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A Short Bio:
Peter Blegvad was born in New York City to a Danish father and an American mother, and was raised in Connecticut before his parents moved to England in 1965, "due to the deteriorating climate in the States following the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King" and the threat of Peter and his brother Kristoffer being drafted and sent to Vietnam. Blegvad had started writing songs the previous year, aged 13, largely under the influence of Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
It was while at boarding school (St.Christopher School, Letchworth) in Hertfordshire that he first met his future musical accomplice, pianist Anthony Moore. They started playing together along with Blegvad's friend Neil Murray, an aspiring drummer who later moved to bass and enjoyed a very successful career playing that instrument. Remembers Murray : "We went under several names, but the one I remember is obviously Slapp Happy and the Dum-Dums... In fact Slapp Happy was referring to Blegvad's girlfriend, who was possibly going to sing with us but didn't, and the Dum-Dums were the musicians! Later on, Peter influenced us away from blues/rock towards Soft Machine/Pink Floyd experimental music, which mostly consisted of trying to play "We Did It Again" as loudly, distortedly and repetitively as possible so as to annoy the audience as much as possible! Already I felt that what Peter and Anthony were into was a bit avant-garde for my taste, which lay more with conventional rock...". Even in these early days, music was not Peter Blegvad's only talent. Murray : "When I edited the school magazine in 1967 I devoted the whole centre section of about eight pages to a surrealistic story in drawings by Peter, which some of the older ex-pupils thought was in bad taste!".
It was while staying in Hamburg in 1971 that Blegvad and Moore, who in the meantime had released two experimental solo albums for Polydor, formed Slapp Happy with singer Dagmar Krause, who at the time was Moore's girlfriend. The trio's debut album, "Sort Of", was recorded in the spring of 1972 (and released on Polydor the following Summer) with members of the German group Faust providing the backing. The same arrangement was repeared the following year for a (self-titled) second album, but when Slapp Happy signed with Virgin thanks to recommendation from people who had heard the demo (including Robert Wyatt and members of Henry Cow), it was completely re-recorded at Virgin's Manor studios with British session musicians (under the direction of violinist Graham Preskett), and released in May 1974. The 'Faust version' was eventually released in 1982 under the title "Acnalbasac Noom". Links with Faust were preserved, however, as Blegvad joined the band for a few months in late 1973, touring England with Henry Cow in the autumn. "The first time I saw Henry Cow was at the Commonweath Institute with members of Faust, a joyful experience... After the disappointing results of the previous album it was a stroke of genius to hire them as our backing band and it still sounds pretty fresh".
As a matter of fact, in 1974 Slapp Happy merged with Henry Cow to record the albums "Desperate Straights" and "In Praise Of Learning". By the time the latter was finished, the amalgamation had proved incompatible. Moore left, soon followed by Blegvad. "It was discovered - not to my surprise - that I actually couldn't play Henry Cow music. The chords and the time signatures were too complicated. And... just generally, Anthony and I felt kinda lost...". In an interview with the fanzine Hearsay, he further detailed the circumstances of the split : "The piece that got me kicked out was "Living In The Heart Of The Beast". I was assigned the task for the collective to come up with suitable verbals, and I wrote two verses about a woman throwing raisins at a pile of bones. Tim just said, I'm sorry, this is not at all what we want. And he wrote reams of this political tirade. I admired his passion and application but it left me cold. I am to my bones a flippant individual, I don't know why I was created thus or what I'm trying to deny, but it clashed with the extreme seriousness. People who take themselves very seriously make me giggle, unless they're pointing a weapon at me or my loved ones".
Blegvad moved back to New York, earning his living drawing backgrounds for the 'Peanuts' cartoon. A few months later, he was joined by John Greaves, who in the meantime had also left Henry Cow, and the duo started work on what became the acclaimed "Kew.Rhône" album (co-credited to vocalist Lisa Herman), released by Virgin Records in March 1977, just days before the Sex Pistols' debut album. Not much was heard from Blegvad, musically at least (he was involved in several short-lived bands, including The Big Guns with Bill Laswell), until he eventually returned to Britain. A one-off venture during this period was going on a European tour with the Art Bears (playing bass) in 1980.
In 1982, Blegvad briefly reformed Slapp Happy to record a single ("Everybody's Slimmin'", released in May 1983) and play the trio's only live performance ever, at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, and signed a contract with Virgin and worked on his first solo album, "The Naked Shakespeare" (released in October 1983), with Andy Partridge (XTC) producing. "I didn't know Andy's work and I didn't know him before Virgin Records proposed that he produce that record. It was a brilliant suggestion for which I'll always be indebted to them. His speed and creativity still astonish me". He enlisted the help of a variety of contributors such as John Greaves, Dave Stewart, Anton Fier and David Lord. Three songs had music by John Greaves, and in turn the latter's solo debut, "Accident" (1982), had no less than eight songs with lyrics by Blegvad. At that time, the duo had started working on the follow-up to "Kew.Rhône", under the name The Lodge. "That was seven years before we actually did that record... We lacked discipline in those days, or something, I don't know... John and I retired to a Vermont farmhouse one hot summer with the idea of writing an album... and I think I wrote one line in two months!".
A second album for Virgin, "Knights Like This", followed in 1985. "Because of its uncommercial predecessor it was a condition that it had to be groomed for AM radio. I was very confident, for the first time I felt like a songwriter. I thought : they can't ruin these songs!". The album was going to be recorded by Blegvad's regular touring band - Anton Fier, John Greaves, Kristoffer Blegvad and Chris Stamey on guitar - with Carla Bley guesting on organ, but this didn't happen. "I wound up alone in the studio with David Lord, doing this bizarre Steven Spielberg mega-production... It quickly went overbudget and took six months...". Three songs from the album have since been re-recorded, with more stripped-down arrangements, on 1995's "Just Woke Up".
When it appeared that Virgin wasn't too keen on pursuing their collaboration, Blegvad once more returned to America, and joined drummer Anton Fier's musical collective The Golden Palominos. This lasted about two years, and he played on the album "Blast Of Silence" from 1986 (which included different versions of "Not Weak Enough" and "When The Work Was New" from his next solo album). At the same time Blegvad started recording his third album, which after three years finally saw the light on day on Chris Cutler's RéR label. "Downtime" (1989) had a more subdued approach which reflected the financial difficulties underwent to finish it, but also brought a new, more human, dimension to his songs.
In 1987, the new Greaves-Blegvad collaboration finally came to fruition with the recording of The Lodge's "Smell Of A Friend" album in New York. At the point, the project had evolved to a real band, with the addition of Kristoffer Blegvad on lead vocals, Jakko Jakszyk on guitar and vocals (who had played on Blegvad's first two solo albums) and Anton Fier on drums. Lisa Herman guested on lead vocals and piano on a version of "Swelling Valley". This led to a one-off gig at Paris' Bataclan in 1988, with Gavin Harrison replacing Fier on drums and Lyndon Collin added on keyboards. The following year, The Lodge played another gig at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, with yet another line-up change - keyboardist Steve Franklin (In Cahoots) and drummer Nic France (Nucleus, Loose Tubes) replacing the latter two.
In July 1990, Blegvad released a new solo work, "King Strut & Other Stories", widely acclaimed as his finest to date. The album, produced by Chris Stamey, consisted of short stories set to music or, in Blegvad's own words, "condensed narrative in rhymes". At the same time, work started on a 'TV opera' for Channel Four which saw him reuniting with Anthony Moore (who composed the music while Blegvad wrote the libretto) and Dagmar Krause (who sang on the finished piece). The result, "Camera", was finally shown in 1994, and a CD of the music saw the light of day in 2000.
Blegvad resumed his career as a cartoonist when he started drawing the weekly comic strip 'Leviathan' in the Independent On Sunday newspaper in 1992, which brought him unprecedented fame. Two further collaborations with John Greaves followed - "Dr. Huelsenbecks Mentale Heilmethode" (1992) and "Unearthed" (1995) - and Blegvad then formed a trio with Greaves and Chris Cutler with which he released "Just Woke Up" in October 1995. Recorded in 1992-93 and featuring new versions of three songs from "Knights Like This" and Golden Palominos' "Something Else", it had guest appearances by Tim Hodgkinson, Jakko Jakszyk and Kristoffer Blegvad). It made its live debut at the MIMI Festival in Avignon (France) in July 1996, and later toured the US and released a follow-up, "Hangman's Hill". A new Slapp Happy album, the critically-acclaimed Ça Va, also saw the light of day in April 1998 on Virgin's new V2 label.
In addition to continued live performances with the trio, Blegvad has recently released a superb collection of his "Leviathan" strips (see links page for ordering information), and an acoustic collection of some of his best songs, Choices Under Pressure, produced by Jakko Jakszyk, a former fellow member of The Lodge. A new PB Trio effort is expected in 2009.