Interview with Steve Daggett
|by Chris Groom and Reinhard Groll|
|images taken from Steve's website at www.stevedaggett.co.uk|
THE EARLY DAYS
Chris Groom/Reinhard Groll According to a tour programme, you formed a band called STILETTO in 1980. Was this your first professional band ?
Stiletto was formed in 1979 with myself on guitar, vocals and synthesizer and Bren Laidler on lead vocals. It was not my first professional band but the first of any significance.
Stiletto were signed by Mercury / Phonogram around the same time that Ray Jackson was recording some solo material with them. Did you cross paths with Jacka ?
Not through a label connection but Bren Laidler did appear in Ray’s promo film for ‘Little Town Flirt. She also sang with Lindisfarne on a live TV show performing ‘Friday Girl’.
How did the Stiletto singles fare ?
The first single ‘Someone like you’ didn’t do very well in respect of sales but did create opportunities. It was Mike Read’s record of the week on Radio One and made the A list on dozens of independent stations. We also recorded a Radio One evening session and toured Britain on The Famous Names Circus Tour along with many gigs up and down the country. The record raised our profile in the national press considerably.
I understand you first met Alan Hull around 1983 while working with a school on a version of ‘Winter Song’. How did this come about ?
I’d met Alan a few times before during the early 70’s at things like the Impulse Studio parties and several Newcastle gigs. I also sent him a demo tape of some songs in 1973 to get his opinion and he called me up and said I should buy some better recording equipment (irony, sweet irony). In 1979 he and Barry McKay who was Lindisfarne’s manager at the time came to see Stiletto with a view to Barry managing us. It was in 1983 that I was introduced to Alan in a creative sense through the recording of ‘Winter Song’ with a group of Gateshead school children. Brian Mawson of MWM records and at that time Black Crow records (Alan’s label for ‘On The Other Side’)set up a meeting. I didn’t just want to turn up with just the one track so I recorded a version of Alan’s ‘Mocking Horse’ poem set to music and it’s just as well that I did. He didn’t care much for ‘Winter Song’ (to put it mildly), but was really interested in ‘The Mocking Horse’. This time around Alan was well impressed by the recording quality and we started recording some demos. I started traveling around the country with Alan when he was doing his solo gigs at clubs and festivals on what he would call “little adventures”.
You then began working with Alan, preparing demos of the songs that eventually became DANCE YOUR LIFE AWAY. At what point were you asked to be producer ? How much of a surprise was that ?
I’d recorded about nine tracks with Lindisfarne in various sessions over a period of six months. They had a Christmas Tour coming up in Dec ‘85 and asked me if I’d like to tour with them as a technician (guitar tuning, synth programming etc.). I said yes, as I was missing life on the road and getting what they call a ‘studio tan’. Next thing it was “er, can you play this melody on ‘All Fall Down’ and er, there’s a bit of organ you could play in ‘Corporation Rock’ and er, in ‘Lady Eleanor’ could you just…. Next thing I know I’m on stage for half the set. Not that I was complaining. Just after the tour, they approached me about going into the studios and they wanted some help. It was decided that Alan and myself would co-produce. It was a complete surprise and a pleasure as the Lindisfarne track record of producers was pretty mighty - John Anthony (Genesis, Ace), Bob Johnson (Bob Dylan), Gus Dudgeon (Elton John), Hugh Murphy (Gerry Rafferty, Chris De Burgh) and Steve Lipson (Frankie goes to Hollywood). We were in good company but Ray Laidlaw soon brought me down to earth with “Basically Steve… we just want someone to blame”.
You also got to write with Alan, co-credited on ‘Shine On’. Are there any other Hull-Daggett compositions that didn’t quite make the album?
Alan had a home demo of a song called ‘Shine On’ that was on a cassette of all the new songs that had been written since the first demo sessions. I was involved in picking the final selection of tracks to record. I’d rejected it saying it was good idea but felt it was only half a song and while we were recording Alan kept saying “What about ‘Shine on’” and I kept replying “Well finish it”. He couldn’t and very near to the end of recording we sat down in Impulse and finished it. I’d no idea that it would open the album or be the first single, those were Alan’s suggestions.
There are no Hull-Daggett compositions lying around except for ‘The Mocking Horse’ and instrumental collaborations we recorded for film and video soundtracks. More interesting is I know of a few of Alan’s songs that he/we recorded that never saw the light of day.
‘My Russian Affair’
‘See The Pretty Dancer’
Alan had an idea that he might record an album with a Russian concept or perhaps a musical. He talked to me about it and played me a home demo of these two tracks. I think it was about 1986/87 I didn’t really believe I was the man for the job and suggested Kenny Craddock. Later of course he would co-write and record ‘Mother Russia’ for ‘Elvis Lives On The Moon’ with Kenny and collaborate on the track ‘This Heart Of Mine’ with Sunderland songwriter Kevin Phillipson for his final solo album ‘Statues And Liberties. So the theme was still there right to the end. [note: A live version of 'Pretty Dancer' can be found on the "AH Live at the Red Lion" live show]
‘Funny how I love him’
Two Alan Hull songs both sang by Bren Laidler recorded at The Studio, Gosforth. The first was for the stage musical ‘Run For Home’. Writer/Director David Wilmore wrote a drama that was based around about twenty existing songs by Alan but needed a ballad for a key moment in the storyline. This was it, just a Rhodes piano sound and Bren’s husky voice. I know for a fact that Hully left the ¼ master tape on the parcel shelf of his car, in blazing sunshine for about a fortnight and completely destroyed it. Bren might have a ‘supergrungesonic’ cassette copy of it somewhere. Other than that it’s in the memory.
The second ‘You’ was written with a female singer in mind, possibly Jay Aston. Alan always thought he might write something for the likes of Kim Wilde (and then he woke up) but it was for Jay Aston that the idea for ‘Broken Doll’ from ‘Dance Your Life Away’ was conceived but ‘You’ was rejected for inclusion. I have a feeling this master was damaged in a flood, some cassette copies may exist in fact there’s probably one in my loft if I can be bothered to go up there.
According to Alan’s explanation of the DYLA tracks , the band was able to perform all but one track on stage (it was one they couldn’t sing). Which track was it ?
At the beginning of the DYLA tour in November 1986 all the tracks from the album were arranged and rehearsed for the stage. I believe all the songs were played for at least the first week of the tour and then it was decided that this was maybe too much new material for the Christmas audiences. So several songs were omitted and replaced with older recognizable tunes. As far as I can remember we always opened with ‘Beautiful Day’ and ever present were ‘Heroes’, ‘One Hundred Miles To Liverpool’, ‘Take Your Time’ and Rod’s ‘Love On The Run’. Most of the time we played ’Shine On’ and ‘Dance Your Life Away’ the other songs a little of the time. It’s possible the missing tune may have been ‘Broken Doll’ but I can’t recall.
The Gosforth sessions, also known as the ‘Garage sessions’. What does this mean ? Were they actually recorded in a real garage ?
The studio in Gosforth was officially called The Studio and was owned by a good friend of mine called Bill Dixon. Originally it had been a Stone masons downstairs and a Woodcarvers upstairs. In order to get the huge slabs of stone into the building someone had put folding garage doors on the building, so that along with its size (small) earned it the nickname the garage. It had a great vibe and a great sound and hundreds of local acts recorded there. I still get stopped in the street and at gigs by musicians I can barely recall telling me they recorded in “that strange place in Gosforth”. Usually something will come back once they say the name of the band and on the whole, most seemed to enjoy the experience.
Are there any other tracks from those sessions apart from ‘True Love’ on BT1 ?
There certainly are and the most interesting take being Rod Clements’ ‘Love On The Run’ featuring Alan on lead vocals. When it was re-recorded for DYLA Ray Jackson took the vocal. A definite contender if there’s ever a BT4. In fact BT2 features Rod’s ‘Living On The Bassline’ and Alan’s Nothing’s Gonna Break Us Now, while BT3 has Rod’s ‘We’ve Got All Night’.
What happened to your Reeltime Studio ?
I left the studio in the summer of 1989 and it was eventually bought by Ray Laidlaw in January 1990 and re-named Hi-Level Recording.
By 1986 you had become the ‘seventh man’ – performing onstage with the band on the tour to promote ‘Dance Your Life Away’. What exactly was your role on the tour ? Was it really necessary having a seventh man to reproduce the sound ?
The Lindisfarne shows in the mid 80’s were possibly the biggest shows the band ever put on from a technical angle. The PA system was enormous and the lights were on a par with AC/DC. I was recruited to the band after the record was completed and it was probably down to Barry McKay and Alan. I’d got much more involved on the playing and programming side during ‘Dance Your Life Away’ and Simon Cowe (guitar) and Marty Craggs (sax and flute) who between them covered the additional keyboard parts had plenty to do on their first instruments. So then there were seven.
On that tour at Christmas the band performed Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War is over)’. Was this a spontaneous thing ? A one off event ?
We played it every night on the tour, usually at the end of the night. On the anniversary of his death (Dec 8th) we recorded it for the Granada TV news,– live at the sound-check. I still have a cassette made from the mixing desk at Newcastle City Hall of us playing it.
In 1987 you played on the Rock and Roll Xmas shows to promote ‘C’mon Everybody’. Although the live shows were great fun, this album isn’t everyone’s favourite and seemed an odd move to many fans. As producer, what were the sessions like to work on ?
Lindisfarne were commissioned to make a ‘party’ album by a television advertising, record company called Stylus. It was a pretty strict brief – not quite Jive Bunny, but not far off. We twisted the rules as much as we could to include most of the bands favourite songs. Financially it was a fair move but credibility wise, not so good. The sessions were hard work as there was a tremendous amount of material to record and mix. It does have some high spots, I like Jacka’s ‘Rhythm Of The Rain’ and ‘Love You More Than I Can Say’, Alan’s frenzied piano/vocal on ‘Keep a Knocking’, and his performance of ‘Oh Donna’. The final nail in the coffin was probably the album sleeve with a photograph supplied by club 18-30. You really should have been in the Lindisfarne office the day the finished product arrived, it was pure Spinal Tap – head in hands hilarity.
The same year the band decided to re-record ‘Lady Eleanor’ for Virgin records. Was it strange to be re-arranging such a classic song ?
The single that was issued on Virgin is a recording from the ‘C’mon Everybody’ sessions. The other side of the deal was to re-work the hits in this ‘party’ style of the record. I don’t know what sort of parties the execs at this record company had but there you go, it’s done now.
In 1990 you produced with Steve Cunningham a hit single for the band, when the Gazza version of ‘Fog On The Tyne (revisited)’ hit the charts. Was this your last work for the band. When and why did the split occur?
Mixed feelings on this one. At least we got back in the charts – we could have made the record and it bomb which would have been worse. Nobody expected it to do quite as well, a few acts with a lot higher profile than Lindisfarne had got involved with footballers and failed, The Pet Shop Boys with Ian Wright for one. I think if Gazza had gone on Top Of The Pops in person with the band - as he was asked, (unfortunately Paul was rather busy playing football for Tottenham Hotspur at the time) we might have made number one and the history books. What difference that would have made I don’t know. The song is legendary all over Britain, if not further. Ask someone to sing you a Geordie song and it’s just as likely to be Fog On The Tyne as Blaydon Races or Cushy Butterfield.
The split with Lindisfarne came in the summer of 1989 during the recording of Amigos at Reeltime Studios. It was personally a very low time in my life and I was fairly exhausted from the daily running of the studio and long hours of engineering duties. It’s my opinion that the Amigos album was for everyone in the band, a crucial album, they had to recover their form. If anything came out of the Amigos album for me it was that during the production meetings the songs and direction were discussed. I made a suggestion that so far in the history of the band hadn’t been realized. Why didn’t they write some songs together. It spawned ‘Working For the Man’ by Rod and Alan, ‘Everything Changes’ by Alan and Marty and ‘Roll On That Day’ by Rod and Marty. It was a pattern that was to continue and is still retained to this day. Recording commenced but I was beginning to crumble physically and mentally and after completing five or six tracks I had to leave the studio, the band and the album behind. It was very sudden and I felt I had let them down, however the band understood my predicament and Mickey Sweeney was called in to complete the task.
The next time I would work with Lindisfarne’ would be to manage the studio that Ray Laidlaw had now bought in 1990 and the first recording with them would be the Paul Gascoigne single, it was a successful reunion. Shortly afterwards I would leave to go freelance but maintaining friendship and contact with the band. I worked with Alan Hull recording and mixing his ‘Back To Basics’ album in 1994 and after his death I recorded the bands ‘Untapped and Acoustic’ album. I still try to get to see the band every tour or on solo ventures and follow their activities – once a fan always a fan.
Can you detail your production work with Lindisfarne and Alan Hull.
Crikey, not too good at dates and I don’t do diaries but here goes.1983 ALAN HULL: LABOUR PARTY JINGLE - sang to the tune of ‘Fog on the Tyne’ verse: Save our services and schools and save our cities too Now’s the time to dump the Tories, see what you can do chorus: Vote for Labour on May the third it’s easy if you try Vote for Labour on May the third and wave the Tories goodbye While recording this, Alan arrived at the studio with a reel of tape in his hand. He said ‘This is the demo you sent me eleven years ago, I think I’m going to have to pass on it. 1984 ALAN HULL: ‘YOU’ and ‘FUNNY HOW I LOVE HIM’ demo recorded at The Studio, Gosforth ALAN HULL: ‘HEROES’ for Northern Recording Album. Mixing at Lynx Studios. ALAN HULL: Live TV performance of ‘On The Other Side’ solo material. Playing synthesizer on Malvinas Melody and Day of the Jackal. 1984 / 1985 LINDISFARNE: Demo sessions at The Studio, Gosforth ALL IN THE SAME BOAT - Re-recorded for DYLA 1986 TAKE YOUR TIME - Re-recorded for DYLA 1986 TRUE LOVE - Original demo appeared on BT1 1992 LIVING ON THE BASELINE - Original demo appeared on BT2 1992 BROKEN DOLL - Re-recorded for DYLA 1986 LOVE ON THE RUN - Original demo was sang by Alan Hull. Re-recorded for DYLA 1986 with Ray Jackson on vocals. NOTHINGS GONNA BREAK US NOW - Original demo appeared on BT2 1992 WE’VE GOT ALL NIGHT - Original demo appeared on BT3 2000 WHO’S THIS GUY - Title changed by Alan to ‘Nothing Is What It Seems’. Re-recorded for DYLA 1986. Title changed again, this time by me to ‘Song For Stranger’ ALAN HULL/STEVE DAGGETT: THE STEEL PEOPLE - This was the soundtrack to Director David Cox’ corporate video for KLOEKNER, a German steel company. LINDISFARNE: Re-mix of ‘Run For Home’ LIVE issued on Christmas Concert EP with Mickey Sweeney and mixed at Lynx Studios, Newcastle. DUST ON THE NEEDLE: Ray Laidlaw’s spin off band. A four-song-cassette recorded at The Studio, Gosforth Ray Laidlaw - Drums Ian Thomson - Bass guitar Jed Grimes - Electric guitar, vocals Pat Rafferty - Accordion, Organ, vocals Annie Orwin - Lead Vocals LINDISFARNE: THE OVERTURE - Played through PA system before Christmas Concerts. It contained instrumental arrangements including Meet me on the Corner, Run For Home and Clear White Light. Michael Waller performed 90 % of this and I dabbled a bit putting the final production together. Recorded at the Studio, Gosforth 1986 LINDISFARNE: DANCE YOUR LIFE AWAY - Recorded at Impulse Studios, Wallsend. Additional recording at Palladium Studio, Edinburgh and at The Chocolate Factory, London. Mixed at Palladium Studio, Edinburgh ALAN HULL/ TEVE DAGGETT: THE METROCENTRE - The music for the radio and television advertising campaign for the opening of the Metrocentre in Gateshead ALAN HULL: TREAT ME KINDLY - This was an album track for Another Little Adventure. Although it’s a live album this song was included from the studio at the last minute. HEADS HELD HIGH: Touring musical stage play with music written by Alan Hull. It commemorated 50 years since the Jarrow Crusade to London. There were only 1000 vinyl albums manufactured and sold at the performances. Alan sang on two of the songs ‘Faithful’ and ‘Palais Glide’ which probably makes it pretty collectable. The Heads Held High Band featured 2 musicians from my electric band that occasionally get together. Next time is April 2002. Phil Armstrong - Electric Guitar Jeff Armstrong - Drums The group also featured ex Stiletto bass player Derek Nattrass and Keyboard player and Musical Director Bob Plimer. 1987 LINDISFARNE: C’MON EVERYBODY - This was a double album of cover versions ranging from rock and roll to pop. Also included re-workings of ‘Meet Me On The Corner’, ‘Run For Home’, ‘Fog On The Tyne’ ‘Lady Eleanor’, ‘Warm Feeling’ and ‘Clear White Light’. These tracks make up for 50% of the 1996 album THE OTHER SIDE OF LINDISFARNE and a selection of the covers make up the 1997 album LINDISFARNE / ARCHIVE SERIES. Recorded at Impulse Studios, Wallsend Mixed at Palladium Studio, Edinburgh. 1988 LINDISFARNE: SAVE OUR ALES - Protest song released by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries to raise public awareness of an impending takeover by Australian Brewing giants. All proceeds went to charity. 1989 LINDISFARNE: AMIGOS - Recorded and mixed at Reeltime Studios, Newcastle. Mick Sweeney and myself are credited alongside the band as producers. Mick and I actually never worked together on this. Production duties were on individual tracks and as follows - ONE WORLD - MS EVERYTHING CHANGES - SD WORKING FOR THE MAN - SD ROLL ON THAT DAY - SD YOU’RE THE ONE - SD WISH YOU WERE HERE - SD DO IT LIKE THIS - MS ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS - SD STRANGE AFFAIR - MS WHEN THE NIGHT COMES DOWN - SD DON’T SAY GOODNIGHT - MS ANOTHER WORLD - SD 1990 GAZZA AND LINDISFARNE: FOG ON THE TYNE (REVISITED) - Produced by myself and Steve Cunningham. Mixed by BB & M. Recorded at Hi-Level Studios, Newcastle and Best Records, London. 1994 ALAN HULL: BACK TO BASICS - Recorded live to digital multi-track at The Mean Fiddler and Blackheath Concert Halls, London. Alan and I mixed this together at White Gables Digital, Gateshead. 1997 LINDISFARNE: UNTAPPED AND ACOUSTIC - Live album recorded at Marden High School and mixed by Dave Bainbridge at the new Hi-level studios in Whitley Bay. The first recorded output following the death of Alan Hull. There’s probably much more than this but I can’t remember.
How is the reaction to Troubadour Territory, now almost a year after it’s release ?
Things have certainly changed since the album was made. I’ve got worldwide distribution and sales have picked up a little bit. It’s opened doors for me gig-wise and I’ve had a lot of nice support slots around the area and in London. Including Slaid Cleaves, Vigilantes Of Love, The Sorentinos, Ezio, The Hankdogs, Martin Stephenson, and Rod Clements. I’ve had some good reviews and nothing really negative. I’ve been ignored by the reviewers of the national music press, but that comes as no surprise. All in all it’s been a good year and it’s still ongoing. A lot more people are aware that I’m a performer and songwriter now.
What are your current projects? I heard that Rachel Rhoades from North Shields (ex-Morgan Le Fay) was in the studio with you playing violin on a few tracks?
Yes, Rachel was in the studio putting some fiddle on a track for The Northumbrian Anthology. Which is a huge ongoing project recording all of the traditional songs and lyrics of the region going back many years. In fact the track we worked on is a mining song from over a hundred years ago called ‘A Miners Life’ which I sang and played guitar on along with Paul Campbell the guitar player from The Christians. We also worked on a backing track for ‘The Lambton Worm’ which is looking good to be recorded by none other than Bryan Ferry as his contribution to the project. It felt a little strange doing a guide vocal for Bryan Ferry.
Are there any future plans that you can tell me about ? Further solo work or a new band and do you envisage working with Lindisfarne again.
I’m busy recording an album for a young singer-songwriter from Sunderland called Paul Liddell who I rate very highly and as soon as that’s finished I’ll be recording some new songs. I’m writing and performing new material and hopefully Rachel Rhoades and Michael Bailey will be involved somewhere along the line.
As for Lindisfarne, I ‘m sure they are very happy with the new team… but never say never.
left-right: Rachael Rhoades, Michael Bailey & Steve Daggett at The Railway - Fourstones, Hexham. 23rd Feb, 2002