Friday, March 6, 2020

Interview -- Andy Cresswell Davis (Stackridge, The Korgis, DLM)

"He scooped me up
in his huge grey claws,
and bore me away
without any cause."
~ Stackridge ~

In 1979, Andy Cresswell Davis formed the successful synth-pop band...The Korgis.  Eight years earlier, he was providing some acoustic guitar spankage on John Lennon's iconic album...”Imagine.”  That right there is a tasty slice of butter pie.  And I'll take all of that you got.  Andy...singer, guitarist, and juggler of many instruments...also formed the wonderful prog-rock band...Stackridge in 1968, and that's what brings us here today.

Stackridge was an amalgam of sorts.  A little pastoral and Beatlesque here.  Symphonic and folk-proggish there.  Art-rock and trippy, as well.  Absolutely nothing cheap.  Sometimes Stackridge would take the stairs two at a time.  Other times they chose to take the long way home.  Just throw your Uber driver a Jackson and relax.  Andy Cresswell Davis, and his Stackridge mates, never recorded a bad album.  And they made eight of them.   Grab'em when you can find them.  No risk. All reward.  Go get you some.

Andy Cresswell Davis Interview -- March 2020
Andy Cresswell Davis

Casey Chambers:  Stackridge has always been a hard band to pin down.  Prog-folk.  Baroque-pop.  Art-rock.  Even a bit prog-psych.  Everything works.  The band never put out a bad album.  So I'm just going to cherry-pick a couple of Stackridge favorites.  I want to start with the prog-folk ear-worm..."Slark" from your self-titled debut album. (1971)  A song that sounds like it has been alive forever and a nice one to get lost in.

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, that one's a long time ago now.  "Slark" just came together with a lot of improvisation, I think.  In those days, we used to improvise a lot.  When we did the song live...we had a long middle section where our flute player "Mutter" (Michael Slater) played along with an echo chamber making some strange spacey noises.  And somewhere...we found that that tune sounded a bit like a nursery rhyme.  Our bass player "Crun" (Jim Walter) came up with the lyrics.  It's a story about a monster.  There were all kinds of songs about monsters and fairy stories around that time, ya know?   As soon as we hit upon it, we all thought it was a good tune.  We had been playing the song quite a lot live by the time we got to the studio.  It was like the last number of our set.  It was one of the favorites of the fanbase we were building.  They would all join in and sing along.  It was a very, very popular song for us.

"Slark" - Stackridge / "Stackridge" (1971)

Casey Chambers:  "The monster Slark came in to view." (laughs)  That's such a great song.  I think I got on board the Stackridge train after hearing that song featured as a KSHE Klassic about 10 years ago.   All 14 minutes of it.  Were radio stations in the UK receptive to the music you guys were doing back then?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, not really...apart from the John Peel Show and one or two others.  We didn't even have commercial radio at that time when we started.  If you can believe that. There was the BBC and that was about it.  You had local radio stations, but the music played was very middle of the road.  Straight-laced, ya know?  And the pop shows were very, very commercial pop.  So, it was only the John Peel Show really, which was on once a week, to get any airing at all.

Casey Chambers:  Now John Peel...I've heard he was very eclectic with his music choices but was an important DJ for a lot of bands over there.

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Oh, very important. Yeah, very important.

Casey Chambers:  What was it like doing John Peel's show?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, it was a great privilege at the time.  It was a thrill.  The band's played live.  John Peel was a great guy and had a wry sense of humor.  He really was carrying the flag for all sorts of progressive music at that time.  I think it's difficult for people to remember how restricted it was then.  And let's face it, it was prog-rock.  That sound took the country by surprise really.  There was no radio station that could cope with it.  A band that played a song that was 15 minutes long ruled it out straight away for any airplay.

Casey Chambers:  Stackridge falls under that wide, wide, wide banner that is now called progressive rock.  Was Stackridge formed with the intention of creating that kind of music?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Yes.  But we were an electric folk band as well.  A lot of things didn't really have labels at that time.  Bear in mind, Stackridge started in the winter of '68.  And I think that the country was still coming to grips with what was going on really.  Most of the bands at the time, Stackridge included, played live to underground audiences.  We played a lot of gigs.  Quite a lot of festivals and impromptu things thrown together in fields around the country, ya know?  And nobody was really expecting any radio play to be honest.  Nobody was expecting to get any single played on the BBC because we kind of thought singles and commercial music was a bit below us if you know what I mean.  We were hoping to sell albums when we made them,  So that was it really.  It was all pretty naive I think at the time.  It took a while for everybody to get used to it.  And then by the mid-'70s, commercial radio stations opened up and it was completely different after that.  We were, all of us, kind of pioneers in a way.

Casey Chambers:  Oh yeah.  Untraveled ground.  You had mentioned earlier how much of the music was not easily labeled.  Stackridge's debut had very much a slice into the prog-folk experience whereas your third album..."The Man In The Bowler Hat" (1974) throws a more baroquish art-rock pass to the listener.  Cherry-picking again, this album has become somewhat of an under-appreciated gem for many fans.  And it was also produced by Sir George Martin.  How did he come into the picture?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, our management in London was run by a guy called Mike Tobin and he got to know George.  George was going to start a management agency of his own at the time.  It never actually developed, but that was how we came to meet him.  And two of his kids were very big Stackridge fans.  I think it was them more than anything that got George interested.  'Cause they used to play our stuff at home, so...

Casey Chambers:  That's very cool.  The little Martins were 'Slarking' around the house. (laughs)  What was your impression of the man?  I know you were aware of his reputation.  Was it an enjoyable experience for you guys working with him?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Oh, very much so, yeah.  He was an amazing guy, really.  He had the knack of coming up with just what was needed for a song.  And it was usually quite inventive.  In our case, on one song, he teamed up a string quartet with a Wurlitzer piano which was great.  And I think we had a bassoon solo as well.  I don't think a lot of people appreciated the subtlety of his work.  I think that often got sort of lost.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, "The Man In The Bowler Hat" is such a good album.  In 2011, Stackridge performed a song from that album on "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson."

"The Last Plimsoll" - Stackridge / "The Man In The Bowler Hat" (Live on Craig Ferguson)

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Yeah, that's right.  Flying all that way and only doing one gig, well, it was a little weird, to be honest.  But it was very enjoyable.  Craig's brother had been a big Stackridge fan and that's how that whole thing came about.  We are so thankful to our fans for getting our name around.  It was a great experience.

Casey Chambers:  Was it difficult deciding what song you were going to do?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, there was a lot of discussion about that.  We had recently re-formed and had just recorded a new album..."A Victory For Common Sense." (2010)  That was a good album for us and we're very proud of that one.  But when we were asked to do "The Late Late Show..." we wanted to do something that we all had a part in writing.  And so we chose "The Last Plimsoll" from the "The Man In The Bowler Hat" (1974)  because James (Warren) and I both sang lead vocals.  And "Mutter" played a flute solo.  We all thought that that song would be a nice choice to showcase everybody.  Stackridge had four different lead singers, so we could have chosen one song that was like...all me. (laughs)  Or one song that was all James.  We thought to make it democratic, we'd choose an older song.  And also, "The Late Late Show" had been using part of that song when Craig Ferguson was on stage.  They'd been using it for a long time...part of that song.  So we felt it would be a gas to play the whole of the song.

Casey Chambers:  It was a really good performance and I thought your guitar sounded great.  All those years and it was like you guys never left.  Good stuff.  Tell me some of your musical influences.

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, the Beatles obviously were a big influence. And very British bands like the Kinks.  Some English composers like ElgarThe Incredible String Band, folk-wise.  Peter Green.  The originator of Fleetwood Mac.  Lots of influences really.  But those are the main ones.

Casey Chambers:  Switching gears, you have done quite a bit of session work throughout the years, no doubt.   And it's hard to let that fact pass without bringing up the session work you did on John Lennon's famous album..."Imagine." (1971)  How cool to be associated with John's most celebrated solo square.  How did that all come about?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, that was an accident really.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  George Harrison started using two acoustic guitars on his tracks.  If you think of "All Things Must Pass"...the album.  And "My Sweet Lord."  It's very heavy on acoustic guitars.  And two members of the band Badfinger, who was on the Apple label, used to play the guitars on George's acoustics sessions.  And John thought that he would do the same.  This is how I remember it anyway.  John said he liked the idea of having two acoustic guitars on the tape.  When the tape starts rolling and the band starts playing...having two acoustic guitars gave the songs a lot of depth and atmosphere.  And so he started doing it as well when he recorded..."Imagine"...even if, just maybe, they wouldn't be in the final mix.  Badfinger, the two guys from Badfinger, would have been doing that job for him had they been there, but they were away in the States at the time.  They were over on your side of the pond.  So two guitar players were needed and a friend of mine, Rod Linton was a good friend of Ringo Starr and that's how he got that gig.  And I just happened to be with him when he was asked to go down.  So Rod asked me, 'What are you doing tonight?'  And I said, 'Nothing.  I'll come to Weybridge with you.' (laughs)  It was ridiculous really. And very lucky.

"Gimme Some Truth" - John Lennon / "Imagine" (1971)

Casey Chambers:  To Weybridge?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  That was where John's studio was.  In his house in Weybridge.

Casey Chambers:  So this is all very spur of the moment.  What happened when you got there?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, Mal Evans, his roadie and assistant, kind of welcomed us and showed us where all the attractions were.  Ya rooms and places.  There was a lot of food and a lot of wine and stuff.  They said, 'Make yourselves at home and we'll call you when we need you.'  And then John and Yoko came in with Phil Spector and everybody shook hands and we started working out songs.  It was very casual really, but it was good that way.

Casey Chambers:  And what songs did you play on?

Andy Cresswell Davis:  I played on "Oh Yoko," "Gimme Some Truth," and "How."  Yeah, John was great. You know, it sounds like a cliche, but he was a very down to earth guy. Very personable. Very friendly. And yeah...funny.  It was great to be there and to be part of it.

Casey Chambers:  That's a great little ace to carry in your pocket.  How very cool.  And recently you've been making some music with a new band, I understand.

Andy Cresswell Davis:  I've been writing and recording with an acoustic trio called DLM.  I think you might like it.  And doing a few shows.  Readers can go to our website to hear my latest stuff.

"Baby Good For You" - DLM / "DLM"  

Casey Chambers:  Absolutely.  DLM.  I'll leave a link for readers to take a peek.  Thank you, Mr. Davis, for all the great music.  Thank you for your time today.  It's been a real pleasure speaking with you.

Andy Cresswell Davis:  Well, thank you very much.  It was great.


Andrew Cresswell Davis Official Website

Andrew Cresswell Davis Facebook

DLM Official Website


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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