I was born in 1940, and had all the musical influences of someone of that era - mostly banal crap but lots of film music - and as a child I felt an affinity with the Hollywood versions of African and other ethnic music. I think it is for that reason that I had no problem fully embracing the real thing, when I heard it much later - it just got much better.
In the early sixties, I met Tony. We both drove forklift trucks in a factory. I used to play along to my jazz records on some old conga drums, while he had a cheap Chek solid guitar, he didn't know how to tune (he tuned to open C as he did for the rest of his life). Not a very promising start for a band, but we had identical music intentions and influences. We bought a quarter track tape recorder each and started recording an amalgam of all the music that moved us. We would ping pong between the two machines, building up with overdubs. We acquired better instruments and aimed to have at our disposal all the "Dream Instruments" (Vibes, Harp, Marimba, Martin, Ethnic African, Bass & Alto Flute etc). Needless to say we never did.
We were writing Afro/Latin stuff with atmospheric sections in the middle, blues with Indian licks and all sorts of music that today would not be out of place on a Jade Warrior album. It was never our intention to play these recordings to anybody. This was our "Front Room Music", and we never dreamed anyone would be interested (Of course, in 196??? we were almost certainly right). We just wrote music for the movie running in our heads.
Then we started going to the "Ealing Club" to watch the Alexis Korner band - what a band ! In the interval, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Keith Richards would get up and fill in. When this happened the first time, Tony said - in genuine horror - "the audience has taken over", and we joined the rush to the pup (now the Stones can play... but then...). We thought if they can do it anybody can... and started a Rhythm and Blues band called "The Second Thoughts". As you may know, in those days, if you could afford a kit of drums, you could be in a band, you didn't need to know how to play them... so my first job was to stand behind the drummer, beating the back beat on the congas to keep him in time !
Then came years of bumming around England and Spain, finally joining up with Tom Newman (of Virgin and Tubular Bells fame). All this time, Tony and I were recording the front room music or "armchair rock'n'roll" as he called it. Then Tony got a chance to go to Iran to play, where he met up with Glyn Havard. A friend of mine asked me to think about a dance drama he could stage at his drama school he was attending. He would write the poems and I would write the music around the scenario we had constructed. By this time I was playing flute (one of the "Dream Instruments") and a decent tape recorder. I called this dance drama "JADE WARRIOR".
When Tony came back, he was happy to work on this with me, and we were surprised to find how much of our old stuff just fitted in. It was a great success, and we were encouraged to seek a record deal by joining Glyn Havard's words and vocal, and calling the band "JADE WARRIOR". Then a deal with Vertigo. Steve Winwood heard the Vertigo recordings and suggested to Chris Blackwell that when he were free he should sign us to Island... this he did... but he just wanted three instrumental albums (later stretched to four) as "an ornament for my label". Glyn was the words man, so never became an "ornament".
Then the ten years... When we should have been cementing our position and getting into more film work and stuff, Tony got ill and I got divorced, and without all the recording facilities, not much writing was done. I moved to the country. It was the most destructive, yet recreational, time of my life (so far). I was putting a lot of ideas together, but that's what they stayed... ideas. But I was concentrating on my jazz playing. Tony was fed up with life in London and it was decided that he would sell up, move to the country, and we would work on TV and filmmusic. When he moved he got it into his head he wanted to start a recording studio... in the middle of the country?? He said it would help us by having a studio at our disposal but of course he did not have the money, surplus to requirements, and he would put his house up against the equipment. He was going to make a fortune hiring out the studio when we didn't need it. I really spent a lot of time trying to talk him out of this. At that time a lot of studios in London were hiring for very low rates and I knew it would be a disaster. It was !! He spent the whole time trying to get farmers and such to come in and make a record, and had no time for J.W. And the BANK wanted its money. We did a couple of things, At Peace (which I thought made it sound like we were dead) and Horizen. The country is the best place for me to feel creative in, but the town is where it gets done... I know that now. So I sold my house and bought the recording equipment I needed and moved back to London. Here I met Carol and set up house.
They say you enjoy most that which you are second best at... and I enjoyed playing jazz... make of that what you will.
Some jazz gigs later I met David Sturt. David (33) is from the North East of England and came down to London in about 1982. He was flat mates with the Pink Floyd's sound engineer. This led to a lot of studio session work with Dave Gilmour (Gilmour likes Dave's distinctive sound... Vigier fretless bass with metal fingerboard). He's worked in the Dream Academy, Strange Advance and with Michael Kamen. He composes for film and TV and plays in No Time Toulouse - a jazz fusion band - alongside guitarist Hugh Burns. David is not stuck in a jazz way of thinking. In all the hours of playing and recording I have done with him, he's never played anything I don't like. He's always thinking lyrically, and playing front line stuff. I like being in a band that just gets better when I stop playing. When he plays I think "I wish I'd said that"... This was all very new to me and it was a great relief to find someone I could relate to at that level of music. And then to find Colin Henson, I though this is an omen.
What can I say about Colin? I don't know much about him. He's a school friend of Carol's and I see him when I'm lucky. He moves about the country being Colin, but one day he brought around his guitar and recorded some of his own compositions. I was struck by how close it was to the stuff Dave and I were working on.
I never thought I would come across another musician I could write with, and here were two, right on my doorstep. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying other players are not *good enough* to play in J.W., it's just that the musical spirit that holds J.W. together is a very fragile thing. Tony and I have often recorded things, and although we've been pleased with them musically... it just wasn't Jade Warrior.
I put it to the boys that we could put some things down as a trio and bring in Tony at the end to include anything he might have written. I told Tony what I was doing, and he was looking forward to hearing it all.
Then Tony had a massive heart attack and died.
I went through a lot of conflicting emotions I don't understand. For one thing, I was very cross with him for leaving, silly I know but all sorts of things go through your head at a time like that. I know Tony would have loved to play around with some of the harmonies and rhythms we had recorded, and it could have been a new start for him as well as J.W. It was such a needless waste of a unique talent.
I was in no mood to play the heavier stuff and decided to leave it on the shelf and put an album together that was basically one mood. Breathing The Storm. Brian Leafe (Red Hot Records) knew Tony and me from way back and offered to release it.
David and Colin get very involved with the albums but are happy to leave me alone to take the music where I feel it ought to go, and Dave's interest in sound textures, atmospheric and unusual recording techniques leaves me free to just think music.
Jade Warrior must be different now, but is definitely carrying on the same musical spirit... while I'm alive it could not be otherwise... I can only work the way we have always done... Still trying to make the same album.
I did try to loop back to the last Island record in making Distant Echoes as it seemed to me to be the last time we were really fireing on all cylinders... a good place to start. Digital recording allows one to explore to the full the drama one can get out of dynamic range. In order to appreciate size you have to be able to stand a long way back... and you can only get as far back as record surface noise with analog. The Shaman at the front of Distant Echoes is the sort of distance we were always trying to achieve, but never could.
As for David Cross... I didn't know him in the old days... I met him because we share the same record label, and I love what he did for us... I shall pester him to play again!
I am always at a complete loss to describe Jade Warrior music... but for me... and only at its best... it's a journey through strange landscapes... visiting dreams... that kind of stuff.
Jade Warrior was the term used in Japan to describe Samurai who expected to be artists and poets as well as deadly killers. It was chosen by Jon Field and the late Tony Duhig to describe the contrasting and apparently conflicting musical styles they wished to blend.
Dick Godfrey (BBC Radio Producer) made the following description of what JW music sounds like : "More than any other band I know, Jade Warrior have the ability to make images in the mind. Not always pictures. Sometimes just muted colours and subtle shifts in perspective. Fleeting glimpses. Distant echoes. Fragments that resolve and dissolve. At other times, they paint with broader strokes from a bolder palette, feeding the senses with vivid visions, more richly contrasting textures".
Distant Echoes was originally going to be called Dreams Of The Forgotten Spirits.
"With Dreams Of The Forgotten Spirits, Jade Warrior are developing upon the atmospheric textures created in their current release, Breathing The Storm, taking them one stage further in both a musical and physical sense, by enlisting the help of a host of guest musicians, including orchestral and choral groups, whilst employing leading edge music technology to achieve a new and dynamic sound. A result of this approach is the unique subtlety and breadth of the dynamics in Dream Of The Forgotten Spirits which utilises the capabilities of digital recording technology to the full. The excellent relationship enjoyed by Jade Warrior and Red Hot Records ensures continuity, with at least one album projected for release each year". (sic)
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