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Thursday 23 June 2016

My Musical Career (see accompanying MIXCLOUD set).

I first got the idea of playing in a band when I was at school. I had had piano lessons since I was 4, obviously with a classical bent but, starting with Russ Conway, I had started playing along to the singles we got and played on the family Dansette. When I was in the Lower 6th and we could stay in at break in the music room, with a few like-minded guys, we would bang out our versions of Spencer Davis Group and the Small Faces which would attract girls, our secondary objective. Then when a student in London in the late sixties, a friend persuaded me to go to an audition with a group called Sam Gopal. A fellow auditionee was the late and much lamented Lemmy Kilminster. He didn’t get the job of rhythm guitarist but I did get the job as keyboard player : I didn’t take it as I couldn’t afford to buy a Hammond B3 organ.
ARK playing live.
My real music career started with the band ARK,  North Devon band formed in the early 70’s by Chris Kausman (electric guitar and vocals), Reg Meuross (acoustic guitar and vocals) and myself. Then we added Harvey Bainbridge on bass, Colin Mitchell on lead guitar, Alistair Merry on percussion, his girlfriend Lois as dancer and, after various trials, Martin Griffin on drums. Jeff Hocking was our sound engineer and Steve Smith our roadie.
This blog post is to go alongside my MIXCLOUD selection, Music Mainly Recorded in My Holidays Over the Last Forty Years. And the first track is LIVING IN COMFORT, written by Chris Kausman and recorded by Jeff Hocking in his cramped Appleford studio. We played mainly covers of Bob Dylan and old blues songs like Parchment Farm but did play a few of our own songs written by Chris or Reg.
Harvey, Martin and Me meeting for the first time in thirty years
WE ended up supporting HAWKWIND on a short tour and then, a year later, DAVE BROCK CAME UP WITH THE IDEA OF HIM AND BOB CULVERT forming a band called SONIC ASSASSINS using me, Harvey and Martin from Ark. We had a couple of rehearsals, got together some old favourites and two new songs, Free Fall and Death Trap and arranged to play a Christmas show in Barnstaple. Just before the concert, Bob got cold feet and was only persuaded to take part right at the last minute. The place was sold out and we played continuously until we had run out of material to a great reception. During the show the band started an improvised pattern which Bob thought was going to be the song Masters of the Universe but he then improvised too and this became the cult favourite Over The Top.
The MixCloud selection has this song plus, beforehand, two Hawkwind classics, Angel of Death and Magnu, all recorded live at this concert.
Apparently we then played a second gig in Wales and then I was asked by Dave to join Hawkwind for their American tour. Whilst on this tour Dave and I did several radio interviews in which it was suggested that Hawkwind was going to morph into Sonic Assassins. However, when we got home, I had decided it wasn’t for me and that with my French wife and two children, cat and dog, I was going to move to France and Hawkwind was out of my life.
We lived in France, in the south-east, from 1978 to 1990 and during that time I played and recorded with loads of bands, some my own. Legend, Exiles, Exit, Stradivarius, and Twice As Nice among others. I equally played with the Topper Headon Band alongside the recently sadly departed Henry McCullough and we recorded a couple of my songs.
Playing with LEGEND in France 1980
I moved back to the UK, first to East Devon and then to the New Forest, in 1990. I was teaching by day and playing music at weekends with a local RnB band whose name escapes me and then joined the CROPDUSTERS, Hampshire’s version of Sussex’s LEVELLERS. We played some good gigs including the MEAN FIDDLER at New Year. It was good fun but although they asked me to, I couldn’t afford to give up my well-paid day job: I was by now Deputy-Head in a residential special needs school.
I ended up being Head Teacher and then got offered the post of Head Teacher at a school I had worked at before back in the days of ARK. That job became really full on and I was hardly at home and had no time for playing music and my wife decided to move back to France. It was when we packed up the large house we had been living in, putting most of our stuff in storage, that a trunk containing all my music tapes and other souveniers went missing. Hence the big gap in my music recordings.
Along with a new partner, I was in Bristol from 1999, running a large project for young people with severe behavioural problems. No time for music really except being asked by Rick Nowell and his small record company, Feel The Quality, to record some of my music with vocals written and sung by local Bristol DJ, Sonic. We did this along with some quality musicians including Roni Size’s drummer, Rob.
Sonic, a poet and vocalist, Bristol fashion.
The next track on MixCloud is Bristol Situation one of the songs we recorded followed by a demo Sonic and I recorded at my house, called Just Out of Reach. Both these songs are very Bristolian in style and substance.
My work was very demanding and tiring and in 2005 I was obliged to stop working due to health problems which turned out to be cancer and eventually in February 2006 I had a large tumour removed from muscles in my back next to my spine. During my recovery and with support from my sons I started to write songs again and place them on a website where they were spotted by Dave Brock of Hawkwind. He phoned me up and asked me if I had a band which could support them on tour. I lied and said yes and so LASTWIND was formed. In fact, in 2003 Jalal Nurinda of seminal New York hiphop band, the LAST POETS, had started working for me and we started working on tunes for his projected album. And I have him to thank for the name, Last from Last Poets and Wind from Hawkwind. He went to France and wasn’t allowed back into the UK so that was the end of that collaboration.
The original drummer and bassist of LASTWIND suddenly wanted to be paid a lot more than I could afford so in the end I programmed the drums and bass and we hit the road just me and the excellent French guitarist OBNY. We got a good reception supporting HAWKWIND but at the end of the tour he had to return to France.
Lastwind supporting Hawkwind 2006
The next two tracks on MIXCLOUD are live recordings from this tour, Paris-Marseille which I sung in French and our show stopping final song, Monster Trucks.
Although we did a couple more LASTWIND gigs with a different line-up, I was getting fed up with playing just that sort of music and started writing, playing and recording a series of very different songs under the name DOWNTIME. I just put these out on SoundCloud and SoundClick, an American site, where they got a good reception and I was in their charts for quite a while even with a track in their top 3 (out of several thousand).
The next three songs on the MIXCLOUD selection are from this period, although a couple of them I started working on just before starting Lastwind. Then I have included the main song from music I did for a film called Light at some time in that decade.
POLYMORPH performing live in Bristol.
I was now working as Centre Manager at a Language School in Bristol and one of the teachers was a talented writer called Johnny Trousers. He knew I had recording possibilities and asked me about recording one of his songs. Soon we had an album’s worth and put it out under the name of POLYMORPH and even played a couple of gigs in Bristol. And in the Mixcloud sequence the next two songs are from this short lived group.
Lastwind version 2 on tour, March 2013
An old acquaintance, Frenchy Golder, director of Flicknife Records then asked me about putting out a Lastwind album and then touring it. I said yes cos I was by now retired and living in Devon looking after my mum and had the time and was rather bored. I recorded the whole album alone, helped by a few guitarists, in particular Jerry Richards of Hawklords. Then, old friend Latch, back in Bristol, said he could find the members for a 5 piece band and he did, they re-recorded the album, RETURN OF THE SONIC ASSASSINS, ready for it to be manufactured and toured. This we did in atrocious weather in March 2013. They were not happy days and I decided that was the end of recording straight ahead rock and touring. There are three songs from this venture on the MIXCLOUD sequence but they are my demos versions all with lead guitar by Jerry Richards : Daytrippers, When and Autoroute.
When my mum passed on a the end of 2013, I was free and had a little bit of money she had left me so I bought a big American camper van and headed for France. I had various tunes hanging around ready recorded except vocals which I had never used because they didn’t fit into the Lastwind mould. And I was continuing to write. I wanted them to become songs but I didn’t feel like writing lyrics or singing anymore. I bumped into someone on the internet who liked what I sent him and was interested in writing lyrics and singing.
Kenneth Higgins and Me in Bangkok.
Only problem was, Kenneth Higgins lived in Bangkok.
We met up when I travelled out to Asia in the winter of 2014/15. We got on, agreed on which songs and so NAGAS was born and a first album came out in early summer 2015, COME TOGETHER and the next 4 tracks on Mixcloud are from this album. We had to change the name to NAGAS2 because there was already a group in France with the same name. I had plenty more songs to keep Ken busy and end of May 2016 we brought out a second album called KARMA VORTEX. The next four songs on MixCloud are from this album.
The final track on Mixcloud is just me, under my own name and is probably the direction I will be going in next: instrumental music with few if any lyrics, music which gives a particular ambience, sometimes for dancing, sometimes for chilling, sometimes for reflecting. But who knows. Music keeps flowing out of me and is central to my life for however much longer it continues.

Peace and On. 

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