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Interview with Paul Birchall of Combination Head.
12/24/2009 4:29:17 AM
I was recently granted an audience with a musician whom i admire and respect a geat deal, Mr Paul Birchall. I first met Paul a couple of years ago following a Combination Head gig in Wath Upon Derne. It was an icy cold night, though red hot musically. I recently caught up with him back stage whilst he was on Tour with Heather Small and when he had caught his breath a couple of weels later here's what he had to say........

PM. How did the tour with Heather Small go?

PB. The tour went well thanks. Iv'e been working with Heather for eighteen years now nine of those with M-People. Heather's a great person and passionate about her music. I was musical; director for this recent tour. Musically it is made easy by the top notch band we have including Gareth and Brian from Combination Head. It's a bit like the nice working with PP Arnold.

PM. On reflection as the year draws to a close, how has 2009 been for you? What have you been up to?

PB. Phew! Two tours with Heather small, two American tours with Wang Chung and Cutting Crew, lots of shows with Snake Davis, a number of productions including Human Nature for Snake Davis,our tribute to the great Micheal Jackson, it was track of the week on Jazz FM. Constantly working on the New Combination Head album titled Truth seeker. I am recording with Gaz right now, it's all sounding cool. We can't wait to get some tracks out there. Busy basically.

PM. What can be expected frrom the new Combination Head album? Will "We Are Machine " be included on it?

PB. I can tell you there are eleven tracks on it. We Are Machine won't be on it.

PM. How far from completion is it?

PB. Iv'e scheduled April.

PM. I found some of the subject matter in the last two albums intriguing lyrically, From where did you draw your ideas for the new album?

PB. Oh there's lots of stuff on there. I would like to keep it under raps!

PM. Looking at the images on the Combination Head website, i was wondering who came up with the idea of the manikin head?

PB. Myself and Matthew my son. Matt and Gareth are responsible for the wonderful art work.

PM. Any Combination Head gis planned in the new year?

PB. We are discussing the possibilities at the moment. Maybe the odd one off shows early in the year. There is a possibility of a show in Hartlepool. Watch this space.

PM. Being as you are, a working musician, what was the original motivation for getting Combination Head together.

PB. Since my exposure to Emerson,Lake and Palmer at school, 1971 i think?? my ears have always perked up on hearing intersesting interplay both harmonically and rythmically, andthat Hammond sound etc. Oh yes, The Beatles.
Basicalli i write every day and have amassed a huge catalogue of unused stuff. thats most of it actually. I am fortunate enough to count as friends some world class mucsicians, engineers and artists who all enjoy the music and contribute both in the writing and in many othert ways. its a dream machine, i just change the oil now and then.

PM. How did you get involved in the music scene?

PB. I was thrown in at the deep end. I taught myself a few chords on a single manual Phillichorda, the father of my school friend ran dance bands in the area and was told i was playing. He dropped a pile of sheet music off one day and said there was a gig in a couple of weeks "just learn the chords". He must have thought i did ok as i never stopped working. There was a very healthy live music scene then, any function had a band so three gigs a week was the norm. Juggling an apprenticeship at British Leyland wasn't so cool so one had to go. Also i am still happily married to Diane, the band leaders daughter.

PM. Would it be fair to say that Keith Emerson was an influence on your style?

PB. Very much so., particularly when i solo on the hammond. To be compared in any way to sir Keith is a great honour.

PM. Is there anyone whom you haven't yet played with that you would like to and why?

PB. A lifes ambition was to work with George Harrison, he stopped returning my calls. I met Donald Fagen in New York last year but he didn't ask me to play, or even better write. jimmy Webb is another.

PM. What is your opinion of the currant progressive rock scene?

PB. We got support from the Classic Rock society when it was most welcome, including a couple of support slots, some radio play. The first two albums have sold out and continue to be downloaded. We had lots of nice comments from people we met and by email. I feel there is a deep love of musicfrom those who attend our shows and we certainly love you. There are lots of music hungry people out there. We just need to work out how to get tribute band audiences to come and see original contemary prog.

PM. Whats in your CD player at the moment?

PB. "Ruff Album Mixes", some tracks sent by my old, and i mean old, friend Gary Boyle. Anyone out there remember Gary or his band Isotope? His back catalogue has been re-released. We are talking about doing something together next year.

PM. What are your three favorite albums?

PB. If you asked me what my favorite Thirty albums were i would still struggle, so no!

PM. Do you have any commitments in 2010 with regards to playing with other people?

PB. Other than the lovely people previosly discussed, no.

With that i will bid you fairwell. Many thanks Paul.

Mr Birchall will be sending me a peak preview of some of the tracks from the forthcoming album Truth Seeker, though i am bound to absolute secrecy.  I will be reviewing the album as soon as i get my hans on it. If you haven't yet had a listen to Combination Head i would suggest you give them a hearing. Sound them out at www.combinationhead.com  and www.myspace.co/combinationheaduk

Steve Hackett interview.
12/4/2009 8:35:35 AM
I have been an avid Steve Hackett fan since i first heard Dancing WithThe Moonlit Knight in 1973. Sine then he has been one of the most prolific writers/recording artists true to the genre of progressive music and someone whom commands the respect of his peers and fans alike. Many thanks to Steve for taking time out to answer a few questions and to his partner Jo who arranged everything.

PM  Hi Steve, It's been a very difficult year for you personally though you seem to be closing it on a high note with a superb new album. Do you feel that you are through the worst and able to miove on professionally?

SH  It's a relief to be able to release new product now. Response has been overwhelmingly positive towards the album and tour.

PM  The new album seems to build on areas previously explored on the Wild Orchids album. It is a marked return to your old style. What was the inspiration for the album?

SH  I find the pan-genre approach works best to give the sense of a musical journey. Spanish, Hungarian and Turkish music play their part on the new waxing. As lyrics are very personal it seems to draw people in more and more.

PM  Why the title "Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth" ?

SH  A boyhood fascination with trains meets a sense of coming out into the light after a dark period.

PM  In the CD booklet notes you inform that the album was made in the living room. Is this to be taken literally?

SH  Unbelievably, it happens to be true.

PM  I am very surprised. The production and recording quality is gold standard. Will other projects be recorded this way or will you be returning to the studio?

SH  We'll see.

PM  How did you meet Nick Beggs and how did he become involved with the recording and touring band?

SH  I met Nick at an EMI bash that we were both performing at. He was MD for Belinda Carlisle's band whils i was promoting A Midsummer Nights Dream. We hit it off immediately. He's a great player. We stayed in touch over time and i called him to ask if he was interested in joining my circus.

PM  What was it like working with Chris Squire and Anthony Phillips?

SH  Both Chris and Anthony are equilly as enthusiastic when working on ideas that fire them up. It6's fun working with them both and i love them dearly. They are great players and hugely influential.

PM  Do you have any more projects in the pipeline?

SH  Chris and i have a project in the pipeline, which just gets stronger every time we work on it. I'm always busy trying new ideas and material.

PM  Were you happy with Alan Hewitt's biography "Sketches Of Hackett"?

SH  I thought Alan did a fine job on the book, which i'm glad to say has been so very well recieved.

PM  Obviously there were more personal areas that Alan rightly steered clear of. Do you invisage writing your own autobiography in the future?

SH  At some point down the line i'll write my own warts and all memoirs of an old Pimliconian!

PM  You were the only ex member of Genesis to maintain progressive rock roots. Whilst you were a member of the band did you ever feel isolated?

SH  Genesis were a great band. I loved my time with them but since then iv'e enjoyed the benefits of an autonomous afterlife.

PM  Whom did you feel that you had the most in common with?

SH  I had things in common with all of them. for instance, classical with Tony, Musique concrete with Pete, folk with Mike and big band brass arrangement with Phil.

PM  reflecting on the Genesis revisited album, the magnificent "Deja Vu" was a piece started by Peter gabriel in the Selling England By The Pound days. Are there any other such diamonds worthy of the Hackett polish?

SH  There may be the odd recycled riff worthy of exhumation. Ther's a song called "Wooden Mask" that we once recorded at a studio called Theatre Projects, but unfortunately the tape remains lost in the vaults.

PM  Of your own albums which is your favourite?

SH  Spectral Mornings and Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth. But they are all my babies.

PM  The Genesis box set 1970 - 1975 were also released on 200g vinyl. Would you consider having some of your classic or newer albums released in the same format?

SH  Sketches Of Satie is available on vinyl. there may be more in future for vinyl fetishists!

PM  Will there be a tour next year? and if so will there be any shows further North than holmfirth?

SH  The answer is yes to both questions. There are plans afoot. I'm addicted to gigging and i know i have an extraordinary band.

PM  What next?

SH  Other than a nice cup of tea, it promises to be a very nomadic new year.

PM  Steve, thank you far taking time to answer my questions. Best of luck with the new project and i look forward to seeing you in 2010. You remain a legend for many people, myself included.

SH  Have a progtastic yuletide and a happy new year to you and all your readers. Very best wishes.

Steve Hackett


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