As the old saying goes "Out with the old in with the new" this is exactly what one of my favorite bands SKYCLAD are going through right now. Kevin Ridley who has been a part of SKYCLAD for some time will be replacing Martin Walkyier on the mic and the lyrics. Being a fan of both the band and Martins lyrics I was depressed at first hearing this news but soon figured that this could be a good thing because maybe if you cut off one head two will grow to replace it. So lets sit back and see what Kevin Ridley has to say about the undying hydra known as SKYCLAD.
Prof.ManiC: How did Martin break it to the band that he was leaving and how did everyone take it? What was your opinion of it?
Kevin Ridley: Both Well ,as far as I am aware Martin e-mailed Graeme English to inform him that he was leaving the band, primarily for financial reasons but also because he was working with a company called "AMust4Music" and was interested in reforming Sabbat. The thing is that Jay Graham (drummer) and myself are not part of the "Skyclad Partnership" that has existed since about 1996. Formally, we were then employed as session musicians, but while we were still fairly close to the band, the financial and legal set-up etc was not our concern. Consequently, I have not spoken to Martin since the last tour in November 2000 it should be remembered that he lives at the other end of the country to the rest of the band.
I suppose it came as a shock to everyone concerned, that it actually happened, but given Martin's nature, it was not really a great surprise. In some ways, after the dust had settled it was met with a sigh of relief, a chance to start something fresh etc. I don't think things had gone particularly well with Nuclear Blast and the Folkemon album, but again such things were outside of my involvement with the band at this point.
Prof.ManiC: Was calling SKYCLAD quits an option at all during all of this?
Kevin Ridley: Calling it quits is, of course, always an option and I think it may have been briefly discussed at one point but I don't think Steve and Graeme seriously wanted to give up on something they had built up over a ten-year period. I only recently found out that Steve actually started Skyclad, and their input and commitment should not be forgotten for an instant in all this.
Prof.ManiC: How was it decided that you would be the man to get to follow in his footsteps? Did everyone else just point at you and laugh? Honestly I can see SKYCLAD drunk in a Pub drawing straws or having a drinking contest and the first one to pass out gets the job
Kevin Ridley: This follows on from the above question. The first thing I did when I attended a (very sober) meeting with the rest of the band was to offer my resignation as well. That may sound strange, but, as I said, this was a chance for a fresh start. The question was which direction would the band take? Having just signed to Nuclear Blast and released a "heavy" album, getting in a new (younger) "metal" front man was certainly an option. However, given my personal tastes and commitments, I said such a course of action was not for me.
However, to my pleasant surprise, Steve and Graeme had also considered the above and thought it was not for them. Over the past few years the band was concerned with broadening its appeal. This had started with "The Answer Machine" album and was continued by doing "unplugged" tours and reworking old songs. This direction was of more interest to everyone in the band and was something I thought I would like to be involved with and could commit to. To try this theory out, we did a small gig in Newcastle in March, which everyone enjoyed and so on we go.
Prof.ManiC: Are the vocals gonna stay harsh or are will they change in the future? Is there another guitarist coming or are you gonna do both?
Kevin Ridley: The vocal 'style' will be mine simple as that. I do what I do I couldn't sing 'harsh' or 'death' or anything else (even if they paid me which they don't). Since the "Irrational Anthems" album Steve has been trying to introduce harmonies in to the songs (I am not a big fan of 'harmonies' but there you go). This is probably something that will develop. As for another guitarist, well if there is another one on the way, nobody's told me. Seriously, as I've said, I do what I do a bit of guitar, bit of singing a singer/songwriter thing hopefully it will work.
Prof.ManiC: Are you gonna continue the same lyrical play on words that Martin started or are you just gonna be YOU with the lyrics? What influences (poets, books, movies) will you use for future lyrics?
Kevin Ridley: I'll bet you can guess what I'm going to write here. I know it might be tedious, but I have to do things my own way (it's a singer thing). The way in which I write is too complicated to go into here (cop-out I know). But I tend to collect things (like a Magpie) from many different sources (newspapers, books, TV etc) and assemble them into something new. I do not have any favourite writers or subjects that I am going to 'bang on' about and yet I feel free to contradict all of this. There are no rules here. However, despite my best efforts, what I end up with is a million miles from where I started. I think it's called a 'creative process' and I now tend to rely a good deal on "intuitive writing" rather than formal structures; think blank verse or stream of consciousness rather then "moon in June" - though how far I'll apply this to Skyclad remains to be seen. This is because we are all looking to 'accentuate the positives' and develop what we refer to as "Skycladness". What this means in practice, you'll have to wait and see, but there definitely is a vision of things to come (while there could well be more 'audacious puns' this vision has nothing to do with Paganism whatever that is - as this is of little real interest to anyone in the band).
Prof.ManiC: What do you think will the hardest part for SKYCLAD and their fans in the life after Martin years? Are you nervous about the upcoming challenge, I bet your glad to have people like STEVE and GRAEME backing up with good music huh?
Kevin Ridley: All through this period I have been using the phrase, Skyclad: the same but different. I think this is what people will have to get used to. It is different; sometimes I'm surprised at how much judging by some reactions, though to me it really doesn't feel that much different. Honestly, I am not too nervous about this because I have been involved for nearly eleven years. If I was a new singer, just coming into the band, then maybe. But most of the fans have been great, really supportive and understanding. I feel really privileged to do this and hopefully I can help take the band on to better things they deserve it. I am sure that I've told people in the past that I am not interested in writing Skyclad songs. The music belongs to Steve and Graeme, always has simple as that. Of course, I may contribute ideas but then I always have and this does not alter the basic 'feel' of the music. I am sure you are aware of the saying "too many cooks..."
Prof.ManiC: Are there any songs that SKYCLAD will retire from the live set list in honour of Martin or songs he has asked you not to play? What songs off of FOLKEMON do you guys play?
Kevin Ridley: As I have explained above, Steve and Graeme are the writers of Skyclad's music. This means that they have over ten album's worth of material to draw from. Therefore, Skyclad will perform any song from these albums they see fit. However, considering what I said about my singing abilities, in reality this means that the older "metal" material will be dispensed with at least for the foreseeable future. At present we have a set list of some twenty songs that are drawn from all of the albums, this includes "Polkageist" and "Antibody Politic" from Folkemon.
Prof.ManiC: Is there any talk or plans for the next SKYCLAD CD yet? If so give me the juicy info!
Kevin Ridley: In line with our aim to bring the band's music to a wider audience (a process that started when Martin was in the band by the way and which led to the Nuclear Blast contract containing the provision for "acoustic" albums), the reworked songs that we are doing now really need to be made available to all fans - old and new. To that end we are looking to release an album of what we actually do live now, so that people can actually buy what they see. This, obviously, has been made more urgent by the fact that I am now doing the vocals (though I have to add that if people want to check out the back catalogue that's cool we are not disowning anything here, just trying to redirect ourselves).
Prof.ManiC: Who are some of the people or other bands that SKYCLAD looks up too? Are there any UK bands that you folks hang out with?
Kevin Ridley: In all honesty I can't think of any band that Skyclad "looks up to" (apart from the obvious ones Sabbath, Priest, Lizzy etc from the old days). Everyone has his or her own favourites, obviously, but this is not something we really discuss probably so we can't fall out about it (like religion or politics). Everyone in the band listens to a wide range of music and are easy going as to what goes on the 'beatbox' (anything from 'Shooglenifty' to 'Massive Attack') Again, we don't really "hang out" with any bands, though we do sometimes go out and watch friends' bands perform.
Prof.ManiC: When you're pissed or depressed how you deal with these emotions? What music or hobbies relax you in those tense moments?
Kevin Ridley: I'd like to think that I am pretty even tempered, if I get pissed off, like everyone else, I've just got to cool off go for a walk or something. Drinking or whatever else probably just makes such things worse. I have recently finished a degree course, and with a young family to entertain (and I don't mean Skyclad) I haven't really got time for hobbies outside of music (though Steve and I have been known to watch the odd game of football which can be really relaxing - NOT).
Prof.ManiC: : Is the human race evolving or devolving? Why do you think that? Is technology the gift or the crutch of our so-called intelligence?
Kevin Ridley: Q11 The human race has to be evolving. Your question really means am I positive or negative about the future. Being something of a Humanist (oops! There's another clue to the future) I'd like to think that we have the capacity to make things better. I know we have a lot of problems (self-interest probably being the worst) but people are remarkably resourceful and adaptable and life isn't all doom and gloom (at least today it's not). Technology is a case in point. I mean this interview is being conducted in cyberspace. Trying to do this ten years ago would have been a lot more difficult for someone like yourself (and I know the Internet was around then). I'm sorry but I just can't get hung up on doomsday scenarios, conspiracy theories and the like.
Prof.ManiC: What advice can you give to newbie guitar players like myself to improve and get over the humps that learning a new skill can carry with it? What do you think are the most important things for people to practice on technique wise? What are the most important chords for SKYCLAD songs?
Kevin Ridley: I am not sure that I am the right person to answer this (try Steve), as I do not consider myself to be a guitar player per se. When I was younger I used to listen to Santanna, Beck, George Benson and so on but I realised guitar playing wasn't for me. I think the most important thing is to develop your own voice, listening to people rehash stuff based on blues or pentatonic scales etc bores me shitless. I respect people like Fripp and Belew who can play things I can't even think of. Obviously you need to practice, practice practice, but it needs to be focused and thought about. Why are you playing this? What are you trying to say? Playing stuff at a million miles an hour doesn't cut it for me man. As for the Skyclad chords, they are all fairly straight forward, majors, major sevenths, minor sevenths, minors with added sixth or added ninths that kind of thing (Steve doesn't like bar chords).
Prof.ManiC: If you could sit back and watch the end of the world, what would drink and who would you invite?
Kevin Ridley: Not more doom and gloom please!!! It's simple, my immediate family. Who else? They are the most important people in my life. This may not be smart, smug or 'rock and roll' (which is something I hate) but its true. If I were to sit quietly one evening and toast Armageddon, it would only be with some big 'new world' red wines or a decent Claret which my father and I am partial to. I'm afraid I only drink beer (preferably flat and warm), red wine and tea (cos I'm English!). So it could depend on the time of day. If it was morning, in England we would say "put the kettle on and we'll talk about it can't be that bad!).
Prof.ManiC: Ho Hum typical US when will I get to flirt with George Biddle on American soil? Will you guys play the South Pole before the States?
Kevin Ridley: There seems to be some problem with us getting to the States which is probably cost. I agree with you that it is high time we got ourselves across there and you folks have been really patient. All I can say is "watch this space" there are mutterings in high places. I think we might have it planned for just after the fortnight in the Falklands and week in South Georgia, Winter 2005. Seriously, soon, very soon, I hope
Prof.ManiC: final comments?
Kevin Ridley: I hope some of the above makes sense to you, obviously we are going through a period of change and I don't want to let too much out of the bag yet. We have started work on new material, but we also want people to see the band as it is now. This means a lot of gigs (some of them in the States - perhaps) and a lot of writing and rehearsing for us more so than what we have done in the past. But this is something everyone in the band is enjoying and, hopefully, you will see this for yourself soon.