Interview Also Eden

“The future of the band was in danger after the motor cycle accident”

(January 2011, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, pictures by Arthur Haggenburg)

The year 2010 has been a year that the members of the British prog band Also Eden will certainly not forget. First their lead singer Huw Lloyd-Jones left; then his replacement Rich Harding was involved by a serious motor cycle accident followed by the departure of their Dutch drummer Dave Roelofs. Guitarist Simon Rogers was willing to explain to Background Magazine how things are going now for Also Eden. He is assisted by Rich Harding on some questions.

First let's talk about the departure of singer Huw Lloyd-Jones. What was actually the reason that he left the band?

Simon Rogers: “I think we certainly saw some changes happening. Towards the end of 2009, things weren't so good in the band and there were a lot of personal issues outside the band as well. We had lost our direction a bit, and I think collectively we weren't pulling in the same direction. This caused frustration for some band members. As a founding member I think Huw felt the band had lost its purpose. I was disappointed that he decided to leave, but I totally understood his reasons. I felt enough of an attachment to the band to continue, and I know the rest felt the same too. We had put too much of our time and effort into it to just call it a day. I'm quite involved personally from a compositional point of view, and this never really stopped, even up to the point where Huw left. I still wanted to continue to be creative. Thankfully things have worked out well for everyone.”

You once told me that you and Huw were friends since childhood. Do you still see Huw on a regular basis and what is he doing at the moment?

Simon Rogers
Simon Rogers: “I still keep in touch with him now and again, as do the rest of the band. We're still friends. He's currently working on a new project called Unto Us. He has also contributed some vocals to the forthcoming Cosmograf CD. I also contributed my guitar playing and composition to another Cosmograf-track, and Steve Dunn, our bass player, plays bass on one track. You'll get to hear 3/5 of the old Also Eden on that album, but on different tracks!”

Did you already write new material before Huw left?

Simon Rogers: “We're always writing new material. A few ideas were developed with Huw, but never saw the light of day. In fact we brought out a single before Christmas, which was first worked on when Huw was still in the band. Some bits from that period also make an appearance on the EP Differences As Light. ”

Rich Harding
(picture from Also Eden website)

Was it difficult to find a replacement for Huw?

Simon Rogers: “I'd already met Rich Harding prior to Huw's departure as I was looking for another project to work on. After Huw left we broached the subject to Rich and he was quite interested in joining. We auditioned him and we were impressed. Thankfully he accepted the position. In that respect it was fairly straightforward to find a replacement. We've been writing material fairly constantly since Rich joined us, obviously the best we can under the circumstances.”

Would you please introduce Rich Harding to the people who don't know him?

Simon Rogers: “Rich has been singing in a number of Marillion tribute bands these past few years such as Misplaced Neighbourhood and Lords Of The Backstage. They're quite well-known in the Marillion and Fish communities. They have done many gigs around Europe and have made appearances at Marillion Conventions. Prior to this, Rich sang in a number of bands around the Bristol-area, bands such as Sane and Zeptepi. Rich has a very different voice to Huw, which is exactly what we wanted. We wanted to explore different areas and Rich has certainly helped us to do that. He has a very large vocal range and he can hit some pretty high notes when he needs to! He's quite prolific lyrically and was keen to join a band where he could stamp his mark and be creative. Also Eden certainly affords him that!”

You had big plans with the new line-up just before Rich got a serious motor cycle accident. Can you tell a bit about that accident?

Simon Rogers: “Rich was riding his motorbike to visit one of his business clients, when he crashed at high speed trying to avoid a cyclist. It took quite a long time to come to a stop and he suffered a long list of serious injuries in the process.”

Did it endanger the future plans of Also Eden?

Simon Rogers: “Yes, the future of the band was in danger following his accident. There was a great deal of uncertainty particularly in the months following the accident. Prior to the accident, the plan was to put out a new CD before the end of 2010 and to support this with a number of gigs. We are deferring this until 2011. Between about May-July 2010 we had jammed a number of ideas which we are now formulating into complete songs.”

Would you please tell our readers how Rich is doing at the moment? How lucky was he to survive the accident?

Simon Rogers: “Rich is slowly but surely improving each day. Whilst all of his upper body injuries have healed, mainly during the five weeks he was under heavy sedation, he had to have over eight centimetre of bone length removed from his lower left leg, which is gradually being regrown at one millimetre a day. The day after the crash, Rich came very close to death due to severe internal bleedings. He's a lucky boy to still be here and he knows it now - he doesn't really remember much from the time of the accident until about five weeks later. Rich and I recently did an acoustic gig for the Fish-fans in Gloucester, so his voice is definitely on the mend. He put in a fine performance, albeit in a seated position! He's slowly getting to his feet. Rich is a remarkable man, and we are all immensely proud of what he has achieved since the accident. The events of the past twelve months have brought us a lot closer together. Most bands would have folded by now, but we have an unyielding belief in what we do. If we can survive this, we can survive anything!”

On the new album you have a new drummer like on all releases so far. How did you find Dave Roelofs and would you introduce him to our readers?

Simon Rogers: “Dave is a local boy from Swansea, so he was fairly easy to find! We tried a few people out and he was by far the best of the bunch. He did a great job on the EP and the live shows we did since January 2009. In fact Tim Coleman who played on It's Kind Of You To Ask will be helping on the new tracks. Dave is now busy with Huw's new band.”

Why didn't you release a full-length album for Differences As Light, but a short EP?

Simon Rogers: “I think short is an understatement! It's 25 minutes long! It's actually five pieces of music - Seeing Red, Oud En Nieuw, and the three-part Reality Cheque. We didn't want to wait a full year to release a whole album. We didn't feel that would be fair to those who had supported us over the years. It was actually autumn 2008 since the last release. We felt that it would be better to bring something out fairly quickly to showcase Rich's voice and then bring the full CD out at the end of the year. Obviously these plans have changed because of Rich's accident. We're only about six months behind schedule, which is incredible considering all we've been through! We were also keen to prove that we still existed following Huw's departure. We've written most of the music for the next full-length release. It's called Think Of The Children, and we're slowly building the tracks. It's sounding great already!”

Dave Roelofs

Is Differences As Light a conceptual album or is there no connection at all between the three songs?

Rich Harding : “There's no overall concept. Although, as usual, I made some deliberate lyrical connections between tracks for instance at the end of Reality Cheque with lines such as 'and the lantern sails into the night'.

Would you explain the lyrics of the opening track Seeing Red?

Rich Harding : “Well, lyrics are funny things for they mean different things to different people, and one of the lyricists skills, I feel, should be to write in such a way that you don't necessarily prescribe exactly to the listener what they should be feeling. What I was thinking about when I wrote the lyrics to Seeing Red, is the tendency of some of us these days, including myself at the very least in the past tense, to live our lives too much online. In discussion forums we sometimes argue about things in a way that we would never do if we were just sitting with a bunch of people down the pub. This can become obsessive and so focused that we stop being able to see the bigger picture. It's also self-referential though - an injunction to myself to get back out into the world of writing and performing original material. I normally write lyrics longhand, but this one flowed out so fast. I had to go to the computer and type it straight out! The direct inspiration was a song I wrote a long time ago, asking 'are the many shades of purple only me?”

Also Eden once had a Dutch drummer and you spent some time in The Netherlands. Was that the reason for naming one of the songs Oud En Nieuw?

Rich Harding: “It refers to a habit I have of walking around the streets of my home town Bristol. Towards the end of the year I'm thinking about the things that have happened during the year: where did I come from and where I'm going. If there's Christmas music on - and there usually is - I also have a habit of twisting the lyrics of John Lennon's famous anti-war song to 'so this is Bristol, and what have you done'? I'm a great believer in always having a plan, but always being flexible with it. You need to start walking to get anywhere, and sometimes where you get isn't where you intended to be, but you have to start the journey all the same. Specifically it recalls sitting in Utrecht (The Netherlands) with my girlfriend Sarah on what the English would call New Year's Eve, watching Chinese lanterns floating over the city, and realizing that the wind direction meant they would have been launched near where I used to live. If I'd not unexpectedly and suddenly stopped living there, I wouldn't have been with Sarah in Utrecht watching them. So Oud En Nieuw is a much better title than, for instance, New Year's Eve because it sums the whole song up far more comprehensively. That's languages for you - direct translations don't always cut the mustard.”

Who came with the idea to ask Eric Hodson on violin? His playing certainly gives something extra to the song.

Simon Rogers: “This was mine idea and that of keyboard player Ian Hodson. We wanted to keep the song as stripped back as possible and with a very acoustic feel. We wanted to keep to 'real' instruments as much as possible and the violin certainly helped to do this. It's the best part of the song in my opinion and it fits the mood perfectly. Sometimes things just work and this is a good example. We are very grateful to Ian's dad for adding a bit of magic to the song! We'll be doing a lot more of this in the future bringing other instruments and players into the mix.”

There's a picture taken in Utrecht in the booklet next to the lyrics of the song. Is it dedicated to Café Heen en Weer?

Rich Harding: “ One of the pictures used is indeed taken on the Oude Gracht in Utrecht, looking in the direction of the Café. Twig, our art director, also tweaked the picture of the couple so that Sarah has a glass of rose wine and I have a bottle of Leffe Blonde, which is what we were drinking as the clocks chimed midnight in Utrecht last turning of the year. The other related pictures are taken around Corn Street in Bristol.”

For Reality Cheque you used snippets of the lyrics from Hazel O'Connor and the late Billy Mackenzie. Both have been an inspiration for you. Was it easy to use those lyrics and did you have to ask for permission?

Rich Harding : “The snippets are there because, for me at least, they work in the places I've used them. The snippet from If Only is sung at the very end of Breaking Glass by Hazel's character Kate, when she has been destroyed by the pressures of fame and is convalescing in a nursing home. And, as you know, Billy died tragically young - some say he could never really cope with fame either, although I'm personally not going to pass judgement on the man with the most astonishing voice I've ever heard. He's still an inspiration to me today. As for permission, I asked Hazel, yes. There probably is someone I technically should have asked to use the start and end of Party Fears Two but, no, I didn't.”

For me this song's about pinching in the arm to see if things are real or has it a deeper meaning?

Rich Harding : “There are lots of things going on lyrically in that song! I enjoy writing songs that have two - sometimes more- threads going through them. From my point of view, the threads in Reality Cheque are about the illusions of fame and the perils of living on borrowed goods and money, both personally and as a country.”

I think Differences As Light differs from the previous albums. I surely missed the stunning guitar and synthesizer solos. Instead I hear more song-orientated material with a musical climax. Do you agree and why did you choose another approach?

Simon Rogers: “Partly yes, I agree. The soloing on Reality Cheque in both the Fools Gold and Rainbow's End sections are probably some of the best I've done so far, so I don't think we've completely abandoned soloing. There will be much more of this on the next album Think Of The Children. A song like Reality Cheque certainly has the climatic ending which is very typical for many songs of Also Eden. For Bumble and Outside In are other examples. We have a free download since Christmas 2010 with a song called Distortion Field which takes a similar route, albeit in a much shorter and more accessible way. There's another track scheduled for the new CD with a working title Paris which does the same. I think we've moved quite a way forward since About Time which as an album has a lot of instrumentation. We're certainly moving towards more song-based and lyrical material, which has always been what we set off to do. I think It's Kind Of You To Ask has less instrumentation than About Time, so I think things have been progressing naturally over the years. I don't think the EP really is a huge departure from some of our previous work. Some of my favorite songs take a more subtle approach, and rely more on texture, light, shade and build-up. Songs like Skimming Stones and Artificial Light are good examples. They're both very straightforward songs that don't have excessive overplaying. We didn't intentionally set out to write material which sounded different. It's really representative of where we are at the time. It's a very organic process.”

I noticed that the cover art work resembles the cover of A Street Between Sunrise And Sunset from Polish band Satellite created by Mark Wilkinson. Did you find out yourself and how did you find the great designer Graeme 'Twig' Bell?

Simon Rogers: “Twig is a good friend of the band and a brilliant artist. He's also a very busy man, doing work for Pendragon, Arena, Alan Reed and Cosmograf to name but a few. He's really developing quite a reputation as a prog artist, and we are looking forward to continue to work with him in the future. He really helps to bring the songs alive. Initial contact was through Steve our bass player. He and Rich worked very closely on the artwork from the beginning. There's an awful lot of detail there, and it's littered with personal and musical references. Many of these are hidden; some are quite cryptic. There are a few of my musical heroes in the artwork, but I'm not going to tell you which ones, you'll have to find them yourself! The whole design was a very organic process. It went through a number of changes as the songs and lyrics themselves evolved. Twig's artwork also steered the songs too. I remember some of the early incarnations including a boy looking out to the world through an open door, so original ideas certainly developed into something quite different in the end. Twig is a big fan of Mark Wilkinson and he certainly takes a lot of inspiration from his work. I know, having spoken to him, he wasn't aware of the Satellite-album, so I think any similarities are coincidental. I don't see any big similarities between that and Differences As Light myself, and we certainly didn't use this as a reference point during the conception stages. A case of great minds thinking alike I think!”

You already started to write songs for the next Also Eden release. Can you tell me a bit how they develop and are they meant for a full-length album to be released in 2011?

Simon Rogers: “Much of the music and lyrics we developed straight after we released the EP in May. Obviously this was halted when Rich had the accident. During Rich's recovery we began to build the tracks in the studio. During the first quarter of 2011 we will work on the details and start recording in earnest. The plan is to have a release probably around late spring. In the interim to help us get back into the swing of things, we have recorded two free Christmas releases, which will be available from the website. One is an original piece called Distortion Field and the other a traditional winter song. This has allowed us to work on the technology, sounds and techniques we will be employing and logistics of recording the album, Rich is not fully mobile yet, so we have to be fairly creative and smart in how we work. The album will be called Think Of The Children. It will be a full-length album and broadly conceptual.”

Can we also expect live performances in Europe next year and what other plans do you have with the band?

Simon Rogers: “We have a couple of UK gigs set up for the end of April with Tinyfish. There will be other gigs later in the year and we hope to get into Europe. This will largely be dependant on Rich being able to get about. No doubt we will start writing new songs pretty well straight after Think Of The Children.”

You also worked with Francis Dunnery, the former guitarist and lead singer of It Bites. Can you tell me how you met him and what was the cooperation about?

Simon Rogers: “I've known Francis for about four years and a half. I've been listening to his music from about 1987 and have actively followed his career. He does a number of House Concerts each year, and I've been lucky to host two. We're both massive fans of early Genesis songs, and when I showed him some of the stuff I'd worked out and the weird tunings on the twelve-string, he was very impressed. We've been good friends since then and we always love to play music together. I've done two Genesis-shows with him in 2010 - one in Cumbria and one in Bermuda! We may well do others next year. I've also done the odd impromptu guest appearances, both electric and acoustic. This includes appearances in New York City, Pennsylvania, Bristol and Exeter. I also make an appearance on his last album There's A Whole New World Out There. I play guitar on the reworked It Bites-song Kiss Like Judas. I feel very lucky and honoured!”

Thank you for answering my questions!

Simon Rogers and Rich Harding: “You're welcome, Henri!”

For more information check out:
       Also Eden website
       Also Eden on Facebook
       Also Eden on Myspace (with samples)
       Concert review 9-Apr-2009
       Album review 'About Time' (2006)
       Album review 'It's Kind Of You To Ask' (2008)
       Album review 'Differences As Light' (2010)

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