England - Full Moon 49 - 10/13/00
The Bevis Frond
- an interview with Nick Saloman
"My inspiration is that I love doing it" (Nick Saloman)
I assume that there are very few people who have "just heard" about The Bevis Frond. You
either are a devoted fan who probably bought every record that Bevis Frond mastermind Nick
Saloman has put out on the day of release or you never even heard their name once. If you're
among the first group, you may skip the following introduction and jump right to the interview.
For all the others, here's a quick (and abbreviated) Bevis Frond biography, as told by
"The Bevis Frond is a working rock band. It inhabits
that crepuscular zone which sits amorphously between the mainstream and the underground. Not
big enough to get on to television or appear at prestigious events (though a distinguished
attempt at Granada TV's Countdown quiz show has passed into legend), and not small
enough to interest the legions of kindly record company moguls waiting like vultures to assist
their young proteges efforts at enlarging their label's incomes. Another over-riding feature
of The Frond's rather unique position is that the three main protagonists are no longer what
is known in affectionate farming circles as 'spring chickens'. [...] I'm Nick Saloman, born in
London in 1953. I write all the material for the band, which in the studio at least is basically a solo project. On record, I play all the instruments, do all the
singing, produce, edit, design, sell, and all that. Live, I play guitar and sing, while the
bass is played by Ade Shaw, and the drums by Andy Ward. I consider myself to be extremely
fortunate in securing the services of these two fine musicians. Most years The Frond embarks on
a European tour. This usually lasts about a month and takes in most countries, though for some
reason we've never played in France or Spain. 1998 saw the Frond embark on it's first coast to
coast tour of America, it must have gone well as we're due back there again in 1999."
Their most recent European tour in the summer of 2000 saw the Bevis Frond play a Festival in
Hannover, Germany, with labelmates The Lucky Bishops (a band well worth checking out!), and it
was there that I had the opportunity to talk to Nick about The Bevis Frond - past, present and
future. While their latest release is a live album called Live At The Great American Music
Hall, which saw the light of day late last year, The Bevis Frond will release a new studio
album Valedictory Songs in October, on Rubric Records in the States and, as always, on
the band's own label Woronzow in Europe.
Carsten: What's it like to be the leading man in The Bevis Frond in the year 2000?
Nick: It's very much like it's always been, really. It's just me writing song and making
records and playing music...It's what I've always loved doing and I'm in the very lucky position
to be able to do it for a living.
Carsten: Did your expectations or your approach change at all over the years?
Nick: Nahhh..., I never expect anything. I never expected that anybody would be interested
and I'm always surprised people are. So when people want to interview me or pay to see me play it
always comes as a surprise, you know? But it's a nice surprise [laughs].
Carsten: Did it feel weird when things finally started to happen for you?
Nick: No! I just never thought they would happen. It's not peculiar. I thought it was peculiar
when they DID happen! I've tried for years and years to get people to listen to my music and no one
was interested and I just thought that's how it would be forever. So when Miasma came out in
1986 or something, I was 33 then and it was a big surprise that people liked it. Then again I wasn't
writing songs for other people, I was writing them for my own enjoyment.
Carsten: You had your own label right from the start. Was that sort of a masterplan or
was it more of a necessary evil, because nobody else would've put out your stuff?
Nick: Exactly. I was in a band in the late 70s and we put out a single on my label in 1980,
which was Woronzow 1. That was because we couldn't get a deal. Then we put out another one and then
I started the Bevis Frond in about 1986 [and their first album was in fact Woronzow 3, Miasma
a year later - author's note]. All the other guys in that first band had stopped playing so I asked
them if they minded if I use the name for the label. And to be honest, at the time I wasn't thinking
about doing it on a label, I wasn't gonna take it around. I guess it was a bit of a msterplan. On the
one hand I didn't want to take it to a record label, because I was fed up with the whole thing, but
on the other I thought nobody would buy it anyway. When it worked, when it seemed to sell, I was
really surprised and thought: Well, that was good, I'll do it again. And I'm still doing it
Carsten: So you never thought about signing with a bigger label when you got more and
Nick: No. Once I kind of got a few records out and was making enough money to live on, I
thought: What is the point of going to a big label? I can do it myself. I have a lot more fun doing
Carsten: I guess with The Bevis Frond you're following a two-way path. You work solo
in the studio most of the time, but live you have been playing with Adrian and Andy for years now...
How come that you never really invited them to the studio as well?
Nick: Well, funnily enough the album that we are currently recording will feature Andy and
Adrian! The reason that most of them is me on my own is mostly because I have a little home studio
and when I write songs I go up to my studio and lay them down. And I do all the drumming and the
bass playing...I guess there are kind of demos. The idea is that when it comes to making a new
album I go to a studio with the demos and taking a band and so on. Then the time comes and I listen
to the demos and I think they sound fine. So whats the point in spending a lot of money and time when
you've already done it?
Carsten: So what was different this time around?
Nick: The songs needed better drumming and stuff so I thought: I'm gonna do it properly. It's
not that I don't like proper studios. But if you're recording in a studio and you're on your own label
it's a bit like sitting in a taxi cab with the money clocking up. And if you've done something wrong
you go: Oh, I'm gonna do this again and it's gonna cost me more money!
Carsten: What can we expect to hear on the new album, any dramatic changes?
Nick: It's a songs album, it's a little more polished, I suppose, but in the end it's just
really nice songs. There are NO two hour guitar solos!
Carsten: How do these changes come about? Some of your albums really seem to be more
sound-oriented, some are more somg-oriented... Does that just reflect how you feel at the time of
writing and recording?
Nick: It's what I've written! I write songs all the time. It's not that I have a LP due in
May, so in February I write songs. In the end I just choose the songs that I think are the best. So
if I've been writing a lot of pop songs, the album will be more pop and if I've been writing more
freaky ones, the LP will be more freaky, too.
Carsten: What happens to the outtakes? Do you keep them in mind for later projects or
do you just start anew, because you write so many new songs anyway?
Nick: There's lots of stuff just sitting there on tapes, but then again I always give tracks
to compilations and fanzines and things like that.
Carsten: Are you a control freak when it comes to recording, though?
Nick: Kind of, I guess. I don't think I'm too bad, but I like to make sure that I get things
the way I want them. Then again, everybody should do it that way. When I write a song and put it out
then I should know what I'm doing and I should make sure that things are the way I want them.
Carsten: Especially over the last few years you've seemed to get more into the
collabration-thing, though. In the early 90s you've been working with Twink already, but more recently
there was the Mary Lou Lord album Got No Shadow, on which you wrote or co-wrote half the songs
and last year you backed Country Joe in concert...
Nick: Yeah, I don't mind collaborating with people. The Mary Lou project was Mary Lou and with
Country Joe it was all Country Joe songs. It wasn't The Bevis Frond or Nick Saloman. It was more "Nick
Saloman helping..." and that's fine. I have no problem working with people I like working with. And Mary
Lou's great and Country Joe's always been one of my heroes.
Carsten: Recently you've been putting out more stuff by other artists on Woronzow as well.
Is that "the hero thing" as well, especially with people like Tom Rapp or even The Green Pajamas?
Nick: No, not really! If you got a label and you got distribution and you can do it and you know
people who can make great records you ought to help them putting out a record. About a year ago a lot of
things happened that meant we could put out all those records. It all came together. It wasn't like a
plan. It was more like: Oh, Tom Rapp wants to do an album? Let's do it!
Carsten: You also seem to finally get in foot in the door as far as America is concerned.
Flydaddy has been putting out your last couple of albums and the new one will be released on Rubric
Nick: We've always been popular in America, but it's been difficult to get over there, because
it's such an expensive thing to do. Over the past few years I had labels working my stuff that we willing
to get us over there. So that's why things are more upfront in America at the moment.
Carsten: Is there a difference between audiences in the States and in Europe?
Nick: No, not really. They are all very nice. I find that if I do a gig as The Bevis Frond the
audiences are really nice people, you know? I'm really lucky. I don't get the arseholes, I get the nice
people. I don't know why.
Carsten: Despite the fact that you're almost approaching 50 now, you don't seem to get the
usual round of bashing that most other bands receive when they are "getting old and boring".
Nick: Well, that's probably because I am not boring. I don't think that age really matters, does
it? I mean, I would say that, obviously, but I really think age doesn't matters as long as you're careful
and I try not to lose that spark.
Carsten: Does a huge back catalog make it easier or more difficult to select songs for a live
show like tonight's?
Nick: It's very easy to come up with the setlist. We just stick together the easiest songs to play.
It sounds flippant, but it's true. I don't like rehearsing and none of us do, so we don't [laughs].
Carsten: I know you are a serious record collector, so maybe you can recommend a few underrated
Nick: Yeah, I still am. Actually, not THAT serious, I'm not insane, but I like my records. If I had to
chose three underrated records, I'd go for: High Tide's Sea Shanties, anything by David
Ackles and Patto, a british band from 1971/72, and their album Hold Your Fire.
Carsten: Talking of lists, how about five people you'd like to put on an (imaginary) guestlist
for one of your shows?
Nick: I wouldn't feel comfortable playing in front of these people. How about an [imaginary] list of
bands I'd like to go and see? There's Jimi Hendrix. The Beatles at their peak, in about 1965/66.
The Beach Boys around the same time. I saw them in 1974, I think. They were good, but I would've liked
to see them in 1968 or something. My friend did... They came to London and I didn't go. I also saw the Beatles,
when I was ten, but I was too young to remember, really. There's also the bands that never came to England...
I would've liked to see The Grateful Dead, never saw them live, or Beefheart.
Carsten: Last question: Looking back after all these years, what do you consider your biggest
Nick: My inspiration is that I love doing it. I love writing songs and playing the guitar. That's what
I've always done and that's what I'll always do.
Check out Woronzow.
Copyright © 2000 Carsten Wohlfeld