Tim Jones (TJ): In 1974, I left home and at Paddi's invitation went to live in Middlesbrough in the north of England to join his band Eyes To The Sky. (I had known Paddi whilst at school in Durham City and he was a fantastic drummer even then).
At first I lived in a caravan with Dieter Hubbard and Dominic Griffiths from the band, but this was cramped to say the least and I shortly after moved into the house that Paddi was living in with five other people. The house was rented in the name of a guy called Oz and there was another guy called Nick. They were not musicians. Then there was Andy Buchanan and Christopher Wade Evans (Wevans). It was an amazing house and they were all extremely kind, friendly and interesting characters. In addition, there were always people coming to stay with us or just passing through. The house was a magnet for waifs and strays. We also had an affinity with many people at The Friend's School (a Quaker's school) in nearby Great Ayton. Paddi, Dominic & Dieter had all attended that school. It also had a myriad of interesting characters.
Paddi had given me a copy of a tape that Eyes To The Sky had made in 1973 on an old revox reel to reel tape recorder. The tape was a kind of concept album called "Glob". It was so far advanced artistically compared to anything I was involved in at that time that I was extremely excited at the prospect of playing with the band.
My previous experience was in performing in school bands or with friends at home. I hadn't done gigs as such but my friends and I had been creating our own music since 1970, utilising old radiograms for amplifiers and playing on battered old acoustics with big dodgy pickups. Home made stuff mainly.
I can remember well my first electric guitar. It was a thing of magic to me. It was cherry red and made by some small company long ago gone out of business. After all of the battered old acoustics, this was completely something else. I played it through an old amplifier my Dad had made for me and cherished it. It became more like my best friend than a musical instrument. (It was this guitar in fact that you hear on the first few Eyes To The Sky tracks on The Phoenix Tapes Volume 1. Dieter had sanded it down and given it an overhaul. He was great at setting up guitars.)
Playing guitar had already transformed my life. I had always wanted to play for Manchester City football club before I discovered the guitar. A bit of a strange aside here… when I was a little kid, around six or seven years of age, I fell in my Dad's garage and somehow managed to put a small pick axe through my right cheek. I was told by my family that if I was a good boy at the hospital they would buy me a present. In the end, the present came down to a choice between two items, a train set and a Beatles plastic guitar (the Beatles were Gods when I was a little lad as I lived in a suburb of Liverpool. I played Sgt Peppers to death when I was nine years old). Suffice to say that for some unfathomable reason I chose the guitar. I always think what if I'd chosen the train set…
Anyway, I was taught to play the guitar by a guy called Fergie at the Boys Brigade in Dundee where I was living after leaving Merseyside (we moved house a lot when I was a kid due to my Dad's job). Fergie was wonderful with kids and commanded a lot of respect from the lads, so much so that I was eager to learn from him and persevered with the guitar.
A memorable, if not slightly humiliating experience that I had as regards learning to play the guitar was while living in Dundee. I visited a local music shop that was run by an old guy in the City Centre. I walked in and asked if he had any wah wah pedals. He looked at me as if I had asked for a lunar module or something and just said "no". I then remarked, "well, have you got any other gimmicks for the guitar?" He looked me straight in the eyes, laughed and said in a heavy Scottish accent, "You get one o' they son, an' you'll be the bloody gimmick!" I laugh about it now, thinking back as I obviously had so far to go as a player, but at the time I was devastated and never entered his shop again. It took me some time to acquire a wah wah pedal. My Dad bought one for my 14th birthday. I was ecstatic!
The first proper song I wrote was "Get Out While You Can", when I was fourteen. The lyrics to that song are very dark for a young teenager but that was how I felt before joining Eyes To The Sky. Like I say, my family had followed my Dad's job around and this deeply affected my education and not just that.
A lot of adults don't realise the effect this can have on a young person. It's not just the changing of schools and environments, if not countries, but the main obstacle is fitting in with a new bunch of peers every time. After lots of effort, compromise and heartache, you manage to fit in at one place and make friends and then whack! You have to do it all over again.
In all of this, music was my solace and playing the guitar was essential and fundamental to my existence. It was the one thing that I seemed to do well at that age and it gave me self respect where otherwise there was little. I was extremely unsure of myself and very insecure.
As a little kid, I had been heavily influenced by my mother's love of Anthony Newley records and her mother's love of old jazz ballads, alongside some records by Los Indios Tabajaras that my Dad had brought back from working in South America. I was also really into Beethoven's Sixth Symphony ("Pastoral"). There are loads of brilliant riffs on that! Why has nobody done a rock version of it yet? I also liked "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys, Charlie Drake ("Mr Custer"), Simon Dupree & The Big Sound ("Kites") and Ken Dodd's records. I was also heavily influenced by "Noggin The Nog", the sixties "Batman Theme", "Trumpton", "Camberwick Green" and the music in "Stingray", "Thunderbirds" and "Captain Scarlet", not to mention "The Outer Limits".
Before joining Eyes To The Sky, I had seen live the likes of Yes, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Goundhogs, Hawkwind, Caravan, Jonathan Kelly, Budgie, Rory Gallagher, Teargas, Egg, Family, Argent, Slade, Free, Tir Na Nog, John Martyn, lots of local Dundee bands such as Skeets Bolliver and many others. You couldn't see these bands on the TV at that time or very rarely (on shows like Disco Two with Richard Williams, precursor to The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC Two) and the experience of going to see a live concert was both magical and astonishing at the same time.
Jimi Hendrix' "Voodoo Chile" EP (costing six shillings and eight pence) hit me over the head like a mallet. I also wanted to be able to play guitar like John DuCann from Atomic Rooster, after grabbing every occasion to run to the nearest radio set on hearing Devil's Answer.
Radio Luxembourg was a nightly ritual, listening in the dark to a tiny mono earpiece. I also clearly remember hurrying home to catch Curved Air performing "Back Street Luv" on "Top Of The Pops". Also, shivers still go running down my spine whenever I hear "Green Manalishi" by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, "Black Night" by Deep Purple, "Woodstock" by Mathews Southern Comfort, "The Witch" by The Rattles or "Inside" & "Life's A Long Song" by Jethro Tull, to name but a few.
In addition to all of this, I liked finding records by bands that I'd personally never heard of, in search of gems and quite often I'd strike gold. Bands like the aforementioned Teargas (precursor to The Alex Harvey Band), Paladin, Cressida, Home ("The Alchemist"), Ten Years After ("Chricklewood Green"), The Groundhogs ("Split" and "Thank Christ For The Bomb"), Cream, Iron Butterfly, Santana, Emerson, Lake & Palmer ("Knife Edge" from their first album), Skid Row (the original Irish band featuring Gary Moore at 17 years of age on guitar), Renaissance, Led Zepellin, Jeff Beck, Ashra, Tangerine Dream ("Phaedre"), Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, The "Gutbucket" Sampler (featuring The Groundhogs with "Mistreated"), The "Fill Your Head With Rock" double LP Sampler, Stan Webb's Chicken Shack ("Imagination Lady"), Wild Turkey, Man, Pink Floyd ("Relics"), Yes (First album through to "The Yes Album" - "Yours Is No Disgrace" being one of my favourite songs of all time), Taste, Mountain, Stray, Stray Dog, Writing On The Wall, The Pink Fairies, Frijid Pink, Grand Funk ("E Pluribus Funk"), Captain Beefheart's Magic Band ("Trout Mask Replica"), Frank Zappa & The Mother's Of Invention, Family, Principal Edward's Magic Theatre, Black Widow, Gentle Giant, Black Sabbath (specifically their first album, what an evocative cover that album has), If, Miles Davis ("Bitches Brew" era with John McLaughlin), The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Caterpillar, Egg, Caravan, Stackridge, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Faust (I bought "The Faust Tapes" for 49p), Neu (the classic "Hallogallo" on their pink album especially), and so it goes on.
I saw a lot of excellent local bands while still at school in Durham City. One band that I thought were fantastic was The Steve Brown Band. Steve Brown (real name Steve Regan) was a tremendous front man, singing and playing guitar. They had a wonderfully tight rhythm section in John Falmer (Bass) and Geoffrey Barrack (Drums). They were also augmented by a sax player and a keyboard player. The Steve Brown Band had a sound all of their own and produced some amazing riffs in their songs which really drew me to their sound. They released an excellent 7" single on Petal Records in 1977 called "Street Fighter" b/w "Ababoe".
I felt really proud in later years to do gigs with John Falmer and Geoffrey Barrack when they formed a new band called The Squad and Neon were often on the same bill. I remember the two bands doing a series of gigs together, like a mini tour and playing venues like The West Of Scotland Agricultural College. The Squad had an amazing lead guitarist and were managed by Dick Godfrey who alongside Ian Penman and Phil Sutcliffe ran the legendary "Bedrock" programmes on BBC Radio Newcastle. These shows were a landmark in the promotion of local bands and extremely innovative.
There were so many second hand record shops back then too, truly wonderful, awe inspiring places in interesting locations. It really was another world in the early seventies and to my mind bears little resemblance to what we have now. The "Big Brother" aspect to current society was nowhere near as intrusive and it was still possible to feel truly free.
Joining Eyes To The Sky was like being taught by a school of friends, much better and a lot more exciting than my formal education had ever been (I always thought of school as more akin to prison, a place of dumbing down and the stifling of free expression. I suffered violence from teachers throughout my education, physically, psychologically and emotionally. Teachers had a seemingly free reign to hit kids with belts, canes, blackboard erasers and other assorted projectiles or just their bare hands and they enjoyed it, you could tell from the look in their eyes. Kids were routinely brutalised or humiliated on a whim).
Paddi and Eyes To The Sky gave me the first opportunity to actually front a band as singer and guitarist and it was invaluable experience. Paddi, a year older than me (a big difference at that age), was the leader of the band without a doubt and he was very strict. He could seemingly play any instrument but he was primarily a drummer. His father, a truly lovely and understanding guy, was a music teacher and indeed as a young teenager, Paddi had won competitions for his scoring of choral works. The thing was that you just couldn't fault his playing. He knew exactly what he wanted to hear out of the musicians in the band and the discipline helped me to become a much better player. Paddi gave us all as much scope as we wanted to create but once we had created something, we were expected to perform it to the very best of our ability. Our eyes always had to be on the ball and we delighted in playing difficult time signatures or playing long pieces where we had to remember lots of different sections of music. Paddi also played an amplified acoustic guitar live. He would have a chair next to his drum kit and would alternate between playing drums and guitar.
I also learned a lot from Dieter who was nearly a year younger than me. We shared the lead guitar duties. Dieter played a Gibson SG through a Vox AC 30 amplifier, a classic combination but it was his use of early taped based echo units that really blew me away. It is him that is playing all of those trade mark Steve Hillage like riffs on the recordings by Eyes To The Sky on The Phoenix Tapes Volume 1, whereas I was playing a Fender Telecaster through a 100 watt Jennings amplifier that had a more traditional rock guitar sound (e.g., the guitar solo on "Get Out While You Can").
Dominic was a very gentle sort of character, highly literate and a very solid and tuneful bass player.
Through the band itself and the characters in the house I was living in I discovered a whole new world of going to free festivals to see the likes of Gong and Hawkwind. It was, as I say, through Dieter that I discovered the early music of Steve Hillage such as his band Khan (featuring Dave Stewart) and the incredible "Fish Rising" album, along with superb albums like Terry Reid's "River" and the early work of Soft Machine, the aforementioned legend Gong with Daevid Allen, Bette Davis ("Nasty Gal"), Michael Moorcock's LPs, Nick Drake and so many more artists that would have a huge influence on me.
Although we were living on virtually nothing at the house (one cream cake a week as a special treat if we were lucky or a half ounce packet of tobacco having to last as long as possible), we did get out to do gigs. The first gig I played with the band was at Ampleforth College (I was told later that Captain Sensible had attended that school) and we played for free at festivals in the Middlesbrough area. Our rehearsals were often a bit like gigs as lots of friends would be there with us having a party. We would also arrange to go out to see bands en masse.
We all went to see Nektar at Middlesbrough Town Hall, supported by the incredible German band Kraan that were a huge influence for years after. I also remember us all piling into a van and going to see Tangerine Dream at York Minster (with quadraphonic sound!). Despite these outings, we were all extremely poor and had given up on the normal expectations of our parents. We lived a communal existence and hitchhiked everywhere as a matter of necessity. You could do that in those days but there were still lots of dodgy situations you could get into, especially if hitching alone.
JK: Did Eyes To The Sky play live shows? If so, what were your shows like? The Eyes To The Sky recordings on Volume I include songs and lengthy instrumental jams. Were the shows similar?
TJ: The live shows were pretty much the same as what you hear on "The Phoenix Tapes Volume 1". We played them note for note and would then go into long experimental jams like "Brass Castle Lane".
Much of the output of Eyes To The Sky was never recorded. Cassette tapes were a fairly new medium at that time and we did occasionally record the odd tape but these were lost long ago. Recording in a proper studio was well above our financial means back then as it was just far too expensive. The commercial studios had a monopoly on the recording of music. There was little "home taping" on small multi-track recorders as they didn't exist at that time, apart from rudimentary reel to reel machines like the Revox but these could be very expensive.
JK: There's only two Whippet tracks, but again, you've got a lengthy, and in this case very spacey jam, and then a more song oriented track. Fast forwarding to Census of Hallucinations the same features can be found, instrumentals mixed with songs, incorporating a variety of styles. In fact, throughout this volume you seem to be exploring the entire map of the early progressive years. And it's interesting because ultimately, with Census of Hallucinations, and even to some degree with the Rabbit's Hat, you continue to synthesize varied influences, but with years of experience have managed to create what I've long considered to be a sound all your own.
TJ: I saw an interview with Miles Davis on TV, shortly before he died, in which he was explaining how it takes a long time to learn to play like yourself. Although I was greatly influenced by loads of musicians, I was never interested in copying them. I have tried playing with artists that want to copy things note for note, emulating exactly a certain guitarist's sound or whatever but I always lost interest quickly. I would be the first to admit that I don't have the technical ability to copy most well known singers or guitarists and I have never seen the merit in doing so anyway.
I think that this also comes with being essentially self taught and learning from friends. You don't have to be a better player technically to come up with better ideas. Doing a song that you love in your own way is a far better tribute to the artist to my mind, but the point is that it will always be their song, their original creation and it is this that I have always wished to emulate.
It is the deep desire to create your own songs and pieces of music that hopefully people enjoy listening to a coming together of all of those influences, creating something unique. It is the spirit that comes through the playing and the sound created that essentially influences me. That is what I want to feel.
Whippet were initially a three piece band that came together on my return to Durham City after the break up of Eyes To The Sky. The house that we were living in broke up and Paddi moved up to Scotland to join a band called Dragon. Wevans went with him and it's important to point out here that Wevans always had a flair for being a sound technician. He was learning about PA systems and musical equipment all of the time and did so much behind the scenes for all of us. Following his work with eyes To The Sky and Neon, Wevans eventually ended up working full time as an onstage technician specialising in monitor mixing for The Rolling Stones. Alongside The Rolling Stones, he was in charge of the onstage sound for Santana, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. He also toured extensively with David Bowie, Ian Dury, the UK Subs and many other well known bands.
Dominic went off to study and Dieter eventually moved to Durham to live in another communal house with me though we never actually performed live together again.
Whippet featured my old friend from school days Mark Dunn on bass guitar. Mark is a gifted musician and he not only played bass but also contributed flute, keyboards and vocals to Whippet. He had been a chorister at Durham School and appeared in opera productions in his teenage years. Mark was also excellent at building speaker cabinets and PA systems and this helped the band a great deal.
Another friend from school days, Paul Taylor, was on drums (Paul would go on to do an excellent job managing Neon). This line up rehearsed a lot but didn't gig. We eventually added an Irish guitarist called Don Chambers who was a friend of Paul's at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne polytechnic (as it was then) and another old friend of mine from school Jonathan Eccleston (Ecky) would occasionally appear with us on violin. This latter line up played all kinds of gigs, from old folk's homes to universities to benefit gigs to Town Halls etc. Whippet were a very spacey, off the wall kind of band.
JK: Tell me about the two tracks with Dave Blenkinsop. This is the only place I see his name. How did those come about? Sounds almost like some lost Ash Ra Tempel tapes.
TJ: The aforementioned communal house in Durham that Dieter and I lived in was made up almost entirely of musicians at first. It was a beautiful, big old Victorian town house, full of atmosphere and there were about eight of us there altogether, living in bed-sits. The house centred round an excellent jazz rock band called Much Later that I wasn't a member of, made up of student friends from Durham University. The keyboard player was called Dave Blenkinsop, a truly great, funny bloke and gifted musician. He lived in the room above mine and was heavily into the composer Bartok. I couldn't actually hear his keyboard whilst he was practising pieces by Bartok for his exams but I could always hear his foot tapping on the ceiling in amazing and extremely odd time signatures, hence the title "Foot Tap Response" on "The Phoenix Tapes Volume 1". The recordings with Dave were made in his room on an old cassette recorder. The musicians in the house were always jamming together and this is just one of many recordings, now lost in the mists of time. The last I heard, Dave was living somewhere in Scandinavia and was married with lots of kids.
JK: Similar question for the Tim/Martin Holder guitar duo tracks. How did that come about? Both these and the Blenkinsop tracks reveal a bit of your more experimental side.
TJ: I first met Martin Holder whilst playing in Whippet. Martin was in a superb three piece jazz-rock band called Dexter at the time and we were often on the same bill at gigs. Dexter were an amazing band that also featured the very talented Ian Briggs on drums and Colin Prior on bass. They actually came out of another fantastic band from the Durham area, well ahead of their time called Sharkskin Kid that featured a tremendous vocalist called Steve Duffy.
Dexter were a very influential band in the county Durham area and were managed by a guy called Dick that ran a community project called Fowler's Yard in Durham City. Both Dexter and Whippet rehearsed there. The old Fowler's Yard building was in a very atmospheric setting on the banks of the river Wear.
Dexter were actually featured at The Reading Festival in the mid seventies. Martin and I became extremely good friends and he was one of those rare players that could play in any style and make it all his own. Martin and I jammed a lot together before he actually joined the band that I was in after Whippet, called Neon. We quite often recorded what we were doing and I learnt a lot from him as a player. The tracks with Martin and Dave Blenkinsop are indeed experimental in nature as they were all improvised.
JK: Listening to all this progressive/spacey/experimental music I'd nearly forgotten that Neon occurred during these years. I know the Neon story well. But I feel compelled to ask anyway how, in the midst of the music I hear on this volume and relative to the music I hear on this volume, how the punk/new wave Neon came about?
TJ: Neon formed in 1976 when Paddi, returning from Scotland after the break up of his band Dragon, teamed up with Mark Dunn and I. Our influences were diverse to say the least and in the preceding years we had experimented a lot with different styles of music. The common factor was the love the three of us had for weird time signatures and what was then called progressive rock. The label progressive rock is misleading these days as back then we used to call a much wider selection of rock music progressive. For example, there was no such description as heavy metal in the rock vocabulary at that time. Progressive rock also encompassed a lot of music that was in essence jazz and folk.
Punk had just arrived when Neon came together and the spirit of that movement inspired us to focus our energies on producing heavily riffed-based rock music that was challenging for us as players (we played extremely fast) and for the listening audience. It was all about energy and expressing your own personality, not copying anybody else.
In my opinion, over the years there has been a fundamental misunderstanding about the punk rock movement. It was not just three chord wonders that were out there gigging themselves to death. The punk rock movement opened the doors for all kinds of music that would never have had a look-in if punk hadn't of happened.
It goes back to that word progressive again, in that we all wanted to progress not just as players but in ideas. There was a feeling of real revolution in the air in the late seventies and we performed like our lives depended on it. If Neon had not been so associated with the punk movement and someone heard a Neon track today, fresh, then it is doubtful whether they would actually call it punk music. It was down to attitude. We still had all of the influences that are apparent on The Phoenix Tapes Volume 1 recordings but we were also at the same time picking up on the new energies inherent in punk rock. We wanted to be loud, brash, powerful and out there, rather than being too introspective or self indulgent.
Neon performed literally hundreds of gigs between 1976 and 1979. We played on the same bill as Penetration and Punishment Of Luxury many times and there were memorable supports with Siouxsie And The Banshees, The Pirates, Bruford, The Pretenders, Steel Pulse, The Rezillos, Essential Logic, The Records, The Radio Stars, The Rich Kids, The Yachts and The Roogalators.
JK: Other than Neon, was there much live performance activity going on in these years?
TJ: Once Neon were signed to a record company, fairly early on in their three year history, there was little time for anything else other than that band. We gigged, rehearsed and recorded constantly. Having said that, we did occasionally get the chance to jam with other musicians.
JK: Were there a lot of tapes to go through from these years? Is there much more from the 70s that didn't make it on this collection? What were the sources you had to work with - reel-to-reels, cassettes? And did you digitalize them while you were at it?
TJ: Throughout the years, I have tried to preserve the recordings I've made on whatever was the most reliable/new format of the time, eventually storing most of the tracks on digital audio tape (DAT) in the 1990s. To be honest, it has been a hell of a lot of work altogether and I am often really disappointed on realizing that somehow things have been lost... i.e., I can remember the session but I can't for the life of me find the original master.
The original sources were many and varied, ranging from half inch reel to reel tapes and cassettes to porta-studios, professional formats from studios etc. There has been an awful lot to go through and in a way it has been a continuous process, culminating in the final mastered recordings that go to make up "The Phoenix Tapes" series.
This is the first time that the majority of the recordings have been available on CD. Unfortunately, the recording quality of some of the original output was just not possible to restore to what could be deemed a decent standard of quality. I have approached each track as a mastering process, trying to squeeze as much out of the mixes as possible, but I am in the position of only being able to process the original mixes of these recordings, I can't actually remix them from the original multi-track tapes.
Finally all of these songs and pieces of music are now in the digital domain. There are many related recordings that I haven't used for "The Phoenix Tapes" as these are mainly by bands that I either didn't play in or didn't write the songs for.
TJ: Treatment Room were an established band from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK that I joined shortly after the break up of Neon. The band was fronted by the very talented singer/guitarist Chris Simpson. Chris attended a lot of Neon gigs and would sometimes help us with transport. He was very into the band Wire and Brian Eno at the time. He was also a talented architect.
Treatment Room wanted to expand their sound with the inclusion of a second guitarist and I really enjoyed playing with the band.
The bass player was Steve Oliver that eventually went on to form the excellent psychedelic band The Dead Flowers who were signed to Richard Allen's Delirium Records in the UK.
It was a real shock when I first saw The Dead Flowers at the Newcastle playhouse. Steve was playing "Manic Depression" by Jimi Hendrix on a white Stratocaster through an old Marshall stack and he was dressed in a 60s brocade waistcoat with his hair in dreadlocks. He played and sounded like Jimi and I just could not understand why he had been a bass player for so long before taking up the guitar in this band. I didn't even know that he could play lead guitar.
He also ran the Club God gigs at the Newcastle Riverside venue which mirrored similar ventures by The Ozric Tentacles in London which were a bit like indoor festivals really and he had a small commercial studio in Gateshead called Desert Sound.
The drummer in Treatment Room was a really inventive and powerful player called Bri Ward. Also, I don't know why it is but without exception, all of the Geordie drummers I have played in bands with have had a terrific sense of humour. I have collapsed with laughter until I could barely breathe so many times due to the humour in these lovely people. Is it just the North East of England or drummers in general? Now there's a topic for debate…
I gigged quite regularly with Treatment Room, mainly in pubs in Newcastle with the likes of Dementia Praecox and their enigmatic front man Steve. I remember getting Treatment Room support gigs with Brian Brain, aka Martin Atkins, the drummer with Public Image Limited who I had known when he was in a progressive rock band in Durham City called Mynd (he also performed in a working man's club band aptly named Money in order to pay the rent as it were).
Martin auditioned for PIL whilst I was in Neon and I met up with him at a Neon gig at The Music Machine in London. He said that he had moved to London in order to find a new band. We were all extremely pleased when he got the job with PIL and we got a real kick out of seeing him performing with the band on the legendary "Old Grey Whistle Test" programme on BBC 2 in the UK.
His own band, Brian Brain saw him leaving the drum stool to front a band as vocalist, an extremely talented and versatile chap.
Returning to the subject of Treatment Room for a moment, after I had left the band they went on to release an excellent single in 1980 called "Awayday" with a B side called "Shapes" on Plug Records, based in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear. It was engineered by Terry Gavaghan. It was Terry in fact that engineered Neon's first single on Edinburgh's Sensible record label. I was also involved in other projects with Terry at his wonderful Guardian Studios in the little ex mining town called Pity Me in County Durham.
Terry was a well known studio engineer in the north east of England, a bit of a local legend. He had worked on so many of the definitive early punk/new wave releases that came out of the north east in the 1970s and 1980s. (Penetration & Punishment Of Luxury to name but two). He also did a lot of work for local television. He had an eight track mobile studio for a while too that meant bands could choose to record in their own environment as an option and it did the job of what would now be called Home Recording years before high quality domestic recording equipment was widely available. I remember both Terry and his assistant Keith as excellent people to work with.
Chris Simpson from Treatment Room later released the unique, innovative and rare vinyl LP entitled "Audio Sheep" by his project DumDum Score in 1986. Punching Holes were fronted by ex Punishment Of Luxury vocalist Brian Bond. I joined them after playing in Treatment Room. I had known Brian through Neon sharing the bill with Punilux at various gigs in the north east of England where we were all living at the time. Brian was an amazing front man, initially learning his trade through working with the "Skin & Bones" theatre group in Newcastle, alongside the rest of Punishment Of Luxury.
I played with Punching Holes for nearly two years and did gigs with them all over the UK. Brian had a publishing deal with Screen Gems, EMI and the band had quite a lot of backing. A memorable gig was Steve Strange's "The Club For Heroes" in London where I also met the Stranglers manager Ed Kleinman. A meeting had been set up with him by Screen Gems but sadly he was not interested in taking on the band. We recorded some demos at Ian Gillan's Kingsway studios in London's Strand that were produced by Richard Manwaring who had previously engineered Neon's second single for Radar Records. Richard had also worked with the excellent rock band Budgie.
Ian Gillan would arrive at the studio in his Rolls Royce and I've never seen so many gold discs on a wall in my life. Being a huge Deep Purple fan when I was a kid, recording at his studio was quite overwhelming. John McCoy's (the bass player with Deep Purple) broken bass guitars littered the studio but I never found out why. At one point, Richard Manwaring locked me out of the vocal booth as Brian Bond was making me laugh so much whilst we were trying to record our impressions of animal noises on a track called "Crocodile Bird" and Richard couldn't get a decent take. He eventually let me back in to do my guitar parts.
It was also through Brian that I met Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox from The Eurythmics. Brian had got to know them through gigs Punishment Of Luxury had done with them when they were known as The Tourists and we went round to their flat in London to visit them.
The Eurythmics had just been formed and were working with Holger Czukay from the German band Can that were a favourite of mine. The Eurythmics hadn't had a hit at this point. Dave Stewart asked if I fancied a jam and we went into his small music room (more gold discs on the wall) and played for a while but I was tired and played terribly.
I remember Dave Stewart listening to the tapes we had just done at Kingsway and telling Brian that if he wanted to have a hit he should straighten out the rhythms in the songs.
Richard Manwaring had spent a long time trying to re-create the sound of the original four track demos (which sounded great) that we had recorded back up in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne at an excellent little studio in what was then called the Spectro Arts Centre (now a car park) that was partly run by Sid Smith, Punching Holes' bass player. The Kingsway recordings were never released as far as I know.
Much later in 1987 I did a film for Channel Four Television in the UK that was produced by Geoff Wonfor who had worked with The Eurthymics on some of their videos and he told me that people used to laugh at Dave Stewart in the early days when he was living in Sunderland in the north east of England as he used to walk through the streets in bare feet with a guitar on his shoulder. Geoff then exclaimed, "They don't laugh at him now".
It was Elvis Presley who once said that in order to be truly famous, one must first be truly misunderstood. I think that this definitely rings true here. I just remember Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox as lovely, friendly and warm hearted people. One gig with Punching Holes I remember vividly, it was at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne University. We were the support for Level 42 and we waited for what seemed like forever for a sound check. I was replacing the strings on my guitar when I hear their drummer saying, "OK support band, you can do your sound check now". The guy really knew his place and wanted us to know ours. At the end of our support performance, we received a great reaction from the audience and they wanted us to do an encore. All of a sudden the power to the equipment/lights etc went off on stage. Needless to say, we didn't get to do one more song. It can be a ruthless business. I must say that I was extremely impressed with their bass player however. His playing in the sound check was quite incredible, better than the gig!
To get back to Punching Holes' bass player Sid Smith for a moment, it is worth mentioning that after he left the band (shortly after I did, of which more later) he became a successful biographer for the likes of King Crimson and others. I remember a few years ago seeing him talking on a TV show in the UK about the King Crimson book he had written. Sid is a great bloke and I was very pleased to know that he was being successful as an author.
The drummer in Punching Holes, Norman Emerson became a great friend of mine and after Punching Holes disbanded we went on to play in lots of different musical ventures together for years afterwards, including The Rabbit's Hat.
Unfortunately, I lost touch with the keyboard player Steve Cowgill, another very talented guy.
Another character I encountered through playing in Brian's band was Phil Sharp. He was handling Brian's affairs at Screen Gems (EMI) publishing along with the boss of the London office, Brian Hopkins. Phil's office walls were covered with publicity shots of Adam Ant and I was duly informed that Phil was the one that had discovered him. I remember Phil taking umbrage at the pink trilby I was wearing for gigs in London and thinking how can I possibly look outrageous when this guy represents Adam Ant? He said something to me like, "Oh! I love your hat dear", in a very condescending way and it kind of got to me.
I must admit here that I always found it difficult playing second fiddle in other people's bands. I freely admit this. Ego definitely comes into it. Why else would anyone want to get up in front of an audience? If you don't have that drive, it will destroy you. It is wrong to force people onto a stage if it's not what they want to do, regardless of how talented they are. Nick Drake is a case in point.
I have always felt that there was something to prove for me personally. I really wanted to entertain, I wanted to be up there playing in front of as many people as possible. It's an act and it's the greatest buzz there is! It came to the point where I wanted to find out whether I could do it entirely through my own music.
Having said this, I am not claiming to be anybody. I never viewed performing on stage as some kind of competition (there are many that do) i.e., my band is better than yours etc. Who am I anyway? I am nobody. I am not a household name, I did not "make it" as they say and most of the bands I was in had limited followings.
Don't get me wrong, Brian was very accommodating and would even introduce me to people as his co-writer at times, which he didn't have to do but when artists are going for mainstream success, for want of a better phrase, they have certain ideas about what people should play, wear etc. After all, it's their baby but I was starting to feel restricted and it was showing in my attitude. I really wanted to get back to my own music and one day I just told Brian on the phone words to the effect that I quit.
Brian Bond's Punching Holes went on to have a UK hit song with their version of the French classic La Mer which Terry Wogan had played to death on BBC Radio Two in the UK.
Having said all this about leaving Brian Bond's band in order to pursue my own music, the day that I left Punching Holes (after a particularly gloomy trip back from London with the van breaking down in freezing cold weather and being stuck on the motorway for hours until we could fix it) I received a phone call from Nevilluxury from Punishment Of Luxury asking if I wanted to join his band for some up coming gigs as he had just heard that I had left Punching Holes. How the hell Nev found out so quickly I'll never know! In a nutshell, I loved Punilux and just said yes.
It was an excellent experience. We rehearsed high up in a huge, cavernous, derelict warehouse in Newcastle and there were big gaps in the floor of the structure. One false step and you would plunge to your death. It was quite a climb getting up there. Goodness knows where the electricity came from to power the equipment.
I only played with Punilux for one set of gigs and then finally returned to my own music. Playing in Punilux was the only time I ever performed at the old Marquee venue in London to a packed house and we received a one page spread in the New Musical Express through it. They described the band as "quasi theatrical mutant heavy metal". So that's what it was…
I learned a lot from playing in the band. They were also a hilarious bunch of people to work with. Jimi Giro, the bass player wore a really weird old fashioned dress and hob nailed boots on stage with lots of make up and it was a very weird atmosphere that was created.
Nevilluxury has a unique style of playing which is difficult to master and I had to wear a ski mask, dark glasses and an umbrella on my head for the gigs. Needless to say, I couldn't see a damn thing.
The key person here though is Steve Sekrit, the drummer, as I worked with Steve for many years after the break up of Punilux in my own band Somebody Famous and we became close friends for some time.
One last thing about Punishment Of Luxury. After the original band including Brian Bond as singer was dropped by United Artists (they had put out lots of singles and their vinyl album "Laughing Academy", produced by Mike Howlett, the bass player from Gong) they had loads of unreleased material. Nev did manage to get a few things released in the 1980s through Red Rhino Records, based in York in the north of England (including his remarkable solo album "7") but it was only in the 1990s that the bulk of their work saw the light of day as official releases on John Esplen's Overground Records based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
Overground released two CDs, the first entitled "Revolution By Numbers", and the second "Gigantic Days". They are both incredible pieces of work in my opinion. I am playing on neither of them but to my surprise at the time, my picture was on both the cover and actual disc of "Revolution By Numbers", sporting the aforementioned ski mask, dark glasses and umbrella. The pictures were actually taken backstage at The Marquee gig I mentioned previously by a photographer from the NME. I was very proud when I saw that artwork. It was a real honour and made up for all of the discomfort of having to wear all of that crap.
I recently received a phone call from Jimmy Giro, kindly inviting me to his 50th birthday party bash in Gateshead, but unfortunately I couldn't attend. The great news, however is that the original band of Brian, Nev, Jimmy and Steve performed there and through it have reformed. You can currently see footage of the gig on youtube and I hear that they will be performing at some festivals this summer (2008).
JK: There's a genuine sense of exploration and discovery on volume 1 that, to my ears, informs the songs on volume 2. That is, these "songs" are like a sort of pop avant-garde... adventurous and progressive in a way that has characterized your music and songs up through the Census of Hallucination years.
By the end of my stint in Neon, I was concentrating on writing songs as such, rather than sets of riffs. Neon's material was in the main a collective effort... i.e., someone would come into a rehearsal with one idea that another member would add to or we might all come up with something at the same time through jamming. Neon was fundamentally riff based, it was rare that someone would come into a rehearsal with a fully written song comprising both the music and lyrics.
For some reason however all of the lyric writing was left up to me, so quite often I would be slotting in lyrics to existing pieces of music that we had come up with. I think this is the reason that the voice was used as an extra instrument in a way, as much for the sound of the words as for their meaning as a total lyrical concept.
When bands are as close knit as we were, they kind of invent their own language through the banter they enjoy with each other. We used a lot of lyrical phrases that were almost the language of a gang of teenagers really. Kids have been doing this for generations and it's inevitable that when a bunch of close friends from school get a band together, they will employ these means as a stamp of their identity.
The problem with this is that a lot of listeners may not have a clue as to what you're on about. In other words, it only means something to a small bunch of people. Then again, a lot of people are not interested in the lyrics anyway, so to them it doesn't matter as long as there is some meaningless phrase that they can sing along to. For example, what does Gabba Gabba Hey mean exactly, as employed by the Ramones?
It could get quite confusing within the band as well however. A typical interview question at the time would be, "who writes the lyrics?" and Mark would answer, "He does, ask him what they mean because we don't know", so it can all become quite convoluted in a way.
Writing lyrics is an art in itself. It's a bit like trying to write poetry but it's not exactly poetry as it's a different medium. Poetry is enjoyed for the words alone, their sound, meaning, emotional impact etc whereas lyrics are written to act in tandem with music. I know that poetry has been set to music down through the ages but the chances are that it probably wasn't written with music in mind. A lot of brilliant lyrics sound pretty crap on their own it has to be said, it's only when you hear them in context with the music that they seem to make sense.
Anyway, to get back to the question, there I was in the middle of all of this lyrical incoherence trying to make sense of it all. What was it that I was trying to say? What did I want to put across? Could I be at all coherent lyrically? Could I write meaningful words that people would be interested in hearing? In all honesty I find writing lyrics a lot harder than writing music.
It seemed to me that every sentiment as regards the subject of love had been done and dusted. After all, what is there to say beyond "I love you" or "I think you are sexy" or "I think that you are the most wonderful girl since sliced bread"? I wanted to express what I felt beyond sentiments of the boy meets girl variety.
I could only draw on my own experience living in the UK at that time so my lyrics started to focus on that and what I felt about the world around me. It's not that I never write love songs, more that they are a part of the whole lyrical landscape. Since then, it has been a never ending quest. Sometimes I am pleased with what I have written, sometimes in retrospect I am embarrassed by it. All that you can do is try your best really. I always try my best when writing songs and hope that it rings true with the listener. You can always tell when things are contrived and I hate that. I suppose that in a nutshell, I don't want my songs to sound like anyone else's. The quest is to be uniquely good, like all of the artists I truly admire.
JK: Has A Delicate Talking Mechanism really sat in the can all these years, without being publicly heard prior to The Phoenix Tapes?
TJ: After I had completed "A Delicate Talking Mechanism" I had 25 copies made and gave most of them to friends. The rest I sent out to various places. One of the tapes I sent to a trade magazine called Making Music, and a few weeks later I received a very nice letter from them and 25 more copies that they had professionally duplicated. It turned out that "A Delicate Talking Mechanism" had won "Demo of the week" and the prize was more demo tapes. I still have the review they gave it. I was extremely encouraged. Beyond that, a couple of the acoustic based tracks were included on a solo CD I did for Stone Premonitions called "666+1". Beyond that, the tracks have been gathering dust for the last 28 years.
JK: You put a band together to perform songs from A Delicate Talking Mechanism at the Domefest Free Music Festival. The festie scene in the UK is legendary in underground music circles. How did the performance at the fest go and did the band you put together play other shows?
TJ: The free festival scene in the UK was still going strong when we did the gig and the Domefest annual two day festival in Durham City was into it's ninth year when we performed "A Delicate Talking Mechanism". The original line-up of Pre-Fab Sprout were also on the bill along with Treatment Room. I had performed at Domefest in Neon the previous year and had attended most of the occasions before that. They were truly wonderful events that attracted up to eight thousand people in the end (the ninth festival was in fact the last event as most of the organizers had moved on by then). I have a terrible recording of the performance we did at Domefest on a battered old cassette. I tried to fix it up for "The Phoenix Tapes" in fact but it proved un-listenable. It was just too degraded. It was, as I say, a crap recording on a duff tape to begin with.
It was great fun to do the gig and it is difficult to describe the atmosphere at these events. Things were so different back then, it was another planet. We won the audience over by the end of the performance, but I think that at first they were all kind of thinking, "this isn't anything like Neon, where's the drummer and all of the fast and furious riffs?" There was a lot of banter both from the stage and the audience. Martin Holder played a tremendous guitar solo half way through the set and I think that was what won them over. It was just a great vibe to be there.
It wasn't a band as such, more a collection of musical friends that were heavily involved in their own projects at the time. It was the only gig that this line-up played together.
Chris Simpson and Nick Ketteringham went on to form an excellent band called The Fashionable Impure that had a track on a well sought after vinyl LP compilation of alternative Durham bands from 1981 that was actually financed by The Durham Bookshop, an alternative bookshop in Durham City. The LP was called "NE.I", and also featured the likes of The Toy Dolls and Negative Throb. You can find details about this on the excellent Mutant Sounds website (www.mutantsounds.com). I have seen copies of this album selling for between thirty and forty pounds in the UK.
Robin Storey and I played a few gigs in Durham City as a duo with Robin playing an assortment of instruments and me singing and playing guitar. These were lovely occasions and I remember a very warm atmosphere from the audiences. Robin went on to form Zoviet France and currently performs under the name Rapoon www.rapoon.net. Martin Holder moved to London to become a session player and later joined Jah Wobble's live band.
JK: Aside from this line-up, did you appear at other fests throughout the 80s?
TJ: Indeed, I played at a lot of festivals, all based up in the North of England. Somebody Famous played everything from The Durham Miner's Gala outdoor event to small festivals organized by colleges, to Biker's festivals, to what were big outdoor parties organised by friends like John Douglas at Darkwater Promotions. We played outside pubs or in fields with generators, anywhere that would have us basically. Quite often we would perform in tents or big marquees.
JK: Tell me about the DTs. Was it intended as a purely live band? Was it all instrumental? Was Ian Self a noted musician? At the risk of reading too much into your liner note description it sounds like the band was formed for the purpose of doing gigs with Ian.
TJ: Originally the name The DTs came out of the recording sessions I did with Dave Blenkinsop. We used the first letters of both our Christian names (i.e., D for Dave and T for Tim). After that The DTs became the name for any project I was involved in outside of Neon and lasted well after the band had folded.
Ian Self was a good friend and local drummer who had played in two fantastic North East bands, namely Instant Bop and Europe Stares. Instant Bop were in existence from about 1978 to 1980 and Europe Stares were around for about a year after that. They had completely different line-ups apart from Ian being on drums in both bands.
It was through the Stone Premonitions website and The Phoenix Tapes that Ian managed to get in touch with me again after us not seeing each other for some years. It turned out that I still had copies of the original Instant Bop demo from 1979 that they had recorded at Durham University Electronic Music Studio with Nick Ketteringham engineering and I put it onto CD for Ian. Through this, you can now hear Instant Bop on myspace at www.myspace.com/instantbop.
Ian now works for HMV Records in the UK and is also a real authority on Laurel & Hardy, and in fact films in general. He has a unique sense of humour and it's great to be back in touch with him again (thank you Jerry!).
Instant Bop were fronted by a guy called John who was actually the roadie for Pre-Fab Sprout. I had been to college with John on a music course. It was on this course that we met a girl called Wendy who was initially involved with John (they lived together in a flat in Durham City). Wendy eventually ended up singing backing vocals in Pre-Fab Sprout and later getting married to Paddy MacAloon.
It is worth mentioning that I was a huge fan of the original Pre-Fab Sprout that were a three piece band playing a residency at a pub called The Brewers Arms in Gilesgate, Durham City. They were a lovely bunch. Even back then, Paddy was walking around in a smart suit, smoking a cigar! Paddy was the singer and guitarist, his brother Martin was on bass and Mick Salmon was on drums (Mick is featured on "A Delicate Talking Mechanism").
They were a fantastic rock band when they started out, truly electrifying and I saw them many times. They ran their parent's petrol station in a place called Witton Gilbert near to Langley Park where I was living at the time and I remember passing one day and being invited into the little shop that they had where they would play old records whilst waiting for the next customers to drive up to fill their cars with petrol.
Paddy told me how CBS and other record companies had just been there waving cheque books in his face after hearing their first single entitled "Lions In My Own Garden" on Kitchenware Records, based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The rest is history as they say.
I remember walking up to Martin MacAloon after one of the gigs in The Brewers arms and saying "You're not going to stay here man, doing small gigs like this. Something is going to happen. You are going to be famous", or words to that effect. I was drunk at the time but Paddy and Martin's little brother later verified that Martin had in fact taken it in despite the smell of brown ale on my breath. It's hard to describe but in that moment I just knew. If I had been an A&R guy, I would have signed them on the spot and I must point out that at the time they were a very different band to what they subsequently became.
A few years later, Pete Frame, the guy that does all of the "Rock Family Tree" books, rang me up asking if I could remember which Langley Park barber's shop Paddy MacAloon had his hair cut in. Like I say, although they had an extremely successful album entitled "From Langley Park To Memphis", they didn't actually live in Langley Park, they lived in Witton Gilbert, a couple of miles down the road.
It was my dear old friend the late Nick Ketteringham once again that recorded their first demos for them at DUEMS where he was a student. Nick did so much to keep the Durham scene alive. He died of cancer a few years ago and is sadly missed. He did all of the studio engineering for no material reward and was also a vital part of the Domefest free festivals. He was totally dedicated to the promotion of local music.
JK: There are some names that crop up continually in your various bands throughout many years - Paddi Addison, Martin Holder, Mark Dunn, Paul Ellis... you've described some very interesting projects they've all been involved in, and of course you had your fingers in so many things too. Yet there must be some common bond that kept bringing you together throughout the years. Some of these names appear on the first recordings from your teen years.
TJ: In a nutshell, these are my oldest friends and you can read about their many musical achievements in the notes to "The Phoenix Tapes" on the Stone Premonitions website. I have known Mark Dunn since I was fourteen. He was a year above me at school, so was Paddi, until he left in what was then the sixth form to attend the aforementioned Friends School in Great Ayton.
I have known Martin Holder since I was seventeen and Paul Ellis since I was eighteen and we were all involved in the vibrant music scene in Durham City.
We all bonded early on, if you like, and through that have kept in touch over the years. We are still very much in touch for that matter and are currently recording some new material despite being in different geographical locations. I sincerely hope that we will all remain close friends until we all "pop our clogs", to coin a phrase.
There is something that I want to get across here. All of those atmospheres evoked by records from, for example, The Canterbury Scene, were also prevalent in Durham City at that time, it being a university town in a very special historic location, like the city of Canterbury. I lived in Durham through that period and felt it, it was in my bones. Durham Cathedral, built on a sacred mound in the centre of the city (Durham is geographically located in the centre of seven hills), is one of the most spectacular Norman structures in the western world, originally dating back to the ninth century, absolutely breath taking, both inside and out.
I spent a lot of time in or around Durham cathedral (dominating as it does so much of the city) and walking along the breathtakingly beautiful wooded banks of the river Wear with the backdrop of the sheer magnificence of the cathedral and castle. There were many other old buildings in this area too, including impressive bridges, atmospheric narrow streets and university buildings, unique little shops with loads of character but no supermarkets.
It has been well documented that cathedrals and churches were quite often built on ancient sacred sites, replacing much older structures such as stone circles. One theory is that these stone circles were built on ley lines or dragon lines that ancient pathways followed. Where the pathways converged was the point at which they built the stone circles. The stones could store up masses of energy from the earth's magnetic field. If this theory is correct then Durham cathedral is one gigantic, beautifully carved stone battery and this goes a long way to describing the vibrations it generates.
I think that the human race must once have been more like birds and followed the natural lines of energy in a similar way that birds migrate (i.e., it was a very instinctual thing). The old paths followed the ley lines. Only back then the earth energies were much stronger. I do believe that they come and go, like fluctuating currents along with cycles of energy.
The problem is that these natural energies, centres of magnetic fields, focal points that link us to the earth, are so often blocked by all of the different frequency wave crap we as humans produce. If you take as an example any high point in the UK, it's probably infected/infested by a mobile phone mast, listening station, radar or some other such crap. Mobile phones should only be used in emergencies. What if all of the mobile phone user's brains explode instantaneously at some point in the near future? They are killing dolphins with sonar there days after all. And what about the huge Haarp transmitters sending massive electrical charges up into the ionosphere as part of the Star Wars system?
And then there is Global Warming due to all of the pollution we create. But it's the sun that shall have the final say on the ecological matters of planet Earth. The sun has a lot more power than major industrialised nations and corporations. The sun decides all in the end. Mankind and all of the nuclear power, depleted uranium and pollution is just an infinitesimal blip as far as the cosmos is concerned.
As I've said before, the UK was another planet back then. No home computers, no mobile phones, no surveillance cameras, no huge supermarkets everywhere you look, TV stopped at 11.30 PM or earlier during the week.
It seems to me that we have lost so much in this modern world. It is far more two dimensional and with that comes a certain shallowness. It all lacks the mystery of former times. It does not suit the society we live in to truly care about people, there isn't time. The most important thing seems to be that you behave like a viable economic unit and are not just one more of the elite's "useless eaters". Yet, we pay members of parliament vast sums of money in the UK to do what? To make up rules that they think they are above, one law for them and one for us. This inevitably leads to a hell of a lot of cynicism about the entire political system. Does every generation lose so much? Is this how my grandparents felt when they were 50?
JK: The first four tracks on The Phoenix Tapes Volume 3, with you and Kevin Heard, are very interesting. Just two people, simple key/synths and a drum machine. But what jumps out at me are the SONGS and the GUITAR. As I cruise along on this through-the-years Phoenix tapes journey I hear a significant maturing of Tim Jones as songwriter/musician. Especially the first track... you've got these classic lo-fi hometaper beats, but the guitar work is exquisite, and it's a really solid song.
TJ: I had known Kevin Heard since Neon days as he was the drummer in another contemporary north east of England band called the Carpetts. (Lots of excellent new releases of classic Carpettes material is now available through the Italian label Snaps Music www.snapsmusic.com. They have also produced a CD-Rom history and a 7" vinyl single of Neon in recent years).
After Neon had broken up and Kevin had left the Carpettes, he asked me if I would be interested in doing a bit of singing and playing some guitar on a new song that he'd written, along with a cover version of the classic Johnny Preston song "Running Bear". I was very pleased to get involved and Kevin booked some time in the aforementioned Spectro Arts Centre in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne with Ian Gilby engineering.
Ian was a great bloke and an excellent studio engineer. We recorded the songs in Spectro's eight track studio and then distributed them locally as a cassette demo entitled Zut! Zut! Most of the copies went to friends but we did receive some local airplay and were interviewed on local radio. There was interest because of the links we had to both Neon and the Carpettes. Following on from Zut! Zut! Kevin purchased one of the new cassette based four track porta-studios that were becoming available at that time (though they were still relatively expensive).
We embarked on a project called "Icon Delight". This was once again a studio based project, we didn't gig. It was a chance to spend all of the time we wanted, concentrating on recording our songs, there was no studio clock ticking like a meter in a taxi cab. We both brought our own songs to Kevin's studio in Willington, County Durham and would develop the ideas with each other. The whole thing just went with the flow.
There was no attempt to write commercial material for the mainstream record companies. Nine times out of ten they would just send you a standard refusal anyway (I have received some hilarious replies from record companies over the years. I always found their rejection inspiring as it made me even more determined. After being quite heavily involved with record companies for a few years it took me time to realise that there were other options. Where there's a will there's a way.)
I was once told by an A & R person whilst in his office that if I needed a cassette to record something on, just to check through the waste paper bin next to his desk. He kept all of the good quality chrome cassette demos that had been submitted to the label so that he could record stuff over them and threw all of the inferior ones away (the "next big thing" becomes the invisible man as the A&R guy he posted his precious demo to literally erases his dreams).
Anyway, I digress. We eventually released "Icon Delight" as a cassette based album. Again, there were few copies made. It had an excellent cover, drawn by Kevin, and it is well worth pointing out at this juncture just what a talented guy Kevin Heard is. He is a fantastic artist and cartoonist and he sang, played keyboards, guitar, bass and other instruments in all of our projects together.
The songs that I wrote for "Icon Delight" were a reflection of how I was feeling at that time and very much to do with how my ideas about everything were changing. I am a great believer in change in the individual. People change, they do not stay the same. I think that quite often, people that you have known for many years, be it family or friends kind of use you as a reference point for them and if you change, it can cause an imbalance in them. They kind of like to know where they are in life through you.
We produced "Icon Delight" in 1984, a significant date for readers of George Orwell, especially living through the Thatcher years in the UK, with the Falkland's War, the Poll Tax and the beginning of the disintegration of society and democracy that we know only too well now.
I've heard it said that Orwell was actually going to call his classic book "1948" instead of "1984". That would make a lot of sense to me. We've been beyond Orwell for some time now. Personally I wanted to get the hell out of there, like taking a lift with Doctor Who in the Tardis. I couldn't literally do that of course, so music once again came to my rescue.
There was a lot of train of consciousness type ideas in the lyrics, a lot of escapism. We all have our idea of an ideal world. One man's heaven is another man's hell. I suppose in many ways, I was trying to find people that would listen with like mind.
Esoterically speaking, there are lots of dimensions to our existence that are hidden from us. I think that we are encouraged to forget about the caring, spiritual side of our lives in order for us to concentrate on the purely physical. But what about these other dimensions? Do we, along with other entities share the same space in time but at different frequency/vibration levels? Can we tune into each other like on a radio? These were the ideas I was exploring on "Icon Delight".
Also, I wanted to get away from the Intro - verse chorus - verse chorus - middle bit - verse chorus - outro formula for writing songs for a while. It was a more experimental style of song writing.
Technically speaking, I had an Aria Pro electric guitar at that time with an out of phase switch for the pick ups that I played through an echo foot pedal and it could be an interesting sound overall.
The drum machines at the time were, to be honest, nearly all naff. It could be like keeping the sound of biscuit tins in time. Having said this, they were a revolution too. Drum machines are a lot quieter than real drums for a start and good for keeping a pulse going. The problem comes I think when people start trying to play them like a drum kit.
The value of a good drummer cannot be overestimated and drum machines will never replace that human aspect, unless we all become androids. Then again, the way things are going in this modern world, it might well be the case. For instance, I've heard recently that some Japanese robotics manufacturers have built a robot clarinet player that plays as well as Acker Bilk.
Kevin and I also recorded a song called "Ramehead" with Nick Ketteringham in an eight track audio visual suite he was working on in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, after leaving Durham University. Nick continued to work in the audio visual conference field until his death a few years ago. He employed many talented musicians/technicians from the north east of England for his many projects. I have fond memories of Nick. He was inspirational to work with and possessed seemingly boundless energy. He also played bass on "Ramehead", as well as doing the engineering.
The lyric to the song was written by a great old friend of mine called Dicon Peake. Dicon was a spiritual guide, a painter & illustrator, a celtic harp maker, a poet and a computer games designer. These are just a few of his many talents. He helped me a great deal by giving good advice and imparting wisdom where there was folly. He eventually moved to the Isle of Anglesey. I have lost touch with Dicon. He will be well into his 60s by now and I sincerely hope that he is well and happy.
The other venture that Kevin and I embarked upon was the live band Blow For Blow. The line up was Kevin on keyboards & vocals, me on vocals & guitar, the late Vic Warrington on bass and Norman Emerson on drums.
As I've already mentioned, Norman was the drummer in Punching Holes and we went on to work together in The Rabbit's Hat. Norman had originally played in lots of bands in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne including the excellent Harry Hack & The Big G and The Weights. One of Norman's brothers is in fact the acclaimed cartoonist Hunt Emerson. He originally started working in underground comics in the 1970s. I'd actually read some of his comics like the "Knockabout" series in the vein of "The Furry Freak Brothers" before I met him.
Norman's other brother Mick Emerson was nick named "Red Helmet" on guitar in Punishment Of Luxury in the early days and is an accomplished musician, along with his wife Carole. Mick can turn his hand to so many instruments and styles. He is as at home playing traditional Welsh music as he is playing punk, an excellent singer, guitarist, percussionist, mandolin player, the list goes on. We've actually performed live many times together and appeared on the same bill in different bands over the years. Mick & Carole also released a superb cassette mini album on Stone Premonitions in the early 1990s under the name Folkadelic. (Visit Mick Emerson's blog at www.myspace.com/mickemerson)
Vic Warrington was another old friend of mine from Durham City. He was an excellent bass player that I first saw play live alongside Paul Ellis on keyboards in a band called Number 3 at a gig in Durham University. They were a great jazz rock band that featured a brilliant front man singing and playing sax. Again, we often appeared on the same bill at gigs. Through this, I got to know Vic who was a well known character on the Durham scene which was extremely vibrant back then, as I've said. He was also a veteran of the golden age of free festivals in the UK. We were involved in lots of different live ventures. At one point, I played drums with Vic on bass and a guy called John on vocals & guitar. Blow For Blow were primarily a live band, the material taken mainly from the studio projects I've already mentioned. We did actually record a three track cassette demo at Desert Sound in Gateshead. Once again we received a lot of regional support from local radio and we gigged regularly in the north east of England. Memorable gigs were Dingwalls in Newcastle and a wonderful venue in Durham City called Castle Chare Arts Centre.
This beautiful old building was a real centre of activity at one point, along with the excellent rehearsal space for bands in Durham City, Fowler's Yard. Castle Chare had a live space called the "Green Room" with a very old, beautifully ornate ceiling that was intricately painted. The whole place had an evocative atmosphere. I saw many wonderful artists playing there, including Roy Harper.
JK: I like the song "I Object". The lyrics are what I suppose we could call trademark Tim Jones. You don't have to listen to too many of your songs before you find lyrics detailing disgust with governments, politicos, and bullshit behaviour in general. At the end of the day... are you an optimist or pessimist?
TJ: Big Subject! The lyrics for "I Object" were actually written by Mark Dunn and I as a joint effort whilst sitting round a log fire that was burning in the hearth of a beautiful old Victorian fireplace. We were bouncing around objectionable ideas and came up with that song. Mark has a great baritone voice. The rest of your question is difficult to answer, it's only my opinion after all and who am I to judge anyway?
Ah yes, governments and bullshit. I'd almost forgotten about them. There are rich people and there are poor people in this world. When a rich man with vested interests owns all of the contenders in a race, he can't possibly lose. Golden rule, always back both sides.
We pay politicians a lot of money to do what? Mainly to make up rules for the rest of us that they themselves think they're above. We are then conned into believing that they are there to serve the people's interest. It's all a sham and anyone with half a brain knows this.
Many choose to ignore it because they benefit from the system but what about those that don't? It's ok, they'll look after us, everything is under control. There are a million and one things I could say about the "powers that be" but often, thinking about it too much just leads me to despair.
What is the difference between hell and the experience of some poor, 4 year old boy in Iraq or Afghanistan having just witnessed the cold blooded killing of his mother and father in a car that they had all been sitting in moments before? The boy is crying inconsolably as he stands there covered in his parent's blood.
I have a beautiful 4 year old boy called James. He is my first and only child. He is transforming my existence so much for the better, slowly but surely. He is only four years old, yet he is my greatest teacher. The love and zest for life that James has is truly inspiring. He needs a lot of love to give him confidence and he needs a lot of help in understanding the basics of living in this society.
The problem is that when the leaders of this society wage war, they wage war on children. When they drop bombs, they drop them on children. We are led to believe that wars are between men, perpetrated on faceless terrorists and "evil doers". Why then do the children suffer most? We cannot imagine the utter terror that these little children must experience. I cannot bring myself to even consider the horror of seeing my son James in the position of these little children, living in war zones. Why do we never consider this? What kind of monster dismembers children with cluster bombs or depleted uranium shells? What's the difference between the man dropping the bomb and the devil to a 4 year old?
We need wisdom to bring peace to this world. We must have peace, everything else is just greed and destruction, extolled through the rhetoric of wolves in sheep's clothing in respect of wars. It's our choice, heaven or hell in this sacred place. Hell can be right here and now or we can choose to make it heaven.
Let's say that we did volunteer to be here, we did ask to be born in order to experience this place of gravity. What is our purpose? "Falling angels", all of us, but we forgot the purpose of our visit as a matter of karma, cause and effect. Then again, this is the point. We came here to learn. The fact that we can't remember why we're here would suggest that we try to find out.
My good friend Garry Lee at www.starshipoverflow.com recently sent a brilliant e-mail to me that contained a quote that went something like, "A wise man can see more from the bottom of a well than a fool can see from the top of a mountain". My mother once gave me a lovely card with a short verse by Langston Hughes that reads, "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly". I am optimistic that wisdom will prevail, for James' sake.
JK: I had commented that this period demonstrates a noticeable maturing of your skills as a songwriter and musician. But you're clearly still experimenting and exploring, as evidenced by "In the Wake of His Absence" and "The Culture". That's a trait that never went away, and is what attracted me to your music in the first place... this morphing/melding/blending of the accessible and the experimental. Pop music for the progressive minded.
TJ: I think that you've hit the nail on the head when you talk of the musical blending process. There are so many contemporary musical forms now. "Rock" music, or "progressive rock" as it used to be called, as a genre has expanded like the big bang into an incredible universe.
I like any song or piece of music that I think is good, regardless of what style it is. It is great to reach out to lots of different people who like different styles of music. Frank Zappa was a master blender for sure, utilising so many styles in his music and giving it a totally unique sound. This is a kind of alchemy.
Music that we truly love affects us deep within. It stirs our emotions. Music can heal and it is therapy as far as I am concerned. It is also entertainment and is a powerful tool or weapon, depending on who is using it.
My friend Andy Gee at Dead Earnest Records in Dundee, Scotland recently pointed out to me one of the problems with not having just one specific style or sound to your music. He said that it can be both a blessing and a curse. He is right. It is a challenge to the listener when confronted by something different because they have to think "out of the box" and a large chunk of the listening public do not want to do this. They don't want to listen to music and lyrics that mean anything, they just want to play dance records all night or that hot, new heavy metal band's album and so forth.
Any music I hear or create that sounds contrived I immediately disregard; it has no value to me. Music is for plucking out of the air, like apples from a tree. Each apple is unique in its own way but we will always recognize it as an apple.
As regards "In The Wake Of His Absence" and "The Culture" from "The Phoenix Tapes", I was reading a lot of esoteric literature about Channelling and Automatic Writing at the time. The lyrics for these pieces of music were written after first attempting to clear my mind by trying to think of absolutely nothing for a while. This is difficult to do. Then, with pen in hand I would write the complete lyric in one go, whatever came into my head and it could get pretty strange.
When I hear these two pieces now, I'm still trying to work out what they mean. It's weird when you get the chance to hear your own music objectively. At the time, you are so subjectively involved and it can all sound completely different in later years.
JK: In the liner notes you talk about "being employed as a musician" by Prism Sound. Can you elaborate on that?
TJ: At the time, I had just finished recording a mini album called "Prisoners Of The Real World" for Falling A Records in the UK. This was engineered by Nick Ketteringham once again, who as I've already mentioned was involved with the audio/visual conference scene in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
A wonderful batique artist from Durham City, Pete Winstanley (the younger brother of Paul Winstanley), painted huge canvases for the album sleeve and this caused a printing problem with the technology available at that time. There was only a small budget for the artwork and it was going to cost a lot of money to reproduce the paintings to a sufficient degree of quality and in a suitable format that a professional printer could use. We had no cheap digital cameras then. As a solution, Nick suggested that we go and see his friends at Prism Communications, based in one of the old, fantastic, industrial buildings on Newcastle quayside. Prism Communications was in essence an audio visual company, working on slides for multi-projector installations for conferences and promotional activities. They also designed logos etc. They were an extremely talented, creative and inspirational bunch of people who were very kind to me in retrospect.
I went in to speak to Brian Wilson and Tony Veitch at Prism. Whilst discussing the artwork problem, we got to talking about music in general and they showed me around the new 16 track studio they had just built. It had a lovely atmosphere. They had suspended the whole thing within another large room and made a very good job of it.
Brian, who was the managing director of the company talked about lots of ideas regarding the whole Prism enterprise. They were going to run the studio commercially, alongside a record label called Prism Sound. In a nutshell, I gave them some tapes of songs that I was working on and one thing led to another.
Prism sort of adopted me for over a year. They actually employed me as a musician so that I could work on my own music and produce an album. This was an amazing offer. They used parts of some of the songs I was doing on adverts for people like Cameron's Breweries, as far as I can remember, so maybe that covered some of their costs.
One memory that really stands out from the Prism Sound sessions was the day I walked into the studio and saw it in a more spick & spam condition than it had ever appeared before, it was so tidy. A lovely guy called Steve Cunningham was the resident engineer at this point and when I asked why everything was so tidy, he replied in an off the cuff manner, "Oh, Laurence Olivier is coming in here in about five minutes". I laughed and asked the real reason why. But sure enough, after a short while, in comes Laurence Olivier.
It turned out that he was doing a voice over for the follow up to "N-n-n-n-nineteen" by Paul Hardcastle (you know the one). The follow up was about "The Great Train Robbery". The record company that were releasing the single rang around all of the local studios in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (I think that Sir Olivier was performing some other function in Newcastle at the time and they were killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Paul Hardcastle was essentially working around Laurence Oliver's schedule).
Due to the fact that Sir Olivier was in his seventies and partly wheelchair bound, they needed a studio with easy access from the pavement. Prism's situation in this regard was perfect. I must admit, old and frail looking though he was, it was wonderful to see the old master in real life. He had an extremely warm manner with everyone.
After doing the voiceover, Brian promptly dragged Paul Hardcastle into the studio to listen to some of the tracks we were working on. I wasn't there, so I don't know what opinion was given. Most of the songs that I did at Prism were eventually released on vinyl and feature heavily on "The Phoenix Tapes" series.
Tony Veitch rang up one of the local papers during the Paul Hardcastle session saying that Somebody Famous had just had to cancel a session for someone that really was famous. The gimmick aspect of the story worked and it appeared on the front page of the paper. Tony was a very resourceful sort of character from Durham City that I got to know really well for a time. He acted as the Prism's promoter of the Somebody Famous musical output and he actually managed the transfer of the master tapes to Raindance Records.
JK: Reading about The Gift in the volume 3 notes prompted me to look at the Somebody Famous discography on the SP site. There were 2 singles and The Gift LP. Other than those and the Neon vinyl, have you ever had any other vinyl releases?
TJ: Yes, in actual fact, Snaps Music in Italy recently released a limited edition 7" vinyl EP of the four Neon tracks that we recorded for a John Peel session on BBC Radio 1 in 1979.
Snaps Music (www.snapsmusic.com) specialise in reissues and releasing rare new wave tracks that have previously been unavailable. They also released a vinyl CD-Rom covering much of Neon's career. Snaps Music has a sister company called aua Records that are a CD design and duplication company. Well worth checking out. Apart from this, there are no other vinyl releases out there as far as I'm aware.
JK: Tell me more about Tongue. The music on the two songs, particularly "In My Life", have a punky feel that recalls Neon. Were there other Tongue originals?
TJ: I've talked a bit about the characters in Tongue in the sleeve notes to "The Phoenix Tapes", only to add that Baz, Pete Monk and Pete Wildes are three of the most loveable characters you could ever hope to meet. What a hilarious bunch. Both gigs and rehearsals could be a scream. It was worth doing all of the work getting a set together and playing pubs in the North East of England, just for the humour.
I remember Pete actually stopping playing his drums halfway through a number at a gig in Sunderland called "The Old 29" (now sadly a car park. Many great bands performed there over the years and the place had atmosphere, without a doubt. Sometimes it could be quite menacing.) When we turned round to see what was wrong, there was Pete, cool as a cucumber viewing his latest holiday snaps. Pete's father had been a popular, tap dancing banjo player in the music halls and clubs in the old days. Pete was a natural born comedian, as is Baz for sure.
Baz and I were already close friends and go back a long way. Pete Monk and I were living in the same street at the time and had become good friends. Tongue actually rehearsed in Pete's living room that he had partly converted into a rehearsal space. Pete had performed in bands during the punk period. All of us had that musical history dating back to the punk/new wave era. I suppose this could be an explanation as regards the kind of punky feel about the songs.
Although Tongue were primarily a live band (I had been locked away doing studio work for the previous year and a half and just wanted to get out and play really. We all did), we did actually record a number of original songs. I think that the Tongue tracks on "The Phoenix Tapes" are the best surviving examples of what the band were about, it was very raw.
It's strange in a way, as the current Neon project (the band are having a bit of a reunion at the present time) includes working on a song that I originally composed for Tongue. Songs bounce back and forth over the years.
JK: Except for the few credited contributions, the "Bron's Kite" songs seem to have been mostly a solo effort. What did you do with the cassette demo at the time? Did you try to shop it around at all?
TJ: In actual fact, "Bron's Kite" was released as a pre-recorded cassette by Raindance Records in Scotland. Raindance sold it through the back pages of the UK music press and we added it to the music for sale at Somebody Famous gigs for a while. It was a solo effort really, with some contributions from friends. Recording things like "Bron's Kite" allowed me to keep my hand in on the recording side of things while the gigs were ticking over.
JK: I'm reading with interest about you and Baz touring as a Somebody Famous duo. UK music "licensing" laws in many pubs that couldn't put on more than two musicians at a time??? What's the deal with that?
TJ: The laws have changed again since Baz and I were out gigging as a duo but basically, in those days, certain pubs were only licensed for two people (i.e., duos) to appear live on their premises. They had to purchase a further, special license from the authorities if they wanted to feature more than two people (i.e., bands).
The fact that there were only two people in Somebody Famous at that point but that we could also provide drums, albeit from a machine, meant that it was the next best thing to having a three piece rock band play in these pubs. Most of the duos performing on the local circuit played acoustic music. That's why they gave us residencies where we would play once a week or fortnightly. In a nutshell, I think that it was probably all to do with two things, money and volume. The bass drum on a standard drum kit alone is 120 watts. We had the advantage of being able to turn the drums down.
JK: I can tell the duo live performances must have really turned out well, judging by the strength of the 1-8 tracks on Volume 5.
TJ: So much so that I continued the project with bass player Chris Oddy after Baz moved to Cardiff in order to study. We had regular gigs like the residencies I've just mentioned and played outdoors at small festivals quite a few times. The biker crowd liked us (Baz was a biker anyway) and we were popular at student unions too.
The trick was to get the volume and tone of the drum machine just right so that it was a pulse that blended instead of irritating the listener. Also, an important factor is that we are talking about the 1980s here and drum machines were going through a popular phase. They were quite accepted.
Baz is an extremely fluent bass player and there was lots of room for the bass and guitar in the sound. I used a lot of effects too, like rack mounted digital delay units, in order to fill out the sound. Another real plus about this set up was that the transport situation was very easy to handle. We could fit all of the equipment, including a small PA (built and provided by Raindance Records) and ourselves in a small van.
JK: I know what you mean when you say Steve Sekrit joining kicked started a whole beginning for the band. Listening to these volumes prompted me to revisit all the Somebody Famous live performance videos on the web site and there are some truly blistering and inspired performances. Really one hell of a live trio.
TJ: Steve Sekrit is without doubt one of the most talented drummers that the north east of England has ever produced. As I have already stated, I got to know Steve when I was in Punishment Of Luxury and in actual fact it was through a chance meeting a few years after being in Punilux that Steve joined Somebody Famous.
Steve is also a fantastic photographer and I noticed him taking some shots at an event in Newcastle and asked him what he was doing musically at that point. It was extremely lucky for me that he wasn't currently playing in a band. I immediately asked him if he would like to give it a go with Chris Oddy and I to see if it worked out. Steve turned up at a rehearsal and we never looked back. He was playing the live set like a demon before we had even had chance to rehearse it fully. Gigs were already lined up before he joined.
Steve is an inspiring player. At times, the energy that he would produce from behind the drum kit at gigs was just breathtaking. It was a joy just to watch him play. I used to love the sections in the set that featured just the bass and drums, so that I could stop playing and listen to them.
Somebody Famous reached its peak as it were after Irish bass player Friz joined the band. He was an incredible fretless bass player and he and Steve were so locked in as a rhythm section. Friz had originally been a trombone player and thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense to transfer from the trombone to the fretless bass guitar. Players of both of these instruments do a lot of sliding about, for want of a better analogy.
As a singer/guitarist, I was very fortunate to have Steve and Friz in the band. We performed literally hundreds of gigs and did a lot of recording together. What was great about it too was the fact that it was an organic process. The Somebody Famous live band was definitely a natural process from its inception. The three of us had a hell of a laugh too. All of our birthdays (including Chris Oddy) were within three days of each other and we got on tremendously well.
JK: Were you working full time as a musician in these years? It sounds like you were all over the place performing. Were you effectively "touring" around England? Or playing lots of local gigs?
TJ: I was gigging constantly, in addition to periods of both employment and unemployment. Some gigs paid well, others were for peanuts, once you deducted the basic costs of running of the band. It was not really possible to make a living just from the gigs alone.
I worked in lots of different places, Northern Recording and Gateshead Libraries and Arts Department employed me for a time (please see "The Phoenix Tapes" sleeve notes for details of how I became a Space Captain). I performed in a wine bar for a time, providing pleasant instrumental pieces of music whilst customers were eating and drinking. I also worked partly as a musician and partly as a carer for mentally disturbed people.
One job I did was at a psychiatric hospital. I worked on a locked, secure unit, comprising of around seventeen potentially dangerous psychopaths and people with severe learning difficulties. I could tell you stories about this that would make your hair curl. I was given a small budget by the people in charge to buy musical instruments for the residents to use as therapy. It was a very rewarding experience but it could be terrifying at times. There was a lot of quite brutal violence perpetrated by the residents themselves on each other and towards members of staff. We had a padded cell, the lot.
I later went on to work as a musician/carer for a private health provider, catering for people with special needs. Compared to the professionalism of the carers that I worked closely with in our precious, undervalued National Health Service, working in the private sector was an absolute nightmare.
I actually ended up giving evidence in the House of Commons to our regional MP and the chief executive of the company I was working for after witnessing serious abuse of residents perpetrated at the home I was working in.
The home (there was a sister facility a couple of miles down the road) was run by a bunch of cowboys that cared nothing for the welfare of the people they were supposed to be looking after or the staff for that matter. They treated the residents in their care as so much merchandise.
I am sorry to have to say this and I mean no offence but it is a fact that a wheelchair bound person with severe disabilities is actually worth quite a lot of money to these people. It was a soul destroying and disgusting circumstance really and affects my life to this day. I cannot forget my experiences at that care home, the total rip off that is community care. The initial experience and aftermath of the six month enquiry into the allegations leads me to believe that the whole business of community care is first and foremost a money making exercise. It is a "for profit" business and it deals in the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.
The social services department had sussed that all was not well and were encouraging staff to talk to them. I was personally encouraged to do so. I was not at all impressed by the initial investigation into the case (the home was re-opened for a time with no action taken). It was only the intervention of the regional MP that we got to the root of the matter and something was done.
As I've said, the enquiry into the care home lasted six months, resulting in the management being sacked. As a whistle blower, my employment became untenable. It was a case of "thankyou for your nervous breakdown and goodnight". The whole event was a true insight into basic human nature. People close ranks because they're worried for their jobs. Friends ignore you in the street, the pressure on your family is immense and the affect on your peace of mind can be devastating.
During the six month enquiry, I was followed, threatened with violence and harassed on the telephone. The local papers got wind of what was going on and printed sensational stories, concentrating on the seedier aspects of the case and then some national rag wanted to interview me about it all but it was just them seeking the same fodder as I've just described in the end. The story was so sordid and I really don't want to go into details. Suffice to say that after experiencing that event, I sank myself firmly into Stone Premonitions as therapy. Out of a nightmare came something extremely positive.
JK: How extensive was the distribution for The Gift and the singles? Was it all around the UK? Europe? Available in record stores? (It's on Ebay at this very moment)
TJ: As I've mentioned in "The Phoenix Tapes" sleeve notes, "The Gift" LP was released through Raindance Records in Scotland. For a small enterprise, situated just outside of Edinburgh they did remarkably well. I got to know Alan Combe that ran the label, shortly after he took over the job that Dave Anderson had originally been doing at Charly Records, based in the UK. Alan became the mastering engineer there.
Whilst working in London for Charly, Alan attended a showcase gig Somebody Famous were doing to promote "The Gift" recordings at a place called Nomis in Shepherd's Bush. I had no idea on the night that a few months later he would offer to release the album on his new found venture, Raindance Records. He had secured distribution through "Fast Forward" that was based in the centre of Edinburgh. They distributed albums through what was known as the Cartel, a chain of national, UK Independent record shops.
I presume that some copies of "the Gift" ended up abroad somewhere. I was told by friends that they had seen the LP covers displayed in various shops and by all accounts everyone kept their word as far as promotion was concerned.
Having said this, we're definitely not talking about "Top Of The Pops" here. It was a limited edition vinyl release and is an extremely rare record these days. I am delighted to know that it's available on Ebay. That's as good a feeling as seeing it for 50 pence in a charity shop. Alan Combe worked very hard on both "The Gift" LP and the follow up 7" vinyl single he released called "Love Will Stay". Again, it was a limited edition. The Somebody Famous band carried the records around with us at gigs, so they were well distributed locally.
As regards the distribution of the Prism Sound Records 12" vinyl EP "Dancing Feet", an interesting thing happened. It was partly distributed through what was known as the "Tall Ships Race" which I think is an annual event in the UK. It's all to do with sailing boats from all over the world converging on UK waters for a race. The ever resourceful Tony Veitch at Prism had the idea of giving boxes of it away as freebies to foreign ships to take back home and give away. The single was really an initial promotional item by Prism to launch Somebody Famous. Most of them were used for promotional purposes though I do remember them selling a few. Raindance took over where they left off.
JK: Tell me more about Northern Recording. You mentioned they received government funding. Were they a studio functioning in a community service capacity? It sounds like you were working for them as well?
TJ: During the time that I was playing in Neon, I got to know another local musician/promoter from Durham called Neil Griffin. Neil was another one of those lovely, talented people that I met along the way and whom I remember with great respect and gratitude.
Neil was very active during the devastating UK miner's strike of the 1980s. I remember him handing out food parcels to poor miner's families during the strike, organizing benefits and generally helping out as much as he could.
The hardship imposed on the mining communities based in the many pit villages of the Durham Coalfield was felt very deeply. The strike split communities, friends became bitter enemies and wounds were inflicted that are difficult to heal.
There was much anger and bitterness at the actions of Thatcher's government and pitched battles in the streets with the police. The National Union of Miners fought to the bitter end for their basic working rights and to save their precious communities from forced pit closures under the Thatcher regime.
This was the a real test of the power of the state over the trade unions in the UK, along with all of the destruction that was wrought to the shipyards along the river Tyne and the railways. The miner's were ruthlessly crushed and it was the beginning of the end of the UK that we once knew.
There was one story I remember at the time, related by a friend. He explained that he knew a Durham miner who claimed that he saw his brother dressed as a policeman on a picket line he was on. He was shocked because his brother was not a policeman but a member of the armed forces… Quite often, the authorities would bring police forces in from other areas of the country so that local police were not fighting against their own communities.
The pace of change since the Durham Miner's strike has been breathtaking. The mining communities are gone. There's a pit wheel as a token of remembrance sunk into the ground in every Durham pit village.
Originally forced into these communities out of economic necessity and in constant danger due to the cost cutting greed of the pit owners and their government cronies, the miner's families built their relationships and learned to live together and shape their communities in an extremely positive, cooperative way. Again, they had to out of necessity. You would help your neighbour out when times were hard because you knew that you might need their help in return some day soon.
The Durham miners had their own dialect and the rich culture that they built was uniquely theirs. Since the pit closures, corporations have replaced culture with television and job creation schemes. The world has changed, I don't recognise it and really I feel like an alien now. The governments control the people, not we the governments. There's no turning back and the older you get, you realise that it's unstoppable.
Consett in Co. Durham was a major steel manufacturing town that suffered the same fate as the pit villages. When the steel works was closed down, there was major unemployment in the town. Neil Griffin and some ex steel workers from Consett with assistance from the late John Kierney (regional education officer from the area) initiated a new project called Northern Recording, based in the Old Miner's Hall which they renovated.
John Kierney was a wizard at pulling rabbit's out of hats and managed to acquire funding to the tune of eight and a half million pounds out of a Tory government. In fact, ex Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath was one of the first visitors to the project.
Later on, Northern Recording received further funding to build a car park and fit out the studio with £185.000 worth of studio equipment. Numerous regional music legends were photographed supporting the enterprise, including people like Brian Johnston from AC DC and Lindisfarne. The studio hallways were festooned with photographs of such luminaries.
Neil Griffin sent me an invite to visit the new facility shortly after it opened and I was extremely impressed. Over the subsequent few years, I was employed by Northern Recording to produce and record young musicians from the area.
I produced an album by an excellent pop band from Seaham in county Durham called Happy The Man and attended various workshops. It was through Northern Recording that I met Krom Lek around 1993. I was in the studio with one of the resident engineers called Peter Boyle one day, working on another project when I heard what sounded like Gong playing live in one of the rehearsal spaces down the corridor. I asked Peter who the amazing band was and he said "Oh them, that's Krom Lek". Some months later I was employed by the project to produce some acoustic sessions for Krom Lek and our relationship went on from there until the present day.
I would like to state here that I absolutely love Krom Lek, always have. They are an immensely talented bunch of hilarious characters. They have given me so much joy and laughter over the years and it's really about time that this band achieved the recognition they so rightfully deserve. It is interesting to me that people compare them constantly to the legendary Ozric Tentacles (whom I also adore), even going so far to say that the Ozrics must have been a huge influence. I can categorically state that this is not the case. Krom Lek have been around for at least as long as the Ozrics and when they first heard them, the immediate reaction was to say "bloody hell, have you heard the Ozric Tentacles? They sound like us!" Just thought that I would clear that one up for the record and state that Krom Lek are not one of the numerous Ozric clones.
Northern Recording went on to achieve European funding and did so much fantastic work for the young people of the north east of England, right up until a few years ago. John Kierney very sadly died and the facilities' funding ceased not long afterwards. It is extremely ironic to me that the project was successfully initiated during a Conservative government and closed under a Labour one.
When the Labour government came to power in 1997, I was one of those who believed that change was on the way. I thought that there would be many more successful projects like Northern Recording and that employment in the community music field for musicians like me would be secure, a dream come true. How wrong I was. Then again, so many of us were betrayed.
Community based projects like Northern Recording are so very important in order to give creative people in areas of high unemployment some sense of purpose and self respect. Wonders can be achieved. It's not about making money. It's not about competition. It's about self expression, lifting the spirit, giving young people a feeling of worth, learning skills that they can nurture and remember in time with pride and a deep feeling of fulfilment.
JK: Please tell me you have a picture of yourself as the Space Captain at the interactive spaceship exhibition!
TJ: I do indeed. It is in the souvenir brochure that was available for purchase at the national garden festival in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear. There are many pictures of the spaceship in the brochure too. Please see "The Phoenix Tapes" sleeve notes for details about the best job I ever had in my life on "Mission Tyne & Wear". It was wonderful and a laugh from start to finish over the six month period that the festival took place. A warm hearted and wonderful crew of talented people ran that spaceship.
The floor of the spaceship was on hydraulics in order to simulate flight and there were levers at the consul that the captains used in order to control the hydraulics system. We transported 117 passengers into outer space every 10 or so minutes. We even had a ticket office. The tickets looked great too with a little picture of the spaceship on them. Sometimes it would be 117 old grannies out on a day trip that we would be flying into outer space.
The passengers were in a surround sound environment with slide projections all around them, depicting flying into outer space and then returning to earth. All of the crew wore specially designed spacesuits and our faces were painted silver (we tried lots of colours before deciding that silver was definitely the best one to use).
On one occasion, my good friend Dave, one of the crew blue tacked the levers at the consul back in place when they had broken off on a previous flight (I hadn't seen the event as I had only just come onto my shift). Neither Dave nor the rest of the crew had informed me of the situation so I did my usual introductory flight spiel to the passengers, walked down the gang plank and sat at the controls. The countdown started. When it got to zero, the levers immediately came off in my hands as I tried to take off and I sit there dumbfounded, staring at my hands in the air whilst the 117 old grannies sitting behind me wait for something to happen. They would have a long wait…
Dave was an ace character. He used to stand in different poses outside the spaceship in full regalia for ages, pretending to be a statue. He frightened the hell out of many people when he suddenly moved.
TJ: The Rainforest commission came about when flute player Mark Ericson became involved with an environmental group based in Durham City that were not actually part of Durham University. He asked me if I would be interested in getting involved in their forthcoming rainforest exhibition project. I co wrote the music with Mark and recorded the soundtrack in my small four track studio at home. Everything else to do with the exhibition was put together by the Rainforest Action group.
The music that we recorded for the exhibition had a back drop of rainforest sounds. These were recorded during a visit to Peru by a Durham University professor that was a friend of Mark Ericson. Mark was also a post graduate student at Durham University at that time and helped to promote events for the student's Union. He also ran the bar and organized gigs for the Post Graduate Society, located nearby (another excellent venue that I played in many times with Somebody Famous). It was through gigs at the Post Graduate Society that Mark and I first met.
An agreement was reached between the Durham Rainforest Action Group and Durham University Students Union based in Dunelm House to stage the event there. The people that ran Durham University Student's Union always tried to bridge the gap between the local townspeople and the university. Dunelm House was a centre of activity for lots of musicians in the area and it was a fantastic venue.
The building is situated on the river banks in a beautiful old part of Durham City. A superbly designed bridge, built in the 1960s links Dunelm House to Durham Cathedral on the opposite side of the river. Dunelm House has two or three different sized performance areas. I saw many bands there during my teenage years and performed there more times than I can remember. It was in Dunelm House that Neon supported Bill Bruford's band (Bruford) and Siouxsie And The Banshees, amongst many others. Neon's first ever gig was in Dunelm House in fact.
The Rainforest exhibition itself was interactive in that you walked into a rainforest environment when you entered the Student's Union. It was excellent as the artwork was amazing, consisting of lots of wonderful paintings on huge canvases, depicting rainforest scenes. The paintings all linked together into one huge enclosed scene (bolted together if I remember correctly). It was quite an achievement logistically and it drew in lots of people. There was local radio and newspaper interest and the event was a great success. The idea was conceived in order to promote people's awareness into the plight of the world's remaining rainforests.
The musical accompaniment that we performed for the exhibition was much more laid back than most of the tracks that appear on the later "Mosaic" cassette album that appears on "The Phoenix Tapes Volume 6". Both the Rainforest music cassette and the "Mosaic" cassette were available for some time through some local, alternative, New Age type shops.
JK: Did the live Mosaic performances reproduce the recorded music? Or did you go in different directions?
TJ: The live performances by Mosaic covered the cassette in its entirety, albeit without the overdubs. We had to rely on the melodies being strong enough for just two instruments, namely flute and guitar to carry. I had previously laid the groundwork for most of the tunes by playing them ad infinitum in wine bars. The money from the wine bar work helped keep my head above water financially at the time.
We performed lots of other tunes as well. I remember us doing songs like "Norwegian Wood" that really suited Mark's flute playing. We threw in a few Somebody Famous songs as well (Mark often performed live with the band). A lot of the time, we would just play whatever we felt like next. It was a very organic thing really.
JK: Were the solo tracks 9-14 on volume 6 recorded with a particular project in mind?
TJ: Yes, I am a Jimi Hendrix fanatic and think that "Axis: Bold As Love" is one of the greatest "concept" albums of all time. All of my humble attempts at "concept" album techniques over the years are completely dwarfed by the huge edifice of natural born genius that is Jimi Hendrix and his "Axis: Bold As Love" album. That album has inspired me from the start, alongside my favourite 7" single of all time, "Voodoo Chile" with "Hey Joe" and "All Along The Watchtower" on the B side.
My efforts are like a mirror image of a river but it's only a reflection, it's not the actual river. It's not about style or trying to emulate someone's sound. It's about creating something that can stand scrutiny over the test of time, an album that is timeless in fact and one that is hailed as an important work in the genre.
This all sounds rather pompous but it's hard to convey what I'm getting at. Why are certain musical creations deemed perfect and others trashed by the listener? It's an emotional thing, provoking an emotional response. You enter the world of that concept album and are spellbound for the duration.
It's also about mathematics, i.e., time signatures, beats per minute and bar counts, chord progressions, the blending of one track into the next, cross fading etc.
Writing one wonderful song is difficult enough, let alone producing the perfect mix but a whole album that runs like a dream, that's another kettle of fish entirely. It's like trying to reach nirvana when even just meditation proves so difficult. I find trying to clear all of the clouds from the bright blue sky of my mind a virtually impossible task. That's how far I've got. Forget the idea that meditation just involves a bunch of old hippies sitting in a circle looking spaced out exclaiming "Wow man!"
Talking of fish, did I mention Steve Hillage's "Fish Rising" and "Green" LPs? No, I'm not even going to go there. Hendrix, Hillage, Tony McPhee ("Thank Christ For The Bomb" and "Split"), Yes ("Close To The Edge"), Gong ("The Flying Teapot Trilogy"), Hawkwind (Space Ritual) and on and on the list goes, these people are geniuses and that's what I have to aspire to.
"Chatter-H" was another early attempt at having a continuous theme running through a collection of songs. The theme was centred round Chatter-H, an anagram of a major UK political leader of the 1980s (or one of Wagner's Valkyries if you like).
It was about what it was like living in England towards the end of that decade - poverty, falling empires, being a misfit and an outcast, dreams, aspirations, hopes, fears etc.
I was also influenced at that time by Nevilluxury's superb song "Empire Of Idiots", says it all really without me needing to go off into a diatribe about world governments, globalisation, military/industrial/pharmaceutical, corporate behavioural modification type brainwashers, greed, war for profit, the decimation and genocide of indigenous peoples, the torture, murder, assassination, corruption, 24/7 news headlies and sport entertainment arena, celebrity junk culture, soap opera mentality etc etc.
I have lived here before the days of ice and of course this is why I'm so concerned. I come back to find the stars displaced and the smell of a world that is burning.
By Jimi Hendrix.
JK: "Chatter-H" and "The Candidate" are both fun tracks with interesting vocals. You know, you have an incredible voice. Very distinct. Instantly recognizable. A very "narrative" voice, if that makes any sense.
TJ: Really, I'm a frustrated actor! That's what all of the funny voices are about. Why oh why hasn't anybody seen my potential yet in the Laurence Olivier stakes? Hang on a minute, that's a lie, I'm a schizophrenic, that's the truth, that's what all of the voices are about. No, the real truth is that I'm addicted to doing funny voices.
As regards my voice, I think that it's one of those love/hate things to be honest. People either like it or hate it which I suppose saves a lot of time for both the listening audience and me. I love singing, it is proven therapy for my tortured soul, existing momentarily in the scheme of things as a slave to gravity (NB "Slaves To Gravity" are an excellent new rock band that I recently heard through Overflow Radio).
JK: You say in the liner notes that the Ship of Grandad's Day songs are ordered in their original context, rather than the order on the original CD. Was the order on the original CD a mistake, or not done as you had intended at the time? I understand there's a concept the album is based on.
TJ: By origin, I am actually a Welshman. The names closely associated with my family are Jones, Evans and Davies. Early in the twentieth century migrant workers from Wales moved their families to Lancashire in order to find work in the cotton mills (due to Lancashire's damp climate) and the coal mines. My grandfather on my father's side moved to Lancashire from mid Wales (near Welshpool). My grandfather on my mother's side of the family moved to Lancashire from another part of Wales.
My grandmother Davies (my mum's mum) had the maiden name of Evans. She lost her husband (my granddad Davies) due to Leukaemia on Christmas Day when my mother was just two years old and her brother, my uncle, was seven years old. My grandmother Davies never really got over the death of my grandfather and never re-married. They were very much in love at the time of his death.
These were hard times to lose the breadwinner in a family and my mother's side of the family were extremely poor.
I remember a story related to me by my mother as regards her grandmother working in the cotton mills of Lancashire. My mother's grandma couldn't afford food for her family's dinner. She certainly couldn't afford to feed herself at dinner time whilst working at the mill. She hid at dinner time, behind a partition between the factory machinery so that the other workers couldn't see that she had no food. Although she was incredibly poor, she still had her pride, her self respect. She pretended that she was eating her dinner.
The workers in the cotton mills of Lancashire during the Industrial Revolution were a mirror image of the black workers tending the cotton fields of the southern states of America. They were all slaves.
It's enough to make you weep man. It's back to "them" again, "them" that want to own everything, "them" that want power, "them" with the armies and the wars, "them" with the thousands of bodyguards because they're so insecure. They're like little kids with their secret clubs. They've never grown up. They feed their citizenry with sugar coated patriotism whilst said patriot's young sons and daughters come back from one of their multitude of wars in body bags. Even then, the "powers that be" try to hide his or her casualty figure because it might make them look bad, not that they could really give a damn. There's always plenty of crocodile tears and empty rhetoric though. Stand up, be honest, say it asshole, you need to kill people to fill your greedy, bottomless pockets.
There was no welfare state as such in the UK when my mother was little but despite all of the obstacles, both she and my uncle (a truly lovely man) being very bright, practical and hard working, both achieved scholarships. My mother became an industrial chemist (that is how she met my father as he was also an industrial chemist working for the same company) and my uncle became a professor in media studies and culture at Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities.
My uncle was tragically killed in a mountain climbing accident shortly before my mother died of cancer. It hit my mother extremely hard and definitely contributed to her untimely demise. Just before my mother died, we were looking through her wedding album together and she pointed to a picture of my grandfather Jones and said, "Always remember Tim, he was a good man". He had received a rather bad press from members of his side of the family and they used to say to me, "Your granddad Jones will never be dead as long as you're alive", so I guess I know who I take after in that side of the family. I always remembered my granddad Jones being very kind and gentle with me, sitting in the kitchen as he did most of the time, wearing his waistcoat, housing his pocket watch and chain whilst listening to old 78 records on a wind up gramophone. He taught my mother to drive a car. He was an excellent driver in fact and had been a chauffeur for some years, working for dignitaries at The Coal Board.
I was extremely close to my grandmother Davies in my early years as she lived with us until her untimely death at 56 years of age in 1971. My father worked abroad for a lot of the time during my early years, so my mum and my grandmother Davies brought me up for the most part and I deeply loved them both. They always gave me their love 100 percent and knew nothing but sacrifice throughout the whole of their lives, an impossible example for me to live up to. Until their deaths, they were my best friends.
The night that my mother died, my father, my two younger brothers and I returned home from the hospital and tried to sleep. It proved impossible. I have never known a feeling like it. It was completely overwhelming. I remember sitting downstairs for hours thinking to myself, "I can face all kinds of things mum but I can't face this. I just can't cope with this". My personal life outside of music was in a real mess during my mother's sudden decline in health and I didn't do nearly enough for her. I missed her terribly and it took me a long time to move on. My mother is always there for me, I know that.
One of the sad tasks to perform following my mother's death was sorting out her personal possessions. There is a lot to do after bereavement, practically speaking, and for me it all felt unreal. It was whilst going through stuff in my parent's attic that I came up with the idea of "The Ship Of Grandad's Day".
There I was, I'd just lost my mother and shortly before that my uncle and I was starting the studio sessions for the follow up album to "The Gift" LP. Everything was organized and financed. To stop recording would be to let lots of friends down. It also seemed more constructive psychologically just to carry on but my head was in bits.
We'd already started working on various tracks that were "in the can" as it were and then there was this new section to be added, namely the three songs "The Ship Of Grandad's Day" followed by "Between The Lines" followed by "Ship Instrumental". The concept is really encapsulated in these three pieces. When we pieced the running order of the complete album together, we had to split the aforementioned three songs in order for the album to fit together musically as a whole. What I wanted to convey on "The Phoenix Tapes" was the original context of the "concept" tracks as they were recorded.
JK: You said Somebody Famous did some time as session musicians at Hi Level studios. Did you back artists coming in to record albums?
TJ: Hi-Level Studios was like a base come office for the folk rock band Lindisfarne and was managed by Ray Laidlaw, the drummer. Ray also managed Paul Campbell. Paul had a publishing deal with Chrysalis Records and was producing a quota of songs every so many months for them.
Hi-Level studios were a real hive of activity during the time that we were doing sessions for Paul Campbell. We only worked for Paul but we bumped into many other artists passing through the studio and they often sat in on sessions. It was a very convivial atmosphere. He is an excellent songwriter and I really enjoyed working on his music. It was often a challenge vocally and he always had a knack of getting the best out of his singers. I have more than an album's worth of Paul's songs that I sang for him on tape. I don't know whether any of the tracks were actually released or whether they just went into the pot for artists to choose from at Chrysalis. Paul played guitar for Somebody Famous for a while and went on to play with The Christians, alongside his solo work.
The sound quality at Hi Level was superb. Even then, Steve Daggart, the resident studio engineer was running a computerised mixing desk and producing first class recordings at Hi-Level. Steve recorded successful songs by the famous Newcastle born footballer Gazza and the late great Alan Hull amongst many others.
The supremely talented local singer guitarist Ian Macallum also worked at Hi-Level Studios on his solo albums. Ian was managed by Alan Hull for a time. If my recollections are correct, Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers was drafted in as producer on some of Ian's tracks which is how they met. Ian joined SLF and performs with them to this day. He was in the band when Bruce Foxton from The Jam got involved too. What a line-up!
Ian's own songs are tremendous. He is one of the best artists that the North East has produced in my opinion. Incidentally, he also worked with Krom Lek at Northern Recording for a while and he produced some fantastic tracks for the band.
The main thing that I remember about Ian was one particular gig at the end of which he had the audience in tears. It was a solo performance, just Ian and his acoustic guitar. The nearest comparison I can think of is seeing the exceptional Irish Pipe player Davy Spillane at a club in Consett, Co Durham. Ian's singing has a similar effect as Davy Spillane's pipe playing. His songs have such integrity and his voice has a beautiful, true grit quality about it. Ian is the real thing.
Somebody Famous supported Ian's live band on many occasions and there was one gig in Gateshead I remember fondly. It was an acoustic support we were doing and Pete Monk from Tongue kindly lent me a beautiful acoustic guitar from the music shop he was managing in Durham City. The problem was that I broke a couple of strings early on in the performance at Gateshead and Ian ran onstage offering me his guitar. Ian plays guitar left handed, so it was no use unless I played it upside down. Although I am in fact left handed myself, I play guitar right handed (I have often thought that if I had learned to play guitar left handed I would be a much better player. Then again, the right hand is really playing the role of percussion whilst the left hand is doing all of the work by stretching across the strings and holding them down etc, so I suppose it makes sense). Undeterred, Ian came up with another guitar, this time right handed. Snap, another string went. Amazingly, he came up to me again with a third guitar. This time, no string breakages, hurrah! The point is that he needn't have done all that to help me out but it says a lot about his character.
I also met the talented New Zealand born singer guitarist Mike Forse whilst working at Hi-Level. We later worked with Mike on his album for Stone Premonitions entitled "Running". Terri~B joined Mike Forse onstage at gigs on many occasions, providing harmony vocals. They were a fantastic live duo.
Ray Laidlaw was involved with the excellent Generator newsletter based in Newcastle. Generator didn't just produce an informative regional music magazine, they also promoted high profile showcase gigs for local bands. They had lottery funding and spent a lot of time and money attracting major record companies up to the north east of England to view the region's musical talent.
The Generator newsletter was like a centre of activity and put lots of people in touch with each other. Local artists could send in their items of news and Generator printed them. This was of course before the explosion of the internet, it was not so easy to get word around in those days. You still had to rely on printed media. It was through them that the Spacerock band Mr Quimby's Beard initially got in touch with us at Stone Premonitions in fact.
JK: I enjoyed The Permanent Haze tracks. Are there others? Ever any live performances?
TJ: The Permanent Haze started out as a side project to Somebody Famous really. Originally it involved myself, along with Steve Sekrit on drums & percussion, Finn Millar on vocals & guitar, Paul Campbell on guitar, Spook (who would later work with Rabbit's Hat) on keyboards and Juliet Whitworth (Upright bass player and singer from excellent Newcastle band The Lurv) on vocals.
We recorded lots of material and released a cassette album that I recorded on four track machines and mixed with Ian MacLinden at the aforementioned Euro Media Promotions in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear. My old friend Baz was involved here and there too. He actually put the artwork together for the cover.
Once everybody had kind of gone their separate ways, I still continued to work with Steve and Finn, hence the recordings on "The Phoenix Tapes Volume 7". By this time Terri~B and I had got together and she was working with us. There are more recordings by the four of us but I think that we've included the best two songs on "The Phoenix Tapes".
Neither line up did any gigs, it was essentially a studio project. We all played live with each other anyway in our various main bands that we were in at the time.
JK: Listening to all 7 volumes of the Phoenix Tapes and reading all the liner notes, and then looking at all the full albums you've released over the years, it really hits hard what an incredibly varied musical life you've had. You've produced a truly stunning body of work. How do you feel looking back at it all? Any regrets?
TJ: Jerry, may I take this opportunity to sincerely thank you and www.aural-innovations.com for all of your invaluable support throughout The Phoenix Tapes project. As the reader will note, your questions have been both astute and intuitive. My response is to delve deep and I hope that I have been truthful and accurate in what I've written. As you suggested, this interview is a supplement to the information provided in "The Phoenix Tapes" sleeve notes, also available on the Stone Premonitions website. It is also a tribute to all of the musicians I have worked with during my 50 year stint on planet Earth.
Unfortunately, unlike Edith Piaf, I have many regrets. Being seriously, if not entirely involved with rock music over the last 34 years has taken its toll on both my sanity and my personal life. Inevitably, during the madness of all that the creative process entails, I have hurt a lot of people and they have hurt me in return. I leave behind two broken marriages and a string of broken relationships. I never meant to hurt anyone, It just seems inherent in the madness of the lifestyle and accompanying poverty.
It is not easy trying to earn a living through music and it can be extremely tough. I have met a lot of false people but at times been false to myself. I have already said that music to me is therapy but it's a powerful force to deal with. As I have stated above, I didn't "make it" in a commercial sense. There were lots of missed opportunities but we are none of us born with hindsight. It can take a long time to sink in that chasing after commercial success is a pipedream. It's all about impressing certain influential people at a certain time in a certain place. It's like walking a tightrope with no safety net and for what?
Being signed to a major record company at an early age meant that I took the craft seriously. I thought that I must have something to offer, otherwise why would they sign me? Luck comes into it a great deal too. Ghandi once said, "You may be in a minority of one but the truth is still the truth". We know the truth intuitively and we all know how to shape it for our own ends.