A Recorded Interview With Founder and Guitarist Andrew Latimer Talking to Mal Reding
MR – Camel celebrate their 10th anniversary this year. They were formed in 1971. The original members were Andrew Latimer – guitar, Peter Bardens – keyboards, Doug Ferguson – bass, and Andy Ward – drums.
Camel were formed at a time when British rock music was going through the greatest period of experimentation; the years of the psychedelic 60’s and early seventies.
Peter Bardens had served his apprenticeship with Van Morrison in Them, whilst Latimer Ferguson and Ward had been together playing in the Guildford area, first in a band called Brew and then later as a backing band for Philip Goodhand-Tait.
In the next hour or so we’ll be looking back at Camel – The First Ten Years, with founder member and guitarist Andrew Latimer.
Then still in his late teens Latimer formed The Phantom Four, and played pubs and clubs in the Surrey area.
AL – I think, you know, with being in The Phantom Four, which was basically doing cover versions of all the local hits, you know, the latest hits rather, and we were doing sort of Beatles and Beach Boys and instrumental stuff. And then I started getting into the blues. I’d been to see, or I’d heard Eric Clapton on the Bluesbreakers album and it really did turn my head sideways a bit, from a guitar point of view. I thought God-what’s going on here? So then I went along to see John Mayall, and Peter Green was with him then, and he burned me away. I thought hey this is it. And I just started getting into the blues, and started practicing you know, to play good vibrato…and…it took me ages really, but I really am an old blueser now. I love the blues and always have done, and that’s probably what I do best, which is strange, ‘cos it doesn’t particularly come out, I know, in my writing.
MR – The Phantom Four continued to play around the Guildford area. Andy Latimer’s brother had left the band, and they decided to recruit a keyboard player. They put an ad in the paper, and found Peter Bardens.
AL – Well, we were very excited when he actually phoned, because we’d had about five other keyboard players that phoned-in from the ad, and they said they had the gear and things. And Peter phoned-up and said he was really interested. It was because the way the ad was worded for some reason – I can’t quite remember how we worded the ad. But he’d already done two solo albums, which impressed us for a start. It was like “‘cor great, he must be good if he’s done two solo albums”. I hadn’t heard anything. And then we actually arranged to jam together, up in London, and it just clicked. It was very strange – we all got together and just played a few blues, and did one of Peter’s numbers and did one of my numbers, and it sounded really good to us, and we had nothing – I mean Peter didn’t have any keyboards for a start, which was really funny. So we had to hire a Hammond for the jam. And we didn’t have any PA, no management, no publishers, no record deal, nothing you know. It was great. But we had all this enthusiasm and it was great. Pete had a couple of gigs in Ireland with the band he was with previously called On, and we sort of agreed to honour those dates. So we went over as On I suppose – we didn’t have a name and that was a really good short tour. We did about five dates in Ireland and it was great, because the Irish audiences are pretty starved musically over there, and so they were really enthusiastic. We were doing a real mish-mash of material – we doing were doing blues, Santana things and all…country things, it was a really strange mixture. It went down a storm.
So we said we must decide on a name, before we come back to England. But we never did. I remember us sitting around numerous hours in pubs and that, gibbering like jelloids trying to think of a name, and eventually Peter I think, came up with the name Camel – when we came back that was. So we said “um. Yeah, we’ll think about it”, and next day, “yeah”, and then the next day it was “yeah we like this”. It was sort of strange, and that was how the name Camel came about.
MR- Camel’s first record deal was with MCA Records, a label keen to see the band. But it took ten visits from the record company before they finally decided to sign Camel to a recording deal.
AL – We were really excited about the first album, but it turned-out to be a little bit of a nightmare, because it was our first album together and we hadn’t really worked together in a studio before. And from the word go Peter and I were at somewhat different angles, in the studio. It was very amusing, a lot of stages I’m sure many bands have the same thing where, you know, the guitarist and the keyboard player are hanging onto the faders, trying to push their parts up. It was that sort of job. And it was also a bit of a mixture of material, because it was material we’d been playing for like a year, and we wanted to get it out on record, get it out of our system. So there was a bit of diversity of material on there, you know. It wasn’t…we didn’t really…we worried about it for quite some time, about direction. And we were saying “well where are we going?” And “what sort of musical direction do we want to go in?” And then, obviously like all things, the longer you stay together it sort of just comes anyway – you don’t really need to ask yourself that question.
(Extract played from “Camel”)
MR – After the first Camel album with MCA, the band were to change labels. They became part of Decca Records new label, Gama, an association that continues to the present day. That first album for Decca was called Mirage.
AL – Mirage was…well first of all it was a reaction against the first album, because the first album – because it was our first was very heavily arranged, and we worked-out all our parts, kept solos to minimum. I think Mirage was a slight reaction against it because when we played live everything was much longer and our solos were much more extended things. So maybe it was a little bit of self-indulgence. I mean we went in and kept things as we did them on stage. And so there were a lot of lengthy passages, so long, which was reaction against, as I say the first album. Also we were starting to get into other areas of our writing – I started writing about certain areas, like books. I was reading Lord Of The Rings at the time, which you know everyone in the band was reading at the same time – it’s a great book. And I wrote a piece called The White Rider, about Gandalf. And I think that all started the idea of doing a concept album then.
But Mirage was quite a successful album in as much as it did hang together quite well, all the material seemed to flow together quite well and it did have some sort of direction, which was, you know, something to be said about it. It does hang together really well, as an album. But I think the pieces were too long, and then again as I say, every album we do is a kind of reaction against the last thing you did. You sort of want to break new ground every time, and we always wanted to break new ground overtime we went into the studio.
MR – Well you toured America, and you did a three-month tour…
AL – (Yeah)
MR – …that’s along time for a band that had no reputation upto that point really.
AL – Yeah. I don’t know how much good it did us actually. We actually went over there for a seven-week your, supporting Wishbone Ash, and as soon as we got over there – we arrived in New York, and the manager said “the record company and the agency want you to stay for the whole tour.” And we said “how longs that?” And they said “three months.” And it went right over Christmas and everything. We said “ooh-er…ok.” So we actually did this tour and we were supporting everybody really. We only did a half-an-hour to forty-five minute set, and we were supporting bands like Kiss and Steppenwolf and Climax Chicago Blues Band and all sorts of odd people playing, as well as Wishbone Ash. We really did cater to the tour, rather than try and educate people to what Camel were really about. The set, as I say, was half-an-hour to forty-five minutes and nobody was interested in the support band, and you were playing to 5000 people a night minimum.
(Extract from “Lady Fantasy” from “Mirage”)
MR – Following the release of Mirage and an American tour, Camel returned to Britain. Peter Bardens and Andrew Latimer went to Devon to prepare for the their third album; the highly successful concept recording Snow Goose.
AL – We hadn’t really got the idea of doing a concept album, when we went down there. We went down there, we had a few bits and pieces we’d written, but we had no real direction for the album. We didn’t really fall on the conceptual idea until about a week after we’d been down there. I think Doug was saying it was a good idea if we do a concept album. So after about a week Peter and I were chatting, because Peter wanted to do Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse and I didn’t. I wanted to do The Snow Goose, because Peter had read it – I hadn’t read it until the week I went down there, and Doug had read it and said it was worthwhile considering. And I’d read it and thought it had great musical possibilities. And so we thrashed it out, Peter and I. We went up to the top of this hill – I remember it really well, and when we went up there, he wanted to do Steppenwolf, and me wanted to do Snow Goose. And we came back down and said “yeah, we want to do The Snow Goose.” It was great. And we worked on it, wrote the majority of it in about two weeks, which was very easy, ‘cos we both had a very clear defined picture of who and what the characters should say musically. So we were writing and as we were writing you know, Pete would write a piece or I would, and we’d say to each other you know, “do you think this is right for one of the characters?” We’d know, both of us if we found it was right, and sometimes we’d write five different pieces until we came on the right mood for the character. And so it was very easy in that area.
It was a strange album in as much as we wrote the whole thing and practiced each piece, but we’d never ever played it all the way through. So we didn’t really know how it was going to sound like all the way through. And I was sort of working on links and things with Peter. We eventually went into the studios to do it, and we recorded each piece separately.
MR – Who was that produced by? Was that produced by Rhett Davies?
AL – No. That was produced by David Hitchcock, who produced the Mirage album.
And he was very good actually, because he helped us really organise things, like getting together with David Bedford, and more or less took control when the studio musicians and orchestra came in to do their parts – which we were a bit inexperienced with at that stage; we didn’t want to tell anybody how it should go. It was quite funny.
It was successful album for Peter and I because it came very close to what we had in our heads about The Snow Goose. Whether it was successful on a commercial thing is a, you know, is rather irrelevant really. I think it was successful to us, that’s what art is all about. But it did turn out to be a successful album for the band. It really did push the band up into the public eye. It was the turning point I think for Camel, ‘cos up until then it had been a band that people didn’t take much notice of, though we had quite a keen set of followers. But when The Snow Goose came along it was welcomed in this country with open arms, and it really did – it went into the charts, and around that time we got Melody Maker Brightest Hope award I think…did the Albert Hall concert. So things were sort of generating interest. So it was a good period for the band, and we were working well together at that stage, Peter and I. We still had our arguments and some disagreements in the studio, but we were really pulling together on all things and fronts; on the stage show and album. It was a very harmonious time for the band.
(Extract from “Rhayader Goes To Town” from the album “The Snow Goose”)
MR – With the success of Snow Goose behind them, Camel set about recording their fourth album, Moonmadness.
AL – That whole album was very rushed, because we went in – I know we only had about three weeks to write the material, we had about the same period of time to rehearse it, and the album was done very quickly as well. I mean it was all very rushed and, I think it was a fairly successful album. It wasn’t earth-shattering after Snow Goose, and it didn’t really do the job. But it got us into the swing of writing songs again, even though they were still rather lengthy, because of The Snow Goose influence really. We were still doing long instrumental passages. But we got back into writing songs.
There was slight bit of …there was something rumbling within the band then. The harmony was slightly askew, because we wanted get into a bit more complicated material, and at that point in time Doug wasn’t into getting into more complex material. And so the harmony was going slightly at that point when we went in to do Moonmadness.
It was fairly easily recorded and fairly quickly done in Ireland. There was no great concept idea – it was just a bunch of songs that we really wanted to get down. It was another album that was reasonably successful in the States.
MR – You co-wrote the songs on the album. By and large it was the Bardens/Latimer team that had taken you through three albums and this was your fourth…
AL – Rogers and Hammersmith, as we laughingly call it. Yeah, we’d always worked together well. It was always…it was probably a lot like Lennon and McCartney; where one person would write more than the other, on whatever particular number we were doing. You know I had maybe written whole pieces – especially when we were coming to do Breathless. I mean I was writing whole pieces and he was, and we were still crediting each other for doing things. But we weren’t really involved as much as we were in the early days.
(Extract from “Lunar Sea” from the album “Moonmadness”)
MR – Once Moonmadness had been recorded, a lot had changed in the style of music. You changed the pieces that you had been recording with Moonmadness – there were long symphonic pieces on Moonmadness. By the time you got to rain Dances they were shorter, jazzier pieces. Was that something you did on purpose?
AL – Yeah. It was probably a reaction again against Moonmadness. But it was…we wanted to do much more concise material, and we wanted to get into a jazzier area because Mel had come in – Mel Collins had actually started touring with us on the Moonmadness tour – though he didn’t record the album he toured with us. And we definitely wanted to work together again in the studio. And so we were going into a jazzier area. Doug left at that stage, and Richard came in. And Richard could play any jazzy things that you wanted, and they were quite complex, the bass lines on Rain Dances. And that enabled us to get into a jazzier area. I really like that album actually. I still listen to it, and it’s quite successful in as much as all the pieces…well the actual production is much better, and we were able to stretch-out quite a lot, on more complex material. Which we weren’t able to do before because Doug and Andy couldn’t cope with the more complex time signatures.
MR – How did you get hold of Richard, formally with Caravan? I mean was that an association…?
AL – Oh, we’ve always like Richards voice, which is another big plus, because we wanted to get into more vocal areas with Rain Dances. And we knew Richard had a great voice, and he was near the top of our list of bass players. We actually got in touch with him – he wasn’t doing anything at that stage. And he came down to Devon, where we were rehearsing, and he fitted-in really well. He mastered things really quickly. Which was something we weren’t used to, and …it was as simple as that really. We just phoned him up and asked him he was doing anything. He said “no”, so we asked “would you like to do the next album?” He said “yeah” and he came down, learned the material and did it, really.
MR – Up to then Peter and yourself were taking the lead vocals in the group. Very similar style of vocals, a very similar sound. Richard Sinclair’s bass guitar almost matches his singing; it’s a very bassy voice too.
AL – Yeah. It’s very English. And quite unique you know. He’s got a very unique-sounding voice. You always know it was Richard.
MR – Rain Dances was an album of shorter tunes, jazzier, with vocals as you say, with the older ideas; the washes of sound that we had been used to hearing from yourself and Peter. Do you think on reflection it was a success? Attempting to change the direction of Camel, and the sound.
AL – I do actually…for the fans it gave them something new again. I think that’s one of the parts of Camel – why we’ve lasted so long, because we have changed, and the fans have gone with us and accepted the change. It’s not been that drastic. There’s always been a close link to the previous album…ish. As I say, it’s pretty loose. But I think it was a successful album. I think the fans were a bit shocked at first, but they went with it.
(Extract from “One Of These Days I’ll Get An Early Night” from the album “Rain Dances”)
MR – Your listening to Camel – Ten Years On, an interview with founder and guitarist Andrew Latimer.
MR Your listening to Camel – Ten Years On, an interview with founder and guitarist Andrew Latimer.
Throughout Rain Dances a rift between Bardens and Latimer became more apparent. Both were pulling in separate directions. This rift was to continue until Bardens farewell album Breathless. But before Breathless Camel were to release their first live album, called appropriately A Live Record.
AL What we decided we wanted it to be was like more or less a history of the band. And so we were going along with things like versions of the Marquee gig, which I think we had ‘Liggin at Louis – a number that Pete wrote, from that. And the quality was pretty bad, and Lady Fantasy was on that as well, which the quality was pretty bad. We decided that that was us at that period of time and so don’t let’s try to do dubs and make it better, lets put it out as it is and say “that was us in 1970”, regardless whatever. It was like it was meant to be; a history, other than a great-sounding live record.
MR You also did a version of The Snow Goose – I mean you did the entire Snow Goose and recorded that on the second half of the double album, didn’t you?
AL Yeah – which was a version…it was the Albert Hall gig, which we’d recorded years before but never really felt the time was right to put it out. It was always “no we can’t put it out now, we’ve only just… the album The Snow Goose – the studio version, has only been out for two years or something.” We always said it was too close. But at that point we said it was about time to put it out – a live version of it. And as we already had it in the can – we had to do a few dubs, but mainly it was what happened on the night, although people didn’t hear it like that, but that was how they heard it in the little control wagon.
(Excerpt from “Never Let Go” from “A Live Record“)
MR With the live album behind you and your own negative feelings, and as you said when you recorded Rain Dances there was this rift, this composing rift between you and Peter, how and why did Breathless come together?
AL It came together because I came back from the States and decided that we would give it another go. And we sent down to write it in Cornwall, Peter and I. And it was quite enjoyable really, because as I said earlier on, Peter and I always did really get on well when we were creating, it was only when we came to the execution and…also contractually we had another album. And…we thought it would work, and it did work while we were creating it. When we got into the studio to do it, the rift became vary apparent. And Peter and I were just stifling each other. I wouldn’t let him get any of his ideas out, and he wouldn’t let me get any of mine out, so the feeling in the studio was pretty heavy weather. We were always sort of having our arguments – about what should take a solo and what sort of sound should go on. And in those sort of situations, nobody’s right or wrong, it’s just a different point of view. And so we both decided to part company, on the creative level. Richard and Andy wanted to stay with me, and so Peter went. And I think it was a very good move really, because as I say we were stifling each other, and Peter went off to do his solo projects. He’s done a solo album since and he’s doing a lot of single work now. And we get on really well now, and he lives a mile away from me, and we see each other a couple of times a week, and it’s…it’s really good. Because we were always really good friends.
MR So Breathless has Peter Bardens playing organ-playing keyboards if you like. But when you did the live tour, and every time you recorded an album and released one then you would tour, and perform the music from that album and previous parts of your repertoire. You must have had a problem, because Peter was a very main part of Camel, and I mean, there was you on guitar and Peter with the keyboards. So what did you do? How did you replace him?
AL It was a fairly large problem, because Peter said that okay he was going to leave. This was three-quarters of the way through making Breathless. He said “I’m going, I’ll finish the album and that’s it.” So he finished the album and we had a period of about three weeks, and then we were going on tour.
Now Richard suggested using Dave and Jan because he’d worked with them in Caravan and he said they really worked well. And I thought “yeah, it would be great, we could much more adventurous things with two keyboard players. We could do some great string parts”, and all this sort of thing. And so we just went down there – Andy and I drove down there and met them both and said would they like to do it? And they said “yeah”. And I thought we’d have no problems getting it off any parts, because we’ve got two now, and it was such a short period and it worked. It was great fun at that stage. I really enjoyed the arrangements, because we could do…and we had Mel…so the arrangements could be quite lavish. It was quite a fun time, in the end even that became too much, because everyone wanted to solo, and you had like four soloists, so it was very difficult saying who was getting a solo.
MR So Caravan and Camel had been moving along in parallel directions over the years, and both were very strong British bands – British in sound, and the quality of their music. Their songs were about English life most of the time, certainly in Caravan’s case that is true. With Richard Sinclair on bass joined by his cousin David Sinclair and Jan Schelhaas on keyboards. It seemed very obvious.
AL I’ve always wanted to keep the music very English, because I didn’t feel it was worth competing with the Americans because…you know at one stage Peter wanted to be like a Santana-type band you know, and I said “what’s the point of doing that?” Let’s try and do what we do. We are English, so let’s be proud of it and do something that’s English. Let’s not try to do funky disco stuff and all that sort of thing – which we have dabbled in. I’ve always wanted to keep it English-sounding, still do if I can. I don’t think someone should follow or try to copy too much.
(Extract from “Echoes” from the album “Breathless”)
MR Breathless was an album that marked both a change in personnel and change in philosophy for the band. By the time the next album – I Can See Your House From Here – was recorded, there were further changes within the group.
AL Well Dave Sinclair came in only for the tour. He only ever came for this tour, he never joined the band on a permanent basis. He said, “I’ll do the tour and okay, that’s it”, because he had solo project planned. So we said “fine, okay.” And Mel…Mel has always been in the situation where he comes in, does things. I means he’s done something on the latest album, he’ll do something on the next album, probably may even tour next time. So he’s never really been a permanent member; he never went or came, Mel. It was one of those sorts of things. So the change we had was Richard, because Richard was in a situation where he couldn’t cope with touring. He didn’t like touring all that much, not on the sort of level we were touring – we were playing a lot of concerts, doing about seventy concerts in about seventy-eight days, which was very hard work, and also playing to a lot of people every night, two or three thousand people. He didn’t enjoy touring, never really did enjoy it, and couldn’t cope all that well with all the pressures that go on in a tour. And he decided he didn’t want to do that anymore, in that period. So he left. That’s when we recruited Colin Bass. He’s a very different player than Richard, a solid player. Richard’s a rather more experimental player, I would say. And he could sing. And Jan remained with us, and we got…we kept the two keyboard thing going and we got Kit Watkins from America, who used to be with a band called Happy The Man.
MR When you did the Breathless tour, you decided to have Dave Sinclair and Jan Schelhaas out playing the keyboard parts. The experience of them playing two keyboard parts as one if you like, was such that you decided that in future you would keep it that way. When you got to the album I Can See Your House From Here you decided to carry-on with that, and as you say you got Jan to stay in the band, and brought-in Kit Watkins to play keyboards as well. Now why did you decide to have two keyboard players? Was it because you didn’t want to get into the same situation with another Peter, where Peter would say “I’m the keyboard player”?
AL Jan is a totally different personality to Peter, and at that point we’d liked the situation, where we had two keyboard players. And Mel was also doing other things at that point. He was doing a lot of tours, a lot of session work, and he wasn’t going to be that involved in I Can See Your House From Here. He had already expressed the view that he wanted to do other things, but still wanted to work with us in the future and things. It was all friendly and everything. So we decided that we still wanted to be able to create on-stage these lavish productions, and we’d like the use of two keyboard players, to give us so much scope to do lots of different parts together. And Kit was somebody we’d liked – we’d heard the Happy The Man albums, and he’s such a tremendous player, and he’s a very, very versatile player.
MR One thing you did with the band though was you very much started to come forward as a guitarist who would walk out onto a platform.
AL Yeah, yeah. I was sort of getting more guitar back into the act, because I’d – as I’d explained earlier – I had taken a back seat on production, sort of produced myself out of the picture in a lot of the cases. And a lot of things I wrote on keyboards, and when it came to actually recording them I thought, “well they’re fine without guitar, so I won’t put any guitar on.” I did that on quite a few pieces.
MR As you say you were concentrating more on guitar, playing and recording on I Can See Your House’, and one of the tracks in particular that strikes me as an example of where you took the reins again and played guitar, was Ice.
AL Yeah, Ice…was a particularly successful track in as much as we were getting back into live recording. Because over the years I think the criticism that is thrown against us – which is like you get in a studio situation – Camel’s been guilty of it – of being a bit too clinical, and because we do a lot of dubs, use the studio for different effects and things. Now Ice was different, it was live. We went into the studio and played it. So I think there’s very…I think Kit did a dub on it, and the ‘intro and ‘outro was dubbed obviously, as there are sort of two guitars doing things, but the bulk of that track is all live. So we captured a great…that’s what I really enjoy about recording, you can actually capture a nice piece of magic that happens between five, six people, and it actually goes down on tape, rather than dubs and things, which is always difficult to generate the same excitement and emotion, when you’re out there on your own doing a dub and there’s nobody to feed-off.
(“Extract from “Ice” from the album “I Can See Your House From Here“)
MR After the tour and album, on reflection were you glad of the change of personnel? Were you pleased with the way things had worked-out?
AL Yeah. Because obviously one goes through insecurities when you get someone like Peter, who was basically fifty percent of the band’s writing. And you suddenly left with all of it to do yourself…uh…it’s quite a strain. And not knowing whether your going to choose the right people to join – because obviously it’s difficult – you have to live with each other virtually. It’s a very hard decision. And when we chose Colin and Kit we were quite lucky really. I think luck has a great part in this. They turned-out really well; everything worked very quickly in the studio, and for the very first time in the studio there wasn’t the arguments and great discussions…about what sort of sound the Moog should be. You know, it was something that just happened. Which was great for me. I was really happy that we didn’t go through all those traumas. It was nice, it was almost like a great weight lifted.
MR From then you re-assessed the band again, and we come forward to the latest album, which again is a concept album, like Snow Goose. But before Nude, which the name of the album is, before you got to Nude, more changes went on in the band.
AL Well actually there wasn’t. Because after the I Can See Your House’ tour, Kit and Jan both expressed views that they wanted to do solo projects. Kit more so than Jan. But they wanted to take time-out. They didn’t want to be that involved in the new album. Kit wanted to do his solo projects, so we said “okay, fine. Let’s leave it like that. If you want to do it this year, then do it.” We decided we weren’t going to tour that year, because economically it wasn’t very advantageous. I suppose Duncan came in on a session basis – he didn’t really come in on a permanent basis.
MR So did you leave the door open for Jan and Kit to come back when they did their solo projects?
AL Yeah. Well it was agreed that we’d all do our solo projects if you like. I’d do mine with Camel and they were going to do theirs. And at the end of the day we’d all come back together again and tour with the Camel project. And so Duncan was brought in to do the sessions for the album. And after the album was recorded Kit and Jan did come back and we toured, which was quite an extensive tour of Europe.
(Extract from “Lies” from the album “Nude“)
MR Nude, Camel’s latest album, is a concept album like The Snow Goose, where it has a theme that runs throughout all of the songs on it. An idea that was successful before, but was that the reason for the concept idea again?
AL Only because I found it very easy to do when I was doing The Snow Goose. I find it very easy to do things, like a book or a movie, when things are laid out and you have very defined pictures of what your doing. I’d wanted to get my teeth into a concept album again – I’d been looking for it for about two years – never could come up with something I thought was worth doing. And Susan came up with this idea – Susan Hoover – of this Japanese soldier who had been marooned on the island, and stayed there for thirty-odd years fighting the Second World War. And the deeper I got into it, the more I saw musical possibilities. And also I was very influenced, quite heavily, from my tour of Japan. I think we’d done two tours of Japan at that stage, and I was very moved emotionally by both tours. I got a lot from Japan, from the people in the main. And I saw it as an opportunity to combine the two, which is my idea of doing a concept album, and my feelings from Japan. It was…the music was quite hard work. The story was even harder, because we had to…we weren’t going to use the original idea – we wanted to take it outside of that and use it on a much more universal level that wasn’t actually just relating to a Japanese soldier; it could have been any soldier.
We worked quite hard on the story, to get that into shape we wrote about twelve drafts I think, of the actual story, which I liked the seventh actually – about the sixth or seventh draft I think I liked it because it was story. And from the seventh draft on it was just edited and edited and edited. To the point now I think it was good and successful, the final version, because it just put across all the points that we wanted to. But I did prefer it when it was more in a storybook type thing. There was a much longer story, but obviously we couldn’t get it on so we edited it down.
I really enjoyed making that record. I think it was real good fun to do. And ‘cos everyone was into doing their parts – Duncan brought a lot of energy, Mel brought a lot of energy – Mel came back. And I had a very clear picture of what I wanted, which by this time I’d got my feet on the ground, and wasn’t feeling too insecure at that stage. It was very enjoyable…and that time we started working with Tony Clark and Haydn Bendall, who’d worked on Sky things, and they were really very much fun to work with, they were really funny. The whole album was very funny, making it at Abbey Road. Abbey road is a real funny place. It’s…the vibes are really good, and it’s quite good fun, ‘cos you get all these stars walking in and out of your sessions. We had Kate Bush sort of make us a cup of tea each, you know. It’s great for me, I think, “hey, it’s nice, ain’t it?” So that whole period of making that album was a lot of fun, a lot of fun doing it.
MR In the ten years that you’ve been playing, do you think you’ve kept the same audience? Do you think there are people who saw you in the early days in ’71?
AL Oh most definitely. I mean Camel fans are a very odd breed. They seem to stick to us like glue. There’s numerous people who have actually stayed with us from the whole…from the word go, from MCA to Nude. It’s really nice, and we’re still getting a lot of young audiences – it’s not like all the old fogey’s are buying Camel records. I mean there’s still a very wide audience. But it is nice when you meet people on the road, they’ve got all the records and they probably know more about you than you do, which is encouraging. It makes the whole thing worthwhile.
MR Going back to Snow Goose. This is your tenth year and you commemorate it with a special tenth anniversary album, as well has receiving your first gold record.
AL About bloody time! Yeah, Snow Goose getting a gold disk. I think I’ll melt it down. No I won’t, I’ll hand it on the wall like all good pop stars. Um…yeah, I was really pleased to hear that, and it’s also nice for people like Doug, whose not doing anything at the moment. He’ll get his gold disk, and Peter and Andy. So it’s quite a pleasing thing. And the new album, because it’s a compilation album – Chameleon – has…that was a very difficult thing to do, because Andy and I sat down and said, “okay, we have to choose an album, which is Camel’s greatest hits”, if you like. Which is pretty difficult as we haven’t had a hit. But it was very difficult to choose from nine albums, and a lot of the numbers that were probably the most successful – Lady Fantasy and Lunar Sea as you said previously, were long numbers. They were twelve, fourteen minutes long, and if you put that on a single album then you haven’t got many numbers on the album. So it was hard to choose numbers that were very popular, and also getting value for money, enough tracks on there that would keep everybody’s interest, and hopefully keep them happy…and say “oh yeah, that was my favourite track.” And we spent a long time putting different tapes together, so that the thing sounded…it flowed, and also it had a certain amount of popular taste, if you like, in the album. It was…yeah, a quite enjoyable project. I’m pleased it’s coming out, especially to celebrate our tenth anniversary in the business. It’s good.
MR What about the future? Do you see yourself being Camel in ten years time?
AL Good…good God. In ten years time? No idea. No idea. Who knows? In ten years? Ten years is rather a long period actually to project. I mean the next album we do, which I’m starting to write now, um…I have plans actually, to use nearly everybody, or using some old and some new people on the album. I’m not sure what form that’s going to take yet. As I say I’m writing material for it now, and um…there is a possibility of a few guest ex-Camel’s coming in. Peter might do a solo, and Richard might come in and do a vocal. I’m not sure about it yet. I’ve got this idea at the moment that we may do something like that for the next album.
MR You’ve been listening to Camel – Ten Years On, an interview with founder and guitarist Andrew Latimer. The music played comes from Camel’s recorded history. The first Camel album on MCA Records, and the Decca collection from then on; Mirage, Snow Goose, Moonmadness, Rain Dances, A Live Record, Breathless, I Can See Your House From Here, and Nude. Camel celebrated the success of Snow Goose this year, receiving gold disks for world-wide record sales. To commemorate ten years together, Decca Records released Chameleon – The Best of Camel, a compilation album.
This interview was engineered by Paul Eastern. I’m Mal Reding.