in the U.K, the band known as The Mighty Bard are carrying
on the tradition of progressive rock with fine results on their 2015
CD Blue God And Other Stories. Going on ten years
as a band, The Mighty Bard was formed by guitarist Dave Clarke
and keyboardist Neil Cockle and is currently a six piece
with the band rounded out by Gavin Webb (vocals), Mark Cadman
(bass), Andy Dovey (drums) and Mark Parker (violin).
Speaking about the process during the recording, Neil Cockle tells
mwe3.com, The majority of musical ideas come from myself
and Dave, but the whole band has an input at the later stages of song
development, when things start to get serious, when we
think an idea is worth pursuing! Sometimes, the song is still evolving
at the recording stage. Someone might play something when were
recording, that will spark an idea for someone else. The
sound of The Mighty Bard explores the domain of progressive rock while
implementing a more harder rock edge, yet its done very tastefully
and the progressive elements seem to win out over the harder rocking
elements. Perhaps the coolest thing here is that The Mighty Bard sounds
like theyre having fun playing their progressive rock meets
hard rock mix. Pundits might notice historic U.K. bands like Jethro
Tull and even Pink Floyd as influences but even with all these past
influences creeping into their sound, The Mighty Bard makes a unique
prog-rock statement of their own on the creative and engaging Blue
God And Other Stories. www.TheMightyBard.com
mwe3.com presents an interview
THE MIGHTY BARD
Can you tell us where The Mighty Bard comes from in England and some
history of the group, for instance when the band started and how the
band evolved to where it is today?
The Mighty Bard:
Dave: Its a very long story! In summary, Neil Cockle
and I met in 2004 and recruited Cad (Mark Cadman) on bass and Gavin
Webb on vocals. Our original drummer, Aleem Saleh was eventually replaced
with Ian Sands, who drums on half of the tracks on the CD, but not
before wed got Mark Parker in on violin. Andy Dovey, who drums
on the other half of the CD, joined us about a year ago. We are based
around the Thames Valley in the south of the UK, south east of Oxford,
north west of London. If youve seen the TV show Midsomer
Murders, most of that is filmed around Bard Country. Very English.
mwe3: Who wrote most of the music and lyrics on the Blue
God And Other Stories and who do you work with as far as getting
the sound you want on to disc, including engineers, arranger / producers
and mastering engineers?
Neil: Other than the lyrics on the actual tracks Blue
God and Maybe, which are both written by Gavin,
all the other lyrics are written by Dave. The majority of musical
ideas come from myself and Dave, but the whole band has an input at
the later stages of song development, when things start to get serious,
when we think an idea is worth pursuing! Sometimes, the song is still
evolving at the recording stage. Someone might play something when
were recording, that will spark an idea for someone else.
Cad: We record the instrumentation ourselves at our rehearsal
studio. The upside to this is that we are under no pressure to work
to a deadline, so we can experiment and be as creative as we like.
The downside to this is that we are under no pressure to work to a
deadline, so things can take quite a while before were happy
with the end result! Generally, we will put down a rough guide track,
to a click, all of us in the same room together. At that point, the
structure, the arrangement, is fixed. Then, sometime later, Andy will
put down his drums to the click and the guide backing track. Then
Ill do my bass. And it gets built up from there, over time.
The vocals are done at a separate studio with our good pal, Russell
Gates. Russ helps out with harmony suggestions and so on. Of course,
in the process, we might realize that something isnt quite working
somewhere, and we might need to re-record a few bits. When thats
all done, the files are taken to another good friend, John Watt, who
(with guidance from Dave and Neil), engineers and mixes. Finally,
its off to Mastering World in Wales for mastering. Eventually,
a CD emerges. Having said that, whether you like the music or not,
you cant argue with the sound quality. We think its superb
The CD starts off with a great instrumental called Before....
Is it an overture to the rest of the album? How do you feel about
recording progressive instrumental rock?
The Mighty Bard:
Andy: Before . . . was previously a stand
alone track that, we realized one day, fitted perfectly as an
album opener. A top quality, 4 minute instrumental. We arent
an instrumental band, though, and the lyrics are a strong part of
our music. Whilst we love the instrumental aspects, the lyrics and
the vocals are always the icing on the cake. We do try to leave the
lyrics open to different meanings, so we love hearing fans interpret
what the lyrics mean to them. As we all enjoy playing our gear, we
do have extended instrumental sections in some songs, and they are
great fun to play, but too much instrumental music can get tiresome!
Is there a concept in play on the Blue God CD? Who is the Blue
God on track 2 and what kind of statement are you trying to
make? Also you guys look like comic book superheroes on the CD cover
art. Do you wish you might have been born in 3015? Are you all into
The Mighty Bard:
Gavin: No concept, as such. Blue God is a story
about an unsuitable pawn maneuvered into power by political scheming,
then incompetently using that power, which attracts unwanted attention
from a powerful enemy. On one level, its a science fiction tale
and the Blue God is not a person, but a power source. We hope to tell
the full story, maybe in a music video and there have been suggestions
of a sequel. As with most lyrics, it is best left open to interpretation
as to what messages it might convey. It has nothing to do with marijuana!
Dave: Some of us have a soft spot for 1950s sci-fi films
Neil: And some of us dont!
Well said! I had an idea of us gigging on the moon in old-fashioned
space suits, fighting off gribbly space monsters. This is depicted
on the album artwork, as imagined by the wonderful Mr. Ian Legge!
Our music can be viewed as quite serious and we thought that this
might show a lighter side to band. When we are working on the music,
we work hard, but we also have a lot of fun together... typical English
humor, mainly revolving around taking the piss out of each other!...
and we wouldnt want listeners to think we are too straight-faced...
As far as being born in the future, it might be interesting to see
where the human race goes to, if it eventually matures, but so far
were quite happy with our personal slot in the history of mankind.
And yes - more than half of the band are big sci-fi and fantasy geeks.
mwe3: After the music and the lyrics, how does the Mighty
Bard work on developing the song melody and arrangement? Whats
the process of getting a track completed?
Mark: The process has changed over the years, it usually comes
from a musical or lyrical idea, with Dave and Neil developing it,
along with maybe Cad and Gavin at an early stage. Too many cooks can
definitely spoil the broth! But, quite often, accidents or just plain
old-fashioned jamming around with a track can change its personality
quite drastically. For us, the recording process is where the track
is finally solidified with a lot of work, shaping and crafting going
into the instrumental sections, solos, and vocal harmonies.
mwe3: Track 3 on Blue God Maybe sounds
psychedelic. Is Maybe the single from the album? Backwards
guitar loops near the last chorus? Maybe is such a helpful word sometimes.
Gavin: Maybe wasnt intentionally a single,
although we agree it does have that feel. Believe it or not, when
we write, we try not to overwrite, if a song feels complete in a short
poppier format, then thats how it will stay. Maybe
has always been a crowd pleaser... its even been used as an
our song at a fans wedding that blows our
minds, and its possibly more accessible than some of the other
Dave: Funnily enough, it came close to being dropped as we
had been playing it for a long time and just couldnt get the
right vibe, but John Watt, our engineer/mixer/producer, breathed new
life into it for us and having the wonderful Cat Dove singing backing
vocals helped, too.
mwe3: Heart Of The Strangelove, track 4, is
an interesting song. I thought it had a slight Jethro Tull edge to
it. Is it a statement about the music business or about life itself?
You think you deserve your fate... great line.
Dave: Someone else has recently compared us to Tull, which
is very complimentary. Strangelove isnt about the
music industry, its partially about the British culture of celebrity
worship, and the medias need to build up an individual and then
subsequently tear them down, and also about certain poisonous relationships,
to a degree. Again, people can draw their own meaning from the words.
mwe3: Bird, track 5 is a humorous tale that
turns into a parable of sorts. What does the Bird symbolize?
The Mighty Bard:
Neil: Bird was a song that grew lyrically over
a number of years, the bird was a real wild bird that
lived with Dave and his wife Linda for a while until it was eaten
by a cat... that story will be a new song called Cat (joke!)
The song is really about the changes a person can go through in their
life, the different stages of their development, sometimes completely
unrecognizable to the previous stage. Talk to Andy about the changes
hes gone through since his stroke and brain surgery a couple
of year ago. He now thinks hes a drummer!
mwe3: Track six, No Flesh Is The New Dream
is another Blue God highlight. This is the kind of song that
could only have been written from a 20 year perspective. Dreams
are the new truth indeed. Simple flesh and bone
to feed the machine.
Dave: Thats a highlight for us, too. It was a big step
forward, both lyrically and in regard to pure song-writing. The core
lyrical idea was written under the bed sheets on an iPhone late one
night (thats rock n roll for you), with a strong
melody and idea of song shape, which was sung to the band at the next
practice. It came together very quickly and sounded strong right from
the start. The chorus section came a little later, and the instrumental
outro and solos at the end developed with playing the song live.
Cad: We really fleshed that out (lol) during the recording
process with a very strong interplay between all the instruments during
the solos section at the end, orchestrated around Andys fills
and accents. Its terrific fun to play. Great groove.
mwe3: Track 7 Placidity... is more laid back
than the other tracks except when that killer guitar solo comes in
near the end. The element of surprise. The lyrics are very metaphorical
and very aquatic in imagery.
Cad: Placidity is another lyrical highlight for
us. It took a number of years to get exactly the right feel for the
whole song, especially the Apollo section and, again,
it improved immensely on recording. Its a plaintive ghost story,
full of loss, longing and symbolism. Its an unusual song structure,
basically all the same verses, with a section in the middle with the
solo lifting it up, and a relaxing, almost ambient playout.
Mark: We love playing with different song structures, the ability
to be unpredictable is quite important when writing in this genre,
we believe. Like we previously suggested, its how the song feels
to us that is important, we find that intangible something
that makes it right for us. We put a lot of importance on our lack
of a formal musical education, and feel it allows us to come up with
that stream of consciousness writing that give us our
greatest ideas. We do so many things that would formally be thought
of as incorrect, but result in what feels right for us.
mwe3: I Know kind of sums the album up before
the closing underture instrumental ...After. Its
like an epic suite but its kind of very sad. You guys like writing
sad and deep lyrics. Also is After... considered an underture
or closing to the CD?
Dave: The lyrics to I Know arent intentionally
sad, its just what has come easiest. The songs are about eliciting
emotions for us, and so far these have been the most natural to produce.
Thats not to say any of us have particularly dark or hard lives,
maybe its just harder to write convincing happy lyrics that
have any real validity to them. Having said that there is a song currently
called Silver Cloud destined for the next album that is
very positive and optimistic, which we hope still has a genuine
quality to it. Whilst many of the songs are stories, they are all
draw on real moments and feelings in our lives.
Neil: It was during the final mixing, and working out the album
track order that produced the Before . . . After . . .
bookends. I think it was Cad that suggested putting the track that
turned into After . . . at the end of the CD. There was
lots of fun messing around with reversed speech, reversed instruments
and foreign languages. All a tip of the hat to early ELO tracks of
course! The little soundscapes connecting tracks, that Dave came up
with, gave the album a complete feel, and improves the listening experience,
in our opinion. To get the best out of it really requires the listener
to play the whole thing through, beginning to end, Before .
. . to . . . After without a break. Hey, its
only 59 minutes out of your life!
mwe3: For the gear head out there can you tell us something
about what kind of gear you used to recorded the Blue God album?
Andy: Well, for the real gear geeks, there is a full kit list
on our website (www.themightybard.com).
Knock yourselves out, guys! Neil has an almighty bard collection of
keyboards, including a Yamaha CP70 and CP80 which give a great sound
to the piano work. He also uses a Korg Trinity and Moog along with
some soft synths on the album. Dave mostly uses an Ibanez or Strat,
through an old Burman or Fender amp, a Tanglewood 6 string and Washburn
12 string. I think he even dusted off his old flute for the CD. Mark
has a couple of different violins, one an octave lower and he exclusively
uses Tanglemuch cables, pretty much the only endorsee in the UK, I
believe. Cad has his bass and bass pedals and I have an endless supply
of things to hit. Oh, and Gavin has a microphone.
mwe3: Can you tell the readers about any new plans for
writing, recording and also live performances planned for 2015?
The Mighty Bard:
Neil: We have most of the material written for the next album,
and will be recording it over the next 6 to 8 months, for release
in early 2016. The first track to be recorded will be Black
have a few festivals organized for 2015 and are trying to ramp up
the gigs at the moment. There is a three date mini-tour being talked
about for Scotland in September. We are also planning some cyber gigs
this year, to be broadcast via www.stageit.com, so fans all around
the planet can get to see us live. All the dates will be listed on
our website when they are confirmed.
All: In finishing, its worth mentioning that we are an
entirely self-funded band, and the cost of producing the CD has come
directly out of our own pockets. As does all of our promotion, marketing,
etc. So, any monies from the sales of the CD will go right back into
the production of the second CD. So, please dont copy it!