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My day in the studio with Caravan

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The-Winkler View Drop Down
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    Posted: October 30 2013 at 06:51
Back in July when legendary Canterbury band Caravan announced they were to record a new studio album, I could scarcely have believed that in some small way I would be involved in this process, so when it was announced that the band were using the Pledge Music idea to launch and fund their new album I jumped at the chance to be involved. I was a little apprehensive at first having only a very limited musical ability but I though the opportunity to visit the band in their studio and sing or play percussion and get a credit on the album was just too tempting to turn down. Duly, I started to exchange emails with Pye Hastings and he finalized a date which as luck would have it, was a day I had already scheduled to be in the UK for the return of another legend of Progressive music, Camel at The Barbican. As I was due to be in the UK for a long family weeked, I explained to Pye that I didn't just want to abandon my wife and 3 kids in London, but no worries, Pye told me to bring them along too and that he would personally pick me up at the train station in Canterbury on the day.
And so the day came on Monday 28th October, I woke at 4.30 am to the sound of the Hurricane winds battering the windows of my London hotel room, I had been a little worried the night before that the storm might interfere with or worse still postpone the studio visit altogether and sure enough when I turned on the tv to see how the storm was progressing, it was all doom and gloom, all flights, sailings and trains had been cancelled, a live broadcast from the nearby Victoria station where my train was due to leave later that morning told of more than 70 trees that had fallen on the train lines in the immediate area of Kent, my heart sank, I was sure this meant the end of my day before it had even begun, to make matters worse my 9 year old son Max came into my room at 06.30, he looked upset and asked if this meant we weren't going to see Caravan, a band he genuinely likes ( he's an oddity for his age in that he has great taste in music, a fact I take great pleasure in), I told him it didn't look good but that after breakfast we would decide what to do and see if the storm calmed, which it duly did, so we made the decision that my family would stay in London but that I would bring Max on the 60 mile trek to Canterbury. When we arrived at Victoria station we soon realized that despite the calming weather conditions, the damage had been done, all trains for the next two hours at least, were cancelled, so more out of hope than belief, myself and Max traversed London in a chaotic rush hour to St Pancras station which also has a service to Canterbury, here I found that there were also major cancellations but there was to be a train to Canterbury at 10.42, It helped to ease a stressful situation somewhat but it still meant that we would be 2 hours late for our rendezvous with Pye Hastings in Canterbury, I frantically emailed Pye over and over hoping that he was still up for the visit and wasn't a little ticked off that I was running so late, however he told me not to worry and to just keep him informed on my progress and so we re-arranged to meet just before midday at the station in Canterbury West, however he also said that due to the storm there was no power at their studio and so we were going to go to Geoffrey Richardson's home, where he had his own private studio.
Finally on the train, (a ghost train really as there weren't any other passengers on board) we took our seats and hoped for the best. I then heard a womans voice behind me, I presumed as is the custom when boarding a train, that she was going to enquire of me if she was on the right train, but to my amazement she asked if my name was Mark??? Confused, I quickly thought I must have dropped some ID or my wallet or something, I hesitantly replied that I was indeed Mark, but to my undying surprise she introduced herself as Kathy Hastings, Pye's wife who does all the admin for CARAVAN, she was also stranded because of the storm and had heard from Pye that I was also travelling on that train and so it was that despite the horrible situation we found ourselves in, i had one of the most enjoyable train journeys as we chatted for more than an hour about Caravan and the music business, Kathy telling me in great detail the ups and downs of the music business, I certainly learned a thing or two, sadly not of all of it good.
Just after midday we arrived in Canterbury, Kathy was on the phone to Pye, so I knew he was waiting at the entrance for us, my conversation with Kathy on the train had relaxed me about the day ahead, so when I seen the tall figure of Pye wave to me smiling, any fear I had about the day was completely gone, he approached me, shook my hand and my sons and gave me the biggest bear hug, like we were dear old friends. A quick trip down the road, we parked near to Geoffrey's house and said our goodbyes to Kathy who was heading off to her hotel, then Pye led myself and Max down a picture postcard road full of Tudor style houses and promptly led to the front door of Geoffrey's house, Geoffrey opened the door himself and told us to watch our heads as the ceilings and doorways were very low indeed, so low that once in Geoffrey's small and cosy sitting room, Pye had to go around on his knees until a seat became available. So here I am in Geoffrey Richardson's front room, myself and the band are enjoying tea and biscuits, Geoffrey's new wife Liz fusses over us all and then promptly leaves us to get on with the business of the day. Jan Schelhaas sat to my left, Geoffrey to my right, Pye now seated by the fireplace next to Max and drummer Mark Walker standing in the window, seemed the most eager to discuss business with me, we chatted and laughed and decided what we would do, then it was more chat with the band about music, the 60's, exchanging WAV files, the new album etc, but tea finished Geoffrey invited Max and myself into the studio, it was small but rigged out with an unimaginable amount of mixing desks, computers, Violins, violas, guitars, gold discs on the wall and a sound system that would blow your head off, here Geoffrey told Pye what work he had been doing on the new songs, we then listened to four new tracks of varying degree of completion, where there were no lyrics Pye sang live to the backing tracks and gave us incite on the relevance of songs and meanings of the lyrics. Mark then came up with some ideas about what I could do, as it was a small studio and Geoffrey wasn't ready for any any huge recording session, I jumped at the chance of playing the Vibraslap which produces a very distinct sound and would be very noticable on the final recording, Geoffrey set up the mikes, gave me my cues and showed me where on the recording my part would go, we had a trial run and it sounded great, then we went live and it went even better. I'm sure fans of the band will be interested to know how the new songs are coming, well all I can say is that they sound amazing, the production is big, the songs have a big sound, very punchy, very moody, dark twisted lyrics with plenty of biting satire thrown in for good measure, this album is going to be a classic and hopefully brings them plenty of success, highlights for me were "Dead Man Walking" and "Farewell my old Friend" the latter Pye intimated might turn our to be dedicated to a dear friend of the band whom we all know, but I shall withhold here for obvious reasons. Recording finished, we listened back to the new recodings, they sounded great even if I do say so myself, Pye was was very eager to please on this special day and he then asked us if we would like to go to the local pub, The Dolphin and have a beer and some lunch, I jumped at the chance of more time with the band and certainly hadn't expected this generous offer. Mark and Geoffrey had to stay and try and finish some more recordings so as not to fall behind because the bands studio was out of action, so Jan and Pye led the way but not before we took the all important photos outside Geoffrey's house. At the pub we chatted in even more depth, Jan and Pye answering all my questions, Jan told me of his days in Thin Lizzy and how he recently found a black bag full of old unreleased cassettes that him and Phil Lynott had demoed, we all talked about Prog vs Progressive, what it all means, of course we all had different ideas, Pye for his part said Caravan weren't Prog and described their music simply as "Caravan music". We discussed past members of the band, how Jan and Andy Latimer have been recording together for the last 5 years and why Jan wasn't playing later that night with Camel...Oooh interesting, The whole Canterbury scene thing and how its all just Smoke and Mirrors and how the Pub licensing laws in the UK dealt a deathly blow to live music and killed the careers of many a talened group, but perhaps the most intriguing thing we discussed was how the band have been robbed and cheated out of not only money but also to the rights to their own music, image rights to past albums none of which they own. I asked Pye did he listen to modern progressive music he said "Oh Yes" he even admitted to loving heavy rock and metal, Porcupine Tree in particular, I asked if that was why Steven Wilson had remixed "In the Land of Grey and Pink" Pye said that he had only met Steven the once (same as me as it happens) but that he wanted to remix it himself and that because the band don't own the rights, they had no say in who remixed it, that said the band now has a solid idea of where they want to go and expect to embark on a bigger than usual tour with a much bigger range in merchandise proposed. Lunch finished I presumed that was that and I would be heading back to catch a train, but NO, Pye wouldn't hear of it he invited myself and Max to a guided walking tour of Canterbury, of course I jumped at the chance again, Jan and Pye led the way down 16th century streets, past the Cathedral, down alleyways that look like they're from a filmset, every so often Pye would stop and say this is where we did this or that, he pointed out a pub where he wrote "I'm on my way", The Marlowe theatre where they played many years before, we even stopped for a photo opportunity in front of the castle gate which adorned Blind Dog at St Dunstan's album cover, 40 minutes later we had come full circle and Pye with Jan in tow, drove us back to the train station, again though their thoughfulness again showed as they both got out of the car and insisted on walking with us into the train station to ensure there was a train running, there was, I thanked them for what was a very special day, we shook hands and exchanged bear hugs one more time and said our goodbyes... As the train left Canterbury, I could hardly believe the day that I had just experienced, the band were all just good fun and great company, myself and Max will treasure this memory for many years to come and I must say I have an even bigger respect for the band and their musical legacy because of it, a thing I thought wasn't possible.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote zravkapt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 07:41
Nice. Thanks for sharing.Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 07:50
^Indeed. That was a very nice write-up.
I'm so jealous. 
I hope Secret Oyster does the same at some pointBig smile
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Post Options Post Options   Quote bloodnarfer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 08:09
That was a great story and a pleasure to read, thanks for sharing!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dr wu23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 09:47
Great story....great band.....and you are a lucky guy.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote chopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 09:57
Wow, nice story.  That must have been a brilliant day for you.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The-Winkler Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 13:39
Thanks guys it was very very special, glad you liked it
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Post Options Post Options   Quote tamijo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 14:17
 wow, must have been so much fun 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote sleeper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 14:21
Very cool, but any chance you can break up that wall of text, so difficult/tiring to read.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote hellogoodbye Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2013 at 14:49
Lucky, lucky man Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Mellotron Storm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2013 at 19:42
That was such a great read, thanks for sharing.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote sturoc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2013 at 12:41
Indeed a great tale of a fine day in the midst.
It is inspiring to know that band members such as in Caravan are not so far removed from the real world.
Music fans tend very easily to build up in their own minds a fantasy world of what their favorite musician or group lives in. This account by the Winkler solidly tells that it is usually not the case.
Upon first getting into the 'biz' I had so many family and friends ask me questions about touring or recording studio life, it boggled my mind when hearing them !
"Do you really fly in a private jet ?" Huh?
or "can't you just call the limo ?" ahhh No .
"You must have alot of girlfriends?" Well kinda its a long story.....
"Did you go to the music awards?" ah rubbish !
"hows the mansion?" oh I'm working on it..

There is no fantasy life of a true musician.
Just being blessed to make fine music with friends and live/enjoy a healthy life
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The-Winkler Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2013 at 12:28
Originally posted by sturoc

Indeed a great tale of a fine day in the midst.It is inspiring to know that band members such as in Caravan are not so far removed from the real world.Music fans tend very easily to build up in their own minds a fantasy world of what their favorite musician or group lives in. This account by the Winkler solidly tells that it is usually not the case. Upon first getting into the 'biz' I had so many family and friends ask me questions about touring or recording studio life, it boggled my mind when hearing them ! "Do you really fly in a private jet ?" Huh?or "can't you just call the limo ?" ahhh No ."You must have alot of girlfriends?" Well kinda its a long story....."Did you go to the music awards?" ah rubbish !"hows the mansion?" oh I'm working on it..There is no fantasy life of a true musician. Just being blessed to make fine music with friends and live/enjoy a healthy life



I guess I'm as guilty as the next man for thinking the recording process and musicians were outside the norm, but Yes it was all very down to earth, in fact my son needed to use the bathroom but had to wait for Geoffrey, who was having a pee anyway it was great to see that they were/are real people, they were under no illusions, they were just ordinary guys making music, in fact they said they are now strangers in their home town of Canterbury, nobody recognizes them there now, in fact Pye told me they only sold one copy of their last album to someone from Canterbury and that was a download
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