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Grey Lady Down

Two years ago, july 11th 1998 to be precise, British progrockers Grey Lady Down gave one final concert in London's Astoria theatre before calling it a day. Some bandmembers' personal circumstances made it impossible to continue playing in a band, and rather than trying yet again to find replacements, the decision was made to disband Grey Lady Down.
A year went by before rumours started flowing in that several members of the band were once again planning to do some music together, and not long after that it became apparent that Grey Lady Down had been re-founded!
We talked to Martin Wilson, GLD's lead singer since its first inceptions, about the history of GLD, the hows and whys of the miraculous rebirth, the new drummer, and the future of GLD mark 2.

Martin Wilson GLD is back in business. How did that happen?

A few months after the split, Sean, Mark, Julian and myself met at a party, and after many beers we and a lot of reminiscing we came to the conclusion that the band still had a lot to offer, and the fact that we missed each other. We decided to meet and rehearse and see how things went. Of course we needed a drummer (Mark was well underway with his new project Steveís Pigeon sorry Thieves Kitchen), so Martin Wright of Solstice was draughted in. At this point we didnít even know if we would return as GLD, our first few shows where under the name of "Trinity". Time passed and "Fallen" was written, however, due to Martin Wrights commitment to his other band he had to leave. Then came Phil Millichamp...oh no...

...the new member in the line up...

What can I say about Mr Millichamp, well, he's from Birmingham, heís played drums in straight rock bands all this life and he owns a music shop (very handy). Phill worked incredibly hard to fit the bill, as he had never played this style before he has done a fantastic job.

Will there be a new album?

Well, we are almost there; we will have more material than we require (which is a good position to be in) once all the bits are finished. We hope to have this out by the end of the year. Not sure which label, but moves are foot to get this side sorted out.

What can we expect?

The fan situation is close to my heart, I realise we may have lost fans due to upheavals over the past few years, this problem is being addressed. We want to put out an album that covers all areas of progressive rock music and is accessible by all. The songs I believe are strong, and I believe this will be our best offering yet.

OK, let's take a look at GLD's career to date.
How did you get in touch with Cyclops? As far as I know, you were the first band signed to that label.

Yes we do have that honour, Mark Robotham stumbled across them some year's back, and it's been a pretty productive relationship so far, thanks to Malcolm.

Can you tell us something about the early years, before the you signed to Cyclops?

The early years with Andrew Rae and Stuart Ellerington as the rhythm section were great fun. We played local shows around the Oxford area, we didn't exactly have a major following, but we didn't really mind as we where playing music we enjoyed, I guess that ethos has stuck. I guess the Band moved up the ladder when Sean Spear and Mark joined the band, Mark had a good managerial head, and the band realising that "hey we may have something here" and things moved from there, the rest as they say...

Your first record was quite successful in the neo prog field, however, the sound wasn't state of the art

True, the sound was not the best, that was purely down to funds, it takes major cash to record an album. I think under the circumstances we did a pretty good job, and some of the reviews agreed that the sound may not have been the best, but the material was pretty good.

The second album Forces was a leap forward soundwise. In what other areas do you feel the band had improved with Forces?

Yes, at this point we more funds on the back of Crime, this enabled us to book more studio time, we had also changed studios to the Warehouse in Oxford, that also helped.
The finished result was a lot crisper that the Crime and I believe our playing and general presentation was far superior.
I guess at this point the band was on a steep upwards curve, we started playing serious gigs in Europe and the UK, however on the flip side this was Louis swan song. But what a way to bow out.

Sean Spear, Phil Millichamp, Julian Hunt, Mark Westworth, Martin Wilson
Sean Spear, Phil Millichamp, Julian Hunt, Mark Westworth, Martin Wilson

The third record shows a step in a more complex direction.

Yeah, Julian had left due to personal problems and Steve Anderson of Sphere fame stepped in, at this point half the album had been written. Steve immediately stamped his mark on the writing style, in fact the second half of the album was written very quickly after that. The critics received the album pretty well. Itís not my favourite but itís pretty good.

And then the split, which came as a complete surprise to most of us. How did that come about?

Oh yes the split, well, this was a very strange time for us all. Julian had returned to the band, as Steve had to leave due to Tinitus. We had played a few shows and it just so happened that due to issues in my personal life my commitment was being compromised.
It was at a gig in Buckingham that Mark dropped the bombshell that he was splitting the band, I think at that point moral was low due to that year's upheavals so we went along with his decision. A few weeks later due to popular demand we decided to play the infamous "One last show" and record it for posterity.

The show later appeared on the double live album "The Time of our Lives". How do you feel about this album?

Well, it was a fantastic night and the album was one of our greatest achievements as the sound quality of the recording exceeded all our expectations.
I guess that at this time we thought that "The Time of our Lives" was to be our swan song but life, I guess, has a habit of twisting and turning.

And that takes us nicely back to the present. Let's look at the writing process in GLD.
On Fear, the credits for almost all the songs were shared by every band member. is GLD a democratic band?

Democracy rules, we all have a job to do and it is hard work, (god knows how Mark Robotham managed). My area, I guess, is a marketing type role, Mark deals with the new web site which he keeps updated almost daily. Sean deals with the newsletter and Phill Julian and Kim Baker (the 6th Beatle so to speak) deal with Gigs and rehearsal issues, and finally Gill Kavanagh and Terry Middleton deal with the merchandise.

How does song writing work in the band?

Same as it always has: band - music, me - lyrics.

Where do you reckon has GLD been most succesful to date?

Itís hard to say, but having said that the best times have been in Europe especially Holland and Germany, we have been made very welcome and we appreciate that. We recently played a festival in Marberg North Germany, what a blast.

Some musicians don't care about lyrics while others see the music as a vehicle to fit the lyrics.
How do you see the relation between music and lyrics?

I think they are as important as each other, and we concentrate on that.

How would you describe your relation to the new media like Internet, mp3, etc?

Our relationship is growing. Technology is a very powerful tool and we will be using it to it's fullest hence the new web site.

If you could make a choice, with which band would you like to play live on stage, for example as support?

My choice would be Peter Gabriel, not sure about the others.

How do you interpret the word "progress" in Progressive Rock?

I guess there are people out there that are very committed to one style or band. I find in a lot of cases, people who come to see us like a wide spectrum of music, that I believe is very healthy.

Is it more difficult to write a 15-minute epic than a three-minute radio hit?

No, in most cases a 15-min epic is 3 5-min songs bolted together, and I believe we are ALL guilty of that at some point in our careers.

Finally, are you satisfied with your career so far?

I guess, I realise we are playing a style of music that is not in vogue, so you can only go so far.
Our philosophy is that if one person enjoys what we are doing then job done, if a thousand people like what we are doing, even better!

Thanks Martin.

Interview: DPRP & Derk van Mourik
Pictures: Grey Lady Down

 


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