Wednesday 23 February 2011

Q & A with Julian Wakeling

(ABOVE: A photo of Julian Wakeling by Harry Pye. All other photos are from the Julian Wakeling Collection.)

The Rebel: You were really into sending out postcard art a while back. Do you ever miss posting out your work to people?

Julian Wakeling: “Strangely no though I did like doing it at the time. I enjoyed some of the cards a lot but after they were posted there didn’t seem to be so much there for me, whereas with photographs I love them even if no one else ever sees them. I guess the postcards were as much about the people receiving them and their reactions when they picked them up off the mat. I’d like to have been there really, or been them. Anyway, I think I also felt I’d said everything I could by the end and I was in danger of repeating myself.”

2) Now you take photos in roughly the same place at roughly the same time every weekday. Do you love that part of London?

“It’s become very familiar but I love it when the sun comes out. It’s practical though. They’re the nearest areas to me: Soho, Fitzrovia, Covent Garden. I used do Bloomsbury too but I don’t so much now. Those areas are among the best for my kind of photography as well. There are lots of windows with lots happening. Some days I get tired of the same streets but occasionally there’s a kind of magic going on and they don’t seem like the same streets anymore.”

3) Do you see marks of weariness and woe in the most of the faces you see in Soho?

"I don’t know really. I don’t think I can be very observant. Or at least I’m looking for particular things, particular effects and anything else is peripheral. I like having people in my photos but really I use them as motifs and I don’t like them to be too clear. They’ve got to give up their individuality for the sake of the overall design. I catch myself looking pretty weary sometimes though."

4) What kind of camera do you use?

“I’ve got a few but mostly I use a Nikon FE film SLR. They made them in the late 70s/early 80s. It’s a lovely camera. It’s compact and feels well engineered. Old film cameras are so much easier to use and understand than digital ones I find. So few controls. I like to keep things simple.”

5) Facebook is great for getting responses to photos but do you worry about copyright issues?

“I don’t really. Maybe I’m naive, I don’t know. I do worry about this digital age of photography in some ways though, the devaluing of images through the ease with which they can be created and in such numbers. I use film because I don’t want the ability to take unlimited shots, which would devalue them for me. Also I don’t want to delete anything. And I like having the transparency, the physical original. But maybe I’m just a Luddite and people had the same fears when Kodachrome first came out, or the Box Brownie.”

6) Do photos steal people souls and does your camera ever lie?

“I suppose it’s true that you take something when you include someone in your picture, but to say soul would be getting a bit metaphysical. It’s almost like they’re actors without knowing it. I think people look rather beautiful in my pictures quite often. And it’s a fiction that’s created so there’s no lying. My camera can’t lie because it doesn’t set out to tell the truth.”

7) Did you enjoy taking photos as a child?

“Yes I did. Mostly pretty forgettable ones but one evening when I was about 10 I was out with my dad and there was the most beautiful sunset. I took a picture of it and I was so excited because it seemed like it might be the best picture ever taken. Unfortunately I managed to fog the film because I didn’t rewind it properly and then opened the camera and the picture was lost. I still think about that shot and the feeling I had at the time. The one that got away.”

8) What is your idea of beauty in nature?

"That’s difficult because to find nature you usually have to get in a car and when you’re there you’ve got civilisation in your head so it’s impossible to experience in a true way, if there is such a thing. There’s a remembered paradise lost of childhood experience of nature. I wish I could have that innocence back. I kind of feel that I wouldn’t want to have me in a natural setting now. I’d only spoil it with my thoughts. Having said that, I once walked through the Horniman Gardens in Forest Hill on a summer’s day and I thought it was utterly beautiful, like the Garden of Eden. But that’s a park, does that count as nature?"

9) What is your idea of beauty in art?

"Do you mean fine art? I’m quite old-fashioned. A lot of modern things seem gimmicky and attention-seeking to me and rather shallow. The National Gallery is full of beautiful stuff. Tate Britain has some great things too, like Stanley Spencer’s Zacharias and Elizabeth. Such a great feeling of place to that picture. I like paint. I think it’s really exciting when a brushstroke can describe something and still be recognisably a brushstroke. I try and get a similar effect in my photos sometimes by using a reflection in a window that has a textured surface behind it, so the two merge."

10) If you were Mayor of London would you make everyone buy your photos?

"I think being the Mayor of London and thus well known would make it very difficult for me to be unobtrusive on the street. I have a hard enough time as it is. I might have to stop altogether. So maybe I would make everyone buy my pictures. It would be the least they could do to compensate me."

11) Is your work a bit pretentious?

"I’m finding it hard to think of a photograph that is pretentious to be honest. I’m not certain it’s possible. I’m sure I could make absurd claims for them but that would be me being pretentious, not the pictures."

12) Do you think you're getting better as a photographer?

"I’m kind of banking on it. I’m getting more selective certainly so I think I take fewer bad ones. But good ones often seem to come from nowhere and it’s hard to tell afterwards what you did right. You can never predict them. I used to take lots of pictures and get good ones that way eventually. That was when I did digital. It didn’t seem satisfying though and it was hard to tell if I was improving. You could argue it’s all about results but I like the process too and that’s getting better now that I use film. It feels like a more significant activity than it did. But it’s still a case of fail again, fail better most of the time, to quote Beckett."

13) Are you scared of the darkroom?

"Not at all. When I was at college the darkroom was the best place to be. It was in the basement and was so peaceful and quiet. I don’t have a darkroom now because I shoot colour slides but in a way you have to have a kind of cool darkroom mentality at all times when you’re photographing, even in the maelstrom of the street. Your head has to be your darkroom."

14) Is what you do as much to do with science as art?

"It would be pretty poor if it was a science as nothing is learnt and nothing can be proved or predicted. So no. There’s a philosophical side to what I do though if you like. I’m interested in thinking about time and memory, which are big parts of being. You inevitably come across this if you photograph like I do. But it’s not systematic and I don’t really come to any conclusions. Anyway the images are the main thing."

15) Who are your favourite photographers?

"That would depend on my mood but if I had to choose one photography book to take with me to a desert island I might go for one of postcard photography by the John Hinde Studio photographers, including John Hinde himself and others whose names I can’t remember sadly. Anyway, they did photographs for postcards sold at Butlins holiday camps in the 1960s and 70s, as well as other holiday locations. The Butlins ones are especially beautiful and feature real people in often quite strange and fascinating posed scenes. They weren’t meant to be art, which is why they’re so good."

16) What was the best photo you ever took in New York?

"Hard to choose. There’d be a handful of contenders. There’s one I really like of reflections in the side of an ambulance in Canal Street, which is a very busy street downtown full of shops selling cheap jewellery. A woman had blood coming from her head and there was a big fuss with police and paramedics. I asked a street vendor what had happened. I suppose if I’m honest I wanted it to have been a robbery. But he said she’d just fallen over, rather dismissively. I realised it would be tricky to photograph head on, so to speak, and also not interesting for me anyway but then I saw that the scene was replicated in the ambulance so I went for that. I got the umbrella from the vendor’s stall and the ambulance, that’s all. It’s a very quiet picture with the crowd reflected in a ghostly way like a painting."

17) Which city would you like to travel to and make work?

"I’d love to go back to New York. Somebody I know from the Midwest of America suggested Chicago as a place to photograph. I love the pictures Ray Metzger has done there, and of course Harry Callahan. I’ve also got a nice book by a photographer called David Robinson and it’s of photographs taken in Rome and Venice in the 1970s, lots of reflections. Makes me want to go to Italy. You see, I don’t have much imagination. I just follow other people."

18) What's your favourite Julian Wakeling photo?

"There are many but one that stands out is of a woman reflected in a pub window as she walked by one lunchtime in April. The window has that wire reinforcing you get in windows in institutional buildings and this gives the impression that she’s wearing a veil. The light behind her face is actually provided by a notice on an adjacent window that said Toilets for Customers Only. I caught her at just the right moment, when her face passed the sign. Without that it would have been too dark. I just remembered someone beautiful appear in the viewfinder for a second before vanishing. I tried to hang on to the memory till I got the film developed. She didn’t seem to notice me even though I was only a couple of feet away. I pressed the button and luckily the picture came out, unlike the sunset all those years ago."

Sunday 20 February 2011

Q & A with Roddy Byers

The single “Rat Race” was a top 5 hit for The Specials in May, 1980. It’s a great tune and I’ve always loved the lyric: “I’ve seen your qualifications, you’ve got a Ph.D. - I’ve got one art O level, it did nothing for me.” Last month I went to Coventry for the first time to give a lecture at the art students there. I was pleased to see that there is now a plaque over the entrance to the college informing visitors that it was at this building that Roddy Byers was inspired to write Rat Race.
In “Ska’d For Life” by Horace Panter ( The Specials bass player sheds a bit more light on how Roddy's track came about…
“Rod had not exactly shone at school and had spent evenings down the Lanchester Polytechnic (probably when Jerry Dammers or I were down there) drinking the cheap beer and clocking the students. The song, Rod has since told me, is not an anti-student rant, more a song about privilege, how these guys (and girls) would spend three years pissing it up at college, knowing full well that Daddy would get them a good job when they left no matter what. The best thing you could hope for in Coventry working men’s circles was to get a job at “the Jag”, as the Jaguar car factory was called. Rod was railing against the people who bought them.”
When he is not touring with Terry Hall and co, Roddy Byers does a lot of benefit shows for worthy causes. A short time ago I saw Roddy and his band The Skabilly Rebels at a Save The 100 Club benefit night and took these photos. The e-mail interview that follows took place about a week ago.

The Rebel: Are there any great places to eat or go for a walk in Coventry?
Roddy Byers: "Corley Rocks is nice but you have to be careful... I like the Royal Bengal in Earlsdon."

I love your song Concrete Jungle in which you famously sang “I can’t dress just the way I want”. What kind of clothes were you wearing at the time that people took objection to. What was your hear like etc?
“At the time the punk look got you a beating but it wasn’t that much different 5 years before in the Bowie/Roxy days.
Coventry like a lot of English cities doesn’t take kindly to anyone whose different.”

In 2004 Mojo magazine asked Liam Howlett of The Prodigy to write about a record that changed his life and he said this:
“I must have been 11 when my old man bought me an alarm clock radio which had a tape player on it. Dance Craze was a live album, and every morning I used to wake up to Concrete Jingle or Nite Klub by The Specials. Concrete Jungle was my favourite track: it used to make me jump off my bed and go mad. It had so much energy. The cassette snapped eventually through being played so much, but I’ve still got the cover. And about five years ago I thought I’d buy the CD again. It still sounded amazing. It’s music that feels alive. I’ve never gone through a period of not liking it.”
What were you listening to when you were 11? What music really mattered to you in your teenage years? Did any records change your life?
“11 years.. oh dear... I loved all the English 60s pop stuff but by the age of 12 years I was really into the Monkees. Neville was too. Records that changed my life? Ziggy Stardust, Transformer, The Ramones, New York Dolls, Raw Power.
That’s what I was into pre punk.”

Pauline Black and Amy Winehouse are both big fans of your song Hey Little Rich Girl and have been known to include it in their set when they play live. Are there any of your songs that you’d love to hear by other performers?
"I love to hear other people cover my songs - trouble is not many of them are commercial what ever that means?"

I once read that around the time of Pump It Up, Elvis Costello & The Attractions with support from Richard Hell & The Voidiods (featuring Robert Quine on guitar) and the poet John Cooper Clarke did several shows at the Dominion near Charing Cross but that tickets didn’t sell as well as they had hoped and it only lasted a short run. Fast forward to now and in the same venue The Queen Musical “We Will Rock You” attracts people in their thousands and the show runs and runs. Why do you think this is so?
“I’ve no idea why? I’ve always been into what some people would call cults.”
Nev Staple really raves about Joe Strummer in his autobiography. I’ve read that when you supported them the crowd preferred Suicide to The Specials but that Joe was full of encouragement. Did you get to spend any quality time with him and did you ever think of trying to collaborate with him when both The Clash and The Specials had both split?
“Strummer was always friendly in a distant sort of way. I don’t remember Suicide going down better than the Specials. It would have been nice to work with Joe but I guess he’d had enough of flash lead guitarists after Mick anyway!”

Are there any guitar solos (on other people’s records) that never fail to impress you? Do you have any guitar heroes?
“Any! I could write a book... 2468 Motorway Tom Robinson Band - great solo from Danny Kustow
Guitar heroes here’s a few, Mick Ronson, Keith Richards, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix , Pete Townshend etc etc etc”

The Specials worked with the engineer and producer Dave Jordan. What was he like? Are your memories of him positive – are there any particular ideas he contributed or suggested that helped make those 2 classic Specials albums?
“Dave was a good friend - slightly older than me who had been round the block a few times- worked with the Stones etc..
He did most of the producing on the first album in my opinion.
Sadly missed.”

Was your Chrysalis label mate Debbie Harry beautiful in the flesh? Her co-writer Blondie guitarist Chris Stein said he would have liked to collaborate with The Specials and get Lynval to produce Tide is high. Could that have worked?
“I was told Debbie wanted the Specials to back her on "The Tide is High" but Jerry said no. Yes she was a cracker!"

In the 1990s you got to work with the legendary Desmond Dekker – how well did you get to know him? Do you have a favourite Desmond Dekker record?
Never got to know Desmond - worse luck! we did the backing music in Coventry and he put his vocal on in London.
I tried to speak to him at the video shoot in London but he seemed elsewhere - maybe he didn’t like us Two Tone whipper snappers hoggin his stage? I love his music and wish he was still with us.”
Do you have a favourite Desmond Dekker record?
“It Mek is the one which stays in my memory for some reason?”

With Jerry “missing in action” how do the Specials make their group decisions? The Specials are going to perform the More Specials album in it’s entirety. You, Horace, Lynval and Nev have all said that they don’t like the majority of the album. Does this mean that Brad and Terry really begged you to do it? Or did you just toss a coin?
“You trying to get me into trouble! It seems to me certain members decide and others have to follow. I think the reason we are doing More Specials this year is cause there’s nothing else in the pot.”

I read in the Specials biog You’re Wondering Now by Paul Williams that after the Specials split you recorded a few tracks with Dick Cuthell in the producer’s chair. How well did you get on with D.C? When was the last time you saw him?
“Dick Cuthell, lovely bloke! great mimic and great brass player!
Dick produced my dodgy demo (The Tearjerkers ) after Dave Jordan let me down, which was kinda funny as Dick hates rock,n,roll!
Saw Dick last at Jerry Dammers’ birthday party in a posh mens club in London. Heard he hasn’t been well?”

The More Specials album came with a free 7 inch single: “Braggin and Trying Not To Lie” which was credited to Roddy Radiation & The Specials. Do you think that song was better or worse track than the instrumental Holiday Fortnight (a track that started out as a song of yours entitled You Can’t Argue With Fate?
“I Don’t do that song anymore. It was about an incident where I hadn’t if you know what I mean?
Holiday Fortnight should be in the Specials set this year, but they don’t seem to want to use the lyrics.”

Nev says that when Terry sacked them from the Fun Boy 3 the record company “threw them a bone” by giving them money to record one single (Sunday’s Best “Pirates on the Airwaves”) with Pauline Black but that it was clear Terry was the one they were interested in. Did Chrysalis records offer you anything? Were there any meetings? Any vague possibilities that they would at least listen to a demo etc?
"Terry was lucky as he was the face, I was given 3 days in the studio to come up with something. Then I was told Chrysalis didn’t want me anymore.”

When Terry was still signed to Chrysalis records and promoting albums by The Colourfield and Terry, Blair and Anoushka he never missed an opportunity to slag off The Specials. There’s a long period in which if you read an interview with him you’ll find quotes like – “I only joined the Specials to get off the dole… Songs like Message To You Rudy embarrass me, I can’t relate to Ghost Town, there was no racism in Coventry until the Specials started singing about it.” Did you ever think along those lines? And were you ever impressed by any of the songs Terry had hits with such as Sense, Thinking of You, and Our Lips Are Sealed?
"Never really listened to Terry’s solo stuff? Doubt he’s ever listened to mine…”

Please read this very short piece by the American poet e e Cummings and tell me what you think about it?

"somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands"

"Very nice but I prefer Rupert Brooke."

Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill,
Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.
You said, "Through glory and ecstasy we pass;
Wind, sun, and earth remain, the birds sing still,
When we are old, are old. . . ." "And when we die
All's over that is ours; and life burns on
Through other lovers, other lips," said I,
---"Heart of my heart, our heaven is now, is won!"
"We are Earth's best, that learnt her lesson here.
Life is our cry. We have kept the faith!" we said;
"We shall go down with unreluctant tread
Rose-crowned into the darkness!" . . . Proud we were,
And laughed, that had such brave true things to say.
---And then you suddenly cried, and turned away.

I saw on your myspace page you like the Marx Brothers. Do you have a favourite Marx brother. How many of their films do you think are good all the way through?
“I love all the Marx bros, apart from the soppy bits where the handsome bloke sings to the love interest.”

Your relationship with Jerry Dammers is quite curious. You’ve said you’d rather burn your guitars than work with him again. You’ve said he was a selfish swine who hurt those closest to him, “a muppet with no front teeth who sits on a pile of money”. Even when he’s doing things like DJing at a fundraiser for the Love Music Hate Racism organisation you respond by comparing him to Ebenezer Scrooge. And yet… when he went on tour you were the only one out of The Specials who went to see him. When the Times asked the band if they missed having him around you were the only one who said you missed hearing his crazy plans. And you also said that when you met him at a funeral of a mutual friend you had a longer chat with him than you’d had with any of the other specials throughout the reunion. There’s a kind of irony that The Specials sing It Doesn’t Make It Alright etc on stage but can’t actually get on themselves -
Can you see a time where you don’t slag him off? What would have to happen in order for you to stop having a go at him?
“I don’t really hate Jerry, but I will never forgive him for the times he put me through hell. When I thought he was my mate.”

In his big Mojo interview Horace Panter says that there was a meeting in Coventry held by Terry, you and Lynval and money was discussed and you all got excited. And then there was another meeting in Oct 2007 in which The Specials tried to meet up and discuss a reunion without Jerry but that he found out about it. Originally they didn’t want him at the Holiday Inn meeting in Kings Cross…
Horace: “Lynval was speaking to Terry's manager and then to myself and Roddy and Neville and Brad, because we had an idea that Jerry would be against it because whenever anybody seemed to say anything there would be a counter from him. In the first instance he wasn't invited into this, and then he got wind of this and we said, 'We're having a meeting,' and he said, 'Well I'll come.'”
Although Jerry did attend that meeting do you think Terry, Lynval, Horace, Brad had all pretty much decided that a full reunion couldn’t work and that they would humour him/go through the motions etc but ultimately wanted Jerry out the picture a.s.a.p?
“I wanted Jerry involved originally but he hadn’t changed and I doubt we would have even got passed the rehearsing stage having Jerry involved.
Like I’ve said before I still have nightmares about this band, have done for 30years.”
When the first tour without Jerry was announced Terry went on the radio saying there was no animosity between Jerry and the other members. And the only reason he wasn’t taking part is that Jerry wanted to do a few big shows and the others wanted to do a big tour. Was Terry being honest when he said there was no animosity? And do you think he was telling the truth when he later said the door would always be open for Jerry if he wanted to join them on the tour?
“Terry has his own way with words.”

You're a regular poster on The Specials fan Forum. Recently you claimed your role in the current line up of the Specials was being “a gun for hire” and that you’re only told things on a “need to know basis”. In one interview you said that what you wanted most out of the reunion was to get your new songs heard. Are you optimistic the Specials will ever get round to recording or performing any of your new songs?
"Well in my humble opinion nothing much has changed we have just swapped one boss for another.
I’d love to try some new songs - recording and live but the majority of the Specials seemed scared for some reason?"

You’ve described your group The Skabilly Rebels as being a “Punk, Ska, Reggae, Mod, R,n,B, Hillbilly, Soul band.” Can you tell me a bit about how long has the current line-up been together and about some of the most enjoyable aspects of being in this band have been so far?
“Well, the present line up has been together about a year I think, and is the best yet!
The most enjoyable thing with this band unlike the Specials is we are constantly trying new songs and changing the old for the better.”

Paul Williams has made some impressive You Tube videos for The Skabilly Rebels.
Lonesome No More:
Judgement Day:
Lost Weekend:
I think all them are very well edited. Do you have a favourite of the three?
“The three recent tracks I’ve recorded are my best yet and Paul is doing the vids. "Fallen Angel" (Based on a Rupert Brooke poem about going up to heaven to complain about a child's death and finding the place empty).
"Heartbreak City" (A song about the breakdown of society, i.e. cops can't handle it without another pay rise.. Soldiers in the bank doorways itching fingers and troubled minds.. Jailer says its getting mighty crowded , Judge says you've gotta find room to spare!
"Sea Cruise" (cover song)”

When will the new Skabilly Rebel CD be available? Will it just be a download or will you make vinayl and CD versions too?
“I hope to get another Skabilly Rebels CD out this year. You can buy it from my website”

An old Rebel magazine interview with Dick Cuthell

I've probably heard Message To You Rudy by The Specials featuring Dick Cuthell and Rico a few thousand times by now but it still never fails to make me happy. Their version of the Dandy Livingstone ska track has been used in ads for Sainsbury's, Pizza Hut and most recently Next. It's a lovely idea to think that Dick and Rico got some money from those ads but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't.

I read in Lucy O’ Brien’s biography of Annie Lennox how (post Ghost Town)Dick Cuthell played on Lennox’s two breakthrough albums Sweet Dreams and Touch as well as the hit single Right By Your Side. O’Brien describes how the band are getting more and more successful and selling out bigger and bigger venues. When the band play New York legends such as Robbie Robertson drop by to say Hi and everything sounds great but then…
“As they became bigger, Dave and Annie’s experiment of keeping themselves as the Eurythmics’ commanding nucleus with a changing line-up of musicians was resolutely put into effect. Although it gave Dave and Annie greater versatility, their musicians received some pretty offhand treatment. Just before the Touch tour began its European leg, drummer Pete Phipps, keyboardist Vic Martin and Dick Cuthell were sacked and replaced. ‘I was told they couldn’t afford me,’ Cuthell said at the time. ‘It really is a blow. I feel upset that they left it so long to tell us while secretly rehearsing new guys.’
With his wife expecting a second child, he was worried about the immediate financial future: ‘I’d already cancelled work because I thought my time would be taken up with Dave and Annie.’
Although Dick's talents were sought out by bands such as Amazulu, The Pogues and XTC for most of what was left of the 80s he collaborated with Jerry Dammers on singles like Nelson Mandela, Racist Friend, Starvation and The Wind of Change - all of which have a place in my heart. When Madness first split up four of the original Nutty Boys (Suggs, Chas, Lee and Chris) put out a record under the title The Madness. Dammers and Cuthell both played on that album and I hear it's about to be re-released on CD with bonus tracks.

On thursday the 28th of Oct last year I was lucky enough to see Dick appear as a special guest of Rico & His Band at Gaz's Rockin Blues in Soho. Their performance was brilliant. It was such a thrill to see them onstage together again. And, just before they came onstage the DJ played a new track they they've been working on.
Because old stuff is being made available and new stuff is on it's way I've decided to dig out a transcript of a telephone conversation I had with Dick Cuthell around the time of The Pogues album Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. I was only 12 years old when I did this interview which might explain why my questions are even sillier than usual. What you're about to read appeared in issue 2 of The Rebel which I sold to my friends at school in 1985. I found Dick's number in the phone book. When he answered my question I would repeat his answer to my sister who kindly wrote it down for me. One of the questions was about his musical heroes. Dick rattled off a huge list of names the only two that rang any bells at all were Miles Davies and Louis Armstrong. I hope we get to read a decent in depth interview with Mr Cuthell one day soon.

The Rebel: Are you still in contact with ex Specials like Terry Hall?
Dick Cuthell: "Um... well I haven't seen him for ages. Not since the Fun Boy Three Days. But I'm still friends with Neville."

Do you like The Colourfield?
"Well, Terry sent me their album but I haven't heard much of them yet apart from Thinking Of You which I quite liked. I get sent so much stuff that I just don't get the chance to listen to it all."

Tell us a secret about Jerry Dammers.
"I can't think of anything."

He doesn't have front teeth. Does that mean he eats lots of soup?
"Er... I've never seen him eat soup. When we're in the studio I've seen him drinks a lot of lucazade"

Do you brush your moustache everyday?
"(Laughs) When vanity takes me over I do brush it. I've been told it reflects my moods. When I get upset it goes strange round the edges and sometimes when I get angry I pluck it."

What are your favourite charcaters in Eastenders and Brookside?
"In Eastenders it's Lofty. And in Brookside I suppose it has to be Harry."
(Above: Harry Cross from Brookie played by the late Bill Dean

Of all the songs you've played on which are you most proud of?
"I think Rudy. A Message To You Rudy has very happy memories attached to it."
Cut and paste this link into google:
and you'll find Dick's full disography and more info
Below is a photo of Gordon Beswick blow drying a collaborative painting we made of Dick and Rico playing Jungle music:

Friday 4 February 2011

Q & A with Fernando Saunders

World class bass player/singer/songwriter/producer, Fernando Saunders has just released a fantastic new album called Plant A Seed.

My introduction to Fernando was seeing the 60 minute video "A Night with Lou Reed" which was filmed in 1983 at the Bottom Line club in New York. I love this video and I've watched it dozens of times. I went to see Lou Reed and his chums play live in London about four years ago and the highlight of the evening was a rendition of the Velvets classic Jesus sung, not by Lou, but by Fernando. I'm really glad Jesus features on Fernando's new album and that he found the time to answer a few questions for me.
The Rebel: Where did you grow up and where do you now call home?
Fernando: “I grew up in DETROIT MICHIGAN , and I call home Europe and New York. I really Love Europe ...”

How positive are you feeling about 2011? Do you feel President Obama is doing ok?
“I feel 2011 will be a good year to make a new beginning for all of us. It will take lots of work to clear the problems of the past, but starting over is a better opportunity… 2011 will be a good time to be creative. I feel Obama is doing great. It will take time but he is on the right path. My new CD is called “Plant A Seed” and the lyrics is “Plant a seed and it will blossom” so I feel Obama is planting seeds and they will blossom.”

How long has it taken you to get your new album together? Has it been hard work?
“I have been working on my new album for about two years. I started in Switzerland which was a good place for me to clear my head and focus on being a solo artist. Then I needed another environment to develop the CD – but not a big city like NY which I love – so I decided to complete my new album in Czech in a place called Ostrava – a very creative place full of art and everyday people. I also had some local artist perform on a few tracks. Folklore musicians like violin player Karel Holas Also some New upcoming talent , .Elis Mrazov ... also Swiss singer Marie Borcard ... I also had a local artist do the cd cover and Booklet ( PETRA HLAVATA " SASANCA " ) my cd cover ... Also The song " Feel Like Crying " a Duet with Fernando Saunders & Suzanne Vega. And a duet with Lou Reed, and a track with Jan Hammer :)

When Lou Reed first wrote Jesus for The Velvet Underground do you think it was half sincere and half sarcastic/ironic? Or that he was being deliberately ambiguous? But when you sing it now it's 100% sincere? Did you talk much about the history of the song with him?
“When I first heard the song “Jesus” I was surprised that it was a Velvets song. But I was not surprised that Lou wrote this song because I know he really loves Gospel and soul music. I also hear it in his approach to singing. I feel he was sincere when he wrote this song… also that’s what is great with a song – everyone can find their own meaning.”

Tell It To Your Heart is a lovely song which sounds better when you do it live than it did on Mistrial. Do you think the Mistrial album needed more time and money spent on it?
“Yes, " Tell it to your Heart " is a Beautiful song . I will record this song one day.
I don't think " Mistrial " needed more time or money we really both like " Mistrial " I know it was not a typical " Lou Reed " but " Mistrial " it did make it to the TOP 40, the Song " No Money Down " and help Lou to get back in bigger venue's and open up his music to a new audience of people who never heard of Lou, and it open the doors for the " New York " Album , sometimes we need to make a change , do something different , to go to the next level ... :)
But Yes, " Tell it to your Heart " was one of the songs I arranged for the " Mistrial " it is more of the direction , I would have liked to produce Lou Reed.”

Can you tell me about the day you recorded Sex With Your Parents? Were you provided with an acoustic demo of the song first? How did you get it sounding so alive and fresh?
“I cannot remember the day we recorded " Sex With The Parents " but I do remember this album was recorded in the summer in Lou Reed’s home studio, which means we could take our time , most of the songs we worked out in the studio , yes we always get a demo of the songs , but we find the parts in the studio. The song sounds live and fresh because we recording it just how we play (it on stage). And having a good song helps.”

The first time I became aware of you was when A Night With Lou Reed in NYC was screened on TV. I was blown away by you, Lou, Robert Quine and Fred Maher. I know Robert and Fred both went on to play on records by Matthew Sweet and Lloyd Cole. Did you stay in contact or follow what they did? And would you agree there was something special about that line-up
“Yes the band for " A night with with Lou Reed NYC " was a good mix of artists , also me and Lou and Quine had a strong Connection with each other , because of the recording " The Blue Mask."
I was in contact with them sometimes but I was also working on my album , and also working with Marianne Faithfull , Steve Winwood and many other projects.”

Your bass solos from that concert are amazing. What musicians inspired your playing? There's no other bass player I've heard that really sounds like you?
“I was inspired, from living in Detroit which is where I spent my childhood , so Motown was a big inspiration for me as a singer and a Musician , also I liked Jack Bruce, James Brown , The Beetles, James Jamerson , Miles, Classical music and singing in the Church :) so my sound of my Bass inspired , from my voice.”

Are you at your happiest on stage or do you dream of a holiday on a beach doing nothing?
“I find Happiness , in Many things , but yes Making music for me is the highest level for me and where I get my peace of mind.”

How did your collaboration with Jan Hammer come about? Are you old friends or mutual fans of each other?
“Before I played with Lou Reed , I was Playing with " Jan Hammer " I was around 17yrs old , and a year Later we formed the " Jeff Beck & The Jan Hammer Group "
I also recorded a few Albums with Jan hammer,
This is great Playing from the " Jan Hammer Group '
I'm singing on this song ..
with Jeff Beck
Anyway I always wanted to record Jan Hammer , on one of my albums , so I asked him to play on a song of mine call " Reviens Cherie " which was never recorded in the studio , But only live , this song is on a Lou Reed Live Album called " Animal serenade."

How easy is song writing for you? Do you find the more you do the easier it gets?
“ Song Writing , sometimes easy sometimes not , but never a stress for me , when you hear my New Album " Plant a Seed " tell me if you think it was easy for me to write :)))))

Which young performers and songwriters do you rate? When was the last time a new band blew you away?
“The last Band that blew me away, was the last show I did with My Band :)))))”

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