Roadburn Festival 2006 Interview:
Nick Saloman of The Bevis Frond

Interview by Eli Friedman
Photos by Kevin Sommers

Uploaded to Aural Innovations June 2006

Nick Saloman is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, engineer, and virtual one man band. In fact the earliest Bevis Frond recordings were all the work of Nick, multi-tracking all the instruments in his home studio. The popularity of the recorded output of the early Bevis Frond created the need to form a real live band for live performances. This year the most full blown live line-up of The Bevis Frond to date performed on the main stage at Roadburn, and took the crowd by storm. Running through some of their most enduring numbers, and fan favorites, the band kept the almost capacity crowd of the main space rocking on their feet for their entire ninety minute set. The assembled space rock freaks just ate it up. Nick himself was nice enough to take some time out and share his thought with the readers of Aural Innovations on the eve of the Roadburn festival.

Eli Friedman (EF): For those who just fell off the turnip truck, tell us a bit about where you were born and raised, and your early musical influences.

Nick Saloman (NS): I was born and raised in central London in 1953. My Dad left us when I was 5, so I was brought up by my Mum. She was (still is) a fantastic musician. She played great piano, and always had a liking for pop music, so I was very lucky in that she took me to see a lot of shows when I was just a kid. For instance, my Christmas present when I was 10 was tickets to see The Beatles at Hammersmith Odeon. I was totally into pop music and football as a kid (nothing's changed), and spent all my pocket money on records. I loved rock & roll, guitar instrumental stuff, then British beat, and then of course psychedelia. I started going to gigs on my own or with my mates when I was about 13. The first one I went to without my Mum was The Stones at the Albert Hall in '66. I first went to the Marquee when I was 15, and from then on I spent nearly all my free time in London venues seeing any band I could.

EF: I have the impression that the live Bevis Frond band has slowed down its touring in the recent past. This has made the excitement for the appearance at Roadburn a bit more intense than your normal gig. Who will be in the festival line-up, and what's up with live shows in general in the near future?

NS: You're right. Last year was a pretty nasty year for me, and I didn't really feel like going out gigging. I was under investigation by the Inland Revenue, which was incredibly unpleasant and stressful. That lasted almost a full year. Call me naive, but I never realised just how vindictive and insidious our tax inspectors could be. I genuinely believed that as I'd done nothing wrong they'd have a look and that would be that. However, I was treated like a major league criminal. It really made me wonder if there was any point in continuing with being self-employed. I felt I'd probably have a much easier time if I just signed on as unemployed and took whatever money I could get from them. Well, as soon as that was over my Mum (who is 84) was taken into hospital and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They told me she wasn't likely to live more than a few weeks. Well, that was at Christmas and she's still hanging on. She's back at home now and in good spirits, but obviously very weak. So at present, gigging isn't really that high on my list of priorities. The line-up for Roadburn will be me on guitar and vocals, Ade Shaw on bass, Jules Fenton on drums, Paul Simmonds on guitar, and making his long-awaited return to The Frond, Bari Watts on guitar.

EF: I came to the Bevis Frond in a sort of circuitous way. I had been a fan of Magic Muscle based on their comeback CD "One Hundred Miles Below", and when the follow up "Gulp" was released on CD it introduced me to you as a guitarist. A short time later I came across a live Bevis Frond 12" EP that featured you leading a band with a line up very similar to the Magic Muscle's. I think one of the titles on it was "I've Got Eyes In The Back Of My Head." Also at this time I got a tape of a Magic Muscle gig as part of a Robert Calvert tribute that you were a part of. All of this led me to explore the Bevis Frond. How did you fall in with the Magic Muscle guys and what do you recall of those gigs?

NS: I met Rod Goodway via Phil McMullen. I'd known Phil from my days as a second hand vinyl dealer. Rod said I should hook up with Ade as he felt we'd get on really well. He was right there. I recall that Muscle were going to do a show at The Brixton Academy supporting Hawkwind (some things never change!!), and they needed a guitarist. I sort of volunteered for the job, and it was really good fun. So we did a few more shows as Muscle and then the Frond thing was kind of happening, so Muscle sort of became The Frond.

EF: You have got a reputation as being a one man band in the studio when you want to work that way, but I've seen you play live and it's obvious the band also works as a group of live players. Can you comment on the different approaches to creating the Bevis Frond sound in the studio environment as compared to the firebreathing dragon the guys morph into for the live experience?

NS: Yes, the two things are pretty different. I work as a one-man studio band for a couple of reasons. One is that I like to work quickly and alone, and I like to have my own way. Secondly, and probably more to the point, it's down to finances. If I had to share the money I get from my albums, I couldn't make a living at music. So if I need someone to play on my records I pay them a one-off session fee. Obviously if any of my records ever sold lots of copies I'd give them some more. The live thing is something else again. The money isn't so much of an issue as we never seem to make much anyway!! It's just a bunch of like-minded old gits doing what they love doing.

EF: I really enjoyed the live album you did with Country Joe McDonald backed by your band, "Eat Flowers and Kiss Babies''. Had you been a fan of his prior to that, and how did it feel to evoke that era of the psychedelic ballroom dances in San Fransisco. Are you a fan of that whole San Fransisco Fillmore/Avalon period and its psychedelic guitar styles?

NS: The Country Joe shows were a real thrill for me. I'd been a BIG fan of the early CJ & F albums. I saw them 3 times back in the 60s when they played in London. So it was dead easy to do. We all had a ball. Like any self-respecting young freak, I was a huge fan of the San Francisco sound. Still am.

EF: Over the years you've had musical relationships with some legendary and near legendary musicians. I wanted to ask if you would write a few words about your experiences with a couple of these gentleman. You've had the most continual relationship with Adrian Shaw. What's it been like?

NS: Well, without wishing to go too deeply into gush-mode. Ade is a truly wonderful guy. I am really glad I met him. His wisdom and his humour have genuinely enhanced my life. If I was a woman I'd probably marry him. Fortunately for both our wives I'm not. I'm very lucky to have loads of close firends, but most of these go way back to childhood. Ade is one the few really close mates that I've met in the last 20 years.

EF: How did you get together with Andy Ward. Were you a fan from his Camel days? What's he like to work with and what's he up to these days?

NS: I met Andy via a chap called Todd Dillingham who we did a record with some years back. Andy is a great guy and obviously a brilliant drummer. He's lovely to work with but he has his demons, and from time to time they raise their ugly heads. To be honest, life on the road is all a bit much for him I think. He's currently living the quiet life in Suffolk. I'm still in touch with him and he seems pretty contented.

EF: You also got to work with Tony Hill. How far back did your knowledge of his work go and how did you meet him and come to collaborate?

NS: Tony is an old mate of Ade's so that's how I met him. I loved High Tide. Saw them several times at The Roundhouse and I bought both their albums when they came out. Ade & I had often fantasized about getting Tony back in the studio, but he's a bit fragile (or at least he was a few years ago). We managed to persuade him to make a new album with us, which was a real treat. Subsequently he got a new band together (Tony Hill's Fiction), and they're gigging around occasionally. Roadburn should have booked them!

EF: Where did you first encounter Bari Watts? It seemed for a while there like you were a part time Outskirts of Infinity member, and that the live Bevis Frond band that I saw playing in Holland in the early nineties was almost like a hybrid of Outskirts of Infinity with Adrian added on backing you. How did all that crossover stuff start?

NS: I met Bari when I was 18. His brother-in-law worked with me and kept saying how similar we were. Eventually we met up and we got on really well. I was absolutely knocked out by how good he was on guitar. He still does me in with his playing. Brilliant!

EF: What's next for a fan to look forwards to. Do you have anything new you're working on or that's awaiting release?

NS: I've written lots of new stuff and I've got lots of ideas for recording, but as I mentioned earler, I can't really devote too much time to anything till my Mum's situation has been resolved.

EF: I thought I recently read that you were involved either in compiling or doing notes for a new compilation of late guitar great Ollie Halsall. Is this in any way accurate and are you an admirer of his playing?

NS: Well, yes, I love Ollie Halsall. I must have seen Patto live 20 times and he was just unsurpassed. The best guitarist I've ever seen (including Bari). But no, I know nothing about compiling any retrospective or writing sleevenotes.

EF: Would you mind name-dropping a handful of your musical favorites, musicians or bands, and what you like about them?

NS: Come on Eli, this could be a book! Okay, a few favourites then: Patto, Country Joe & Fish, Dave Crosby, The Wipers, The Shadows, The Beatles, Blue Cheer, Love, Pretty Things, Damned, Joni Mitchell, David Ackles, Kinks, Who, Jefferson Airplane, Small Faces, Cream, Traffic, Beach Boys, Cactus, Electric Prunes, Fairport, Sandy Denny, Hendrix of course, John's Children, Steely Dan, Savage Resurrection, Clear Light, Mad River, Blossom Toes, Vanilla Fudge, Skip Bifferty, High Tide etc, etc etc

EF: Can you tell a little bit about the sessions for the AcidJam 2 and how they came together. Was that recorded over a long range of time or were the sessions organized close in time to each other with all those great players?

NS: There were a few organised sessions, just a few days though. Some of the stuff was previously recorded unreleased stuff.

EF: To what extent, if any, do psychedelics inform your musical work?

NS: Not at all.

EF: What are you most looking forward to about your trip to Holland for the Roadburn festival.

NS: Coming home.

EF: Are there any other bands playing at the Roadburn festival you'd like to get to watch?

NS: Hopefully I'll see them all. I love a good gig and this promises to be a good gig!!

EF: And the question all my friends at home who can't go to Roadburn wanted me to ask: Any future plans to tour the U.S. again?

NS: I'd love to get the band back over to the USA but it's totally dependent on having a US record label willing to bankroll a tour. I'm not completely sure but I'm pretty certain Rubric aren't very keen on funding another tour. So I don't really know how to sort that one out. I guess it's possible that I could come over and do some solo acoustic shows sometime, but there's nothing planned.

EF: Thanks so much for doing this. Everybody here at Aural Innovations wishes you all the best and hopes for many more years of great music from you.

Click your browser's BACK button to return to the previous page.
Or CLICK HERE to return to the main Aural Innovations page.