Thanks so much to Gary Marshall for the interview. A Game of Soldiers hailed from Liverpool and released only one 7″ though many recordings were made. Many of these, plus new recordings by Gary can be heard on his soundcloud page. There was so little information about them online, so I’m very happy to hear from Gary the whole story of A Game of Soldiers in this interview. And also be their fan on Facebook! Enjoy!
++ Hi Gary! Thanks so much for the interview. Hope all is well. I saw you are still making music these days. Care to tell me a bit about your new adventures? Is it just you or you have a band? And how different it is to the sound of A Game of Soldiers? Do you have any releases?
I still have that burning urge to create and make music after so many years of being in a band.These days it’s just for pleasure and indeed good therapy! I have, what I call a ‘desk top’ studio at home, it’s great to go to when the ideas spring to mind or I hear something on the radio & think ‘I can do that better’! It’s really about putting stuff down for keeps sake, at the moment, kind of a diary or some small legacy to leave for my kids…better out than in…I say! Future releases? maybe? I’d like to compile a cd of new material some day. The main difference from ‘A Game of Soldiers’, I guess is the guitar work, my stuff is very keyboard based.
++ So let’s rewind, let’s go back to 1980. That’s when A Game of Soldiers started as a band, right? How did you get together? How did you know each other?
I actually joined the band as a keyboard player, they were already formed, but placed an advert in the world famous ‘Hessy’s’ store (Frank Hessy’s Liverpool. The Beatles guitar shop). I auditioned & found the band where only two streets away from my home!
++ How many lineup changes happened in the band? I see plenty of people listed on the Facebook page!
Too many to remember! but, yes many came and went.
++ During those early 80s there were plenty of fantastic bands coming out of Liverpool. Which were your favourite bands there and did you feel part of a scene?
Liverpool was so vibrant & exciting in the 80’s. We rehearsed in a place called the ‘ministry’ in the city center. The heart of all the excitement. We had Echo and the Bunnymen, A Flock of Seagulls, Julian Cope/Teardrop Explodes & many others practicing in the same building.I remember sneaking to the rooms for a listen & a chance to meet my our idols.
++ And who or what would you say inspired you to make music?
Living in Liverpool surrounded by such a musical legacy, the beatles etc was really enough to inspire you to play music, or indeed the other option would be to play football.
We as a group,had different tastes in music, from Pink Floyd, Ultravox, Simple Minds, U2, Bowie etc
++ It wasn’t going to be until 1988 when you would release your first record. The fantastic “Big Bad Money World”. What’s the story behind this song? And who released this single?
The song actually was inspired by my fiance! We, like many couples, struggled to pay bills in our new home.My fiance made the statement ‘it’s a big bad money world’!, meaning everything is about money.
That was it. I thought,say that again…wow that’s a great title for a song. We released the single ourselves, and actually gave away many during gigs and to radio stations. It was really about getting our name out there & our music played.
++ Why do you think it took that long to release the record?
During that period we became increasingly frustrated, searching for a manager & trying to get that break we needed. It almost became a case of there being too many unsigned liverpool bands circulating at that time. I guess we were just unlucky. So we decided to fund the single our selves and get it played.
++ I was looking at the video for “Rainforest” on the Facebook page, and I notice there’s some footage of you guys. Did you ever made a video or something?
Yeh,we had a video made our selves. A friend of mine filmed us. He normally did weddings! God, i wish we had facebook & soundcloud back then!. Lots of bands nowadays promote themselves & release stuff online. I guess in a small way, we were already doing it.
++ And was there any interest from the big labels?
We only approached the smaller independant labels.
++ Tell me about the band’s name, A Game of Soldiers, where does it come from?
It’s London Cockney in origin, a variation of ‘Sod this for a lark’. It’s a term of exasperation, meaning that something is not worth the effort or the trouble.I like to say ‘ fck this for a game of soldiers’!
++ Would you consider yourselves a political band?
We we’re certainly no U2. Tho our lyrics did reflect attitude towards the government of the day. We played a gig in support of starvation in africa, around the time of ‘liveaid’. I remember we were confronted at the end of one gig by the manager criticising our anti government comments made inbetween songs! So maybe we were a little political.
++ From all your songs, which would you say was your favourite and why?
That’s a difficult one, I think when your in a band or indeed a songwriter, the last song you did is a favourite for a while, until the next idea comes along. ‘Stop the Dragon’ an anti drug song is certainly one favourite.
++ What about gigging? You seem to have gigged quite a lot, which were the best gigs you reckon? Any anecdotes you could share?
Yeh, we loved gigging & played every week for a while. We played mountford hall, here in Liverpool with the band ‘Toy Dolls’, they had a UK hit with ‘Nelly the Elephant’, bloody awful kids song!
We tried to play all the ‘hip’ places of the day. So there were lots of dark night clubs in basements, some of our audience would be rats! yes, the rodent kind!… running around the place! We played a place called ‘the Venue’, i remember Will Seargant of Echo and the Bunnymen telling us we were ‘cosmic’, i quite liked that label sounded cool. I remember we played on a roof, in the style of The Beatles, Abbey Road gig. It was a great gig, we could see for miles!
++ Aside from the two songs on the 7″ single, are there any more recordings by A Game of Soldiers? Did you release any demo tapes?
We made several demo cassette tapes,remember cassettes? ha, we gave them to local radio stations and had some air play from them. We would send them off to A&R men at indie labels.
++ And then what happened? When and why did you split?
Actually, I don’t specifically remember that we did split?, you know, we kinda got frustrated and disillusioned.It seemed every band around us at the time were getting record deals. We never felt like we got the break we deserved. So really, we just dessolved.
++ What did you guys did after? Were you still involved with bands?
You know, I think its quite telling that none of us joined or formed another band. Some of the guys dont even play to this day. I think we all put our heart & soul into the band,made sacrifices, and did all that we could to drive forward,then having not achieved our goal, really lost the faith.In truth we resigned ourselves to the fact, it just was’nt ment to be.
++ What about today. What do you do? What other hobbies do you have?
I still make music,and write the odd song,but not everyday as back then. Its more of a therapy these days and of course fun too. I wish we had todays synths and software, back then. It’s much quicker and easier to record stuff these days.
++ And looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest highlight of the band?
For me, the biggest highlight, was putting a song I wrote, in about 10 minutes, on a scrap of paper, onto a 7 inch plastic record! I was so proud to hold it in my hands. Even if we had split there and then,I still would of felt we had achieved something special.
++ Alright, let’s wrap it here, but thanks again so much. Anything else you’d like to add?
thank you Roque, its been great to reflect back to those days, so many great memories. thank you.