BEHIND THE LAKE INTERVIEW
Keith, how does Blood Donor and The Space Cadets all relate to your time with Toyah?
The line-up on the Space Cadets album is the nucleus of the first version of Blood Donor. To encourage me back in to playing again after a long illness, John Bentley and Gordon Coxon set up a music room in the attic of the house where we all lived to encourage me back into playing. We spent months jamming. As well as this, I was writing copiously. One of the earliest pieces was an instrumental version of "It's A Mystery". Some time later we got management and a record deal, though with a different line-up as John had already left and would eventually join Squeeze.
Blood Donor were a highly acclaimed band but didn't release an album. I've heard the stuff and it's marvellous. What happened?
All the Blood Donor stuff is owned by Arista.
All the tapes lie in a vault somewhere in Fulham. For some reason they've
never released any of it apart from Rice Harvest b/w Something Happened
and Rubber Revolution b/w Chemical Babies as (unpromoted) singles. A
friend of mine wanted to re-release Rice Harvest on another label but
Arista wanted so much money for the privilege that it was just not feasible.
Arista have also got all the stuff we did with John Cale including the
totally OTT version of Pachobel's Canon in D
So how did you first get to know Toyah?
It was through our percussion player. She had just rented an old warehouse in Battersea called Mayhem and we needed somewhere to routine for our first album, so we set up a deal. We were there for ages. All the songs on the Blood Donor album were rehearsed there. As she was living there most of the time Toyah must have known them all by heart. She was also forming her own band
Aha... and you co-produced the first Toyah album, 'Sheep Farming In Barnet'
Yes, about a year and several producers later we had finished our album and I was asked to co-produce her first recording venture with Steve James. Steve had recorded the original Blood Donor demos that clinched the deal with Arista.
What do you remember about those sessions?
The Toyah band were very young, very inexperienced and not very adept songwriters at this juncture. Steve and I had to fire the rhythm section and pull all the songs apart and rearrange them. The band hated us though I think Joel had an inkling we were trying to improve matters. He had seen Blood Donor live and like most musicians was impressed. In the late seventies Blood Donor were supporting people like The Damned and Johnny Moped and they were all clocking us. In fact, it's the Blood Donor rhythm section playing on the first two tracks we recorded for Sheep Farming, 'Race Through Space' and 'Elusive Stranger'. I also played most of the synthesizer stuff from that album.
You are also credited with co-writing 'Victims Of The Riddle' from this time.
That came about from Toyah's frustration with her band. Steve and I set up a loop and a drone and let her go wild, then built up the rest of the track around her afterwards. None of the band are on it except Joel, who we let loose at the end! Steve James and I were on a creative, experimental roll at this time and I think that helped pull the album through.
You weren't involved in the follow-up 'The Blue Meaning' - why not?
I was excluded from that album. I think they felt I'd caused enough mayhem in the studio! (see 'Danced Interview' for more info on this)
What about the other recording sessions that led to'It's A Mystery'?
Blood Donor became a 3 piece about a year later and Toyah, again frustrated with her band came and did some recording with us, including the first 'It's A Mystery' with lyrics. Strangely enough, the most exciting piece to emerge from these sessions has never been released, a track called "Rinaphobia". I don't think Safari knew how to place it.
What have you been up to these days?
At this moment in time I'm really busy, in fact I've just finished writing out an arrangement of "It's a Mystery" as they're doing it in school Christmas concert. I've recently been working with my own project "Jasper Fish & The Alice Band". We formed last year, did some supports with Jool Holland and have just released our 2nd CD on the internet through peoplesound.com.
I've just acquired the second Jasper Fish CD (Night Of The Long Knives) from peoplesound.com. It's very different from your previous releases sounding similar to Sting and Madness in places.
The Sting comparison I've heard before but never Madness! Recently, a friend of mine told me he thought the album very strange. When I asked why, he said he thought it was because it had real musicians on it, rather than everything being sampled.
The first track 'Dance Of Life' has drumming very much similar in style to Simon Phillips when he was with Toyah. Is it Simon playing?
CJ (the drummer) will be chuffed! "Dance of Life" was written with Simon Phillips several years ago but Simon does not perform on the track. We wrote it at his house in Suffolk many moons ago though I still like it. We did a 4T demo on a portastudio and then redid it with Colin Blunstone when Simon's 24T studio had just been installed. Colin did a great job, but (as often is the case) I preferred the feel on the 4T. I do like the version on the CD though.
Do you still see your old colleagues from Toyah?
Strangely enough I celebrated a birthday last month in Paris and had a chance to have a long talk with Simon (Phillips) who was in town with TOTO. I'm also hoping to meet up with Toyah next week as she's doing panto at the local theatre. It seems like Warrior Rock reunion time.
Now that would be something special. Behind The Lake wishes to thank Keith Hale for his time and contribution.