Martin Hudson asks Pete Hibbit of Manitou 6 questions
Back in the very early days of the Classic Rock Society we came across many bands that we would probably never have heard of if we hadn’t taken the plunge in to live music. The remit to start with was just to meet in a local pub and play some of the classic rock music that we enjoyed but got little or no attention at that time from radio or pubs and clubs we frequented. So to have a go at organising and running a live show was something new to us all, but something we got very good at by the time I handed over matters in 2009. So one of those bands was a progressive rock unit from Dorset. I can’t remember how we got to know each other but I’m glad we did. The resultant first gig was headlined by The Producers, another Dorset band that had Manitou musicians in its make-up and therefore had some of them playing two sets. For some reason we recorded the Manitou set and sent it out free to the then limited CRS membership on cassette tape. It was called ‘A Rainy Night In Rotherham’. Thanks to Facebook I recently caught up with drummer Pete Hibbit for 6 Questions.
So Pete briefly bring the readers up to date with a condensed history of Manitou and how did we get in touch in the first place?
Our first contact would definitely have been through the Galahad lads. I went to five or six Galahad gigs in the 80s and that’s how I got to know Stuart (Nicholson) and Roy (Keyworth). They will have changed their line-up radically but I’ve known Stuart particularly for years. My memory is awful but I phoned some of the old Manitou guys, Dave Thomas (keyboards) and Harry Skinner, our vocalist to jog our memories and because of the amount of gigs each of us have done in that time it’s hard to remember. The Glen Tilbrook thing was a memory trigger from when we supported him at the CRS.
However, to give a condensed history of Manitou!
Harry Skinner and the original bass player, Nick Simon were actually army bandsmen. Harry was an oboe player and Nick a percussionist. They were in Germany around 1979 and when they came back through a mutual friend, Toby Hammond, they found me as a drummer. We were actually called Morokko and our first gig was at Stonehenge free festival. We got involved with a guy called Rod Garfield and he was the brilliant harmonica player with Alexis Korner and he worked for a company called Manitou, a big French company. Anyway this guy that Harry knew was literally running to Tasmania for charity and it would take him six months. Anyway Rod, who was in marketing, said let’s have Morokko follow him round and play in every town he stops in. It never happened except that we recorded a track called ‘Tasmania’ which never did anything but we had to change our name to Manitou.
We researched the red Indian thing about Manitou and kept the name. We gigged and recorded and played all over the country and had a great time. We actually went to Japan and returned and around thirty two / thirty three years old thought this is not going to be big and thought we’d form a band playing covers so we could make some money and finance Manitou and that band was The Producers. Two things happened at that point. Harry discovered his true calling, which was the Blues, so the prog rock thing took a back seat and then all three of us (Harry, Dave Thomas and myself), went to study pop music and jazz in Bournemouth. Basically because Harry had found the Blues and I found being a blues drummer really boring (laughed Pete) and we were all studying as well Manitou kind of fizzled out in about ‘94. We produced one good album, we produced a second album that never got mixed or made but the tracks are around and that’s Manitou in a nutshell really.
I remember going to collect a framed certificate from the CRS somewhere in Hampshire (Whitchurch Festival) and I was the only one there out of Manitou because we had all but split up at that point. So we were Best New Band and were splitting up (laughed Pete).
September 1993 at the CRS’ first home, Nightingales in Rotherham, and our last gig at that venue was when we first saw Manitou. You actually played as support to The Producers.
We must have come as some sort of package with me Harry and Dave Thomas playing with both bands. Sean Carter was probably the bass player with Manitou but Dave Saunders was the driving force behind The Producers and he was their bass player. The Manitou set was honed to perfection because that was our baby and I was devastated when it all ended. With The Producers, that was Blues and that was a piece of piss (laughed Pete). You could be playing the wrong number and nobody would know. I have a saying, that is not ultimately that true, but I couldn’t drink before a Manitou gig, absolutely not, but I could play The Producers gig pissed out of my head ……….. and often did. Of that first visit to the CRS I talked to Dave Thomas yesterday and he said he thought he remembered sitting around a table having a beer with Sean Carter and Harry said he’s done so many gigs in Rotherham in the last two decades with The Producers he has no memory whatsoever. Harry’s over 60 now and I’m close to it. In essence The Producers are still a unit. They sometimes went out as a duo, just Harry and Dave. Harry was pre lockdown doing a lot of solo stuff and he’s got a funk band as well. I got up to degree level at college but Harry went right on to do a Masters at Southampton so he’s actually Dr. Harry Skinner!
From that evening at Nightingales came a cassette tape, ‘A Rainy Night in Rotherham’, that was given away to CRS members of the time and Pete hadn’t heard it. That has now been corrected and a copy sent but I moved on to the second visit to the CRS in Rotherham by Manitou, to a certain Rotherham Rocks weekend at Herringthorpe Leisure Centre where Glen Tilbrook headlined the Saturday night and Manitou were the penultimate act. IQ had headlined the Friday evening but the Squeeze muso almost didn’t make it.
We do have a better collective memory of that Martin. We do remember you being in a panic since while we were on Glen Tilbrook hadn’t yet arrived. I can remember playing drums looking at the door to see if this guy was arriving. Not that it mattered to me because your neck was on the line. I have two main memories of that. I can remember the sound being so echoey that it was a tricky old gig but everyone was forgiving about that. The other memory was that Tilbrook finally arrived as we were doing our last couple of numbers and we briefly passed on stage and he said, “Christ, how am I going to follow that?” Whether he meant it or not doesn’t matter. The other memory Harry had was how impressed he was with Glen Tilbrook as a solo performer. So I do remember that and it was a great night.
Fortunately Manitou did do lots of shows while they were ongoing and I know that the band did a special tour of Japan. Over to Pete to tell the story.
Japan is a great story. A friend of ours who started to help us get gigs, he’d previously been teaching English in Japan, told us there was a great university scene out there. So he contacted people out there and booked some gigs and it all came together. It was sponsored by all the separate universities and another company that I can’t remember and a musical instrument company. We got out there and were treated very well. We’d previously done two weeks rehearsal at a studio in Wales and if you remember what my kit was like it was massive, but I did the rehearsal on a four piece kit because I thought when we got out there they wouldn’t be able to emulate my kit. However they completely duplicated my drum kit in Yamaha 9000 and they were apologetic because they couldn’t get any wind chimes. So the kit that you can see on the video (check out You Tube) I just thought was fantastic. They supplied a whole road crew to set it all up. When we arrived at venues all the crew in the theatre would all stand on the stage and applaud us. It was a different culture. We had to sit in the middle of shopping malls doing interviews for the forthcoming events. It was our two months of making it. However, Emperor Hirohito was dying and he was considered a god in more conservative circles rather than an emperor so all the big conservative universities just cancelled our gigs but all the more progressive places kept our gigs. So in two months I think we went down from sixteen gigs to eight. So it was a financial disaster but we had a lot of fun and met a lot of nice girls and have kept in touch with some of them actually. So that was Japan and it was amazing because we had so much enforced time off. We were just driven around visiting Osaka Castle and Kyoto and all over this beautiful country. They love Western rock music.
I knew at one of these gigs the university film crew made a very high end movie for the time so I set about trying to find it. This is late 80s in to the 90s and it’s all air mail letters trying to ascertain if there was ever a bit of footage of this. I probably tried for a year with letters back and forth, a few phone calls with the language barrier and forgot about it. Then about 2010 or 2012 Nick Simon who lives in Worcester, the bass player that’s on the video, contacted me and suggested I had a look on You Tube because somebody had put it on there. So twenty five or so years later I see it and get in touch with the guy that uploaded it and found out he was the original editor and he kindly transferred me across a full hi-res version. So if you type in ‘Manitou Japan 1988’ that’s the first thing that comes up. It’s a great video so once in a blue moon I have another look.
Back when Manitou played for the CRS and even today there was / are quite a lot of bands’ in the small county of Dorset. Did Pete keep up with the music scene there and apart from the current situation across the country did he get out there?
After I finished studying music my goal was to make my living from music so obviously I’m in a covers band now. I don’t know much about the scene even though I know there is one out there. I’m so totally out of it but I do weddings and parties and pubs and clubs. I don’t mean that I don’t enjoy it, I love it and I’m the bass player now. I’d always played a bit of bass and about ten years ago I was lashing out at cymbals and got these searing pains in my elbows and it was stopping me playing. That band was called Deep Red but the band I’m in now is called Big Nite Out. It’s a good function band with some young guys in it. When you study popular music you have to study jazz because there’s not enough theory in rock and pop, I got taken away by jazz and I’m a six-string guitarist as well. I don’t play everything, just those three things. I am enamoured by jazz guitar and am in a duo called Black Market. It’s called that because one of the tracks we did in a different line-up was ‘Black Market’ by Weather Report. There’s a quartet version but I go out with a violinist and it’s a sit in the corner of a restaurant on a Sunday afternoon thing. So that’s why I’m not really up with people doing their own music kind of thing.
And to conclude I went back in time again and asked Pete where it all began?
I saw Led Zeppelin in ’79, Sabbath, Queen and I was right in to Elton John at the ‘Captain Fantastic’ stage. I was in to Yes and all that stuff and am still right in to it. You don’t abandon things because you go on to something else but a very good friend of mine, well let’s change that, not a very good friend of mine (he laughs). He is a friend of mine and when I used to work in a drum shop in Poole in the 80s he used to come in there and spend all day in there. His name is Jeremy Stacey and he went on to greater things with Liam Gallagher, Sheryl Crow for ten years and now he’s the middle drummer in King Crimson’s three drummer line-up and I went to see them twice with him in it in Florence and Bournemouth. It is jaw dropping, absolutely jaw dropping. They are three very different drummers. There’s Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree, he’s the technical wiz, Jeremy is in the middle and he’s the jazz drummer and Pat Mastelotto on the other side who is very tribal. Tony Levin is on bass and there’s Jacko Jakszyk and of course Robert Fripp on guitar. So I listen to that sort of stuff and will always do.
I can’t end our chat without a mention of my beloved Rush because that was my inspiration and they were on my wall when I was seventeen. I saw them at Southampton Gaumont in 1979 and fifty-three gigs later I finished seeing them in Berlin in 2013. Poor old Neil’s gone and we’ll never be able to see them again but Geddy Lee did a book called ‘Big Beautiful Book of Bass’ and I went up to Manchester where he did a meet and greet and so I actually got to meet him. ‘I can’t pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend’ is a Rush line from a track called ‘Limelight’ off ‘Moving Pictures’.
It was great to talk to Pete after all these years. I reminded him before we end that he always reminded me of Phil Collins to which he answered, “It’s funny that because throughout my life I’ve literally had, oh you look like Phil Collins or Bob Mortimer.”
Check out the video footage on You Tube of Manitou. You can also see Pete playing bass on You Tube (Sweet Georgia Brown Black Market) playing as part of his jazz duo. You can decide for yourself how much like Phil Collins he looks! There is also a video of The Big Nite Out medley.