Interview with Chris Wade
DPRP’s Brian Watson
DPRP’s Brian Watson recently got to speak with Chris Wade, the man behind cult band Dodson and Fogg whose last two albums have been receiving more than a little critical acclaim. In fact Bri reviewed the last album, Derring-Do and liked it a lot. There’s a new album in the pipeline, so here’s our interview with the very talented Mr Wade. Enjoy……….
Brian: Thanks for speaking to DPRP Chris. We’ve reviewed both your albums now, but it’s the most recent one, Derring-Do, that seems to have garnered the most critical acclaim in terms of reviews and whatnot. Has the positive reception the record received surprised you at all and how do you plan on surpassing, or at least matching that with your third album?
Chris: Thanks Brian. I am really surprised with the reviews and positive reactions. I’ve always loved music and playing guitar, but it was always secondary to my writing, because I never thought I could make anything of my songs and my music. I always enjoyed the writing projects to an extent but the rewards were never like they are with Dodson and Fogg. People getting into the albums and getting in touch with me and showing interest is such an honour and only makes me want to keep going and hopefully keep getting better. The third album is being recorded now. I think production wise and songwriting wise it might be moving forward. It’s hard to analyse your own work too much, but I do feel like I am getting more comfortable with this project and expanding ideas a little more. Mixing is really enjoyable too, putting elements into it and finding a nice spot for them.
Brian: How has that critical acclaim transferred into commercial success, and what are your thoughts on file sharing, torrenting and the like?
Chris: Dodson and Fogg seems to be picking up new people every month. The first album grew over the last two months of last year and this year, with Derring Do coming out in Feb, about 3 months after the first one, people are discovering the music and normally getting both albums. So it’s brilliant and a lot of people get in touch and are asking when the next one is going to be done. It’s a like a dream come true to have people interested in your work. Plus, with radio plays and good old PRS, there are extra ways to benefit from your music. So I am really happy with the first 6 months of Dodson and Fogg, it’s been amazing to think I released it my self and just got on with it. A lot of hard work, but good hard work and I wouldn’t change it at all. It’s like making something out of nothing, and not even needing a label to get your music out there a bit. File sharing and torrents are never going to be beaten. In the past I have seen my albums up being shared on blogs and I have politely commented underneath and said would you mind taking this down, and most of the time they have been decent and apologised. But people are always going to share music and get it for free. Look at Spotify for instance. Plus, people are bound to pass it on to their mates, which is the nicest part of it I think, that someone would like your music enough to pass it on to their pals. That kind of thing goes back to people taping vinyl off their mates and stuff. So to an extent you have to accept you can’t monitor it all. Your work gets out there in the public and it is impossible to control everything that goes on. I wittered on a bit there didn’t I?
Brian: How’s the new record progressing? Any lyrical/musical themes revealing themselves?
Chris: I’ve recorded 14 songs that are definitely going on it. There were another 10 or so but I have got rid of them, they didn’t quite measure up. Loads of ideas have come up for this. The good thing is with working from home, I can just bugger off into the office and do some recording for a few hours, so I have more time to put aside for it. Plus I don’t tour, so I can write songs or bits of music every day, not all of which will be getting used of course. At first it was going to be all about night, this new album, now it seems to be about night and day, life in general, things going on at the same time other things are going on, like floating into a bedroom window for 3 minutes and then going off somewhere else. Quite thematic but not quite a concept album. I’ve done all my bits for it, and the trumpet player is already going to work on his songs, that’s Colin Jones who was on Derring Do. And of course Celia Humphris who was in Trees will be singing again, and there’s a couple of other possible guest players, who will hopefully come on board, fingers crossed. So it isn’t far off completion really. These six months have been incredibly productive, with ideas coming in all the time and the good thing is with the home studio, all I have to do is nip in get the ideas down. There’s a lot of hours in the day to be productive with!
Brian: How do you go about composing in general? Are you a guitar, or keyboard composer, do the words come to first or what?
Chris: Definitely a guitar composer. I pick the acoustic up first and get some chords I like or a little tune maybe. Sometimes I start with a lyric melody. That happened the other day when I was making a cup of tea, so I went in and wrote the song then, ended up being in there for a few hours getting it done. I have written a couple on the keyboard, like Dreams of You and Me off of Derring Do, and my girlfriend Linzi did the lyrics with me for that. It can come in all kinds of ways now. It’s weird. I’ve always loved music, and I used to record on an old 4 track tape thingy when I was a teenager. I always wanted to get into recording, but it never came out properly until last year, now it’s filling my head all the time. Really odd. Can’t imagine not doing it now. But it’s funny to think the firs one only came out six months ago. Things can move so quickly if you just get off your bottom and do them.
Brian: I’ve left it until a few questions in but I’m sure people will be interested in where the band title, Dodson and Fogg comes from.
Chris: It’s from Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. I didn’t want to put the music out under my own name, because it’s a bit boring, and loads of people are called Chris Wade. So I wanted an interesting name. Some people seem a bit confused by it, which I like.
Brian: Tell us a little about the front cover of Derring-Do, and the rear booklet art of course is done by your partner Linzi. How much creative input does she have in the process?
Chris: She is really helpful, like a co producer really. She comes up with ideas, themes, song titles and tells me straight if something isn’t working. And I do the same for her painting really. So it’s all collaborative. She’s always painting too. In fact, she has done the cover and back cover art for the next album and it is really good stuff. She’s so talented, very proud of her. She’s been painting all the time for her exhibition later in the year. Some brilliant stuff.
Brian: How do you go about identifying what other musicians you’ll need for a project, and was it difficult getting some of the famous names you’ve recruited for Derring-Do?
Chris: Well it came with the first album really, because I had recorded some plain acoustic demos with me and a voice and sent them to Celia from Trees, who is one of my favourite singers. A very haunting voice and she can do all sorts with it. She was straight up for some singing, so having her on board was brilliant. I approached Nik Turner to do a bit of flute and he said yes and got some lovely work back to me, although I don’t think he will be doing anymore as he is so busy and hard to get hold of these days. Think he’s in America now, doing something with William Shatner (no lie!), but it was great having him on the 4 tracks he did. It’s always a case of asking people. I normally tend to ask people I really admire and think could add something to the songs. It hasn’t been hard getting the people involved as they are all so laid back and happy to do it. Don’t wish to work with massive egos; they can make things so messy and unproductive.
Brian: If I were to press shuffle on your iPod or similar device what would come up?
Chris: You’d get a lot of Beatles, Kinks, early Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Donovan, Cat Stevens, early Leonard Cohen, Trees, Zappa, Incredible String Band, Amy MacDonald, King Crimson, Ennio Morricone, Black Sabbath, Dylan, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Gong, Fleetwood Mac, Ian Dury, Hendrix, Lennon, Kraftwerk, Lou Reed, Nirvana, Vanilla Fudge, Tom Petty, Simon and Garfunkel… quite a mix really.
Brian: Tell us about the new album, track by track if you will.
Chris: Derring Do, I started recording in about October I think, just while the first one was being released and I had all my bits finished by early January I think. God I can’t remember now. I must have rounded up all the contributors’ pieces that same month, or maybe Celia did some over December too. I have a rubbish memory. But it was recorded and mixed quickly really. I don’t seem to mess about with this. It starts with an introduction instrumental piece I had recently done and I think it opens that nicely. Flying High has some lovely Celia vocals alongside my own and Nik Turner has a nice flute solo on the end. That was written and done quickly at my end, and I was really happy with it. Very mellow. Leaves They Fall was another that fell out of me really quickly, with those slight discords on the chorus. Some of the songs are very simple but they also work I think. Can’t Hold Me Down is a little bit like Zappa’s Why Dontcha Do me Right. I can see a link with that song, a bit groovy but seedy as well, mucky sounding guitars. What Goes Around was written about the current government, I remember that, and I thought it would be great to have a really English brass band sound, but as if the rest of the band had left, or had to sell their instruments because of the hard times taking their toll, so there’s just one lone trumpeter on it. That’s how I got in touch with Colin Jones, he auditioned. He’s also on Too Bright, which follows What Goes Around. That song, I wrote when I was about 18, but I’ve changed it around a bit and made it more upbeat. It kind of adds another mood to the album. To the Sea I recorded and wrote in one day about a week before I finished everything. That was my favourite on the album I think. All the lyrics for these are not as literal as they seem as well, and I love when people have a go at suggesting what they’re about. Then there’s the two weird ones, Dreams of you and me and Like it Was Yesterday, kind of druggy, dreamy ones with lots of layers. They were fun to record. I Have You is a pretty straightforward love song, but I like it. I also think it was good to follow it with weirder ones like Everybody Knows, which is about people judging others before they even know them, and then the more laid back Time. I liked that the album has a lot of moods in it, like a Beatles record has a real mix of ideas and themes and sounds. The World Goes By is quite a dark one, and it was quite a complex piece of music, but it was done pretty quickly. To be honest they were all done pretty quickly and I was really happy with each one. Then there’s the daft title track, just a bit of fun and the closer which kind of drifts the album off nicely. That’s my take on it, listening to it again anyway. I am really happy with it and am proud of the whole thing from start to finish. Even though it was recorded “quickly”, it adds up to a hell of a lot of time really. 12 plus hours a day, with writing and recording most days. So it’s kind of quick, but it does become a bit of an obsession, trying to get a really good track done.
Brian: How are you influenced by what you’re listening to now, and what you’ve listened to in the past? Is any one influence(s) more important?
Chris: I am not sure I look at them as influences, because I think you are subconsciously influenced by all your musical tastes. But maybe they are important. Maybe I want to make an album that I could listen to alongside my favourite stuff from the late 60s and early 70s. I don’t get when people say they have made an album and can never listen to it for pleasure. That seems odd from my point of view, because I wouldn’t be happy with a final mix if I didn’t think I could listen to it myself. It sounds weird to say that, but I stand by it. If you don’t like your own music, why should anyone else? Saying that, I find the later Beatles albums influential with the mixing and throwing all kinds of ideas into the pot so you can’t help but be influenced by the chaps who started it all.
Brian: Any plans to tour this material, and if so would you be inviting any particular musicians?
Chris: At the moment I have no plans for it. I enjoy being at home recording and writing and seeing to all the business end of things. That’s where my job has been for the past few years with the writing so I really enjoy it even more now. Plus I never really enjoyed playing live when I had a band with my brother and sister. I enjoyed it when family and friends came along because it would turn into a party, but just playing on a stage like that wasn’t that fun for me. I like recording and mixing more, piecing together a song, like a painter mixing colours. God that sounded pretentious didn’t it?
Brian: If you were to sum up Derring-Do in three words it would be…
Chris: Atmospheric, whole, haunting….
Brian: Thanks ever so much for speaking with us Chris, it’s been a real pleasure.
Chris: Thank you very kindly my fine feathered chum