Tranzistor Magazine (Greece) 2006
Where did you grow up and how long have you been making music?
I grew up in the leafy countryside of Southern England and began writing songs at the age of 14 as soon as I had learnt my first two chords on the guitar. But I didn’t go into the recording studio until I was 19.
What was the reason you started making music? What was like in the beginning?
It was at the time of the independent label boom just after punk and I was just one of thousands of artists who suddenly realized that we didn’t have to wait to get a contract with a major label. If we wanted to release a record we could make your own. So I hired a studio for a few hours with a friend who wanted to record his song and we had the record pressed and we did the distribution and promotion ourselves. That first record didn’t do anything, but the next single I made on my own (‘Public Enemy’ under the group name Midnight Rags) was played by John Peel and that was the thrill of a lifetime. I knew from that moment on that I had a chance of being heard and that my music was good.
What inspires you to create music?
Ideas, incredible true stories of historical characters or very descriptive passages in novels of fantastic places. Other artist’s music doesn’t usually inspire me to create my own, but words stimulate my imagination especially highly literate 19th and early 20th century horror fiction by MR James (a great English ghosts story writer), Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft and HG Wells whose tales of ordinary people in extraordinary situations in suburban England captured my imagination when I was a child and still exerts a fascination for me.
Is there any artist you would like to collaborate with?
I would love to have worked with Marc Bolan, my first musical hero, and I always regret that I did not accept an offer to work with the film composer Michael Nyman, but I was scared that he might not like my music and I didn’t want to be rejected by my favorite composer. I also had the chance to work with Sterling Morrison of Velvet Underground in 1987 but there were technical problems with the tapes I had sent from England and I didn’t pursue it as I should have done. I am glad I worked with Robyn Hitchcock, Knox of the Vibrators, Andy Ellison of John’s Children and Bevis Frond, but if I had a wish I would record with or write songs for Morrissey, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Hawkwind, Ozzy Osboune, Patty Griffin, Muse and Rammstein.
What does God mean to you?
The real essence of every human being. Unfortunately it is dormant in many people while others are in active denial of their divine nature.
It is my understanding that God is the word we use when we want to describe everything in existence. It is the life force. There is no devil and there is no evil. Only people can do evil and they have the freewill to stop at anytime.
What do you think about the possibilities of software? Do unlimited possibilities help you create music? I don’t use technology as it takes the human personality out of music as far as I am concerned. However, it is useful to have a drum machine to write songs using rhythms I wouldn’t normally use and editing software has been an enormous help in the studio when I want to add, delete or move verses and choruses around. It also takes care of some of my mistakes so hurrah for technology!
The unlimited possibilities of software have turned the bedrooms of people into mini studios, everyone nowadays can compose music. Do you think that technology is enough to create music?
Some artists may not be inclined to learn an instrument but that does not mean that they are not creative artists. Computers might help that artist express himself whereas without it he might have been intimidated by the idea of learning a musical instrument for many years. I do not consider myself a musician. I can only play basic chords so I work with real musicians who can bring my music to life. It is a mutually creative situation. They are my software in a sense and I am no longer made to feel less of an artist just because I can’t play fantastic guitar solos. Those days are gone and so long as we don’t let the technology dictate what we create but are instead an extension of our creativity, then it is a good thing, a development. We can’t all be Mozarts or Jimi Hendrix.
What do you think is more important, the influences we have or the choices we make?
A very interesting question. I think there is no doubt that it is the choices we make as they determine our life’s path, the lessons we learn from life and the effect we have on other people. One of the things that distinguishes us from the animals is our freewill. We can use our time or simply pass the time. No one suffers but us if we make the wrong decision on that particular question.
Do music and politics have something in common for you?
No. I have no interest in politics at all, other than I hate extremists of all kinds – fascists and the far-right and far left in politics, religious fundamentalists of all faiths and anything else that tries to subvert free will and self expression. Music is the opposite for me. It is the exercising of individuality as opposed to politics which is self-serving, dishonest and actively discourages freedom of expression.
Which are your five favourite records of all time?
Michael Nyman ‘The Draughtman’s Contract’
Marc Bolan/Tyrannosaurus Rex ‘Chariots of Silk’ from the LP ‘Unicorn’
King Crimson ‘In The Court of The Crimson King’
Yes ‘Close To The Edge’
What does talent mean to you? Do you feel talented?
Talent is a latent ability which we have the choice to develop or ignore. I don’t personally think in terms of talent. I write songs because I enjoy creating them and I love making records, but I am acutely aware of my own limitations as a musician and singer and my lack of commercial success indicates that my music does not have a wide appeal, so evidently the music industry does not think that I am talented. But songwriting comes easily to me and once I am in the mood I can write a tune as effortlessly as constructing a sentence, though the lyrics can take quite a lot longer. I see that as a craft, not a talent.
What’s the meaning of life? Evolution of the individual (self-realization) and the human species. The purpose of life, as I understand it, is to experience life in all its variations and to learn from those experiences so that we can grow and manifest our true (divine) nature.
What would you like to do if you weren’t a musician?
Well, I write books so if I couldn’t do that either I think I would like to teach spiritual and psychic development or failing that, I could be a lawyer as I like logical thinking, well thought out arguments and the idea of justice serving society.
Do you think there is «good» and «bad» music?
Yes there is, but it does not mean that ‘bad’ music is everything I don’t like. I don’t like rap but that doesn’t mean there isn’t good rap. I think the criteria for judging music is whether it is honest or not. If it is a true form of self-expression and is energized by a real personality then its good, but if it is created cynically simply to sell then it is bad. It merely a product.
What’s the phrase you repeat at least once in a day?
‘I love you’ (to my children)
What are your plans for the future?
To keep making new and interesting music and return to play concerts in Greece if I can find a promoter and a new label.
Do you know anything about Greece?
Yes I certainly do. I played many enjoyable concerts in Athens and thessaaloniki and Patras during the 1980s. I made many friends in Greece and have always felt that my music was appreciated there and that I was treated with great respect as an artist in Greece and also in Italy and Germany too. I would love to return one day and play new songs.
Describe us an ordinary day from your life.
My life revolves around my children and my book writing these days. After I walk my two boys to school I either go for an hour walk for exercise and to clear my mind or I come home and meditate. Then I will write until 3pm when I pick the children up and bring them home. After that I like to cook or write songs and in the evening I tell the children a story – either something I make up or a plot from a film I saw the night before. Then I will watch a movie. I adore movies. They are almost as important and satisfying to me as a good book and some of the American TV series can be just as interesting and poignant – the Sopranos, Medium (about a psychic detective) and The West Wing for example.
Have you ever dreamt music in your sleep and then write it in paper and make it a song?
No, but I have often written a song in my head as I walked down the street and then I have to run home and record it before I forget it. That’s the way I wrote ‘Cairo’ and some of the songs from my last two albums ‘Pavane’ and ‘Re-animator’. But these melodies only come into my mind if I am working on music. I have to be ‘open’ and a channel for this other creative part of me. If I am concentrating on my book writing then the music has to wait. I find I can’t do both.
Is the ‘image’ important to you?
Unfortunately I have been conditioned to think image is important yes. Since I grew up listening to Marc Bolan and mainstream rock bands their image has always seemed almost as important as their music. That’s why I am not sure if I should still be performing live anymore as I have been conditioned to think that if you are over 30 you are finished, but I know that’s not true. Some artists grow as they get older and their music matures – that is happening to me now. The time away from music was very healthy for me. My earlier records sound innocent and naive to me. The new albums sound more ‘complete’ and confident. Every day I think ‘I wish I could start my career again’ and make great music right from the first album. So that is the attitude I have now whenever I start a new album. I say to myself this is the first album I have ever made and it has to be the best or no one will hear of me again!