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Les Holroyd Interviews, October 1990
Transcript of an interview Les gave to the Middle Bavarian Daily newspaper in October 1990:
"Welcome To The Show" Ė is this just a normal LP like the other ones or is it a new start for the nineties?
Iíd never even thought of that: I think probably a new start. We tried to get back to the days of "Gone To Earth", but bringing it into line with the nineties from a technical point of view.
Why did you use new producers?
We thought it was time for a change, to use different people. Itís always good to keep changing; otherwise you get a little bit stale.
The world is getting more and more peaceful (Les Ė oh really?) but in songs like "Cheap The Bullet" you describe the world as a world of power and bullets and so on. Do you think that is relevant any more?
I wouldnít exactly call the world peaceful at this point in time, with situations as they are in the Middle East. Thatís just a prime example of how cheap the bullet is Ė life doesnít mean anything, itís all to do with power and at this point in time itís to do with oil. Itís nothing to do with saving the Arabs or saving the country, itís to do with saving oil and thatís all, so life is still cheap.
What do you think of the divisions of the British (Conservative) party, with the Chancellor resigning?
I try not to think about Mrs Thatcher: it always spoils my day!
What do you mean by "the blind lead the blind" on "Welcome To The Show"? Is it a description of the state of show business?
Yes. There are so many people in this business that donít know what theyíre doing, but think they know what theyíre doing Ė the blind leading the blind.
About the song title Ė do you know who is Lady Macbeth?
I do, but Iím not telling you! You want to ask John about that oneÖ
All your songs on this album are more about stories than former songs like "Echoes and Shadows" that are more abstract.
Thatís right, those are more abstract; you can read what you like into those type of songs. Itís just an accident actually that there arenít those songs on this album. We never said, oh well, weíll do a retrospective view of the last twenty years Ė it just happened.
Are you persons like workers, working class, that you write songs like persons who are not so rich and you always see victims?
Thatís a difficult one (!) We did actually come from working class backgrounds. You canít really call us working class any more: a working class person doesnít fly around the world and get to see all these cities, so although you try to take their perspective on these situations you canít always do it.
Do you think musicians are something special or do you feel special?
No. Some people are: very, very few people are. Specifically songwriters like Paul Simon spring to mind Ė he is something special. I think heís a poet more than a musician. I class rock musicians and musicians in general as part of the whole thing of entertainment. We are entertainers like circus people are entertainers and TV personalities and street buskers Ė nothing special.
Do you still like doing concerts?
Yes of course, after all these years (twenty years?). Oh yes, I still get a buzz from doing it, otherwise we wouldnít do it.
Early in your career you played with an orchestra; are you interested in playing with this orchestra again sometime?
Itís very difficult, itís very expensive to do. A one-off situation would be quite nice, but then you have to have special songs that you can perform with an orchestra. It would be rather nice for example to play with the Berlin Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic, but to actually go on the road with an orchestra like we did is financial suicide and it limits you. For just one concert it would be great: it would have to be the right concert Ė Berlin would be brilliant but it would have to be the Brandenburg Gate right in the centre of Berlin!
Do you think you get good publicity for your music and your LPs because the promotion is not so big like Gary Moore or someone like that?
I donít know why, itís nothing to do with me, that. If you try to get involved in everything then youíd never play music. I leave all that side to other people.
Barclay James Harvest have no front man like Queen, for example.
Weíve never felt the need to have someone, because we all started out on the same level and we all wrote the songs and we all played the songs and produced them, and it didnít seem right. Weíre not that kind of band Ė no oneís ever been involved with the band like Freddy Mercury or people like that.
You make no scandals or anything like this in the press.
Weíre songwriters and entertainers, weíre not big movie stars that we feel the need to be in the papers every week. If people were around at the right time then theyíd find out there were a few scandals Ė itís just that people arenít around at the right time. FortunatelyÖ
Is your butterfly still a symbol for you after all these years.
Yeah, it is. It started with the first album and just continued; itís a great image carried through the whole spectrum of things from the albums through merchandise, badges, T-shirts, whatever. I think itís just a nice thing.
Are there any other artists who will carry on your style?
I donít know of any, but I think this style of music will actually come round again. There are kids in England getting influences from bands like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane, so I think it will come round again like the early seventies, which is when we really started.
David Bowie says he has no real relation to his old stuff after all these years; is that the same with you? Why do you still play "Mockingbird", for example?
Because people want it, thatís why we play it. In an ideal world we could go on stage tonight and play the whole new album, but I donít think thatís fair. If I go to see a band, for example Iíve seen Queen maybe ten times now. I still like to see them play "Bohemian Rhapsody". Thatís what people go to see a band for Ė whatever people want us to play weíll play it. We do listen to people: the Fan Club suggested songs and we listened. They werenít all feasible to do, after all we wanted to some modern songs as well, otherwise weíd be playing four hours a night.
What do you think now about the backing vocals on "Victims of Circumstance", which caused a lot of controversy?
A mistake! No, thatís not really fair, it wasnít a mistake. It was something that we should have really thought about before we went in. We started with one track in the studio, thought of getting the girls to come in and do backing vocals and from that it progressed to quite a few tracks on the album, then touring. It would be all right if you could tell the girl backing vocalists to wear black and to just stand still and sing, but they donít, and of course when youíre on the road itís too late to realise that.
On "Once Again" you played with Alan Parsons: is he something for you because in Germany heís world famous?
We didnít play with him: he was the tape operator. I only know of his work with the Project, which I quite like. When we knew him heíd just started in the business and weíd already been on the road for six or seven years, and at EMI he was just the tape operator.
Would it be very interesting to work again with a mellotron?
No! definitely not! The sound was good, but the instrument itself was a pain in the a**e! It was too heavy; itís like a huge tape machine with reels of recorded tape. When you need a different sound you press the cycle button and the cycle moves the whole of the reel onto the next sound, which is maybe ten foot of tape, so you can imagine carrying this and then you switch it on and it starts the cycle and the tape falls!
How do you educate your children with religion, etc?
Heís a little bit too young: heís only three! Heís more interested in his teddy bears at the moment!
Why does nobody hear of him?
I didnít think it was relevant. One of the reasons was that at that particular point in time the band were still quite big in Germany and in Switzerland and a certain Swiss magazine wanted to do a article on us. This particular magazine is like newspapers in England like "The People" and the "News Of The World", and they wanted to make more out of it. Why should I talk about my personal background? Iím a musician, Iím an entertainer; my life is private and I like to keep it private.
Which is your favourite album that youíve produced?
Probably "Glasnost", because I think itís probably one of the best live albums. Itís live sound, although people didnít appreciate it: they thought weíd overdubbed it in the studio.
Have you contact with other very famous popular musicians in London like Phil Collins?
We work out of the same office as Status Quo Ė we come across them occasionally; apart from that, no, not really. I know Deep Purple, I know Ian Gillen quite well. Brian May I know quite well, because we go back years and years when he was at University and we were actually a band playing at universities. Thatís when he started a band called Smile, and weíve been friends ever since.
One last question: what do you think of Burgundy?
Itís a very nice drink! You mean To Hell With Burgundy? Theyíre great: refreshing. They havenít got any inhibitions or anything, they just do whatever they want: theyíre a good band as well.
Written Interview with Les by Italian progressive rock fanzine Paperlate, October 1990:
Q: Are you satisfied with "Welcome To the Show" and its sales?
A: You can never be totally satisfied as a songwriter with the end product, because you start off with a song going in one direction, and it usually ends up going in a completely different way. Having said that, this album is a vast improvement on the last, as far as the public are concerned, from comments received by members of the fan club etc, so who knows? Sales of albums are an ongoing situation as far BJH is concerned. Each time we tour, we sell more of our back catalogue, so it really doesnít mean that much if the initial sales arenít as high as some of the other albums that we have recorded.
Q: "Paperlate" is a progressive rock fanzine Ė do you like this kind of music? Some people also place your music in that category: do you agree?
A: BJH have always been labelled as "progressive", and in the early days "underground", and Iím still unsure of what that is supposed to mean. I think anything that is original could be labelled "progressive", and because we have had "major" success for a limited time both in Germany and France, I really donít know where the crossover point from "progressive rock" to out and out "pop" is.
Q: What sort of bands/artists do you like at the moment?
A: I listen to anything and everything, but mostly "older" rock bands, and in particular American bands.
Q: Not long ago "Paperlate" took a poll: the readers were asked to name the best five albums of the 80s (except live and compilation albums). Which records would you choose?
A: There have been so many bands in the Ď80s, it would take a long time to really choose the best albums from this era. It is, for me, significant that a lot of the more established bands are returning to the stage, not only live concerts, but TV and video also, and I personally feel that the very early Ď80s gave us the best albums of the decade. I still listen to a lot from that period because I had some very good times around that time. (I must be getting old!!!)