Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Matt Pegg interviewed ...

John Collinge in Progression, Spring 1996


Progression
You've been with these guys for about three years now, right?

Pegg
Yes, actually since '92, it was.

Progression
What is it about a band from 1967 that's got you interested in tagging along with them?

Pegg
Work. No, I love the band. I really love it. I didn't know a lot about it when I first got the gig. Now, I've had the chance to study it a bit more and I love it.

Progression
How did you connect with them in the first place? Was it through your father?

Pegg
Well, sort of. I was living in Australia with my wife, and I flew to England to play with Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre in his little sort of summer bash band. The day before I left my Dad called and said Procol Harum need a bass player, do you want to have a go? He knew Gary and said he would line up an audition for me. I did that the day I got back and he asked me back to do another one, and we were off.

I didn't know much about them although I saw Gary play at the Cropredy Festival a couple years before that.

Progression
Do you consider yourself an official member of the band?

Pegg
I'd like to, but that's up to them. I'd like to think of it that way, but it's up to Gary, really.

Progression
This doesn't feel like oldie mouldy stuff to you?

Pegg
No, not at all. I'd much rather be playing this stuff than all the crap that the younger people are playing. I don't know why. But my resume is quite funny, when you put Procol Harum and Jethro Tull on it.

Progression
How does it feel to play in Tull?

Pegg
It's good playing the music, even though it's a tremendous challenge. There is this horrendous noise on stage. Everything is so loud. This [Procol's music] is harder to play, even though it's simple plodding around, as there's a lot of free time involved. Nothing is written in stone, and Gary will play whatever he feels at the time. You have to listen in this band whereas in Tull, it's not such a listening band because it's the same every night, or close to it. You just play a lot of little tricks joined together. 

For all those complicated things, it's easier than playing a really slow pace like with 'A Salty Dog,' where you only play one note but you've got to play it in the right place at the right volume.

Progression
I know your father has gotten exasperated with Ian from time to time. Do you feel the same way?

Pegg
Well, he's always been ... I'm not going to put him down because he's paid me well and he's always been incredibly fair with me. But I've seen him do some ridiculous things. It's a bit of a worry to see someone acting like he does. I mean, he should be happy, really. But is he?

He never really said anything to me in the last year I was with him. He didn't say a word. I didn't make eye contact with him once. But that was fine. I was out with the crew having a good time. I'd rather do that rather than worrying about the boss or worrying about him all the time. He knows that I know that it's not my gig, and I'm never going to have the gig. And I'm not trying to get the gig. I'm just standing in.

Progression
That's the same philosophy your father has about Tull, isn't it? Because Fairport Convention is his band.

Pegg
He started out in the right way. My Dad doesn't take much crap from people, really. He's himself really, and if you don't like it, tough.

Progression
Has he ever put Ian in his place?

Pegg
He's thrown a few wobblies, thrown guitars off stage and walked off a few times, quit a couple of times and come back for the money. That's when I stand in.

[In 1994] I think he'd just had enough. First of all, Fairport's tour was booked and afterward I just don't think he wanted to go back. They're not a fun bunch to go on the road with. It's hard work. It's not like Procol, where they're such nice people. They're all great in this band. It's just so much fun, which makes it all really easy.

Progression
Your dad always looks like he has a wonderful time on stage with Tull, though.

Pegg
Yeah, yeah. Well, he's a great player.

Progression
Do you think your father's departure from Tull is permanent?

Pegg
I don't know how much longer they'll be making records and touring. Ian's voice is suspect, and the fans notice that. Yet they don't mind as long as he wears his tights and runs around and throws his flute around a bit. Once he gets too old and stiff to do that, then it's the end of the band. It's just work, that band. It's not that enjoyable to play in, although I do enjoy playing to so many people on great big stages and doing great gigs.

Progression
Do Martin Barre and [drummer] Doane Perry feel that way too?

Pegg
I don't know. Martin doesn't say a word. He keeps his head down, as soon as it starts going off. And Doane just gets all the crap all the time [from Ian]. It's terrible the way he gets treated.

The thing with my father is he's made some money now, at last, with Tull, after so many years of working. He's collected a few toys, a boat, a nice sports car and a house in France. He's never used any of them because he's always working. I think he's gotten to the age where he wants to do Fairport, take it easy and have some fun.

He doesn't know how to relax. He works his arse off all the time. He deserves everything he's got. He should take it easy.

Progression
Where is his summer house in France?

Pegg
It's in Brittany, southern Brittany. Just a little cottage house. But it's good water skiing and windsurfing there.

Progression
And your father water skis?

Pegg
Yeah, he loves it. He's a mother he loves it. He's actually quite good at it. He can do the one ski ...

Progression
He doesn't drink and do that, does he?

Pegg
Oh, probably. He drinks for everything.

Progression
How old are you?

Pegg
I'm 24.

Progression
Being 24, what do you think about the whole progressive rock/art-rock thing? I'm talking about the stuff that Tull still does, and what Procol used to do more of in its heyday. And Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc. Do you like that kind of music?

Pegg
I used to like it. I used to like muso-type clever things. That's what got me into playing, really. But with Procol it's not that as much as songs, which is what Gary is all about and his voice and leaving a bit of space for it. Tull, to me, is a sort of nursery rhyme-like. They never seem to keep the same groove for more than two bars.

It's very hard to get into, yet obviously it works because they've had a fantastic run at it and still do very well. I think Procol would be in the same situation if they hadn't stopped for 15 years. That doesn't help.

Progression
What kind of music would you do if you had your own band?

Pegg
Procol. I like songs rather than anything else. My favourite bands aren't bands with great bass players and great drummers. I'd much rather listen to the Beatles or Joni Mitchell, James Taylor or the Doors.

Progression
Personally, you're not into clever orchestrations.

Pegg
No, not if I can help it. It's hard work, isn't it? I like 'clever' in the way Gary does it. He'll pick out a few notes for a bass part and they're the right ones. You could play all over it, but if you play what he tells you to, it's perfect and it just fits. To me, you're much more productive for the whole band if you're just playing the bass rather than trying to be flash. I've really been into that lately, just trying to play proper, old-fashioned bass guitar.

Progression
How much of an influence on your personal style was your father? Did he teach you?

Pegg
He didn't actually teach me. I did it all myself. I picked it up, bluffed my way into it. But he influences me more now since I've done the Tull gig, because I've had to learn everything he does.

It kind of made me go, 'Hmm. That's a bit difficult. I've seen him do that drunk'. He's so solid and such a good bass player, it's amazing. He's one of my heroes as a bass player him and Paul McCartney.

Progression
Let's talk a bit further about both Procol and Tull, starting with Tull. What songs have you really enjoyed playing with Tull and what songs have you hated playing with them?

Pegg
I like playing My Sunday Feeling that kind of stuff, as opposed to Budapest and Songs From the Wood, etc. I mean, it's all good to play when you're in a Tull gig and they're all Tull fans, because the whole crowd's into it, and you never have a bad response.

I like songs other than the stuff that moves around a lot. Having said that, if you're up there playing Songs From the Wood, in the middle of it and the crowd's going bananas, it's great. Who cares, as long as the punters are enjoying it, and it's what they want to see and hear.

Doing the Tull gig was a great experience, because you play to some enormous crowds. Some of those festivals were huge.

Progression
What about with Procol. What do you like playing the most?

Pegg
All of it. All of it is great. I like just watching Gary, really.

Progression
What are Gary's most unique qualities?

Pegg
His voice. And his arrangements with the piano. It's always interesting. It's like Matt Fisher on the organ he doesn't just play organ, he does these kooky little tunes over the tops of things It's great, and it all fits in perfectly.

Progression
What do you think is next for Procol Harum?

Pegg
l don't know. Hopefully, something. It's difficult finding work in England. If not, it's back to the factory again.

Progression
You don't really work in a factory, do you?

Pegg
Yeah. I've worked in a dairy from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a conveyor belt turning milk bottles around so the handles are on the right side and they don't get stuck in the machine.

Progression
Well, that wrist action is probably good for your bass playing.

Pegg
Right. Standing there in 10 degrees with milk up to my neck.

Progression
I guess that is quite different from being on stage in front of 10,000 people.

Pegg
The last gig I had with Tull was three weeks in South Africa in the sun [October, '94]. The next job was in the dairy, and it just about drove me mad. My next job after that was a soldering job for a few weeks.

Progression
Where do you live?

Pegg
In Brighton. I love it there.

Progression
What do you think about the United States. Do you like it there?

Pegg
Yeah, I love it.

Progression
What do you like the most?

Pegg
I don't know if I should tell you, really. I don't think my wife would approve. No, it's made for touring. The food. Breakfast, that's what I like the most. And lunch and dinner.

 Progression
What's your favourite breakfast?

Pegg
Eggs Benedict. I always eat too much, and I'm hungry again by lunch time. It's great, if you're from England and you're just coming for a month or so. You put on a couple of stone and it's good for you, if you're English.

Progression
Where has Procol Harum done the best on recent tours?

Pegg
In Mexico we were a big hit. It was like being the Beatles. We were there with Kansas and the Alan Parsons Project. It's always good with Procol. I'm just glad to be here and have the work, especially with this bunch. The songs are so good, you just can't fail. As long as people are prepared to listen and they don't want to headbang and rock out, because we're not that kind of band.

Progression
Well. that should do it. Thanks!

Pegg
Cheers! That was fun!


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