Thanks so much to Dave Jones and Matt Bolter for this fantastic interview! I wrote about Turn to Flowers a long time ago and they were kind to get in touch and tell me the story of the band! Now sit back and enjoy, it’s never to late to discover a great band!

++ Hi Dave and Matt! Thanks so much for getting in touch and being up for an interview! You were telling me that you all are still around in different guises, so yeah, what are these guises? In which bands or projects are you involved these days?

Well, Matt is now a father and still very active in music – performing with his original songs band called Statedancer and a covers band called the Robbers. He writes and records regularly in his home studio. (music available on itunes – search for statedancer)

Dave is a now a doctor but is also still involved in music and theatre. He writes his own songs in his home studio and tends to get onstage acting, singing etc at any available opportunity!

Steve – sadly we’ve lost touch in all but Facebook – don’t know what he’s up to currently.

Paul – lives locally and works in multimedia. He did a couple of stand in stints drumming for us.

++ Let’s go back in time. When did Turn To Flowers start as a band? And had you been in bands previously? Or was this your first incursion into music?

When did Turn To Flowers start as a band? Formed about 1983. We’d all been in a couple of School bands and there was one early incarnation with Matt, Steve and Paul called the Misistry. We were all self taught except Dave who had learned the piano from an earlier age.

++ What inspired you all to have bands, play music? What are the first “music” memories you have?

Matt: I always wanted to get up there and “do that” – especially if I heard something that was crap and I thought “we could do that better”.

Dave: The desire to get up and perform really. Loved the vibe of playing live.

Matt: Let it Be (Beatles), Trex, Slade, the Sweet.

Dave: My brother (completely a-musical) taught me a healthy love for heavy rock – ACDC, Rush, Deep Purple, however being  younger was a child of the 80’s – so was brought up on a healthy dose of 80’s cheese – new romantics and indie etc.

Although these were earliest memories our influences were taken from Beatles, 60’s psychedelic, funk, Jazz, Punk, Blues, some classical.

++ So how did the band come together, how did you all know each other?

Matt met Steve and Paul at college and they were looking for a keyboard player. Matts girlfriend at the time (Sue Lees – the sort of “Janine” in the relationship) knew Dave and introduced them. The band started rehearsing in a old (derelict) village hall in Partington, Cheshire – it barely had floorboards. We started doing small gigs around Manchester (The Boardwalk, Jilly’s, Middleton Civic (often playing with the Mock Turtles), the Green Room, Band on the Wall, PJ Bells, The Roadhouse and other smaller venues).

++ What about the name of the band? Where does Turn to Flowers comes from?

Turn to Flowers comes from the fact that we were about to give a tape to someone, and we didn’t have a name. The song “she turns to flowers” by The Salvation army who later became the Three O’clock was playing – so it was just plucked from that. Crazy.

++ Tell me about Manchester. It must have been fantastic living there in the 80s with the amazing amount of great bands in town. Plus you had the Hacienda of course. How did you like it there? What were your favourite local bands? and where did you usually hang out?

Yes it was fun time and there was so much music going on – it’s a bit weird that when you’re there, you don’t quite realise the significance of the emerging bands and the emerging Manchester scene. Later on, the Stone Roses emerged and we were big fans of them. Ian Browns brother used to play tambourine in TTF for a while – he was like our “Bez” character. Apparently Ian used to think that we’d get signed before the Stone Roses – but we now know they were signed and became massive.

++ And compared to these days, would you say that Manchester has changed for better or for worst?

Definitely the worse. The music scene is nowhere near as vibrant as it once was – there are precious few live music venues these days. There are lots of big club nights but many of the band venues have ceased to be.

++ You only released the one EP on Imaginary Records. How did you end up signing with them? Were there other labels interested?

We basically did the old thing of sending tapes to record companies and got picked up by Imaginary. They had a few bands on the books including the Mock Turtles who also released EP’s at the same time. We also recorded a version of the Kinks “Village Green Preservation Society” which was released as a Tribute to the Kinks (Shangri La) on Imaginary. We felt proud of our version! Sadly we don’t have a copy of this anymore. If you get one – let us have a listen!!

++ Tell me about this EP. Care telling me a little about each of the songs on the record? And which one is your favourite?

People Change like the weather: Probably our most popular song. It’s about a relationship breakup – like many songs.

On Her Own: This is a song about the same person but was originally written for a college play. There was a theme about dolls marching – therefore the marked riff. We would have loved to do this with a real cello/orchestration.

Listen to the deadman: “Pure gobbledygook” (Matt’s words). Written like they’re meant to mean something – but they don’t!

++ And you were also telling me that there are many more Turn to Flowers songs. Will they ever be released? And why weren’t these songs released back in the day?

Well we were due to release another EP – but for one reason or another with the record company (mainly money), we never got the chance. Maybe we should think about putting the others on itunes – better that than letting the tapes just degrade.

++ What do you remember from the recording sessions of the EP at Suite 16 in Rochdale? How was that experience?

That was a great and fun time. We had an engineer called CJ who was great fun. I (Dave) personally remember laughing a lot, but also caught up in the excitement of our first proper recording sessions – we wanted to make a really good record – but we have a damn good laugh along the way. Suite 16 had been used by lots of major bands (New Order, Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, Happy Mondays, Railway Children) so it felt pretty exciting to be in such esteemed company. We had access to New Orders “Emulator” (a true vintage keyboard) – which they had used to record “Blue Monday” on there. We used their cello samples for On Her Own and also used some guitars from the Chameleons – particularly their 12-string.

++ Maybe there were no more Turn to Flowers releases, but perhaps you appeared in compilations? Do you remember if you ever participated in any? Maybe in those 80s tapes that were given away with fanzines?

See above about “Shangri La” – tribute to the Kinks. We’d love to get hold of a cop of that! Our first CD.

++ And talking about fanzines, how did you like that culture in the late 80s?

We really didn’t go into the fanzines. It wasn’t a big thing for us at the time. We paid some lip service to the NME and Melody maker – but their reviews just tended to annoy (often being overtly negative – and reports written by non-musicians).  At least the fanzines would tend to have an enthusiastic and positive viewpoint in stark contrast to the music press.

++ And what about a scene. Did you ever feel part of one?

Not especially – although we did feel an allegiance with the other Imaginary records signings. Especially the Mock Turtles – as we did so many gigs with them.

 ++ Let’s talk about gigs. Which were your favourite and why? Any anecdotes you could share?

Dave: one of the best ones was when we were in the ascendancy and we were asked to headline a gig (at the Green Room) and the Mock Turtles supported us! Martin Coogan wasn’t happy about that – he always felt they were the better band. Other great gigs were at Manchester Uni (when we were supported by the comedian Steve Coogan (now a film and TV star) – who is Martin Coogans (Mock Turtles) brother. It was brilliant to think weve been on the same bill as Steve Coogan!!

Probably the highlight was supporting the Stone Roses at the Powerhaus in London (Islington). This was just as the Stone Roses were breaking through and a time when we were really starting to motor ourselves. It was an exciting time.

++ And then what happened to you guys? When and why did you split?

Gets a bit complicated. We had another guitarist involved (Mike Anderton) who took lead and we continued for approx 1-2 years without any further signings or record deals. There were a few “musical differences” emerging but the band had probably just run its course. Rather than splitting, we sort of ground to a halt!

++ After Turn to Flowers you were involved in Black Fat Cat and The New Originals. Care telling me a bit about these bands?

Yes – Dave had gone off and formed a band called The Elysian Fields. The line up was Sean (vox), Paul Lockett (guitar), Andy Treacy (Drums – he now plays with Faithless) and Colin Robb (bass). After this, Dave and Colin teamed back up with Matt to form Fat Black Cat. We auditioned for a drummer and a female singer and soon enough we were joined by Helen Garner (drums) and Alison Donohue (vox). We probably had a lot more success in terms of big gigs with FBC. We had two UK tours with the Australian Doors Show which took us to all the major venues around the UK from Aberdeen to the London Shepherds Bush Empire. Although we released our own EP with FBC, we were never formally signed. The New Originals was a band we formed as a covers outfit to fund our touring costs. It worked really well and actually outlived FBC by many years. We only really stopped playing with the New Originals in 2011 – when our dear friend and band member Colin died at the age of 47 from Oesophageal cancer. We have done one or two “special” gigs since then but it was very difficult to carry on after losing Colin. Matt has since formed a new covers band called The Robbers (in memory of Colin) and as mentioned above is still actively writing and playing with Statedancer.

++ These days, aside from music, what other hobbies do you have?

Dave is doing more and more with the theatre and loving it. Matt has a new love for eating salad and exercising – something very alien to him when we were playing in Turn To Flowers!

++ So, are you a United or a City fan? Who were your favourite players ever in your team?

Dave: United. All the way. About to win our 20th league title. I’m a season ticket holder. We have had SO many brilliant players – my personal favourites are Cantona, Roy Keane and Andre Kanchelskis. We have a very rosy future – but our inspiration manager Sir Alex Ferguson can’t go on forever. It’s going to be a terrifying time when Fergie finally goes. Matt hates “dull ball”!

++ One last question, what would you say was the biggest highlight for Turn to Flowers?

Well it has to be the first time we saw our record in print and supporting the Stone Roses In London. Definitely!


Turn to Flowers – People Change Like the Weather


One Response to “:: Turn to Flowers”

Hi Roque, Hi Dave, Hi Matt,

I’m Steve, erstwhile bass player for Turn To Flowers. I don’t know what I’m up to currently either but I really enjoyed reading this and thought I might be able to add a few footnotes to The Turn To Flowers Story.

I should say right upfront that my memory is terrible. No problem though; anything I can’t remember, I’ll just make up.

There are a few other people I think should get more of a mention here. As I’m writing this, I suppose perhaps the first one should be me.
I didn’t just play bass. In fact, it’s arguable whether or not I actually played bass at all but I was the one that used to stand there and hold it. I also wrote some of Turn To Flowers more forgettable songs. Such of our recorded legacy as has survived is all Matt’s stuff. I believe this is partly because Alan Duffy, our early mentor and mainman at Imaginary Records, liked Matt’s stuff more than mine. I can’t say I particularly blame him.

If I remember correctly – which, as I say, I generally don’t – the proposed second Imaginary EP, which was subsequently scrapped, was going to have one of my songs on it. Somewhere there is, or was, a recording of this same song, ‘Falling Down’, that we did in a tiny little 8-track studio. It came out pretty well as I recall. Sue Lees, Matt’s then girlfriend (as mentioned above), muse and inspiration for many of his songs, sang backing vocals and there was a great solo on it, played by one Mark Honeyford.

This brings me to my second honourable mention. Mark was a friend of ours from college. He was a brilliant guitarist, a bit odd, and his brother had one of Paul Weller’s old Rickenbackers (broken in a display of auto-destructive rock ‘n’ roll bravado) so he was a natural to be in the band in the early ‘Ministry (of Love)’ days when we were just starting out. One of the first demos we recorded, while we were still at college, was some of Matt’s more soul-influenced tunes and Mark’s playing on those was superb.
Sadly, Mark couldn’t really cope with being in a band. Sadly, Mark couldn’t really cope with much at all. I wish him every happiness wherever he is now and whatever he’s ended up doing.

Just to backtrack a little, at that same session I mentioned in the 8-track studio we did a song of Matt’s called ‘Can I believe You?’. We recorded it with a live cello – well, a live cellist (Kay, I believe. Kay Bolton?). In the interview, either Matt or Dave mentions that we’d love to have recorded the EP with real strings but circumstances and Alan Duffy’s bank balance wouldn’t allow it. ‘Can I believe You?’ was the only time we recorded with proper strings. Unfortunately the cello was mixed so low in the final mix that you couldn’t really hear it. So that was all a bit of a waste of time ultimately but it was fun to do.

Just before we went into Suite 16 to record ‘Village Green Presservation Society’ for the Kinks tribute album, Mike Anderton (mentioned in passing above) joined us as lead guitarist. Mike used to wear spandex trousers and his musical influences before meeting us were mostly along the lines of Hanoi Rocks, Guns & Roses, and that sort of glam-metal lark. We soon changed all that.

At that same session we also recorded another of Matt’s songs, ‘Keep My Head’, another one earmarked for the ill-fated second EP. I’m really sorry that this recording doesn’t seem to have survived. The only song of ours that can be heard today on the internet is ‘People Change’. I love ‘People Change’ but it doesn’t really give the whole picture of Turn To Flowers. ‘Keep My Head’ was three minutes or so of proper no-nonsense garage rock. Dave playing some great 60s-style cheesy organ, and Mike getting a rare chance to release his inner rock demons for the solo.
I remember the engineer, CJ (Chris Jones, who trivia fans might like to know also played keyboards in Peter Hook’s band, Revenge, as well as keeping things ticking over at Suite 16) saying to us:
“What happened? Last time you came in here you were a nice little psychedelic pop band!”

With this in mind, is there any chance you could upload ‘Listen to the Deadman’ off the Imaginary EP, please? I don’t even have a copy now. I’d love to hear it again and would leave anyone discovering the Flowers for the first time to hear that other, less baroque, side of us (not that there’s anything wrong with a bit of baroque).

I’ll come back to Mikey in a moment but someone else I think deserves more of a mention is Ian Brown’s brother, Dave. Although, ostensibly, he may have seemed to briefly fulfill something of a ‘Bez’ role in the band (and absolutely no shame in that) he did contribute more than a tambourine, boundless enthusiasm, and the odd bit of live backing vocals. Two songs which stayed in the setlist for much of our musical career (“career” in the sense of veering uncontrollably from one point to another) were written by Dave Brown and myself.

Just looking at the interview above again you asked a question about fanzines and such? Two occasions come to mind. The first was an interview we did with a local student newspaper. I think the headline was something like ‘Success Is Blooming’ and the whole thing was littered with all these floral puns. The bloke finished the article by saying something like “Go and see them now before they’re bigger than the Stone Roses!” I’m not sure what happened to him. Curiously, I believe he did go on to make something of a career for himself in the music business.
Another time I remember is when we played at a little mod club – as in: a club full of little mods. What you have to bear in mind is that we never really got to a stage where we could turn down any gig that was offered to us. Anyway, we turned up – resplendent in our paisley raiments – and played this set of some of our stuff mixed in with a few old Motown covers. Afterwards, this guy approaches us backstage and introduces himself:
“Hi, I’m Martin. Martin the Mod! I run a fanzine called “Liggin’ About” – it’s written by mods, about mods, for mods! Are you all mods?”
Paul, our long-suffering drummer who always had long hair and a background very much in classic rock, sort of growled from the back. Me and Matt smiled at him politely and said;
“Er… No. Not really. We’re more sort of psychedelic.”
“Oh,” said Martin the Mod.
That was pretty much it for us and fanzines.

The last days.
Yeah, I think ‘musical differences’ pretty much covers it. I think it’s fair to say we’d all got quite disillusioned towards the end. Supporting the Roses at the Powerhaus, just as they were really starting to get big, was pretty much our swan song. Imaginary Records had run out of money by then, the EP had got a bit of airplay but hadn’t really sold in any great numbers (apart from maybe in Austria and on one of the Greek Islands). We were secretly hoping that Alan McGee, who was in the audience that night might sign us to Creation Records.
Apparently he wasn’t so keen.

Maybe if somebody had taken us on at the point we would have pulled it all together. I remember Manny from the Roses saying, “You can’t rush it. When the time’s right, it’ll happen”.
Maybe the time was just never right.
That whole ‘Madchester’ indie-dance crossover things was really kicking in by then, A&R people at the time were forever telling us, “You know, guitar music is dead. You need to be getting into more of a groove…”.
Of course, just a couple of years later you got Britpop and it was all basically what we’d been doing for most of the previous 10 years.

Dave and Matt have covered what they did after the split. I’d just like to add a little bit about what the rest of us did.
The final incarnation of Turn To Flowers was Matt, Dave, Myself, and Paul on drums (the classic Flowers line-up!) with, as previously mentioned, Mike Anderton on lead guitar. We were also trying out a backing singer, Smita Pandya.
As things started to pull apart, Matt and Dave did their things (all great stuff, I should add) and Mike, Smita and myself formed another band, Dolphin Spotting (later Cheyne).

I was only in the band for maybe a year and a half but they were great times. We all moved into a house owned by Smita’s family in Whalley Range, just outside Manchester city centre (Jason, the drummer, was still living with his mum at the time).
We practised pretty much every day in an upstairs room, started gigging fairly regularly locally, did a couple of local radio sessions, and recorded whenever we could afford it. We never got signed but we had a tape that was sold at gigs.
(That reminds me that Turn To Flowers also had a tape that we used to sell at gigs; ‘Turn To Flowers: Top Tunes’! Sadly, I no longer have a copy but somebody in Manchester must still have one.)

Highlights with Dolphin Spotting include supporting The Railway Children on a little mini-tour of northern universities. They had a proper tour bus and we were just rattling about in the back of a transit we’d rented with all the gear. I suppose that’s what’s known as a ‘rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle’.
Absolute pinnacle was supporting The Replacements on part of their farewell tour in, I think, 1990. Mike and me both loved The Replacements so that was joyous. I can still remember chatting to Paul Westerberg backstage. He said:
“You were OK. A lot better than most of the crap we’ve had to play with.”

Figuring that it couldn’t get much better than that, I decided to get out of music and Manchester and move down to London to do other things. Which I did.
Dolphin Spotting, or Cheyne as they’d become by then, carried on without me (No, I’m not sure how they managed either). Shortly afterwards they went into the studio with Clint Boon from the Inspiral Carpets. The resulting tapes were great but I’m not sure they ever got released.
At one point, they’d gone down a kind of alt-country route and got some interest from Elektra but I’m not sure what came of it.

Cheyne also did shows supporting bands like Opal (David Roback from Rain Parade and Kendra Smith from Dream Syndicate), Spiritualized, and many others I can’t seem to remember just now.

I made contact with Mikey again a while back and he was still writing and recording and doing some live stuff. At that point, he’d been part of the music scene in Manchester for over 20 years. I must say, I think he’s a very talented musician.

Well, that’s about all for now, I think. I hope some of this was vaguely interesting to someone. It certainly brought back a lot of good memories for me – or what pass for memories these days!

Thank you, Roque, for keeping the Flowers alive.

Steve Goodwin
April 10th, 2015