Author Topic: TV TUTS INTERVIEW: Erik Russell Jumping Mountains on Earth 2 by Tj & Klaus  (Read 10936 times)

Offline Tj

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Klaus produced a huge microphone that looked like an ice cream cornet from his tardis-like small black box. A box that Klaus had previously perched on his knee whilst on the under-ground. It was like a scene from Mission Impossible where the evil villain conceals his beautiful bomb prior to doing his dirty deed. Throughout the adventure Klaus held on tight to the microphone, behind him a cat sunbathed on a fluorescent photographers light... 

It was the day after the TUTS first ever gathering at the TV Smith and Erik Russell gig at The Verge in London and the day before EARTHBOUND 1 (the TV Smith and Tim Cross gig at Glastonwick 7, in Southwick).

Our great adventure was to interview Erik Russell, ex lead guitarist and ex Explorer. Erik was a key player in TV Smithís post Adverts band. He joined the Explorers, through his association with Tim Cross and in turn introduced Mel Wesson to the band.

The interview took place on 31st May, 2002 in the window seat in Erikís London photography studio...


Jumping Mountains on Earth 2

Part 1

Tj: The gig last night, great gig, I really enjoyed it! What did you think Erik?

Erik: I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was a pleasure to be back on stage and a pleasure to be playing with Tim (TV Smith.) As always he is the consummate professional and itís wonderful to be there with somebody who is so precise in everything he does. Itís very easy to play with him as he sets very high standards - the highest!

Tj: Going back to when you kicked off with The Explorers you went through quite a lot of line up changes at first. Tim Cross moving out and Mel Wesson coming in on keyboards and a constant change of drummers.  It must have been quite difficult to keep it going. How was that time?

Erik: At the beginning it was mostly changes in drummers. John Towe was originally the drummer when we started The Explorers. John left in a blaze of, a cross between, glory and animosity. I never really found out why he left, but there was some disagreement between him and management.
It felt like we went through a lot of drummers after that before we eventually settled with Dave Sinclair. I think Tim Cross left quite soon after Dave joined, but it was a long time ago and there are plenty of reasons why it was easy to forget.

Tj: The Explorers had a good run at the Greyhound in London. How did it feel doing those gigs? 

Erik: The Greyhound was amazing, it always was amazing. For some reason we just used to settle down to the place. It was always very strange, because we always seemed to have bands supporting us, who later went on to being really big. Like Wang Chung, Flock Of Seagulls and some bunch of chaps called Dire Straits. Michael Demsey would tell us we were the headline band.
The Greyhound for some reason was always terrific. Itís funny because in that area was also the Nashville and we used to play the Nashville which was just round the corner and Iíll always remember that Dave Sinclair reviewed one of our gigs at the Nashville and gave us this fantastic review. It was one of those reviews that was a technical review, so it went through all the equipment that we had, down to what plectrum I used and what cymbals and drumsticks the drummer used and what strings Stoner had on his bass guitar. It was quite strange because the gist of the interview was to do with the technical side of how we played and what we played, rather than the excitement and enthusiasm we were generating on stage (or thatís how it felt to me.) 

Tj: What was the magic that made that excitement? What was it about that particular band?

Erik: There was something about the way it changed as it developed with Dave Sinclair and Mel Wesson. There was a new element that hadnít been there previously and Iím not in anyway putting down Tim Cross, who I think is a brilliant musician who had produced some wonderful music and I listen to his demoís still to this day. There are some of his songs that I absolutely love. Maybe it just wasnít quite right at the time for The Explorers or maybe he just wasnít quite right within himself. On one hand you are working in a really grotty rehearsal room in Cleek Street and the next minute you are playing with Mike Oldfield in the Commonwealth Institute and the world is at your feet. It must have been quite easy for Tim Cross to make a decision to go to Mike Oldfield permanently, rather than Tim.  I think the magic, when it came, was that we all had the same enthusiasm, we all were motivated completely in the same way and we believed in each other.
Melís Mel, heís a great musician, heís an impossible person to share a room with when you are on tour. Stoner is a lovely man, always having fun. Tim is an intellectual anarchist, heís always got something to say, heís always got a point of view about everything.
Itís strange looking back because the things I remember most are not so much being on stage, but travelling with the band around Europe. Looking at maps to find out where the nearest swimming pool was to the gig we were playing. Tim and I used to just head to the swimming pool before and after the sound checks. It was our way of taking ourselves out and preparing ourselves. From that you could go to the other extreme and be completely energetic and over the top on stage, which, as you know Tim always is, he puts 110% into every performance and it made us do the same.

Tj: The Explorers used to have crossed microphones in the shape of an X. Can you tell me a bit more about that? 

Erik: I will say that that was my idea. It was to do with the X in Explorer. It came about when we were setting up. The microphone stands that the road crew were using were boon microphone stands, which meant that we were having to stand too far back from the front of the stage because we were having to stand back with the boons coming towards us. I just had this idea that if we just had them sideways and crossed over it gave Stoner and me a more interesting arrangement. Stoner always would go to the microphone slightly side on. It felt dynamic, it felt interesting.   

Tj: Richard Strange was recently on Later With Jools Holland. It showed Stoner playing Doctors Of Madness on the Twiggy show  - their only televised showing in the UK.

Erik: I saw that, but I didnít actually pick up that it was the Twiggy show.

Tj: Twiggy and Richard shared the same producer Justine de Villeneuve, thatís how they managed to get on her TV show.

Erik: Stoner was also on TV with The Explorers when he played on the Whistle Tests? In my copy I accidentally recorded over 10 seconds when an ex girlfriend asked me to record something for herÖ
That also happened to The Explorers in Brittania rooms, when we were recording Imagination. The reason that Imagination finished with that echo. Is because the tape operator, a lovely guy called Michael Johnstone, pressed a button to zero in the wrong place and lost the last minute of the track. It made so much difference that lost minute. There are things that just built and built. The riffs that Mel was doing suddenly begin to make sense when he brings them out. It was Imagination! These Gremlins Ė what did we do to deserve this!   

Tj:  What a bummer! You did a tour with The Undertones, where you pretty much outshone the Undertones from what I understand. Do you remember that tour? What really happened?

Erik: I remember that tour better than Fergel Sharkey (laughs).
We did about four gigs. I heard a rumour that we had paid to get on that tour, I donít know if that is true or not. At the time that did happen a lot.
We got on incredibly well with the Undertones band - the band. We just used to have fun with them, I really liked them. I can remember sitting backstage in the De Montford Hall in Sheffield with one of the guitarists playing Bob Dylan songs and really enjoying it and the next thing we knew we were off the tour. I understand that it was that Fergel Sharkey did not like the fact that we were getting a better audience response than they were. At first we thought Ďweí had decided to pull out of the tour. We didnít find out what happened the facts until we read it in the New Musical Express.
Everyone has different memories of these things. When youíre playing and the adrenalin is just so extraordinary - thatís the thing I remember about The Explorers. Every other band I have ever played in Ė yes, you come off stage racing with adrenalin pumping away, but with The Explorers it was like you didnít have any blood left, everything was pure adrenalin.   
Even last night at The Verge I came back here I was tearing my hair out thinking what do I do? So I thought okay the only thing I can do is have a shower. So I had a shower and a cup of tea and a glass of whiskey and I felt really good and I went straight to sleep.
I dreamt about the old days actually. Iím afraid I did, how sad is that?

Tj: You have been talking about a lot of memories Erik, what was your favourite memory of The Explorers?

Erik: Last night!



And what was my favourite memory about last night? Coming off stage, walking through the crowd, you guys patting me on the back and there was a pint of Guinness being held out towards me. Thatís my favourite moment!



Actually my favourite memory of The Explorers is one of those moments that you should not remember. We were playing a gig in Leicester that Michael Demsey had really got us wound up for. Lots of bands used to stop at Watford Gap service station because it did great breakfasts any time of the day. We were getting out the van and Dave Sinclair thought I had got out of another door and he spun round and karate kicked the door closed right on my thumb. So that night I had to play the gig with my plectrum gaffa taped to my fingers and I had a couple of whiskeys and a few aspirins and what ever Michael Demsey gave me to numb the pain and the strange thing is that I remember every chord because each chord each chord sent such incredible pain through me and yet I think we played quite well. I remember making two really bad notes and that actually made me even more upset than the pain. 
What are the best memories? God, Iíve got so many. There was a gig in Germany that turned out to be a small disco that was about half the size of this room and the stage was so small that Tim couldnít stand on it never mind anyone else. There were these delicious girls with interesting skirts, dresses and tops and they were obviously high class teenagers and here we were a UK Punk band playing a scout hut in Germany.

Tj: The Explorers were classed as Punk in Germany?

Erik: Many bands that were classed as Punk here were not really punk, such as The Stranglers, Blondie, Boomtown Rats and The Members. The Sound Of The Suburbs was not punk. Punk was The Clash, The Damned, The Adverts, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Alternative TV. 

Tj: Quite a nice description that I recently read on the intranet was that The Explorers were an amalgam of The Only Ones and Sparks. How do you feel about that comparison?

Erik: It didnít feel like that at the time, it felt like we were breaking new ground. The problem is that the album doesnít really represent us.
Tomahawk Cruise is Close, but funnily enough I was listening to See Europe last night and Iíve always felt that See Europe represented something that we didnít object to in anyway. There were aspects on Tomahawk Cruise that we objected to and I had to live with the review that Johnny War gave us in Sounds that it contained the worst ever guitar solo ever committed to record. Johnny War, god rest his soul, was a lovely man and he did retract it later, especially when Tim told him that he had actually written the solo and that I was just doing what I was told. Tomahawk Crusie should have been crashing wailing feedback Ė just like last night!



Tj: Thatís the first time heís done the Last Words Of The Great Explorer for a long time isnít it?

Erik: Itís the first time heís done it on stage since The Explorers. Itís my favourite Explorers song. I had to do a slide show for someone earlier this year and I used it as backing music.

Tj: TV has started playing The Servant again. He played it at Southwick in January this year.

Erik: We talked about it. Heís playing it in a different key to the one we used to play it in and from a lead guitar point of view itís kind of lost its power. I have always loved The Servant.

Tj: I canít believe it flopped like it did - I thought it was a great song, ďI could jump a mountain now, poke my head above the clouds Ė look around, Iím proud, Iím alive, now Iíve found some purpose,Ē itís just so uplifting.

Erik: The record company had every opportunity with it, but I canít say it was just the record company, it was also the production, because it was slightly pompous.
When The Explorers broke up itís like a relationship itís difficult to kind of come to terms with, just like when you break up with a lover and you look through the photographs or read the letters. With The Explorers I listened incessantly to all the backing tapes, rehearsal tapes and the recordings leading up to the album, because every day at the end of the day in the studio I would get a cassette of what we had recorded that day. It was remarkable to listen to and go back over.
Itís generally accepted, even by Nick Griffiths himself, that he did an engineerís job as a producer, he didnít do a producerís job. I was reminding Tim last night that Nick Griffiths has offered to re-mix the album digitally, for free. Tim is very excited by that and we will report to you and see what comes of it, because he probably has the clout to go to CBS and get the original master set. The idea of that is wonderful to me. I think it will be amazing to hear what the band should have sounded like and what we really did sound like. There are vast bits of Spandau Ballet in the production. Just the fact that it was speeded up.
That was what I was going to say about The Servant. I remember when we were in the studio and we heard the first acetate? of The Servant and I was sitting in the studio thinking why on earth is this out of tune? They had speeded it up 3%, because they thought we werenít playing it fast enough. Some guys in A & R think they know what they should do and personally I donít think things like that should be tampered with. Youíre talking about a performance. You wouldnít ever consider speeding up Maria Callias by 3% because the quality of the voice would change and thatís what it did to TVís voice.
TV was such a brilliant vocalist. I always remember the first time I met TV I was at Tim Crossís and Tim was doing a demo with TV of Televisions Over for Cast Of Thousands and for some reason I played guitar on it and did some backing vocals. I remember thinking when we were doing the run-throughs that this is punk, he canít really sing very well and as soon as the recorder went on it was likeÖ Wow! Where did that voice come from?
I remember Michael Demsey taking me to one side and saying ďlook, donít worry about the way Tim sings in rehearsals, he only gives 100% (and the rest) when he is on stage or in the studioĒ. It was true! Tim was very careful about not over stretching his voice except when he is performing, thatís what great performers do and thatís why is still able to sing now, 20 plus years later.

How many people would put that much into a performance, that much power and project themselves to that extent?




Anyone who can't wait another 5 years for part 2 might want to check out Erik's My Space site...

http://www.myspace.com/erik_russell

Many, many thanks to Erik for his time and patience. Thanks to TV and Klaus for bringing it all together.

Tj Sundown
« Last Edit: June 23, 2009, 02:02:08 PM by Tj »
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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How many times have I almost published the first part of this interview over the last five years?

...Probably five times.

I got very close last year when we were experiencing the delight of Stoner and TV Smith at their amazing Exploring Madness shows, but this time around I wanted to include the photo of the interview featuring me, Erik and Klaus's ice cream cornet microphone. I waited and missed the moment.

I got very close four years back when Erik sent me some wonderful Explorers photo's to go with the interview, but I lost them all when I switched jobs. So I held back.

One of the poeple who would have most enjoyed this interview is C5...

The learning is don't always wait and wait for the right time. Sometimes is best to JFDI.

Anyway this is for you C5 on your very special celebration week-end. Keep Exploring buddy.

We miss you. When are you coming back?

It's also in celebration of the TUTS and the 10th World EARTHBOUND in Elland on Saturday, 27th October, 2007.

It's hard to believe how much has happened in our TVSmith United Tour Supporters world since that very first meeting when we went to see Erik 'do that voo-doo that he do so well' at The Verge. It's a fitting touch that Klaus, The Fleagles, me and Alan will all be all there watching TV again on Saturday, just how it all began.

See you on Friday and Saturday TUTS.

Tj   
 
« Last Edit: October 25, 2007, 06:26:36 PM by Tj »
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Uli

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Thanks a lot, very interesting (and I haven't even read part 2 yet)!!!!  :D

Quote
he puts 110% into every performance and it made us do the same

Nick Griffiths has offered to re-mix the album digitally, for free.

They had speeded it up 3%, because they thought we werenít playing it fast enough. Some guys in A & R think they know what they should do and personally I donít think things like that should be tampered with.

Agree with the last sentence, let's hope there will be a remixed version one day!
Just around the corner and miles away...

Offline Tj

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Yeah! I'd love to hear a re-mastered version at the right speed too.  :D

Glad you enjoyed our interview Uli.
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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I've just noticed I clocked up my 10,000th post 50 posts ago and just noticed now.

Interesting that it's just when I'm posting about the first ever meeting of the TUTS at The Verge in London way back on May 30th 2002...


Quote
Tj: The gig last night, great gig, I really enjoyed it! What did you think Erik?

Erik: I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was a pleasure to be back on stage and a pleasure to be playing with Tim (TV Smith.) As always he is the consummate professional and itís wonderful to be there with somebody who is so precise in everything he does. Itís very easy to play with him as he sets very high standards - the highest!
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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Do you remember doing this interview Klaus?

Later looking at Erik's hole in the wall fish tank and watching The GREAT Explorers on The Whistle Test for that very first time. :D

What a great week-end adventure that was. 8)

We briefly interviewed Tim Cross that next day and saw TV playing live with Richard Strange, Tim Cross, Ian Roland and Attila the Stockbroker at the first ever EARTHBOUND. :D
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Klaus

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Of course, I do.  :)
What a great weekend.
"And if our castle should come tumbling down - We'll fix it up again somehow
We can do anything - That' the wonderful thing...

Carrying On"

Offline Tj

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Simply magical. :D

30:05:02 First TUTS gathering watching TV and Erik Russell from The Explorers playing Last Words of the GREAT Explorer live for the first time since the band split.

31:05:02 Me and Klaus interviewing Erik Russell

01:06:02 The first EARTHBOUND at Southwick at the Glastonwick 7 ale and music festival. Watching TV, Richard Strange, Tim Cross, Ian Roland and Attila the Stockbroker live on satge.

...Simply magical.

I once started writing a gig review story for the gig which was never released. In many ways that fantasty story lead me towards writing my first novel. :D   
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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Now if only I can find that cassette of the rest of this interview.

I loved the part where Erik talked about an alternative Earth where The Explorers were massive.  :D

I liked this X and Stoner bit too...

Tj: The Explorers used to have crossed microphones in the shape of an X. Can you tell me a bit more about that?


Erik: I will say that that was my idea. It was to do with the X in Explorer. It came about when we were setting up. The microphone stands that the road crew were using were boon microphone stands, which meant that we were having to stand too far back from the front of the stage because we were having to stand back with the boons coming towards us. I just had this idea that if we just had them sideways and crossed over it gave Stoner and me a more interesting arrangement. Stoner always would go to the microphone slightly side on. It felt dynamic, it felt interesting.   

Tj: Richard Strange was recently on Later With Jools Holland. It showed Stoner playing Doctors Of Madness on the Twiggy show  - their only televised showing in the UK.

Erik: I saw that, but I didnít actually pick up that it was the Twiggy show.

Tj: Twiggy and Richard shared the same producer Justine de Villeneuve, thatís how they managed to get on her TV show.

Erik: Stoner was also on TV with The Explorers when he played on the Whistle Tests? In my copy I accidentally recorded over 10 seconds when an ex girlfriend asked me to record something for herÖ



"What was my favourite memory about last night? Coming off stage, walking through the crowd, you guys patting me on the back and there was a pint of Guinness being held out towards me. Thatís my favourite moment!"


« Last Edit: November 18, 2009, 07:43:05 PM by Tj »
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline slogeolodic

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TV TUTS INTERVIEW Erik Russell Jumping Mountains on Earth 2 by Tj Klaus
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2011, 06:36:29 AM »
Leuk interview. Ik vond ook dit nog een mooi stuk:

What are you plans with the song Heaven and for near future?

Offline Tj

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Sorry, what exactly do you mean Slogeolodic?

Really glad you enjoyed the first half of this interview. :D
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Uli

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Sorry, what exactly do you mean Slogeolodic?

I got to say I have no idea either. This was a "spam suspect" post, but I thought "let's wait, maybe it's for real"...
Just around the corner and miles away...

Offline Tj

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Why The Explorers Were Kicked Off The Undertones Tour
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2011, 06:54:31 PM »
Quote
Tj:  What a bummer! You did a tour with The Undertones, where you pretty much outshone the Undertones from what I understand. Do you remember that tour? What really happened?

Erik: I remember that tour better than Fergel Sharkey (laughs).
We did about four gigs. I heard a rumour that we had paid to get on that tour, I donít know if that is true or not. At the time that did happen a lot.
We got on incredibly well with the Undertones band - the band. We just used to have fun with them, I really liked them. I can remember sitting backstage in the De Montford Hall in Sheffield with one of the guitarists playing Bob Dylan songs and really enjoying it and the next thing we knew we were off the tour. I understand that it was that Fergel Sharkey did not like the fact that we were getting a better audience response than they were. At first we thought Ďweí had decided to pull out of the tour. We didnít find out what happened the facts until we read it in the New Musical Express.
Everyone has different memories of these things. When youíre playing and the adrenalin is just so extraordinary - thatís the thing I remember about The Explorers. Every other band I have ever played in Ė yes, you come off stage racing with adrenalin pumping away, but with The Explorers it was like you didnít have any blood left, everything was pure adrenalin. 
   
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight