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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Nick Barrett of Pendragon, March 2006
    Posted: April 07 2006 at 11:35

Progarchives member "Prog-chick" has kindly provided us with the following interview with Nick Barrett of Pendragon.

 

Interview with Nick Barrett of Pendragon. March 2006


On a rainy English winterís day, Nick Barrett from Pendragon took time out from preparing for the coming tour, and early work for a new album to have a cup of tea and a chat.

Here is the result of half an hour in the company of Nick Barrett.

PC So, 21 years since the release of The Jewel, your first full length studio album, looking back now, how do you feel it has stood the test of time?

NB Well, itís very strange, because you think 21yrs on, it actually wouldnít be very popular any more but, it is kind of more popular than ever! Then again, when I think about the kind of music I like, some of the albums that have stood the test of time, for example, I heard a radio advert for a Dave Gilmour concert and they played some of Comfortably Numb and some of Wish you Were Here, this is still kind of current musicÖÖ.. The album Wish You Were Here, I remember getting for Christmas when I was a kiddie! It is still right up there and popular today, its funny how these things kinda come back in waves and I feel that The Jewel, being the first album, made an imprint for Pendragon, seeing that the band is still around, it has a way of coming back round and appealing to people. New people I hope as well as some of the old prog fans, but a lot of the old prog fans really liked it, it was our first album and it was very popular.

PC How do you think it compares to where you are musically today?

NB Chalk & cheese mate innit?! (Laugh) When we first started out, The Jewel was a long time ago, it came out in 1985, a lot of the material for it had been written since the early 80ís all the way up to Ď85, I think the newest song on there was probably Circus or maybe Higher Circles, but, one of the things that I think was the most obvious to me, was at the time, even though I felt I was a capable guitarist, and could cut my guitar soloís, I still felt I was very much cutting my teeth when it came to writing lyrics. Some of those lyrics I listen to now, and I think ďwhat the hellís he on about, that fella Barrett?Ē cos it just donít seem to make any sense what so ever! But you know, you kinda move on from that, you know I think I am happier with my lyrics now, I am happier with my song writing now. I think the song writing on The Jewel was a bit strange as well, you know Barney (John Barnfield) wrote some of that music, which I still think is great, like ďOh DivineoĒ and I think Circus is great, I had more of a hand in writing Alaska and Black Knight, so those tracks to me are kind ofÖÖ.. Well, I was kind of more interested in hearing songs other people were writing, I thought Barney was a great writer, hmm, so, I think we have moved on a lot!

PC Believe, it is six months now since the release of Believe, this time last year it was still being written and recorded, how do you feel about it now today?

NB Alright thanks!

PC Are you happy with it?

NB Yeah! I am very happy with it. I am happy that it was a kind of move forward, um, I mean itís always been this way, you know we have lost some fans and we have gained some fans. Generally speaking the people who want to move down the river with us stick on the Pendragon raft! I think we had a big thumbs up from most people about the move in direction with Believe, so that kinda makes me happy, lots of aspects make me happy, so when you say ďare you happy with it?Ē that is one important aspect that makes me happy but, creatively I still feel extremely happy with it, because I think it had a greater depth again of emotion set about by NOTW, and I think Believe took that to another kind of level, and the sounds and everything were new and exciting and so, that made it kind of a challenge, it was pioneering for us and I am still very pleased with itÖÖÖ.Yeah!

PC The messages within Believe that you wanted to put across, do you feel that they were received well?

NB Erm, yeah, well the problem that there always is with this kind of music, itís incredibly demanding of the listener, as is progressive rock generally, itís not some kind of throw away pop music. Itís a kind of music that requires your attention quite fully. Not just once or twice, but over a long, long period of time, sh*t! It took me ages to get into ďClose To The EdgeĒ by Yes, or ďThe Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a really long time, but when the penny dropped with it, it was kind of extra, extra, extra special, and I think with Believe some people have just not understood what those songs were about, probably because they just have not given them the time. I donít think some people have understood the depth of what is inside a Pendragon song, they are just sort of ďYEAH!Ē or ďNO!Ē or whatever they think, but it requires a deeper kind of thinking than that, because you know the lyrics are very personal and they have got something to say I feel now. You know I think there is something to say in lyrics, and some people have really grasped that and some havenít.


 

PC So Believe was four years after not of this world, what was the hardest part of writing and recording after a long break?

NB Phew, this is a really tough one, because, well itís not just difficult in the music. There were a lot of things in my life, like, you know I got divorced and tried to move on and moved house, nearly went bankrupt, having some massive financial problems, and so once the dust had settled down from all that I moved into a new house and into a new area um, and then you get the kind of, well the adrenaline I suppose of all that keeps you going for quite a while, but when the dust really settles you are kind of left feeling somewhat empty and somewhat directionless.

I think the emptiness and the directionless was the hardest thing to get out of to be able to make this album, because I didnít know if we were going to be able to make an album again, or go out on tour again. I know other musicians that have had this kind of thing, you know some quite well known musicians who have had problems where they have disappeared for quite sometime and then come back, and thy have kind of found a completely new lease of life, you know you kind of have problems and stuff, and itís kind of a journey you have to take. I think with Believe I needed to be reborn with this album with a different kind of slant on what we do and to have something new to bring to the table we kind of needed to disappear for a while. So the hardest point I think was actually ďOh sh*t! What are we going to do? Are we going to be able to make a record?Ē That really was the hardest thing. Apart from that if this album had been two years after The Masquerade Overture it would have been extremely easy.

PC So after going through that long process, how do you feel when you hear of people downloading the album on the internet, or uploading it onto P2P?

NB Really angry, just really angry. Because I think what we are doing is bringing something to the musical genre which is progressive rock. We are bringing something to the table. This is our trade. This is our living. This is our job; itís seems just so unfair.

What it felt like, because when we first put Believe out, I mean thereís love in that record! You know, you put everything youíve got into it creatively, anyone out there who is creative will understand this, it doesnít matter how much debt you get into making it, you want to achieve what youíve got in your mind, the artistic side almost takes over everything, you have to achieve that at whatever cost. We put Believe out, and before it was released it was up on the internet and on just one evening alone I remember someone told me there was something like 38 people downloading it as we spoke! It made my heart sink, to me it was like, you know some people just said ďwell we feel we couldnít wait for it to come out so we did thisĒ and I just felt really gutted by it. People couldnít or wouldnít wait until the proper release date and BUY the album from us.

To me it felt like making a huge great birthday cake and taking it to a party and before there was a chance for everyone to sit down and share the cake and enjoy it together, some greedy b*****d has jumped in there and started eating it before everyone was ready and there was nothing I could do about it. Thatís how it felt, I felt very sad, deeply saddened that people would do that. Because it threatens other productions as well. I mean we have had the most unbelievable attitudes from some people, some people said that they didnít think that musicians should be allowed to earn money from music, you know thatís an astonishing attitude!

It really pisses me off!

PC So how would you explain in the simplest way, the real damage that is being done by downloading illegally in this way?

NB In real terms, well, put it this way, Not Of This World sold 25,000 copies and Believe has sold 16,500 copies at the moment, itís still selling well, but I know a lot of people who have downloaded it. I mean, I donít mean this as a licence for people to download music, but I donít really have a problem with people who really can not afford a record, if they want it and have the intention to buy it, they are getting into the music, or a friend lends them a copy or something like that, and then they go and buy it. What I really am against is the people who have traditionally have bought albums, and now simply donít because they can get them free. That is bad, that is not promoting the band, as is claimed by so many. I have yet to hear of someone who, by this situation has actually improved the scenario for Pendragon out there because of downloading! Itís just bollocks; itís just a way of excusing themselves for doing it.

PC What would you like to be seen to be done by the industry to try to combat this problem?

NB I think what should happen is, the servers should shut down this kind of file-sharing, I know it is very difficult for some, like those in Russia who provide Pendragonís music for download ridiculously cheaply, claiming that the pay us royalties, which is a complete lie! They do not pay us, have absolutely NO intention of doing so! They are making money out of us, we carry on producing music and doing what we do, and they are making money from us! What I would like to see is the servers shut down the people who are promoting this software, which would not be difficult to do, and the software providers say that you are not supposed to use them for illegal downloads, well, what else can you use it for really? They are just covering their backs; they know what people use it for.

PG Going back to Believe, the reviews here on Prog-Archives have been somewhat divided, a lot of 4 or 5 star reviews, and then a few 1 stars thrown in, not many kind of sitting on the fence with this album, why do you think that is?

NB Because, they are just being silly!!!

I think we worked it out that it was about 5 to 1, five good reviews to each bad one, But what we have here is, there is a certain section of the progressive society, who want to hear the same album again and again, and again and again. They want the same album, with the same kind of approach, they want the same kind of sounds, the same kind of lyrical ideas, the same kind of overall concept, just perhaps in slightly different artwork. That would be very easy to do, and not very challenging. I think we have done four albums that are kind of in a similar vein, it was really sort of time to try something else.

I think that those people have not listened properly to what we are doing, I mean, there was a guy who said that he listened intently but could not hear the Pendragon sound on this album! Well, my argument is that they just havenít listened to it properly. Because I think a song like Souí by SouíWest or Edge of The World would sit comfortably on any of our albums, but I think they have a new kind of depth about them that we havenít had before. I really donít think they would be out of place on any of our other albums, I think a lot of the material just because itís got something like some Latin influences, or some more kind of sampled sounds, for crying out loud, where we have used samples, we have used those samples for driving melody, they are melodic samples, they have been thought about, these ideas like the gallic voices, some of the eastern sounds that we used, like the fact that I used talk box, the melodies are exactly the same as the type of thing Pendragon have always, always used, and will continue to use, itís the style in which those melodies have been delivered, and for some people where those are new ideas, and they donít fit into their box, well they donít like it.

PC Do you feel differently reading reviews now, rather than 20 or 25 years ago, now that a lot of reviews are written by Joe Bloggs at home with his (or her) pc, in comparison to years ago when you were faced with music journalists?

NB Well, itís gone on a kind of a wave, we started off loathing their guts, and then we went through a period of not really caring and finding it quite humorous and now we have gone back to loathing the guts of journalists! (LOL!) When we started off, we were traipsing around the country in the back of a van doing gigs and trying to get some kind of recognition, it took us 12 yrs before we started to earn any money from Pendragon, phew, thatís a long apprenticeship! So when some b*****d from some duff magazine like Kerrang writes something about you which is scathing because they think are being funny, you just want to kick their teeth down their throat! You just want them to die horribly! - Justifiably I feel, it just makes you angry, you are young, you have something to say, you wanna get out there and kick peoples butts, you wanna play live, and get our albums out and sold and someone brings you down, you just want them to go away!

After a while we discovered with Kerrang, I am using them as an example because they really did hate us, there came a time when it did not matter what they wrote about us it did not make any difference to our record sales or to our audiences when we played live. We felt at one point that we were caving in, not because of the press, but because we had no record deal, we had a load of debt, we had a lot of problems and we didnít think we would survive for much longer and one of the jokes between Clive and myself was that we decided to keep going just to spite kerrang! (laughing) You know I have this big thing about turning a negative into a positive, and that was one of those things!

Recently I find a lot of journalists and people who sl*g us off, maybe on the internet, the reason they have a go at us is because they want to be the first to have a review on the internet, so they donít give an album the attention that it deserves or needs, an album like Believe can take a lot of listens, like I said before. I think that some of the journalists who write about us now, well equally I would like to kick their teeth in!

Of course there have been some great reviews though!

PC As a music listener yourself, who in the prog rock world do you most admire?

NB Well, I admired Fish a lot. When we came along, we had been really going since about 1978, and we toured locally as much as we could and did a few demos up until about 1982 when we met Marillion. I think the next few years of touring around with Marillion showed what an incredible front man Fish was. To me I thought he really was someone who made this strange music come across to a new post-punk kind of audience. If they had had a kind of Phil Collins character up there trying to do that thing it just would not have worked. Fish managed to incorporate a kind of punk attitude into progressive rock, ha! Punk and prog, what an unusual combination for the time, and it was so unbelievably successful and I really, really admired that. It was very clever the way they did that, and I think they got better musically, they just got better and better. Clutching at Straws was I believe an awesome album. So there has been admiration for Fish, and the whole Marillion package.

PC Outside the prog arena, who do you admire the most?

NB Well, mostly Kylie Minogue, but you know, not for her music!!!

Phew, who do I admire musically outside of prog? Well, I admire anyone who can write a half decent tune, and deliver it well. Sade, I have always liked Sade, and people like George Michael who writes great songs, and delivers them well. He writes great songs. Michael Jackson, I admired Michael Jackson musically on the pop side, on other sides guitarists like Al di Meola, people like Carlos Santana, both I think come in the prog vein a bit. I like classical music, I like jazz as well, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, brilliant stuff.

PC In the Pendragon Progumentary on your website, you talk about your love for surfing and off-road biking, how does that fit with your musical work?

NB When I was about 12 or 13 I started to surf, I was into what was called scrambling then, off-road biking , I had started to play the guitar when I was about 7 yrs old, so these three passions have been running through my life. Guitar playing was the main thing, I thoroughly enjoyed surfing, and I desperately wanted an off road bike, but never could afford to get one. As time went on my passion for music really took the lead, Iíve surfed on and off, but seriously got back into to it in the last 7 or 8 years, the same with bikes, I got back into bikes now that I have been able to afford the bike I couldnít when I was younger- in fact my mate bought me my last bike, so that was a saving!!!

But it is the same kind of freedom, I was talking to a surfing instructor about this, he said you know a lot of musicians get into surfing, and a lot of surfers get into playing the guitar. Jack Johnson being a prime example, or people like Donovan Frankenwriter, sh*t surfer but good with a guitar! Ha! Not really, heís a very, very good surfer and a very good musician too!

But surfing has that kind of timeless quality to it, like bikes, like music, when you do these things time becomes an irrelevance, you donít know if you have been in the water one hour, two hours or three hours, which means you are so ensconced in the excitement, the drama and the sheer beauty of it. Sitting in the sea, even in the middle of winter when itís raining and off in the distance you see the sun shining through the dark clouds, incredibly dramatic, incredibly beautiful, and very incredibly inspiring. Itís a bit like doing a gig, after a gig time stands still, you come away from it completely elated and totally inspired, they are both quite similar things. Spiritually uplifting.

PC Ok, so you have a big tour coming up, are you excited by that?

NB Yes! I am! I am very excited; I think I have built up some frustration over the last few years, the lack of touring, the lack of doing music. Now we have got a 30 date tour coming up, and I am looking forward to doing it enormously!

I would like to say that, even though we have not announced any tour dates for America, South America, Canada, or any where outside of Europe, we are working on this, we have not forgotten about you, we have every intention of trying to put that right, please bear with us!

PC Going back to The Edge of The World from the Believe album, how important is it to you as a musician to continue to play live?

NB Very important!

PC How real was the fear you describe in The Edge of The World?

NB Ha ha! Well, the fear was very real, because it is like one of those things you think you have lost, and you desperately hope that you havenít. Musicians are terribly insecure, your confidence goes up and down, they will try to tell you otherwise, or put on a diva-ish, over dramatic kind of attitude to hide that, but in the main they are incredibly insecure, and fragile about weather they are going to be able to carry on, or be allowed to carry on, maybe the audience have moved on. Itís a very scary prospect to think that your career might have nose dived.

PC So with what over riding emotion do you face this tour?

NB Excitement! Definitely excitement!

PC 30 gigs in 32 days, how do you deal with that on the tour bus?

NB The worst case scenario is getting a throat infection. Itís so easily done, someone coming onto the bus with a cold, or virusís, they are the worst thing to have on a tour bus. And the lack of sleep! It doesnít help much at all! Usually the first night you get no sleep because itís so bumpy, as the weeks go on you get more and more used to it, but by then you are exhausted! But itís the kind of exhaustion that goes with touring that you just put up with, you get used to it!

PC Can you share any funny tour bus anecdotes with me?

NB yeah!ÖÖÖÖ.. Er, no, I think not!

PC Lastly, an important question, Jennifer Anniston or Angelina Jolie?

NB Jennifer definitely!

PC Thank you so much for agreeing to speak to me, I am looking forward to the tour and a new album to come?

NB Yeah, a new album, Iím working on it!

Thanks!


 

 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 07 2006 at 13:06
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 07 2006 at 14:09

Great interview Prog-Chick!

It was interesting to read his views on illegal downloading(he should join these forums to discuss it with other people, heheh)and I was surprised to find out he's so keen about the popular culture.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 07 2006 at 15:26

Very interesting interview. 

 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 09 2006 at 18:23
I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Nick, he is a very
interesting (and funny) guy to talk to!

PC x
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 10 2006 at 07:27
nice one PC - a great interview. What a nice guy. I shall definitely give Believe a few more spins and pay attention to the lyrics a bit more!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 11 2006 at 00:34
Thank you so much, Prog-Chick. You've truly made my day (nice pics too) !
      
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 11 2006 at 05:13
ahhhh, was it the bit where Nick says he has not
forgotten Canada that put a smile on your face
Hibou?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 11 2006 at 07:42

Excellent interview prog-chick, I hope everyone takes notice of Nick's comments on illegal downloading.

Looking forward to the gigs in June.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 11 2006 at 08:56
Very informative, and interesting to hear his comments on downloading. Nice one, PC
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 11 2006 at 14:18

Good interview. Thanks PC!

I'll be seeing them in June too, along with Alan (Chopper) and Simon (sigod)

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 11 2006 at 15:06
I hope Pendragon come at least SOMEWHERE close to Ft. Wayne!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 11 2006 at 16:21
Originally posted by prog-chick prog-chick wrote:

ahhhh, was it the bit where Nick says he has not
forgotten Canada that put a smile on your face
Hibou?


Well, I admit that caught my attention. Although hearing Barrett's enthusiasm throughout the interview is most encouraging. Maybe Believe was proof enough they haven't stopped pouring their little hearts out for prog, but it's always nice to hear it straight from the source. I wish them well and hope you'll keep us posted if ever you hear from them again!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 13 2006 at 20:34
Thanks for this interview prog-chick.

Always nice to hear from and about Nick.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 15 2006 at 15:34
Great interview, Prog-chick, well done!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 17 2006 at 15:11
very interesting interview, well done prog-chick!!!!!!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 25 2006 at 03:12
Thanks for your "well done"'s guys, but I could have sat and talked to this guy for hours, really no hardship or effort! A really together guy, I am hoping to see a number of shows on the coming tour , and will post a review of a gig!

PC x
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