Nick Barret: The Hardest Working Man In Progbusiness.
“Anything creative is a terrible nightmare”
An interview by Michel Scheijen for www.mostlypink.net
after the Script gig in the Spirit of 66, Jan 2009.
Pendragon’s Nick Barret takes his time. After talking to a lot of fans and posing with them for fanpics I sit next to him together with some ‘liquid friends’. Nick laughs: “When I’m 65 it’s nice to look back and think about all these nice people I met around the world. I don’t want to miss that!” Sure, Nick has a point there. He’s also a hard working man. He’s done a lot of things the last few years. He toured with Neo and Mick Pointer, and present he’s taking Pendragon’s new album ‘Pure’ on the road. All organized by himself, of course. Is he really the hardest working man in progbusisness?
[nick]: “Is that a statement or a question? Yes, I’m exhausted and tired! Ha!Ha!Ha! The reason why I do a lot of things is that I’ve got an incredible drive. I want to find out what makes people think or what make things work. But also what make things not work. I run a record label, I write the lyrics and music for all Pendragon-songs. That’s a lot of work”.
“The difficulty comes when doing a tour parallel on recording an album. This time we changed the way we work because of legal downloading. We brought the new album ‘Pure’ out at the same time we went on tour. The album did incredibly well and the reactions were fantastic. It plugged us back in! Now a second European tour is coming and we’re playing at a Fish-convention in the UK. You get this hunger when things are not going very well, and you want to survive”.
The process of legal downloading is a killer for many artists. I.Q.’s keyboarder Martin Orford stopped fighting the downloading process, and went on retirement. But that didn’t encouraged Nick. He thought of a very clever solution.
[nick]: “The last few years I said to Clive Nolan there’s got to be a way to make this work. What usually happened was when you bring out an album you sent all your promo-copies. A couple of days later people were downloading the album from internet. And still there was a month before its release! You won’t sell many copies then. What we did was selling the new album through our website, or only during the tour. We took it straight to the fans. That was an incredible success, and gave us the financial opportunity to carry on and making albums”.
It would be a lot easier to sell your label to a major like EMI or Warner Music. They’ll arrange all promotional stuff and tours. All you have to do is make a couple of good albums. Nick doesn’t agree with that.
[nick]: “You can’t always make a good album. You make the best album you can make at that time. In all the albums we make we put 100% our best. Whether the public perceived that as a great album you find that out after 6 months, or a year after its release. That’s very weird. I also think that record companies can’t do much for bands. Especially nowadays. The whole musical industry is turning upside down. Bands don’t need major labels anymore. If they can do it on their own, they’ll do it. Record companies always tell what you should do. I never had that, and I don’t want it”.
The ‘Pure’-album says goodbye to the classic fairy-tale progsound from albums like ‘The Masquerade Overture’ or ‘The Window Of Life’. It has some powerful dark and melancholic parts which the fans never heard before. Nick wanted to be ‘progressive’ again. Are all his musical desires achieved, as far as possible?
[nick]: “You never get to that point. The whole process of making records is very tortures. You go through periods where you hate and love that what you’re doing. You change what you hate, and than you love it.
Anything creative is a terrible nightmare. You’re digging deep into your soul to find ideas. Always thinking of is this music really translating what I’m doing, or is it different from what we’ve done before? There are so many aspects that need to be taking care of. Sometimes it gets me mad. But funny enough that’s what carries me on! I am very satisfied with ‘Pure’ because the reactions of the fans and press were very good, and that’s what we wanted. They understood that we needed to break away from the classic progressive/symphonic rock-sound and do something different. It took a risk to do that, but I believe it was the right time to take that risk”.
Pics by Gian Franco.
Nick is a big fan from The Pure Reason Revolution. That band’s music incorporates elements of space rock and grunge and is often described as ‘new prog’. How has this band inspired Nick in writing and recording the new album?
[nick]: “I heard this band before anyone in the progscene heard them. I was in Lanzarotte for a holiday where I met someone from Sony/BMG. They just signed a band called Pure Reason Revolution, and he gave me their debut album. He said: “Tell me what you think of it”. I listened to it and I was very impressed. It sounded extremely good. There were bits of Queen, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, and Ozric Tentacles. Very good and atmospheric songs. It’s a modern kind of rock, and that’s the area where I wanted to take Pendragon”.
In compare to his colleagues Nick hasn’t got a specific way in compose or arranging music. He doesn’t sit on a special sofa, or needs to be surrounded by spiritual environment.
[nick]: “No, I never really had that. Usually I get a title, a lyric or some chords based on just an idea. Sometimes I get a kind of keyboard idea that I want to use in a particularly feel with the guitar. To me it’s very important to write the lyrics and the music at the same time. I don’t like writing the music and sticking the lyrics on it. It’s a bit fake to do that. For example: on ‘Pure’ there is a song called ‘Space Cadet’ which is the second part of ‘Comatose’. In the end of that song there is a very dark part which sounds like a mellotron-note. The lyrics are about a child who’s lost his way at school. He finds out that everybody is against him. So he’s carrying a gun with him during schooldays. That’s a very chilly moment, and the music has to flow with the lyrics”.
Thanks for your time and answers, Nick!
Pendragon on tour:
19 March - Lille - France
20 March - Ittervoort – Netherlands (sold out!)
May 3rd The Peel Kingston UK
May 9th Rotherham Rocks UK
May 10th Glasgow The Ferry UK
1O/11 July - Loreley Festival - Germany
August 8th Fish Convention Leamington Spa
5 Sept - audio Denia Rock & Pop Festival - Spain
Pendragon on the web:
New Live DVD:
The eagerly anticipated DVD "Concerto Maximo" is now available to order from the Pendragon store.
For full details, info and tracklisting
1. Walls of Babylon|
2. A Man of Nomadic Traits
3. Wishing Well
5. Total Recall
7. Learning Curve
8. Breaking the Spell
9. Sister Bluebird
11. The Freak Show
12. The Voyager
13. It’s Only Me
14. Masters of Illusion
15. King of the Castle
16. And We’ll Go Hunting Deer
17. Queen of Hearts
A previous interview from September 2008 with Nick by Nick ;-)
You can find an interview with Mick Pointer (also from the Script) at this spot.
this is the link back to Pendragon on my site.
Promo shoot of the laddies; Peter, Scott, Nick & Clive.
Updated 6th of March 2009 by Nick.
Happy Birthday David