Who are you, where do you live?
I am an English solo recording artist. I was born in the market town of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. I now live in The Orkney Islands, Scotland. I spend most of my time writing/recording music and painting/drawing. 'My visual artwork and my music are very much interconnected. A painting will inform a song or a song will inspire another painting. I'm hoping that this relationship will continue to grow so that How Far To Hitchin becomes much more than just a solo music project but a whole visual and musical experience.
Did you play in other bands?
I am a self taught musician. I played guitar in a Progressive rock band in England in the 1980's called 13th Hour. We did a lot of gigs in the south of England during the late 80's. We became more 'Pop' and recorded a single 'Stereo Smiles' in 1982 which got to number seven in the Melody Maker independent chart. We eventually broke up and I went off to study Art at Dartington College Of Arts in Devon, South England. I moved up to Huddersfield after I got my art degree and wrote and played in another Progressive band called Chimera. After that ended I decided to concentrate on writing my own material as a solo artist.
What instruments do you play?
I play all the instruments on my albums. These include 6 & 12 string acoustic/electric/nylon string guitars, bass guitar, ukelele, mandolin, flute, keyboards, percussion and drum programming. I am a prolific collector of 'sounds' both found and made, which I enjoy weaving into my musical narratives.
Have you a recording studio?
I finished built my own recording studio, Studio-One-Seven-Two (so called because it is approximately 172 miles from my house in huddersfield to my mums house in Hitchin) in the basement of my house in Huddersfield in 2005. This is where all of my writing and recording for ‘Easy Targets’ and ‘Black Bead Eye’ took place.
Occasionally I would emerge from the studio in order to go birdwatching, brew my own beer and meet other human beings.
I shall soon embark on building a new recording studio in Orkney.
When was 'Easy Targets' born?
'Easy Targets' is the third solo album I have written but the first to be released under the project name of How Far To Hitchin. The two previous albums were: 'Belly Button' under the name of Silly Automatic and 'Almost Everything' under the name of Potdog.
I began working on songs for 'Easy Targets' in 2011. It was a long process as I was also learning how to use digital music software (Protools) and I had little experience of sound engineering. A few of the songs were re-written and re- recorded many times as I could not get them to sound the way I could hear them in my head. Eventually after much perseverance, experimentation, sound engineering and mixing tutorials, I managed to complete the album in June 2016.
The second HFTH album ‘Black Bead Eye’ was written and recorded between 2017 - 2019.
Why the name How far To Hitchin?
The name comes from an English children's television programme called 'Gilbert's Fridge' which we used to watch when I was studying at Dartington. It was quite a surreal programme and I think it was watched more by college and university students than by children. There was a comedy sketch within the programme each week called 'How far to Hitchin' which was about World War Two British army prisoners who were trying to escape back to Hitchin.
A lot of my songs are inspired by my love of nature, science, childhood memories, the passing of time, family. I find myself re-visiting these themes and trying to get back to those feelings, that lost innocence and discovering how theses experiences have shaped my present life. So there is an element of trying to get back to Hitchin. Hitchin has become a state of mind for me rather than just a geographical place.
I spent a lot of time trying to think of a name when I was completing the album. One evening I discovered some episodes of 'How Far To Hitchin' on Youtube and, after I'd stopped laughing, decided that it would be a good name for my project.
Am I really alone?
Musically yes. I write, record, mix and master all of my own material under the name of How Far To Hitchin and I release it all under the label of One-Seven-Two Music. I did everything on 'Easy Targets' apart from the narration which introduces 'Resistance Is Futile' which was written and recorded by my friend and actor Chris Hannon and the poem within 'Our Friend Is In The Meadow' which was written and recorded by my partner Emma Gee.
I am often accompanied in the studio by our cat Natty. She loves progressive music and can often be roused from a period of ennui by a quick blast of 'The Yes Album' (or some chicken).
Who does your artwork?
I design, draw and paint all of the artwork and illustrations and graphics for How Far To Hitchin.
I am purely a recording artist at the moment and do not have any plans to tour or give any live performances. This would be logistically and finically extremely difficult for me. I also suffer from extreme stage fright and do not really enjoy the experience of performing live. However, I may decided to record some videos of acoustic versions of a few of my songs at some point in the future.
I love to be down in the studio creating music or visual art. These things are my passion in life. I have no interest in fame and neither am I motivated by huge amounts of money (Though I wouldn't refuse huge amounts of money if offered ;). Success for me would be to have my music heard and enjoyed by as many people as possible. I spent a lot of time down in my studio writing 'Easy Targets' and it was a very enjoyable yet isolated activity. When I had finished mixing, mastering and uploading it onto Bandcamp I said to my partner Emma "It would be wonderful if just one person, someone who I have never met heard my album and contacted me to say they had enjoyed a track or liked the album". Thirty minutes later I received an email from Paul Grunill who is a radio broadcaster at Harborough FM Radio in England. He has a Progressive music show called 'The Last Outpost' . He said he had listened to a few tracks on Bandcamp and really liked what he had heard and wanted to play some of the songs on his radio show. I was stunned, it felt like a validation after all that hard work and really motivated me to continue promoting the album.
So now things are gradually picking up and I'm gaining more fans and radio play across Europe, US and UK including BBC Introducing and BBC Radio 3.
I have recently had my music reviewed in publications such as Prog Magazine and Eclipsed. My recent modest success motivated me to push forward with the new album ‘Black Bead Eye’.
Here is a list of some of my major musical and artistic influences:
Radiohead. Monet. Genesis. John Grant. Stanley Spencer. John Grant. Roger Dean. Elbow. Patrick Woodroffe. Yes. Mervyn Peake. Steven Wilson. Marc Chagall. Pink Floyd. Kit Williams. XTC. Gustav Klimt. Steve Hackett. Aubrey Beardsley. Beryl Cook. Kim Poor. Peter Gabriel. Archibald Thorburn. Kate Bush. Charles Tunnicliffe. Everything Everything. John James Audubon. Midlake . Maurice Sendak. It Bites. Peter Cross. Anthony Phillips. Bat For Lashes.