Nigel Stonier interview - October 1999

Who the hell is Nigel Stonier ? 

I suppose that most of the buyers of Lindisfarne's "Here Comes The Neighbourhood" had thought the same like I did. Who for God's sake is he ? 

Lindisfarne, a band with member's whose song writings goes back more than 30 years, is releasing a new album and 7 out of 11 songs are co-written by a stranger - Nigel Stonier. Park Records, who released the album spoke about "the new writing partnership of Rod Clements and Nigel Stonier brings the music full circle". And even Dave Hill's excellent biography book "Fog On The Tyne", released a month later than the album did not reveal the whole secret. 

In searching the internet for him, the only thing I found was, that Nigel had released a solo album titled "Golden Coins For The Holy Kid". Next to find out was, no matter how where I looked, I couldn't find it at any record shop. Even Virgin/London had never heard of it before. So it took almost a year before I contacted his office for any information what finally ended up with to this interview. 

RG: Nigel, according to a note from Dave Hill's biography it was Rod who contacted you. He remembered discussing songwriting collaborations while working on sessions for Ron Lister. "We spoke each other's language", Rod explained to Dave. Well, how do you remember it ? 

Nigel: I've known Rod maybe six, seven years; he played on my album and we would occasionally meet at gigs, end up on sessions together, that sort of thing. We may have discussed writing together while working on Ron Lister's album, I don't honestly remember, but the idea was cemented early on last year whilst we were both staying in a hotel in Devon, doing some work far a singer-songwriter down there who I was producing. We just ended up talking lots about song writing in general - Rod's always been considered the "second writer" in Lindisfarne and suddenly he was sort of expected to come up with a whole albums worth of songs. 
That sort of thing's not easy, and he'd already started trying to co-write with a couple of different guys. Sometime during our conversations in Devon, the plot was hatched to write together.

RG: Seven out of eleven songs were co-written by you. [Ghost in Blue Suede Shoes; Can't do right for doing wrong; Working my way back home; Wejibileng; Unmarked Car; Devil of the North and One Day]. What contribution did you make ? Lyrics, chords or just ideas ? 

Nigel: All three! When we first got together Rod had several songs in a semi-finshed state, so we waded through them and I came up with some fresh input and some evaluation. Then from our second session onward we were starting new material from scratch. 

RG: I've heard that Rod sent song fragments to you for completion. Did you do everything off-line and send the results mixed with your parts back to him ?

Nigel: Rod and I have never worked off-line! All our songwriting sessions to date are comprised of the same components - the two of us, two acoustic guitars, and lots of coffee and blank paper!

RG: Is there anything where you can truly say "..this bit was written 100% by me" ? 

Nigel: Sure, if I had a mind to, I could find plenty of lines, chord sequences, sections that came purely from me. To go back through the songs and do that, though, would seem a little irrelevant; I think the spirit of a good co-writing situation is feeling that everything that comes out is 100% Clements - Stonier. And of course, most important is that the stuff is 100% good. Oh and the other thing is, in a lot of cases I genuinely wouldn't remember who wrote what!

RG: How often did this 'give and take' happen ? Or was it always perfect after offering a 
first suggestion ? Did you make a lot of variations ?

Nigel: We both belong to the school of songwriting where you're varying, reworking, editing right to the last minute. Lots of give and take sure, and remarkably few fist fights.

RG: Once 'returning' a song to Rod/the band, was it modified by them ? 

Nigel: Well once a song goes to the band they obviously create their own parts and it becomes something different - which is exactly as it should be. However, the words, music, and arrangement were normally pretty much in place by the time the band heard them. The only one that got sort of re-invented was "One Day" which we had written to Dave's melody and chords, and which Rod had demoed at a much faster tempo. The band reworked it and it was added the list for the album at quite a late stage.

RG: Have you been with the band in Scotland while they were recording ? I assume that Wejibileng was written in the studio; how did it come that this little instrumental (1:14 min.) got three composers ?

Nigel: No I didn't go to Scotland, I was working in a studio at the other end of the British Isles while "Here Comes The Neighbourhood" was being recorded. "Wejibleng" is an instrumental jam over the main chord structure of "Unmarked Car" and it was, as you rightly assume conceived in the studio. As one of the writers of "Unmarked Car" I get a co-writers credit.

RG: Since then, have you ever seen the band in concert performing "your songs" ? 

Nigel: Sure, I see the band fairly regularly at gigs when they're in my part of the country.

RG: What can you tell us about Rod Clements' 2nd solo album, working title "Stamping Ground", that you're producing ?

Nigel: Errr,,,,well just that it's gonna be pretty amazing! Rod can be so self-effacing and laconic in his approach to music making that I think people can be inclined to take his talents for granted sometimes. On this album, he really opens up - there's some fantastic new material and there's a range of styles in there that I think will surprise even his biggest fans. It ranges from a couple of acoustic ballads that will send shivers, to full on rockers.

RG: Let's talk a bit about your own music and career. What have you done before ? Working for other musicians (other than Fairport or Strawbs) or doing your own stuff ever since ?

Nigel: I produce, I write, I perform. I just finished a new solo album, but mostly I'm working with other artistes. Production wise I've been involved with a range of artists from Paul Young, Christine Collister, Chris While, Mal.I was involved in the early stages of the careers of  bands including Placebo, the Boo Radleys I've recently produced a new album for a great singer- songwriter called Thea Gilmore, who's been having rave reviews in the national press over here. I enjoy being involved in lots of different musical styles and projects, I'm a very restless soul and I get bored easily!

RG: Since working for/with Lindisfarne and getting the credits for seven tracks, did this help to your own career ?

Nigel: I'm sure it did. I was a fan of the band in the 70's - when I was 14 I had my first decent guitar and "Meet Me On The Corner" was one of the first songs I learned. To be fair, Lindisfarne isn't typical of a lot of the music I listen to and get involved in these days, but it's really good to have an input into the work of such a great band, all these years later.

RG: What will the future bring ? Tell us something about your new album.

Nigel: My new album doesn't have a name yet, but we've just finished mixing it. It's produced by Mark Tucker, who's a producer/engineer from the West of England. He's Fairport Conventions producer and he's worked with Ralph McTell and Jethro Tull as well, but he's not confined to the folk/roots world, he's worked with Portishead and other contemporary acts - a fellow musical maverick in fact, an outlook a bit like mine.

Some questions about your first album "Golden Coins For The Holy Kid"

RG: Why is this CD so hard to find ?

Nigel: Probably because it hasn't had a distributor for the last couple of years, due to various contractual changes/problems.

RG: Have you ever been on tour with it, have these excellent songs ever been performed on stage ?

Nigel: Yes indeed, I gigged quite steadily after its release and look forward to doing so again when the new one comes out. It's only my heavy commitment to all these other projects that has stopped me doing solo gigs over the last twelve months.

RG: This record contains a lot of really great songs. Especially "The Neutral" has that certain something to become a number 1 (or at least Top 20) hit. It's a real catchy tune. Did it ever get any airplay at all ? 

Nigel: It sure did, especially the first track "Mrs Oblivion" and the third one "Recover The Lover": "Recover The Lover" was a lot of peoples favourite, and especially popular on acoustic/ unplugged radio shows.

RG: Teenage Fanclub is named for the loan of their guitars. They are 'famous' for the use of vintage guitars, that's true, but what kind of guitars in particular did you use ? 

Nigel: They were mixing their "13" album at the same studio I recorded "Golden Coins". Lovely guys that they are they made their guitars available to me, I used a Grestch on "Hard Times In Heaven" and a telecaster on "The Neutral". Also a beautiful custom made Mandola on "Rainbow Under Your Wheels".

RG: Rod Clements got credits for slide on track 4 and bass in general. Does this mean, that he played bass on all other tracks ? 

Nigel: As far as I recall Rod played bass on about half the album, the rest of the time it was played by either myself or co-producer Darrin Tidsey.

RG: Where does the title 'Golden Coins'came from ? Has it a special meaning or is it just that line in the 2nd verse of track #2 "Waiting for the tenement king" ? 

Nigel: "Golden Coins" is just an acknowledgement of the time when you have to step up and make your offering, whatever form that might take. The line was written by Susan Cooke, an occasional co-writer of mine. It's kind of ironic and I thought it made a nice title.

RG: What will the future bring us ? A new album ? And one that can be obtained "everywhere" ?

Nigel: A new solo album yes, early in 2000 if all goes as planned, new Rod album also soon, new Fairport album, new Thea Gilmore album - lots of music out there in the world from me and associates on its way for you to listen to Reinhard!