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Gandalf's Fist

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Gandalf’s Fist from 2013
MSJ:

It’s been a couple years since we last interviewed you guys. Can you catch us up on what’s been going on in the world of Gandalf’s Fist?

Luke: We've been to deep space via Middle Earth, so just the usual really.

Dean: We’ve taken a big time out this year as we’ve both had a lot on our plate but it was only a matter of time before a few ridiculous songs wormed their way out. We’ve managed to fill that spare time with trying to sell a taxidermied weasel riding a bike, participating in a chilli-dog challenge and learned the ins and outs of professional jousting. We like to think of ourselves as renaissance men.

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Dean: In the short-term we have our new record out in the coming weeks which we’re really excited about as it’s something that has sprung into existence in the last couple of months. After that there’s an orchestral project that I’m planning to work on - hopefully leaving enough time to finish my novel. That’s a real novel with real characters, not like when Luke wrote that story about a frog that lived in a hat.

Luke: Yeah, our new album is released next month. It's an intercepted transmission from deep space, two musicians adrift in deep space, beaming their music into the ether.

MSJ: What do you see as similarities with your new album and your older releases?
Luke: Our sound has developed over the past two years, we are still about story telling through our music, each song building on the last, our albums are still meant to be heard as a whole story, start to finish.

Dean: I agree. It still has the basic elements of our sound, not least my guitar playing approach and mine and Luke’s lyric-writing style. The new album is a good hodge-podge of our previous releases – the neo-prog of Road to Darkness, the folky shenanigans of Songs from the Solway and the hard rock/metal from From a Point of Existence – however it’s a good mix and in this instance no one style takes precedent. One thing that is definitely similar is that it’s awash with psychedelic noodlings and the concept is utterly bonkers.

MSJ: What about differences?
Luke: We have developed a stronger sound, more layered with stronger vocals, fans of Road to Darkness will still hear our sound throughout, yet we believe it’s stronger and much more polished than previously.

Dean: As Luke states, there is a definite emphasis on layered vocals on some of the new tracks – we’re not talking Queen or Blind Guardian here – they're mainly just to create a different texture in the track as we very much wanted to get the ‘space rock’ vibe across to the listener with a wide sound that could have originated from deep space. Another key difference is the inclusion of guest musicians – previously I’d pretty much play everything and if I couldn’t I’d find a patch on the synthesiser which did the best approximation I could find. Now, we’ve got a couple of fantastic flautists from the US and Croatia, a Spanish saxophonist and our German drummer Stefan lending a hand. Throw into the mix some brilliant guest vocals and you’ve got a really interesting and diverse album!

MSJ: Was there any kind of conscious effort or plan to make the new disc different?
Dean: I recently was involved booking bands and stage-managing this year’s Maryport Harbour Festival. During the festival I was stood backstage watching the excellent Mostly Autumn and thought that I definitely wanted to get a female vocal on the new album. I love that contrast and that was something we kind of explored on Songs from the Solway so we’ve brought Beccie Watson back into the fold to add that little bit of continuation. The main thing I wanted to get across with this new record was a kind of ‘jam’ vibe and having guest musicians definitely helped with that and gave me something fresh to bounce off. I’ve always loved bands that feature guest vocalists such as Avantasia and Ayreon and thought it would be a great concept to explore – “a cosmic jam!”

Luke: That said, I don’t think it was such a conscious effort to sound “different” as we have been constantly changing and evolving. . .

Dean: Yeah, the only thing I really wanted to focus on was making sure we’re still putting out music that we can enjoy and listen to afterwards, and if we can sell a weasel on a bike or two along the way then no harm done.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Luke: I've been listening to a lot of Rush recently, I tend to find bands from 30 years ago and listen to them as new. I like discovering new music, as well, but the majority of my music collection is at least as old as me.

Dean: Picked up the last Steven Wilson solo effort and really enjoyed it. I think he is a man that is very much making music within his own sphere but that record had some great nods to King Crimson, which is fine by me! Recently my girlfriend and I toured around Scotland in a 1960s VW Camper. . . a complete hippy-mobile with flowers up the side – for the entire holiday we had Caravan’s In the Land of the Grey and Pink on repeat. It’s one of my faves and hasn’t been out of the stereo for long!

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Dean: The last thing I actually picked up and read was Aristotle’s Ethics last week - seriously. It’s a great insight into a great mind and well worth a look even if you’re just dipping in and out of different sections. I also recently read a book called The Chicken Thief which is an epic tome chronicling a fox’s attempt to steal a chicken. There is a massive twist in the tale as it transpires the chicken is the fox’s friend all along.

Luke: I've just finished reading Game of Thrones (A song of Ice and Fire) series: proper epic fiction, with a multitude of characters and plot lines. The TV show is very well done, a perfect adaptation.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Luke: Honestly I cannot remember, I have been working so much there's not been much down time.

Dean: I got to see some great bands whilst working on the Harbour festival – Mostly Autumn and Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash being highlights for me. I’m off to see Roger Waters in a couple of weeks so looking forward to that immensely!

MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Luke: I don't do guilty pleasures, everything I like I like for a reason and I'm not going to apologise for any of it.

Dean: I like Sting. Deal with it. Especially that song he does about a Christmas cake. In fact, both Sting and Gandalf’s Fist have covered the traditional winter song “the snows they melt the soonest,” which has lead to some illegal/pirate download sites getting confused and listing “Gandalf’s Fist - Englishman in new York”. . . which I doubt would ever happen.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Luke: If you have a dream, chase it - life's too short for regrets.

Dean: One taxidermied weasel on a bike for sale. Will listen to offers. No time wasters, please.

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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