RAY DORSET INTERVIEW : PART 8
THE START OF THE 90’s SAW ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR LINE-UP’s IN MUNGO HISTORY WITH STEVE JONES, LES CALVERT, TIM GREEN AND JAMEI ROBERTS. WAS IT A GREAT LINE-UP IN YOUR EYES?
I began recording the Snakebite album with this line up minus Steve, I gave him a call to ask if was interested in playing some keyboard parts on a few of the tracks, Pete Heede our sound man was against the idea as he felt that keyboards would soften up the overall sound too much but Steve did a good job and eventually became a full time member of the band. This was at a time when there were many “Oldie” night shows in Germany and the band became very popular on these as the set that I was playing at the time pandered very much to the mentality of the audience and I was again including many numbers in the set that would include winding them up and getting them to participate. There was also again a lot of humour in the band and also many enlightening discussions.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT AND I TAKE IT YOU WERE MORE THAN PLEASED WITH IT?
I had a feeling that the rhythm section line up would change and that it would be a good idea to try and capture the vibe of the band on a piece of recorded work with a number of songs that was representative of the band playing live at the time. I recorded my guitar parts and vocals live at the same time as the bass and drums to get the feel and dynamics, as I would in a live stage performance even though we did not play all of the songs live in the set. We rehearsed them first in a studio in Reading and recorded the album at the Padded Cell in Colnbrook, which is near Heathrow airport and completed and mixed the album at Studio House in Wraysbury. Both studios were owned by my old friend Brian Adams who was Mungo’s promoter on the first Scottish gigs that we did.
IN THE 90’S, YOU STARTED PLAYING GIGS AT THE PROCESSED PEA FOLK CLUB IN YORKSHIRE WHICH TOOK ON ALMOST LEGENDARY STATUS AS FAR AS MUNGO FANS WERE CONCERNED?
I had mentioned in the Folk Roots magazine that I would like to play some folk clubs and I got offers from Martin Peirson at the Processed Pea and also from another guy who ran a folk club in Newport, Wales. I did both, and they were a tremendous success, I was playing more or less the same material that I had played with Joe in Brittany. Because of the small instrumentation I found that I could easily adapt to the requests of the audience, and with my heavily amplified foot stomp and rhythm guitar I was able to set up a great groove with help from the punters handclapping and foot tapping. I must say how much I enjoyed doing these gigs, no bullshit!
THOSE ‘PEA’ GIGS WITH OUR FRIENDS, THE DOG HOUSE SKIFFLE GROUP BACKING YOU WERE SOMETHING ELSE AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED. DO YOU THINK THAT YOU MAY RECORD TOGETHER ONE DAY?
I was always hoping to do some recording with the Doghouse guys but I have never been able to get it organised, maybe I should approach them again to see if they would be interested, they are great guys and do a tremendous show.
THE 90’s ALSO SAW MUNGO JERRY TOURING THE UK ON PACKAGE TOURS WITH THE LIKES OF THE RUBETTES, MARMALADE, TREMELOES, SHOWADDYWADDY, ALVIN STARDUST, ETC. DID YOU ENJOY THOSE TOURS?
To be quite honest, although I am very fond of the Trems and have followed Alvin since his Shane Fenton days, these shows are not really my cup of tea and on the second tour I was limited to performing half playback and doing some skiffle songs with Mick. We built a tea chest bass on this tour and carried it around with us, Phil Swan used to play it at the sound checks.
YOU ALSO FOUND TIME TO GET MARRIED?
I got married to Britta who I met when on a short cruise to and from Germany and Sweden. I was doing the Oldie Express tour at the time and the show was playing on the ship.
LIKE BUSES, TWO MUNGO JERRY ALBUMS CAME ALONG ALMOST AT ONCE. A BLUES ALBUM, ‘OLD SHOES, NEW JEANS’ AND A SECOND COMPLETELY DIFFERENT OFFERING IN TERMS OF MUSICAL APPROACH, ‘CANDY DREAMS’.
I began working on songs that were on the 'Candy Dreams' album in 1989 then I was asked to do a blues album. I worked on both at my home studio set up and most of my guitar and vocals were recorded there. I put down all of the guides and my keyboard parts on a 16-track half-inch machine that transferred them to two inch at the Red Bus studios where all of the work was completed. On the blues album I sung everything in a lower softer style and mixed all of the solos together as I was trying to get the sort of mix that I had heard on a John Lee Hooker album 'Live At The Cafe a Go Go'.
DINO BAPTISTE PLAYED ON ‘OLD SHOES’. HOW DID YOU SET THAT UP?
Steve had to leave the band for personal reasons and Les gave me the contact info for Dino and he was happy to do the sessions, he also played on one of the 'Candy Dreams' tracks, 'So Lonely'. He is a very good player.
ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ‘CANDY DREAMS’ ALBUM FOR ME WAS THE GUITAR WORK OF TIM GREEN?
I have played with Tim on and off since about 1975 and he has a vast experience of playing sessions in all different styles and is an excellent musician.
YOU OPENED A RECORD FAIR IN MY HOME TOWN, NEWCASTLE IN ’96. IT AMAZED ME JUST HOW MANY FANS HAD TRAVELLED FROM VARIOUS PARTS OF THE COUNTRY TO GET ALBUMS SIGNED AND CHAT TO YOU. THERE STILL SEEMS TO BE QUITE A FAN BASE OUT THERE?
This was a most enjoyable day and it never ceases to surprise me of how much knowledge the fans have of my output and I cannot express how much I appreciate their interest.
YOU FOLLOWED IT UP WITH AN INCREDIBLE GIG AT THE ARCHER THAT EVENING, A LOCAL PUB WHERE ROCK BIOGRAPHER ALAN CLAYSON SAT OPEN MOUTHED AT THE AUDIENCE REACTION. I CAN REMEMBER HIM ASKING MICK FRAMPTON IF THIS WAS A NORMAL REACTION, AND MICK SAID THAT IT WAS ‘USUALLY WILDER’, WHICH SEEMED TO TOTALLY FREAK HIM OUT?
This was another of those gigs that are unforgettable for me, an absolutely brilliant night!
‘NO FRILLS’, A SOLO JUG ALBUM WAS RECORDED AND ISSUED THROUGH THE FAN CLUB, JOE RUSH TOLD ME AT THE TIME THAT IT WAS THE BEST THING YOU’D DONE!
Joe particularly likes this kind of music. I recorded it live in my house with a stereo microphone on a portable mini disc machine and I used a piece of chipboard to stamp on that had stomp written on it that I got from a BBC TV show that I did. I played some originals, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, traditional skiffle, etc. 'No Frills - Mungo Jerry Sings Folk Songs' was the title, which explains the simplicity of the recording. I was pleased with the result and plan to do another at some time.
JOE MADE A GUEST APPEARANCE AT THE 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY GIGS AT NEWCASTLE UNDER-LYME PLAYING WITH YOU AND THE GUYS AT A THREE HOUR JUG BAND SET IN THE AFTERNOON.
It was good to be on stage with Joe again along with his fun loving antics. Unfortunately he overdid it a bit in the afternoon and was a little too inebriated to be able to join in for the evening show.
A FURTHER 4 HOUR GIG THAT EVENING WITH THE BAND, HELPED MAKE IT AN ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE DAY WITH MANY FANS TRAVELLING FROM ALL OVER EUROPE?
This was also another not to be forgotten gig and it was great for me to get the chance to meet and chat with some of the longstanding fans, also Dick Middleton and Paul Hancox made it to the venue.
FRIENDS OF MINE THINK THAT I AM JOKING WHEN I TELL THEM THAT MUNGO JERRY HAVE OFTEN PLAYED LONG SETS OVER THE YEARS?
I think that the longest I have played was at the Evil Rowdies bikers club in Switzerland. They invited us for lunch prior to the evenings gig and we played for a total of almost six hours! Simon Baker, the drummer, was begging for no more encores to be played, he was totally wiped out.
I CAN RECALL GIGS AT FESTIVALS, DIFFERENT KINDS OF CLUBS, PUBS, EVEN BUSKING IN THE STREETS FOR NOTHING. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN SOMETHING THAT I HAVE BEEN VERY PROUD OF – ‘NO GIG TOO BIG OR TOO SMALL’?
I found that I could 'get in the groove' and play at just about anywhere and give it the same commitment, though I am very nervous about playing under scrutiny, especially by other musicians as I lack confidence in my technical ability as a guitar player and I don’t consider myself to be a singer as in conventional terms, but then again, nor are some of the artists that I admire, to name a few from Buddy Holly, through to Neil Young, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan.
DURING THE JAMES WHALE – TALK RADIO INTERVIEWS OF A FEW YEARS BACK, HE SEEMED VERY IMPRESSED BY THE FACT THAT YOU WERE MORE THAN HAPPY TO JUST BUSK ALONG IN THE STUDIO, EVEN GOING SO FAR AS TO SAY THAT HE USUALLY REFUSES TO INTERVIEW MUSICIANS BUT MAKES AN EXCEPTION IN YOUR CASE, SOMETHING ELSE THAT MAKES ME VERY PROUD OF YOU AND YOUR ATTITUDE TO YOUR MUSIC?
Thanks very much, I think that it stems from the analysis of a hippie that said to me upon leaving the stage after the Hollywood Festival gig, "no bullshit", there is such a lot of it around, and not only in the entertainment business, we are all basically the same so why pretend that we are not?
I HEARD RECENTLY, SOMEONE SAYING THAT STATUS QUO WERE A TRULY BRITISH THING LIKE, ‘FISH & CHIPS’, CARRY-ON FILMS AND HOLIDAYS IN BLACKPOOL’. I’VE ALWAYS FELT THE SAME WAY ABOUT MUNGO AND ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT THE PUBLIC…...‘JUST LIKE MUNGO JERRY’?
What can I say but thanks again?
LIKE QUO, MUNGO SEEM TO BE ABLE TO PLAY GIGS TO A WIDE SPECTRUM OF PEOPLE – BIKERS, GRANDMOTHERS, KIDS, ETC?
I can ramble on and get a bit too deep sometimes but I have got a good idea about how to gauge an audience and give them a good time regardless of the category that they have been put in. Personally I don’t believe in putting up any barriers or discrimination being it racial, political, religious, class or the like and so it should be the same as far as music is concerned. The music press was always writing about the rights and wrongs of the world and how there should be no racial discrimination and yet they used to discriminate as far as musical preference was concerned, like when Punk became popular or cool and nothing else was.
IT MIGHT SURPRISE SOME PEOPLE JUST HOW CLOSE YOU ARE TO THE FANS – YOU AND MOST OF THE OTHER BAND MEMBERS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN VERY APPROACHABLE?
I don’t see any reason why I should not be, although I have been approached to sign an autograph while in the throws of going to the toilet at more than a number of gigs both in the UK and abroad. I usually ask if they would mind waiting.
THE CURRENT BAND LINE-UP OF – MATT ROUND (bass), JAMES DAVIS (drums), TOBY HOUNSHAM (keyboards), TIM GREEN (guitars) – IS TO MY MIND, ONE OF THE BEST AND MOST VERSATILE BAND LINE-UP’s THAT YOU HAVE EVER HAD?
The guys all have a very good grounding in the music that I like and they are all superb musicians with a natural feel for all genres of music that a feel and a groove, jazz, rock, soul, country, blues, gospel, you name it.
YOU ALSO HAVE YOUR GERMAN FRIENDS WHO PLAY WITH YOU AS THE MUNGO JERRY BLUESBAND AND TOGETHER YOU CAME UP WITH THE BRILLIANT ‘ADULTS ONLY’ ALBUM.
I’m very happy that you and many others enjoyed the album. The band came about from an idea by Michael Pohl, who is a lover of the blues, that we should form a blues band and jam for fun every Thursday in our rehearsal studio in Herford, Germany, which is in part of the old Easyplay office, and just down the road from the current one. We got invited to do a gig and it was at the Vlotho Festival which was filmed and were given the footage, then I did a TV interview in the Downtown Blues Club in Hamburg and got invited to play there too, I also got TV footage of this and we decided to make a DVD which I worked on amalgamating the two shows and the title of the DVD is 'Open Up', the only Mungo hit to be included in this particular package. There is another Mungo Jerry Bluesband DVD in the making and this may probably include more of the hits but personally I like to keep the hit stuff separate as the more dedicated fans who would be likely to purchase the DVD may be a bit tired of them by now and would like to see and hear some other material being performed.
ARE YOU ENJOYING MUNGO JERRY AS MUCH NOW AS YOU EVER HAVE?
There was a time when things were going a bit haywire and I was not enjoying it at all, and also last year when I wore myself out and had to hold back for a few months but I am certainly enjoying myself at the moment and feel that I am getting a new lease of life in my old age, although I don’t expect to do any more long tours again as the travel situation worldwide has become a real pain for very many reasons.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE FOR MUNGO JERRY AND WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN 2005?
If I can really get my head down and complete the work in hand then there should be many more things Mungo to evaluate by the end of the year. I’m about a year behind what I had planned and still have to complete the 'Emperor's New Clothes' album which I long ago began work on.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST MEMORIES SINCE THE WHOLE THING STARTED OFF?
My fondest memories are those from the gigs prior to Mungo hitting the headlines and of course the Hollywood and Rotterdam festivals, then there are the Ivor Novello awards, the gold discs, etc, and the Sony award for writing 'In The Summertime' and it being the most successful ever summer song. There are many great memories of my career both as an amateur and professional over the last forty-five years, I began playing regularly in public when I was fourteen. Even though I wrote it in the early seventies, my song, '46 & On', sums up most of it.