Friday, 9 November 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Galahad interview (Part One)

I have to admit that I had never heard of Galahad until, one evening earlier this year my adopted ephew Max and I played their album Battle Scars which arrived together with a heap of other groovy Gonzothings. It was an epiphany, and soon after I interviewed Stu Nicholson, the singer, who is a really nice bloke. Now there is a second album of the year, which is even better. Once again I interview Stu, and have an excuse to play a video featuring two strange men with rhino horns...

JON: The album is brilliant – I really like it

STU: Cheers

JON: I liked the last one, but this one – I think – it’s more to my taste. It’s always bad when you say you like one album more than another but I thought Battle Scars was a great record, but I think this one is even better.

STU: Funny, we have a lot of people who have said that and we were expecting the opposite because, obviously there’s the sequency stuff on there is slightly more overt than it is on Battle Scars other than the last track – Seize the Day -  but I think maybe the thing is with this one also, the songs are longer and they are more proggie in some way ‘cos you’ve got the extended sections and instrumentally bits and of course a lot of rock/progressive fans like that as well but you’ve got the immediate stuff as well because you’ve got all the verses and the choruses, but yeah we were really chuffed with it actually.

JON: Was it recorded at the same time as the last one?

STU: Pretty much, yeah.  And the idea was we always knew roughly which songs would go on which album because it is a slightly different atmosphere to each of them and we wanted to put Neil’s songs – because he wrote three of the songs on Battle Scars - on the first album. The idea originally was to try to get that album released while he was still with us, but unfortunately we failed which is a shame. You probably noticed that the first one is more black and white – it was a kind of tribute to Neil really and it was a bit darker and then obviously on the second one it was  case of we wanted to be colourful and look forward to the future and make things a bit brighter and all this sort of stuff.  But there are links and we’ve still got the sort of poppies and all that kind of stuff. It all kind of hangs together quite well I think.

JON: The opening track sounds like the KLF

STU: Does a bit, doesn’t it?

JON: Which to me is a good thing.  I’m a massive Bill Drummond fan, always have been

STU: Yeah, same here.  I liked the KLF at the time – in fact I was playing a 12-inch the other day of one of theirs. It was the ….. with er…was it Dolly Parton? 

JON: I think the song you were talking about was Justified and Ancient with Tammy Wynette.

STU: That’s it, Tammy Wynette, I knew it was one of them.  I do like a lot of that sort of dancey kind of experimental music I suppose and I just like all the shimmering sequences and all that kind of thing, you know.

JON: That was, of course, what the band were doing just when they broke up.  They were recording both with Extreme Noise Terror of all people and the guy who used to be in Deep Purple. Bass player he was sacked.

STU: Roger Glover?

JON: The one after…

STU: Glen Hughes?

JON: Glen Hughes.  He sang on the last of the KLF singles

Yes, I seem to remember that.  I remember reading about it

JON: A lot of people since then try to meld heavy rock music with dance music and never succeeded. I think you’ve done the best of any of those.

STU: I think it’s just a melting pot of influences really, because we’ve all listened to a lot of different stuff and you know I quite like Leftfield – the Leftfield album with John Lydon on it and I also like Faithless and Alison Goldfrapp and people like that which sort of verges on progressive because of all the sequences and all the keyboards and everything, and I’ve always said a lot of dance music, you take away the beats and it just sounds like a prog type thing, you know Tangerine Dream or something, or some of these older Germanic – sort of Krautrock bands I suppose, but yeah, I love all that and obviously we have tried to meld it together and it’s not dance as such, but it’s – well you know, you’ve heard it – it’s sort of using those sorts of sounds and arrangements and what have you. And then trying to fuse it with some heavy guitars and give it a bit of beat as well.

JON: How much of it is written in advance when you go in, or how much of it is written as you go in the studio?

STU: All of it.  Basically all of the songs are written in advance.  Pretty much.  And then the studio is really a case of laying down the bare bones, you know the bass guitars, the skeleton if you like of the track and then gradually layering on top the guitars, the keyboards whatever and occasionally we might change things around because of course the great thing with technology these days is you can – it’s like building a house – you know you can build on top of it, you can also take things out and you can add things in, or lengthen things or shorten things or whatever.  And so sometimes we do change the arrangements or we might add an extra chorus or something, but the basic song structure is pretty much there before we go into the studio. 

JON: And do you write together or separately?

STU: Both.  Actually.  It depends.  We write in every way really, I  mean sometimes me and Dean, the keyboard player will write together and for example for The Guardian Angel, the reprise at the end of the album, we wrote that in about ten minutes. Dean just played me a guitar sort of motif and I thought ‘that sounds really nice’ and I just started singing over it and thought well actually it does sit quite well with some of the ideas that I used for Guardian Angel but we didn’t use them on the original song so we sort of reprised it. And then we took that format to the studio and laid down the drums and the sort of basics and then basically gradually added all the layers of backing vocals because obviously that’s one thing I couldn’t do in rehearsal, but in the studio we spent a lot of time on – probably the most time I’ve spent on – sort of putting harmony vocals and backing vocals on and things like The Secret Kingdoms on the chorus I really wanted lots of backing vocals like a Queen-type thing. And if you listen it is quite Queeny in places with the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and what have you.  I’ve just always wanted to do it. So I gave it a go  <laughs>

JON: Why not…I think it is a smashing record. 

And this seems to be a sensible point to break off for today, because in tomorrow's segment of the interview the mood changes as we talk about their late bass player Neil who died just after the albums were completed..

Check out Galahad at Gonzo

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