I thought I’d do a series of blog posts that focussed on the creation of my albums. Each one has its own character, and reflects what was happening in my life at the time of their creation.
So let’s start at the beginning, go back to the very early 2000s, and focus on…
Herne’s Apprentice was released in 2002 but had taken an interesting route towards its birth.
In the late 1990s I’d formed a band called Spiral Castle, originally to play a support gig for Robin Williamson at the OBOD‘s 10th birthday party in London at Imbolc 1998, but we all had such a great time that we chose to continue. We played a lot of gigs locally in Sussex and recorded an album called None but Seven (I later re-recorded six of the songs I’d written on the album on Spirit of Albion), and later played a few Pagan conferences.
Spiral Castle was a group of friends, all of us were Pagan, and our music was an important part of our spirituality. We would get together to play music just for the enjoyment of it, and I have wonderful memories of those early days, but bands are bands, and eventually one of our number moved from Sussex to Yorkshire. We tried to replace Rob, but to me the vibe and atmosphere of the band was never the same after he left, and when our drummer moved to the New Forest I felt the heart of Spiral Castle had died. It became almost impossible to get four people together at the same time and in the same place on a consistent basis. I needed to spread my wings and find a way to get on with my music.
We had played some of the songs from Herne’s Apprentice as part of the Spiral Castle live set, and had made a couple of failed attempts to begin a second album. So, what with the changes in the personnel within the band, which resulted in me becoming disillusioned with it all, I decided to have a go at recording my songs on my own.
I had seen Mike Oldfield on Blue Peter when I was a child and was fascinated by the way he could multi-track himself recording multiple instruments. Creating layer upon layer of sound, eventually creating what sounded like a band. Even back then I thought I could do that. So that’s what I did. I bought the equipment I needed to create a simple home studio and began to lay down tracks in late 2000.
The only recording experience I’d had was during the recording sessions for None but Seven (I’d played drums on one of Scott Walker’s comeback singles some years before, but that doesn’t really count), but even today I think that Herne’s Apprentice stands up with the rest of my albums. It has a real stripped down feel to it, with very little backing vocals or production, but even after all of these years I don’t think there is anything I would change. The opening chords of Song of Awen set the tone and it was the opening song for my concerts for years. The mix of songs on the album were inspired by my life journey events at the time (Winds of Change, Learning to Fly, Obsession) and by my love of mythology and Paganism (The Selkie, Blodeuwedd, Lughnasadh, Pipes of Pan). This mix also set the tone for my songwriting journey that continues to this day.
When Herne’s Apprentice was released I had no idea how it would be received. I had 500 copies pressed, and hand printed and cut out the original sleeve from A3 sheets. It wasn’t until Spirit of Albion was released in 2006 that new sleeve artwork was created, along with a 16 page lyric booklet. But that’s another story.
I remember reading the reviews of Herne’s Apprentice and feeling that I had stepped onto a road that I would be on for the rest of my life. Remember, this was before iTunes, MySpace, Facebook. The only way to let people know that this album existed was through magazine reviews, and to get on the road and play gigs, so that’s what I did.
I owe a lot to this album.
The songs kept coming.
And in 2003, a year after the release of Herne’s Apprentice, out popped Hills they are Hollow…