There’s no denying the abundant talents of Andy Ward, he stands besides the like of Bill Bruford, Dave Mattacks, and Robert Wyatt as a truely legendary drummer, with rare gifts over the musical laws of rhythm and melody. He is the driving force behind any band he graces, the very heart of the beast. In short Andy Ward is a musician to be savoured, particularly in a live concert situation, when his combination of deadly power and god given ability to compliment the loveliest of melody lines, make him a magnetic and breathtaking performer to witness. In the studio, like the always mighty, Jimmy Hastings, he delivers the goods, with a relaxed and happy mix of sheer creativity and professionalism. When you play music with Andy Ward, you’re playing with the big boys. Andy Ward is also one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet, full of enthusiasm and fun, this then is his story ….
So when did you first become aware of music?
A.W. I first remember really enjoying music when I was 7 or 8. I had a sister who was 6 years older than me and she was into The Everly Brothers, Elvis, The Shadows and Cliff Richard. My father although he was an academic man, a scientist and seemingly very straight, had a very controversial taste in music for the area he lived in, for example he bought the first Bob Dylan album, I remember that from when I was very young. He used to play me stuff like Muddy Waters and Ramsey Lewis, and so even though he wasn’t a musician himself, he shaped me into the musically precocious child. I was encouraged to listen to a broad spectrum of music. When I was nine I took up guitar lessons for a couple of years and then for some reason I don’t remember, I switched to drums. By the time I was fourteen and attending The City of London Freemans School, I was playing the obvious Shadows, Kinks and Stones covers. Eddie Offord was a couple of years above me, at the time he was known by the nick name Pooch. My brother went out with his sister Clara Offord and Pooch played a Hofner President guitar with a group called The Beat Masters. The drummers name I can still remember was Frankie Fox Wilson.
A very cool name.
A.W. Indeed. Eddie went on to wonderful things as a producer for Yes etc., but even at that time he was the school hero because he actually owned an electric guitar, let alone played one he had one! Also at the school there was a gentleman In the year above me, John Mellor who I was quite good friends with. After he left he formed a band called The 101ers, then changed his name to Joe Strummer, formed The Clash and the rest as they say is history. I’d love to ‘see him again, there’s a story circulating that I once snubbed him at a party when I was in Camel, he invited me down to see the 101ers and I was supposedly offhand with him, but I honestly can’t remember the incident.
So was there a thriving music scene at the school?
A.W. Not that you would notice, in fact I had to look elsewhere for people to play with. I started hanging round the coffee bar at Epsom Art College, sticking out like a sore thumb because it was painfully obvious to everyone that I was too young to actually be a student there. But I stuck at it and it was through that, that I met Chris Dorset and Geoff McClelland, who had previously been in a group called The Silence which had then become John’s Children, Geoff had been replaced in the group by Marc Bolan in fact. So I always thought of them as the remnants of John’s Children. So I was playing with them at fourteen, crawling out the back window when my parents thought I was safely tucked up for the night, and meeting them 100 yards down the road, waiting in the van so we could bomb off down to Portsmouth or Southampton to play some crummy gig. The bass player was this plumber from Woking, Gerry Barnes who had been in The Peddlers before they became successful. We were called Misty Romance’
A.W. Isn’t it just, I had two bass drums, it said MISTY on one and ROMANCE on the other. It was really tacky, done in a sort of Aubrey Beardsley design, but I thought it was the dogs bollocks, because at the time Keith Moon was out there with his painted drum kit and Ginger Baker …
You were well into them?
A.W. Oh certainly, they were milestones in my appreciation of what you can do with drums, and how you could contribute as a drummer. I still believe that a drummer should be a supportive, complimentary musician to any kind of song or piece of music, unless it’s an improvised piece or specifically required that you shine and show what you can do. Basically the best drummers to me are the ones who can play the songs right. Anyway enter Doug Ferguson. He joined Misty Romance, who by this time was myself, Geoff, Chris, and Wendy Hoyle, whom I fell in love with. Doug joined fresh out the army, he’d been serving in Aden. He had short hair, a nice pink Fender jazz bass and most importantly his own transport, so he was in. He’d just had time after leaving the army, to try and make himself look hip by growing these long cheesy sideburns I remember, but then that’s Doug all over, bless ‘im. It was a hopeless band, basically a soul band with touches of Hendrix, Cream and Julie Driscoll who’d just had that hit “This Wheels On Fire”. After the band folded, Doug and myself lost contact with each other for some reason, oh yes, I was still at school of course! Then one day I got this call from Doug, he’d moved to Guildford and met this fantastic blues guitarist who was seventeen, a couple of years older than me, and that was Andy Latimer. The drummer they had, Graham Butcher, wasn’t very good and would I be interested in joining them? Yeah sure, except that I wasn’t quite sure where my drums were, I hadn’t played them since Misty Romance had split, being busy with school work. Andy and Doug showed up in a gleaming Ford Transit van, like really posh. I was very impressed, it wasn’t theirs, but I didn’t know at that time. I remember coming out and saying “look I’m sorry I haven’t seen the drums for three months, and I don’t know exactly where they are”, and Andy Latimer’s eyes just went skyward “Boy is this guy keen, he doesn’t even know where his drums are”, you know, thumbs down, I wasn’t passing the audition so far. We eventually tracked the drums down, went to pick them up in the van and then set them up in a rehearsal room. We played, I think “Crossroads”, “Spoonful” and “Killing floor” and I remember Doug shouting “do a drum solo now”, so I burst into a solo and I noticed that Andy’s eyes lit up a bit – “this guy can really play”.
So I got the job and we were The Brew, gigging around Portsmouth, doing blues covers and some of Andy’s earliest writing which was itself blues orientated. I’ve got very fond memories of this time, I’d finally left school so I could grow my hair and stay up all night. I was doing what I wanted to do, I was a musician. We didn’t have much money, we didn’t seem to need much money, the audience grew to about 200 a gig, not many but big enough for us. We were still very young and part of the growing up process was that we started to question each others playing abilities. The upshot of that was that we fired Doug and brought In another guitarist Kevin Smith, and an American bass player, I can’t quite recall his real name, he was known as Dude – this San Franciscan guy with really long hair, a Hofner violin bass and a serious Beatles fixation. That fell apart very quickly. Doug in the meantime had gone over to South Africa with a band to play in the Claridge’s Hotel in Durban for loads of money, to exclusively white audience of course, you must remember Doug had been in the army. We asked him back, started up the band again, and by chance met Phillip Goodhand-Tate. We backed him on his album which was invaluable, certainly in terms of forming Andy Latimer’s ego. He knew he was ready, he shouldn’t be playing this guys songs, he should be playing his own. It was all becoming quite apparent that we were good enough to play in the real world, to play in London, to make records—and to be taken seriously I suppose. That whole period would have lasted about 6 months, making the album with Phillip and playing the live dates with him. He was a very nervous, alcoholic performer at the time, I don’t know whether he was strictly alcoholic but he was pissed all the time, and really nervous about playing live, hence, possibly, the drinking. When that finished we thought “hey we’ve got songs, let’s get a keyboard player and make our own group”. So we put an advert in Melody Maker and Pete Bardens phoned up, I remember talking to him for 20 minutes or so and him saying “it sounds as if you have something nice going”, and telling me about himself.
I’d heard of Them but didn’t know Village or Pete Bardens On, or Peter Bardens himself, but he sounded like a really nice bloke. I went up to meet him in the next day just off Shaftesbury Avenue, and liked him very much straight away. We went up to Lord Atlee’s great nephews house in Hampstead. I knew him from this band I’d played with called The Dregs and knew he had a Hammond organ in the basement of his big four storey house, so we auditioned Pete there and he joined up with us. Pete had about a half dozen gigs booked for the now defunct Peter Bardens On, and we did these gigs under that name. The first few were in Ireland, and we did 3 or 4 dates in England, Walthamstow Tech, that sort of thing.
So you weren’t called Camel just yet?
A.W. No, we’d sit around rehearsing, thinking of what we should call ourselves, it would always dissolve into stupid suggestions “let’s call ourselves Bum Notes And The Dodgy Runs”. Camel was the first name which was acceptable to all four of us, that, simply put, was it. Because of Peter’s connections, he’d been playing clubs in the West End with Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Long John Baldry, Alexis Korner, all sorts of bods, he was well respected, we got gigs in places like The Speakeasy and The Temple. There were others, the names come back to haunt me, just West End clubs where basically you’d be playing at 2 in the morning to drunk people, usually other musicians, because that was where they all went to unwind after doing their own gigs. On one of these occasions, after doing two sets, it was about 5 in the morning, we were just starting to pack away the gear for the long drive home to Epsom, in my case, and Guildford, in Andy’s, when two swaying figures appeared. I recognised them immediately to be Jim Capaldi and Keith Moon. They were making a bee line towards my very fragile looking drum kit and asked, “is it alright if we have a play?” like a fool I said “yeah, yeah of course”. I had three drum sticks left and gave two of them to Capaldi, and the other one to Keith Moon. Casting around we came up with a hammer for Keith’s second stick. The sight of a drunken Moonie swaying over my kit with a hammer in his hand frankly filled me with dread. This is, I thought, the end of my kit.
Your drums flashed before your eyes?
A.W. It did indeed. “Are you sure it’s allright?” he asked with a smile, and still, like you do, I said “sure help yourself”. Our roadie, we only had the one at this time, came racing over thinking something was wrong and I’m going, “no, no, that’s Keith MOON, I don’t care if they smash it, that’s Keith MOON.” With a twinkle in his eye Moon span the hammer round and thankfully used the handle to play with, I think he saw the fun of it. We joined an agency ‘Gemini’, and they got us a record deal with M.C.A. and we did the first album at Morgan studios with a producer,. Dave Williams, who’d never made an album before – the band had little studio experience, we weren’t quite sure who could even sing in the band.
It’s very tentative vocals on that first album.
A.W. Andy and Peter were doing their best, but neither of them were very confident about it.
Next up was the live side of the second Greasy Truckers album.
A.W. That came about from some sort of shady deal between our manager and Pete ADAMS, who was the representive for the Greasy Truckers. It was basically a big birthday party binge at Dingwalls Dance Hall, and they had a tape recorder running and got what they got. I remember Henry Cow didn’t have enough time to perform, so their stuff was done at a different venue. It was all just a big stone out, all night everybody was just rampant, I don’t think I spent any more time in Dingwalls than when I was on stage. The rest of the time, we were just falling in the canal stoned and all that stuff.
The number on Greasy Truckers – The full side of “Homage to the God of Light, Part 2”, originally comes from Pete Bardens solo album “The answer” (on Transatlantic), did Camel use to do it anyway or was it just for the Truckers album?
A.W. Oh no, live that was our ‘Piece de Resistance’, because it was long. I listened to the album soon after and thought it was a bit sad – there’s alot of bluffing going on in there boys you know. I’ve nothing against long bits of music, but there’s alot of just blues riffs being traded, and I prefer more of a twist to it myself, it was more, “here’s the lick I can do and another lick you can do”, it was a load of old twaddle I thought. Actually there’s another version on the “Camel on the road 1972” CD, that’s much better than the Greasy Truckers version, that’s the one to listen to I think.
So on to “Mirage”, the second album on Decca.
A.W. That’s right, we had a new deal and a proper producer, Dave Hitchcock, who we wanted because of his work with Caravan on “Land of grey and pink”, and Genesis on “Fox trot”, and he was a joy to work with. He was obviously more than interested in music, he was kind of passionate about it, without sounding too corny. He was very helpful right through the writing and recording stages, and the band were very happy then, we were like a real band, all pulling in the same direction. I remember round that time I was just so immersed in music, listening to so much brilliant stuff and then trying to take those influences through Camel, bearing in mind that I was never a major writer ever with Camel. I would have to infuse what ideas I could, either by the way I played, or by being more specific, because at that stage I could play guitar, keyboards and bass a bit, so I could show melodic ideas or whatever to the rest of the band. The cover became a problem, the designers Modular, came up with a cut glass version of the Camel cigarette box, an every day object, maybe not in this country so much, but definately in the States, you saw it all the time, but with a twist towards the album title Mirage, with the sliced up effect, simple but effective.
Someone in management came up with the idea of getting Camel Cigarettes in on it as a tour sponsor, and sure enough they coughed a couple of grand. They issued the band with loads of promotional packs of three, that had the album cover on one side, and the proper cigarette design on the other, and for about 2 years after we were still smoking these damn ciggies. It really back-fired on us, they’d show up at gigs with loads of girls with trays of cigarettes all over them. I remember this Camel company spokesman coming over from Switzerland, and he was even suggesting song titles to us like, “A smooth packet of twenty”, or “Filter Tipped Fantasy”, I remember Peter, to freak him out, saying we could do a track called “Twenty Sticks of Cancer”, how about that? It was very bad, we were no longer associated with the animal but with the cigarette. We knocked it on the head and made them use a different cover for the american release.
So you started to promote “Mirage”?
A.W. We did yes, well let’s say we started gigging extensively. We did a tour supporting Stackridge who were, I thought, wonderful, a really interesting group, and thoroughly charming chaps. We played alot in Europe at this time, mostly in Holland and Germany, and I think Scandinavia, bits here and there, which was to develop into quite a solid touring ground. At the Caravan Of Dreams gig in Bracknell, with Tonewall in support, I was reminiscing with Dave Jackson about the Italian tour in, I think it was 1973.
We were the opening band, the headliners were Van Der Graaf Generator, well it was actually Peter Hammill, but all of Van Der Graaf playing with him, and second on the bill were Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, all on tour of Italy, which was wild. We’d never been to Italy before and the sheer scale of the thing was new, playing in the big bull of rings full of people. The audience would wolf whistle all through the set, and we didn’t at first know whether this meant they liked us or didn’t like us, I think it was because they liked us, but I was never entirely sure.
I already knew the bloke who was doing Arthur’s all important lightshow, which consisted of some fairly interesting stuff like Arthur being encapsulated in a giant syringe during one number, and they didn’t actually spit him out the top, but they were doing their best with what they could afford. So I was matey with them early on, though, Arthur would never get his round in, I remember never!
The tour would split off alot and Camel would go off and do our separate gig somewhere in some little bar, and then we would all meet up again. What I recall of the nights when all three bands were on, stuff like, at one venue there was only enough power for either the lights or the sound. We obviously opted for sound, but it meant a lot of Arthur’s show, which was light orientated, lots of special effects, was gone. So none of us did a proper set, we ended up just sort of playing all together, the blues and what have you. At this very same venue, at the afternoon we were all farting around, and Van Der Graaf’s manager Gordion, was driving around in his estate car when he ran over Arthur’s shoulder bag, which had all this underwear and papers etc, and this large jar of honey, and the jar exploded and totally covered, everything in the bag. Arthur went beserk, running after Gordion’s car waving these sticky honey soaked Y-Fronts, shouting all these colourful insults, “I’ll make you lick it all out, you bastard”. Gordion put his foot down but still Arthur damn near caught up with him – boy, did he move! It was all a bit of a lads together travelling round in Italy, having fun, playing all these great places, but there was an uneasiness all around. With the promoters, you always had the feeling things could turn nasty – lot’s of under-lying menace, and even gunshape bulges in suits! I hear it’s all different in Italy nowadays, but it was pretty scary then.
At the end it was a long drive home and we had 50p left between us. On the ferry back we could afford a bag of crisps each and a bar of chocolate between us, and that was all we had left from the whole tour. Then I got home and read that Robert Wyatt had just fallen from Lady June’s scaffolding and was paralysed – that was not a happy time. I wrote him a letter saying “you don’t know me, I’m a drummer in a band” etc, and wishing him well, he was one of my big heroes and he sent me a postcard back after awhile, which was an unexpected thrill, I wish I still had it. So that was Camel’s first real tour, out there on our own with nobody to look after us. You were out there, we had to get on with it, it was very good experience for the band.
The next up was “Snowgoose”, which proved to be a very popular album, how did the idea come about?
A.W. I think it was Andy that decided it was a good idea to do an album with one constant theme throughout. It was taken as read, if you’ll excuse the pun, that the idea was to come from a book rather than any film or a painting. It was going to be an ‘interpretation’. Heavy odd’s were up for “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse, from me and Peter – that had a lot of scope in it. Doug came up with this book, Paul Callico’s, The Snowgoose, which struck a chord between Pete and Andy, and that was all important, because they were the writers.
Was it a big decision in the band, to have no vocals on the album?
A.W. No not really, because none of us could really sing, I was happy with it being an instrumental album. I was getting much more into the technical side of playing, wanting to explore technique more.
Was the record company happy with this?
A.W. In England they were fine, in America they were absolutely horrified that there was no singing on the album. But what the fuck, you do what you feel is right, by the time they expressed their opinion it’s too late, the album’s done.
So did you sit down and discuss what you would say if the record company wanted some singing on it?
A.W. Yes we did, and we’d have said “fuck ’em”.
Even if they would have shelved it?
A.W. Well, that was never really a bone of contention. What we were worried about, which is a fact what happened in America, was that they wouldn’t promote it, because they didn’t believe in it. All this shit about who ‘believes’ in what music, all these people who work for record companies and believe they have some sort of role in shaping – the music of the youth culture. Quite frankly, If a guy from a record company came to you , and said Mike Nesmiths’s a wanker, would you respect his opinion? say “oh you must know what you’re talking about, doing the job you do”, no, you’d say “bollocks, he’s. good”, and Camel had the same believe in ourselves, we were striving to be respected musicians playing good music, we weren’t pop stars. Halfway through the recording we did our first U.S. tour, which was a real ball crusher. We left in September, and were meant to be back well before Christmas, seven and a half hours travelling from Heathrow, and we got there to be told that the tour’s been extended three and. a half months!
After that we came back and finished the album, and it got great reviews, there was a real buzz around the band. I did a two page interview with Melody Maker, we could tell things were really happening. We did the Albert Hall with an orchestra, that type of thing.
So then you did “Moonmadness”, and returned to a more song orientated format, did you feel that when you had done “Snowgoose”, gone out on a limb by making it all instrumental, and if you had followed it by another instrumental album, then you were in danger of this limb becoming a dead end?
A.W. That’s’ true, I think both Andy and Pete felt that way, from a writing point of view, there was a certain amount of record company pressure – “you’ve had a hit album, if you can follow it with a hit single then you could relax”, but I wasn’t privy to it, it was directed at the two songwriters. I think it was a terribly sad thing actually, because for me the best parts of “Moonmadness” are the instrumental track ‘Lunarsea’, and the structure of the songs rather than the songs themselves. If you look at any Camel song lyrically, you will not unearth much, apart from what you see at face value.
I think the most popular song must be Lady Fantasy
A.W. The old flag waver, I think the lyrics to that are absolutely dreadful, and I wrote some of them. When you compare them to a songwriter who’s really got something to say ….
And vocally the band were weak compared say to Caravan who had two great singers, Pye Hastings and Richard Sinclair, two terrific singers. Pete and Andy didn’t have that, and they knew this to be true, it was hard for them, but at least they gave it a go.
Didn’t you think of bringing in a lead vocalist?
A.W. Actually we did earlier on, I’d forgotten about this. His name was Phil Rays, he joined us for one gig at the Speakeasy, so this pre “Mirage”, he was Scottish, wore plus fours and argyle socks, spoke with a heavy Scot’s accent, but his singing voice was very akin to Jon Anderson’s, so we were quite interested actually. But he just made such a twat of himself at the gig, doing the twist during the instrumental sections.
You played with Brand X at this time?
A.W. I first met Phil Collins while we were recording “Moonmadness”, at Basing Street studios, Genesis were downstairs in the larger studio putting the finishing touches to “Lamb Lie Down”, and I needed to borrow a drum key. So we got chatting and Phil was a very friendly guy, we met a couple more times after that, exchanged phone numbers and that sort of thing. Then Gabriel did his famous split from Genesis, and I did a major interview with Chris Welch in the Melody Maker, and the subject of Genesis came up, and he ended up using that as the headline “Andy Ward says Genesis will survive without Gabriel”, which was kind of odd, you know, as if I knew! It turned out that Phil really was a strong singer, and the rest is history, as they say. But at the time it really pleased him, so the next time I saw him he was really chuffed, “Hey thanks for the name check”, because it was really positive publicity at a time when they needed it.
Anyway, soon after he phoned me, and asked me would I like to play percussion with his jazz rock band, BRAND X, at a gig in London? I said “I’d love to”, I was very excited by this, so I went along and rehearsed with them. I found them quite something to follow, not knowing the tunes, and there were a lot of time changes, very demanding. I picked up on a few things, good enough to do the gig, but I was quite nervous about it. Anyway the next day came, and it was the gig, at a place called The Nashville in London. It had a tiny little stage, with the five of us crammed on, I was set up directly behind Phil Collins on another little platform. We started playing and everything was going swimmingly well for twenty minutes or so, but during the fourth number, I was playing tambourine with my right hand, and occasionally hitting cymbals with it, and catching them with my left hand to choke the sound. I did a particularity spirited one of these and failed to catch the cymbal with my left hand, the result was the cymbal crashed directly onto Phil’s left shoulder. Which I’d imagine was quite painful, It was just the most awful moment, and he gave me a very cold look that froze me to the floor. We carried on playing, but I felt pretty shaken, and was being very careful, but low and behold it happened again! This time I missed Phil but demolished half his drumkit and this time the band had to stop playing altogether while things were put right. The rest of the band thought it very funny, and made a thing of it during the announcements. I was never asked to play with them again. But they were a great band, and it was a fun evening except for those two incidents.
You did a radio session with Anthony Moore, around this time?
A.W. I had seen Henry Cow two or three times, and enjoyed them a lot, thought this is very interesting stuff coming out here. I became really good friends with their bass player John Greaves, and just after he’d left them he came to live with me and my girlfriend in our flat, and through him I got turned on to Slapp Happy, Peter Blegvad and Anthony Moore. A session came up, John had written most if not all the music for it, and Peter had written the lyrics, and Tony was going to play keyboards. We did the John Peel Show, and as we were finishing the backing tracks, Peter had decided to rewrite most of the lyrics, he changed one song completely, into a monologue about the pig part of the people. It was quite an eye opener, because with Camel we were always fairly prepared before we went into the studio. So to witness Blegvad being so dramatic and putting himself under so much pressure like that was amazing. Anthony. Moore was very impressive that day, and I hope to work with them again one day.
So next up Doug leaves the band?
A.W. Ahh … the truth is he couldn’t keep up with us musically, we’d started moving in a higher gear, with the music and compositions, and what was required from the bass guitarist was more akin to a lead guitarist, he couldn’t keep up so he had to go. Andy found it very hard to fire him, me and Pete were going “thank god we can get a player in”, no sentiment you know, bollocks, we’ve got to move on here. It was a very sad day in the rehearsal room when Andy sacked him, said “I can’t play with you anymore”. It was because Andy heard so much from me and Pete on the subject of his not cutting it, and we all agreed. I felt bad for him as he walked out of the rehearsal room.
Did Doug see it coming?
A.W. I don’t know if he did see it coming, if he didn’t he was a fool, I think he must have done, but he had this amazing capacity of self delusion in some ways, I remember supporting Soft Machine in France, when Roy Babbington played bass with them and Doug saying to me “oh I can play bass like that”, and .me saying, “oh yeah, you can play like Roy Babbington?”, and him sayin “yeah sure if I wanted to, but I don’t want to”. It’s always hard parting company with musicians because after working with them every day, even when you’ve had differences, you still get really close, and you just know when they leave the band you’ll never see them, I never see Doug, and he never phones me, and I never phone him. I miss old Doug..
So then you auditioned for bass players?
A.W. No we drew up a list, I was keen on Richard Sinclair, Percy Jones and John Gibling. Me and Andy were always big Caravan fans, and one of the management team knew his number, so I gave him a call and he came up to Suffolk and Richard Sinclair joined Camel
So you must have been dead chuffed about that?
A.W. I certainly was, it’s funny though, he was very different from how I Imagined him to be as a bloke, and he was a much more proficient bass player than I thought he was, he was dynamite in fact. I’d heard Richard on Caravan, Hatfield And The North and Robert Wyatt’s stuff, so I knew he could play, but close up this guy when he strapped on the old bass guitar, it was THE MAGIC MAN, something special happened. It was great, but I think it was wasted a bit in Camel, we didn’t really have the scope for him. But great to have him on aboard, and as a result, because of him, Dave Sinclair and Jan Schelhaas joined for a short while, so Camel really benefitted from meeting Richard Sinclair that’s for sure. I think at that time we had our strongest potential to be creative, because we had Richard, and we had Mel Collins on saxes and flutes.
So how did Mel come about?
A.W. Doug and Andy knew him from Guildford, from the band Circus, which also featured Phillip Goodhand-Tate. Mel played with Camel in fact before Doug left the band. Once the new line up got going, it now became apparent that Pete could no longer keep up with it. Peter left the band, but if he hadn’t, he would have been sacked anyway, and he knew that. He was being blocked out from the writing, it was a bad period, the time of the “Breathless” album. Richard was desperately trying to keep the band together, saying to me and Andy, “look Pete’s okay.”, and he’s defending Pete saying “keep the band together”. It was a miserable time, but in the end I sided with Andy, and Pete was gone.
The other thing about this period of Camel, was that Richard wasn’t getting any chance to write songs.
A.W. That’s right, he was effectively blocked out by Andy, which was a shame because some of the songs on the “Breathless” album, I thought were dross, I was very frustrated, Andy and Pete I could see couldn’t work together any longer. Richard in the meantime is being stifled, being actually discouraged from writing songs, and boy we did need them. It was a miserable time, the only joy that we got out of that was the tours. I remember Richard, he was just so happy in Spain playing these big places, and the audiences were just screaming for it. Anyway exit Peter, and then Dave Sinclair And Jan Schelhaas joined for our first Japanese tour.
I remember the flight took ages and ages, all the time zone changes really fucked us. I arrived in Tokyo with the only migraine I’ve ever experienced in my life. Then rehearsing, with various road crew dropping with raw fish poisoning, and then the first gig. It started about 6.30 in the evening, and it was a real joy. I sat down at the drum kit, which had been put up by the Japanese using an aerial photograph they’d taken of my drum kit, and the whole tour was like that, just completely well organised. The concerts were polite, enthusiastic affairs, it was totally different to any other country. Musically it was a joy with Dave and Jan, and for all of us playing that early was really excellent, it seemed a much more civilised way to do things.
So you had this dream line up for the band, you, Andy, Richard and Dave, Jan and Mel Collins, did a couple of tours, and then it all apart before you did any recordings, leaving Camel effectively as a two piece, you and Andy. How did this tragic turn of affairs come about?
A.W. Cor – that’s a hell of a question, I don’t know. By the time we got back from Japan, we’d done a long European tour prior to that, Andy had decided he didn’t want Richard and Dave in the band, and I went with it. I chose Andy over Richard and Dave, in the same way that I chose Andy over Pete. I’m having to think long and hard here, because what happened with Richard later happened with Colin Bass, I feel I kind of betrayed them by not standing up for them more. At that time I’d relinquished a lot of responsibility in the band, and if Andy wasn’t ultimately happy with someone, then I tended to go along with it. But that’s a bit like blaming it all on Andy, I’m not so sure that’s right. I’m not sure what went on, it’s part of what eventually made me so disillusioned with being in Camel.
If you had chosen Richard and Dave over Andy, would you have beenable to get the Camel name?
A.W. Not really, you see, you’ve got to remember that Andy was the songwriter for the band, so ethically I couldn’t have done. Morally I could have done, popularity wise I could have done, I mean the same thing happened with the next line up, but it happened even worse with Colin and Kit Watkins, Kit didn’t get on with Andy at all, at least Richard had a bit of time for Andy.
So yes I could have taken the band, but what could I have offered them? I had no tunes, and it would have been Caravan with Andy Ward on drums, not really Camel. I don’t know, whatever, the decision was made, weather it was the right one, I don’t know. I hated all the confrontation but in the end I’d started with Andy, and I’d decided to see it through. But I didn’t like to see Richard and Dave go, I really didn’t.
So on to the next album, “I can see your house from here”, with thetwo new members, Colin Bass and Kit Watkins.
A.W. Andy spotted Kit playing keyboards on the “Happy The Man” album,and was truly impressed. He was just brilliant technically, and a really nice bloke. But that had it’s inherent problems, in that he wasn’t like the rest of us, he didn’t drink or anything, so Kit was very isolated on the road amongst all the naughty behaviour that goes on. All the rock and roll life style, he didn’t want to know at all. I think we were lucky to have Kit, actually, for as long as we did. He was too good for us. I think he was doing it for the money and the exposure, but good luck to him, I was glad to have met him. Colin played previously with Steve Hillage, so we knew he had the chops – and I became good buddies with him, it made up a bit for losing Richard. But through all this, it didn’t feel like this was Camel anymore, it had lost it’s sense for unity. Looking back now I’d say it lost that after “The Snowgoose”, that early on. I’ve got to say I liked everybody that had been in Camel. Me and Doug and Andy spent a long time together, right through the formative years. I still love Andy, and miss old Doug and Pete. It seems I’m blaming certain people leaving on Andy Latimer, but I don’t want it to sound that way at all, because I’m sure I had as much to say about these things as he did.
So how did you come to leave Camel?
A.W. Well…towards the end of my time with Camel, on the last two tours certainly, I noticed something going on in my brain and it was new but kind of familiar. It was like my adrenalin gland had burst or something, it was a mania. I couldn’t sleep more than two hours a night; I was really up, really going for it. It became like I thought I could do anything, like I cant drive but I would have happily driven the tour bus. Stuff like that. There was definitely something mental going on in me. This manifested itself in a positive way in the drumming, I mean it gave me a lot of energy for that, handling two bass drums, doing lots of interviews and a certain amount of sex as well. I must admit I started to get sexually rampant and being in the privileged position of being in a band meant there was a lot of sex to be had if you wanted it. Thankfully that didn’t become too tacky but there were certainly manic phases. I was taking loads of drugs and even more alcohol and I’m talking heavy spirits in quantity not just a couple of beers. How much that contributed I’ll never know but I’m sure it did contribute because it takes away your logical view point even though if you’re manic you’ve lost your logical viewpoint anyway. I must have been a complete pain in the arse to be around. It culminated in a complete nervous breakdown and that was why I left Camel.
Four months later that resulted in a suicide attempt at the Marble Arch Odeon, I tried and failed to saw my left arm off with a Swiss army knife. I had a nervous breakdown and that hurts, when you go bonkers and cant tell what’s going on, that’s anguish enough. But what I’d done is try to kill myself in what I thought was a fairly fail safe way. Though looking back there was a big part of me that didn’t want to die because I’d spent the four months before then standing on train platforms willing myself to do a hand stand on the live rail or jump in front of the next train. Or going up to the top of tower blocks going “jump…now…jump now…” but the thought of what it would do to my parents always stopped me. I tried overdosing a lot or overdo the drugs hoping to give myself a heart attack…but none of that worked.
I was in a very bad way. I was obsessed with killing myself. I was waking up everyday not saying “Will I kill myself?” but “How will I kill myself?” You go through a lot of things trying to make sense of what’s happening to you…you start thinking about the miracle of life and therefore your mother and how ungrateful by taking your own life after someone had given you life. All I know was there was no joy in my life and the life I was leading was very much isolated in my mind and I took no joy from anything. I’d never know anything like that before or since, everyone gets depressed, everyone gets fed up but this was something else entirely and it just went on and on, day in, day out for four months until the incident at the Odeon. I then voluntarily admitted myself to a hospital psychiatric unit. I was lucky in that I was sent to a place in Highgate that was really peaceful and tranquil. I remember waking up the first day in the dorm I shared with three other patients, they had given my drugs to help me sleep the night before, and that was a shock, to be there in this mental ward with all these other people, some of who were seriously ill. It made me think that this was the consequence of my actions.
I was still suicidal, I remember being still being resentful when they did the surgery on my arm, wishing that they hadn’t found me in time and it was even worse now because I had totally fucked up my hand and probably couldn’t play the drums again. It took me a couple of months being there to get past that. There was a physical therapist, she was about sixty, Scandinavian with white hair, everybody called her Mrs. O, and she exercised my hand for about three months like you wouldn’t believe. I did so much damage that it will never be the same again but she brought it back to life, made me do it, and having that to focus on made me interested in life again. I started wanting to do something again. And then by a stroke of luck the forth psychiatrist I got knew about Camel, he had seen them play when he was at university, he knew about Mel Collins and Richard and he was talking to me like a fellow human being and not like a specimen. I am eternally grateful to those to and the young woman who did the occupational therapy…. between them they turned things around. After five months, at Christmas, I was well enough to leave. I was still bonkers but no longer even remotely suicidal. I felt and still feel incredibly lucky just to have come through that. The three guys I shared my dorm with are all dead; they’d done it again and succeeded which is really sad.
So I returned to my life but my life had changed beyond recognition. I had spent the last ten years in Camel and now that was gone forever. And I was totally skint; I mean not a penny to my name. I got a job in a pub, which was fun, and five months later I played drums for the first time with a covers band that was playing there. I got up and played a number with them and soon enough I was back to drumming. I played with various people, I formed a band with the bass player from The Monochrome Set, Jeremy Harrington called Hyacinth House, and we recorded two good tracks. I ended up living with one of the girls that sang in that band. Then low and behold Marillion came along.
I went to pick up some drums from a studio they were in, found out they needed a drummer and joined the band. They were very narrow in their musical tastes; it was all E.L.P. and Yes types of things and little else. They had a ridiculous opinion of themselves but after playing with musician the calibre of Camel I found I had to play down to their level of competence, which was very frustrating musically. I appeared in the Garden Party video and did some British dates and then in the states. There was a lot of friction between us, it all came to a head in New York supporting Todd Rundgren, and there’s Fish standing at the side of the stage ranting, “we shouldn’t be supporting this shit, we’re ten times better than this cosmic rabbit”, and I just did my nut. How dare he slag off someone the calibre of Todd Rundgren, who, quite frankly, had more talent in his pinky than the whole of Marillion, me included. Things got quite heated, and I shoved him in the chest, to be honest this was just the last day in a long line of pathetic and niggly incidents with the band. Three days later I was asked up to the managers room and fired. It was hard seeing them at number one the year after, thinking that could be me on Top of the Pops! Actually I quite liked Fish, we generally got on well together, he was the real talent within the band at that time, I think.
So let’s talk about your involvement in the Canterbury Scene, since you’re now part of it.
A.W. Well yes I am now, I always was a fan of Caravan and the first five Soft Machine albums. They carried on as an excellent British jazz rock band after that, but it wasn’t the magical band that was the SOFTS. My actual involvement with the fringe live scene that was happening in Canterbury during the 80’s was via Mark Hewins, who later played in Going Going. We had a band The Music Doctors with a synth player Johnny Oslo, and Graham Flight who was in The Wilde Flowers originally on bass. We were an unruly mob, drinking special brew at eight in the morning, which obviously didn’t help the music.
After that I formed a band Skaboosh, with violin player Anthony Aldridge – who’d been with the Barbara Thompson Band, and we toured around for a year and a half. At the end of that we were down in Freiburg in Germany, when our bass player left, and I phoned up Richard Sinclair, and within three days Richard was with us. So this was 1988 when I established real contact with Canterbury again. All great fun, but very poverty stricken, you lived on what you earnt that day. So Richard joined for the last 6 months of Skaboosh. Live we were terrific, but when it came to recording the album at the end of these two years we were completely knackered, I’d lost all interest in the band by then, so my drumming and Richard’s bass playing is not the type you would expect from us, it’s not bad, but …
So Richard wasn’t singing with the band?
A.W. Again, unbelievably, no he wasn’t, he was being stifled again, a ridiculous situation, but that’s how Rich and me got back together.
And then Going Going?
A.W. After Skaboosh I was financially up shit street, and had to get a real job just to survive. That was a bit of a shock having to work in a factory for a year and a half. At the end of this time Richard phoned up and said he’d been offered a gig supporting Gong, would I like to come and play with Hugh Hopper and Mark Hewins? Of course I said yes, working with Hugh was a thrill for me being a Soft Machine fan. So that was Going Going, loosely rehearsed and loosely conceived. We were called Going Going simply because we were supporting Gong, how more infantile can you be? But that was the nature of the whole thing, it was meant to be enjoyable and it certainly was. But it petered out very quickly as Richard had something new in mind. I remember Richard saying he wanted to do this thing called Caravan Of Dreams. The reason I was there, was because of Richard Sinclair, I wanted to play his music, and I didn’t care what he called it. So that started up in May of ’91 initially with Mark Hewins on guitar and then Richard switched to guitar and Rick Biddulph came in on bass. Jimmy Hastings and Dave Sinclair join in when they can and its all been great fun.
Andy Latimer came over from the States last summer. That was really nice, we got together and laid to rest a few ghosts, and generally sorted out all our unsaid feelings about the last days of Camel, and renewed our friendship, it was great to see him.
Since then: Caravan Of Dreams played a lot of concerts and produced one very fine album before eventually drifting apart. Then came Mirage, the Caravan/Camel supergroup who lasted a few concerts (including supporting Fleetwood Mac in France) and released one live album. During this time Andy and I became great chums and he ended up playing on all of my brother Todd’s albums…he was just amazing in the studio and without his input the music wouldn’t have been as great as it was. Through this he also ended up playing with Terry Burrows (AKA Yukio Yung) and also The Bevis Frond, though the gruelling European tours with the Frond started to bring out some strange but familiar behaviour in Andy. It was thought best than he should avoid touring at all eventually. Like Stephen Fry and John Cleese to name but two Andy was eventually diagnosed as being bipolar. Andy made guest appearances with Camel and there was even talk of The Brew reforming to record and album until Andy Latimer’s ill health of recent years put paid to that idea. Andy released his own CD Sticking Around a couple of years back.