Dick Langford & Tricks Upon Travellers
I guess that most of us musicians have some kind of ego problem.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall for too many years and yet still continue to do serious damage to my cranium.
So what’s it all about ?
The band is/was Tricks Upon Travellers. We achieved more than a modicum of success in the folk roots world with appearances at Glastonbury and a number of festival gigs. The gigs were storming with mucho dancing and general frivolity which is interesting as most of the songs are lyrically very downbeat. Just goes to prove that at live gigs few people listen to the lyrics.
I get distinctly miffed and I’m slightly suspicious of bands who seem unable to describe their music. What faith can you have in a band who can’t describe their own music ?
OK you ask, what sort of music do you play ? Well, it’s difficult to describe really. Actually it’s not. It’s folk roots or folk rock. For the uninitiated it means we can do pretty much what we want as long as we give the fiddler a few traditional sounding tunes and I manage to produce some authentic English folk melodies.
It’s great working in this genre. I can assuage my guilt about not being as politically active as I should be by writing about inequality, globalisation and the manipulations of the media. Death and love come pretty high on the agenda as well which probably surprises no-one. It gives me freedom to write whatever I feel strongly about. If something moves me I don’t have to fit it into some cliched style, I write as I feel and then we play as we feel.
I’m lucky in that I worked with and learnt from our old singer Graeme Hobbs, who is an excellent writer. He has the ability to get straight to the heart of the matter. Whereas I tend to intellectualise the writing process and can agonise for hours over one line (and still get it wrong) Graeme’s lyrics just poured out of his head like some stream of consciousness beanfeast.
Now I'm working as the main songwriter I've hopefully learnt my lessons well. It's the quality of the songs that give the band it’s unique strength. Take for example "From Another Plaice" our 4th CD but the first in the new line up. It’s a wonderful mixture of styles and songs (no shocks there then). From the sparse, dark opener "Sound of Sirens" to the gypsy swing of "Knocker Boys" and the bile filled "Third Way" there are no two songs that sound even remotely the same.
Maybe that’s a problem, maybe we didn't have an instantly recognisable TUT sound. Nevertheless it’s received great reviews in the folk rock press and independent radio stations all over the globe have picked up on it in a big way. Unfortunately all the promises of a succession of agents, promoters and would be managers remained just promises.
Ah, the joys of the music business. I have “cynic” running through me like the lettering on a stick of rock but I’m still surprised at how talent is kicking around in little bars and clubs up and down the country. For our own part we’ve been rejected by folk venues for being too “rocky” and rock venues for being too “folky”. A rock and hard place certainly come to mind. C’est nous !
It’s strange really, I drive all over the south of England spending hours in cars and vans, unloading and loading heavy awkward gear and getting home again at 4 in the morning. Why ? It’s for that 2 hours on stage, 2 hours of ego massage, 2 hours of feeling truly alive, 2 hours of feeling just wonderful. It’s all a lie really it’s sometimes 2 hours of “I can’t hear the guitar guys”, 2 hours of “all I can hear is the guitar guys”, 2 hours of “who set this sodding PA up anyway?”. But the more I play these days the more I get a sense of incredible privilege to be able to do what I do.
The band has reached a temporary hiatus with the arrival of 2 sets of twins to drummer and bass player (!!!!) but I continue to write new songs and look forward to performing them when the time is right.
Stay cool guys.