History

A bit of an excuse for nostalgia, this, but here we go.
I've been writing music all my adult life, but my performing/recording history falls into two distinct phases. In the late sixties and early seventies I was a singer songwriter, touring the clubs and just about scratching a living. Some of the music I was most pleased with was created in collaboration with an old school friend John Gosling. John was an extremely accomplished musician (he trained at the Royal Academy) as well as being a fine poet, and we had a show which involved songs, poetry and the odd piece of Debussey. It also involved a small team of guys producing a light show which, for it's time, we reckoned was just about second to none. By 1970 we started to get a sense of what we were doing and it felt like we might just be going somewhere. Then John had an offer pretty much out of the blue to join The Kinks as their keyboard player! One week he was playing with me in Harpenden Village Hall, the next he was on a plane to start a marathon tour of the States, having already recorded "Lola" as part of his audition.

A year or two later I teamed up with a guy called Steve Forest to form a band called Shadowfax. Steve was a stunning guitarist and, again, we produced some music I was really pleased with. I'm including a track here from one of our very early rehearsals. It's pretty dreadful, awash with reverb, but at the time we loved it. 

But, again, Steve had an offer, pretty much out of the blue, to join a band called Silverhead. This was very different music to the kind of thing that Shadowfax had been playing, but you can begin to see a theme developing here. One week Steve was rehearsing with me in my parents' front room, the next he was on a plane to start a tour of the States....

It has been suggested that my voice is so mournful that it makes Leonard Cohen sound like the Laughing Policeman, and this may explain a) why I never did do much more than scratch a living and b) why any talented musician I teamed up with immediately got snapped up by someone who could actually sing. I could write songs, though, and a number of people were using my material. Chief amongst these were Andy Desmond and Richard Garrett who I'd met when they were working as a vocal duo.  They'd been singing my songs for some years and had got a recording contract and a new name, Gothic Horizon. I'd played on their first album - the Jason Lodge Poetry Book -  and they were keen to start reproducing the sound they'd got on the album on stage. At that point I and another couple of musicians went on the road with them, and my life became a blur of pubs, clubs, bars and vans, as we weaved our way back and forth around the country. I was  playing second guitar, mandolin, harmonica and various other odds and ends. I don't think they ever let me sing. Not even in the van on the way home.

The two pictures above were taken at Decca studios in West Hampstead, while the first album was being recroded. Pretty much everyone had recorded there - Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, Marmalade, Moody Blues, Billy Fury, Brenda Lee, Mantovani, The Stones - the list went on and on. The place was steeped in history - these were even the studios where The Beatles had failed their audition in January 1962. There were pictures of  the stars on every wall.  (though strangely I found a picture of The Bachelors propped up in a broom cupboard - I often wondered about that). We all tried our best to look cool, of course, like we'd been in a thousand studios before, but in reality we were wildly excited. We were going to be stars! Our picture would be up there somewhere too - and hopefully not in the broom cupboard! From left to right there's me, Gray Richardson, Richard Garrett, Andy Desmond, Mark Helme and Kevin Daly, who produced the album. Not in the photo but also playing on the album were Ron Lawrence, Ian Cameron, the Yetties (somewhat strangely) and John, recording for contractual reasons under the name of Jean Baptiste. Kevin was also playing on the album under the name of Eli Bikkerstaffe

Our second album, which John pretty much produced, was "Tomorrows another Day" and that was a much more elaborate project. Jason Lodge had done reasonably well, even getting honourable mention in Billboard, and the record company were willing to throw more money at the new one. One track particularly excited me, and that was "Sydney's Wharf" - it had a synthesiser on it. That was the first time I'd ever seen such a thing, it was a minimoog - a very new instrument at the time - and was hired just for the afternoon. Happily John knew how to play it and we loved the sound he got.

Someone recently pointed out to me that all of Gothic's album tracks are on Youtube and I find myself feeling vaguely flattered by that. Inevitably all these postings breach copyright, as do  the CD versions of the two albums that are now available, but given that everyone else seems to be breaching copyright on the music I might as well do it myself. Here's Sydney's Wharf -

A couple of albums, half a dozen singles, and enough radio plays to make me think that fame and fortune really was just around the corner - it was a very good time to be young. It would also have been a very good time to stockpile Gothic Horizon albums - they seem to be worth a good deal more money now than they ever were then. Somehow, though, fame and fortune stayed just around the corner. We got so far, but no further. I've never been very sure whether I gave up the music business or it gave up me, but once I'd got married and moved out into the country I found myself becoming less and less involved in performing and more involved in growing organic vegetables. I was still writing songs, still chasing publishers, but I'd left the band and found myself moving into another phase of my life. One that didn't involve a battered yellow Bedford van.

If I'm uncertain about quite how I left the business - and I can blame at least some of that vagueness on the haze of the sixties - then I'm just as uncertain about how I got back into it. I think it all came down to the synthesiser. The minimoog we used on our second album was a wonderful but hugely expensive machine - the record company had just hired it for the afternoon, remember. By the mid 80's they started to become more and more affordable until eventually I bought a Wasp and, a few years later, a Casio CZ101. I didn't ever use either of these to record with, but I learnt a lot about synths while playing with them. I was also in a band called Pocket of Resistance by then, very much an amateur setup with absolutely no aspirations of megastardom, but somehow making music had become a part of my life again.

I've been visiting Anelog every year since 1969. In the early years I was taking a guitar - it was there that I wrote most of the songs that appeared on Gothic's second album - and by the early 90's I was taking a synth or two as well. In 1992 it struck me that I was half way through writing an album that seemed to "fit" with the mountain. I started walking about on Anelog listening to rough mixes on a walkman and then going back to do more work on the tracks. That was the birth of  my first album, "The View from Anelog". Over the years I've dragged more and more synths and samplers away with me, and produced another half dozen albums. Not every track of every album was written on Anelog, I have a studio at home, but it's been the place where I've been able to settle to do a lot of concentrated writing. It's maybe worth mentioning that I no longer have to struggle to get a whole rack of equipment into a very small cottage. These days a small keyboard, a laptop and a number of "soft synths" are all that I take.

I've always mixed the albums in my friend Paul White's studio. Paul is editor in chief of Sound on Sound magazine and a brilliant guitarist.  He also has a great ear and has really helped me when it's come to the finer detail of mixing. We played together for a while - me on synths, him on guitar - but though that was a lot of fun I was always conscious that the parts I wanted to be playing generally consisted of a whole range of interlocking synthesizer parts, only one of which could be ever be played live. It was pretty obvious that the music I was interested in producing wasn't really conducive to live performance - it had to be recorded.

I now live by the River Wye in Herefordshire, and am starting to think about another album. I can see the river from my window as I write this, and I've known it in all its moods, and the album will be about the river. I'll be back on the mountain soon, and that's where I'll be making a start.