Monday, June 30, 2014

Castle Farm interview with Steve Traveller


Steve Traveller is the drummer of Castle Farm, a band from around Romford in northeast London. I first discovered them on a compilation called Cosmarama - Blow Your Cool 2 and was immediately taken with the hard rockin', glam-infused single 'Hot Rod Queen'. A while later, a fan of the band contacted me via Youtube and gave me the welcome news that the Castle Farm "Studio Sessions 1971-72" album was digitally released around December last year. I got it straight away and, in one of those precious moments of finding an obscurity leading to something really exciting, was ecstatic to find that the promise of Hot Rod Queen was reinforced by a set of skillful and varied hard rock and blues, some proto-metal, and Tex Benike's killer slide guitar. Just check this out for confirmation:

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After hearing this I knew I had to get something down here on Aftersabbath, and had my second happy discovery, a mention of Castle Farm on Robin Wills' ever-great PUREPOP blog and a lead on one of it's members, drummer Steve Traveller.

Founding members:
Denny Newman: vocals
Gram 'Tex' Benike: guitars
Steve 'Spyder' Curphey: Bass
Steve Traveller: drums

Additional members:
John Aldrich: guitar, vocals
Roger Curphey: bass (replacing his brother Spyder, in late 1971)


So that's the brief intro over, and here is the resulting interview with Steve. If you like what you hear (you will), the album can be purchased on Amazon, iTunes and other such sources. 'Studio Sessions 1971-72' on: Spotify web player.

Steve Traveller
Steve Traveller
Q01. Hi Steve, thanks for doing this! Firstly, how and why did you become a musician, and why did you choose drums in particular?

I guess it started when I was in the Boy Scouts. I wanted to be in the marching band and play the bugle, but they didn't have a spare one so they gave me a side drum! But I took to drumming like a duck to water, and then I built my own kit at home out of biscuit tins with knitting needles for sticks!


Q02. How and where did the members of Castle Farm meet? What prompted the formation of the band?

I was in a local 'pop' outfit and we fired the lead guitarist after he didn't turn up for a gig one Easter. We didn't have a bass player, so I was left with just a not very inspiring pianist and rhythm guitarist. So I put a postcard ad in the window of a local music shop and the next thing Steve 'Spyder' Curphey and Gram 'Tex' Benike turned up on my doorstep. They were both at Barking Tech college at the time, and really looked the part - proper long-haired rock band material. They came round and we jammed in my parents' front room - and we blew each other away! Spyder and Tex were into the same stuff I was. They pulled in a singer they knew from the college and Castle Farm was born. We made our way through a couple of relatively uninspiring singers before we met Denny Newman in a pub we used to use in Brentwood. Denny was on our wavelength, and a fantastic singer. A little while later Den introduced us to his mate John Aldrich, who was a brilliant guitarist, and we traded up to be a five-piece, with John bringing so much more colour and depth to the band's music.


Q03. Around the times you joined Castle Farm, what musical scenes and artists/acts were you digging?

It was the end of the sixties and I had grown up with The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Taste, etc. There were these amazing drummers coming through - Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Jon Hiseman, Ian Paice, John Bonham, Glenn Cornick, etc. I was influenced to some degree by all of them.


Q04. Did Castle Farm play any live gigs or festivals? Which bands were billed along with you?

We soon established a loyal following in the Brentwood and Romford areas, playing the King's Head in Romford and St Theresa's Hall in Brentwood, and then we were gigging regularly all over London and throughout Essex and Kent. Latterly we moved on to the university and college circuit, bought a six-wheel Tranny from Badfinger, and were on the road as far as Winchester and Leeds. We supported Rory Gallagher, Deed Purple, Savoy Brown Blues Band, Climax Blues Band, Quintessence and many others. One of our best gigs was at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend, supporting Atomic Rooster - I remember the band coming and standing in the wings during our set to watch us. We had a residency at the Esplanade in Southend too, where a nascent Dr Feelgood even supported US!


Castle Farm 1971
Castle Farm 1971
Q05. Can you describe recording the singles like Hot Rod Queen/Mascot that Castle Farm released, and some memories of doing so?

We had become very frustrated with the record industry, which in those days was in the habit of signing promising bands and then leaving them on the shelf to stop them being a threat to the acts they were promoting. We got caught up in one of these scams, and it was a huge hassle to get out of the contract. But we had a great following, and knew that we could sell records, so we decided to fund our own single. We had met a guy called Hedley Leyton, who had worked with John Hiseman's Colosseum on their live album, and he helped us produce it. We had 2,000 copies pressed, distributed them through local record shops, and they sold out within a few weeks.


Castle Farm Hot Rod Queen / Mascot single
Castle Farm Hot Rod Queen / Mascot single
A second version of Hot Rod Queen was recorded for release alongside "Jewels of Fire", which only made it to acetate. Here is some further info that Steve posted previously on PUREPOP: "There are two different versions of 'Hot Rod Queen'. The two tracks on the single were recorded at Tangerine Studios in London on 15th Feb 1972 and mixed down on 22nd Feb 1972. 

'Jewels Of Fire' was recorded on 25th March 1972 at Pye No. 1, and produced/engineered by Miki Dallon. We then went back to Pye No. 1 on 13th April 1972 to re-record 'Hot Rod Queen' as Miki was interested in reworking it.

The version of HRQ that you have here [link below] is actually an edited version of the original recording, which ran to over four minutes - Miki being a 'pop' producer with a strict timing policy. We much preferred the longer version!". Both versions of Hot Rod Queen are included in "Studio Sessions 1971-72".



Q06. How did the recent posthumous release “The Studio Sessions 1971-72” come about?

A few years ago someone told me that 'Hot Rod Queen' was on a prog/psych compilation album, so I bought a copy in HMV, initially feeling chuffed that Castle Farm's music was still remembered! But then I felt a little less charitable when I realised there was some scavenging company (Start Entertainments Ltd) out there stealing copyrighted work and making money without permission. A quick trawl around the internet revealed that in fact 'Hot Rod Queen' had had a new lease of life and was even being featured on American college radio playlists! Given this new interest I uploaded Hot Rod Queen' and 'Mascot' onto YouTube, and then set about getting the illegal downloads taken down from iTunes, Amazon, etc. At the same time I had recordings of six tracks from an earlier session, and two from a later one ('Jewels Of Fire' and an alternative take of "Hot Rod Queen'), which I had cleaned up as best I could. These represented the best of the Castle Farm recordings that still existed, so I thought they would make a nice little download package.

Here is some further information from Steve, found at PUREPOP: "I have pulled together the best examples I have of the band's recordings, but unfortunately these only exist in either acetate or cassette tape format, the original master tapes having been lost over time.

I've cleaned up the tracks for digital transfer as much as possible, with the help of my son Paul, who's a sound engineer, and has worked wonders replacing the intro to 'You Go Your Way', which was lost on a chewed up cassette tape, and tidying up a less than perfect drum fill on 'Jewels Of Fire', which we didn't have time to correct in the studio, and has bugged me for over 40 years!

All the tracks were recorded in one or two takes with minor overdubbing - most were self-funded and we were on a very tight budget!"


John Aldrich
Q07. Do you have any favourite Castle Farm songs? Can you remember anything about playing any of them?

 '(Maybe A Little Black) Witch' was usually our opener, and got everyone rocking from the start. I think 'Jewels Of Fire' is about the best thing we ever recorded, with absolutely stunning dual-guitar work from Tex and John, but I guess our real signature number was a really heavy, slowed down, crunching 20 minute version of 'Summertime Blues' that tended to end our shows. The improvised middle section and drum solo were always journeys into the unknown, but never failed to bring the house down!



Q08. Castle Farm’s music is fantastic, all the members performances gel brilliantly. While it’s generally got heavy blues style, there's early metal/punk songs like “(Maybe a Little Black) Witch” and “Lunatic”, a glam vibe like ‘Hot Rod Queen’, and ballad/relaxed songs like ‘All In A Day, All In A Year’ and 'You Go Your Way'. Can you share your thoughts on the band’s versatility and what influenced the sound of Castle Farm?

I like to think 'Lunatic' was six years ahead of its time with its punk vibe, but although we saw ourselves as a rock'n'roll band ('Highway 61', 'Rock Me Baby', etc.) we all had so many musical influences and appreciated so many different styles, and we really liked to mix it up to make the shows more interesting.  


Q09. For the sake of those into drum tech, what equipment did you use in castle Farm?

After using a second-hand Ludwig kit in the early days that I bought off Spyder for 50 quid, I progressed to a Premier 2000 double kit in 1971. This is now regarded as a classic kit, and would be worth a fortune now in good condition. But mine led a hard but exciting life, both in my hands and my son's, from as soon as he was tall enough to reach the pedals. Paul soon overtook me in terms of drumming prowess - check this out


Q10. What was the song-writing process of the band? Who was the creative leader, if there was one?

Tex and Spyder came up with most of the ideas for our own songs, and we would just play around with concepts and each add our own ideas and build them up at rehearsals.


Q11. “Island In The Sun” is packed with killer slide guitar, it’s a real trip. Who played that, and what can you tell me about that song?

Tex was, and still is, one of the best slide players I've ever seen. It's his riff and his song, and it was great to watch him really getting into it at live gigs.


Q12. Did you intend on making more music, or an album, and why did it not happen? What were the future plans for Castle Farm at the time of the singles?

Yes, we would have carried on, but we were getting into other things - Spyder had left the band at the end of 1971 and his brother Roger joined us on bass. That was just before we recorded 'Hot Rod Queen', and we went on to do 'Jewels Of Fire' and then carried on gigging until the end of 1972.


Roger Curphey
Q13. Why did the band end?

We would love to have 'made it' big, but we'd given it three years and needed to get out and earn some regular money!


Q14. Do you think Castle Farm had the potential to last longer and be more successful?

I think it had the potential - we just lacked the lucky break!





Denny Newman
Q15. What have you and other members done after Castle Farm, in music or otherwise?

I went into advertising, Tex moved to his native US, Denny carried on with music and now lives in Germany, fronting a great little blues band which has worked as Mick Taylor's backing band (Google 'Denny Newman'), Spyder went into a very successful T-shirt business but is sadly no longer with us. We've had the odd reunion over the years, the last one being at the 100 Club in London for a memorial concert for Spyder in 2008.


Q16. Do you have any great Castle Farm memories or stories (amusing or otherwise) that you think would give readers some more insight into the times and the band?

Loads of great memories, but one of my favourites was when we were booked to support Barclay James Harvest at the Basildon Arts Centre. BJH couldn't make it, so instead they booked a band called Slade - previously a skin-head band in the late sixties but now embarking on a glam-rock course. They were managed by Chas Chandler (ex Animals bass player and Jimi Hendrix's manager) who was strutting around the place in a pink and yellow kaftan, looking a bit of a prat! Basildon was part of our stomping ground and our fans were out in force, so we were really getting into it and were overrunning a bit. But just when we got into our second encore Chas Chandler pulled the plug on us. Tex was absolutely furious - he jumped off the stage, went round the back and found Chandler and gave him the biggest smack on the nose you ever saw. Great times!

Here's a comment I received after this article was first posted, from guitarist Tex:

"Just read this interview about Castle Farm ... I was in that band along with Steve, Spyder and Denny ..( this is Tex from Phoenix, AZ. ) The Basildon Arts Lab I remember ... total chaos at the end. We were banned from ever playing there again because a bunch of seats got destroyed by fans during our " Summertime Blues " finale . I remember a shocked and white faced Chas Chandler walking into our dressing room after our show asking if our gigs were always like that ... " usually " was our reply. Then Slade came on ... they were on the rise but not Superstars yet but really loud !! .. we went down the pub !! ... great memories from this band - fun times back then ... I'm still breathing ... still playing here in Phoenix, Arizona ... still playing slide. Enjoyed the article !!! ..... Best, Tex."



Thanks for your time Steve! Let's hope we see and hear more of Castle Farm one day...


If anyone has questions for me or Steve regrading Castle Farm, drop a line to TDATS at the usual address.



© Richard Sheppard / www.aftersabbath.com

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Day After The Sabbath 103: A Mad Man Roams Tonight

Download from: [mf] or [mg]
password:  tdats
Many of the great bands I have used before had talented individual members who went out there and made albums of their own. In a few examples here, these guys had busy careers that are as interesting and notable as the respected bands they played in. For example, Wynder K. Frog (Mick Weaver) made albums before working with the bands that had success, which in his case included the Keef Hartley Band and Juicy Lucy. This takes you into the interesting world of session musicians and those who were talented and in-demand.

On the other hand, some of the artists here are not known to have had prolific careers outside of their main band, but for one reason or another had the rare opportunity to helm a solo record.

Researching this subject has revealed a bunch of great music, and in this selection I have chosen tracks that range from 1970 to 1975, covering hard rock, southern rock, jazz-rock, blues and prog.

TRACKLIST
01. Peter Tilbrook of The Masters Apprentices
       A Mad Man Roams Tonight - Single (1971)
02. Mike Harrison of Art and Spooky Tooth
       Maverick Woman Blues - from album "Rainbow Rider" (1975)
03. Mick Abrahams of Jethro Tull, Blodwyn Pig & Screaming Lord Sutch
       Awake - from album "Mick Abrahams" (1971)
04. Peter Kaukonen of Hot Tuna & Jefferson Starship
       Up Or Down - from album "Black Kangaroo" (1972)
05. Wynder K. Frog of Keef Hartley Band & Juicy Lucy
       Howl In Wolf's Clothing - from album "Into The Fire" (1970)
06. Ray Fenwick of After Tea & Ian Gillan Band
       Stateside - from album "Keep America Beautiful, Get a Haircut" (1970)
07. Cliff Bennett of Toe Fat
       Movin' And Travelin' On - from album "Cliff Bennett's Rebellion" (1971)
08. Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep, The Gods, Toe Fat, Head Machine & Weed
       Stargazer - from album "Eager To Please" (1975)
09. Lee Pickens Group of Bloodrock
       Thumbs Up - from album "LPG" (1973)
10. Marz of JeronimoAtlantis
       Lord Have Mercy - from album "The Dream Is Over" (1972)

Peter Tilbrook was in Adelaide's The Masters Apprentices (vol 21) from '67 to '68, playing guitar and bass. He was in earlier bands, and has had a solo career since, which you can read about here. He has since appeared at Masters' reunions too. His single from 1971, "A Mad Man Roams Tonight", is a fun track that gives this comp its name. I got this info from Peter himself:

The band [for this single] was quite a well-known line up.
Steve Hopgood [Masters Apprentices drummer]
John Bywaters [The Twilights bass player] who I am in a band with today - THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Tony fahse [Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons] as second guitarist
Peter Tilbrook  [Masters Apprentices] on vocals and guitar


Mike Harrison was formative keyboardist/vocalist of Spooky Tooth. He made three solo albums which did not carry on in the vein of Spooky Tooth's heavier stuff, but the track Maverick Woman Blues from his 3rd album Rainbow Rider certainly did! It is a cover of the excellent band Moloch, who first appeard in TDATS in Vol54.


Mick Abrahams was guitarist/vocalist in bands such as Jethro Tull and Blodwyn Pig. "Awake" is taken from his 1971 album "Mick Abrahams". He made more albums with the "Mick Abrahams Band" and in 1975 he made an instructional LP "Have Fun Learning" The Guitar With Mick Abrahams...One of Britain's top rock band and session guitarists.


Peter Kaukonen is the younger brother of guitarist/bassist and vocalist of Hot Tuna & Jefferson Starship; Jorma Kaukonen. Although he was not a full time member of those bands like his brother, he did play with both of them on occasion.  He made a solo album in 1972 called "Black Kangaroo". It's chock full of his great Hendrixian guitar playing.


Wynder K. Frog was the band of Mick Weaver, a keyboard player who later worked with Keef Hartley Band (Vol 74) & Juicy Lucy (Vol 100). To this day he has also worked with Miller Anderson (Vol 74), Janis Joplin and Dave Gilmour to name a few.


Ray Fenwick was an English session guitarist who played in many bands, including After Tea (Vol 63), Ian Gillan Band and the Tee-Set. His sole album from 1970 was called "Keep America Beautiful, Get a Haircut" and the track 'Stateside' is a long piece of great rock-opera.


Cliff Bennett was guitarist/vocalist in Toe Fat (Vol 16) as was Ken Hensley (following) also in Toe Fat. He helmed Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers in the early sixties, the Cliff Bennett Band in 1968 and Cliff Bennett's Rebellion in 1971, on which I found "Movin' and Travelin' On".


Ken Hensley was a keyboard player who was quite prolific, playing in bands such as Uriah Heep, The Gods, Toe Fat, Head Machine, Weed, Blackfoot and The Hensley Lawton Band. He made two good solo albums in the '70s; Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf (1973) and Eager to Please (1975). "Stargazer" is taken from Eager To Please.


Lee Pickens was formative guitarist in Bloodrock (see vols 1 and 30), he made one southern rock-infused album in 1973 called "LPG".


Finally, we have Marz. He was Rainer Marz of German bands Jeronimo (Vol 5) and Atlantis. He made one LP entitled 'Marz' in 1972.



Thanks for listening! 
Rich

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