Chris Squire and Geddy Lee were 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 - circa "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.
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' 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 Aria-manufactured Epiphone - for my 18th birthday. I was given my second bass - the mighty Rickenbacker - for my 21st. (I was offered the choice: the Rick, or a party. No choice really!) I must thank my Dad for buying me this lovely instrument, especially as he hated rock music! That shows how much he must have loved me. 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 opinion I still hold to this day.
My brother is 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 and building electronic street-lamp controllers. This was a lot more fun than it sounds, as I got to play with lots of interesting kit, and be creative with circuit and package designs (I even put in a patent application for one circuit).
On the music front, although I was still massively into rock and had my guitars, 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 ignorant of any duplicates - 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 also a guitarist first and foremost - the multi-talented
At this time, we were sharing a lock-up rehearsal room at "Robannas"
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. In fact their bassist, Mark "Happy" Wadsworth, was the very person who had first taught me so much about how to play bass and guitar (and about how to listen to music), years before. Mark left Dusk at about this time, and I offered to fill in the bass role for a while. Soon they accepted me as a full member. Joining their select
ranks felt like a real achievement.
Disillusioned, I dropped out of music for a couple of years. Then: "Episode
IV - A New Hope"! A friend and fellow ex-Dusk-er Matt Phipps-Hunt recommended me to
a group he knew, 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
Due to daytime career changes, we lost Alan
soon after our debut gig (at The Hibernian, Selly Park, Birmingham), 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.
A little aside - one that will become important much later in the story: just after Paul joined, Doug and Happy formed a pick-up band to play a charity concert at a British Legion club in Olton. They invited me to take part. Also in that band were Gary Sheriden (lead vocals, guitar), Gavin Saunders (guitar) and Alex Theay (keyboards). This was the first time I'd met these guys, and after we did the gig we went our separate ways again (and Doug and Happy left The Earthmovers after our first gig with Paul). I had no idea at the time just how much our musical destinies would become entwined, years later. . .
The Earthmovers (now down to a four-piece, with Simon Atkins taking over on the drums) soon had a semi-residency at The Fallow & Firkin in Harborne (a nice pub, which has now burnt down!). 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".
The group lasted several years (and more line-up changes) before reaching
a natural conclusion in 1997.
Update: we had an Earthmovers reunion in October 2007 - with original guitarist Pete back in the band. Check out www.theearthmovers.co.uk for more info!
At about the time we were winding up The Earthmovers, 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 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, with 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.
After Randolph Flagg went on ice (it was difficult to find and keep drummers), 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 two CDs of the best tracks under the title "From The Dawn".
Since 2009, I've also been a part of Lee Potts's ever-evolving "Omenopus"
project, featuring Bridget Wishart on vocals and an ever-changing roster of guest musicians, known as "Omenants". For a change, I mostly
played lead guitar ton the initial recordings, but with bass, mando and bouzouki
(and even some piano!) thrown in. In 2010, we released a (free) four-track EP "Portents" and our debut album "Time Flies". Two more albums followed: double-album "The Plague"/"Scars" in 2012 and sci-fi concept album "The Archives" (based on a story and music created by Atlanta musician and Omenant Sheridan Starr) in 2014. In 2016, Lee collaborated with 1912 on an album called "The Hybrid Project" which appeared as a bonus 2nd disc on 1912's 3rd album, "New World Order". This
Until recently I worked as an electronic engineer and IT 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 young son and several ancient computers (they'll be collectible one day, mark my words. . .).
After leaving full-time employment in 2010, I'm now self-employed, doing IT support, training and documentation work. I'm winding down the IT side of the business now, as I'm just not that au fait with the modern methods and equipment. Instead I'm concentrating on the documentation side. So if you need any documents proofread, edited, or fixed (we all know how easy it is to break a document in MS Word!), then drop me a line!
Over the years, I've always had an interest in art. This has led me to contribute to the artwork of many of the records that I've been involved with. Recently I had the pleasure of working on the cover art and layout design of 1912's latest album "No Place Like Home". This also involved creating a new logo for the band (based on a design I'd been tinkering with for several years), Both cover art and logo were greeted with much enthusiasm by the band members. So I'm now looking at the possibility of doing more of this sort of thing. Does anyone need a logo or cover art? Give me a call!
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!
Site and logo design by John Pierpoint.