Martin Orford Interview
Why a solo album ?
That's an easy one. Basically when you work with the same band or group of
bands for a number of years, you start to realise that some of the material
you write doesn't quite fit into a band format. It doesn't mean that the
material isn't good enough, it just doesn't gel with a particular line-up.
I've got quite a lot of music that falls into that category, and it seemed
to me it was about time some of the best of it an airing.
How long have you been working on this album ?
Rob Aubrey and I started recording some piano parts back in February this
year, but we only really got going on the project in April, with another
concerted effort in June. As for the writing, well some of the material is
25 years old, and some is very recent.
What is the material on the album like ? Should people expect a keyboard
extravaganza or is it different ?
I'm not really that sort of keyboard player; I certainly wasn't cut out to
be the new Keith Emerson. I like to think that my playing is tasteful and
appropriate rather than flash. There are enough good keyboard solos on the
album, as well as the two piano pieces to keep most keyboard fans happy, but
then there are some great guitar solos too. I would be very sceptical about
making an album that was too heavily biased in favour of keyboards, and I
think that this album is much better balanced than that.
What kind of instruments have you played on the album ?
Keyboards or course, but also there's quite a bit of flute, some mandolin
and odd things like bagpipes. I also played nylon-string acoustic guitar as
a solo instrument on one track which was quite a challenge for me.
What other musicians can be heard on the album ?
Basically I used Jadis as the core musicians for this project, as I know
exactly what they can do, and most of them live close to the studio. Once I
had got Gary and Steve to play most of the basic backing tracks, I was able
to fit other musicians into the framework. Paul Cook (IQ) also does some great
playing on two songs, Mike Holmes (IQ) is there on one track, and John Jowitt
(IQ) plays bass throughout. In the later stages of recording, I was able to get
Peter Nicholls and John Wetton (ex-Asia, ex-UK, ex-King Crimson) to sing
on one track each, and Dave Kilminster (John Weton Band) contributed some of his
trademark guitar pyrotechnics too. Tony Wright, the sax player who starred on Subterranea
is also there on one song.
Why did you choose them ?
Because they're all great musicians, I know how they work and what they
sound like, and they were all willing and able to do it.
Are there any other people you would liked to have worked with ?
I did ask Andy Latimer from Camel to do some guitar, but the timing was all
wrong for him, and he was busy putting the Camel world tour together at the
time I was recording. Neal Morse from Spock's Beard also very kindly offered
to sing on the album, but as time was tight and as I didn't really have
anything that seemed particularly suited to his voice, I wasn't able to use
him. However I am a big fan of Neal's music, and I would hope to work with
him at some point in the future.
What happened to the Russian Male Voice Choir that was supposed to sing on
Tatras ? ;-)
They're still in the pub.
Is this all new material or have the compositions been written over a
longer period of time ?
As I said earlier, some of the tunes are 25 years old, some are recent, and
others come from all points in between. It's a collection of material rather
than an album with a common theme.
Can you tell us a bit more about the origins of the various tracks on the
I can, but it would be easier to read the CD booklet, where I've written a
short history of each track.
[Cheeky answer ! DPRP has however incorporated some
of the background information in the review of the CD below. - Ed]
Which keyboard players have been your most important examples ?
I don't really take much notice of other keyboard players; I do my thing and
they do theirs. I do remember seeing Eddie Jobson with UK in 1978, and
thinking "I wouldn't mind doing his job" (not realising that I would be
playing the same material with John Wetton 20 years later!), but I wouldn't
say I'm particularly influenced by Eddie's music, or that of any other
Why the title 'Classical Music and Popular Songs' ? Most people seem to
dislike that title.
Personally I couldn't care less whether people like the title or not,
because it's my album, and the title describes accurately where I come from
musically. I spent the first ten years of my life listening to pop music
like The Beatles, and The Byrds, and the next seven or eight years listening
to or playing classical music.
Everything I write is dependent on those influences, and all my material
contains varying degrees of classical and pop influence. Most people seem to
want to think that I am a product of the 1970's prog rock thing, but nothing
could be further from the truth; all that had been swept away by punk rock
long before I ever knew it existed. Some people have said that the
"Classical Music and Popular Songs title" is pretentious and pompous.
Considering that I generally like music that is described in those terms, I
don't have a problem with it. My dictionary lists pretentious as
"ostentatious - making an excessive claim to great merit or importance".
Suits me fine.
What other people, places or occurrences have influenced the material on
I take a lot of inspiration from the area of Hampshire where I live, and a
lot of the music could almost be a soundtrack to the beautiful scenery we
have round here.
The CD booklet features a very old picture on which you play with another
band. What's the story behind that picture ?
That was my first band Triangular Heel, and it was taken during a
performance on local TV. I was about 16 at the time and had all my own hair.
We were absolutely dreadful, but we did have in the repertoire a track which
became the prototype for "Fusion" which ended up on the new album.
You performed some of the material live at the Whitchurch festival, on the
evening prior to the IQ performance. Can you tell us something about that little gig ?
All solo gigs are really scary, but I have to say that the audience that
night were brilliant. I think I got away with it.
Will you tour with this album ?
I've got no plans at all to forge a new career as a solo artist, however if
the album proves to be a hit and sells 10,000 copies or more, I might have
Besides the title, how has the album been received so far ?
I've had some great e-mails from lots of people saying how much they've
enjoyed the album. Best of all though, it's been well receive at home; Chris
is always playing it in her car, and some of my oldest friends have really
taken to it as well.
Are you planning to release more solo albums in the future ?
You bet I am!
Last but not least: Where does your nickname 'Widge' come from ?
Years ago I used to have an accent which was much broad than it is now. The
Hampshire accent is basically similar to that in the West Country, though
mine was never as broad as Robert Fripp's. Anyway, I used to take a fair bit
of stick for the fact that I have never been able to say words like "cow"
without it sounding like "ceeeoow". One day the Jadis boys were on a beach
in Dorset, and sat next to them was a family whose accents were deemed to be
even more amusing than mine. No sooner had one of the parent called to one
of the kids "come over here you old Widger", than the die was cast. I was
doomed to be called Widger, or Widge for all eternity. Luckily as nicknames
go, it's generally used in quite an affectionate way, and yes, I am called
Widge at home too!
Thank you Widge for taking the time to answer these questions !
Martin Orford Review
Martin Orford - Classical Music and Popular Songs
Tracklist: The Field of Fallen Angels (6.26), A Part of Me (5.14), Quilmes (3.02), The Days of Our Lives (6.15),
Fusion (5.05), The Final Solution (5.59), The Picnic (1.21), The Overload (5.20), Tatras (5.30), Evensong (5.09)
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2000|
Everybody I've spoken to so far seems to agree on two things. Firstly, the title of this album is quite horrendous.
Personally it reminds me of those cheesy tel-sell commercials where Paul King or some other
has-been will sell you some CD set with titles like 'Rock Masters of the 70s' or whatever.
Secondly, everybody seems to agree that besides the title it's a damn fine album with many
tunes in various styles. So, in a way, the title does cover the content of the album.
Martin Orford is no stranger in the world of progressive rock. His resume includes
more than 20 years of keyboard playing with IQ and it's predecessor The Lens,
as well as many years with Gary Chandler's Jadis. In the second half of the nineties
he could also regularly be seen on the road with the John Wetton Band.
With this impressive background, it's not a big surprise that many of his musical mates turn
up on this record as well. All of the members of IQ and Jadis appear in one or more track on
the album, while it also features contributions by John Wetton himself on vocals and his
guitarist Dave Kilminster on guitar. Finally, Tony Wright, who played saxophone
on IQ's 'Subterranea' album and who can be seen on the Subterranea live video
as well, turns up playing his instrument on one of the tracks.
I have been in the fortunate position to be able to hear some of the music on this solo
album in a very early stage. At the end of last year Martin had decided to finally start recording
his own album, something which he had been planning for years. During one of my visits he
played me some of the material that was being finalized for the latest Jadis album
Understand as well as 8 pieces he was considering for the solo album.
Most - if not all - have ended up on the final CD in one form or another.
Some of you might already know the pieces Quilmes and Tatras, which Martin
has played many times at John Wetton concerts and can be found on some of Wetton's
more recent live albums, including Nomansland. Quilmes is a
lighthearted piano piece that Martin wrote in the late 70s and was eventually named by Wetton
after a local beer during a tour a tour in Argentina in 1996. Tatras on the other hand is a more
heavy classical piece which is kind of special to me because it was first played on
DPRP's DPRS festival in 1998. The new version of this album doesn't
only feature the piano, but also flute and extensive keyboard orchestration.
Both of these are great tracks if you like lightly classical piano music.
The only other track that has Martin playing on his own is the short acoustic guitar ditty
Picnic which would not have been out of place on a 70s Yes album.
Part of Me is a straightforward rock track sung by John Wetton. Martin gave it that
Asia approach of harmony chorusses and a big guitar solo where technical perfection
(Dave Kilminster) and great melody (Gary Chandler) alternate. Other people appearing on
this one are John Jowitt (bass), Steve Christey (drums) and Paul Cook (tambourine). The track
starts with just keyboards and vocals; drums and bass come in after more than a minute.
There's also a nice combined keyboard/guitar solo. Great track !
Another straightforward track is the nice poppy ballad Days of Our Lives which
features the full Jadis band plus Tony Wright on saxophone. A lovely love song kind of thing
which Martin dedicated to his girlfriend Chris. The song ends with Gary Chandler doing one
of his best David Gilmour impressions.
Evensong is another track with the Jadis line-up; a peaceful instrumental track with
flute, piano and wonderful orchestration plus a great guitar solo by Gary Chandler.
On to the more proggy stuff. Fusion is an instrumental that was written in the 70s and
was also played live by The Lens. Therefore it was only natural for IQ's Mike Holmes
to play lead guitars on it (Mike was in The Lens as well). This wonderful energetic track
with a Baroque feel where uptempo full-band sections alternate with harpsichord solos would not
have been out of place among the first tracks on the Seven Stories Into Ninety
Eight album. Martin also included it on the album to prove that he was already writing this
kind of music before he had ever heard of 'progressive rock' and bands like Genesis. Besides
Mike Holmes, the track also features the other guys from Jadis.
Take the whole IQ band and replace Mike Holmes with Gary Chandler and you've got the line-up
for The Overload. A spooky track which Peter Nicholls and Martin wrote during the
Subterranea sessions but was never used. The atmosphere of the song is in the vein of Sense
in Sanity from the 'Subterranea' album, but more powerful, with lots of sequencers
and uptempo rhythms in the second half. Another highlight !
The Final Solution features Paul and John from IQ plus again the magical combination
of Dave Kilminster and Gary Chandler on guitar. It evolved from a bit of music IQ used to
play live in a 'glam rock' medley. It's a pumping and stomping little mid-tempo track with a
very cheerful atmosphere nevertheless. Nice usage of backing vocals in parts of the chorus.
And finally there's the opening track of the album, and one of the highlights of the disc:
Field of Fallen Angels. This was one of the songs Martin played me last year on
just keyboard and mandolin. Since then it has turned into this massive prog rock track
with clear folk influences. Unfortunately the mandolin has become a bit less present in
this version, but the sheer energy of the track more than makes up for this. Gentle flute
playing opens the song, after which it goes into an uptempo energetic & bombastic rock section
with a nice cathcy melody. Halfway through the song, after a nice synth solo, the melody changes
and the tempo goes down. While Jowitt pumps away on the bass a nice bagpipe chanter solo plays.
The song closes with a reprise of the bombastic opening. One of the highlights of the album.
Line-up is the Jadis band plus David Kilminster on acoustic guitar.
All in all a very nice album full of wonderful tunes covering lots of musical styles.
Don't expect an IQ album from Martin's solo CD, it's much more versatile than that.
Don't expect a Wakeman-like keyboard extravaganza either. There's lots of nice keyboard solos
on the album, but (with the exception of Quilmes and Tatras) they are not meant as
the focus of the track but to support the track.
Expect a wonderful mixture of some light classical piano pieces, a couple of lost IQ tracks, some
nice pop songs and a few prog rock pieces with folky influences. If this mixture appeals to
you, you should certainly get a copy of Classical Music and Popular Songs.
The 8-page booklet is another fine piece of work by Geoff Chandler who also did the Jadis
artwork, and it features interesting liner notes for all tracks and several pictures,
among which one of Martin's school band Triangular Heel.
Conclusion: 9- out of 10.