Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Stupid Spriggans

Yep… there is an element of stupidity in Spriggan Mist….not as much as The Dolmen (they are plain barking ) but none the less an element that can't be ignored and has to be shared.
I have actually written about the early days of Ann-Mari being in the band, knocking on the wrong door when coming to rehearse at our house…Not only the wrong door but  the wrong road…but her latest escapade trumps this by miles, about 300 miles to be exact. Apart from being the lead singer of Spriggan Mist and a highly acclaimed fitness proffessional and consumer of three shredded wheat, Ann-Mari does some garderning just for those extra pennies which enable her to buy the shiny stuff that she is famed for.
We had lent her a little  trailer for her gardening tools some time ago as her convertible , even with the roof down just wasn't big enough.She decided she needed to upgrade to a bigger trailer so  after embarking on the trailer quest on ebay she bought the answer to her needs and returned our little trailer to us and set off to Chatham in Kent where said trailer was waiting for collection no doubt dreaming of all the forks and spades she could load up in this big baby! Except when she had battled the M25 and got to chatham two hours later, the trailer she had just payed hard earned cash for was exactly the same as the one she had just returned to us…the dimensions were of the overall  trailer not just the box. I bet the journey back was a very long one, but at least she went on the right day!.
Kim our newest Spriggan decided she would set off nice and early for a slate painting workshop on a Tuesday night only to be a week early, how keen was that? But before you all cry Foul! That I am poking fun at my bandmates travel mishaps, only today did I have one of those stupid Spriggan moments whilst driving wifey's car. (The Sprig mobile is in fact at the menders with several things being wrong with it). Whilst happily driving along  it kept beeping at me, just  after I went up a hill. Hmm I thought maybe we are in need of diesel, (flashbacks to another stupid Spriggan moment when I filled the sprigg mobile up with £74 worth of unleaded on Valentines day a few years back …) but the alarm kept going…so I started to talk to the car  (we all do it)
"What's wrong ? 
Beep beep beep
Why are you beeping at me !
Beep beep beep
You have diesel, no  lights illuminating , give me a break!...what ?
Beep beep beep
What do you want from me ? Aghhhhh!
Beep beep beep
This went on for several miles I finally realised it sounded like the seatbelt alarm  I checked my seatbelt, all ok, I was the only one in the car  …then eeerily, I  thought that maybe the ghost in the passenger seat might not be wearing one. So in a flash of realisation I moved my rucsac off of the passenger seat and it finally stopped ! Huzzah …… how stupid of me … was the bag on the passenger seat all along.
Bit excessive that Maxine has put a sensor in her car warning about not putting bags on the seats though!…….  jeeez!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Colin's New Angel

With the sound of Max's  white Les Paul still belting out the last strains of her now ever popular Purple rain solo in my ears from Spriggan Mist's 5th birthday. I think it is time to lift the lid on the newest member of our band don't you?

So many of you have met  our new singer Ann-Mari. She has settled well into the crazy world of Spriggan Mist. From the word go she has caused a stir in our neighbourhood. On our second meeting she parked her car up in the nice little cul-de sac in Bracknell and armed with her new Spriggan Mist lyrics bounced up the path full of excitement to meet up with Max and I to practice some Ghostly Tales songs. She knocked on the door of the house glancing at her watch as she did and yes she was right on time 8pm as we had arranged and as the door opened she saw a rather annoyed young mother trying to console a now crying baby just awoken by Ann-Mari's enthusiastic knocking! Establishing that she had not only knocked on the wrong house but had indeed knocked on the wrong street she made her apologies advised the now quite cross young mum with said howling baby that it does actually get easier as they get older and retreated arms aloft as quick as an Italian Commando  back to her car. One phone call to me and one bout of side splitting laughter  later she arrived for our practice and soon she was singing away…. with a glass of Red Wine of course. I'm not suggesting for a moment she is alcohol driven ….but she does like a beer for breakfast when camping! (a bit of Spriggs' trivia there )

But this was not the only mistake with numbers Ann-Mari has made since joining  Spriggs' only the other day I received a text from her out of the blue saying  "Sh1t Babe!!!!" Well I thought that’s odd so I sent her a text back saying "Sh1T babe to you too" I mean blimey that's not on! Clearly it wasn't meant for me.

But how far are these mistakes going to go ? Ann-Mari is a fitness instructor, that is what she does day in day out. what happens if she gets that mixed up !?? Right in the middle of Faery Queen say…

".Yeah we'll survive if you dance the night with the it work it 2, 3 4, 5…good and again  …2, 3, 4, 5…..good job !!!"

Can you imagine the carnage at Dolmen camps as the faithful are bouncing to Spriggan Mist rockin out  and then suddenly breaking out into grape vine  or some snazzy Zumba moves!!!…how far does it  go ? I mean what's next Mark Vine in lycra! …!?!?!?  Duncan Wilde in leg warmers? blimey he'd look like one of them padded rugby posts wouldn't he?! !!! ??  Or Taloch in a pink Onsie..erm…oooh..erm ...awkward silence

Although relatively new to the band she is a veteran of three Dolmen Grove events now and has certainly made an impact…..She was introduced at the Enchanted Market in Berkshire, then in Cornwall where when it was decided we were moving where the bands were playing Duncan from DG Hants and Dave from DG Cornwall were carrying either side of a bass cab and Ann-Mari trotted past them carrying the other identical cab on her own !!! With a bright smile ……and then in Weymouth whilst sitting outside her tent having made soup for her friends and family Oaken from DG Essex came over and said " Errr your camping table is on fire!"
Ann-Mari laughed it off thinking, strange man...      "No it's really on fire !" Oaken insisted !!!  As he looked down at her little camping stove on the plastic table as it started to disappear into a bubbling melting mush of blue plastic" How we enjoyed the smell of burning plastic  wafting over the campsite.

So as mentioned we have just had our  5th birthday bash as a gigging band …It's actually nearly 6 years ago Maxine penned the first Spriggan Mist songs, clever little ditties that she wrote on a guitar banjo ….We never thought that they would ever get heard by anyone until Karen Kay heard the tunes on Myspace and we had to form a band very quickly as she asked us to play 3 Wishes Faery Fest 2009. Maxine had played all the instruments on those first recordings and we needed musicians entrusted to turning  her music into a live act...
Here we are 5 years later ….and what a transformation Spriggan Mist have made

So one thing is for sure life in Spriggan Mist is certainly going to be even more eventful now and of course now we have the three girls in the band. We could call them Colin's Angels couldn't we….well you never see Charlie in Charlie's Angels…do you ever see Colin in any band pics? I rest my case….
Does that make me Bosley?

Anyway I will keep you all updated with  Ann-Mari's escapades …as I'm sure there will be many!!!!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Mother Dearest and the Bear incident.

So we played The Big Untidy at The Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading. It’s a very appreciative intimate crowd there. They sit and listen intently to the music which is quite refreshing in some ways. I’m not quite used to the … “I’m not going to applaud until the last note drowns from human hearing” vibe but as stated it’s nice that those carefully worded gems you have pondered over for months are finally appreciated by the people sitting in front of you…… then there is Mother Dearest!

She sat herself in the front row, in the middle, so all the solo acoustic performers that play to a sound of a pin drop could witness the full Mother Dearest experience. Whilst melodic masterpieces were twinkling out into the room all you could hear was the crunching off walkers finest crisps coming from MD’s hamster pouched mouth sounding like a regiment of guards in the trooping of the colour!!! All we needed was a bugle (more about that later) to top it off!!! I mean it was so quiet, you could even hear the sound of her unscrewing her mini bottles of wine….all 10 of them!!!

There was a very talented solo acoustic performer that came all the way from deepest darkest Northamptonshire called Lew Bear. He sang a song named after a horse called “Merry Tom Lane” hmmm very good song but really?  a horse called “Lane”!!!! He also sang a song called “Ripples” which was definitely Ripples and not nipples as my lovely 9 year old daughter whispered to us…… So if you are reading this Lew Bear, please except my apology for my Mother and Daughter

So Lew is building up to starting a song his fingers caressing his acoustic guitar all eyes were on this musician who had connected with his audience who were mesmerised by the magical sound he was making….then it happened just as Lew was about to sing Mother Dearest let out a blood curdling burp!!!!! Lew steadied himself from falling backwards of his stool, the whole room looked to the centre where MD sat there and said …”Excuse me!” like a pro Lew carried on his song trying to hold the laughter in , no doubt now knowing that Mother Dearest was definitely on the white wine just from the smell of burp wafting across the floor. Well I thought Ann-Mari was going to have a seizure!!! The rest of us were holding our heads wishing the floor would open up and swallow ….her!

My son Aaron witnessed this event up close…he actually told me that as she lifted her glass to her mouth the renegade burp just slipped out, it actually made her wine bubble!!!

 Aaron also said we did get bugles from MD to complete my trooping of the colour analogy but thankfully that was masked by some more enthusiastic strumming by Lew as a slight botty puff released it’s way to the now outraged audience behind her and rendering them fit to only stare into the distance. as Lew Bear sang a song entitled "Mad old girl" Very apt I thought.!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Locker Room Liaisons 2

 So I've been writing this blog on and off for seven years now.I draw your attentions to the blog I wrote way back in February 2007.

I was found in an awkward moment in the locker room at work on that occassion..

Many office and  building change , Two bands and three CDs later .I find myself yet again  back in that very same locker room  in another compromising position with my Tai Chi/Qi Gong instructor  and good friend Sifu Boggie.

Picture the scene , It's stupid O'clock in the morning before work you wander into your locker room blurry eyed and you hear from behind the lockers

"Spread your legs …ride the wild horse"
 "Like that ?"
"Yes ok …now pat the horse high!"

 You open your locker and hear
"Let your snake come up through the middle …keep it soft  you don't need to be rigid"

You'd have to investigate, wouldn't you …? And my colleague did …his head peered around  the lockers to see me squatting in full company uniform,in  horse stance, Boggie behind me pushing my shoulders down making me sink lower. He didn't see two martial artists, oh no... ..he saw two 6 ft well built blokes with shaved heads and goatees sweating slightly in a very compromising position and  now caught like rabbits in headlights .

I jumped to my feet and stood leaning against a locker Boggie put hands in his pocket and looked to the ceiling …it only made it worse …..Awkward silence…I smiled nicely at our voyeur !!!

 "Erm …nothing to see here?  …I said unconvincingly He dissappeared back to his locker after a long eye roll and a  smirk…….Not again I thought …. Boggie looked at his mobi saw it was time for breakfast…. And innocently said
"Do you want a sausage?….. ( a loud crash of items being dropped out of a locker round the corner ) he did qualify that, followed by "With your egg on toast" but alas the damage had been done.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The story behind Soul Retriever

So in the twilight of The "Lambert" influenced Spriggan Mist a second band was being amassed. A weird position this, the old band and the new running in unison. We had cobbled together a group of Pagans from friends of friends and the odd advert on the Muso websites. 

Bex Rennie turned up at rehearsals appearing somewhat bewildered and confused as to what she was doing there. We asked for a recorder player to replace Gill's flute. The flute was not really the sound we ever wanted but it worked at the time. The recorder was what Max always wrote Gill's parts on after all. Bex brought with her the Cello and this proved to be a very useful if not at times a  frustrating addition to the Spriggan Mist sound. 

We needed to replace Dave. Again a friend of the Band Rie Townsend suggested her "friend" Gary Hemmings could play a bit of guitar and he brought with him an amazing array of guitars. Gary was not Dave Lambert but he had a certain harsh rawness about his playing that we had concerns about but thought he'd grow as time went on. A likeable chap whose on stage persona was the ying to his yang offstage personality. This rawness added something to the early days of the re incarnation of Spriggs' it also made Maxine pick her game up to another level on guitar as it was clear Gary was not the kind of guitarist needed for some styles we required. 

After a few drummer changes and auditions Colin Garratt was found. He was one of two drummers we saw on  one night. They set up next to each other and played one after the other. You had Colin the older guy unassuming with a drum kit that was older than the other drummer who was young up and coming and flamboyant. The younger lad was very good but….Colin gave him a lesson in less is more. Rock solid  and turning on the flair when needed but also holding back where required, Colin for me breezed it. The song that made our minds up? Shaking a Deadman's hand….more about that later.

So we had the line up and it was apparent that all of a sudden we were more rocky more edgy and dare I say it more popular with the energy we had on stage. We needed a CD  however to reflect who we were now and Maxine had a load of songs that needed recording. 

This is the story of the second CD Soul Retriever.

Without Dave's recording ability we had to look at studios and originally we were going to record with the Dolmen's Josh Elliot but Rie who kind of became our manager wasn't keen on the idea of us "traypsing " down to Dorset when we could record in Reading. We set about looking at Studios when we discovered Vamp just off The Oxford Road. Vamp is a small studio but Sam Barter was a pro he really did do us a great deal and what proved to be a great job too. We set aside three days to record, telling the band to be available for those days in March 2012 .This proved to be an issue but more about that later. It was a blistering hot weekend and when not recording we sat in Sam's yard and eat and drank and generally had "band" time

Soul Retriever
So this was the title track. Now a huge discussion as to where this sat on the album took place. Personally I wanted Life's Ride first, Maxine wanted this first and was adamant so it went on first. I seem to remember it writing itself almost.

Max seemed to just play it one day wanted me to sing in a raspy voice and then compliment it with the softer "where are you now" bit.I have always found that bit difficult but pulled it off for the recording well I thought. I think Soul Retriever was written as a reminder what this album or even Spriggs' was about. You see we had lost our way with Dave. This isn't  criticism of him but I think Max wanted to write these kind of songs and she felt that some of the events leading to the split had weighed heavy on her soul. This song, this album was the soul retriever hence the name .We wanted to be back on track. The cover beautifully designed by David again showed a "Shamanka " retrieving souls and Sebastian the Spriggan on the otherside catching souls with a net…….
The song features  Max's new found lead guitar skills  a little ditty that goes around and around, Bex adds her backing which she does on live versions. The chanty "Soul Retriever" bit actually features Colin singing too.
Originally Gary had put a bit of guitar  in that bit but it was cut from the final mix it just didn't work.

Life's Ride
Now this song had been knocking about a long time before this lineup came on board. In fact it became the opener for Spriggan Mist's live shows. Max wrote this about the ups and downs of life really but the thing with this song was it featured a bass solo. It's a simple little bass bit, roots and thirds with little progressions to each that goes around twice leading up to the guitar solo which Dave used to be very proficient at .Now up until the recording of this it was just bass drums and little incidentals from Max on guitar.  After recording my track, on the third day ( a day that was to become the infamous third day ) Max and Bex went back into the studio and recorded a sax and recorder piece over it turning it quite funky. 

So that solo. Live, Gary had trouble with the second half of the solo and kept going off key so Max sat with him for ages and together they worked it out and 9/10 he started to hit the right key. On recording day Gary did all his bits on the afternoon of the second day I seem to remember.  Most of the songs believe it or not Max Colin and I recorded them live with very few overdubs. I attribute this to Colin's rock solid timing and our tightness as a band. On the afternoon Gary pulled off the solo and remains his highlight of the recording as the high pitched whining guitar wiggles it way back to the verse. The rest of Gary's contribution in this song was considerably turned down in the mix as  during recording  his pick was constantly hitting his pick ups  when he was strumming and this ruined his track a little. He wasn't able to come back and re do it on the third day so Sam was able to mask somewhat.
Now most Spriggs' regulars know that we start this live with a rolling rumble on the bass and drums as the instruments come in one by one. We recorded it like this but Sam had the idea of starting it without and cut it out and we agreed that on the CD sounded better

Shaking a Deadman's hand
A few years ago Mark Vine posted a poem up on The Dolmen Grove forum. It's based on a true story of a collapsed Anzac trench in WW1 where a dead soldier's hand was sticking out of the dirt and as the men went over the top to battle they shook it to bring them luck .Originally it was part of a set of lyrics written for an album called Soldiers for The Dolmen that never came to fruition. In fact The Dolmen's Eternal Soldier came from the same stable ie for that album and from Mark vine's lyrics as Shaking a Deadman's Hand. So I asked permission to use it and Mark thankfully allowed me to use the lyrics. I then set about playing a few chords on a Mandola and set it to a simple tune. I played it to the band a year earlier and Dave said it was really a solo acoustic song and our then drummer Shaun Finch said that the military style drumming I wanted on the song would not sound right and very corny. So it got shoved onto a back burner until Max and I got full control of the band. This song got Colin the gig in the band . He got what I wanted straight away and together with Max's guitar brought my idea to life. Bex underpins the song with Cello and Gary unfortunately apart from the opening few notes is actually faded out in the verses . He tracked quite badly on this recording and added very little to the song. So a decision was made to leave him out apart from in the chorus and you can just here him. So after Colin recorded his drums he asked Sam if he could record another set of drums to make it sound as if there were a few drummers ie like a military marching band. So this is what he did. To Sam's amazement Colin's drumming was so exact with the first track he had to slightly take the second track out of time a fraction just to give the illusion of two drummers. I recorded this on a Bouzouki which was mic'd as opposed to direct input (we tried that and Sam wanted to try to make it warmer)
The intro with drums and recorder which is now played live was a much later addition of Max's doing.

Gypsy Witch
Max wrote this one from a recorder "riff " she had played with years before. She played with the ditty on guitar and out came the tune. I'm not sure that this isn't a partial look into her ancestry but then she'd be able to tell you about that. I know I struggled with the double A notes in the verses for a while. I knew that this was a fast mover and it was possibly the most folk rock on the album so tried to get that folky bounce in my base line and then started walking to give it some movement. Bex has a cheerful recorder piece. Now this is where the seems fell apart for Gary. When Sam played this back on that third day he said that I must be off key as everything sounded wrong. Max and Bex told him that this was unlikely and slowly took tracks out …Gary had tracked out of tune. Max had to learn the rhythm guitar piece and record it there and then. She did want some Sax in the track but had no time left due to this delay. If you listen carefully you can hear some sax she managed to record .
The first song fully written by me to feature on a Spriggan Mist recording. I never knew this would divide people's opinion as it has. Selina was written following a family holiday to Cornwall. We went to The Bodmin Gaol Museum and on a specific floor  Aaron our little boy stopped at the door and started getting a bit worried . He really didn't want to go on to the floor. He was ok all around the museum  but this floor freaked him out no end. On the wall was a plaque and it showed a picture of a woman called Selina Wadge. In 1978 Selina Wadge was a 27year old , single woman, who was charged with the wilful murder of her illegitimate child, Henry Wadge, aged about two years, by drowning him in a well in a field at Tresmarrow, near Launceston. She had been an inmate of the Union Workhouse at Laurceston for about a year. She left the union with  her two children aged five and two respactively, to live at her father's house at Trebant, about  seven miles off. She and her two children were taken into Launceston in a farmer's cart and left in the town. She was seen walking out of Launceston shortly afterwards with both children towards the field in which a well is situated, and which is about a mile and a half from Launceston. The field is close by the high road, and she was seen about 500 yards from the field. She was at the union again in Launceston, but with only the elder child with her. On inquiries being made by her sister and others about the younger child the Selina stated that the child had died since she had last been in the workhouse, that the cause of death was an abscess and a throat complaint, that a doctor had attended it and that it was buried. On the afternoon of the same day she went to the house of a relative and told him that she had buried her other little boy at Alternun the week before, whereupon the boy who was with her said, " He's in a pit, mother," upon which she replied, "Hold your noise, or I will give you a slap." That  night the prisoner slept at a lodging house, where the landlady asked after her baby. and she replied that it had died of a throat complaint at her mother's, and that the doctor had told her it would soon die.
On the Saturday she went into the union again, and on the Sunday (June 23), in the presence of the matron of the workhouse and several other persons who were called as witnesses, she stated that one James Westwood had taken the baby from her and put it in a well, and that be had threatened to drown the other boy as well, but that she had run away from him with the elder boy.
Subsequently, however, she confessed that she herself had put the child into the water, that no one was with her at the time except the elder little boy, and that he began to cry.
James Westwood was called, and said that he was engaged to be married to Selina, but that he was at Morwenstow and Kilkhampton during the week ended June 22.
The body of the child was found in the well by a policeman , and the medical evidence showed that death was caused by suffocation, and the appearance of the body was that of death by drowning. The prisoner seemed perfectly unconcerned throughout the trial.

The jury found the prisoner Guilty, but recommended her to mercy. Sentence of death was passed in the usual form.
, was executed within the walls of Bodmin Gaol for the murder of her illegitimate child, at Launceston,  There had been no other execution in Cornwall for 16 years, and this being consequently the first since the abolition of public executions, there was a good deal of curiosity as to the proceedings, but the curious were disappointed, for the execution was conducted with the strictest privacy, even the representatives of the Press being denied admission.
The only persons present were the Governor of the gaol (Captain Colvill), the Under Sheriff, the county clerk,  the gaol surgeon, two warders, Marwood (the executioner), and the chaplain.

The condemned woman had previously admitted the justice of her sentence, and was resigned to her fate. She was sobbing as she
approached the scaffold, and required assistance, but otherwise did not make any demonstration. Her final words as she walked to the gallows "Lord deliver me from this miserable world" She died almost instantaneously and without a struggle.

 Mark Rablin, the paranormal expert and senior guide at Bodmin jail has on many occasions been asked by children visiting the jail with their parents who the lady in the long dress is that they saw crying in the jail cell. He also recalls that some pregnant women visitors often get very emotional when on the 3rd and 4th floor.
Maxine plays this strained screaming guitar that for me makes this song. She picked up on the feel of the subject matter perfectly. Bex's backing vocals also create a ghostly moody effect. During mixing I explained to Sam I wanted a cold feeling on the track , reverb on my voice and on the instruments and he delivered brilliantly.
My brother David? Won't listen to the song, he has left it off his ipod. Finds it too depressing. Played it to a colleague in the office ? She pleaded with me to turn it off and cried it was too sad. Recently Colin's wife Sara has also admitted she doesn't like the song due to its subject matter. We never play this live anymore  I feel we can't get the feel that it has on the CD and every time we did play it live something or somebody went very wrong .
 Some love it personally I feel I have done my job as a "writer" told the story and touched people's emotions be it emotions some don't want to feel.

Don't look back
This song was written by Maxine for a gig we played in 2011. It was The Pagan Federation's 40th anniversary we played at The Archangel in Knightsbridge London . It was a masked ball with Orpheus as a theme. Maxine wrote "Don't look back "about the most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice (While walking among her people, the Cicones, in tall grass at her wedding, Eurydice was set upon by a satyr. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever. The Cello comes into its own here. Maxine originally played the Cello part  on a midi keyboard to give Bex an idea of what she wanted. 

The song does tell the whole story , so is quite long. The main riff Maxine played on so many occassions live just wouldn't work for her when recording the song. It was like that little red light would stop her playing. She got there in the end. Live this is played  slightly different the chorus is rocked up somewhat but this was an addition to the song well after the recording .

Kultural Karma
Now this song had been knocking around since about 2007.Maxine wrote this when still in the covers band Stone Jesters. I have heard so many singers sing this over the years come and go. I never in a million years imagined I'd sing it as I could never sing and play the bass line at the same time. In fact we started playing this in the "Lambert era" Dave used to play the bass and I'd just sing it. It kind of fell by the wayside by the time the "new lineup " came along and then one day whilst I decided to really rock out with it on root notes  and Bex picked up the old bass line on Cello, it worked and remains a must in the Spriggs' live set. Little gem for you….during recording I made a mistake in the lyric …"Chinese dancing dragon , drunk on a wagon"  For some unknown reason I sung, "Dunc on a wagon" I remember doing it on one of the three times I sang it and I thought nothing more of it thinking it would end up deleted until we got the finished CD and there it was. I now sing Dunc on the wagon whenever the occasion arises that our friend (and occassional Spriggs' roady) Duncan Wilde is in the audience.  The song itself is about life (I think) My take on it is things will be what they are and is a celebration of diversity and a resignation to that fact..Maxine will probably have a more deeper explanation. One of my favourites on the CD is a real rocker live too.

Electric Life
One of the songs Max wanted to include with the  old lineup but was met with a lack of enthusiasm from them. It's about how we rely on modern technology and surround ourselves with gadgets and modern technology.It's a reminder that sometimes we need to go back to basics and  ground ourselves  The song starts with Bex on recorder and ends with her on Cello. The last note being a long Cello one. The Cello is an old instrument and signifies a return to the old . Another rocker this .Love the structure of this song and Colin's bass drum goes like a machine gun

A song for the Pagan celebration of Ostara, a lot of people's favourite song from the album no less .
This recording  is kind of incomplete. You'll notice that live that there is a lead part but on the recording there isnt. This was the start of the realisation that Gary's style  of playing wasn't what we required. He couldn't put a lead part on this and due to time constraints Maxine couldn't go back and put another track on .Features Bex doing backing harmonies ends the album on a positive note.

The album proved to be the undoing of Gary. We aren't entirely sure why Gary tracked so bad at the studio. Lack of rehearsal due to work commitments maybe ? Girlfriend pressure ? Who knows? No where to hide in the studio but his performance on the day for whatever reason was marred by bad timing an anoying click where his pick was hitting his pick ups and nervous uncertainty. Maxine had to re track a great deal of his performance which was a real shame.

We had to let him go. Our relationship with Rie his now girlfriend was strained over a throw away comment she made on Facebook upsetting quite a few pagan friends  in Weymouth. It was obvious Gary was stuck in the middle even to the extent that on recording day he was expected to go to a moot and you could see he was almost clock watching. As usual after a band conflab it was decided  it was down to me to tell Gary we  would have to let him go, and  new guitarist should be sought
Ironically it was on the day that the CDs arrived that I told him. I went to his house  called him out and gave him his copy of the CD and gently as possible told him we had to part. It was the hardest thing I had to do in  the band as he was a really good friend. He took it very graciously and a little turbulance occurred from some quarters but we got throught it…
By the launch of the CD in Portsmouth we  had a new  guitarist in place . Simon Martin and he would bring with him a bag full of riffs and licksand more issues down the line....
A new Cd a new guitarist Spriggs' were rockin.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Making of Caught In A Spell

There will only be a few reasons why you are reading this. I hope it's because Spriggan Mist have got big enough for you to be interested, but it's more likely that you were involved in the making of this CD or you are related to me or a bit morbidly I'm no longer walking this earth, cos musicians are always better after they've gone aren't they?

Now this is my take on the proceedings ok? So if you were involved or are mentioned in these memoirs please don't be offended and remember any inaccuracies are my own as are my views. If you haven't fallen into that category I hope you enjoy reading almost as much as the CD. 

We released Spriggan Mist's debut album Caught in a Spell in June 2010 at 3 Wishes Faery Fest at Colliford Lake Country Park. Now before I get into the story telling let me explain why this was the chosen place to release it by explaining a little Spriggan Mist history. Spriggan Mist was the brainchild of my wife Maxine. We had been playing in a covers band for a couple of years and bored of playing someone else’s music she started to get these little folk tunes in her head and we recorded some rough tracks down on a portable recording device (for you techies out there think it was a Boss BR900-CD) and Karen Kay The Faery Queen of 3 Wishes Faery Fest noticed the tracks on a hastily put together MySpace page and asked us to play at the festival. I think the name Spriggan Mist drew her more than the music but none the less she gave us the chance. With six months to practice and get a live set together we had to find a group of musicians ready and willing to do it as Maxine played all the instruments except bass on these tracks, we also needed more songs to fill a 45 min slot. So over a few months we amassed the Caught in a Spell line up.

Maxine Cilia -Vocals Guitar ,Sax, recorder
Baz Cilia - Vocals , Bass
Dave Lambert - Vocals, Guitar, Violin
Gill Lambert- Flute, Keyboard
Andy Wilkin - Percussion

It became quite evident that Dave was going to be an influence on proceedings, immediately Max and I could see that here was a very competent guitarist with singer song writing capabilities and due to our inexperience we allowed him to take hold of Spriggan Mist and stamp a little bit of him on it. At the time of creating the CD this wasn't a problem a few strains and cracks appeared a year later but that isn't for this piece of writing although I'm sure you will see that in a way the signs were written on the wall from the time of Caught in a Spell's birth.
I remember Max and I being impatient and driven from the outset which really at times grated I'm sure  on the older more settled in what they do Dave ,Gill and Andy.
Things came to a head in November 2009 when during a rehearsal I suggested we needed to have a CD out soon and suggested rather bluntly to Dave who had the ability to record it although had never taken on a task such as this before  that it needed doing now!. I got a frosty response. I remember Dave sat slumped in our music room and clearly saying to me that this wasn't something to be rushed and that if he was doing it would be done on his terms and when he wanted or get someone else to record it. Now I don't think that this was a petulant attempt at being a control freak (As I saw it at the time by the way) now I kind of feel Dave was out of his comfort zone and was trying to get it all boxed in his mind. But none the less seven months later with band intact we produced a nine track CD from his home studio which we are all very proud of and this is the story….

Track 1 The Park

This was written by Dave and was on a set of songs that he gave us on a Cd to listen to. What's it about? Not sure Dave would never let on but I feel it was part auto biographical and personal so didn't pursue the issue. Originally entitled Dog Sh1t park, it was slightly re arranged for Spriggan Mist. Now the first obstacle was that Dave wanted drums in this track. Andy Wilkin was a percussionist, the only drummer we knew was our then 8 year old Aaron. I remember the recording of this as if yesterday .Dave came armed with various mics and chucked a  set of head phones on the little boys head and took about three takes of the song. Aaron was drumming to a guide track that Dave had put together. It was recorded on Dave's portable recording soundscape system I think. This was nicknamed the beast. It was built by Dave and Gill and housed all sorts of digital menageries  Dave says that he didn't have to do much to the drum track, a bit of compression but what you hear on the recording is what Aaron drummed. The rest of the tracks were laid one by one in Dave's studio. We went along to his house in Lightwater Surrey over a period of a few weeks and laid the tracks as and when. Most of my tracks were laid in the morning before work, I was in work clothes for most of the recording. Not very rock and roll!.
I wrote the start poem from the feel I thought Dave was trying to capture. I had to do that bass run which I must say I struggled with live as I was doing this alien thing called singing in harmony so had lots of things to do in my head ….Dave original track didn't have a sax so Max was all over that with her Sax…now if you listen to the track carefully you will hear some background ahhs and oohs. Dave was very clever here. He recorded the whole band at different times singing Ahs to a keyboard note. He had us do an ah for each note and programmed them in somewhere somehow. This allowed him to then play a chorus of ahhs without us being there in perfect timing and harmony. Listen to the track behind the sax you can hear it rather subtle yet very necessary. Needless to say live this never happened but never missed either.
Finally the sound effects I'm reliably informed Dave went around recording the footsteps on gravel , birds and other sound effects. The scraping at the end? Andy rubbing his drum sticks on his congas. Why? Cos he could ?

Track 2  Earth Calling

This was Maxine's tune, one of the first she wrote. The original is almost unrecognisable and was one of the one's Karen Kay would have heard from a crudely recorded and put together EP called Konditions of Change….(more about that another time). This was re arranged by Dave . Do I like this version…..hmmm yes of course would I like to play it again with Spriggs' hmmm yes but with a mixture of Max's composition and Dave's. So why was it rearranged? I felt that Dave and Gill just couldn't get the syncopation that Max seems to do effortlessly. Gill is a classically trained Flautist and she never jammed, read everything and I think that Dave felt there must be a better way to present Earth Calling. He did however add that amazing start with synth and electric violin. The synth was always played by midi pedals live. One of the highlights of the album for me that intro and I remember hearing it and being blown away. Earth calling meanders away and to me sounds a little too folky for my ears but that’s where we were at the time and still has  Maxine's  quirky signature written all over it that Spriggan Mist are known for. I get to lay down a heavy bass line in this with a bit of wah on it. Maxine actually plays a banjitar on this. An instrument sadly dropped from the live performance due to stage ease.

Track 3 Indigo Child

Maxine wrote this about our little lad Aaron. Indigo Child  was recorded on a demo a long time before this recording was made  It is the first track on the CD you hear Maxine singing with that distinctive Kate Bush esque. Apparently Dave made Maxine sing this really quietly when recording it. Dave is doing backing vocals for this a task soon passed to me post Lambert era .Dave added the guitar solo and the chord structure behind the solo from a song of his called Anneliese. It remains one of the favourites of Spriggan Mist fans and  we always see people singing its lyrics.

Track 4 Dragut's Eye

I wrote the lyrics to this in September 2008 at work on a rainy Tuesday evening the first day back from holiday in Malta. I didn't show these lyrics  to anyone they were the first lyrics I had ever written and was rather shy of them. Then when we did the Konditions of Change EP I showed them to Maxine who put the melody to my words. Often confused as a love song it is actually a protest song about how Malta, a country I grew up in and hold citizenship for. Whilst on holiday I was in Kalkara when to my shock and horror the medieval bastions at Vittoriosa had been hacked into and monstrous  glass modern day apartments had sprung up  in the gap that had been made. I was told that some Manchester United players had purchased some of them (couldn't confirm this ) but it was happening all over Malta. I've always loved the Great Siege of Malta and General Dragut was a Turk who tried to sack Malta in 1565. He met his sticky end on Malta. So it's about others envy at trying to take Malta as their own and even now although "She"  is not being fought over with the use of arms foreign investors have slowly "Ripped her heart out  with every brick" The bell you hear at the beginning was recorded by Maxine on her mobile phone at midnight in a place called Marsa. We wanted as many bell tolls as possible from an authentic Maltese church bell without any street noises and I believe it was our last night on the island before recording and we were running late with about 10 seconds to midnight our hire car screeched to a halt in the pjazza in Mara and Maxine recorded it on her mobile phone. The end phone conversation is between me and an old friend Anglu Farrugia in Maltese we are talking about me coming to Malta and a bit of banter etc…Dave's idea but recorded by me on me mobile. So although a song about old values being eroded by modern development modern technology well and truly used.

Track 5 Faery Queen

Arguably one of the most requested songs Spriggan Mist do. Dave Lambert's song. The "album recording" is a much slower softer song than how it has evolved over the years but this was how it was written. It was written especially for 3 Wishes Faery Fest. Apparently the little poem that our then 5 year old Brianna reads is a representation of all the band members…Dave would never tell me who any of us were I Apple , Elder or Rowan tree? I don't know. The use of Brianna in the role of Faery messenger was ingenious. There is a story behind the song. Dave once told me  it’s about a medieval army retreating from battle . Blood stained and bruised their numbers so depleted they retreat into a small wood where the Faery messenger calls to them and takes them to the faery realm. They know that at dawn they will have to face their enemy and they will inevitably die but for that night the Faery Queen throws them a wonderful party for which their worries are far away. The bass drum is Aaron's. Andy works overtime on his congas and the flute recorder duo by Gill and Max giving the track an oldie woldy feel in contrast with the electric guitar riff Dave bangs out. Me? I just hold the steady bass line and sing backing…in contrast to my part now where I sing it live. Then there is the arpegiator…an electronic sequence of notes this caused many a heartache live …with timing etc. But on the record sounds great.

Track 6 Waiting for a dewdrop to fall

Probably one of the prettiest songs written by Max. She wrote this during a training session at work one day. She read these lyrics out to me on the phone just as I had come across one of the parents, Clive Elkington on the school run with a tripod and a camera pointed at a bush. I asked him what he was doing and he said…"I am waiting for a Dewdrop to fall" He wanted to catch the dewdrop falling off a leaf. I relayed this story  to Max and by the end of the day the song materialised. Dave is on the violin for this Max gives a great vocal performance  and Gill's flute interchange with the violin is very well worked. This is the only track I play fretless bass on. I loved playing this song live but sadly has fallen off our sets these days.

Track 7 Spriggan Dance

Way before the Lamberts and Andy came along I penned Spriggan Dance. Maxine was away so I decided I would attempt recording it on my own just bass and over laid vocals I had a few ciders and thought it was the business. I excitedly played the track back to Maxine the next day and was told how it was…..pretty awful…it was actually really bad so it was stored to the back of a file somewhere until  Dave and I were doing a ." This is the most awful thing I have written session" and I played him Spriggan Dance and won the competition although a song of his with included the lyrics quiche lorraine came a close second. Anyway he took a copy of it and using my melody and some of my words created Spriggan Dance as we all know and love it now. Maxine however wasn't always a fan of the song. She bowed down to the band’s enthusiasm to do the song  but don't think  she really bought into it. Probably grew on her over the years and her sax play on the track really sets the end bit off perfectly. We don't often do the beginning talk over intro anymore favouring to drop it to add to the flow of the set ….but sometimes it's resurrected. This is the only track I’m ever allowed to play slap/pop bass on  too.

Track 8 Faery Dust
Written about our little Brianna who from the word go completely embraced the whole  Fae deal,  Maxine wrote this for our first appearance at Faery fest. Is a song of two contrasts you have the twinkling of Max’s guitar with her high near on Angelic vocal performance with Dave’s psychedelic guitar playing. This is in my opinion where Dave and max worked best. Max would come to the band with a song and Dave would add something to the song. I got the feeling Max was happier with that arrangement than Dave and certainly in latter weeks I saw Dave trying too hard to write songs for Spriggan Mist which lead to a back log in material from Maxine. One wonders if Dave had allowed Maxine to write the material and he assist in the arrangement the Lambert /Cilia connection would have worked for longer but then I think the partnership had run its cause musically. The unusual thing about this song is the guitar solo carries on behind Max’s singing creating that aforementioned psychedelic  feel. Probably was and is one of my favourite bass lines to play live.

Track 9 Solstice
Maxine wrote this and couldn’t sing it. It sits on the bottom of my range so was off the scale for her . This track is probably the most openly “Pagan” of tracks on the album.  Very tribal I set out to have a very low rhythmic bass line with a rumble in the chorus, Max provides the backing and the percussion done by Andy just put the T in tribal. Dave dishes out the violin solo for the last time on the track. The quiet bit on this track is my favourite bit of singing on the whole album (as in my favourite bit to sing that is) Maxine and I actually sang this at a summer Solstice ritual at 3 wishes Faery Fest in a middle of a circle…no instruments ..just us  and it worked , a gift to The Holly king maybe …the song ends the album with a real triumphant noise of instruments which brings a reprise to the footsteps from the first song completing a never ending circle.

The artwork was done by my brother David we gave him the idea of Sebastian the Spriggan being caught up in handcuffs made of mist but he changed this to the plant/branches idea. The booklet within contains artwork originally used in  backdrop projections at one of our gigs ,all beautifully done by David . He wasn’t entirely happy with the final print in his eyes it came out too dark. For us it was and still is perfect.

Within a few months Andy decided that with all his blues commitments and the realisation of the  fact Spriggan Mist needed a conventional drummer he would leave Spriggs’ The Lamberts decided a few months later that it was time to go. Not sure Gill really enjoyed the band thing totally. Don’t get me wrong she always gave 110% but got the feeling she wouldn’t miss it when she left. She did however apart from playing the flute did key in sound effects and lighting from behind her little box of tricks a fact not always apparent as she hid at the back.  As for Dave, it was a bitter sweet affair. I think both Dave and Max needed freedom to write their own thing Max had grown frustrated that she had so many songs to get out, I had started writing too and Dave looked like he was trying to write for a band that was moving away from who and where he was going.. I believe Max and I empowered him with our drive and enthusiasm to produce a work of art that he hadn’t ever done before or  since. In return we gained a lot of experience from him and learned a few lessons too. Without a cross word and a mutual respect for each other The Lamberts and Cilias parted company. With Caught in a Spell only a year old and with the CD well into profit ,Spriggan Mist were Max and I again. Time for a bit of soul retrieving 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Game of Thrones -live

This was recorded on a camcorder at The Enchanted Faerie Ball in Rochester 04/05/2013

Maxine and I are big fans of the series and the theme tune ,so when we found out that a friends daughter Kerry Ingram had landed a the role of Shireen Baratheon we were very excited

In fact it was Kerry's Dad Derek Ingram who originally suggested on a school run one day that we should cover the after a bit of jamming,,,,here it is!