Martin Hudson asks Dave Bainbridge 6 Questions
Dave Bainbridge is another of the musicians well known to Classic Rock Society people over the years and also for being part of more than one band over the those years. However, the one band that does come to mind immediately is Celtic rock band Iona. Their first visit to the CRS was at the Herringthorpe Leisure Centre in July 1994 and if my memory serves me right it was a gig that future good buddy Troy Donockley helped bring to life. Troy played Uilleann Pipes for the band among other instruments. At that time the band had Joanne Hogg on vocals and one Nick Beggs on bass, he of Kajagoogoo fame. I believe Troy had sent me a CD recording of another band he had been with in Cumbria as a youngster, You Slosh, but today Troy is better known for being a member of Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish. My first question to Dave went back to the early 90s before talking about the up and coming Iona box set ‘The Book of Iona.’
Iona went through some changes over the years but was Dave still in touch with those that performed for the CRS in 1994? A rather large box set suggests Iona is no more?
I have been in touch with most of the band but not Joanne as she lives in Northern Ireland. As a band we worked together really well but when Joanne was at home away from the band it was like she was in another world with her horses. We never really had a close relationship but yes I am still in touch with Troy and occasionally Nick. Joanne is a fantastic singer and songwriter and she did stick out being in Iona. I can remember once being with David Fitzgerald when it was just him, Joanne and me doing gigs together and I remember him playing the whole of ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ in his car on the way to a gig. Joanne looked really annoyed. She just didn’t understand prog rock. With working with Lifesigns and John Young, Nick was in the original line-up so that’s kept me in touch with him. I’ve been in touch with Frank (van Essen) especially since the end of Iona. He’s been involved with a lot of the solo stuff I’ve been involved in and Celestial Fire. The last time I saw Troy was when he got us tickets for a Steve Hackett gig in York. We were sat next to Steve’s mum and she was great. So with working on the new Iona box set through the lockdown I’ve been in touch with Troy. We worked on one CD called ‘The Sound of Iona’ and the idea of that was to have all new versions of Iona tracks featuring members of the band, so Troy contributed to two tracks on that.
I think that’s the end of Iona. The reason it ended was because members of the band had other priorities and the band wasn’t really a priority. It really became impractical trying to get gigs and people only being available for like two gigs. Troy left in 2009 and he was working with Nightwish and getting lengthy tours with them so Iona tours of three gigs wasn’t financially practical.
I had Googled Iona and noted an interesting description of the band as being a progressive Celtic rock band. I told Dave I could remember Joanne finding the progressive rock title amusing and laughing when she highlighted the fact that he liked to have the lengthy keyboard and guitar solos. Add to that the fact that Iona were a Christian band and the first Iona gig for the CRS had a Pagan band called Legend as support. There must have been many influences on a band like Iona.
I remember it well. We had a few situations like that and there was another one where we played a festival in Belgium called Night of the Trolls where most of the audience dressed up in medieval outfits and things and the band we followed had things like tattoo’s all over their faces. The drummer was playing a drumkit with lots of human skulls around it. I don’t know whether they were real ones (laughed Dave) and he was about seven feet tall. They gave me a CD and on the cover there was a picture of a big chunk of raw meat. Having said that, off stage they were the gentlest of people and quite funny. We invited them back to a party after the gig and they turned us down saying they were too tired (laughed Dave). That was interesting but the thing I always loved about Iona’s music was that it appealed to people that loved all genres of music, people that were Christians and people that didn’t believe. That was the whole point of it really not to be part of one niche thing and be accessible to everyone. In the lyrics we didn’t want to be too over the top but point towards the wonder of creation and the mystery of everything around us rather than be preaching. I hope it didn’t put people off too much and was never judgemental in any way.
When we started off there were big bands like Clannad that were a big influence and combined Celtic things and got more rocky around the mid-80s. There were not many other bands doing that combining repertoires. I didn’t come from a Christian household and listened to my sisters record collection. She was eight and half years older than me and had loads of Jimi Hendrix albums and Jethro Tull, all the Beatles albums like ‘Abbey Road’ and so when she was out I’d listen to them. She had the three Woodstock albums and I’d listen to those with Jimi Hendrix and Crosby, Still & Nash and Santana, they were huge. When I was more confident playing guitar I used to play the solo from Alvin Lee’s ‘Going Home’ off the Woodstock album. My sister also got me in to Led Zeppelin and the first album I ever bought with my own money was ‘Led Zep I’. A year or two later I joined my first band in Darlington when I was fourteen and all those guys were from a different school and were in to Yes and Genesis who I’d never heard of.
Now Dave Bainbridge is bringing together the whole history of Iona on a massive box set called ‘The Book of Iona’. I put it to Dave that this must have been a big task?
Well I’ve known Rob Ayling, who used to be head of Voiceprint but now Gonzo Multimedia, since we met at Fish’s studio in 1995 and I was mixing ‘Journey Into The Morn’ with Calum Malcolm. Rob was there and we talked about doing something together at some point which happened four or five years later when he got involved in distributing our albums. We’ve always been in touch since then and about five years ago he suggested we should do an Iona box set, so I put this to the rest of the band and everyone was enthusiastic except Jo. So it was shelved until Rob got back in touch about a year ago and suggested we should do it. He was working on a few other box sets and he showed me this box about the size of a vinyl album with room for about eight CD compartments plus loads of room for art work and bits of memorabilia. He was doing a box set with Trevor Rabin and another with the band America, all of which are in the same format, and he could buy the boxes in bulk and that would save a lot of money. So I put it to the band again and they were generally enthusiastic and we talked about what we might have in it. Eventually we came up with the idea of doing three box sets. One with the studio albums in, so there were seven studio albums, the last one of which was a double album and having a companion disc for each album. Then having ‘The Sound of Iona’ disc which is newly recorded versions of Iona songs we’ve done during lockdown. Later this year there will probably be an Iona live album because I have tons and tons of live material that I’ve been able to dig out. There’s also going to be a DVD on Blu Ray, so a video box set next year. I really wanted it to tell the story of Iona and there’s quite a treasure trove of Iona material really.
I have recently done a 6 Questions session with John Young of Lifesigns and been immensely impressed with their two albums to date. So seeing as Dave Bainbridge is now part of the band it was a chance for him to add to our education regarding the band. How had he got involved with Lifesigns?
Well coincidentally I first met John Young at a Classic Rock Society Rotherham Rocks concert. I think it was in the year 2000, so it’s all your fault Martin. We were playing at the Oakwood Centre on the main stage and we did a soundcheck and he came in to listen to it. In the afternoon he was doing a solo session and I went in to listen to him and I thought he was great. We weren’t in touch again for years and then after I’d joined The Strawbs at the end of 2015 we were doing a UK tour in to 2016 and after one gig one of my keyboards developed a fault. It was midway through the tour so I couldn’t get it fixed. Anyway the next night we were playing the Stables in Wavendon and Dave Cousins said that John Young lived nearby. I knew he used to be in the Strawbs and so Dave suggested we give John a call as he might have a keyboard I could borrow. So we got in touch with him and he was around and met us at The Stables and brought a keyboard that I could use. I kept the keyboard for the rest of the tour and that’s how we reconnected again. We became friends on Facebook and realised we had a lot in common as far as musical influences were concerned. Then when the second Lifesigns album was being recorded John asked me if I’d like to do some stuff on that and I think it was about the time Niko had decided to leave the band. Niko had some stuff on there already and I did some recording too. Once the album ‘Cardington’ was released John asked if I’d like to join the band and so I did. The last gig we did was just before lockdown in Southend on 15th March. At the moment we are recording the third album called ‘Altitude’.
How did Dave become a member of the classic rockers The Strawbs?
My friend Paul Bielatowicz, the guitarist who plays with Carl Palmer, had worked together and we did a small tour called GB3 with Dave Brons, a bass guitarist from Bradford. We all did a set jamming together. Then after that Paul was on tour with Carl on a tour called Classic Legends of Rock, I think. Carl Palmer was on the bill, the Acoustic Strawbs and Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash. Dave Cousins had mentioned to Paul that he was looking for a keyboards player because Adam Wakeman had to pull out of the tour because he was working with Black Sabbath. So Paul mentioned me to Dave Cousins and I drove up to Durham to one of their gigs and had a really good chat with Dave and met Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk. Pretty soon after that Dave contacted me again and said they’d got some new songs and we ended up recording what would become ‘The Ferryman’s Curse’, the title track of the next Strawbs album. So that went very well but the gigs that Adam couldn’t do got cancelled because Dave was ill. That was 2015 and though we didn’t do the tour we carried on recording and the first gig I did with them was on The Blue Cruise in the Caribbean in 2016. So since then it’s been Dave, Chas, Dave, Tony Fernandez and me. We’ve done loads of touring and we were supposed to be doing six UK dates last month but that hasn’t happened so we are just writing new songs.
So what else is happening in the life of Dave Bainbridge in the future once we get over Covid 19?
One of the things with Iona ending it has given me opportunities to be involved in loads of other music. For years and years I had to turn down quite a few things. So lots of people have been in touch and first was the Strawbs and then Lifesigns. In February I did a gig with DBA (Downes Braide Association) with Geoff Downes and Chris Braide and that was because Dave Colquhoun (Rick Wakeman’s guitarist) was working on Rick’s ‘Red Planet’ album. So I ended up doing two gigs with them and that went really well. Since then I’ve been recording the guitar and acoustic instruments on the new DBA album which I think is due to come out in January next year. I’ve just recorded organ and mellotron on five tracks for Nick Fletcher (John Hackett). I’m also working on some stuff for a Mexican guitarist called Pablo Ortiz who lives in Belgium on a project called ‘Cronofonia’. He’s in a band called Flairck that were originally a Dutch band and have been going since the 70s. They are sort of like an acoustic Gentle Giant. The guy that used to run the band has now retired and Pablo has taken over. This is a solo album that he has lots of guests on. On top of that I’ve started work on a new solo album myself and when that is released I’ve been talking to Rob Ayling about releasing it with a limited edition photo album on high quality paper. I’ve spent a lot of time walking around the countryside where I live taking photos and formulating music based upon that.
The next 6 Questions is with a musician most will not have heard of, Pete Hibbit of the now defunct Manitou. It’s great to be able to do 6 Questions with rock icons and those that have not been as fortunate. Manitou was a band that performed at the CRS’ very last gig at Nightingales in Rotherham a couple of years after the CRS was founded.