Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Richard Sinclair's Caravan Of Dreams interview ..1992

After interviewing Richard for the Terrascope at the start of the 90’s, I became good friends with him and his partner Heather and hung out with him and Andy Ward on and off for the next couple of years. Richard had been the prime mover in getting the original line up of Caravan to reform, starting with the live performance for the Bedrock TV show up in Nottingham. With the other three Caravan members having, at that time, all but retired from the music scene it was difficult to get them together for more than the occassional gig and so Richard and musical partner Andy Ward (Of Camel fame) set about forming a new band Going Going with Hugh Hopper and Mark Hewins and then when that didn’t work out due to Hugh and Mark’s commitments to other projects, they roped in Ric Biddulph on bass and Caravan of Dreams were born. This trio with the occassional involvement of Dave Sinclair and Jimmy Hastings set about playing live shows before recording their only studio album released in 1992 (there was also a live double album from an italian show with cousin Dave sitting in on keyboards). The album’s a real treat and live the band were superb, and I should know because I was there for every UK show, I must have seen them thirty or so times and every gig was something special. Caravan of Dreams were the last great Canterbury band.

This interview was done for the first and only issue of The Rotters Club in 1992. This magazine was set up by Richard J Armstrong a big Canterbury music fan who had started turning up at the gigs. He was an agreeable fellow who walked with a couple of sticks and had various other medical problems he had been born with and coped with in quiet dignity. His plan was to do the magazine quarterly and for the second issue he asked me to come and interview Jimmy Hastings with him, since he had no experience of doing interviews. I knew Jimmy quite well by that time having shared long car journeys with that fine gentleman a few times to Canterbury during the recording of the album and up to Norfolk and Bracknell for concerts. Richard and I spent a very pleasant afternoon round at Jimmy’s and got a cracking interview on tape. I remember afterwards telling Richard to have a go at transcribing the tape and then I would knock what we had into a finished article. We shook hands and parted company for the very last time. A few weeks later he went into hospital for a scheduled operation on his heart and unexpectedly he sadly died. In consequence to that tragic turn of events that interview was lost and the magazine folded.
The actual article has a long introduction but i decided here to cut to the chase and go straight into the interview. Here then is Richard Sinclair on Caravan Of Dreams

Richard: The Dream Team. 'The Caravan of Dreams' is built around the duo of myself and Andy,Ward, who I first worked with back in the days of Camel. Three years ago I had a phone call from Andy in Freiburgh, did I want to play bass with the band he was touring with 'Skaboosh'? Their bass player had just quit, so it was a sort of rescue bid for the band, though I think it was more of a rescue bid for Andy, he'd got wind that I had a 'Toyota Space Cruiser' and he was hoping to get home as soon as possible. Anyway I drove over there and had a lovely time. 'Skaboosh' were led by a violinist called Anthony Aldridge and I played with them about six months and got to play a lot of stuff I wouldn't normally play. We made an album with him, which was a laugh but it wasn't a particularly interesting experience musically, because all the input was coming from one direction - his. Andy and I don't think much of the finished album or our playing on it, but it did mean that our working relationship got going again, and when at the end of 1990 I was putting a unit together to play the new music, Andy was the natural choice.

By this time the original line up of Caravan were back together.
We'd done the Bedrock TV Show that summer and the five of us have been doing the occasional concert together since then. Anyway, I had a phone call from Sonic Relief promotions to put together a Canterbury band to support Gong at The Fridge in London. So myself and Andy got together with good friends, guitarist Mark Hewins, Hugh Hopper and drummer Vince Clark on percussion, as Going Going. We called it that because we were supporting Gong -Going Going Gong! We had a lovely time because Gong had a good following and it was some nice exposure for a bit of Canterbury Scene. We did some early Soft Machine stuff and some Caravan stuff. I was playing guitar since Hugh was on bass and we enjoyed it so much that we thought, this is a good idea. I can sing my tunes and play guitar, which I'd been wanting to do since the early days when I helped form Caravan as a bass player, I really was a guitarist up to then. So it's taken a year now, I'm getting my chops together, I've got this Casio computer guitar and it's a perfect vehicle for me now I've got Rick Biddulph playing bass in the band, we can play live as a trio, because we're strong enough to do it now. We've played live like that a couple of times and it's gone well. Though with the addition of cousin Dave Sinclair and Jimmy Hastings when they're available, the line up is my dream team. That's why we are called Richard Sinclair's Caravan of Dreams because that's exactly what it is.

Starting last August, you went into Astra Studios in Kent and recorded the first album.
H.T.D. the label committed enough money, so I had time to get the album as I wanted it. Andy and I spent many a happy hour putting the project together.
So how did the band get together?
I've known Rick Biddulph since The Hatfield days, when he used to roadie for us. Actually, I knew him before then when he played bass in 'Spirogyra' alongside Barbara Gaskin, he also played later with Pip, Dave and Jakko in 'Rapid Eye Movement', he wrote a couple of songs that Barbara, Dave and Pip had a go at. He's got some lovely demos of them lying around which are really exciting, and the idea will be for Rick to write for the band, it's good to have a different input in the music.

So you are interested in getting Andy, Rick and Dave writing for The Dream Team?
Yes and Jim too. I've already started that, saying, they've got to do it. That's what holds a band together being involved in that side of things. I enjoy that most, I can come up with a million ideas myself, but it's healthy if the other players supply the goods by taking part in the writing, it bonds you together and means you can extend the band 'as a whole into other areas. I think if the writing comes mainly from one person it's got to be extremely prolific and on the case, and you've also got to be a very good director of those other peoples talents, and I think if you get them to write too, they use their talents to the fullest, putting themselves into areas they want to be on your writing, which I like the idea of rather than just constructing it for them, it makes the music much stronger. And it's good to sing over. It's eventful if you get unpredictable things happening, control the music and sing out. Have a jazz thing going through the chords, the bigger your knowledge the more experimental you can be, the more likely you are to hear things you want to do on stage, or area's you want to move into.

I think that's one of the most exciting things about the band live. That number can move in anyone of a number of directions organically.
I'm listening to other peoples music more than ever these days. I really enjoy listening to Jaco Pastourious, he was such a sonic tuneful player on people's songs. I don't think he was a song writer himself but he certainly set up good things, very inspiring. I think a lot of bass players are inspired by him. I'm still inspired by Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Dave Stewart's music and they are still some of my favourite writers. As a writer myself I love their ideas, as a performer it's a more individual thing, and I prefer musicians extending the writing a lot but in their own right as performers on stage. Where as Phil likes to set it all out and the musicians to play exactly what he wants, and Dave likes to play it all himself. Some very fine examples of this exist. I strongly recommend you listen to their recent CD's. With Caravan of Dreams it's good, because we're kicking out all the time, I'm mainly a song writer, but I like extending melodic structures and carefully planning adventures especially for the audience, not just for the musicians on stage. After working with bands like Caravan and Camel that have seen larger audiences, it's good to be able to play not just your basic jumping up and down primeval boogie, it's good to give them a bit of chordal structure as well. Extend it a bit and put yourself into something that your audiences may not understand, or want to understand, but with time will find the beauty within it. I think bands like Caravan and Soft Machine in the early days had that stepping stone, for people in the audience who were not musicians to go off with the music and not be left behind. Really get out there and cop a few of the moments when the musicians were really expressing the things from their heart and playing adventurously together, I like that, a good game. For me it never happens properly unless the people in the band can sit round a log fire or in the sunshine, spending a lot of social time together, playing music and having fun.

So are you looking forward to taking the new band out on the road.
Richard: I love going abroad, I can't wait to get out on the road in the 'Space Cruiser' with Rick, Andy, Jim and Dave Sinclair when available.
Will other musicians be involved with your band project as you tour the world?
Yes, I have many musician friends around the world, who I am in communication with. I have already used Michal Heupel, an excellent flutist from Germany on my album and live work. We've already had Vince Clark who's a brilliant drummer in his own right and very active in the local Canterbury scene playing percussion with us, also Canterbury blues harmonica player Al Clark.

Are you happy with the Caravan of Dreams album?
I was very happy with it at the time and I'm happy now for people to listen to it, but personally I want to extend it now, get it out on stage, use all the ideas which were constructed in the studio. Andy Ward and myself sat down sorted out the songs and enjoyed the actual rhythmic and melodic feel and then had people like Jimmy Hastings and Dave Sinclair come down and build what we had put together. Over a period of six months we had six weeks in the studio and during that time played quite a few concerts. I've always thought of myself as a guitarist and now we have Rick Biddulph in the band taking good care of the bass, so I can concentrate on the guitar more. In time we'll be so familiar with the music that Rick and I can swap instruments for a couple of numbers, since Rick is also a guitarist as well a bass player. The last third of the album is live, recorded at the 'Wilde Theatre' in Bracknell. It was the first occasion all five of us got to play together and fortunately it was recorded, but we had to spend quite some time sorting it out, smoothing out the glitches and over dubbing vocals but essentially it's how we played it, for the first time together live, barnacles and all. It's on the album as a sort of constructive bonus, here's the studio stuff and here's a live pointer as to how we can extend and build on the music. There's a live version of two of my songs from The Hatfield days, 'Halfway between Heaven and Earth' which was from the last Rainbow concert initially, and then on the 'Afters' compilation and now as a bonus track on the Hatfields 'The Rotters Club' CD, and 'It Didn't Matter Anyway' which was the last track I ever wrote in the band, incorporated into that, is a brilliant solo Dave Sinclair played in the middle section. The other live piece is the 'Felafel Shuffle', which we did in the studio, but preferred the live version instead.
Two of the songs, 'Cruising' and "Keep on Caring' date from the (at the time) unreleased album you did with Hugh Hopper.
Yes there are early versions of both these from that time, 1982 and 'Emily' dates back to even before then, it was written for my daughter when she was four, and she's now 18.
The number 'Plan It Earth' was called 'Andy' for quite sometime during your live set.
The tune was written for Andy to play, I had a lot of trouble getting the words right for it. The lyrics were the last thing I recorded for the album.

So the Caravan of Dreams are going to be around for quite some time?
Whether it keeps the name Caravan of Dreams will be down to who's in the band, originally it was just the name of the album. It's about the Canterbury scene, or my bit of it, I've always been in Canterbury. I went to school there, college there, played music there, was born there and I live there still and I enjoy it. It's got a local music scene going, nothing spectacular, but it's good that it's still happening locally. I think the 'Canterbury Scene' that is written about comes from the structures of music that started up in the south of England at a certain time.

I think the 'Canterbury Sound' is more a generic reference than a geographical one, in the same way that many of the bands were perceived as San Francisco bands and L.A. bands at one time and didn't necessarily all come from those areas. With that in mind, tell us about the 'Canterbury Scene' album, another project you've got in mind.
Many plans now exist. An idea would be to do an album and to include many writers and musicians that have been involved in what's called 'The Canterbury Sound' over the years.
28 June is national music day in Great Britain. I am planning with the help of my many friends of the Canterbury progressive music scene to hold work shops and concerts in Canterbury to support this musicians union scheme to raise peoples musical awareness by generating a more active participation in the joy of making music together. So better get on your boots and join in.
What else is in the pipeline?
Richard: Lot's,the possibilities are endless. The immediate thing for me at the moment is touring with the Caravan of Dreams in Holland, Germany, Italy, Japan and all over. I hope that many record company's will pick up the licensing deals that they have been offered for the distribution of my new music. I have many friends too around the world that I have to thank for their kind support, here in Britain Rotosound have been incredibly helpful, all the way through my career, I've always used their strings on bass and now I'm using them on my guitar, so I'm hoping to do some more work with them. I'm also making a new bass at the moment.

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