Mikko von Hertzen (Von Hertzen Brothers)

Von Hertzen Brothers live at The Fleece, Bristol

I’ve been much taken with the music of the Von Hertzen Brothers, ever since seeing them at the first High Voltage Festival at Victoria Park in London back in 2010. Three brothers (Kie, Mikko and Jonne von Hertzen), two others (Mikko Kaakkuriniemi – drums, and Juha Kuoppala – keyboards), as they say.

Back in Finland they play huge festivals and their albums routinely shoot to the top of the charts, but here in the UK, they remain something of a well kept secret. It’s a fate, perhaps, to which original, genre-spanning bands are more prone, with no one quite sure what to do with them or how best to introduce them to a new market. They rock too hard for some proggers, while their albums contain too many progressive rock diversions and left-field influences for a mainstream rock audience. But talent, and good songs, will always out, and it’s great to see their UK audience building.  If you don’t know this band, what on earth are you waiting for? You’ve got some catching up to do!

I recently saw the band at both the HRH Prog Festival in Pwllheli, and in Bristol on their March 2016 UK headline tour and caught up with middle brother, vocalist and guitarist Mikko. I was delighted when he kindly agreed not only to a long awaited Über Röck interview but to the following Words and Music Q&A session. So, with only minimal duplication, here goes …

Hi Mikko! Is it possible to say what rock music means to you?
It means everything; it’s the love of my life.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
Elvis.

Tell us about an album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
I would say the Beatles albums: ‘Abbey Road’, ‘The White Album’, and ‘Sgt. Peppers’.

Mikko von Hertzen live at The Fleece, BristolWe were talking earlier (pre-interview) about the 1970s influences on the Von Hertzen Brothers’ music, but you’re going back beyond that in the answers you’re giving.
When I think about the pivotal moments that sealed our destiny, it must have been our father bringing home, when we were small kids, all these LPs. He was a businessman, and he was bringing home Lynyrd Skynyrd from the States, the Eagles from the States, and then from England the Beatles albums and a Queen box set with 16 LPs in it. It was like heaven for us.

So the three of you shared tastes right from the start?
Oh yeah, though of course we had our own favourites. My big brother Kie was a guitar player so he was into Ritchie Blackmore and Brian May and all that. I was more into drumming, so I was more, like, ‘Bonzo is my god’ [laughs], and my little brother, Jonne, was into pop.

Is there an artist who has stayed with you over time?
I would say Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd has had, for me, personally, the longest influence. Since hearing the first Pink Floyd album that my father brought – I think it was ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ – up to the later ones like the live album ‘Pulse’, it has had a huge effect on me.

There was a famous book written by a psychiatrist called Eric Berne called ‘What Do You Say After You Say Hello?’ I like to ask people what do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
If I met a rock star? [laughs] I would say “Hello, I’m a really huge fan and I just want to express my appreciation for what you are doing.”

Von Hertzen Brothers live at The Fleece, Bristol

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan? There are so many. Like when I met Jónsi from Sigur Rós. It was one of those moments. I remember being in North India and sitting on a hill – not on top of a mountain, but just there meditating – and I put on a Sigur Rós album, the second one, and you know … how it felt. And when I met Jónsi, I tried to describe to him what it actually meant to me, and that was a beautiful moment because, you know, there was no bullshit. There was no ‘you’ and ‘me’.  It was just, like, the music has its role. So that’s one thing that I really remember. That’s one of the most precious interactions with somebody else who writes. And then meeting Steven Wilson for the first time, telling him how much I appreciate what he is doing. And also, I am a huge fan of the Cardigans, the Swedish pop band, a huge fan. So Nina [Nina Persson, lead singer] was one of the girls I was always in love with, always. And when I met her, and I could say this aloud to her, that was beautiful. [Laughs]

How did she react?
Well, she was like her usual self: “Oh thank you, that’s so sweet of you.” Can I have a photo? “Well, ok.” [Laughs]

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
Wow! My strangest? Well, I have to say, we were playing in the States at a prog festival of sorts, called RoSfest. We played a 90 minute set. The next morning I was just walking in the hotel area, outdoors, to the restaurant to have my breakfast, and I was all drowsy, I’d just woken up, and we’d had a bit of a party, and there was this huge pick-up truck coming behind me, like really roaring, and this massive guy, who must have weighed 300lbs, shouted out right into my ear “You guys fucking rock!” [Laughs] And it scared the shit out of me. I was in a panic. I thought someone was attacking me. But he just wanted to show his appreciation. That’s the one that just came to my mind now, but there are so many weird happenings with the fans, you know, some telling you their life stories, and thinking that I’m next to God and all that stuff, you know. But that one was funny.

What would you say makes a rock gig special?
The audience. It’s the audience that always makes a gig special. If there’s a good audience that’s what makes a rock show for me.

Mikko and fan

Do you have a particularly memorable gig, or gig moment, either as a fan or as a musician?
Well, as a fan, I remember when AC/DC were touring ‘For Those About To Rock’, and they had the big canons. I was about 12. I went to the Ice Hall, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever! “For those about to rock …” and then the loud bang!

And as an artist?
As an artist, we were playing this famous Finnish festival, Pori Jazz, maybe five or six years ago. And it’s a festival where people are out on an island, with an outdoor stage, and there’s all this cool jazz going on the whole day. And then, on the way back to the city, we were playing in a tent that took maybe 3,000 people. So everybody had been outdoors for the whole day, picnicking and listening to jazz, and all these people then jammed into the tent, and the sun is setting and coming from beneath the roof of the tent and lighting everybody with a golden colour. We were playing ‘Kiss a Wish’ or something, you know, one of the instrumental things, and I just remember that moment. That was beautiful because everybody was sick of hearing something very sweet, and they wanted to rock out, and they all wanted to come to the gig, and it was the best gig ever. It was such an amazingly, beautiful, Finnish sunset. You know, Finland can be beautiful too. There are a few months of the year when it’s exceptionally beautiful.

Yes, I am wary of telling a Fin how beautiful parts of Wales are.
Oh yeah, yeah. We drove to the HRH Prog festival last weekend, and it was absolutely stunning. Really, really stunning. But the thing that we have which is very special is the archipelago. There are tons of islands, beautiful, beautiful islands. So in the summertime people go sailing there. It’s so beautiful. But yeah, nothing compared to Wales [laughs].

Last question: sex, drugs and rock ʾn’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Well, you know, maybe when you’re a kid, all those things mean a lot. But when you get older and you do this more, for me, like I said, the love of my life is not cocaine or sex. I tend to be more towards the rock ʾn’ roll side of things. [Laughs] So, in moderation, everything. I don’t do drugs. I never did. But I did have … um … I got laid a few times, let’s put it that way! [Laughs]

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
No, I’m just grateful to those reading this and I think people should give us a chance. We’re a good band and we do it with a big heart. Von Hertzen is German and it means ‘from the heart’. And we always try to remind ourselves that as long as we do this from the heart, without any pretence, just being true to ourselves, it’s the most beautiful thing that we do and offer to the world.

Mikko von Hertzen

 

Cheers Mikko!

Live photography courtesy of Mike Evans. See more at Mike’s blog.

More on the Von Hertzen Brothers on their official website and Facebook page.

Check out the band’s ‘New Day Rising’ video on You Tube

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Matt Cohen (The Reasoning)

Matt Cohen - The ReasoningKilled by punk? The British prog scene is thriving, mate. A prog stage at the High Voltage Festival, the birth of Prog magazine from the Jack Daniels soaked thighs of Classic Rock, the inaugral 2012 Prog Awards, the Hard Rock Hell Prog Festival, Marillion playing not one, not two but three biennial Weekend conventions, the annual Summers End festival in Lydney, the Celebr8 festival. What more proof do you need? Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree, Panic Room, Anathema, Amplifier … music that moves you. I could go on … and on. And, of course, there’s The Reasoning, a band described in Words and Music as “one of the great hopes of the current British prog rock scene”.

I caught up with bass player, songwriter and producer Matt Cohen to talk a bit about prog, a bit about The Reasoning, and a lot about his thoughts and experiences as a rock fan.

Hi Matt, let’s go for it. Can you tell us what rock music means to you?
In some ways it means very little to me. I’ve spent a lot of time recording, analysing sounds and getting involved in the production of music. It’s only since starting this new band [Foxbat, a new side project with guitarist Keith Hawkins] that I’ve started getting excited by other people’s music again. I’ve taught myself to listen again. So ‘nothing but everything’ is probably the answer to your question.

Why has starting the new band made a difference?
How I listened to music and what it meant when I was a kid discovering bands like Purple, Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin is nothing like it usually is when I’m writing and producing music. But now I’m listening again. There are three rooms in my house where there’s always music: the office, the lounge and the bedroom. The office is usually where I’m working on The Reasoning stuff. But I’ve moved a sofa in there and now call it “the listening lounge” and I can lie there and listen. I try to listen to one complete album every day – and I’ve not done that since I was 21. I’m getting back some of that initial excitement I felt when I was a kid.

So what did rock music mean to you when you were a kid?
It was excitement and mystique 24/7 – it pointed to a world you never got to see. The music was overwhelming. It got your head nodding and made you want to dance. Not many things do that, and that’s fantastic, that’s magical.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
Queen, then Status Quo and AC/DC. My first single was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.  I was only four or five and got it while out shopping with my mum.

Matt Cohen - photo by Ant Clausen

Photo by Ant Clausen

Tell us about an album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
Song: Iron Maiden – ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’. It was the first time I heard Maiden groove and it blew my mind.

Album: Iron Maiden – Killers. Hearing everything rising up and coming together. The power! The melody!

Lyric: Queen – ‘Mother Love’ from Made in Heaven. Those lines Freddie sings about not regretting a thing and wanting to go back into his mother’s womb. It’s very moving. Also ‘How Far to Fall’ by The Reasoning [from Dark Angel]. Rachel wrote it about a dream I had.

An artist who has stayed with you over time?
Iron Maiden. Steve Harris has been one of the biggest influences on my life musically. I remember seeing Maiden in Cardiff on the Piece of Mind tour. Just to see this guy with long hair flying across the stage and ‘shooting’ people with his bass was awesome. But also the way he used the bass as a lead instrument and the melody of his bass lines. He’s still in my top five bass players of all time.

So who are the other four?
John Deacon, Roger Glover, John Paul Jones and John Myung. John Deacon plays some ridiculously clever stuff. Roger Glover is so solid and plays some nice little things. I also love his production work. John Myung is very flash, not that I really want to play like that myself, and probably couldn’t anyway, but I’ve got to have one flash player in there!  And John Paul Jones is the master of melody. In fact all four, along with Steve Harris, are very melodic bass players.

I often wonder about song writing and bass players. Steve Harris, for example, is a big prog fan isn’t he? I wonder to what extent he writes on bass.
Well, I’ve never been to a Steve Harris writing session (laughs), but I write on bass … usually anyway. I also write on guitar and keyboards as well, as this helps me get a different perspective/feel for a song.

What makes a rock gig special?

Ritchie Blackmore

Guitar God Ritchie Blackmore – kicking fans at a venue near you!

The first gig I went to was Rainbow at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff, on the Bent Out of Shape tour. I reached up to pluck one of Ritchie Blackmore’s strings and he kicked me in the shoulder! I had a big bruise. I showed my Mum and she was worried … “Oh my angel, my angel!” … but I was proud of it: “Ritchie Blackmore did this. Ritchie Blackmore kicked me!” The only other thing I really remember about that gig is it being very hot and loud, and the smell of patchouli.

The last really special gig I went to was Dream Theater on the Octavarium tour, 2005. Jordan Rudess’ opening to ‘Octavarium’ was so atmospheric/melodic/real and it genuinely made me cry.

So, to answer your question, what makes a gig special is when a band believes in what it is doing and gets you engaged, makes you believe that they’ve written songs for you. I saw Martin Simpson at St. David’s Hall. Not rock music, just him and an acoustic guitar playing on Level 3 (i.e. not in the auditorium itself). It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Karine Polwart in Swansea. Not rock but classy folk music, and beautiful. Too often these days, things seem to be all about the show rather than the music.

Your most memorable gig as a fan?
I’d have to say Queen at Wembley in 1986. I’d been, and still am, a massive fan so this was a dream come true. There was also a real vibe around Queen after Live Aid, real Queen fever, and it was nigh on impossible to see them. So just to be there was awesome. And Freddie, his voice – he had the best voice in the world.

Your most notable gig as an artist?
Ooh, there have been a few. Some people might expect me to say our first Marillion support at the Colston Hall, Bristol, and that was truly awesome/overwhelming. High Voltage was bloody amazing too, as was the Marillion gig in Cardiff last September. But I’d have to go for our gig at the recent Fish convention in Leamington. The audience were fucking unbelievable. We played out of our skins and after coming back from a great tour, we were gig-ready and so up for this show like none other. It was also the first time, believe it or not, that I realised that we really had something going on.

The Reasoning - Fish support

The Reasoning, supporting Fish at Leamington 2012

Dylan or Morrison?
Neither, I can’t stand them! I just don’t get them. Dylan writes incredible songs, I just wish he wouldn’t perform them!

Gabriel or Collins?
Collins. I like his pop sensibilities plus he’s a shit hot drummer and comes across as a really cool guy with a great sense of humour.

What do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
“Where’s the bar?” or “Can I buy you a drink?” or just “Nice to meet you.”

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan?
I’ve met loads of brilliant people. The Marillion guys have been nothing but sweethearts to us. Steve Rothery is one of my favourite guitarists and is a wonderful/lovely man, and I’m sure I have come over all ‘fan boyish’ with him a few times – ha ha ha ha ha.

But to answer the question, I’d probably say Fish. Misplaced Childhood was the first Marillion album I got into and is still one of my favourite albums. The lyrics, the phrasing, the whole way he blends the lyrics with the music. When we played at the convention last October, and I don’t normally go up to people and tell them how much I like their music but, I just had to tell him what his music meant to me at the time and still does. We were having a drink in the backstage bar, the vibe was amazing and everything was friendly and comfortable, so that’s when I decided to say something. It was a cool moment.

It’s an odd kind of thing isn’t it, the relationship between fans and the bands and musicians they like.
Yes, it is.  As I say, I’ve met loads of brilliant people, I’ve had photos taken with other musicians, chatted, shaken their hands, horsed around, but some of the mystique has gone for me now. I still have my heroes but some of these guys I just wouldn’t want to meet. The Led Zeppelin guys, for example. I’d be too awestruck. I saw Jimmy Page walking round at High Voltage, and I thought about trying to get near him to say “Hi”, but what are you going to say to him, really? I met Ade Edmondson once and got drunk. I was mortified afterwards as I made a right knob of myself. Bad News was and still is one of my favourite sketches and I just fell to pieces. Rach laughed her arse off at me. I met Sting too as I was doing some work as a roadie and we had to move a load of stuff into his house for some recording he was doing. When we finished we were sitting down on this kind of window seat when he came in. We jumped up quickly, a bit in awe of him, but he told us to sit back down and thanked us for moving all the stuff for him. That was very cool.

Matt and Rachel Cohen of The Reasoning with Geoff Downes

Matt and Rachel Cohen with Cardiff City fan Geoff Downes

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
It’s unbelievable some of the things people say to you, it really is. This guy came up to us after one gig, said hello, shook our hands and then said, “So what are the sleeping arrangements in the band?” What are the fucking sleeping arrangements in the band? (Laughs) So I said, “Well, I sleep with the drummer, Rach sleeps with the guitarist and everyone takes it in turn with each other.”

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
It has its place. Everyone does it in one form or another; it doesn’t have to be a rock and roll thing. Most people like a few beers to unwind. Most musicians don’t push things too far – they know what a grind the next day is going to be! Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a kind of euphemism for life, isn’t it? After all that’s what we’ve been brought here to do – fornicate, eat and get intoxicated!

Rock music – the spawn of the devil or a force for good?
Well, it’s certainly not the spawn of the devil (laughs)! It’s a force for good. Anything that makes you smile and nod along happily has got to be good. Rock music is an escape, a way of life, and hopefully it should make you think too. It takes you out of yourself, takes you away. As a youngster I totally bought into the rock image, long hair, tattoos, I wanted it all.

Your music is often labelled ‘progressive rock’? Do you think that’s been helpful or limiting?
Well, I’ve never met anyone who can define ‘Prog’ and really tell me what it is.  We’ve got good cross-over in our audience, so being labelled prog has not been limiting. Actually, it’s been good to us, so I’ve not had a problem with the prog tag.

Progressive rock is often associated with demons and wizards, fantasy and fiction. Can it, and should it, have social relevance?
Uriah Heep Demons and Wizards album coverI think heavy metal has more to do with that kind of stuff, demons and wizards and so on. I can’t think of many prog bands who write stuff about demons and wizards. People only think like that because Rick Wakeman wore a cape (laughs)! Some of the prog bands had the fantasy artwork, but metal bands had plenty of that too. Yeah, who does write about demons and wizards? Uriah Heep, Demons and Wizards, The Magicians Birthday and so on. That was good, but was it prog? To be honest I don’t know how to define prog, as stated earlier, but music to me is about engaging people and entertainment. What matters is that the music is good, and the melodies are strong. If the music’s good you can write about dragons and unicorns and people will like it – I do!

Someone said in a BBC documentary that progressive rock musicians are frustrated jazz musos who should really have kept away from rock and roll. What do you say to that?
I got into prog much later in life, I was always into the heavier side of music. I’ve never really been a jazz guy but I do appreciate it. I listen to jazz sometimes, but for me personally, finding that one note, that point when everything comes together around that one note, is everything. Why play a million when one will do?

When progressive rock does get TV coverage, things often seem to stop with the big 70s bands. You don’t get a lot of coverage of the scene today.
The scene today is still in the process of re-establishing itself and has probably been building for the last 12 or 13 years.Things have been diluted too by modern media, social networking sites and so on. Everyone today thinks they can be in a band and that setting up a Facebook page or a Twitter account should be enough to get you coverage. But it’s hard work getting coverage and you have to really work to get it. I still go to magazines rather than the internet to see what’s going on. I think the music press still has a huge and important role today in providing a kind of filter for us. You can’t listen to everything and not everything merits public attention. You can’t assume that just because you put yourself out there your work deserves attention.

We could talk about the impact of the internet on the music scene and the music industry, but to what extent do you think the advent of the CD changed the way people approach their music?
I think albums should be a maximum of 45 minutes long, maybe 50. Lots of people don’t usually have an attention span beyond that. Adventures in Neverland is the longest album we’ve done (56 minutes), but I’ll never do a double album and we won’t make one quite as long as Adventures in Neverland again. Just because you can get 80 minutes of music on a CD, it doesn’t mean you should! Shorter albums sometimes provide you with a better listening experience. I like that thing Tom Petty did on one of his CDs when he put in a little spoken interlude telling people where the sides of the original albums ended, helping them to listen to the music in the way originally intended – genius and inspired!

The Reasoning Adventures in Neverland album cover

CHEERS MATT!

The Reasoning official website: http://www.thereasoning.com/home.php

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Simon Robinson (Deep Purple Appreciation Society)

Think of yourself as a Deep Purple fan? Been exploring the Purple family jungle? Bought any remasters and anniversary editions of classic Purple albums, or any of the excellent Purple Records releases? If so, then chances are that Simon Robinson has had a hand in a significant part of your record collection. Just check out those CD sleeve notes and credits. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that no one has put more time, effort and love into preserving, protecting and promoting the immense Deep Purple legacy.

Simon kindly agreed to contribute to the Words and Music Q&A Series … and we’re both delighted and privileged to have him!

So Simon, what made you start up the Deep Purple Appreciation Society? 
Just as a fan wanting to get in touch with other fans really. A way of keeping up to date, exchanging information, trading records and the like.

What sort of things do you do, and how much of a time commitment is it?
For 35 years it was a printed newsletter (later magazine). More recently (mostly I’m afraid due to the massive hikes in the cost of postage – a block on businesses which the Government seems to have massively underestimated) it has become largely web based with a site, blog and emailed newsletters. I probably spend at least an hour a day on this directly and my mate David helps keep the website updated. As I enjoy the printed media, we’re now developing a series of books to cover aspects of the band in more detail and depth.

Why Deep Purple? Is it possible to say what their music means to you?
They were just the band whose music hit me between the eyes and ears back in 1970; others came close, and have equalled them at times, but Purple’s classic era has yet to be surpassed for me in the rock arena. ‘Speed King’ on the flip of ‘Black Night’ was the one which really hooked me. Oh and the dodgy bootleg H-Bomb which Virgin sold me for £4 and gave me my first hearing of the band live.

Ever meet the band?
I’ve met them all at one time or another, usually backstage, except for the mysterious first singer Rod Evans, and the ersatz singer they got in for a couple of years in the 1990s while Ian Gillan was busy elsewhere.

They say it’s often a mistake to meet your heroes. Has your experience with Deep Purple been different?
Not really, they were all very patient when I did meet them, and any quirky behaviour was more amusing than otherwise. However on a business level it has been less easy over the years when I did work for their old manager and became seen as ‘the enemy’! Not that they ever turned the cheques down.

So, in your experience, what should you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
“Your flies are undone …”

Your first Purple gig?
Sheffield City Hall, Fireball tour 1971.

Your most memorable Purple gig?
Well, probably the above ought to be considered, but curiously it was one of Jon Lord’s last shows with the band at the same venue which really impressed for sheer power and performance. But there have been any number of good shows and individual highlights and shows by the spin-off bands.

Your top five Purple albums?

  • Fireball
  • In Rock
  • Made In Japan
  • Machine Head
  • Come Taste The Band

(From the authorised catalogue)

Some (not me, obviously) might say running a fan club is an unhealthy obsession. What would you say to that?
It can be, and I’ve seen it happen to some people, but fan clubs should be run by fans for other fans, not to try and become best mates with the band. It rarely works, except for Gary Numan fans.

Of everything you’ve done with the Deep Purple Appreciation Society, of what are you most proud?
The series of archive albums I helped develop and release during the 1990s.

Are you involved with any other bands or in music in any other way?
Not on this sort of level, though I do like all sorts of stuff (I ran an arty Talking Heads fanzine for a short time in the 1980s) and did issue some material by local bands for a time in the 90s.

In your experience, is it ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ that attracts rock fans or is it more about the music?
I think it’s mostly the music; you can get the others much cheaper than by following a band, which is often a big enough drain on finances!

How do you view the role of fan clubs (or similar) in the current era? And do you think they have a future?
I hadn’t thought of this before but you’re right, the fanzine scene has largely gone and I do miss that almost underground culture a lot. A website, no matter how good, is still a bit distant somehow. Forums are usually bogged down with largely unhelpful one-liners and point-scorers. I find the blog works best for us, as people can still interact, but the format forces a more reasoned and developed response – at least from our readers! But as most official websites are dreadfully anodyne, I think there is plenty of room for unofficial sites which understand how fandom works.

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
“Where are you living?” It’s all still happening. I do find a lot of bands more derivative these days personally (every track by Muse I can cite chapter and verse where it’s been taken from), but as long as younger people still get the same kick out of live music it’ll be around. And lots of them do. And hopefully they’ll find time to delve back in time and discover some of the great bands of the 60s and 70s.

THANKS SIMON!

Visit the Deep Purple Appreciation Society website
Read Darker Than Blue (the DPAS blog)

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Dobby’s Shoelace

Those of you who have read Words and Music, will recall a dazzling young man, and Ritchie Blackmore fan extraordinaire, who goes by the name of Gareth. Though he would be loathe to admit it now, there was a time in his youth when Gareth would willingly accompany me to Saxon gigs, deriving pleasure and entertainment from both the music and the band’s ‘stagecraft’. Gareth found bass player Steve ‘Dobby’ Dawson particularly entertaining and, indeed, I remember a line from the Crusader tour programme which greatly amused us both. Asked what he liked to do after a gig, Dobby replies: “Get showered, get drunk, get laid, in that order.” It’s a great line, and one I’ve used myself from time to time. (Try it out, it’s an answer that fits an extraordinarily large number of questions.)

Anyway, Gareth has a great anecdote that, try as I may,  I just couldn’t quite manage to work into the book. So here it is now for your reading pleasure. He writes:

“Do you recall us going to St.David’s Hall to watch Saxon and running to the front as the lights dropped? Anyway, the bassist (Steve Dawson … you have no idea how it pains me to think that I might have that name right; that a useful piece of information could be esconced in my brain in place of an old rock band member’s name…the horror, the horror!) put his foot on his monitor a la Spinal Tap (I think Tap toured with Saxon to learn a few things) and I industriously began to pick his lace out of his basketball shoe (shoes which, as you know, have about 200 holes … it was indeed a labour of love). I recall our friend Richard laughing hysterically beside me as I picked away at the tightest bits, ‘Strangers in the Night’ reverberating through the hall..pick, pick, pick…anyway, I finally freed the lace (I think I still have it somewhere) and he started prancing about the stage and stared down in horror to see this long lolling tongue flapping away and his shoe half off … classic indeed. Anyway, my brother Duncan sent that story to John Peel who read it live on Radio 1! I have the recording of it somewhere …”

Gareth was last seen on these shores wandering the old town of Salisbury, checking out Ritchie Blackmore’s minstrel tights, which, thankfully, he didn’t try to remove and won’t be sending to Radio 1.