Herein lies a brief history of my musical journey. (If you can call over 2,000 words "brief"?)
Let's wind back the clock to 1977 (date is approximate)
I was living in Beechwood Road in Caterham. My parents had an old (well, it probably wasn't old then) redwood-effect upright piano. A wonderful instrument it was. I remember there being a number of lacquer chips on the corners.
My parents decided - as they were both very musical people - that they would put me on piano lessons. I believe I was 5 at the time, and I had promise. I was sent to an elderly, white-haired lady called Stella Millbank. She lived on Greenhill Avenue in Caterham. Close enough to walk to, although I didn't have to walk that often. I was with Stella until just before I was due to take my examination for Grade 3 Piano, when sadly she died. I was placed with another person, a chap whose name I forget, but I do remember that I didn't like him as much as I did Stella. Anyway, I got through my Grade 3 without any problems, and I was part way through my Grade 4 when circumstances caused me to stop lessons. I do not remember what these circumstances were, but I do remember that I was about 8 or 9 at the time.
At around that time, in 1981, I remember that there was a competition going on with the local Tandridge Talking Newspaper for the Blind to compose and perform the theme tune for the launch. Long story short, I won that competition and an engineer from the Talking Newspaper came and recorded me playing the the on our piano at home, and a journalist from the Caterham News came and photographed me.
Yeah, I know... cheesy grin, eh? I did get in contact with the Talking Newspaper recently to try and get a copy of the theme tune that I wrote. They wrote back and invited me on a tour of their facilities (some 200 miles away). I need to get in contact with them again to see if they will send me a tape of an early "paper". Interesting to learn though, that my theme tune held for about 2 years, when it was replaced by a tune composed by the great Richard Stilgoe. If anyone was going to replace my theme, I'm glad it was him!
Fast forward slightly to 1984
It was in October on 1984 that circumstances dictated tht I had to move to The Moors in Tongham. Yes, I do know the circumstances behind this one, and no I'm not going into it here. It's in the past, and it's all part of what makes me who I am.
My Dad, being the musical type, always had one or two keyboards in the house, so I continued to dabble with music and keyboard playing for some time. Really, up until the point that I left home in approximately 1991/2, I was playing a keyboard pretty much every day.
Fast forward to about 1993
A little bit of side history: My cousin Phil is in a group called The Shakin' Chefs (sorry, website is a bit broken in places) as the drummer... and he's been playing drums since as far back as I could remember. Whenever we used to visit my aunt and uncle in Wokingham, I was always drawn to the drumkit. So, over a number of years, and having never actually owned a drum kit, I learned how to play drums. In fact, I still play air-drums even now! :o)
The point of this particular moment in time, is that I did play drums briefly in a band that had no name, we only wrote one song. Phil wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music. My Dad let us have some recording time at Trinity Studios in Woking - yes, the same Trinity Studios where the Spice Girls were formed. In the final recording of this one song - and I'll have to see if I can dig the recording out at some point - I played the piano, Phil sang, my Dad played bass (bless him) and Gary (who was about as musical as a house brick) programmed the drum machine. But whilst we were farting about setting ourselves up for the recording, I did do a stint on the drums on some covers. It was great!
As a side-note, Phil loaned me his keyboard - a Yamaha DS55 - many years ago. When I moved out of the area, the keyboard went with me. Having moved house a number of times since then, the keyboard was damaged beyond repair in one of the moves, and has sadly gone to the great keyboard store in the sky. I've tried to get in touch with him a number of times, but with no success.
Fast forward, yet again, to 1999
I was a member of St Andrews Methodist Church in Slough, and I had become friends with Chris, the son of two Methodist local preachers in that area. A young man, well younger than me anyway, who would become my Best Man in 2001. Chris was - and still is - a gifted keyboard player, who has since expanded his skills to that of the electric guitar. Anyway, in the time leading up to 1999... I had become involved in the worship team at St Andrews, sometimes performing in the main services, but playing bass guitar.
Hang on, where did the bass guitar come into things?! I think I've missed something out here. Whilst I was at college - erm, 1988 to 1991 - I found myself playing an acoustic guitar, but in the style of a bass guitar. I held it like a bass, played it like a bass, and only used it to copy basslines from songs that I heard.
So, when Chris's parents found out that I had some bass "experience", they put me to good use within the church. Anyway, back to 1999... Chris's parents, Gloria and Roger, felt led to set up a concert in aid of the suffering in Kosovo, so The Millenium Project was born. It featured Gloria, Roger and Clare on vocals, Chris on keyboards, me on bass, Mark on drums and acoustic guitar (no, not at the same time) and a guy called Paul on electric guitar. We performed the concert at Windsor Methodist Church in December 1999. It was an awesome experience for me, as it was the first time I'd played bass in front of people (and a fair amount of them too!) that I didn't know. Well, apart from me dropping the bass half-way through, it was an amazing success. I don't recall how much we raised, but it was definitely a success.
I was fairly involved in music whilst at the church, even to the extent of being the worship leader for an Alpha course that St Andrews ran on behalf of another church. Just me and a piano. That was scary, as my music-reading abilities are pretty poor... but I managed it!
Also, as yet another side-note, Chris bought new keyboards and a sampler, effectively rendering his old keyboard - a Technics KN501 - redundant. So he gave it to me... which was utterly awesome!!
Whizz on to 2006
Ok, so we've moved away from Slough and are living where we are now, in Conisbrough. Music has taken a back seat by this point, as we already had one child, with another to pop out in mid-2007... spare time just wasn't a commodity that we had the luxury of. The keyboard that Chris had given me was in its box, the MIDI controller keyboard that I bought ages ago was still in the corner of a cupboard. And I had no drums. Things were kinda falling by the wayside.
Slight skip to March 2008
Yep, slightly more specific timeline here, as I remember the date very clearly. This was the date that The Bugcast was born, throwing me into the realm of internet radio and independent music. Wow, what an amazing journey it has been since then. If you don't know what the journey has been like for me, then I would invite you to listen to the show. As I have always said, listen once... if you don't like it, don't listen again!
During my journey down the road of podsafe artists, who are extremely keen for you to play their music, obviously... but some of who are actually willing to build up a "professional" relationship (I say "professional" in quotes as I am clearly not one!!) and in a couple of cases, personal friendships. On episode 13 of my show, I played a song by Anyone's Guess, called "I Call You". This was my first exposure to this particular band, and wow - what a way to be introduced. It's an awesome song that you really should listen to. I repeated that same song on episode 25, and then played another of their tunes on episode 36. It was around that time, that they got in "proper" contact with me, and we started talking about possibly doing an interview with them for the show. Wow, that was a shocker for me, someone asking me to interview them?! Wowser! Anyhoo, on episode 44 the interview (having been recorded earlier that week) went live.
Right, this was a great memory for me to recall, but that wasn't the reason why I mentioned Anyone's Guess. In one of the many emails that we exchanged, I mentioned that I played the drums. This came out of the fact that the group had recently had a new drummer starting with them. In one of the emails, Sanja (the band's vocalist) asked me more information about my drum playing. I realised only a couple of weeks ago that I never actually answered that question! Well, now I have! :o)
Something very similar happened with an awesome guy called Mark Marshall. I first played one of his tracks - "Something To Believe" - back on episode 19, replayed it on episode 25 also, and so on and so forth. We started up an email conversation, and a friendship that I believe we both value very highly. I interviewed Mark for episode 51 and it was during that interview, Mark announced (I believe for the first time) his new project, Four For 4. This project would see Mark create 3 albums in a year, and allow plebs like me to be a part of it. I think it came out at some point around this episode that I had a musical background, and he was asking me questions about it also. So Mark, here's my musical history for your benefit also! :o)
And then we come to today
Caroline and I have been going to our local church for well over a year now, and the worship team at the church consists of Louise (on clarinet), Bob (electric and double bass), Angela (trumpet) and a pretty amazing Technics keyboard thing. Anyway, there have been a couple of occasions when Bob hasn't been there, and also when we didn't have a MIDI disk for one of the songs we were singing. Notice I didn't mention a pianist or keyboardist in the worship team? Anyhoo, I had a chat with Ian - our minister - this evening, and we both mentioned at the same time about my musical ability, and I think we're both quite keen to see where I could fit in.
And this, my friends, is the actual point of this post
Thanks to Sanja, Mark, Ian, and many others, it's motivated me to dig out my keyboard and research buying another bass guitar. Amazingly, it's also motivated Caroline (who was there when I was speaking to Ian) to polish her saxophone and start playing that again. I'd love to purchase a drum kit (digital, most likely) at some point, but I think that lack of money and the destructive qualities of two very young children might put a hold on that for a while longer! :o)
Right, if you've made it this far without falling asleep, then I thank you for listening to my inane waffle.