Sean Filkins

Sean Filkins

DPRP’s John O’Boyle talks with Sean Filkins

Sean Filkins has just released his fabulous first solo album War And Peace & Other Short Stories.  What follows here is a very open, honest and insightful view into Sean’s creative mind, taking us on a journey of discovery, offering an insight into his world. This in-depth interview leaves no stone unturned as the story that is War And Peace & Other Short Stories unfolds. 

Sean Filkins - War & Peace and Other Short Stories

John: You have a quite varied background in the music industry, having been in Big Big Train, where most people will know you from. You have also worked quite a lot with Galahad’s ex-bassist Lee Abraham on his Black and White Album and also with Lee in your covers band The Indigo Pilots. Are there any projects out there that you have contributed to that your fans may not be aware of? 

Sean:  I started out singing and playing acoustic guitar in a contemporary folk duo, with a friend, Mark Williams, playing in folk clubs and pubs, in and around the Medway area of Kent. We did songs by Simon & Garfunkel, Dan Fogelberg, America, Fairport Convention, and even tracks by the Who and YES. It was a good grounding for singing, close harmonies that I still enjoy doing today and for singing live.  Folk club audiences are very attentive. We wrote a couple of tracks, but it wasn’t until I joined Hounslow based rock band Vigilante in 1991 that I started writing lyrics and songs seriously. 

After that I joined a Space Rock Band called Soma. They had already recorded one album and had toured the old East Germany. I recorded one album with Soma and also did two tours of Germany taking in a couple of gigs in Czechoslovakia.   

In 1993 I joined Neo-Progressive rock band Lorien, formed by my still great friends Darren Newitt and Mark Mcleod. We released one album, Children’s Games in 1995 and also did one tour of Germany and also played in Prague. At this time I had a few personal problems that needed sorting out, so I stopped singing for a while. It was a shame because Lorien had some great musicians and potential, and were just as good live as they were on the album, but I needed time out from playing.  

In 1997 I started singing again, with Darren Newitt, as a duo using midi-files. We did a lot of Marillion covers, and also the Lorien album, plus new tracks we had written together. Surprisingly for a duo we had a great following, because with a full PA we sounded just like a band and our gigs in Aylesbury and High Wycombe, especially at the Bell Hotel, were always well received.

I moved to the South Coast in1998.  I recorded an acoustic album for my wife, some covers plus original material. That’s where I met Geoff Webb; he was the recording engineer at the studio. It’s his music that inspired Learn How To Learn. 

I sang odd songs at pub gigs I went to, rock and blues mainly. That’s when I first met Lee but we didn’t get together until years later when Lee phoned me about the guitarist’s position in The Indigo Pilots. I formed the Indigo Pilots, a Rock and Prog covers band, with my good friend Stevie Roberts and John Sammes joined us on Keyboards. He’d worked with the likes of Reg Presley and Suzi Quatro in the past. This may surprise some people, but I had been singing in a Whitesnake Tribute band before I joined BBT. Like chalk and cheese really. Heavy Rock and Blues based Cock Rock on one hand and pastoral Genesis meanderings on the other.  

John: You recorded a couple of albums with Big Big Train, 2004’s Gathering Speed, an album that saw the band return to progressive rock, and the sublime dark conceptual album 2007’s The Difference Machine. During your 5 years or so in the band, what was your favourite song from that period? 

Sean: It has to be Powder Monkey from Gathering Speed. Most of the vocals on this track were from my audition when I first went to meet Big Big Train. Andy Poole wanted to record the auditions so he and Greg Spawton could listen back at their leisure. The heavier vocal sections, from when the 12-string guitar comes in and at the end are my live audition. A lot of passion went into that performance. I also think that the Anthony Philips style acoustic and electric 12-string Greg plays on Powder Monkey is some of the best work he has done. 

Big Big Train - Gathering Speed 2004

John: I remember seeing you play with Lee at the Winters End Festival in 2010, remembering how engaging and powerful your performance was.  Do you enjoy the process of playing live or do you prefer the creative aspect in the studio more?  

Sean: I really enjoy both the same amount, but for different reasons. I must admit it depends on the project and whom one is working with, both live and in the studio. Studio work is great because one is being creative, from the original tentative scribbles on pieces of paper to hearing the finished tracks, just how one wants them. It’s a great feeling.

Playing live is great fun, with the right people, especially when the band click like at Winters End. That was our first ever gig as the Lee Abraham Band. We had all worked hard to get the songs right, and we all had a mutual respect for each other as musicians and people. Being friends helped as it made it fun. I think if the audience see the band getting into the music, they do and vice versa. It’s infectious and whether it is covers in a pub with 10 people or playing your own material in a hall with 3000 people, as long as I can hear what I’m doing, I’ll give 100% and sing the songs exactly the same way. I just love performing and singing live. 

John: After all the years of working with the Big Big Train and with Lee Abraham what made you decide to finally record a solo album? 

Sean: I’d always wanted to record a solo album, with all original material, but I’d never had the opportunity to do so until I met Lee. I’d had material floating around in my head since I first started singing that I had wanted to record, but until Lee gave me the helping hand I needed I hadn’t been able to realise my dream. Knowing Lee through playing with the Indigo Pilots, meant he knew what I could do, which is why he asked me to sing on Black and White. During these recording sessions I’d mentioned that I had material. Lee said that if I wanted to write and record an album he’d produce it for me. So I started to get the songs together. Once I had all the ideas written down, chords, music, lyrics etc I took the songs to John Sammes. We did a lot of pre-production, working out keyboard sounds that I wanted and John adding some musical arrangement to help some of the parts I’d written sit better. Then it was off to Lee’s studio to start recording. 

John: On the album there are a varying range of instruments from piano, sitar, tabla drums and even the didgeridoo, instruments that can effectively change the tone of the song. Two songs that spring to mind are Prisoner of Conscience. Pt 1The Soldier and also on Learn How to Learn, which gives the pieces an Eastern feel.  Was this due to the philosophical approach of the subject matter? 

Sean: There are different reasons. Initially, I wanted to use the different sounds and effects to help build and enhance the story of each track, a bit like a good film score the way they draw you in and without dialogue add to the suspense. I also listen to a lot of Electronic and Classical music. Bands like Tangerine Dream and composers like Klaus Schulze and Robert Schroeder, to Classical composers like Stravinsky, Holst and John Foulds. They are able to create these soundscapes, they create picture music, buy using different sounds or instruments. I didn’t want my album to sound like anybody else’s work. I wanted to use different instruments to help create each scene. I purposely wrote the Eastern section in The Soldier as it was an integral part of the story. The Soldier fighting abroad, with the rain, the damp, the heat and wounded by the blast, drifts into unconsciousness portrayed by the didgeridoo, flute and sitar. The hectic journey across a foreign land to save his life where the sitar, tabla drum rhythms and dulcimer sounds comes in; The wait, where the sitar fades and “the coming to” back in England, where the mandolin and acoustic guitars come in. It may not be obvious at first, but that’s the reasoning behind it.

The second reason, why I added the Eastern theme at the end of Learn how to Learn, is because I wanted to link the tracks together. I like albums where themes and sounds are used and re-introduced, sometimes subtly in different ways, to create the whole picture. Also having always been a fan of George Harrison, I loved the way he melded sitar with Western sounds, like on Within You Without You. I just had to have these sounds at the end of the album.

John: Something that always fascinates me is how individuals approach the song writing process.  How do you approach writing long epics without repeating a theme, keeping it interesting for both you to write and play and for the listener?

Sean: I didn’t intentionally go out of my way to write long songs. It’s just some of the tracks ended up that way so that the story in each track could be fully told. I actually shortened The Soldier so that the end solo was just right, just enough. There’s no set in stone right or wrongs with decisions like that. It’s what I felt was right at the time. I’ve heard some artists actually say, “I’m in the studio tonight, I’m going to write a 20 minute epic. “  I can’t understand that. How do you know? It’s almost like saying “I’m in the studio tonight, I’m going to write a 20 minute epic because that’s what Real Prog fans expect of a Real Prog artist”. It’s a stupid comment. 

Some of the songs on my album started out as musical ideas, some as lyrical passages. One was initially a poem I had written about my Great Grandfather. There’s no set formula, apart from all the tracks have themes close to my heart. 

I’ll be honest, where music with lyrics are concerned, I like songs that have choruses, that have hooks and themes that the listener can relate to, something for the listener to grab hold of, which is what I tried to do; to immerse the listener with sounds and ideas for them to really get into. For instance in the “The Soldier”, there’s a re-occurring chorus but each time it changes slightly building, getting bigger until on the last one the guitar takes over from the voices. Also on The Soldier, after the first chorus with just vocals and keyboards, the heavy rock instrumental section with the Hammond solo is played to a flamenco time signature, which later on I bring back using actual flamenco guitar albeit in a different key. 

 I’m not keen on writing songs that are too obvious. If I’m sitting at home I like music that makes me think and draws me in. That makes one use ones imagination. It doesn’t matter if the song is long or short, it has to make you think. I also feel that making something long and over complicated just for the sake of trying to make one look clever, almost music by numbers, defeats what song writing is all about. That’s not saying I don’t like more straightforward 4×4 rock music, but not to sit and listen to at home. I normally listen to Rock in the car, great driving music from the likes Van Halen, Def Leppard, Planet Rock Radio etc. The Prog, classical and ambient stuff I listen to at home. 

John: In places I found your word play rather stunning, a good example of this is the closing verse of Prisoner of Conscience. Pt 1 the Soldier, where you can feel the emotive language really making its point, “You can’t lose it, you know it happened, caught in the crossfire as the prophets have their day, The lies, deceit, reality, the patrons of hypocrisy, all slap each others backs in time, for trusting their morality, a sardonic toast, to the victims of the funeral pyre, the costly toll of love and life, exchanged for blood and fire” Obviously it is important to you as well as the listener, but where do you pull your influence from.  You certainly get the impression that the subject broached in Prisoner of Conscience has a real resonance with you?  

Sean: The character in Prisoner is based on my Mother’s Father. He went to War in WW2 and went missing. Nobody knew if he was alive or dead. Wounded somewhere, maybe in a hospital, not knowing who he was or how or why he got there. My Mother always had the feeling that he was alive somewhere, maybe with amnesia unable to contact his family. I’ve tried to tell the story from his point of view, surviving and trying to find out who he was and slowly realising what has happened in his life. I have known a few people who came back from WW2 and wars since, The Falklands, Iraq, who had great difficulty coming to terms with what they had witnessed and been a part of.   

I also find it sad that we never learn. Man’s inhumanity to man never ceases to amaze and sicken me. I find it shocking that in this day and age, people can’t talk things over, that megalomaniacs still rule countries, and thousands suffer because of them. The sad thing is you can’t reason with madmen or somebody that wants to rule the world. So what is the answer? That’s something I’ve questioned in the lyrics. 

John: How do you decide when epic songs like the aforementioned Prisoner of Conscience Pt 1 and 2 and Epitaph for a Mariner are complete? 

Sean: For me it’s when the song sounds complete, when the story has been fully told.

I wouldn’t add pieces just to make them longer, in fact I kept listening to all the tracks during the recording process, often editing pieces which I felt were unnecessary, but adding parts which I felt enhanced the tracks. I would often take either full or part tracks home to listen to on the stereo, and in the car away from the studio. I’d listen over and over to hear how the instruments sat, were the levels right, were the dynamics right, was I using the right sound and was I getting the point of the story across by what was recorded. When all the songs were finished I took them all away again, in track order and listened again to dot the “I”s and cross the “T”s so to speak; again over and over. It’s when one starts to nit pick that you have to be careful not to over do it. I think I did enough in each track to get the point of each story across.

John: Do you find it easier to write long convoluted epics or shorter more succinct pieces?

Sean: It’s neither harder nor easier, for me at least. The hardest part is getting it to sound just how one wants it and making sure the music is interesting, and if there is a story that you are trying to get across, that the music does just that.  

John: What is the history / genesis of these songs?  Were they born for this project or have they been works in progress for some years? Also Songs and musical passages mean different things to different people.  Would you like to give the listeners a quick breakdown of what each track on the album is about? 

Sean: The start, “Are You Sitting Comfortably” is really The English Eccentric part 1 for obvious reasons. Also it’s a little tongue in cheek dig at my previous band. I remember a blog I saw where an ex band mate said “There should be more Brass in Prog”

I wrote most of the lyrics for The English Eccentric in 1999, but the rest of the track, music and arrangement, were new to this project. The song is part autobiographical, the football, the favourite rainbow, the girl etc. I have added parts, little idiosyncrasies from people I know and others I have met, to create the character of The English Eccentric. There is a link to the next track, the line “Daddy went to war, we’d always hoped that he’d return” 

Prisoner of Conscience Part1 was completely new, apart from a few lyrics. I’d used the first line previously but it was never recorded. I’d had the story in my head for years, obviously as it is based around my Mothers Father, but all the music and the arrangement and 90% of the lyrics were new to this project. 

Prisoner Of Conscience Part 2 was based on a track I had worked on previously in 1999, with a couple of friends. I couldn’t use all that work because I hadn’t written it all, so I had to re-write certain passages and added a new arrangement. The lyrics went so well as a follow on from Part1, The Soldier, finally realising there is light at the end of the tunnel and that inside there was an honest man trying to survive. My Mother often felt she was being watched by someone, and even glimpsed a man in the distance on a few occasions that looked like her father but stooping and crippled, instead of tall and strong. She always felt he’d survived. It’s a sad shame she never found out for real. 

Epitaph For A Mariner started out as a poem, which I wrote in the eighties, about my Great Grandfather, William Pull. He was a lifeboat man and boatman from Margate in the 1890’s. The song is about him and men like him and their struggle to earn a living at sea. During a great storm, my Great Grandmother was in labour. The shout went up that a boat was floundering off the coast and the lifeboat went out, but he couldn’t go as the midwife had been delayed and he had to help deliver the baby. His closest friends were on that lifeboat and it overturned and all but two were killed. The baby survived, my Grandmother. The joy they must have felt at the birth of their new daughter and the unbearable pain of losing most of your closest friends; a terrible conflict.  

I was initially going to have the five parts for this track as separate tracks, but I felt to tell the story musically it was better to have them fading in and out of each other which is why it’s now 20 minutes. The ideas, music and arrangements for Sailors Hymn, Sirens song and Maelstrom were all new to this project. I had my daughter sing Sailors Hymn as the subject matter is about her Great, Great Grandfather. The lyrics for Ode To William Pull and Epitaph are all from the original poem that I wrote plus I added extra lyrics to Ode To William Pull to suit the music. 

I had presented these lyrics to Big Big Train for inclusion on the follow up to The Difference Machine. In 2008 I had been working with BBT on demos for the next album and really wanted one of my songs on it. Greg Spawton had come up with some music that he’d added my lyrics to, I went along and added my own ten pence worth, but as you know things between BBT and I didn’t pan out. I still wanted to use my song and initially I used the exact music that Greg and I had worked on. I felt that as I was a part of BBT when it was written, I had every right to, but it didn’t sit right with me and didn’t have the right feel. The chord structure and sound wasn’t right, so I changed the chords and feel to this section so that it segued smoothly from the previous part Maelstrom and into the final Epitaph. I don’t know if BBT ever used the original music on The Under fall Yard with or without my lyrics, I haven’t listened to it, but I have changed the music, the feel and mood of the piece to add to my original lyrics, enough to make it my own.  

I came up with the music for Epitaph back in 1991, a song I did with Space Rock Band Soma called Oceana. Again what is on the album is a completely different arrangement and has new music added to this project, as I couldn’t use some parts that we had written as a band. The end finale instrumental, the solos of duelling synths and guitar and the final lament were all newly written for this project. The lament at the end came about one day when I visited John Sammes at his house. He was playing his mini-grand and I thought it sounded beautiful, a classical piece, then I realised it was my song, the vocal melody from the chorus of Prisoner Part 1. I just had to have it on the album and it was a fantastic way to link this song with the previous songs on the album. For me the whole duelling solos part and fade out piano lament is one of the highlights of the album. 

Learn How To Learn started out as a new age acoustic instrumental track, written by my good friend Geoff Webb. His track was called “Pastoral” I had heard it while recording at the studio he worked at. It was so beautiful that I wanted to write lyrics to it, which became Learn How To Learn. I recorded the track in 1998 with my lyrics added to just his original composition, but for this album I wanted to make it a full blown Prog Rock track, so I added the mandolin, mellotrons, drums, bass, electric guitars, church organ and big guitar solo. I then added the Asian themes at the end, the real sitar, tabla drums, and flute; because I felt it was just such a great way to end the album. 

John: The English Eccentric brought a wry smile to my face, a song that seems to recount passing fond memories I guess that most of us could recount.  I love the way you play with the scenes, one minute the justification of the happy recall of memories, the next the stone cold reality being that some of those memories have demons.  Lyrically that must have been a difficult song to write without making it too personalised?  

Sean: On the contrary, The English Eccentric is very personal; it is part autobiographical, so came from the heart. I wanted to make a fictional character, but to do that I drew on past experiences and added other people’s foibles to make the character. The difficult part in writing the track was that I hadn’t realised that I still had some demons from my past that needed exorcising until after it was written! 

John: Are there any unreleased tracks that didn’t make War and Peace and Other Short Stories or do you just write enough material to fill the album?  

Sean: There are full songs that didn’t make the album that are easily good enough for inclusion on a follow up. Plus I have lots of lyrics and musical passages, ideas that I can draw on at a later date. I was going to add one of the tracks, but felt it was completely out of context lyrically and musically with the other songs. 

John: What’s next for Sean Filkins? 

Sean: Well I’m having fun at the moment promoting War and Peace & Other Short Stories. It’s only been out a fortnight and already is getting some interest. I have had talks with musicians that played on the album and the idea of playing it live has come up in conversation. Some are doing other projects at the moment and others wanted to enjoy the album properly first before sitting down and learning it to play live, which is fair enough.  

I’ve had a couple of artists talk to me about doing some work together, but nothing has been finalised. It would be great to work with some other artists, like I did with Lee Abraham on Black and White, but we’ll see. 

John: Just to move away from the musical aspect per se for a moment, something that has intrigued me is that you have a real passion for airplanes; something that I guess you would love to pursue had you the finances.  Looking at some of your heroes, Douglas Bader (fighter pilot), Robert Standford Tuck (test and fighter pilot), Ray Hanna (founding member of Red Arrows), and Alex Henshaw (test pilot and air racer), they are all from an aeronautical background.  What is interesting though is the choice of Oleg Maddox, who if I’m not wrong is responsible for writing and developing flight simulation software.  What is it that cites him as a hero to you?  

Sean: I’ve always had a great passion for old aeroplanes and reading about and talking to the pilots that flew them. My Grandfather was in the RFC during the 1st World War and went on to be in the RAF until he retired in the late fifties. He was based in France in ‘39 and at Manston during the Battle Of Britain. I used to stare at his old photographs and try to imagine what it was really like. If I had been old enough at the time, would I have been able to cut the mustard, or would I have fallen like so many others. My father was also in the RAF. I actually went to join up, but the RAF recruitment Officer was such an arse. Rude, arrogant, pompous, belittling, you name it he was it, the complete opposite to my lovely Grandfather. I just turned on my heels and walked out of the Office. I’ve flown in an old wartime RAF Tiger Moth, did aerobatics too and it was one of the highlights of my life.  

My choice of Oleg Maddox as one of my heroes was rather tongue in cheek really. People who know me will know that in my free time, when my daughter had gone to bed and my wife was catching up on her soaps, I would spend many hours online with my headphones on flying his IL-2 Sturmovik flight combat simulator, real time combat with other online users around the world. It’s the closest to real air combat that I would like to get, without flying an aeroplane. I have met many people and have many longstanding good friends from playing the game. One guy I “flew” with was an actual Russian Mig fighter pilot, flew in a Russian Air force display team. I think Oleg was a clever guy, taking on the might of Microsoft by producing what was and probably still is, by the amount of people online still playing it, one of the most exciting and realistic flight sims ever produced.  

John: That might have seemed an odd question but it does have some relevance, as on the first Big Big Train album Gathering Speed, an album that was dedicated to all the airmen and women who lost their lives in the Battle of Britain.  What was your involvement in the writing of “High Tide Last Stand”, “Fighter Command” and “The Road Much Further On”? 

Sean: I joined the writing process for Gathering Speed quite late on. When I first listened to the music, prior to my audition, I felt that the songs needed to be bigger. The concept was huge and obviously being a subject close to my heart, needed telling in a big way. I didn’t think that BBT had made enough of the themes, and even at my audition, before I had got the job as vocalist, I was explaining to Greg and Andy ways in which I felt they could expand the songs. I wrote and arranged most of the vocal harmony passages on Gathering Speed and also added to those that Greg had already come up with. All the sound effects to help tell the stories were my ideas; the Spitfires at the start, the Skylark and the struggling airman trying hard to breath through his oxygen mask. The clock that strikes seven and then stops is the clock the RAF gave my Grandfather when he retired. I added lyrics to some of the songs, plus the Blues Harp parts were my idea, I felt it made the track very personal to the Pilot. I added percussion, plus many ideas for extra guitar and keyboard lines. I also put in more than my pounds worth for ideas on the way the songs were finally mixed. 

The dedication “To All The Airmen and Women who lost their lives in the Battle Of Britain” was my idea too. I felt I should have had writing credit for all the songs really, except the instrumental as I only added the small blues harp idea to that, but there you go. Because the subject matter was close to my heart, it was great to do and fun, at the time.  

John: On the album you have people like Dave Meros of Spocks Beard, the ubiquitous John Mitchell and your sparring partner Lee Abraham.  How did each individual contribution come about for this album? 

Sean: Dave Meros had played on The Difference Machine, introduced by Producer, Rob Aubrey. BBT were invited up to Spocks Beard’s Astoria gig to watch the sound check and the gig. I had contacted Dave via Myspace, to chat about his performance on TDM and also the forthcoming gig. We had a great chat at the gig, and he said that if ever I needed some bass on any project I just had to ask. I wrote the heavy bass and drum parts of the English Eccentric with Dave in mind as I knew it would really suit his style of playing. I just hoped he would agree to do it. The remit to Dave was just go for it and really rock out. Thankfully he loved the track and came up with some blistering bass runs, following every wonderful fill that Gerald Mulligan had done on the drums. 

Lee was the instigator behind me recording the album in the first place. I’d sung on Black and White, plus Lee played guitar with the Indigo Pilots and previously Bass with Galahad. When he said he would help produce my album, he volunteered to play the bass and most of the rhythm guitar parts. I knew John Mitchell had played on Lee’s album, so I thought it would be cool to get him to solo on mine too. Lee and I went to see It Bites. I got to chat with John after the gig and I asked him if he would solo on certain tracks. Lee called him up when we were ready and John came down to the studio. I explained how I felt the songs should sound; the mood of each track, what the story was and John did the rest. I threw ideas at him while he went and when I heard something I really liked we kept it. He did a fantastic job.  

I’d seen Gary Chandler play with Jadis, so again I new what he could do with the guitar. Gary had sung on Lee’s Black and White album, so I new Lee had contact with him. Lee called him up and like John I gave Gary the details of each track and what I was after. I like the fact he played the two completely different styles of solos on The English Eccentric which is exactly what I was after. The beautiful acoustic solo in the middle and the Hendrix style Wah Wah solo at the end.

To tell you the truth all the guests involved gave 110% to this project and without their help and fantastic musicianship it just wouldn’t have been the same, and I thank them for it immensely. 

John: Whom would you love to have worked with on the album?   

Sean: Before I started recording I’d asked Rick Wakeman if he would play some solos for me. He wished me luck with the project but due to contractual reasons and time constraints he wouldn’t be able to do it. I’d asked Mick Abrahams of Blodwyn Pig fame the same question, but I wasn’t financially in his league, which was a real shame, as Blodwyn Pig’s Getting To This Album was one of the first albums I really got into in a big way. I would have loved Jon Anderson to sing harmonies on some of the tracks with me. That would have been so cool. I would also have liked Simon House, violinist with Hawkwind to add a solo on Epitaph, but as it turned out I got Lee to play a slide guitar solo which has a very Hawkwind / Floyd-esq feel to it and it sounds fantastic. So in the end it all worked out well. 

John: Artwork is something that is always important to enable people to quickly understand what an album is about, albeit a very brief overview.  Paul Tippett has done an excellent job of the artwork that really conveys the essence of the subject matter on the album.  Something that he seems very successful at when you look at some of his artwork for Frost*, It Bites and Twelfth Night.  What made you choose Paul to add that final ingredient to your album? 

Sean: I’d met Paul through Lee at the Classic Rock Awards when Galahad won best new album. We got on like a house on fire. I knew Paul had done a fantastic job of Lee’s album Black & White artwork and I also liked the It Bites Tall Ships booklet, which was great work. We met up again with Paul at the same It Bites gig where I met John Mitchell and I asked Paul if he would be interested in doing the artwork for me. I already had a remit for the booklet and lots of ideas that I threw at Paul over a few pints that day and evening, even before I had started recording the album. Paul was very excited about the whole project and said to me, during the making of the album that he’d never before had such a full remit to work with. 

The cover shot and inside shot with the mannequin and me was my idea. I wanted to portray the character of The English Eccentric, so bought the mannequin from ebay and set up the shot in a graveyard near my home that looks out over a creek and sports field in the distance, which draws on many aspects of the albums lyric content. My good friends Phil and Sherrilee Davis took the photos. Paul added the Spitfire and rainbow for me as links to other lyrics in the tracks, my Heroes and my Grandfather. 

The English Eccentric shot was again my idea. The man shedding his clothes to the world and shouting at the sky. It’s not a jigsaw shot. I was really almost naked in a field, with Sherrilee and camera lying in the grass behind me, Phil to my right with a remote flash crying with laughter, my wife, just out of shot left trying to make Phil’s dog Molly sit still with my daughter out of shot running around making sure no dog walkers or ramblers were coming our way. It was absolutely hilarious; they were in tears of laughter. I wished we’d videoed it. It would have been great to add to the website.  

Paul came up with the idea of the Poppy Field and fighter jet for Prisoner Of Conscience Part1, The Soldier. While making this shot he also came up with the idea of picking out the main parts of each picture in colour and making the rest black and white. It looked so cool that he then went on to do it with each shot, which was a stunning idea.  

The ordinary man was again my idea and again, Sherrilee took the photo. “Time stands still within these walls, shadows dance their secret rhythmic melody”. 

Epitaph For a Mariner was a joint effort. I wanted the shots of my Daughter and William Pull with the lyrics. I took the photo of my Daughter and used the only photo my family has of William Pull and sent them to Paul. Paul came up with the stunning result you see in the booklet. I was moved to tears when I saw this shot, my daughter, with her Great Great Grandfather looking down at her from the slowly receding storm clouds. This is such an awesome piece of artwork from Paul.

The picture for Learn How To Learn was again Paul’s idea and links the themes of many lyrical passages throughout the album, as was Paul’s idea for the “Thank You” page shot. Simply wonderful.  

The disc and CD back shots were Paul’s idea. He knew I actually wear those yellow AirWare at gigs and thought they were so symbolic to the character and me. I took the shot, just threw them in the grass, as if discarded by the naked English Eccentric. 

Paul did a fantastic job in putting all the ideas together with the lyrics, making the booklet very dramatic and it works so well with the music. It was some package to present to David Robinson at F2 and I am chuffed to bits that he took the whole package onboard, music and booklet. 

Again, as with the music and all the great musicians who played on the album, everybody involved with making the cover booklet gave up a lot of their free time to help me achieve what I wanted and I cannot thank everybody enough for all their help.

Interview for DPRP by John O’Boyle

DPRP Review of War And Peace & Other Short Stories

Sean Filkins