My first guitar was a three-quarter-sized acoustic that I strung with steel electric guitar strings. I got it at the age of 13 from an ad in the local paper, played it for about a week then put it in a cupboard.
About two years later, I was watching a Jimi Hendrix live video with my dad, and something clicked – so I went straight upstairs, got the guitar out of the cupboard and started practicing. I’ve never stopped.
I started to jam with a drummer friend on a weekend, learning about rhythm and song structure and how to collaborate with another creative individual. We made some terrible, but highly amusing demo tapes.
When I went to sixth form college, there was a ready-made band scene and all the cool kids were pretending to be Mudhoney and Nirvana, so I did what anyone else would have done – joined a Pearl Jam style grungey rock band called Earl Grey, after a chance meeting in the local second hand guitar shop.
We gigged around York, in a lot of venues that are now either Chinese Restaurants or rubble, and had a great time drinking and getting (some of) the girls.
I went away to art college in Hereford after sixth form, a town that seemingly hadn’t had music arrive yet, so bands and gigging went on a temporary hiatus. Instead I spent a lot of evenings holed up in my room, playing the guitar and writing songs for my own band that I was going to form as soon as I got back to York – 99 Columns. I went as far as advertising for and auditioning band members, but tragically for musical progress and world culture, that band never officially happened.
Instead, I formed a Verve/Jonathan Fire Eater style combo with a new colleague at my bar job and a couple of shaggy haired ruffians from the surrounding villages. Cognac were very popular, we played all over the country, did record company showcases and had interviews with Polydor and some other label interest, but it came to naught in the end. General disillusionment and the fact I was a somewhat angsty young man lead to me leaving the band – it carried on for a little while without me then fizzled out, as these things tend to.
Master & commander
In the latter months of Cognac, I’d been writing songs for my solo project AKP and had put together a little power trio with some other musician pals – it was great fun and I was enjoying learning how to sing in public. I’m not sure how keen the public was with hearing me do so. Nonetheless, AKP carried on for over 10 years, gigging frequently and recording 3 EPs and a full-length album.
Eventually though, all good things must come to an end and I felt I’d said pretty much everything I could say within the framework of AKP. I then formed GLASS with the intention that this band would be the direct opposite of everything AKP was about – we gigged extensively and recorded an album which was well received.
I’d known Chris Tuke from Screaming Banshee Aircrew for a little while and mutual friends were badgering him to make Berlin Black a reality, and I was pleased to be asked to play guitar for the new band. Once again I felt that GLASS had peaked and while we were on the cusp of an artistic reinvention, it was a gamble and a lot of hard work on the horizon and I was feeling burnt out. Berlin Black was stress free, great fun and the chance to work with yet more talented people so I made the decision to put GLASS on hiatus and do Berlin Black exclusively.
Around this time I was approached by long-time friend Andy Curry to provide music and sound for his theatre company Hedgepig Theatre’s performance of Playhouse Creatures, a play about Nell Gwynn and the first female actors that were allowed on the stage. It seemed like a good challenge so I jumped at it. It went very well and the audience and critical reception to my music was fantastic.
I repeated the collaboration with Hedgepig for Miss Julie, a tale of power and oneupmanship set in the kitchen of a 1920s house between the lady of the house, her valet and his fiance.
Since then I’ve worked with a variety of York-based theatre companies and collaborators, as well as providing film scores for local directors and production companies.
I’ve also turned my hand to stage and screen acting and I’m very much enjoying learning the craft. I self-published my first novel in 2014 and write plays and short stories pretty much continually.
I love working with talented, hardworking people – being creative and being challenged in any medium.