Getting the album together in Wales part 2 | Sunny with Occasional Rain
Reaching the high point of a long climb somewhere in the undulating hills of Snowdonia, we started our descent into a wild, gorse flecked landscape with scattered herds of sheep, random hedgerows and the evening sunlight filtering through low slung clouds. It was quietly and serenely lovely, and in the heart of the valley, next to a meandering stream, lay a small, stone cottage with a hint of smoke coming from the chimney. It seemed text book perfect and I had that stomach contracting premonition we might have found our remote getaway and temporary home – if the cottage were actually for rent. Our first parcel of good luck had arrived. The owner, a charming, middle aged, English, normal looking man was only there for a weekend to deal with incidental home repairs and he seemed utterly unfazed by a couple of long haired hippy musicians arriving unannounced and requesting a 6 month rental. Everything as it happened, was agreed very swiftly. The nearest village, he told us, was called Trawsfynnid (almost unpronounceable) where there was a pub, a couple of shops and a post office. The rent was laughably small, the heating was adequate and created by the open fire which warmed an arrangement of pipes, clear pure water came from the stream but the weather, he warned, would get very cold as winter approached and we would need to keep the wood supply full. We didn’t really care too much about that because best of all, there was enough room for everyone to sleep (with a degree of imagination), including girlfriends, hangers on and occasional visitors; and miraculously, there was a large dining area that would make a perfect rehearsal room. We could start the rental immediately. I had managed to borrow 100 pounds, I had about another 100 put aside from previous gigs. We would get maybe 20 a month from the flat let. The project was manageable, tight but we didn’t care. We were on the way.
Heading back to London, we were overwhelmed with optimism, although I was starting to worry a little about Paul, the drummer. It might seem an easy role to fill, but anyone who has ever been in a band will know the importance of the person who drives the rhythm, kicks the whole feel along at just a millisecond ahead of the groove, creating the tightness and energy. I had already worked with a couple of good drummers and some not so good. Paul was outstanding, it was unthinkable to join hands with anyone of less calibre and he, meanwhile, was completely unaware of what I has been fabricating and imagining. However, I had a gut feeling that I could talk him around into joining us, and in any event I was determined to try.
So John (the percussionist) got the task of buying a van, we advertised for the flat rental and I left for Manchester the following day. I wanted to surprise Paul and had given no advance notice of my arrival. He was playing in the resident band of a hotel night club and I knew what to expect – a good band for sure but bored, playing cover versions to a melee of loud and raucous holiday makers demonstrating dubious style and lots of bling. I knew why he was there. It was a secure gig, pay check every month with dreams dashed and time slipping away. He might as well be working in a department store.
It was a great reunion. We hadn’t seen each other for over a year and had some interesting catching up to do. Paul was now in a fairly serious relationship with a very cool girl and was, as I had suspected, bored with the gig but grateful for the regular work. There was only one way to lay out the plan to him. Straight, no promises, no illusions but presented in a gilt frame of challenge and potential with hopefully some good fun and experience thrown in. The proposition could, I admit, look fairly unprepossessing seen from his perspective. Leave a well paying steady job, come to a cold and distant Welsh cottage, eat cheap food, have no money, start something with no promises, no clear future and the possibility of a one way ticket home in a few months time. He needed time to weigh it all up. I think the only reason he didn’t dismiss it instantly was because we clicked together, as people and in our musical interaction. Also he missed the danger of an uncertain future and the excitement of creative challenge.
‘I need a month to decide’, he said. ‘Also, there’s Jan’. ‘
‘Bring her’ I replied, ‘we need all the encouragement we can get.’
I knew there was no need to go further with over eager persuasion. I had laid out the scenario fairly without any new age dressing. We had a month. We probably needed that to finalize London, get to Wales, sort out the cottage and write some music – That after all was ultimately the heart of all this management activity.
I felt good heading back to London. It had been great to see Paul again, one way or another we were going to head to Wales, try to get the album together, do what musicians did at that time, fuel our young hearts with the energy of working, playing and creating together. Paul would phone in one month from now. If it was a yes we were home and dry, if it was a no, we would need to address the auditioning process again. I put those thoughts to one side for now. Songs were waiting to be written.
I have never lived in Manchester in all my years of residing in England, but it is extraordinary how this city has featured in my life in my only 3 or 4 visits. I rekindled my relationship with Paul there, re- met in extraordinary circumstances one of the greatest loves of my life there by chance in a hotel bar (and whom I thought had disappeared from my life forever) and one day wrote the music for a play produced there directed by an Oscar winning American actor who became a lifelong friend. And I don’t even know the name of the main road, or the railway station!
Sunny with Occasional Rain
Sunny with Occasional Rain is a blog series written by BKP Media Group CEO, Barry Kirsch, highlighting moments from his intriguing career.