Caravan Releases ‘Who Do You Think We Are?’, 37 Disc Deluxe Box Set And Announce New Album, ‘It’s None Of Your Business’ | Interview with Pye Hastings
The Canterbury scene combined elements of jazz, folk, rock and melodic pop into a sound that bridged the gulf between psychedelia and progressive rock, and ultimately shattered all genre barriers. At the heart of the Canterbury scene was a group of musicians whose career has now spanned more than half a century: the legend that is Caravan.
‘Who Do You Think We Are?’ is the ultimate tribute to the ultimate Canterbury band. This deluxe box set runs to a staggering 37 discs. All the official Caravan albums – studio and live recordings among them – are joined by eleven discs of previously unreleased live performances. A Blu-ray includes remixer extraordinaire Steven Wilson’s 5.1 surround sound mix of the classic ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’ album. In addition, a DVD includes vintage European TV performances from 1971 – 1981 (London Marquee, German TV’s Swing In, Bataclan, Paris & French TV show ‘Pop 2’).
‘Who Do You Think We Are?’ will be released on Madfish on 20th August 2021. Pye Hastings also revealed a brand new Caravan album in the works! “It’s None Of Your Business”
The current line up of Mark Walker, Geoffrey Richardson, Jan Schelhaas, Jim Leverton and you is currently working on a new album. Would you mind elaborate on the concept behind it?
Pye Hastings: Sadly, Jim Leverton has recently left the band to pursue his own solo career, which posed an enormous problem as we were about to start recording the new album. However the project was rescued by Mark Walker bringing in a bass player who is a close friend (Lee Pomeroy) on a session basis. Lee is a brilliant musician and is currently playing for Take That, ELO and Rick Wakeman and he delivered an outstanding performance which saved the project from having to be postponed until we found a suitable replacement. Lee was available because the Pandemic has cancelled everyone’s tours for the foreseeable future, so we were very lucky. He fits in with all of us like a glove. There was no concept behind the recording apart from delivering the best performance we could give in the allocated time and budget.
Can you share some further details on how it is being recorded?
We recorded the backing tracks over ten days at Rimshot studio near Sittingbourne and finished off all the vocals, the solos and overdubs remotely. Rimshot has a beautiful live room that looks like an old oak barn, although it was built specifically for the purpose and is acoustically brilliant, so we were able to record in the old fashioned way, all together in a circle with the exception of the drums being in a separate booth. It was recorded and produced by my son Julian and assisted by the studio owner, Mike Thorne, on Pro Tools and later transferred to Logic for mixing and Mastering. I have titled the album ‘It’s None Of Your Business’, after one of the songs.
How do you see the relationship between the instrument and the space where the instrument is recorded? Do you discover new aspects of your songs developing in front of an audience?
Songs always improve with being played to an audience because you can invariably iron out all the weak points and produce a better performance. However it is a rare occasion that you have the opportunity to perform an entire collection of new songs to an audience before they are recorded. More often than not a song gets recorded first and then you work out how to adapt it to playing live. Recording in a studio and playing live are two distinctly different beasts although playing live can certainly help the recording.
Caravan always had a unique sense of humour. Can we expect it from the latest album?
Yes, there are a couple of songs which continue the humorous approach which Caravan has developed over the years. The opening track called ‘Down From London’ tells a story about a guy who visits the country on a weekend basis dressed in all the ridiculous clothes that you’d expect a country squire to wear, and because of his inexperience of country ways, accidentally shoots himself in the foot. The locals are irritated and think they are being taken for village idiots. They are also somewhat amused and proceed to have a lot of fun at his expense. Hopefully they will have the last laugh.
How are you currently coping with the world pandemic and what are your predictions for the music industry?
I am fortunate to be at the age where I have had both inoculations against the virus so am certainly more hopeful for the future that we will get out of this dreadful state before too long. I have written another song on the new album called ‘Spare a Thought’ which touches on the poor people who have lost the struggle and how lucky we are to have the benefit of such brilliant scientists and medical people who have fought relentlessly to help us get through such a difficult time. The music business will undoubtedly survive, possibly changed, but as long as we have creative people there will be an outlet for all our efforts.
Tell us about the upcoming tour. It must be exciting to get back together on stage.
The planned tour was originally set for autumn 2020 but had to be postponed due to the Pandemic. This has now been re scheduled for October 2021 but we still don’t know if it is guaranteed to go ahead. Our agent says it is going ahead 100% but we are watching the development of this new Delta virus with caution. It will be great to get back on stage after all this time and I expect that our rehearsals will be somewhat amusing because we haven’t played together for so long, but never the less I will be looking forward to it.
We are all also very excited about the upcoming box-set ,’Who Do You Think We Are?’. This is the ultimate tribute to your band.
This really is going to be the definitive retrospective of the musical journey that we have been on for the past 50 years, and I am proud to be associated with the project. I was approached by Ian Crockett of Snapper Records with the idea of producing a “Limited Edition” Caravan boxset and when he showed me some of his previous work like Steve Hillage and Gentle Giant, I knew this was the right company to create something special, and believe me they have excelled. The detail that they have gone into has been amazing. There will be something for every Caravan fan here.
This deluxe box set runs to a staggering 37 discs. All the official Caravan albums – studio and live recordings among them – are joined by eleven discs of previously unreleased live performances. Would you mind talking about the unreleased live material?
I have to admit I haven’t listened to all the unreleased material because I have been otherwise engaged with writing and recording for the upcoming ‘It’s None Of Your Business’ album due for release by Madfish Records on CD and Vinyl later this year.
It’s been more than 50 years since your debut album was released! I was quite surprised how much material will be available in this box set.
Well as you say we have been at it for 50 years so there is bound to be a lot of material. We have endured a number of lineup changes and explored different directions, which you should expect from a so called Progressive rock band and inevitably some albums will be more successful than others but the fact that we are still managing to produce new records surely say something positive about the band.
The Caravan fans are the linchpin in all this. That have grown in number through the years and are still fantastically loyal. They are the best in the world and we owe it all to them.
What was the creating process for the upcoming box set?
Ian Crockett and the team at Snapper Records co ordinated the whole process from beginning to end with my blessing. They consulted Me, Dave and Richard, (the remaining original members), at various stages along the way for approval. They searched high and low to find interesting and unreleased material so they could include it with the view of a collector. Their previous experience has suggested that these boxsets have become valuable collectors items within a very short period of time so an eye for detail was essential. They have achieved this. “A melodic song based sound with emphasis on individual solos giving free reign to the expression of improvisation”
I think it would be really interesting to read a sentence or two about each of your albums. What comes to your mind when I mention ‘Caravan’, ‘If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You’, ‘In The Land Of Grey And Pink’, ‘Waterloo Lily’, ‘For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night’, … How would you describe the memories and feelings when you think about those specific album recordings?
Our first album and the one which set us on the road to where we are today. We were young and full of energy and somewhat inexperienced in the process of recording but had a burning desire to become rock musicians. It was all very new to us and we loved every moment of it.
‘If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You’
Our Second album, and because we were not entirely happy with the sound of the first album, we decided that we didn’t need a producer and would produce it ourselves. This was probably a mistake because it showed that four people with personalities and egos definitely need one strong director to hold back the individual energies and steer the project forward. The album was very successful but the sound was not to my liking.
‘In The Land Of Grey And Pink’
Our Third album. David Hitchcock had approached us to produce the previous album but as I said above, we decided to do it ourselves. Learning from that experience we agreed to give David the gig. This proved to be the best move we could possibly have made at the time. Not only did he bring fresh enthusiasm and cohesion to our performance, he had a clear vision of where this project was going. At last this was what was needed and our most successful album to date was released to great acclaim and achieved Gold Album status. I believe it is still selling to date.
Our Fourth album. Dave Sinclair had left the band to pursue his career elsewhere and Richard Sinclair suggested that Steve Miller would be a good replacement. Steve was a piano player rather than an organ player and came with a Blues influenced background. This prompted us to drastically change direction, because to follow in Dave’s footsteps would have been impossible. This proved to be a step too far for some fans and as a result we lost a few fans but gained a few new ones as well. Shortly after the album release Richard Sinclair and Steve left to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
‘For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night’
Our Fifth album. The band was suddenly reduced to just Richard Coughlan and myself but we were both determined to continue the progression of keeping things going. I mean, what else were we going to do? John Perry and Geoffrey Richardson joined the band via auditions. I was keen to get going and we dived straight into the studio to begin recording the new material that I had written. We did all the backing tracks without a keyboard player so I called Dave Sinclair and he agreed to return to the fold but purely on a session only basis. He thankfully stayed on to play all the gigs that we had in the calendar and came back with us into the studio to record. We ditched all the previous recording and did the whole album in one or two takes. This was because we’d played all the tracks live and had worked out the bits that didn’t fit.
“The song is just the platform from which the musicians have the opportunity to raise the overall performance to a higher level”
What’s the creative process when it comes to Caravan?
I write most of the songs and have a rough idea of arrangement. I introduce them to the band and whichever ones they pick up on, we work on the arrangements and everyone has their own input, so it ends up being a band effort. The song is just the platform from which the musicians have the opportunity to raise the overall performance to a higher level.
Looking back, who influenced your guitar playing the most and did influences change during the years?
I take influences from everywhere and can say quite honestly there is not one single artist who has influenced me more than any other.
What would you say was the main element that set you apart from the rest of progressive rock bands? How would you describe “Canterbury sound” with your own words?
Canterbury sound was a made up term by some journalist but if I was to try and explain it I would probably say it is a melodic song based sound with emphasis on individual solos giving free reign to the expression of improvisation, or some sort of bollocks like that.
What was the highlight of your time in the band? Which songs are you most proud of? Where and when was your most memorable gig?
The highlight of my time in the band has to be the fact that I am still able to continue doing what I love. When eventually it is all over I will look back with tremendous affection upon the people who allowed me to express myself for so long. The most memorable gig is yet to come because they are all special.
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
A big THANK YOU to all of you who have put up with my drivel for so long. p.s. I’m not finished yet!!!
Interview by Klemen Breznikar for It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine (11.08.2021)