Yes, dear readers it’s been a long time, but I’m going to try and find time to rekindle my blog posts. Owing to the fact that it’s been forever since I’ve been on here, the next few posts will probably be retrospective in nature… so let’s get right down to it with WITCH CROSS’ first ever appearance in the UK at the Mighty BROFEST in March of this year.
We had an absolute ball, and you can too…the entire set is here in this article for you to watch!
Support these wonderful regional festivals and KEEP METAL ALIVE!
Matlock, and its surrounding area, including Darley Dale and Matlock bath, in the heart of Derbyshire’s Peak District is somewhere dear to my heart and inextricably linked with both my Mum’s and Dad’s side of the family, all of them hailing from there. The Grand Pavilion, a Georgian building that stands imperiously by the river side deep in the gorge where Matlock Bath sits, has long been a focal point for entertainment. In the post-war years, my Dad well remembers attending concerts and watching Dance bands there. In the 1980’s, I performed there myself with my band Tubeless Hearts.
So it really piqued my interest when my Dad mentioned that it had been at considerable risk of demolition in recent years, and was now in the hands of a trust committed to saving this historic building. I’d been canvassing around to fill out dates for my visit from Spain in June, when, with our new project Straight Shooters, we’ll be making a special appearance at the Quad in Derby, and also in Burton -on-Trent, but more about those shows in another post.
After connecting with Andie Brazewell at The Pavilion, we now have a date in place for Straight Shooters – Friday June 6th – we’re hoping everyone will come along and support the event – priced at just £5 a ticket, and help fund the restoration of this beautiful venue.
You’ll be in for a night of classic British 70’s rock, courtesy of the music of Free and Bad Company!
I was recently invited to perform at the opening of a Museum exhibition. Now, having been in the Music business professionally for nearly 35 years, this might be something I could take offence at! But, this is no ordinary exhibition. It is The Rams Collection. Curated by Andy Ellis, author of several Derby County books and a lifelong Rams fan, it is an extraordinary hoard of Derby County Football Club memorabilia that reaches back into the 19th. Century and takes your breath away, particularly, if, like me, you have supported The Rams all your life. Collections like this are fascinating. It is not always the ‘grand pieces’ that draw the gasps, it can be the discarded golden goal ticket, one of so many thousands that lay strewn across the terraces following a match. It evokes a memory, a passion from the past, perhaps something that provokes conversation between Father and Son, as the younger generation finally gain an insight into what it was like to support the club in yesteryear. During discussions about this exhibition which I sat in on with Andy and Peter Bonnell, Curator of The Quad, I saw some amazing stuff! -But i won’t spoil the surprise, come along to opening night and see for yourselves!
It was C. V. Wedgwood who said: ‘Without passion there might be no errors, but without passion there would certainly be no history‘. – Well, there’s no passion like that of a football fan, and DCFC’s history will be on display at The QUAD, Derby for all to see for 3 months during the summer. I’ll be taking a small band to open the exhibition performing tracks from my DCFC CD “Fan Fayre for the Commons People” live for the first time, comprising Mike Koch my musical cohort from B.C.Sweet and Witch Cross on guitar, my lifelong mate Stef Cybichowski (After the Fire, and soon to be BCS!) on Drums and special guest Tom Leary (Lindisfarne/feast of Fiddles/Clem Clempson) on fiddle. Derby County Club Captain Shaun Barker will be doing a DJ set to follow.
For our part, while I’m over from Spain, we’re hoping to turn it into a fun little ‘micro-tour’. – On Saturday June 7th, Me, Mike and Stef under the name of ‘Straight Shooters’ will be performing an exclusive set of Bad Company and Free numbers at the Uxbridge Arms in nearby Burton -on – Trent, and we’re looking at a venue to host us on the Friday night too. to complete a hat-trick, if you will!
Last week, I headed once again to the UK and mixed business with pleasure, taking in an England U21 international at Derby’s iPro stadium with my Dad, and in fact having a bit of a road trip with him down to Great Yarmouth on the East coast, where he witnessed me performing with Bootleg Counterfeit Sweet (Formerly B.C. Sweet) at ‘Yarmageddon III’ – the Legends of Rock Festival 2014. “I don’t know how you do it, Kev” he was moved to say following our 90 minute set which I took to be praise!
The gig was electric to be honest. The band has been through some upheavals of late, and injury has prevented us from installing our new drummer, but Martin ‘Magic’ Johnson stepped into the breach magnificently and powered through the show with barely a foot, or indeed a stick, wrong.
Marc, who runs the band ‘offstage’ was visibly relaxed as we move into the next chapter of B.C. Sweet. I’ve never seen him smile so much on stage! this was due in no small measure to the professionalism exhibited by Martin as he battered away behind us. Of course, we are blessed with a canon of pop classics that is the envy of many bands, songs from Chinn and Chapman and Andy Scott that represent the very best of 70’s glam rock. We are a rock band, and try to deliver all the songs with the power and punch they deserve. If we can do that, the iconic status of the hits does the rest, the crowd pumping their fists in the air, and singing along word for word. It’s a bleak old place in the Winter, Great Yarmouth, but the sun was out at Legends of rock last week. Thanks to everyone for making it a night to remember!
Next week, a repeat performance, as I fly again to the UK, to attend the Derby v. Forest East Midlands clash – Come on you Rams! -and then literally run out of the stadium to catch the train down South to perform once more with B.C. Sweet at the ‘Yesterday Once More’ festival in Brean Sands. Get ready to rock!
Last Thursday I set out for Alicante, spending the night in a nearby hotel in order to feel remotely human when I caught the 7.30am flight to Stansted, England. This however, was not my final destination, but any further headway would be denied to me until gone 5 o’clock that afternoon. Faced with a mind-numbing day in this most soul-destroying of airports, I had sought alternative possibilities, and given that Witch Cross had been invited to participate with a track for a new German release tribute album, I jumped on the train down to South London, where our guitarist Mike Koch has his studio. “I can give you two hours” I said, and we set to work laying down as much vocal as I could manage. Things went so smoothly, he even had time to make me a ham and cheese bagel, so, a good result there!
Speeding back to Stansted I cast off my cloak of metal and surrendered to the folk music demos that my old friend Steve Bonham had furnished me with. As I escaped the hubbub of the city for the countryside, greenery flashing by, it seemed that my environment was mirroring this musical transition. I’d lived with this collection of Steve’s songs for a week or so, and had spent time in my studio firstly playing along, then expanding and weaving my own bass ideas around the well-crafted songs and lyrics. The last time Steve and I had collaborated musically seemed like, and in fact was, a lifetime ago. There was still an Iron Curtain, a Yugoslavia, and a Shah of Iran. The Beatles were all alive, and perhaps even more scarily, had only broken up a mere 3 years or so previously. We were young lads, stumbling over our instruments in the confines of our various parents’ garages, and it was a lot of fun. We didn’t play by the rules, because we didn’t have the slightest idea what they were. As I think I’ve mentioned before, it is a source of immense pride to me that our little village and surrounding environs on the outskirts of Derby has produced so many musicians and songwriters. Adrian Foster and I went on to perform in 80’s band Tubeless Hearts, and we still play together in ‘Yellow River’ hitmakers Christie to this day. Steve, and another couple of friends from those days, Tim Gadsby and Paul Bunting, went down the Folk route, culminating in a successful band with a number of album releases under their belt – Firkin the Fox. Enlisting the services of Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull stalwart Dave Pegg to their cause certainly did them no harm at all, and boosted their credentials. Steve and I may generally follow different musical paths, but scratch the surface and the similarities are surprising. there is a mutually deep respect for the written word, the importance of a lyric, the unwavering conviction that the ‘story is king’. It’s something I like a lot in Steve’s lyrics. They evoke emotion, create imagery, as all good songwriters strive to do. It was a deep pleasure to be asked to perform on this collection of songs, closing a musical circle that’s been left open for some forty-odd years.
As the plane came into land at the fantastically remote Knock airport, I surrendered to the moment, and embraced this land of myths and legends, of tall tales and romantic visions, of relentless green and rushing rivers. From the moment ‘Matt the Taxi’ greeted me, I was among friends, some old, some new.
Mountain View studios awaited…but not before a meal in Ryan’s Hotel on the Friday night, when we ate, drank and were indeed merry!
So good to see dear Tim Gadsby again, who had generously lent me his basses for the session. Robbed of his ability to play the bass as he did so well due to the effects of Ataxia, I was honoured to have him by my side casting a watchful eye over proceedings as I laid my parts down. More than anything, I needed him to be satisfied with what I’d done.
I connected wonderfully with Tom Leary, a superb guitarist and fiddle player, who tours with the likes of Lindisfarne and Clem Clempson. We swapped stories, songs and generally had a great time. I was stunned by the talents of Pat Coyne, who, in between making sure everything was recorded correctly, would randomly pick up a banjo or guitar and play like he was hard-wired to heaven. Similar moments that had me scraping my jaw off the floor were the arrivals of Stephen Doherty….a likeable lad who wandered in and played the flute with such feeling and grace that I began to believe in the supernatural.
This train of thought was further strengthened when Jimmy Higgins arrived and raced through his percussive bag of tricks, layering a Celtic groove rich with the sounds of brushes, snare, bodhran and shakers that alternately caressed and drove the songs in equal measure. To say he was ‘on the money’ would be an understatement.
The atmosphere in the sessions was relaxed, though workmanlike, as there was a lot of stuff to get through, not least of which a new song that Steve dropped on us upon arrival! Chris Lydon, a.k.a. ‘The Bishop’ provided a steady hand along with Pat marshalling the sessions to maximum effect and getting the very best out of everyone for the good of each composition.
On the Sunday morning, I stole a moment after breakfast to explore the village of Cong, where Mountain view studios is situated. Despite a grey veil of drizzle and the intent of the lakes and rivers to take over the roads, I found it a charming place, boasting a beautiful old Chapel, and a myriad of brightly coloured cottages that seemed to be only outnumbered by the local hostelries! There was a statue near the church, of a smiling man holding a laughing woman in his arms.
The face seemed familiar, as did the name of one of the pubs I had just passed – ‘The Quiet Man’. The penny dropped. The statue was none other than John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, who had starred in the film of that name, which was filmed in this very village. Matt the Taxi told me, as he drove me back to the airport after three wonderful days, that he’d had a call some years ago, enquiring if it would be possible to book a room at his Bed & Breakfast for a lady. He’d asked the name as he took the booking and, upon hearing it, refrained from making any humorous comment, which turned out to be a wise decision, because the lady in question turned out to be Maureen O’ Hara herself, revisiting the site of what she refers to as “….my personal favourite of all the pictures I have made. It is the one I am most proud of…”
Matt himself was most impressed that she would want to stay in a B&B , and not one of the fancy hotels nearby, and indeed he describes her as a lovely down-to-earth lady. As I write she is still with us, aged 93, and I wish her good health. I understand why she would want to come back here. I do.