2 demo's and 1 gig.
Soon after taking up the guitar at sixteen I began playing with an old school mate, David Blackley, who took up the guitar about the same time. I played rhythm guitar and occasionally Sang while David played lead and even less occasionally sang. Mostly we played instrumentals, even our songs tended toward instrumentals with thirty seconds of singing followed by an eight minute solo. Anyone who might have heard either of us sing about this time would of approved of this balance. We might not of been in the same league guitar wise as Davids' favourites Dave Gilmore and Carlos Santana but on the whole our guitar playing was a heck of a lot less offensive than our singing.
We made two visits to the country singer Stu Stevens Ash ( or Eagle ) eight track studios at Annesley Woodhouse to record demo's. We recorded five tracks the first time and three the second. All original, all crap. We navigated the awkwardness of our voices with a variety of other devises besides long instrumentals. On one track David whispered the lyric inaudibly over the constant backdrop of a wind machine. For another track I simply read a short Phillip Larkin poem (Wires) over an electric guitar arpeggio augmented by a distorted sound created by using an electric razor to pluck the strings ( with blade removed ). I'm not sure this is what my dad had in mind when he gave ne the razor but it was the only use it ever got. The track then went into a long meandering instrumental. Another track featured David talking in a gruff voice and yet another had me screaming.
We were a mixture of low energy socially conscious punk and poorly executed prog rock. We played songs about the futility of everything with titles like " Blow the world to f******pieces".
In 1985 we made our one and only live appearance as third support at a punk gig at The Poplar in Ilkeston. We'd rehearsed five songs but after two someone suggested we might like to make the next one the last. And so we did.
We continued to jam and rehearse songs throughout the 80's until life took us separate ways, but never attempted to play live or record again.
David and Alan outside the studio
David and Alan live picture (65kb)
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Numerous demo's , three gigs and a radio interview .
In early 1980 my friend Graham Cooke, usually referred to as Cookie, suggested we form a pop band. I brought a guitar, he brought a bass, I took some lessons, he took up with a punk band, called Solvent Abuse and started playing live almost immediately. Actually they were originally called the Government till it was discovered that name had already been taken. Looking back I think they should of stayed as the government and Maggie could of had solvent abuse. So they changed names to Riot squad but that was needed in Mansfield so they became Solvent Abuse.
While he played with Solvent, Cookie and I were writing and rehearsing songs with Cookie singing, and when he quit the band we decided to make a demo at Ash studio where David and I had already recorded. Solvent had done a couple of demo's in Broadway studio in Hockley Notts - a converted basement. Ash was a more up market studio - a converted barn.
Cookie suggested the name White Feather for the project which seemed innocuous enough to me, at least until a couple of months later when Kajagoogoo used it as an album title which put me right of the name but by then we were committed. Or would of been if the psychiatrist' report hadn't got lost in post.
For our demo we were joined by Darren Warner on drums. Darren didn't have any drums himself so we hired some the night before which was the only chance Darren got to rehearse with us. Cookie and I knew the songs backwards but Darren hadn't heard them before and since one of them was a twenty minute epic with a dozen tempo changes we entered the studio's with fingers crossed. Which perhaps explains why I messed up the guitar part and Darren got his bit right.
After Cookie had left Solvent one of the demo tracks on which he'd played bass was selected to go on a punk compilation album . Perhaps inspired by a certain amount of jealousy we decided to make a self financed single . Using one track recorded with Darren " Summer days and a golden haze ", and a second from another session with just the two of us, " Feathered girl ", we had 500 copies of a single pressed in December 1983 . We sent out a number of promotional copies and in January we were interviewed on Radio Nottingham by Bob Rowe for the late afternoon/teatime show. Both tracks were played , though not in full - even our short tracks tended to drag on, and Cookie told the world how we spent a lot of time playing together in my bedroom. We were also reviewed in a local free paper being likened to Echo and the Bunnymen and Syd Barrett.
And then. Well, er nothing. That was it. We sold just over a hundred copies, lost, left behind and otherwise mislaid the best part of another hundred and the rest sit forlornly in my wardrobe with my seventy eights and my reel to reel tapes.
We continued making demos' until 1989 although often involved in other projects simultaneously. All demos were recorded at Ash studio mostly with Stu at the controls. Not having a car we'd either borrow my mums' or go on my 150cc Gilera Arcour motorbike, which was quite fun when we had a guitar sticking out of each pannier and various effects, bits of Percussion, drum machines, music stands and sundries packed in the top box and a bag on Cookies back. We sent some of the recordings we made off to record companies but mostly we just stuck 'em in a cupboard. We sent one demo tape early on to Graham Neal at radio Trent. Years later we got it back with his memo which read " White Feather- psychedelia is supposed to be on the upsurge - maybe they're onto something? "
Various friends joined us for certain sessions to contribute their talents. Steve Birch a work mate of Cookies sang harmonies on a song called "It makes me sad" , David Blackley added atmospheric guitar noises to "The ocean" , John Harrison played lead guitar on a number of tracks and Anton Grzesiczek joined us to play Guitar and add some backing vocals on a number of our better tracks.
In late '89 or early '90 we decided to switch from being a studio band to a live group. We recruited Simon Withers on Drums and the three of us rehearsed for two years played three gigs, two at the news house on St.James st. Notts, one at the Old Angel Hockley, and then split up. On each occasion we supported Cookies rockier outfit The Little Pigs. Cookie had often been in another band throughout White Feathers existence, first with a reformed Solvent Abuse then Emily and then the Little Pigs. At one point he was rehearsing with three bands. Now he felt he was in one band to many and he left to concentrate on playing live with The Pigs and helping his wife have a baby.
White Feather Picture gallery
White Feather MP3s
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1 jam and 1 demo .
In August 1984 with my parents on holiday we had a jam at my house. With Cookie on bass and backing vocals, Jar (Lynda Sanderson) - formerly one of Solvents' two singers - on vocals , John Harrison on lead guitar (mainly), me on rhythm guitar (mainly) and Jono - another former Solvent member on drums we made a raucous row, with which we were sufficiently impressed to book Ash studio to do a demo.
The day before the demo John, Jar and I had been to see the Dammed at a " keep the GLC
working for London " gig, Red Kens' last stand, or so thought Maggie . We got home rather late.
Come demo day and I over slept and was late. Jar failed to turn up at all and so Cookie did the
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One demo, one gig
With enthusiasm for more high energy music held over from the Tin jam we formed a rock band. The personnel was as for Tin except with Shelley (a fella) Eaton in for Jar (Shelley was Solvents' other singer), and Darren Warner taking over from Jono. We rehearsed, recorded a three track demo, played one gig, at the Nelson and Railway Kimberley, and then kicked Darren out for being unreliable at turning up for practice. Auditioning a couple of Drummers underlined the fact that Darren was an above average drummer not to be easily replaced. And so he was invited back, and I left rather then be in the band with him. They played another gig and then Shelley left. After a couple more gigs and a performance at a song contest at Britannia park, where the judges included such musical luminaries as the boxer John Conti and the mayor of Erewash, John left and was replaced by Anton Grzesiczek with whom they played a number of gigs and recorded a demo at Ash. And then they went the way of all flesh - saggy, a little loose at the seams but.......nobody loved them.
Emilys' high point came when we were still a five piece. We entered The Sony Rock'n'Pop Challenge, a national band competition the winner of which ended up on The Whistle Test. We got as far as a regional final, having a track played on Radio Trent along with seven other hopefuls. Sundry judges offered opinions and then selected a winner. We felt slightly aggrieved because the competition rules obliged us to send in two tracks. We had demos' of three songs one of which we were happy with and the other two of which were pretty poor. We sent in the good one along with the least offensive of the other two. But on radio Trent they only played one song for us to be judged on. And which, do you think, they chose? It's one thing to be judged at your best and be found wanting, quite another to be judged at your worst.
Emily free MP3s
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Nothing but practice
After White feather split up Sam ( Simon Withers ) and I decided to play as a two piece, Sam on drums and me on amplified guitar and singing. I had sung, or rather shouted, one song at the gig I played with Emily, had sang, or rather talked, a song at each of the three White feather gigs and had also been used to shouting, screaming, squawking and talking with David. Recently I'd taken to singing new songs to Cookie, originally anything I wrote on my own I would just pass him the words, play the guitar part and let him work out a melody. DHSS, Move along, and Prometheus were written like this. But I'd never really pretended to be a singer. And now I was going to - though I'd see what I could get away with by talking, shouting and screaming first. Also instrumentals. They'll help. So we set off experimenting with what we could achieve with drums ( scraped, scratched, hammered and hit ) guitar and feedback. Lots of feedback. But not just any old feedback. No, rhythmic feedback. Controlled feedback. Alright, nearly controlled feedback. Nearly rhythmic feedback. Nearly controlled rhythmic feedback.. Hmmmm. But before we got the chance to introduce the public to the wonderful world of Boccionni on horseback, I was sent down.
Some say it was for crimes against music. Some say it was for daring to believe in freedom of expression. Still others say it was for " screaming like a banshee " in court and biting a police officer, in my own very personnel protest against the poll tax. After nine and a half weeks I was released. I should of only done six but they liked me so much they kept me longer. Brian Adams was No 1 when I went in. He was still No 1 when I came out. Every Sunday evening I would press my ears against the bars of my cell window to hear the chart show coming up from the cell below, and every week it was the same record at No 1. God how I hate Brian Adams. But he's not the worst. I worked in a t- shirt workshop making ....... T- shirts, well what else does one make in a T-shirt workshop. My particularly demanding T-shirt production task, the one they chose especially for me ( or was it Jason Donovan ) on account of my high E.Q, the one upon which the accurate implementation of depended the entire process involved sniping off the dangly bits of loose cotton. A procedure known in the trade as " dangly cotton bit snipping ". Apparently this was all to enable me to become a useful and fully rehabilitated member of society on release. But I didn't want to be a useful member of society, I wanted to be a student. As we worked away on our T-shirts we were allowed to have the radio on. This gave us the untold pleasure of listening to Rozella singing " Everybody's free to feel good " and Belinda Carlise "Live your life be free ". Silly cows.
After I got out I went off to Bath. I'd been advised not to shower in prison or at least if I did not to bend down to retrieve the soap if I dropped it. At Bath I was starting a degree course in music, but after two weeks I felt I couldn't cope and gave up. But Boccionni had fallen off his horse and died without us having to explain our name or point out that we were supposed to sound like that.
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When sam and I were joined by Shelley Eaton on Vocals and John Cooper ( Trapper ) on bass for a short term project Sam, a practising artist - which at one time would of made him ineligible for military service, suggested we resurrect this name since it had gone unused in anger. Boccionni was an Italian artist of the futurist movement who died falling off his horse. Persons of a more superstitious nature might of taken the premature demise of the previous band bearing this name as an ill omen but not us. We got together with the intention of practising for a few weeks before playing two gigs on the same day and than splitting up. The first gig in the afternoon was in a long field behind a pub in Riddings. No matter how long the field it could never of been long enough. No matter where you stood you were always going to be too close to the stage when we were on. We were truly awful. In the evening we supported The Little Pigs, who had also played at Riddings, at the Narrow Boat in Notts, which was later knocked down. This time, awful would be a hopelessly inadequate adjective to describe us. Never in the history of human endeavour have so many been so appalled by so few. Well if anyone had been there that is. Fortunately this appalling demonstration of inability was witnessed by a mercifully small number, otherwise the casualties could of been horrendous. I found it difficult to believe that after so many years trying I could be part of something quite so appallingly bad. We were crap to start with but when Trapper turned up late with all sobriety of the crested newt and proceeded to break off playing in the middle of songs in order to imbibe more pond water, when Shelley decided he'd had enough and walked off stage leaving me to sing unrecognizable versions of ABBAs' Mamma Mia, The Dead Kennedys' Let's lynch the landlord and Peter Gabriels' D.I.Y. Well it was more than flesh and blood could stand. It ended with me cordially enquiring why Trap just didn't F*** OFF, and Sam getting up at the end, walking from his drums out the door down the road and out of the city. He didn't stop walking till he'd reached Newark!
Every now and then, Trapper - who has somehow managed to remain a friend - will say to me
" Why don't we start a band " , and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
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Two demo's and a fistful of gigs (but no dollars)
After the demise of Emily, while still making occasional demos' with me as White Feather, Cookie formed The Little Pigs originally with Anton Grzerchek on guitar and Darren Warner again on drums. Then Grezo was replaced by Richard Terry , then Richard was usurped again by Grezo and finally Richard was back in when Cookie realised that he was never going to be able to spell Grezos last name. They played gigs and recorded demos' at a studio in Long Eaton in '90/'91 (Ash studio was no longer available as stu Stevens had moved). In '93 they were going to make another demo at Meadow farm studio Lower Hartshay. I was asked to add some keyboards. After nine years spent doing A-level music at South East Derbyshire College I'd become a competent pianist, as well as an expert on making up excuses as to why I'd failed the exam again. The demo completed, I was asked to play live with them and did so - hiding behind a curtain when we played Kimberley church hall, hiding behind a disused bar at the Hearty Good Fellow Notts, and chickening out completely at the last minute when they played on a float passing through Long Eaton as part of the big parade. Then we made a five track demo at Gem studio near Boston in 1995, of which I'm quite proud. Though technically my role, like my penis, was quite small. I've since had it extended - my role that is the willey is still small. The last gig I played with them was at the Old Cricket Players Notts, which was later partially demolished to make room for the new Ice Centre. (Later still it was fully demolished)
And then ... we got fed up and split. Cookie has reformed the band on a number of occasions but I have not been a part of them.
Little Pigs demos (with me on)
Just no good without you
When she falls down
It's not me
So much trouble
Little pigs links (sausages)
The little Pigs Myspace site.
Cookies Myspace site.
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Sam and I were involved in a number of jams with various people throughout the mid '90's most commonly with John Harrison on guitar especially in'95/96. Then in march '97 we formed a new band. At South East Derbyshire College the lecturer Tony Morgan, who more than any other single person is responsible for my musical education, encouraged me to take a course on computer music run by Dale Perkins. This involved learning how to use a sequencer on an Atari computer. I thought this was fantastic, it was a bit like the multitrack recorder I'd always wanted but couldn't have - except of course you couldn't record vocals ... or guitars ... or in fact anything but synths. But hey, synthesised drums, fantastic, synthesised strings, phenomenal, synthesised brass, brilliant, synthesised pianos, great, synthesised synths, err. I found the Atari with C-Lab Notators' software a great creative tool, I could write and arrange with it, and so I invited it to become the third member of our band. As a member of the band it was given fully democratic voting rights within the band, though as Sam couldn't understand computers I had to interpret its wishes. Such was the empathy between me and the computer that our views nearly always coincided and as a consequence Sam tended to be out voted. We played two gigs at the Britannia Inn Huntingdon street Notts, which was later knocked down. We got eighty pounds, forty pounds each, the most I've ever made from music.
Playing entirely original compositions we made no effort to compromise our ascetic values
or indeed to entertain our audience. You either liked us for what we were, bloody awful, or hated us. But we were pure of heart, and sound in mind and limb. Well Sam had a bad back, but I had been officially declared sane while in prison by a visiting psychiatrist I had to see when I went on hunger strike in protest at their not allowing me to wear my hat. Since I was also refusing to wear the prison uniform properly I went to see him with trousers round my neck and a shirt round my loins. He asked me if I was a practising homosexual, I told him I didn't have to practice as I was naturally talented. That last bit was untrue, I was too scared to say anything smart. After I'd been on hunger strike a couple of days I was moved from the block, a cold place they keep naughty prisoners, to the hospital wing, where they first led me into a padded cell at the sight of which I thought "oh s***, what have you done now you silly sod", but then a more senior guard muttered something about there being too much paper work if they put me in there, so I was put in a normal cell. At the time this seemed like a deliberate attempt to scare me and it worked. Anyway the shrink declared me as sane as he was, two weeks later he was arrested for an improper relationship with a goat. Meanwhile back at the band we played a mixture of songs - in which I played guitar and sang, Sam played drums and the Atari played bass, keyboards and other parts - and instrumentals - where we would experiment with sound, for these I mostly played synthe rather than the guitar.
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3 gigs and one home made demo
I didn't really feel comfortable singing. I didn't like the way my voice sounded, I didn't like the way it wouldn't do what I wanted it to, and I didn't like the way it would do what I didn't want it to. So we decided to get a singer. A girl singer. I reasoned that having worked only with male singers before a female voice would make a change. Also, although many of my favourite artists are male, Pink Floyd, Paul Simon, Billy Bragg, it's not usually the quality of their voice that attracts me to them. The voices whose qualities I most appreciate tend to be ladies, Liz Fraiser, Eddi Reader, Natalie Merchant. So we put an add in add mag, " wanted female singer, with or without large bosom". For some reason we got very few replies. Eventually we did end up with a singer called Sarah Hewson, with whom we rehearsed for a while but never played live. When she left due to work commitments, Sam suggested we replace her with Denise Weston, an artist in his studio group who had been in bands previously but was not currently. Sam said that as this was a new project we needed a new name and now that I could no longer count on the casting vote of the Atari I found myself playing in a band called Milch - this is German for milk and apparently has some artistic connotation that was explained to me but I forgot. The image of Bottcionni falling of his horse was much easier to remember, but harder to spell. Milch played much of the same material as The Watnalian Institute except that we were less experimental and did less improvising. We also included one or two covers in a vain attempt to be more approachable. We played three gigs, two at The Old Cricket Players Notts and one at the Cattle Market Tavern Notts, which went bust shortly afterwards. The sound was always rather muddy as various synthesised instruments battled with each other to get out of the p.a. speakers.
We also made some recordings using my new Apple Mac computer which could record real sounds like voices, though it was easier to record a drum machine rather than Sam, so we did on our main demo effort.
Sam was never really happy having to keep time with the computer backing and he and
Denise wanted to replace it with more musicians. A band meeting was called and we split down
the middle Sam and Denise went off to play with more musicians and me and my Atari went off
to play with less. They are now in a five piece band called ZOO .
How will I know
Milch live picture gallery.
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It seemed to me that I'd been in a number of bands that all basically had the same problem. We rehearsed a lot, played a handful of gigs and then split up. The obvious way around this was to play on my own, I could hardly fall out with myself over musical differences now could I. I would no longer be dependent upon other people remaining interested in the project. The only draw back as I saw it was having to sing and listen to my own voice, but that could not be helped. I would be self reliant, self sufficient, and self supporting except for the company of a corpulent corrupter of flesh who had accosted me in the toilets of a public bar some years earlier. Sometime later that pub was raided by the police and the landlord lost his licence.
I carried on with much the same material as Milch with added programmed drums, but
resorted to the earlier name with an added extension. After months spent rehearsing I set out on the road, playing two gigs at the Town Mill in Mansfield and one at The Old Cricket Players in Notts. Then I split up. A muddy sound continued to be a problem, the lack of an audience was
disheartening and the level of effort required daunting. I'd stick to doing home made demos.
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At South East Derbyshire College I was for part of my nine years as a student involved in a
guitar quartet. We played one lunch time recital at college the undoubted highlight of which was our performance of John Cage's 4'33". This is a three movement piece of unadulterated silence. The original is for the piano but we labouriously worked out our own arrangement for guitar quartet. For the performance of the piece we all wore different hats, sombrero, flying helmet, pompom and souwester. We adopted different positions, standing, sitting, lying and standing on a chair and between movements changed positions. At the end we bowed. I think the
performance was appreciated more by the staff than students most of whom just thought it a bit
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As part of my A-level course I had to do a lunch time recital at college on the piano. After some Bach, Bartok and Shostakovitch I announced the next piece as being by a one legged Russian ice cream man called Borris Badinov who worked in Red Square shouting at the tourist to go home. The piece dealt with the alienation of the human spirit in the modern age. I then hoped from the piano to the door and back and bowed. A lot of people thought this was a bit silly .
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I became involved with our colleges' early music group playing pre 1700 music. The group consisted of a lecturer, Wendy, on a viol (a bowed fretted instrument tuned in fourths that comes in a full range of sizes, not to be confused with the viola of the violin family), a number of recorders, a couple of guitars fulfilling the role of lutes, and a singer. We played a small part at a serious concert at the Titchfield library at Welbeck Abbey. It was really a Ryton Chorale concert, a choir conducted by S.E.D.C lecturer Tony Morgan, with various S.E.D.C ensembles playing little spots between choir numbers - including a steel band performing Bohemian Rhapsody! I thought this was a bit silly . But then again I've always thought Queen's version a bit silly .
We were required to dress smart for the gig. I'd had to borrow black trousers and shoes along with a white shirt off me dad. Tony lent me a clip on bow tie which I duly hid beneath my beard.
There were perhaps two hundred people in the audience and I felt really nervous. Trying to hide I played almost inaudibly allowing the good guitarist to carry the burden of responsibility. In the first piece I forgot to play any repeats and rushed through to the end then realising everyone else was still playing I just kept repeating the last section till they caught up. In the next piece the singer, Jane Cockell, who had a lovely voice, missed one of the repeats, but singers can't hide themselves like cowardly guitarists.
Our second concert was much more informal, in a church hall in Bramcote with a number of
other early music groups that Wendy taught at the university. I enjoyed this more and very nearly played at an audible volume.
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After Warblingson I decided to move in a more commercial direction. I felt I needed an
audience. I would have to play music for which a gig going audience already existed. I considered the possibilities. What about heavy metal. I could play biker pubs eyeing up chicks in leather skirts, and getting me ead kicked in by blokes built like out houses. Perhaps not. What about being a club singer, would not being able to sing be a hindrance, and not knowing any popular songs be a draw back. No, what I needed was a style of music where it didn't matter if you sang out of tune and you were a little obscure. Then it hit me. What was that fellas name? You know the one that couldn't really play the guitar, sang through his nose and played the harmonica like it was some piece of agricultural machinery. What kind of music did he play. I'd have a go at that.
In the company of a fiend who has asked me not to refer to him by name or body size I went
to the White Cow folk and blues club Ilkeston to dip my toes in the water. I was delighted. People actually sat and listened. Even if you sang microtonaly or just mumbled they would listen sympathetically and with an apparently open mind as if they'd left musical prejudices at the door, or come out without them. This was definitely it. If a crummy little town like Ilson could have a club as good as this just think what the clubs in good towns must be like!
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Unfortunately it soon became clear that Ilkeston folk club was one of the better folk clubs, many others seemed to to be comprised of half dozen members one of whom would read passionleesly the lyrics of a CD cover. It also became clear that the outward friendlyness of Ilkeston folk club disguised the seeting bitter political in club rivalries. I began aimlessly treading water. And herre I remain, waiting to drown.