Purple Dog Records is based in the US but we certainly don’t limit ourselves to a specific region when it comes to discovering independent musicians. I was recently made aware of a band called, Dodson and Fogg from Leeds led by the very talented, Chris Wade. Their second album, Derring Do hooked me immediately with a beautiful acoustic introduction. The whole album continues heading steadfast toward prog folk perfection. The word, “chill” is often overused in describing music but damn it, I can’t think of anything else to call it. It’s just so good. With songs like “The Leaves They Fall”, and “What Goes Around” it’s hard to tell in what era they were recorded. Chris Wade’s musical style gives the impression of a man who could have been friends with John Lennon, but by no means is he repeating the sound. Each song had a timeless quality and a brand new feeling attached to every guitar lick and yes, even trumpets (trumpeting?). I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris about his band’s new album coming out this July among other fun tidbits of information.
PDR: Have you written and performed music prior to Dodson and Fogg?
CW: Yeah, I started playing music when I was really young. Me and my brother started learning guitars early on. Before I had a guitar I remember making one with rubber bands and an ice cream tub. I was always obsessed with music. I remember my first favourite bands were Nirvana when Kurt was still alive, when I was 8 or 9, and Black Sabbath, who I was totally obsessed with, and who I still love to this day. I started collecting their vinyl and saving pocket money to go to Relics in Leeds to get the records. We started writing songs then, me and my brother… well, I say writing. My dad has some tapes of them and they are grotesque haha. In my late teens I had a 4 track tape machine and used to make demos in my bedroom whenever I got home from work, back then I worked at a toy shop which was a fun place to work. And in my early 20s I had a band with my friend Shawn and my brother, which then turned into a band with my brother and my sister, and that “line up” did some gigs in Leeds where I live in around 2007 and 2008 I think. But that was more straight forward punk rock really, not like what I am doing now which I prefer. We were playing in some really ropey venues sometimes, but family and friends always came along and made parties of these gigs. That fizzled out though, and I started writing and illustrating in about 2009 and left music for a while until last year when I made the first Dodson and Fogg album. I firstly wanted to be a fiction writer, and did some really weird broadly comic novels that were made into audiobooks, narrated by Rik Mayall and Charlie Chuck, but there was no way I was going to be able to get that into a proper direction. Some of them stories were just mental, haha. This is different though, and really satisfying.
PDR: Who are some of your main influences?
CW: Well I love Black Sabbath and I also listen a lot to early Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Incredible String Band, early Leonard Cohen, Kinks and especially Donovan, who I think is just a brilliant artist. There’s loads of stuff I listen to. I really like Goldfrapp at the minute, been listening to Air as well, and Amy MacDonald, alongside Yes, and early King Crimson, the first two albums in particular. But I don’t know how much they have influenced me knowingly. When I make music it comes out naturally and I know I am happy with a track when I feel I could put it on myself and listen to it for pleasure. So maybe musical tastes just seep in for any artist subconsciously affect what music they record. I basically like to record music I could listen to myself I think. That’s why I never understand the bands or artists who can’t listen to their own songs. It’s questionable, like almost as if they’re in it for the money really, as Frank Zappa might say. But I will say that any band recording and mixing music these days, and paying close attention to it, HAS to be influenced by The Beatles, even if they don’t know it…
PDR: One of my favorite songs of yours is “All Day Long” (featuring Celia Humphris of Trees) off of the debut album. How did she become involved?
CW: Thanks, glad you like the song. My dad has always been a big music fan and he was into Trees when I was a kid. First he had two of their tracks on these old samplers, one of which was called Fill Your Head With Rock (a classic compilation that anyone reading this should check out) and then he finally got a hold of their two albums, On the Shore and Garden of Jane Delawney. I was a fan right from then thanks to my dad and I interviewed Celia in 2009 or 2010 for my Hound Dawg Magazine (which was a free online PDF then, and now it’s a print magazine) and asked her about the band. I hadn’t stayed in touch with her though, but in around May or June last year I sent her some tracks to see if she was interested in collaborating and I could not believe it when she said she would sing on them! That’s when I took this project seriously and dived right into it. She is one of my favourite singers, her voice is a proper instrument in itself, and on Derring Do she is doing all sorts of amazing things I wish I could do with my voice. On All Day Long as well, like you say, her voice on that is fantastic. I used three or four of her harmonies on that and mixed them all together. Worked out great I think.
PDR: Do you have a preference of one song over another? I can imagine it’s almost like playing favorites with a child though.
CW: It’s weird answering questions about your own music. It’s funny because the Dodson and Fogg first album was only released last November, and most of these songs are pretty new to me really, so it’s hard to look at them in a retrospective way. I will say though that Meet Our May, I wrote that when I was about 18, ten or so years ago and All Day Long comes from a melody I had in my had for years and never did anything with. So them two, and Crinkle Drive off the first album with Nik Turner of Hawkwind on it, I do have a soft spot for them chappies. To be honest though, the next album has my own favourites on it so far. I am really pleased with it.
PDR: You also have a solo project released, titled, “Moonlight Banquet”. How does this differ from your work in Dodson and Fogg?
CW: That was a side thing really, because I had these instrumentals that didn’t quite fit with Dodson and Fogg and my girlfriend said ‘why don’t you release them?’ So it isn’t really a major project or anything but it is a nice way to use some ideas I really liked and never got round to releasing. They’re longer and more progressive I suppose, with extended solos and worked out sections. Fun to do actually, but Dodson and Fogg is definitely staying as my main focus. Working at home though, and with music being my hobby as well as a job type thing, I have plenty of time on my hands to try all sorts of things out.
PDR: Finally, do you think of the third album, “Sounds of Day and Night” as a continuation of the last two or are they all completely separate concepts?
CW:Well the third one is kind of following a concept, different characters so to speak and situations from the morning to the night, all kinds of scenarios and set ups, but it sounds similar to Derring Do, with the instrumentation and production. But it also sounds a little different too. It’s hard to describe it, but I kept working on it, rewriting songs and getting rid of certain tracks, then bringing in new ones from around January when I started recording it (just before Derring Do came out) and it was last month or so when it actually started sounding like a step on from Derring Do. I’m finding myself listening to the albums and thinking that if they sound like a progression from their predecessor I am doing something right and pleasing myself. Then I think, well if I am happy with it, the folks who liked the other two albums might be up for it too. You have to not think about the whole process too much, as you know as a writer, because if you look too far into it you end up taking it too serious or you risk over analyzing your stuff and taking the fun out of it all. So while it is a little different in some of its moods, it is also like a continuation, but broadening the scope hopefully. That said, Celia is going to be singing on it again so it is nice to have her on board, and there are some other possible guest artists, but I won’t say who just in case it doesn’t happen. Also, my girlfriend Linzi Napier is a painter and she has done the cover art for the next album, one of my favourite pictures of her’s. She has an exhibition in July which we are both excited about and some of the work for this next album will be on display.
Thank you, Chris for taking the time to chat! Be sure to check out Dodson and Fogg’s latest album “Sounds of Day and Night” coming July 2013. Let him know what you think!