Windswept

niki gregory & sakaash

storyville

The players - their journey & interviews

Manchester

Jayne - Rhythmn master

Cottage

Gareth - fret board wizzard

Alvin

Alvin - saxman

I got my first guitar, an electric plus amp when I was 14 yrs old and I was a real dedicated rock devotee! The energy and intensity of the rock concert atmosphere blew me away - I wanted to do that! I wanted to be one of those guys on stage, taken out of the norm and rocketed into some incredibly energized state.

 

There were no guitar lessons, just a self taught improvised journey. One of my first bands with some friends was called The John Merrick Experience. For about 9 years I got tunnel vision for rock, like it was my religion. We even got a record deal with an underground heavy metal label but then it all fell apart - half way through the album the kit was stolen and with the usual symptoms and hazards of the ego, the dream was over. This left me pretty down and adrift.

 

Now I see what happened as a real blessing in disguise, it released me to explore more diverse music, becoming immersed in other cultural sounds. And I got a sense of community by doing the Prince’s Trust, which is when I realized I could make a positive contribution to the world. As my interest in other cultural music grew, so did my exposure to Buddhism, Hinduism and Shamanism, the latter which felt like a sense of home. The Shaman utilized drama, music, dance and ritual for the purpose of healing to benefit people and the world. This is when I realized the power of creativity to make a difference, that this is what music really meant to me. Those old days of rock seemed a long time ago now. It was around this time that I met Jayne, Niki and Alvin and we started jamming.

 

After going to the Birmingham Conservatoire to develop my musical knowledge, I went on to do an MA in music exploring Shamanism. Through this course I met master drummers from Africa; Tibetan monks; expert sitar players and for a short time was privileged to receive sitar lessons with a master teacher. My primary instrument has been the acoustic guitar on which I’ve come to enjoy an eclectic range of styles from ragas to reggae.

 

I left Birmingham and went up to Scotland to help out in a therapeutic community and from hereon my work and life has continued to fuse creativity, music and healing. I now work as a counsellor for Mind, helping kids and young people discover their voice through the wonders of music. Oh, and I re-discovered that old part of me that still, in some corner of myself, had never quite let go of those rock days!

 

Through these years my path has always interwoven with Niki in friendship and musicianship. I remember riding the waves of transition when Bob Lamb signed her for management. We had some fun times, but what we shared really took on its truer meaning after those days. It’s been quite an organic, flexible arrangement, playing with Niki when I can, contributing to most gigs and really enjoying things on a production level. I love the creative process, the production of music, how it comes together and the many possibilities. I often compose my own music and lyrics.

 

What motivates you to play?

 

“To play together in whatever tongue or ritual is the most tender union of hope and sympathy that we can contract in this life”.  

 

I think that’s the current aspiration now isn’t it? That shared space of both creativity and receptivity is at its best a prayer; a sending out, a wishing out of wellness.

 

What does playing mean to you?

 

It used to be so important, as if the playing of music was ‘it’. But now the ‘it’ is much bigger and the playing is just an expression of ‘It’. The tinnitus from my rock days threw a spanner in the works and was actually a mixed blessing. I used to let rip and let go into it, but the tinnitus put a halt to that. I began to wake up and realize there’s so much more beautiful sound in the world that I don’t want to miss, the bird song, wind in the trees, peoples’ voices. I was missing it before but now I was tuning into those more refined and subtle sounds. Now I realize how precious my hearing is and how much more there is to appreciate.

 

What does it mean to share your music with the world?

 

If I’m honest, our friendship means a lot to me and I’d say that’s much more important than the music. But I really appreciate the music is a big part of the pathway we’ve travelled. It’s a real pleasure to tell people I’m meeting up with my friend Niki and that we not only share such a great space together as friends but also that this music has been so intrinsically woven into our journey.

 

Also, there’s something really cool about when we play in spaces dedicated to world peace and healing, the music is so conducive. It’s great to contribute through our art to an atmosphere of transformation. I’d like to see more places and events like that in the world, perhaps in every town. Then we could really do the tour we want to!

 

What do you feel when you are creating this music?

 

At my best when I’m free of anxieties, it feels like a prayer. There is something almost blissful about being immersed in a creative process that’s about something deep inside yourself and then being able to share it.

 

What do you like about playing Niki’s compositions and style?

 

Say the song ‘Lord’, it’s about honouring, connecting with, and appreciating God. Whatever that might mean to someone - that Something Greater Than, something about Grace, Healing, the Divine – to tap into that connection inside and share that, can be really blissful. It’s a true blessing.

 

Niki’s music draws on most of my guitar skills and music production skills enabling me to use pure acoustic, from the simple to electronic effects, crossing cultural divides. I have a lot of respect for the other musicians and their skills. Alvin’s fantastic, I have massive respect for his versatility. And in Jayne there is a very solid player, the quality that she brings is warm. It’s more about her presence than a set of skills.

 

How do you feel about having been a part of this musical family for so long?

 

I’m really grateful for the friendships and the sense of connection. As much as I love the music, where I sit now it that this is much more about the people involved. Niki’s written some really good songs, the messages have been really positive. It’s good that they go out there into the world. If I’m honest, once upon a time it was a lot more about the music, but now the music feels secondary. It kind of sits on top of our friendship - we share in silence as much as we share the music.

 

Where would you like the music to go?

 

To the temples, the gurdwara, the meditation halls and quiet places; Quaker meeting houses; and I’d like to stream some stuff live through the internet. I’d also be interested in doing further recordings. Get on the radio and well, I’m open.

 

What do you think has kept this musical family going?

 

I think it’s down to some mysterious organizing process that some people might call the Divine!

 

Sketch of my experiences:

 

Various rock bands from aged 14 to 23 years old.

Session work between around 23 and 30 years old with various genres such as bangra bands and West African pop and traditional groups.

From around 30 years old I played in folk bands in Scotland as a percussionist.

Had the pleasure of working with Jon Cotton, Artisan Studios, my contributions having been used in sound tracks around the world for documentaries etc..

My work has evolved more into the caring profession as a counselor in the voluntary sector and currently with Mind. I’m hoping one day to transition into private practice and continue the music with Niki.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first day in senior school I walked into a music lesson and there was this cupboard wide open and I was like "Wow! all those instruments!", then the teacher gave everyone a blower. It was a boy’s only class and I was the one who blew the loudest best note on a cornet! From then on I was hooked. I was real lucky cuz I went on to have a lesson every week. A few months afterwards I joined the school brass band and became first cornet!

 

When I received music homework I found it fascinating. I’d try to pick up stuff from records that my brother brought home who was a DJ. They were mainly reggae and soul – Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye etc.. I’d sift through his collection and find the trumpet bits and start copying. Not bad for 12 years old eh! My parents were really tolerant! They never said ‘stop that racket!” They just listened and encouraged me.  When I got to college I joined a band called ‘Arizon’ and the group persuaded me to try the saxophone. I was 18 years old and thanks to Mum’s support I got one and never looked back. We did some amazing gigs – my first gig was at Handsworth Festival and we had great reviews. We’re still friends now.

 

Shortly after the band split I began working for the Probation Cultural Centre teaching saxophone to guys who were on day-release from prison. Quite a challenging experience to keep their attention for a whole day! But this wet my appetite for one-to-one tutoring later on in life. I also found a passion for playing the flute.

 

As time went on I guess I started to get a reputation and picked up work with different people and genres from Asian Bhangra, Calypso, Reggae, soul and dance bands (with mature folks doing  the Foxtrot and Rumba!) We covered the country playing in all kinds of venues from social clubs to retro places to hotels and festivals like Glastonbury and Womad.  Had the pleasure of sessioning for artists like Edwin Star, Jackie Graham, Nigel Kennedy, Caleb Clarke and many more and under management got to number 3 in the contemporary jazz charts in California. That was an experience! After signing a deal with FM records, we achieved a 9 track album in one month. It was then released in America followed by a tour - it was a real whirlwind experience!

 

In 1993 I was asked to add some saxophone to a Radio 5 live gig of Gillie Nicholls and this is where I met Niki, whom I‘ve been playing with as and when we can ever since.  Generally I consider myself to have been real fortunate to have made a comfortable living out of doing what I love and within a variety of contexts, doing session work for some great artists and creating and recording material of my own, having now achieved 5 albums. I really love the recording process, the production and mixing etc... on my own stuff of course, but also on others, especially Niki's albums.

 

What motivates you to play?

 

Oh man, just the sound of the instrument. It’s something that you have to hear. If I don’t hear that sound for a while I get withdrawal symptoms. But because I’m doing it for a job, to just pick up the instrument and play can kinda take bit more motivation.  I love it more when it’s just about pleasure and not pressure.

 

What does playing mean to you?

 

It’s everything to me. It’s my everything. If I couldn’t play anymore I’m not sure what type of person I’d be. Would I be a happy person?  You get different vibes from different people when you play with them.

 

To be able to relate through music, without other restrictions of life like language, you can have some amazing connections that transcend other stuff. I think music is so important to us as human beings, especially now.

 

What does it mean to share your music with the world?

 

That’s really special, that somebody, that people get off on what you’re doing – there’s so much pleasure I take from that. I think that’s what’s kept me going with it all. Giving people pleasure and having pleasure yourself. Seeing the smile on peoples’ faces.

 

What do you feel when you are creating this music?

 

Work with Niki has been quite an interesting journey. She’s dug into my soul because she challenges me and gets some of the best performances out of me. When I listen to the album there’s some phenomenal moments in there.

 

What do you like about playing Niki’s compositions and style?

 

I think Niki’s style is quite compatible with my style. I’ve always liked hearing the saxophone without all the production behind it, very free. I enjoy playing on this eloquent music and Niki’s mellow voice goes well with the sax and my style of play, it’s a special combination.  We always come out with something fantastic. And I’ve been able to explore all my instruments on Niki’s material including Indian and normal flute, trumpet –open and with mute, alto and soprano sax and use my vocals.

 

How do you feel about being part of this musical family for so long?

 

That’s exactly what it is, it’s a family. You rarely turn your back on your family. You know whatever happens we’ll always get together and jam some great stuff. It’s really nice to know we’re all there. I wish we could do it more.

 

Where would you like the music to go?

 

Big! That’s where I’d like it to go. Man, the world is the oyster. It hasn’t heard what we do yet. It’s exiting to know this music could go all around, exotic locations, peoples’ front rooms and ipods! I’d like it to be discovered.

 

What do you think has kept this musical family going?

 

Friendship. The fact that we liked each other and it comes down to respect. When we do play together there’s an automatic connection there, as if we go way back. We’re all on the same kind of wavelength, similar outlooks.

 

Sketch of my experiences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first started my musical journey around age 6 years old after finding my Grandad’s harmonica and experimenting with my Grandma’s knitting needles on different surfaces. Mum & Dad always sang and harmonized to songs like Frank & Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Something Stupid’ and Guy Mitchell’s ‘Sparrow in the Treetop’. The sounds of Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Shirley Bassey were always floating around the house. I was especially inspired by my uncle, who would entertain me by playing out a few rhythms on the door and furniture. My Mum and Dad also did a lot of singing slots at the Red Lion in Kings Heath.  I found great comfort in these songs and experiences, especially during uncertain times.

 

In my 20’s, whilst listening to the likes of Joan Armatrading, Tracey Chapman, Joni Mitchell and a broad range of artists from Bob Marley to Black Sabbath, I decided to try night school and learn guitar. However, soon enough I realized there was a real urge towards skin to skin, the kind of urge a percussionist would understand.

 

For a few years I endured office work and whilst at a builders merchants I suddenly felt inspired to go out on my lunch break and buy a pair of bongos and a book on Latin rhythms! From thereon a passionate relationship began and the opportunities started flooding in.  I began playing live, doing session and studio work and teaching music as a youth worker, private tutor and head of music dept at Worcester College, where I delivered contemporary popular music and instrumental music courses.

 

Over the last 20 years I have accumulated a diversity of percussion instruments, never shy to reach out, experiment and enjoy. I am ever hopeful that I will become a proud owner of the Hang Drum (Sound sculpture).

 

What motivates you to play?

 

What motivates me is a feeling of contentment. It feels like it’s the right thing to do. I feel fulfilled and happy when I play. And it’s even better if you’re sharing that experience with someone else.

 

What does playing mean to you?

 

It means getting together with friends. I find it a positive release of energy and valuable expression of my spirit. Especially as my day-time work involves very challenging behaviour - working with 8/9 year old children with Autism and Aspergers. I find I can give more back to them when I’ve re-charged my soul with something I love, like this music.

 

What does it mean to share your music with the world?

 

I guess people will get whatever they get from it, and I have to admit it feels nice to know people like what you do.  When people tell me what we do touches them, I sometimes can’t believe it has touched them on such a special level. If they feel anything close to what we feel when creating it, or love the sounds or lyrics, and are moved deeply, well that’s just really lovely.

 

What do you feel when you are creating the music?

 

I feel excitement; togetherness; sharing; love.

 

What do you like about playing Niki’s compositions and style?

 

I’m convinced that they’re heartfelt. They send out a nice message. With the content I can see what Niki’s trying to do with her message and lyrics and I’m just trying to add my interpretation with my percussion and rhythm. I resonate on a deep level with the core values and beliefs.

 

How do you feel about being part of this musical family for so long?

 

I feel honoured to be part of this. I like that we’re playing in more peaceful settings, at decent times and more for mindful reasons. I think my late night, rock n’ roll, smoky room days are well over. I want to get a hang drum so we can really produce the ambient meditative sounds and take things to another level. It’s nice to have developed friendships through this, staying in touch all this time and doing other things aside of the music together, like going away, walking in nature and just hanging out.

 

Where would you like the music to go?

 

I’d like it to be more about offering people time out from their busy worlds, inspiring them to relax and find a more meditative state, where there’s nothing to fear. To benefit them, slowing their breathing down by relaxing them into the day. So I’ve gone from rock and drinking a pint down in one to where I am now, wanting people to feel peaceful, secure and relaxed - that would mean my music had reached its penultimate meaning for me. Especially in this uneasy mad world we’re in.

 

What do you think has kept this musical family going?

 

I think it’s the journey of where the music’s going too. We’re on the same wavelength together with wanting to do relaxing material and inspiring lyrics. And it could be an inner belief that something else can come from the music, that there was always something special. In essence, I think there’s been a collective belief amongst the band in terms of peaceful intentions. There’s a kindred spirit and like-mindedness, which has naturally bound us over the years; an inner depth that there’s something more.

 

Sketch of my experiences:

 

Done various community projects working with isolated and vulnerable people at places such as Sound- It-Out at the Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham, and Walsall and Worcester council with disability and down syndrome folks.

 

Played all over the country, including at Ronnie Scotts, the Cambridge Festival, Moseley Festival, Shambala Festival, various art centres around the country. Full Moon Festival in Holland.

 

1998/9  played with Sum People and we supported the acid jazz band Incognito

2000       supported and played with Jo Hamilton at Ronnie Scotts

2001/2  supported American singer/song writer Jason Mraz at the Little Civic, Wolverhampton.

2003      supported Nizlopi & FDM records at the Glee Club, Birmingham & various festivals.

 

Played with soul, broken beat artist Colonel Red and contributed to 2 albums, Blue Eyed Black & Sweet Liberation.  Did European tour.

 

Worked as session player for many artists over the years but a constant has always been this project with Niki, Alvin and Gareth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John - Bassman, shape-shifter

Special thanks to Simon Smith (aka Smudge) & Tom Hill for inspired double bass on the album.

To my friend Bill Gale for lugging his double bass to our gigs! Also to Pete Hartley for his amazing string contribution. How does he do that!?

And where ever you both are, sincere thanks to Gwen Harris & Gerry Power for milk n' honey backing vocals on the album.

thousand days (sample)

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Believe You Can!

Then there were the influences of my childhood in late 60's, early 70's Chicago from Barbara Streisand, Burt Bacharach, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole to all the crooners & the musicals that saved me. This then expanding through the years to classical, ethnic, a love of anything quality. I didn't care about the genre.

 

I dreamed of having an extraordinary double bass player, sax player, versatile lead guitarist and percussionist, but I never imagined this would happen. From those late 70's and throughout the 80's I struggled with my confidence. Feeling intimidated by the charisma of others I played in the shadows leaving the real gigs and limelight to others.

 

Little did I know that within a decade, with only 6 songs under my belt, one by one I'd meet each of those genius musicians. And not only would they be my musical companions, but 20 years later we would still remain true friends, a family continuing to play, growing together, enriching and maturing like a good wine.

 

In 1993 I met Gareth Williams and Jayne Dixon through a partner. Playing percussion on a cardboard box, Jayne jammed to one of my rusty songs. Next, at another party, Gareth picked up his faithful guitar and ran his fingers along his fret board like he'd known my material forever.

 

Then in 1994, having been invited by my mentor, Gillie Nicholls, to watch her play on a live radio 5 broadcast at the BBC studios, I met the saxophonist she had hired. He was the real deal. As we sat out in the green room a guitar was passed around and my partner announced I could play. Shy, nervous as hell and reticent, I gave a sideways "thanks", and then played one of my 6 songs. Alvin Davis later approached me as we were leaving and slipped a piece of paper into my hand. Not a date, but an invitation to get together and make music. I was amazed and humbled.

 

I guess you could say the law of attraction was at play here. Not once had I pinned an advertisement to a board, nor yearned or considered looking for such musicians, mainly because I never had the ccourage to believe it could happen. But quietly, somewhere inside my heart I had left a door open, and at the right time they each walked on through.

 

Some folks hold the ancient belief that we have lived many times, well I'm one of them. And for sure it was like we were all meeting again to continue unfinished art. Because Jayne, Gareth, Alvin and myself were all singing from the same hymn sheet, on a similar wavelength and sharing similiar human values, it was effortless. I told them what I envisaged on a track, they fulfilled that vision and enhanced it with their own unique texture and interpretation. It never failed to work. And best of all, there was little to no disharmony, just a lot of gratitude, respect and love for what we did together.

 

After the birth of a few more self-penned songs, and a few support gigs thanks to my mentor Gillie Nicholls (who had nudged me along like a mother swan - she being a beautiful singer, song-writer herself), I allocated some pocket money and we threw some recordings together at Artisan Studios. At that time Jon Cotton just had a humble set up at his home on Oxford Road, Moseley but since then he’s done work with films, documentaries and the BBC amongst many more (please see the Artisan link on links page).

 

Well, the magic continues, because there was no trying to attract the interest of record companies and ‘somebodys’ in the industry, guess I still didn’t believe and didn’t want that rejection feeling. My life had been full of it growing up. But one day Jayne and I just popped into the Breedon bar (now a block of flats) and handed over our tape of 6 songs to Sue, the venue organizer, just to see if we could stir some interest. Before we left, we indulged in a pint of cider, then our faces light up and our hands smacked our mouths as the music came out across the pub floor. We weren’t expecting that! Neither was I expecting a call a few weeks later from a guy who received countless tapes and requests from hopeful musicians.

 

Bob Lamb was the celeb music icon of Birmingham. Drummer with Steve Gibbons for many years, having supported greats such as Fleetwood Mac and The Who, he had then produced UB40’s debut Signing Off album which launched him to new heights of reputation and wealth. Bob could walk into any record label on first name terms. He invited me in, said he wanted to manage me, loved my troupe of musicians and though we had a mildly rocky transition from being free-spirits to having a ‘boss’, in the end we all gelled and enjoyed a wild 18 month rock n’ roll adventure!

 

The mid 90’s was a strange time for the singer/song writer. The likes of Tracey Chapman, Joan Armatrading and Suzanna Vega weren’t hitting the charts. These artists were being phased out by new girl and boy bands like The Spice Girls; by electronic music and one-offs like Bjork and Prince, and then there was the advent of the greatest hits. The industry was beginning to struggle and change. We came too late and too soon. But we got some great exposure to top dogs in the industry and great feedback. There was no failure, no rejection, it was all good.  My vocals were educated, disciplined by Bob’s intense ear. Based on our recordings with Bob we showcased to Muff Winwood, the brother of Steve Winwood, who at the time was managing Sony Records. He drove up from London, took time out with us at Rich Bitch Studios for 2 hours and left us with some gems. He put it all in perspective. We were the best quality act he’d seen in 2 years but with the climate in the industry he just didn’t know how to market us. A few years back we would’ve found our place but now, unless I was prepared to sell sex, or throw myself around the stage and create some new out-there rage, the days of singer/song writer stuff was waning. Keep going he said; people need to hear you.

 

Time and time again we got good feed-back. And we knew it wasn’t a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ It was all a blessing, valuable guidance, enriching and we got experience we’d never have had otherwise. In the end we didn’t get signed and I for one am relieved. Because out of that intense 18 month journey came our best work yet - the Mindscapes album comprising 13 of about 20 songs, all conceived by yours truly but for one great song by Jayne and Gareth. Produced and mixed by Alvin, Gareth, myself and Jon Cotton whom we returned to, now in a new cushy digital wonderland of a studio.

 

To be continued....

 

 

 

Sitting on the edge of my bed, huddled over my guitar, exploring the tricky limitations of my voice wasn't the most melodic or romantic start, but with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Carol King, John Martyn & Todd Rungren as my inspiration, the bar was set high.

Up & Coming Happenings

 

Rehearsals underway

for concert in 2017

The sound of two

rich acoustic guitars

and vocals

 

History of Events

 

1993-95   Under Management: Bob Lamb

               'Sensual Divide project/  

               recordings/songs

1994        Showcase for Muff Winwood,

               Sony Records

               Supported Steve Gibbons

               band,

               Bowie Tribute Band,

               Gillie Nicholls plus more

1994        Mentorn TV appearance C4

2000        First album - 'Being Here'

2006        Second album - 'Mindscapes'

1993 -13  Played at Art Centres,

               festivals,

               venues & auditoriums

               countrywide incl Ronnie

               Scotts,

               Mean Fiddler - London, Gay

               Pride, Moseley Folk Festival,

               Mind Body Spirit Festivals.

 

               In recent years played at more

               meditative gigs - multi-faith,

               humanitarian, ecological &

               environmentally supportive

               (non-political!) awareness

               raising events...

 

 2014        'Our Big Gig' Shrewsbury Oct 13

                 Flaxmill event

 2014         Hall Green Festival Oct 13

                 'WeAreB28' mini concert

 2014         Actionaid & Celebratiion 30 yrs of

                 RichBitch Studios, South B'ham

                 College variety music Sun Dec

                 9th 2013

2015          Mini concert January Friends

                 Meeting House. Farewell to  

                 percussionist Jayne emigrating to  

                 Ozzyville.

2016          In studio & prepping for nxt yr

 

 

 

 

World tours with innovative band 'Laika', supporting the great

PJ Harvey. A very experienced, seasoned, out-of-the-box player who bows to no rules. Also a bloody lovely soul!