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October 2001: Procol Radio Marathon from UCLA

Transcript of the complete Matthew Fisher interview

Interview Between Guest Disk Jockey 'Number Six' and Matthew Fisher Ė Procol Harum Marathon #2 Ė 14 October 2001, here presented in two episodes, of which this is the second; of course we have compressed the sound clips to aid downloading Ö the original broadcast quality was impeccable.


Part Four (mp3) ... future Procol Harum music, recording strategies ... 

DJ No 6
Last month, when I interviewed Gary Brooker he spoke of a new Procol Harum album in the works. Can you tell us anything about it?

Matthew Fisher
He hasnít said anything to me about it. I donít know what heís got in mind.

Well, apparently he was going to meet with some people, regarding it, but ...

Oh, I see. Well maybe thatís it. Maybe heís just talking about it from kind of a business venture. Thatís something I havenít spoken to him about. In fact, I could have done 'cos we went over to see him the other day. But it wasnít something that came up.

It certainly would be something the fans I think would be obviously very excited about.

Matthew Fisher, 2001

Well, Iíll tell you one thing I think maybe Gary ought to think about, and that is the whole business of do you really need a record company these days? I mean, because there are an awful lot of people now just selling their stuff on the Internet.

Well he has Gazza records, thatís his company isnít it?

Oh yeah. When I say record companies, Iím taking about majors, you know. The only thing youíd really want one of those lot for is if youíre anticipating really heavy recording costs and you want some front-money, but if thereís some way you can do it without that, or if you can finance it yourself or whatever, then you really donít need that sort of an organization and youíre going to end up with a much bigger slice of the cake and probably a lot more control and a lot less headaches. So Iíd be really ... quite excited if heíd want to do it that way rather than the way we did do it last time.

I have this concept in my mind, having listened to your group for many years, and I know you have quite a lot of songs that youíve played in concert, but were never officially released, many of which you were involved with. Iím thinking of some lovely songs like Stoke Poges, Robe of Silk. I know that youíve resurrected So Far Behind on some of your recent concert tours. There are other songs: One Eye on the Future, Iím a Reader and a Writer, Last Train to Niagara - which I really like - I heard you play that, here in Los Angeles at the Greek Theatre.

I never liked that one.

You never did? Well, I liked it because I grew up near Niagara Falls. I grew up in Buffalo, New York and so many times I went and visited Niagara - there actually is a train that goes to Niagara - so Iíve been on that train.

I like So Far Behind.

Itís a great song.

Well, I was listening to that. I was watching the - I donít know if you know that the gig we did at the Kremlin was videoed, and Iíve been sent a video of that, and I went round to see Matt Pegg the other day ... and we were playing it, and sort of watching it, listening to it, and when that song came on, I was quite surprised. It sounded better than I was expecting. I think it worked out quite well that way.

Itís a great song. Then I also understand there were some tapes done on demos prior to --- I guess this was from 1976 --- the Something Magic album, which I guess you werenít involved with --- but there were a number of songs from some Miami tape that Iíve never heard: A la Carte, Fish Dinner for Two, Musical Fish --- a lot of fish stuff there or something ... Youíd Better Wait. It would be lovely, if Procol Harum took these songs and came out with an album - Iím going to call it a concept album called Lost Songs Found. Where you take sort of all these older songs that youíd been playing in concert and put them all together on an album - you could put it on Gazza, or something like that.

Have you heard Into the Flood?

Yes. Yes I have.

I think that was sort of an out-take from Prodigal Stranger.

Right. That actually appeared as a single, I think, on a German release of a couple of the other songs from Prodigal Stranger.

But was it just a studio version?

There was a studio version, yeah, that was actually officially released.

Itís one of these songs that we always seem to do when weíre playing with an orchestra.

Itís wonderful, too. Iíve heard it with an orchestra.

Someoneís done sort of a ... really kind of amazing orchestral arrangement for it. And when weíre playing with an orchestra ... We never do it when weíre not playing with an orchestra. Thatís it. Itís just one of those songs we play if weíve got an orchestra handy. And I wonder if there was going to be an album it might be an idea sort of ... finding some of the live tapes weíve got of that number and sticking that on it.


'Cause it really works with the orchestra.

Well thatís my plea ... is to open up the vaults and bring out some of these songs that youíve played in concert ... that are so wonderful ... but never had official releases on albums. And you could call it Lost Songs Found or something like that.

I must confess, I would be more excited if it was actually going to be new material.

Yeah. Oh, I would too. That would be the most exciting. Obviously.

Apart from anything else, it would involve me (laughs). Because, I mean, itís not going to involve me if it is isnít new material. Because I think everything Iíve ever wrote with them has been released.

I think thatís what the fans are hoping for is if there is a new album, that there is new material. And certainly the current line-up sounds great with you and Geoff Whitehorn, and Matt Pegg, and Mark Brzezicki, and Gary - You really look like youíre having a lot of fun at some of these new concerts.

Yeah. It really seems to be kind of jelling now and the Hellís Blues Club gig was a real kind of tester in a way because we didn't actually rehearse for that one. We were all sort of wondering exactly what was going to happen when we got out on stage, because we hadnít played for a few weeks. And as usual, Gary only decides about five minutes before we go on what weíre going to play, and even then he changes his mind half way through, so there were a few tense moments there, but it actually all came together really nicely. So, I think we may be on to something with this line-up.

Great, well we hope to hear new material from you. And would be very excited if that happens.

Part Five (mp3) ... getting a Hammond, getting married, America ... 


Now I have several of your solo albums. I have five of your solo albums. Do you think youíll be doing any more solo work in the future?

Ha ... Well, Iím sort of on the horns of a dilemma at the moment I canít really make my mind up. Iím thinking at the moment. Iíve been wondering for some time about getting a Hammond. I havenít had a Hammond of my own, not since ooh about 1968 ... to have to practise on anymore. And, I was seriously thinking about maybe getting myself one and spending a bit of time playing it and thinking up some ideas. There are so many kinds of ... unknowns in my life at the moment, in terms of what Iím actually going to be doing, even where am I going to be living. Because I mean Iím planning on getting married ... well certainly within the next year.

Well, congratulations.

To an American lady. And we havenít really decided yet where weíre going to live. Whether weíre going to live in America or whether weíre going to live in England; and I suspect weíll probably be moving around a bit.

Where does she live in America?

In New Jersey. Itís that kind of part of the country, you know the sort of ... what they call the Tri-State area. In fact, she hasnít really seen much else of America ... Iíve seen more of America than she has. Sheís just been stuck in that little bit of it all her life. But I did actually drag her out to San Francisco a couple of years ago. You know, saying, youíve never been to the west coast; well weíve got to go to San Francisco. She loved it there.

It is wonderful out here. Iím a transplant. I used to live on the East Coast of the United States and have lived out here for years.

The sad thing I find with Americans is that I feel Americans really take America for granted. I mean, I feel that theyíre living in this huge, fantastic country and if it was me Iíd just want to travel around and see all of it, and they just seem to stay, 'Oh, I like my little bit.' They just stay there all their lives. And I just think itís insane.

I understand that you went back to school not too long ago to get a degree in computers and are a computer programmer. So how do you spend your time?

It was about ten years, actually. Time marches on. I graduated in 1995, which is six years ago. What were you saying ?

So how do you spend your time now in terms of music versus other things? Are you still doing computer programming?

Well I am. But I never really ... really gone in to it 100%. I mean, I did actually have a job for about two years, during which time Procol didnít seem to do any work, really. And I must admit, I did thoroughly enjoy it, but that all came to an end about a year or so ago. And since then, Iíve just been doing odd things for odd people, you know. But I havenít actually had a full time computer job and I keep wondering if I ought to go back to that; but then if I did it would make life a bit difficult for doing Procol stuff and it would mean that I would have to sort of forget about doing any more musical stuff. Again, itís this Ė you know, my lifeís a bit of a mess at the moment. I really have got to make some decisions and start planning things properly to try and fit in all the things I really want to do and decide what is Ė you know Ė a priority.

Part Six (mp3) ... computers and music

There is also this intersection between computers and music and I think that the Internet has played such a huge role in changing things. And I think the Internet has been very important also in terms of uniting all the Procol Harum fans out there around the world.

Yeah, the funny thing is, although in a way it was the music that got me into computers, when I sort of switched to studying computers, I kind of lost interest in the stuff like MIDI and sequencing and all that kind of stuff. I havenít done anything like that for ages. And in a way, I think the reason I did this was because I felt I was getting too into the sort of technical side of it. And, for me, that is a bit dangerous with music, because you can end up just getting far too into the technical side: I would spend hours just editing away at a sort of high-hat part or something. Adjusting velocities of individual beats and timings and just getting really silly on it. Whereas, I find when youíre doing what I would call mainstream computer work, youíre dealing with databases, whatever, interactive programmes for clients to use, thereís not that same danger. You know what it has to do. You know when youíve done it. You know when itís finished. And you can say, Right, thatís it, itís done. But with music as I said, there is this danger for me that I can get far too into the technical side and completely lose sight of the musical side. And I think thatís why Iíve tried to steer away from it. Why I prefer when I do music, I mean, like going out with Procol; all I play is Hammond; I donít even have a synth any more. Itís all very old fashioned analogue stuff and I try and keep the computer and music in two separate boxes. But I agree with what youíre saying about the Internet. I think the Internet is fantastic as far as what itís done for music and especially for what itís done to weaken the power of the major record companies. And I say more power to its elbow as far as thatís concerned.

Well Matthew, Iíd like to just thank you again for agreeing to come on the show today. Your music has meant so much to us. I mean, you really have created this wonderful, original sound that has been so special to all Procol Harum fans. And ... very excited about some of the discussion weíve had earlier, as I mentioned, about the possibility of a new album. We certainly hope we hear new material from Procol Harum and maybe some releases of some of the older gems as well. And we wish you all the best in the future.

Oh, well, thanks very much.

Thanks, Bob!

More about UCLAradio broadcast Marathons

More about the second UCLA radio marathon

The first part of this interview


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