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THE BEVIS FROND – AN INTERVIEW WITH NICK SALOMAN

PHIL: I was in touch with Ade Shaw years ago when the was releasing his own solo works for review. I happened to mention I hadn’t actually heard any Bevis Frond music: he was mildly horrified! Anyway, he kindly sent me some CDs: “What Did for the Dinosaurs”, “Valedictory Tales” and a live one. I started scouring record shops after that, asking for your music, sometimes to puzzled looks, on others a knowing look and an escort to the upper floor treasure trove of albums. I couldn’t, and still don’t believe that your music isn’t better known. What has kept you going after all the years and what have been the high points in a long career in music?


NICK: I guess my longevity in the lower leagues of the music industry is down to a couple of things. Firstly, I’m still alive, and secondly, I really enjoy writing songs, playing guitar and making records. Of course, I think a little more recognition would have been nice, but it doesn’t really bother me too much, because, fortunately, that’s not why I do it. I’ve been privileged to be able to make a living from my music (just about). People still buy my stuff and come and see the band play, so I consider myself incredibly lucky. Sadly, lots of very talented artists never even get that far! I’ve had loads of high points over the decades. Doing two radio sessions with Arthur Lee, playing at The Queen Elizabeth Hall with Country Joe, playing Barrowlands with Teenage Fanclub and finally getting to play at The Roundhouse last year when Evan Dando invited me along to do a few tunes with him are just a few.


PHIL: You must have met a lot of interesting people in your time and played alongside others. Do you have any particular memories you would like to relay?


NICK: As I just mentioned, I have indeed met a lot of interesting people, and I would say almost all of them have been really nice. There have been a couple of assholes, but let’s not dwell on that. My friendship with Ade Shaw has been a genuine life-enhancing experience. I was good friends with Tom Rapp and Tony Hill, both no longer around. Tom was one of the kindest guys I’ve ever met. Very funny and embarrassingly generous. We were at his house in Philadelphia and Ade admired a gig poster on Tom’s wall of Crazy Horse playing with Pearls Before Swine. When we got back to the UK, it was waiting for Ade at his house. Tom had just sent it over without telling him. Tony Hill was a lovely bloke and an absolutely unique musician. He played with The Answers, High Tide, David Bowie and many more over the years. Just before he died, I put out a vinyl version of his album ‘Inexactness’ and took round some money for him. It wasn’t a lot (high hundreds), but he said it was too much, and only agreed to accept it after I refused to take any of it back. He then told me he’d never had more than a thousand pounds in his life. I was really shocked that such a talented guy had earned so little. He’d just recovered from a serious heart attack, and was making plans for gigs and writing new material, then he suddenly had another attack, and that, very sadly, was that.


PHIL: Yes, I was in touch with Tony a while back and his bass player Dean Holt sent me some of his music with Fiction which was wonderfully generous. I’ve always loved High Tide’s music, totally unique, a true one-off! Ade was, of course, in Hawkwind, Andy Ward in Camel, both personal favourites for me and lots of others. Did you ever play in other bands and are there any recollections of fellow Fronds you would wish to relate?


NICK: My musical history is pretty undistinguished. I never played in any well-known bands before The Bevis Frond, and let’s face it, we’re not even very well-known now. There have been quite a few guys in The Frond over the years. In fact, at the moment I’m the only original member! Ade Shaw has been on bass from the start of our gigging till about 2 years ago, when his wife became seriously ill. He became a full-time carer and obviously was unable to continue gigging, and that is sadly still the case. When we started, the line-up was me and Ade plus Rod Goodway on guitar & vocals and Martin Crowley on drums. Both lovely, talented chaps, and tragically both now passed on. Martin died several years ago as the result of a motorbike accident, and Rod died last year of cancer. Then Bari Watts came in on guitar, and Rick Gunther took over on drums. That line-up lasted a couple of years till Bari & Rick decided to form their own band (the Outskirts Of Infinity). They’re both still around, and Bari played some blistering guitar on the latest BF album. After they left, we went down to a 3 piece with Andy Ward on drums. A really lovely bloke and a superb drummer. That lasted eight years until Andy’s ‘on the road demons’ made it impossible for him to keep on gigging. We went back to a four piece with Paul Simmons coming in on guitar and Jules Fenton on drums. After a year or so, we parted company with Jules, and I took a seven year sabbatical. I had a lot of other stuff I had to deal with. In 2011 we brought Dave Pearce in on drums. At the moment the line-up is me, Dave Pearce, Paul Simmons and Louis Wiggett on bass. I reckon that we sound as good as we’ve ever sounded, and I’ve actually found myself quite enjoying gigging, which is a relatively new experience for me.


PHIL: I’m sorry to hear about this, but glad to hear you are making music again. On another note, did you ever listen to early Mott the Hoople back in the day (I have a reason for asking this)? And, given your reputation as a bit of an obscure psych connoisseur how did you get interested in that particular avenue for doing covers and inspiring your own songs?


NICK: Well, Mott were a big band back then, so anyone into what was called ‘head music’ back in the day, would have known them. I wasn’t a massive fan, but I liked them. I saw them a couple of times and I have their first album and ‘Mad Shadows’. My favourite track being ‘Thunderbuck Ram’. As for doing covers, we don’t do too many because I want my own material to take precedence, but of course it is fun to mess up a classic or two.


PHIL: You will see in my review of “Introducing The Bevis Frond” that the singing on one of the tracks reminded me of early Ian Hunter. What would you say your main influences as a songwriter were/ are?


NICK: Well, I guess it’s an amalgam of all the stuff I really like. There have been a few major influences over the years though. The Beatles of course, for their sheer musical brilliance, David Ackles for his lyrical prowess, Greg Sage (of Wipers) for making guitar solos acceptable in punk times, but there are loads of other artists I’ve been influenced by: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Elvis Costello etc etc. But I think that must apply to most songwriters, the trick is to use those influences to create something of your own.


PHIL: I still do a lot of reviewing (although people don’t tend to send you stuff anymore) e.g. for Cherry Red/ Esoteric. I’ve noticed from there, and sites like Burning Shed there are many anniversary releases coming out. A massive Camel CD box set is a recent example. How many years have you been releasing Frond music for now, and is there any prospect of a compilation of BEVIS FROND music?


NICK: The first Frond album came out in late ’86 (a few years until the 40th anniversary then!) There have been a couple of Frond comps, but only because certain labels wanted to do that. I wouldn’t have bothered with it myself, because it’s a bit daft to do a greatest hits album when you haven’t had any hits (great or otherwise), and also because I’m still making new music and I’d rather put that out than go back and put out stuff I’ve already done.


PHIL: Fair enough. Hopefully, ‘An Introduction’ on Fruits de Mer will bring you some new converts. How did you get to know Keith Jones and is there a prospect of an album of new BEVIS FROND music soon?


NICK: I’ve known Keith for a long time, a really good chap, and he seems to like what we do, which is nice. The ‘Introduction To TBF’ comp is a bit misleading as it’s really just a compilation of previously unissued tracks and left overs. So I guess that anyone hoping to get a handle on what the band is about is going to be somewhat misled. I would have definitely called it something else, but Keith knows what he’s doing, so I didn’t complain. It’s his label and he’s allowed to call a record what he wants. We have a new studio album coming out on Fire in early 2024 called ‘Focus On Nature’ which I am really pleased with. But then again, if I wasn’t really pleased with it, I wouldn’t put it out.


PHIL: It’s good news about the new album. You are often described as a HENDRIX devotee, but I hear a lot of different styles in your playing. Who are your main inspirations a musician?


NICK: Again, like most musicians, there a quite a few. I admire loads and loads of musicians, but direct influences on my playing would be Hendrix, James Taylor, Peter Green, Randy California, Roger McGuinn and a few others. I would hope a bit of me comes through as well. I absolutely love the guitar work of Ollie Halsall and Tony Hill, but I can’t say they influenced my playing because they’re so good I couldn’t even attempt to play like them. Same reason I didn’t cite Brian Wilson as a composer, his melodies are just too complex for me to try and emulate.


PHIL: Yes, Halsall’s work with Patto, Tempest and others was amazing, another uniquely identifiable style. Unfortunately living in Scotland now (near the Highlands) I’ve never had the opportunity to see the Frond play live. How did the last tour go and have you ever played in Scotland?


NICK: Yes, we’ve played in Scotland a few times, so living in Scotland is a terrible excuse for not seeing us play! We did Aberdeen with Country Joe, and as I said earlier, Barrowlands with Teenage Fanclub. The last tour was really good, we played at ‘The Old Hairdressers’ in Glasgow and it was sold out. The previous year we played at ‘Stereo’ in Glasgow with Gerry Love, and that was sold out too.


PHIL: It’s news to me, but I am suitably chastised! I have been to the Barrowlands of course – saw Albert King there in fact. To be honest I don’t get to many gigs any more. Transport links are not great up here. Anyway, people say you are a genuinely nice bloke and have a fiercely loyal following. You must have had to put up with some b***s*** in the past. How do you rise above that, and what makes you angry either about the world we live in or the state of the music industry or anything else for that matter?


NICK: Hopefully their characterisation is accurate. I think I’m a nice bloke, but I realize that I have a bit of a temper as well. Now I’m a bit older and less up myself, I don’t tend to fly off the handle so often, which is quite a nice feeling. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with too much bullshit. Obviously, being a professional musician for getting on for four decades has had its share of ups and downs, but you have to accept that I guess. I’m not particularly angry with the music industry of today, because I understand that it’s not aimed at a 70 year old guy, so it doesn’t really affect me very much. Besides the industry has always been pretty cut-throat and harsh. On general dissatisfaction, I think that if you live in the world, then there’s a lot to get angry about. First of all, I cannot understand why there isn’t more public outrage at the greed, dishonesty, stupidity and plain unpleasantness of our current government. I detested Margaret Thatcher and her gang, but at least I thought she meant it. This lot will say or do anything to stay in power and fuck the country up to benefit their fellow Bullingdon Boy wannabe mates. Those utter scumbags who burned money in front of homeless people are now running the country and doing much the same to the population. They should be in prison for the lies they’ve told and the damage they’ve done. Can you believe Liz Truss is actually coming back and criticising her fellow clowns? If she had balls, they’d be reinforced brass! To quote Terry-Thomas, what a shower! And that’s just the UK….


PHIL: I totally agree with your sentiments and your willingness to express them. Of all your songs what would you say have meant the most to you- which are the most endurable and why?


NICK: That’s not really up to me is it? When you put your music out for public consumption, that goes flying out of the window. All my songs mean a lot to me, and the ones that are the most enduring are the ones that people like best, and/or cover. When I do an album, I’m never sure which songs, if any, are going be particularly popular with the people who like what I do. I’m eternally grateful that a few of my songs have really hit home, but that’s the result of public choice. Apart from writing them, I had nothing to do with that.


PHIL: I suppose a check on your set-lists will give me a steer here. Thanks for your time. Do you have any further comments or anything you’d like to say?


NICK: I think I’ve probably said enough, don’t you? Hope this is okay, and thanks for taking an interest. Cheers, Nick


PHIL: The best of luck with your new album.


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Nov 07, 2023

Richard Gorman email to say how much he enjoyed reading this.

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