ARfm Interview

On 11th June on the way back from Derby the band popped into see Paul Baker at ARfm.
Transcribed by Andy Dolman, proofed by TP it is included below :-

(Skyclad opens up the interview)
Paul Baker: Bluehorses, and the absolutely fantastic Skyclad from their recent EP, and I’m rather, rather proud to say I have Nic, Liz and Jay, and of course the hero of the band. Stan. I’m in trouble with Liz again (laughs).
Lizzy: You’re not going to get his head out of the door
Paul: Live with us in the studio, huge thanks for coming in to the ARFM West Midlands Sauna, we have got all of the fans going. The strange buzzing you can hear in the background… We have a couple of fans going, ‘cause if we didn't, I think we would melt poor Liz, Nic in the corner and Jay, because it's a bit warm in here this afternoon. Huge, huge thanks for coming along, you had a gig last night at the Flowerpot in Derby...
Nic: We did.
Paul: And er, was it good fun?
Jay: It was great once we'd poured the sweat out of our boots (laughs).
Nic: Yeah, the hottest venue in Britain, we think.
Paul: Right, that, until you came into here this afternoon.
Nic: Yeah, but we can be naked in here, Paul.
Paul: Yes, yes, now Simon started that as well, that was a bit worrying.
(general laughter)
Paul: but never mind. Right, first formed in 1990.
Nic: 1994.
Liz: 94.
Paul: 94? Oops.
Nic: I might have lied at some point (joking).
(general laughter)
Paul: (picks up his notes, screws them up and chucks them) That's the notes in the bin then...
Stan: Sack the researcher.
Paul: Sack the researcher...I can’t, she makes the tea... Anyway, right, now... No, in all seriousness, Bluehorses, we had an interesting conversation when you first came on because we said what's the chances of getting you to do a bit of an acoustic session and you had a go yesterday. We have a live exclusive track to play later on, and the comment was, well, once you take the "rock" out of folk rock we’re left with just ordinary folk, but, the way you approach your music, and the way you put your tunes together, erm, is you've got something different, there's a whole feel to it. How would you actually describe the way you put your music together, and what makes Bluehorses so different fromeverybody else?
Nic: We've always tried to make it so it’s a genuine fusion between the rock music and the various styles and the Celtic, it’s not really just Celtic, but the folky thing. Most bands really doing folk rock have always just electrified folk music and we've taken those things naturally and put all the different kinds of backing and styles to it. It’s kind of anything with a Celtic theme backing a style of music that I like, usually.
Jay: The way we usually work it is, were not quite sure what exactly is the Bluehorses sound, and we know what it isn't.
Nic: Yeah, that's true, that's about it.
Jay: We take away all the things aren't Bluehorses, and what you’re left us.
Paul: I’ve not thought about it like that before. And of course, Liz, the now, the Space Mandolin is a new one on me.
Jay: Liz Prengergast, the multi instrumentalist.
Lizzy: Yes, the Space Mandolin, well, most people play a mandolin, and it sounds like a mandolin, but I stick it through so many effects, that sometimes you’re wondering, what instrument is that. I’ve got a Fender at the moment, so it looks like a very small guitar, and somebody actually commented at the gig last week that Miss Prendergast played excellent guitar...mmmmmmm, it was a mandolin, actually.
Jay: They were very far away, they probably thought you were seven foot tall.
(general laughter)
Paul: We’re going to be playing The Mining Song next, I have cheated, this afternoon and have picked a lot of my favourite tracks to play, and what I think, from my point of view, what I like about a Bluehorses gig, is you’re always full of energy, it’s always a lot of crowd participation, but at the same time we can have some very haunting melodies, as we’re going to find out later on with a track I remember Liz doing at the Brewhouse in Burton, ages ago now, and the whole place just went silent, you could have heard a pin drop when you did it as well, which is, of course, Child.
Lizzy: Oh, yeah.
Paul: Do you start off when you’re writing songs...right, this one’s going to be a rocker, or this one’s going to be a bit more folky... How do the songs develop and grow?
Lizzy: It depends on who starts to write the particular song, where the idea stems from. The more ballady stuff comes from me, ‘cause I’m a miserable git (joking), and I like everything to be in a minor key. If Jay is playing some guitar round the house, and he plays a major chord by mistake, I say, ‘Nooooo, that can’t go in there!’ (laughs) So, yeah, it depends what angle it comes from.
Nic: Its interesting that you should comment on the Mining Song, because that originally was going to be an uptempo rocky theme, but we just couldn't really make it work, and then we were in rehearsal for recording, and it was Rob Khoo, our bassist at the time started playing it on guitar, and strumming along said, ‘I can’t think of any way we can improve this with bass,’ and I was struggling with the drums. I think the rest of us went off for tea, and Lizzy and Rob just bashed it out, sorry, Imean skilfully sculptured it into a beautiful piece of music, so that's where that came from. A lot of the time things change, but we probably take more time writing than most people...we discard lots of bits, I think that’s what gives the Bluehorses sound as Jay was saying, every time we get a bit that sounds vaguely like ordinary music we say, ‘Oh, we cant do that’...Play a chord differently, or change the timing.
Paul: Fantastic.
(Mining Song played)
Paul: The Mining Song from Bluehorses, and we are absolutely melting, here in the West Midlands studio, but never mind. Right, now, that was the absolutely fantastic Mining Song. A couple of questions, Liz, about your famous harp, please, if we can. What did you learn to play first? Was it the violin, the harp or the mandolin?
Lizzy: I started the piano when I was three years old, then I took up the violin, flutes, saxophone, trumpet and guitar, which I was rubbish at. I’m self taught with the harp, because the harp, to me, is like a piano on its side really, so I had a couple of lessons from a girl I was in college with, to get the technique under my belt, and I went on from there, really.
Nic: She's played for Prince Charles, as well.
Lizzy: That’s right, and he didn’t even save me a vol-au-vent, so, he's not my favourite person.
Jay: And you did the Welsh National Anthem show, as well.
Lizzy: Yes, and I played at the Welsh National Anthem show as well, because it was 150 years anniversary of the anthem being written, so they did a big thing in Pontypridd park in front of five thousand people.
Paul: So, you get about a bit, then.
Lizzy: Well, yeah.
Paul: Now, you've got a reputation of being a hard working live band. What do you enjoy most? Being out, doing the gigs, or being in the studio, where they probably have air conditioning and it’s nice andcomfortable?
Jay: They're different beasts, really, studio work compared to live work. With live work, you've got the immediate rapport, you've got the feedback loop going with the audience, and that's what you crave, really. In the studio, it’s more painstakingly crafting things and spending hours on parts.
Nic: I think we've always been a live band, and in the studio, we've always tried to reproduce that. It causes some pain sometimes at certain gigs, we've had to strangle a few sound engineers in our time, but definitely doing gigs, for me, is the ultimate thing.
Lizzy: Yeah, and me.
Jay: It’s the whole point of being in a band in the first place. How many other jobs do you get a chance to stand on your own two legs and show off to people and get paid for it?
Paul: Never thought of it like that, Jay.
Nic: He's very deep thinking, is Jay.
(general giggles)
Paul: Getting back to the lyrics of the songs, especially with Mining Song, that feels like it was personal.
Lizzy: Yes, my grandad on my mum’s side used to work down the pit in Abertridwr, and I can remember when I was a very little girl, he'd come home from the shift, and he would have a wash in the outhouse, which was like a glass lean-to in one of these old ceramic basins, and he'd take hisshirt off, and his back was absolutely covered in scars where there had been coal falls, so, yes, it’s stuck in my mind quite a lot. I couldn't work out why my bampi was covered in scars, so, yes, quite a personal thing that, one.
(picture of Abertridwr mine)
Paul: So, are a lot of the songs based on your life experiences, and things that you've come across?
Lizzy: Mixture, really.
Nic: I tend to forget the lyrics once I’ve written them.
Lizzy: In Flanders Fields, we did a run of gigs in Belgium, we went to visit the Flanders Fields museum, and we were all quite happy and chatty before we went in, but when we came out, nobody said anything to anybody for two hours because it was so harrowing to see what these young lads had gone through, so what better way to keep a memory alive than write a song about it?
Paul: We’re going to go on now to one of the more up tempo numbers that always seems to get the crowd going, when they see you, Dya. Nic, when you let go with the drums, when you go for it, it feels like the song’s flowing, but at the same time it sounds awfully tight and together. How much of it is improvised on the night, or have you got a definite strict way that you play and structure the songs to play them live?
Nic: The songs are all pretty structured, except for something like Twmbarlwm, and Red Haired Hags or Gravel Walk. They have sections in them where we can just see what happens were we do just jam it through and, depending on what the curfew is Twmbarlwm might last up to three quarters of an hour if were short of material (laughs). But generally it’s fairly structured, but personally I don’t always play the same thing.
(plays Dya)
Paul: OK, I’m in trouble with Bluehorses, I’ve always called that track Do Ya, and it’s not, it’s Dya. So, that was Dya from the album Dragons Milk and Coal. The next track is a bit of fun for me. Bluehorses got me into quite a bit of trouble when I first started out in my broadcasting career. Mr Kennedy popped into my show on Phoenix Radio in Burton-Upon-Trent and said, ‘Can you please play this track by the Bluehorses called Old Haslam’s Bits, absolutely fantastic it is,’ then afterthe track I made the mistake of saying ‘I hope Mr Haslam’s bits get better,’ then the Sister from ward nine rang down that Mr Haslam was not at all happy, and how did I know that he was in for a double hernia operation So, you got me into trouble a long time ago.
(band laughs)
(plays Old Haslam’s Bits)
Paul: Now, we were chatting away off air, and you've got some rather nice gigs coming up, the Montreux Jazz Festival, so how did that come about, how did you land that rather marvellous gig?
Nic: A friend of ours, whose boyfriend lives in Switzerland, in fact just down the road from where the festival is, she went and pestered them on our behalf when she was out there last summer.
Jay: She camped outside the offices, clutching a copy of the DVD, and wouldn't move until they played it.
Paul: Mentioning the DVD, available now through the web site, of course, that was recorded at a somewhat special gig wasn't it?
Nic: Yeah, it was the Saul festival in Gloucestershire that started out as a boat festival on the canal, but they got bigger and bigger with the music, and we did it the year before last we headlined the Saturday night, and they asked us to come back last year on the Friday night, and as it was a bit of a better day, we thought we might be able to persuade them into letting us film it. So, we got our good mate Dave Wheeler to direct it, and he sorted out some lovely BBC camera men, and so we endedup with a rather superb DVD.
Paul: Which is available on the web site which is
Nic: And on
Paul: And albums also available on the web site?
Nic: Yes, some of them...Ten Leagues, and Skyclad and of course the DVD, and we’re just sorting out the shop so we can sell downloads of tracks from all the other albums, so we thought we would go with the downloads and see what happens rather than pressing the older albums and see whatthe percentage is of people that want to go with that.
Paul: The internet for us is obviously a big tool, were amazed at the amount of people that are latching on to AR FM, and also to proper music, certainly not Jamiroquai, nothing against him, but he doesn't really fit in with a rock station. Our latest average listening figures was 176,000, which is a little bit scary for a little internet station, and hoping to get back on Sky soon.
Are you finding that the audiences at the gigs are getting younger, or is it just us getting older? We've noticed, even at the Classic Rock, that there's a lot more kids actually wanting to come along with mum and dad to see some of the bands that have been around. Have you found that as you go around?
Nic: Yeah, I think so, now that the kids have invented rock music in the last year or so. We get a lot of emails from younger people from around the world usually asking for tabs so they can play the stuff, so, yeah.
Lizzy: We also have our little Goth posses, don’t we?
Nic: I beg your pardon.
Lizzy: Posses....POSSES.
Paul: So, that's surprised me, you've got the cross over into the Goth side.
Jay: The BBC described us as the world’s only Folk Rock Celtic Metal Goth band.
Paul: Can’t argue with that, then again, this next track probably does, actually... Tantric Messiah, what's the feel behind this, ‘cause again we’re back to your melodic side. Tantric Messiah has almost......I’m looking for different word to ‘hippy’…
Lizzy: No, no, you’re right, there.
Jay: It’s got a psychedelic feel to it.
Paul: Lizzy, do you have to be in a certain mood for it?
Lizzy: It’s sort of written in my was like...this hermit guy who lived by the sea, and cast spells.
(plays Tantric Messiah)
Paul: Right, last night you guys did us a rather fantastic favour, you put something together for us at the Flowerpot and I’m going to play it, now. This is fantastic, Crow On The Cradle live.
(plays Crow On The Cradle live)
Paul: Crow On The Cradle there, recorded last night at the Flowerpot... Absolutely fantastic. Is that going to be on the next album?
Nic: Indeed.
Paul: The next track is probably the most beautiful the band have ever written, I watched you perform Child at the Brewhouse in Burton, it was a few days after a murder of a young girl, and Liz, the way you came across with yourself and the harp, and I’ve never forgotten the way the audience reacted to it. When you originally wrote Child, what was behind this beautiful song?
Lizzy: I ’m very steeped in Welshness, as you can probably tell from my accent, and the whole way I was brought up....was..if anything was ever needed was done, like I was telling you about my mum’s kitchen cupboards, if you wanted anything, then my mother had it, dried elephants’ears in jars, you know, stuff like that. It was just the sort of feeling of just a mother singing to her newborn son that, look, whatever you need or want, you can have it, so don't worry.
Paul: It brings a lump to your throat, well it does to mine, but I’m a big softy.
Lizzy: I’ve have had people come up to me after gigs and told me they cried when I was playing it, maybe because they didn't like it (laughter), or maybe because they were moved.
Paul: This is Child.
(plays Child)
Paul: That is Child, from Bluehorses, and one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Now, one person we haven't mentioned yet, is the guy we see coming on and off set during the live gigs, is Stan in the corner. Good afternoon Stan sir, how do you put up with this lot then? Because they seem to work you very hard, especially Lizzy.
Lizzy: I’m very demanding... you wanna see diva, Stan, I'll give you diva.
Stan: It’s been good fun, actually, every gig has been different for me, and I still enjoy the music even after twelve years.
Paul: So, how do you remember what instruments Lizzy needs, and at what time? It always seems to happen when Lizzy needs the harness for the harp.
Stan: Little notes on my set list.
Jay: Sometimes we surprise you by playing the wrong song.
Stan: That's happened on more than one occasion.
Paul: Now, one of the things we have to do at every Bluehorses gig is the Stan song.
Lizzy: Oh, yes.
(whole band sing the Stan song)
Stan: It’s dead embarrassing.
Lizzy: We keep trying to get him to come on stage, but he won’t.
Stan: I know my place, see.
Paul: OK, one last song.....
(ends with playing Ostara)

Andy's Gig Diary - Flowerpot

Due to the England game, we had a great trip up, no traffic at all. It was very hot, and even worse in the venue. By thetime the gear was unloaded everybody was shattered.

Tonights show had a slight difference than normal. Ex Bluehorse bass player, Rob Khoo was back on the bass to help out while Nath has some time with his new born son and Debbs.

It was a packed out Flowerpot as normal, and considering the hot weather, and the fottlyboddloe, we were glad to see such a healthy turnout.

The set had a few golden oldies in there, and some of the regular newish ones.

As always, the crowd at Derby had a blast, and despite the heat, all danced away and made a good night of it.

Having packed up, a very tired band and crew headed off for some healthy nibbles. Having scoffed the kebabs, pizza etc it was time to depart.

I drove back to Cardiff to get Rob home, then finally crawled onto my driveway in the Cheltenham swamp at 05.30am Jay n Ruth were already there crashed out.

At the gig was a long time Bluehorses fan from radio station AR FM. He asked if there was any chance of the band popping into the station for a chat. So, Nic n Lizzy and Jay did just that. So this afternoon the band did a very long live interview on the radio. Fear not however, the interview is to be repeated this week...i think Thursday night.

ARFM radio

There is a transcript of the interview in this blog here

A great weekend as always, and a thank you to Rob for helping out at short notice.