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Peter Banks Empire

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Sydney Foxx of Peter Banks' Empire from 2018

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music?

I have been signed to over 15 record labels in my career and worked with some amazing producers. and been in musical groups in two TV Series.

From learning to play guitar as a teen with Bernie Leadon (Eagles) to my tenure with Tina Turner as an Ikette at age 18, to recording with Peter Townshend, Peter Banks, Phil Collins years later and then being one of the few white female artists to release a record on the famous reggae label Trojan Records, I have had a wonderful and long career.

My dream was to be a recording artist... Thankfully that dream became easier as time passed, and we moved into the digital age. I still am passionate about recording, and it gets better and better.

MSJ:

There is a new Empire box set out. What can you tell us about that?

The new release of Empire The Complete Collection is a tribute to Peter Banks, my co partner in Empire, our band from 1974-1980. He was the original guitarist in Yes and one of the pioneers of progressive rock. He was my mentor, my friend and my husband for ten years.

Daniel Earnshaw from QEDG Management put the release together, and it is masterfully mastered by Mike Pietrini, who brought our entire collection  of tracks to life. Peter would have loved everything about this release. He would have also loved the artwork/graphic design by Carl Glover. I have shared Peter's and my story in the liner notes. I wish he was still here to enjoy this definitive and best yet release of our music.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?

I was a big fan of the Zombies, The Who, The Hollies and The Moody Blues. and when I was young I dreamed of moving to the UK.  When I met Peter Banks that dream came true. Through him I discovered King Crimson, Roxy Music, Genesis, John Williams and Yes, who all are amazing.

I ended up working with Chris White from the Zombies  and worked with Peter and Peter Townshend on my song called "All God's Mornings," which is on Townshend's album With Love. There is nothing more mind blowing than working with someone whose music you have grown up on and loved!

MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?

A song I wrote called "Changing Colors" that was covered by Jim Ford back in the late 60s was shortlisted for a JBL Pulse III commercial recently, and one of the men involved said it was "one of the most beautiful songs he had ever heard." I wrote it at age 15!

MSJ:

What's ahead for you?

I am currently working with a very talented artist/producer/engineer named "Cade Roberts" in Oklahoma for TV and movie sync deals. We are also producing a track together for a wonderful Americana/Alt Country artist named "Edan Archer," and I hope to do more tracks with her and keep working with Cade. I also hope to continue working with Jez Larder from Skyline Studios in the UK, who I have worked with on and off for over 15 years.

MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
I started in folk, and then moved to R&B (for my first single release) then to folk rock during my A&M Records days and  then into rock which got heavier when I teamed up with Peter Banks. I loved recording dance/pop in the 90s in the UK with Jez Larder and am now moving between those styles. I might have been better off if I had chosen one genre and "pigeonholed" myself, but that style would probably have been dance/R&B which was not around when I was younger. I have always lacked a sense of direction, so I went wherever the wind blew me. I guess I still do. I envy country artists. They have their genre so defined. They can just choose the songs..
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?

I am pretty happy working with Cade Roberts as his talent is off the charts, and his guitar playing is insane..and with Jez Larder, who I just click with musically. I am planning a track with my old studio mate Ric Parnell from Atomic Rooster/Spinal Tap and am working with Mark Murdock (Cymbalic Encounters and Brand X) on some retro tracks he has written.

Working with others is a must for me, as I am lazy and need prodding and/or deadlines to get things done! I have to work with structured people like producers or nothing gets finished!

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Illegal downloading takes money from the pockets of musicians and artists, so it is always wrong.  I think new artists would be wise to be very careful what they put out there. Make sure  it is something that won't limit your chances with a label or come back to haunt you (like we older artists have to suffer when we find our stuff popping up on You Tube). I am just thankful that I kept changing my name, or I would have to disappear!
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
I do not like it at all, because you lose control of what is out there. One must have a pretty good  sense of self confidence to be okay with the random recording of one's performance. I am afraid I would be one of those who says "no cameras allowed!" (If that is even possible nowadays), One of the reasons I am so happy that I retired from performing!
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
A very famous music manager who flew me from the UK to L.A. and put me up in a road manager's flat after I signed management with him. He was also managing one of the biggest male rock artists in history. He had me thrown into the streets when I would not engage in some "#me too" madness with him. He is dead now.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Ric Parnell (Spinal Tap) on drums because his timing and playing is perfect. Ray Bennett (Flash) on bass because he is the most aggressive bass player I have ever heard. Cade Roberts on guitar because he can play anything from the softest acoustic to the most banging metal and has youthful energy and stage presence, and Jez Larder on keyboards because he is like having a full string section!
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Metallica, X Japan, The Foo Fighters, Ozzy, The Who, The Stones and Yes!
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I am obsessed with The Weekend. I play his two albums over and over hoping something  will rub off on me, and I will suddenly start producing tracks and writing songs like his...
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Other than zoning online and reading posts by FB friends,  I do not read.. I would rather watch TV, listen to music, hang with my son or play with my dog!
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Metallica at Blizzcon in 2014 - incredible! So was Blizzcon! 10,000 young gamers and me...was pretty fun!
MSJ: Do you remember your first concert you attended?
The Beatles at San Diego Balboa Stadium 28th of August 1965
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
My husband who is a superb reggae drummer got a  new drum kit for Christmas. A Yamaha DTX 502, it is a great piece of gear! And I got a AKG 214 Mic! Life is a Sunsplash at our house.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Robbie Williams!
MSJ:

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

In 1980 David Kaff, the keyboard player in Spinal Tap (aka Viv Savage) and myself performed a song at the San Diego State Mental Health Hospital. He played, and I sang and the patients seemed to enjoy it!  We were there visiting a close relative. I have had a few Spinal Tap moments with Ric Parnell (Mick Shrimpton) as well, but those shall remain secret!
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Roy Masters (from the Foundation of Human Understanding), Jesus Christ and my son! They are the wisest men I know, and I have a few questions!
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Lobster!
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Never give up! It gets easier!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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