Inquisitor Jon

Since I started my Praying
Mantis
Web site I have carried several interviews with the band.

Bernie Shaw (Now
Uriah Heep, Ex-Grand Prix) Interview

Mark Thompson Smith Interview
Interview with
Colin Peel

Dave Potts Interview

Dennis Stratton
(Ex-Iron Maiden) Interview

Steve Carroll Interview

Horakane Interview
with Tony O’Hora

Rodney Matthew
(Cover Artist For Many Bands)

During 2000 I was asked to write a history piece on Praying Mantis for Powerplay
Magazine. This tickled me somewhat as at school, I was always considered poor
at English. I warned them of this but said I would have a go and the results
got used much to my delight.

About a month later Fireworks
magazine asked me to do a new interview with Praying Mantis so I laughed again
and did so and that was used to. Very nice.

I am a very inquisitive person and magazines rarely go into the detail I would
like. I fancied a go at writing an article on Ayreon
or Lane Lane. So I asked
if either magazine was interested and Fireworks said yes to Lana Lane. I did
the interview by phone and trimmed it to the size I thought Fireworks could
use and then it was all expanded out again and published.

Next I fancied doing an interview on Mostly
Autumn
who are a new band I am very keen on. They just happen to have taken
out advertising in Fireworks so again I was approved. My interview was twice
as long as the Lane one so was published in cut down form.

Next I was invited along to a Roger Dean press
conference. He is a famous album cover artist and since I knew some of his work
I thought I would go along. The session was very good and I transacribed it
but Roger didn’t seem keen on me putting it online without a serious rewrite
so that is just sat on my hard disc now. I did put some of this information
on my pages for the exhibition though.

It is good fun being able to interview the bands I like and get the answers
I as a fan want to know.

Praying Mantis For Powerplay Magazine

Praying Mantis have had a long and turbulent career but now
they have a steady line-up and two strong albums to bring them to everyone’s
attention again 

Praying Mantis first grabbed the headlines in the music scene around 1978 when
Neal Kay at " The Bandwagon" HM Soundhouse club in London took an
interest in them. After a few ups and downs the band are now an established
name in Japan and are breaking new ground in the rest of the world with new
singer Tony O’Hora.

The ideas for the band were actually formed as far back as 1973 but it wasn’t
until 1976 that Tino Troy got his brother Chris to join the band on Bass and
they started their long writing partnership.

In 1978 the band were trying to get a record deal and a friend suggested Tino
take a demo to DJ Neal Kay at the Soundhouse.  Neal gave it a play and asked
the audience what they thought of it. The overwhelming responsive soon told
him. The band then got the tape released as Soundhouse Tapes Part 2 (Iron Maiden
being Part 1).

Things were slow moving but by 1980 they had recorded a BBC session and appeared
on the Metal For Muthas compilation featuring new bands such as Iron Maiden,
Samson and Angel Witch in what was now called the New Wave Of British Heavy
Metal (NWOBHM).

In 1981 they finally released their first album on the Arista label; The classic
"Time Tells No Lies". This was an album with great vocal harmonies
and strong twin guitar work. 

The October 81 issue of Kerrang! had a readers poll of the top 100 albums of
all time and Mantis came in at 91. The band at this time consisted of the Troy
brothers; Chris (Bass), Tino (Lead Guitar), Steve Carroll (Lead Guitar) and
Dave Potts (Drums). Tino, Chris and Steve all shared lead vocals. The lack of
an out and out front man was something the press sometimes criticised the band
for and indeed in live situations, the band also felt the need for a change.
That way, they could concentrate on their individual instruments. 

They tried out Tom Jackson for a tour but things didn’t workout. Then it was
time to record a second album provisionally to be called "A Question Of
Time". Recording for this took place with the same line-up as the "Time
Tells No Lies" album in Germany. Once they got back home, the band started
to search for a Lead Vocalist to finish the songs, which were only recorded
with guide vocals. It wasn’t long before they recruited Bernie Shaw (Ex-Grand
Prix and now a long standing member of Uriah Heep). They also decided to change
the 2nd lead guitar for keyboards in order to give the band a more aural texture.
The band had a successful Reading appearance, in ‘82, which was broadcast by
Radio 1. They released the single, "Turn The Tables" but then ran
into management problems, which took months to sort out. The album never got
finished and all the momentum they had previously generated had been lost.

Dave Potts who was older than the others decided to try and turn the bands
fortunes round by becoming their manager and Clive Burr (fresh from leaving
Iron Maiden) joined the nucleus of the Troy’s and Bernie. It was decided a new
name was the order of the day and they first chose Clive Burr’s Escape in a
bid to use the Iron Maiden connection to elevate the status of the band. After
a month or so the name was changed to Stratus and they released an album entitled
"Throwing Shapes" but success was still proving elusive. Demos from
the Bernie Shaw era of Mantis were recently released in Japan on a double CD
called "Demorabilia"

By 1987 the band had decided to call it a day and they played a farewell gig
at the Marquee as Praying Mantis with Dave Potts back on drums. There the story
would have ended had it not been for Japan…

In 1989 Masa Ito the Japanese equivalent of Tommy Vance decided it would be
a good idea to have a concert celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the NWOBHM.
Talks then took place and the final result was that Paul Di’Anno (The original
Iron Maiden Vocalist) and Dennis Stratton (Guitarist on Maiden’s first and then
Lionheart) would combine with the Troy brothers and play a set consisting of
 Praying Mantis, Iron Maiden and Lionheart, songs. On drums they brought in
Bruce Bisland (ex-Wildfire and Statetrooper). The tour went down a storm in
Japan and the album Praying Mantis with Dennis Stratton and Paul Di’Anno – "Live
At Last" was released.

Sales for this were better than expected so the Japanese approached Praying
Mantis about doing a studio album. Paul Di’Anno had decided to continue his
solo career but Dennis Stratton, Bruce Bisland and the Troy brothers joined
forces and the nucleus 90’s version of Praying Mantis was formed. The band had
very little time in which to get songs together so Dennis brought in songs he
had co-written with Lea Hart (Fastway and True Brit’s) and the Troy’s bought
in some of their unreleased works. Both halves of the band worked in their own
way and the end result "Predator In Disguise" was a slightly schizophrenic
affair. But the essence of Praying Mantis was still very much there. Chris Troy
and Dennis Stratton had shared the lead vocal duties but while they rehearsed
for another tour of Japan they met Dougie White (latter of Rainbow). He agreed
to do Lead Vocals for the tour but when it was finished he had no real interest
in becoming a permanent member.

The Japanese wanted another album and the band decided they needed a secure
vocalist so the search was on. This time they came up with Colin Peel (now married
to Gaby Roslin) and the resulting album was the great "A Cry For The New
World". This captured the essential Mantis sound of "Time Tells No
Lies " but updated it with 90’s production values. Unfortunately Colin
Peel was torn between being with the band and an acting career. In the end he
decided to go for the lead role in the musical, "Hair" in London and
another vocalist bit the dust.

Because of the success of a "Cry For The New World" the Japanese
suddenly got cold feet about Mantis without Colin and they cancelled the planned
tour. Masa Ito stepped in again and suggested the band record a quick EP to
introduce the next vocalist. Mantis were short of time and they quickly chose
Mark Thompson-Smith for the "Only The Children Cry" 4 -track CD. He
did the Japanese tour but again things didn’t work out. Luckily the Japanese
didn’t seem to worry this time though. Mantis had proved they could still produce
great music.

So next up to the vocal mic was Gary Barden (Ex-MSG and Statetrooper). Mantis
decided that if they made the next album a bit more rocky and commercial, they
would do well in Europe as well as Japan. Sadly when "To The Power Of Ten"
came out this move proved a mistake and the album wasn’t received as well as
"A Cry For The New World".

The Tour for the album produced a live album "Captured – Alive In Tokyo
City". Unfortunately Bruce Bisland had broken his arm so Clive Burr stepped
back in on drums. The set list was pretty much a greatest hits one so this album
makes an ideal introduction to the band.

You won’t be surprised to hear that by the next album "Forever In Time"
Mantis had a new vocalist. This time it was Tony O’Hora and thankfully the band
have now stabilised with this line up. Not only was it the first time the band
had toured an album with the line-up that recorded it but also it is the first
time two consecutive albums have had the same line-up.

Things did get slightly confused in 1999 though as Masa Ito put on a 20th Anniversary
gig and wanted the original line up of the bands involved. So for the warm up
dates and Japanese date Mantis reformed the "Time Tells No Lies" band.
The recording of the set came out as "Metal Crusade ’99" and also
features sets from Trespass, Samson and Tank. This reunion was never meant as
anything more than a bit of fun though.

"Forever In Time" was another classic Mantis album. The band had
gone back to doing what they did best and produced and album that the fans and
critics alike loved. One review commenting on how well Tony O’Hora sang, suggested
that Maiden should take note of what a good singer sounded like (they still
had Blaze Bailey at the time.)

The current album is "Nowhere To Hide". The band think it is probably
their best all round effort.

Tino Troy: "Yeah, I think it is the best album we have ever done and it
is because we were totally in control of it. We know what the fans want from
us and we know what we want from us. Having a stable line-up at last has finally
allowed us to release our potential."

The band in the past have suffered in Europe a bit because they were tied solely
to Pony Canyon in Japan. With "Nowhere To Hide" they are free to make
their own negotiations for the Rest Of The World so it looks like the album
will be coming out in most territories on Frontiers/Now And Then.

Bruce Bisland "With the new deal we can now take our music out to different
territories. It is great! Nowhere is safe from us now. Watch out there’s Nowhere
To Hide!"

Dennis Stratton "With Forever In Time we learnt a lot of lessons. We realised
the strength of the band was to carry on writing in the style that comes natural
to us and not to try and fit a market like we did with "To The Power Of
Ten". We would have liked "Forever In Time" to have been mixed
and produced better and now we have done that on "Nowhere To Hide".
We wanted to repeat the strength of the songs from "Forever In Time"
on "Nowhere To Hide" and we feel we have managed to do that. Not only
that we have improved the production too."

Bruce Bisland "I think this is the first time we have all come away from
an album and thought the album sounded like we wanted it to". Chris Troy
"Sometimes people complain we take a long time between albums but we work
on each song until it is right. We don’t put albums out with one or two good
songs and a load of fillers. Every track is worthy of its place"

Dennis Stratton "We could have put ten tracks on Nowhere To Hide but we
didn’t feel the tenth track was good enough"

Tony O’Hora "One thing we decided after "Forever In Time" was
that we would only make songs we wanted to make. If we love a song then hopefully
everyone else will and the reaction to "Nowhere To Hide" seems to
prove we were right".

Praying Mantis recently played the Wacken Metal Festival in Germany and they
went down a storm. There is a strong possibility of them playing the Gods Festival
this year there is also talk of gigs in Europe and America. With magazines like
Powerplay, there is a surging interest in melodic rock at the moment and Praying
Mantis are the strongest they have ever been to capitalise on it.

Praying Mantis Interview

Praying Mantis have had a long and turbulent career. They first came to
national press attention in 1979 when they were one of the leading lights of
the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Things went a bit awry after the
first album but in 1990 they were invited to play in Japan. They still had vocalist
problems but despite them they have since been going strong. In 1998 they released
‘Forever In Time’ with Tony O’Hora on vocals and they recently followed it up
with Nowhere To Hide. The rest of the band are Tino Troy (Guitar, Backing Vocals),
Chris Troy (Bass, Backing Vocals), Dennis Stratton (Guitar, Backing Vocals),
Bruce Bisland (Drums)

How do you feel about the current album?

BRUCE BISLAND: We are really pleased with it.

DENNIS STRATTON: ‘Forever In Time’ was what we considered to be our best album
to date. For ‘Nowhere To Hide’ we set ourselves the task of trying to match
it and I think we have actually bettered it.

TINO TROY: The songs have all matured nicely and we have found our feet again.
We had a slight blip when we wrote To The Power Of Ten trying a more commercial
approach. It turned out to be a bad move so now we are back to doing what we
do best and indeed, naturally.

CHRIS TROY: Having the same line-up for two albums has helped us a lot too.
We have suffered a lot of line up changes over the years and the economics of
running bands like our means we probably aren’t alone in this situation.

BRUCE BISLAND: Having Tony come in on vocals has been great for us. The way
we work is that the writer of the song tends to do guide vocals on the early
versions of the tracks. When Tony comes in and does his bit the songs take on
a magical quality. I think he has a real good ability to phrase things and make
them really interesting.

TONY O’HORA: The production on this album is also a lot better.

DENNIS STRATTON: Yes, when we made Forever In Time I thought it was great but
now we have made Nowhere To Hide we can see that we were let down on Production.
We spent quite a lot of time making that album and then Chris Tsangarides came
in and because of a few technical gremlins only seemed to spend about five minutes
mixing it. I personally got the impression he didn’t care about the production
or what it sounded like. He just went "That’s it" and that’s how you
go. Whereas on this album we had Steve Mann come in. I have known him since
my days in Lionheart and he took the time to sit down with us and find out what
we needed. We ended up slightly late but the whole band is so much happier with
the finished product.

What response have you had to the album?

DENNIS STRATTON: It’s been a bit harder to tell this time. We have had great
responses from the Japanese press and record company but we haven’t been out
to tour in Japan this time so we haven’t heard too much from the fans. We charted
with one of our best positions but it is always nice to see and hear from the
fans direct.

TINO TROY: We have had a fair bit of fan comment on the Internet and that has
all been really praiseworthy. We recently played the Wacken festival in Germany
and I think we surprised a lot of people by showing them that we are back on
the map and indeed better than we’ve ever been.

CHRIS TROY: Frontiers/Now and Then were also really keen to get their hands
on the album for the market outside of Japan. I don’t think we have ever had
such a keen label. They are really confident they can sell it.

Do you have any plans to tour?

CHRIS TROY: We are negotiating a lot of possibilities at present. We have just
been given support slot for Glenn Hughes at the Astoria 2, London on November
22. We have also got the possibility of dates in Rome, LA, and Greece. It is
just a case of getting them into a realistic package.

TINO TROY: In the past we have usually done a four day mini-tour of Japan but
we have never been able to do anything in the rest of the world because we haven’t
had a Record company with any interest in promoting us outside of Japan. Pony
Canyon our Japanese label has been really great for us but they have no real
business interests outside of Japan. We used to be reasonably happy with that
but with ‘Nowhere To Hide’ the rights outside of Japan were free for us to do
with what ever we pleased. ‘Frontiers/Now and then’ have all sorts of plans
to tour the band and give us the exposure we desperately need.

How would you feel about doing a tour around the UK with
a band such as your label mates Ten?

TINO TROY: I’m not really that aware of ‘Ten’s’ pulling power but if it puts
us back in the frame and it is financially feasible, I am all for it.

TONY O’HORA: I think even if we went out as support to another band we would
soon hold our own and graduate to getting gigs in our own name again. It is
just a case of getting the exposure and that is already beginning to happen.

DENNIS STRATTON: My only concern with touring with another band is that the
other band doesn’t feel threatened and that we can all get on as friends. The
thing I used to hate most about touring with other bands was that they all feel
they have to out do one another. My preferred idea of touring is to put across
the best show possible by all the bands, not just the headliner.

Are you looking forward to playing The Gods?

BRUCE BISLAND: Yeah, we are really looking forward to it. I would like to get
a few tracks from the current album into the set. We didn’t have time to learn
them for Wacken and I really fancy trying to get on top of three or four of
the new numbers. Of course it all depends on the amount of time we have to play.

TINO TROY: This will be our first event gig in the UK since probably 1983 or
1984. So yeah, we are really looking forward to it.

What is your inspiration for the songs?

CHRIS TROY: Well I tend to sit down with a sequencer and just build up layers
of sound until I get something I am happy with. Then I will try and add a melody.
If I don’t get one I feel is strong enough after one hundred and fifty attempts
or so I will then just start afresh with a new set of chords. 90% of the time
I start with the music and then add the lyrics. When we were doing ‘Time Tells
No Lies’ back in the early 80’S it was probably the other way around.

It’s hard to know what inspires me really. I guess it is the same for any musician.
I think strong emotions are a main factor. In fact I often think negative emotion
works better for me. I find writing helps me unwind. The song doesn’t necessarily
end up negative and I think part of the skill of being a writer is to hide what
you are really thinking and let the listener relate to it in their own way.
I think the bond between the listener and the song is then a lot stronger.

DENNIS STRATTON: Having been with Mantis ten years now, I have kind of learned
that the band tend to write more about Green issues and the Earth’s pending
doom if we don’t sort ourselves out. Sometimes we write about personal issues
and sometimes these songs get transformed when the band gets hold of them. For
instance when I wrote ‘Only The Children Cry’, which appeared, on an EP in Japan
and then on To The Power Of Ten. It was originally about a divorcing couple
and the effect on the children. Once Tino and Chris got hold of it though, it
slowly changed to the effects of two countries at war and the nuclear holocaust.

TINO TROY: When the ‘Nowhere to hide album’ was completed I tragically lost
my daughter Briony Ruby. The requirement of an additional track for the European
edition gave me the opportunity to pour my heart out. As Chris says it shouldn’t
necessarily be too obvious to the listener. I think that subtlety and mystery
is definitely the key to a great song.

I don’t have any particular order for which comes first sometimes it is the
music sometimes the lyrics. I can be walking down the street and the rhythm
of my walk will sometimes trigger some musical ideas and I can get a lyric there
and then. I don’t actually read music so when I go out for a walk I try to remember
to carry a Dictaphone with me so that I can capture an idea. If you don’t, something
is bound to distract you and then it’s a case of "the one that got away"

DENNIS STRATTON: Like Tino, I too have found the beat of walking to be a good
inspiration. When I was in Lionheart I wrote a track called Towers Of Silver
and that just came to me, as I was walking bump, bump, bump to a restaurant.
I think when I write the song I tend to start with the chorus. Once I am happy
with that the rest tends to just follow naturally.

You write a lot of meaningful lyrics. Do you consider that
to be Praying Mantis’s strong point? Are your lyrics personally important to
you?

TINO TROY: Yes definitely, they are a very strong point. Whenever I get a new
album I sit down, read the lyrics and try to understand them. If it can’t find
out what the song’s about straight away’ that is a good lyric to me. I don’t
like "Baby, baby, baby oh ah, ah .ooh,ohh.". Fine for a pop song but
not for Mantis.

TONY O’HORA: If you listen to ‘Naked’, the new bonus track, you can’t help
being touched by the lyrics because they’re so powerful. You have got the music
and the melody but the lyrics are very important, especially with me being the
singer. You can put that much more emotion into it. As an example of how much
work went into the lyrics for the last song, Tino came into the studio with
half an A4 binder of possible lyrics and we then refined them. Even in the studio
they get worked on because sometimes they just won’t sing right with the music.
You certainly won’t get away with writing bad lyrics in this band.

Do you set out to write in a certain style or do the albums grow in their
own direction?

TINO TROY: They naturally grow in their own direction. We have tried to go
out and write in a certain vain before now but like I explained earlier "To
the Power Of Ten", was a prime example of mistaken identity.

BRUCE BISLAND: As the Japanese put it "If we wanted an album sounding
like Bon Jovi, we would buy a Bon Jovi album. We want you to write a Praying
Mantis album".

CHRIS TROY: Obviously there has to be a little bit of structure to an album
in that we can’t put out an album with six slow songs. There has to be the right
mix of fast, medium and slow paced tracks. Apart from that, we all write tracks
and then bring them to the band to work on them together.

TONY O’HORA: I think it is obvious from listening to the last two albums where
the band’s sound has developed. Even though a song might be 50% or 90% of someone’s
solo writing, by the time it is released it has got a bit of everyone in there.
So to a certain extent the album’s direction is also driven by the members involvement.

How do you set about writing your albums?

TONY O’HORA: Usually the song is written and demoed by one or two members of
the band. We then all take a listen and say "Yes that has got the makings
of a good song" and we build it up from there. The advantage of demoing
first is that we all come to the studio knowing the tune and we can take it
from there. The songs always grow in the studio though. A guitar solo might
trigger off another section and so on.

CHRIS TROY: I do find if you have just one writer, the songs will all start
sounding the same so I think it is very important that the other members all
contribute to songs no matter whose original idea it was. I often find the end
result is different to how I originally conceived it and I think that is good.

How did the deal with Frontiers/Now and Then come about?

TINO TROY: We just stumbled upon it really. Pony Canyon had the exclusive rights
to all our previous albums and this had a detrimental effect on our being able
to sell the product outside of Japan. This time we were able to retain the rights
for the rest of the world. Frontiers were so persistent, bubbling with excitement,
keen and full of enthusiasm that we chose them in preference to other interested
labels.

Why has the European edition of "Nowhere To Hide" got a bonus
track?

CHRIS TROY: That is mainly because by the time the album comes out in Europe
and America the fans will have had several months to buy the Japanese album
on import. Frontiers basically needed something special to make sure they could
sell the album.

How did you record the album?

TINO TROY: For all you Technophobes out there..The album was recorded in my
home studio on a hard-disk based system controlled by an Apple Mac. All the
vocals and acoustic guitars were recorded using a Rode NT2 microphone which
was fed into a TL audio VP5051 at the input stage. This was merely used for
it’s ‘phantom power supply’ and EQ capabilities, the compression coming from
a ‘Purple Audio MC 76’ compresser/limiter. The treated signal was then recorded
direct to disk via the Digidesign Pro-tools 888 I/O interface, which converts
analogue signals and houses them in the digital domain. Guitars and bass were
recorded in the same manner, the difference being , instead of the NT2, the
emulated output of a Marshall Valvestate 100 watt head was mainly used. All
the basic backing tracks and guides were laid down against a drum machine. Live
drums were then recorded at Andy Scott’s (The Sweet) home studio via a ‘Soundscape’
set-up. To put the ‘icing on the cake’ Steve Mann then mixed the album in his
home studio on a ‘Yamaha 02/R’. You could well say that ‘Nowhere to hide’ is
a very ‘homey’ album. In the past we recorded all our albums in commercial studios
with engineers and producers who didn’t have any idea of how the band should
sound. It was on the ‘Forever in time’ album that we decided enough was enough
and decided to invest in equipment of our own. The great thing about having
your own studio is that if you get an idea while you’re tossing ‘n’ turning
in your sleep you can fire-up and away you go. Also by having a professional
set-up, everything that’s recorded now is instantly of master quality and can
be utilised in the construction of a song . In the past we’d throw some roughs
down onto four or eight track format, only to find that when we came to put
it down properly, we could never achieve the same feel as was captured on that
first demo. Essentially, I suppose the construction of any song can be regarded
as a demo until it comes to fruition, the great thing now is being able to retain
the original performances.

BRUCE BISLAND: The main difference between this album and the last was that
on this occasion I used a real drum kit. On ‘Forever In Time’ I used a Midi
kit for the very first time in my career.

TONY O’HORA: The difference in drum sound between the two albums is like night
and day. We didn’t get very good sounds last time.

DENNIS STRATTON: We are completely digital now using Pro-Tools on computers.
It took a lot of work getting used to this set up on the last album but this
time it was much easier. Tino did a lot of work on the engineering and all Steve
Mann had to do to make sure it all sounded spot on. Not an easy thing in Digital
as you can hear every little glitch and drop out. Steve did a great job of adding
that final bit of gloss to make things sparkle.

Why do you think someone should give your album a spin?

BRUCE BISLAND: It’s refreshingly old, if that doesn’t sound a little bizarre.
It’s like going back to the good old days of melodic rock but in a very modern
way. The songs are good. The playing is good and it’s not contrived at all –
like these boy bands. Basically I think it will have staying power. I also think
once someone has heard it, they will like it and inevitably start sifting through
our back catalogue.

CHRIS TROY: I think it is more production than music that gets dated. I think
music has it’s own niche and is timeless really.

TONY O’HORA: For me, and I may be a bit biased here but I think overall it
is in the melody of the vocals and the harmonies. If you see the band live you
can hear the other guys sing so well, we have great melody in the vocal and
guitar parts yet we still have enough raw power to classify in a rock vain.
It’s just great melodic rock.

CHRIS TROY: I also think the album is very contagious. If you play the songs
they will come across. I don’t think it will necessarily happen on first play
as they are very complex but then again I don’t think it is a good thing to
like a track straight off. If you do, I think you are likely to start getting
fed up with it after six or seven plays. Whereas if an album takes more time
to get a hold, I think you are likely to be able to play it to death. I have
certainly found that to be the case personally and although I have never really
questioned anyone else, I suspect it is true for others.

How relevant do you think you are in the current Rock scene?

CHRIS TROY: I think it is beginning to grow. Our name is on people’s lips again.
I don’t know that I like the idea of being ‘rejuvenated old rockers’ but I suppose
it is true. I certainly think we turned a few heads at the Wacken Festival in
Germany. They probably thought we were dead and buried or just stuck with the
Japanese audience but we really got the crowd going. With the situation with
Frontiers and a bit more exposure I think it will be really good. I know for
sure Tino is really buzzing with excitement again.

The last album in the UK was A Cry For The New World. Why
have you been absent in Europe for so long?

TONY O’HORA: Basically because of the deal we had in Japan we were just tied
up legally. This is the first album we have had the rights to outside of Japan
and we have grabbed the opportunity it presents to tie-up with a record label
that seems very keen to promote us.

How would you like to see the band progress in the future?

DENNIS STRATTON: I’d like to see us take what we have done with Forever In
Time and Nowhere To Hide and improve it even further. And it would be really
nice if we could tour more and more now that we have the support of our record
label behind us. It is just not feasible to do it without.

TONY O’HORA: Because I know how hard Mantis has worked over the years I would
just like to see the band get more recognition. I think it was an extremely
hard task to match our performance of ‘Forever In Time’ but I think we managed
it, if not bettered it with Nowhere To Hide. If we can continue on that road
I will be happy.

BRUCE BISLAND: I think that if we can just get ourselves heard, people will
start buying us and things will take care of themselves.

TINO TROY: I would just love to see my days through as a musician and for it
to be with Praying Mantis. I formed the band at college twenty-seven years ago
so there is no reason why it shouldn’t last another twenty-seven. Mantis has
always been a big part of my life and will hopefully remain that way. It would
certainly be nice to get a little more recognition along the way, I think that
we definitely deserve it! I mean, how many bands have a discography as extensive
as ours yet they are household names.. I keep telling myself that things are
going to get better!

CHRIS TROY: With the Frontiers deal, we can start securing more territories
and it will give us the opportunity to write more and hopefully produce albums
on a more frequent basis. The best thing will be if we can do a third album
with the same line-up. The benefits will then really start to come through.
I am really excited about this at the moment and I don’t think people have seen
the best of Mantis yet. I think that is still to come.

The Praying Mantis Website is here

Karnataka Interview – 4 June 2002

This write up is very verbose and I expect a lot of people will think it
needs a good edit but from my point of view it is better to let fans read all
the detail they want than to cut it down. I would hope that people who find
it too long can just skim the bits they are not interested in. I would really
appreciate feedback both good and bad
on this interview as I am aware my English and presentation aren’t very good
but I would hope the overall content is OK.

The subsections of the interview are:

Origins
Song Writing
Playing Live
Saxophone
Miscellaneous
The First Album
The Storm
Supporting Tours
Promotion
Music Scene
DVD appearances
The Delicate Flame Of Desire
Set Selection
Rachel
Jonathan
Ian
Flat Eric

On a nice sunny day just after Karnataka had finished mastering "Delicate
Flame Of Desire" in Abbey Road Studios Jon Hinchliffe went down to Swansea
to interview the group. Present were Ian Jones (Bass Guitar), Rachel Jones (Vocals)
and Jonathan Edwards (keyboards).

Origins

JH – How did the band start?

Ian – Jon, Rachel and myself go back 11 or 12 years. We started off as a three
piece just writing our own stuff. We did a few gigs as a three piece as we didn’t
have any guitar or drums. We started off because we liked song writing. We did
that for a few years and then we did our own separate things in various bands.
Around 1997/1998 we decided we wanted to record the songs we had written. We
didn’t have a band together as such it was just a project we decided to undertake
to record the songs we had written. I built a studio in the house and bought
a mixing desk etc. We just set about recording the songs we had written together
and these formed the first album. As soon as we had recorded the songs we all
felt it would be good to take the stuff out and start gigging. We had formed
the band very quickly.

We had played with Paul Davies our guitarist a few times in rehearsals and
we had played with Gavin Griffiths our drummer in other bands. So we just started
recording together, it all sounded very good and we decided to take it from
there. When we recorded the first album it was pretty much just for our own
pleasure. There was no thought at the time of releasing it. At gigs people were
asking us for copies of it so we were just running them off on a CD-Writer as
requested.

It was recommended to us that we send a copy off to Martin Hudson at the Classic
Rock Society. Martin reviewed the album and he gave us a very positive review.
He could see what the band were trying to do. It was Martin who gave us our
first break really as he did the album review and then offered us a gig for
the Classic Rock Society in Rotherham. This was back in June 1999 as support
to Re-Genesis and we haven’t really looked back from there. We were offered
another support with Jump in October 1999 and we then started writing the material
that would eventually appear on our 2nd album "The Storm".

JH – Where does the band name come from and what does it mean?

Ian – That’s a bit of a long story. When we recorded the first album there was
no band name at all. We didn’t even think about it until we had finished the
project. We were just trying to think of something that captured the nature
of the music a little bit but we also wanted it personal to the band. I had
been out to India in 1995 and 1996 to the state of Karnataka in South India
and I had a pretty amazing experience out there. There had been a kind of eastern
influence on some of the tracks so the name just seemed to fit. What we didn’t
realise was the difficulty people would have pronouncing it ever after!

JH – Why do you choose to play the style of music that you do?

Jonathan – Because nobody else does!

Ian – Yes really that’s it. It is different. We don’t think of it as retro
we like to think of ourselves as a kind of contemporary band. We are just trying
to push rock in a slightly different direction. There are lots of influences
within the band because I think our tastes vary quite a bit. I suppose the attitude
towards the way we write stuff could perhaps be compared to some of the older
bands in that when we write songs we go beyond the standard verse chorus verse
chorus, middle 8. We try to push the song arrangements in a more interesting
direction or at least a more interesting direction for us.

Jonathan – But thinking back even when it was just the three of us right at the start
the music we were playing wasn’t like any of the other bands in Swansea or necessarily
what you would hear on the radio. Certain influences came through but we just
wanted to do something different that we enjoyed. We then hoped that if we enjoyed
it, it would then appeal to others.

Ian – I think when we are writing the songs just take on their own form. It’s
not a case of let’s try to write a song in this kind of mode or a song that
sounds like that. We just start off with an idea and sometimes very quickly,
and sometimes not very quickly, it will take on it’s own direction. In fact
we felt this when we were recording the new material. We could just feel that
a song wanted to go in a certain direction. I suppose the way you take a song
is influenced by the stuff you listen to to a degree. Sometimes it is very obvious
the way a song needs to sound and that is kind of the way a lot of our stuff
is written. It is as if the song it waiting to be written and you are just helping
it along to that stage rather than forcing it along to a preconceived idea.

Jonathan – I know
it sounds like a cliché but it is as if the song is there and rather than you
writing it you just find it. It just flows out. I think with a lot of bands
that don’t follow the verse chorus structure it almost sounds like they have
just stuck lots of unrelated bits of music together. There doesn’t seem to be
any organic flow to the music it just seems to be we have got this far so "lets
put a 7/8 section in for 5 bars" and it sounds rather jerky to me. I think
although our songs are very diverse they don’t sound like bits tagged together
they sound like a whole piece.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – Who would you say your influences are then? Or what music do you listen
to.

Ian – All sorts really. I still listen to some of the older bands. "Yes"
are still one of my favourite bands but my tastes have diversified quite a bit.
I listen to quite a bit of folk, Kate Rusby and Richard Thompson. I still listen
to Genesis and Peter Gabriel. Also Deep Forest, lots of things really.

Rachel – I have similar tastes really. I grew up listening to  a lot of  female
vocalists which I loved. So probably Abba in my childhood. I have listened to
a lot of Kate Bush also Clannad. Very much stuff that had a lot of harmony layers.
I used to sing along and make up a new harmony as I was going along. I like
everything from Def Leppard to Duran Duran, Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd. I like
a bit of everything.

Jonathan – It’s the same for me. I listen to a broad spectrum of stuff. In my teens
it was very Yes, ELP and Led Zeppelin. These days I don’t tend to buy or listen
to a lot of Rock music. It tends to be world music or folk music. Also  people
like Peter Gabriel or Sting who had rock origins but are now of a broader church.
If you listen to our music a lot of the way we do our time changes and the rhythms
we use are very like the things you find in folk music but the music itself
isn’t actually like folk music. The influence just comes through in the time
changes and rhythms. I think there are Jazzy things we use as well but I wouldn’t
say our music is anything like Jazz. It is just using those sorts of influences
in the way we write.

JH – So how would you describe your music?

Jonathan – Oh the question we hate!

Rachel – I don’t think you can.

Jonathan – It’s big.

Ian – Yes it is big and atmospheric.

Rachel – It is very melodic. I think someone listening to one of our tracks especially
on the new album will be able to remember the music after only one listen because
it is so melodic. At the same time our music is something that rewards continued
listening because it has got other layers and depths to it as well. It’s got
a surface people will latch onto straight off but if they stick with it they
will find it has a greater feel to it as well.

Ian – I suppose a big part of our audience are progressive rock fans. Sometimes
we get categorised as one of the new prog rock bands and we don’t mind that
at all. I am a big fan of some progressive rock. With some of the prog rock
stuff that comes out now it is very retro and it sounds like it is more of an
attempt to sound like the bands of the past with no real attempt to be progressive.
So it is like it is Progressive with a capital "P". ie. a name given
to bands of a certain style instead of a name given to bands that try to push
their music forward. I personally have always seen progressive as a term that
can be applied to any musical Genre. If you have an artist who plays folk, jazz
or rock if they are trying to do something really different in their genre then
I have always seen that as progressive. On the new album I think there is stuff
that is progressive but not in the “sounds like” way.

Jonathan – It was interesting to read an article recently that described Radiohead
as being a progressive band.  They don’t sound like a prog rock band but they
are progressive in doing something musically that is kind of stretching the
boundaries of pop rock music and they don’t sound like anyone else.

Ian – I think another band like that are Mercury Rev. They have done some very
different stuff. Clannad have also taken folk music in a completely different
direction and I guess they could be considered progressive too. They have taken
a style of music and gone off on a tangent and done something really different
with it.

Jonathan – We have always found it difficult to give other bands as a term of reference
when people ask us what our music is like. On one hand you want people to hear
we are like another band they like so that they come and listen to us but on
the other hand it is also a limiting factor. When we were in the studio mixing
someone came in and said, "Oh you sound like a Celtic Floyd.” That was
kind of nice but it doesn’t sum up everything we are about.

JH – The line-up for the band has been the same since you first started hasn’t
it?

Ian – Yes except of course that Anne-Marie has now joined us as a sixth member.

JH – Do you consider yourselves semi-professional?

Ian – We consider ourselves very professional. (Laughs)

JH – You’re not able to make the band pay full time?

Ian – Not really no. Some of us are still working.

Jonathan – But it’s definitely going in the right direction. When we did the first
album we never dreamed we would be able to make a living from music. We just
hoped some other people might like the album. Now we do make money at it so
it is going the right way and it is in all our dreams that we can just make
enough to allow us to keep making music. We don’t necessarily want to be rich
and famous, just make enough money to keep doing it.

Ian – We
are at the stage now where we would like to do a lot more touring, and with
various members of the band working it’s not always easy to juggle the music
and the jobs .

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – I get the impression there are a lot of people that
still don’t appreciate that a lot of bands like you still have to work.

Ian – Yes I get e-mails from people that just assume that this is what we do
full time.

Rachel – We did a gig, probably a London one last year, where someone came up to
us at the end and said "Oh it must be nice just travelling from gig to
gig and spending all that time on a tour bus." I just thought, "You
have no idea."

Jonathan – It actually means you are getting back home at 5.30 or 6 in the morning,
having 2 hours sleep and then getting up for work. If you think about 6 members
in a band and the average wage for one person, we would need to make that plus
travelling expenses in order to make a living out of the music.

Rachel – It is not like it used to be.

Jonathan – Even the people you know and see on TV only just make enough to keep doing
it. They don’t all have guitar shaped swimming pools and mansions.

Ian – It is surprising the number of musicians I know that are running studios
or teaching in order to subsides their bands.

Song Writing

JH – Who writes the lyrics?

Rachel –
Me! That’s my job.

JH – What do you base them on?

Rachel – It depends, I am one of those people that likes to hear the music and
then write the lyrics to go with it. I have written chunks of lyrics, which
I then try adding to music but I tend to find it easier to hear something these
guys, have come up with and get into the feel of the music and then see where
it takes me. I like to write about things that people can identify with. That
is really important to me. I like to think that people can listen to the songs
and read something into them that is personal to them rather than tell a story.
Having said that "The Storm" was a story based song. I just like it
to be open emotions and feelings and things that people can read something into.

JH -How long do you spending writing lyrics for a song once you hear a backing?

Rachel – It depends, some songs are very instant. For instance "The Journey"
from "The Storm" came very, very quickly. But usually I might spend
a couple of days writing the melody to go with the song and then set about thinking
of the lyrics to go with the melody.

JH – Do you ever think "I would like to write a song
on a certain topic and then keep it in mind for future music?"

Rachel – The title track of "The Storm" was very much like that. I really
liked the idea of doing a shipwreck story. That was influenced by the shipwreck
I have seen 100’s of times down on the Gower Beech near Swansea.so it is a bit
of both.  Sometimes I think up an idea and write about it later but mainly I
get the feel of a song and see what it creates.

JH – Do you ever write the music too?

Rachel – Sometimes it is something we all do together. The three of us will sit
down with a guitar and a keyboard, but generally Ian and Jon come up with the
musical ideas first and I will add to them as we go along.

JH – So you’re not like Jon Anderson of Yes who has very
rough ideas that he leaves the musicians of the band to decipher and work out
into proper music and structures?

Rachel –
No not normally but I do sometimes have bits of ideas that I will hum for them.

Jonathan – I think on all the songs we have released, all the vocals melodies are
by Rachel. It is not just the lyrics. We will have a chord structure in there
and changes but the actual vocal line and harmonies are all written by Rachel.
So without her musical input the songs wouldn’t be what they are

JH – Can we go into more detail about how the first album came about?

Ian – We
wrote the songs over a couple of years with other bands but we had never recorded
them. We had played them live but all we had as a record of them were live or
practise recordings. They were just recorded on a cassette player sat in the
corner. Basically I thought it was a shame that we weren’t going to have good
recordings of these songs to look back at. I therefore started getting interested
in home recording and started reading magazines like Sound On Sound. Computers
were just getting powerful enough to be able to record to hard disc and I needed
to buy a computer for a university course at the time. Because I was reading
these Magazines I realised I could put a basic studio together without much
extra expense. I bought a small Mackie mixing desk some microphones and stuff
like that. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. I was reading books
on recording but I didn’t have any practical experience and just through trial
and error I just started recording the album.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – How do you set about writing songs? Do you constantly
write or just write to get an album out?

Ian – It is usually a constant thing but we have had a bit of a break recently
because we have been recording the new album. Jon and I normally write stuff
together and then bring it into a rehearsal. Sometimes they are complete ideas
and sometimes they are part ideas, which we then let evolve.

Jonathan – I think pretty much individually we will sit down and play an instrument
for a couple of hours and something either comes out or it doesn’t. But we also
have sessions where we write together. We went away to a cottage in Solva (a
coastal village in West Wales) for the weekend and just took an acoustic guitar
and a keyboard. We would go  down the pub, have  a drink and then come back
and play   –  a lot of good stuff  came out of that.  .

Rachel – It was really good.

Ian – I tend to write in phases so I might go for quite a while knocking ideas
about and I don’t feel anything is really happening and then I might get a couple
of weeks where I get lots of ideas. It is just the sort of thing you can’t force.
Even though I tend to play bass in the band I write mainly on the guitar. I
play just because I enjoy playing and the ideas just come out of that.

Jonathan – I am sure we both have quite a store of these sections that are really
good but don’t actually work with anything else. Very often we will come up
with an idea and then we will think "Ah yes that thing we did 9 months
ago will fit with this".

Ian – I think one of the things we are good at is knowing when not to force
an idea. If we have a strong idea but we don’t feel we have got enough there
to compete a song, rather than just tack something to make it into a song, we
tend to keep that idea back and wait and see if we ever write anything else
that we feel will go with it naturally. We don’t dilute a good idea we just
wait for something else to come along.

JH – Do you always write as a pair or do you sometimes come up with complete
ideas for a song?

Ian – We both write individually and as a pair. Probably the best stuff we have
written was written as a pair.

Jonathan – I think as we go forward now we want to promote the idea that anyone in
the band that wants to be involved in the writing, can be

JH – For the new album you have been trying out least two
of the songs live. Do you always try out songs live first?

Ian – On
the new album there are 3 songs that have never been performed live and a couple
of songs that we have performed  live but we have radically changed when recording
them.

Jonathan – When we did "The Storm" we played the songs live before we recorded
them but not a tremendous amount so what we recorded was more or less how we
knew the songs would be. This time we have taken 8 months to record the album
and during that time we have been playing live constantly. Some of the songs
we have actually been playing live for about a year and that has been good because
the strengths and weaknesses of the songs have come out live.  “Heart Of Stone”
in particular has changed four or five times. In fact  on the DVD recorded version
of this song the last third of this song is completely different to the recorded
version on the new album. When we were recording it we just decided "this
isn’t really working how we wanted it to". It worked live but in the studio
it didn’t seem right so we changed the end of it dramatically. So it has been
nice to play  the songs live and get into them for a long time and then change
them as required.

JH – Does Paul work out his own guitar solos?

Rachel – Yes, although when we are recording and arranging we will all contribute ideas,
whether it’s chord sequences, song structures, rhythms or solos.

JH – But that comes under arrangements by Karnataka does it?

Ian – Yes Jon and I tend to work out the song structure chord wise. Paul’s
way of working is he likes a bass upon which to write his guitar solos. When
we start structuring a song we get to a point where we feel a solo is going
to work and Paul will then start working on ideas on top of our framework. Sometimes
when we are jamming out our ideas Paul will come up with something on the spot.
It’s part of the group written stuff. Other times he will take a song away and
work on a solo that way.

Photo By Mark Cowmeadow

Playing Live

JH – When you are playing a song from, say the first
album now, do you like to change it because you get bored of playing it the
same way all the time or does it just naturally change it’s own way because
ideas occur as you are playing gigs and you just keep the ideas through repetition
each night?

Jonathan – All of the above.

Rachel – We have done bits of everything.

Ian – I think the band album by album have developed as musicians. The song
writing has developed to so what we find now when playing tracks from the first
album is that we think "Oh we would have done that differently now".
So we do change stuff. I suppose it is partly because we are want to keep the
songs fresh from a playing point of view and partly because we feel we could
do it better now.

Jonathan – I think also when we look back at the first album and "The Storm"
we think there are things we would do differently now but that is where we were
at the time so to go back and re-record the songs seems a bit pointless. However
playing live does let you go back and change things you didn’t like.

Ian – Although,
we  probably haven’t changed that much. I think on "It Must Be The Devil"
we have dropped a verse to make it punchier. "Crazy" is fairly close
to the album version. What we tend to find is  that if we aren’t happy with
a song or just bored with playing it too often we’ll just stop playing it  altogether.

Jonathan – But it has been nice bringing in old songs live. Three or four months
ago we started playing "There Must Be A Way" from the first album
and we had never played that live. It therefore felt really fresh after four
years. It’s nice to go back to stuff we haven’t done for a long time.

JH – Do you ever think it would be nice to rearrange a song just for the hell
of it?

Ian – I think there is always that temptation. With the first album the production
quality isn’t that fantastic even though we feel the songs are strong. But at
the same time we just feel that represents where we were at that period in time
and in some ways it is pretty nice to leave it as it is. That is how we were
then and we are certainly not embarrassed by it. I listen to it and I think
how I would record it now and sonically it would sound better but perhaps that
is taking the spirit away from what it was. I like listening to most bands early
albums because it is raw.

Rachel – It shows how much a band has changed over a period of time.

Ian – Yes and I think when a song is good it always shines through whatever
kind of production it was given.

Jonathan – I think live we will probably work with arrangements of the old
songs. It will keep it interesting for us. It is good to try different
things. We have been doing "Run To You" from the first album with
a kind of sequenced percussion. That was interesting to do with an old song.

Ian – I think if we do a live album that would be a good opportunity to revisit
the older songs and try out different arrangements. But we have always kind
of thought that was that and let’s move forward.

JH – When did you first start gigging as Karnataka?

Ian – The end of 1998 just after the first album.

JH – Have you always played your own material or did you
do covers in the set when you first started?

Jonathan – This band has only ever done one cover. And that was " I Know What
I Like (In Your Wardrobe)." We did that because the Classic Rock Society
gave us our first gig and we supported Re:Genesis.  Later, at our first headline
gig for the CRS  we  played it as an encore as a kind of thank you to them for
giving us that original support slot. It is also a great track that we really
liked. It’s the only occasion we have ever played a cover.

Ian – I think there is always a temptation when playing covers that people will
stick a label on you. I think if we covered a Floyd track or a band with a female
vocalist such as Fleetwood Mac or Kate Bush we leave our music open to comparisons
that we don’t really want. We would rather people just listen to our music and
make up their own minds.

Jonathan – You also have to be very careful if you do a cover because I have been
to a lot of gigs where a band plays 95% of their own music and then a cover
at the end of the gig and people go away saying the best track was the cover.
We feel our music is strong enough to stand on it’s own.

Ian – We are not against doing covers. We might decide sometime to take somebody’s
song and do something radical with it.

Jonathan – I feel
the same, I personally don’t see the point of doing someone else’s song if you
are going to do it the way they do it. You might as well just put it on the
sound system in the venue.

JH – The reason I asked was because it could be an icebreaker
to an unfamiliar audience. What sort of venues did you play when you first started
playing live?

Ian – We played in pubs.

JH – So have you ever had trouble getting the crowds interested?

All Three – Oh Yes.

Ian – I am sure the great difficulty every band doing their own material faces
when they start gigging is convincing the venue owner to put you on. They are
naturally going to ask what stuff you do. When we say we are going to do our
own that is always a major hurdle to get over. Most venues prefer cover bands.
Recent years have seen a proliferation of tribute bands and that is because
from the venue owner’s point of view they just want to get as many punters in
as possible.

JH – So was that partly an inspiration for recording your
own demos then? I.e. so you have something to give the venue owners to hear.

Rachel – It kind of worked the other way round to that actually.

Ian – Once we had made the album it did become a valuable asset in that it enabled
us to get gigs. But the reason it was recorded was purely for us.

Jonathan – Also it is very difficult to talk to somebody about music, but if
you play them a track they know exactly what it sounds like. It is much better
if you can say we play our own stuff and it is like this. We used to keep a
list of all the stuff we had been asked to play at gigs. When we first started
playing it was "Can you do the Theme from The Titanic?" or "Do
you do disco?" "Black Magic Woman" "Joan Armatrading".
And some of the things people asked us to play had us thinking, "Where
did that come from? Does that sound anything like stuff we have just played?"

JH – So you recorded your first album and then you started
playing live and it was just in Swansea was it? So how did you then grow from
there?

Ian – The first real big break was the Classic Rock Society. Somebody recommended
that we send them a CD of what we recorded. We didn’t really expect to hear
anything back but they phoned back and said they liked what we were doing, were
going to review it for the magazine and would we like to do a gig. I suppose
it was the first time we stopped and thought "Wow somebody other than friends
and family has listened to this" and it was a great encouragement. I think
from that moment on it gave the band a great momentum.

Jonathan – Even though you have the confidence in your own material it is hard to
maintain that in a void. If you are constantly playing for people asking for
covers or who are just apathetic it is very difficult to maintain that kind
of confidence. When we played that first gig at the Classic Rock Society and
the first song finished and there was absolute dead silence we thought, "Oh
my God they don’t like it". But as soon as the last note finished dying
away they started clapping and we thought "Ah they do like it". To
have somebody actually listen to the music instead of playing pool or  emptying
glasses was amazing.

Ian – That was a very pleasant surprise. When you start off and you are used
to playing in pubs to an audience that are there for the drinking, the band
often just becomes background music. If you try to do anything subtle you just
get talked over. To play to an audience that listened to every note was a revelation.

Jonathan – Having said that I think it was a valuable education playing all these
pubs and places where people were apathetic to downright hostile. It does kind
of toughen you up. We have played gigs where there were more people in the band
than in the audience and now we feel we could play anywhere and it wouldn’t
faze us.

JH – As the front person how do you cope in that situation?

Rachel – You get used to it after a while. The first few times you get someone
having a go at you in the audience you do feel small but I feel confident to
deal with it now and I don’t care. I just think, "Well we are going to
enjoy it. I hope you do too, if you don’t, bye!”

Jonathan – "How loud can you talk? We can turn our amps up!"

Rachel – It does toughen you up though. It’s a very good education for live performance
and everyone should go through that.

Jonathan – If anything we prefer hostility to apathy because it gives us something
to kick against.

Photo By Chris Walkden

Saxophone

JH – What does Steve Simmons the Sax player on the first two albums normally
do?

Ian – Steve was a guest on the first two albums and he is a friend of the band
although he has never been a full member

Jonathan – Steve is basically a session player and a friend of ours. He plays with
a Jazz band and also does session work up in London. We wanted some saxophone
for "The Storm" so he came along and did that for us.

Rachel – He also played on the first album.

Jonathan – With the new album the way the writing went meant there wasn’t any need
for a saxophone part. It wasn’t done as a deliberate thing it was just that
as we were writing there were bits where we thought a flute might be nice for
and other bits where an acoustic guitar might be nice. This time however we
just didn’t write any music that we felt needed a sax part.  

JH – So on the first album you just felt like you wanted a saxophone at that
point?

Ian – Yes.

JH – Paul’s guitar seems quite low in the mix on the 2nd
album.

Ian – It won’t on the third!

JH – Was that deliberate? Were you trying to keep the guitar more as a background
instrument?

Rachel – Oh god no. Not in the least.

Ian – I think with "The Storm" it was really down to the engineer
mixing it. We took it into Rockfield in Monmouthshire to mix and we went along
with the engineer’s suggestions. It was kind of his perceptions of the mix.
On the new album the guitar is very much upfront so it is quite a change in
the overall sound on the new album.

Jonathan – I think with "The Storm" the guitar solos are strong but
there isn’t an awful lot of rhythm or incidental guitar work. On the new album
there are a lot more rhythm and other guitar parts that are in with the sound
rather than just the solos, so I think that has made a big difference to the
overall sound.

JH – Apart from the DVD has Steve Simmons ever played live with you?

Rachel –
Yes he just did whichever gigs he could when he wasn’t busy. His session work
seems to be taking off and he has just done some stuff for John Lawton so it
is when he is free he sometimes comes along.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – So did you miss his Sax in the mix when you didn’t have him there?

Rachel – We just got used to the fact he was sometimes there and sometimes not.
If he was there, great. If he wasn’t there he just wasn’t. There was never a
stage when he was doing every single gig and we then felt there was a hole when
he couldn’t play.

Ian – I think Anne Marie has become far more integral as far as the live sound
is concerned. We have now got the extra vocal harmonies that we always felt
were missing in the live sound. Also Anne plays flute so she can fill in those
gaps too.

JH – So does she actually play where some of the Sax was?

Rachel – She hasn’t taken over anything that had a sax solo as such but having
said that we don’t really play anything live that had a structured sax solo
on it.

Ian – She has added in other areas.

Rachel – Exactly she has filled out the songs in different ways so that you don’t
think there is something missing.

JH – On the first album track "There Must Be A Way"
the sax part to my ears seems almost disjointed from the song. Do you have a
Jazz influence?

Ian – That is Steve’s influence really.

JH – But were you looking for that sort of thing as part of the arrangement?

Jonathan – I think the sax part on the particular song was totally improvised. Perhaps
that is why it sounds disjointed to you. It wasn’t a worked out arrangement.
Steve is a Jazz musician so we just asked him to improvise to it. It was an
experiment and I kind of like it but I can understand why you would say that.

JH – It’s not a criticism it is just interesting to hear
how it came about.

Jonathan – I think we had more or less written the song and Steve was coming along
to do some Sax parts on "Crazy". On the spur of the moment we just
got Steve to listen to "There Must Be A Way" and asked him if he fancied
playing some Sax over it. He played all this Sax over it and we thought,
"That sounds good."

Ian – It was quite funny I remember recording Steve doing it. Steve said, "OK
I will just play all over it and you just choose the bits you want". So
we listened back and we just decided we would leave it all there. The way we
recorded the first album was so funny because I didn’t have any practical studio
experience. I think sometimes people think of mixing as just twiddling a few
knobs here and there. Good engineering is a real art and I won’t pretend to
be a good engineer by any stretch of the imagination. I just remember I had
a go and did my best.

Rachel – I remember at the time though it didn’t matter because at the time I just
thought this is great we have got something we can listen to in 20 years and
we can play it on a hifi now. It never occurred to us that people would be writing
reviews of it.

JH – Have you started noticing people giving your songs
meaning that weren’t there when you wrote them?

Rachel –
Oh yes it happens all the time but that is quite nice though. It’s like we were
watching Travis being interviewed about "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?"
People were reading all these great emotional metaphors into it and he said,
"No I wrote it because it was raining outside and I had just been out and
I got wet!"

We had a drinks break at this point but as we were chatting curiosity kind
of got me interviewing again.

Miscellaneous

JH – Have you found since making your own recordings that
you are now getting more sensitive to the construction and recording techniques?
That you can’t listen to a good song because part of it is off key?

Ian – Now that we have finished recording I do listen to the mixes and stuff
and I go through this analytical stage listening to the mix and sometimes that
does get in the way of listening to the songs but that wears off and I can just
get carried away by the song again.

JH – So you haven’t lost your punter side then?

Ian – Oh no not at all. My musical tastes have changed but I am still just as
passionate.

Jonathan – I think this album has been recorded in a much more technically precise
way and I have occasionally found myself hearing things I wouldn’t have picked
up on before. I listened to "Trilogy" by Emerson Lake and Palmer the
other day and it came to a section and I thought,  "Blimey that bass guitar
was slightly behind the drums". It does kind of spoil it a little bit when
you start unconsciously analysing the way sound fits together.

JH – Some people just can’t seem to switch off from analysing
music.

Ian – I do feel like that listening to our own stuff.

Rachel – You can’t switch off from it. It is impossible.

JH – Are you sick of the new album now it has got to the point where it has
got?

All – No

Jonathan – You would think after spending 8 months with the songs we would
be sick of hearing it but hearing the mastered stuff coming out last Friday
was like "Wow". I don’t want to sound too confident but if we didn’t
love it we wouldn’t do it.

JH – Do you go off your albums or song though?

Rachel – We don’t go off them. It becomes less of a challenge to play them. I find
we very rarely listen to our own stuff. We just don’t do it. We don’t tend to
sit down and think, "Oh I think I will play ‘The Storm’ now".

Jonathan – But we listen to the new album a lot.

Rachel – Yes it is very exciting listening to the new album.

Jonathan – I think there are one or two songs from the first album that make us think,
"We could write much better than that". After all it was six years
ago. So there are a couple of songs I don’t really listen to anymore and don’t
particularly want to play live. Of course we might be able to do something different
with them.

Rachel – We just kind of put them to one side in favour of new stuff, which is
more exciting for us.

JH – Is Immrama your own record label?

Ian – Yes
it was just the name we gave to our own cottage industry really. The Immrama
or the Immrama were I think traditional Celtic stories, which involved journeys,
and I thought this really fits what we are trying to do musically. I suppose
one thing we are trying to do when writing stuff is to take people on a journey.
That is certainly the way we would like people to receive the music. I don’t
want to make the obvious link with the song "The Journey" it is just
with every track I would like to feel I have taken somebody on a little adventure.
So basically it just seemed a nice word to use for the label name.

JH – Do you have a distribution deal for the label or do people have to buy
you off the Internet?

Ian – Yes we are distributed by Pinnacle in the UK by Voiceprint. We have various
other distributors in Japan and Europe. Laser’s Edge distribute us in the USA.
Marquee Incorporated in Japan. People can of course buy over the Internet too.

JH – So have you seen your CD’s in record shops then?

Ian – Yes, funnily enough we were in Tower Records in London at the weekend
and  “The Storm” was in the racks there. It is available pretty much anywhere
even if you have to order it in.

JH – Where are your fans based mainly?

Jonathan – Up North!

Ian – Yes we have a really good following in the Rotherham area because of the
Classic Rock Society.

Jonathan – The Nottingham and Lincoln areas are very good to.

Ian – We also have good followings in Cardiff and Bristol.

JH – Do you get many international orders?

Ian – Yes lots from the States and Japan.

Jonathan – The most CD’s we have sold in bulk are to Japan.

Ian – We have done a lot through mail order specialists. GFT and Malcolm Parker
have done wonders for us.

Rachel –
ZNR in New Zealand do well too.

Ian – South America,  all over really.

Rachel – Probably 1 in 4 orders are international ones.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – What is the average age of your audience?

Jonathan – They are about the same age as us really.

JH – Is it very diverse though?

Rachel – It tends to be people in their 30’s and upwards. We get very few
teenagers.

Jonathan – Which is fine. I think people the same age as us, listening to us is good.
As my daughter says when I play our stuff "Well you are Ok but you are
not as good as Blue". How can you argue with that?

Ian – I think it is probably an audience that listens to the same stuff we listen
to. They can probably see where our influences come from and that is the kind
of music they like. I mean we have had people compare us to Camel. Again they
are one of my favourite bands and they are a band still doing really good stuff.
They are not an obvious comparison I suppose. But again it is that melodic approach.

Jonathan – I think in some ways we are like Supertramp or Wings. They were kind of
pop bands but also prog bands. They were very melodic but also had proggy leanings.

Ian – I think we also have a bit of Mike Oldfield as well. I didn’t mention
Mike Oldfield as an influence but I think he is in their somewhere.

The First Album

JH – When you put the first album out were you literally just running off
CD-R’s to start with?

Ian – Yes

JH – So when did you first get it pressed up as a proper CD?

Jonathan – After "The Storm"

Ian – Yes. People who bought "The Storm" then wanted to check out
the back catalogue. All one album that it was

Jonathan – It just became impossible to keep up with the demand on CD-R. I think
in the first year we sold over 1,200 copies of the Storm and to do that many
copies on a PC at home is just not possible.

Ian – It was also starting to look a little bit unprofessional in that it was
CD-r so we just decided to get it pressed up properly.

JH – How long did you spend recording the first album?

Ian – It wasn’t long at all. Probably only a month.

JH – And it was recorded at home so did you not have any
trouble with the neighbours? How were you doing the drums?

Ian – The Drums where recorded via a Midi Kit for the first album so they were
played but through a midi kit. That therefore kept the volume levels down. We
are actually quite lucky in that we have very understanding neighbours. We warn
them in advance if we are going to record something loud like the guitar. We
just did it bit by bit. A couple of hours here and there.

The Storm

JH – How long did you spend recording "The Storm"?

Ian – We started in August 1999 and we finished about November. Again that
was with big gaps. We weren’t recording every day. We did a few hours in the
evenings and at weekends.

Photo by Stephen Mitchell

JH – How long would you spend on the Mix?

Ian – We spent 5 days in Rockfield. We did two songs a day, which was pushing
it a bit. Rockfield is a farmhouse in Monmouthshire and it has quite a nice
rock Heritage. Rush have recorded there and Queen did Bohemian Rhapsody there.
Marillion did an early album there and Clannad have done a lot of stuff there.
It’s got a really great history.

JH – Presumably that is the major expense in putting an album together?

Rachel – It was on the Storm.

Ian – This time every aspect has been a major expense of one sort or another.

JH – Is Mixing the last stage?

Ian – No there is then Mastering. We have just finished Mastering the album
down at Abbey Road.

JH – So where was the new album mixed?

Ian – It was mixed at Mighty Atom studios in Swansea. They are a company that
took over the BBC buildings, which were custom built recording studios. We used
an engineer called Joe Gibb who has worked with artists like Travis, Deep Forest,
Toploader, Catatonia and David Bowie. He is a real good guy in his field. It
was also the first time we had used a producer as well. We worked with Steve
Evans during the whole of the recording process. He works for Warner/Chappell
Music in Stockholm. We got to know him just as we finished "The Storm".
He said he would like to be involved next time we record. Luckily enough he
has got a very good studio himself so we had access to his studio and of course
his role as a producer.

Rachel – He has changed things a lot.

Ian – Yes, and it is good to work with somebody who isn’t part of the band
and fresh to the music.  They have a different perception to an individual in
the band so they can look at the big picture. Plus of course we can tap into
his skills as a producer. He can look at the songs and tell us where the strength
of a song lies and draw out all those aspects.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – Can you explain the difference between mixing and
mastering? I would have thought a good mix produced the end result for a CD.

Ian – Mastering is done when you have your finished mixes. You have everything
down to a stereo track. Master is basically just adding the final touches. You
add any EQ that needs doing. So you might find the final mix is slightly
Bass heavy or the vocals need bringing out a bit more. They run the song through
various processors, equalisers and enhancers.

Rachel – It is kind of like the Mr Sheen of Music. It adds that final polish to
it.

Ian – It is fine-tuning the final mix.

JH – Is that when tracks are compressed in order to make
the quiet sections louder and the louder sections quieter?

Ian – Yes,
but we haven’t really used compression much on the new album. We have gone for
a very open mix. We have kept all the dynamics from the recording and that is
something the producer wanted to do from the start. He didn’t want a heavily
compressed album. He wanted to retain the dynamics so that when it is quiet
it is quiet and if it gets big we make it big. When you use compression it basically
makes everything sound loud and often things recorded purely for radio are heavily
compressed. We didn’t use a lot of compression during recording or during mastering
either. We have kept it a very big and open sound. Mastering is literally that,
it is just a fine tweaking of the final mixes. It can make a very big difference
though.

JH – So when you finished "The Storm" did you
feel it was a much better album than the first album?

Ian – Yes we felt the song writing had moved on. The production had moved on
and we felt we had found our sound. In hindsight there are things we would have
changed. We felt the drums were a bit low in the mix. I think that is one thing
we ourselves would have changed. Compared to the live sound the album is a little
soft. When people saw us live people noticed quite a bit of difference between
the recorded side of the band and the live side. The new album has a lot bigger
sound. The leap in terms of production is probably bigger than the leap from
the first album to "The Storm". It is much closer to the dynamics
and the energy we have as a live band.

Rachel – It has captured the live sound where as "The Storm" just didn’t.
We often found that we would be sending "The Storm" off to venues
and they would say, "Well it is not very energetic is it?"

Ian – I think one thing we tried to do on "The Storm", was to create
a whole feel for the album. We recorded songs slightly differently to how we
might have done in order to get a more unified sound on the album. In hindsight
as I say we would have had the drums further up and pushed the guitar up a bit.

Jonathan – I don’t particularly like the fact that when you see some bands
live if you close your eyes you could be listening to the record. I like the
performance to be something different. So I kind of like the contrast between
live and studio. I think "The Storm" had its strengths and I like
the way people often heard "The Storm" and then came to see us live
and said  "Wow that was different". I still think the new stuff live
is going to be different but the studio recordings have definitely  got as much
power as a live performance .

JH – The fans seem to like "The Storm" a lot
more than the first album. Was it what you were expecting?

Jonathan – Yes it was better.

JH – So are you expecting it for the new album again?

Jonathan – Oh Yes.

Ian –
I think with "The Storm" by the time we were writing the songs we
were playing much more as a group. On the first album we were recording songs
that had already been written before the band as a unit formed. Whereas on "The
Storm" everyone had their own input rather than playing established parts.
So overall I think "The Storm" was more cohesive. By that point we
kind of knew where we were taking the band in terms of the way we wanted to
sound. I think it feels more like an album and it feels more complete. I also
think we were just writing better stuff and that progress has continued through
to this one.

Jonathan – When we  started doing the new one we felt if we can’t do better than
"The Storm" then there is no point in recording. We have got to get
better.

JH – You said you are writing music for yourselves didn’t
you? Are you still trying to do that or are you now trying to write to an audience?

Rachel – No we are still writing for ourselves.

Jonathan – If you play together for 6 years and you are not getting better
there is something wrong. We make more demands on ourselves. One thing that
is difficult when you play in one band only is that everybody knows everybody’s
level and you play to that level. So it is very easy to get into a position
where it is all very cosy and you don’t stretch. We have tried to not fall into
that trap. We have tried to push things all the time so that we can go beyond
what we could do before. If I was playing the same stuff I was doing two years
ago I think I would get bored.

Supporting Tours

JH – It says on the Bio on your web site you played support
to Porcupine Tree. How did that come about?

Ian – That was through a connection with a Belgian promoter. We sent a promo
package off because we were looking for some gigs on the Continent. They got
back to us saying they really liked it and offered us some gigs in Holland and
Belgium. Initially it was just going to be us doing some gigs on our own and
then a few weeks later they asked if we were interested in doing some gigs with
Porcupine Tree instead.

Rachel – We said, "What sort of question is that? Of course we were".

Ian – It was just a kind of luck really. We happened to send stuff off at a
time when Porcupine tree were out touring. We did 3 gigs with them and a couple
by ourselves.  Playing to a different audience was a great experience. The audiences
on the continent seemed open to all sorts of music and Porcupine Tree were a
great band to work with. They were really interested in what we were doing.

Rachel –  I think every gig we did with them they came to watch our set.
They were very friendly and very supportive.

Ian – It was just a great experience for the band all round.

JH – Did you enjoy the touring?

Rachel – That was great. We had a fantastic time.

Ian – We
are looking forward to going back.

Photo By Chris Walkden

Promotion

JH – You put the "Heaven Can Wait" track on a
Classic Rock Magazine CD sampler. When I researched it the costs seemed prohibitive
for new bands starting out. Do you feel it paid for itself?

Ian – Oh yes definitely. We have had a lot of people coming along to gigs just
on the strength of hearing that track. Even now probably two years later we
still get people coming up to us who first heard of the band through the cover
CD.

Jonathan – What was nice as well was that "Heaven Can Wait" was so different
to all the other stuff on the CD. The others tracks were heavier rock so it
did kind of stand out.

JH – Do you tend to get much promotion?

Jonathan – I guess for a band at our level promotion is a difficult thing because
it costs so much money. You can get the gigs, you can be pushy and make lots
of phone calls and the Web site really helps. You can even get played on the
radio but other promotion is really hard.

JH – So you manage to get played on the Radio?

Jonathan – Well a lot of it is just down to just having the cheek to ask. We
know a lot of other bands around Swansea and elsewhere that perhaps haven’t
got the nerve to ring up some places and ask. We thought "Shall we send
stuff to Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2" and we decided it would only cost us
a CD and the worst that could happen is that he doesn’t play it and it goes
in the bin. But he actually played four tracks on four different Saturday shows.
And that was just through us thinking that there was nothing to lose so lets
send it off. It helped raise the amount of interest generated in the band. It
also helped us to get better gigs. Whereas people would previously say "Karnataka?
We have never heard of you" now they might say "Oh weren’t you on
Bob Harris?" and they give us a gig. It’s advertising that we find impossible.
We rang up Mojo. "How much is it for a 1/4 page advert?" "£1800".
If you haven’t got a record company behind you to do that you just can’t do
it.

JH – That’s what scared me with the cost of the Classic
Rock track placement. I thought, "How on earth do new bands get the publics
attention? It is such a risk"

Jonathan – We did advertise in Classic rock and Wondrous Stories and we spent hell
of a lot of money on it but really it is just prohibitively expensive to promote
which is why bands need word of mouth and the Internet. It is the best kind
of promotion you can get if you are not a multi-millionaire. The web site still
amazes me even now. Especially when we get messages from Brazil, Holland and
Vermont. Because we did a support slot with All About Eve we are now getting
their fans writing in and saying we saw you on the All About Eve Website. It’s
great the way it works.

JH – What was that slot then?

Jonathan – We supported them in a packed Pavilion in Swansea recently on their tour.
That was a great gig they were good and we really enjoyed it and doing just
that one gig has generated a lot of interest among their fans.

JH – Have the local radio stations in Wales been good to you?

Rachel – Radio Wales has been very good.

Ian – They have been very supportive. They featured "The Storm" as
album of the week. They played a track every night for a week. They invited
us in to do an interview and they have invited us back in since to do another
interview.

JH – Is that just a local station or the BBC?

Jonathan – It was BBC Wales in Cardiff and they broadcast to the whole of Wales.

Ian – Radio Caroline have been very supportive. As have Total Rock radio. Especially
Malcolm Dome.

JH – Are you actively trying to get on Festival gigs?

Ian – To be honest we haven’t done that much. I think for that sort of thing
you need promoters and the right contacts. The Canterbury festival came about
through a promoter that does gigs for us up in the North West. We have just
found out the last year that provided you have a good live reputation, word
of mouth that gets you on Bills. We haven’t sent much stuff off. Once we get
the new album pressed up that will be the next stage.

JH – I have noticed the more successful you are as a band
the less you seem to get paid to perform at these festivals. Sometimes you get
expenses. Sometimes not even that.

Ian – Yes
some bands that get support slots do so because they are actually paying to
get on the Bill. We have never done anything like that but that is quite common
practice

JH – Do you pay for yourselves to travel to gigs so that you can get this
sort of exposure?

Ian –
Oh yes.

JH – I have noticed there is an excellent little festival
in the tiny town of Halesworth, Suffolk. Is that the sort of gig you would go
to?

Ian – Yes. We are prepared to travel anyway. We have just confirmed a gig in
Glasgow for August. So the travelling never puts us off. If a chance for us
to play live comes along we tend to view it as a great opportunity to reach
a new audience.

Jonathan – We will play anywhere we haven’t performed before if it is a suitable
type of venue. We look at the overall picture when doing gigs. There are some
gigs we will make a loss at but then overall the band doesn’t make a loss on
the gigs it does. We are willing to do a gig at a loss if we think we will reach
a new audience.

Ian – We are doing a festival in Monmouth at the end of July and there are some
top names and lots of little local bands. It is a right mixture. There are some
interesting festivals out there.

Music Scene

JH – OK now for an obscure question. I was discussing you
at a Mostly Autumn gig and some people reckoned you were heavier but I and others
reckon you are a lot softer. How would you view it?

Jonathan – I think we are a totally different band. The line-ups are fairly similar
on paper but the music is nothing like them.

JH – I agree, the guitars in particular are completely
different.

Ian – I think Paul’s style and influences are very different to the rest of
us. He is into Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

Jonathan –  Yes he is also into Bon Jovi and Van Halen. That kind of stuff.

Ian – And they probably aren’t typical influence for the sort of music we are
doing.

Rachel – That’s what makes it interesting.

Jonathan – I think Mostly Autumn based on their press releases and website are happy
to state they have a strong 70’s influence. They aren’t backwards about saying
this either. They view the 70’s as a golden era and they are kind of recreating
that 70’s vibe. I think that is great but it’s not something we as a band are
interested in doing – we don’t want to recreate  the  70’s. We want to create
 something new . Of course we do have elements of the 70’s in our music, but
it’s just on element among many others.

JH – Well this will obviously be an insult to you but to
me you’re more of an 80’s band. You are similar to Marillion to a certain extent.
The keyboard use in particular. But Paul’s guitar style contains that non-musical
Steve Via style as well as the clean Steve Rothery.

Jonathan – It is not the first time people have said we are kind of like Marillion
and I find it odd.

JH – Well in the same breath I would say you are nothing like Marillion too!

Jonathan – I have never actually owned a Marillion album. I think once I borrowed
“A Script For A Jesters Tear” and didn’t like it.

JH – But back then they were Genesis based and they are
an influence of yours so I guess that would lead to similarities.

Ian – Yes
I suspect both bands have similar influences and that is likely to come through
and I can see where people make the comparisons. I think Steve Rothery’s lead
style is very melodic and I think Paul’s style is very melodic. Perhaps the
first two Hogarth era album’s "Season’s End" and "Holiday In
Eden" were very strong melodically and are two of my favourite Marillion
album’s so I can kind of see comparisons there. I think when people hear what
we have done on the new album they will find it a lot more contemporary. It
still has all the elements of Karnataka in terms of how people perceive our
sound but it is different. We have taken it all one stage further.

JH – I feel I should justify my comment a bit. In my collection
there is nothing from the 90’s so in your genre the 80’s is about as modern
as you can be.

Rachel – Mmm (not quite agreeing) I just don’t think we are like anything else.

Ian – No, it’s an interesting point. The 90’s were an interesting decade musically
because it is difficult to pin down styles like you could in the 70’s or 80’s.

JH – There is nothing in the field you are in that is new
to the 90’s or 2000’s is there? Perhaps there are bands I never got into.

Jonathan – Some of the bands that I was into in the 80’s and the 90’s aren’t anything
like how I play. My favourite band of the 80’s is the Smith’s and we don’t sound
anything like the Smith’s. But then again the Smith’s were very melodic and
very good at interweaving different lines and also had some great string arrangements
– so there are points of contact. But there are also 90s bands such as Porcupine
Tree who are more obviously in the same general musical area as us.

JH – I have noticed if I listen to what my favourite artists
are into it is nothing like what I would expect. I assume that is how they keep
fresh in their area. They bring lots of parts of other disciplines in and mix
up the pot to get something new and original.

Jonathan – We
have often said if we had 6 members in the band who were all fanatical Yes fans
and listened only to Yes then our band would just sound like a 2nd hand Yes.
So it is kind of interesting that we have all got different influences and we
don’t really  play the kind of stuff we listen to – it all gets filtered into
the Karnataka sound – the diversity is what makes it interesting..

DVD appearances

JH – How did Rachel come to be doing the backing vocals
on the Mostly Autumn DVD and Live album?

Rachel – That came from doing a joint headline gig with them for the Classic Rock
Society in Rotherham. We got on well with them at the gig and they were looking
for a backing vocal team for the DVD so they rang me up and asked if I wanted
to do it.

JH – So you met at that because of the Classic Rock Society.

Rachel – Yes. We had actually met them before at a Classic Rock Society awards
night and had a chat but Martin had put the gig together and we got together
on the night and had a chat etc.

JH – Did you enjoy doing the backing vocals for that?

Rachel – Yes it was great. It was just really nice to do something different. I
really enjoyed singing as part of a team as well. They were really nice people
to work with and it was a good laugh and a really good fun day.

JH – How did the recording of your DVD come about?

Ian – It started at the Mostly Autumn filming session. We were introduced to
Bob Carruthers and we just got chatting. He had heard of the band and he asked
for a copy of "The Storm". We gave him one and literally a week or
so after the gig we had an E-mail from them saying they would really like to
do something with the band. And within a week of that they said "We have
got a date available at the Mean Fiddler we would love to do a DVD are you interested?”
It was as quick and straightforward as that.

JH – Why isn’t there a live CD for the gig?

Rachel – It wasn’t really our decision.

Jonathan – Classic Rock Productions have control over it and it was their decision
what to put out. They decided they only wanted a DVD. There is no VHS of it
either which was slightly disappointing for us, as a lot of people have asked
for a video copy of it. But again that isn’t in our control

Ian – I think it is just down to the economics of it all. I think it is a lot
more expensive to produce VHS copies and most people seem to be moving over
to DVD now anyway.

Jonathan – At the moment we are thinking our next album next year may be a live album.

JH – What did you do in preparation for the DVD?

Rachel – Lots and lots of rehearsals! We also drafted in some extra singers.

Ian – They included Anne Marie who has since become part of the band. So it
was just a case of deciding the set list and order.

Jonathan – It was a shame in a way that our three singers were from all over the
place so the logistics of getting the whole band plus singers together to rehearse
was a bit of a nightmare.

Rachel –
I think we did a few long days rather than lots of short sessions.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – Did Classic Rock Productions send out cameramen to do practise gigs as
well?

Ian – Yes they filmed us in the Limelight in Crewe and at Rotherham Rocks.

Rachel – I think that is where a lot of the back stage stuff was filmed actually.

Ian – Yes they were filming us back stage and they were filming the gigs. They
also sent us up to Scotland to do some promo footage, which was then incorporated
into the live footage.

JH – I had a discussion with a Cameraman or the vision mixer and he felt
you might be a tricky band to film because you don’t move a lot when performing.
He was apparently trying to encourage you to move around a bit more. (Having
seen the band since this interview I should point out this is no longer the
case. The band development live over the last year has been amazing!)

Ian – I think that is something that was happening naturally anyway.

Jonathan – I think
as well at that particular gig we were all tense. I think now that Anne is in
the band as well that visually there is a lot more movement. The interaction
between her and Rachel is very visual and their personalities just shine on
stage.  Also  their voices are so different yet complement each other so well
 Now that the live sound is just so good the confidence just allows the band
to enjoy the moment and really go for it on stage

Ian – I think
now that we have a lot more of the bigger gigs under our belt and our confidence
has grown and our gig presentation has started to improve and will continue
to do so. 

JH – Are you starting to think more of stagecraft and presentation?

Jonathan – You have got to. People are watching as well as listening so we have to
think about that.

Ian – I would like to see us being able to do more with the lighting because
I think better lighting would just complement the music. So yes we are now thinking
in terms of what we can do with stage production and how we present ourselves
visually. But it gets easier with the more experience you get.

JH – I think the DVD was the first time I had seen you
so it was interesting to me to see that the most movement was when Steve came
on. He obviously had time when he wasn’t playing anything in his songs so he
had more time to muck about but he also was moving around the band members and
interacting. It seemed good for Rachel to have someone to work off.

Ian – There is a lot more of that going on with what we are doing now. We have
had a lot of people commenting that the DVD is great but they were surprised
at how much the band has moved on since then.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – When I saw you the next time at the Mean Fiddler in
January the presentation had improved a lot.

Ian – And it has improved a lot since then too.

Rachel – I have to say in retrospect looking back at the DVD the reason we didn’t
move around a lot on stage was because we were petrified. I am normally a lot
more mobile than that on stage. I always have been. One factor was I wasn’t
allowed to use my Radio mic because that would cause problems with the sound
when recording. We had to be very careful not to get any feedback so that made
us really scared to move too. It is rather frustrating now when we look back
at it as we think, "We could have been so much more."

Ian – There was a lot of pressure to get it all right because there was only
one gig to do it. It’s not like we had two or three gigs to pick the best performances
from. Everything hinged on one performance.

Jonathan – I think it was a good representation of us at the time though. 9 months
has gone since then and our stagecraft is much better.

JH – And you are thinking about it more?

Jonathan – Yes. I think the DVD project helped focus us on that aspect a lot more
because we were then able to see what we looked like on stage. We had never
seen ourselves. People tell you but it isn’t the same thing as seeing it for
yourself.

JH – Rachel did you feel natural on stage or were you vamping it more?

Rachel – I was probably doing it less than normal because I felt so restricted
in what I could do.

JH – You seemed to be really using your eyes a lot.

Rachel – I think I do that anyway. That is generally part of my stage thing anyway.
I like that if I go to see a gig. It is the point where an artist is making
contact with part of the audience. It is the personal connection thing.

JH – And you sounded like you were feeling what you
were singing.

Rachel – Oh yes. I always do.

JH – I couldn’t tell if you were trying to act it or if
that was just the natural you.

Rachel – That was probably understated compared to what I would normally do.

JH – How did you feel about Bob from Classic Rock Legends
getting up on stage and thanking you at the DVD screening?

Ian – I think that was really nice. He didn’t have to get up and make a little
speech but he is obviously so into what the bands are doing.

JH – It seems a bit like an expensive hobby for him and
I think it is great that he is doing it.

Ian – I think it is amazing because there are so few outlets for music of this
sort.

JH – So were you pleased on the night of the gig and did you have any problems?

Rachel – No we didn’t. I just remember feeling very conscious of the recording.
Obviously every gig you want everything to be perfect anyway but we particularly
needed it to be correct for that one. It just made everyone slightly more inhibited
than we would feel normally. I had lost my voice the week before and hadn’t
been able to speak! We did Rotherham Rocks the Saturday before and as soon as
we went home on the Sunday I got a sore throat and my voice just went and I
couldn’t even talk until about a day before the filming. I was really, really
scared. I didn’t even know if I was going to last the sound check.

Jonathan – If anything we are hyper critical of our performance.

Ian – I was very pleasantly surprised watching it back. I know how I felt on
the night and I don’t think I looked too nervous. We don’t look as scared as
we were.

JH – I believe you were sent a copy of the DVD before the
screening but you didn’t comment on it for a few days? The Classic Rock Legends
were worried you didn’t like it.

Ian – I don’t think we got chance to watch it for a few days. Our lives have
been so wrapped up in the studio for the new album that lots of things just
had to be put on one side. We don’t have a manager and we deal with everything
ourselves so we have to prioritise our time.

Jonathan – I think another factor was the apprehension of watching it. I remember
when I received a copy of it I put it in the DVD player and started thinking
"Oh I will put the kettle on first". Then I got back to the lounge
and thought "Oh well there is no point is watching it until I have made
my coffee". Then when I made the coffee and decided to go and get a biscuit!

Ian – I don’t think anybody wanted to be the first person to watch it.

JH – Yes that is why it was a shame the screening for your
DVD got delayed. I am sure it would have been great for you all to sit down
and watch it the first time together.

Ian – Yes but we were so pleased to see it at the launch as well.

Rachel – It was nice to see it on a big screen.

JH – Did you bring a coach of friends down from Wales?

Jonathan – We didn’t have time to arrange anything because we were still in the mixing
stage of the new album.

Ian – We were given a set number of people for the guest list and we filled
that. People came from all over the country because I asked if anyone wanted
to go on our Mailing list.

JH – Are you disappointed there is no live CD?

Ian – No not really. We have never even discussed it with them. I don’t know
if there might be the option of them doing one anyway. But even before we did
the DVD we planned to do this album and then follow it by a live album.

Jonathan – I guess if we made a live album ourselves we would take the equipment
to a number of gigs and record 7 or 8 gigs and then pick the best bits from
each. Whereas this was just one performance It would be nice to have control
to reduce the pressure and get the best results.

JH – Did you enjoy the DVD when you finally forced yourselves to watch it?

Rachel – Oh yes enormously.

Jonathan – Our perception of the gig at the time was "Oh we could have done
that better". However when we saw the DVD we thought "Oh we were pretty
damn good!”

JH – Did you have to do any overdubs for it?

Rachel – No we didn’t do a single one. It is exactly as it happened.

Jonathan – There again there was no time to do it really.

JH – Where was the outdoor bit on the DVD shot?

Rachel – In Kelso in Scotland. It was the Duke Of Roxburgh Floors Castle Estate
in Kelso. And it was absolutely freezing! We shot it in February.

JH – How did you feel about doing it?

Rachel – It was a great laugh. It was really excellent.

JH – Presumably they played the sound of the DVD for you to mime to?

Rachel – Yes

JH – Why was it just Ian and Rachel and not the rest of the band as well?

Ian – They just wanted a couple of us to sync in bits.

JH – Was that a special trip then?

Ian – Yes it was three days in total. A couple of days travelling and a day
filming on the estate. We had to travel so far because the record company have
connections on the estate. They have filmed there before and if you film anywhere
you have to have filming permission from the landowners.

JH – Did you like watching these sections on the DVD? Were
those clips designed for potential video release?

Rachel – I don’t like watching myself on film so I found it a bit odd. It
was the company’s idea. They decided what they wanted to do and we did it. I
don’t think we would have thought of doing something like that. We would probably
have just left the concert Livefootage from end to end. The clips work though.

Ian – Yes the balance is there.

The Delicate Flame Of Desire

JH – Lets move onto the new album. From what you are saying
you are pleased with the way the recording for the new album has gone?

Jonathan – Yes we are very pleased.

Rachel – It has been an extremely different and exciting project really. Not
to mention very hard work.

Ian – As I was saying earlier it’s the first time we have worked with a producer.
We have taken stuff in different directions. Rather than basically recording
just live versions of the songs we have taken a step back and changed songs
as we have gone along. It has given them a new life.

Jonathan – And again it is a kind of cliché but we have used the recording process
as a creative process this time. We have used the studio as an instrument. We
haven’t really thought "Oh dear we have got to play this live later so
we can’t do this". We have just really experimented with the arrangements
and the way things sound and yes we now have a problem of how we are going to
play the songs live. We chose to go this way though rather than limit ourselves
straight off.

Ian – It
is more of a challenge doing it this way. We just let our imaginations go as
we were recording and now the challenge is to reproduce it live. Again we have
never been too worried about the recording side of the band being one thing
and the live side another. I think most people when they go to a gig don’t want
to hear a perfect reproduction of a studio album. They want to see a different
side to the band. That is what excites me when I go to see a band. I want to
see different elements and I want to see the songs done in a different way.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – Does the album have a different feel to "The Storm"?

Rachel – Oh yes it is very, very different.

JH – And is it the direction you want to go in?

Jonathan – Yes. "The Storm" had a more folky element to it. That was good
and that was what we wanted to do at the time but I think this album is a lot
more powerful.

Ian – It has got balls. It’s more dynamic.

Jonathan – But it’s still got some celtic elements in the mix

Rachel – It’s just a lot more 3 dimensional than we have done before. It explores
lots of different angles to the band and has a new twist to it. I am really
pleased with it.

Jonathan – I know it is blowing our own trumpets but having been listening to the
stuff for so long it’s just like the songs start when the should, change when
they should and end when they should. The guitar solos feel like all the right
notes are there. You couldn’t change them the songs just feel right.

Ian – I think
the songs all evolved  in a very organic way. There is very little repetition.
There is nothing that we would call filler. I suppose we are quite hard on ourselves
when we write. We have written complete songs that we decided weren’t good enough
to go on the album. So what we actually recorded …

Rachel – … was the best of what we could do.

JH – Do you tend to write more songs than you need and
record more songs than go on the album?

Ian – Not on this one no.

Jonathan – Basically apart from knowing the songs we wanted to do, economically it
costs so much to do that we  can’t afford to record ten songs and release eight.
So we have to decide as we go into recording what is the best music we have
got.

JH – But do you get to the demo stage and then think "No we won’t bother
with this one"?

Jonathan – We have kind of done that because we have got up to a certain level with
some songs and then we think "No this doesn’t fit." Some stuff we
do is quite good but it just doesn’t fit with the rest of the stuff in terms
of the album as a whole..

JH – Did you sit down before you started writing the album
and think "Right we want to go in this direction this time" or did
the album just come out and go in it’s own direction.

Ian – It just goes in it’s own direction. You surprise yourselves sometimes
with the way a song turns out. There is certainly one song on the album, which
is very different to anything we have done. I think it would be difficult for
us to force it. I just don’t think we would manage it.

Jonathan – It’s not a rule but one thing we have tended to do when writing is if
anybody says "Oh that sounds like such and such…" Then we say "Ok
Stop. Lets do something else".

Ian – We were lucky to get the radio play with Bob Harris so perhaps people
will think we will write shorter songs in future but if anything the songs on
this album are much longer. There are a couple of songs around the 10min mark
and quite a few songs over 7 min. It’s not "The Storm 2" and it’s
not an album that has been written for radio. Having said that there are perhaps
3 or 4 songs that would be strong candidates for radio play. Even when the producer
has suggested we might want to cut a bit out we have stuck to our guns. It is
very much the album that we wanted to make. We write for ourselves and if other
people like it that is great. We hope others like it but it has never influenced
our writing.

Jonathan – It is kind of nice that at this level we can do what we want. There is
no pressure to write to any formula so we please ourselves.

JH – Now that Anne is officially part of the band is she backing Rachel on
every track?

Jonathan – She is not actually on every track as she joined halfway through
the recording of the album, but she is now a permanent member of the touring
and recording band from now on.

JH – Is that opening up new arrangement for you on
backing vocals or did you just multi-track yourself before?

Rachel – Well previously I did all the Harmonies and stuff on "The Storm"
so it was really nice to have an extra voice on this one. It just brings a whole
new feel.

JH – You played me "After The Rain" as we travelled
and she was singing quite varied parts not just straight harmonies.

Rachel – There are lots of things. Lots of ad libbed stuff on the end of that
as well.

Set Selection

JH – When you are playing live do you have a fixed set
list or do you vary it according to the crowd?

Jonathan – It depends.

Ian – I don’t think we vary it for the crowd. If it is a joint gig with somebody
and a shorter set is required, we will perhaps select shorter punchier songs.

Jonathan – I think choosing  set lists is like deciding the track listing an album.
You want the set to have a dynamic and you want it to flow so we try and think
about how the set is going to sound overall. But yes sometimes when we play
a gig it can vary. When we play locally we don’t tend to have a set list at
all. We just have fun.

Ian – There is no set, set list for every gig. We do pair songs up sometimes
because we like that combination and the last two or three gigs we have started
with the same two or three songs because we feel these are strong openers. Pretty
much every gig we sit down and think "What do we want to do and in what
order?”

JH – At the DVD shooting you have the Intro and the Outro sections. Is this
done every time?

Rachel – No apart from Rotherham the week before that was the first time we had
done it.

Jonathan – We just thought it would be a nice kind of intro to the band. And I thought
it worked well on the DVD.

Ian – It’s an idea as well that we have incorporated into the album. It has
been completely reworked but that is kind of the start of the album and it is
part of a longer piece. It is going to be two tracks on the album. But really
it works with "Time Stands Still" which is the track we have opened
most gigs with recently. But we have only used it live twice.

Jonathan – I think
we are likely to use it as a live opener again.

Rachel

JH – We now move to individual questions. Why did you choose your instruments?

Rachel – I was born with mine!

JH – So why did you choose to use it?

Rachel – I have just always loved singing. I have always liked choir things and
music hall stuff when I was at school. I have always loved singing and
I don’t think I could do anything else. It is just who I am and what I
do. It’s my form of self-expression.

JH – Have you got any influences that you would like to sing like?

Rachel – No. Harmonising has always been my big thing. When I sang I was always
making up harmonies as opposed to singing in any particular style. One thing
that I have always been conscious of that really annoys me is when you get a
British singer in full flow and they sound American. I really want to retain
a personal style. I don’t want to sound like anything or anybody in particular.

JH – So there were never females singers you wanted to emulate when you were
growing up?

Rachel – No I just used to listen to lots and lots of different stuff. I was a
big fan of Kate Bush but I don’t sound like her and I don’t want to. There are
just all sorts of different voices and I have always been fascinated by female
voices.

JH – When did you first start singing?

Rachel – I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. I always did as a kid. All
of the time. I used to sing in and out of the house and at school. I sang at
the youth club too. I did all sorts of stuff. It is just something I have always
wanted to do.

JH – So you have always sung in bands then?

Rachel – Yes, I have been in the various configurations of the pre-Karnataka
bands since I was 17 anyway. It was just mainly school things before that.

JH – So you haven’t been in any bands before then?

Rachel – No. It has just been in different personal line-ups of this trio’s pre-Karnataka
bands. We actually used to go out as a 3 piece many moons ago.

Jonathan – I think there is a song on the first album "Run To You" which
we first played 12 or 13 years ago as a three piece with a four-track recorder
and a drum machine synced up. It was just bass keyboard and vocals. So it has
always been in there.

Rachel –
We just went through lots of line-ups and combinations before settling into
being Karnataka.

Photo By Chris Walkden

JH – So how did you three come to meet?

Ian – Jon
and I were introduced through a mutual friend. We had both played in bands with
this friend but never the same band at the same time. I think Jon and I had
the same attitude that we just wanted to do our own thing rather than doing
cover bands. So our mutual friend suggested we get together as we seemed to
have the same ideas and direction. So we just started working on some instrumental
ideas and …

Jonathan – … Neither of us could sing!

Ian – So the next step was that we needed a singer. Jon was working with Rachel’s
mum at the time.

Rachel – Yes so it was my mum’s fault!

Jonathan – So I just happened to mention to Sue that we were looking for a singer
and she said, "Oh my daughter sings perhaps she would be interested".
So we did a tape of a song we had written together. We had in mind this verse
chorus verse chorus and it seemed obvious from the chords that this was the
structure. So we gave it to Rachel’s mum and Rachel came back with this tape
and we listened to the results. There was no singing until halfway through the
verse. Her verse vocal then carried on into the chorus. Towards the end of the
chorus Rachel sang some chorus lines. We thought, "This is wacky but it
is really good." and we decided Rachel was the one for us. So she
was the only singer we ever did audition. It just worked straight off. She had
that same quirky weird.…

Rachel – That’s Me!

Jonathan – …
sense of how things fit together as we did. So that is how it all started.

Photo By Chris Walkden

Jonathan

JH – So what made you choose keyboards?

Jonathan – Well I was forced to have Piano lessons from about the age of 8. I gave
them up at about 12 as I didn’t like classical music at the time. But I can
then remember hearing David Essex "I’m Gonna Make You A Star" and
thinking I really liked the sound at the end which was a moog . Then my brother
had a tape with "Trilogy" on it so I got into Emerson Lake and Palmer.
I think listening to Keith Emerson really made me want to play keyboards. It’s
the same with Rick Wakeman as well. It’s that kind of prog styling that made
me want to be a keyboard player. So although I stopped lessons I just carried
on playing as I listened to records.

JH – Compared to most bands you have quiet a big roll in
the band, don’t you? A lot of bands seem to treat the keyboard player as a technician.

Jonathan – Yes one thing I really enjoying is arranging. I think I am more
of a kind of chord and arranging type of person. I know that solos aren’t my
big strength so I don’t tend to play a lot of them. I play the occasional solo
but normally it tends to be more chords and backgrounds that I play live. And
that is why it is such a big part. I kind of lay the stuff down and Paul plays
over the top of it.

Photo By Chris Walkden

Ian

JH – Why did you choose to play Bass?

Ian – I had a flatmate who played guitar and was into completely different music
to me but had a Bass guitar just sitting around. I used to mess about with a
guitar in my very early teens but then I lost interest in it. I loved listening
to music and I had an older sister who introduced me to bands like Genesis,
Yes, Floyd, and Mike Oldfield. All these bands from the Mid 70’s. So I have
always been a huge music fan. This friend of mine just said why don’t you have
a mess about with this Bass. So we used to have jams and stuff. It was just
an instrument that felt right. I didn’t really play with bands as such. I played
a long with records the way many others started.

JH – Did you used to notice Bass parts before you started playing Bass?

Ian – Not really. Funnily enough I was probably more interested in Keyboards
and Drums. Once I started playing I obviously started picking up on Bass players
such as Chris Squire.

JH – So you have never wanted the limelight of say a Guitarist?

Ian – No my approach has always been from the song writing point of view. It
doesn’t matter at all that I am not a solo player and I am not seen in that
light. I suppose my biggest kick is from the song-writing point of view. I play
quite a bit of acoustic guitar when writing. I also play acoustic on a couple
of song live. But I started with the bass and then moved to the guitar as well.
Basically I see myself as a bass player that plays a bit of guitar as well.

Flat Eric

JH – What is the story behind Flat Eric the Yellow Puppet that is your Mascot?

Rachel –
We bought him at Hopwood Park Service Station on the M42.

Jonathan – We don’t take any questions about Eric do we!

Ian – Yes he should be answering them himself!

JH – Does he now Tour with you?

Ian – Yes he has his own tour bus.

Rachel – And he once got his head slammed in a mini bus door.

Ian – He gets abused quite a bit actually, mainly by the drummer.

Jonathan – He cost us a huge diversion in Holland once because somebody left him
in the hotel room.

Ian – The funny thing is we have seen people turning up at gigs with Flat Eric’s.
Eric’s former job was in some Levi adverts.

Sadly since this interview was taken Flat Eric has gone walk about. He was
last seen at the Trenton, New Jersey, USA gig. If anyone knows anything about
his disappearance please get in touch with Karnataka

 

Roger Dean

On 20th September 2001 I was invited to a press
conference for a Roger Dean Art Exhibition at 28 Cork Street, London 12th-24th
November 2001. Roger was very chatty so I decided it would be worth transcribing
what was discussed. The questions were mainly from Jon at the Record Collector
(he tends to be the knowledgeable art questions) and myself (I tend to be the
off the wall dumb questions) although some came from Roger’s agent/DVD label
Classic Rock Legends who are currently in the process of producing a DVD
biography of Roger.

There was a brief introduction from the label
and they mentioned Roger’s fine Art Prints. Roger was produced fine art prints
as follows

Tales of Topographic Oceans
The Magician’s Birthday
The Yes Logo
Arches (Morning)
Arches (Mist)
Dragon’s Garden (Mist)
Dragon’s Garden (Sunset)

All the prints were on display except the
Dragon’s Garden once and these also came in two variations of colour.

What are Fine Art Prints?

RD –I know that people have enquiring about the fine
prints and they just think they are posters on more expensive paper they are
in fact a lot more than that though. What I did with all the prints was go back
to some of the themes I had worked on in the past and I redrew every colour.
If you consider the ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ print I redrew every single
colour and it is not a 4 colour separation it is about 40! So every single colour
on that was hand drawn and it is not just a question of doing the 40 drawings
because they all had to be absolutely in sync in order to print them. It was
a massive reworking and ‘Tales’ is in fact quite like the original.

Did you work from the original drawings or are
they brand new?

RD – They are brand new. ‘Tales’ is very like the
original but if you look at say the way the rock on the right is drawn compared
to the original you would see it is quite different, but the position of the
rock is still pretty much how it was. Everything was hand drawn and everything
had to be in sync so it is probably fair to say there was probably 5 or 6 times
as much physical effort and time taken compared to the original painting. There
was much more effort involved. It was a lot trickier to but it gave me a big
chance to change things I wasn’t quite happy with on the originals so for me
it was a good excuse to make discrete improvements.

Dragon’s Garden – Original Album Sleeve

After I finished ‘Tales’ and I started on say the
‘Dragon’s Garden’ the original painting for that which was for the Pink Floyd
‘Symphonic’ album. That was a huge wash of very liquid acrylic and as it dried
it made very interesting patterns, which gave me incredible freedom, and looseness
is not what you typically associate with silk screen prints. I thought that
I badly wanted to still get that effect on the new print but it is not controllable.
On the original print the way the patterns appeared on the board and the way
I structured the painting was very dependant on the way the paint dried. Sometimes
I plan a painting in great detail in advance but in that particular case I did
it very loose and I was very interested in the accidental patterns on the paint.
So I had a problem of how to get that on a silk screen painting. Basically I
ended up going the same way. I worked very loose and wet on the film and then
restructured the print around the structures in the drying of the inks. That
therefore meant there are bigger changes in Dragon’s Garden compared to the
original. It has the same colour and feel but the position of the dragon and
the mountains are very different.

Dragon’s Garden – Mist Version 1

‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ was the first print
and is probably the most careful balance compared to the original.

Is the sky on “Tales” different? I can’t
remember the sky being that bright

RD – Have you seen the original painting as
opposed to the album cover? No? Well you see the problem with an album cover
is that is it printed in very thin ink in 4 colour separations. This is print
is very rich colours and there are 40 of them. You get a great deal more depth.
In terms of the range of colour this is much more like the original than a four
colour separation can be. When you print in 4 colours you know that you can’t
get the full range. For instance, as a rule of thumb, you can only get 60% of
the blues in a four colour process. So by choosing each colour rather than mixing
them the chances are that I will get much closer in terms of richness. I wasn’t
trying to make it exactly like the original. I was trying to get what I wanted
to get when I was doing the original.

It is nice to have a chance to re-work these
things

RD – The problem I had was there were two things
happening at once. The people that bought these paintings on poster particularly
in the USA were students because "Yes" originally appealed to the
campus audience. I have had 1000’s of requests for the posters and things but
from people that didn’t really want posters any more, you know they have grown
up and they want something with a bit more substance. So I thought we could
do this as a response to that. It was also based on the fact I didn’t really
want to part with the original paintings even though “Tales” was a very high
price. I think the original of Tales was at a $600,000 but I still didn’t want
to part with it. Doing this allows me to sell the prints 270 times at much cheaper
and more accessible price. I guess was the commercial motivation for the paintings
for me, but the paintings, for me, also have much more meaning. When Yes went
to play in Japan in 1973 I had just finished working on “Yessongs” and we were
flying out from Alaska. On the plane we got talking and I had always been very
interested in feng shui. I first came across it in the 50’s when I was a child
in Honk Kong. I had also worked with
John Michell who wrote “View over Atlantis” which was a book about lay
lines and dragon paths and stuff like that. So by 1973 I was very enthusiastic
about it all and I was sitting next to Jon Anderson on the plane and I just
couldn’t stop myself talking about the significance of landscape, the power
of landscape and the magic of landscape. In landscapes there are pathways and
I think of these pathways as both a metaphor and an image of a search for spirituality
both in the path and the world it is depicting. Paths help us explore landscapes.
Paths have always fascinated me and always meant a lot to me. I have thousands
and thousands of photographs of pathways in mountains and desserts. It has been
a big obsession of mine for about 40 or 50 years.

Tales of Topographic Oceans – Fine Art Print 2001

Anyway I was telling Jon Anderson all about this
and the poor bloke couldn’t get a word in edgeways. I think this discussion
was the origins of the “Tales of Topographic Oceans” album certainly for the
painting but also think the music too because Jon was very intrigued by all
this and he came up with the title. “Tales” was a spooky picture because to
me it was taking portraits of rocks. These are all real rocks. And they all
had a significance some of them were on dragon lines, which in England are typically
marked by churches, named after saints typically associated with dragons such
as Saint Michael and Saint George. But the rocks are as I say portraits and
they are typically associated with these land lines. Some of them are very weird.
Just as I was finishing this rock (I think it was the rock on the left)
my wife’s father died. She went up to sort out his affairs and all she came
back with for his life was a box of a few letters and photographs but right
on top of the pile was a picture of him standing next to that rock because that
rock is part of the ring at Avery???. And he was actually standing
with it in that view and I thought it very strange coincidence because he could
have been standing on the other side of it for instance. But to see him standing
there with it at that angle was quite spooky for me.

I suppose “Tales” was there most controversial album
because it was a time where “Yes” took that one step beyond their audience.
It’s funny actually because I can remember going on tour with them and watching
them play it and it was hard work. Then a couple of years ago I took my young
daughter who was then 11 years old to hear them play. And the things is if you
start with very good musicians and they don’t wipe themselves out with drugs
and drink or whatever with thirty years practice they get very, very good and
they were very, very good. I was amazed how well they played and then they played
a couple of pieces from “Tales” and I thought “Oh no. She isn’t going to put
up with this”. And as it happened she did think it was boring.

Although there are some sublime moments on the
album the whole thing is..

RD – Yes I was going to say now they play it in the
way it should have been played in the 70’s. They now know it and they know it
intimately. They know how to work around it and now it is very impressive.

Anyway back to the prints I guess the thing I was
saying was these are multiple originals in a sense. They are intended to exist
as prints they are not really meant to be productions of the paintings. That
is what a poster is. These are new pieces in their own right and they do vary.

Dragon’s Garden – Mist Version 2

I don’t know if you remember the Symphonic Pink Floyd
cover but the original does have the kind of feel I have in the prints about
it. What I was able to do with this fine art project was play. Doing a painting
you don’t get as many chances but with the prints I did another version without
the dragon. I then changes the colours and again tried without the dragon and
then I kept back about half a dozen of the prints to rework them by hand with
a paintbrush you know just to paint over them so it was a chance to really get
it out of my system.

Dragon’s Garden – Sunset Version 1

The original was weird because I had started work
on a big 6 foot by 4 foot painting and Rory Johnson who ran Phillips Glass’s
point music label in New York put the album out and he wanted me to explain
what I was going to do and I had this idea of this storm in a landscape with
a dragon. I showed him this painting half finished and he couldn’t make any
sense of it at all. Since it was talking a long time to complete I decided to
do him a quick loose version and he was sold on that loose version. He didn’t
want anything else. So I guess there are now four of five different paintings
as well as four or five different prints of it. So as I say that is now well
out of my system and I don’t think I will go back there again!

Dragon’s Garden – Sunset Version 2

The other thing I did besides these, which are quite
complex silk screen prints, was a series of logos. The way I do logos is to
draw them and then scan them into the computer and mess with the colour. I did
that with a number of logos for Yes and Asia. The beauty is doing a logo for
me is you can do a drawing and the experiment with colour variations. They were
good fun to do and I expect they will probably be on display at the exhibition
too. They are quite small and some of them are quite cheap too. The logos are
part of my work as much as the paintings and prints. I had a lot of fun doing
them. For me they are like doing a Chinese puzzle. When I am designing something
weather it be a plan for a hotel or a park or just a logo, it is the business
of marshalling all the different elements and getting them to work aesthetically
then giving them an identity and making them stay legible that I enjoy. There
are lots of twists and turns and it is terrific fun actually.

Asia Eyes – Blue

So you build a kind of prototype? Part of your
works seem to be with `camouflage, the putting of coverings on things so if you
do an Asia logo you have the basic thing and you can play with it endlessly.

RD – Yes you are right actually. It’s funny no one
has ever said that to me before except my brother and he was saying the problem
with camouflage is it works, you can’t read it anymore. You can’t see what it
is. I have had that issue with every logo I have ever done. I remember
John Colange??? when I did the first Asia logo said “No. It’s not readable.”
Fortunately I made to the following argument to the band, and they backed me
on this, which was unusual as by and large they usually gave in to
John Colange???. I pointed out to them that they don’t know who you are now
but you only have to have one album out and everyone will know who you are.
You are not introducing the idea of the name for the whole of your career. You
only have to do it once.

Asia Eyes – Green

The point of a logo is to have it memorable more
than legible. And it is legible anyway. It is not a struggle to read it. I always
think if it takes half a second longer to read you have paid that much more
attention and it is rare that it takes that much time as people will normally
get it. If you happen to be a Yes fan and there is a concert announced and it
is down in ordinary type no matter how big you don’t get it until you come to
that part of the page. But if it is the logo you get it immediately even though
you may not even read it. So these things don’t just work on the basis of legibility
and of course the more you go for legibility the more you detract from interest
and character and it is always a nightmare.

That is quite a commercial sensibility in a way
isn’t it? There always used to be this thing of creative verse commercial and it
has gone now.

RD – I have never had the problem of being commercial
or creative because if I had worked on a commercial basis I would never have
done what I have done anyway. Nearly every record company marketing department
wanted legibility and portraits and that is pretty much all. The beauty of working
with a band like “Yes” is “Portraits? Give me a break”. Portraits wouldn’t do
them any good at all. I can’t imagine any boy band will ever come to me for
a cover. They are all about portraits so I was really pretty much free to develop
whatever I wanted. I was asked recently what the most important factor in getting
my work out was and I said it was basically unsophisticated clients. The few
times I have been approached by an advertising agency have been a disaster because
they know what they want and they know how they want you to do it. Basically
it is rubbish because the only thing that I have to offer is the original idea.
The technique and the execution are good but I can find 10 people that can paint
as well as me. But I couldn’t find 10 people that would come up with the same
ideas. So if an advertising agency is coming in with a pretty much fixed idea
it is hopeless. We do actually occasionally have that trouble with musician
too. I think how I would define being commercial is doing things that you don’t
want to do for the money. But there is another definition of doing things that
sell but “The Beatles” would sell but not think they were doing it for the money.
They are gladly getting the money but the motivation for doing it is not the
primary objective that comes afterwards.

I have done what I wanted. The first album cover
I did back in 1968 was for a band called Gun it was “Race with the Devil” and
the management company was Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club and as a consequence of
that I had maybe a dozen album cover jobs that were all Jazz covers. They were
very graphicy and “I thought I don’t want to do this” and I had to pretty much
start from scratch and say “OK I am not doing this anymore” and I just did pictures
I wanted to do but it meant I had about 6 months in that year where I didn’t
earn a thing and it is very hard financially. Then I got the Alsa Visa ??? job which was my restart and from then on I have only done what I wanted to do and it has worked.

This exhibition is mostly going to be about the prints.
There are about 18 prints altogether. Most of the following original paintings
will be there too

Polanski’s Macbeth (painted for the film of the same
name)
Demons And Wizards (the cover of the Uriah Heep album)
The Magician’s Birthday Party (again used for a Uriah Heep Album)
Escape (Used in Yessongs by Yes)
Arrival (Used in Yessongs by Yes)
Awakening (Used in Yessongs by Yes)
Pathways (Used in Yessongs by Yes)
Octopus (Used in the album by Gentle Giant)
Greenslade Hermit’s Cave (I am assuming this is the band and title)
Arches (Mist version) (Used in Keys To Ascension by Yes)
Acoustically Driven (Used by Uriah Heep on their recent album)
City Spring (A painting planned to be used by Uriah Heep on in the future)
Paladin "Charge!" (I know no more on this)
Sailing The Sea Of Light (Used on the Sea of Light album by Uriah Heep)
Blue Demon (Gravy Train)
Yesshows (Used for Yesshows by Yes)

And I am also bringing between 5 to 10 of the bigger
6ft by 4ft paintings. So it will be quite a cross section of the work going
back to the early 70’s but also including some paints from the last 2 or 3 years.
I think I they way I would describe my work is the same as I would describe
Yes’s "Thirty years practise and you get better at it." So although
the early work has a certain resonance for people that like that kind of music
I feel (and of course I would) the more recent work is better.

Do you feel you are tied into the Genre of music
completely now?

RD – It is very interesting because the way I would
answer that if I was in a playful mood is to say I am most associated with “Heavy
Metal” not that I do it. But the people that copy me copied me for “Heavy Metal”.
I suppose the answer is not really. I suppose about a third of the things I
have done over the last three years have been new experimental bands going in
a quite different direction and bearing no relationship at all to progressive
or classic rock. They are definitely into new areas.

Can you name some?

RD- Well about the most obscure band I have worked
with recently was “Space Needle” from New York. Have you ever heard of them?
No? Well their mothers have. I like working with Youth and Jaz a lot and I would
like to follow that up more in the future. Youth (
aka. Martin Glover
) has produced for bands like Deep Forest, Enigma, U2 and even Paul McCartney.
Youth and Jaz were in a band called “Killing Joke” and Jaz Coleman only sings
with “Killing Joke” but he composes and arranges. He is composer in residence
for the Prague Philharmonic, which of course is a long way from Punk Rock, but
they do a lot of experimental stuff.  They did two pieces of music for
a computer game I was working on which is still to come out but that was quite
interesting. It was an all round interesting experience as we were both working
from scratch. When I work with say a band like “Yes” the only information I
tend to get is from few conversations. If I am lucky I will hear a few snippets
of music. I spent 3 days in the Studio with Yes on the Ladder album and all
I got to hear was a bass line about a 1000 times. So after three days in the
studio I didn’t have any idea what the album was going to be like. The best
way to hear the album is to get the demos. And for the Ladder that was unusual
as I got to hear it before it came out. Normally I don’t.

So do you ever do paintings for yourself that
bands then use for album covers?

RD – Yes I would say more than half of them are ones
I have done for myself. And in some cases the marriage is amazingly appropriate.
Recently I had a whole series of drawings which were like a gigantic cave type
of landscape. It was supposed to be five or ten miles across in these caves
and I had a painting which was nowhere near finished for a long time. I was
desperate for a reason i.e. time or motivation to get this picture finished.
And then I was given Rick Wakeman’s “Return To The Centre Of The Earth” to do
as a project and I didn’t have to do much to it except finish it. Other times
I have had the pictures in stock and certainly with “Yes” they have said “Oh
yes we will have that”. I suppose “Tales” was the best example of collaboration
in a sense since both the music and painting came out of that flight to Japan.
“Relayer” was started about the time they went into the studio but I finished
that long before they finished the album and I think Jon Anderson perhaps changed
the title of the album to go with the picture. They didn’t change the music
of course. But some of these superficial things like titles do get adapted.

Did you change the colours on “Relayer” at all?
I think that album is generally considered quite a cold album and you have got a
cold looking cover on it.

Arches – Mist

RD – No it is exactly how I did it. Some of my work
is very minimal in terms of colouring. This Arches Mist print is like “Relayer”
in that is has a smaller very limited palette.

Arches – Morning View

So what are the differences between the two
Arches prints? Is the Mist view the same picture but with less colours on it?

RD – They are probably 90% the same. But the mist
version has actually got more colours on it. For example the shadows on the
right hand arches are all in the same plane on the Morning view. But on the
mist view the shadows are at three different intensities so that there is a
lot more aerial perspective on it. On the Morning view it is in the bright sun
so there is no mist and therefore no air of perspective. It is as I say just
in one plane. So we re-made it. It is the same with the dragon ones when we
did the sunrise one, there must have been at least three or four different screens.
The sunrise one had 6 or 7 different colours. So it is not just changing the
colours but also changing the screens as well.

When you are talking about Silk screening are
you painting each colour that you have chosen separately?

RD – Well the way I work is to paint in black on
film. That is then made into a screen and in “Tales”’s case there are probably
30 or 40 of those ranging from very intricate drawings to ones that are just
a wash. And they do all have to synchronise with each other which is a pain
for me and a pain for my partner Bernard who actually does all the synchronization.
The Yes Logo is archetypal Silk Screen. If you hang it in any Gallery in London
anyone in the art business would recognise that as a silk screen.

The Classic Yes Logo

Very few people however would realise the "Tales"
was a silk screen however because we have all those very thin transparent colours
on them and that is not typical of a silk screen. It is like a Japanese wood
block. If you can imagine how it builds up from just a few marks, then gradually
about half way you suddenly know what the picture is about but it is very flat
and not very interesting and as you keep adding and adding you get the whole
thing.

I think “Tales” was hard work for Bernard and it
was certainly hard work for me. Basically it was just very hard work!

So how long did “Tales” take and how often do
you have to get the picture made up to see where you are at?

RD – We didn’t really. It was proofed about 4 or
5 times but only to make sure we had the colours right. I think the Dragon one
was probably the longest one taking 4 or 5 months compared to the original painting
which was a month. “Tales” was probably 3-4 months where as the painting was
probably the same number of weeks. It is a different discipline. I think the
thing with a painting is if you don’t like something you just changing it. You
just get some more paint and paint it out. But this, where you have spent so
much time ensure each layer matches and doesn’t block anything else out, is
very difficult. And of course we are not just choosing colours we are choosing
colours that are to be opaque, colours to be transparent and sometimes you make
a highlight by leaving colour off. Other times you make a highlight by putting
an opaque bright colour on it. When you paint a water colour the light areas
are where you put less paint. With an Oil painting you start dark and add in
the light. But with this we were doing both. Some of the colours were so delicate
that when I remember back to the first dragon print with that misty rain swept
sky we probably started with 9 screens. But the problem with that was, with
all the delicacy of the colour, we could never get all the colours to synchronise
and so it always looked slightly out of focus. We ended up having to cut back
to just 4 or 5 screens. So we had to sacrifice some of the colour to get the
crispness of some of the patterns. So it is not a trivial task.

So how many colours did you use on Yes Logo?

RD – Probably 5 or 6. It was much, much simpler.
I don’t mind when it is much simpler. It is not always a sacrifice of intensity.
Arches Morning view was probably only 3 colours put it is still a powerful imagine.
The original of “Tales”???
painting is in the Victoria And Albert museum and the only difference between
this fine art print and the original are the differences I want.

You once said that the animals in your paintings
were very uncomfortable where they were and they were looking for something. Is
that something to do with the Pathways? I think it was in reference to the bird
on the "Yesshows" cover. It seems a lot of your pictures are from one world.

RD – I think there is a connection between a lot
of the "Yes" ones but not all of them. That picture was a very bleak
snow covered landscape and I think that I thought the bird looked lost but I
liked the fact that it actually belonged there. It wasn’t discrete. It wasn’t
a snowy owl or a creature of that climate it just looked outrageous.

I do put animals and creatures in paintings. I like
the idea of the human involvement of the paintings to be the path. It is quite
rare for me to actually paint humans in my paintings. I find that if you put
a person in you immediately have a relationship with that person. If you just
have a pathway the picture isn’t necessarily empty. It doesn’t have an empty
and forlorn feel although some do and that is intentional. But the fact there
is a path draws you in and makes you start exploring. When I was quite young
I came across this idea of a garden with a pathway that wandered around. And
as you wandered around the path and looked in different views you could do your
Tai Chi exercises and get a different view
not just every day but every season. I thought that a meditation garden that
had that level of interaction with someone walking around was fascinating. But
I think the path is a both a metaphor for some kind of path to enlightenment
and also the word we use for the struggle for enlightenment. References to the
path appear in all religions. It is even a metaphor for the way we behave such
as staying on the straight and narrow. I think that exploring a landscape is
an inevitable pathway to enlightenment and that’s why I think it is important
we get into the painting and world in general. And I think human beings have
a role in that. The Chinese when they were developing a lot of their ideas about
feng shui used to think of themselves as God’s gardeners. You know God built
the universe but then put Human beings in to refine it, polish it and nature
it. So it is quite an interesting idea.

As you may know I do a lot of Architecture. There
is not a lot of it built, in fact not a dog knell of it built, but I am involved
a lot in designing it and one of the things you are aware of is no matter how
environmentally aware of it you are the minute you build you are making a mess
on the landscape and a lot of the buildings are designed to have earth covering
them to make them more discrete but inevitably if you build you destroy what
is there. So my view is if you are going to make a mess of it, try and make
a mess of it that will mature into something better than was there before. Now
that is not always possible and in some ways it is an arrogant idea but the
point is if you are going to make a mess make sure it heals in an aesthetically
pleasing way. My view on landscape is yes it is great but we do live here. We
do live on this planet and if there are 5 billion of us or 10 billion it doesn’t
make any difference. Even if there were only a few thousand of us we are always
going to make an impact. The name of the game to me is to make that impact as
beneficial as possible. You can’t make no impact so that is not an option.

Does you inner spiritually not conflict with a
lot of the bands you were working with? Someone said the other day that Cocaine
and Champagne was very much on the agenda back in the 70’s. So did your way of
coming to the images and the way they were coming to it conflict?

RD – I think my spiritual ideas were incredibly common
in the 70’s just as they are now. Some people dabbled lightly and some people
immersed themselves and I am not sure that immersing yourself is necessarily
better than dabbling. I don’t know but it is very interesting. I have a young
daughter that is fascinated with a whole spectrum of stuff. She can be adamant
about the evil organised religion can be at the same time as having an incredible
need to investigate the nature of God. She is enthusiastic about something as
trivial as looking in the paper for her horoscope, as unfortunately the teachings
on Don Juan. I have to take the blame for this as I introduced her to them.
So she will read the one and she will read the other. It is like eating in a
way. If you eat an incredible spectrum of foods when your body is in desperate
need of some trace element your body knows where it got it before. But if it’s
total range is McDonalds it is going to struggle. And I think that is how we
have to look at what the possibilities are. If I push her in any direction it
is just to take time and space to think. For me I can’t think of a better way
of doing it that walking in the country. One needs variety so if we get the
opportunity we travel. Unfortunately when I introduced her to the dessert of
Utah I did it in August and the USA was going through a heatwave. It was about
130 she was not best pleased. I did say to her next time we will do it at Easter
or October when it is Grey. You see Monument valley in all the movies as a dessert
but every year it snows there and I have friends in a place about 30 miles from
there and they describe their winters in terms of the bill for getting a bulldozer
to come and clear there drive. The snow there can be 8 to 10 foot deep but we
think of it as a dessert and of course it is a dessert but it has a cool time
and a hot time. I have been there several times so I have been there when it
is cold and even when it is flowering in the spring time.

For me I think the landscapes that are inspirational
are the American desserts. The Chinese and Japanese traditional landscape paintings.
Scotland. All of them.

I am talking a lot about Landscapes but I guess that
is a lot of what my work is landscape paintings.

I paint Landscapes and do architecture and I guess
the two things I would like to do are to build the architecture then I would
like to walk around the landscapes although obviously rocks floating in the
air would be a bit tricky! I would certainly like to make a film of it and to
that end we have been looking at a number of scripts that would use those landscape
ideas.

Did you enjoy the project you did at the Ideal
Homes exhibition where designed and made a house without any straight lines? How
did it go down?

RD – Yes I did. Well in 1998 when it was first put
on show we had something like 45,000 people walk through it in 5 or 6 days.
That was intense because if you arrived at 10am you had to queue until about
1-2pm to get in. So that kind of took my breath away. I suppose over the course
of 1998 70,000 or 80,000 walked though it. We had over 1000 enquires from people
wanting to build one which again was nice.

And did anyone?

RD – Well I am told we will be making an announcement
before the end of this year about a small little complex containing accommodation
and an environmental education centre. It could be as early as the exhibition.
We will also be announcing a park in Malaya. So keep your fingers crossed for
me.

Whatever happened to the Brighton Hotel project?

RD – Nothing. What happened was we made very good
progress, we had lined up operators and finance etc and then at the very last
minute the Marina company which was own by a bunch of banks would not put the
project before the board. We never found out why so it just died a death. I
guess it was our first shot and doing something like this and we were pretty
naive. Hopefully next time we will do it better. Through the 80’s we had a lot
of projects that never happened but by and large we were paid for them. There
were only a couple like that one which we self financed and therefore lost out.

Would you describe you work as futuristic?

RD – The problem with that is that we have a very
limited idea of the future, which is driven by hard edged architecture and technology.
I would say my work is futuristic in the sense that it doesn’t exist now and
I would obviously like it to exist.

Components of it exist now though because they
are taken from organic things that do exist on this Earth now

RD – Oh sure. So in that sense yes but I would like
to build stuff like these paining and personally I would like to live in a world
like this.

They could be considered futuristic in the sense
they are not possible. IE the rocks floating in thin air.

RD – A lot of the picture I do are 90% real and it
is just that little tweak that makes them not. For instance on one of my pictures
there is a lake but it is not a reflection you see. You are looking through
it into space so there are small elements of the pictures, which are unreal.

What was your round house constructed from?

It was intended to be made in sprayed concrete and
ceramic but the prototype which was built on the back of a truck and had to
tour lots of exhibitions was made of fibreglass,

It has a very good insulation property doesn’t
it?

RD – Yes it does.

Is it used for anything now?

RD – It is used for insulating steel buildings from
fire. If you go and look round the structure at Victoria station you will see
it is sprayed in the same stuff. The world trade centre also used it but it
was just to thin a layer. It was insulted up to 500 degrees when it needed to
be up 1000. It is used for building water towers and dams all kinds of things.

How did you come across it?

RD – Many years ago when I first came out of college
William Willard who was a TV presenter on “Tomorrow’s World” was very interested
in it and he said he wanted me to meet someone who could build this structure
with something he had investigated.

Have you ever wanted to do a non-Roger Dean type
painting? IE Have you ever felt boxed in by your own success?

RD – No. I do lots of drawings that are different
to this.

Does it annoy you that this is the way you are
perceived or seen and there is all this other stuff you do that is less well
known?

RD – No. I am very grateful that the albums covers
are seen and well known and there are always other chances to show people other
stuff because of it. What kind of work did you have in mind when you asked the
question?

Nothing specific I just know that some musicians
feel tied to the sounds they made when they had their most successful period and
I wondered if it applied to artists too. Would people reject something because
it wasn’t Roger Dean enough?

RD – Not really. I am often asked the opposite actually.
I am given a project but told that it can’t look like “Yes” or whatever. Unfortunately
in a sense it looks like me because however differently I do it, it is hard
not to be yourself. But I don’t mind that. If I am experimenting with stuff
and it works it normally gets used. For instance I was very interested in Calligraphy
I don’t mean handlettering I mean marks made at the speed of writing. There
is a beauty to writing that is different to the beauty of paintings and I had
a friend called Rick Griffen who used to paint as if he was writing and all
his painting had a kind of elegance as if he was so familiar with it he had
done it a 1000 times before, even on entirely new projects. I was really interested
in those kind of speedy marks but wanted to do them with something other than
pen because pen has very little character. I was therefore experimenting using
the technique with all kinds of stuff from scrunched up paper to bits of wood
and stuff. And a lot of those experiments I used on things like the Yes Box
set i.e. on the CD’s inside it. If I play and have fun and it works I tend to
use it.

Is that the Rick Griffen who was in Grateful
Dead?

RD – Yes he did surf type comics back in the 60’s.
He worked on Zap but he really was an artist and a great one really.

The Grateful Dead had a really good album
cover for Aoxomoxoa

RD – Yes I totally agree it is brilliant. It was
a huge influence for me because I bought that before I had a record player just
for its cover. It was very inspirational because at the time graphic design
was taught in an incredibly restrained minimalist approach. It was really boring
stuff.

What did they train you for?

RD – I didn’t do graphics, I was just observing but
they were training people for books posters advertising or whatever. But when
I saw that of Rick’s I thought “well there really are no rules you can do anything
you like”. I collect stuff so if I see an olive oil can which is painted in
amazing iridescent colours because they are printed in transparent ink on metal
I am likely to buy it just for my collection. I saw an amazing gallon can of
Soya sauce in Japan and I bought it and got rid of the Soya sauce just because
it was fabulous. I thought Rick’s stuff looked like he might have gone to some
kind of weird unknown civilisation and discovered this thing. It looked complete
but alien. Rick was never really talkative about his work. I knew him on and
off for nearly 20 years and I don’t think he ever talked about his work. Not
to me anyway.

Have you ever rejected a project because you
haven’t liked the lyrical content of an album?

RD – I don’t normally know the lyrics in advance.

OK how about if say Marylyn Mason wanted you to
do a cover would you be put off?

RD – I don’t recall it ever arising but I don’t like
everything equally. I wish Led Zeppelin had asked me to work on their third
or fourth album because I think both of those were unbelievable but unfortunately
they had covers already. There have been covers I have worked on where I haven’t
liked them that much.

But you have never not wanted to be associated
with something?

RD – No. Not in advance anyway. Sometimes afterwards.
What are you thinking off?

Well one of your rivals once turned down a Praying
Mantis album because he didn’t like their view that the world was heading into
doom and gloom.

RD – Ah yes I heard he got born again and ruled out
any reference to Satan. I used to get very irritating with his copying of things.
His first job if like the launch of his career was with Bigo??? posters when I wouldn’t do Fragile as a poster. They wanted
more posters off me than I could do. And in particular they were pressing me
very hard to do “Close To The Edge” and “Fragile” as a poster. But I wouldn’t
do them, as I didn’t feel they would stand being blown up to the size of a poster.
The originals were only small. In the end because I wasn’t producing much I
gave in and let them do “Close To The Edge” and it sold well. I think it sold
about 1.25 million in a few months. It was probably quicker than the album.
That proved to them that they were right and I was wrong so that the campaign
to get “Fragile” out as poster was really big. I just didn’t want it to happen
though as the original was only a tiny painting about the size of an album cover.
So what they did was commission someone else to do a Fragile inspired poster,
which pissed me off enormously. This artist then went on to do his take on others
including “Relayer” and I thought, “this is appalling”. So I told Bigo
this must stop. And they said “Oh he is such a nice guy you should meet him”
And I said “You know the last thing I want to know is that the guy that has
just burgled your house is someone that has 7 kids and is really a saint. I
don’t want to know. I want him to stop and I want you to stop encouraging him”.
And they didn’t so I ended my contract with them. But the situation arose again
some years later and the publisher then came to me and said “would you mind?”
and I said “Yes I would”. And they said “Well would you do anything about it?”
And I said “I might!” I later had representations trying to convince me he didn’t
copy that and he got his inspiration from this and that and the other. And I
said “Let me put this to you. I haven’t named any works you have just rung me.
Secondly I know these pictures if he was inspired by anything other than mine
why didn’t he do it before me? Why did it have to come six months later?”

I think my concern with lyrics is often more that
they are sometimes so naff. I am sure Satan wouldn’t have anything to do with
them.

So no I don’t have that kind of issue. I might but
it hasn’t arisen so far.

So do you keep a breast of other artists doing
album covers in your style then?

RD – No it annoys me too much. There are a number
of artists that have build their careers doing copies. I could never really
understand why people caused themselves the embarrassment of copying since everyone
knew what the did and it is not considered particularly smart amongst other
artists so they would probably get a lot flack from other artists besides me.
There was another guy that basically launched his career on one of my pictures.
He must have done about 20 or 30 variations on one of my pictures and I do occasionally
sue people. I consider it basically like any other kind of theft. Kids do it
at school but that is nothing. They are not trying to sell it, they are not
making a living out of it and they are not necessarily pretending they invented
it. What so annoyed me was that they used to deny it. I was even once sent a
packet of photos about the version of “Relayer”. There was some rock formation,
which was very like it, and I was thinking, “Yes this is very like it but your
picture is exactly like mine”. So no I don’t follow what others are doing.

Have you ever produced books of your work?

RD – Yes I have done two books. They were both best
sellers but they were books so they sold a lot less than posters but the first
one did about 1.25 million and the 2nd one didn’t have as many painting
so it did probably about 600,000.

So was this a long time ago?

RD – Yes the first was about 1976 and the 2nd was
about 1984. The third is likely to come out in perhaps two years.

Are the first two books currently in print?

RD – They are about to be reprinted. We are currently
in discussions about that so I don’t think they are likely to appear before
Christmas. There is also a DVD currently being made by Classic Rock Legends.
Basically it is Biography and they hope to have that launched to coincide with
the exhibition.

How do feel your work has translated to CD?

RD – That is normally completely down to the record
company. I couldn’t believe that for nearly 10 or 15 years Atlantic Records
put out “Close To The Edge” without the painting. All there was a poor piece
of paper printed in Black and White. Basically there was total abuse of their
customers. There was complete disregard for doing things properly. I had experience
with a small German record company called Repertoire and when he re-released
Gun not only did he reshot from the original artwork he also included all the
original paintings and stuff like that. Anyone buying that is actually buying
something better in every sense even though the size of a CD is smaller than
an LP. Anyone buying an Atlantic “Yes” album from 1981 to 1995 were basically
buying a piece of rubbish and I think it is stunning and outrageous that record
companies could be that abusive off their customers. You don’t get a packet
of corn flakes packaged that badly. It angers me in the artwork sense and it
angers me in that it is not there necessary to be so tacky. The difference between
it being down well and done badly is only 1% of the cost. And as it was they
doubled the prices unnecessarily. A CD is cheaper than vinyl and yet they doubled
the price but still they put it out as this piece of rubbish. That really offended
and upset me. It is still a problem if I dealing with the latest thing I did
for Yes. Left bank??? will put it out the same way there might be a bit more material
and they might print it in colour but it still goes out folded flat in a jewel
box. Eagle might just take the trouble to put it out in a digi-pack and nicely
boxed. And the thing is as we have already discussed Yes’s audience aren’t kids
anymore (not that kids should be ripped of either) but they are people that
will notice this sort of thing and they too will be offended. I think the record
industry is now squealing because the people can now get hold of music without
buying any individual thing. People now have abstract access and I feel the
record companies are now getting their comeuppance. Once upon a time you bought
something and your aunt could wrap it up and it would make a nice present. That
went and once that went the objectiveness of it went too. The technology of
it has wiped it out. I think what will happen is that access to the music will
become increasingly abstract. I there will be a small but strong reinvention
of for instance a “Yes” album as a present with a much bigger emphasis on the
packaging but it will be a smaller part of the music business. Mpg or whatever
will just take over.

Is some of the problem that the record companies
don’t have access to the original masters of all the artwork? Or do you always
retain the rights?

RD – Yes I always retain the rights and the record
companies know what to do they just don’t do it.

So even if you sell the original master painting
you still keep everything required in the process of getting it put to CD?

RD – I actually sell them a license so I keep the
copyright and the original painting.

So you have all your original paintings?

RD – Except when I have sold them specifically or
where on a couple of occasions they have been destroyed in a fire.

Aren’t some of the original paintings currently
for sale?

RD – Yes because Classic Rock Legends bought them.
Not at the time they were commissioned but in the last few years. I have had
paintings for sale in USA. I sell a few paintings every year. I only produce
4 a year so if I am selling 20 a year I will soon run out. There will be some
for sale at this exhibition, mainly the Classic Rock Legends collection. But
I guess although I am interested in selling them, I am more interested in selling
prints. I wouldn’t want to part with too many originals.

When a band comes along and wants a Roger Dean
cover do they have to be wealthy/successful to get you interested now? Or do you
do stuff and license it out and hope for the best?

RD – No I don’t make it impossible for people new
in the business to work with me. It is expensive I will grant that but when
“Space Needle” wanted a cover they didn’t have any money of their own so they
managed to persuade a record company to spend the money. That is normally the
way it is done. Mind you even in Yes’s heyday the never paid. It was Atlantic
that paid so it was very convenient for me because “Yes” would commission me
and Atlantic would scream!

You might have heard of the band Travis.
Apparently the lead singer has been seen wearing a Yes logo shirt on stage. The
recent trends have been for a lot of T-shirts to be remarketed in lets say an
Ironic sense and your work is often seen as of a particular period.

RD – That is very true in England but you don’t get
that in America.

So what do you think about that?

RD –Well those T-shirts are available legitimately
so I guess there would be two issues. Is it a pirate T-shirt and do I mind? 
I guess I don’t. I would find it kind of funny really.

Have you seen “Yes” recently? I took some Bob Dylan
friends in American and they couldn’t believe they were going to see “Yes”.
They just went because of me but they were really impressed just by the quality
of the playing. They play really well together. Except when Bill Bruford is
with them because Alan White and Steve Howe always play exactly what they have
rehearsed where as Bill Bruford’s philosophy was never to play the same thing
twice which kept them on their toes some what!

I took my opportunity to grab a couple of signatures
and gave Roger my Returned To The Centre Of The Earth CD and LP
.

RD – Do you know I had such a row with EMI about
this. You’ll never guess what they did. They sent the low resolution positioning
scans to the printers so the CD’s are appalling. I said you have got to redo
that “You can’t even see the little figures that give the picture it’s sense
of enormity” and they said “No, no, no. We haven’t got time for that”

On the LP sleeve you can see Graining. Is that
because of the printing?

RD – No that is on the canvas.