Nick Saloman interview (09.04.2003)
The first Bevis Frond track I ever heard was 'Reflections in a Tall Mirror'
in '91, and it totally blow me away. I've been a die-hard Bevis Frond fan
and collector ever since. Nick Saloman is the fellow who, more or less,
is the Bevis Frond, writing all the music and lyrics, and playing all
the instruments on the early albums. I really admire his ability to
write good, catchy songs with hints of pop, punk, 60's psychedelia
and folk rock. He's also one of the best guitar players I know,
especially his skilful solos are just absolutely marvellous.
Nick was nice enough to answer a few of my questions in early April 2003…
When did you first learn to play? What motivated you to learn?
What were your influences back then?
Nick Saloman: I started on the piano when I was five. My Mum is a really good pianist
and she taught me the basics, but even at that early age I wasn't very
interested in piano. I loved music and desperately wanted to learn to
play an instrument, but not piano. Since I was well into rock and roll
(real rock and roll, this was 1958) it had to be guitar. My folks got
divorced around this time and my Dad re-joined the air force. When I was
seven he brought me back an old Kefsler acoustic from a visit to Germany
and I started to learn how to play. A neighbour had already taught me some
chords on his ukulele, so I only really had to adapt to six strings
instead of four. My favourite bands back then were The Shadows, Johnny Kidd
and The Pirates, and Johnny Duncan and The Blue Grass Boys.
Have you had any lessons on any instrument?
Well, as I've just explained, my Mum taught me some keyboard stuff,
and then when I got my guitar she could see I was serious about learning
to play, so she fixed up some lessons for me with a guy called Charles Gregory
for a couple of years.
Was The Oddsocks album your first appearance on vinyl? Did you play with
the band live? Did you have any bands prior to that? How do you feel
about the album nowadays?
Oddsocks was the first proper released record I appeared on, though I'd
done a couple of acetates before. One in about 1971 with Bari Watts band,
Dune, and one solo effort. I'd also done quite a lot of recordings which
never made it to vinyl. Oddsocks wasn't really anything to do with me.
It was recorded while I was at college in Weymouth, with a duo who were
also at college with me. Robin Brooks and Gerald Claridge were Oddsocks
and they'd already been at college for two years before I arrived and
sort of made a name for themselves locally. They were basically an acoustic
duo who did a mixture of covers and originals. They were great live,
Gerald was really funny and they both wrote nice songs. When they got
the offer to cut an album they asked me to play bass and keyboards and
asked Nick Perrott, the drummer of another local band called Anyway
to play drums. I was offered a flat fee of £15 or a share of the profits.
I took the £15. I think I was the only one to earn anything. I haven't
listened to the album for ages, but I'm still proud of it. The whole
thing was recorded and mixed in two days, so with a bit more time I
think it could have been pretty good. It wasn't really the kind of stuff
I was into at the time, but I like it. Before that I'd been in loads of
bands back in London. Some of which played a few gigs, some of which
played none. There was the original Bevis Frond, formed at school when
I was 15 with me on guitar, Ray Flores on bass, Bill O'Brien on drums,
and for a little while, Charlie Webber on vocals. Charlie's elder brother
Steve was in a real band called The Geranium Pond who played at The UFO
and supported The Floyd, and having Charlie in the band meant we could
borrow some of their equipment if they weren't using it. The only problem
was that Charlie couldn't sing, so in the end I ended up as lead vocalist.
We did Hendrix and Cream covers and played in local youth clubs. After that
I joined a band called Boxweed, then I was in an acoustic duo with a guy
called Dicky Bird. We called ourselves Nick & Dick, and actually supported
really famous people like Linda Lewis, Kripple Vision, Flesh, and a band
who very nearly made it called Tubby's Extension. With a name like that
they really deserved to go far.
Room 13 and Von Trap Family were the first bands to be released on your
Woronzow Records in the early 80's. Please tell as something about these
bands and releases. What bands were you listening to back then?
Nick Saloman: When I came back to London from college it was 1976. Jan and I got a flat in Hampstead,
and I immediately set about getting a band together. I called up Bari Watts and
Ric Gunther and with me on bass, we started rehearsing some of my songs.
We called the project Dagon, and recorded a 3-track demo which we were
really pleased with. However, just as we started taking 'Dagon' around
the labels, a band of spikey haired louts said 'Fuck' on TV, and we were
old farts overnight. I have to admit I really liked punk. I'd never been
a prog fan, and absolutely detested Yes and Genesis. I thought it was just
what was needed. I was very sad to hear Rotten and Co slagging off the
hippies, because I felt that punk was very similar to the hippie movement
of the late 60s. I thought they should have been slagging off the coked-out
superstars like Rod Stewart and The Eagles, and all the horrible bastards
who worked at record companies happily treating the artistes like shit.
But there you go. Bari and Ric never got into punk, but a couple of my
old mates, Mark and Kev dug it. So one night at a particularly awful
Lurkers gig, we decided to form a band. We got Ray Flores in on drums,
Mark Friedlander played bass, and Kev Rogers sang. Thus the Von Trap
Family was born. We added Chris Whittaker on guitar, and off we went.
For a couple of years we gigged regularly round London. We tried really
hard to get a deal, but as usual, no one wanted to know, so we cut our
own single. It was a 3 track 45 featuring 'No Reflexes', 'Brand New
Thrill' and 'Dreaming Again'. We called the label Woronzow after a street
near where we all grew up. Without realising it, we were actually quite
close to getting somewhere. We were gigging all the time, we got played
on John Peel a few times, we were often mentioned in the music press,
but after a while Ray got fed up with not becoming famous, Chris joined
the fire brigade (he's now contemplating retirement!) and it fell apart.
Mark, Kev and I wanted to continue and we found a brilliant 17-year-old
punk drummer called Martin Crowley and formed Room 13. We did 12" single
called 'Murder Mystery' and kept on gigging, but nothing really developed.
I had a bad motorbike smash in 1982, and after that, even when I was fit
again, the heart had gone out of the band and we split up.
Where did you get the idea of starting a project like The Bevis Frond?
What did you want to achieve, originally? Are you happy with the situation now?
I guess I felt like I really should be doing exactly what I wanted.
I felt that my previous bands had failed because I took too much notice
of other people, and what was fashionable. I think the lowest point was
when Room 13 started doing white reggae. Yeah, it was hip at the time,
but I hated it. So I figured I'd write some songs that had no relation
to what was currently cool, I'd do some 15-minute guitar solos if I wanted to.
My favourite music had always been psychedelia, folk and beat, so I'd combine
that with my own lyrical ideas and see what happened. I wanted to do everything
myself, so I bought a crappy old drum kit off Martin for £30 (it's the one
I'm still using today) and taught myself to play. All I wanted to achieve
was a bit of personal satisfaction. I wanted to have a batch of recordings
that I felt really represented what I was about. Yes, of course I'm happy
with it. I wouldn't still be doing it if I wasn't.
How did you react, when you realised that there was market for albums like Miasma,
Inner Marshland and Triptych? How many vinyl copies were originally pressed, and
how can we tell what is an original copy and what isn't?
I was amazed and delighted. I genuinely hadn't anticipated any interest at all.
I was 33 when 'Miasma' came out, and I was convinced no one would be the slightest
bit interested in an 'old bloke' doing psychedelia. So it was great.
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How did you first met with Adrian Shaw? How about Andy Ward? What has
it been like to play with these two fellows? How about Bari Watts?
Nick Saloman:I met Ade through Rod Goodway. In the mid-eighties, before I could make
a living from the Frond, I was a second hand record dealer. I used to
do the Bath record fair, and every time I did it I'd sell albums to
a really friendly guy who I became friends with. That was Phil McMullen.
He knew Rod and introduced us, and Rod said he had a friend in London
who he felt sure I'd get on really well with. That was Ade. I had a
beer with Ade and we got on brilliantly. We met Andy via Mick and
Todd Dillingham. Todd had asked Andy to do some drumming for him,
so when The Frond needed a new drummer, we asked Todd to give us
Andy's number. I'd known Bari since I was 18.
You've been involved in numerous projects and bands during the years.
Could you please tell as something about the Acid Jam, Fred Bison V etc. sessions and albums?
Fred Bison was just a bit of fun. I wrote, recorded and mixed it in a weekend.
The Acid Jam was exactly that. A bunch of stoned people jamming. They both
went down very well. In fact, I did Fred Bison at the same time as 'London Stone'.
I poured my heart and soul into 'London Stone', and did Fred as a laugh, and
loads of people said' Well, London Stone's pretty good, but Fred Bison is brilliant!'
I'm sure there's a moral to that, but I'm not sure what it is.
Woronzow has, in my opinion. put out some of the finest underground psych during
the 80's, 90's and 00's. My only complaint is, that you don't release any vinyl
anymore. Why is that? Is there any possibility of getting another Bevis Frond vinyl someday?
Thanks a lot. I agree about the vinyl. It's just so bloody expensive. If I had unlimited cash,
I'd do everything on vinyl, but I just can't afford to. I hope there will be more Frond on vinyl.
Do you have a favourite Woronzow release, if so, what is it? Are there any records
that you wish you'd have never released?
Well, apart from my own stuff, I guess my favourites would be The first Outskirts,
the first Flyte Reaction, Mick Wills 'Fern Hill', Tom Rapp's 'Plague Year' and the
first Lucky Bishops. Having said that I love everything we put out. That is one of
the great things about running a label like Woronzow. You just put out stuff you like.
I'm glad I put out all of them.
Who are involved in Woronzow Records? Is it just you and Ade who run it? Is it a lot of work?
Yes, just me and Ade. In all honesty, it's as much work as we want it to be. I guess we
could do more, but we both want to have a nice time. That's how we've kept it going so long.
I've heard that you've got another drummer now in the band. Who is this new guy?
His name is Jules Fenton, and he used to play with The Lightning Seeds, Kinky Machine and, er, ABC!
There is a second edition of a limited BF net community CD-R on its way. What is it like?
Can you tell us the track titles yet? What do you think about this kind of releases
for the hard-core fans?
It's called 'The Long Stuff' because it's got long stuff on it. Tracks include 'Calamity Jane',
'Splitting The Atom', 'Never Forgotten' and a few more. Well, obviously I'm in favour of these
releases. I think it's good to give the hard-core fans something extra. Without them I'd have
to get a job!
I think that your latest CD What Did for The Dinosaurs was one of the best BF albums ever.
The sound quality is also better than before. What do you thing about the album?
I'm really pleased with it, but maybe it's all getting a bit too polished and clinical.
What will the next Bevis Frond album be like? When will it be released?
Nick Saloman: It's definitely going to be worse than Dinosaurs in terms of sound quality, because
I'm going to do it at home. I feel it just needs to be a bit more rough and ready.
I've written and recorded most of it already, and I guess it'll come out later this year.
What's the next Woronzow release? Can't wait for some new sounds by Ethereal Counterbalance...
Is this still going to be released?
I'm not sure yet. It might be a new Mick Wills album. He's done some great sitar stuff.
We'd love to do a Rod Goodway record, but he's a bit hard to pin down.
You have just recently turned 50. How do you feel about it? Did you like the Bevis Frond
tribute CD the net community produced for you as a present? Any favourites on the album?
50, eh? Who told you? I'm delighted to have made it this far. I've still got my hair, and
I'm still playing 5-a-side twice a week, so how could I possibly complain? I've been
touched by the two tribute CDs. It's genuinely flattering and I refuse to single any tracks out.
How important effect have psychedelic drugs had on your music?
None at all.
What kind of music do you listen to nowadays?
All kinds of stuff, though I have to be honest and say that it's mostly
old stuff. I've been listening to a lot of folky stuff recently, like
The Dransfields, but strangely I've been writing quite rocky stuff.
How would you describe the music of The Bevis Frond?
I'll leave that up to other people.
Would you like to share some of your future plans with us?
I really don't make plans. I just do what seems right at the time. Hopefully,
I'll keep on writing and recording. I just want to have a nice time. You're only
here once, you might as well enjoy it.
Anything else to add?
Not really. Thanks for the interest, though. Keep well. All the best. Nick
Thanks a lot Nick for answering my questions! If there's somebody out there,
who isn't familiar with the music of The Bevis Frond yet, it's really worth
it to do it now. Check out the following sites:
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