Well it goes something like this....
I first discovered keyboards when my parents bought a mini Casio keyboard for my sister as an Xmas present. Fortunately she was not that interested in it and having picked of the discarded 'toy' Ii soon found that I could get some sort of (relatively) pleasing tune out of it. By today's standards it was pretty dire but it had a handful of sounds (which all sounded pretty much the same) and a few rhythms so it kept me entertained for hours. I soon found that the keys were far too small and persuaded my parents to buy me a keyboard with 'proper' sized keys which thanksfully they did. I spent the next couple of years plying my fave songs to my poor suffering family. And then along came rock music....
It was 1987/'88 - Def Leppard had released 'Hysteria', GNR had recorded 'Appetite for Destruction' and 'Lies', and Metallica had not long released Master Of Puppets followed by '…And Justice For All'. Oh and not forgetting Iron Maiden - a VHS tape of 'Live After Death' was permanently in the VCR. :-) I then began delving into the Heavy Metal/Rock back catalogue discovering Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC and even some relative newcomers like Joe Satriani. WOW - I was blown away! At this time, in the village where I grew up all the kids used to hang out in the local park. One day, armed with a twin tape deck 'ghetto blaster' there happened to be a chance encounter with a young lad that went by the name of James Lewis. It just so happened that he also appreciated the genius that is rock/metal and to top it off he had a brand spanking new black Pearl Export Kit. And so, a life-long friendship was born - now all we needed was a band….
It wasn't long before the relationship with my beloved Casio began to falter. There was simply no room for a keyboard in a heavy metal band. It's days were numbered. I could't play guitar or bass so there was only one other option - lead singer. I was in the school choir so I was the best person for the job - right? 'Feedback' were formed, followed shortly after by 'Sakrilege' with myself on vocals and Mr Lewis on drums. Playing school gigs was not very rock and roll and so after various other incarnations and a few years later we played our first pub gig at the Black Bear Pub in Sandbach. Regrettably it was short lived as we all left to go to college/Uni etc. However whilst at London Road Art College, Northwich I met a young arty type by the name of Stacey Smith. Stacey played guitar in a local band which were reforming during the summer holidays and it just so happened that they were looking for a keyboard player. At the same time, friend and former band guitarist Scott Hynes mentioned that he'd met a guitarist whilst studying music at Dartington College of Arts who was looking for a keyboard player for his Crewe based band. That got me thinking…….it had been a few years since I'd played my keyboard; could I remember how to play, and more to the point was I even good enough - this guy was studying for a music degree!!! Anyhow I was provided with a demo tape containing a few tracks for me to learn (by ear) for an audition a week later - how hard could it be….?! When I turned up for the audition I met the very talented Mr Hulatt and…..oh, hang on a minute there was Stacey from college! It transpired that it was the same band Stacey had mentioned a few weeks earlier. Fate surely?! Fortunately the audition went well and I was recruited to play keyboards for 'The Source'. The trouble was I didn't have a properkeyboard however, fortunately Dave had a nice Yamaha SY22 that was just crying out to be used.....
It was during my time in 'The Source' that I got a taste of gigging in a 'proper' band (albeit playing over a backing track for most of it - cringe). More importantly, I made another life-long friendship (and songwriting partnership) with guitarist Dave 'Dreams' Hulatt. Following 'The Source' disbanding as we all went back to college/Uni, it was only a matter of time before the seeds were sown for the next band incarnation. This was to be known as 'Her Majesty's Secret Goblin, later giving rise to the Prog/Space/Psychedelic Rock powerhouse that is the Dream Circuit…..
My fave bands
Like the rest of the guys in DC my musical tastes and influences are wide and varied and this no doubt goes some way in helping to form Dream Circuit's distinctive sound. I won't list them all here as you would surely die of boredom however here's a brief overview of the most listened to artists:
In my Teens:
Def Leppard, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, Sepultura, Megadeth, The Cult, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple etc.
In my 20's:
Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Ozric Tentacles, Tori Amos, Pat Metheny/Pat Metheny Group, Miles Davis, Rush, Genesis (Peter Gabriel & early Phil Collins era), Peter Gabriel, Camel, Hawkwind, Gong, Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, Steve Hillage, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Stevie Wonder, JTQ, Corduroy, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, Jean Michel Jarre, Future Sound Of London, Jeff Wayne, Yes etc.
In my 30's:
The Divine Comedy, Khan, Brian Eno, Muse, Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes, George Fenton, Guo Yue, Porcupine Tree, Scissor Sisters, Thomas Newman, Wolfmother, Transatlantic, Porcupine Tree, Litmus etc.
Keyboard/Synthesiser/Piano musical influences:
Ozric Tentacles (aka the Ozrics) - without doubt my favourite band of all time and probably the most influential in terms of both technique and sound creation on the synthesiser. Band leader and songwriter Ed Wynne is a true genius - what he can't do with a room full of (synthesiser) knobs is not worth knowing - fact. The most original band on the planet who really do defy categorisation. The first Ozrics album I purchased was 'Arboresence' back in 1994 and it completely blew me away - I'd never heard anything like it. The Ozrics were a key factor in becoming a synth player and prompted me to purchase not one but two Novation Supernova synthesisers later on in my musical 'career'. 'Nuf said.
Pink Floyd/Roger Waters - a very close second to the Ozrics, these guys have been a massive influence for the last 20 years. Don't really need to say too much as their gargantuan success speak for itself really. Never tire of listening to them and always a wonderful listening experience especially when I've not listened to them for a while. My biggest regret is never seeing them live :-( In my humble opinion Rick Wright was one of the most underrated keyboard players of all time and as for Roger Waters, well he's one of a select few songwriters where I actually become immersed in the lyrics as well as the music. The Wall tour last year was THE best gig I've ever been to - truly breathtaking.
Vangelis - if the only Vangelis track you've heard is 'Chariots of Fire' then shame on you. I'll never forget watching Blade Runner (my fave film) for the first time and hearing the music to the opening scene. It made my hairs stand on end and to this day I still think it's the best synergy of music and film ever. A huge influence on my playing style and sound palette, particularly my solo work. A true synth legend.
Tori Amos - Ah, where do I start with Ms Amos. Hugely talented and beautiful (bit like yours truly - ha, ha), I was first introduced to her music when 'Under The Pink' was released in '94 - her earlier release 'Little Earthquakes' having escaped my notice (now one of my favourite albums). Only started to really take notice when I went to see her play live in Newcastle Town Hall for my 21st birthday on the release of the 'Boys For Pele' album. She really opened my eyes to a completely different way to appreciate the piano with her unique style and seductive stage presence. I've seen her play about half a dozen times since and her raw talent still takes my breath away. Just brilliant.
Pat Metheny/Pat Metheny Group
I was introduced to Pat Metheny & PMG when I was in my late teens and it made a lasting impression on me. I'd never really actively listened to any form of Jazz other than 'Out of the Blue' by Miles Davis (which I love) and for the first time Jazz seemed to make sense and I was completely hooked. An unmistakable sound and style in all that Pat Metheny and PMG create - my favourite guitarist by far and truly inspirational. A legend.
Genesis (70's era)/Peter Gabriel/Tony Banks
Introduced to Genesis and Mr Gabriel by DC drummer James Lewis, they have been a massive influence both in terms of cementing my love of (almost) all things Prog and in terms of music composition and sounds. Keyboardist Tony Banks left a lasting impression on me with his remarkable talent. Peter Gabriel is without doubt one of my favourite songwriters - I was lucky enough to catch him on his 'Still Growing Up Live' Tour 01/06/04 and it was one of my favourite gigs. Got tickets to see him at the end of 2013 for his 'Back to Front' tour - can't wait.
A selection of my favourite albums:
Eternal Wheel (The Best Of The Ozric Tentacles) - Ozric Tentacles
The Wall - Pink Floyd
Music Inspired By The Snow Goose - Camel
Thick As a Brick - Jethro Tull
Levitation - Hawkwind
Surfing With The Alien - Joe Satriani
We Live Here - Pat Metheny Group
So - Peter Gabriel
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway - Genesis
Number Of The Beast - Iron Maiden
Ride The Lightening - Metallica
Gold Dust - Tori Amos
Force Majeure - Tangerine Dream
Amused To Death - Roger Waters
Blade Runner - Vangelis
South Of Heaven - Slayer
Clockwork Angels - Rush
War Of the Worlds - Jeff Wayne
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Abraxas - Santana
Music Gear (current)
Roland Juno Stage - 76 note synth based on the Fantom X series sound engine (present day).
Novation Supernova II - 61 note (British) analogue modelling synth with more knobs than you can shake at stick at (circa 2000).
Alesis Fusion HD - 61 note synthesiser workstation (circa 2005).
Roland KC-550 - 180 watt keyboard amp with 15" speaker and horn tweeter.
Music Gear (past)
Yamaha EX5 - 76 key synthesiser workstation (circa 1998)
Roland Fantom X8 - 88 (piano action) key synthesiser workstation (circa 2004).
Roland Fantom FA76 - 76 key synthesiser workstation (circa 2002)
Yamaha CS1x - 61 key (sample and subtractive synthesis) synthesiser (circa 1996).
Roland SH-101 - 32 key monophonic analogue synthesiser (circa 1982).
Korg Poly-61 - 61 key analogue synthesiser (circa 1982).
Alesis Sumo 300 - 100W keyboard amp.
Korg D32HD - 32 track Digital Recording Studio.
PRS SE Custom Electric Guitar (Cherry Sunburst).
Behringer Eurorack UB2442FX-PRO mixing desk.