ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW

Caravan

With: Pye Hastings

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ALBUM REVIEW HERE

Serge Marcoux - November 2021

Profilprog (PP): Hello Pye and thank you so much for giving us time to answer our questions. I must confess that I am incredibly pleased to do this interview. Caravan has been truly a musical companion of mine for almost fifty years since that early fall show in Montreal in 1974.

PYES HASTINGS (PH):
Hi Serge,
Good to hear from you.

PP: In 1968, Caravan was created and after some hiatuses, here and there, are still highly active, among other things with the new album « It’s none of your business ». What are some tools for such a longevity?

PH: Stubbornness for sure, and a deep-rooted feeling that there is so much more that we haven't discovered yet about where the music is taking us.
Someone once said that Caravan will never go out of fashion because they have never been in fashion.
There has to be a certain amount of truth in that.
How many bands have had a sudden flush of success, which has hastened the inevitable departure of members of the band to seek their fortunes elsewhere, only to find that it is all over before they have realised it?
We have kept going, and always will, because we love playing music and have learned how to embrace the numerous challenges that have come our way.
Besides what else would we do?

PP: Was that recording caused somehow by the pandemic situation or was it planned anyway?

PH: The recording came about because of my request to Snapper Records, who were compiling our "Who Do You Think We Are" Boxset that has just been released.
I wondered if they might be interested in a new Caravan album.
The previous 2 albums we had been done by crowdfunding where all the promotion and distribution were done by myself and my wife, and I wanted to change things around.
Snapper had assembled a talented and dedicated team who could professionally promote the new project in a manner which we were not personally equipped or experienced.
This was before the Pandemic hit, so while the project was agreed in principle everything was put on hold till we knew where we would be.
This proved to be a bit of a Godsend.
I suddenly had the time to concentrate on finalising a new batch of songs which I had begun writing.
Historically I would finish off the lyrics moments before recording which would pose quite a few problems for the other members of the band.
This time I managed to present them with fully finished lyrics plus arrangements which was a genuine relief all round.

PP: If am not mistaken, it was recorded the old way versus files sending on the Internet? Can you tell us about the process and the experience this time?

PH: I have previous experience of recording remotely with the other players being in different corners of the country and sometimes in different countries, but I remember quite clearly how much I enjoyed the old-fashioned way of recording in a circle and wanted to re visit this method.
When you all sit round in a circle, albeit with dividing screens between us, there is the opportunity to directly feed off each other and so influence the outcome.
This is how it always was, and I think it produces a much better result.
I was recommended Rimshot Studio near Sittingbourne, which had a beautiful old Barn style Live room which was just perfect for what we needed.
My son Julian engineered and produced the album and was assisted by Mike Thorne, the studio owner.
It was recorded onto a hard drive and transferred to Logic for mixing, so a great combination of old-style recording plus the freedom of modern computer technology was achieved.

PP: How was the chemistry between you guys during the rehearsing and recording?

PH: The rehearsals proved to be somewhat problematic.
Mark Walker, the drummer, had recently lost his wife to cancer and was justifiably hyper.
Jim Leverton, the bass player, was not getting on with Mark and eventually on day one of recording he quit the band to pursue his true love which is R&B Music.
A new challenge had unwontedly presented itself, so we pressed on and recorded the entire backing tracks without a bass player on the understanding that we could overdub a suitable replacement at a later date.
This had to be done because we were under contract to Snapper records to produce a new album within a certain time frame and budget.
Mark brought in his good friend Lee Pomeroy and the circle was once again complete, much to everyone's relief.

PP: How do you react to have those new songs somehow judged mainly by the prism of the past by some progressive music lovers?

PH: Past experience dictates that the fans will take a while to warm to new material and they will often say how much they prefer the old songs.
However, in time the new songs inevitably become old ones and will undoubtedly become favourites to some, so I don't worry about it too much anymore.

PP: I really like the title of the album and the title song. If only “by name,” it suits well Caravan’s catalogue. Of course, it is more than that, please tell us about that choice of name and about that song?

PH: I always write melodies first and have to make lyrics fit the tune.
It can be tricky getting words to fit, particularly as I consider myself not to be a lyricist of any merit.
The words, It's None of Your Business, came off the top of my head and fitted the melody of the chorus, so the rest of the story stems from that point.

PP: There are interesting contrasts on the album. For example, I am thinking about « Wishing you where here » being quite a rock song for the band and soothing songs like « There is you » and « Luna’s tuna » that are closing the record. Is here some planning of that kind or other when composing for a new album?

PH: No not really.
I can't remember the exact order we recorded the songs in but I compiled the eventual running order to run as a selection of songs that would hopefully flow and lead one into the other making an album worth listening to.

PP: This is quite a diversified set of songs you are offering us! A few longer songs with more obvious progressive leanings. Somme with memorable hooks « Ready or not» « If I was to fly », a tender one « There is you », an instrumental one « Luna’s tuna », etc. How was your writing process for the album? What influenced you the most?

PH: Well, "There is You" is clearly a love song and
"Spare a Thought" is my nod to the health service people who have unselfishly put themselves in the firing line and bravely taken on the task of dealing with a virus that nobody knew anything about… and succeeded .
We admire them and thank them unreservedly for what they are continuing to do for us.
"Ready or Not" is my take on the childhood game of "Hide and Seek"
"If I was to Fly" is a lighthearted song that was included to bring about a little sense of fun and relief amidst all the serious problems that are affecting bus all.
"Luna's Tuna" was a spontaneous improvised tune written by Geoffrey at the end of the recording session and rounds off the album nicely and calmly.

PP: In October, Caravan toured in the UK before it was interrupted by Covid-19 cases in the crew if am not mistaken. Is everyone OK now?

PH: All of the band, despite us taking every precaution, caught the virus. We all travelled in a tour bus so if any one person got it, infection was only going to be a matter of time before we all caught it.
We had just completed 11 of the 14 tour dates so sadly had to cancel the final 3.
We are all out of Isolation now and feeling fine.
The 3 dates have been rescheduled to resume in March 2022 along with 3 others so we are looking forward to getting out there again.

PP: How was the feeling of you guys playing live again and the communication with the crowd?

PH: Playing live is like the Life Blood of the band, and I suppose any band.
When it all goes right and you communicate with the audience there is a point when the performance moves up a gear and there is no better feeling in the world, well apart from one or two.

PP: Do you have more plans for individual shows or even touring soon? And should Lee Pomeroy who recorded and toured with the band be considered as a new member or a guess at this time?

PH: Yes, we continue as stated above back on the road in the UK in March, plus we are doing a festival in Oslo in May, and we have just received a request to return to Japan in September for a couple of gigs there.
Lee is on board for all this and will be welcome to play with Caravan any time when he is not touring with ELO or Rick Wakeman.
There is talk about some gigs in South America but with the present situation, who knows?
Let’s wait and see how many of us are still standing at the end of all this.

PP: Among other Caravan activities, there is that incredible 35 CD-DVD-Blu-ray box set called « Who do you think we are » released last August. Are you pleased with it?

PH: Yes, I am very pleased with the final product.
When I was approached by Snapper records about 4 years ago to do the Boxset, I was sceptical, but having seen some of the others projects they have produced, I was fully behind the project.
The fact that it has nearly sold out in such a short period of time is a statement that the guys behind it have done a remarkable job.
Their eye for detail and dedication to producing true quality is a tribute to their professionalism and they have definitely done us proud.

PP: Where you involved somehow or somewhere in the process?

PH: Only in the design of the sleeve and the compilation of the booklet and memorabilia.
The choice of all the music included was entirely up to the guys at Snapper Music

PP: It would have been a good place for a new song or an unreleased song from somewhere in the history of the group. Was that considered or thought of?

PH: There are some unreleased recordings in the boxset although I believe they are Live recordings rather than studio tracks.

PP: Eleven unreleased live performances are included in the box set. Are they coming from quite different periods and sources?

PH: I believe they were sourced via fans and collectors and cover quite a variable time frame and versions of the band.
So, something for everyone. perhaps.

PP: A Blu-ray includes a Steven Wilson 5.1 surround mix of the classic « In the land of grey and pink ». It is the version done in 2011 for the 40th anniversary of the album?

PH: I believe so, but Steven was very disappointed with the original version, which I understand had been overly compressed and lost a lot of the magic that he hoped to bring out.
He had complete control over this version which is undoubtedly superior.

PP: Originally, who’s idea was it to do that mix and are you happy with the result?

PH: The original mix was done at the request of Universal Records who own the master tapes of the Grey & Pink album.
This was facilitated by Mark Powell who initially asked me to be involved but after saying I would love to be involved, I never heard another word till it was released.

PP: How do you feel to have such a “cult” or “classic” album under your belt? Does it bother you sometime to have it brought back on various occasions?

PH: For an album to achieve "Classic" or "Cult" status is without doubt a notable achievement and I am very happy to be associated with it.
It has given us the opportunity to play these tracks to different generations and the fact that it is still selling and going down well is a marker that surely, we have done something right.

PP: So many things have been written and said about a “Canterbury scene” at the beginning of the seventies. But for young musicians living it, was there a conscience of it or did it emerge as a creation of music journalists?

PH: We are lucky to have formed when there was a genuine interest in new approaches to music.
This gave us the platform to experiment with our music.
Of course, we didn't know what we were doing half the time, but Canterbury was a city with numerous venues/pubs where up and coming bands could show off their wares.
Then over night someone passed a law that any venue with any more than 2 musicians at a time had to pay a tax which stamped out a number of the live venues/pubs.
This coincided with the invention of digital recording and semi professional backing tracks were to become the norm, which put a dagger into the heart of many bands.
We had got through just in time and the Canterbury Sound was coined by a journalist who wanted to describe the music that was being played by bands like the Soft Machine and ourselves.

PP: In retrospective, would you say it is accurate to use such a notion and definition?

PH: I am happy to just be here and still playing and I don't mind what definition is attributed to our music provided it is not slanderous, or worse.

PP: What does the future hold for Caravan?

PH: We are continuing to tour wherever we are invited and wherever restrictions allow.
As I said above there are more UK gigs in March plus various festivals in Europe and the far East throughout the coming year so hopefully, we will be able to see you all personally before our luck runs out.

PP: PYE, thank you so much for more than half a century of beautiful and relevant music. May I ask you to close the interview the way you like?

PH: A special thanks to all our dedicated fans who have supported us throughout the 40 odd years that we have been playing.
Stay with us and let’s go round again, one more time.