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 regardsthe
original Lp cover art had an incredible grainy texture as I recallyet
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 Madonnainspired by a recommendation from her then producer
William Orbitrerecorded the Curtiss-Maldoon track Sepheryn
as the title of her 1997 album Ray Of Lightdirectly 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 albumthe
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 youll find yourself going back to the album to
discover fresh musical twists and turns time and again. Davids
21st century remake of the now famous Sepheryn song, also
featured here is, in this writers opinion the definitive versionwith
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!
mwe3.com presents an interview with
DAVID LAWRENCE ATKINS
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 its 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 Clives 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 Madonnas 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 accidentthough
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. Its 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
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 whats been the reaction
so far to the CD?
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 on the Spitting On
A Fish album, what instruments did you play on SOAF and
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: Its such a different era now compared to the early to
mid 70s. Theres some of that early '70s progressive rock
and hard rock spirit on your new album but theres 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
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 cant 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?
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"...
How any other interests outside of the music world that youre
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
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