Sunday, 15 June 2014

nick nicely: Psych In His Own Way (An Interview)

Well, nick nicely does not give interviews frequently. But a year and a couple of months ago, and with much help from Keith Jones of Fruits de Mer Records, I was lucky enough to have my questions answered by nick. And believe it or not, after twenty five years of interviewing musicians, this is one of the nicest interviews I have ever done. It's like having him there talking to you. Thank you Nick and sorry for the delay...
(the interview has been done for the release of Hilly Fields 1892 single on Fruits de Mer and soon will be translated for

Your very first listening was on classical music. How much do you think that this has influenced you?

They say a human brain gets hardwired up until the age of 5. I would have heard a lot of classical music in this time and liked it by all accounts. Yes I feel this influence, but only faintly. At a few points it has been said that my string playing on a keyboard is my strength. I have little conventional skill on kbd, but it often seems to fall in place quickly when I do kbd 'pads' . The Hilly cellos were all hummed parts to the player (Rick Godlee)  and they worked out well .I'd say that there is some natural understanding of kbd string playing that has its root in the early classical influence  .Mahler is my favourite these days

Quite early in your career Heath Leavy had signed you to write songs for other artists but as far as I know, you never did so. Was it something of no interest for you?

I had done a load of demos on a home studio (home studios very unusual in the 70s)...there were different styles, some quite poppy. HL thought I may make some coverable tracks and I attempted to do stuff that would fit their idea . No songs from this time sound much good these days. Part of the problem was I was singing the songs myself and not really focussing on any artists when writing which is the effective way of writing covers .My songs were taken to artists but none took an interest , a song of mine was entered by Heath-Levy for Eurovision Song Contest 1979 !
   I was due to be sacked in 1980 and went into the meeting with DCT in my pocket and, to their credit, all talk of me leaving ended straightaway (unfortunately!).  The Nomen have covered 49 cigars, Oasis have talked about it .Dog Age have played it live. Holy Shit have played On The Beach live and Nite Jewel has talked about covering it . Thats it for covers .Ha ha not great eh ..

Do you think that there would be any difference if Stevo had included “D.C.T. Dreams” in Some Bizarre compilation?

He was disappointed that DCT was on the radio so much (too well known) and didn't want to put Treeline on the Some Bizarre album for some reason .Would it have helped? we can't say . I already had attention through the single being played on daytime radio. There was a big gathering of the artists on the Some Bizarre album at Gossips nightclub in late 1980 to which I was invited. It was a rainy night..I got stoned at home with friends and at the last minute decided not to go. This is a regret .Thing is... my version of synth pop was very acid influenced and I felt a bit different from the others in that scene. I was listening to 60s psych as well as Kraftwerk and feeling its connection with the free spirit of the first Brit synthwave.... others there were December that year I was making Hilly. I passed the zeitgeist, like ships in the night, just  for a moment .

It took you 6 months to record “Hilly Fields” and just two days to record “49 Cigars”. Do you think that this difference of recording time reflects in the songs’ result?

49 Cigars is very much a nn one off with the quick completion.  The recording day was spent on acid. I don't know why it worked so well... So quickly, that’s a mystery.  It was already written,   tho we were spontaneous in the recording me 'n Rudi. Kissing The Pink's Nick was hanging out that day at the studio (It’s him doing the phonecall half way through) and told Rudi he thought it a hopeless mess that day.
 .. And was surprised to hear it sounding so good when finished.

How came that you combined the psychedelic sound with the keyboards and the drum machines in your first recordings?

Here is a central question. The mix of the two became the defining sound for nn . The simple answer is that these were the sounds I was into at the time. Psych music had started to really resonate for me from late 70s. I knew the classic psych trax of course from before, but for some reason , maybe acid which came into the picture more   , it became an obsession .I mentioned earlier that our brains get hardwired by the age of is my opinion that our brains can be Rehardwired .
 This obsessive psych phase lasted as far as 3/4 the way through making Hilly..  its been a permanent love...  the freedom of expression within psych as counterpoint to good songs is great ,   psych songs tho..(As I define psych of course)
There are all sorts of definitions of psych. For me it has, like the original, to be free of sonic constraints on what is allowed but at the same time psychedelia should not be used as an all purpose exotic label for ordinary bands seeking to define themselves in a crowded market,   bands that can't write or sing or play may also wash up on psychedelia's shores as they seek a refuge from competing with more talented artists in their own fields . The plainest of Indie bands call themselves psychedelic as do many other artists in other genres    . Its psychedelic the adjective,   rather than psychedelia the noun thats being used in these instances. I tend toward the noun.
Its hard to put over  how powerful/resonant analogue synths/kbds sounded at that time a wonderful aid  in bringing psychedelic vision to daytime radio .They were so thrilling to experiment with at first .I'd liked Kraftwerk and some of the electronic disco that started in the late 70s and some german stuff like Neu and Can . Of course Pink Floyd had introduced us to synth propulsion with Dark Side in ‘73. Tubeway Army were resonant in ‘79. I'd met Geoff Leach then( he played piano/abstract on 1923) he got an early analogue kbd .It blew me away , Geoff also had a Roland string machine which you can hear on DCT and Hilly too.
My classical influence resonated when I was able to do string parts as if I had an orchestra at my fingertips .Really it felt like the analogue kbds were a huge breakthrough ...the idea of doing songs for other artists disappeared   . Synths were great for pencilling in psychedelic visions on tape, beautifully abstract...Eg . Instead of the acheingly familiar crack of a snare, it still worked when the noise was a synthy psscht and so on through the rest of the arrangement .Felt like a dazzling new language with a host of new emotions coming from the new palette. Suddenly I could stretch out and ’be’ as a vocalist. Treeline was the excited... you can hear it in the track.  Geoff subsequently played with Barclay James Harvest and The Adventures amongst others; he is a great keyboard player.
So overall the synth/psych mix is partly an accident of timing... and also a personal determination to do what  I liked without much thought of the zeitgeist . After Hilly/49 and at EMI..the mix in my work became slightly less obviously 60s psych but kept the acid influence .  I would add that we can endlessly discuss style and soundscapes , but the hard thing is writing good songs.

What are the differences between those “Hilly Fields” and the new recording to be released soon by Fruits de Mer?

Firstly,   new Hilly (Mourning) has been made as an acoustic based piece. The acoustic version was first created as something to play people on the annual 18th July Hilly Fields meeting on Hilly Fields that I attended one year. It has slightly different chords and is not made with a timecode so it speeds up and slows down in time with the feel of the acoustic playing.  It’s also trippier than the orig with more swirls and eddies   . Lyrically its almost the same, though in my mind and in an earlier version that got shortened, the story is different.  A 100 years have passed (A 'hundred years later in ten minutes time ') and CG Fields returns to Hilly Fields from nowhere, not a day older than he was when he left. Why Mourning? Because CG Fields was a real person I knew and is no longer alive ....he is much missed

What is this that makes Hilly Fields park in Brockley that special for you?

Hilly Fields was an atmospheric place where I spent a lot of time. It has panoramic views both over London and Kent. I understand that at one time ufo watchers were unsurprisingly attracted to the place .Its part of the Brockley Conservation area and indeed has the clear mark of Victorian times. It also was the site of events involving extreme psychedelic intoxication. The locals have erected a stone circle at its peak.

What do you think might have happened, if you had released “On the Coast” for EMI in 1983?

I wonder how it would have fared if released. Possibly the weakest area of the track is the drums. I wanted to try synth drums and my drummer Ian Pearce tried the slightly awkward beat and , my fault , it didn't really have an appealing beat ,  I should have tried different rhythms . I doubt personally if anything good would have come from the release .EMI made zero effort with Hilly so they would not have done anything for On The Coast...the track tries too hard to please for my taste and this may have been part of the reason I said don't release . The singing is good though, the bright trad english seaside colours in the lyric/sound and an overall 'end of the pier’, tripped out breeziness   .

Many times you have mention beaches in your songs. Do they attract you much and in what way?

I've spent a lot of time on them. Lived on them for many months. There is a psychedelic connection in that the visuals are always moving, the sea ripples and reflects/shines and patterns swirl and flow across the surface. The repetitive sigh and hiss of the waves. The endless horizon reminds me of Dali paintings...the sky with all its myriad of colours is much larger at the beach. Also I have spent a lot of time on ocean going yachts, so have maritime influences. Generally people think of beaches as places to visit on sunny holidays but nn beaches tend to be colder, bleaker and deserted winter places often. Suffolk coast, east England mainly .On The Beach for example is set on a beach near Southwold in midwinter.
A beach can be useful as a metaphor, eg a track I'm working on is Further Down The Beach meaning further through life.

How were the times of House and Rave success for nick nicely?

As I always say, my alliegance is to acid , not to any , frozen forever, set of clichéd sound sources that people influenced by acid used 45 years ago .  I cannot understand the restriction , enforced by many that the only authentic psychedelia was made '65-'70 using those sounds only . It reminds me of the very conservative Grand 'Ole Opry Country Music instrument restrictions that used to exist in the US (except they stopped the stupid restrictions).
This runs counter to the fact that the spirit of 60s psychedelia was experimentation, a search for new ways to present songs. Those 60s pioneers would laugh at the conservative, copying approach of todays 60s retread bands ...and even harder at those who enforce this conservatism.
Hypnosis through repetition has been used by humans for thousands of years to reach psychedelic goals. Acid House was repetitive music made to be played live over big PA systems. I keep mentioning how psychedelics can rewire brains. The ecstasy in '89-93 did exactly that to an entire British generation. It reconnected us to the primal forces of repetition and dance. It was entirely understandable that as a psychedelic artist I was drawn into this new exciting psych explosion. I could go on, but won't as we are dealing with nn .

If “Psychotropia” was indeed a concept album, what is the main idea behind it?

The concept would be Psychotropia's meditation on psychedelic influence in popular song.

You have said that “Lysergia” cassette is not a final album but a work in progress. There are in it 13 songs in it sounding perfectly, at least for me. What changes have you decided to do?

There will be new songs, I expect the new Hilly will go on it. New track Rrainbow Rrainbow too..mebbe 'Ten Minutes Later' .Been working months and months on track 'Memory Gallery' too (fucker won't finish) .But also the songs on the cassette have been upgraded and better focussed.HeadwindAheadwind/Space Of A Second and Longway are way better now .  This process of continually upgrading is a feature of my working practice. Hilly went through 8 upgrades in 1981..we used no 7 (incidentally the failed no 8 version was made with the tape op on the Beatle's 'Walrus' session)
In the late 1800s the artist, Manet's friends dreaded him coming to dinner  as he would look at one of his paintings on their walls , sigh and get out his paintbox and start work on it again . I understand his approach. 
I may change the order of the album too. London South /Translucence/Lobster remain the same. It’s my goal to try and make the album outstandingly good, when it comes out seems unimportant. I have offers to release it but feel no rush.

You have said that psychedelia was different in the 60s than it was in the 90s. Which were the differences and how different is now?

Well they were both using the latest technology to bring psych in to the culture. The 60s had the advent of the multitrack studio..the 90s had the advent of machines/computers which very effectively reenergised the linear trance model of dance music . Both psych decades were making music never heard before (with the '90s' we must include '87 - '89). The differences?  In the 60s musicians thought they were changing the world in the 90s they were more exploring the exciting opportunities following on from a massive rewiring of an entire generation's brains . This is a simplification but has some truth

In previous interviews you use examples of other art forms, particularly painting. What are the painting expressions and times that attract you most?

Yes I do use it a lot in interviews to try and bring artistic concepts out of the music field with all its presuppositions, to make things clearer. I am indeed fascinated with the development from the first step in abstraction with the Impressionists through to the start of pure abstraction (pure abstraction is not to my taste) .  Generally I suggest that purely figurative paintings are like
conventional songs...through to abstract painting representing Music Concrete .On this scale I see myself as still partly figurative, but interested in the warping of the figurative . Maybe like the Fauvists 1901-1910. You can make out what is being painted but the colours are wild and the shapes vary from reality.
Then on to the Surrealists, De Chirico… these people were bringing in unusual unconscious resonances in their work .Its something I aim for in my music .Dali ,Magritte too (I perform live wearing a veil ,partly inspired by Magritte paintings) These artists were still figurative , but  were interested in the subconscious effects of juxtaposition . I aim for that too .Shock is also a surrealist tool that I like to try in my work ...BUT all the time having a song in there keeping the work partly figurative in a painting sense.

Which musicians did you admire when you started playing music and which now?

These days I admire Hendrix a lot .First doing music? Well I was learning Dylan songs then so Dylan. Earlier Neil Young is great to my ears. Generally I get into tracks rather than artists ,60s pop, Floyd, earlyMetal..and some of the new diy US stuff . The Beatles were big for me...Loved Kraftwerk's better known stuff. Sorry not much help am I.

If you had the opportunity to change the past, what would you do in a different way?

...well thats easy. I would have forced, through legal means, Heath Levy to pay the large amounts of money they stole from me and so prevent my career collapsing in the 80s because of grinding poverty. Fucking arseholes.

Will there be any chance to watch you live in the near future or you still think that you are writing “impossible music”?

Well to reproduce a nn record faithfully would be very difficult without a large cast of musicians. My English band, The Unlived Lives is a 5 piece, with me making 6 people on stage. Go to the nn myspace to hear us doing 49 Cigars at Green Man Festival.  I love playing with them, Paul Simmons (Bevis Frond) is fairly subdued imo when playing with the Frond , but for me he lets his freak flag fly . Eliza Skelton (kbds/flute/vocal) is an outstanding artist in her own right, Vic Vibrato(bass) has made many psych records(Vibrasonic) and is my right hand man . Dave Berk (drums) plays with the Damned sometimes these days and Johnny Moped , a punk rocker who puts real energy into our sound and   mad abstacist Paul Sanders who ensures we are very much 'out there' with huge sheets of insane samples and wild abstract..noone doubts we are psych with him around .
Unfortunately, I love them but its expensive to play with the full band. So....I am talking to Dutch festival promoters at this very moment about doing shows solo, me on guitar and vox , but with tapes . I made an experimental solo concert demo tape last week, 11 minutes long and sent it to them a coupla days ago. It’s quite exciting. nick nicely records are too intricate to sound good loud over a big PA , so this approach is keeping things simple and very acidic , different from a nn record but with some familiar nn songs , beaty , repetitive and more linear . Both me and the promoters are shocked by the demo! .They are driving up from
Holland to persuade me to do their shows and we meet Saturday night.  
The money is good, but I will need to work hard and long to create the backing trax , so have not committed yet . Really I'd prefer to get on with Lysergia . So we'll see whats happening after this meeting with the live stuff.
Overall , yes there is a chance that I will be playing live at some point .(Later:  I've just committed to play a Belgian festival and an Amsterdam gig this summer , I will play alone with psychedelic tapes )

What do you expect now from your career and what should we expect from you?

Nothing concrete really. Immortality maybe!... I might do some gigs and Lysergia may come out .I can't see further than that. What can people expect from me?..I want to try and provide what noone else can and am aiming for original, high quality psychedelia .

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Folk Heritage: Μια Αρχαία Folk Συλλογή, Μια Ξεχασμένη Εταιρεία, Δύο Πανάκριβοι Δίσκοι, Μια Παλαιότερη Και Μια Ολοκαίνουργια Επανέκδοση

fokal point 
Πάνε αρκετά χρόνια από τότε που αγόρασα τη συλλογή Folk Heritage. Αν και η φωτογραφία του εξωφύλλου μού έκανε περισσότερο folklore παρά folk rock, αν και τα ονόματα ήταν εντελώς άγνωστα, η καλή τιμή της και το laminated (Garrod and Lofthouse) εξώφυλλο, με έπεισαν πολύ γρήγορα.
Πρόκειται για μία συλλογή που κυκλοφόρησε το 1973 και ο στόχος της δεν ήταν να παρουσιάσει νέα σχήματα ή καλλιτέχνες, αλλά να παρουσιάσει μερικά πολύ σημαντικά παραδοσιακά αγγλικά τραγούδια, που ακούγονταν πολύ συχνά στις folk pubs σε ολόκληρη την Αγγλία. Τα συγκροτήματα στην πλειονότητά τους ήταν προσκολλημένα στην παράδοση χωρίς πολύ μεγάλη διάθεση για πειραματισμούς εκτός από μερικές φωτεινές εξαιρέσεις, όπως οι  Mike Raven And Joan Mills, οι Gallery και οι Folkal Point.
folk heritage 
Η συλλογή είχε κυκλοφορήσει από την Windmill Records, μια εταιρεία του Alan Green που ταυτόχρονα έτρεχε κι άλλα labels, όπως την Westwood και κυρίως την Midas Recordings. Ούτε η Windmill είχε να επιδείξει κάτι ιδιαίτερα σημαντικό, ούτε η Westwood. Στην Midas κυκλοφόρησαν όμως δύο δίσκοι της Janet Jones, για την οποία λέγεται ότι παίζει ακόμη μέχρι σήμερα σε διάφορες pubs της κεντρικής Αγγλίας, ο μοναδικός, ομώνυμος, δίσκος των Folkal Point και ο μοναδικός δίσκος των Gallery με τίτλο The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Οι δίσκοι της Janet Jones είναι αρκετά σπάνιοι και κοστίζουν από 200 έως 500 λίρες, ενώ τα albums των Folkal Point και των Gallery, αν υποθέσουμε ότι βρίσκονται -που είναι μάλλον απίθανο- κοστίζουν περισσότερο από 1000 λίρες το καθένα, με το Folkal Point κάπως πιο ακριβό, καθώς όπως λέει η ιστορία, ο δίσκος πούλησε περίπου 200 αντίτυπα στις συναυλίες του συγκροτήματος και τα υπόλοιπα 300 καταστράφηκαν λόγω πλημμύρας.
gallery the wind that shakes the barley 
Οι Folkal Point και οι Gallery είναι δύο συγκροτήματα της folk με κυρίαρχα τα γυναικεία φωνητικά που φέρνουν στο μυαλό συγκροτήματα όπως οι Spriguns Of Tolgus και οι Tickawinda, δηλαδή έχουν κλασικό folk ήχο με ελάχιστες ψυχεδελικές αιχμές, στο ύφος των πρώιμων Fairport Convention. Μάλιστα, στους Gallery, εκτός από την Barbara Seabourne τραγουδάει και ο Royce Seabourne, του οποίου η φωνή θυμίζει κάπως τη φωνή του Paul Kantner των Jefferson Airplane στις πιο ήρεμες στιγμές του. Η Sherie Musialik των Folkal Point από την άλλη πλευρά είναι πιο κοντά στις πρώιμες στιγμές της Sandy Denny.
Ο δίσκος των Folkal Point επανακυκλοφόρησε πριν από δύο περίπου χρόνια σε cd από την νοτιοκορεάτικη εταιρεία Big Pink, ενώ το The Wind That Shakes The Barley είχε κυκλοφορήσει παλαιότερα από την Kissing Spell -της οποίας οι επανεκδόσεις ήταν συνήθως χωρίς άδεια από τα συγκροτήματα- και πριν από δύο εβδομάδες επανακυκλοφόρησε για πρώτη φορά με το αυθεντικό εξώφυλλο από την ισπανική Guerssen σε βινύλιο και cd και μάλιστα με σημειώσεις του Richard Allen, εκδότη του ιστορικού περιοδικού Freakbeat στη δεκαετία του ’90 και ιδιοκτήτη της φοβερής και τρομερής Delerium Records.

Naomi Randall with Tom Gaskell: The Perfect Folk Thing

Ο Tom Gaskell είναι ηχολήπτης με σπουδές στη Μουσική Τεχνολογία, αλλά και μουσικός που παίζει πολλά όργανα: κιθάρα, πιάνο, μπάσο, φυσαρμόνικα, σιτάρ, γιουκαλίλι και μαντολίνο. Έχει ένα δικό του studio, το Big G Studios στο Cambridge, όπου και ηχογραφεί τη δουλειά πολλών νέων και λιγότερο νέων μουσικών.
Στο folk ντουέτο με την Naomi Randall όμως παίζει τον μικρότερο ρόλο, καθώς εκείνη γράφει όσα τραγούδια δεν είναι παραδοσιακά και κρατάει τα φωνητικά. Εδώ ακριβώς είναι και το σημείο που μπορεί να χαλάσει -τουλάχιστον στα δικά μου αυτιά- η συνταγή της σύγχρονης folk: ακριβώς στα φωνητικά και ειδικά στα γυναικεία. Από τη στιγμή που επικράτησε να θεωρούνται επαρκή τα νιαουρίσματα της Joanna Newsom ή της Marissa Nadler -επειδή για πολλούς εκόμιζαν ένα είδος σκοτεινής αθωότητας- δεν ήταν καθόλου λίγες οι κοπέλες που προσπάθησαν και κατάφεραν να κάνουν καριέρα στο συγκεκριμένο ιδίωμα αναπαράγοντας τον τρόπο αυτό τραγουδιού, που σιγά-σιγά άρχισε να αποτελεί κανόνα στο είδος.
Εδώ έχετε να κάνετε με έναν συντάκτη που θεωρεί ότι ακόμα και η Joan Baez ψιλοστρίγγλιζε μέχρι τις αρχές της δεκαετίας του ’70, αλλά αυτή η αντίληψη -όσο ακραία και να ακούγεται- έχει τη βάση της σε μία συγκεκριμένη οπτική: ότι οι γυναικείες φωνές που προέρχονται από την αγγλική folk παρουσίαζαν από την αρχή πολύ μεγαλύτερο ενδιαφέρον από τις αντίστοιχες αμερικάνικες. Κι αυτό, γιατί πατούσαν στην παράδοση της Shirley Collins που γέννησε την Sandy Denny για να φτάσουμε στη Mandy Morton των Spriguns και δεκάδες ακόμη φωνές. Ακόμη και η μητέρα του Nick Drake, η Molly Drake, στα λίγα τραγούδια που έχουμε στα χέρια μας αυτήν την παράδοση ακολουθεί.
Ευτυχώς, η Naomi Randall είναι Αγγλίδα. Και μια Αγγλίδα που ασχολείται με τη folk δε θα μπορούσε να αγνοήσει τα βήματα της Collins ή της Denny. Έτσι, αυτός ο πρώτος δίσκος του ντουέτου από το Cambridge, είναι ένας αιθέριος πανέμορφος δίσκος με υπέροχα γυναικεία φωνητικά που μοιάζει ξεχασμένος σε κάποιο συρτάρι από τις αρχές των seventies. Ένας δίσκος με πολλά παραδοσιακά τραγούδια που παίζονται με έξυπνο και πολύ ενδιαφέροντα τρόπο, με τις ακουστικές κιθάρες σε πρώτο πλάνο αλλά και το σιτάρ να προσθέτει ψυχεδελικούς τόνους. cover 
Οι ερμηνείες της Randall είναι ιδιαίτερα βαθιές και προκαλούν έντονα συναισθήματα από το πρώτο μέχρι το τελευταίο τραγούδι.
Το album αυτό της Naomi και του Tom κυκλοφόρησε μέσα από τη σελίδα του ντουέτου στο Bandcamp και πήρε πολύ καλές κριτικές από το fRoots του Ian A. Anderson (του folk μουσικού από το Bristol που δημιούργησε στα τέλη του ’60 την εταιρεία Village Thing), αλλά και από το αγγλικό ψυχεδελικό περιοδικό Shindig! του Jon “Mojo” Mills. Έτσι, τα πρώτα 150 κομμάτια σε digipack cd εξαντλήθηκαν και η Naomi με τον Tom ετοιμάζονται να εκδώσουν άλλα 250 σε jewel case cd με obi.
Θα τους περιμένουμε στη γωνία καθώς μοιάζει να έχουν πολλά ακόμη να προσφέρουν. Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες επισκεφθείτε τις σελίδες:

(πρωτοδημοσιεύθηκε στο