Adrian Shaw interview (25.03.2003)
Adrian Shaw (ex-Hawkwind, Magic Muscle, Crazy World of Arthur Brown etc.)
is one of the bass players that I admire, and he also happens to play in
one of my top 5 bands called The Bevis Frond, so it was time to interview him.
Ade also runs Woronzow Records one of the best underground labels in the world,
along with Nick Saloman, whose interview should also appear shortly. I sent Ade
the guestions through email in the middle of March, 2003, and to my surprise he
answered the next day! Thanks mate!
How did you start to play and when was that? Was bass your first instrument?
Have you had any lessons on any instrument?
Adrian Shaw: I started to play guitar when I was about 12. After spending some time just
playing with friends I got asked to meet a guy who was putting a band together.
He turned out to be a drug dealer with a fair bit of spare income that he was
willing to put into the band. He also was a budding lyricist. This band turned
out to be J P Sunshine (this was 1967 after all) and after some line-up changes
Rod Goodway (my long term partner in Magic Muscle) and Andy Rickell (later Rustic
Hinge's Android Funnell) joined. This left us with 3 guitarists and no bass player,
so I volunteered to play bass. I had always fancied bass as an instrument.
Unfortunately, due to a series of drug busts the band split up before it really
got going. The resulting recording finally was released on vinyl in 1996 on the
"Uncle Glitch" label. After that I moved down to Dorset with the Crazy World of
Arthur Brown, which turned into Rustic Hinge and the Provincial Swimmers and from
there moved to Bristol to form Magic Muscle.
I've never had a music lesson in my life and am self-taught on bass, guitar,
keyboards, drums... I'll get a tune out of anything!
Who were your early influences? What kind of music do you listen to at the moment?
I started listening to Rock and Roll when it first came out and loved early Elvis,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard etc. Then the Beatles came along and blew me away.
I loved Psychedelia when it arrived and have never lost my love for that. I listen
to old Psychedelia mostly, but have a great fondness for old Soul, Otis, Al Green,
etc. I like classical music, Bach in particular, in fact anything good. New music
I like includes System of a Down, Audioslave, CKY, any good guitar music really.
You have played with a lot of icons of the psychedelic golden age of the late
60's and 70's. What was it like to be in a band back then? Did you ever take
a lot of acid and stuff?
I did a great deal of acid, amongst many other things! When I was in Magic Muscle
we had a little gig ritual of some acid, speed and a huge hash-pipe, we wouldn't
go on stage without this cocktail. Of course it didn't help that at that time we
were doing the Space Ritual tour with Hawkwind and kept getting bust by various
local police forces who always thought we were Hawkwind. Being in a band then was
great fun; I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Of course there is always
a price to pay, and although I came through it pretty unscathed, apart from
Hepatitis C (now cleared) at my last count I've lost 7 band members over the years,
mostly drug-related. The latest was only 2 weeks ago, Tim Roper who I played with
in Reds, Whites and Blues in the 70's died of alcohol-related symptoms.
Please tell us something about the time when you were playing in Hawkwind!
It didn't last that long, did it? Would you like to play with them again?
No I wouldn't like to play with them again. I couldn't work with Dave Brock and
I know he feels the same about me. I'm quite happy to work occasionally with the
likes of Nik Turner and other ex Hawkwind members but would never re-join what
passes for Hawkwind now. Having said that, I enjoyed my time in the band and
I'm happy to have been involved with them. I have some good memories. I think
in many ways the Quark/PXR5 line-up was the best of all the Hawkwind line-ups
there have been down the years so naturally I'm pleased to have been part of that.
How did you first meet Nick Saloman? You have played with him for a long
time now. What is he like to work with? Best/worst qualities?
Rod Goodway nagged me into meeting Nick. He kept telling me about this guy
who lived near me and was into all the same things I was. I phoned Nick up,
this must have been around 1989, and arranged to meet him in a pub. We got
on very well right from the start and it's just gone on from there. When
I first met him he didn't play live at all, having had too many bad
experiences down the years. I got asked to put Magic Muscle back together
for Hawkwind's 20th anniversary show at the Brixton Academy. As I knew
Nick didn't gig I asked him if Bari Watts would do it, Huw Gower our
original guitarist, being in New York. To my surprise he said he'd do it.
The gig went really well and Nick suddenly discovered a world where people
actually wanted to hear what you were doing rather than being in a pub
where they were forever telling you to turn down. We did a few more gigs
as Muscle, a couple as the Magic Bevis Muscle Frond and then were offered
a European tour as the Frond, we've been touring ever since, albeit
with many different line-ups.
Nick is great to work with, very creative and a lot of fun to be with.
They are his best qualities. His worst? Sitting around naked in hotel
rooms! Not a pretty sight.
You seem to be very much involved in running the Woronzow Records.
What is it that you actually do there? Is that how you support yourself and your
Nick and I are partners in Woronzow. We do everything from cover art,
A & R, act as session musicians, even deliver albums to our distributors.
I tend to deal with the Internet side of our mail order whilst
Nick deals with real mail.
I do support myself and my family this way, a combination of Woronzow Records,
touring with the Frond and putting out my solo albums. I'll never get rich this
way but I do OK. It's my sole ambition to get through the rest of my life without
having to get a proper job.
You have released several great solo albums on Woronzow. Please tell us
something about these, how do you make them etc. Do you have a favourite solo
album? Any new material in the pipeline?
Adrian Shaw: I have a home studio so do virtually all the recording of my solo albums there.
Some songs start off on a guitar, some on keyboards. I like trying different
things out and make use of friends as and when I need to. Although I like handling
some of the solos myself, at other times if I think a particular song would
benefit from a contribution from a friend I get them round and take it form there.
Fortunately I have a lot of friends who are great musicians and are kind enough
to help out. I think my favourite has to be my last album, "Look Out". I seem to
be getting closer to the end result that I originally had in mind.
Your son Aaron seems to be a very good musician, as well. How old is he? What
is it like to play with your own child? Is it any different than playing with
anyone else that you know really well?
Aaron is a phenomenal musician, one of the best guitarists I've ever heard and
a really good keyboard player as well. Unfortunately he has so many other things
going on in his life that playing live isn't much of a priority. I've used him
on all my solo albums but the time I was most pleased to play with him was when
we did some shows and recordings with Country Joe McDonald. The Frond, being a
3 piece at the time, needed someone to augment the band for these shows and Nick
suggested Aaron. His first ever gig was at the Queen Elizabeth's Hall, playing
piano, organ and guitar and he showed no sign of nerves at all. He's now 24 but
was 19 at the time. I can't say it's any different working with Aaron than it
is with anyone else, except he argues more than anyone else I work with.
What kind of equipment do you use as a bass player? Do you have a lot of bass guitars?
When in Europe I use a Peavey Mark VI bass rig, it's 400 watts and has a 1 X 15"
Black Widow cab and a 2 X 10" top cab. In the US I generally use an Ampeg SVT rig
with the usual 6 X 10" cab. I always use my old 1962 Gibson EB3 bass. I also use
a Zoom BFX 708 multi-effects unit and a Danelectro distortion pedal. I do have
a variety of basses at home, along with a quite a few other guitars and assorted instruments.
Do you still enjoy playing live after all these years you've been involved
in the music business? Have there been any special gigs that you'll remember forever?
Is there any chance we'll ever see BF here in Finland?
I still love playing live but don't enjoy the endless sitting around in dressing
rooms that is an inevitable part of touring. I can't imagine ever stopping playing live,
or recording for that matter. Bad news for all music lovers.
There are lots of shows down the years that are memorable for me. The Country Joe one
I mentioned before, the first time the Frond played in San Francisco at the Great
American Music Hall was special, playing with Hawkwind at Stonehenge was fun, a lot
of early Magic Muscle gigs were really memorable, especially in Exeter when our
drummer was arrested on drugs charges and we couldn't play until he was bailed.
2,000 stoners chanting "out pigs out" at the large police presence was memorable....
We would genuinely love to play in Finland but no one's ever asked us to. We seem
to have played just about everywhere else but never Finland.
What is your role in the making process of Bevis Frond music? Are you happy with that?
Whilst the touring Bevis Frond is worked as a partnership between Nick and myself,
the recording side of things is entirely his baby. Consequently if he wants to do
an album as a band I play on it and if he wants to do one at home on his own that's
his call as well. I really am quite happy with things as they are.
Do you have any favourite BF albums or tracks? If so, what and why?
I like New River Head a great deal. There are so many good songs on it, "He'd be a Diamond",
"She's Entitled To", "God Speed You To Earth", and so on. I like Valedictory Songs a lot too,
but all Frond albums have a lot of good songs on. As a stand alone track, I really like
"London Stone" as a track although I know it's not Nick's favourite.
You, Nick and Andy Ward also played on the recent, excellent album by Anton Barbeau.
I love this CD, and think that there's a strong Bevis Frond feel to it, especially on
the fast tracks. What do you think?
I agree. Anton's a great guy to work with, very creative and lots of fun. I'm very
pleased with the way his album worked out and hope to work with him some more in
the future. I suppose with the Frond backing him it would have a strong Frond feel
though, wouldn't it?
On what basis do you decide what you release on Woronzow?
Adrian Shaw:We release whatever we really like, regardless of any commercial considerations.
What we like tends to be material that's musical and with a psychedelic twist to
it but that's by no means a pre-requisite. This way we get a real spread of styles.
If you consider the difference between, say, the Simeon and the Alchemysts collaboration,
the Lucky Bishops albums and the new Keith Christmas acoustic instrumental CD, they are
all profoundly different but all (at least in my opinion) excellent.
Do you have a complete list of all the releases that you have played on? How many
are there? What was the first band that you recorded with?
I have compiled a sort of discography and have attached it to this reply. There are
a lot of records there, you try counting them! I guess the J P Sunshine album was
the first I played on but by no means the first that was released.
Are you involved in any other bands/projects besides the Frond, at the moment?
Not really. I do occasional tracks for projects that catch my fancy, for instance
I just did a track for the recent Black Widow label's Science Fiction Film album,
"Not of this Earth" and also a track for a Tom Rapp tribute album. I've also started
work on my next solo project.
How would you describe the music of The Bevis Frond?
I think "melodic psychedelia" probably best describes the Frond.
Do you still see yourself playing in The Bevis Frond after, let's say, ten years from now?
Who can say? I really didn't expect to be still out on the road in 2003. It's possible.
Anything else to add?
Thanks for the questions. I'm always flattered that anyone's interested. One thing
I know, if you asked me in 1967 if I'd still be playing in a band 36 years on
I would never have expected to. Here's to the next 36 years. It's been interesting.
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