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Dodson and Fogg - Interview

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 14 / 2 / 2021

Dodson and Fogg - Interview


Dodson and Fogg's Chris Wade speaks to Malcolm Carter about his recent EP 'Watch the Moon', its accompanying film, and also working with Nigel Planer.

It was in 2012 that Chris Wade released his first album under the Dodson & Fogg moniker. Since then we’ve been treated to around two dozen albums from this multi-talented multi-instrumentalist, and that’s not including the EPs or various musical offshoots. Add to that incredible output the art films that Wade has produced and his ever-increasing volume of books, and his stunning artwork and you’ll maybe understand why we hold him in such high regard. While 2020, for obvious reasons, has prevented a lot of new music being made and restricted artists in so many ways, Chris Wade has continued along his merry way producing music, films and authoring books. And still, after all these years and all his various projects he still has something new and interesting to keep our interest. He is truly one of a kind. It’s always a pleasure to put a few questions to Chris; the passion and enthusiasm which he displays in all of the arts shines through in his response. We wondered how the last year had affected his work (if at all) and how he originally teamed up with the recently sadly departed Celia Humphris from Trees, an artist we know Chris admired immensely. PB: We all knew 2021 was going to be another hard year but the news of losing Celia Humphris from Trees earlier this month made whatever glimmer of light we thought the year might bring much dimmer. You worked with her and championed her music. You probably felt her loss more than those who only knew her from her incredible voice on record. How did you originally get to work with her? CHRIS WADE: I am really genuinely sad about Celia dying. It was awful news to receive this week. I first got in touch with Celia in late 2009 to interview her for an online mag I used to do called 'Hound Dawg'. I had liked Trees since I was a boy, but me and my dad had really become big fans by then. I said to my dad I was going to track her down and do a Q and A for 'Hound Dawg'. I did get in touch with her, through Judy Dyble in fact (who sadly died last year), and did this interview which was great. I then learned she'd become a voice actor, did the train announcements and lived in France. A couple of years after that she wrote a foreword for my book of 'Hound Dawg' interviews. In 2012 I recorded the first acoustic demos for the first Dodson & Fogg album and, building up the courage, asked if she would like to sing on them. I expected a "No, bugger off!" but I was stunned when she liked them and said she would sing on them. From then she was a really enthusiastic collaborator. I think in all we did about twenty songs together between 2012 and 2016. I was looking through the emails this week, and there are loads of them. She was so supportive of the music and I am touched by her eagerness. What I also love is she would send me these astonishing vocals, really amazing recordings of her doing these fantastic things with her voice, and say "Cut out whatever you don't like." And I always, ALWAYS loved what she did. I keep saying it to people, she was my favourite vocalist. If I could name a singing voice I genuinely loved, it was hers. It was a dream come true to have her on my songs. And though I wasn't one of her closest friends or anything, I found her to be a really warm, kind person. We stayed in touch until the end. I knew she was ill but hoped she'd come through. My thoughts are with her family. We lost a really good person there. The music we did together will always be special to me and I will treasure it forever. I will think of the excitement of collaborating with her, emailing ideas back and forth, hearing her vocal takes for the first time. Lovely memories. Lovely woman. PB: Talking about artists you’ve collaborated with on your Dodson & Fogg project, all of your recent releases have been 100% Chris Wade with no guest musicians. Not that you need them but why is that? Any guests lined up for future recordings? CW: I think it's down to impatience. I get so wound up and into making the music that once my songs are done and I am happy with them I want to get them out there and get on to the next creative project. It's a flaw in me for sure and I wish I had more patience, but it's just the way I am. I get itchy sitting and waiting around for other people. I don't like that about myself. Celia actually, she got that. She had a busy life in France and say I would send her a song in May she might say, "I love it but I am working solidly for months and won't be able to get to it until August. I know what you're like, so won't be offended if you want to release it but Id be happy if you would wait too." So she understood that side of it. The only music collaborations I have done lately are with Nigel Planer. But I would love to do more collaborations. We'll see if it pans out. PB: How has lockdown affected your work? We know the majority of your work is done from home anyway so maybe it’s had little affect on your projects. Or maybe due to schools being closed small feet running around have delayed work some days? Or even inspired more ideas? CW: Well it's weird actually. I've had to get up earlier to get more work done in the morning, mostly writing stuff or documentary/film editing, all long before my daughter gets up. As she's an only child I have kind of become her playmate too. I don't want her to feel lonely so much of the day is spent playing. When her mum does her schooling with her I get back to my work, so we have found a good way round it. But COVID did inspire a lot of music last year. I did it in bursts and it was definitely cathartic to do, without wanting to sound pretentious. (Pretentious? Moi?) I think I did four EPs and one album. It definitely got the ideas flowing. Work wise I had a good year, but it was seeing the news and all the deaths that dominated 2020. I can't get some faces out of my head who lost their battles to COVID. It was all a nightmare, wasn't it? PB: We’re just a year short of it being a decade since the release of the first Dodson & Fogg album; did the Chris Wade of 2012 ever think he would still be releasing albums (and books, and films) ten years down the line? CW: Funnily, before I started Dodson & Fogg, I felt kind of lost in some ways, especially with what I was going to do with myself. I wanted to be a writer but saw no way of that becoming a full-time job, but only because at first I just wasn't putting the hours in. Then came Dodson & Fogg and with my dad and Celia's enthusiasm and faith in the music I realised it was worthwhile. I got more and more into it and inspired and it just got better and better. Then I upped my writing and got into other areas, like films and documentaries, which have been really interesting and fun to do. But no, I definitely did not imagine this would be my job still in 2021 and I would be getting by. I feel lucky to be able to spend my time at work on things I would do as hobbies anyway. PB: Your latest release ‘Watch the Moon’ was issued with a DVD to accompany the music therefore introducing those who only knew you from your music to Chris Wade the film maker. What was it about those particular songs that inspired you to create visuals to compliment them? CW: It was to do with COVID. I knew the songs had that feel about them, that they were kind of longing for the old way the world was, and I came up with the idea of creating a little film to go with them. The intro is kind of like my morning routine, getting up and putting the news on for five minutes and hearing all the COVID headlines while I have my coffee before work starts. Then I put in all the car footage of places and locations, tying it all together with some surreal comedic scenes to make it a kind of hazy dream. It was a really fun project to do and again, it kind of made me feel better for a while about the COVID nightmare. PB: Your father, by the way, who appears not only in ‘Watch the Moon’ but also in some of your other film projects, deserves a film of his own. The scene with you and your father in ‘Watch the Moon’ is brilliant. Does he always go along with your ideas? CW: Ha ha! My dad is great, I love him to bits. He loves doing all the film stuff because we talk for an hour every morning and do those kind of comedy things with each other any way, so it's great to get some of it down on video. It's weird. We find it really funny to pretend we have an awkward, jarring relationship, because it's such a healthy one in real life. Yeah, he goes along with everything I ask him to do. You never know though. One day he might tell me to piss off or demand a pay check. PB: Was it easier to produce visuals to go with your music than to come up with ideas for a film separately? Did you have any kind of visuals in mind when making the music for ‘Watch the Moon’ or were they inspired by the completed music? CW: Well, some of those visuals were filmed pre-lockdown, others on trips to get essentials in the car. The comedy thing with my dad was from February 2020 just before COVID and the bit with my daughter we did in August. I tied it all together to make it a surrealistic, hazy dream, but one which has one foot in the real world. Doing loose surreal films like this is liberating because you're not tied down to anything. Maybe one day I will try something with more discipline and structure, but we'll see... PB: It was a successful idea issuing the DVD with ‘Watch the Moon’. Any plans to do the same with any future music projects? CW: Definitely, I would love to do that again. I had some lovely feedback on it, and even people who downloaded it from my Bandcamp page have also gone to watch it on the vimeo link. Yeah, it's definitely something I will do again. It was really satisfying on a creative level. I was totally immersed in it, which is what we need during this pandemic. PB: You’ve worked with Nigel Planer before but recently Nigel released an EP, ‘Five Songs Left’, which you played a part in. The songs were written by Nigel back in 1971. Obviously your part (guitar and vocals) was recently recorded but were Nigel’s vocals and guitar also recently recorded or do they originate from the early ‘70s. The recordings actually sound like they are from the early part of that decade. CW: Weirdly, he did them this year too. They were recorded like laid back demos. He did his guitar and vocal bits, sent them to me and I mixed them and added bits and piece in too. It was really fun because we were going for a laid back, under produced sound. We just wanted them to sound natural. For me it's been an honour helping him out, especially given he has wanted to record these songs since he was a teenager. It's another weird turn of events I could never have imagined happening a few years back. PB: It sounds like a natural collaboration. Especially on tracks like ‘Wasted’ which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any of the Dodson & Fogg albums. There’s a lot of Chris Wade in these songs. Did Nigel give you a free hand to add whatever you felt was required on each song? CW: Well, he did say that he'd tried to get them down before and no one had quite got them until now. So it was very natural. If he asked me to start with a guitar line, I did it and he nearly always went with my first idea. Then he'd do vocals, I'd add mine, and they just came together that way. He was very laid back with me about them, but I think that was down to us being on the same page. They are lovely songs and he's a great lyricist. PB: Do you know if Nigel has any more songs he wrote from around this period and any plans to record more songs with him, new or old? You once told us that your dream collaborations were Neil Young or Paul McCartney but hearing you and Nigel together just seems so natural and right (as much as I’d like to hear you and Neil Young collaborating!). PB: Yes, we are working on a few more for a follow up EP. It's all been really fun. Did I say I wanted to collaborate with Macca? How weird. I must have been going through a McCartney phase. And with Neil Young I think he's so in control of what he does that a collaboration would be impossible. The only person I'd love to collaborate with again, apart from Nigel of course, is Celia. I'd love to get another email from her with some new vocals, and I am so sad she is no longer around. There are other people I would love to meet or speak to, or maybe do something with, but they are more dreams... PB: We always tend to ask about your musical and film projects (mainly because we’re jealous you have so many talents!) and only lightly touch on your book projects yet you have issued more fiction and non-fiction books than you have albums. So, this year I’m going to try to wade ( no pun intended) through your books, especially, given recent events, the one about the Trees' albums. How do you pick the subjects for your non-fiction works? Are they mainly artists you admire? CW: They are always things I am into at that time. I get obsessive interest in certain things, filmmakers, actors, musicians, artists, and seeing as I am reading about and watching or listening to them at that time I figure I will go one further, do more research and put a little book together. I have never written a book about anything I wasn't interested in, I'd find that impossible, and I would never do a commissioned writing job or anything like that. I just enjoy it and it's nice to do when I'm not recording music, to get energies and enthusiasms out. They are not academic studies but ones written with love. Some Amazon reviews actually say that what they like is the enthusiasm and love for the subject. I also love getting to interview people for them too. That's often been a real thrill, speaking to actors or musicians I really admire. One of my favourite interviews was with a lady called Lydia Corbett, who was a muse of Picasso's in 1954 when he was between wives. Speaking to her about being painted by PICASSO was amazing. That was for a book I did on his later years. So they are a good way for me to excuse and indulge my obsessions. I really enjoy doing them as well. If I am working on a book I tend to do between six to nine hours work on it a day. The latest book is an update of your ;Sophia Loren Movie Guide'. What’s the next planned book project? CW: Well, I have no musical ideas at the minute so I am working on a few world film books; film guides on the Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos, Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira and French director Bertrand Blier, who I was lucky to do a Q and A with last month. I am also working on issue 4 of my classic film publication, which is called 'Scenes', as well as a revised version of a book I did on Sergio Leone's classic film, 'Once Upon a Time in America'. I interviewed James Woods on the phone for it (he plays Max in the film) and that was really exciting; and I might also be interviewing another star of the film, fingers crossed. So I have a few lined up. PB: It’s halfway through the first month of the year, Chris, so any news on your next album yet? CW: No, not yet. Weirdly I haven't felt like recording since about October and with Celia dying I feel a bit unenthusiastic about going in and doing any more just yet. But knowing me I will be back recording next month with a bit of luck. I know I am looking forward to getting some new ideas together. PB: Thank you.

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Dodson and Fogg - Interview

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