By Hans Kristian Simensen
Q: I am very curious about the guitar riff you are using on Owner of a Lonely Heart.
A: It was my friend and ace carpenter, Michael Standing's first acoustic guitar, it was brand new!
Q: How did you do it?
A: What happened was that Yes were recording the 90125 album, at the time they didn’t have a title for it but ultimately the title of the album was the actual Atco Catalogue number ‘90125', it was mentioned that somebody came up with this idea and everybody else hated it. A lot of recording was done at Sarm East but Chris Squire, who I had spent time jamming with at his Virginia Water studio, wanted to try some Synclavier overdubs. It was agreed that they would come over to my house in North London, when the group arrived there was Gary Langan, one of Sarm's superb engineers, Trevor Horn, and Chris Squire. We had a general discussion on what numbers I was going to play on and meanwhile, Gary threaded up my 24-track recorder.Chris wanted to smoke a cigarette in the studio, my front room but I said that if he had to he could lean out of the window, I was only joking but so he did and he was fine about it. I then gave the guys a demo and a guided tour of the New England Digital Synclavier. I had just finished a very detailed sample for Pierre Boulez at the 'computer music center' known as IRCAM, [Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustiqueâ€Musique], somewhere in the bowels of the Beauhourg Cente. I sampled Pierre Boulez's recording at 100 k so that the piece could be faithfully reproduced by my or a hired Synclavier at the London concert venue. It was then that Trevor Horn walked in and commented, "It makes a change to hear something with a bit of f**king top on it! The reason for his sarcastic comment was that the 90125 album had used samples of brass ensembles produced on the Fairlight CMI, the only synthesizer, then, that could produce polyphonic samples using additive synthesis sampling at 16 k, 8 bit. The NED Synclavier II, at that time, was restricted to producing mono samples albeit at 100 k, 16 bit, Trevor went on to buy a Synclavier and some historical modern masterpieces were created with the help of the New England Digital Synclavier. Trevor then asked for a demo of the Synclavier and so I sampled my carpenter's acoustic guitar and he said he was impressed! We then used it on 'Owner of a Lonely Heart'. I still visited Chris at his Virginia Water studio and one day Alan White, complete with Nu Nu, Alan's drum Tech and drum kit arrived and soon thereafter we started recording some 'bits' including Run with the Fox, we finished this at Rak Studios, Mickie Most's studio, Gregg Jackman engineered. Gregg was the engineer on Chris's 'Fish Out of Water' and the 4 Greenslade albums. I carried on playing with them for a time and we put down a few backing tracks, which would later be augmented with Jimmy Page's guitar. Then 'The Question' came when we were at Sarm East one day, Chris said, ´How about you come and join the band?’ I dreaded them asking because I didn’t like touring, I liked to be at home, so the same thing was going to apply, the very same that applied to the Ian Gillian Band, I just couldn’t do it, I did not want to be away from home and family! Some people like touring but I loathed it, I did enough touring when I was in the Royal Air Force Music Services. I don’t particularly like playing live, you don’t hear properly what you are playing on live stuff and the sound on live gigs, with some very odd and few exceptions is pretty bland. So Alan White actually went down on one knee and said ‘please!’ I said I loved playing with you and Chris but the prospect of being away from home for months, "I can't do it, sorry mate". Thinking about it I would have eaten well because they were all into the food that Jan [my dear wife] and I were into. I am sure it would have been interesting because I was a totally different player from Rick [Wakeman] and Tony Kaye. Maybe not as good but a lot simpler and definitely more rhythmic, I don’t know, I never listened too much to their albums but I liked their old tracks but then again I never listen to a lot of things. My preference is to listen to jazz and contemporary music but I am very fussy about classical music. I don´t like Mozart except for his Requiem, which is brilliant but I prefer Beethoven and now it's 20th-century composers like Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Hindemith, Mahler, and Shostakovich, to name but a few.
Music didn’t really happen till I moved to Tonbridge in Kent, my sister expressed an interest in learning to play the piano so I asked my piano teacher at the secondary school if he would teach us, my sister dropped out after about three weeks but I carried on. My father was the manager of a grocery store and I went to the local secondary school and then to the local grammar school. When I left school my dad was ill and I got a place in an art college but they couldn’t afford to support me. At the time I was learning some different jazz voicings with a guy in Tonbridge, Stan Birch, he said he had a lot of friends who joined the RAF music services and there were many jazz players there. Well, it wasn’t like that when I eventually enlisted in the RAF but that is how it happened and where I ended up! During my time, at a base near London, I acquired Stan Tracey’s telephone number. Stan Tracey was a fantastic musician and person as was the whole family. His son, Clarke, wanted to learn to play drums and so I spoke to a friend of mine, Jeff Titmus, who was an engineer at the Dick James Studio, it was here that Nigel Olson, Elton John's drummer, had left his old Ludwig kit. Nigel said he was willing to sell it for 100 pounds! So there we go, Clarke ended up with that lovely Ludwig kit and was very happy ever after, hopefully. I learned a lot from Stan, we became very good friends, and their drummer son is still doing well. Later Stan did a Big Band arrangement for me of the title theme when I was writing the music for the hit series,"The Paradise Club'. Happy Days.
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Photo: Dave Lawson