GH&B 30 Tour Focus Part 2
Cavern complete - Bring on Leeds, Bury & Glasgow!
Liverpool Cavern Club
A triumphant return to the stage for the Daintees in Liverpool last week. Captured by Juan Fitzgerald who took the photo that adorned the Gladsome, Humour And Blue album sleeve.
Word on the street is that it was "bloody good"!
So the tour continues...Leeds Wardrobe, Bury The Met and Glasgow Oran Mor are up next on 1st, 2nd, 3rd of November. If you are in striking distance, then where possible these are not be missed (I'll be in Bury!).
Tickets available here.
Of course the whole reason for this wonderful tour being a thing at all, is that this year marks the 30th Anniversary of that most wonderful, timeless album, Gladsome, Humour And Blue. And as we have mentioned many times previously, earlier this year Martin and the band went into the studio with ace producer Stuart MacLeod to re-record those classic songs, and bring them up to date for 2018.
Reviews are already coming in, including this excellent one from Americana UK.
For fans of physical media (me!) Gladsome 30 is now available to buy on CD from Martin's Bandcamp site here.
Ahead of this official release and the tour, Martin sat down for a chat with journalist Hugh Wheelan...
"While the trend for artists to tour old albums is nothing new, Stephenson is not a man to skim past glories.
He’s re-recorded the album in the studio, and infused artistic maturity and life experience with the creative song-writing seeds of youth that marked out a real piece of poetic and musical art when it emerged three decades back.
Revisiting the songs through recording - although many have been played live throughout the decades – says Stephenson, feels like heading into the garage and dusting down the old BSA motorcycle you used to hare around on: “It’s good to be back in the saddle,” he says.
Stephenson, 57 now, says a middle-aged perspective is interesting when re-recording an album and heading out on tour with it: "You’ve learnt a lot and you’re looking back to your early 20s and some of the visions you were getting back then, which you can’t necessarily tap into in the same way now. We were really spiritually connected as a band back then, resisting a lot of the greed of the 80s. I’m very proud of our journey, because it was a small boat we were in, and we kept the sail up in tough winds.”
Time, of course, brings its generation quirks. Stuart MacLeod, engineer on the album, learned to play guitar to Gladsome back in the 80s, became a musician, and now plays a lot of additional guitar on the new album using an ambient pedal to replace keyboards on the original LP.
Boat to Bolivia, The Daintees first album, was re-released as a new live recording when it turned 30 back in 2016.
For Gladsome, the Daintees went back into the studio, although Martin says the recorded version is “almost live” anyway: “All the original Daintees’ albums were very ‘live’ really, because it was the band playing together, not separately. The takes on the new album were all very quick and natural in the same vein. Kate Stephenson, our drummer, is so good that we had all that mixed down very quickly.”
He says the spontaneity meant that he could spend more time on the vocals - warmer and fuller than on the original - and MacLeod the engineer could do some more mixing, another noticeable sonic step-change from the 1988 record.
Looking back to the making of the original, Stephenson recalls that at the time he “was wide open and channelling” his lyrical muse for the songs on Gladsome: “I was talking in tongues, especially on a song like Goodbye John.”
Limited numbers of the original album contained a book of his poems.
At the same time, he was stretching himself musically: “I arranged all the guitar parts, bass and drums.”
Nonetheless, he was negotiating the jungle of the Thatcherite 1980’s: “Sadly, a lot of the people that I considered to be malign spirits were doing alright back then! The problem is that when you’re trying to work at a higher level they don’t like it; you’re trying to give the spirit away and they’re trying to accumulate money! Even with the band - who were 25 year old lads who wanted to play rock n’roll - I’d take a song to them like The Old Church, and they’d be like: What the hell is this?! The difference was that they were open to the experimentation.”
Stephenson’s words were precocious, notably in songs like Nancy, about a parent with a rebellious daughter: “I didn’t have kids then: I was having visions about being a parent…little did I know!”
He was drawing artistic influences from around, and spiritual inspiration from within and out: “I felt I was on my own a lot of the time in terms of what I was doing, but I was following guidance and just so committed because I knew that it was being directed by a higher consciousness that I was plugged into. I was serving that. I didn’t know I was going to make another album after Gladsome; I just knew I was committed to be truthful to where I was at right then, not be greedy and serve the music.”
He compares the ‘conceptual’ side of his song-writing to a rapper riding a hip-hop beat or a spray painter covering a wall: “The music for me was a canvass for a stronger, deeper message. Some people don’t like lyrics, or aren’t into the concept of the ‘song’ - which is my art form - so I give them the music to enjoy. It’s great having both the artistic and musical mediums.”
The Daintees, he says, were the perfect partners for the mission: “It’s been a trait of the band from day one to be a musical village, a community of souls. The music is the wood of the shared fire for everybody to get warm. My job is to tend the fire and help the vision. From early on that trait was there on Bolivia. Some people might say the musical direction isn’t clear, but I’d say there’s a wide range to what we’ve done.”
Stephenson has a special fondness for both Bolivia and Gladsome, representing as they did the band’s response to 80s careerism: “Both were super powerful albums. I was under attack, told I was no good, not successful or hungry enough. To me, Bolivia and Gladsome were made at the apex, because living in the 1980s was a bloody limitation. I was even under attack from studio engineers trying to stick Moog synthesizers on the recordings! Fellow artists we knew were so consumed with wanting to be famous. It was a lonely journey for me in the 80s. Even now people are so keen to be famous: what’s all that about?”
Re-recording Gladsome, he says, “was a walk in the park” because of what he’s learnt in the interim: “I’ve realised that creativity isn’t measured like time. It’s humans that define time, but creativity is timeless. You can go back to a piece you wrote 30 years ago and get connection with it like it was a piece you wrote yesterday. That’s real fun!
He gives an example: “When we recorded Bolivia, John Steele (who left the original Daintees line up after Bolivia and is now back in the band) did the solos on Running Water and Colleen in a first take. Nailed it! When I heard that, I realised there’d been 30-odd years since he’d done the first takes on the original recording. Even if he’d done a second take on the original it would have been different. Incredible.”
The band line-up may have changed, but it’s fluid history, as Stephenson explains: “I did a gig recently with the Dunn brothers (bass and guitar brothers that played on the original Gladsome) and I just cried. It was like being back in the school football team with the two wingers you always wanted to have on your team…so great to work with. The love, awareness and willingness to pass the ball were all there. The Daintees was a great band! It was there then, it’s there now.”
In terms of the re-recorded album, however, he explains that he wanted to do all the songs a bit differently to capture time passed, experience gained: “On Even the Night I changed the key, sung it a bit lower, used a guitar pedal. I stayed away from piano and strings, whereas when I was younger I wanted all that. This time it’s just the melody on the bass strings. When we do the gig at Under the Bridge in London (November 30), I’ll invite Anne Stephenson over from Paris to play on The Wait (violin player on the original). We might even get the guitarist, John Perry, out of The Only Ones (seminal late 70s rock/punk group) to come and play a bit. That’s the thing about getting older: you can just mix it up and have a bit of fun!”
The songs on the new album shine from the re-interpretation. On ‘I Pray’, Stephenson plays a Gibson Byrdland, which buffs up the sound: “It’s just a magical guitar: like driving a Lamborghini,” he laughs.
A quirk to the re-recorded LP line up is the inclusion of the great ‘Get Get Gone’, which didn’t feature on the original, instead finding a place on the Wholly Humble Heart 12”. Stephenson says it features because it was originally in the Gladsome album line: “It had it’s tracksuit on but never got a game, although the engineer loved it. It was recorded just after Goodbye John because Gypsy Dave Smith was playing Dobro guitar on it. But the record company decided to use it on a 12”. So we decided to give it a game this time for the 30th anniversary.”
Fans may recall one of the song’s mantras “This is not the way of the world.” as the singer contemplates the harsh environment around him.
For Stephenson, the true way of the world is and remains positive, collective consciousness: “If you go into service, don’t try to be the ringmaster, work for the bigger picture and it will show you so much more. You’ll not be working at the fight-or-flight level, or selfishness…the lower levels of consciousness.”
Starting the tour for the new Gladsome, Humour & Blue and it’s 30-year old relation, at The Cavern, Stephenson says, is a buzz: “There’s nowhere in Liverpool that I’d rather perform. They’ve done it up and got a new sound system and it’s so funky to play there. It reminds me of the old Riverside venue in Newcastle in the 80s, which I loved!
He’s psyched and ready to roll: “I’m still committed to these songs the way I was when I wrote them. To me they’re powerful medicine. Touring is an opportunity to share that. We’ll put our heart and soul into it because it will be an absolute honour to be playing.”