Data Design Group

Interview Archive

Amon Duul II: German Psychedelic Rock in the Modern Age
by Jeff Melton with John Weinzierl

The Viper Queen
By David Lilly

Dream Machine
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
By Jeff Nutkowitz

Grilled : Interview with Chris Gill
by Richard Cornick

A Giant Step for Guy: Interview with Guy Manning
by Richard Cornick

Hooploops: Interview with Hugh Hopper
by Melo


Grilled: An Interview with Chris Gill
By Richard Cornick

Intro: When Close To The Edge publisher Ms. Anita Bhatia asked that I write an introduction to this feature, I was hesitant due to possible conflict of interest, in that Band Of Rain is a client of my company. Anita, bless her heart, told me to shut my gob and write it. So then . . .

In mid 2004, Band Of Rain's Chris Gill contacted the radio station where I host a few weekly airshifts, asking if the group's music could possibly be aired. The station's management (read that as everyone on staff) of course said an emphatic yes, because the station lets listeners decide what's worth continued airing.

The first listen to Band Of Rain's CD entitled 'Deep Space' gave notice that Mr. Gill and company are here to stay and will soon be on the forefront of the independent music community. Mr. Gill and I were in regular communication with each other and during 2005, my company signed on as Band Of Rain's managing agency for this simple reason: Aside from being completely enthralled by the talent level present, we believe 110% in Band Of Rain and all involved.

With the release of the second Band Of Rain album 'Garlands', Mr. Gill has extended his presence within the independent music community as one of the top writers and arrangers. A third Band Of Rain release is in the works (to be entitled 'Maidens & Madrigals') and will be available later this year.

Additionally, there are other projects Mr. Gill is undertaking outside Band Of Rain's sphere, including what will become a phenomenal project known as White Horses (with Christopher Quinn) and another set of music with violinist extraordinaire Ms. Cyndee Lee Rule.

The interview you're about to read was conducted by Richard Cornick, who by pure coincidence just a few days after the session, was asked on board with my company as V.P. for UK/Europe. Aside from his normal life, Mr. Cornick is a burgeoning concert promoter, with his premiere effort being The Pineapple Thief in Telford UK during March.

Kenny Solomon

Rich: What were your early musical memories Chris and how did you come to hear them?

Chris Gill

Chris Gill: My early musical memories would be the Beatles at Shea Stadium which had a very big impact on me one evening. Before that I seem to remember the Everley Brothers - I don't remember Elvis Presley at all but I do remember the Beatles having a massive impact on me at that time and I remember seeing them in the lights and the women screaming. It wasn't so much the women screaming that attracted me to the music scene it was more the standing there with an electric guitar that appealed to me and I remember thinking then, which would be about 1965, that it was something I would like to do for a living, its just a shame that it took me such a long time to get there. But that would be my big earliest memory yeah.

Rich: You formed bands at an early age, what was that experience like and were any of the bands ever "serious"?

Chris Gill: Yeah, we formed several bands at school, the first one was a bit jokey because no one really knew what they were doing at that time but a friend of mine Trevor decided we should take it more seriously and we formed a band but we needed a lot more practice. We went to see the deputy head, who also happened to be the maths teacher and asked if we could use the school hall to rehearse in? He Okayed it on the condition that we did a concert at the end of the term before the summer break. We also had to call ourselves "The Logarythms" which was an awful name but we agreed. That band turned into Gondolin which started to cover other people songs and that in turn developed into something where we started to write our own stuff. There are some tapes somewhere out there, I would really like to get my hands those. But once we realised we could make a noise and it was nice and it was balanced we started to get quite serious about it

Rich: You became involved in improvised music - tell us about that?

Chris Gill: Yeah that was by chance really but I'm glad that it happened, I was driving down the M4 one day and picked up some hitchhikers and one of them said that he was running the Bath arts workshop and they had improvisation workshops and if I was down that way I should look him up, anyway on a whim one weekend I actually went to Bath and was amazed to find that it was all above board. I met all these really interesting musicians who were all into improvations and one guy, Lol Coxhill who was a Saxophone player, had always been a big hero of mine and I got jamming with him and I got the bug and from that point on I realised that reading and writing music wasn't as important as just playing it and feeling it, playing with your heart rather than your head and that's what improvisation gave me and I will never regret having done that.

Rich: In the 70's you relocated to the States - why was that and was the music scene so different to here in the UK

Chris Gill: It wasn't so much that the music scene in America was so different to that in the UK it was more that I felt that there was a decay in the UK. A lot of people now talk about the good old days and I don't actually remember them that way, all I remember is that there was never much on Top of The Pops, like now with the kids complaining because there's nothing much for them to listen to.

So my memories of that time, apart from the obvious people like Yes. is of all this rubbish music, I'd felt like I had had enough and all the people around me were starting to get married and settling down with kids and I felt a bit of a loose cannon so I figured that if I was going to do something I needed to go somewhere else and do it. I had a couple of people I knew in the States anyway who were always saying "you should come over" so that's what I did. At that time is was a very good move and it was very timely because I was hitting the states just before the Bee Gees came out with Jive Talking which revolutionised music yet again.

There were a lot of places to play and the venues were more open to having live bands than in the UK at that time, and I found that very useful because it meant that you could get a band together or join a band. You didn't really have too much of a problem getting places to play and even more than that you didn't have a problem getting people coming to see you. So it was easier to make a bit of a living out of it than it was in the UK.

Rich: Was it a musically fulfilling time for you?

Chris Gill: Yes it was because of the very lively music scene. There was a couple of clubs that I used to frequent quite a lot, one was called Carnabys in the Montrose part of Houston which was a very vibrant part of the city and there was always different bands on there from many genres.

I remember going there just about every night and in the end became part of the furniture and at the end of most evenings I ending up jamming with a band, so that was good but I also found that there was a very large amount of quality people available at the drop of a hat who could just turn up and play and as a consequence of that I decided to put a band together.

I had just got into Larry Fast and Synergy at the time and listening to Go Live in Paris that had a big impact on me at that time so I tried to move into a different kind of music that was being played on the radio and in a very short time we had a band together which was initially called Eeze. We started touring around the Universities which I found fulfilling because a lot of people would turn up and it was heck of a lot cheaper to tour and yes I found the whole experience rewarding

Rich: You now live in the beautiful mid Wales countryside - what brought you here?

Chris Gill: It was almost a mistake actually - I was living in Bournemouth and working at the National Motor museum near Beaulieu but, I got offered a job up here in Wales by a company who will remain nameless. We packed up everything and moved up here bought a house but got made redundant within 3 months of moving up, but we liked this area so much we decided to stay.

But as it happens it was one of the best things to happen to us. Had we not moved up here and that company not gone bust I wouldn't have been doing what I'm doing now, I wouldn't have got the studio and I wouldn't have made Deep Space and Garlands I'd still be out there bombing up and down motorways trying to flog widgets. So to all those people that think " Oh my God" sit tight sometimes it does work out.

Rich: On to "Band of Rain" How did that come about? And what's the significance of that name?

Chris Gill: Band of Rain came about because I knew that it was time I did something serious, so having watched a TV weather forecast one evening this presenter happened to mention that there was a band of rain moving in and the name conjured up images of big wide open spaces and heavy weather and skies and for me that was the kind of music I was going to do even before I wrote a note

So I started at that point and everything began with the name and the feeling I got from that phrase went into the music.

Rich: If you had to explain your style of music to someone who hasn't heard it how would you do it?

Chris Gill: For me it comes under almost two headings really, one is ambient rock because it's quite moody and quite dreamy in places but by the same token it's got some quite heavy guitar, maybe mixed in with a bit of space rock and psychedelia. Other than that I don't know how to describe it - it's not metal but its almost metal, yeah - Space Ambient Rock is how I would describe it probably

Rich: Deep Space was the first Band of Rain CD. Was that conceived over a long period of time or written as a short term project?

Chris Gill: It came out of the blue I was sitting down one day with a pen and paper and thought I better start writing something if I'm going to do this. I actually began by writing the lyrics, which is not something that I normally do. So I sat down and wrote what effectively would be poems and then started to tinkle around on pianos and acoustic guitar to see how I could fit the words into that and it just went from there really, it all almost evolved on the spot.

It was quite good for me too as I didn't know what the end result was going to be either, so it was as big a surprise to me as it was to some of the people around me. At times you would have an idea in your head and you would end up with something completely different to how you started out. And that is the part of the process that I love in the studio. So no it wasn't a project but it suddenly came out of nowhere.

Rich: Of course it was recorded in your own studio. Tell us about that experience, I guess it gave you a lot of musical freedom.

Chris Gill: It gives you an enormous amount of musical freedom which is why I think it's become so popular because you have the technology to do it yourself in the studio which I think is probably a good thing.

I like working that way with the freedom to try different things and be able to play them back and have the ability to delete them without a record company breathing down your neck saying No! No! Leave that in it will be ok which is quite common of course.

So no I like that process but by the same token it can be quiet lonesome some times and you can get out of bed at half past 3 with something going round and round in your head and you get in the studio with a cup of coffee and the next thing you know is that you have been in there for hours again. But I wouldn't change it for the world and it's wonderful to be able to do that.

Rich: What were you trying to achieve with Deep Space and do you think you did that?

Chris Gill: That's a good question because Deep Space was something that I was doing for me, it was something that I did thinking at least I would have something to show for all the years I've sat there playing guitar and all the money I'd spent on guitars and amps..

So initially it was mainly for friends, family and me but then more people were saying that's ok, can I have a copy?

So in the end I decided to take the chance and put it out and I remember saying to Katrina that my ambition was that if one person that I don't know or never met hears this album and either buys it or comes back and says I really like that, then I would have achieved my ambition, its gone way past that now.

Rich: The title track of Deep Space for me stands out as a bit of an epic. Tell us about that track and how it came about?

Chris Gill: Deep Space was written with deep space or outer space in mind and I think I had been watching "The day the earth stood still" and I love that film and for some reason that light guitar riff came into my head when I was outside and I rushed in quickly and got it down so I wouldn't forget it.

From that moment I spent the next two days in the studio with Katrina almost pushing my tea under the door until I finished it and I came out absolutely elated because it was the first time I gone into the studio and came out with a finished thing all done.

I was very happy with that one because from the moment it was started to being finished it never gave me any trouble at all and if I had a favourite track that would certainly be one of them.

Rich: There's a nice groove on "Sic Itur Ad Astra" - sort of Hawkwind meets Ozric Tentacles. What does that title mean?

Chris Gill: Sic Itur Ad Astra" means "Such is the way to the stars" so again it's a kind of spacey theme. I had this old Les Paul that I decided to get out and it came out of a weird tuning that I had forgotten I`d done, and it's a mixture of several beats put together with spacey noises in the background. I've always liked Steve Hillage so I was trying to get that kind of feel for it.

Rich: Criggion is a beautiful track off Deep Space, what was the inspiration for that one.

Chris Gill: The inspiration for Criggion lies about 100 yards south of here, there's a little spot just up the hill where a waterfall is surrounded by ferns and trees, I take the dogs up there every chance I get and for me the heart of where I live is that peaceful spot.

In the Summer I often go up there with my acoustic guitar and just strum away and one day when I was doing that the riff came to me, so every time I hear that track I think of that beautiful spot.

Genever Morgan

Rich: The whole of the album conjures up a sort of oneness with nature - do you agree?

Chris Gill: That's an interesting question, but yeah I suppose it is because I spend a lot of time wandering around the hills with the dogs and so with the forest at back and the fields out the front of me and Snowdonia just down the road, its probably rubbed off on to me and into the music.

Rich: Moving on to the latest release "Garlands". How do you think you have developed your sound on this CD?

Chris Gill: With Garlands I've become more familiar with the equipment, with Deep Space I went through a big learning curve on how to use the studio, so with Garlands I was much more confident with the buttons and sliders which allowed me more time to concentrate on musical things rather than from a technical point of view.

The music flowed a bit more than it did on Deep Space. When I look back on Deep Space there were certain things that I would have wanted to put on there, so these went on to Garlands instead. So you could say that Garlands had some stuff that didn't go on Deep Space because I wasn't confident enough with the equipment to pull it off.

Rich: Garlands was recently awarded record of the month at "Progressive Rock & Progressive Metal E-Zine" Congratulations for that Chris - what does this mean to you?

Chris Gill: It means a lot because they are a very big forum anyway and when you work alone as I do a lot, you're never really sure if you are getting it right or wrong.

For someone who listens to as much rock music as they do to turn around and give you some kind of recognition of what you have done is a bit of a rubber stamp. For them to say "it is ok and your doing the right thing" has given me the confidence to carry on for a bit longer and take away this self doubt that you can have sometimes and so yes it means a lot.

Rich: The CD opens with Ghost Town and Test Pilot both tracks having some serious heavy guitar riffs - was that a conscious effort to make a statement?

Chris Gill: Yes and no, I like heavy guitar riffs and it's not a question of putting them in every chance I get, but rather than make a whole song out of the riff I use them as part of the song and to move it from one section to another.

So on Ghost Town the lyrics are saying that the character doesn't recognise the place anymore and so the music changes accordingly because the place has changed or his perception of it has changed. Actually the guy thinks that the place is a ghost town but actually he is the ghost and what has changed is him.

I found the riff on Test Pilot by hitting the wrong chord and liked it so much that I repeated it and thought I'll use that. Also the riff seemed to fit the test pilot image and that sort of emotion, so yeah it was a conscious effort to do some heavy guitar or what I call chain saw guitar

Rich: Many of the tracks are very atmospheric, as though they could very easily accompany a film - do you write with that in mind? And is that something you would like to get involved in?

Chris Gill: I've never written any of the music with a film in mind, with the only possible exception to that being the title track Garlands. I wrote that the day we were having the photo shoot for the cover artwork, wandering around these old buildings and ruins I had an inner vision of a gothic ghost following me around the place.

I had an idea to turn it into a DVD and we would have filmed this girl in the black cloak and hair doing everything backwards so when it was played she would have been moving really weird. So that is something that I would still like to do in the future.

Rich: So looking ahead is there any plans for album 3?

Chris Gill: The third album is already underway, it's coming along nicely and I'm hoping to have that out by the end of the year. I'm also looking forward to contributions from other musicians. My plan is to have an advancement on Garlands, a lot more guitars and more intricate work and more symphonic backgrounds because I like the ethereal feel.

I think it will certainty be more ethereal, I seem to be spending an increasing amount of time up in the woods and its just having that kind of effect on me. So yes it's underway, as I say there will be contributors and hopefully it will be out before the end of this year.

Rich: Thanks for your time Chris for the interview, it's been very informative and good luck with your future plans.

Chris Gill: Thanks you're welcome.


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