Sunday, 13 April 2008

The Psychedelic Soul of Charlie Salvidge

I'm investigating new music all the time, but sometimes you do wonder if everything is starting to become a bit mediocre… or worse, perhaps you're losing the knack for spotting something a bit special. Then, right on cue, something like this turns up, the ‘ol Spidey sense immediately starts tingling and confirms that your quality control switch was set just right all along!

A chance conversation a couple of weeks back put me on to Charlie and his work. I got in touch with him, he sent me his demo CD and I was immediately impressed. Listening to his demos, you know he's done his homework, and has an incredible understanding of music. We've all heard artists that are so influenced by something or someone, that they just end up sounding like a poor imitation. Charlie (22) has risen above all that though, he's soaked up classic 60s material (from the likes of the Beach Boys, the Pretty Things, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Nazz, 13th Floor Elevators and much much more) dissected it, digested it and come up with something new. This is no Austin Powers style 'tongue in cheek' pastiche, this is serious stuff which on one hand manages to sound new and fresh, yet is also reminiscent of so many of Charlie's influences. Imagine the Byrds with Hendrix on guitar, or the 'Head' era Monkees jamming with a 60’s Status Quo.

Of the nine tracks on his demo CD, only two have the polished finish of the studio (complete with authentic 60s production values), yet it matters little. The remaining seven (all recorded on his home PC) have a raw charm, and the quality of his material shines through. I was keen to find out more about Charlie, and he kindly filled in some blanks for me….

What instruments do you play?
Mainly guitar, a bit of bass, some elementary keyboard and a sprinkling of drums.

Listening to your songs, you’ve obviously got a great knowledge of music. What first go you into that 60’s psychedelic sound?
I grew up listening to my Dad's record collection, which consisted mainly of ex Radio Bristol singles he'd 'borrowed' from his work. It was really only the obvious things like Strawberry Fields & Pictures Of Matchstick Men that made an early impression on me. I was so naive I didn't realise there were any other groups who'd done songs in a psychedelic vein until we went on a school trip to Stratford On Avon. The Shakespeare play we saw was pretty dull but on that trip I bought an Uncut magazine which had a free CD with things like Tomorrow's 'My White Bicycle' and Dantalian's Chariot's 'The Madman Running Through The Fields'. I got it home, had a listen & thought 'Blimey!'

You list dozens of influences, but if you had to choose, who has influenced you the most and why?
It's always an easy choice to say the Beatles but for me I think it's true. They're really the only band who ever had a consistently high standard of work, my favourites are all the great B sides & album tracks that often get overlooked; I'll Cry Instead, Rain, If I Needed Someone... the less poppy ones which are perhaps a tad more experimental. It's only been in the last 2 years that I've been scratching the surface of the wealth of rare 60s & 70s stuff that's out there - discovering crazy underground stuff and bands who never quite made it big at the time like Pandemonium, July, Wimple Winch, Mike Stuart Span - They were all so ahead of their time and I always wonder what sort of people originally went out and bought their singles. At the time they were all just pop groups that would release one flopper of a single on Deram or something, make no money and go back to working on a building site. Perhaps it's only now that we can fully appreciate their inventiveness in the current musical climate.

How do you approach song writing? Is it a tune 1st or some words? How do you work?
It varies, often I'll be drifting off to sleep at night and get a tune in my head, it's weird sometimes because I can actually hear a complete sound - the band playing and everything, so I'll get up and find the chords or the line and record it quickly. Then when I'm writing a new tune and it needs another bit, I can listen back to the bits I've come up with and slot one into the song if it fits. The other way it happens is when I hear some amazing track and think "I'll write one like that!" I try not to rip things off but I think there are a few songs of mine that are obviously inspired by about 4 separate classics.

How many songs have you written to date?
I'd say about 10 really good ones, another 15 half decent ones, and many others lying around unfinished. Sometimes you get a great idea, write a few verses & think, 'hmm, this is crap actually' then it just lies dormant awaiting the day it can be re-vamped, or turned into a paper aeroplane.

You’ve recorded demos of 9 tracks, two of them you did in a studio, how did that go?
The studio tracks I actually recorded in my mate Dave's garage in Gloucester, which was handy as I only had to pay him £20 a time. He's got all the studio gear up in his room with a multicore cable running downstairs through the hallway and into the garage. The acoustics in there obviously aren't typical of most studios but all the eggboxes, bikes and washing machines give the sound some interesting characteristics. Actually we put an extra mic on top of the washing machine in the hallway for the drum break in 'Change In You' and I think it sounds pretty good! I wanted to experiment a bit more - a lot of bands in the sixties for example might have only used two mics on the drums, one for the bass & one for the snare, and sometimes you can get a better effect that way. One of the challenges was to try and make the tracks sound authentic and I think we achieved the desired effect despite doing it all on computer.

How many of the instruments did you play on those tracks?
I'm pretty sure I played everything apart from the bass on Harris Tweed and the flute solo on Change In You, both played expertly by Dave Poyser. We used his family piano & a battered old Philips Philicordia organ too!

What can you tell me about the tracks Harris Tweed and Change In You?
I wrote them both in late 2006, Harris Tweed is about the old dilemma of looking a state but having to leave the house to go to work, then being looked down upon by the upper classes and 'straights' of this world - but ultimately not really caring anyway. I suppose the tune itself is 'Hey Joe' inspired, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. So many people have said to me how they can't believe it's a modern track. One of my friends was saying when he first heard it he was looking it up on the internet to see if it was an old unknown psych song from the sixties! Listening to it now I can see what he means, I just tried to make the production sound authentic, ADT* on the vocals, phasing on the drums etc.

*ADT - Artificial Double Tracking, a method used in recording studios in the sixties whereby the output signal from one tape machine is fed back in with a slight delay to create the illusion of two separate vocal tracks.

Change In You is a homage to that sunny West Coast Byrds sound, but some people say it sounds Lennon-ish too. It's just another of them 'girl trouble' sort of numbers. I had about 5 acetate 45s of it cut with a cover of the In Crowd's 'Blow Up' on the B side.

Do you have a live set up?
At the moment I'm getting a band together with Uygar Sen (guitar) and Jake Gladman (bass), they're both top musicians and great guys to hang out with, we don't have a permanent drummer at the moment so we've just been rehearsing and going through songs, tightening them up and so forth. As soon as we get a drummer and feel we're ready, we're going to start the gigging & recording. We already have had a lot of promising praise and a lot of mates who are in established bands on the scene seem eager to hear what we can do.

So what’s in the pipeline for you?
I don't want to reveal too much but look out for a limited edition Harris Tweed 7" very soon...

Where do you see yourself in a years time?
With a bit of luck, with a recording contract and making a bit of money. Should that not happen I just want to hang around the periphery of the London music scene and edge my way into the industry to work in some capacity.

Top 5 albums you’d take to a desert Island?
I'd have to say I couldn't live without Sgt. Pepper, David Bowie's Hunky Dory, The Piper at The Gates of Dawn, The Magic Rocking Horse and the first Nazz album - an album I rarely listen to because it makes me frustrated of it's perfection. But I've thought about this before and all the records would melt anyway. I think I'd rather just take a piano and teach myself Debussy's Claire-De-Lune over a prolonged period of time.

So there you go, I think Charlie Salvidge is a really exciting prospect, but why not check him out for yourself, as he’s kindly allowed me to post two of his songs right here. Do yourself a favour and give em a go, and if you're one of the growing band of subscribers to Start The Revolution Without Me, do please pop over to the site for a listen, I’d hate you to miss out!



Visit Charlie's MySpace page here

Thanks to Charlie for the interview.



Mondo said...

Good work P - I'll be checking him out.

By complete contrast I've just posted a 'mixwit' tape of Crocs/Toothbrush tunes on Plaent Mondo called 'Purple Nasties' let me know if there's any classics missing

Anonymous said...

blimey Piley. Havre you thought abouht cutting out the middle man and just getting into PR or promotions?! ANOTHER great spot, and at least this one won't cost me money! for now at least. Will watch this talent with interest.


Axe Victim said...

Great stuff Piley. The track links don't work but I'm off over to is myspace page now to check him out.

Piley said...

Hey Guys thanks for the comments...

Axe - not working for ya? weird. Got em working from here... anyway, let me know what you make of Charlie.

Rob - Find me the job... i'll take it!!!

Mondo - great mixwit!

Mondo said...

Been cracking on with those tunes again - think 'Change' is me fave got that late 60s/Monkees/CSNY vibe about it

Anonymous said...

Great stuff - this guy has talent! I've played Harris Tweed to death. Definitely time for a psychedelic revival. Break out the paisley and crushed velvet!