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Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Galahad (Part One)

It is always mildly disconcerting when you find yourself interviewing someone that you know practically nothing about. All I knew about Galahad was that the lovely Anne-Marie at Gonzo Central had sent me a pre-release copy of the new album, Battle Scars. It arrived on the same day as my adopted nephew Max, who ius somewhat of a prog buff, and we drank some bourbon and listened to it...with interesting results.

The day before I talked to their singer Stu, I received a press thingy
which I posted the other day and apart from that I was flying by the seat of my pants, and making it all up as I went along, which is basically how I have got through my career as a music journalist on and off for the past thirty years.

I needn'e have been concerned (not that I was very) because singer Stuart Nicholdon is a jolly nice bloke, and furthermore, someone that it is so easy to talk to that we have at least three days worth of interview...

Jon: When you sent the biography over yesterday, something I found very interesting was the way that you have so many different projects under the Galahad umbrella.

Stuart: Yes we have done in the past. At the moment obviously we are concentrating just on the main band, but I do like to do that. In fact I would like to do more, but it is just time.

Jon: It’s something I’ve seen happen in folk bands and in vaguely psychedelic bands, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rock band like you ever actually do this before

Stuart: I think there are bands out there that do do it, but obviously probably not many, but it depended on the time. When we did the acoustic project I just wanted to do something a little bit more folky and a little more laid back and not so heavy, and so we did the Galahad acoustics album and I banned, well I try to ban, Roy from using any electric guitars which was quite fun but that was good fun. And then we did like a remix album a few years later and gave samples of all of our album following Ghosts – we gave samples from that album – keyboards, guitars, vocals to various musicians and DJs and asked them to effectively re-write the whole thing. Which was interesting.

Jon: Well again I think it is a really interesting thing, because that’s something that happens in dance music but again I’ve just not seen it within the sort of rock music genre. I think it’s very interesting.

Stuart: Yes, it was, it was slightly misconstrued ‘cos everybody automatically assumed it would be dance remixes, and some of them were pretty dancey, a lot of beats, you know, and quite fast beats going on and what have you and a few break beats here and there, but we just fancied just remixing in general – some of the tracks aren’t dance orientated at all, and I just thought we’d try it. On the new album we are probably going to put out the odd single so I am hopefully going to get some remixes of various tracks done for that as well although that is sort of work in progress at the moment.

Jon: Well I have very much been enjoying Battle Scars. I think it is a fantastic record.

Stuart: Oh you’ve heard it...excellent.

Jon: It has become one of the records my compadres and I sit down to and have a drink to in the evening.

Stuart: Excellent. Well thanks for that.

Jon: I like the overall graphic look of the project as well. I think the package is beautifully designed and all fits together into a nice whole.

Stuart: Yes, that’s one thing that we managed to do on the last couple of albums actually and as you say, whenever record a new album, although obviously the music is the main component, it’s nice to try to get it all to fit together and – bearing in mind – I don’t know how much you know about the recent history of the band, but we lost Neil our bass guitarist last year, to oesophageal cancer basically and three of his songs were on the new album, and he did manage to record all his parts for this album and the next one which is coming out later in the year and we just felt that the black and white kind of imagery – the sort of monochrome imagery with little flicks of red here and there just sort of suited it, and you know there’s various bits of imagery within there as a nod to Neil. It’s a kind of tribute to Neil really overall.

Jon: I didn’t know any of that. I have to admit all I know about the band are two videos I saw on YouTube that I pinched last week to put on the blog, the press sheet you sent me, and the new album

Stuart: Basically Neil was our bass guitarist for many years. He then left the band for a while to sort out his own life and what have you, and then he came back again, but unfortunately within a year of re-joining the band he had been diagnosed with the cancer so it was a bit of a dark time, hence the imagery on the album which makes it even more, when you know about it, you can understand it even more.

Battle Scars, obviously the title is quite apt considering it’s been quite tough for the band to deal with.

Jon: It’s interesting what you say about that, because I think from what I know, because I used to be a nurse years ago, and I think what you did was probably good therapy for him to make these records during his final months.

Stuart: Absolutely yeah, it was complete escapism for Neil he also blocked out everything else and to be honest Neil was more enthusiastic about the band in the last few months of his life plus he was more creative. He’d come up with a lot of ideas, some of which aren’t on the album – we put three of his songs on the album and then we sort of Galahaded it as we call it and put our own stamp on it so it became band pieces.

But he did a lot of work, a lot of ideas and at some point, again you mentioned about projects, different projects, we want to try to get all of the stuff that he had recorded off various hard drives here and there and everywhere, and me and Dean – our keyboard player – will try and put those together so we can almost do a posthumous solo album in a way for Neil, which I think would be a nice way also to sort of remember him.

But like you say, I think it was catharsis for Neil as well because it diverted hi s mind, and when he was quite ill, when we recorded the bass parts the last time he was in the studio, which was actually the last time we saw him alive and kicking, which was a good time to see him, because he was still relatively well and he actually had to sit down to play all his bass parts because he was too ill to stand up which was a real shame.

Jon: I imagine that doing this is actually good for you because it helps you through the grieving process as well

Stuart: Yes I think it is very cathartic. It’s just the hardest part I suppose is really listening to it now, and I try not to think about it too much, thinking you can hear his bass playing and he also played sort of keyboards and guitars on a couple of tracks as well and it’s just difficult for us to comprehend the fact that he’s no longer in the band and obviously he won’t be doing the gigs later in the year. We have found someone else but we haven’t actually rehearsed with them yet. It’s taken a bit of time for us to regroup and re-convene, but we’re getting there slowly

Jon: I can imagine it must be very difficult, but this year is a very, very exciting year for you guys, isn’t it? You’ve got an awful lot of things happening.

Stuart: It is – it’s probably the busiest year we’ve ever had actually. We’ve got ‘Battle Scars’ as you know, which has just come out. We’ve also got another album called ‘Beyond the Realms of Euphoria’ which is coming out towards the end of the year, which will be very different in terms of feel, definitely in terms of the look of it – it will be more colourful . ‘Battle Scars’ is fairly monochrome, it’s not depressing as such it’s just fairly low key and our tribute to Neil, and later on hopefully things will be brighter and everything else.

The last track on ‘Battle Scars’ as you probably know is called ‘Seize the Day’ so the idea was to end on a high on that in readiness for future endeavours as it were, but we also have a biography coming out that’s been written by a guy called Andrew Wild who wrote a biography of Twelfth Night in the last few years and the odd live CD/DVD as well. All grist to the mill.

Jon: When is the book coming out?

Stuart: Well the idea was for it to come out around July – summertime, between the two albums. To be honest it really all depends on finance, because although the album is not doing bad, it’s a lot of outlay – it’s all written, there will be a free DVD with the book just basically containing old performances of the band over the years 1986 and onwards which is great for an archive sort of thing. The quality isn’t the best and it is quite fun but I think it’s quite nice to have something like that, because it’s all part of our history.

And there we must leave it for today. Stuart is a wonderful interviewee; interesting and eloquent, and I can forsee many more long chats in the future. In the meantime, however, we will be returning to our conversation with him tomorrow...

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