Thursday, August 30, 2012

My photo book on NC musicians

Hello All-

After months of writing, photographing, and other odds and ends, my photo book on North Carolina musicians has been approved for publication by McFarland Publishing, probably sometime early next year. Yay! It's an exhausted yay at the moment, as I have just started working for PBS Newshour during convention coverage (more on this in a later post, after the convention), but a yay, none the less.

I'll keep you posted on the publication. Yes, I still have another book to finish, this one on the NC rock and roll scene of the 1960s. That will come this fall. I hope you're all doing well, and I'll send more dispatches soon. Safe travels,
August 30, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Archers Of Loaf, original final show pics, Dec. 6, 1998

Archers Of Loaf
Cat's Cradle
December 6, 1998
All photos copyright 1998 Daniel Coston
Shot on Kodak B&W, and color film.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Zombies/Left Banke show review

Zombies/Left Banke
Highline Ballroom, New York, NY
August 5 & 6, 2012
from forthcoming post of Big Takeover website

One always dreams of seeing two of their favorite bands in the same show, teaming up for a great double-bill. In the case of the Zombies and the Left Banke, it took a few decades for this dream pairing to happen. And now that it has come to fruition, I want to see this again, very soon.

I have been lucky enough to watch and photograph the Left Banke's return to the stage, beginning with their triumphant reunion shows at Joe's Pub last year. The band, led by original members Tom Finn and George Cameron, has fully succeeded in bringing the multi-layered sound of their recordings to the stage. Keyboardists, a string section, and fantastic lead vocals from new vocalist Mike Fornatale all help bring out the sound of the band that you know, and love. The band powered through 14 songs in 40 minutes, and received standing ovations on both nights. And they deserved it. Believe the hype, and believe again in this band.

What can I say about the Zombies? This was the first time that I've seen the current band in four years, and their vocals are still spot-on. Both Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent sound better than when I last saw them. When Blunstone starts hitting the high notes of their opening song, "I Love You," my first thought was, "How can he still DO that?" And then Blunstone and company proceed to do just again for two hours. The six-song set of songs from Odessey and Oracle was a welcome highlight, and the songs from the band's new album, Breathe Out Breathe In, sound even better in a live setting.

There is talk of more shows with these two titans of 60s pop, and I really hope that this happens. Both bands bring out the best in each other, and give fans what they've been waiting for. Be it 1966, or 2012, the Time Of The Season has truly come for both bands.
-Daniel Coston

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Band Of Horses interview, 2008

Band Of Horses: A Moment To Sleep
introduction and interview by Daniel Coston
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, summer 2008 issue

To some, it seemed like they came from nowhere. Band Of Horses’ 2006 debut album Everything All The Time was the record that your friends kept turning you onto. Forming out of the ashes of the Seattle band Carissa’s Wierd, the band had crafted a sound that carried both a love of 1990s indie rock, and moodier textures that often gave the songs a deeper edge. In the intervening two years, they’ve toured the world over, moved back to their original home base of South Carolina, and delivered their well-received second album, Cease To Exist.

At the heart of the band is singer, guitarist and main songwriter Ben Bridwell, whose voice and lyrics drive their music with an honest urgency. In constant to many other frontmen, Bridwell’s easygoing demeanor and sometimes blunt honesty and self-examination make you feel like you’re talking to one your oldest friends. It sounds silly to say this, but the people that make up Band Of Horses are really excellent people to be around, on top of having evolved into a sonically tight six-piece band, which makes you root for their success even more.

Sitting in their tourbus before their show in Birmingham, Alabama on February 6th, Bridwell will tell you that he’s the last person to self-examine his life, but what emerges is someone who found what he wanted to do, and is handling well the numerous changes that the last few years has brought.

BT: Is it possible for you to put into perspective the last couple of years for you and the band? It seems like such an amazing trajectory. 

Bridwell: I kind of feel like we’ve definitely hit another growth spurt again, with the slow burn of the second record kind of infiltrating its way into people’s collections, or whatever. We’re definitely doing better than we’ve ever have. But yeah, it’s bizarre. I try not to think about it, any of it, just because, to think about any of it too much is distracting. It’s almost like you’ve still got to feel like you’re still struggling. You don’t want to be like, “More, more, more!” But you want to keep working hard, and not become complacent.

For us, it’s been nice. Most of us have been doing this for the greater part of ten years, touring. 

BT: Do you feel like the band has evolved, with the six-piece lineup and the people you now have, to the point where you’re like, “This is closer to what I really want?”

Bridwell: Oh, yeah. I can’t believe I’ve been so fortunate to find the guys that I’ve finally got. I mean, I knew [drummer] Creighton [Barrett] and [guitarist] Rob [Hampton], once I got them into the band, that I finally had my band. It was beginning. And then a little bit of experimenting here and there, with different people, and finally figuring out what we needed, by those people coming to us. I didn’t know what we needed, until those guys just came to us. All of a sudden, I looked around, and it’s like, “Holy shit, I have a crazy talented group of individuals around me.” 

I would never imagined that I’d be in a band that sounds like we sound now. I think we have such a nice full sound, compared to even that Charlotte show [when the interviewer saw them in June of 2006]. It was a totally different band. I just can’t believe that we sound so (pauses) pro, I guess. The kind of music I’d want to listen to.

Because in the beginning to middle [of the band’s history], around the time that you went to that [Charlotte 2006] show, it was still pretty hard. We were still playing some pretty bad sounding gigs. Now, it’s so much more fun, knowing that you can just trust the guys if you’re having a rough night. 

BT: Has the new lineup affecting what you’re playing, but also, what you’re writing? Have you thought about what kind of sound they can bring to the band now?

Bridwell: I really want to use their songwriting skills on the next record. I don’t want it to be just another album of my songs. Although the first one had two songs by Mat [Brooke, who left the band in 2006], the second record had all my songs. I don’t know. Half of me wants to... keep working at it [the songwriting]. But honestly, I haven’t written a damn thing, and it’s almost because I know that we could sit down in three hours, and have half a record written. It may not be good, but we can work together so well, all of us, and pick up so well on how each other plays that I haven’t stressed about it. Because I know it’s going to come together. 

Now [guitarist] Tyler [Ramsey], and [bassist] Bill [Reynolds] and [keyboardist] Ryan [Monroe], and even Rob have been working on some of their own songs that they want to bring to the table, which are gonna be really fun to try out, but I also would almost bet that some of it would come from a new process of going into the studio, and maybe just f--king around. We’re going to demo stuff, just for a couple weeks, and just seeing what we can write. 

Yeah, I definitely fell like we haven’t made our best record yet. That could be a total curse, saying that. But I really like because, it wasn’t this band that was on those records, I feel like we haven’t made it. Maybe also it’s my favorite. We haven’t made my favorite record of Band Of Horses yet. 

BT: Is it hard to write in the middle of constant touring?

Bridwell: It is. I just thinking yesterday, because we had our first day off in a while. And I should be up there writing songs, because when I’m home, I don’t really get much chance to write anymore. Just because I’m always surrounded by people, so it’s the same thing on tour, except for the days off. If I can get into a hotel room by myself, it’s like, that’s my time. So I’ve got take advantage of that, but at the same time, you’re burned out. Or you’re sick, you want to stay under the covers, and not leave the hotel room all day, which is what I did yesterday. 

And today woke up feeling like such a schmuck, like I finally had a second to get some personal writing time, and I didn’t do shit. So then, I was going to punish myself by buying a ukulele, and seeing if that would inspire me.

I really miss it, though. I miss having a day alone just to sit and write, and lose my mind on that stuff. It’ll happen. It’ll have to happen, because if that stops, then I won’t have a song to record (laughs), so I need to get back at it, eventually.

BT: There’s a certain mindset that you can fall into when you’re constantly traveling. Do you find it harder to shift gears from touring to writing, or even just being at home?

Bridwell: Yeah. I’m so busy at home, as well now, that it’s actually kind of normal now. I guess it’s weirder if I actually do get time to myself. If I get to go out and go surfing all day, I almost can’t handle it. I’ll have to go back and run back on the beach, and check my phone, and make sure that there isn’t someone that needs my attention immediately. 

BT: With everything else that’s been happening in the last couple of years, was that one of the reasons why you guys moved back to South Carolina?

Bridwell: It had a lot to do with wanting to be closer to our families, but also being ready for a different lifestyle. Me and Creighton and Rob had all worked in the bar scene for a long time, and just involved in that culture. Whether you’re working or not, and getting home at 4am, at the earliest. Sleeping all day, and feeling like crap when you do get up, and starting the whole thing over again.

And it’s just depressing when you treat your body that way. I wasn’t in a good space at that point. I would just hang out in my room all day, and wait until it was time to go out and drink at night. It was time to get to a more meaningful, or adult way of dealing with your life. 

You age. People age, and certain other things became more important. So we just shed that life, and moved to where we wanted to focus more on our craft, and being ‘round the people that are closest to us.  

BT: How did the last couple of years affect the writing for this new record?

Bridwell: Some of the melodies, and the basics of the songs would come out of me going down to the practice space, and just messing around with stuff. Same thing with the first album, you just came because I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. During the way, or whenever. 

So there was that, but also anything that I write about or whatever usually comes from personal experience. Or how I paint a picture of whatever situation it is I’m writing about, whatever subject. It’s all just personal experiences, so anything that happened during those years probably made it to a record, in some little way. 

BT: Does singing these every night remind you of those things, or is it all just bits and pieces of ideas?

Bridwell: There’s a lot of bits and pieces. But sometimes, songs take new forms. I feel like a lot of artists, and a lot of lyricists, don’t exactly know what they’re writing about when they’re writing. So sometimes it takes a little bit of steeping for these songs to say, “well, I don’t know if that’s what I wrote about then, but this is what it means to me now. “

Certain songs do that. Some certain songs remind me exactly of the room the song was written in, and exactly who it was written about, or the situation it was written about. And other songs, I can’t remember what the f--k it was about, and some songs, I don’t like what the song was about in the first place, and my mind just makes me think of something new.

BT: How has it been to see how people react to these songs, and what they take from it?

Bridwell: Yeah. That’s another one of those things that I try not to think about too much. Because growing up as a massive music fan, it’s hard for me to believe that someone would like a song that I’ve written as much as I liked songs growing up. It’s so hard to process it. Someone might get some real emotion out of something that I’ve done. 

BT: Did you know what kind of record that you wanted to make going into this new album?

Bridwell: If anything, I knew that I didn’t know what kind of record I wanted to make. If anything, I thought that over-thinking it would be the worst thing to do. I figured, “Don’t worry about it, just write whatever songs are there, and we’ll pull it together.”

I did work my ass off on it. I over-thought it constantly, but I told myself that I wasn’t going to worry about it. I wasn’t going to worry about whatever expectations are there, whether that be from the powers that put out the music, or my family, or the press, or even the fans. 

Even if I thought that song wasn’t “The Funeral,” who gives a shit? That song was already written. If there’s a melody there, just put it out. Just put it to tape, even if I thought it was a bad one. If it’s a bad song, then [producer] Phil [Elk] won’t let it get to the tape. It just happened that we had that many songs for an album. Fortunately, only one of them was shitty, and that one didn’t make it. 

BT: In different parts of the new record, there are lyrical descriptions of ghosts, or metaphors of ghosts, and I was curious as to what those descriptions meant to you, and if it was all different things. 

Bridwell: It’s different. In one, it’s literal, and another its figurative. “Is There a Ghost,” I’m talking about, “I think there’s a f--king ghost in the house,” because when I’m writing, I get super paranoid and think that someone’s watching. I never feel  like I’m alone, even when I’m totally alone. I moved to this house for this said purpose, to get away from people and write this damn record, and as soon as I do, I keep hearing shit moving and thinking that someone’s watching me.

There’s random metaphors for paranoia and shit in the record. Same with “LRC,” there’s a little bit of paranoia represented there. And then, the other ghosts in “No One” is just a figurative sense. 

BT: You had played with Carissa’s Wierd over a few years, and had started to discover how to come up with songs. Was there a point when you started to think about what became Band Of Horses?

Bridwell: As [Carissa’s Wierd] starting breaking up [in 2003], I started thinking, what’s gonna happen next? I don’t want to quit this lifestyle, this is too fun. So around that time, I started thinking, “Well, maybe Matt and me will get another band together. Maybe we’ll do some co-writing, and we’ll get a singer.” We’ll get a real singer. He [Mat] didn’t even consider me an option for that band. 

I remember that we were working in a crepery together, miserable job, and sitting out there smoking, and thinking, “I could be the singer for this band.” I don’t know if I said it out loud, but I remember him talking about bringing in other people to be the singer.

So we did a couple of songs together, and Mat really wasn’t into it. So I took the rhythm section for that band, and starting kind of having secret practices. Because I would go down to the practice space all day, and just do anything I could figure out. How to play guitar, how to find the melody, which became the first Band Of Horses songs. 

It was an awkward transition there, and it wasn’t very good to begin with. There were songs there, but it wasn’t until we really good into the studio with Phil that he really helped craft the songs, and worked us until we made a good record.  

BT: You’ve often welcomed collaboration with others, down to your producer, Phil Elk, and Chris Wilson, who did the photos for Cease To Begin.

Bridwell: Yeah, with both of them, it felt like a natural thing. [With Phil], we hit it off, and had no idea he was going to be such a pain in the ass to work with (laughs), but it ended up being for the best. We worked us pretty hard, but we ended up with a good record that got us to where we are. 

I don’t mind people’s input at all. It doesn’t bother me. If I really have a hardline opinion on something, I’ll let it be known. But otherwise, I’m permanently on the fence with any sort of thing. So anytime anyone wants to chime in, I’m all ears.

BT: Do you occasionally stop yourself, or remind yourself, “This is really something?”

Bridwell: Every day. It’s like you’re pinching yourself and saying, “Man, this is really the life.” It’s easy to get caught up in the other side of it, which is, I have a fiancee and a baby on the way. So the stresses of normal live also weigh on you sometimes, like this job kind of sucks because I can’t be as attentive as I need to be for my family. “I’m tired of setting this shit up again. and I’m tired of not having a bathroom to go to if I’ve got to take a shit.” Or, “I’d like to eat something delicious food that I like.” Those things can start to drag you down when you’re on tour. Of course, it’s natural.

But, as soon as the show is over, it’s like, “God, it makes it all so much worth it.” Once you get up there, and make people happy, and people come up to you afterwards, shake your hand. People have told us that it was the best show they’ve ever seen in their lives. You know, kids that are quite a bit younger, and have never seen... and they say that to you, and it’s like, it makes it so worth it, and just so the best job that’s ever existed in the history of jobs. Besides God. (laughs) God has a pretty good job. 

But yeah, those moments, they come just like the other moments do, where you’re like, “Man, this is the best job in the world,” and sometimes you’ve got to remind yourself. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Excerpt from recent interview with Gary Brooker of Procol Harum

From the forthcoming interview with Gary Brooker, in an upcoming issue of Big Takeover Magazine.

Daniel Coston: Let me ask first what a lot of people want to know. How are you doing, and how are you feeling after the incident in South Africa? 

Gary Brooker: That was two months ago today. I’m feeling pretty good. One of the problems that came from that events there was that I got deaf in one ear, and I can’t hear how loud I’m talking, and occasionally I got a little topply and dizzy. But apart from that, I’m fine. I was a bit worried about coming out here, but its all worked out fine. No problems.

Coston: Was it good to jump back into a tour?

Brooker: Well, it was a target. I’ve got to get myself back in shape here for a certain date, so that’s what I did. It involved staying at home, and being pretty quiet for a few weeks. 

Coston: Was that hard to do?

Brooker: No. (Laughs) I didn’t feel like doing much.

Coston: Has that incident made you think about what you what you want to do next? Has that incident affected you?

Brooker: It’s made me think that I could’ve laid there in a pool of blood and died. But some of the lads found me, if you like, and figured out what was going on. But therefore, I survived, and I didn’t have any permanent injury, hopefully. It’s made me think that every moment is quite important. There’s a lot of people that come to that in some stage of their life. But as we were saying earlier, the one thing was to make sure that I was able to even get up on stage and hear what I was singing. So that’s got a little bit [to go], so I haven’t gotten through the next stage, yet. Plenty of time to think about this while driving through the United States, though. (laughs)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New photos from July 2012

Top to Bottom-
Jackson Browne, Charlotte, NC, July 14, 2012
Trace Adkins, Charlotte, NC, July 25, 2012
Archers Of Loaf, Charlotte, NC, July 29, 2012
Lost In The Trees, Charlotte, NC, June 28, 2012
Gary Brooker, Procol Harum, July 31, 2012
Steam train, Denton, NC, July 4, 2012
all photos copyright 2012 Daniel Coston

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dave Ball interview

Dave Ball: On The Way To Here
Interview and introduction by Daniel Coston

Dave Ball is a troubadour in the best sense of the word, having toured the world as a musician, and through various professions. Ball is known to many music fans for his guitar playing with Procol Harum, Bedlam, and Ace Kefford. It is Ball’s guitar that shines in Procol Harum’s 1971 live album with the Edmonton Symphony, which remains one of the band’s best-known albums. Yet Ball’s story goes far beyond his brief time with Procol Harum.

For many years, Ball spent his time and interests away from music. Now, Ball has released his first solo album, Don’t Forget Your Alligator, and released his autobiography. Ball’s interests go far beyond music, which is reflected in his answers. The joy of setting up this interview was just letting Ball go with his responses to my questions. It’s a lot to take in, but so is Ball’s remarkable life. Sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Daniel Coston: You've just released your autobiography. Was it difficult to put

Dave Ball: The writing of it was surprisingly easy as I do have a prodigious memory, it seems. I actually started it in Saudi Arabia where I was working at the time. This would have been in 1997. It began as a series of stories for a local running club newsletter (Riyadh Megamob, Hash House Harriers). I was encouraged by the editor to turn it into a complete book. Seemed like a good idea so that is what I did. I attacked it spasmodically over the next 12 years or so, but decided I had done enough to publish it just recently. I am still adding bits to it and as long as I am still alive, there will be things to write about. The danger is that it just turns into a mundane sort of diary or blog.
Coston: Growing up, when did you take an interest in music? Did your
brother take an interest at the same time you did?

Ball: Our Family were already musicians so there was always an interest in music – it was just a normal part of life for us. Dad was a singer and Mum a pianist. Their families were also musicians, so it was natural for me and my Brothers to be interested as well, even though our musical tastes were to diverge wildly from our parents’ tastes. (Dad more than Mum since she was a fan of Jazz and Boogie Woogie, whereas The Pater was an operatic and classical singer.) 
Coston: You left school at 15 to be professional musician. Tell me about
some of the bands that you played with, early on?

Ball: Well our first band, which was called The Rockin’ Perfidias and then The Deadbeats, was your standard 60’s group. We played Shadows instrumentals, rock & roll (Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.), Chuck Berry (he was his own genre really) and then covered the British music scene of the day, so Beatles, Searchers, Mindbenders and so on. Anything that was in the charts, really.

I also played in a Soul / RnB band playing a lot of US music from the Drifters, Sam Cooke, Otis, etc. This was the Little People.

My first Blues Band, it must have been about 1965, was Thomas Paul’s Blues Disciples. We covered the usual suspects. Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Elmore James, plus some of my own favourites like Earl Hooker, and so on.

In Germany with the Madding Crowd (a Pop band really) we backed a pair of Scottish Singers based over in Germany called the McKinley Sisters. They did stuff by Tina Turner, the Shirelles, Dusty Springfield, The Ronnettes and such.

Coston: I understand you had an encounter with Procol Harum in 1967. Tell
me about that, and any other notable bands, or musicians that you
encountered during this time.

Ball: Well my first Procol encounter was rather funny. Not thigh-slapping-hold-your-sides-in-case-they split-funny, but amusing in a wry way, and, in retrospect not without a hint of irony. The guys in Procol would not have noticed anything happening at all of course. What happened was that my band at the time, the Chicago Hush, was on the Kings Road in Chelsea, buying hippy clothes to take back to the Midlands. We were in the Chelsea Antiques Market (a painfully trendy place frequented by the rich and famous), actually we were just about to leave there, when Procol came in through the front entrance. Whiter Shade of Pale was at the top of the charts and they were in all the papers. Also, they had been appearing on TV quite a bit, and so very famous at this point. Well, you know what it is like when you see a celebrity in real life. Your jaw drops, you stop in your tracks, you stare, you get a peculiar feeling of awe, you feel as though you know them, you become subservient to their fame and standing and, if you are lucky enough to meet them, well, you become tongue-tied or worse, babble incoherently, never asking the ONE question that you always wanted the answer to. Well, of course that is a gross oversimplification but symptoms like that are pretty common when Prole meets Star.
Anyway, on spotting the band walking towards us Mo, our Bass Player/Singer, stopped dead in his tracks (he had been instantly afflicted by all of the above symptoms) and said in the loudest whisper since Richard III shouted “A horse, a horse, my Kingdom for a horse” (just before getting bashed on the head by a Welshman), “IT’S PROCOL HARUM. SAY NOTHING. SAY NOTHING!”

Say nothing? What were we supposed to say? I refused to be bowed by Procol’s fame (being a Brummie Yob myself) and so shouldered past them muttering “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of Birmingham, now let us pass unhindered you soft-bellied southern parasites.” (You made that last bit up didn’t you! Ed.) (Yes I did. I thought the answer need more human interest. Dave.)

With the benefit of hindsight it would have been really cool if I had winked at Gary Brooker and whispered “See you in four years” into his ear.

Coston: How did you and Denny end up in the Ace Kefford Stand?

Ball: Even though we were playing in different bands, Den, Cozy and I had been jamming a lot at the family home. Something (of a loud nature) just clicked between us, to the extent that we had done a Live BBC Radio session calling ourselves Ideal Milk. I think we did about five numbers. Some Cream tunes and some Bluesbreakers stuff. Anyway, since Ace had left the Move we decided to approach him directly and suggest we form a band around him. He agreed and that was that. Simple, really.
Coston. Talk about that band, and Ace, and that experience.

Ball: Ace Kefford Stand was a very good idea that got executed very, very badly. There were numerous issues, but if I had to blame our lack of success on one single component it would have to be ‘direction’ (the LACK of I mean). We had no leadership. Ace was the de-facto leader because of his name of course, but he was not really equipped for this mentally. He had a terrific stage presence and fantastic voice when doing the right sort of material. I reckon that with good leadership we could have done something special. However, it wasn’t to be.

Ace was trying to sort out a management deal. There were some meetings with Don Arden down in London – he had Black Sabbath and Small Faces, etc. at the time, but that didn’t happen. It might be that Ace’s reputation got in the way as he had a bit of a name as being difficult to handle (being a bit nuts I mean). Having said that, Don had Ozzie on his books so go figure! Maybe one fruit-cake was enough.

So, we ended up with a totally useless Manager from the Midlands. This guy had managed a few local bands and he ran a very good gig at the Belfry (Golf Club), but really, he was a child up against the wide-boys in London and, he had no real connections outside of the Midlands. We did play at the Star Club in Hamburg, and I think one show in Frankfurt, maybe the Zoom Club, but that was it for Europe. Worse than that, he had nothing to say about what the band were doing, or where we were headed. I cannot remember a single meeting where anybody asked what we were trying to say with the music. Or what image we were trying to create. Our choice of material was woeful. Ace liked The Band (well, we all did) but that meant playing stuff from the album Music From Big Pink, things like that. Totally wrong for a heavy 3 piece band. Sadly we weren’t writing anything either so we became a sort of heavy covers band. Actually, Den did throw out a couple of originals, but that was all.

Somehow (Lord knows how!) we did get a prestigious record deal with Atlantic Records. We were the very first band to go out on the actual Atlantic Label outside of the USA. Guess who was the second band to sign with them? Go on, have a guess. Well, it was Led Zeppelin.

Our first gig was at the Belfry. Drew a bit of a crowd, this being Ace’s first gig since leaving the Move. I had borrowed two of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars for the show, and Cozy blagged an extra bass drum from Mitch Mitchell so we did put out a pretty powerful show that night. (For the guitar nerds, the guitars were a Black Les Paul Custom and a White 3 pick-up Les Paul Custom (SG shape). Upsy, Jimi’s roadie, restrung them for me.)

Anyway, cut a long story short, we managed to put out one of the worst ever singles on Atlantic Records as Ace Kefford Stand, then one contractual obligation single which went out as Big Bertha with Ace Kefford. We had really broken up anyway, by this point. We left Ace to carry on as Big Bertha, adding Brother Pete on Hammond and a new singer. I believe Ace did try again with some new version of the Stand before finally fading away. I still think that we squandered a great chance there. Ah well, that’s Rock & Roll, eh!

Coston: Tell me about the Procol Harum audition. How you got to be number
81, and what happened from there?

Ball: I spotted an ad in the Melody Maker in 1971. “Procol Harum seeking Lead Guitarist” sort of thing. I didn’t dive for the phone right away as I hadn’t heard anything about them for years, wasn’t even aware that they still existed really, but after a week or so I decided I may as well ring to get an audition. Well, the girl on the other end of the phone said “Sorry, they already have 80 guitarists lined up so the list is closed.” I was quite frankly outraged! I mean, I always got to auditions!!! So I went to their offices at Chrysalis Records and badgered the girl I had spoken to (Christie Healey by the way) until she added me to the bottom of the list. “Come in number 81, your time is nigh!”

I have told this story many times I think, but when I arrived at the audition the Band were exhausted and clearly rather fed up with the whole business of listening to endless guitarists twiddling away. I played a few tunes with them, and played fine I think, and then as it all looked like falling on its arse I suggested we go for a pint down the road. Well, their little faces lit up like Christmas trees and all agreed that this was a fine idea. So we quaffed a number of cleansing ales at the pub and after a very convivial time swapping jokes and yarns I said my cheerio’s and staggered up the road to the tube ride home. I didn’t really think about whether I had the job or not, just that I thought they were a nice crew and what an enjoyable night it had been.

Well you could have blown me down with a feather when the next day Christie from the office rang and said something like “I don’t know what you did to the band yesterday, but you’re in!” It was definitely the beer.

Coston: Did you feel any pressure in replacing Robin Trower in the band?

Ball: No.

Oh … you want more? Well, firstly I should point out that the only time I had heard him play was on an old BBC Live Radio show that Procol did back around 1968. This was on John Peel’s program called Top Gear. There were always interesting live broadcasts on his shows, and I happen to remember this one. I know this will be appear sacrilege to all the Trower fans out there, but I didn’t actually like his playing very much. I thought it sounded too “forced” somehow. I was heavily in to Clapton and Hendrix at the time and was a bit of a guitar snob. Well, maybe a lot of a guitar snob. Anyway, it really didn’t matter at the time and it really doesn’t matter now to be honest. I know he got much better over time and he is still out there doing it, so good luck to him.

In the context of me taking over from him in Procol, I did not feel any pressure at all. I felt some pressure over having to learn all these new songs in a very short time. Less than a month before we went on tour in fact, but I never really thought about trying to ‘be’ Robin Trower. I have always just played like me, good, bad or indifferent.

Once I had been chosen for the job I went down to Gary’s place for a practice session and I was given maybe four albums and a list of tracks to learn. I think the albums were Broken Barricades, Home, Salty Dog and Shine on Brightly, I think that was it anyway. Now this is where I have been occasionally labelled as a Trower copyist because learning straight from an album, you do end up playing guitar lines that are already established. These were usually integral parts of the structures of the songs of course – or at least, they had become integral over time, so for instance, you couldn’t do anything different for the guitar part in say, ‘Shine on Brightly’, or sections of ‘In Held Twas in I’ because they are largely fixed. Where there was a free form solo I used to just play like myself.

Because Robin was hugely popular in the States, where we did most of the touring, I did come in for a bit of shtick I believe. Still do in fact (Procol fans are intensely loyal and have prodigious memories, like you read reviews of say, a concert in 1971 (written in 2012) and you’ll see comments like “Dave Ball was adequate but not up to Robin Trower’s standards,” stuff like that). Anyway, I was just 21 years old, having the time of my life and was totally unaffected (disinterested) by public opinion. (Nothing changed there then. Ed)
Coston:  How much touring did you do with PH?

Ball: Well we toured pretty much constantly for the year and a half or so that I was there. Mostly the States, but some European tours and a few UK dates. We only had a day or two between tours. Maybe a week once or twice, but I just remember being on the road constantly. At the end of my tenure we were in the studio to do Grand Hotel, but most of the songs for that we had learnt on the road, i.e. during sound checks, etc. And we were playing most of those tunes already on stage.
Coston: Talk about the creative process with PH. How much input did you
have on new songs?

Ball: Not a great deal to be honest. Gary (and Keith [Reid]) came up with largely finished products. We kind of found something that worked when we learnt the tune, and refined it from there. For my part, I still wasn’t very mature as a musician. In fact, nothing much has changed even now, so I mostly ‘got’ the tune then played like me. I am sure I could have contributed MUCH more if I had thought about guitar parts, etc. but I just kind of played instinctively. If you listen to what Geoff Whitehorn does in the current line-up, well THAT is what a Procol Harum guitar player should be doing. His accompaniments are spot on. He is probably the most accomplished guitarist they ever had. I think if Robin and I had any real similarities it would be that we might be described as “Dangerous” players in that you could never be certain what would come out on the night. I know I had a few moments in the ‘zone’ as it were, and that could be very exciting when it happened, but reliable? Not really.
Coston: Talk about the Edmonton Symphony gig; how it came about and, your
memories of it.

Ball: I think the process of arranging that concert and recording it is fairly well documented, and it was Gary’s baby really. He worked with Derek Sutton (our Tour Manager at the time) on all the arrangements for the show, which I believe had been initiated from the Edmonton crew in the beginning. As I have said before, I honestly didn’t take a lot of notice of what was happening around me and I just got on this plane or in this car and played at this or that gig, wherever I ended up. Meanwhile I was just enjoying myself. I knew we were going to be playing with an orchestra, and we had started (again during sound checks) rehearsing some arrangement particularly for the first section of ‘In Held Twas in I’ since we normally only played it from ‘The Autumn of my Madness’ bit, so that was the extent of it. I remember Gary frantically trying to finish writing orchestral arrangements on the plane up to Canada. This was all in the middle of a US tour, don’t forget, so he had a huge amount of pressure on him.

Chris Thomas was also in the thick of the planning as he would be producing and engineering on the night, so plenty riding on his shoulders too. In the end, it was the mixing and editing in London that secured the result because on the night everything that COULD go wrong did! We had hardly any rehearsal time with the full orchestra and choir. The conductor hated the whole thing (Even refused to have his name on the cover! (idiot!)). My Marshall Amp head burst into flames during rehearsal and the roadies had to find a shop and hire an amp for me, which amp, an Ampeg Combo was totally crap! In fact, during final rehearsals, on the day of the gig itself, this amp packed in, just stopped working altogether. The crew went back to the shop and got another one, the same model, and before the audience were let in we plugged it in; I stuck my lead in it and tried to achieve some sort of reasonable sound, and that was it. Next time I used it was in the opening number. No pressure there then!

Coston: "Conquistador," from the live album, still gets played on US
radio. Did you think that it would be the breakout song from that

Ball: At the time I didn’t know there would be a single released from the show as I thought of it as just an album release, but Conquistador was the logical choice. It was a big surprise to everybody when it broke through I can tell you that. 
Coston:You played on several tracks on Grand Hotel, did the photo shoot,
but then left before the album's release. What happened?

Ball: Well, we were already playing most of the songs on (what turned out to be) my final tour and, we had done the Photo Shoot for the album cover during that tour, prior to going into the studio. Gary and Keith had already come up with the whole concept for the album.

I tire of going through this period. My exit I mean, but briefly, there was a bit of history between BJ Wilson and myself which involved a contretemps in a bar somewhere in the Mid-West on my final tour. I ‘believe’ that this was the catalyst for my eventual exit. We had been recording every day and had numerous takes of various tracks when on this particular day whilst we were assembled in the control booth Gary said something like “Well Dave, we think it’s not working out”. I remember calling BJ out over it, said to him “You want me out don’t you” and asked him to ‘man-up’ (which didn’t happen. NO eye contact in fact), so I gracefully exited. Being Me, I didn’t actually get all emotional about it. I asked Gary to let me go to the papers first so I could dignify my exit, which he agreed to, and went home, rang up Long John Baldry and said “want a new guitar player?” He graciously (and surprisingly enthusiastically) said “Yes” and so I went out to the papers with the story “Ball quits Procol to join Long John Baldry”.

An interesting postscript to the story was that Chris Wright, Boss of Chrysalis Records (Empire) and Procol’s direct Manager had a meeting with me where he asked what I wanted for all the work I had done already on Grand Hotel. Being Me, and being Stupid, I said “you can just buy me dinner”. He said “That’s all you want?” and I said “that’ll do me”. What makes that (idiotic) ‘negotiation’ even more galling in retrospect is that he NEVER DID buy me that dinner.

Mick Grabham appeared to be waiting in the wings incidentally. I think he knew BJ already so I think it was all set up ready to go.

Now please understand, I just stated a few facts (as I remember them) and provided some opinions or assumptions about my exit but it is not my intention to sound bitter about what happened. I was perfectly comfortable with letting it go then and have no desire to get into long discussions about who did what when. I know there have been one or two comments in interviews with other members of the troupe from time to time, most of them being rather vague, and I think we can just leave it at that.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the band, wouldn’t have changed it for anything. I (by sheer good fortune) happened to be there for their second most famous period; got the Gold Album; Had the Billboard on Sunset Boulevard; Had my ugly mug in TWA’s Inflight Magazine, so no regrets. It was a privilege just to be part of the band and I learnt a great deal, including some ugly looking chords the names of which I still don’t know.
Coston: Talk about working with Long John Baldry.

Ball: I knew John Baldry already and had been a huge fan of his for years. I can well remember seeing him with the Steam Packet (LJB, Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity) at one of the Birmingham Town Hall Blues All-Nighters in the mid-sixties. Also on the bill had been Steve Winwood with the Spencer Davis Group. Happy days.

John had been a massive influence on the British Blues scene for a long time and was well respected by most everybody. My Brother Denny (Ball) was his bass player at the time I was in Procol, and I had jammed with the Baldry Band in LA, and had a great time doing it. John seemed to like my playing (which helps), so after the Procol split I simply rang him up and asked him for a job and he said yes.

In the end we didn’t last too long together because after a couple of months, a few gigs and one album (Good to be Alive) Cozy suggested getting the “Band” back together and I went and did that, taking Denny out as well.

Coston: How did Bedlam come about?

Ball: Bedlam was a band always waiting to happen. It was the nucleus of Denny Cozy and me essentially and we had appeared variously as Ideal Milk, Ace Kefford Stand and Big Bertha before finally coming together as The Beast, which had to be changed because of a challenge from some keyboard player in the States who claimed he had the name, so we changed the name to Bedlam.

We had just decided that the time was right, I had my bit of history to ride off through Procol. Cozy from his work with Jeff Beck and Den through his various projects including Baldry. Denny had worked with Frank Aiello on some recording projects of his own so that was how we found him.

We went with Jeff Beck’s management company and signed with Chrysalis Records and away we went. Everything was in place for us to really do something big. We were writing plenty of material. I phoned up Felix Pappalardi and asked him to produce us, the music press seemed to be right behind us and we had oodles of enthusiasm for the road.

What killed us off in the end was the success of Cozy’s single, “Dance with the Devil.” He got lured by the thoughts of Pop stardom. It was a sad end, rather pathetic really, and one that finished me in the music business for the next 40 years or so.
Coston: Many people know you from your time in PH, but Bedlam still has a
fan-base. What period do you look back on more fondly, PH or Bedlam, or was it some other period, musically or creatively?

Ball: This is difficult to pick. Each period of my time in music has had ups and downs, but generally speaking I have always been a cheerful soul, and the down periods never lasted very long. So I would have to conclude that I enjoyed each phase equally, but differently. Sorry, that might just confuse people. Let me try and elucidate. I am reminded of a speech from As You Like It (by young Billy Shakespeare (or his Ghost?)):

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts, blah blah blah …

1.     When I started out in music, young and full of fun and, with no sense of responsibility, it was THE most liberating of times. There was the prospect of not having to get a “real” job; there was the sound of the applause; the sense of being different from the hoi-polloi; the access to girls and other instant ‘friends,’ everything to gain and nothing to lose. Ask any young artist today, and whilst they might moan about how hard it is to get on, and how broke they are, etc. just ask them would they swap it for anything else? (If they say YES then they will probably fail. You need that completely committed attitude to get through this period).
2.     You are now established in a band and you are dreaming about making a record. You are gigging regularly and life on the road is heaps of fun even though it is hard work and you don’t have much money to show for all that effort.
3.     Your band has made an album or single. You believe that your record cannot fail and that you are on the way to fame and fortune. This is a very exciting phase (though 999 times out of a 1000 leads nowhere!)
4.     Well, no hit record, but you’re a playing good gigs and being seen by all the ‘right’ people and you are making a bit of a name for yourself in the music business – all still to play for!
5.     You answer an ad. And secure a job with a ‘name’ band. Suddenly everything goes up a gear. You belong to a management machine that knows what it is doing. You head out to the States and thousands of people come to watch you, AND, you have learnt some strange new chords. You now start living the dream. Life is one big party!
6.     You ‘leave’ the name band, but that’s ok because now you have your own ‘name’ to trade off, so you join a meaningful act – get back to your roots as it were. Life is still good.
7.     You form your own band because now you actually believe that your name is good enough. The band ultimately fails and you suddenly realise that it is no fun anymore.
8.     You quit and get a day job.
9.     You play occasional shows and jam sessions and start to enjoy playing again for its own sake.
10.  After 40 years or so you decide that the music business really needs you back so you make your first solo album (called “Don’t Forget Your Alligator” by the way) and hope that the whole cycle will repeat itself.
11.  You die and the few remaining fans all post tributes to their Facebook pages. (This phase is the LEAST fun but lasts the longest).

Coston: Talk a little bit about recording with Jonathan King, as well as
Jonathan Kelly.

Ball: These two Jonathans couldn’t be more different. Jonathan King was/is an awful man who had a bit of a knack for producing pop hits. Well, to be fair to him, he was very good at what he did and produced a number of hits. He used to run recording sessions on a regular basis and Dave Pegg (Bass player from Fairport/Jethro Tull, etc.) got me onto this circuit. A session with King started at 9 o’clock, lasted three hours (minimum Musicians Union Rate) during which you might hack through a dozen tunes and usually had no finished songs. No vocals were used because for the most part these were just backing tracks waiting for the melody to be written. You just got a pile of charts and hacked through them, picked up your £30 and that was that. We all wanted to get onto the session circuit because it could keep you going between gigs but it was mostly a closed shop. From the guitar side of things, Chris Spedding, Big Jim Sullivan and pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page had things pretty much sewn up, so it was a real bonus when you did get the call.

Jonathan Kelly was an up-and-coming folk artist, very talented and a lovely bloke. I ‘think’ (these were during my most blurry days) I had met him through Phillipa, my folkie girlfriend at the time. Also, I think this was just after leaving Procol. Anyway, Jonathan asked me to play on his new album which was called “Twice Around The Houses”. It was a fun time and I distinctly remember getting horribly drunk with him after he had introduced me to a new cocktail called a ‘Fall-Over’. This was a pint glass filled with a few shots of every clear spirit on the shelf topped up with Lemonade. Happy Days (I think). I am happy to report that Jon and I both survived this period safely, and Twice Around the Houses is a great album. You should listen to it!

Coston: I know that your journey over the last three decades has been a
remarkable story. Talk to me about that, and what drives you now.

Ball: Well this is difficult to put into just a few words. I quit music in 1974, after Bedlam dissolved. I did go out to New York to look at some really good offers, but I had just had the guts kicked out of me (from the way Bedlam finished) and to be honest just didn’t have anything left, musically, inside me. I joined the British Army as a regular soldier instead. I did a series of other jobs over the years, in Computing, Real Estate, Teaching, Acting, Postal Worker. All sorts, really. You’d need to read my book for all the gory details. It is out now on Kindle and soon will be in iBooks. It is called “Half Hippie – Half Man”.
Coston: Why New Zealand?

Ball: Well it was Australia, first. Migrated there in the early 80’s after I had left the Army. New Zealand came later (after Saudi Arabia) where I had joined up with a Kiwi Girl. We have a Kiwi Daighter to go with my two Australian Sons from my previous. As I said, it is complicated. I love Australia and New Zealand. Actually, I love every country I have spent time in (I have lived in 8 different ones and worked in something like 38!) Like I said, read the book.
Coston: When did you pick up drawing? Have you always done that? What do
you think the drawings say about you?

Ball: I have been drawing since 1965 really. If we ignore the art classes at school (which I generally did) the first time I got an inkling that I might be able to draw was when I was in my first job out of school. I was working in a drum shop in Birmingham. During a boring afternoon I went outside the shop with a notebook and drew the view across to the canal and some factories opposite. It came out pretty well, done in blue biro on lined paper. Then, feeling the spirit of the great renaissance painters flowing through me I proceeded to draw the Cathedral up the road. This also came out pretty well. I still have those drawings by the way.

I was already interested in art and had a number of friends in Art College. I liked the whole Beatnik thing, actually, the remains of the ‘Beat’ generation, Kerouac and co. Finding out that I could draw sort of started me off. You know, buying paper and pencils, etc. I started getting a little bit more serious about it from 1966 / 1967. I still have most of the drawings from that period with me, plus a number of paintings sitting in storage in Melbourne somewhere.

A psychiatrist who used to visit Mum loved looking at my stuff and asked me if he might borrow some for a medical symposium he was running. This was for Shrinks you understand. Apparently one of the topics they were discussing was the use of Art in treating, and diagnosing mental patients. I didn’t know this at the time, he just asked to borrow about 10 pieces and I said that was fine. Later he told me that they had a room set up with art done by a number of different patients displayed and that all these ‘head doctors’ would be writing notes and observations on each set of artworks. He said he had put my stuff in next to a patient’s works that had a similar (lurid) style to mine. Well apparently, the general consensus was that this patient’s stuff and mine were done by the same person. Now that’s pretty funny in itself, but here’s the kicker, they mostly agreed that my stuff was done BEFORE treatment!

So in answer to your question “What does my Art say about me?” It says I’m nuts.
Coston: Talk about your brother, Denny.  You two have shared a lot of
time, and music together.

Ball: Denny is one of the best bass players out there. His playing can get a little busy at times, but that’s because he gets bored. This is why he was so good in Bedlam because he and Cozy could just be as busy as they wanted and drift away in any direction they felt like. Den has always written songs too, a lot of good pop songs. He also seems to have stood in for absent bass players in a variety of top bands, e.g. The Move, Uriah Heep, Yardbirds, etc. Really he ought to have been on that whole Deep Purple / Whitesnake / Heep circuit as a full time member. Why he didn’t get snaffled up has always been a mystery. He also worked with Donovan and Rick Wakeman, and others. He still plays brilliantly so not too late for somebody to hire him. He lives in Sydney but has one or two passports!

For me playing with Denny or Pete, my other Brother, is easy. We have played together for 50 years on-and-off and can guess or hear any changes coming and instinctively follow. We used to have a Family gathering in Sydney every April to celebrate our Dad’s Birthday and we always played a party gig. We could shout out any Shadows, or Chuck Berry tune and just launch straight into it. Like the Bee Gees but without the falsetto.
Coston: "Truth Trust & No Fear," is written on your website. Talk about that.

Ball: This is my personal Motto. It is very simple, (always) tell the truth and you will be trusted. As for fear, well, fear is generated in the mind, so make that (imagination) still and you will find nothing to fear. Look, I know that sounds rather simplistic, but that is how it should be. It IS as simple as that.
Coston: Anything you wish to talk about that I've forgotten?

Ball: No thanks. I have had a good old yak so I will just say thanks for the opportunity to talk to you. To any reader out there I might ask that they try to help musicians / writers / artists to stay alive, and keep producing their work, by contributing to sales. I come from a time where we used to buy an album and play the whole thing. We would JUST be listening to records. Not multi-viewing, i.e. background to other activities, but actually and actively listening to the music, the lyrics, etc. This still works for me. An album takes maybe 40 to 50 minutes to play. Just sit and listen. You have the time. And, do not FEAR what you ‘might’ have been doing, or what you ‘might’ be missing. Take the time out.