….and so what news of the North?

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….and so, what news of the North? What a strange couple of years this has been, it’s been 2 years since the release of Passion but it feels like 10 years ago that we finished the tour.

I gotta tell ya, I got a bit burned out during the last album release, it was a tough one finishing the album then getting straight out on a 35 date tour. One of my mates unintentionally reminded me that The Rolling Stones do tours for 18 months, it took me a while to find an answer before I remembered ‘ah but Ronnie Wood isn’t booking the venues himself is he, and Jagger isn’t driving the van is he?’…touche!

So…I had earned my knackered out-ness!

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I had to question the whole music biz a bit, something I do from time to time, I need to see where it’s all going, I mean I was and still am amazingly proud of Passion, in fact with Not Of..it’s probably my favourite P album. But there were one or two testy moments, I REALLY don’t want to sound like a moaning minnie, cos I love doing music, I’m only telling you all this , so you get a fly on the wall / in the know perspective of what goes on. We had just got off the plane from a festival in Veruno in Sept 2010 and it was foot to the floor with writing Pash, I had two days off in Devon for Wilcey’s birthday and Christmas day, apart from that it was flat out work on Pash, and sorting out the tour, the Mega Daze UK and Holland, a new guitar rig, rehearsals, negotiating the new Snapper deal etc etc. All was going swimmingly till I sent a promo copy of Pash via dropbox to Rob Hanemeyer at IO Pages…..and er, he didn’t seem all that enthusiastic, in fact he said we would lose all our fans over this album, and basically gave it a very hard time. I sent the album at 10pm at night and received his slating by 10am the following morning, in which he said he had only listened to it once…………….

And therein lies a problem…a big problem. Our beloved genre of music has now been subjected to the same reviewer criteria of disposable pop music, 1 listen and judgment is made. BUT the very crux of this kind of music demands many listens to get to the heart of it, remember what I always said about Genesis The Lamb, I thought it was an utter turkey initially, but after 2 weeks it was the best music made by humans. Yes that is what is needed in music …due care and attention! And unfortunately our genre has now fallen foul to this arrogant and flippant way of judging someone’s work.

For me Pash has everything, it is pushing barriers and moving forward but retaining the P melodies and emotions, not an easy thing to do believe me. The IO Pages review made me question the very genre, as I now believe some people are so entrenched in the 70’s, wild wild horses will never drag them away. All their descriptions, all their feelings, all their opinions of progressive music are stuck there and will never move forward………..and I hate that, it just smells of death to me. And the stuff that does go down well with these kind of journalists? Music that ticks the prog boxes, most of Rob Hanemeyer’s reviews that I checked out contained the words Genesis, Camel or Pink Floyd. I get the feeling that as long as there is a Mellotron, a 15 minute epic, complex time signatures, lyrics that aren’t about anything you can work out, and above all,  NO melody, it often gets a decent review.

It’s either that or people following what they think they should like, I won’t mention any names, but there are some albums that people feel obliged to say are “awesome”.. and because they are so atonal and unfathomable, to say you don’t like them makes you seem unintelligent and unable to untangle the mystery of this hugely challenging messy noise. Challenging is good but Prog has now also caught the pop disease of the emperors new clothes! For my money I feel there just simply are not enough bands producing really great songs and melodies, or even something that has moments of lifting you up…where are they???

There are so many good ‘other’ acts around that produce really interesting music, Alborosie, Fliptrix different but worth checking out. One of the best songs I’ve heard for years is Coldplay Paradise, such a great rousing anthem, wish there were more like that around, in fact the whole album is good, also bands like Biffy Clyro.

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The Snapper deal didn’t quite work out how I thought, if you see the attention that the bands get on K Scope it all looks pretty high profile, and this is what we thought we would get….but we didn’t, we ended up on Madfish which seems to be the label that puts out albums that “sell themselves  because the band have a good fan base, that we won’t need to promote very much”, with Madfish there simply isn’t the same commitment as the bands get on K Scope, and I felt massively disappointed about this, particularly as Snapper had phoned me virtually every day begging to put out the new P album….. I know it just  doesn’t make sense, but that’s the musiz biz for you.

To be honest I really liked the Snapper guys and soooooo wanted this to work to take P to the next level, it had been a long time since we had record company interest where someone was phoning me everyday to get us on board, well this is the only time in fact. If you check out the Snapper website, it’s a struggle to even find the Madfish section and when you do they haven’t even updated it with all the releases on it, and boy it looks crud, BUT go to K Scope and it’s all-happening big time. Do you know, when Passion was sent to them no one even phoned me from Snapper, wow killer album man!!…it was all horribly silent.

Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t all about sob sob sob, I  just wanted to let you all know some of the behind the scenes stuff, the goss and the facts of how it is running a band purely from an interest point of view.

BUT, and it’s a big  BUT in 20 ft neon letters……. divine retribution came in the shape of Prog Mag readers, who voted Pash 4th best album, only beaten by the big guns, Yes Rush etc, and then the Classic Rock Awards, Best Album, Best Song, Best Gig, Best keys player, Best drummer and the album got to number 29 in the Indie charts……I really love it when you can stick two fingers up at the naysayers!

The tour that followed was amazing, the band was on fire and the audience reactions to the new stuff, Green and Pleas and Empathy were the best reactions to the whole set and the attendances were superb, for me Krakow , Warsaw, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Cardiff were my personal highlights.

And er…so I don’t think we did lose all our fans because of Passion

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After the tour, I couldn’t get off the sofa for a week, I was dead beat. Soon though I was off in the van, and camping up in the Orkney Islands on the Sands of Wright.

Bliss….people don’t always know this , but some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are in Scotland/Orkneys, apparently it comes from when the world formed, Scotland was near the Caribbean, at least that’s what someone told me. Anyway pure white sand, crystal clear blue water, and campfires everynight with a drop of Highland Park single malt, and a spot of surfing 20 feet from the tent………..heaven.

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I also did a lot of hiking and camping across Dartmoor, where I went on a school trip when I was a kid.

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All this stuff calms all the chatter in your head and reconnects your soul to something………and ….what the heck I’m gonna go for it, the oneness of the universe…there I said it! I know this is a hippy cliché but I need this stuff big time, I love outside things, it always makes me happy. So, last May I bought a big f*** off BMW GS 1200 motorbike [Geezer, as he’s become affectionately named] and went touring round Europe for a while, through France, gee, I love France, the culture, the food, the wine, the history just feels so right to me, I have this thing I do with telling myself if a country feels male or female, and France feels female, the French argue, bicker, disagree and are passionate about stuff and that’s the way I like it.

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Ahhh… My beautiful France

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Ahhh… My beautiful Wales

I went through Germany and Switzerland, stopping off at the Loreley Night Of The Progs for a spot of camping and an impromtu acoustic sing along at the camp site, man by 2.30 am we had everyone in the site be-wiskeyed and singing Sugar Mice!

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Loreley Camp

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Me, Timo and Eddo at Loreley

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Switzerland was….odd. I have really been getting interested in mountain climbing recently and was reading a book by John Harlin jr about the Eiger , I  managed to find a tiny campsite with virtually no people with a stunning view of the Wetterhorn, just round the corner from the Eiger. John Harlin snr was killed on the Eiger when his rope broke and his son wrote this amazing book called The Eiger Obsession about his father, the mountain and his own quest to conquer the north face.

On this trip I had just started reading another book that is one of the best books I’ve ever read called The White Spider by Andreas Heckmair who was amongst the first team to succeed in climbing the north face. In this book and others such as David Hempleman Adams Toughing It Out, I found in the words of Fish, a familiar craving was crawling in his head…….a new seed was growing which has become the ideas and concepts for the next Pendragon album.

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I have an album title…I have song titles….I have concepts of some of the songs and I have about 30 minutes of very fragmented musical material, but I’m not giving the game away quite yet!

…more soon

Nick x

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Brekkie in St Ives