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(Musical) Biography

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. . .
Well, maybe I'd better draw a veil over most of those interesting diversions, but the important thing was that a new set of friends introduced me to a veritable motherlode of great Rock music. In one rollercoaster year I discovered Yes, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Hawkwind, Triumph, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Mike Oldfield, Sky and many others (although I didn't get into the other Prog-rock greats Genesis, Jethro Tull or ELP until some years later). I also started going to concerts for the first time. This was about the time when the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) hit, and I lapped up all of that too: Iron Maiden, Saxon, Samson, Quartz and the rest. If it had distorted guitars, it was for me! I went the whole hog, bought a denim jacket and loads of glitter patches, and became a complete "nugget" (I've still got what's left of the jacket - and it still fits!).

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 Tariq Quattri.
We managed just one gig, at the Alum Rock pub in Birmingham, before financial pressures (i.e. we were skint!) forced an end to things. Kev later formed a tribute band called "Pete Durple" (great name!).

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.
Unfortunately, though, it all turned sour. Dusk managed to hide in a studio for most of its short life: a victim of illness, perfectionism and emotional turmoil. Not really fitting in, I eventually got the boot without even playing a gig - joining a long list of casualties. Anyone lucky enough to have experienced other incarnations of Dusk playing live will understand why this was such a crushing blow to me.
The group fizzled out soon after. (See www.dusk-music.co.uk for more info on this band).

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 Pete Jones.
I liked the feel-good atmosphere of the group, and joined without hesitation - contributing two songs of my own. I think it was Alan who chose the name "The Earthmovers". A daft name, but fun - just like the group.
Soon we found ourselves in need of a new drummer and rhythm guitarist. I suggested my old Dusk colleagues Doug and Happy, who agreed to join. Lo, it came to pass that a seriously tight rhythm section was created! This line-up cut a 4-song demo tape "Enough", which included the original twin-guitar version of my own "The Gulf Between Us" (still my favourite creation).

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.
The Earthmovers were fairly successful - considering the stifling apathy that then gripped the Birmingham scene. Paul injected some theatre into the proceedings, and we discovered a great way to bring my bouzouki into the set. Try to imagine a deep, throaty (funny how those two words happened to end up next to each other. . .), repetitive Tony Iommi-style guitar riff with a quirky bouzouki ditty over the top, then puncuate it with some of Paul's most potently powerful lyrics, and you might get an inkling of the jaw-dropping impact that "The Ghost & Serpent Syzygy" made when first performed. Weird or what?!
We soon had a semi-residency at The Fallow & Firkin in Harborne. It became a frequent feature of the show to invite Kevin Reihill out of the audience to play guest guitar on "The Gulf. . ." and other songs.

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.
I still insist that the group is not dead, merely sleeping. I keep in touch with some of the other members, and we've played some reunion gigs, with RF's own Rob Brunt guesting on guitar.
And it was written: "In times of great need, The Earthmovers will rise once more to bring light and enlightenment to the people!"

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 original musical style was definitely not my "cup of tea", being a collection of Country and Blues covers. I used to get confused by the sheer number of songs that had almost identical chords and rhythms - especially as the bass part was limited to the traditional "dum-de-dum" plodding along on roots and 5ths. To make it worse, I was determined to learn something new, so played evrything on my fretless Fender, which had been gathering dust until then. Despite all this, I found that I could last the distance, when other - technically superior - bassists had proved unreliable. (That's me: boring, but reliable).

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.
We then got together with some good friends to form a "21st Century" incarnation of the band that will take the music forward. Soon, however, we changed the name to "1912" to reflect the new style and agenda. This is an exciting project, with lots of great music being created. Check out www.nineteentwelve.com for latest news (gig soon - honest!) on this band.

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".
Lee has produced a compilation album called "Allies & Clansmen" (April 2011) which features contributions from Omenopus, 1912 and a host of other artists. This is available from the Omenopus site for FREE! www.omenopus.com.

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!

 

     
 

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Photos and design assist by Julie Hatton.
www.designjh.co.uk