Galahad

Galahad have been in the prog rock scene for over 25 years and they are still delivering tasteful and inspired music. They may be more of an “underground” band since they had never been the press’ love child neither had they got the exposure they deserve from any major label. That was no reason why a great band like Galahad should stop making wonderful music. After all, their fans have kept them going all these years and that’s the most important thing in music. “Battle Scars” is the band’s latest album… which is full of inspired and beautiful tunes. We couldn’t resist but talk with the band’s vocalist, Stu Nicholson, so as to get to know this underrated prog rock band better… thus, read below…
Galahad band pic

Hi Stu… Thx for this musical amalgam of progressive, melodic & inspired music… we’ve added it to Grande Rock’s “Gems” category…
 
S: It’s a pleasure and we aim to please… and surprise occasionally!
 
 
Five years was a big gap between your previous work, “Empires Never Last” and “Battle Scars”… don’t you think? What happened in the meantime and held you back for such a long time-period?
 
S: There was a big gap between the two albums, it’s the nature of the best with Galahad I’m afraid and not unusual. There are always many reasons as to why it takes a while to get things done, I think it’s just life in general. We are not a full time band, we have to fit it in around our jobs, families etc. plus we wanted to use Karl again as he did such a magnificent job on “Empires” thus we had to wait until the studio was free, which can be a bit of a wait because, as you can imagine, he is in demand big time!
 
Also, we wanted the songs to sound as good as we could make them, in our opinion at any rate and it can take time to hone and arrange to make sure they are as we want them. Roy and Dean were also asked to go out and tour with the reformed Twelfth Night in 2010 which also meant that Galahad duties were put on hold for a while, so there were many reasons as to why it took a while, but we think it was worth it in the end.

 
 
Unfortunately, the release of your new album is marked with the loss of Neil Pepper. It’s true that he has given some exceptional performances throughout the album. I bet that the same goes for the follow up “Beyond the Realms of Euphoria” right?
 
S: He did considering he was very ill and had to remain seated when recording his bass parts, but he was always very positive and the last memory we have of Neil is in the studio, recording at Thin Ice, which is a great one to have.
 
 
I’m sure that you’re devastated by Neil’s loss… but eventually, you did manage to release a fantastic album… and Neil would have been proud of it… as all of you are.
 
S: Thanks very much, yes we are very proud of what we have achieved with “Battle Scars”, especially bearing in mind everything else that was going on during the writing and recording of this album! I think it’s our most modern and contemporary sounding record but it still contains nods to our past and the ‘Galahad’ sound, whatever that is!? We all feel that its Galahad music for the 21st century and I think Neil would be very proud.
 
I’d say that 95% reaction has been positive, there have been a few detractors but that’s always the way. Someone said that they didn’t like it because it sounded too modern and had too many influences and thus wasn’t prog? Surely that’s a contradiction in terms(!) but that’s okay because what they said is exactly what we want to be anyway! I think the whole package looks and sounds wonderful and I’d even buy it myself if I heard or saw it in a record shop (not that there are many left these days, but that’s another story!).
(i.n.: prog music is not under specific terms… even if some can’t understand it at all… “Battle Scars” is a pure prog rock album by any means)
 
 
So, what the story behind “Battle Scars”? Why did you choose that title and how is the deep scar on the woman’s skin relating with the album’s idea?
 
S: The title seems very apt after what we have gone through in the last few years and was named after the song of the same name which was written before we had an album title, being in Galahad is never easy! We just liked the idea of the image, quite mysterious and something that, hopefully, get peoples imagination going!
 
 
Are the songs describing any short of stories? Can you give us a clue for each one of them?
 
S: Some of the songs are story based and some are really just describing feelings and emotions at the time of writing, several based around Neil’s situation. Obviously, llyrically, the songs are very personal to me and some are very poignant as they relate directly to Neil’s condition and predicament at the time. I really don’t want to go in to any detail about the meaning of each song as I firmly believe that it is up to the listeners to use their own imaginations to decide for themselves what the songs are about and what they mean to them.
 
But I will say that, for obvious reasons, it is an extremely emotional album, especially for me as I wrote the words, especially in relation, ironically to Neil’s songs which were written whilst he was very ill at times. It was actually quite hard writing at times and I even asked Neil on occasion to vet what I was writing, he was fine and very positive, more so than I at times in fact.
 
I guess the whole gamut is in there: frustration, anger, disbelief, reflection, the acceptance of reality, fighting spirit against the odds, negativity, positivity, hope for the future and more besides.
 
However, after the roller coaster of emotions that the songs evoke (I hope!), the album does end on a  very positive upbeat note with “Seize the Day” which is intended to give out a very positive message and sets out our stall for the future…

 
 
Once again… you do not like staying on safe waters… you like experimenting. Who thought of adding that trance, techno & psychedelic elements to your music? It finally worked great though…
 
S: Thank you very much. Yes we all have pretty diverse tastes in music which manifest themselves in our writing and our songs. I think that as we all have ideas and write our albums are more diverse musically than some bands that rely on only one songwriter. We like to mix things up a bit and throw in the odd curve ball!
 
 
The album also contains two bonus tracks… “Sleepers 2012” & “Another Live Not Lived”. Why did you decide to re-record & re-arrange the song “Sleepers”? Is there a final version of the other bonus, “Another Live Not Lived”, or that demo one only?
 
S: The reason for re-recording “Sleepers” was because, at the time, our 25th anniversary was looming and we wanted to mark it in some way, thus we decided to re-record “Sleepers” to try and get it to sound close as to how we had wanted it to sound in the first place. “Sleepers” is arguably the most important song in our cannon, certainly of that particular era, thus we felt we wanted to finally do it justice in the studio.
 
Oddly, “Sleepers”, the album, cost us a ton of money but Tony Arnold (King Crimson, Andy Summers, Toyah) didn’t listen to the band at all and we were never happy with original recording. In fact, if I had the time and the money we would re-mix “Sleepers” from scratch, the whole album. I love the songs on that album but they didn’t quite end up sounding how we envisaged which was a bit galling considering how much the album cost! Thus we have now finally recorded “Sleepers” as we wanted it nearly 20 years ago!
 
I’m afraid there isn’t a final version of “Another Life Not Lived” but I would like to think that we may record it properly one day as it is an extremely poignant track.

 
 
You’ve chosen to work with Karl Groom (Threshold) and record the album at Thin Ice studios… a thing which has proven great. The final result is stunning. Are you also totally satisfied by the production?
 
S: Yes, Karl did do a fantastic job and he was incredibly important in terms of melding all the various elements of our music together in to a cohesive whole. His ear for arrangements, orchestration and mixing is second to none in my opinion. With Karl we have found someone for the first time in the bands career who understands where we are coming from totally and has complete empathy with band and therefore we manage to get the best out of each other, hopefully, resulting in a great sounding album. The other key factor is that he is meticulous with regard to detail and also listens to us which hasn’t always been the case with other people we have worked with in the past. Karl is also very patient and has no ego whatsoever and is always a total pleasure to work with. I’ve said before that he is effectively our ‘George Martin’!
 
Also, I think it’s always good to have a third party individual, such as Karl, to bounce ideas off as he is more objective and listens with impartial ears. Whereas the band get so ingrained and engrossed in the songs and how they think they should sound, sometimes they don’t see the bigger picture and notice when it’s obvious that something doesn’t work or sound quite right.

 
 
Supposing you had the chance to change something… what would it be and why?
 
S: I wouldn’t change a thing, we are all very happy with the album as it is as we spent a long time getting it to sounds how we wanted. It’s easily the best sounding album we have ever produced and we are 100% happy with all of it… the music, production, image, all of it.
 
It’s easy to change things in retrospect but it doesn’t necessarily make them better, just different and it’s all subjective anyway. I’ m a firm believer in what is done is done, move on and look to the future… don’t get bogged down in retro semantics, there is no point!

 
 
Are there gonna be any video releases in the future? If yes, for which one of the songs?
 
S: Nothing planned as such but you never know. It’s all a question of time and money as usual! Although, We will probably put together a promo video for the next album later in the year.
 
 
Are there any the plans for live shows yet?
 
S: We have a few shows coming up later in the year to promote the new albums as, ironically “Beyond the Realms of Euphoria” will be released around the same time as the gigs but we won’t be playing any material from that album until the next batch of gigs in Spring/Summer 2013. So effectively we’re playing, if all goes to plan which is never guaranteed with Galahad, a game of two halves. Next year’s dates will be announced later this year. We will probably play pretty much all of ‘Battle Scars’ on this year’s dates plus a few oldies and songs from Empires.
 
Below is from our website:

 
  • A few GALAHAD shows coming up in support of our new 2012 studio albums “Battle Scars” and “Beyond the Realms of Euphoria”. All support is very much appreciated!
 
  • Sunday 19th August - The Thomas Tripp, Christchurch, Dorset England (Free Festival warm up)
 
  • Saturday 1st September 2012 - Progmotion Festival, De Pul, Uden, The Netherlands with Minor Giant and Wolverine. Here is a link to the Progmotion Festival official website - www.progmotion.com
 
 
  • Saturday 20th October 2012 - The inaugural PROGUPHORIA Festival, Mr Kyps, Poole, Dorset, England - also featuring “The Cryptic Clues” (effectively Twelfth Night). The Paul Menel Band (Ex-IQ) and Alan Reed (Ex-Pallas). Should be a night of 'Prog' to remember!!
 
  • Saturday 24th November 2012 - Danfest 2 at The Musician, Leicester, England with Also Eden, Konchordat, The Gift and two others TBA.
 
 
You obviously recorded enough songs to make two albums… and so you will do. How did you come up with this decision? Do you think it’s good in today’s world to release the new album, “Beyond the Realms of Euphoria”, only a few months after your previous one?
 
S: To be honest, Neil’s situation played a very big part in our decision to record two albums worth of material. Whilst he was ill, he was incredibly focused on writing and music, in fact he the most enthusiastic I’ve ever seen him about the band, especially in terms of writing, ideas etc. as this was a practical way of taking his mind off what was happening to him in reality.
 
As I said before, we actually had a lot more material, probably enough for another album but we had to make a few decisions as to what to include. Thus we decided to record as much material with Neil why we still could. A bit similar to what Queen did with Freddie in a way I suppose. It was difficult at times as he was in considerable pain and had to sit down to record his bass parts as it was too uncomfortable to stand up. Hence why there are three of his songs on “Battle Scars”.
 
It wasn’t planned that way initially, when we started writing the songs for “Battle Scars”, Neil as far we knew was still well and thus we were just writing a new album. Then as soon as we found out that Neil was seriously ill everything changed and that point we started considering other options including the release of two separate albums, especially as it had become apparent that Neil was having a writing frenzy and we really liked most of what he had come up with so we decided to record some of his songs at Thin Ice as part of the album recording sessions.
 
As far as whether it is a good idea to release “Euphoria” so soon after “Battle Scars”, the simple answer is, we have no idea, so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out, hopefully it will keep the profile of the band relatively high for a bit longer than normal after the release of one album, but time will tell what the outcome will be in terms of reaction, sales, profile etc…

 
 
What shall we except from “Beyond the Realms of Euphoria”? How would it be like musically & lyrically?
 
S: In one respect “Euphoria” is a companion piece, in that, obviously as all the songs for both albums were recorded in the same sessions thus the production and sound will be very similar but I think “Euphoria” will sound quite different in places to “Battle Scars” in terms of style. I would say that Battle Scars is more ‘rock’ than “Euphoria”, but to be honest until we have finished mixing the album it is difficult to say, much could change in the next few months! We’ll leave it up to the punters to decide, reaction will be interesting!
 
Deciding which songs ended up on which albums and indeed in what order was actually quite a difficult task as we all had our own take on which songs should go where. The main thing was to get the flow of songs correct and balanced in terms of the arrangements, musical styles, lyrics, light and shade etc. which affects how the overall album sounds and also the atmosphere it generates. I think we got it right on “Battle Scars”, I just hope we do the same for “Euphoria”!
(i.n.: me too! cheeky)
 
Galahad band

Although you have been in the scene for over 27 years… you haven’t quite enjoyed the recognition that newer (UK) prog rock bands have. Taking the musical variety and quality you have as a band for granted… do you think this is due to the fact that you never had a major label’s support? Fans are rather easily manipulated sometimes by big advertisement and promotion campaigns.
 
S: I think there are several reasons as to why we never really broke through big time as it were.
 
One is timing, the band was formed just after the so called second wave of ‘Prog’ bands such as Marillion, Pallas, IQ, Twelfth Night, Pendragon etc. of Prog bands came to the fore in the early Eighties. They all started around 1978 – 1981 and we started in 1985 after the bubble had effectively burst, but didn’t really get going seriously until 1990 onwards. To be honest we really did play just for fun in the early days and weren’t really that concerned about record deals etc. It was only after playing with some of the bigger bands when we thought: Actually, we are just as good as these guys so why not give it a go. Thus in the early 1990s we pushed lot harder and did gain a lot of recognition by getting played on BBC Radio One, winning the Rock War on the Friday Rock show and getting quite a lot of exposure, in fact probably more so in terms of national radio than any bands these days could ever hope to achieve in the modern climate. Even Kerrang! used to feature us, whereas we can’t get a look in these days. Trouble is by this time the larger record labels were, generally, no longer interested in bands with a ‘progressive’ leaning and indeed other than Marillion most of the second wave bands had lost their deals with the majors by this time!
 
Secondly, I think that because we have not been as prolific as we could have been, that has affected our profile negatively as there is often a long time lag between albums which means each time we release a new album it’s almost like starting again in terms of trying to re-build our profile. However, we have made amends for this with the “Battle Scars” and “Beyond the Realms of Euphoria” being released within a year of each other! The reason for us taking so long to release albums is also because we are not a full time band and have a lot of other stuff going on in our lives too, the older you get the more responsibilities you have plus we have had our fair share of problems to deal with as is well documented elsewhere. The biggest challenge for any band is actually keeping it all together and I am proud of the fact that that we have kept the band together and going for so long!
 
Thirdly, we have always been a pretty independent band, stubbornly so, and we have actually been offered many record deals of varying size and quality of the years but have always, in the main, refused as we want to retain our independence to do whatever we want and not be pressurized in to situations we do not want and cannot deal with, which I believe is a massive reason as to why we are still here. I’ve seen so called big record deals destroy so many bands and was determined that it wouldn’t happen to us.
 
Fourthly, perhaps because of our stubbornness and refusal to toe the line at times I guess we have never felt part of any ‘inner circles’ or ‘cliques’ that tend to exist within the world of rock and prog in general and because of our independence it has often been difficult to get sufficient publicity to raise our profile, which would have been much easier with major label support. Although we do tend to mix a bit more these days because of Facebook etc. which has been a great tool in terms of getting the band out there.
 
Fifthly, there are certain bands, some new and some not so new, that have been courted by the prog press in the last few years and we are not one of them and probably never will be as we are not part of that particular ‘inner circle’, perhaps it’s because we are now seen as too old and not fresh enough or perhaps they are more savvy than us, putting themselves in front of the right people etc. and gradually gaining more attention and more power to them for doing that but I’m afraid that has never been our way of doing things in general. I believe, naively, perhaps, that the music will do the talking providing of course you can convince people to listen to it in the first place! So yes, there are bands who manage to get a lot more publicity than us but let’s be realistic, it doesn’t mean that they sell any more albums or attract bigger audiences, as quite often it is an illusion, a marketing ploy and I truly believe that most fans are intelligent enough to see through all the hyperbole will make up their own minds no matter how much exposure the bands get in magazines and on the web. Plus, I think that because we have been around a long time that within Progressive circles most people know how we are and have pretty much made up their minds as to whether they like us or not!
 
We believe that we are constantly evolving but unfortunately some people still think we sound like Genesis/Marillion clones, which is nonsense and never really was the case if you listened to the music properly, other than a few songs on the first album but that was 23 years ago! So again it can be difficult breaking through people’s prejudices and preconceptions. However, having said all that we are so surprised and incredibly chuffed at how many people out there are still interested in Galahad and how many new fans we have gained with the new albums and we are naturally very appreciative and thankful for that.
 
In truth, the biggest challenge for bands like us is breaking out from the core ‘Prog’ audience in to the mainstream which is imperative if a band wants to really succeed commercially, something I doubt we will ever do as were not getting any younger but never say never, there is always that chance, we must have dreams and ambitions, it’s part of what keeps us driving on. We may not have the energy of some of the younger bands (some of them are very good and have eye watering energy levels… but then so did we when we started!) but we certainly still have the raw spirit and the drive that keeps us hungry for more. I wonder how many of the new breed will still be going in 20 years’ time? It’s been a great ride, we’ve had some great times and some difficult times but it’s never been dull and it isn’t over yet. Someone once said, Arthur Ashe I think, (A tennis player philosopher?) “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”. On that basis, over the years we have been pretty successful and have achieved far more than we ever dreamed of when we first got together as a young band and started rehearsing in a rundown youth center in Boscombe in 1985!
 
Galahad is like a big family, more than just a band in fact, almost a way of life, we have our ups and downs but I wouldn’t want to be without it, to be honest I’d be lost if I didn’t have it as it’s a part of me and it has defined my life to a large extent for the last 27 years, mainly in a good way!
(i.n.: Wow! That was an answer straight from the heart…)
 
 
Whoever comes across your music… might think: My God… where had these guys been hiding so many years… it’s a pity I didn’t get to know them earlier. What will you say to those fans?
 
S: I’d say, well you know who we are now. All our albums are still available so grab them while you can! wink (i.n.: yeap… don’t wait any more time!)
 
 
I’ve written in my review: “Battle Scars” is an album that not only the prog fans will enjoy but all those who fancy rock/metal music with atmospheric passages, beautiful melodic themes and smart orchestrations. Do you agree with that?
 
S: Absolutely…
 
 
And some weird Questions now!! Why did you choose the name Galahad in the first place?
 
S: Roy actually chose the name simply because he liked it.
 
 
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music evolution, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
 
S: A virtually impossible task I’d say and incredibly subjective.
 
 
You are standing in front of two transparent doors. Door number 1 leads to a huge garden full of naked models running, playing and kissing around while Door number 2 takes you to the Isles of the Blessed where you can interact with some great ancient philosophers and learn the deepest secrets of life, death and universe. Which one would you cross and why?
 
S: I’m a normal red blooded guy so what do you think? Plus you only live once! (Is this an interview or a test BTW?) Even with philosophers, it’s only their opinions and doesn’t make them right, it just adds to a deeper pool of opinion which some would say just adds confusion to the whole debate. How does the saying go?... ‘the more you learn the less you know’. (i.n.: it’s a “weird” interview…!)
 
 
Do married people live longer than single ones or does it only seem longer?
 
S: Not something I have ever thought about to be honest. The main thing is to enjoy the life you do have as much as possible! Although sometimes it seems longer! Did I say that? smiley (i.n.: yeap… you did hehe!)
 
 
Who is your favorite philosopher and why?
 
S: I don’t have one, I tend to believe in my own philosophy as that is probably the only one I understand fully and make sense to me!
 
 
Which is your best book that also became a movie… and why?
 
S: The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy …because of the sheer epicness and audacity of the Peter Jackson and his crew. I really never thought a film could do it justice but it did IMHO!
 
 
Imagine that your wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react? cheeky
 
S: She wouldn’t which gives you an idea of how I’d react. I still have all my vinyl records and will never sell them! Luckily Lin is not in to expensive trinkets that don’t really mean anything so the matter would never arise!
 
 
Thank you very much for this wonderful interview Stu… Thx for the music... Please leave a note to Grande Rock readers… Take care!
 
S: My pleasure and thanks very much for listening and reading, hope you like the album and Galamusic in general and if you’ve never heard it… give it a go, you never know you may like what you hear (he says with fingers crossed! laugh)

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