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Chris Grant - Interview

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 31 / 8 / 2013

Chris Grant - Interview


Malcolm Carter talks to singer-songwriter and music biographer Chris Wade about his band Dodson and Fogg's 60's-influenced just released third album, 'Sounds of Day and Night'

Three albums in under a year have been released under the Dodson & Fogg name, the title given to multi-instrumentalist, author, singer-songwriter Chris Wade’s on-going musical project. The first, self-titled, Dodson & Fogg album came our way in the closing months of last year, and we weren’t the only publication to be mightily impressed by the sounds Chris Wade produced. The short list of musicians contributing to the album was enough to make any fan of 60’s/70’s music break out into a sweat. Nik Turner (Hawkwind), Celia Humphris (Trees) and Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention, Trader Horne) immediately gave some indication of where Chris Wade was coming from musically but not necessarily where he was heading. For, although Wade wears his love of 60’s and 70’s folk and prog proudly on his sleeve, he is one of the few of his generation that actually shapes his inspirations into a sound that is new and exciting and that, for all its backward glances, is remarkably contemporary. Wade followed up that debut with ‘Derring-Do’ less than six months later. In many ways a companion piece to the earlier album (this time there was even a vocal contribution from Alison O’Donnell from Mellow Candle), the talented Wade proved with it that his warmly received debut was no fluke. With this album Wade had produced fifteen more songs that easily matched the quality of the debut’s dozen songs that, despite a late appearance, proved to be some of 2012’s best. Another six months down the line, and despite Wade’s other projects yet another Dodson & Fogg album was released. ‘Sounds of Day and Night’ didn’t have the attraction of well-known guest musicians. Apart from Colin Jones supplying trumpet on a track this time, all the sounds were made by Wade himself. While Wade had played the majority of instruments on the previous Dodson & Fogg albums, this time it was all down to him (apart from that trumpet). Rather than losing anything by not having help vocally or instrumentally ‘Sounds of Day and Night’ has proven to be Wade’s strongest set of songs to date. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why as Wade has again captured the sounds of the past he so obviously loves and added a contemporary touch as before, but ‘Sounds of Day and Night’ sounds more complete, more rounded, than his previous work. In many ways the first two Dodson & Fogg albums, as brilliant as they are, now feel like stepping-stones to ‘Sounds of Day and Night’. Over the course of those three albums, putting his other projects to one side for a moment, Wade has proven that he is a major, major talent, and one whose light shows no sign of fading. Despite his busy schedule Chris Wade kindly found time to answer a few more questions from us and, as always, his answers are both informative and fascinating. PB: Before we talk about the new album it would be good to catch up on a couple of your other projects. You’ve recently released an album, ‘Moonlight Banquet’. Not having yet heard the album, how does it differ from your Dodson & Fogg work and why did you choose not to issue the album under the known Dodson & Fogg name? CW: Well, it was a series of instrumentals I did that really didn’t fit with the Dodson & Fogg sound. Some of them were a bit heavier with electric guitar, a bit dark, and some were more keyboard atmospheric pieces. The title piece might have fitted on a Dodson & Fogg album, but I wasn’t going to put it on one. My girlfriend said to just put them out on a release, so I did. It’s nothing I’ve promoted or anything. It has been reviewed on one or two things positively and I do like it, it’s just not a proper part of what I see as my real music really. They were going to be put in the unreleased folder I have, but Linzi said they were worth releasing as a stand alone album. PB: Last time we spoke you had just published through your publication company Wisdom Twins a book about the Kinks. Now you’ve just edited and issued the autobiography of Gypsy Dave Mills, ‘Knights of the Road’. How did you get involved with that? CW: Well, I interviewed Gyp a couple of years ago, maybe a little more, and he had a PDF book of his 60’s adventures on his site for sale. We got back in touch recently when I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favourite musicians Donovan (Gyp’s old comrade, although they’re not communists!), and basically it came up that he was releasing it on paperback one day and I really wanted to do it for him. It is doing well already. I want it to be a good experience for him. It’s a great read. It really is. Mad in parts, lots of cool stories with Donovan, some appearances by Hendrix, the Beatles, Allen Klein and others. It was a joy to read through it. PB: Is it correct that you’ve also got a book on the Incredible String Band on the way? CW: Yes, I’ve been doing this one for a bit now, on and off, and I have really been enjoying it. They’re a brilliant band, vastly under rated I feel as when people do retrospectives on the 1960s now they often get missed out. They are so influential. I went to see Mike Heron with Trembling Bells with my dad earlier in the year and he is still brilliant, such a positive happy guy to watch on stage. So, I would say I’ll have this book available next month or maybe the month after. It’s a look at the music with some images and interviews and stuff. It’s a nice light read, and not a gossipy insider biography, which don’t interest me to be honest. It’s about that great music, a celebration of it. It’s been nice listening to their albums a lot too, really getting into the magical side of it and the endless creativity. Robin Williamson too is some sort of genius I am sure. PB: Chris, three albums in under a year, the books plus all the other projects you have on the go. I have to ask when do you find time to sleep? CW: Ha,ha, at my desk in a bowl of porridge. No, to be honest, some weeks I do over work, but it’s all so much fun that I’m happy to be knackered out sometimes. Last week I was doing the book from nine in the morning with a coffee to later at night with a couple of breaks for eating. I also do that with my music. I’m lucky that I enjoy it so much, and it’s my hobby as well as my main work focus too. Sometimes I sit and my mind wanders off about what I could be doing instead of sitting. Maybe too much coffee? PB: ‘Sounds of Day and Night’ again features cover art by your girlfriend Linzi Napier. Linzi’s artwork reflects the songs on each album perfectly, even if she doesn’t always get the front image. Does Linzi have access to the music before she designs the covers and do you have any input in that at all? CW: Linzi always listens to the songs as I record them and offers feedback and lots of great ideas. But the cover to this one was already done. It was the main picture on her recent exhibition, and I loved it since she first did it. So I said to her I’d love that on the cover and she was thinking maybe I’d want something fresh especially done for the album, but I love that image. It’s so weird and ghostly, atmospheric. Love it. PB: ‘Sounds of Day And Night’ is aptly named. I won’t say concept album, but it feels that the songs are linked in some way. Would you agree with that? Were the songs all written around the same period? CW: Yes, definitely, I would say they were linked. I wanted it to be like a film with a series of short stories in it, floating around from one to the other. And I don’t mean it to be pretentious, but it is a good idea to have a loose theme to hang ideas off. I liked that the intros and outros might be the start and end of the day, and everything in between is life. They were all written and recorded in the same two or so months I believe, although a couple of ideas came right near the end of recording and I got rid of a couple of weaker ones and put those in their place. It was done in the same way as ‘Derring Do’, a kind of rush of ideas and songs. PB: It’s an album to lose one’s self in. The dream-like quality of some of the songs, especially instrumentals like ‘Free in the Night’ and the closing track ‘Sounds Of Day And Night Part 2’ complete with its Indian feel really take the listener on a journey. Have you ever considered a whole album of such sounds? While you’re a distinctive and brilliant vocalist, the instrumentals on this album are some of your best work so far. CW: Thanks! That’s great to hear. I’m really glad that this album has been the best received, because although the instrumentals were coming naturally I really worked on making them sound the best I could, particularly ‘Free in the Night’. That was two tracks moulded together. The end track was a kind of freak out I got lost in, without sounding pretentious, it was just a fun thing to do and I kind of didn’t want it to end. Nearly six minutes is a long track for me. They’re usually three or four, but it was so enjoyable. I did enjoy making this album the most too because it felt more free for me, just picking up the flute, the bongos, guitar, or getting behind the keyboard as well. I did consider doing an instrumental album of the more Indian vibe stuff, but I think it’s best mixed in with songs as it keeps the listener a bit more grounded. And I like an album to have variety too, a real mix of moods and styles. That’s what I enjoy most, taking a step back and listening to the changes. All my favourite albums by the Beatles have that variety. PB: What were you aiming for on ‘Sounds of Day and Night’? While keeping that Chris Wade sound of the previous two Dodson And Fogg albums, after living with the latest album for a while it eventually sounds like it stands slightly apart from what went before. CW: I’m not sure I was originally aiming for anything. At first they were just a few tracks I had done. Then they started to come more to life. I eventually wanted to make an album that had a lot of changes and moods to reflect everyday life and situations. I wanted it to float in and float out in some ways. But I think the fact it’s just me, besides a bit of trumpet from Colin, might have affected the sound. Some people might think that’s a bad thing, that there’s no outside input, but all the fans who got in touch and all the reviews have said it’s a good album, so that’s important to me, to know people still like it even if it has gone a little off the wall at times. PB: You have played all the instruments (apart from the trumpet) yourself this time, and haven’t had any help vocally from any famous friends. Although your previous albums were very much your own work, having guest vocalists helped get your music noticed. Why no help this time? Was it a case of “I’ll show the buggers I can do it all myself!” or did you feel the songs were complete without any outside help? CW: Ha, ha! No it wasn’t that. I was sad I didn’t get Celia to do some vocals, because I did try, but she was busy. She will be on the next one though. I also had some other guests lined up, but it never worked out and I really wanted to release it. For me it’s like when twelve to fifteen songs are done, after getting rid of maybe ten or fifteen that don’t measure up, it’s getting to be a proper album. And then when I feel the album is done as a whole and has a nice vibe to it and sounds more complete, I kind of want to keep going and do more, start something new. So.part of it just being me was due to my own impatience, I think. I could have waited a few more months, but I was happy with it as it was and was eager to get it out. PB: You don’t hide the fact that you love the music of the 60’s and early 70’s. Your music reflects this better than any of your contemporaries. You are not just recreating classic sounds, but adding a new dimension to it. By doing this you are introducing a new generation to this music as they listen more freely to a younger musician than one of the old guys. This must be rewarding. CW: Thanks, that’s great to hear. As I don’t play live, I don’t really know the ages of people getting into my music, but for me it doesn’t matter. Music shouldn’t be a fashion thing and if a person likes my music, no matter what age, it’s really rewarding. People parting with their money to buy my music, I never imagined it would happen, especially if it was self-released and self-produced. But I hope the younger people, those listening on Spotify (which a lot of people do) may check out the classic bands, although they probably already have to be honest. If my name was included in the same breath as some of my musical idols, that would be an honour too. But you make an important point about not just aping sounds, but adding in your own style. You should never set out to think “I’m going to recreate the sound of, I don’t know, the Kinks circa 1967” but you should do what is naturally I think, and if it sounds like one of your influences it’s probably more likely to be subconscious. The good thing about the internet and CDs is that all music is the same age now really, if you are open minded. If I heard a song that interested me and it had been recorded today or fifty years ago, it’s not important I don’t think. And people saying something is retro seems daft too. It’s all down to taste and hearing a sound that interests you, no matter what the year it was made. Sorry, I went on a bit there… PB: Your albums are also released on Wisdom Twins. Is this a label that will be releasing music by other artists or just Chris Wade projects? CW: I do want to release other music yes, for definite. I’ve had some offers and ideas, but nothing’s come to a proper reality yet, as I’m so busy on book and music projects of my own. But I’d love to expand it one day. PB: I’d love to see your albums released on vinyl; it’s a medium they belong on. Without taking anything away from your music, holding the first Dodson & Fogg album cover in my hands in that format is something I hope we see in the not to distant future. Are there any plans to release the albums on vinyl? CW; Yes! I am glad to say a label is going to be releasing the first album on vinyl in a few months and then the next two as well. I won’t say who is releasing it, in case it doesn’t come through or it doesn’t work out, although it most likely is going ahead. But it’s been a dream of mine since I was a little boy to have my own music on a vinyl, even when I was playing an ice cream tub with rubber bands across it as strings. So, I can’t wait! I’ve been wanting to release it on record for a bit, as people have been asking, so it’s great to see it will be happening. PB: Indie in the proper sense of the word, you do everything ‘in-house’ as it were. What is the biggest hurdle in getting your music out there in this way? CW: I don’t know really. I think it depends on your motive and expectations. I am happy with selling enough to keep going, and live a nice life. But, if you’re after a big house and a sports car or whatever, indie releasing is not for you, so that could be seen as a hurdle. But if you like working hard and seeing to all your own business and everything basically, and seeing the positive results of it first hand, then it’s definitely the way to go. If something builds every month and you gain new fans and have ideas all the time whether they be books or music, it’s also the only way to go. I couldn’t be waiting a year or two for the label to be interested in releasing my music, then waiting for the royalties to come in six months later or whatever. Plus, people enjoying your music and taking it seriously as “proper music” is an amazing feeling. I’m going to stick at it this way, I think. PB: Do you have any plans to play live now all the albums have been so warmly received? CW: Yes, I would like to get out and do some solo acoustic gigs, playing the songs, but nothing has been arranged yet. I’m open for bookings though! PB: I am almost too scared to ask in case the answer is that you are going to slow down. but what’s next for Chris Wade? Three Dodson & Fogg albums in such a short period of time might have exhausted most artists and left them scraping the barrel, and you’ve also had your other projects. But there’s been no let up in the quality of the songs over those three albums, I’d go as far as to say that ‘Sounds of Day and Night’ has proved over just the short time we’ve listened to it to be your strongest set yet. Has work started on the next one?! CW: Yeah, I’ve started the next one, and I am really happy with what I have so far. I have thirteen new songs. There were twenty, but I’ve got it down to thirteen. I’ve done all my parts for them, I’m just waiting for Celia and some other guest players. Colin Jones will be on board too. Again, I’ve gone with instinct and recorded ideas as they have come to me and the mood is quite varied again. I would say it mixes styles from all three albums. There’ll be brass, sax, violin, flute, and some rockier ones as well as some more gentle sounds. I think it will be called ‘The Call’. I’m not sure when I’ll release it. I just need to be more patient for the players to send their stuff back to me. But the fact you say the new one is probably the best so far means a hell of a lot to me. It proves that I might be doing something right. PB: Thank you.

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