Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale 

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

Procol Harum on DVD

'Live at the Union Chapel' : Gary Brooker interviews (1)


Do live performances reveal the musical roots and influences of Procol Harum better than studio recordings? (1.48)

Well I mean, the roots of Procol Harum go back so far into the mists of time that it would be hard to, hard to really to , I donít think you can know, I mean, I grew up on rock and roll Ė when it first started, and on rhythm ... and then I got into rhythm and blues in the sense of not, in the sense of soul, you know, music by Black Americans being sung like they sing, you know. And thatís what I wanted to be like. And thatís ... but then you get all kinds of other influences come in. You know, when I was a late, late teenager, you know, just before psychedelics, your jazz and your classics. And people in the later 60s, after the Beat Boom, were listening to so many different sorts of music and that all became part of a pot-pourri in a lot of peopleís ways of writing. And it certainly did with me and certainly although, I mean, A Whiter Shade of Pale, to me, was a blues sung over a classical-type idea. And all I do is sing a kind of a bluesy vocal. And Procol Harum was, you know, with our two keyboards giving a powerful ... we could do anything with chords with those two keyboards, organ and piano, and yet we wanted just blues guitar over the top, you know, wailing stuff. But itís quite hard to see those influences if you take any one song. You couldnít take A Salty Dog or even A Whiter Shade of Pale and really seriously see the influences of rock, R&B, jazz, or anything else. 

What preparations do you undertake before a tour? (2.33)

When youíre going out on tour, thereís not, thereís no preparation really. I mean, the band would, the most important thing is to decide what kind of, what your programmeís going to be on stage. Because weíve got a new album, or as we had a new album out and every song on it we can play on stage quite well because of the way we recorded it. Because we recorded it live we can also play it live. Thereís no great tricks to overcome or special sounds to get, no orchestra involved. So we just, weíve suddenly got too much, too many songs. Weíve got all of our repertoire from, you know, many years, a lot which, thereís a few songs that you just have to play otherwise even Geoff Whitehorn will get upset. We like to dabble in the past and pull something out that people wouldnít expect or, actually, we wouldnít expect. Therefore, itís keeping us on our toes to play a song which we havenít played. And then, of course, youíve got to get, you are promoting, at the same time, a new album: so youíre going to do, so I think we usually work out about forty percent new stuff. This is what we envisage for when we went on tour, around forty percent new stuff. You know, youíve got fifteen, twenty percent (letís call them) standards. And then youíve got whatever those two, you know, taken away from one hundred, approximately forty percent to play with as the evening takes it or as the country takes it or as the audience takes it. You know, if you think, ďAh, do you know what, I think they might like a slow one," you play Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) or something , that [imitates listener reaction] or that style that even people that havenít heard it, you know, the lucky thing about a lot of Procol songs is that they do, they do have an effect on people when you hear them, you know. And if you can put them across well on the stage, if I can sing them well and we play them great, you know, people like to, ďOh, gee, listen to that. Iíve never heard anything like that,Ē if theyíve never seen us before, if itís their second time. So thatís quite exciting. And it makes for a great ... you donít have to prepare for tour, just have that repertoire there and be ready to play really well a hundred songs.

Do you play to a pre-arranged set-list on stage? (1.50)

We donít, we always have a setlist. But we never play it. Itís more a guide. Itís a guide in case you have a compl ... I mean, you have got a way of doing a set, it does have a, this is working, more or less, on the grounds that I was just saying, you know, that youíve got a few oldies, a few summink-differents and some new, and oh, something like people have for weddings, you know, 'something borrowed, something blue' et cetera. But itís never set in stone. Itís never, I think itís nice when you play, nice for the band when theyíre not quite sure if theyíre going to do that one or not. And, in fact, it was quite disappointing because Matthew Fisher actually never consulted his set lists because he knew that they werenít going to be played. And a couple times I did play what was written. And he then said, ďWhat went, what went, what went wrong with it, tonight?Ē kind of ... not 'went wrong', but I was rattling through them because he didnít, I didnít, he should have had a set list and he should have known what organ sound he needed. But he got a bit used to it being called out number by number. But, you know, itís just that I have to shout out to the person nearest to me, usually Geoff Whitehorn. And then I rely on him to tell Mark Brzezicki. And I rely on somebody else to get the message across to the other bookend on stage, over to Matthew Fisher because he might have to, if heís in right on the first beat, heís got to have his sound ready. Otherwise, heíll give me a terrible talking to. 

Did the unusual intimacy of the Union Chapel make the gig extra special? (1.33)

On the last job, we got Catford and we finished in Islington. Um, interestingly enough, I knew, I knew the venue because when we made our album in í91, the record company got us to make a video. Now this video, it actually cost more than it did, more than we spent making the album, but thatís another ... thatís another point. But we did actually film it in the Union Chapel. So I knew the building. Well, of course, when you go there and all the equipmentís on stage, it suddenly looks rather different. But itís a wonderful place with all the nooks and crannies, itís, youíre not in anything square. Itís like being in the middle of a kaleidoscope, really, and a very, very interesting place to play. Once youíre up there, of course, the lights are in your eyes and, yeah, there was a great atmosphere in there. It was, I think it was, you know, by the time we got to playing there, a lot of, a lot of people had heard the album. When we played in Catford, it was only out that day, I think, more or less. Or it might not have even, quite, yeah, it was like release-date, release-week, whereas when we, you know, six months later or however long it was longer, people had got more used to it or had heard it and were looking forward to something near Christmas like that with Procol on what should be their home territory.

Thanks, Jill, for the transcription

Order this DVD from Amazon USA

Order this DVD from Amazon UK

Order this DVD from Amazon Germany

Order this DVD from Amazon Canada


More about the Union Chapel DVD More Brooker interviews from the DVD

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home