"The sound of this album was (in it's inception) clearly supposed to be sat firmly in the traditions of Celtic folk music. Evident in the rich, flowing guitar lines intertwined with flute and violin, ringing pedal sounds and sometimes rather ominous bodhrans. However, somewhere along the line, the link was clearly stretched beyond its traditional boundaries. Jonathan's love of music from outside this area becomes apparent with strange colourings from elements of classical, baroque music and dare I even say it, hard rock!"
The story behind the album "Bizarre Tales" is exactly that - a bizarre tale! It's an album that took on it's own life and seemed to create itself; I dare say that in the end, it also named itself. It started simply one evening when I was considering my next "move" as a musician, I had been out to a pub and watched a local guitarist putting on a simple set for everyone's entertainment. On return I had thought, perhaps that is something I could look to do. It would be an opportuinity to look at all the traditional work I'd done with Tom and also because simply me and a guitar was far easier to manage than the usual complexities of any band that I normally get embroiled with! So I set about putting together, both from traditional work and the occasional original piece, a set of acoustic songs I could go and play local pubs or venues with.
And this was when all the weirdness of the Bizarre Tales creation began. As I say, I had intended writing/arranging some solo guitar pieces for use in small venues - one man, one guitar and a stool and music to suit but things were changing.
The first time I noticed it was during the writing of the piece that became "The Alchemist's Penny". I'd been having some fun during the day with the main part to that and had copied my scribbled notes on it on to the PC so I could continue with it the next day. I returned the following evening to continue working on it only to discover some small (but noticeable) changes to the work on the PC. They were simple, little changes to the melody line but different to what I had on my scribbled notes. At the time, I put it down to having simply copied parts of it wrongly the previous evening and quite possibly that's all it was but it was only the start.... (as it happens, I kept the changes that were made in the piece and it was the first point where I changed from writing solo, acoustic songs to fuller arrangements. If you listen to the main part of Alchemist's Penny, the low section is the original, the higher part that comes in is based on the changes I found that evening)
Throughout the writing, there were various oddities and little changes I was sure I hadn't made to the music but generally I put it down to perhaps being forgetful or again, mis-copying something. Anyone who knows me, will recognise that as odd anyway; I'm usually a very careful and particular person... However, I was also having exceptionally vivid dreams/nightmares the themes of which were quite varied; in fact, I used a lot of them as a source for songs and lyrics. Never Love An Angel, Sandwalkers and Lotus Corset all had origins there. Crossing the Third Sea I particularly remember came from a dream in which I was on a stormy ocean which was forming strange figures in the waves. It really was like something out of a Lovecraft story! The rhythm for that song certainly came from the dream.
After a while though, it became difficult not to associate these little odities with the dreams. However, there were two particular occurrences though that I must say, really did scare me.
The first was during the writing of Lotus Corset. I'd pretty much finished the piece and spent the day arranging it and adding a final section. That section never made the final cut as I woke the following morning to find my notes on it in the bin. I certainly had left them on my desk before going to bed but I had NOT binned them (In fact, even if I had decided against the use of the part, I wouldn't have binned the notes, I'd have merely crossed them and put them in my music file).
Who knows? Maybe they just got knocked there somehow... But with the dreams and everything else, I was quite twitchy about that.
The second though was quite serious. I'd gone to bed after working on the album at about 1am. I think I must have fallen straight to sleep but awoke maybe an hour later with a strange sensation. I then got the biggest scare I've ever suffered in my life. As I opened my eyes, there was a completely black figure standing right next to the bed, right over me with what appeared to be a bladed weapon over my throat. I couldn't particularly make the shape out and as I say, I have never felt such fear. I'm not really sure what happened next, though I assume I basically rolled out of the other side of the bed in a panic, completely tangled in the duvet and dived out into the hallway in terror. I rtemember sitting on the floor for a moment in the hallway, my heart absolutely pounding. After a few moments I managed to pull myself together a bit, untangled myself, stood up, swtiched on the light and re-entered the room.....
I'm sure you know the next bit....nothing there.
Was I asleep? Did I dream it? I certainly didn't dream ending tangled in the duvet in the hallway! Nor did I dream the bruises from flinging myself out of the room which stayed with me for a good while afterwards. I'm sure I went considerably greyer that night too! After this experience I had the word "Andrasta" stuck in my head. Not because the figure had said it or anything like that
, just simply that it was in my head.
The next day I looked up who or what that was.
Look, I should mention as well that during any writing process, I do not drink and have never taken drugs; nor was I ill in any particular way or living with anyone in the house. Nor was I someone who particularly took ideas of ghosts or ghouls too seriously. I'd always been "Mr Logical". So, I'm not going to try and convince anybody of anything with this but from the experiences I had, I feel that during that whole period of writing Bizarre Tales, there was something more than I understood and there are parts and melodies on that album that I have to leave open my mind as to how they were written...
The other thing I can tell you is that I haven't suffered any of these episodes since the album was released even during writing.
Review from Renaissance Magazine by Michael Lohr:
For those of you not familiar with Jonathan Kershaw, he’s an accomplished guitarist that originally hailed from Yorkshire, but now resides on the semi-sunny South Coast of England. Musically speaking, “Bizarre Tales” falls somewhere firmly between Blackmore’s Night, Kristin Sweetland and Loreena McKennitt. The sound is partially Celtic, partially rock with subtle touches of Baroque. For those of us who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Mostly Autumn and Clannad, such comparisons are easily understandable.
On “Bizarre Tales” a deep echo of mysticism permeates this record. Ancient, verdant Celtic undertones echo throughout and there is also a nautical sensibility here. Songs such as the dark, pounding “The Demeter” and the flowing, epic “Crossing the Third Sea” invoke stormy seas and longing for lost love. The Celtic vibe arises once again on the jig “The Green Man,” while “Never Love An Angel” could be a song from the latest Nightwish album.
My two personal favorite songs on “Bizarre Tales” are the slow burn turned raging inferno of “Andrasta” –who was an Iceni Celtic tribal war Goddess worshiped by the legendary Queen Boudicca- and the whimsical, ribald “The Alchemist’s Penny,” which is the quintessential type of song one could hear on the thoroughfare of your local Renaissance Faire.
On tunes such as “Clocks & Mirrors” guest vocalists Laura Fauvel and Karina McGrath provide exceptional vocal accompaniment. Chris Jones lays down some truly exquisite violin throughout the album, while Celtic flute and bodhrans also abound.
“Bizarre Tales” is a lush, emotive record, full of sweeping aural landscapes. This album is a touchstone for the best of several musical styles. It is a truly enjoyable listening experience.