DAVID LAWRENCE ATKINS
Spitting On A Fish
(David Atkins Music)

 

Back in that brilliant and often fondly recalled early 1970's era, singer-songwriter David Atkins used the stage name Dave Curtiss in the U.K. rock group known as Curtiss-Maldoon. The one and only Curtiss-Maldoon Lp, released on the Deep Purple related Purple Records in early 1971, was considered pretty far-out for its time and it was also critically acclaimed in that the album also featured YES guitarist Steve Howe as guest artist. The record was also unique in other regards—the original Lp cover art had an incredible grainy texture as I recall—yet as a fabled English import, it always remained somewhat of a collector's choice, a veritable cult classic. After years of obscurity and many changes in the musical world, what happened is that NYC disco-rock godess Madonna—inspired by a recommendation from her then producer William Orbit—rerecorded the Curtiss-Maldoon track “Sepheryn” as the title of her 1997 album Ray Of Light—directly naming the album after one of the lyrics in the "Sepheryn" song. It's been light ages, yet in 2011 David Atkins is back with his original name gracing the cover of his long awaited comeback album—the oddly titled Spitting On A Fish. Commenting on the album title, Atkins states, ‘Spitting On A Fish was an idea that came from a Bulgarian friend mixing her words up, and it was a year before I wrote the song to the idea. As it explains behind the disc inside the sleeve, Spitting On A Fish is ‘An exercise in futility...a pointless action. Even if the album bombs, maybe the phrase can enter common usage...wouldn't that be something?’ (lol) Music fans who enjoyed the now historic Curtiss-Maldoon album will be in for a treat upon hearing Spitting On A Fish. In the spirit of the music Atkins recorded with Curtiss-Maldoon, Spitting On A Fish is all over the map musically. Sounding inspired by the Tin Pan Alley sounds of classic U.K. singer-songwriters such as Ray and Dave Davies, and even Beatles' engineer Norman "Hurricane" Smith, Atkins stacks the deck musically, with a darker, bluesy kind of lyrical vibe, also somewhat reminiscent of gravely voiced American musical icons such as Tom Waits and even Warren Zevon. Spin after spin, many of the Spitting On A Fish tracks linger long in your head and you’ll find yourself going back to the album to discover fresh musical twists and turns time and again. David’s 21st century remake of the now famous “Sepheryn” song, also featured here is, in this writer’s opinion the definitive version—with Atkins fleshing out the stunning original melody with a renewed verve and musical maturity that only the passing years can bring about. With Atkins composing and recording some fabulous new songs, while also paying tribute to the timeless '70s classic "Sepheryn", the late, great Clive Maldoon (his real name was Clive Skinner) is no doubt smiling down from the heavens. Regarding original fans picking up on Spitting On A Fish, David further explains, ‘I'm really happy with the reaction to the album so far. The most pleasing part is that many people have a different favorite song. It was always my intention to do an album without any filler tracks, and I think I've pretty much done that...to my satisfaction anyway. The album started as a jazzy-cool kind of feel, and then I found a ukulele in a flea market, and the whole thing went off on a tangent. In a way, it reflects the Curtiss-Maldoon album in as much as I ended up just putting what I thought were my best songs on the album, and to hell with any concept of style...as a consequence it seems to have worked!’ www.DavidAtkinsMusic.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
DAVID LAWRENCE ATKINS



mwe3: Eagle Rock Records here in New York are currently promoting the Curtiss Maldoon “Sepheryn - The Definitive Collection” album now in 2011 available as a download release. It sounds like Curtiss Maldoon was kind of ahead of its time yet the album remains fondly recalled and has developed a legacy of it’s own.

DLA: Never been called ahead of my time before, maybe the world is catching up with me at last! The C/M time was great, but frustrating when I look back and think how good we might have been if we'd taken the whole thing a bit more seriously...story of my life. Still it's nice to know that people are still interested all these years later, and it's hard to be anything but pleased that someone wants to re-release it. I haven't heard it for a decade, I'll have to check it out and maybe buy a copy!

mwe3: I was reading in the CD that Clive’s cousin Christine was involved in bringing the Curtiss Maldoon song “Sepheryn” to William Orbit and then he presented it to Madonna. What do you think of Madonna’s version and does it continue to sell? I also see Christine has her own band. Of all the three versions of the song “Sepheryn”, the best one is on your new solo album Spitting On A Fish. What did you decide to keep and modify about the song. It almost sounds like a Brazilian kind of cosmic bossa nova!

DLA: Sales of course are nothing like they were, but every time she does a tour it gets a boost. Christine was central to the whole thing. As I heard it, William Orbit had this backing track and Christine sung our song “Sepheryn”, over it. A very happy accident—though I don't believe in accidents, everything happens for a reason. Madonna simply removed Christine's voice and replaced it with her own. If you heard the original version, you can't really tell the difference with that and Madonna's. Madonna did rewrite one verse, so now it's "written by Madonna.” (lol) I'm glad you like my new version, as I think it's more in keeping with the original idea of one of a spiritual experience that Clive had. I removed Madonna's verse, partly because I wanted to revert to the original idea of Sepheryn, and because it has no relevance to the rest of the song as I know it. I also rewrote the original bridge section, and used it as the verse that explains what the song is all about. The solo by Fulvio Sigurta on flugelhorn is what gives it that Latin sound. Another "accident". (lol)

mwe3: How would you explain the popularity of the song “Sepheryn” and what does the song mean to you lyrically? What was your reaction and the overall reaction to the song when it first came out? Sounds like you really brought the song into the 21st century with your 2011 reworking of the song. It’s even cooler than the ‘97 Madonna remake. Perhaps you should produce a new version with her.

DLA: I think “Sepheryn” or “Ray Of Light” lets say, is a quality song, partly because of it's message, and partly because it seems to lend itself to so many interpretations. Someone told me the other day that there are over 30 versions of the song out there, which seems to bear this out. Thanks for the kind words about my new version, but I can't see Madonna calling me in the near future. (lol)

mwe3: I think long time fans are going to be happy with your new album Spitting On A Fish. What were the events that lead to finally being able to have the new CD come out and what’s been the reaction so far to the CD?

DLA: The reaction has been quite startling, and a bit of a surprise really. When you're in the studio for a long while, you don't see the big picture. It's all remixing, redoing, throwing away, and surprising results from things you thought wouldn't work. Only now am I starting to stand back and appreciate it, and I'm really happy with it. It took a long time because I'm lazy, and because I write in various styles, and couldn't see all the styles working on one album. Apparently I was wrong.

mwe3: Who are some of the musicians with you the Spitting On A Fish new album and what instruments did you play on the SOAF album? How long did it take to write, record and complete the album?

DLA: It took a bit more than a year on and off, booking a day or two here and there. A few of the songs are just me, a couple (“Lighten Up Your Life” and “Little Soldier”), were actually done at home and then cleaned up in a "proper" studio that I found at the end of my street. I had no idea it even existed! Roger Wagner, a friend I've done a few gigs with over the last 20 years played finger picking guitar on a couple, Matt Lanchester played keyboards and John Barrett played the drums. Fulvio Sigurta, Roberto Manzin and Paul Taylor played trumpet, sax and trombone. The rest is me. I have to give a special mention to Paul Taylor, whose trombone solos are for me, just about perfect.

mwe3: It’s such a different era now compared to the early to mid ‘70s. There’s some of that early '70s progressive rock and hard rock spirit on your new album but there’s also other influences like folk, blues, Tin Pan Alley... Where do you draw your song writing influences from? Growing up in England you must have had exposure to the great music from the late ‘50s. I say that because the song “Spitting On A Fish” sounds like an up to date incarnation of classic British song writing! What can you say about the song “Spitting On A Fish” and is there a lyric sheet available?

DLA: I've no idea where stuff comes from. I don't consciously "think" of songs. On the contrary, they arrive when I stop thinking. I've always enjoyed melodic songs...songs with a "hook", whether it's "One Fine Day" from the 50's or the brass riff in Beyonce's "Crazy Right Now". Spitting On A Fish came from a Bulgarian 14 year mixing up her English. I can’t remember what she was trying to say, but I knew it would make a good song. A year later, I found a ukulele in a garage sale for $5, and then the song came together. I honestly don't listen to much music, although I do enjoy Tom Waits and Jeff Buckley. I've got the lyrics all written out and they should be up on my web site soon if they're not already.

mwe3: Also on the new songs “Oh Tonight” and the CD closing “Shine On Me” sounds very influenced by '60s English songwriters, like the Kinks and Hurricane Smith.

DLA: Maybe that's because I'm English! I do love Ray Davies writing, but “Oh Tonight” was, I suppose inspired by Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", not melodically or lyrically, but just the idea of someone coming over for the night. "Shine On Me" came simply from waking up feeling good one morning and as I looked out of the window the sun really did come from behind a cloud and shine on me, and the first lines came straight into my head. The style of the song comes from my limitations as a musician. I write what I'm capable of playing. I don't kid myself that I have much technical ability as a musician, but I do have creative ideas, and mostly I'm happy with that. Most of my music is pretty simple stuff, but most popular music is. I don't think I have many pretensions in that area.

mwe3: Tell me what it was like growing up in England in the early ‘60s and what music was important to you early on. Also what influence the Shadows have on you and then the Beatles influence? Sounds like you were also influenced by jazz and late ‘50s rock and roll. So how did all that early rock and roll lead to psychedelia and progressive rock?

DLA: Looking back, it was wonderful, but like most early experiences it's rarely appreciated at the time. I think my generation got the best of it musically. Every month there was a new Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, Beach Boys or Animals single out and they all stand the test of time today. Also London was “the” place to be on the planet for nearly a decade. Life for me began when I first heard "Great Balls of Fire", and I had the great pleasure of playing bass for Chuck Berry at the Albert Hall in the late 60's, so yes, I was greatly moved by 50's rock. My dad was a big Benny Goodman fan so that also made it's mark. I was never a great Shadows fan, I always preferred the American stuff that was around at the time, all the Leiber-Stoller stuff for example, and how this all progressed to psychedelia I have no idea, though I suspect all the drugs we took at the time.

mwe3: Can you remember your first guitars and musical training? So was your family musical?

DLA: My first guitar was a cheap acoustic that I nailed, literally, a pick up to it. This was followed by a Futurama electric...rubbish, but they go for a fortune now. My Dad played the ukulele banjo and showed me a couple of chords that I found transferred to the guitar quite easily...and so it began.

mwe3: Can you say something about working with Steve Howe in the group Bodast? How did you meet him and what did you think about Steve joining Yes in 1971 or so? I read Steve discussing working with you and Clive in the Curtiss-Maldoon Sepheryn CD reissue where Steve said, ‘Dave was a bit older that the rest of us, more of a rocker and offered the group its only real stability.’ Do you keep in touch with Steve?

DLA: I met Steve again, for the first time about 10 years ago. Steve and I work very differently. He's a technician and I'm a creator. I can't see us working together again, although never say never. There was a certain inevitability about him leaving Bodast to join Yes. We'd just got three quarters of the way through the Bodast album when the record label went broke, so it was never really finished, Steve had just had his first child and Yes were on the up. Inevitable, yes... "Ah but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now"...

mwe3: How any other interests outside of the music world that you’re involved with?

DLA: I think the world is in a perilous state, and I have four houses in Eastern Europe where I'm starting a self-sufficient community. An alternative place to be when things get really grim...and they will.

mwe3: Interesting that you chose to call the new album Spitting On A Fish. You describe the term as being a kind of “pointless action.” How does that relate to you personally and possibly in the way we see the world today?

DLA: Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and I'm on a crusade to get the phrase into common usage even if the album doesn't sell! A pointless action or an exercise in futility. How does it relate to me and the world? Well, I suppose you could say don't waste you time with things you can't do anything about. Move on.

mwe3: What are your future plans in promoting the new Spitting On A Fish album and are there plans for a sequel to the album?

DLA: As to promoting the album, I'm open to all ideas, 'cos I don't have any, and I'll do a follow up if I think I have a dozen songs strong enough. If I don't, I won't. It doesn't really matter either way...life's too short.


Thanks to David Atkins at www.DavidAtkinsMusic.com

 

 
   
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