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Interview with Matthew Fisher

Part Two: The Solo Years

Written for this site by Ronald L. Smith 1997


My interview with Matthew Fisher in June of 1997 was nearly two hours. In trying to present as much of it on the web as possible, I've divided it into two parts. I've edited together most Procol Harum references for Part One, and most solo information for Part Two.

RON I remember years ago when I asked you about the "Strange Days" album which wasn't then available in America. You offered to make a tape of it for me - which was very nice of you. Now it's easily available on CD.

MATTHEW But they fucked up on the mastering at one point. They say there was a drop-out or something. I didn't even realize it at the time. I only discovered it a couple of weeks ago. But on the track "She Makes Me Feel" they've done an edit on the last chorus. Basically, all the choruses come on "She Makes Me Feel" just as it stops, and then it goes into the chorus every time there's a stop. And when you get to the last chorus, it repeats the chorus without stopping. Well they've changed it so it stops again, which is stupid. You know, you wouldn't repeat the chorus with a stop, if you repeat the chorus you'd go straight into it. And in fact the bass player did a nice kind of slide at that point and that's just gone forever now. They said there was a large drop-out so they did these edits to cover it up, but I would've rather had the drop-out.

RON I would've imagined that if they spliced in that portion of the record, they could've edited it in and the average person wouldn't have heard much difference.

MATTHEW Well the tape was very old, you know, and kind of sticky, and the tape holding it together kept coming off, and that kind of thing. But even so, I wouldn't have minded a little bit of a drop-out there as long as they got the music right. But what they did I thought spoiled the music.

RON Did you have any control over the re-issue?

MATTHEW I just gave them the tape and said here you are, be very careful please, they're very fragile. I wasn't there, you see. As I say, a couple of weeks ago I just happened to be playing it through, and I wasn't even listening, it was just in the background and suddenly I thought - hang on a minute, they shouldn't have done that. I was very upset about that. I wished they'd have phoned me up and said, "Look, we have a drop-out here, what do you want us to do?" And I would've said, "Sorry, go with the drop-out. I don't want that edit."

RON Why not go with as clean a copy of the original record as you could find?

MATTHEW Well, I mean, they had the tape. I don't know if there are any copies of the record.

RON Well, a copy you could play under it so it might bring up the sound so it's not completely silent. I'd think the average fan would want to have it as close to the original as you could get.

MATTHEW I guess people will have to seek out the vinyl!

RON I'm sure it's a rare and expensive collectible. I have not even seen it.

MATTHEW Well, it was never released in America. I don't even know if it was released in England. I think it just about was; they pressed up about a thousand copies or something. I think it did better in Germany and Holland. But that's it, really. So it's pretty rare, the vinyl. And apart from that one track, I'd think you're better off getting the CD. They got a good sound on the CD.

RON I was glad that the re-issue had the other record too. I've kind of worn out my copy of the A&M record.

MATTHEW They're a good company, BGO.

RON The BGO liner notes painted a dark picture - suggesting there might not be another Matthew Fisher record. What was that guy talking about?

MATTHEW He's a friend of mine. I think this is what he thought at the time.

RON But that's not necessarily so?

MATTHEW I may have convinced him otherwise, I don't know. I feel I want to make another album but I don't have any concrete plans for doing so at the moment. But I really do want to.

RON Well that's a big relief right there.

MATTHEW It's a question of getting the money, I suppose. If you know any record labels who might be interested in coming up with some money, I'd be interested.

RON You're not saving material for a Procol Harum record I assume.

MATTHEW Oh no.

RON Whatever you've written you'd want to use on a solo album.

MATTHEW Well, no one's said anything to me about Procol Harum making another album. Have you heard anything? (laughs)

RON In the meantime is the RCA stuff gonna come out?

MATTHEW Nooooo. Those two belong to RCA...They owned the tapes from the word go, and various people have spoken to them about it, and they've always been very silly about what they want: "You can have it for a million dollars." It's like, they don't want to put it out but it seems they don't want anyone else to put it out either.

RON City Boy has that with Mercury. Some of their old Mercury records. The company sits on it and asks for an outrageous price. They just wait for somebody to do it - but they don't do it.

MATTHEW I can't see what they're trying to achieve that way. They must have so much stuff that they're bloody sitting on. If they got a dollar and a half for each of them, you know, (chuckling) it would probably help their cash flow. Otherwise it's just gonna sit there taking up space in the vault.

RON If you wanted to re-do the actual songs you could, I suppose.

MATTHEW Well yeah, I could, but I wouldn't want to, really.

RON You're happy with the records as they are.

MATTHEW I probably never liked those records actually, but I mean, I'm not the best person to judge. But the point is, they're authentic. They are me as I was then. You know what I mean? Anything I do now is not going to be like that. I couldn't possibly reproduce the way I was then. So, if that's what you want, you have to go for the original, you know. It's like Procol. When we do "Whiter Shade of Pale," I'm sure it doesn't sound like the record. Vaguely it does, you know, but if you recorded it and compared it against the original, you'd find it's a completely different atmosphere and everything. You can't turn the clock back and re-capture the past. The past is gone. So if you want it, that's where you've got to go for it.

RON Well, I've got three copies of "Journey's End," including one that's sealed. So in case anything ever happens to one copy, I have a second. And a third.

MATTHEW Well, I'm sorry I can't give you any encouraging news about a re-issue.

RON That's very very discouraging. But that's the record business. A lot of fans don't quite realize why things get held up, or what the problems can be sometimes.

MATTHEW Well that's because the record companies are run by accountants, basically. Companies generally are funny things. I don't understand how insurance companies work. For instance, a friend of mine, he's very unlucky. This is about the second or third time it's happened - his car has been parked outside his house - he wasn't in it - somebody drives up and smashes into it and causes loads of damage and drives off. This car is not worth an awful lot, but it's a bit hard to find. They determined to pay him two thousand pounds for the car, to write it off. Whereas in fact the repair work would only be about five hundred pounds or something. Much less. But they say no, the car is not worth it. And he's saying ok, if you're gonna give me two thousand pounds to scrap the car, can I buy the scrap off you. And they say no. I don't understand that, I don't know what they're trying to do other than bankrupt themselves.

RON The logic sometimes is -

MATTHEW Is crazy! An insurance company - they can't go around losing money and making bad deals. So if that's what the insurance company is doing, then how can we possibly understand what the record companies are doing! You know, you can never understand them, can you! (laughing)

RON I know. The "Butterfly Boys" song that Procol did - that was about Chrysalis, evidently.

MATTHEW I didn't know...But now that you mention it, of course, it's their trademark, isn't it.

RON "Butterfly Boys play with their toys." I guess Keith must've been pretty irritated about Chrysalis for one reason or another.

MATTHEW I never knew that. That's rather clever. I like that. Did Keith confirm this?

RON I don't know, does Keith confirm anything?

MATTHEW Um, it sounds reasonable. If Keith hasn't confirmed it then you can't really assume it's the truth. But it sounds too good not to be! (laughs)

RON I've met Keith a few times, but I don't know that he does that kind of thing. If you ask him a question about a lyric why answer it? Better to keep the mystique about Procol Harum lyrics.

MATTHEW Yeah, he tends to be reclusive about all that sort of thing.

RON Well, on the songs that were Reid/Fisher compositions - "Pilgrim's Progress..." and "Wreck of the Hesperus." On those tracks did Reid supply you with the lyrics or did you come to him with the music?

MATTHEW It was one of each. "Wreck of the Hesperus" I did have the idea just as a musical idea, and I stuck it down on cassette and gave it to Keith and he came up with the words. But that's very unusual, Keith usually doesn't work that way. In fact the only other one that I can think of where he did that was "Conquistador," apparently. By Gary. "Pilgrims Progress," he just sent me words. He used to send me words - you'd get a letter from Keith and you'd recognize it straight away 'cause he had this weird typewriter that didn't look like anybody else's. It had an italic font on it, so you knew it was from Keith. And you'd open it up and inside there would be a page with some lyrics on it. No "Dear Matthew here are some lyrics blah blah blah." No, just a page with lyrics written on. Didn't even say who it was from, but he didn't have to, it was obvious

RON Then he'd give some to you, and some to Gary, very democratically?

MATTHEW Um, I think Gary got sent more than I did.

RON But he did want to have some of your musical ideas on his lyrics.

MATTHEW Well, yeah. Maybe. I don't know, maybe he gave them to Gary first and if Gary didn't come up with anything then he sent it to me. I honestly don't know. I never asked him about that. I just know I used to get these lyrics turning up every now and then and if I could, I'd write something to them.

RON Your own lyrics are very good. The first time you wrote lyrics was when you made the RCA albums?

MATTHEW Yes.

RON They sing well, they hold together well-

MATTHEW I've never been that satisfied with the lyrics I write. It's difficult. The point is, I'm aware that from my point of view, the lyrics are not as good as I would like them to be, but I still don't feel there's anyone else who could get closer to what I want. You know what I mean? Someone might be able to write words that on paper look better than mine, but I don't think they would work as well as mine do. Not with that tune. Not with me singing it. But it's not that I think I'm the best lyric writer in the world or that no one could write better lyrics, it's just nobody I know I think could write better lyrics for my songs. Maybe there's someone out there who could, you know. Maybe if there are, they've got better things to do

RON Well, you do match the lyrics to the music. I mean, off the top of my head when you sing that line about reaching "the high notes" and its a high note - well, there's certainly an example of how you're matching the lyrics to the music.

MATTHEW Yeah.

RON So perhaps if you had somebody else writing with you, you wouldn't be as likely to come up with the same effect.

MATTHEW Well you say that, but that's something I've often wondered about. This is a strange example, but like the song 'Do Re Mi' by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The words are the same as the music, and it makes me wonder, did Richard Rodgers write the words down or did Oscar Hammerstein have a hand in the tune. I mean they're so closely linked. You see what I'm getting at. I can't imagine the one without the other. Not that it's my favorite song (laughs). But it's just something you think about.

RON The musical ideas on your solo albums were often very striking. I thought that when the orchestra erupted in "Running From Your Love" it was very powerful, it was a very good use of orchestration.

MATTHEW Well, these things, we try them out on synth first. We try using a string synth, and if it sounds good on a string synth then with real strings it will sound better. I think when it came to it, we used them both, the string synth and the strings, just to beef it up a bit.

RON It's interesting that your work is sort of split between pure rock and orchestration. For instance you have the bit of "Scheherezade" turning up in "Running From Your Love" and yet you produced "Long Gone Geek" which is one of the most rocking tracks that Procol ever did. So I assume you don't necessarily favor either orchestra, or without orchestra.

MATTHEW Well, I like rock music with orchestras as long as it is essentially rock music, and the rock musician is using an orchestra. But I don't like it when it's the tail wagging the dog, when the orchestral bit becomes primary, and the rock group is secondary. You see what I mean? You get some kind of arranger in, who is very much into orchestral music, probably more into orchestral music than he's into rock and roll, and the orchestral thing just takes over. It has to be kept in its place, that's my feeling.

RON While a lot of your stuff has utilized strings, a lot of it is just pure rock. I think "Why'd I Have to Fall in Love You" would've been great done by the Four Tops. I don't know if that's a compliment or not in your point of view.

MATTHEW That sounds great. It was definitely meant to be a Motown-y kind of thing. It was more sort of Marvin Gaye that I was thinking of.

RON When you did "Running From Your Love" and you threw "Scheherezade" in there, was that a similar kind of thought process to adding Bach to "A Whiter Shade of Pale?" Where you thought, "Hey, Rimsky-Korsakov would go well here-"

MATTHEW You say "Scheherezade," but it's not necessarily that. Although I accept it's a bit like that - in fact I think more what it was based on was the "Hamlet Overture" by Tchaikovsky.

RON I'll have to check that one out. But it sounds more like (repeats the opening notes of "Scheherezade")

MATTHEW No it is, you're right, but I wasn't conscious of it being that. I was more thinking of "Hamlet." It's not a very well known Tchaikovsky overture. I think I had an album once that had "Romeo and Juliet" on one side and "Hamlet" on the other, that's how come I heard it.

RON Was there something about "Hamlet" that was part of the character of that particular song, too? Somebody who is not exactly happy -

MATTHEW No, It was moody, that's all. I like moody things.

RON Yeah, well I appreciated "Prairie Madness." I thought there were a lot of good, moody tracks on that, otherwise it could've been The Eagles. A lot of it still holds up.

MATTHEW Oh I had a lot of trouble with that album. [This was the first album Matthew produced after leaving Procol Harum.] I mean, it was the whole scene with the engineers at CBS. Basically, the union had it completely sewn up. They got exactly what they wanted. Everyone who recorded at CBS had to use CBS engineers, and if they traveled anywhere the engineers had to fly first class. It was absolutely ridiculous. One of the last things that Clive Davis did before they got rid of him, was that he smashed all that. He cut them down to size and said, "Look, I'm gonna close this whole studio down unless you guys start to get real about this." They had a load of engineers there and only about two were any good. And the rest were going through the motions, you know. We'd do these mixes and then finally you'd get it cut on a disc, and you play it on a record player, and it would sound bloody awful. Because the engineers obviously didn't know the sound of the speakers. It was horrendous. I ended up having to re-EQ the whole thing. And they didn't even have facilities for EQ'ing it in the cutting room. That would've been a bit easier, if we could've just gone into the cutting room, but you weren't allowed to. You'd provide them with a tape and then they'd take the tape and they'd cut it. So if you want to EQ it you've got to copy it onto another tape, so you'd get more hiss and everything. It was just so bureaucratic. It was ridiculous. So I never want to work in a situation like that again.

RON That's quite anti-creative.

MATTHEW Well they were just crazy, these people. They had -what's his name - Walter Carlos. Who became Wendy Carlos. His first album, you see, "Switched on Bach," he did that himself in whatever studio he wanted. Maybe it was his own. But once CBS released the album he became a CBS recording artist. Then he had to record with CBS engineers, and that meant he couldn't do his own mixing. He wasn't allowed to touch the faders or anything on the desk. I think in the end he had to join the union. That was the only way to go around it.

RON That's unions all right. I remember reading that Lon Chaney Jr. couldn't do his own makeup like his father did, because by then there was a make-up man's union.

MATTHEW Yeah. They're weird things, unions. I mean, I know that without them, I suppose the workers would get shat on, you know, but you sometimes wonder what the fuck they're trying to do. I was quite pleased that Thatcher cut them down to size. I don't really like Thatcher. I don't like most of what she did, but that's one thing she did that I have to admit, I was bloody glad she did it. I thought it needed doing.

RON Well, there must be some reasons why you're in England and not here! Is your girlfriend [currently in the U.S.A.] going to move to England?

MATTHEW Uhhh, we don't have any plans. It's all a bit up in the air. Um, I don't see that she can; she has a job that she can't really afford to let go. It's not a wonderful job, but it's ok. It's a good job in that she's got benefits, health care, the usual stuff, you know what I mean. It's a lot to give up if you think you'll never get it back again. I can quite understand that. I wouldn't want to live in America particularly. Not permanently. I don't even know what I'd do if I was over there. It's a nice place to go and hang out, but to actually try and earn a living there, I think I'd find it a bit scary. I wouldn't know where to start.

RON I heard you had a hit single in Greece. (see here also)

MATTHEW Well yeah, but this was very regional, this was not the whole of Greece; this was just one little part of Greece, basically one radio station that was very keen on me. But it's not the whole country. I mean, a friend of mine, a girl called Georgia who lives in Athens, she'd never heard of any of my records. But that's quite a few miles south of this place. Serres, that's what it's called.

RON So outside the gates of Serres you're a hit.

MATTHEW Yeah, apparently I'm very well known there. But not any other part of Greece.

RON Quite a few of your songs have a woman's name for the title. When a woman listens to your albums - and hears about "Suzanne, "Anna" and "Marie" - does she come up to you and say "Who was that woman?" Do people get hung up on a song that way?

MATTHEW I can't think that there's never been an occasion when some girl hasn't asked me about that. But it doesn't happen very often. I'm not aware of it, particularly.

RON These girls listen to the songs and have to say to themselves, "I'm not gonna do what Anna did." Or what Marie did.

MATTHEW Not do what Linda did, that's the main thing!

RON Linda the ex-wife.

MATTHEW The ex-wife, yeah. (laughs)

RON I think you're probably the most popular member of the group for women . People might say that Gary is the heart of the band but you're the soul of the band. You seem to bring out a certain sensitivity for the band.

MATTHEW Well it's very nice of people to say things like that.

RON They have a much more emotional connection to you, than to Gary or certainly Robin or the other people. I also think that some fans think of you as being the same Matthew Fisher of those two RCA records; I think they just want to know that you're happy, doing what you want to do -

MATTHEW Oh, I'm happy. The one thing I find hard to believe is that you say that I'm the most popular one with women. I've certainly not noticed that over the years! (laughs)

RON I think that first RCA album cover - I think I wrote somewhere that it seemed like this is somebody that people want to hug. (Matthew laughs) There you are, leaving on the train, this handsome fellow who looks so sad. With a photo of Gary I don't think the emotional response is the same.

MATTHEW Gary has always been, what's the word...he looks a lot more self-assured. I mean he just generally carries himself better than I do. You know what I mean? I don't think I come across very well. You can look at one or two photographs of me and you might catch me at a certain angle that makes me look quite good, but I don't present myself very well. I think Gary's much better. He's a natural showman, I'm not a natural showman, and I think he is. He's been doing it a long time and I think he really is good at it. I've seen clips of him on video and I have to say yes, he comes over well. Looks good.

RON Has anybody covered a Matthew Fisher song to your satisfaction, or to your surprise?

MATTHEW I don't know if many have done it at all. I know these Japanese guys did a version of "Pilgrim's Progress." Musically it was quite good but I think they got the words wrong. They were singing some strange words. It was a guy called - I don't know how you'd spell it but it's pronounced K-G Suzuki. He's apparently the lead singer in this band. And then he had this solo album and he approached me to produce one track, which we did in England. Everything else was done in Japan. That was quite interesting. I did hear a version of "Boredom" which I didn't like. No, I can't say it's happened very much. No one has ever done a cover version of one of my tracks where I've thought "hey, that's really good."

RON I'd think there'd be good things to cover on the A&M record -

MATTHEW You call it the A&M - I think of them as the Phonogram records. We had a deal with A&M for America for the first one, but they didn't pick up the option for the second.

RON When you did a solo album, did you send copies to the old Procol Harum band-mates, and did they make comments on them?

MATTHEW I've no idea if they listened to my albums. If they did they never said so.

RON When you did the first RCA album you didn't automatically pop a copy in the mail to Gary?

MATTHEW Well, we weren't on very good terms at that time. It was all a bit difficult. A lot of it was the fact that I had this manager who used to be Procol's manager and then he and Procol split but I stayed with him, which was probably a big mistake. And that made things a bit awkward, so I lost touch with Keith and Gary for a while. It was once I got rid of this manager guy that we got back in touch again.

RON That was in the 80's when you worked on the "Echoes in the Night" album. Which also had Robin Trower on it. You were always on good terms with him, though. I mean, doing the producing on those first two really big hit solo albums that he had.

MATTHEW Um, up to a point. Up to a point, I think. Then Rob obviously decided I was not the guy he wanted. I think I was a bit too tactless for Rob. I think to work with Rob these days you've to be a bit of a yes man, and I'm not really like that.

RON The first two albums, the ones you produced, are still my favorites.

MATTHEW I can understand you saying that, although I would not say because I produced them. I don't think it made much difference who produced them. I think he had the best band and the best songs at that time, that's all.

RON Those songs had a certain dreamy quality to them -

MATTHEW Oh absolutely. I loved the original line-up that Rob had; with Jimmy and Reg. I just thought it was a magical combination. I don't like loud three-piece rock bands, it's not my kind of thing. But Rob said "Well, come on down and listen to the band." And I did. I wasn't sure what to expect, but they started playing and I thought wow, this is a great sound. It was not like any three piece band I'd heard before, because I mean, the sound Rob had, you know, it was just huge, there wasn't room for anything else, you know, you didn't need anything else beside bass and drums. But to me he lost it quite soon . I still think he's a very good guitarist, but to me he's lost that magic he had on the first couple of albums. We didn't even know what it was. But I think it's gone.

RON His first solo albums seemed an extension of the kind of moody, Hendrix-inspired things he did on "Broken Barricades." I think "Song for a Dreamer" had that quality.

MATTHEW That was the beginning of it.

RON Then he got into that guitar hero heavy-metalish kind of mode; it seems that's what guitar-hero fans like.

MATTHEW This is what makes me wonder about the whole Robin Trower thing. I used to know where he was coming from, what he was trying to do, what he was influenced by. And yeah, I could see it. But when you go on the road with him, and you look at the fans that he has, the people that come to see his gigs, or the people who used to come to Procol gigs and walk out when they found Rob wasn't playing, they're a pretty sad bunch. I mean, they're the same people you'd imagine going to see Motorhead. Or...

RON Or professional wrestling.

MATTHEW Yeah, exactly, they're a pretty uncouth lot. I wonder if Rob understands his fans are not perhaps the people he would ideally like to be his fans. An unsavory bunch! They like him because he's loud.

RON (laughs) Yeah, I agree. When I was in Town Hall [for Procol's "Prodigal Stranger" tour] some of the people were screaming out "Where's Robin!" I was hoping they'd leave, and let everyone else watch Procol Harum and enjoy themselves.

MATTHEW I think Rob...as far as Procol was concerned, I think he was at his absolute best in the whole "Broken Barricades" period. It's like something happened after that - like 'I'm not gonna do this anymore, I've got my own music to do.' And I don't know whether he's ever made it back again. Not in the same way that I think I have. I can go off and do my own music but I can still come back and play with Procol just the same as I always used to. I haven't lost it, the ability to hook into all that as well. You see what I mean? But I think Rob has. I think once Rob left Procol, it was like the connection snapped, and I don't think it's ever really worked since, you know. They get him in because he's a name and a lot of people want to hear him, but I just don't think it works when he plays with Procol now. He just doesn't fit, to me. I suppose he felt he moved on since then and he doesn't want to go backwards. I don't think of it as going backwards, I think of it more as going sideways (laughs). Because I do lots of other things as well. My life does not revolve around Procol Harum. If it did, I'd be in a terrible state, because they haven't done anything for a long time.

RON Speaking of where your life revolves around, I wanted to get back to what you've been up to the past ten years. You have a degree in computer science?

MATTHEW Yes.

RON The CD booklet abruptly mentioned that your music studio no longer exists. Were you basically producing and using your music studio for the past ten years, helping people create music? Is that basically what you've been doing?

MATTHEW I don't think I've done an awful lot in the studio in the last ten years. I mean, ten years, it's '97, right, so we're talking '87. Around that time was when it all started to slow down, I would think. Basically, I had this partnership, with this guy Ronnie Lyons, and we had a few deals, and we made those two albums, and we did the albums with Bandit and a few other things, but it didn't work out. And Ronnie Lyons got fed up and went off. But I had a very difficult time getting totally free of the guy. I was contractually restrained from doing anything much other than just hiring the studio out. That was all I could do to make a living. So that's what I started doing, I just hired it out to anybody who would come along and pay me the money. And it was around that time that we did the "Echoes in the Night" album. I'd just about got free of the guy since then. So I was able to do that, which I wouldn't have been able to if I wasn't contractually free. Because I was signed as everything - as a producer, songwriter, you name it. By the time Ronnie Lyons left the picture, he pretty well had the best of my career. The record business wasn't as easy as it used to be, and it was a long time since I'd been in Procol and I didn't have any momentum left. The albums hadn't done anything, they hadn't sold, they hadn't been pushed. And I didn't really feel like making albums. Certainly no one was crying out for them. I would've had a hard job selling the albums if I had made them. I suppose I just got nose-to-the-grindstone, just working at the studio and making a living. And it carried on like that for a few years, and then various things started to happen, like my marriage broke up, and about this time I was just getting sick of working in the studio all the time. I felt like I needed the change. It was after I left home, had been ejected from the house as it were, that it suddenly occurred to me, well, I don't have to keep doing this. I could do something else if I want. What would I like to do? And I thought, I always wanted to go to university, that's one thing I always felt I missed out on. So that's what I did. And since then I haven't settled down into doing anything major. I mean I've got lots of little things I want to do, but there's no one big thing. I certainly don't want to become a full time computer person. I don't want to get a job in some company, which I'm sure I could. But it would be a full time job and it wouldn't leave me any time to do any kind of musical things.

RON So you've basically been freelancing between computer things and music.

MATTHEW Well the thing I'm into at the moment is recording classical music. I've got a little set-up with a Dat machine and stereo microphone. I want to go out just recording little string quartets, choirs, things like that, you know.

RON' Perhaps the next time some fellow gets a choir together and wants to do an album "Within Our House" you'd be available to make the record.

MATTHEW I say classical, but I mean acoustic music. Unamplified. It involves the computer stuff as well, you see. Because you need computers to do digital editing and things like that.

RON Do you compose songs much? For your own amusement do you sit down and knock out a song? Is there a backlog of Matthew Fisher material?

MATTHEW Well I've got quite a few ideas; not too many fully finished songs. But I've certainly got a load of ideas. Some of them I really like.

RON That's interesting. I think a lot of Procol Harum fans, especially ones who really love the RCA albums that you did, probably have the idea that you have so many hurt feelings from the recording industry that you don't write songs or want to do anything, because of the industry itself, not for any other reason. But you obviously have plenty of other reasons.

MATTHEW I don't have much time for the record industry, I must say. I mean, I think it's fair to say I've put a lot more into that industry than I've ever got out. I just don't like the people. They're so two-faced. They're so insincere.

RON The lyrics on the first couple of albums reflect that. But anybody who's ever been disappointed by anyone or any job could relate to those albums strongly. I think a lot of people listen to them as much as they listen to the old Procol Harum records which are so timeless.

MATTHEW Oh, you just reminded me. One song that is actually finished is a song very much about the last time I made records. And it's called "1979." Which at the time I wrote it was only a few years ago (laughs). But I listened to it the other day. I still like the words. It tells it like it is.

RON It doesn't have anything to do with "please don't make me sing that song again?"

MATTHEW No, no, this has to do with Phonogram and all the crap that went down there.

RON Didn't Graham Parker sing "Mercury Poisoning?"

MATTHEW I didn't hear that one. I don't think Mercury was any worse than any other label.

RON So it's possible that some label will get a Matthew Fisher album some day - if you are in the mood to do one.

MATTHEW I swore I would never ever have to make an album again in order to pay the rent, you know what I mean? I would never do anything like that again: "Oh, I need some money, what can I do? Well I suppose I could make an album." I think all the other albums I made were really made for that reason. And I've decided I'm not gonna do that again. I mean, if I make an album now, it might even cost me money rather than make me money, but I'll do it because I want to do it.

Go back to Part One of Ron's Matthew Fisher interview: The Procol Harum Years  


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