Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home

Alan Reed

Interviewed by Alison Reijman
Interview with Alan Reed from 2012

How is the album release coming along?

It has been quite strange really.  I have been busy promoting the new album without the aid of a team of professional PR people. It is all down to me this time. It was released on October 8 and I really felt the pressure building up beforehand. It has been released on Rob Reed’s White Knight label – and he has been incredibly busy too working on the new Magenta and Kompendium albums as well as mine. But it has all helped me stay focused on the reason why I am doing it.

My priority had been on finishing the album then I had to focus on the back room roles, which has been very interesting for me doing some of the boring admin and donkey work rather than expect someone else to do it!  It has been quite an alarming experience to find out what has to be done in the run-up to releasing an album, including doing the all press and distribution.


How do you think it has all worked out?

It has all been good and I am now enjoying a great sense of accomplishment.  I have also been doing a series of live dates including some next month (December) with It Bites. At the moment, I have stopped looking for gigs because it has become a bit of a full time job as I keep being offered stuff which is lovely.

I am in the process of getting a proper live band together and it has been fun finding the right people to play. They have to be the right personalities as the chemistry between us will be important. There are a couple of people in mind I have looked up already but I shall continue making some tentative inquiries.

I have already been invited to perform at the Celebr8 point two festival in London next May so having an electric band will be very useful as it would also be good to nail some European dates as well once I have found my usual suspects. It is weird because although I decided to do the album, there has been this parallel schedule with the live acoustic set that I perform with Mark Spencer. It has all come together quite organically by accident, certainly not by design.

MSJ: I have seen you several times already and you have been getting a wonderful reception everywhere you have played so far.
Yes, it has been interesting keeping the momentum up and feel like the master of my own destiny now, as opposed to being a member of a band which can often be like shepherding cats! So I was very lucky to find Mark to accompany me. We have made it work financially, too so that has also given me a real appetite.  It really does feel as though I am pushing another door open.

Can we turn now to some of the songs on First In A Field of One, for example “Darkness Has Spoken?” I think it is pretty obvious what that one is about.

Oh yes, the parting of the ways from Pallas or “the Darkness” as I prefer to call it. As you can imagine, I was exceptionally angry about what happened.  This song is me speaking from my point of view about how it affected me, although it is all in the past now, which is how the song concludes. However, it was a very difficult thing at the time as I did not know what on earth was going on or what to do with myself as a result.

So this is me saying I am going to prove myself and that I am not reliant on others any more to define myself. But that does not mean there is ever going to be any chance of forgiving, kissing or making up again with them. It is what it is.

MSJ: That theme you take up again in “The Real Me,” which also sounds an angry song.
I also wrote it to deal with the darker side of our characters and to give it some recognition as we all have it in us. I guess it all sounds a bit Freudian and it is coloured by some of the elements of what happened to me and the band. The idea for the song had existed before that but this was me taking it one step further and sharpening my pencil.
MSJ: “Begin Again” seems to be more optimistic. What is that about?
That is all about Scotland. The middle eight is something I played when I was at university but it never quite fit together with anything else up until now. It is about a sense of how much more defined everything is there since I was growing up in Glasgow. My grandfather worked in the shipyards and helped to build the QE2. I think Scotland has had to work on its self-confidence as a nation and it has been going through something of a cultural renaissance since the 1960s. To my mind, this is very much a good thing.
MSJ: How did you originally get into music?
I trained to be an English teacher at Stirling University in Scotland before I got the gig with Pallas and ran away to Aberdeen to join the rock ‘n roll circus. I graduated in 1988 in English but at the time, I could not afford to carry on so I reluctantly had to leave the band and Scotland for a while. I started working in a theatre and doing lots of stuff in London. Then I applied for various jobs at the BBC and became a trainee sound engineer in news in both Scotland and the Maida Vale studios in London.

The news is the rock ‘n roll part of the BBC, and from there I became a studio manager for some of the top news programmes. From there, I got a chance to multi-skill and I was one of the ten to twelve studio engineers the BBC trained up as journalists. As a result, I am now Home Duty Editor for BBC News and deploy journalists out on stories 24/7. So because I do work very long days, I have to plan my live dates well ahead.

MSJ: It must have been really difficult when you and the band split.
One of the nicest things that happened the moment the news became public was the fantastic messages from some of my musician mates who got in touch to say how terrible it was and to let them know if I needed a hand. I was really touched about how supportive a lot of people were. One of them was Scott Higham, the drummer with Pendragon, who is someone with whom I clicked a long time ago.

I needed no hesitation in asking him to play on my album. He is far more than a drummer: he is a percussionist and is far more understated on this album than he usually plays.

MSJ: Tell us about the other musicians on the album?
There is guitarist Jeff Green who I knew through Mike Stobb who played on  his Jessica album. When we came to do the album demos, we realised we needed someone to do the solo bits.  Mike suggested Jeff with whom he got in touch and he said he was interested in doing a track so it was some reciprocal business which we did by email. This is a very cost effective way of making music now as it is getting too expensive to go and do a whole album in a studio. The only proper studio time was for the drums when Scott did three days at Karl Groom’s studio in Surrey. Karl has become one of those “go to” guys as he mixed my album and also the live Yes one.

Mike, who I was with in Pallas when I rejoined, was not always available so we worked together on and off because he is an incredibly busy man doing other things like adverts.

Christina Booth who does the backing vocals I have known for about five years since Rob Reed invited me to come and see Magenta. I was absolutely gobsmacked by them. She is such a lovely lady with real warmth to her and personally, she is one of the funniest people I have ever met and a really good laugh. She is also incredibly easy to get along with so it was real kudos for me as I knew she would add something special as she is the real thing, and I really like the way our voices sounded together.

MSJ: Going back to the songs, I particularly like “Kingdom of the Blind” on which Christina appears and also the video you shot for it.
Rob Reed shot the video in the churchyard of St Martin’s on the Hill which is on the North Downs not far from Guildford near to where I live. Rob wanted me to do it in Wales but we went up to this churchyard and found it had some Celtic crosses as headstones which was ideal. The song is all about the way we have to cope with the hand we have been dealt and how we do not have control of our lives as a result.

As with all my songs, it was written starting with a vocal melody and the lyrics always come afterwards when I build the words around the phrases. They usually end up with a kind of melancholy or darkness.

You recently supported Magenta in London and I could not help but notice a rather distinguished guest in the audience – Steve Hackett.

MSJ: That’s right. I had met him two or three times in the past once when I played at a gig supporting Arena. He was stood by the merchandising stand, turned around and said: “Alan. That was a great set.”

In London, we started chatting after my set and he was very interested in the twelve-string Seagull guitar I was using. They are really nice guitars so I said to him, do you want to have a go? He said, “Yes.” So we went to the dressing room and there, Steve Hackett was showing me how to play “Ripples” on my guitar! That was such a lovely compliment and one of those moments I shall never forget, because he is prog royalty. I adored him when I was younger and I remember queuing outside a theatre in Glasgow to go and see him on the Spectral Mornings tour.

Talking about teenagers, how on earth do you manage to combine your musical career and day job with family life?
MSJ: With great difficulty, let me tell you! It is such a balancing act and my family must get a little fed up at times because it can be a geographical and logistical nightmare. It all takes a lot of careful planning and the shifts I do at the BBC probably enable me to do everything I want than if I was working for, say, an insurance company.
My children are nine and thirteen and both of them like guitars. They do watch the “X-Factor,” but I am all for them making up their own minds about it. Lasting talent does not come through those channels because that is not what those programmes are all about. What we are doing is something we value and others value. It is like anything else in life but I try not to interfere with their tastes.
MSJ: I get the impression from what you are saying that you are now over the past and getting on with your own career.
Oh very much so. I needed to get back my confidence and redefine myself. That is what it is all about. But I have found myself in a much better place as a result. The next chapter has begun and I am now going to make the best of it, because I can say in all honesty that I am now really genuinely happy.
MSJ: This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at
Return to the
Alan Reed Artist Page
Artists Directory

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2024 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./