Chris Squire and Geddy Lee were (and still are) my inspirations for picking up the bass. Usually I play a Rickenbacker 4001, but I also use a fretless Fender Jazz, acoustic bass, a selection of electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki and mandolin. I've just started learning the piano too, but that'll be a long slog!
My musical history is hardly star-studded and earth-shaking. But it makes good therapy for my shattered ego to recount what little of interest there is. If you were part of the Birmingham music scene of the early 90s, some of this may even be interesting!
With a reclusive, protected childhood, I had almost nothing to do with
music of any type, until I somehow got hooked on ELO in a major way whilst
still at school. This was when they were at their peak - c. "Out
Of The Blue". At the time, I didn't realise that what I liked best
about their music were the distant echoes of the great Prog-Rock bands
of the seventies. So I jogged along blissful in my ignorance, until I
started at 6th Form College, and dicovered all sorts of interesting diversions.
Like many people, I started playing at college - just jamming with mates in the music room. As a complete non-musician amongst friends who were already accomplished players, I resorted to just plucking the 4 low strings of an acoustic guitar and joked that I was "the bass player". This made me wonder what a bass guitar actually sounded like, so I started listening for the bassists's parts on records, and trying to emulate what they were doing. Luckily, my parents picked up on this, and I was given my first bass - a short-scale Epiphone - for my 18th birthday, and my second - the mighty Rickenbacker - for my 21st. By then I was heavily into Yes and Rush, and reckoned that the Rick was the best sounding - and coolest looking - bass in the world. That's an opnion I still hold to this day.
My brother was the naturally-talented musician in the family, so I never
saw it as a career for myself. I studied electronic engineering, and settled
into a strangely niche day-job, designing electronic street-lamp controllers.
On the music front, I somehow managed to avoid joining a group until 1987,
when I was invited to join a young Deep Purple-influenced group of ever-changing
name and line-up. This eventually stabilised as the Metal trio "Cold
Flame" (OK I now know there is at least one other group using that
name, but at the time we were ignornat - no Internet to check these things
out!). As well as the obligatory Deep Purple covers, we had a nice little
set of original material. Guitarist/singer Kev Reihill was the main creative
force, but I started to cut my own song-writing teeth too. We had an amazing
drummer who was actually a guitarist first and foremost - the multi-talented
At this time, we were sharing a lock-up rehearsal room at "Robanna's"
in Birmingham with some friends, who played together under the name "Dusk".
Real musos all, and seemingly destined for greatness, they were my role
models and heroes. As I was already filling in with them after their last
bassist left, they accepted me as a full member. Joining their select
ranks felt like a real achievement.
Disillusioned, I dropped out of music for a couple of years. Then: "Episode
IV - A New Hope"! A friend and fellow ex-Dusk-er recommended me to
a group formed by some young Lucas engineers, who shared digs in Sparkhill,
Birmingham. Initially influenced by The Cult, they had a high-octane set
- penned mostly by the awesome team of singer Alan Liddle and guitarist
Due to daytime career changes, we lost our original singer
soon after our debut gig, but the group's style matured and diversified
under the guidance of new singer and beat poet Paul Davies - bringing
some genuinely new and unique sounds to the tired old pub-rock circuit.
We recorded some more demo tapes both live at the Fallow and in Paul's makeshift home studio. While the recording technique wasn't as polished as on the "Enough" demo, the material shone through. With some digital cleaning-up, these demos were transferred to CD and re-released in May 2003 under their original titles of "Jammin' For Quakes" and "Firkin Live & Fallow".
Note: In the course of creating the packaging for these releases, I rediscovered the joys of graphic design and artwork - now using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign in place of my old CorelDRAW software (thanks to Joolz for patiently showing me how to use them). This has led me to the conclusion that I ought to be doing this sort of a thing full-time, instead of fiddling with computers. Therefore, if you are in the local area and have a CD or web project that requires artwork or sleeve design, I may be able to help. Contact me!
The group lasted several years (and more line-up changes) before reaching
a natural conclusion in 1997.
Update: we had an Earthmovers reunion in October 2007. Check out www.theearthmovers.co.uk for more info!
At about the time we were winding up The Earthmovers, our drummer Simon
(who had left some months before to try his hand as a session muso) asked
me to help out temporarily on bass in a new Country Rock group he'd joined,
formed by guitarist Rob Brunt.
The stay became a permanent one, as the group metamorphosised into Randolph Flagg, and left the musty but safe old Country genre for greener and more interesting pastures. The new sound was much closer to the style I like to play: up-front, in-yer-face bass, more emotion and plenty of scope for interesting breaks and fills. I even started to bring in the ol' Rick on some of the tunes. Rob is a fan of the strange sound of my bouzouki (tuned like a mando, rather than the traditional way), and was keen to use it on more new tunes. See www.randolphflagg.co.uk for more info.
After Randolph Flagg went on ice, I teamed up again with Dave "Doug"
Sutheran to reform his 80's group "Dusk". Our first project was to consolidate our surviving recordings of this band, and produce some CDs of the best tracks.
Since 2009, I've also been a part of Lee Potts's evolving "Omenopus"
project, featuring Bridget Wishart on vocals. For a change, I'm mostly
playing lead guitar this time, but with a bit of bass, mando and bouzouki
(and now piano!) thrown in. In 2010, we released a (free) four-track EP "Portents" and our debut album "Time Flies".
Until recently I worked as a Computer Systems Engineer by day, which probably explains my premature ageing and permanently worried expression. I live in the shadow of the Lickey Hills, near Birmingham, England, with artist and designer Julie Hatton (go to www.theimagegallery.co.uk for examples of her craft), our cats and several useless, ancient computers (they'll be collectible one day, mark my words. . .).
My ambition is two-fold: to make a mark on the UK Rock scene; and find a decent set of 1970s Bass Pedals. It may not be too late for either!
Site and logo design by John Pierpoint.