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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Nick Barrett of Pendragon from 2011


Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as Pendragon?

Yes, came from small town in Gloucestershire in the UK, met up with a like minded band called Marillion who just got signed to EMI, toured extensively with them, started to do our own shows at places like the Marquee Club in London, did Reading Festival and a session with the Friday Rock Show BBC, started to make records and playing all over the world especially Europe. Made 9 studio albums to date, four DVDs, about 15 live and compilation albums.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

Motocross or surfing... or a psychologist maybe

MSJ: How did the name Pendragon originate?

From our original drummer Nigel Harris. We lived near Wales and Cornwall where the name Pendragon was said to come from. It was the name of the father of King Arthur, Uther Pendragon.


Who would you see as your musical influences?

T.Rex, Slade, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Camel, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Metallica, Rush, The Who, Foo Fighters, Deftones, Queen, Steely Dan - geez there are thousands!


What's ahead for you?

Phew,...we've only just finished a 40 date tour of Europe, I haven't really thought that far ahead yet, we are making a new live DVD for release at the end of the year though.


I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

rock music


Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?

Yes, would be good to write some stuff with Tony Banks from Genesis, or have a jam with Jeff Beck, or have Robert Plant as a guest vocalist.

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

For us as a small band, we rely almost exclusively on our record sales to survive. We don't sell out big stadiums or sell millions of t-shirts, so it's all down to CD sales. These have roughly halved since downloading came in around 2000, but we are still active on the live circuit and as popular now as we ever were, if not more so. So, it's very hard to make a living nowadays from music. in fact I seriously wondered if we might have to throw in the towel after the last album.

For a lot of small bands, downloading is a godsend, they don't care if no one buys the albums. They are just happy that someone is interested enough to download it. They probably still have a day job so they think illegal downloading is great.

The really big bands [Madonna, U2 etc] have crow-barred massive increases onto the price of their concert tickets and t-shirts now, (you may have noticed!) which makes up for any shortfall in CD sales. The losers are the bands in the middle. Unfortunately this is where most pro musicians dwell and probably the most interesting creatively as well, so a double whammy.

Some people say it helps to promote the bands, but how can it when their sales are reduced by half? They say it will get the name of the band out to more people, but that is no good if those people are not coming to concerts and supporting the bands they love. Overall illegal downloading has made life very hard for us and many other bands we know. If you like it and are getting something from that music, hey pay something for it. It's only fair to the people who created it! Some people say, you should be able to check it out before you buy it. Well there are thousands of clips on the web you can check out bands before you buy without illegally downloading them, (youtube etc). Also it takes away part of the process of “living with an album.” Some of my favourite albums were ones that were hard to get into at first. Anything worth having in this life doesn't come easy. People should know that!


In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

I don't have a massive problem with that as long as they are not selling them, genuine fans being genuinely interested in hearing what various shows were like is something that isn't going to be a real threat to our livelihood. That is not to say other artists or bands might be seriously affected by it though!


If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Simon Cowell, a music business mogul with unbridled arrogance with which to dish out his very amateurish opinions. He once said to a performer on X Factor that her performance was flat, but when she had the “nerve” to ask him if he meant flat as in tuning or flat as in flat performance, he stated it was flat as in tuning. She was not flat at all, and Cowell got away with this utterly incorrect observation. He was factually wrong, but he gets away with things like this...all...the...time. People think, “well he's successful, he must know what he's talking about,” but he doesn't.

It takes a lot of guts to get up on stage and perform, a lot of courage and balls, mostly from pretty insecure people (musicians, artists, creative types) who are just trying to make their way in the business. Cowell cuts them down like a knife through butter. They are easy soft targets. That is cowardly. Simon Cowell makes inaccurate, brash, cynical comments on people's ability and talent, when he has not an ounce of discernable talent whatsoever.  He is man who “got lucky” - no more than that. If he didn't get a job at EMI publishing in the early days he would be asking people “do you want fries with that?”....believe!


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?

Tony Banks -Keyboards, I love Genesis. Banks is the ultimate melody writer.

John Entwistle - Bass, thundering full sounds on the bottom end, no one else like it.

Robert Plant or Ian Gillan on vocals - for power and ability.

Phil Collins on drums, the best feel drummer out there.

Al Di Meola - second guitar. His technique would counter play with my more Gilmourish style!


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?

Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Queen


What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Blackfield- Welcome To My DNA

Also listening to, Anathema -We're Here Because We're Here, Pat Metheny - First Circle, Gary Burton - Reunion, Metallica - Master Of Puppets,

Steve Hackett - Into The Tunnel’s Mouth, Radiohead - King Of Limbs, Katatonia -Night Is The New Day, Jay Z - Collection, Rush - Moving Pictures.


Have you read any good books lately?

Yes, -   Crime And Unusual Punishment - Nonie Darwish (a book on fundamental Islam), Why I Left Islam - can't remember the author,  Ghost Rider - Neal Peart, The Eiger Obsession - John Harlin (guy who climbed the North face of the Eiger), Gnostic Gospels – various, The Collins Camping And Hiking Manual - Rick Curtis.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

The duo America in St. David's Hall, Cardiff, Wales. I have wanted to see this band for years, as I was a big fan in the late 70's, but just like Steely Dan, I thought I would never get to see them live, but then...


Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

Yes, I went to see the Osmonds with my girlfriend a while ago, for the whole journey there I just totally ripped the pi** out of her about liking them, but I had to go with her - out of morbid curiosity, and... they were really good, even Marie! She had the sharpest sense of humour I have witnessed for ages, and Jay, the drummer was amazing, all in all a very, very sound show indeed.


What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Guitar strap coming off in France during the highlight of the most emotional guitar solo. I had to finish the solo with the guitar on one knee, crouched on the floor, while being told off by my guitar tech as he tried to fix it.


If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

Got to be Jesus! I guess everyone has got a ton of things they'd want to ask him. Jimi Hendrix and er…Simon Cowell.


What would be on the menu?

Well, it would have to be Burger and fries...served by Cowell!


Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Yes, be nice if people could get to listen to our new album Passion, but it will need a few plays to “get it.” Also, would be good if people could really get inside the heart of a record before racing to be the first to put their opinion on the internet. Good albums takes a good listen and that's a fact!


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at
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