be linked. Is there any modern music that you like?

    I like all sorts of music actually. There’s more what I’m really into than what I want to play. Yeah, yeah, I like a lot of hip-hop actually. My eldest son is a hip-hop DJ and my middle son’s very into it as well, and a lot of their stuff is brilliant. I mean my eldest son has got a band and he also operates solo, he’s got several albums out and it’s fantastic stuff, brilliant stuff, you know. Yeah, I like all sorts of things really. I’m into good music really. People say to me ‘what’s your favourite kinds of music’ and I’ll say ‘folk music, country music and jazz’ they say ‘what kinds of music do you hate?’ and I’ll say ‘folk music, country music and jazz’ [laughing]. In every genre there’s the good stuff and the bad stuff. Unfortunately, what most people meet first of all, the layer you have to get through, is the bad stuff and you’ll recognise that glimmer of something else and you hack your way through the bad stuff, and the good stuff is waiting behind for you. That’s the way I see it. But in terms of what actually I listen to for fun, it does tend to be older music. I listen to a lot of thirties and forties music. I probably listen to more jazz than anything actually, a lot of thirties forties jazz. I’m very into the string jazz of that era, what people now call gypsy jazz, you know – Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, all those kinds, I listen to a lot, The Ferry Brothers, and then, of course, whatever kind of music you get into leads you into others. From listening to 1930’s European string jazz I got straight into bal-musette you know, which is an older style of French urban dance music very much associated with the accordion and the city of Paris which is where all these guys like Django Reinhardt and The Ferry Brothers, that’s where they were coming from, that’s why their style is so different from American jazz players, typical American string jazz players you know, because they were coming out of this European tradition you know. I listen to a lot of the…I don’t know if you can call it folk music, but folk-like music, roots music is the word people use isn’t it – coming out of Europe in that period – rembatica which is a sort of Greek underworld music from the twenties thirties and forties. I love that, I listen to a lot of that, yeah. You discover these things and one thing just leads to another. I did this with country music you know, I sort of kind of went from listening to country blues into old type, listening to blue grass, listening to western swing and Cajun, it just keeps opening up you know, once you’ve broken through the barrier of the crap [laughing] and you’ve got through to the good stuff.

    So you say your son has a couple of albums, so would you say your entire family area quite musical?

    Yeah…everybody listens to music, everyone’s into music, I was going to say I’m the only one that plays an instrument but it’s not really true is it? Gerard, my eldest son, the DJ, is, well was, a very very good guitar player in a sort of jazz funk sort of style, but then he let that drop when he got into the turntabling, but then playing the turntables is playing an instrument, you know, so yes, he’s a musician, not just in the sense of people you know, understand being a DJ, and my wife plays the cello and tootles around with a mandolin and stuff, but my other two children listen to music but they’ve never expressed much of an interest to play, except when very young. All toddlers want to play an instrument, they hear an instrument, they wish to play it and when they find they can’t immediately produce the sound that you produce they give up [laughing] basically.

    I was very much the opposite. I wasn’t interested in instruments at all then I got to about thirteen and it was like ‘oh let’s get a guitar’

    Right, yeah – it’s about that age I think. Gerard, my eldest son, was like that. When he was twelve or thirteen it just sort of came on him and he wanted to learn the guitar and initially I taught him, and then he went to Pete Bolton who was a well-respected guitar player around Hebden at the time, he now lives in Bridlington, and Pete gave him a few lessons you know, and then he just took off by himself. And then as I say he got into the turntabling and stuff you know, but he’s a very good musician. He listens to lots of different kinds of music which I suppose is one of the things he’s picked up from living here, you know, he has no borders really I think. You hear it – and his friends are like that as well – you hear it in their music, the band that he had, ‘Stateless’ they were called and I mean their first album, the moment I heard it, I thought ‘hang on, there’s a little bit of Rathbone Williams, there’s a little bit of Duke Ellington, there’s a little bit…’ you could just hear all these influences coming out of it you know.

    I see that quite a lot in rock cos like a lot of the bands that I like are starting to get a dance influx and you get viking metal and more folky ones like that and there’s the darker ones that are going in a much more widespread kind of area.

    Yeah, you pick up things from all around you that influence – particularly nowadays because you’re exposed to so much, or you can be if you’ve got the ears

    Like you say, you’re able to just click on the internet and find everything.

    Yes I mean when I was your age music was terribly tribal, it used to really piss me off because even back then I was listening to lots of different kinds of music and the different tribes I was involved in wouldn’t speak to the other tribes, you know they were like – ‘oh you don’t listen to that shit as well do you?’ and I’d say ‘yeah I do actually, and this shit and this shit and this shit’ you know, and I think that’s died out a lot hasn’t it you now, people are a lot more open now because there’s so much music around

    No.

    You don’t think it has?

    No, I’ll walk through wearing a big leather coat and they’re all like ‘oh he must be a Gothic, let’s go and beat him up’

    Yeah that’s more to do with the style of clothing though isn’t it

    Well you say what kind of stuff you like and they just…they don’t like that.

    Yeah, maybe it’s just young people and that sort of tribal

    They just want to fight for the fun of it. What recommendations would you give any up-and-coming musicians?

    Don’t know really. The only thing I can say is just do it cos you like it, and if you don’t like it don’t do it you know, I think once you go down the road of just playing stuff that you’re not interested in just to make a living then it’s time to drop out of it.

    Don’t let anyone else influence you, just do what you want to do.

    Do what you want, yeah, I mean I’ve always played as part of how I earn my living and to some extent you’ll sometimes have to play stuff you don’t particularly feel like, but I’ve never gone down the road of just playing anything, you know, because I could make money out of it, I’ve always played styles of music that I was interested in.

    Do you find that there are less venues nowadays?

    Yes I think that probably is true actually, yeah. Yeah, a lot of the musics I am into because they were outside the mainstream, had their own sort of sub-culture, their own sort of clubs and festivals and weekenders and…and a lot of that’s seemed to have died down, probably for a variety of reasons I suppose, I mean, because there’s so much music people can have at home now, also because people are growing up. It’s like the people I know on the rockabilly scene are sort of mostly in their forties I suppose, people I know on the punk scene are mostly in their fifties and sixties, you know, and this sort of younger generation that’s coming after either haven’t got into that sort of music or haven’t created the same kind of self-contained sub-culture, you know, and then there’s other things aren’t there, like pubs, because pubs used to be very good for providing venues for minority music, and pubs are dropping like flies all around us aren’t they? So yeah, on the other hand, one thing that has not just survived but I think grown and that is the festivals and the weekenders, and I could see that happening in the seventies, say on the folk scene, when people go on about how good the folk clubs were in the past, I think they were finished by the end of the sixties. I never really liked them in the sixties to be honest, and I think by the seventies most folk clubs were just becoming this small clique of social misfits quite honestly [laughing], so you know, closing in on each other in this incestuous manner you know, but the folk festival thing was just expanding rapidly, and that’s where people were going to, not to the clubs but going to the festivals, and I’ve seen this happen with other musics, that’s what’s happened, like with rockabilly and country you know, they’d be creating their own festivals and weekenders and people would think ‘yeah, this is want’ and that would be growing cos it’s a kind of holiday isn’t it, you go away to something, so that is something that has continued to grow and as far as I can see will be with us for a long, long time

    Such as Glastonbury and stuff.

    Sorry?

    Such as Glastonbury and

    Yeah, yeah, yeah I think, but the small local clubs, that seems to have died out a lot with all different kinds of music. It’s still there, it’s still there.

    Do you think if they actually started to do more music in pubs that’s one way of reviving it?

    I don’t know really. There’s a very big difference now actually. When I played in pubs…you see I’ve never liked this thing – with traditional music – with other styles like jazz, rockabilly it’s a bit different. With traditional music I’ve never liked this thing where you go in an upstairs room of a pub…and you sit in reverence by candlelight and someone sings his songs, you’re suppose to listen to him and you’re not supposed to talk or anything, that’s completely artificial for that kind of music. Traditional music was something that lived in pubs or places like pubs, as part of a normal social gathering and everybody took part in it, right…so I kind of at an early age, I shooed the folk clubs and I hung around first in the Irish pubs where I was living, this was in the sixties, where these lads would be coming straight off the boat from West Clare and Kerry and on a Saturday night they’d all pile in and play you know, and take a turn singing and playing and couples would start dancing, and I started finding stuff like this in England as well, which there still was in the sixties and seventies – country pubs would have a regular Saturday night session with, and everybody would take part in it, that was, you know, it was just part of, you know, the expression of community etc etc you know, and some of us was kind of re-creating those kind of sessions in our own local pubs, and in the eighties it still worked you know, I mean me and a mate of mine, we’d go busking, you know, we’d just find a likely looking pub in the town we were playing in, in the markets area usually, and we’d just go in, and there’d always be some old guy who’d say ‘have you got an accordion? Give us a tune’ and we’d start playing and then there’d be some women would start to dance, someone would sing a song you know, that doesn’t happen now. People want you to play, but they want you to play as a performance, you know, you take a pub like The Fox and Goose, there’s a lot of live music; it still tends to be like that, it still tends to be like a performance. People come and they sit and they listen to you, you know, but they don’t join in anymore, and that’s the thing that’s changed….for the worst, definitely.

    I’ve seen it before when there’s been full rooms of guitarists and stuff, just playing for the fun of it.

    Yeah, but the thing – that is great, that’s what so wonderful about The Fox, that this happens there regularly, but the difference is that other people don’t join in anymore, which they would have done.

    It’s always the same people every time.

    Yes, and people will come and sit and listen and really enjoy – and come regularly you know, but people don’t join in, whereas when I was young in the sixties, seventies, eighties, there was still a culture around, particularly in working class areas where people would join in, and if there was music in the pub, then it was open house and then everyone had a party piece, probably several party pieces you know, and that kind of culture seems to have gone, probably another victim of Thatcherism I suppose, trashing the working class of this country you know, destroying their culture.

    That’s it now, thank you.

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Paul Deer

    LEWIS DAY:

    My name is Lewis Day and I am interviewing my father on his weird and wonderful life, who is Paul Deer. So yeah, I’ll just start off with the first question which is, well it’s quite a simple question really, it’s just to get the ball rolling, so how did you end up living in Hebden Bridge?

    PAUL DEER:

    I used to sell electronics for a company that was based in Cambridgeshire, and one of my clients was a company called Calrec Audio.

    Local business?

    Yeah they’re down the road here and they’ve got a big mill and they make mixing desks for the BBC, so I was asked to come along and sell them electronic components, or not sell them electronic components as was mostly the case with Calrec, and one day I came over for an appointment and the guy that I was supposed to see had phoned in sick and hadn’t cancelled the appointment, so I had a couple of hours to kill, and I talked to the receptionist at Calrec and said ‘is there anywhere nice to go for a walk round here?’ and she told me to go and have a look at Hardcastle Crags, so I drove down the lane towards Midgehole, parked the car up, had a bit of a walk and I noticed there was a house for sale down at the bottom there, opposite the Blue Pig, on that old terrace – that’s where we ended up living, so..I’m quite an impulsive sort of a person and we’d been living in Manchester for about four years and we weren’t really happy there, and we’d been – we’d had a number of burglaries and we felt very unsettled so I just thought ‘well I’ll have a look at this place’ so I went to the estate agent’s in town, said ‘can I have a view of the house?’ she said ‘when do you want the appointment for?’ and I said ‘now, I want to see it now if possible’ so she rang the guy up, he was in, I went round and had a look at it, went back to Manchester, told your mum, she came back over with me two days later, we put an offer in and it was accepted, and then we had a really long drawn-out process of trying to buy the house because the guy that sold it to us killed himself unfortunately, so the whole thing went into probate and it wasn’t his house to sell so the woman he was living with…so basically we’d sold our house in Manchester which you were a little one, a wee one, and I had to go and live with my parents in Manchester and you went to live in North Wales with your mum.

    So it wasn’t the easiest of moves.

    No it was a nightmare move to start with.

    Okay. And at this time when you’d decided to move into Hebden Bridge at that point, were you into the music you’re into now?

    Yes. I wasn’t practising – it wasn’t my work, but it was like, I guess you would say it was extra-curricula activities, outside of my working time. I was always interested in music – drums, that kind of stuff, so I guess it was something that had been there in the background, I’d kind of buggered about with a few bands and sat in on jam sessions or at festivals you know, even though I was working in the electronics industry, in the summer we would still go to Glastonbury and places like that, so I’d be sitting up on top of the Tor banging a set of bongos till four o’clock in the morning, that was something that was happening then but it wasn’t something that I wanted to

    You wanted to pursue

    It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pursue it, it just wasn’t possible because I had three young children and I’d made a choice to work in the environment I was working in, so moving to Hebden was the thing that – well it changed our lives to be honest with you, coming to this valley, completely. And that’s fifteen..sixteen years ago, so I would have been about thirty – is that right?

    Ish – close.

    I’d be about thirty when I moved here.

    So at what age did you start getting into music or was this like a lifelong

    Music’s always been an important part of my life, even from the point of view of just listening to it, you know, when I was younger I used to go and see lots of bands but I was always interested in the drummers in the band, so like you know people who grow up with guitar heroes and people they love to go and see, it was drummers with me, there was just something about rhythm that always spoke to me at some level, and even though – you see what I really, really wanted when I was your age, before I left home, every Christmas I asked for the same thing, I asked for a drum kit and never got one, and my folks didn’t really want me to drum. I had some kit lessons outside of home when I was like fourteen, I really enjoyed that but they really weren’t into me getting a kit at home and developing it, so it was kind of something that was on the back burner for a while.

    Well it can be like that in a lot of families nowadays can’t it? The more creative arts are sort of looked down on and not – not helped to pursue.

    Possibly, I mean my folks were very traditional. They liked music but they weren’t really interested in me having a drum kit in my bedroom, it was just the noise more than anything else, so I suppose it was just something that I thought would be, you know, in the background, until we moved here, and then it changed.

    And so when you moved here were you still working for Anglia?

    Yeah I was still working for Anglia but I’d got into African drumming. I’d seen a band at a festival that really blew me away and I just thought ‘I wanna learn a bit more about that’ so I had some sort of hand drums at home that I’d bought at markets and festivals but I didn’t really know how to use them, so I was just very much an intuitive player without any kind of understanding or knowledge of what I was doing, and so when I moved to Hebden I looked around to see if there was a drumming class and there was a West African guy called Amin Jasif that was teaching some classes here, and also a guy called Mussa Suma from Leeds who was a Guinean drummer.

    So they were both doing African drumming locally?

    They were both doing West African style drumming yeah, yeah, Hebden and Leeds, so I got my first jemba and started to play, and just got into it. It’s like with some people you find a class and for me it was like ‘that’s it’ I’ve found the thing I really, really wanna do musically, so I progressed very quickly because I put a lot of time in and a lot of hours cos I was really interested in it, so I started to do quite a lot of West African drumming, started to go to workshops, study with different teachers, go to the festival circuit in the UK that already existed, things like the Tribe of Doris, so I started doing that kind of thing and I also at that point…I mean we’re looking at – where are we now? We’re probably..we’ve been here maybe a year, two years and I’m getting more and more involved in drumming. I’d joined a band by this point – there was a group of musicians in the valley that at the time were called ‘Flow Percussion’ I believe, and it went through various changes. They were ‘Flow Percussion’ and then ‘Purple Fingers’ and they ended up being ‘Beyond Drum’ and I saw an advert, well I saw them play at the Trades Club and thought ‘they’re a pretty awesome band’ and they reminded me of a band that I’d seen a lot of in Manchester called ‘Inner Sense’ they played a kind of cross samba African type of music, and when I saw ‘Beyond Drum’ play I really liked them and I thought ‘well they’re a local band, maybe I could get to play with then’ so they had an open practice, they were looking for new members so I went up, took a couple of my jembas up there and then I got asked to join the band, initially I think because I’d got better drums than anybody else, I don’t think they really knew what my playing was gonna be like, and I was very much learning, but that turned out to be a very significant group to join and we had a…we had a pretty amazing time playing in and around the valley over the next number of years. It’s hard to….i’m trying to sort of work back in my brain, I’m not very good with dates and times, but we probably played for about three of four years and we played our last gig at the Trades Club on New Year’s Eve 1999, the end of the millennium. That’s when we decided it was time for us to go our own separate ways, and by that time I’d..in the August of that year which was the year that we had the big eclipse, I’d quit my job

    So this was the time you ended your career at Anglia?

    Yeah, I’d quit my job in August, gone down to Cornwall to the eclipse, came back up here and played the last gig with the band, and when the band folded…I got all the drums cos everybody was going off to do different projects and to do different things, so I said ‘if I set up a community group, are you guys happy for me to keep the drums and start running workshops?’ and they were all cool about that, so me and Jez who’s kind of the musical director of ‘Beyond Drum’ carried on running the samba project, so we set up Rhythm Bridge Foundation.

    Ah, so that’s when Rhythm Bridge started.

    That’s when Rhythm Bridge started in 1999, and we set up the Rhythm Bridge Foundation and we got funded from Awards for All, they gave us five grand to buy some new kit and to pay teachers to start a project, and we ran a ten-twelve week project to put a community samba band together for the Hebden Carnival, the Parade thing that they have in Hebden every year, so we provided a bit of colour and a bit of noise for that carnival.

    So how did you find the reactions to your like style of music being brought from like the local people and community?

    People loved it mostly, generally, I mean I think drumming, that particular type of drumming, because we had a thirty-five piece samba band, so you can’t pass quietly when there’s thirty-five of you drumming. Most people really enjoy it; I really think drumming splits people down the middle though. In the main we had nothing but positive comments from people but you occasionally found someone that really didn’t like it, you’d get some, you know, major objections.

    Extreme the other way.

    Yeah, but mostly people enjoyed it because it just brings a bit of – a bit of life to the town, I mean I think that certainly when we did the first parade, people really blown away because they’d not seen anything like that, and then you know it became a tradition that every bonfire night we would busk in the square and that used to be a really amazing gig, that we’d just show up, twenty-five/thirty of us you know, pounding away in snow or rain or whatever it was, but it was always a good night you know. Even when ‘Beyond Drum’ finished, the community samba band carried on doing those gigs.

    That’s good. So you do feel generally that your music did fit in to the community?

    Yeah, and it was being made by people in the community, that was the important thing, that me and Jez were both semi-professional musicians I guess by that stage, but the people that joined the community samba group were people with no experience of playing music at all, and so that started me off in a completely different direction. Jez did it for a year and then moved to London, it wasn’t really his bag, so I carried on running the Rhythm Bridge Foundation alongside my own business Rhythm Bridge cos I started to do African drumming classes as well as the samba, so we got a little bit more money from Awards for All, bought some African drums and I started to teach some basic kind of beginner level classes.

    Okay, so how long did the samba stay on?

    The samba carried on for a number of years and eventually I moved over to kind of full-time teaching on the African side, and we had a variety of different teachers come through the samba until probably about four years ago the samba group just fizzled out. The people that were running it didn’t have the energy or the passion to do it anymore and it just – it fizzled out and last year we actually sold, well we didn’t sell, we gave the samba gear to another community samba group in Halifax, so the Rhythm Bridge Foundation now is really more focused on West African drumming.

    Well hopefully you’ve moved the samba to another part of the country.

    Yeah, well it’s gone to Halifax.

    Not very far but…so speaking more on where you live and stuff like, what do you feel like happy with the community and like sort of the surroundings you live in generally?

    Well Hebden’s

    Changed

    It’s certainly changed since we moved here, but it’s been – it’s been the perfect place for me and for your mum and for you guys for the last fifteen years, it’s been a great place to raise a family. We’ve made lots and lots and lots and lots of friends, both musical and none and it’s just that kind of community you know, you meet lots of people and it’s been, for me it’s been a transformative place to live. When I came here I was you know working in an environment that I wasn’t happy in anymore but I felt a bit stuck, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to change that. I had three young children, I had a big mortgage and all those kinds of things, so when I look back now I took a big risk giving that up and pursuing a career in

    Pivotal point

    It was a pivotal point in my life I suppose, but you know it was a risk and it worked out, you know financially I’m nowhere near as stable as I was, but creatively I’m really, really happy and fulfilled, I mean since I moved here my creativity has exploded really, I mean you know musically I’m playing with the Kagimo family which is a group of Senegalese musicians, one of whom lives in Hebden and a few of whom are in the area – Huddersfield and Sens in Manchester, I’m playing with Maghribibeat so you know Mohammed who’s kind of the front man of the band is someone I’ve known since I moved here and in fact when I met Mohammed he’d stopped drumming

    Really?

    Yes, he’d actually given it up and he came to one of our samba sessions and it re-ignited his desire to play and he started a band of his own some time ago, Maghribibeat and I – he was always asking me to join it and I was just kind of busy with other projects and doing this that and the other and it never really happened until a few years ago, so now I’m playing with Maghribibeat which again you know creatively is fantastic, it’s just a really awesome band to play with and the music’s amazing and who knows where that’s gonna to go, but I just enjoy doing that, but on the other side you know I’ve set up a fairly successful business you know, I do workshops in schools all over the country, we’ve run a festival in Hebden, West African music festival through the foundation Rhythm and Grooves, that happens once a year, we do a big winter community drum circle which is gonna be happening this weekend and that will be – we’ll probably get about hundred and fifty people turn up to that, so I guess people in the community know me, even if they don’t know my name, they know ‘that’s the drumming bloke that drives the weird van around’ the graffiti-painted van which has only got a year to live unfortunately, we’ve just found out, it’s just got through it’s MOT and the van’s gonna die in a year’s time so we’ve got to replace it, it’s very sad, but we’ll get another one and we’ll paint that up and it will just you know, it will carry on, so creatively, Hebden’s been you know a brilliant place for us to move to. It’s been a brilliant place

    Do you feel like it’s influenced you as well?

    The place? I think the place has influenced the way that I…the way that I probably approach certain things in my life

    But not in a musical sense

    I don’t know, I mean well I think musically it will have had an effect because there’s such a melting pot of stuff going on here, I mean the Trades Club for such a small town you’ve got a venue that gives you all kinds of music to see, but that’s not necessarily music from the valley, but you know there are things here that I’ve seen and there are musicians that I’ve worked with that of course have an influence on you, but maybe it’s not so overt with me, it’s perhaps more subliminal, but I’m sure being here has an effect, you know the kind of place that Hebden is, I mean I’ve just spent a day away from Hebden, we had to go to a funeral in Congleton and I just got reminded again how unusual this valley is because I had to spend a day in the world with other people who don’t – who don’t live in a place like this and it was – it was kind of weird being outside in the world outside the valley. It’s a bit of a bubble the valley, it is a bit of a bubble, you forget that you know, the way that we live and how we do things here is – it’s maybe just not normal, well it’s not normal but it’s..there’s just something different about Hebden, I think that’s why it’s attracted so many creative types over the years.

    So going back to the bit with drumming with kids, how did you go from being sort of a musician in a band to teaching children?

    When we started the samba workshops we opened it up to anybody, so kids were turning up and Jez was more interested in teaching people music and I was really interested in interacting with groups of people, it didn’t matter if they were musicians or not, so Jez has gone on to, you know, he is running a samba school in London and he is very much working on the musical side of things and teaching and he’s very good at that, but I was really interested in the dynamics of groups, you know, being able to work with a group regardless of their musical ability or their age, and so I started to do kind of warm-up stuff. Before we played samba I would start running little exercises and games with the groups and I’d found some books about this that and the other and I’d read this book by this guy called Arthur Hull [sp] on something called drum circle facilitation and the book was really inspiring, and it gave me some ideas and so I started to try out some of these ideas with the samba group, and that gave me some ideas about what I might be able to do with…what if I just worked in a school with children, so one of…at the time there was the head at Stubbings, Chrissie Ratcliffe, who was a friend of ours, and I got chatting with her and said ‘how would you feel if I came up and just ran a workshop for some of your kids – you don’t have to pay me, I just want to try some ideas out’ and she was really into it, so I went up there and I kind of got, you know I got free access to a class for a couple of months pretty much and I was able to try out ideas and develop ideas and eventually she got hold of some funding and paid me to continue, and that was like the beginning of it really and then she told other teachers about what this guy was doing and then I got another job from there, and so it just started very organically and it’s carried on that way, I don’t have an advertising budget and I don’t really advertise the business.

    Just word of mouth sort of

    It’s all word of mouth. I have this kind of underlying philosophy that if I put stuff out that’s good, then good will come back. And sometimes it takes you a bit close to the wind financially, you know, sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s just the way I work, I believe that you know it will come.

    So how was your first drum circle so to speak with kids?...Like did you find it sort of diffucult or did it just come naturally?

    I think because I’d got the chance to practice before I actually went out and did it for pay, I was fine

    You didn’t sort of jump in at the deep end?

    No, but I guess the opportunity to go and work at the local school and test out some ideas, but you know I’ve never been one for – I’m not a shy and retiring wallflower type of person, I will jump in and take a risk and I think with kids particularly, they will respond to that kind of energy, so I just – I basically, I figured out that I got permission to just be a big kid for a day and get paid for it, and so my workshops – I mean you’ve been in a couple of workshops with us and you’ll get an idea of – it’s the high energy, and I have a laugh and the kids also learn some stuff you know, they’re very musical, they’re very accessible and we have a lot of fun, and after reading Arthur’s book I eventually went and trained with him, and I am now certainly in the top two drum circle facilitators in the UK in terms of experience, there’s nobody that’s been doing it longer than me

    A very good achievement

    So you know, down the road, who knows where that’s gonna take me, it’s something…we run a training programme here in the UK for Arthur now and I’m part of the management that runs that training programme and you know down the road I’d really like to be able to, yeah. you know train the trainers, so we’ll see, that’s a possible development.

    So in general do you find working with kids more interactive than adults or does that vary?

    I think kids are more responsive and a bit freer, and it depends on the environment, I mean I teach adults in an African drumming capacity and you get a variety of students with a variety of different needs. Some people come to the drumming class because they want a bit of stress relief, some people come because they really want to learn how to play and pick up bits of the culture so it’s – you’ve got to be able to kind of spread your net and cater for all of those needs, and it’s quite a challenge you know within one class to meet all those needs, and sometimes people you know, try something for – especially here in Hebden cos there’s so many things that people can do on an evening, so you know people might come drumming for three weeks then you don’t see them again because they’re gonna go and try salsa classes or flamenco or they’re gonna go and do this or that. The drum circles that we run in Halifax, they work because no experience needed, anybody can show up, we get all sorts of different people coming through the doors for them, and it’s free you know, and that’s something that I’m really proud of. We set a circle up ten years ago and our intention was that it would never cost anybody anything, and ten years later we’re still running the same circle, it’s the longest running community drum circle in Britain, and it’s free.

    You could land in the Guinness Book of Records.

    [laughing] I don’t know whether they have a record for that – you should ring ‘em up, ring up Norris and ask him, or Ross, I can’t remember which one of them’s alive, one of them got killed didn’t he? That would be before your time, boy – you wouldn’t know that.

    So are you generally happy with – do you feel happy where your full musical career is at the moment?

    [laughing] it’s never been described as a music career before! Yes and no. I really enjoy playing with the two bands that I play with but I also - they’re both frustrating in different ways, cos I don’t get to do it enough and neither of the bands has reached a level of success where regular gigs are happening, so I would like that to

    To progress more

    Yeah, I’d like to be able to play more and do more live work cos I really, really enjoy playing live and I like the interaction between the band and the audience and you know, this summer we’ve had some amazing gigs and I just want more of that, I really enjoy that. On the business side, we’re in the middle of a recession and things have quietened down a bit. Again, I’m someone that’s happier when I’m busy. If I get time on my hands then I get a little bit

    Agitated

    Yeah, and you know, again because of that, in the last six months because I’ve had more time on my hands, instead of allowing myself to go down that road I’ve opened up another creative door and I’ve started really getting into my photography, so now all of a sudden when I’m bumping into people in town, I’m having conversations with people about my photography, not just my drums now so I’m getting a lot of

    So it could be another branch on the tree.

    It’s something that I would be open to developing, definitely, it’s something I enjoy and it takes me outside of the kind of normal mode of operating. Taking a camera out just puts me in a different perspective, makes me see the world differently, slows me down a bit so I enjoy that, so yeah I’m happy but there’s a lot more to do and I could be – I definitely could be busier on all fronts.

    It’s always good to have ambitions.

    It certainly is.

    So do you feel like…talking more of Hebden Bridge now, do you feel like the community’s sort of built up more and got stronger in the time you’ve lived here or how do you feel that the changes in Hebden have been for the good or bad?

    Oh God, what a question. Personally I….I think that…I’m probably less happy with Hebden now than I was would be my honest answer. I think that at some level both me and your mum are seeing out time here, that’s how we feel right now, you know, we’ve got two daughters who’ve grown up and left home and you’re the last

    So I’ll leave, I will, I’m getting there

    [laughing] yeah get your finger out and sort it out. No I think that we’re you know, we’re very conscious that you’re on – you know, you’re on your path and you’re starting your own creative life and we have to support the beginnings of that and we’re more than happy to do that, but we’re definitely at a point where we’re thinking about the next step and you know, there are things that are pulling us in other directions and we’re not gonna go just yet but I think when you reach that point after you’ve been in a place for a long time, and this is the longest we’ve lived anywhere in all that, you know we’ve been together for thirty years and it’s the longest we’ve stayed in one place, so Hebden will always be a big part of me, you know, and if I move on and leave here a part of me will stay, and a part of Hebden will stay inside of me definitely, and you know I don’t think we’ll ever sell this house to be honest with you, I think that even if we don’t live here this will be somewhere we’ll – I don’t think we’d want to completely let go of our connection with Hebden, it’s too strong, having said that, yeah, you know, it’s changed, but I’m not adverse to change, I think change can be positive, it’s just finding your place in that change. Sometimes I feel like the grumpy old hippy who’s…you know, railing against too many coffee shops and too many you know, I do feel like some things in the community have shifted and not for the positive, like for you – if you want to stay here it’s gonna be difficult for you, you know, you’re gonna need to get a job that pays you a certain amount of money to be ablebuy or rent here, it’s not cheap, so I think in that respect things have shifted you know, when we first came here it was

    Cheap

    Relatively, you know, it was cheaper to buy a house here than it was, you know, we sold one in Manchester and bought one here for a lot less.

    Yeah, but in ways it’s a positive to show that in ways the community’s come on to make it more of a desirable place to be

    It’s more desirable, yeah, but to a different kind of person I think. I think the kind of hotbed that creates artistic expression is not here any more, I don’t think it’s the same as it was, and I could be wrong, there may be other people that you know, are involved in projects of music and art that feel that it’s as vibrant as it ever was and I’m just some Luddite that’s not

    There’s not enough hippies any more

    Well there’s not enough hippies any more, I don’t know. It’s just changed. I think the kind of people that I was really connected to when I moved here, a lot of them have left, and so I’m aware of that. At some level I’m acutely aware of you know, I’m one of the few from that group of people that I used to hang out with that’s still here so, you know, that just makes me wonder sometimes why they’ve all gone and I’m still here.

    Cos you’ve got kids.

    Well that’s the important thing.

    So going back to your life here, and your life in Hebden Bridge, do you sort of feel that coming here and spending this much time, it’s not regretted, it’s still – you feel like you’ve gained a lot from

    Absolutely, no I don’t regret a moment of it, and again because of my underlying philosophy, we had to come here, it was kind of meant to be, and it was the perfect place for us to raise a family, and for me to develop my artistic self and it’s been perfect.

    So do you feel if you’d have stayed maybe in Manchester or in a city life you maybe wouldn’t have pursued your music career in the same..

    Don’t know, I mean it’s one of those hypotheticals. I suspect if I’d stayed working for the company I was working for, then I would be in a completely different world now and maybe I wouldn’t have gone down the music road, maybe I wouldn’t have got back into the photography, maybe you wouldn’t be able to sit here and have this interview with me if we’d have gone down that road, I really don’t know.

    Well it’s not a possible question to answer.

    Well it’s an interesting hypothetical thing to look at but I think that you know, I don’t regret coming here and you know we’ve been through a transformation in the time that we’ve lived here, both me and your mum, but for me, no I don’t regret it for a moment and at the same time if I moved on from here I wouldn’t have any regrets about that either. I’m not really a looking back kind of person.

    And do you feel that for the rest of your family, do you feel like that they’ve sort of settled in and made bonds and sort of dug their own roots into Hebden?

    I think that all of my children have been affected profoundly by their growing up here, and certainly your sisters, you know, it’s absolutely had an impact and both of them couldn’t wait to get out, you know, not in a negative way but it’s like they expanded creatively to the point where they needed to be somewhere where they could express that and this wasn’t the place for them and I suspect that you will be in a similar position yourself in a couple of years time. I think you’ll want to fly and you may not feel that you could do it here, I don’t know, I mean that’s you know – but certainly Beth and Romilly needed to go and be somewhere else to do what they wanted to do and you may feel the same in a couple of years time and if you don’t, we’re gonna kick you out anyway! [laughing]

    Think it could be the other way round.

    What you’re gonna kick us out? And hang on to the house? Interesting…I hope you’ve saved up your pennies boy.

    So all I’ve really got time left for is to say thanks very much for the interview, it’s been very pleasant and I’ll see you in the kitchen soon!

    Nice one Lewis [sp] fantastic interview, it’s been a pleasure.

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Get in touch

Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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