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Topic ClosedInterview with Pendragon's Nick Barrett (Feb 09)

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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Interview with Pendragon's Nick Barrett (Feb 09)
    Posted: February 19 2009 at 06:16
This is the transcript of an interview between our own debrewguy and Pendragon's main man, Nick Barrett:

Quote Question : Hello , Mr Barrett,

Just back from the Script for a Jester's Tear tour with Mick Pointer?

Yes I'm back! Back to the usual cornucopia of things to sort out, a mountain of e-mails, a mountain of things to sort out, things for the DVD release, for the tour dates we're doing. I was hoping for some peace after the tour but I don't think that's going to happen!


Question : I'll start out with the question that everyone wants to know. Which sports cars are your favourites out of the hundreds you must own as a big famous rock star ?

Well, I am not a big famous rock star, and I don't have any sports cars! If I did though, well I am not into sports cars, I am more into trekky things really not sports cars, yes, I am more into motorbikes than cars. I haven't got hundreds of sports bikes either, but I do have two motorbikes, one motocross bike and one enduro bike.... oh and a crappy car which is a Vauxhall Astra and is usually full of either sand from the beach or mud from the motocross track or it's got music gear in it, plus three kids have wrecked it but as long as it gets me from A to B then I really don't care!


Question : So I guess that Bono, Prince & Sir Paul are hogging all the money then ...

There's absolutely no question about that! I thought they'd be giving it all away... oh no, I forgot, they are trying to get us to give ours away, particularly Bono and Sting anyway.


Question : Coming back to the Script for a Jester's Tear tour ... I watched the promo video and some others on You Tube. You seemed to be enjoying yourself. Was it a nice break to be the guitarist rather than the front man as you are in Pendragon ?

Yeah, I mean it's staggeringly easy to just play the guitar, it's really so, so, so much different. With Pendragon I am standing behind the songs, the guitar, the vocals, I am fronting the band which is seriously more stressful than just playing guitar. Playing the guitar is a doddle, it's just so easy to do.


Question : This must be quite a rush these past few months. Pure came out in October to great reviews, it wins the Classic Rock Society "Best Album" award, the Script project tour, then the Concerto Maximo DVD due out at the end of February. Are you looking forward to some off time in the next while, or are you itching to go out again and tour for the album ? Striking while the iron's hot, if you will ...

Well we did do a 30 date tour as well which you missed out on that list... Over the last four months I have spent half that time touring first that big tour with Pendragon and then with Script but there is so much to do, there is no time to relax! We have gigs coming up and we want to play ALL of Pure, we are organising UK shows and some festivals in the summer, there is the DVD of course, there really isn't going to be any time off.


Question : Then you're back with a couple of dates with Pendragon in March, and on to Rotherham Rocks on May 9th. . Will you be playing Pure in its' entirety ?

Yes! We didn't have time to rehearse it all to play on the tour when the album came out because we were still actually working on it for the album. Playing an album in the studio is just totally different to playing it live. When you play it live you have to listen to the over-all sound of what everybody is doing, when you are in the studio you are just laying individual tracks down which you can create within seconds, you can make sounds in seconds, but when you are trying to replicate something live on stage you dealing with a whole different ball game so for that reason we didn't have a chance to play as much of Pure live as we would have liked to.


Question : I also see that the Concerto Maixmo DVD will be out in the States in early March. What are your expectations, and are there any plans to play some gigs in North America ? I've read that you're interested in playing the FMPM in Montreal.

Yeah, we contacted the guys from FMPM but they haven't got back to me! We have been desperately trying to get shows in Canada for the last three years, but so far every lead that we have followed just comes to a dead end which I am getting really pissed off about! It's not through want of trying we've been trying very hard as much as we can, we don't have a big agent it's just me basically e-mailing people to try an get gigs. I really wish we could get more in North America, Canada and in South America too.


Question : In going over your bio, I see that Pendragon is one of those modern groups that are taking their music career in their own hands. .Do you see yourself as a musician running a small business, or a businessman running a band ?

Well I am a musician who happens to do business by default. It was just an accident, we couldn't get a record deal or anything in the early days so I started the record label, and I became quite good at running the record label. It's been a very satisfying course to take really.


Question : Do you miss the bread run ?

Ha ha ha! Yeah, I really miss the bread run, the freezing cold mornings, the van with no tax or insurance, or heater! The wrong bread was always baked, or there was never enough, I used to get complaining customers Yeah I loved it me! Ha ha ha!


Question : While we're on the subject - about that reality type show from a few years back ... where the band (Pendragon) was a business which was struggling to make money. A young whiz kid comes in and tells you that you're doing it all wrong. You seemed to accept what he said, but that the music was what mattered most. I wonder how you feel about the programme now, and whether it resulted in any changes being made.

None whatsoever!

The guy was a complete oik and didn't have a clue! We found out afterwards that his business actually TURNED OVER 50k a year ... that's Turn-Over, that's not even enough to operate a staff with. It was all a load of billy-bull-sh*t! These things are made to look a certain way on TV but the details just don't stack up! His "ideas" were .... well he didn't understand the integrity of what we do which is a MASSIVE failing because even if you just wanted to make a fast buck it's important to understand what the strong assets are of a business and he didn't take our strengths and make good of those, he took ideas that simply we couldn't have, like starting a Rock School. What they failed to tell you on that programme was that there was a rock school two miles down the road who are booked up to the hilt because they are cheap and run by a college, therefore no one was going to come to what this guy was proposing which was a 100 a go rock school with nothing established. His ideas were insane and just made for good TV. That's something that people should understand, that the whole backdrop to this whole thing was just a shaky shambles for TV.


Question : With the website & your own record label, do you see Pendragon eventually offering all their music to be downloaded directly ? I know that personally, I prefer this. I avoid the shipping charges, and I get to experience the music right away. Could this be a way to increase sales ? Record shops in North America are getting rarer, and chains like HMV are carrying less acts, and not bothering with the back catalogue.

Well, to me I still think that having something physical is very nice, most of our fans I think do, they prefer to have a physical nice package. With PURE there was a DVD and a nice book which made it something that people wanted to get their hands on. There is something very impersonal about a music download there is something slightly disposable about it which I am not sure I really like. We will have to gravitate to whatever the market dictates though because it's a question of survival if that was the only way then that is what we'd do, but in some ways I'd still be inclined to try to provide some artwork, some lyrics, something to go with it to make it something special even if it was a separate book with the bands current photos, artwork, scribblings, drawings, lyrics etc., because the tangible, visual aspects of an album creates a massive impact, I mean, "Close To The Edge" "Dark Side Of The Moon" would those albums be quite the same without the gorgeous artwork and gate fold sleeves?


Question : Speaking of the web, do you feel it's helped groups like Pendragon ? Some see it as a godsend allowing musicians to bypass the Major Labels, and media, and develop a closer relationship with your fans. Some see P2Ps as cutting sales, while others see it as a means to get the music out there, and (hopefully) attract more people to shows ? Radiohead, for example, showed that the hard core of their fan base will pay for the CDs, the deluxe editions and so on. This despite allowing people to pay what they wanted for a download, or not at all. And they ended up with more money than a record label would pay out in royalties etc. But there's some question as to whether this business model works for mega-stars only ...

Well a short answer is Yes it can work for mega-stars only! There are three tiers which pretty much all bands fall into. Most bands who love the idea of P2P and the promotion that it can give are bands who do not really have any following whatsoever, so as amateur bands or what have you they feel that any kind of promotion is good promotion so if anyone downloads their material they are over the moon about it, obviously the trouble will come when they try to prise money out of those people to pay for physical cd's when they try to get more well known, we know this is what happens because a lot of people have told us of these experiences.

The bigger bands can do it, they can play the game because bands like Radiohead or Prince never really had fantastic deals with their record companies and a lot of their money was made through publishing, or merchandise sales or they can make a lot of money through tours because they can gross so much at big venues. The problem is with the medium level bands who do not have big enough followings to really cover the cost of touring. Our last tour, a thirty date tour, at one point if all went OK looked like it would lose 10k, but we broke percentages which means we made extra because of good attendances at the shows. That's the kind of gamble that most people can not even think about let alone walk straight into not knowing what is going to happen.

Of course the middle tier bands, anything from Camel to Marillion are the bands that rely very heavily on record sales, merchandise sales are no where near enough to support them. You might sell 20k's worth of T-shirts on a tour, but 20k once you have taken off manufacturing costs, the VAT (tax), the cost of having a person along to sell it you'd be very lucky to be left with 10k, if you divided that between four band members, well that clearly isn't going to make you a living! Even if you did a show everyday of the week you would find that the demand would be watered down to such an extent that there would be no demand, the same amount would sell in a year as in a 2 week tour because it's the same people. Just because you do more shows it does not mean that you will sell more merchandise or gross more on tours. The middle tier of bands is the hardest because they rely more on record sales than anyone else.


Question : As with many bands nowadays, the members of Pendragon all seem to have projects outside the group. You've done the tour with Mick Pointer, there's been your acoustic shows with Clive Nolan and Peter Gee; Clive has Arena, Caamora, Strangers on a train, etc. ; Peter Gee with two solo albums; Scott with Caamora, the drum clinics and all. And of course, your responsibilities in running Toff Records.

Do all these extracurricular activities interfere with your plans and ambitions for Pendragon ?

How does the modern musician keep it together ? Are there moments when you or the others wonder if holding down a regular job might be easier ? Mainly, is it still more fun that working 9 to 5 at a factory or call centre ?

It's like everything in life, the bigger the rewards, the bigger the pain in the arse as well! This is the balance that they get so wrong when they look at musicians they think that you're just out there having a good time but you know the president of the US, although it's a great job it's an incredibly hard job, there is no job in the world that is just simply a great fantastic fun job. IT appears to people on the outside to be full of sex, drugs, rock'n'roll and eating caviar off naked girls breasts but that's only sometimes! The other side is never knowing if or when you'll go bankrupt, whether you can keep hold of your house, never knowing if there still is a job, it's an incredibly hard thing to do music. Because there is no right or wrong at the end of the day you can't tidy up your accounts sheet and say we're 50p out or whatever when you are writing music there is no right or wrong and that can sometimes drive you pretty nuts you are digging deep into your soul to come up with new ideas and things you hope will inspire other people obviously with a 9-5 job you don't get that you just get a no-brainer. If I went to stack shelves in Tesco it's a no-brainer job I wouldn't have the hassles but I certainly wouldn't have the rewards and forefillment that goes with music. People have to understand it's a balance like everything else in life. It's like being a millionaire. It would be great to be a millionaire but also it's got it's troubles as well.

Do extra activities interfere with Pendragon? Not really, we usually manage to work things out, it gets tricky if Clive decides to do a two month tour of South America at a time when we are looking to specifically do certain gigs which came up this year, but we managed to work it out a we usually do, it's all worked out fine for the last 20 years.


Question : Any plans for the future that you can share with us ?

I want to start work on another album fairly soon, we've got the DVD coming out, a lot more tour dates, we are really trying to promote Pendragon, a lot of work is going into that at the moment. So that's really where the next year lies.


Question : Are you a member of ProgArchives ? Have you forgiven the two gits who dismissed Pure ?

I can't even remember who they are! Ha ha ha! Yeah, sometimes these things get taken quite personally, I am kind of a person who speaks out directly about things. I think sometimes on forums that people can get quite sensitive and can over react, particularly with the different language barriers. Nine times out of ten if you met someone down at a pub you'd work things out in a very different way. In internet land there seems to be people who are very aggressive, or very defensive or very sensitive, peoples emotions tend to be heightened.

If someone has a pop at the album then I am probably going to have a pop back at them and I think they have to accept that, it does seem fairly incredible that people can dish out what they like but they don't like anything back. If people say something I don't like I am going to say something.

Or has it become part of the job, where you take the good with the bad ?

Exactly that, it is. You do get better at taking the bad as things go on and you are less likely to be bowled over by the good. The balance becomes more even, the most exciting gig I ever did was probably the first gig I ever did, it was incredible! But I do still find all gigs exciting and I enjoy it very much, but as I said earlier it's all about balance in this job.

I am still very excited by it, I still like to organise and put things together and pioneer Pendragon.


Question : Well, that's about all for the moment. I thank you for your time, Mr Barrett. And here's to hoping that we see you over here (please please please FMPM, add Pendragon. This year would be perfect timing - Pure being the album of the year and all ), and to looking forward to another 30 years of Pendragon

Thank you very much!


Concerto Maximo is due out end of Feb in Europe and beginning of March in USA and available to pre-order now from the Pendragon store.

PURE available as a single CD available end of March 09.

March 19th Le Splendid, Lille, France

March 20th CC De Mortel, Ittervoort, Holland.

UK Dates May to be announced

May 9th Rotherham Rocks, UK

June 6th Verona Prog Festival

July 11th Night of the Progs 4. , Lorelely Germany.

More festival dates being added.

Official Website:


I'm sure you'll all agree, debrewguy's done a fantastic job here - so a big thank you to him for taking the time & a huge thank you to Nick Barrett for being so frank & open in his responses.

Nice one guys

Edited by Jim Garten - February 19 2009 at 06:18

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 19 2009 at 08:50
Excellent job indeed mr. Debrewguy Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 21 2009 at 04:55
Originally posted by King By-Tor King By-Tor wrote:

Excellent job indeed mr. Debrewguy Clap
You're being a good sport here ! Or do you think (as I do) that it's always better to have more than one person on our site who can do a good interview ? It's certainly great for PA I think.
Personally I don't think it's a job suited for me so I have every respect for those who can think of good questions and simply do a good interview. You guys are professionals in my book Clap.
And about mr. Barrett:  Nick's a great guy and brilliant musician. I hope he can keep up the tough job for many years to come !
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2009 at 10:20
I enjoyed reading the interview, great job, debrewguy. And I'm hopeful they have intentions on touring in South America! Let's keep fingers crossed.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2009 at 10:54
Spot on interview Debrewguy. Thanks for taking the time to have a word with one of the hardest working men in UK prog right now. Mr B is an interesting, thoughtful guy and any interview with him is always worth a read.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 03 2009 at 21:01
Awesome interview
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 11 2009 at 21:36
Great Interview sir. Thanks!
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