This interview with Mike Wedgwood was conducted by e-mail in January 1999.
You started in music playing saxophone. Why did
you decide to move to bass, which is quite another thing?
I was actually playing bass before sax. I started with piano lessons when I was about seven and I tried violin and clarinet before my parents bought me a guitar when I was thirteen. I joined some friends playing rhythm guitar and graduated to bass. We played a few dances and parties, and then a local soul band heard that I had a some aptitude towards different instruments and they decided, when their tenor sax player left, that they would teach me sax. I had a few weeks to learn it before my first gig!! After that I moved to London and got a job with a band on bass I carried on with the instrument from then on.
There is a common view that bass guitar is a
sort of "consolation prize" for failed guitarists... What appealed to
you in that instrument, and what makes it crucial in a band's
dynamics for you?
A lot of bass players do start to play bass purely because when they're young the band they join doesn't have a bass player. I did. But I loved playing bass - still do, of course! Together with the drummer the bass sets the tempo and the feel of every song and when the whole band is "grooving" the guitarists, keyboard players etc. can just play what is needed if the rhythm section is covering its job properly. There are only a few successful songs that were recorded without or with very little bass, and if you hear them (one is Prince's "When Doves Fly" or something similar) you immediately know the whole song is missing something - it feels naked (Prince's intention, by the way) and almost never works.
In the late 60's, I understand you played with
several minor pop bands, then headed for a career as session
musician, at a time when lots of interesting things were happening on
the pop/rock scene - the birth of the progressive rock thing which
you were later part of. Did you feel you were missing something being
locked in the studios?
I wasn't in the studio more than I wanted at the time. I always love to be involved in a high quality studio session - there's nothing like it, especially when it's going well, but I was playing live most of the time I was doing sessions. Yes some of the gigs were with "pop" artists but there were some great stage moments. When I went out with the Nicky James Band we always created a great atmosphere and there was also an almost unknown band called Arthur's Mother which had a hit with "On the Dole" who had a great feel live. That band included Graham Deakin, a great drummer whom I later worked with in the Kiki Dee Band and on John Entwistle's Mad Dog.
In addition to being an instrumentalist, you
were/are also an arranger and, I think, producer. Does this also help
to explain why in certain periods of your career you quit live
playing to concentrate on working in the studio? In what way do the
two things complement each other, for you as an artist - the playing
side, and the recording/producing side?
I didn't really plan a time to work on stage or in the studio. I followed the leads that came along. I'm mostly producing and arranging now but I still go out and play every weekend and look forward to finding the right players to form an exciting band some time - soon? I don't think a producer should spend all his time in the studio. He should ideally be a working musician too, and a band member should have as much studio experience as possible to produce a good performance. Many live performers play too much when they're on stage or have no idea about good sound. A producer's job is to a great extent being able to get inside the musician's head and extend his creativity to the other side of the mixing desk.
In 1972, you joined Curved Air. How did that
come about? Can you give an account of your stay in that band, how
it soon split up and you formed another one with Sonja Kristina, how
you recruited young prodigy Eddie Jobson?
I went to an audition with Sonja Kristina, Fracis Monkman, Darryl Way and Florian Pilkington-Miksa that was an unforgettable experience. I'd never played so loud in my life (and probably never will - Curved Air were measured the second loudest band in the world soon after I joined!). I was given a complicated written line in a complex time signature to play on the spot and got through it somehow, then began to relax a bit when we started playing improvised pieces and a couple of their numbers. It was a very intense band, musically, personality-wise and on the road. We were in a world of fast cars, stage-door exit madness and wild clothes. The band split up mainly because of the clash between Francis and Darryl. They each (deservedly) wanted things their own way and there wasn't room for both in the end. The following band was to be called The Sonja Kristina Band or Kristina-Wedgwood or something, but we were TOLD that it was to be called Curved Air. We saw Eddie Jobson at the Roundhouse in London with a band from Newcastle where he played a battered violin and an upright piano mic'ed up rather badly! He played very hard-to-get when we invited him to join, but we got him in the end. I was pleased with both the Curved Air albums I was on - so different, but both very interesting. Phantasmagoria is in some ways the most challenging album I've been on, and Aircut was a good progressive rock album.
What do you think of the CD "Lovechild" which
appeared a few years ago, apparently made of leftovers from the
Lovechild is almost a mystery to me. I don't have it, and I've only heard it once. I don't remember too much about the recordings, and I get the feeling that I wasn't on the whole thing. I must find out more about it.
Between Curved Air and Caravan, you returned to
studio work. It was, I understand, through producer David Hitchcock
that you joined Caravan. Hitchcock was a very important producer at
the time. It seems he's now an accountant. Can you say a few words
about this talented man?
He was a producer in sort of shepherd-type way. He put us back together when we seemed to stray from the objective and kept the sessions interesting and fun. Sad in a way to hear he's now an accountant, but in the same way I'm not in the public eye now, I imagine his life might well be calmer and more ordered!??
When you joined Caravan, did you have any
previous knowledge of their work? What was your first impression
when you heard them? And what did you think of them as people when
I'd heard a few of their songs, but hadn't listened to any great extent. I loved the free way they played. It wasn't too structured and I liked that. They worked together in a way I'd never seen before. They were taking themes and song parts and embellishing them in a very original way. I found them quite down to earth compared to others I'd worked with before. We had some good times together. Mostly down the pub, I remember!
About the situation of the band at the time, I
interviewed your predecessor John Perry and he explained that he'd
left at a time when the band had problems on the legal/management
side, and I think Dave Sinclair's departure was largely related to
that. Were you aware of that stuff at the time?
Yes, there were management and legal problems, but that's been a part of every band I've ever been with - some far worse. I tried to get on with doing my job, but it got to me too in the end. There was no real sense of direction but that could easily have been contributed to by my getting too involved and upsetting a system that had worked in its own way for years.
(c) 1999 Calyx - The Canterbury Website