Thanks so much to Tony Jenkins for the interview! Check their myspace here.
++ On the liner notes of The Leamington Spa Volume 6 it says that the band was formed in the end of the nineties. That I find a bit strange as usually on this series most of the bands were from late eighties or early nineties. Don’t get me wrong, I love the song on the compilation, and Im glad I was introduced to your band, but I do find it odd. How did this happen?
Tom, Mick and I all worked together and the band really started as a ‘theoretical’ thing to get us through the long, boring night shifts! Tom played keyboards and had an 8-track home studio and he would bring in instrumentals for us to hear. I sung and played a bit of guitar and eventually the band became a ‘reality’. It was at that time that Mick dropped out, he did one rehearsal but I don’t think he really had the time to commit so Tom and I continued meeting sporadically and trying to tie our two ‘talents’ together.
I had sung in the Aurbisons in the ’80’s (with Dave Driscoll) but unfortunately I wasn’t involved in their recordings. Myself and David put out some compilation tapes and I also set up Everlasting Records with Nick Clarke of Rhythm Mail Order. We put out a single by A Riot of Colour and an album by Emily and it was through this connection that I got involved with Uwe and the ‘Leamington Spa’ compilation.
++ Between you and Tom there was an interesting creative process, you being an indie kid, with all that it implies, and him more of a perfectionist of sound. How do you remember those days, arguments over some beers maybe? or laughs after figuring out some chords for a new song?
I have nothing but happy memories of recording with Tom, loads of laughs and we never argued. There was a crossover area, I liked the stuff he loved and he liked the stuff I loved. That picture on the MySpace page of us seated on the sofa laughing sums up those days, it was really spontaneous. The process was that we would record the songs within a couple of hours and then Tom would spend time programming the drums (which was boring, long and laborious for him) and then we would start again, building from the drums. We could never better the version of ‘All My Dreams’, that one on MySpace is the version we recorded two hours after I first played it to Tom! He could really play the keys but his main skill was picking sounds out, adding just the right amount of effect and getting the best sounds out of a fairly limited ‘bedroom’ set up.
++ Your only release was the song “Start Again” in a compilation organized by Junction and the local council. What was this compilation called? And who were Junction? and which local council is this?
The Junction is a venue in Cambridge, run by Cambridgeshire City Council and they funded a series of compilation CD’s, called ‘Wild Skies’. They paid for us to record a version of ‘Start Again’ at a local studio but the version was nowhere near as well produced as Tom’s effort and they didn’t mix out some horrendous backing vocals that the producer had promised we would have time to go back and sort out. It was the only time we recorded anywhere other than at Tom’s and it was a disaster!
++ You recorded many many songs, as it shows on Myspace! But why didn’t they get released? Maybe they were released as demo cassettes?
The seven songs on MySpace are our total output. We did put four together as ‘This Part of Town’ CD EP: Everything I Need/Don’t Stand So Close to Me/Without You/This Part of Town and this got us our only review. The guy said we sounded like The Men They Couldn’t Hang, so I guess he only played ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’. That track was just me with a fuzzy guitar and a very basic rhythm track, it was supposed to sound like ‘Only Losers Take the Bus’, by Fatima Mansions or ‘Well Well Well’ by the Woodentops! I also put Easy Way and Start Again together as a CD single, but that was only for my own benefit and I made a home made black and white sleeve, we didn’t sell them in any way comercially or send them to anyone with that intention
++ You were influenced by a quite large array of bands, from Felt to The Chills, from Cocteau Twins to Dead Can Dance, but how would you describe the sound of the music you were making as Plume?
We would consider anything and have a go. I had some great songs that we never actually got round to trying, which had a reggae influence and a couple of songs that would maybe have sounded like Tindersticks. The key was to try and push our modest talents (more modest in my case than Tom’s) and get more out. Tom would push me vocally to try and get the best sound and test my limited guitar skills to the limit! On most tracks there are five or more guitars, then Tom would mix them in a way to suit the track.
++ It seems it was quite difficult for you to record in the studio, problems with sound engineer, years to complete a song, etc. Why was that? Do you think if things would have gone smoother, Plume would be a better known name today
The studio problem was a one off, not the guy’s fault as he was up against a tight schedule recording about sixty bands for three or four CD’s. The biggest problem we faced was Tom’s health. Tom’s a depressive and faces a daily battle with his demons and when he was affected it was impossible to do anything, I just had to wait for him to get better and we would do a little bit more. We’re not talking about hours and days, sometimes I’d have no contact for nearly a year and then we’d have to pick up the pieces and start over. I would have loved things to have gone smoother, don’t think we’d be any better known but it would be great to have a choice of maybe 15-20 songs to post on MySpace! Very frustrating but, in all honesty, it’s more upsetting to know that Tom is struggling to get through day to day because he really is an incredibly good guy!
++ You only played one gig, the one for the release party for the Junction compilation, how did that go?
We really shouldn’t have done it but Martin (who provided the gorgeous sax on ‘Start Again’) said, “go for it”. In about two weeks we rehearsed with Martin and another friend called Simon on bass – it was great to play as a band and they were both great musicians! The gig went OK, decent crowd and a good reception. We were under-rehearsed and unprepared but we got away with it!
++ I do need to ask about the LUSH and FANTASTIC song that is “Everything I Need”. I really, really, like this song. Was the lyrics based in a real story? Who is this dedicated to and did the story get a happy ending?
It’s great that you’ve picked up on this song, I was really surprised that Uwe picked it for the compilation. This and ‘Without You’ were our first two efforts and recorded before I even had a decent guitar and the effects box that made a lot of difference later! Sorry, there’s no real story behind it I’m afraid, it was an old tune that Tom had and the words were ones I had written as part of a song many years before, around about the Aurbisons time actually. I guess there’s always something personal about the words, all my songs would be dedicated to my wife Ann-Marie, obviously we’ve had our disagreements and arguments, but we’ve been together for over twenty years now so I guess that’s your happy ending!
++ But perhaps that’s not your favourite song you wrote? What is it then and why?
I have four favourites. I think ‘All My Dreams’ is our best song…’Easy Way’ our best recording…’Start Again’ my best vocal…’This Part of Town’ my best guitar. ‘All My Dreams’ is about a guy drowning and, by the end, kind of accepting it and “drifting to sleep” and I think the words paint the picture. ‘Easy Way’ benefits from Simon’s ‘real’ bass sound, it gives the song a real drive and I would loved to have done some more recordings like this. I remember Tom putting the keyboard on the end of ‘This Part of Town’ and going “WOW!” It was the first time I realised we could make decent songs that I would buy if someone else made them! The “Hey” at the start was inspired by the yelp at the start of Primal Scream’s ‘Imperial’ and the guitar on the fade out was from ‘Pink Frost by the Chills!!!
++ Why did the band call it a day? What are you two doing nowadays? Are you still in touch with Mick?
We all left the job we were doing at virtually the same time and Mick is now a train driver! We are still in touch through Facebook. I hear from Tom occasionally, recently he bought a lot of new recording equipment and we arranged to meet, but then he got down again and I haven’t heard from him for a few months. I’m now singing with POP ART. Chris Free (ex Users, A Craze) writes the songs and I am just the singer. Chris has written some cracking tunes and we have played a few gigs as an acoustic duo. We have been in the studio recently, augumented by bass, drums and keyboards and are hoping to release a CD soon!
++ Anything you’d like to add?
Just that when you asked, ‘Why did the band call it a day?”, we haven’t really. Whenever I speak to Tom I make sure he knows that, regardless of whatever else I am doing, I will always have time to get together with him and bash out some tunes. We’re getting older now, so that’s getting less likely, but you never know…
Plume – Everything I Need