Music has always been a huge part of my life. My dad was the frontman for 70s power trio Strife, known for their heavy gigging schedule, psychedelic jams and wild shows. As a result, I grew up in a guitar case, listening to Hendrix, Cream, Taste and Pink Floyd and I always craved that sweat, oil, smoke and polish aroma. My journey has been the proverbial rock and rollercoaster ride, but I consider myself lucky that I still love music and continue to learn new things all the time.
At 16, I began working with OMD at The Motor Museum/Pink Museum Studios on Lark Lane in Liverpool. I’d cut samples on an Akai and program them in black and white on an Atari ST. Yup, I’m that old. I must have been one of the last studio lackeys to learn how to splice tape. It was the very brink of analogue music recording, tipping irretrievably into digital with every passing day. And for me, it was tremendously exciting. Though Andy and Stu were busy with their own project (Atomic Kitten), they also helped me produce many of my songs.
New York and LA
After playing showcases in America, I was offered a major recording contract, but advised by my lawyer to renegotiate. That moment in the hotel room with the band: we thought we’d cracked it after a run of showcases in LA plagued by technical problems. After the months of rehearsing day and night in Crash Studios in Liverpool. All this after the terrifying events of 9/11, as documented here.
I thank my parents, Terry Carmichael, John Hobson and Glyn Williams for all their support and dedication. They stood by me through one of the most exciting, confusing and adventurous episodes of my life. I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out the way we wanted. I can’t change what happened and I don’t know what we could have done differently, but I’ll always be grateful to them.
A special thank you must go to Don Gooch (CSNY sound engineer), who gave us big sound and laughs throughout. Don passed away in 2002, but we all remember him fondly. Whenever we reunite, his name always comes up within minutes: a testament to our affection for him.
A few years later, I ended up in Nashville, where I recorded my songs in East Iris Studios with Bob Babbitt. I became close friends with Bob during my time there and it was a genuine honour to keep his company both in and out of the studio. He was ice cool under pressure in every situation, even when his big old Cadillac burst into flames, struggling up the biggest (and busiest) hill in downtown Nashville. Bob put it into park, nudged me and said, ‘Ok, time to go.’
We retreated to a gathering crowd on the corner, where he calmly introduced me to various musical luminaries while the Caddy burnt in the middle of the street. Eventually, firefighters doused the flames and towed the car, each one waving to Bob as they left.
Bob passed away in 2012, but somehow, I don’t think I or many others will ever forget him.
I recorded my first full studio album in 2006 in Aliensound Studios with Mark Wainwright as engineer. It was a loft conversion in the grounds of an old rectory in Lancashire with great gear, fresh coffee, good incense and most importantly, the benevolent, hard-working and all-knowing Mark. We hit it off immediately, mostly due to a shared obsession with films, TV, books and music. I learned a lot during my time in this environment because there were no managers, lawyers or labels breathing down my neck. Everything was at arm’s length in that respect, due to the chaos wrought by previous experience.
Although several entities were interested in the outcome, I felt no obligation to them and so the album was free of those shackles. I had whammy pedal solos in “ballads”, folk guitar and cello in soul-inflected stuff, underwater drums and gospel singers on heavy rock tracks, simply because that’s what was in my imagination. I decided not to care whether anything would “sell” a long time before recording started.
Neon and Blood
Limehawk began life in Liverpool in 2008, after I had completed recording and touring new music with Nightwing in Germany. Back in the studio with Mark Wainwright, Neon and Blood recording sessions began. The project became known as Limehawk after our first gig in the city centre. It was a hot August night, causing the venue staff to open the windows when it got busy. As we struck our first few notes, a colourful moth flew in and attached itself to our PA speakers. When we finished our last song, it flew back out of the window and into the warm city night. Far too weird to ignore, we identified it as a Lime Hawk and agreed that it seemed a suitable name.
Limehawk went on to earn a good reputation for themselves as a heavy rock trio playing original music, but a perfect storm gathered in 2013 to break up the band before we had a chance to release our double concept album Diary of a Caveman. To this day, it remains in the “vaults”, but you can hear a piano rendition of the track of “Dancing with Tsara” in the Interactive Fiction Diary of a Caveman. The only track officially released remains “Onward”, which you can listen to here.
Unofficial release, but a popular tune live.
Aside from the odd acoustic gig, most of my musical life is now spent in the studio, where I’m happiest. I’ve spent the last four years getting to a decent standard on lap steel, so I’m hoping to use more of that in future recordings. The studio has enjoyed a recent upgrade and the results are more than satisfactory, so I can’t wait to record my next album, which will be released later this year. Spooky, psychedelic blues and electronica seem to feature highly in recent demos, so if that’s your bag, stay tuned!