LEWIS TAYLOR INTERVIEW 2016
When Andrew Taylor retired his stage name, Lewis, from the music industry, it was as abrupt as the ending to Damn - one of the finest songs from the now classic, Universal/Island Records debut album Lewis Taylor.
The stuff of legend; twas January 26th, 2006, at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, that Lewis played his final gig. “He appeared to be overwhelmed at how much love he was getting; at how many songs we were all singing along with.” Observed Connecticut based indie soul singer Debórah Bond, one of the 700 or so who squeezed into the 500 capacity venue. Bond had more reason to be there than most, having already collaborated with the British maverick, just a year or so prior, on the cut (and paste) If I Didn’t Need You - a duet recorded back and forth via the magic of email.
“I was standing right next to Stuart Matthewman (from Sade) and (indie star) Eric Roberson,” Bond continues, “and Lewis was A-MAY-ZING! But then he cancelled the rest of the tour - that was it! I tried to meet him that day; I wanted to be like, ‘Hi, I’m the girl you did the song with!’ But I don’t know where he went after the show and I never heard from him again.”
The ink had barely dried on rave reviews within the New York Times and Variety when Taylor decided to catch the first red-eye back to blighty, much to the dismay of his American hosts Hacktone Records, who had devoted time, effort and capital to license music from Taylor’s acclaimed, independently made catalogue - Stoned Part I and of course, the indie masterpiece The Lost Album, the rival to his major label debut.
Upon returning to North London, Lewis Taylor remained on public display for a few more months, appearing briefly on Top Of The Pops, as the band director for an unexpectedly brilliant performance of Gnarls Barkley’s smash hit Crazy, before completely disappearing from the scene in June ’06, apparently taking his music with him. Removing any content online that breached his copyright and terminating his website, thereby scattering his cult, connected fanbase either to the solitary profiles of social media, or the offline wilderness.
For Taylor’s part, whilst he confirms that he “Shut it down” and ended his musical career a decade ago, he insists that behind the scenes, he never went anywhere.
Indeed, later in the year Robbie Williams would cover the (as it transpires) Sabina Smyth produced Lovelight from Stoned Part I, making it a worldwide hit - all sanctioned with Taylor’s blessing. His catalogue too, whilst out of print physically, would remain available to stream, or purchase online via download - not the actions of a man who wanted to erase his musical legacy.
Still the void and lack of information in the public domain allowed rumours to spread. Did Lewis have a breakdown in America? Was he strung out on drugs? Had he moved to Europe? Become a plumber, a green-grocer, or converted to Buddhism!?
Universal Records apparently bought in to the gossip, allowing an expanded edition of Lewis Taylor to be licensed via Caroline International, to coincide with the albums 20th anniversary, without attempting to either involve or contact Taylor prior to its release.
“I was told that they made the assumption that I wouldn't want to know, that there'd be no point in telling me, and besides they don't need my permission anyway.” Says Lewis Taylor today, via email, also typing, “Obviously they've concluded all that from the large amount of misinformation that’s floating around the internet.”
After a 10 year absence, Taylor talks Lewis. “Perhaps now is a good time to address some of that,” he says, with characteristic understatement, seemingly unburdened by the regard with which he’s held - sharing the same row on CD racks as Marvin Gaye, Brian Wilson & Prince - the positively beautiful effect his music had on the lives of his fans, and the bittersweet fall out from a retirement that has no hope of creating new music, whilst leaving a rich catalogue. Lewis Taylor openly reflects on retirement, musical influences, the quality of work, the lost recordings and the collaborative credit he never properly shared…
So what have you been up to since you retired in 2006? One of the rumours, my favourite, is that you moved to Northern France, working as a plumber …
There are quite a few interesting myths floating around, although the Northern France one is new to me, I've not heard that one before. But the idea that I would've decided to re-train and learn all about something as complicated as plumbing at my time of life when I can only just about navigate my own combi boiler is definitely among one of the wackier ones. I think someone is getting me muddled up with Tony di Bart, wasn't he a tradesman of some sort and went back to it after not enjoying being a pop star? Not sure.
There is a surprising amount of stuff that has been said on and off the net but I suppose with the absence of any actual information, and shutting things down the way I did, I can sort of understand it. But very little of it is actually true and some of these things get said because there is a cross section of people whose emotional attachment to an artist’s music is such that they'll indulge themselves in a tendency to project onto them. I think we've all done it at some point in our lives; most of us grow out of it though … I hope so anyway.
The last music related entry on your Wikipedia page lists you as having worked as the band director for Gnarls Barkley – do you still work in music at all?
The Gnarls Barkley job came about because of the MD work I'd done with Finley Quaye. Again it's always mentioned in a sort of 'and he also did this…' career defining kind of way but in fact it's not really anything. The way it ended up was I put a bunch of musicians together, we learned the songs, they came over at the end of rehearsals, we did one song on Top Of The Pops, they went home and that was it, not much to write home about really. I didn't find it particularly interesting.
Finley Quaye, on the other hand, now THAT was interesting. It took a long time for FQ and me to get used to each other but it was a great ride. He's so uniquely talented but the big thing about him is he's such an amazing singer, people didn't always realise that; his voice is amazing.
"There are quite a few interesting myths floating around..."
How did the Finley Quaye connection come about? Why was it that it took so long to get used to each other?
From what I can remember I'd put the feelers out that I wanted to do something different, word probably got around and so his A&R man contacted me somehow or other. We met up soon after that. This was in 2000. As for getting used to each other, it's nothing controversial, just human stuff. We were both artists in our own right, very different from each other, both uptight in different ways. It just took a while to find our footing with each other ego-wise, but once we did we had a great time - I liked him. I haven't seen him for ages though, ooh, probably about 13 or 14 years.
And the two songs that you appeared on from the multimedia project The Vicar - Songbook #1 (released in 2013) were they post-retirement recordings?
Now, I'm trying to remember off the top of my head when the Vicar stuff was done and I can't, but I can say that it was definitely at least ten years ago that I did my vocal parts; pretty much around the same time as the Deborah Bond thing (If I Didn’t Need You, a highlight from Bond’s 2011, independently released Madam Palindrome). Why? Has it (The Vicar) only just come out? Blimey, he took his time didn't he!
There was a real feeling from those in attendance at the Bowery Ballroom that you were on the vanguard of achieving something special in the US, in terms of exposure and success. I think it’s part of the reason some found your retirement so difficult to accept - that along with the emotional attachment people felt to the records - explain how you came to the decision to retire … how hard a decision was it to make?
Ok, well, I know that some have said that I 'walked away from showbiz out of frustration because of a lack of mainstream success' but again, this is another projection. Actually I would have been quite happy continuing along my own little wonky musical path had it not been for the real reasons which were of a much more personal nature.
I can't go into all of it but some of it is that from about 1998 onwards there was a tiny little voice at the back of my mind asking me a question, and the question was, 'Where is Andrew in all of this?' and I was ignoring it. You see, every artist brings his or her baggage with them into their career, some are aware of it, and some aren't. Amongst that baggage is the 'stuff' that has driven them to want to pursue 'the agenda' - and by that I mean the artists life, the fame - whatever it is. A lot of that 'stuff' is made up of early loss of some kind and artists can often unconsciously look for abstract ways to redress it by chasing 'the agenda'. For some people it works, or they become successful and consequently never realise that that inner struggle was even taking place, for others it doesn't work at all, whether they achieve success or not.
The thing is, once you get to the point where there is a public perception of you (i.e. when your record gets released) you need to be able to make a distinction between yourself and the art you have made, and you have to have a good strong sense of yourself to be able to do this. Many people are unable to make that distinction, often because they are still very young when they become professional. In fact it could be argued that those who do have a good enough sense of who they are are less likely to be driven to pursue that kind of life anyway. However in my case the problem was that I'd been so singularly focused on music from a small child onwards that very little else had developed, so I was wide open, easy prey if you like. It's a fairly familiar story.
Anyway, the voice got louder over time and finally the answer to the original question was 'Nowhere'. I didn't like what I had become and I knew that I was never going to be able to address it while I was still in that environment. That was the turning point; either carry on blindly with what you're doing or find out who you really are, so by the time I got to that point there was no competition.
Was the struggle causing you distress? Was it painful?
It may well have been causing me pain and stress but the thing is I wouldn't have felt it because in effect I wasn't there. It's difficult to put into words without sounding weird, but I wasn't connected at all. As I said earlier I wasn't able to separate myself from the artist persona because there wasn't a sense of self to turn to.
History is littered with artists who found a way to escape the baggage, plying themselves with drink or drugs … was that a factor?
Well, firstly self-medicating doesn't offer you an escape, it just covers it up. But alcohol and drugs weren't really a factor as such. I was never a big drinker and rumours about hard drugs and being a junkie are totally untrue. Sure I tried all sorts of drugs out in my late teens and early twenties but that was it. If I had been addicted to opiates I would have said. However I was a big hash-head for a long time and would drift in and out of that. But I can't say it was a factor, and by that I mean things would have turned out the same whether I was stoned or not. I mean I was completely straight when I was doing the first album and had been for a few years. I only got back into smoking when I went on the road, but it didn't really make any difference because it wasn't the issue, I was either a sober lost soul or a stoned one!
You mentioned that it was a feeling you started to get as early as around 1998. Were you already attempting to make a clear distinction between you and the art you made? Freddie Mercury as opposed to Marvin Gaye?
Freddie Mercury as opposed to Marvin Gaye? I'm afraid you've lost me there…
When Freddie was asked about the inspiration for his music (in the 70’s) he stated that his music wasn't personal, that it didn't really mean anything. Marvin on the other hand was all in - his art directly reflecting the personal, revealing his deepest feelings. So when it comes to a song like Let’s Hope Nobody Finds Us - first demoed around’98 (for the aborted sessions that became the Lost Album, the original planned follow up to Lewis Taylor) – love interest aside, it speaks of wanting to get away from it all, and could be viewed, in retrospect, as mirroring the feelings you describe having. Was it a personal song to that extent? A direct reflection of your thoughts of retiring...
Well there are two different aspects to that as far as answering you is concerned. The first part is to do with what actually did inform the music I made, and it isn't actually what people think it is. When it came to black music influences, none of them were from what is known as the 'soul' genre at all. The Gaye, Womack and Cooke references were stylistic signposts I used along the way - I'm a great mimic and because I've been very capable musically for most of my life I developed into one of those people who can do anything he wants. If for example I woke up one day and decided that I wanted to do something that was a combination of Nick Drake, Motorhead, Burning Spear and Bartok I would have done so and pulled it off very convincingly - it's just the way I am. I'm a bit mad. It doesn't necessarily mean that I would always be personally moved by any of it, I would just do it because I can and that would be enough to entertain me. It's an ADD thing I suppose. “Tonight Matthew I'm gonna be...” etc.
So what made my music stand slightly apart, to me at least, was how I went about it and the angle I was coming from. First the angle which was a lot more leftfield, 70's German rock bands like Faust, outsider things like Captain Beefheart who blew me away when I was 16, the magic of Syd Barrett, the crazy jazz of Cecil Taylor, anything that deviated from the norm, something that had an angle, that was lateral, and if none of those criteria were met then I wasn't entertained. I've always been like that. So there would always have to be an angle in any music that I made. It couldn't be normal, because I'm not.
Also how I went about it, the reason I felt that my stuff was deeper and more authentic was because my REAL black influences lay in the blues, not soul. The blues is the root. James Blood Ulmer did a tune once called Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher and he's right I guess, but if that's the case then “Blues Is The School”. And I don't mean BB King etc. I'm talking about the first wave, Son House, Charley Patton, Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller, people like that, just one man and a guitar. I felt if I wanted to make music of black origin then I wanted to do it properly and I didn't feel it was enough to pick up a few Stevie Wonder or Sly Stone albums and dilute everything further than it already had been by everybody else. So I studied, for a couple of years. I learned about the different regions, how blues singers from Texas, Carolina, Mississippi and Memphis all differed from each other stylistically and I soaked it up and it’s that which informed me. Then I started trying to write stuff and even then it took ages to find my feet. Put those two trains of thought together and it goes some way to explaining why I sounded like I did.
"I only got back into smoking when I went on the road, but it didn't really make any difference because it wasn't the issue, I was either a sober lost soul or a stoned one!"
Now on to the other part and again, it's not quite how you think it is. A lot of people assume that when artists write a song they all approach the process with a 'dear diary' attitude and that the subject matter is always a direct result of what is on their mind. Without exception I never did that, the words were always done last and I viewed having to do it as a pain. It was always about composing the music with me. The only thing that would have been on my mind would have been 'once I fit these rhymes in with the music, it will be finished and I can go on to the next one'. It's only with hindsight that the songs mean anything, now when I look back I can see that I was saying something, but there's no way I would have been aware of it at the time. Like I said, I wasn't in touch with myself at all.
The example you gave of Let's Hope Nobody Find’s Us is too literal, it doesn't really illustrate it as well as the stuff from the first album. Every song on that album is about the struggle to come to terms with one-self emotionally, it uses the language of sex and relationships, but it isn't about that at all really. But it's all after the fact. I wouldn't have had a clue at the time.
So not Freddie, but not quite Marvin either. He's not Gaye, as David Brent would say.
Actually with Freddie Mercury I think you were referring to a comment he made specifically about Bohemian Rhapsody when he was asked what it was about. He may well have meant it when he said that the song wasn't really about anything from the point of view of having written it, to him at the time it was a wacky piece of music. But it's the unconscious stuff that comes out when you write; it can't be helped. Anyone with some degree of sensitivity can see what it's about. Not in a literal sense, but what the song is saying emotionally is blindingly obvious. Guilt, an impending sense of fear and doom, alienation, a sense of shame about oneself, emotional fatigue, hurt, anger and indignation, it's all in there. It runs through a whole spectrum of negative emotions ending in the saddest of resignation.
Many artists have said that their art is a way of expressing all that buried unconscious stuff. The thing is if you get in touch with that stuff for yourself and it's no longer as buried, you very often find that you don't need to do it anymore. To some people that's a loss and to others it’s the opposite. I would say the latter is the case for me.
So songwriters can’t help but put themselves in there, knowingly or not? In terms of retiring, did that mean that you felt you were done - that you had nothing you needed to say anymore?
No, that's just a comment I'm making now. I've already covered why I got out of the biz. Baggage, the Agenda, the inner voice, the real self - remember? Keep up at the back there! (Lewis laughs)
No the thing is, I think you're seeing things very much from an artist’s perspective and applying that to everything you're asking me. Whereas I'm not really answering you from an artistic point of view at all, it's a human perspective which is much broader - apart from the bits where I've spoken directly about the music obviously. It isn't something (i.e. subconsciously expressing one’s true feelings) that songwriters have the monopoly on. Everyone on this planet is the same. You could be talking to anyone, a bus driver, some bloke down the pub, the lass doing your hair, an angry guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show, even the lord Jeremy himself, only a quarter of what's being said is in the words being blurted out and most of us are only aware of that quarter.
"It's only with hindsight that the songs mean anything. now when I look back I can see that I was saying something, but there's no way I would have been aware of it at the time."
A lot of artists fall into the trap of thinking they're on some higher plane because they think their art lets them express the stuff they can't say in everyday life, which is bollocks. It just means they're as emotionally inarticulate as everyone else but they've found a way of pretending that they're not! Hahaha.
Don’t worry I get it, “the done” part I was reacting to your answer and, assuming you hadn’t made more music, trying to tie it all together with the baggage part - I say, whilst doing that thing where David Brent would link both hands together with his fingers whilst biting his bottom lip.
Hahaha, I don't know if you've seen Ben Elton's latest sitcom based on Shakespeare with the wonderful David Mitchell in the lead role, it's a definite return to form for Elton, sort of his Blackadder for the 21st century and right in the middle of it all he's stuck a character who is based on David Brent, it's really funny. I really enjoyed that other recent thing as well, Lookalikes, have you seen it? Purely for the David Brent character in that, he's brilliant, strangely even more like Brent than Ricky Gervais is.
So what was the reaction from the band and from the guys that ran the US label (Hacktone Records) when you broke the news to them that you were retiring?
So you have yet another retirement question? I must say I thought we'd got it covered by now. I couldn't really tell you how others reacted, it may seem callous to those not involved but I wasn't concerned with how it affected other people. My only concern was to shut the whole thing down in order to concentrate on getting myself back.
In terms of shutting down, there's an assumption that when you retired you had all of the online coverage removed, Youtube/Vimeo clips etc. Giving the impression that you didn't want the music heard anymore…
It isn't like that at all; just more supposition from people not in the know. I know they all say 'He's trying to erase his online legacy' and other silly stuff like that, but it’s not true. The thing is, all my stuff is available on Spotify, ITunes and all those places for download. I put them on there and I wouldn't do that if I had a problem with people still hearing the music would I?
The only issue I've had is when people upload things on to sites like Youtube when it's not theirs to do that with - it's the artist or copyright holders property. I don't make a lot of money from those albums anyway but apart from that, I don't like people doing it and I just don't understand it either. It's obviously an 'internet culture' thing that I'm not a part of. It's not just my music people do it with. I just don't get the mentality which goes something like, 'I couldn't find this anywhere on Youtube so I've uploaded it from my own copy'. That's like saying, 'I went out of my house and into the street and I couldn't see my car anywhere, so I went back and got it out of the garage.'
Also, when you upload a piece of music to Youtube, you're asked if you own the content and Youtube won't let you upload it unless you tick 'Yes'. So why do people think it's ok to claim ownership of a track then try to get around it by saying that they don't own it once they've uploaded it? They know they're in the wrong and yet a few of them even get offended when you submit a copyright complaint and get it removed, which takes about three seconds to do but yeah, they get offended, almost as if it's their work! It's beyond me.
Do you still make music? Record it, for your own personal stash…
Nah. I carried on playing with some mates in the Edgar Broughton Band (prog-rock band from the seventies, friends of Taylor’s since the mid eighties) for a couple of years afterwards but that was it. When you get a tom cat neutered, it still has that pissy smell for a while even though he's had his nuts chopped off. It's the gland draining off. It was like that. I was still piss boy for a while but I smell nice now. Lol.
Hahaha, a bit sorry I asked now.
No it's ok, don't be! In all seriousness that would defeat the object if you think about it. There's no sense of 'Now I've stopped I can get on with my music in peace'. That would be a total contradiction. As I said before it was personal, to do with me and my own issues rather than the music business and I haven't gone into all of it, only the bits that are relevant to this conversation. The music biz itself wasn't the problem, but being involved in it wasn't helping me.
It's funny from my end how people would be curious about that but as I said before, I can sort of understand it. When I was a kid I was drawn into that whole 'I wonder what he's doing now' thing with Syd Barrett. 'Does he own a guitar? Does he play it?' Oooh ooh etc, probably because of the way it was left.
I think people, diehard fans need an ongoing relationship with the music and actually feel a sense of rejection if they think that an artist has turned their back on them (*as opposed to when they pass away). I know that might sound silly. But you can see it with Prince and his classics – you know, how many are reconnecting with that music now they are able to share it via Youtube, Soundcloud or whatever? D'Angelo too left a bitter taste for some with his sabbatical prior to Black Messiah's eventual release, a frustration, and it took people a long time to get over Sly's no shows in the seventies. They seem to form an attachment beyond simply listening…
Sure, I know that goes on but I have no sympathy for people who think like that. I was 14 when I thought all that with Barrett and even then I wasn't exactly consumed with it. I keep quoting myself during this interview, but as I said earlier, one would expect to grow out of it. What you're saying sounds silly because it undoubtedly is. Especially the examples you've presented me with. Did people really feel a sense of rejection just because D'Angelo left a gap of over a decade between two albums?! It left a bitter taste? How ridiculous does that sound? Maybe the lad had more important things to deal with over that period of time. His fans would have probably known more about that than me and if they did and still took that attitude then shame on them. I went to see Screaming Jay Hawkins once and he didn't come onstage because of an argument about money but I made a successful recovery from the trauma after about three minutes. We're talking about adults here, not teenage girls who cry because One Direction have split up, and even then I bet the majority of them will be laughing about it with their kids in twenty years’ time. Lol.
Yeah I hear you (aherm…) the big girls blouses!
Changing the subject, Universal recently re-issued the Lewis Taylor album, explain how you heard about that…
Yeah, well what happened was a mate emailed me a link to an online shop that was advertising it, Rough Trade I think it was, this was only a few days before the release date so I had absolutely no idea about it. I hadn't been told about it at all.
How do you feel about the release?
Well as far as the album actually being reissued is concerned I'm neither here nor there, but the actual package itself I think is a bit of a mess. Once I managed get hold of the artwork from the guy who did it - who incidentally I don't hold responsible, he was the guy who did the original artwork and was just doing his job - I could see that the credits were full of errors, and I'm not talking about typos here, and the essay was particularly shoddy, it just consisted of a lazy lift from some of the silly misinformation on the web that we've talked about earlier. Plus the inclusion of the so called Lucky remixes is completely beyond me, they don't belong on a Lewis Taylor record at all as there's very little of my music on there, I thought that was a stupid idea. There are other things around that could have gone on that bonus disc that could have made it so much more interesting. I still don't know why they did it. None of my records sold a great deal and I can't see how this is going to make that much of a difference, especially the way they've just sloppily chucked it out there. I did entertain the idea of getting involved in a bit of promo with them but the more I thought about it, the less I felt like it.
Personally, as someone who bought the original album/singles, my first thoughts upon seeing the tracklisting was that there was nothing new for me to purchase. Sure I can see why the lesser known B-sides (not the remixes) would warrant being included on a re-issue but ultimately, without knowing that you were open to work with them, I was disappointed with the lack of unreleased gems, original demo’s etc . For instance I would have loved to have seen the stripped down/acoustic style versions of Track, Song & Lucky on there (from the Noble Rot limited edition CD release in 2002).
Yeah exactly, they would have been the first things I would have suggested, and there are a few wacky songs that didn't make the grade or didn't fit in, and some covers here and there. There are some of the more listenable tracks from the album that never was, the stuff that was recorded before Lucky, which, come to think of it, were stylistically all over the place and bear very little resemblance to the stuff that came out. Some of them were quite funny though, and some of them really were very shit, like for example, Let Your Partner Know.
"It was personal, to do with me and my own issues rather than the music business."
Were there any one word titled songs – like the songs featured on Lewis Taylor - from that era of the Island debut?
Come to think of it yes, James which was a dreary blues ballad and of course Bus, which was an insane 7 minute full on jazz funk workout, complete with a full eight piece sax section. Yeah, that was a right laugh, that one.
But for the actual reissue, Cherry Blossom which was intended for a B side (released on the rare charity compilation Lullabies With A Difference) that could've gone on there, and there is one mad tune that was tossed off between the first and second album - it was called Like An Angry Mutha. I quite liked it, it sounded a bit like the first track (Midnight Lady) on Marvin Gaye's Midnight Love album, same groove, that tinny drum machine and 'donky-donk' synth bass, but it was twice as fast. It sounded like Marvin and Sylvester after a couple of bottles of Absinthe. So yeah - it could have been a much tastier package but there ya go '...that's Crufts!' as Brent would say.
The liner notes don’t really attempt to get into the nitty gritty either. As a fan, nothing beats a detailed and informed essay that can place you there, in the studio. Though I’m guessing if it was just you recording solo, maybe there wouldn’t be that many anecdotes to include?
Well, seeing as no one’s heard anything from me for about 10 years I'm sure it would have been even more of a bonus if I'd written some notes for the album, perhaps a few lines about each song or something. Y'know, ‘With liner notes from the artist himself' and all that sort of crap. Yeah, very much a missed opportunity on their part and it's not as if within business circles I'm un-contactable, they just decided among themselves that Lewis wouldn't want to know so there's no point in contacting him. You can't believe everything you read on the internet but they obviously did.
Looking at the original credits you’re listed as the producer, and Sabina Smyth the executive producer. Was it all you pretty much? How involved was Sabina?
Well that's a massive one, and this is where the story gets a little more difficult to talk about but I'm gonna be honest.
I mentioned before that I didn't like who I'd become, well I think that some of that transformation had already started before the release of the album. I would say somewhere along the line I went from being an eccentric, slightly arrogant little nerd to an egotistical self-centred little shit. Not all the time, but all the time when it came to music... which was most of the time, if that makes any sense! But it didn't always make me all that great to be around, and Sabina was with me all the time so having to be constantly around the pathetic drama of my artistic anxiety was no walk in the park for her.
I didn't realise this until years later but there's a lot of negative reasons behind why I was so unhealthily focused on music and I definitely carried all that negativity into my career, it made me self-destructive and also very defensive. Outside of music I wasn't so much like that but back then I was hardly ever outside it. Looking back I couldn't even handle handing tracks over to the record company once they were finished, I'd freak out because in my mind handing them over meant they were out of my control - it didn't matter that if I didn't hand them over they wouldn't be released. I really wasn't thinking straight. I was the same when it came to credits and the biggest casualty there was Sabina. It's not a particularly healthy situation where the girlfriend ends up managing the boyfriend, especially when really we were just two young people who had enjoyed playing in bands together. But I lent on her creatively as well. She was involved in the writing, the arrangements, sounds and textures, and the production. And I didn't credit her because I was so insecure, immature and self-involved. I would say that the executive producer credit I eventually gave her on that album is patronising at best.
To give you an example or two, look at the difference between that first album and Lewis II. That second album is just me, the only track she had any input on was the title track. My voice is better on Lewis II and there are some interesting ideas, but I know it's a fairly widespread opinion among fans that it doesn't live up to that first album. It's been said that it doesn't have the vibe or the identity that its predecessor has, and I agree.
Another really good example from later on is with the song Lovelight, now made famous as we all know by Robbie Williams. I don't know how many people have heard this, but the version on Limited Edition 2004 – titled Lovelight (West Coast Version) - is actually the original. It was recorded in early 2001 by which time I was out of a deal and trying unsuccessfully to get a bunch of new material together, again recording completely on my own. However the version that later ended up on Stoned Pt 1 is the sound of me letting go of the reins and letting Sabina produce me. Robbie Williams would never have covered it in a million years if he'd have heard the original.
That's how involved Sabina was.
It was Sabina that wrote the intro to the Lost Album, that sublime piece of music (reminds me of Donny Hathaway's brilliant I Love The Lord, He Heard My Cry) that leads into the Wilson-esque Listen Here. What was her contribution to that album?
The Lost Album, well now you're talking. That's my favourite LT album, unlike all of the others there isn't anything about it that embarrasses me. As far as Sabina’s involvement is concerned it was a full on 50/50 collaboration between us on that one. As well as production, she did a lot more writing on it. If you listen you can hear that the intro is the same as the middle section from the song Yeah – she wrote that too. Plus while you mention them, the melody to Listen Here is hers as well as the chord sequence for Let's Hope Nobody Finds Us. Yeah, she did a whole heap of stuff on the Lost Album but I think she's credited correctly there. I'm particularly proud of my bass playing on that album too, unleashing my inner Chris Squire, and it’s all right up there in the mix as well.
"Lovelight (From Stoned Part I) is the sound of me letting go of the reins and letting Sabina produce me. Robbie Williams would never have covered it in a million years if he'd have heard the original."
Earlier you mentioned freaking out - I know you said it was because of relinquishing control to the majors, but was it also caused in part due to their rejection of The Lost Album sessions? I mean you can almost hear from Spirit the closing number on Lewis Taylor how it was set up perfectly to develop towards Lost...
No you've completely got the wrong end of the stick, or perhaps you misread it. This has nothing to do with the Lost album, this was going on while I was still writing for the first album - even while I was still trying to find my direction. When I said '...it didn't matter that if I didn't hand them over they wouldn't be released' is an indication of how self defeating my thought process was at the time. What I mean is that once I finished a song I was uncomfortable with the idea of playing it to the record company for them to hear because that felt like a loss of control, in spite of that fact that if the record company didn't get to hear anything, they wouldn't have anything to release. Does that make sense now?
There's a lot assumptions being made about this so-called struggle between artist and label and it's all a load of crap. It was nothing like that, at least from an A&R point of view, they were fully on board once they had Lucky and Bittersweet. But the marketing department struggled with it, they were clueless because it didn't fit into a specific genre, but to confound the issue even further I struggled with the whole concept of the marketing process anyway.
As for Spirit Of Soul (Sic) leading on to the Lost Album material, nah, it didn't happen that way at all. The B sides were the next thing to happen. They weren't outtakes from the first album, each little group were recorded specifically for the release of each 'single'. The Lost Album ideas came much later, after I stopped promoting the first album.
So what are you up to now? I know it isn’t plumbing.
Well I don't really have much to report on that front. I still love music, it just doesn't define who I am anymore and I think that's much healthier. I suppose the only relevant thing I could say is that I've just been getting on with life really. A work in progress as the well-known saying goes.
Or have I? I could be plumbing in my spare time, y'know, just as a hobby at the weekend. Checking that the pressure gauges work properly on those new Ideal Logic models, they're not as good as the older ones y'know… less sturdy.