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CAMEL. Where would we be without them?
7/11/2010 12:59:26 PM

  CAMEL! What would life be without them?

 

I am a very firm believer in the fact that you don’t ever miss something until it’s gone or not as freely available to you. Like most people that frequent the Earth I am as guilty as the next man of taking some things for granted. Whilst thumbing my way through the record collection the other day I was halted at the letter C by the influences and memories brought about by one of the most musically inspiring bands in the world, Camel.

There is little I can tell you about Camel that cannot be found on there own website and with a greater degree of accuracy too. Instead my intention is to tell you about the impact that this bastion of prog has had on my views and opinions with regard to music. A famous Scottish manufacturer of Hi-Fi equipment once mused that “music chronicles your life” and I have to agree. Whist I was an apprentice and taking my exams I can think of little else than Katie Lied by Steely Dan and my holidays as a teenager listening to John Miles, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Alan Parsons.  It’s fair to say that the standard bearers throughout all this time would be the big four, E.L.P., Pink Floyd, Genesis and last but not least Yes. However, despite all these bands and their tributaries I would have to site Camel as the band that captured my musical soul in totality.

My musical journey with Camel began in 1976 when I saw a full page add in the Melody Maker for their now eponymous album Moonmadness.  I was intrigued by the whole concept of a camel in a space suit and suspected that it may be just up my street. In the advert were some tour dates and as luck had it one of them was close by. I and a friend hastily bought two tickets without even hearing a note of what they had ever played and from that evening onward became a devout Camel disciple. I soon acquired their three previous albums and cursed my self for what I had been missing. I attended most of their ensuing tours with the odd exception and remain mesmerized to this very day.  I was saddened on some occasions by the all too regular line up changes and musical direction, though thinking back I was probably maturing at a slower pace that Camel’s music. I soon became as in tune with innovation and new directions as the band themselves which made every new Camel album an exciting prospect. Following their 1984 album Stationary Traveler all went quiet on the Camel front as Andy Latimer who to all intent and purpose is Camel left the UK for California, setting up home their with his long term partner Susan Hoover. It was some time before any new music appeared and it was in the form of Dust And Dreams. By this time Andy had set up Camel Productions and basically given the finger to the record companies. It was at this time around 1990 that I started writing to Andy and always received a written response, not something that busy musicians do. Something I have always remembered. I met Andy Latimer twice, once at the lead mill in Sheffield and once at a meet and greet following Camel’s appearance at the 2003 Nearfest in TrentonNew Jersey. On both occasions he remembered my name and on the second occasion he even told me in which town I lived. Something I think  is rather special.  I am only one of many Camel fans and most that I have spoken to are as passionate as I am about the band.

Imagine then how the news of Pete Bardens death affected each and every one of us and the sense of heartfelt disappointment that any possibilities of a reunion with Andy under the Camel guise had been cruelly stolen by the most terrible of diseases.

In the last few years as many of you know Andy himself has been battling illness and fortunately for us all survived to tell the tale. Hopefully the Camel story doesn’t end here? As I ready myself to head to London for the High Voltage Festival I was heartened that there was at least a rumour Andy might make an appearance. Sadly that’s all it was, a rumour. The excitement that I felt for that brief moment though was cameshear bliss.

I have a lot to thank Andy Latimer, Pete Bardens et al for. The quality and diversity of Camel’s work the sincerity and lasting images that I and many others will cherish all our days. Thanks also to Susan Hoover to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude for keeping me a copy of Curriculum Vitae, of which she had only brought a few copies to Nearfest which the band duly signed.

Over the next few months I will be cherry picking some of Camel’s albums and expressing my views about them. I think it hideous to consider that I favour any particular album as it would be like trying to choose one of your children. They are all very different and it would be a mood driven event as to which one I would listen to at any given time.  Please feel free to share your views etc about Camel by e-mailing me at inf@progmeister.com or post something on the forum.

Prog is indeed a wide church. There is room for everyone new and old, though as I reflect on all that has gone before and hearing some of the new up and coming prog bands I am compelled to think of the huge body of work from the early seventies to the early naughty’s presented to the world by Camel. There are many bands over the years that have been presented with accolades and trophies. The awards given to Camel reside in the hearts of their many followers. Camel eh? Where would the world be without them?

 

 

The Progmeister

John Young interview
6/20/2010 1:38:56 PM

  In a recent conversation with my good friend Prog Al Peterson, the subject of progs nice people came up and those of whom we have met. I immediately recalled a Greenslade gig at The Newcastle Upon Tyne Opera House where after an amazing and intimate gig in the Bistro I managed to chat with the band. Whilst it was a thrill to meet the legendary Mr. Greenslade and the ubiquitous Tony Reeves, it was the enthusiasm and enchanting nature of John Young that enthralled us both. Having played a blinding set John shared a couple of beers with us both and talked about all things music. It was this memory that prompted me to contact John recently and fired a few questions his way. Needless to say that John along with a few other down to Earth people has been firmly placed in the nice category and is a man with whom it is a pleasure to communicate.

 

PM Hi John, Many thanks for taking time out to be interviewed by The Progmiester. I have no doubt that you have been asked some of the questions many times before. I crave your patience. Can you tell me a little about your musical background?

 

 

JY I started learning the piano at the age of 5 and singing in the Liverpool Cathedral choir from the age of 7. I received the Rushworth prize for my piano playing when I was 11 years old and went on to become head chorister at the Cathedral.

 

 

PM Who or what would you say were your biggest influences when you were at this tender stage and learning to play?

 

 

JY I think as a child my biggest influence tuition wise were Philip and Terry Duffy at the Cathedral as they understood my thirst for all things musical. Piano wise I loved the romantics Schumann, Debussy, Rachmaninoff etc. As I moved into keyboards I liked the playing of Patrick Moraz and Rick Van Der Linden as they seemed to play music in a similar vein and not mathematical as many players do.

 

 

PM When did you start playing music for a living?

 

 

JY 1985 really, I signed up for a world tour with Uli Jon Roth and I guess that changed my life….nothing was ever quite the same.

 

 

PM What made you become interested in Progressive Rock music?

 

 

JY I think my classical upbringing in St Edwards. I did grade viii and A level music so prog seemed like the next step. It was just a shame that it was eclipsed by other genres so soon.

 

 

PM At what point did you start playing in a more progressive style or indeed prog rock?

 

 

JY I think from the word go, I bought a Diamond 700 organ and a vox piano and I was off….that said, I played purely classically and it took a while for jazz, blues and other influences to play their part. As such I only became happy with my own writing towards the end of the 90’s.

 

 

PM Tell me more about the early forays into prog rock, bands etc?

 

 

JY Well, I was in involved in some local bands in Liverpool, Cloud (cool name huh!), Solitude, and Lynx and then the jazz combo

England’s National Sport (a real favorite of mine). I spent a couple of years with a band called England in the early eighties. After Uli I returned to prog a few years later with Cathedral another favorite with (with Jon Camp from Renaissance) and then with Asia in 1989/90. Further prog occurred with John Wetton and Qango in the 90’s and then Greenslade around 2000.

 

PM Who would you say was or is your biggest influences in prog?

 

 

JY Moraz, Yes, Focus, Genesis, Trace, Refugee, Gentle Giant, Alan Parsons, Peter Gabriel etc.

 

 

PM From where do you draw inspiration whilst writing new materiel?

 

 

JY Well it used to come from my experiences and such like….now it all just comes from somewhere else…I don’t ask questions!

 

 

PM How did you become involved with Greenslade?

 

 

JY I think a promoter recommended me to them and we hit it off straight away.

 

 

PM Did you enjoy the gigs with Greenslade?

 

 

JY Absolutely, it was like a gentleman’s club. I wasn’t really much like Mr. Lawson  (for whom I have much respect) but I think musically I complemented Dave Greenslade pretty well. It was great fun…and never say never;)

 

 

PM Did you like the early Greenslade albums?

 

 

JY To be honest like most folk I only really knew the artwork…but once I started getting into it I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can understand if it is an acquired taste…but that said I certainly acquired it.

 

 

PM Tell me about Qango, how did that project come about?

 

 

JY I wasn’t involved to start with, I just got a call from John Wetton saying that their first choice of keyboard player couldn’t do it and would I take over.

 

 

PM Who was the first choice of keyboard player?

 

 

JY Not sure who the first planned keyboard player was I’m afraid.

 

 

PM What has been the highlights of your musical career so far?

 

 

JY Oh loads really. I think the first tour with Uli took some beating. It was great to work with

Asia as I had the albums ;) Writing with John Wetton and Jon Anderson has been fun. Playing the Pyramids with The Scorpions, my solo tours in the USA with my knapsack on my back!...the list goes on and on.

 

PM Has there been any low points?

 

 

JY Yes and no.

 

 

PM Can you tell me about the company that you set up making musical instruments? Is it still trading etc?

 

 

JY Well that would probably take a small book but in a nutshell I started buying and selling from my bedroom and a few other folks joined me. I bought a bigger house then eventually we got 2 suites of offices and at our height I employed about 15 people (including my ex bank manager). We started manufacturing synthesizers in the early nineties and at our peak we turned over £1.5 million. We even sold synths to

Japan. As we became more normal and corporate I lost interest and a few years later when I was going through some personal turmoil some so called “friends” pushed me out of the business (but made sure I kept all the depts.!)….It was not a particularly pleasant chapter but the early years were a lot of fun.

 

PM That’s amazing; tell me more about the synths? How did you get into that? Were they analogue or digital? I’m intrigued.

 

 

JY Well, it’s not that amazing Steve but it was fun. I just started buying old analogue stuff, Roland’s, Prophet’s, Moog’s, ARP’s etc and selling them on. This got quite profitable and soon I had some folks working with me who could fix them too. The synths were popular with old prog type bands (who we also bought from) and the new emerging dance acts. We realized that there was niche market for TB303 clone (dance bass lines) so we invented the Deep Bass Nine synth and sold about 2000 of them. It was my company so I kind of made the nuts and bolts happen but the technical side of things was dealt with by my R&D team as I’m a bit useless on that side of things. Earlier in life when I was 23 I was European sales manager for an American air freight company at Heathrow airport so I’ve always been able to sell stuff so I just applied that the equipment side of things. It was great until the gloss wore off and it started getting a bit too corporate. I might re-emerge soon as I have a website idea that seems to be growing in strength. I’m just looking for a web-designer to come in with me on it…so if you know anyone who might be interested let me know.

 

 

PM Are there any musicians with whom you have not yet played with who you would like to?

 

 

JY I’d quite like to work with the guys from Yes and Genesis but I guess as we all get older that becomes less likely.

 

 

PM Which would you say is your most memorable gig?

 

 

JY I think it’s unfair to single out any one particular gig…they can be memorable for so many different reasons. The Pyramids was pretty surreal and playing to 200,000 folk in Austria was great but that said probably one of the best gigs I’ve done in my life was to 11 people at Fat Lil’s in Witney with my own band a couple of months ago. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to flying on stage.

 

 

PM Ultimately and given the resources, what would you most like to achieve in your musical career?

 

 

JY Simple….I’d like to be heard.

 

 

PM Do you mean metaphorically?

 

 

JY It’s quite literally really…Radio doesn’t play my music and of course tv is very unlikely. You won’t hear about us in the media and venues only want covers and tribute bands so getting the word out on new original material has never been more difficult, or at least that’s how it seems. We are still playing music from the live 2003 tour and most people who show up at a concert have never heard any of it before. It’s all a little odd.

 

 

PM Maddening isn’t it?

 

 

PM Which brings me nicely onto your views on the present music industry. What are your views about the current download culture? Should we embrace or despise?

 

 

JY I think we have no choice but to embrace. That isn’t so much the problem; it’s much more endemic than that. It’s rooted in giving people the lowest common denominator in music and telling them that is100% of their choice, it’s disgusting. A great quote I saw on myspace said I’m eclectic, I like from Robbie to Kylie.

 

 

PM Dessert island discs? Take a moment John, what’s your top ten?

 

 

JY Again, difficult and off the top of my head…prog only

 

 

  1. Genesis (The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway)
  1.  
  2. Refugee (Self Titled)
  3. Trace (self Titled)
  4. England (Garden Shed)
  5. UK (Self titled)
  6. Focus (Focus 8)
  7. Yes (Relayer)
  8. King Crimson (Discipline)
  9. Kate Bush (Hounds Of Love)
  10. Gentle Giant Live (I’m on it shouting in the background)

 

PM Who or what are you listening to at the moment?

 

 

JY I don’t really get the chance sadly.

 

 

PM Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?

 

 

JY Yes although I can’t tell you anything much at least until things are firmed up a little more. I plan to release some contemplative material in singer songwriter vein, some rockier tunes for the John Young Band and a project….. That’s really all I can say for now.

 

 

PM Any gigs planned and with whom?

 

 

JY Yes, I’m still touring with Bonne Tyler and I’ll be out solo and with my babd in the months to come. I may be working with several other artists too.

 

 

PM Will you be attending the forthcoming High Voltage Festival in

London?

 

JY Sadly I’m gigging in

Germany.

 

PM John many thanks for sharing your past present and future.

 

 

JY you are most welcome…It’s been a pleasure.

 

 

Please check out John’s Myspace for gigs and other news. I would strongly recommend giving John a hearing should he be in a town near you. Better still treat yourself to one of his albums.

People who enjoy John's music can request gigs anywhere in their town (anywhere in the world) at www.musicpledge.com
John is also active on facebook, myspace and last fm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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