This is an edited transcript of a two-hour "Soundscapes" radio programme hosted by Ashley Franklin, aired on BBC Radio Derby in December of 1995, transcribed for the Web by Dave Platt. I'd like to thank Dave Sturt of Jade Warrior for sending me a tape of the show, and Ashley Franklin for his permission to publish this transcript on the Internet. I apologize in advance to any people, places, bands, or other institutions whose names I may have misspelled while transcribing the tape - my ear isn't really tuned to British spellings.
My listings of the musical selections played on this programme are incomplete, and probably incorrect in a few cases. I was working strictly from memory when I transcribed the tape, and I haven't yet compared the tape to my CDs to get the actual details. Dave Sturt noted that in some cases, the musical selection played isn't necessarily the one which illustrates the topic that had been discussed immediately before.
AF: This is Ashley Franklin, and Welcome to a Soundscapes special here on BBC Radio Derby. One of the highlights of this year was receiving not one, but two albums from the group Jade Warrior. Neither are 1995 releases, but they might as well have been, for their timeless quality and for the fact that I'd not heard these two albums before. More pertinently, I've held a long-cherished affection for the four ground-breaking instrumental albums Jade Warrior released on the Island record label in the 1970s, and suddenly here were two albums telling me that Jade Warrior were not only still around, but also producing that trademark sound of theirs. Always exotic, dynamic, and atmospheric, and by turns rhythmic and ethnic-based instrumental music, based largely around flute, guitars, and percussion. What turned out to be a bonus was that after hearing these two 1990s albums, I received a letter from the bass guitarist in the band, Dave Sturt, who told me that he'd become a resident of Belper, and would I like to run a feature on Jade Warrior? Well, here's one very good reason why we're running this feature on Jade Warrior - the flavor of the sound, from their 1993 album Distant Echoes.
(music: "Evocation" from Distant Echoes)
As I say, the bass player in the band, a really fine musician named Dave Sturt, lives in Belper. He'll be speaking with me, along with one of the two founding members of Jade Warrior, Jon Field.
It was Jon Field and his long-time friend Tony Duhig who formed this duo, one very much ahead of its time, flavoring rock and jazz with music from various ethnic sources. This was "world music" before the invention of the phrase. Not only that, Jade Warrior were also creating rich, inventive multi-instrumental sounds that even led to modern music guru Brian Eno acclaiming the band's first album Floating World, and on their second album Waves you can hear the keyboard sounds of one of their great supporters, Stevie Winwood. The sleeve notes to their Island Records four-album retrospective tell us that Jade Warrior were pioneers. "Mysterious, evocative, disturbing, their soundscapes cleared a path for today's Deep Forest, The Orb, and other ambient, trance-dance, world, and New Age musicians." So, let's hear the opening moments from Floating World, my own introduction back in 1974 to Jade Warrior.
(music: "Clouds I" from Floating World)
Sadly, the original guitarist, the other founding member Tony Duhig, died a few years ago. But he'd have been pleased, I'm sure, to hear the band sounding as healthy as they do in the 90s, and finding even bigger audiences than they did during their Island Record years in the 70s.
(music: "Into the Sunlight", from Distant Echoes)
With me, Jon Field, flautist and keyboardsman, and Dave Sturt, bass guitar player. The other main band member, guitarist Colin Henson, is laid low with the flu. I wonder how many times that's been said on the radio lately? (laughter) I know, Dave, that you're the local boy, but I must start with co-founding-member Jon Field. Now, talking about Distant Echoes, you might remember a conversation we had on local radio about, oh, 18 or 20 years ago. In fact, Jade Warrior coming up for what must be their 25th anniversary of recordings...
JF: Don't remind me! My word...
AF: So, you've been in the business for a long time, and still going strong. It's great to have you back, because I got the shock of my life when a Jade Warrior album - actually not one, but two, these latest two Breathing the Storm and Distant Echoes - came in the post. I really thought that the band had foundered, and I'd only just heard that the other co-founding member Tony Duhig had very sadly died a few years ago. But, you've decided to carry on with the name. We'll discuss that shortly, but first look first at those days back in the 1970s when Jade Warrior were around attracting a small, but highly appreciative cult following. I think the band were described as an "underground legend", and I think that just about gets it right. You were very popular with fellow musicians - Stevie Winwood played on your second album, and didn't he recommend the band to Island Records?
JF: That's right. According to Chris Blackwell, it was Steven's idea that he should give us a listen and possibly sign us up. It was the time of Tubular Bells, and I think Chris Blackwell fancied something like that, as Virgin had. I don't know if he thought were we were a budding Oldfield, but he thought that Chris Blackwell ought to listen to us for instrumental work. I'm glad he did. They signed us up for three albums, originally, and it ended up going to four, because he wanted the set. The trouble is, he didn't want to sell them to anybody, for some reason - he just wanted them for himself. Very strange. We got some out in America, but hardly anything over here.
AF: I was surprised it didn't take off more than it did, simply because of the Mike Oldfield connection you mentioned.
JF: Of course, Mike comes from a very different area than we did. I think Mike's very non-jazzy and non-orchestral - very folkey. Uses orchestra, and things, but I think his mind is in folk and pop - in those sort of rhythms. Does very complicated things with them, but that's where he starts from. I think, because of his age and stuff, Mike starts from the Beatles. Tony and I, that's virtually where our influences stop. We were more into jazz and ethnic music. So, I think there is a difference - a difference in beat, and a difference in feel. I think recently Mike's been more interested in that, but at the time, I think Mike was very much into straighter rhythms than Tony and I were into.
(music: "Rain Flower" from Floating World)
AF: Well, Mike Oldfield may have been sellin in his millions, while you were selling in your thousands, but I think your music was a good deal more interesting, even though it wasn't anything like as successful. You used to make concept albums... there's a common phrase in the 70s... (laughter)... a much maligned phrase as well...
JF: I agree (laughter)
AF: ... and you used to make these multi-instrumental "sound paintings", didn't you... you used to play around with all manner of instruments, objects, and tape recorders to achieve your sound... in very much the way that Brian Eno went on to pioneer in many ways. But, you were there even before Brian Eno - and Brian Eno himself called your Floating World album "a very important album", so you may have had an influence on him?
JF: Well, I wouldn't like to say that... It really comes from starting so early with recording, with no money whatsoever. So, the only recording equipment you could lay hands to was what you could get your parents to buy you for your 18th birthday, or whatever. That was generally a very cheap tape recorder, and you'd beg for one which could do sound-on-sound... so, quarter-track. So, this is how you start. You have two (Tony begs for one and gets one as well) so we could do bounce sound-on-sound. Now, the sound is not particularly good, so all you've got going for you is that you really experiment and find ways of making this acceptable. The first track you put down is getting woolier and fuzzier with each generation. We really had to pay attention to those things, and that was really our training, I think. Working hard, we used to say, trying to build a cathedral with what you'd find in your back yard.
The sounds that were in our heads are no different from the sounds in my head today. But, there were no such thing as samplers, we certainly didn't have any resources, and with absolutely no expectation of anybody hearing this. We spent all our youth (laughter) making recordings up in my bedroom, but we didn't expect anybody to be interested in them. Most of our lives, they weren't! (laughter). We didn't expect any interest... it was a surprise!
(music: from Kites)
AF: Of course, these days it's dead-easy, you can just pick up a synthesizer or use samplers, but in many ways those experimental days were perhaps more exciting, because you're never sure of just what sort of sound you were going to create.
JF: It's interesting that you say that, because I think that's true. I think a bit of the baby's gone out with the bath-water. David and I have talked alot about this - David is very technically-minded and deals with all the sounds, whereas I tend to sit down and listen. David comes up with lots of very good ideas which would never have occurred to me to do, because he's very technically minded with computers and the desk, and so forth. But, David and I have been saying "Let's get back to some analog. Let's get out in the field again." Tom Newman's got a barge with a studio in it, down Rickmansworth way. We want to do a lot of the new album there, in real ambience - out field recording.
AF: There's nothing to stop you from adopting the same methods that you did, say, on the Waves album, where you mentioned the use of pocket organs, being played at half-speed and distorted and then echoed... seven half-speed flutes, backward pianos, fire extinguisher, teaspoons, and a giant empty bottle of Teacher's. I'll bet that was enjoyable! (laughter) But, in many ways you could go back to that, even today, and probably create something that no sampler could reproduce.
JF: I think that's true. I tell you what - I half agree with you. What we tend to do, and what samplers are good at, is that once you've found a sound you might want to use it directly. That's what we're talking about here, more to do with ambiences, but... for example, the sound of the big whiskey bottle. If you sample that, then it's safe and usable. That's where David's good. He wouldn't allow us to use just one sample - one hit - it would have to be made more human. 'Cause each time you hit it, it's different. So, I half-agree, but you just run out of tracks - you run out of resources. And, when you know this machine is sitting there, that can actually take this stuff in, and give it back to you when you're pushed for time... samplers are wonderful things, and I don't want to get rid of them altogether, but a bit of the baby can go out with the bathwater, and that's what we're trying to fix with this new one.
AF: Let me bring Dave in at this point. I know that you've become very much a fan of the band since you've joined them. You must be very impressed, listening to these sounds that they were creating in the 70s on such limited resources.
DS: It is absolutely wonderful, some of this stuff. I was listening, the other day, to Waves - there's some incredible sounds on there that you just couldn't re-create, really. Jon will probably tell you the story about recording the wind coming under the studio door... that was at Island, I think?
JF: Ah, yeah - magic, that. Basing Street. Wonderful sound. There again, you see, I managed to get that off an old tape that I found, and we've managed to sample that! Well, now, that sound's ours again! Whereas it was lost before - we'd never be able to use that again, Basing Street's probably not there, and those doors aren't there, anyway. If you sat down on the steps, and half-opened the door, as the air-conditioning blew the wind under the glass doors you got this gorgeous sound! For me, you could fill an album with that, and not anything else (laughter) We used to sit there and listen to it, it was wonderful!
JF: It is a good sound!
(sound/music: "Whale Rises" from Waves)
AF: So, you must have spend many, many hours just studiously recording sounds on your flute, and then recording them again... you used to record layer on layer of sound, so you could create an almost orchestral effect.
JF: Yes. I think there was whirlwind moments, where ever such a lot got done really quickly. And then, there were times when you couldn't tell what it is you were looking for - you just knew that what you had wasn't what you wanted. It could be days and days, looking for the right sound. We'd eat out...
Most people had the good sense to put half the budget by, to live on, and then make the album with the rest. We could never do that. We always ran out of budget. We were always going over, and every penny of it went on the album. We had to, because of the way we worked.
We would write most of it down... we wouldn't write to music, we'd just go in with this big pile of junk... but then it was in the lap of the gods what came out. We had tunes, but tunes were always easy, tunes aren't it. It's the atmosphere, it's always atmosphere. It doesn't matter how wonderful a tune is, if there's no atmosphere there - it won't work. You know, you can get an ice-cream band to go in and play a sequence of notes, which is what a tune is - but if there's no atmosphere there, it doesn't mean anything.
DS: That's one of the great things about the new technology, the digital technology - the dynamics you can produce with it are really stunning. From the quietest moments to the loudest, much more than the band could ever do on vinyl.
JF: The first album we did, that was one of the images we had - to create a very, very loud guitar, as softly as you could possibly have it, until it got into record noise. I think it's on Waves where we got it about as far back as you could go, to have it worthwhile to have it - which makes the BANG really loud. As you know, black and white - your blackest black and your whitest white, that's what you're dealing with, that's what we're dealing with in our records. Dynamics are extremely important. The loudest moment you can get, is only loud by dint of the quietest moment you can get. If it's all loud, then it's all normal.
(music: from Way of the Sun, 2nd half, dance?)
AF: We'll come to Dave in a moment. But, still talking about those Island albums, I think they've yet to receive their deserved re-evaluation. Only two of the four have come out in this country, on CD - very oddly, they've missed two out. As I said before, what you were producing was more interesting than Mike Oldfield, who'd come along with Tubular Bells, but you didn't quite attain his 70s' bank balance (laughter off-mike) even though you did acquire Oldfield's engineer, Tom Newman.
JF: Well, Tom was a singer in our band, 'way back in Spain...
AF: Was he?
JF: We knew Tom back in the earliest, earliest days. Funnily enough, somebody phoned me up the other day, and they want to re-release these Spanish EPs. Apparently, of all the people in the band, I'm the only one who's got the full set. This strange interest in the old stuff - not strange, but it's an interest in archival stuff. It's not how I deal with music - I'm not interested in music that way myself. But, there's an awful lot of music in it - the July album we did is apparently extremely expensive now to buy it, for collectors. Not to play it, apparently, but for the artwork.
AF: And because it's so rare.
JF: And because it's so rare, of course, yes. Major minor record.
AF: I've heard some of those early releases, and I have to be honest - they seem a little bit crude and basic, compared with the Island albums, which are the first I really came across. So, I'm listening to those in retrospect - the early vocal ones. I think the sort of music you were making on Floating World, Waves, Way of the Sun and Kites were, actually, remarkably sophisticated - for their time, certainly.
JF: Tony and I always wanted to do that sort of thing. I think we felt at home when Blackwell gave us a chance to have a studio and do this. We felt at home. We didn't feel "What're we gonna do, what're we gonna do?", we knew we could fill these albums with things that were important to us. I think that's what we'd always tried to do. Putting the singer on them was really an attempt to, sort of earn a living at music, you know - write some music and make a living at it. But, it wasn't done as much from the heart as it was when the Island records came out.
(music: "Sun Ra" from Way of the Sun)
AF: You became a "world music" band, I think, even before the term "world music" was coined.
JF: Well, that was one of the influences - African records, initially, and Latin American. Latin American - it wasn't that long ago where Latin American music was considered a little bit risque, anyway - I'm talking 30 years ago (laughter). It was not to be particularly "good" music - a little bit "jungle-y" - and this is exactly what Tony and I loved about it. Although the melodies were completely crass rubbish, and the frilly sleeves and all... the actual rhythms they were playing were so gorgeous. They were so far from what was going on in our heads at the time - we were trying to achieve it with the stuff we had around us, we were trying to achieve that sort of sound. And the Africans are just that, times a hundred - hear the African stuff totally undiluted, it's wonderful. So, it's no surprise that those were the things... Anyway, Saturday-morning pictures, when you went and saw "Saunders of the river" and all these terrible movies... they were awful movies, but what you had going on in the background were these African rhythms, and they really set both our imaginations alight, even though I didn't know him at the time, I didn't know him until I was about 20. We were both brought up in same time, and both influenced by the same things. That's what I find interesting.
AF: And you came to these influences, and you turned around the sound, which I always remember for being very atmospheric, and very exotic, too - there was an exotic quality to the sound you created. I think that was borne out by your long hours in the studio, building up these layers of sound.
JF: Yes, I think so. Also, I would like to think that it may have been that we were getting close to some of these images in our heads. Because, this music didn't come intellectually, it came through feeling. We're not intellectual writers or players in those times. Now, of course, David and Colin are with us, we're quite intellectual (laughter off-mike). But in those days we were complete dumb-bugs, and all we could move on was what was in our heart - it was feeling, total feeling. I think it was those exotic lands, and these wonderful sceneries we could create in our heads... you made music for the movies in your brain.
(Music - Title track from Way of the Sun)
AF: Well, after that 1978 album Way of the Sun, the band's contract with Island Records ended. This was the time, of course, when the punk and new-wave explosion submerged so much of the kind of creative rock music that Jade Warrior indulged in. Jon Field drifted into sessions, and played on a lot of pop tunes. His partner Tony Duhig eventually sold his city house and moved off into the country, where he opened a recording studio. A Jade Warrior album did occur in the 80s, in 1984 in fact, called Horizen, but this wasn't a true collaborative effort. Tony Duhig wrote all of the music, and Jon Field only played on a few tracks. Not a greatly distinguished album, to be honest. Well, Jon now takes up the story of the missing Jade Warrior years.
JF: Tony got the recording studio, and spent a lot of nervous energy trying to fill this recording studio. He'd mortgaged his house, and everything - total disaster. Owed the bank all this money, on the strength that there was this film coming up. As you know, films are worse than albums - you never put your own money into films. But, Tony did that. Sadly, that went - left him with a recording studio - the only way he could not have his house taken away was to fill the studio every day. It happened to be in Glastonbury. And, as you know, Glastonbury's a town where everybody in Glastonbury wants to make an album, and none of them have got any money. You could fill it every day, if it was for nothing - there's thousands of people, that's all they want to do - but they've got no money. They'll offer you a bag of potatoes for an hour, or a feather and a rubber knife (laughter off-mike) but nobody's got any money. So, poor Tony - the pressure really built, and built, and built. He was let down a lot of times by people around - it's a terrible story. All that time when he was worrying, we couldn't work together. I often went up there, and we tried to do some bits - and Tony wasn't "there".
When you've had a partner as long as Tony and I, the only way you could work was together. So, I had my studio back home, and I said to Tony "You get on with your bits when you have the time, and I'll do some stuff back in London." I was doing little jazz sessions in London, and I had this studio - whereupon I met David. David came along with a trombone player who wanted to do some stuff. So there, I met David, and I was very impressed by his musicality - that sound that he plays is so grown-up, everything it goes with it just makes such a difference.
AF: So, in many ways Dave was responsible for you putting Jade Warrior back on the road again.
JF: Definitely, insofar as David then was in a position to help me do my bit - my half. Tony was presumably doing his half, although sadly we never heard that he'd done anything - I think he was so stressed that he hadn't. Colin, somebody I'd known for an awful long time through my girlfriend - so, the three of us got together and were fiddling. The plan being, that we would get together with Tony. Now, what a band that would be! That would have been The Band! I'm not saying anything against Colin - I think he's wonderful, so atmospheric - but I wish Tony could have played on it. He would have loved it, it would have been perfect for him. All his life, all the time we played, he'd say "I want to be able to play on what I'm playing now, at the same time." He would have had the chance with Colin, and it never happened. I think there's tons of sadness, and don't really want to think of it too much. It's so sad - all that time. We sent him a few cassettes, and he was excited with it - and the next thing we heard, he'd died.
We were into Breathing the Storm at that time. We'd got a lot of it together, obviously there were loads of bits, because we were assuming that we were going to be a quartet, you see? You see, in a way, David and Colin should always have been with us. They should have been in with us when we did the first Island one. There's things now, I'd love to go back with Tony alive, but with the boys - things would be better, it'd certainly be easier, melodic and tuneful...
AF: You'd have been very young, though... (laughter all around)...
DS: In school, yeah.
JF: So, the crossover is rather sad. Tony should have been involved in Breathing the Storm.
AF: Let's bring in Dave now, more fully. Currently living in Belper. What were your musical activities prior to joining Jon in Jade Warrior.
DS: Well, I played around a lot in Middlesborough, in various bands. I moved down to London in about '82, I think, and got involved in the session scene down there, which proved to be quite an eye-opener to begin with, and was quite hard work. Eventually, I got into doing some good sessions. I got to know the Pink Floyd scene, and was working with Andy Jackson, who's their chief engineer. Though that I did work with David Gilmour and Michael Cayman and various other people involved in the Pink Floyd set.
AF: Which albums are you featured on that I might have?
DS: Probably none, actually. I was cursed with every recording I did, for some reason never got to be pressed. I did some work with Dream Academy which came out in America. Never produced here. They were produced by Dave Gilmour.
AF: Great band. I've got all their albums - you're not on any of those?
DS: There were some singles released in America that I'm on.
AF: But not over here.
DS: I did a band with Strange Advance, which is a Canadian band produced by Michael Cayman, which had Andy Newmark on drums and Earl Slick on guitar.
AF: Was it through your session work that you met Jon?
DS: It was, yeah. After that I got more into the jazz scene. It was through working with a jazz trombone player - I was doing a session for him, which Jon was also doing, and we hit it off quite well. Then, Jon asked me to play - he had a little jazz outfit playing around London. So, I did some gigs with that, and then was, uh, enlisted (laughter).
AF: I suppose then, you had to start doing your homework on Jade Warrior. I don't think you'd heard the band at all?
DS: That's right, I hadn't. I knew of the band, I knew the name, the legendary name that I seemed to always have known, but I'd never actually heard any of the stuff. So, I went and listened to Floating World and Way of the Sun, and really liked both of those albums.
AF: I imagine that that got you really excited about working with Jon.
DS: Yeah. I could see that the way I played would fit perfectly with that kind of music. It was something I'd always been looking for.
AF: You say "fit pefectly". In a moment we're going to hear the title track from Breathing the Storm, because it shows how prominent your fretless bass sound is in the band makeup. When before, Jon, bass guitar wasn't a main instrument at all.
JF: No, we didn't have a bass, because Tony tuned his guitar down to C - open C. 'Cause nobody told him that you didn't do that! (laughter off-mike). He was so nervous, he tuned it to a chord, 'cause it sounded good. All his life, he had this great problem with some chords - and of course other chords are totally unique to him. A lovely sound, but it meant, also, that his bass string went down awfully low - and so many of his chords didn't need rooting with a bass guitar. And, anyway, we didn't know any other bass guitarist who didn't go doink-doink-doink. String bass was what we wanted, initially. We never came across anybody we could play with. But David's sound, I see much more in an Eastern way - that big deep sustain. It's what I find such authority in Indian music, with the sitar and some of their other instruments - they have such authority.
AF: It's not often that a bass sounds as rich, as full, and as lyrical as the way Dave can play.
JF: Absolutely. I wouldn't like to say it's unique, because I don't tend to listen to an awful lot of music, but it rocked me back when I heard it. It's not just that bass - that bass in somebody else's hands, that sound in somebody else's hands - David is musical, and that's more rare than it ought to be among musicians. David is interested in melody, and sonorousness, and peace - and that's what he tries to do. Just rooting chords - which he can do as well - that's not it. It's a solo, a very important voice. As I've said many times, the band gets better when I stop playing.
(music - title track from Breathing the Storm)
AF: Before we move on to the current album Distant Echoes, I want to play one more track which I really love from Breathing the Storm. It's very impressionistic, called "Memory of the Deep". Can you explain the idea behind the album concept, and this track in particular?
JF: Yes. Well, the original idea of the whole album, it came from the idea of chaos - chaos theory.
AF: Oh, the theory that expounded on in "Jurassic Park", by Jeff Goldblum's character.
JF: Yes - the business that the butterfly wing could end up as a hurricane over the Pacific. But, taking the idea further: the monks' breath, the Tibetan monks. A lot of people say that they're doing the good of the world, for all of us - we're all being done good, by their goodness. Goodness is obviously a difficult term - depends what you mean by goodness - but, their serious attempt to interface with the universe, and Being, is doing us all good. It doesn't do just them good. It's a fanciful idea, that the prayers and the chants that they give, fill there, and that vibrates the monastary, and the vibrations go out and it goes 'round the whole world. Basically that's what it is. We just go to different parts of the world - the oceans, and the world of the air, the kingdom of the air, and the land, and everything interconnects.
AF: So, here we are under the sea. And, to be honest, on this track I can feel myself moving through the ocean depths, just floating past shoals of brightly colored fish, and waving to Jacques Cousteau - it's one of those tracks, isn't it?
JF: Well, what do you play? You ought to be in the band! Come join us (laughter)
AF: So, let's hear that lovely track "Memory of the Deep"
(music: "Memory of the Deep" from Breathing the Storm)
AF: Now, the other member is Colin Henson, who plays a number of guitars. What's Colin's background?
JF: It's a difficult one, this, but I've been asked it before. To be honest, his background is a front-room fiddler. He fiddles endlessly to himself. That's all I ever knew him do. He was in, I think, one band earlier on, but Colin is sort of a hermit figure, wouldn't you say?
JF: A funny chap. But when he plays, everything fitted with the band. It's difficult, though - I'm not sure how Colin would fit with any other band. I think Colin's been guitarist waiting for Jade Warrior to turn up, basically.
DS: He's an incredible musician. He's got an amazing ability, and incredible dexterousness.
JF: And musical, again - some of the textures! Some of the stuff that's on both of those albums happened through listening to Colin fiddling. We'd say "Quick, put that down!". It gets put down, and then gets extracted into something else.
DS: A lot of tracks on both of these albums were created just from jamming around. We'd create a rhythm on the computer, with samples and things, and then play over and record first takes. And then work it around afterwards.
JF: I think that's where Colin is at his best - at that level. If you ask Colin to go and do it again, he'll do it - but it's like asking somebody to come back into a room. They'll come back in the room, but a little bit more charming, and a little bit less real (laughter). Whereas, when he played it first time, warts and all, there's a magic in it.
(music: from Distant Echoes)
AF: Dave, how do you feel about Jade Warrior fans of old, coming to listen to this new band? Do you feel you have a responsibility to re-create that Jade Warrior sound as much as possible, or do you like to think you're your own band now?
DS: I think we're definitely our own band. That is, the elements of the original Jade Warrior from the way Jon plays and the way Jon arranges the stuff - but I think Colin and I bring to it more of a more modern approach, and a lot of my sort of jazz background, and some funk kind of feel comes into it as well. I think it's brought us into another realm, really - but I think it's definitely grounded in the past - there's that, too.
AF: Oh, it is, I know it is - because I'm hearing much of what I used to love in Jade Warrior, particularly that exotic sound, where I feel myself almost travelling around the world, in terms of the sounds that are hitting me.
DS: That's right. The arrangements, the way that Jon arranges the flutes, and the whole thing, is very distinctive. I've never heard anything quite like it, those sounds.
AF: How do you operate as a band? Jon, you live in London, but Dave, you've made your base in Belper - mainly because your girlfriend lives in Belper.
JF: I'm working with Jon every week down in London - I go down for a few days every week - so I'm doing a lot of travelling at the moment.
AF: If you're going down to London and working there for a few days, it must be nice to come back to a place like Belper.
DS: Oh, it's wonderful, I really enjoy it. I've only been living in the area for about six months, and it's just fantastic, living in the countryside, compared with London.
AF: We ought to mention your girlfriend - what's her name?
DS: Her name is Sue Balshar.
AF: How did you meet her, then?
DS: Friends of friends - I have friends who live in Derby who I known for a long time. She came down with them to London to go to the Irish Festival in Finsbury Park, which is where we met.
AF: And, she happened to be living in Belper, and you're more than happy to come back and reside on the verge of the peak.
DS: Yes, it's a wonderful countryside. I really enjoy living around here.
AF: Do you like the people in Belper?
DS: Oh, yes - very very nice. It's so different from living in London - nobody talks to anybody in London. It's just hard to relate to people, really.
JF: Even I don't talk to him in London... (laughter)
AF: I was there only the other day, and it's just such a big vast soulless place, isn't it?
DS: It is, yes. I was there for thirteen years, and to begin with it was very exciting, but after a while it kinda...
AF: I like London to visit for a few days, and then come away again.
DS: I still have a flat down there, that's another base.
AF: I'm so glad you said you like the people in Belper, because I'm one of them (laughter). Let's now talk in some detail about the still-current album, Distant Echoes. There is a theme behind the album, again - it's this idea that primordial civilizations left their mark, and that mark is still around today albeit as a distant echo of some sort.
JF: Yes, that's right. It comes from that first flash of going out your front door in East Finchley, and thinking "This is somebody's hunting ground, this might be a sacred place!" What it _isn't_, is East Finchley - that's just we call it now. There's been a few hundred thousand years it's been something else - it's been a huge forested bit. A few hundred yards up the road from here, apparently, one of the glaciers came to an end - it was 200 feet high! It's trying to imagine this - and it's true of everybody, to realize that this seems like reality, but it's a virtual reality. We're all going through a virtual reality, and the proof of it is that the programs change so dramatically in quite a short time, I mean in the length of time that we've been on this island.
AF: We're still in chaos theory territory here, aren't we - you're talking about cosmic influences which circulate around the world, both in time and place.
JF: In a way. What I think interested me was, the amount of belief and energy that these other people would have put into this place. It lifts me up, to think I'm in somewhere that isn't just East Finchley - it's something more than that, to hundreds and hundreds of generations of people for whom it was other things. It just lifts me up - that's what I wanted, initially, to get across. And, also, those footprints - those fossil footprints of the Australeopithecines, I think (it were well before the Homos) - they walked past this volcano and left their footprints in the ashes which have now fossilized. It's absolutely magical - it's almost like watching a video of all those years before there were human beings. An event happened, and you could see how they stopped - one of them stopped and turned - and it's just that movie which is set off in your head. And then, you want to make music to it, if you see what I mean.
It's not specifically pre-human - it's all the past people who have been through, and what they believed, and what they loved, and what they hoped would happen, and whether it has or whether it hasn't. I would like to believe it hasn't. The streams would have had names, they would have been named, they would have been gods. People would have assumed that these stories about giants, and ogres, that people were talking about 10 miles away, that's where this was happening. It's not like now, when we think "How could they believe that was happening in another land?" For them, it was happening up the road, and that's why you stay here!
AF: I suppose most people who live in East Finchley would like to believe that there's more than just the place they're in.
JF: (laughter) That's right.
AF: I want to play a brief track - "Timeless Journey" - because if I'd heard it without being told who it was, I'd have said instantly "That's Jade Warrior!" Particularly for your flute sound. Now, I've not got a particularly good memory, but there's one thing I've always remembered from that interview you gave me, along with Tony, all those years ago. It was Tony saying that your flute playing was very masculine. Most flutes, he contented, tended to sound sweet, airy, and feminine, but in your hands it was a male sound. Do you remember him saying that? Did he every say that to you?
JF: Oh, God, no.
AF: ... but I think it's true.
JF: Tony would never say anything nice about flute to me. That wasn't allowed. Well, I'm glad to hear you say it, and it's funny to hear Tony coming back through your memory, because I don't remember that.
AF: Well, I don't know whether you'd agree, Dave, but it is a flute sound that is unique. No one else plays the flute, for me, quite like Jon. He has a distinctive sound. And it isn't that sort of airy-fairy flute sound that you can get when you listen to a flute being played, sometimes.
DS: No, that's right - some of it is quite aggressive, it can be. And, the way it's orchestrated, and the harmonies...
AF: It's full-bodied, isn't it?
DS: That's right. There's definitely a purpose there.
AF: I think that shows on this track - "Timeless Journey"
(music - "Timeless Journey" from Distant Echoes)
AF: Dave, when you wrote to me to tell me that you lived down the road, you told me that these two recent Jade Warrior albums "are widely believed by fans, critics, and ourselves to be the best so far."
DS: That's right. Because of the kind of modern edge we have now, the different attitude - and also because of the new technology, I think. We've got so much more dynamics that we can use. And, the feeling in the band is that we're really producing something for the future, and that we've got an awfully lot more to say as well.
AF: You also told me that there was renewed interest in the band world-wide, with even a healthy Internet discussion group.
DS: That's right. In America, they've just rereleased the Island albums - all four albums came out in a boxed set. That seems to have produced a lot of interest over there - there's a lot of things, there's these discussion groups on the Internet created just for Jade Warrior. There seems to be an awfully lot going on. We're at the moment producing a Web page for Jade Warrior, to try to give more information to people.
AF: And sales have grown?
DS: That's right - the two new albums, as well, are selling better over there.
AF: How far across the world does the music reach, then?
JF: America has always been where we sell. Traditionally, we've hardly ever sold in England. I think we've sold more in England now than we ever did. America is where people may have heard of us. Germany, not so much.
DS: We have had letters from Albania and Russia as well.
JF: Some poor devil, he couldn't send me any money, but he said if I could send him a CD he'd send me a book, some book. I sent him the CD - I never did get the book.
AF: Let's hear a track for Distant Echoes which was written by yourself, Jon, but is more a showcase for the playing of all three of you. I think it might out what you said earlier about how you just get together and just play, because you all three solo very effectively on this track. It's called "Village Dance".
(music - "Village Dance" from Distant Echoes)
AF: I'm hoping we can look forward to a session from Jade Warrior for this program. How about concerts? Do you intend to play live? Have you been playing live at all?
JF: Jade Warrior always has this problem with playing live - its scale, it's too big.
AF: Yes, there are more than three of you in the band, effectively, when you listen to the album - you've got a lot of guests there, don't you?
JF: Absolutely. It's impossible, it's pointless just turning up on stage and playing the tunes. We could do that. It's the atmosphere that would be missing. I can't imagine how one could get a situation where you have the intimacy of a pair of cans, plus a huge hall with all the ambience, into one concert. And therefore, I can't see it working. Although I must say that David and Colin disagree, and are nagging and grizzling to put a smaller thing together - the small part of Jade Warrior, 'cause there are things one could do. But I would miss the dynamics.
AF: Well, maybe you could add a keyboard player, and there you'd have all your samples and a whole range of sounds that could maybe help...
JF: That's what they say!
AF: (laughter) I want to back them up, as well. I'd like to see Jade Warrior live, at last.
DS: It would be good. If we could find the right venue, perhaps, then we could twist Jon's arm to that.
JF: I'd definitely do it, if I thought it could be done. Definitely.
AF: You see, that's probably what has held back the success of Jade Warrior, because there's no doubt playing live helps a great deal. Every gig you go, you'd sell your albums. And instrumental music, Oldfield, Vangelis, Michael Jarre aside, doesn't sell in quantities in this country. And yet, I know from doing this program over the years and being involved with kind of music over the past decades, it could sell a lot more with just greater awareness. I could list a whole lot of people who have heard music of this kind for the very first time, and they like it, and they wonder "Why haven't I heard this before?" I mean, for you Jon, you must have spent something like 25 years of frustration knowing this.
JF: For me, the music is doing it, and capturing it on the tape. There's no frustration in that, except the musical frustration. As I say, I've very low expectations of anybody listening or liking what we do. Turns out that lots of people do like it, and I'm really pleased, but I am genuinely and always surprised when somebody says "I've heard of you". Firstly, I'm surprised they've heard of us, and secondly they like what we do. So, I think that's what it is - I'm really surprised that people want to hear us play live. I'm not frustrated from that angle, because I never expected to play live. Never did.
AF: Let's hear a track that I think would have great appeal when played live. But, it may be one of those tracks that would be difficult to reproduce live. It just shows how much appeal I think this band could have. It's a track called "Night of the Shamen", and when I heard it I was instantly reminded of George Harrison's sort of Eastern experiments, about the "Sgt. Pepper" period. Was there a conscious sort of thought about reproducing that sort of sound?
JF: No. Definitely an Eastern sound, but not George Harrison. But, many people... how many people have said that? There must be something in that sound which clicks with peoples' memory of "Sgt. Pepper", because it's been said two or three times to me that it sounds "Sgt. Peppery."
AF: It's that one track "Within you, without you", isn't it, that's got that similar sound.
JF: That's right. Of course, that's the massed Eastern violin, all swaying together, which is what we were trying to do.
DS: We had David Cross in playing - we had two violins doing it, actually.
AF: David Cross used to be in King Crimson?
DS: That's right.
(music - "Night of the Shamen" from Distant Echoes)
AF: We're coming to the end of our time. We must look forward to a new album - I'm sure there's one in the pipeline now, isn't there?
JF: Definitely - we're working on one right now. They're always the best one you've ever done (laughter) this is no exception. It is so exciting at the moment. I'm really into the Crazy Horse story, and the... mustn't call them "Indians" any more...
AF/DS/JF all together: "Native Americans"
JF: I'm into that very, very strongly.
AF: It's funny you should say that. There's a film coming out for Christmas, "The Indian in the Cupboard" - that's the title of the original Lynn Reed Banks novel. I did an interview with Lynn Reed Banks, and the suggestion was that maybe she was under tremendous pressure from the American distributors to retitle the film "The Native American in the Closet".
JF: (laughter) Oh, God, that would ruin it!
AF: Thankfully it's still "The Indian in the Cupboard" (laughter). So, that's coming out when, this new album?
JF: As soon as it's finished! I don't know with these things. These things are finished when we're too fagged out to go on, or when we say "That's it! We've done it!"
AF: Are you both doing other musical work beside Jade Warrior?
JF: I'm not doing other musical work... David is.
DS: I'm doing a few different projects. Not sessions... I'm working with an avant-garde guitarist in London, there's an album coming out next year.
AF: What's his name?
DS: Gary Smith. He's got a few albums out, he seems to be making waves. I'm working with a sax player called Theo Travis - again, he's quite new on the scene, but he's definitely making a name for himself. It's a kind of ambient jazz sort of thing - "Jan Garbarek meets Brian Eno" sort of thing.
AF: Sounds good!
DS: And, I've just got a band together here in Derby, with Mick Doyle from Neverland - kind of a Celtic sounding thing.
AF: Well, I wish you well - a local band as well as Jade Warrior. Oh, I hadn't checked - does your girlfriend like Jade Warrior?
DS: Sure does!
AF: Well, that makes life a bit easier.
JF: She likes one of Jade Warrior, anyway (laughter)
AF: Well, it's been a delight having you on, thanks for coming, and we'll hear from you again. Let's finally hear the wonderfully atmospheric climax to Distant Echoes, called "Spirits of the Water". It contains some really gorgeous choral voices, and I'm a real sucker for ethereal type choruses.
JF: Yes, that's my girlfriend. She did the flute thing, sang many many times to get the effect, and then we got some other girls to come in as well, so she's the basic chorus.
AF: So, you've not only got a girlfriend who likes Jade Warrior, but actually appears on the albums.
JF: I didn't say she likes Jade Warrior - she just sings! (laughter)
AF: Well, Dave, Jon, many thanks for guesting on the program. Wish you all the best in the future. We'll look forward to the new album, and perhaps we'll get a session from you. Perhaps we can have the three of you jamming at some point, and sending us the results.
JF: Well, better than that... at least I hope you'll agree better than that. Whilst going through these tapes for this very very early stuff, I found one of the very very earliest things Tony ever did, and I would like to include that on a track with all of us playing. It's only, you know, Tony not being aware of it - or maybe he is up there, and he'd be aware of it. Anyway, I'm sure that he'd smile on the idea.
AF: A meeting of the old Jade Warrior, and the new.
JF: Well, I found it, and David said that it can be done, and "this message comes from God", so it must be able to be done.
AF: Right! Well, Jon Field, and Dave Sturt of Jade Warrior, let's hear "Spirits of the Water".
(music - "Spirits of the Water" from Distant Echoes)
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