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Progressive Rock Interviews

Dave Bainbridge

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Dave Bainbridge from 2015
MSJ:

It’s been several years since we last chatted. Can you catch the readers up on what’s new in the world of Dave Bainbridge?

Yes, 2009 I believe was the last time we spoke - wow time flies! 2010 to 2012 was a pretty busy time with Iona. We released the double album Another Realm and did a lot of touring, especially in 2012. We also recorded a double live album called “Edge of the World” which was released in 2013, but since the beginning of 2014 Joanne, Iona’s singer has wanted to devote more time to other things in her life so the future of the band is fairly uncertain at the moment, after the tour we have coming up in Germany in May. 

However, this has given me more time to work on my solo projects and at the end of November 2014 my second solo album Celestial Fire’ was released. I’m thrilled with how the album has turned out. It draws more on my progressive rock roots than my previous solo album Veil of Gossamer, but rather than be a retro sounding album, I wanted it to capture that excitement and spirit of adventure that I first felt when as a teenager I was listening to some of the classic progressive / rock bands of the ’70s, like Yes, Gentle Giant, ELP, Deep Purple and The Mahavishnu Orchestra, etcetera, etcetera. Drawing on my musical roots, my aim was to create something that sounded familiar in a sense, but also fresh and new.

Another difference compared to Veil of Gossamer  is that I wanted to feature more of my keyboard playing. Piano has always been my first instrument, but with Iona I became know more for my guitar playing, as the keyboards took on a more supporting, atmospheric role. Pre-Iona, for most bands and artists I played with (including The Gary Boyle Band, Jack Bruce, Phil Keaggy and even Gloria Gaynor!) I was the keyboardist. I loved the playing of people like Keith Emerson, Jon Lord, David Sancious and Jan Hammer and wanted to unleash some of those influences on the Celestial Fire  album! The album (which features a number of great guest performances including Damian Wilson on vocals and Randy George on bass) is getting some amazing reviews which I’m absolutely thrilled about. 

MSJ:

What's ahead for you?

The rest of the year is going to be pretty busy. Currently I’m mixing the debut album by guitarist Dave Brons, which is sort of orchestral guitar instrumental material - some very nice tunes and he’s a fantastic guitarist who got to the last 16 of the 2014 Guitar Idol competition. I’ve just been commissioned to write music for a humanitarian aid charity in Israel, which I’ll be doing next week. 

There are quite a few gigs coming up in addition to the Iona German tour in May. GB3(www.gb3guitar.com) is a new project I’m involved with, with guitarists Paul Bielatowicz (Carl Palmer Band) and Dave Brons. We’ll be doing some gigs along with the amazing Simon Fitzpatrick (also Carl Palmer Band) on bass and equally amazing Collin Leijenaar (Jordan Rudess, Neal Morse) on drums, doing solo sets, then coming together to jam a bit at the end. Paul is now based in the USA and I really hope we can bring this line up to the US.

Over the past year and a half I’ve been doing a number of solo gigs, which I’ve really been enjoying, playing a mixture of my solo music, Iona tracks, some traditional folk pieces and some spontaneous improvisation. I have some more UK solo gigs coming up and this time vocalist Sally Minnear (daughter of Gentle Giant’s Kerry Minnear) will be guesting. Sally sang on Celestial Fire, and she has a lovely, pure, English sounding voice. 

I’m playing keyboards for four performances of veteran singer songwriter Adrian Snell’s epic work “The Passion in The Netherlands in April where I have to emulate the parts that The London Philharmonic Orchestra played on the album version!

We also have the first confirmed Celestial Fire band gig which is at the Summer’s End Festival in the UK on 2nd October.  The line up includes Collin Leijenaar, Dave Brons and Sally Minnear plus a bass player (tbc) and we’ll be playing a mix of tracks from my two solo albums as well as some Iona material, including Iona pieces that have never or only rarely ever been played live! It’s quite tricky to establish a new project like this but I’m hoping that there will be more band gigs confirmed soon as it’s a great line up and it will be amazing to play the material from the new album live. 

I’m going to release a solo piano album later in the year (all the material is already recorded, and I have photos done for the cover - taken by my very talented daughter Evie), so there is a lot happening! You can keep up with what I’m doing by visiting www.davebainbridge.com or my Facebook pages www.facebook.com/DaveBainbridgeMusic  www.facebook.com/dave.bainbridge1 or signing up to the Iona / Open Sky Records mailing list at www.iona.uk.com/contact#newsletter-signup

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I listen to a pretty wide variety of music. My 17 year old son Luca and 14 year old daughter Evie like listening to the current chart music when we’re in the car, so I’m pretty familiar with what’s going on. So, on the pop side I really like, for example, Sam Smith, Pentatonix and some things by The Bombay Bicycle Club. Luca also likes a lot of prog rock bands, and we both liked Flying Colors’ debut album - well constructed songs and great playing. I took Luca to see The Neal Morse Band and The Flower Kings almost two years ago now, and he enjoyed that. I’ve just ordered Flying Colors new album and Neal’s The Grand Experiment, so we’re both looking forward to hearing them when they arrive. Evie also listens to a lot of the current crop of young singer songwriters and You Tube artists, some of which are really good, so I get to hear them as well. 

I also listen to a lot of classical music and heard a great piece by Debussy on the radio the other day that I was unfamiliar with, called “Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien (Fragments Symphoniques),” which I really liked.

I love listening to talented young musicians and was absolutely blown away recently by an eleven year old jazz pianist called “Joey Alexander.” He’s just out of this world for someone so young - totally inspirational.

MSJ:

Have you read any good books lately?

I recently read Sting’s autobiography Broken Music, which I thought was very well written and a great insight especially into his early life. I’m from the same part of the world - about 30 miles south of where Sting was born and know a lot of the places mentioned in the book from his early days. He was in the Newcastle Big Band for a while and I was in the Darlington Big Band a number of years later, so it was interesting to see one or two parallels in our early lives, though of course I didn’t become world famous and fabulously wealthy. (laughter) 

I’m currently reading a book called “Composers on Music (Eight Centuries of Writings)” edited by Josiah Fisk. It contains extracts from letters and articles written by many great composers which really give some great insights into their thought processes and creative approach. I think it’s always interesting to read about what inspires people to create great art or what circumstances led to them doing what they did (or do). It’s interesting reading that Mozart was very concerned about the copyrighting of his works, and in one letter he talks about getting a work printed himself rather than letting a publisher do it, who might rip him off by printing more copies for which Mozart would not receive a royalty. It made me think of the current situation with the internet, where it is so easy to listen to anything or download stuff for free, without the artist or composer getting a penny for all his/her efforts. Mozart, as we know, died in poverty and I wonder whether the same fate will befall many of today’s composers and artists.

MSJ:

What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

I was supposed to be going to see Carl Palmer’s Legacy along with The Strawbs and Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash only a couple of days ago, but unfortunately the gig was cancelled, due to poor ticket sales I think. My friend Paul Bielatowicz plays guitar with Carl. We may try to get to another gig on the tour next week, though it’s a bit further away from where we live. Prior to that I’ve been to see my daughter Evie in a few things. She sings in a small choir - they do accapella versions of pop songs and are pretty good. Where we live is in the countryside and it’s a bit of a cultural desert - most touring bands / artists don’t play near here!
MSJ:

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

(laughter) Not really, though to earn some money I used to be in a club act with my sister which played a lot of Abba songs (which I quite liked)!

Actually I think there isn’t enough humour in music, and quite often I have subversive ideas which certainly make me laugh. A few years ago there were loads of themed compilation albums coming and out my friend (sound engineer) Nigel Palmer and I were desperate to release an album of well known rock anthems (like “Bohemian Rhapsody”), played by a bassoon quartet. We were going to call it “Bassoons of Rock.” I also had an idea to do a jazz big band version of Gentle Giant songs (actually I think Paul Anchor beat me to that idea by doing big band versions of songs like Van Halen’s “Jump”). In the UK there was a series of albums by a Christian record label called “Praise Him on the…” then the name of the instrument. They had “Praise Him on the Piano,”Praise Him on the Saxophone” etcetera - basically instrumental versions of well known hymns and worship songs. To me it looked like a bit of a cheap money making venture and I had fun thinking up the most unlikely instrument possibilities, eg “Praise Him on the Triangle” or “Praise Him on the Sackbut” for example! 

Working often writing music for short films, it amuses me sometimes to think up alternative, humourous soundtracks to the one I’m supposed to come up with. It makes me laugh that a well known cookery programme in the UK actually has music that sounds like a Hans Zimmer score from something like “Gladiator” or “Batman” - I mean that’s just ridiculous! I’d love to try writing an alternative score for that!

I like playing boogie woogie piano - not sure if that’s a guilty pleasure or not.

MSJ:

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

(laughter)  I’ve had many of of those! Here are a few that spring to mind. 

A couple of years ago I was playing with Iona in this amazing new concert hall in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The security at the venue was very tight and you could only proceed through various doors backstage using a special security key card like you get in many hotels. Of course, no one had told me this, and I got trapped in a corridor for about 15 minutes until someone happened to come through. Fortunately it wasn’t just before show time!

Another one would be a gig I did with my sister, soon after I left Music College. She was a singer and had just released her debut album, which featured lots of top US session players. It was a rock album, and we were doing some gigs to promote it. Our agent at the time booked us for a week of gigs, and we arrived with all our gear at one only to find that the venue was a small back room of an old church and the audience was the ladies over 70s knitting club! All these dear old ladies were sitting around a big table making a patchwork quilt, and we were their entertainment whilst they worked! There was absolutely no point in doing our rock set, and no room to set up any gear, anyway. Fortunately there was an old upright piano in the room, so we ended up doing requests and singing some pop and jazz standards. It was actually quite fun. 

One pretty surreal experience happened very early on in Iona’s career. A Dutch TV channel were filming a documentary about the band on location on the Isle of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. It was winter and we were staying on the adjacent isle of Mull. The band - at the time me, Joanne Hogg (vocals), David Fitzgerald (flutes / saxes) and Frank van Essen (drums, violin) arrive a day or two before the crew as we were also going to rehearse a bit.

We were having our meals in this big guest house run by two very nice, but extremely camp men (who were both just like Kenneth Williams from the “Carry On” series of British films). There were no other guests as it was out of season, and when they found out we were musicians they arranged an impromptu gig. They invited all their friends around, who all arrived in full fancy dress (gorilla costumes, etcetera!) ready to party and insisted on dressing us up in fancy dress as well! So I did this gig, in a wedding dress, playing another old upright piano, with Jo singing, Dave playing sax and Frank on a snare drum. We just did anything we could think of as the crowd were so enthusiastic about having live musicians in this remote place in the middle of winter. I remember we did “Mars - The Bringer of War” from Holst’s Planets Suite, on piano and tenor sax, whilst people in gorilla costumes were gleefully throwing themselves around the dance floor! We played a boogie woogie version of the death march, themes from tv programmes, interspersed with the occasional song from Jo. It was hilarious!

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?

Definitely Jesus - just being in His presence in person would be incredible, and maybe St Aidan (the humble, yet dedicated and fearless Irish monk who brought Christianity to the people of Northumbria in the 7th century) and my dad. My dad was a musician and an incredible encouragement to me in following my dream to become a musician and composer. My parents were divorced when I was three, so I only saw my dad at weekends and then he died of a brain tumour just after I finished Music College. We’d have a lot of catching up to do!

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Well, for me it would be all vegetarian! Can’t speak for the others! Some nice Italian food or an Indian curry or Mexican - any of those would be great!
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Yes. Firstly thanks for reading this far! And do check out my web pages and have a listen to some of the music. Here is link to one of the tracks from Celestial Fire called “For Such a Time as This” www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_RJ6SJT-ic

And here is a link to snippets from the other tracks: www.iona.uk.com/albums/detail/id/33/celestial-fire

 

All of my albums can be bought from the store on the Iona website (www.iona.uk.com) and Celestial Fire is also available directly in the USA from either www.radiantrecords.com or www.kinesiscd.com/

Please do keep supporting artists by buying their albums if you like what you hear so that they will have the income to keep producing more of the music you love.

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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