Chris Wade, renaissance Man!

Chris Wade is a multi talented and multi-faceted chap who on the one hand produces his own music magazine, whilst on the other writes highly regarded critical analysis of various artists works spanning all genres from film to music, not to mention being the writer of his own range of comedic novels and the brains behind Dodson and Folk, the acid folk project that has spawned 11 albums, and features a multitude of special guests. Since 2012 he has been ploughing his own musical furrow as Dodson and Fogg, with musical excursions into instrumental prog (The Moonlight banquet) collaboration with his brother (Rexford Bedlo) as well as Rainsmoke (with Nigel Planer and Roger Planer) and the last time I spoke to Chris was just after his Dodson and Fogg début had been released. I decided that as four years is a long time in music, and because I like talking to Chris, I would have a chat with him to find out what’s going on in his world and to chat about his new album, The White House on the Hill.


I first mentioned his role as a one-man acid folk pioneer, and the release of his new album

‘I prefer to call it Maltloaf folk; it’s a new tag that I’m going to start using. This is album number 11, if you don’t count the outtakes.

I hadn’t planned the next album but I moved out to the countryside about 4 months ago and found in the second month of living here I’d started writing the next record, but that won’t be out until next year because of the books I am working on’

Ah yes, the books,

‘I’ve just done a Hawkwind book, a recent fiction book and I’m working on books on Dennis Hopper, George A Romero and Woody Allen. I find when I’m doing the books I just get immersed in the world of the subject, I’m watching all the films, tracking people down and reviewing them’

We started talking about how things have changed since the first Dodson and Fogg album was released back in 2012,

‘Progs totally altered since the first release, since then the industry has changed with all releases, back in November 2012 there wasn’t things like Spotify, 4 years seems like a long time ago for me now’

I first contacted Chris back in 2012 using twitter and since then we’ve been friends on Facebook,

‘This is the thing about Facebook, you don’t see some people that often but you can see how peoples lifes have changed over time’

I wondered if Chris was still an avid user of social media,

‘I’ve got a Facebook set up for the books and the albums, and it showcases the latest work, but it doesn’t really generate sales for books or music, and in that respect it isn’t that useful. Someone was complaining on Facebook recently about mailing lists and emails not being read, I don’t thing it’s fair to criticise your audience on Facebook or social media, but it proves that you can’t rely on social media, I only use it a little bit’

Chris is very prolific and I wondered where the inspiration comes from,

‘I do all this because I don’t want a normal job, the more I do then the more income I get, I don’t push a lot of this to be honest, I like to do projects and that’s how I spend my time, on my projects and with my family. A lot of creative people like to think they are different and special, and I love making music and writing books but to me it’s an everyday job with no lucrative income’


With the books Chris tends to self publish,

‘My first self published book was before I discovered the server I use now, it was a book about Malcolm McDowell, and since then I’ve learnt over time, some of the earlier books are a bit creaky but it proved to me that learning as I go and self publishing is a valid option. I’d rather put it all out myself, as it gives me complete control’.

Dodson and Fogg are well known for the use of guest stars,

‘I have built up a contact list, for the latest record I used Toyah, I was only aware of her 80’s work, and heard some of her later work with Fripp in the Humans. I liked what she was doing and made contact through her website, she was working somewhere in a studio and I sent her the track (Drinking from the Gun), and it ended up being a co-write as she wrote a third verse and did really interesting things with the track.

I’m always after interesting sounds, I’ve always been after a stuffy brass band sound, I really like the old fashioned brass band, (It must be something about being from Yorkshire as I adore that sound as well) It’s the sad sound of the brass, it’s summit in the blood. I enjoyed working with Ricky Romain on the sitar, I loved mixing the sound in but people were saying I was just doing psych acid folk because of the sitar. I can’t do the same thing all the time, I like to swap things around’.

What about your influences?

‘I don’t tend to have lots now, I can find sometimes if I’m writing a book I can pick up the guitar and something will come to me, at the moment I keep listening to a lot of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, it’s stuff I like and will never stop liking it, it’s my music. I listen to a lot of Madonna, although you won’t see me in a conical bra. I used to really like Donovan but I can’t listen to him any more, you find without noticing that your tastes change over time’.

Do you ever have a theme for your albums?

‘On some of the early ones I did, the first two didn’t have themes, but the third one Sounds of Day and Night (2013) the loose thread was that all the songs were about day and night.

The later albums are more like a diary, showing where I am at any moment in time, for people who buy the later albums say the project has gone in different directions.

I do it for fun, and like to structure the albums like a 1960’s album, around 40 minutes long, it doesn’t ramble, you can listen to it in one sitting and pop it on a tape, I record and structure them in the way that I like to listen to albums.

The first album with a real concept was the one I did with Nigel Planer doing the stories (In a Strange Slumber 2014) and When the Light ran Out (2015) was an idea of home and how that works, both my Mum and my Sister moved away, and it made me think of what home meant. The songs are all personal to me and get emotions out there that you wouldn’t normally get out there, it’s a loose diary of my life’

Talking of home you recently moved to the country,

‘I’ve moved near to a farm into the countryside, I’ve taken up gardening and getting into my photography, it’s a nicer life, though there is that cliché about not making good art if you’re too content. I find it more comfortable that there’s next to nothing out here, an old train line, a farm, it’s far better than having too many people in your face.

Doing this interview is like therapy, I’m telling you stuff I haven’t mentioned before!

(I did mention I was much cheaper than any therapist!)

I like doing these projects because I’ve always wanted to do things I wanted to do and make it work for me. I had no interest in serving customers or trying to flog more things to get an extra 10p.

I just feel like when I was a kid I used to make books and liked the idea of putting a book together and playing drums. My brother and I used to make albums, with the sleeves and my Dad would encourage us by popping them on the shelves next to his Beatles or Kinks tape and encourage us to make more.

I’m a haemophiliac and found it hard to get work, it was difficult to get insurance in conventional jobs, I lost jobs because they couldn’t get insurance for me, when I was a child I wasn’t allowed to do contact sports and preferred to write, draw and play guitar. That’s another revelation to me, you sure this isn’t therapy?

Being creative is worthwhile, it’s important because what would the world be like without music, books, arts? It would be a very dull place indeed. We should encourage kids, my little girl Lily is 2, I wonder what she’ll do, she can draw, she loves music and watching films, it’s great watching them grow up.’

So where next for Dodson and Fogg?

‘If your creative you want to move onto the next thing, I don’t like sitting on work, I want to release it and move on, it might be commercial suicide but that doesn’t bother me, it’s not and never has been about the commercial side.



In 2012 I spotted a tweet from a singer songwriter about a musical project he was launching, the tweeter was Chris Wade and the project was Dodson and Fogg, and I have watched and listened as Chris has taken his DIY ethos through 10 previous diverse albums, with guests like Celia Humphries, Nik Turner, Nigel Planer, Ricky Romain, Alison O’Donnell, Scarlet Riviera, Judy Dyble and Chloe Herington to name but a few, and over the past four years it’s been a delight to hear Chris muse take him down new and exciting avenues.

This latest release which came out back in August is his first release since moving out to the countryside, but don’t expect him to have gone all back to the country, no sir, what we have hear is another clear progression of the Dodson and Fogg sound, and every time Chris releases another record I worry about whether he’s stretched himself too thin this time, but no every time he comes up trumps.

It’s not cheap being a Dodson and Fogg fan, but when the music is this good, then does it matter how often the records are released?

With a smaller cast list, the focus is primarily on Chris soft vocals, and his superb guitar playing, with guests Georgia Cooke on Flute and John Garners violin adding their soft touches throughout the album to enhance the D&F sound. As Chris mentioned in his interview this time around he got Toyah to guest on this record, and the duet, Drinking from the Gun, where as ever the artist she is Toyah contributed an extra verse, is a superb jazzy duet, where their vocals blend perfectly, whilst the title track that opens the album is a joyously bucolic folk rocker with some fantastically sympathetic violin work throughout. Meanwhile the powerful instrumental Bitten has a real funky groove to it, in fact the album is pretty funky throughout, as Chris gets his funky troubadour hat on Tell Me When Your Ready to Leave, with its Ric Sanders esque jazzy violin, in fact with Chris vocals, this sounds like the current incarnation of Fairport Convention could cover it, and it would slot right into their repertoire.

In fact this is pretty funky album, as Chris growls his way through the heavy funk of The Giant. Whilst the instrumental Bitten has powerful rocking riff that runs through the record like Scarborough through a stick of rock.

The closing 7 minuter Lily and The Moonlight, a wonderfully languid mellow rocker inspired by Chris daughter, is a slow builder, giving time for the song to build and grow and Chris fantastically cool vocals and a wonderfully eloquent guitar led coda closes this fine album in style.

For those worried that Chris is running out of ideas, don’t. This is another eloquent musical statement from one of the most prolific artists around who enriches the musical scene that he sits in.

Ladies and Gentleman, Dodson and Fogg, England’s premier Maltloaf folk band.


All photos by Linzi Napier

Thanks to Chris for his time.

Dodson and Fogg albums and Chris’ books are all available from



Dodson and Fogg Release New Album

cover-ideas-page-001Dodson and Fogg have just released their latest album, White House on the Hill.

The musicians joining Chris Wade include Georgia Cooke on flute, John Garner on Violin, Kevin Scott on guitar, and special guest and music legend, Toyah. The album is full of varied styles, from jazz and folk to psychedelia and rock. Cover art was created by Linzi Napier.

The album is available to download or buy on CD.

Check out Progarchy reviews of some previous Dodson and Fogg albums here.


2015, a musical review

Hello Prog Pickers, happy 2016, where the hell did last year go?

It feels a bit bittersweet really sitting here and compiling this, as I am writing this the same day that I heard that David Bowie died, and I am sure that by the time I am writing next years review that Blackstar will be up there amongst the releases of 2016.

Time to reflect on a year full of personal changes and successes as well as the loss of a close friend that hit me hard.

Throughout the highs and lows and in-between bits that make up life in the 21st century music has been one of my constant companions, and trying to whittle down the best (in my humble opinion) albums of the last twelve months is no easy business, with such a slew of strong releases from new names and existing bands, trying to get this list into shape has been like trying to herd cats, and there have been some great albums by artists like Steven Wilson, Guapo, District 97, Dave Sturt, John Hackett, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Tim Bowness and Guy Garvey that didn’t make the cut, not to mention releases by artists like Bruce Soord and Arcade Messiah that I haven’t even heard yet.

The only criteria for this list is that the album had to be a new release from the last year, so the wonderful 5.1 Yes remasters, the 5.1 Jethro Tull boxes, Esoterics excellent Anthony Phillips reissues, King Crimsons Thrak box and the Steve Hackett Premonitions set and David Bowies Five Years (1969-1973) all fall by the wayside.

Maybe when I get to the point where in one year I’ve listened to more new old music than new music I may redefine the criteria, but as the joy of experiencing new music is one of lifes pleasures I hope that year is a long way off.

So, this here list is it A) chronological? No. B) Alphabetical? No. C) All my own personal opinion? Totally and irrefutably.

So any typos, artists missing or albums you think should have been included, that’s all the authors fault!

Lets dive in and see what 2015 left me with…



Napier’s Bones

Tregeagles Choice

A new name to me, UK prog duo Napiers Bones released their second album, and Nathan Jon Tillett and Gordon Midgley have a definite vision of storytelling, that fits comfortably in the classic prog mould.

With its roots in Cornish Folklore, the album has lots in common with folk rock operas like Fairport Conventions Babbacombe Lee or Peter Bellamys The Transports whilst neatly slotting into the prog storytelling genre occupied by artists like Ayreon or Rick Wakeman.

The mood from start to finish mirrors the story as it mixes it blends of folk themes, with some fantastical musical highs as it runs the gamut of classical prog, heavier guitar based tracks, and beautiful piece of guitar soloing over some of the most atmospheric keyboards I have heard for a long time. This is musical double hander as the story drives the music, and the songs are more performed rather than sung. I think that this epic performance would work wonders as a musical.

The way the music, the story and the vocals pull you into the record are a testament to the vision of Napiers Bones, and both Tillet and Midgley should rightly be proud of this musical achievement.

.raging silence

This Raging Silence: Isotopes and Endoscopes

Bristol based progressive quartet, This Raging Silence released their debut album earlier this year, and the 6 epic tracks on here are just sublime to listen to.

Formed by Jeff Cox, John Tyrer, Dave Appleford and Garry Davies the sound is very much towards the darker end of the prog sound as heavy riffs and driving bass flow through the album. In fact this album is beautifully performed as whole, the mood changes deftly and intricately and the way the band bounce off each other throughout is a delight to listen to. Sitting at the more atmospheric and darker end of the prog spectrum, this is a rare old treat and an album that anyone who gives houseroom to Porcupine Tree, District 97 or Trojanhorse will enjoy.


The Fierce and the Dead: Magnet

Bad Elephant Music

I know it’s an EP but there are more musical ideas crammed onto these 4 tracks than some bands have in a lifetime and astonishingly it’s been two years since experimental instrumental noiseniks The Fierce and the Dead released the acclaimed Spooky Action album, having seen them live several times in that period, the new music here on the Magnet EP shows how far they have travelled and evolved musically since then.

Magnet in Your Face is just short of two minutes worth of intense guitar duels hooked on a mighty riff that takes your breath away and as an introduction almost leaps out and says ‘Hello, did you miss us??’ the four piece of Kevin Feazey, Matt Stevens, Steve Cleaton and Stuart Marshall never stand still, they’re sound is continuously evolving over every release, whilst remaining true to their ethos. The interplay between all four members here is key to their success, they are in the truest form a group, there is no one dominant member, and that’s what makes this music work so well, they know each other so well that they can bounce off each other and drive the music on. There is no ego here, there is only art. If you haven’t joined the Fierce and the Dead cult yet, then you need to buy Magnet, its pull is irresistible.


Halo Tora: Omni/One

Another band I hadn’t heard of before this year this is Halo Toras debut album, and having heard good things about them from other friends I was intrigued as to what they would sound like. They have worked hard on the road and as a result their debut is as strong a piece of atmospheric post prog that I have had the pleasure to listen to.

The band, Chris Alexander (guitar/vocals) Ian McCall (guitar/vocals) Mark Young (bass) Chris McKeown (drums) and Ryan Connery (keyboards) use all the musical tools and skill at their disposable to intricately layer dense and subtle musical soundscapes, which like on Permanent revolution build and build as their vocals and guitars intertwine. This is a fantastically well-written debut album, and works on so many levels from the music, the lyrics and the deft interplay between the band.

dodson and fogg

Dodson & Fogg: Warning Signs

Warning Signs, is one man musical revolutions Chris Wades strongest musical statement to date, hinting at a very different approach, gone are the striking paintings and images that normally adorn the albums, instead the cover is a moody photo of Chris, showing for the first time on the album cover the man behind the music. The songs are more intimate and feel more like a singer/songwriter album of the early 70’s, than a psychedelic project.

More personal and with a wonderful production, that sounds like Chris is singing in your front room and the album is imbued with warmth and charm, from the Beatle esque title track to the wonderfully guitar heavy Following the Man, with its great lyrics and chord driven sound its another wonderful slice of 70’s rock, with a great solo, reminding us how great a guitarist Chris is. This is an exciting and interesting slight change of direction for Chris, and adds so much more to the Dodson and Fogg sound, being a superb example of the singer songwriter genre.

sanguine hum

Sanguine Hum: Now We Have Light

Esoteric Records EANTCD21042

Third album in and Sanguine Hum are continuing to fulfil their musical promise that last studio album the Weight of the World delivered, and not only that they have delivered us a genuine contemporary prog magnum opus in the process.

Now We Have Light, with it’s startlingly eye-catching artwork that is intrinsic to the story is a double album of majestic proportions.

Running the whole gamut of classic prog, via rock, jazz and some beautifully layered sounds, amazing vocal harmonies, and intense musical sections like on Bubble Trouble that will blow your mind, this is an astonishing album.

From the introduction of Desolation Song, nicely setting the musical scene, and carried through tracks like Getting Warmer, and the brilliantly titled ‘Shit!’ the Hum are a musical powerhouse, welding their influences together to create a coherent, immersive whole.

Add in the driving rock and funk of Cat Factory with it’s array of real synths, and superb musical interplay with a propelling bass and a great big crunchy riff is an instrumental highlight, whilst the sublime End of the Line carries through the narrative into the centrepiece of Disc 2, the 5 part Spanning the Eternal Abyss, which pulls in so many musical styles, and weaves them together beautifully, that by the time that Settle Down with its great synth work has finished, you are blown away by the power of Sanguine Hum.

This multi-layered and exciting record proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sanguine Hum are one of the best progressive bands on the planet.


Lonely Robot: Please Come Home

This is John Mitchells latest musical project, having contributed to Frost*, Arena, It Bites and many other projects over the years Johns talents as a guitarist, vocalist and producer are undisputed. This album reaffirms the stamp of quality that John brings to any album he works on, and is a fantastic piece of work from the opening instrumental power of Airlock, featuring the unique talents of Jem Godfrey to the closing The Red Balloon; this is a powerful album of amazing musical moments and haunting beauty. Dealing with alienation, loneliness and the human condition the lyrics are never short of genius, and the music is atmospheric, haunting and elegiac throughout.

As albums go this is a stunningly original record, with some majestic songwriting from John Mitchell, and like all great producers he knows how to cherry pick the best collaborators to bring something of themselves to his album, and still maintain his overall identity.

Grand Tour

Grand Tour Heavy on the Beach

This wonderfully evocative concept album is the culmination of years of work from former Abel Ganz man Hew Montgomery, and is based around his fascination with all things Cold War and Nuclear, and seems unnervingly contemporary with the challenges the world is facing today with a resurgent Russia and the rise of Islamic State. Joined by the vocal talents of Joe Cairney, and Mark Spalding on guitar and Bruce Levick on drums, this is a band of no mean talent, and this album delivers the goods time after time.

With swathes of vast Floydian keyboard work, and real epic movements, this is a slice of classic concept prog, with wonderfully direct lyrics from Cairney that reference the beach time after time, and with motifs that crop up throughout the album, this is a piece of art that has to be listened to all the way through.

Like all the best concepts from Dark Side of the Moon, to Le Sacre du Travail, this isn’t an album to dip into. It’s all or nothing, and with the devastatingly powerful instrumental Little Boy and the Fat Man, referencing the two nuclear devices that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the two part track The Grand Tour which almost bookends the album, and the superb title track that is classic prog given a contemporary twist, this album is magnificent in every sense of the word.

The hard work that Hew has put into this pays off magnificently and I would say this is his crowning musical achievement so far.


Public Service Broadcasting The Race for Space

English musical duo Public Service Broadcastings raison D’Etre is creating musical soundscapes based around old film footage. Taking as their concept for album number 2 is the Space Race between the USSR and the USA and their starting point is setting John F Kennedy’s speech about The Race for Space to haunting choral music, (with motifs that reoccur throughout the album) and ending with the last manned moon landing.

The artwork for this album is wonderful, two different covers on either side of the record showing either the American or the Russian perspective, and a beautiful booklet in the vinyl edition, which I had to have.

From the driving Sputnik, the jazz funk of Gagarin and then the haunting tribute to the astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 disaster (Fire in the Cockpit) and the celebration of Valentina Tereshkova who became the first woman in space (Valentina, with guest vocals from the Smoke Fairies) and the elegiac closing Tomorrow (when Apollo 17 became the last manned flight to leave the Moon), this album sets itself as referencing a specific period in time, when, with space flight anything seemed possible.

The beauty of Public Service Broadcasting is their use of archive recordings, and matching the music to the mood to evoke a golden era of interstellar travel when everything seemed possible, and it’s 43 minutes plus brings that period back to life and reminds us musically of a time when we spent looking at the stars in optimism, instead of gazing down at our feet.

The Dead Astronaut

The Dead Astronaut

Hi-Fiction Science guitarist and songwriter James McKeown recently released his latest solo album under the sobriquet The Dead Astronaut, a hauntingly beautiful and occasionally uncomfortably personal record, it s a triumph of the songwriting craft.

From it’s haunting and sparse artwork by highly regarded designer Carl Glover, to the musical contents, the album is as different from Hi Fiction Science as is possible to get, and has a loose narrative written around some highly personal and emotional issues experienced by James.

With a small core of collaborators, including HFS band mates Aidan Searle and Jeff Green and guitarist Paul Bradley, one of the sounds that is at the heart of this record, and believe me, this is a record that is full of heart and soul, is the cello of Charlotte Nicholls, which, when coupled with the emotionally raw and confessional style of songs that James presents here, adds so much to the texture and the tone of the record, and yes, I am talking about a record as I opted for the vinyl edition, which is a pure immersive experience to listen to.

The word bleak comes up again and again when describing the themes on this album, and this shouldn’t ever put you off, there is beauty in this darkness, and whilst James is pouring out his heart, the production and the music adds warmth, almost like the song is giving him a big hug as he’s singing it.

This album has a very English sound to it, and the pared back sound allows the songs to breath and the lyrics to shine, it’s like the difference between early Pink Floyd records and Syd Barrett solo records.

You can hear the humanity and the raw emotions on display throughout this album, and again you can feel it, through the music, the lyrics and the sparse packaging, this isn’t an album that can be ignored.

Once it’s in your heart and in your head it takes over the room you are listening to it, and it’s one of those albums that demands your attention, and rewards your listening time and time again.


We Are Kin: Pandora

Bad Elephant Music

Every so often a record drops through the door (or in this case on email) from a label who are kind enough to let us review their latest offerings, and you know nothing of the band, nothing of what to expect from the album, and you put it on with a sense of anticipation, and excitement (as I still get a massive buzz from hearing new music, and hope I always do) and then as you immerse yourself in the record, and listen to it, you find you’ve found the sort of record that stays with you forever.

This is one of those records. I listened to it once, then again, and again, and again each time getting more and more out of it.

Manchester based band We are Kin (Dan Zambas and Gary Boast, now fleshed out by newer members Lee Braddock, Lauren Smith and Adam McCann) are purveyors of the sort of atmospheric prog rock that grows layer on layer, subtly and intelligently. Pandora is a very specific sound and style, and the overall concept is that of artificial intelligence, and its uses, and this is what drives the sound along, with original vocalist Hannah Cotterill in fine form on opener Home Sweet Home, and the music here has space to breathe and grow. Nothing is forced, nothing jars, everything ebbs and flows like a good story or album should do. As Soul builds and builds to a magnificent climax, then we head deep into concept territory as Scottish poet Alex Dunedin guests on the impassioned and exceptional The Speech, which leads into the magnificent The Hard Decision, whilst Zambas vocals shine throughout the album, especially on The Weight of the World, whilst the closing Breathe Out is as fine a piece of music as you are likely to hear anywhere this year.

This record from start to finish, from concept to execution, and from production to performance is as close to perfection as you are going to get. The music, the lyrics, the story all flows together and it transcend genre and sound to become something timeless and original and new. If I were to nominate a record that sums up 2015 for me, this would be it, it’s become part of the fabric of my musical life and a record that I can’t recommend enough to everyone.


Tom Slatter: Fit The Fourth

Bad Elephant Music

Tom Slatter is a unique beast in the world of contemporary music, in that he doesn’t, in any way sound like anyone else, or fit neatly into a pigeonhole or pre-determined genre. This makes my job a little harder, but his music a lot more exciting.

This is Tom’s fourth full-length release, and his first under the wings (or trunk) of the Bad Elephant boys, whose musical taste is set to eclectic, and whose first vision is do we like it? And then, if we like it, someone else will!

Tom is considered steam punk prog, and is probably the only one in that genre, he’s one on his own this lad, not just a multi-instrumentalist, but also a weaver or worlds and teller of tales, Toms narrative comes from the dark nights round the campfire where you would try to scare each other, or weave more fantastically intricate stories into your narrative. The brilliant opener Some of the Creatures have Broken the Locks on the door to Lab 558 sets the imagination racing with just the title, and the post apocalyptic science fiction story that evolves is reminiscent of early Doctor Who or Quatermass, and sets the tone for the rest of this darkly compelling album. Seven bells John is to the fore on The Steam Engine Murders and the trial of Seven-Bells, which is gothic noir, mixed with music hall and penny dreadfuls, With his mix of Victoriana, steam punk, prog and narrative drive, this is a wonderful album that deserves to be listened to and appreciated, as a record unlike any other you’ll hear this year.


Theo Travis Double Talk: Transgression

Esoteric Antenna EANTCD1052

British saxophonist, flautist and clarinettist Travis is the go to man for many artists including and this new album produced by Steven Wilson, showcases why Travis is the premier jazz rock saxophonist of his generation. With his taut band Mike Outram (guitar) Pete Whittaker (organ) and Nic France, Transgression showcases the versatility of the man himself, with a mixture of new material and reinterpretations of classic pieces (like Robert Wyatt & Phillip Catherine’s Maryam). The line between the type of jazz that Travis is proficient at, and progressive rock is a very fine one, and this crosses those borders with style and aplomb. A particular highlight and stand out track here is the reworking of Travis and Tangent main man Andy Tillison’s co-write (and title track of 2006 Tangent album) A Place in the Queue, with the subtle reworking of Travis sax, the organ of Pete Whittaker and the deft and intricate interplay between the band, it takes the original and goes somewhere new and exciting with it, and I have no doubt that Andy Tillison would approve. Elsewhere the co-write with Dave Sturt the fantastic Everything I Feared, and the epic title track that showcases the best of Theo Travis and his tight band, his versatility, his power and his dextrous musical performances are a joy to behold. I find, as I am getting a little older I am starting to really get into the grooves and the places that well played sax jazz takes you, and this album is wonderful. In fact I would go so far to say its probably more progressive than most of the progressive releases I have heard all year.


Stephen W Tayler: Ostinato

Esoteric Antenna EANCT1054

Not a name many will be familiar with, however Stephen W Tayler is a versatile and talented producer, engineer, sound designer and mixer who has worked with such talents as Peter Gabriel, Underworld, Howard Jones, Rush and most recently Kate Bush (on her latest records and her recent live performances).

Here, his musical vision unfolds through an intense, exciting and beautiful journey, mixing the minimalism of Terry Riley or Phillip Glass with the electronica of John Foxx or Tangerine Dream. With powerful metronomic rhythms, subtle and haunting electronics and distorted electronic voices, the album starts with the powerful trance like Euro Star (reminiscent of the more ambient stylings of Rob Duggan), whilst the percussive power of Peripherique is an astonishing musical tour de force, the driving percussion, the electronic sounds, the pulsing beat throughout, propel the track into your mind, and it’s not hard to imagine chilling out to this in a club scene.

Drawing on his 40 years of experience in the music industry and experience working with many great artists, this album is full of beautiful sonic sounds, and the tracks insinuate themselves into your head and take you on a musical journey, the pulsating Metro is like taking a ride on the ubiquitous train, whilst the wonderful final track The Boy Who Said Yes features a sample of the 13 year old Stephen W Tayler performing Breet/Weills Der Jasager, and works beautifully in the context of the album.

This is a refreshing, exciting and absorbing piece of contemporary electronica.

Gavin Harrison

Gavin Harrison: Cheating the Polygraph

The effect of Gavin Harrison’s rather spectacular new album is an astonishing, intelligent reinterpretation of Porcupine Tree songs, and whilst the song remains the same, the sound really doesn’t.

Instead of the sonic experimentations and haunting undertones that you get from a great Steven Wilson song, this is the pinnacle of the art of reinvention (and one other artists can learns from) because Harrison (who I assume everyone knows – if not, he’s one of the finest drummers in the world today, heir apparent to Bill Brufords jazz prog throne) and collaborator Lawrence Cottle have skilfully and adeptly produced a damn fine jazz album. And man, does it swing!

This covers the whole gamut from Porcupine Tree’s mighty back catalogue, and the skilful swing driven funk adaptation of The Pills I’m Taking (from Fear of Blank Planets Anaesthetize suite) is mighty to hear, and takes the track so far from the original, that you do have to jump back and listen and compare. It’s like the Baz Luhrman Romeo and Juliet film, the original source material is there, you just have to dig a little deeper to find it.

The sinewy bass drives the inspired combination of Lightbulb Suns Hatesong with Deadwings Halo, and it’s like the two were meant to be together, as the sinister undertones and the brass mix together to create a piece that could have fallen off a 1970’s film noir soundtrack, and then the funk kicks in. With a skilful jazz orchestra and of course Harrisons taut powerful drumming underpinning the whole affair, it allows Cottle and Harrison to go out there in reinterpreting and rearranging these classic songs, as trumpet, trombone and sax duel with each other as familiar riffs appear and sneak off into the ether, as the full band kicks in with some mighty power, and of course Harrisons glorious drumming and some amazing bass work.

This is a covers album like no other, and with the way these Porcupine Tree songs have been remained and so expertly dissected and reassembled, it is one of the most progressive releases (and the most enjoyable) you’ll hear so far this year!


The Tangent A Spark in the Aether

On this epic release Andy has swapped the realism of Le Sacre du Travail for escapism, and the sometimes-introverted imagery of Le Sacre for what can only be described as a full on prog rock album, with the emphasis firmly on rock.
Instead of the view from the windscreen, this is far more the view from the widescreen.
Starting with the wonderful title track with its mammoth keyboard riff, and lyrics looking at the current state of the prog scene (in rude health currently) the lyrical theme of this (and several other songs) is a musical equivalent of those TV documentaries that revisits communities after a period of time to see where they are now, and is revisited as a coda on the album as a gargantuan keyboard based musical celebration, with the wonderfully catchy chorus rounding the record off.
This revisitation of themes from The Music that Died Alone is continued on the unashamedly prog Codpieces and Capes, covering musical bases from Yes to Tull and all points in betweens, it reflects on themes originally riffed on during Suppers Off, about the fact that there are many fantastic bands including the Tangent who are out there still making relevant albums, whilst 5.1 reissues get more sales and coverage.
This opening quartet is closed off by the epically Floydian Aftereugene, with its epic slow build, and then a barely muttered “careful with that sax, Eugene”, before Theo Travis is let loose on his Saxes in a manic jazz explosion.
The centrepiece of the album, the 21 minutes plus The Celluloid Road, is an Andy Tillison Disk drive-through that takes us travelling through mythical America as seen on the big screen. Really letting loose and rarely letting up it covers more genres than your average HMV, with the band firing on all cylinders as the Tangent V8 drives us coast to coast, and finishes in the brilliantly funky pounding rock of San Francisco.
As evocative as the movies and shows that are name checked it makes me want to go on a stateside road trip, with Andy as my tour guide. This album is big, bold, and loud and demands to be played live.

Hope you enjoyed my list and a big thank you to all the artists and creative types who helped brighten up 2015 with some amazing records, concerts and videos, here’s to 2016.



Dodson and Fogg – After the Fall

790809Dodson and Fogg defies easy contextualization.  While Chris Wade’s psychfolk project, now five albums deep, owes much to an alchemical mix of Syd Barrett, the British folk revival, and early English glam, the conditions under which Wade produces his music bear little resemblance to any notion of modern music industry norms.  He works quickly, much as his musical heroes did in the 1960s and 70s, and contrary to the common thinking that a working band needs to tour, Dodson and Fogg is primarily a studio project, conducted by Wade and a handful of musicians whose roots go back to such luminously legendary groups like Trees, Mellow Candle, and Hawkwind.  Surrounding himself with icons does little to change the flavor of his music, which collectively may constitute the most singular and consistent demo tape ever produced, and begs the questions:  Where is this man’s Joe Boyd, and why not a record deal? The songs are without fail melodically rich, top out at midtempo, and possess a kind of walls-are-closing-in textured darkness that is part songwriting, part production value.  Wade’s penchant for doubling or chorusing his vocal, which I’ve criticized before on Progarchy, admittedly creates a cohesion among the songs, and coupled with tasteful instrumentation and no-nonsense lyrics, makes Dodson and Fogg’s first album almost interchangeable with its fifth.  I’ve struggled some with this, and recognize that the artistic development I want from Wade is keyed almost entirely on expectations Wade should have no interest in meeting.  The music industry has blown up, touring behind an album presumes that the artist wants — and has the audience — to materially survive on his music (rather than just make music) and LIKES to play live, and… how often do we get to witness the kind of woodshedding a songwriter like Wade is doing with Dodson and Fogg? So while I continue to think a seasoned producer would be a positive challenge for Wade, without one he has managed to create a rather stunning catalog in a mere two years.

After the Fall continues Wade’s exploration of a mood music combining mostly acoustic backing for voice and the occasional big electric guitar.  Where before this has taken his music in the direction of the Kinks and T. Rex, his passion for early Black Sabbath, of which he has written in his other gig as a rock author, takes shape here on the satisfyingly sludgy “Lord Above” and “Hiding from the Light,” with its whacked-out Scheherezade-style guitar break.  The skiffle-ish “Life’s Life” is the album’s standout, a twist on Zeppelin’s folk excursions, while “Careless Man” has an Electric Warrior vibe that Wade excels at capturing while avoiding mere Bolan worship.  The balance of the record shares with its predecessors that 1970-soaked British singer-songwriter drift, complete with sitar, that generally succeeds at extending rather than imitating a period where musicians of Wade’s talent were afforded greater commercial reach (despite and because of the lack of an internet).  I think the question remains of where Wade’s Dodson and Fogg goes from here, if its end will continue to so closely resemble its beginning, and how Chris Wade sees himself developing as an artist.  In the meantime, though, it’s hard to argue with a music that so definitively succeeds on its own terms.

Order After the Fall here:

Free Dodson and Fogg sampler:

Chris Wade aka Dodson and Fogg: An Interview

Chris, first I would like to thank you for sparing some time (again) from your obviously busy schedule. You’ve just released your second album this year and also written two band biographies on The Incredible String Band and Black Sabbath. This is also your third interview in less than a year by Progarchy with the other two by Craig Breaden to be found here:


Now I’m not normally a folk music listener but after reading a number of positive reviews of your first three albums and listening to them on numerous occasions, you’ve definitely converted me. Not only is there a special beauty to the music you write, but Craig made an important observation in an earlier interview which resonates with me deeply:
“The impulse to go long, as his folk and other prog rock predecessors might have done, is also resisted – there are few wasted notes or words. Less is more sometimes, and service here is done to Song.”

cover bigger file 2-page-001

The Call is your fourth album in a very short space of time. Your first two albums evoked classic 70s folk music but your third album, Sounds of Day and Night, developed a dreamier, slightly psychedelic sound with Eastern vibes in places. There was more use of the electric guitar and the arrangements were slightly more complex. What can we expect musically from the new album?

I’m not sure how to describe the sound, because developing from album to album is more of a natural, gut thing really. I write a song and colour it in with different sounds, and keep going until I have a set of songs, say 12 or 13, to fill an album. Then I usually carry on recording and there’s a process of elimination, where new ones come in and replace the older ones, until I am happy with it from start to finish and happy with every single note. It’s really concentrated work, and I love the mixing and producing part as well. I work on it every day. And while four albums in a year and half may seem quick, to me that year and a half has felt like forever. It literally feels like ages since I did the first CD. But this new one is by far my favourite, even though I keep saying this every time. I would say the album is full of unusual sounds blending together, it definitely has a vibe to it, quite surreal maybe and for me “songs” are very important, i.e. something with a subject, an approach, a hook, a chorus and then I think about the best way to colour the song in. I like to make interesting music that surprises and hopefully takes the listener away on a nice trip. it’s hard to describe your own work without sounding like a frilly coloured fop.

Lyrically you appear to be focus upon mellow reflections on life, love and nature. Does The Call follow this path?

My lyrics are always whatever comes to me. A phrase might come up and I elaborate on that. The lyrical content on The Call seemed to follow the same path. It’s all about awareness, being aware of your life, what’s going on around you, the people who are in your life with you and understanding what they have or have not done for you, and not forgetting that. I didn’t purposely explore this as a theme; it just seems to have developed that way. It sounds pretentious to say, but it does have a theme to it; it’s about not wasting time and appreciating the things that are here now, and may not be here in the future.

What inspires you lyrically and what comes first, the music or the lyrics?

It differs really. Many songs have been written on an acoustic guitar. I find a sound or a chord and then get a melody going, and like I say, a phrase might come into my head and it goes on from there. I love getting a different chord progression or guitar sound as a starting point and then I decide what else to do. Lyrics are becoming more important though with each album. I’m not into the idea of obvious lyrics, like openly complaining about the government or work, or the plight of the everyman, and if I do ever sing about it, it isn’t blatant. Also it’s good to write about a real issue or a feeling but not ram it down the listener’s throat. It’s good that people have their own meanings and thoughts on songs. Lou Reed once said that he didn’t like to tell people what his songs were about because it might disappoint them, and they may have attached the song to something precious in their own mind. Sorry I am waffling on now…

It’s not waffle to me Chris! – I know exactly what you mean about lyrics. Lyrics resonate with people in different ways; they become very personal and sometimes finding out the real meaning from the artist himself can disappoint.

Chris, you’ve introduced Chloe Herrington on saxophone and Ricky Romain on Sitar on the new album. Guest artists appear an important ingredient to your output. How important is the collaborative process in producing the music of Dodson and Fogg? 

It’s mostly important for me because I listen to a track and think ‘this might sound good with a sax here, or a sitar there.’ Sometimes I think if you’re a one man band (not like the fella that sung Rosie with the bass drum on his back) you do need character and colour from elsewhere. Celia Humphris of the folk band Trees (one of my favourite bands) appears on the new album again, and I feel her voice is very important. There was one song I wasn’t quite happy with and then she did her vocals and I loved it. So it can be really important. Coming up with the idea of the specific musician though can be quite random. I discovered Knifeworld on the internet a few months ago and loved the sax on a track, so got in touch with Kavus of that band to see if Chloe, his sax player, would be interested in playing on a track. It can be like hearing someone and then imagining them on my song. It’s a great part of it. But save for one trumpet part on Sounds of Day and Night, I was the only musician on it. So it’s not essential all the time, but I love the process of hearing what someone else has done and putting it into the song.

Chris, it’s a big understatement to say your multi-skilled! – you play so many instruments and write books on both music and surreal comedy. Do you have a first love?

Definitely music. I have played, or attempted to play at least, instruments from a really young age and always collected records as a boy. I used to dream of having a band, and I did have one with my brother and sister when I was younger and we did gigs for a while, but it fizzled out so I turned to writing, something I had also done since I was a kid. At first I got into the surreal fiction when I did the audiobooks of my stories with Rik Mayall and Charlie Chuck, but I soon found it too be quite limiting and turned back to music eventually last year, thank god, with the first Dodson and Fogg album. I didn’t expect the feedback to be so good, so I carried on and I’ve been learning more about music, releasing music and everything that comes with it. Music is definitely my main thing now and the main focus in my work and hobbies. With my music going reasonably successfully and with such a great response to it, this is the first time I have felt a proper direction, so it’s great. But I can’t take any of it too seriously, because it is still ridiculously fun!

The increasing production of music in vinyl format has attracted a lot of interest over the last few years. I read that the first album was to be released on vinyl but haven’t heard anything. Have you any more plans for vinyl releases or is the production cost too prohibitive?

Yes a company called Golden Pavilion is releasing the first album in a run of 500 next year and I will have around 50 copies available from my website, unsigned or signed, whichever is preferred. I should add though that a signed copy might add an extra value of 3 pence to the item, so I suggest the latter.  I would love to have the others on vinyl too one day, and it might be possible, so fingers crossed.

You appear to be at a creative peak replete with musical ideas. What’s next on the horizon for Dodson and Fogg, a live tour, another album?

I’ve been writing more songs, but then I tend to write songs all the time now and some never get finished and others get put in a scrap folder. But for now I am going to promote The Call and start work on more tracks after that. I don’t have any other projects lined up at the minute, so I’ll think about the next D and F album. I would love to do some gigs but I haven’t found the right musicians for the gigs yet.

Once again thanks for your time Chris and good luck for the future.

For those who would like to purchase the new album  “The Call” please visit Chris’s website here:

or you can purchase from Bandcamp here:

Chris Wade Takes On The Great Horned Beast

Chris Wade, known to Progarchistas as the genius behind Dodson and Fogg, is also a rock writer, and has just published a book on Black Sabbath.  I happen to know that he’s a huge fan of Sabbath’s first record (as am I), and so look forward to his take on the devil’s chord, flashing the horns, and all things sabwise.

Get thee to a Kindle, or order a paperback from Chris directly (the paperback will also be available on Amazon soon):

Sounds of Day and Night by Dodson and Fogg

ImageI remember reading an interview with Peter Buck sometime in the late 1980s, right as R.E.M. was beginning to peak, in which he insisted it was much harder to write/play slow ballad-y songs than fast pop songs.  A greater risk of dead space, more chances for messing up a tempo, less reliance on a two- or three-note riff.  I thought it was funny at the time, because I was trying to learn guitar (an instrument that confounds me to this day) and thought, shit, I can’t do anything BUT slow.  As I’ve thought about it over the years, though, and as I have put my mind to writing my own songs, I think what Buck was saying is that in the wider genre of guitar-based rock and roll, slower songs tend to be far more reliant on a vocal melody and therefore also the words, that is, real songcraft.  And real songcraft, in performance, can’t be successful if you sound like you’re rushing it or that you’re trying too hard.  Go listen to John Prine.  Spin up Joe Henry.  There is a lean restraint, a kind of patient heart.

I thought again about what Buck said as I listened to the mid-tempo pleasures afforded by Sounds of Day and Night, Dodson and Fogg’s third record.  The band is a project of Chris Wade, an independent artist whose second record, Derring Do, I reviewed on Progarchy earlier this year (  Wade’s Dodson and Fogg intentionally visited early 70s British folk rock on the first two records, even drafting in bona fide players from the period to help out.  The surprising thing was that a young man, working in his home studio, could so effectively evoke that period while making original music so distinctively his own.  While Dodson and Fogg continues to explore these roots on Sounds of Day and Night, the new album is a more relaxed and natural, less finessed effort that may have as much in common with Iron and Wine, Devendra Banhart, and modern American/Scots/Irish singer-songwriters, as with a romanticized past inhabited by shades of Drake, Thompson, and Denny.  Over the course of a year in which Wade has released three Dodson and Fogg records, his music has become increasingly limber.  A mandolin picker/oldtime musician/RT-loving friend of mine describes this phenomenon as the difference between learning the song and knowing the song.  I think Chris Wade increasingly knows his songs, and it’s showing.

The new album is bookended by instrumentals, parts 1 and 2 of the title track, which are only distantly related, one being an entrance and the other the door out.  I have a soft spot for this approach, something not many singer-songwriters are comfortable with, and for the melodies Wade works.  The outro also features a sitar, which, given the slow trajectory of the record towards the acoustic psychedelia of “Clocking Off,” makes a certain Harrison-esque sense.  These instrumentals set the tone for the production of the record, which, like Derring Do before it, evokes a balance of the pastoral and the urban, with acoustic guitars to the fore but electrics winding their way down the lanes, atop smart, spare, brushy drumming.  With woodwinds and brass appearing here and there, Sounds of Day and Night offers a classic folk rock listening experience within a newer framework suggesting the airier approach of the solo work of Sam Prekop or Archer Prewitt (both of Chicago’s The Sea and Cake), or the Kingsbury Manx (  Like most great music that inhabits a cultural continuum, there are subtle hints and quotes along the way, a bass out of Green Day (“Sounds of Day and Night”), a keyboard out of the Doors (“Night Train”), and a  British vibe that resists pinpointing but steers more towards the Kinks than Donovan.  I think the feel of the album is best encapsulated on “Hear It In The Morning Still,” a medium tempo drift, with nice vocal hook, that builds to a relaxed electric crescendo and gently rides out with a pretty groovy trumpet.

Sounds of Day and Night is an easy record to like.  It shows an independent artist building his own catalogue using his own steam, on his own schedule, doing what he wants to do without hindrance (or help, it should be noted) from a record or management company.  Chris Wade is on a progress, a trajectory that I don’t think has peaked, even with three increasingly strong albums behind him.  (I think he’s still finding confidence in his very capable voice — his tendency to double track his vocal is rarely necessary.  Plus I’d like to hear this music live with a band, because his songs have evolved into vehicles that could sustain jamming live).  But this band is in a good place:  with two solid albums behind it and the current record outdoing its predecessors, Dodson and Fogg is a musican/band/project demanding attention.

I asked Chris about the new album, recording on his own, and Dodson and Fogg’s growing reputation.

Sounds of Day and Night followed closely on the heels of Derring Do — tell us about its evolution.

Well I had started this new album right after I had finished Derring Do in January I believe. With me working at home like this, I am free to go into the office and put ideas down everyday if I feel like it, so there’s no set dates for writing and recording. This album just came together over January/ February to June, more songs came, others went that weren’t really up to scratch. Also I had left them for a couple of months and gone back, listened again and decided what else needed putting in. It was a really satisfying process for this album. I really enjoyed piecing it together.

Although trumpeter Colin Jones is present, the rest of this record is just you (or is it? are you drumming?).  Did this have an effect on your songwriting?

Actually it was the same because all these songs are written on an acoustic with my vocal, then I add bits and pieces in, and I usually sent them off to Celia Humphris (singer from folk rock band Trees) and the others and they normally choose which ones they fancy doing, Celia mostly. She picked them out on Derring Do and then sent them back to me when she had some ideas, which were always brilliant. This time I did send them off to her but she was quite busy and preoccupied with other things, which is cool, just a shame. Some of the other contributors that were lined up to appear didn’t really work out, so I decided to do more instrumentation myself. The light drumming is me also, but I’m not a massive drum fan so I kept it quiet and subtle, little taps and ride cymbals. I like that kind of percussion sound, and bongos, tambourines, things like that to accompany a song without blasting away all over it. Learned a bit more on the flute and used more keyboards to broaden the sound a bit. And also I had been ready to release it for a while, and didn’t fancy waiting around for longer. I like to get these albums out, and because people who are getting into the records know another one will be coming along soon, they are all ready for a new record. It’s cool getting to a stage where I know there are a loyal selection of people who are going to be interested in listening to my music, getting what I am doing and knowing what to expect to a certain degree. It’s bloody brilliant actually.

I feel like Sounds of Day and Night, while it still shows an influence of classic, early 70s British folk rock, has a more contemporary feel than Derring Do.  A lot more free flowing, perhaps a deeper psychedelic strain happening.  What do you think?

I think you could be right, especially about the free psychedelic elements. This must be because I handled all the instruments and was just having fun playing some weirder stuff on certain instruments, doing whatever came into my head. There were melodies coming up all the time and I was adapting them to different instruments and building full songs out of little bits of melody. It was an addictive experience, spending a day drinking coffee and shutting myself in the office all day. But there was no conscious decision at all, this was all just straight out, but it’s my personal favourite of the three records I have made so far. I also think the production is better on the new one, the mixing and the quality of it. I am very proud of the cover art that my girlfriend Linzi Napier has done. Her first exhibition is in July at Otley Togs Gallery, and the piece from this album cover is set to be the one on the main advertising banner outside the venue. Really exciting and very proud of her!

Derring Do got some attention in the British music press. How do you feel about the album’s reception?

I was overwhelmed by the reactions to it. There are publications like the CRS, a chap called James R Turner reviews my things for them and he is really complimentary to my music and a site called Pennyblack Music has a writer named Malcolm Carter and he has said some very kind things about Dodson and Fogg and he really loved Derring Do. Also Brian Watson on DPRP gave it a glowing review. For me it’s so rewarding to see how other people view my songs and how they have taken them seriously, to see what they got out of them. I like people who really get music, understand what you were doing. But I still am really surprised by all the positive reviews. I knew I had made a good album though, otherwise I wouldn’t have dared release it three months after the debut, but still I was overwhelmed by some of the comments.

What are you listening too lately?

Lately I’ve been listening to Caravan a lot, a band called Skin Alley (one of their members, Ksrysztof, played accordion on my first album), Jethro Tull, especially the Thick as a Brick album, Beatles, Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album (one of my favourites since I was about 9) and also some Tom Petty.

Are you performing live?

Not yet no. I haven’t managed to get any like minded musicians from Leeds together for shows and I definitely don’t really want to do a solo acoustic gig, There’s too much stuff on the albums that adds character that I think a  solo acoustic thing would be dull. I’d probably fall asleep on stage. But I do want to get a band together for shows one day because people keep asking me if I am playing live soon.

Last time we talked to you, we asked you about the business of getting to listeners, as an independent musician who records and markets his own music.  Have your thoughts on this changed much at all? Any label interest since the release of Derring Do?

I’ve had no label interest because I don’t think it is too common these days. An obscure cult band like this isn’t going to attract a big label and the genres people tag on it like prog folk and acid folk, don’t make it sound very commercial, not that i am interested at all in being commercial but you know what I mean. Besides I love doing it myself, all the business and promo side as well, and setting up distribution deals for abroad and sending the discs all over the place to those familiar names, it’s like living a dream, I love it. I think if someone else was in charge of my artwork, my royalties, my PRS, the promotional side, I would be a bit nervous. I like to have it all in front of me. I’ve recently discovered a band called The Tangent, when I met the band leader Andy Tillison and his partner Sally Collyer at an art gallery and got on with them. I think he is great to his fans and he and Sally have a great relationship with them, and look how big that band is. Their new record has been a massive event to many people all over the world, so you can only admire them both. I think a lot of artists could learn from that approach. People are parting with money to get your music, which is an honour, so I always email back and forth with people who are buying my albums, and have a laugh with them, because being friendly and open is so much better, and more fun,  than being up your own bottom and unapproachable. Saying that, I’m not well known at all so maybe I see it from a different side than to someone who is famous.

It’s been less than six months since I reviewed Derring Do.  Can I expect another one in October? What’s next for you?

Definitely not October, haha. I’d be knackered. Got to get some fresh air and not breathe in jostick fumes all day… for a while at least.  I think that will be it for the year, I want to take a little break from recording, get some fresh ideas and take a step back. I’ve got loads more ideas, some of them are acoustic like the first album, and some are more of a full band sound. But I want to take my time as well, get Celia back in for the next one and hopefully some other guests. Next up will be another Dodson and Fogg album, and the first album is also getting a vinyl release by a US company which I am excited about. It’s been a dream all my life to have an album on vinyl and I can’t believe I’ll be getting it. I am basically just loving this music project. I have done other stuff, audiobooks and non fiction books, but i have never had a reaction like this. it’s always moving forward and is so positive.

Is there a link to a sample/YouTube vid for readers?

This is my youtube channel:

There’s some free tracks up there from each of the 3 albums and a couple of videos too, one starring my father in law as odd ball cretin roaming through the woods.

[Also check out Dodson and Fogg’s webpage:]

Steamfolk – The Derring Do of Dodson and Fogg

ImageThere was a fairly determinate point in the British folk rock movement of the late 1960s/early 1970s where a second string, following on the heels of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, made a bid for eternity.  Trees, Mellow Candle, Mr. Fox, and the chamber folk musicians, like Nick Drake or John Martyn or Roy Harper or Michael Chapman, bent their axes in a more idyllic, often trippily electric, singer-songwriter direction, creating everything from full-out jazz improv to fairly quaint hippy platitudes.  The rarity of some of the LPs these artists produced is legend — it took the internet to demystify them, and reconnect listeners to a wellspring of achieving, often remarkable, sometimes dated, music.

As a touchstone for inspiration these records are nearly without peer, independent and uncompromising.  But having a Vashti Bunyan album in your collection and making music that you make your own is another thing.  Chris Wade, who leads the project Dodson and Fogg — as well as being a rock writer in his own right — has done that with Derring Do, the group’s second album.  Derring Do elaborates on the first, self-titled Dodson and Fogg record, while taking a leap forward lyrically and musically — the limitations of a home studio have become strengths, the writing delivering songs that fit together.  Wade has achieved this by understanding the tools he’s working with, and by having a deep respect for his inspirations while retaining his artist’s eye and ear for what does justice to his songs.  So he’s able to coax graceful backing from two of British folk rock’s great singers — Celia Humphris (Trees), and Alison O’Donnell (Mellow Candle) — while maintaining a focus and direction of his own device.

There are traces on Derring Do that listeners might find familiar, the floating-down-a-river sound of Nick Drake or James Yorkston, the pop folk of Iron and Wine, the simple melodic invention of Syd Barrett, and the more pastoral forays of T. Rex and the Kinks.  The lyrics are simple and unfussy, straightforward, working with the melodies rather than overly concerned with poetics or narrative.  Unexpected touches appear, such as really tasteful, brief guitar solos that work — there’s an ebb and flow that occasionally needs breaking, and Wade has the feel and chops to put some crunch in the right places.  There are trumpets, spare percussion, flutes, and Wade’s voice, dwelling at times in the lower registers, can range from a kind of glam-punk bite to the breathy approach that’s come to be so associated with Nick Drake.  The remarkable thing about this album, though, is that no voice dominates within each composition.  The impulse to go long, as his folk and prog rock predecessors might have done, is also resisted — there are few wasted notes or words.  Less is more sometimes, and service here is done to Song.

“The Leaves They Fall” is a video Wade put together for Derring Do, which gives a good general idea of the album’s direction

but I think most representative (and beautiful) is “To the Sea,” with its on-fire electric outro:

I caught up with Chris Wade the other day — after hearing the record, I wanted to ask him some questions, which he graciously consented to answer.  I think he tells Dodson and Fogg’s story best, plus he reminded me I need to read more Dickens.

I’ve read you spent a lot of time in your teens with a guitar and a 4-track.  That kind of intimate warmth is present on Derring Do.  It’s loose, not precise, something so tempting in our digital world.  Describe your recording process — are these home studio recordings?
Yeah, these are done in my home studio. I knew that with a simple set up, a microphone miking it all up like in the old days, it would make the record sound like it was perhaps from my favourite era of music, late 60s, early 70s. I basically start with an acoustic track, which I might double up, then do a bass track, then start on the vocals, then anything else comes in after that. On Derring Do I definitely got this down to a proper functioning way of doing it. You do need to have a plan when you’re recording and producing yourself. The great part is when other people send their things for the mix, that’s when it comes to life, especially when Celia [Humphris] sends some of her vocals over.

What’s the inspiration for the name Dodson and Fogg? (I can’t get out my head Lindisfarne’s Fog on the Tyne.)
Dodson and Fogg were two lawyers in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. I thought it had a cool ring to it and I like the fact the name has caused a bit of confusion. Some people have gone in assuming it was a duo, but it’s me really with guest musicians. I love Lindisfarne as well, funny you should mention them. I just did a piece on them for my magazine Hound Dawg and all surviving members contributed text for it. Great band.

Anyone familiar with the history of the British folk revival will recognize some of Derring Do’s contributors.  How did you come to work with Judy Dyble, Celia Humphris and Alison O’Donnell? How about Nik Turner of Hawkwind? Is that his flute I hear?
Yeah, Nik is great on the flute, he did some amazing stuff on the first album. It was a matter of emailing them to ask if they’d be interested. I’ve always thought ‘you never know until you try’ and I have been a bit of a cheeky git in the past. But Nik and Judy did their bits and emailed them across to me. But Celia is very much more involved in the whole thing. She contributes a lot of vocals and puts in a lot of time to this, so I am really grateful of that. She’s done loads of good stuff on Derring Do, given the album a real nice touch. I still can’t believe they took the time out do it and as a big fan of trees and Celia’s voice, it’s amazing to have her on the songs. her voice is stronger than ever too, she really is very very talented.

I love how you use horns (thinking here of What Goes Around and Too Bright).  Can you talk about your approach to arranging your songs?
I’m glad you like the horns. Arranging a track, I like to record what I think is a decent simple acoustic and vocal track, and then think of an instrument or a sound that may make it a little bit different, unusual, but it has to fit just right. Colin Jones, the trumpet player, did some brilliant things on the Derring Do album. He’s a nice bloke as well. I see mixing a track like doing a painting, without sounding pretentious (which i probably just have sounded) because you lay sounds on, mix them around, put them in one speaker to balance it out, turn them up, turn them down, and sometimes delete them from the mix. I love that process, I could do it all day (sometimes I have been doing that actually).

Nice lead guitar and solos – is that you, or who’s responsible? Can you tell us something about choosing your tones?
Thanks, yeah that’s me on electric guitar. I love playing the guitar, it’s always my favourite part of doing a track, writing and playing the solo. I just play naturally really, whatever I feel should come out. I use a Tanglewood SG on the albums. I mike the amp up, make sure there’s a lot of treble on the guitar and that’s basically it. A reviewer said it was shredding and a sharp sound. I like to use the electric every now and then, and not necessarily on every track, because it has more power when it comes up then. I’ve been playing since I was a kid, but I don’t think i really started understanding that sometimes less is more and that a solo should be a properly structured piece of music in itself rather than a random improvised noodle, although i do like them, just not in my own songs because I’m crap at them.

Can you describe your vocal approach (I notice on the first record you double your vocal a lot, less so on Derring Do — which I like).
I like to sing within a range that is comfortable. One thing I don’t really like is loud, high singing, because I have a low voice and if I try and go higher i sound like my balls are in a vice or being chewed by a rabid hound. So I like to keep it comfortable and also easier to listen to. No one wants to hear someone struggling with high notes, not much of a pleasant experience really. But I like the voice to sound strong and loud in the mix, so you can hopefully hear all the lyrics. The cool thing is having proper singers with you on the songs who really can use their voices, when Celia’s voice comes into the mix I sometimes have to pinch myself. It’s brilliant.

I hear a musical leap between the debut and Derring Do, which seems, musically and lyrically, far more focused.  Am I hearing right, and would you elaborate if I am?
Yeah i think there is a leap. I’m not a seasoned pro with proper writing and recording so I guess i am still learning and developing a style, which is really exciting and I’m really glad you recognised the shift in styles. I started recording Derring Do before the first one was out and knew I felt like expanding the sound a bit. When I recorded the first one I was kind of testing what I could do on this set up and a lot of it is safer in a way. With Derring Do I wanted it to sound fuller, more elaborate at points and also more varied, like an album with lots of moods, styles and shades, which is quite a progressive approach. But a lot of the time anyone recording music is just doing what they feel like doing that day and going where the song is taking them.

There’s a lot going on in these songs, threads of past and present.  Who are some of your influences, and who of your contemporaries do you follow?
I mostly love music from the 60s and 70s, but wasn’t born until 1985. I always love listening to Donovan, Jethro Tull, The Kinks, Cat Stevens, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Trees… I am not sure how they influence the music but some reviewers have heard bits of Trees, Tull, Barrett and Crimson in the music, but you never really know yourself do you? I don’t really follow modern music really, only bits and pieces, although I know I should.

How would you describe (I hate to say it, but “categorize”) your own music?
For the first album I just thought of it as a folk rock album, but found that a lot of folk sites and shows didn’t think it was pure folk enough, and then people started calling it ‘acid folk’ which was a term I didn’t know until then. I thought they were accusing me of being a spaced out acid head or something. The only thing I have in excess is malt loaf (mmm… malt loaf). But people have also called it ‘progressive folk’ which I like. it seems to work under that category i think.

You’re a busy man, a writer, musician, visual artist — what excites you most about what you do?
I’m most excited by the music now, it’s really took hold of me and I love putting the work into it. I love the fact I get to do the mix, sort out the artwork, royalties, promo, everything. If it’s your job then why not make it your proper job and put full time work into it. That’s what excites me, and also the thrill of creating something you’re really enjoying. I’ve done a mix of things, like the audiobook with the comedian Rik Mayall  but it doesn’t come near the enjoyment of making music. I don’t like having to deal with egos and awkward people who are more interested in their images than the work you’re creating. It isn’t the best way of spending your time. I have a working class ethic to it, it’s a job and you fund it and do it yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you.

On the pages of Progarchy we regularly (short-lived as we are) hear from artists who struggle to find reward for what they do.  What’s your perspective on this? Can a musician be just a musician anymore? What’s the easiest way for someone not familiar with Dodson and Fogg access your music?
Luckily for me I have quite a lot of projects that are out there, so the music is just one of my things available, if you like. I think it might be hard to survive on royalties alone these days, but then again I am really new to the “music biz” (business I mean, not poo) so I don’t really know too much about it. I’m still learning. The CDs are available from my website, where all my stuff is available, but you can also download from bandcamp and also Itunes, Amazon and all the digital stores. But the easiest way is to type in Dodson and Fogg to the Google search and the top result is my website. All the info is there.

What’s next for you?
I’ve got some promotion to do and sorting things out for the album, and also doing some articles for the next Hound Dawg magazine. After that i think I’ll start on album number three, which will be really fun!

Thanks to Chris Wade for such generous responses. Check out Dodson and Fogg’s website here:

and online back issues of Chris’s Hound Dawg:

Craig Breaden, February 2013