A.J. Kaufmann: Hello Chris, it’s really nice to talk to you on behalf of Psychosonda! How are you?
Chris Wade: I am mighty fine young man, thank you for asking!
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? Who are you, what is your background, and how long have you been writing, making music and art?
I am Chris Wade, some people call me the Hooded Mystic Traveller. No they don’t really. I started out writing in about 2008, although I have always written and played instruments since I was very young, around 6 or 7 probably. I suppose I started to take it more seriously in 2009 when I started releasing books and then in 2010 when I worked with the late Rik Mayall on an audiobook of my novel Cutey and the Sofaguard. But as far back as I can remember I have always liked to create things. I have my first book called Freddie the Frog which I wrote in 1992 when I was 7. It shows the portrait of a warped mind that has only become more warped over the years.
What were your first influences? Who, or what, made you pick the guitar and start recording?
Well my dad always played a lot of music when we were kids, we were raised on Beatles records and all kinds of old 70s record label samplers with obscure but great bands on. He liked a bit of everything, so I always loved music. Me and my brother started learning guitar just out of curiousity, just trying to play notes and make sounds that didn’t sound like a cat being swung around by its tail. I got into Black Sabbath when I was about 8 and I started learning power chords, well my brother discovered power chords first from Metallica and we kind of developed from there. When I was a kid I worshipped the guitar playing of Tony Iommi.
What about your evolution both as an artist, and a person? What keeps changing you, and what keeps motivating you to change?
I don’t really know to be honest, not sure I change anymore than any other person changes. One thing that has changed me as as person, if I really stop and think about it, is having a daughter with my partner Linzi. My daughter Lily has changed my whole life, I adore her completely. Musically, I make an album and have a theme and all these ideas in my head that fit together, certain musicians will add little bits and pieces, and a few months later when I am recording the next album, the method and approach I used for the previous album is usually lost to me by then and I often have new musicians coming in because I get bored of doing the same thing. I have a new approach and a new feel. My main aim is to write good songs, I am a songwriter and maybe I use other sounds and moods, which some people pin on as genres like acid folk, psychedelic and prog folk and all this stuff. But to me I am just writing a song and then choosing the instruments to go over it. So my motivation starts every morning when I get up, working on one of my projects, or mixing, writing, whatever it may be. I just love getting up and getting started on something creative. I rarely just sit and do nothing, that is hard for me to do. I am a right fidgetty git.
Which Dodson and Fogg albums would you recommend to our readers? Which one is special for you, and why?
Well I always prefer the latest one I have just finished, so I would tell them to go for In A Strange Slumber first. I don’t know actually, maybe I would like them to start from the beginning and go from there. People often buy all 6 albums from me and I ask them to start from the first album, maybe they’ll hear things develop over each CD. Or maybe they will hate it and throw it out of the window where a dog will then wee on it.
I just recently listened to your latest release, In a Strange Slumber. Congratulations on another amazing album. Listening to it for the first time I couldn’t help but to imagine a British twist on the Grateful Dead circa American Beauty, with equally strong songwriting and interesting lyrics. I was also reminded of Comus, Magna Carta, and Tractor. How did you start gathering ideas for this album?
Funny actually because the three bands you just named I have never heard of. The songs just came to me as always really. Well I first started recording the songs just after I had finished the album before that, After the Fall. I had a couple of tracks and people suddenly started dying, family, people I had worked with, people I admired and I was thinking about death, sleep and dreams, and then the songs started to fit to my theme, all about exploring someone’s night, how they drift off to sleep, maybe have a nice dream, then a nightmare, wake up and put on a story to get them off back to sleep. I know it sounds pretentious but honestly I didn’t mean it to be. I was just thinking about stuff. So it kind of developed from this theme really and I just got all my instruments out as I do and coloured the songs in with them. It was a really fun one to make.
I know this album is not just a collection of songs, and that there is a concept behind it. Could you please introduce us to the world of your „Strange Slumber”?
It’s just trying to sum up a weird night of dreams; we all have them, those messed up dreams that make no sense. One minute they can be nice and the next they turn horrific. I loved the idea of waking up from a nightmare and putting on a bedtime story to get back to sleep. That’s why the story bits crackle, it’s like an old record player. Once I had the ideas for the stories in between it all fitted into place.
What, in general, inspired your writing for this particular project, and the concept? How long did it take for your story to develop?
It was quick really but it took longer because I had more tracks and I got rid of them as newer and better ones came in. I suppose the whole thing took three or four months to record. It was just inspired by some sad things that had happened.
What was the hardest part about writing or recording the album? And the easiest?
I don’t know really, because it seems like years ago when I did it, even though it was only a few months back. As I record from home and do bits everyday, it’s blended into one long day in my mind. Some days I might have done 12 hours, other days just a bit of lyrics or guitar in between writing or whatever else. I find it all so much fun that it never feels like hard work, until I finish for the day and realise I am totally knackered.
How do you understand „dreams” and „death”, the focus of your new release?
I was thinking of our bodies being restless and motionless during sleep, but our minds being busy and wandering off all over the place while we dream. I was thinking about the contrast between body and mind, how different they both are. Our body acts and performs tasks for us but our mind never stops, even when we are asleep. I was thinking about what becomes of that mind in death. I don’t think too much about after life or whatever comes after all this, not usually anyway, but it got me thinking that the mind is so strong there must be something going on when we die. I don’t know, it’s all open to interpretation. I like to think you can get out of the album whatever you like. The important bit for me was to make an album of decent songs that I could listen back to and be proud of. Plus the flow of the album is also important to me. The way an album glides along and rushes by and never slows down and feels like it is dragging.
The Young Ones is one of my favorite TV shows. How was working with Nigel Planer like, and in what ways did he contribute to In a Strange Slumber?
Working with Nigel was brilliant. I was thinking of who could voice those two short stories and I always have been a big fan of Nigel. I love his work in the Comic Strip films, obviously as Neil in the Young Ones, and as a kid I loved him in a show he did with Rik Mayall called Filthy Rich and Catflap, where he was the seedy coughing agent uttering „I am dying man, Richie.”. And he is a brilliant actor. I also like his audiobook work on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and I heard some of them and his voice seemed perfect for this album. So I got in touch with his agent, they sent him some Dodson and Fogg videos on You Tube and the scripts for the stories and then we met up in London to record it. We had a chin wag before hand and a cuppa tea, then he gave me options for the reading and we got it done quickly. When you are as good as he is, it’s made to look easy. It was in a studio in Shepherd’s Bush, funnily enough the same studio I recorded Cutey and the Sofaguard with Rik, nearly five years ago. But Nigel contributed brilliantly to the album, he gives it a central theme and the stories are like kind of little breaks in the songs, where there are a lot of different styles and instruments in there. I think they kind of unify the theme of the album. Plus he has a classic voice too. We hope to do something else together soon.
Ricky Romain sitar playing on The Dance and Never Be Alone is beautiful, and I know it’s not the first time you two have worked together. How did it feel working with him again, and who are the other guests on your latest album? How would you introduce them to our readers?
I love Ricky’s work, I really do feel lucky I came across him on the Internet. He is a fantastic painter too, and a world class sitar player. So I am thrilled to have him on the album again. He has been on board since The Call, which was the 4th Dodson album I did in 2013. The other guests are of course the wonderful Celia Humphris from the folk band Trees, she is one of my favourite singers of all time so I still get so excited when she does some vocals for me. I think I say this in every interview but it is so true! Her voice is beautiful. Alison O Donnell from Mellow Candle is on it a bit at the end. Kevin Scott is a Canadian bloke who co wrote the last song with me, he wrote the piano tune and the chord changes and stuff and also arranged the string parts for two of the songs on the album. Who else is there? Oh yeah, good ol’ Colin Jones, who has played trumpet on 5 of my albums now I think. Good bloke he is. I love having different people add their little bits of character to the songs, makes it so much fun to mix. The next album I am working on will have my brother Andy on it, Ricky is on two tracks, Celia will be on it again and a flute player called Georgia Cooke. I just love having a variety of sounds to compliment the songs.
Are you yourself responsible for the album artwork, or is it someone else’s work? Please tell us more about this cover.
That brilliant cover is by my fiancée Linzi, she has done a few of my covers now and when she hasn’t done the cover she does the backs, inlays and discs most of the time. A brilliant artist. I get her at a discount obviously, I pay her two wine gums every square inch of space her work covers. The cover to this one is like a collage of each track. I gave her song titles and specific lyrics and themes and she got them all on to the cover. I love it.
Why do you think we should listen carefully to In a Strange Slumber and the music you make? What will it offer: „do”, or „change”, or maybe „won’t do” for us?
I don’t know. I think to answer that would make me sound like an arrogant arse head. I don’t think anyone really „should” listen to it, but I obviously like it if they do. I love the thrill of knowing someone is buying my album and looking forward to putting it on. It’s an amazing feeling I have dreamt of since being a kid. I do know that the people that do like my music seem to be really into it. I had an email a week or so from a fan or whatever the right word would be to use and he said the music made his life more beautiful and interesting. And that for me was the biggest compliment I could have.
What about your lyrics? How would you define them, and what do you think is worth writing and singing about these days?
Well I write mostly about my own feelings and thoughts. It can be something that is happening to me, something I am worried about or happy about. Personally, it’s the only way I can write proper songs. I cannot invent a character, or a voice for my songs. They end up sounding fake, so I write from my own point of view. That way the songs become almost like diaries to me, and I look back and can see what the songs are about and it reminds me of where I was at the time. I mean I have also written a couple of political things but that was just about something that was annoying me. So I think it should come from within you, otherwise it’s a bit contrived and silly. But that’s just my opinion. Some people will think my music is bollocks, but that’s OK too.
In the world of loud obtrusive music, samples, beatmakers and DJs you keep folking away in a beautiful ethereal fashion. Are there any other artists doing the same you can recommend to us?
Ummm. Lemme think. A chap called Sand Snowman, who I am working on an album with, he is fantastic. I have liked his stuff for a couple of years now. His music is very pure in that way you mentioned. My brother Andy has a new album out and he makes great music, has a great voice and writes good tunes. Other than that I don’t know, if I put music on it tends to be stuff I already know and love, what I heard when I was a kid and has stuck with me. I need to listen to more modern artists, I know! I find myself listening mostly to Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Incredible String Band, Neil Young… all that stuff.
Could you tell us more about your work as a writer? Please tell us about the book you’re most proud of yourself.
Well I have done quite a few book projects. I have written some non fiction work on stuff like the actor Malcolm McDowell and I did a book on Romero’s zombie films and interviewed people like Tom Savini, the special effects guy, so that was a fun one to do. The book I am most proud of is the audiobook I recorded with Rik. Now he has died I look back on it with even more fondness and remember what a legend he really was. I am getting back into a bit of writing after three years of doing music. I also write Hound Dawg Magazine. It started as free PDFs on music, film and the arts, not I update it as a blog and put up the old interviews I did with people and stuff I have just written. It is more of a casual blog though, just laid back and whenever I feel like writing something for it.
What about comedy in your life? Do you believe that „humor belongs to music”?
I think laughter is really important. I always like to have a laugh. Me and Linzi laugh all the time and whenever I see my family, my dad or my brother, I laugh until my face aches. Humour is good in music, like Zappa got the balance brilliantly, but for me if I tried humour in song it would just be shite. If I used the comedic style from my fiction in song it would be a very odd mixture I tell you that. No one would want to hear it haha!
What are the other „sweet and strange surprises” you have in store for us? What’s new for you, and what can we expect next in the world of Dodson and Fogg?
Well I nearly have finished a new Dodson album, and this one is again what I think to be the best yet. I am working on the album with Sand Snowman. Plus I have to write a song for an album for a charity album I am honoured to have been asked to be on, and that one is on top of my to do list. I also am waiting for the go ahead on an audiobook I wrote which a publisher might be releasing for me, and I am writing two scripts for film that I hope to make one day. Also working on an extended Dodson and Fogg film that compiles all the promo videos with new bits mixed in between. And I am also writing a new horror novel. But the main aim will always be my music now. I love it so much.
Chris, thank you so much for the conversation!
Thank you ever so much kind sir…