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one lump or two?

the dozey lumps

1992

acoustic guitar

Dave Stafford, August 2010: One day back in 1988, I walked into a store I’d never been in before, and picked up a magazine I’d never seen before, and inside, was a small advert saying that Robert Fripp would be holding a “Guitar Craft” course in Malibu, California, and if you wanted to attend, send a letter saying why you wanted to attend.

Guitar Craft had existed since 1985, so it was three years old when I first encountered it, locally enough that I could actually probably attend.  Malibu was about a two hour drive for me, so it was possible - but I had never thought about it, except in the sort of dream-like way you might say “wow it would be so cool if I could work with Robert Fripp and learn to play the guitar better” but you don’t really believe that’s going to happen.

But, I wrote a letter, sent it off, and fairly soon thereafter, came a reply from one Bill Forth, saying that I had been accepted.  I could not really believe it, but there it was, in black and white.  The letter explained what the tuition was (a massive sum to me, working a modest 9 to 5 job in an electronics lab) and also that you needed to have a particular guitar, an Ovation 1867.  Now in 1988, despite the fact that I had been playing guitar for seventeen years, I had never actually OWNED a proper steel string acoustic guitar.  So I ordered one, again at a price I really, really could not afford - it probably took me four months to pay off the tuition and the guitar...and when it arrived, well, I fell in love with it, it’s a beautiful instrument.

So, armed with said guitar, I went off on this great adventure, drove up to Malibu in my trusty Toyota truck, and arrived at the facility along with 30 or so other guitarists.  The week that followed was an absolutely eye-opening experience, and I probably learned more in that week than I had in the previous 17 years - which is not surprising, since I’d had no lessons, no tutor, no teacher, and had pretty much taught myself to play - badly, as it turns out.

This was the beginning of 22 years of experiences with Guitar Craft, which eventually came to completion for me when I sat on stage in San Cugat, Spain, in February 2009, and participated in the debut performance by the Orchestra Of Crafty Guitarists.  In between, there were various courses in various countries, and a wealth of amazing interactions not only with Robert, but also with a myriad of unique, talented musicians and artists who form the Guitar Craft extended family.

But it was at that course, my first Guitar Craft course, when I met the one musician that would really impact my life, the man who became my musical partner in not just the Dozey Lumps, but later on, in the best band I’ve ever been in, Bindlestiff - Bryan Helm.  Of course, it wasn’t just limited to those two groups; we also worked together in Luxury Yacht, who made one album, and also Severe Tire Damage, who didn’t.

Bryan and his wife had travelled to Malibu on the last day of the course, to visit Robert and see what was going on.  After the course ended, Bryan approached me and said he’d heard I lived in San Diego, told me he had just recently moved there, and we decided that, in a few weeks time, we would get together with our acoustic guitars and play.  Bryan had attended the very first Guitar Craft course, back in 1985, so at that point I was the new Crafty and he was the veteran Crafty.  That sort of changed later when Bryan stopped playing in the new standard tuning and no longer attended courses – suddenly, in 2009, it was myself who had been part of Guitar Craft for 21 years.  What a strange, strange feeling.

Our first meeting was fruitful both in terms that we got on well as people, and soon became fast friends, but also got on musically, and very quickly, we had our first tune, “A Sinister Shifting”, which is a piece of music that I had worked out with my friend Peter Kardas at that first course in Malibu.  Bryan and I worked out a better arrangement for it, made some modifications, and that was the beginning.

What we didn’t know then, of course, was that over time, we would adapt (occasionally) and write from scratch (mostly) an amazing repertoire of unique, often very difficult to play, pieces of music, over a three year period of time.

We would do the odd performance where we could, and for three years, we laboured over these pieces, an enormous amount of time was spent composing, refining, and rehearsing - and rehearsing, and rehearsing - and then rehearsing some more.  We played some good gigs, usually small, but audiences did seem to enjoy the music.

The funny thing is, we never set out to make an album.  By accident, cassette recordings of certain performances and certain rehearsals were made, to refer to, to have a listen, work tapes more than anything, but, it was never meant to be a record.

Once the band suddenly stopped playing it’s Crafty repertoire and became the ambient looping group Bindlestiff, I sat down to review the recorded history of the Dozey Lumps, and found, with a little work, that I actually had decent takes of 20 of the 25 or so pieces we played.

So the album was assembled rather than created, from different source from different years from different venues and rehearsals, and finally, we got to hear on record, what the Lumps had always done live - play their unique repertoire with a great sense of humour, a certain amount of dexterity (but not too much) but always with great joy, which is as it should be.

Looking back now at this collection of songs, from the perspective of 2010, I have the same wish I’ve always had for this music, that it be heard, yes, for one, but, more significantly, I wish that we had had the requisite skill to truly capture the excellence of the compositions.  I think that as compositions, these are 20 pieces of very interesting music - all different, some serious, some strange, some frivolous - but, never dull, always challenging.  I always wished we could have really nailed these tunes - which, sometimes, we really did, but - as always - not necessarily when a tape was rolling.

The versions presented here, at least, preserve the essence and intent of the compositions.  It’s actually a miracle that this musical document exists at all, so I am happy indeed that we now have “One Lump Or Two?” available again, so that people can really hear what the Dozey Lumps were all about.

 

 

A SINISTER SHIFTING

 

This was the first piece we learned, since it already existed pre-Dozey Lumps, it was a piece that was originally written by myself and Peter Kardas, at my first ever Guitar Craft course, so I brought it to Bryan, and we worked out our own, somewhat improved version.

 

The track actually has at it’s root, somewhat unbelievably, a song from the Frank Zappa’s And The Mothers Of Invention album “We’re Only In It For The Money” something about the melody of “A Sinister Shifting” brings that album to mind – I am not sure, however, which song it reminds me of – possibly “Mom And Dad”.

 

In any case, Peter and I had written the piece as a duet, and we performed the track during that first course, so that made it a natural choice to start with for this brand new project, “The Dozey Lumps”.

 

Our first rehearsal was sat on the kerb outside the building where I worked, during my lunch break, and it would have been that we discussed what we might play and started working on songs.  This was the first song we learned, and the first song we ever performed live as a band.

 

I like the simplicity of it, and some of the enhancements that Bryan and I added really improve the overall quality of the piece.  Bryan’s bass lines, including the lovely, mysterious, almost raga sounding “nervous” G octave bass figure, just sound brilliant.

 

That’s Bryan placed stereo left, with myself nominally stereo right but somewhat spanning the field as well.  Bryan plays the bass, I play the melodies – the plucked section is a delight, suddenly bursting into life from its sinister beginnings.

 

It’s a fun piece, short, to the point, and we played it on many, many occasions in both rehearsals and at many live performances.  That would have been for the first couple of years, the end of 1988 through perhaps 1990 – 1991, when the Dozey Lumps repertoire began to mutate and some very serious, complex and beautiful pieces appeared in the later part of their existence.  But as a starting point, you couldn’t ask for a better one than “A Sinister Shifting”.

 

 

THE CANTELOUPE TERRAIN

 

This is a fairly early piece, and it’s one that we wrote together, although in the end, the quality and wizardry of this piece belongs completely to it’s hero, Bryan Helm.  I provide the comedic, simple bass part, bouncing back and forth between two bass notes, while Bryan tackles the entire melodic and solo content.

 

The piece changed over time, and as it evolved, there were more and more tempo changes, halts, and other odd flourishes, so depending on which version you hear, there are differing tempos – the song got better each time we played it, this is still a fairly early version, but some of the enhancements are already in place.

 

I loved playing this piece, because I got the “easy job”, playing the bass, while I then got to watch Bryan face the impossible melody, including that amazing high-speed chase, when the tempo picks up radically, that defies the imagination.  I love how fast Bryan plays in the high-speed section, as if it’s no problem, and sometimes, it went perfectly.

 

And then the cute little ending, it just resolves so nicely, a really beautiful end to an exhilarating ride of a song.

 

 

JUST LIKE FOG (LIGHT SWATHS)

 

This piece, one of the “serious” Dozey Lumps songs, is a mainstay of the repertoire, and it was a joy to develop, Bryan wrote the chords, I wrote the melodies – but really, we just worked this out as we went, I had the “middle section” solo already half-formed, and Bryan brilliantly figured out a sequence of chords that would fit my solo – so writing in reverse really.  Normally, you might start with structure – a chord pattern – and then add melody.  Not in this case though, where the song was actually created to “fit” the long solo in the middle.

 

Having recently been to a Guitar Craft course, I had learned this particular technique of creating a descending melody, using both open strings and lateral motion, and I really wanted to incorporate the beautiful feeling that technique could create, and I think we succeeded with this piece.

 

Bryan could come up with chord progressions on the spot (something I am not so good with sometimes) and did an amazing job of turning a solo into a song.

 

And what a song – gentle, deliberate – one of the finest examples of The Dozey Lumps compositional capability, but also in this case an exceptional performance – “Just Like Fog (Light Swaths) having the honour of being the only track that appears TWICE on the album – we made many take on many different occasions, recording some, and this is an earlier version, with just a small amount of reverb on the guitars, therefore, it became the “Light Swaths” version.

 

A note about how this was recorded – slightly misusing the device, we plugged both guitars DIRECTLY into the input of my Digitech DSP-128, and the stereo output went to the digital reverb and thence to the tape recorder – so, completely live, no preamp, just two guitars played through two rack mount devices, into the TEAC 3340S tape recorder.

 

Live to two-track tape in essence.

 

Again, that’s Bryan on the left playing the beautiful chord progression, and myself on the right playing my melodic and solo parts.  I love how the piece builds, I do some small slides, then move to a picked motif atop Bryan’s chords, which beautifully underpin what I am playing, the song just so, so gentle, so SLOWLY building up to that moment when that solo just pours down the neck, deliberate, so, so careful, trying so hard to be perfect – you can almost feel us both holding our breath during this section, the reverb really adding to the quality of the solo – and then, we are back to the beginning, myself playing those small slides again, into a perfectly slowed down finish that just oozes calm, peace and melodic beauty…and then trails off in a questioning musical moment as my guitar slides up into nothingness, into that lovely reverb.

 

I really feel that in some ways, this track represents The Dozey Lumps, we played it at almost every show we did, including some of the first Bindlestiff shows – interesting, that out of 25 possibly pieces, that the ONE piece we would reach back through time to pluck out of the Dozey Lumps catalogue, and bring forward to Bindlestiff playing live in 1994 – was “Just Like Fog”.  It was the ONLY Dozey Lumps song that we played after 1992=1993.

 

That says something about the esteem in which we both hold the track and the respect we have for it as one of our finest compositions.

 

 

SHOWER CURTAIN

 

This is another piece that came directly out of my first Guitar Craft experience.  Originally performed by a large group of Crafty guitarists, and composed by that group, who were called “Broccoli Soup” – “Shower Curtain” along with “A Sinister Shifting”, are really the only two Dozey Lumps tracks that were not written by either Bryan, myself, or Bryan and myself.

 

In any case, we re-arranged the song to suit two guitarists (not an easy task for a piece that originally had about 9 parts) but in the end, we came up with a duet arrangement that works beautifully – sometimes playing the different parts, sometimes playing in unison, but just flying through the piece at speed, determined, and Bryan in particular plays with a blazing, accurate determination that I could barely keep up with.

 

The sudden and surprise ending is also excellent, and I don’t think any audience ever saw it coming – which means that it worked, it was just the ticket after this musical burst of positive enthusiasm.  An early, very cheerful, very fun piece indeed.

 

In a similar way to it’s companion, “A Sinister Shifting”, we would have played “Shower Curtain” for perhaps the first two years or so, and eventually we would live it behind as we moved towards the more serious pieces that appeared in the last six months of our existence, such as “Wistful Thinking” and “Perelandra”.

 

But “Shower Curtain” is a cracking little track, and I enjoy it to this day – pure exuberance for two guitars.

 

 

NEVER A DUAL MOMENT

 

This is a very unique Dozey Lumps composition, totally written together, during rehearsals – starting with that made little figure in the beginning, which I think was Bryan’s – then I came up with the crazy descending dissonant chords – which then were changed to a round form – and then, into the famous “whoop, whoop, whoop” long, strange ascending slides on the 5th string – punctuated by a short riff - and for some reason, particularly when we performed this track for audiences at Guitar Craft courses – this section always, for some reason - unavoidably brought audience laughter.

 

The song continues, with strange event after strange event, very rarely do we ever play the same thing (hence the piece’s title) – it’s just impossible to describe this piece in words – the rhythm changes, impossibly, over and over in the strangest ways – until you reach the end section, which is the weirdest of all, a long, slow, descending melody, followed by a very quiet “harmonics dual” that ends in an intentionally “muted” note – again, the tempo changes more often than it is constant, throughout the piece.

 

This is a good representation of a piece of music that is somewhat humorous to listen to, but in reality, it was devilishly difficult to play!  There is one figure in there, with a high-speed chromatic run followed by a massive “jump” to a high note that I always struggled with – every time.

 

But it was fun, and I think that sense of fun comes through even in a recording, which of course is only two-dimensional in that you cannot “see” how the piece is accomplished.  Fun to write, fun to play – “Never A Dual Moment” – funny, silly, serious, sad – one of the most unique compositions to ever come out of a Guitar Craft trained team.

 

 

WISTFUL THINKING

 

From 1992, “Wistful Thinking” is a very late, and quite advanced, Dozey Lumps tune.  We were beginning to write pieces that were so very difficult to play, there are very few recordings of this track, and this is the only one that was even close to correct.

 

There are no perfect takes of any Dozey Lumps track – if you look/listen hard enough, there is always something that could be a little better – but that’s what we were, it’s just how it was – I might play my part perfectly, while everything went wrong for Bryan, or Bryan might do a flawless performance and I would make a horrible mistake.  Occasionally, we would both “get it right” during the same performance.

 

Even though imperfect, this version of “Wistful Thinking” gives us a run for our money, it’s bright, happy, and it moves quickly through our field of consciousness.

 

I love the stops and starts, the “ringing” or “jangly” feel of the first section – and remarkably, both Bryan and myself picking TOGETHER, both of us, during one song.

 

As always, that’s Bryan on the left playing mostly the chords, which he developed, to support my “riff” that I had come up with – another one that was mostly a complete co-write, maybe I had the riff first, but we just basically knocked the whole thing together in a day or two.

 

The high-pitched part was impossible, the intonation of our guitars almost guaranteeing it would be slightly out of tune, the part following it – bloody difficult to play – but then, back to that lovely starting riff, and everything is good again…and then it suddenly trickles down, in a tight, perfect ritard down to a single harmonic note ending.

 

 

NOT BLOODY LIKELY

 

Now we are back to a track from the very early days, this is based on a traditional folk song called “Geordie” that Bryan had been playing on his guitar, he taught it to me, we worked on it for quite a long time – then developed that distinctive second section, where we are both picking, together, beautifully – leading up to the “impossible riff” – a long climb up, and then a horrifically difficult, incredibly long descending riff leading back to the first section.

 

To further torture ourselves, we require that the “impossible riff” be played twice during the piece !

 

The first time, we play it in unison.  But to really take our masochistic tendencies to a total extreme, we decided that for the second iteration, it would be done as a round – thus making the world’s most impossible riff far, far more difficult.

 

This was one of our very, very first compositions – it would have been not long after learning “A Sinister Shifting” and “Shower Curtain”, and looking back at it now, it’s very complex, very well developed – more like a later Dozey Lumps piece than an early one.

 

I love how the ending slows, in a stately, elegant way, and then resolves to the major chord fragment – exquisite.

 

As always, that’s Bryan stereo left, myself stereo right.

 

 

MUTANT STRAIN

 

Well, this one is my fault – it’s entirely my piece, and it’s unique for a couple of reasons – first, it has NO CHORDS in it.  None.  Not one.

 

I had the opening riff, which I taught Bryan, and then we worked out, over time, how it “went”.  It starts out quite dissonant, then suddenly changes to an almost folk tune feel – then, slidey, mysterious, sinister – evolving into a quick-picked section.

 

We spent a LONG, LONG time, working out the speed changes, figuring out how the section where we each play one note would go, how the volume would swell, and so on.

 

Since we actually didn’t ever write anything down, the different sections of the song we referred to by different “names” – such as “the Gentle Giant part” (beginning at 1:26 and running to the end).  During rehearsals, we would shout out “OK, next is the Gentle Giant part” and so on, to keep track of where on earth we were in this strange composition.

 

I don’t think that before or since I’ve ever created or written any piece of music that is ENTIRELY composed of riffs – and I mean riff after riff following riff after yet another riff.

 

A frantic, unsettling, almost uncomfortable piece of music, but, it was fun to write, and I LOVE the timing, the tempo changes, and how well we worked together to propel “Mutant Strain” to a successful conclusion.

 

Sadly, no complete recording of the original, full-length piece exists.  It was originally twice as long as this – fortunately, what we have here is the entire first half, intact – so if you were to play the piece twice in a row, that would pretty much be what “Mutant Strain” sounded like in actual performance.

 

Since making the album, I’ve gotten used to the “short version” and in some ways, it’s more concise, and while it’s only half the original song, every idea, every performance concept, is in this fragment – so in essence if not in full length – it’s “Mutant Strain”.

 

The title comes from an episode of the truly low budget British science fiction classic, “Blake’s 7”, where aliens who were a mutant strain were encountered.  I wanted something that brought to mind aliens, since it sounds a bit alien as it trundles along, mutating from sequence to riff to duet to riff to duet…

 

 

NO ONE EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION

 

This is another Dave Stafford composition, this is a very rare case where the majority of what you hear was actually worked out by myself, and Bryan “learned” the song, helped with the arrangement, and while he did contribue some ideas, it’s mostly my piece.

 

Obviously named after the very famous comedy sketch from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”

 

It starts with yet-another Genesis “Cinema Show” picked section, but then we move to the faster, chord-based “Inquisition Section” – which curiously, the second figure in the Inquisition Section owes a debt of influence to Anthony Phillips, when we were working out the song, I noticed that it bore a strong similarity to a riff from a long piece of music on his “Geese And The Ghost” LP – not the “Cinema Show” sound, but the strident, Bolero-like chords and the way Phillips used them – I am not ashamed to say I borrowed a little bit from Anthony there – just one chord really, but it really “makes” the part.

 

That chordal section went through several incarnations, where it was gradually improved to the state you hear it in here.  Originially it was quite plain, but by this time, we had made lots of good improvements to the whole song.

 

This is an odd piece, starting so beautifully and quietly, moving to the faster Inquisition section – and then, strangely, changing tempo back to the original tempo (when it doesn’t really make musical sense to do so!)

 

The second time we go through the “Cinema Show” section, the last section (a devilishly tricky one in either version) the notes are doubled, and we then move into the “Spanish” section, via an ascending riff that then leads to Bryan’s brilliant bass part (borrowed from a track on Frank Zappa’s apostrophe, well, at least sounding a bit like a bass riff in “St. Alfonso’s Pancake Breakfast”).

 

The bass gives way to a frantic set of Spanish chord fragments, followed by another ascending “race” to the top – silence – and to end, the “Anthony Phillips” chord.

 

This is one of the very few Dozey Lumps pieces that I can still remember how to play, some 21 years down the road, and occasionally, I still do play it.  I probably remember it because I had to go through the whole process of figuring out all the parts, and that took some time, then, Bryan and I also worked extensively on the arrangement – so, it’s just stuck in the memory.

 

 

CRAFTY TRAILS

 

This is a fantastic piece, I think the opening riff was something I was joking around with, it was never meant to be serious, and then, before we knew it, the strange, bending riff became the opening and closing theme for our latest piece of music.

 

A lot of the time, I would suggest that we play things 17 times, because that’s my lucky number, so, of course, the intro to “Crafty Trails”, again, with Bryan stereo left and myself stereo right, is repeated 17 times.

 

The next section was a free section, where we turned the reverb WAY up (emulating what the League Of Crafty Guitarists would do during live performance in the early 90s) and we would play a series of….seventeen chords.  These could be ANYTHING, it was completely different each time, although sometimes we would play similar chords to previous versions, and I think we might have had an agreed “last chord” – high up on the neck.

 

Then – the odd section – the bridge.  It wants to be counted amongst the seventeens, and almost qualifies – four sets of four riffs, equalling 16, and then a final riff to make up the required seventeenth event.

 

Finally, after that strange, frantic bridge – and – back to the beginning, seventeen more of the annoying, repetitive harmonised “bends” - with one of the most amazing endings ever, a slow, deliberate bend that warps the brain as it brings this piece to an agonising halt.

 

“Crafty Trails” is one of the few Guitar Craft related cowboy songs, but it’s unique in so, so many ways – yes, it’s humorous, tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also adventurous, the middle section is almost ambient – and that ripping little bridge was challenging and very, very fun to play!

 

An excellent representation of the more creative, humorous side of the band.

 

 

HOLE IN MY HEAD

 

This piece was entirely Bryan Helm’s, he brought it to me pretty much complete, so I just worked out some parts that I could play that would add rather than distract from his excellent piece.

 

I decided to “swop roles” with Bryan, normally, he tended to handle most bass parts, so in this track, I am the “bass player” and he takes the lead.  A cheerful, happy chord progression propels itself along, with a lovely descending bass line, with harmonised harmonics – leads to a picked middle section where we both play picked chords.

 

That moves into a minor key briefly, and then back up to the major…and then we are back in the main body of the song, that wonderful chord progression, during this “second verse” – I try to play a bit of fancy bass, playing intentionally against the beat.

 

Then we are back to the picked section again, such a nice, positive sounding part – and then back for a final bash at the verse, which then comes to a lovely, slow high pitched ending.

This song was remarkable in the Dozey Lumps catalogue because it IS a song, an almost “normal” song, with three verses and two bridges as it were.  None of the strange arrangements and odd timings and mad tempo changes – this is just normal.

 

It’s also the only Dozey Lumps song that ever had “lyrics” attached to it, although just in fun.  Bryan and I were on a Guitar Craft course together when we wrote this, and the main venue at the Course was a large Salvation Army hall, where we ate our meals and performances took place.

 

On the wall at the end of the hall, with the Salvation Army banner and logo, were the words, in huge letters, “BLOOD AND FIRE”.

 

This got stuck in Bryan’s head, and as the song evolved, he would begin to play “vocal versions” (just privately, not in performance) where he would sing along as he played that beautiful chord sequence – “Blood and fire will pour through a hole in my head….”

 

There was more, but unless Bryan can recall it, it’s gone.  So this piece is very special to me, because it’s so very different from ALL the other repertoire, just a normal, lovely, “song”.

 

 

MEM 5 WATER CAN

 

This is another one of the “strange” Dozey Lumps song, Bryan had a set of chords, and I then added matching harmonics, for the intro.

 

Then we were sort of stuck, that was all we had, we needed…something, something unusual, to get us farther into the composition.

 

So the “chime” was invented, and of course to be perverse, we would play it FIVE times, to keep the listener off guard.

 

Then we come to the bridge.  Bryan again, had the most beautiful chords, and I gradually figured out a part I could play over them – which comes across like the most cheesy, schmaltzy, smooth, slick, sliding piece of jazz guitar – I never meant it to be anything but beautiful, I wanted something worthy of Bryan’s chords, which were amazing.

 

But in hindsight, that bridge is just priceless, I couldn’t have come up with it myself, ever, and Bryan’s composing abilities were such that in this case, I was really cast into the role of soloist and support guitarist – this is very much Bryan’s composition, although we did both work on it.

 

The “chimes” used to bring gales of laughter from audiences, particularly Guitar Craft audiences, who were quite baffled by the strange, strange repertoire of The Dozey Lumps.

 

But that little solo at the beginning of the bridge – with it’s sleazy bends, it’s little muted bits, the twirling note, more seductive bends – ending in a tripartate of upwards sliding notes – and then we are back to the main figure, myself just playing nothing but harmonics…to the final five chimes.

 

 

LANGUID

 

This is one of the very, very oldest pieces, probably third or fourth out of the perhaps 25 songs we eventually learned.  It’s entirely Bryan’s, and similarly to “Hole In My Head” – it’s a “real song”.  An absolutely beautiful song, slow, stately, with a sad, melancholy air, which is briefly and occasionally lifted up by an ascending figure, but always, always back down to those two, very sad-sounding chords.

 

There is a bit of an intermission, we climb up a stack of chords, and play a strange melodic figure high up on the neck.  Then – a single harmonic – and back to the main chord figure.

 

Bryan is creating a lot of very interesting sounds, harmonics, forced harmonics, doing a lot of odd things with his pick, which really sound lovely on the recording.

 

I am playing things very straight, letting Bryan do his thing.  Another climb up, another high pitched duet, and back for a final journey through those incredibly heartbreaking, melancholy chords.

 

One of the most beautiful Bryan Helm compositions, and certainly an under appreciated musical gem.

 

 

THE ILLUSION OF MOTION

 

Another Dave Stafford composition, this was something that I developed while at a Guitar Craft course, and then brought back to add to The Dozey Lumps repertoire.

 

It’s another one with absolutely no chords, well, chord fragments.  This is one of those pieces that it’s easy to write, NOT so easy to actually PLAY.

 

Bryan takes the bass part, playing the main riff, and other bass parts that support my part – and my part is even more ridiculously difficult that Bryan’s is.

 

Of course, the idea is speed, speed, speed.  Bryan begins, while my pick nervously tries to manually “flange” a single note – then I come in with my chord fragments-meets dissonant riff with impossible reverse-strummed ascending figure at the end.

 

A lot of notes ending in a slide up the top string, quickly added harmonics slams, odd strumming noises – another impossible riff, and suddenly, it’s all over – “The Illusion Of Motion” is really just that – it SOUNDS fast, but it isn’t – not really.

 

 

PREBENDARY

 

This is a very, very old piece, and this is another Dave Stafford composition, based on a simple scale that I learned at my very first Guitar Craft course, this is actually a very, very complex arrangement – with the same basic scale being played, by each of us, using different starting notes, and playing alternately, upwards, downwards and mixed.

 

The basic part is very simple, a gangly, unruly climbing frame of a melody, but, a bright and cheerful sound to my ears.  Bryan begins the figure, I join in, and we are away.

 

Bryan continues, and I switch to playing the figure from the “top downwards”.  Then I switch again, to a different configuration.  The effect is quite hypnotic, very circular, and I love the way the parts all synchronise together.

 

Eventually, I play a short solo while Bryan plows valiantly on – then, on the final run, a longer solo, with a very tricky reversal at the end – and then, a Dozey Lumps trademark ending, a lovely ritard and bend to finish.

 

I like this piece a lot, we played it at many, many gigs, and it has the dubious distinction of being the only Crafty song of mine that I recorded with both The Dozey Lumps AND on a solo album, a strange, electric guitar version appears on the “Song With No End” EP.  But to me, this is the “real” version, it should be played as a duet, like this.

 

The title is once again courtesy of Monty Python, from a sketch of a talk show program where there is a Prebendary as one of the guests, but the twist is, he’s actually dead, sat in his chair stiff as a board – the interviewer turns to him and prompts him for a reply – “Prebendary?”.

 

This would have been again, one of the very first pieces we learned, which would have dropped away later on in 1992 as the repertoire changed and matured.  But, an excellent piece and I am very proud of it and of our performance of it here.

 

 

CAITHNESS

 

I am not sure about the Genesis of this song, but I would say again that it starts with that lovely, Genesis-Cinema Show style picking.

 

This is a Bryan Helm composition, with perhaps a little bit of help from me, at least with the arrangement, if not with the composition.

 

Bryan had worked out the chord structure, so again, it was really down to me to work out a “part” that fit.  In this case, this was a combination of lead melodic guitar and picking in unison, or in counterpoint, to Bryan’s excellent picking work.

 

Caithness is of course, a town in the very north of Scotland, that Bryan had visited on a trip to the U.K. many, many years ago.  At the time we worked out this arrangement, probably during 1989 – I would have not DREAMED in a million years that in 2005, I would MOVE to Scotland, and be in the land of Caithness.

 

This is a very early piece, and one that was played at many Dozey Lumps gigs, a serious piece, a lovely, gentle song, and an all-time favourite of mine.

 

 

NO. 17

 

This is a joint composition, something we made up one day during rehearsal, with a rollicking, kind of rock and roll riff, and bizarre, syncopated chord fragment harmonies, I love the drive and power of this track, how it just flies along, powered by that heavy, heavy riff.

 

As usual, that’s Bryan stereo left and myself stereo right, our traditional roles again swapped, I am playing the bass part, or the main riff, while Bryan starts out with a persistent, driving melody that does not relent.  He works like clock work, while I am trying desperately to hold down the rhythm.

 

I love how the syncopated chords come in, surprising, not expected – and after the first set, we dive into the middle section, which is really a series of two lead solos for Bryan, where he can really, really get into it, take the song forward – and then, finally, a super-extended, really wildly syncopated version of the chord fragment segment that comes to a shocking dead stop.

 

I am not sure, but I believe that the name of this track is due to the fact that it was the 17th piece added to our set list, which also means that it’s a bit later, probably about 1991 or even possibly 1992, but in any case, “No. 17” is a fun, rollicking little number that shows that the Lumps could rock, too, and, it contains some rare instances of Bryan really letting go and soloing on the acoustic – I love what he plays on this rather intense track.  Fantastic!

 

 

PERELANDRA

 

Possibly the very last piece to be composed, added to the repertoire and very rarely performed - “Perelandra” is a fragile and unique piece of acoustic guitar magic.  

 

I think when it came time to assemble the album, I could only find two or three takes of this piece anywhere, which is a really shame, but at least the one selected captures the essence of the composition really, really well.

 

Bryan had some chords, I had some melodic ideas, I feel that this was a joint composition, from 1992, that we both had a lot of input into.  I also feel that it’s one of the Lumps most developed, most mature, most BEAUTIFUL songs.

 

It just works for me – Bryan dives in with a powerfully picked segment including some great low, bass notes, I come in with some precise, careful harmonics.  Then, the pace changes, the piece changes – from challenging, strident, direct – to gentle, loving, calm.  Dynamically, we were really progressing, the natural volume of the piece dropping after the powerful intro, to just the right level to begin the slower section.

 

So the introduction really confuses – it promises something more active, more “in your face”, more direct, but suddenly, it dissolves into this amazing, incredibly delicate figure, with it’s strange and carefully planned pauses, then, building momentum, until we are both picking away in tandem, creating a lovely atmosphere from which to move forward through the rest of the piece.

 

Suddenly, at 2:12, Bryan strikes an amazing down strummed chord, which propels me into my first solo, which I had spent some hours devising, and improving during rehearsals.  I still can’t believe how well this solo works with Bryan’s carefully picked chords, and I make full use of the lowest register, showing off the power of the new standard tuning – and the joy, I just FLY with this melody, down the neck, then down to the lowest bass strings, back up - I can feel myself holding my breath at the moment that amazing chords hits, and I dive into this very difficult piece of melody guitar – it’s just an amazing moment musically.

 

Then it gets MORE difficult, in the section running from 2:58 to about 3:25, I really have my hands full getting these riffs to come out, but, I succeed, and “Perelandra” moves forward, now back to the main theme, this time quicker, more confidently, and then suddenly, the piece slows, the volume drops, and we do THE most amazing live fade you’ve ever heard – leaving the listener hanging on that final, slowed harmony note, that doesn’t quite feel like completion – but, it is.

 

Named after the second book in author C. S. Lewis’ “Out Of The Silent Planet” trilogy, because of the beautiful twists and turns I felt the song was like the view of Perelandra described in detail in the book, the colours and sounds just overwhelming and absorbing you – “Perelandra” is to me a testament to just how far the band had come, in terms of composition, in terms or seriousness, in terms of performance ability – I listen to these recordings and I think – I am ALMOST playing well, it’s very, very close to what it should be.

 

Conversely, “Perelandra” is one of a few examples of Dozey Lumps songs that push us far beyond what we are capable.  Once again, we’d composed a beautiful, complex, difficult piece of music – far too difficult for us to play !  But play it we did, and I feel that this version is honourable, and unquestionably puts across the spirit, intent, and quality of The Dozey Lumps as they neared the end of their existence as a band.

 

 

JUST LIKE FOG (BANK)

 

Musical heaven.  From seeing the League Of Crafty Guitarists performing several times in the early 90s, I had realised that one thing that helped make their acoustic performances more powerful, was due to the use of a lot of REVERB during some of their performances.

 

Sometimes, that reverb was cranked up to ridiculous levels.  We’d made takes of “Just Like Fog”, and were continuing to make them, and we’d produced the first version, “Just Like Fog” (Light Swaths).  With that in the can, I thought, I’d like to try and see if we can get a BETTER version, so, as an experiment, I set us up in our standard (and rather bizarre) recording mode – two acoustic guitars plugged into a Digitech DSP-128, and then the stereo output of the Digitech into the 24-bit reverb.

 

I then cranked the reverb up to a VERY high level, a level I would never ever have normally even considered prior to hearing the League of Crafty Guitarists.

 

We then played “Just Like Fog” – but in a way we’d never played it before.  The intense reverb caused us to play slower, more deliberately – and the reverb meant that spaces tended to be filled with music rather than silence, so it totally worked in my favour.

 

To me, this is the ULTIMATE Dozey Lumps track, it’s creative, it’s ambient, it’s musical, it’s perfection.  The SOUND of those two acoustic guitars, in that massive reverb space – I can remember how it felt, while we were recording, how precisely I played my two picked notes, watching Bryan land those chords into the reverb as my two notes drove the piece onwards…

 

The fear, coming up to the solo, so afraid I might make an error – but, I did not, and the solo, when it arrives, is like a cascade of beautiful flowing molten silver, it just pours down and overwhelms me with it’s determination and beauty.  During that solo, Bryan carries me, protects me, and delivers me, unscathed, to the end of the solo section.

 

The reverb, during that solo, is almost like a third instrument, and there is one breathtaking moment at about 3:03 where there is a pause in the chords (intentional) and my solo guitar is alone, naked, but the reverb shores it up, and brings it carefully to the end of the section.

The atmosphere of the reverb room changes dramatically in the middle solo section, and then regains its former character as we return to the opening theme.

 

The sliding notes that I play, pairs of notes that slide up, are really enhanced by the reverb, especially the very ending – where they just ring forever, perhaps the most beautiful, moving ending of any Dozey Lumps performance ever.

 

This song was always good, it always went well, but – this TAKE of this song, is in a class in itself, radiant, glowing, reverberant and reverberated, creating an unforgettable, almost ambient musical atmosphere that reflects a band at the height of their compositional and performing powers.

 

“Perelandra” from the late period and “Just Like Fog (Bank)” from the mid-late period are two of the best, most serious, most significant tracks that the band ever created, and this version of “Just Like Fog (Bank)” may be the single more important, most beautiful moment in the band’s recorded history.

 

 

CUTTING DOWN TREES

 

And finally, track 20, a Bryan Helm original, really, Bryan should tell the story of this since it’s his track – well, again, I did help with arrangement, solo, etc. but it was basically his song all along…

 

His guitar teacher at one point grabbed his hands, cracked his knuckles, and said “what do you do for a living, cut down trees?”.

 

Bryan was very struck by this comment, and when this dissonant, and very, very difficult track came to light, he decided that it was only appropriate to call it “Cutting Down Trees”.

 

I love this song, but, it is incredibly difficult to play.  The speed is relentless. The riff, the pattern of it, involves a constant cross pick that is constantly spanning four strings laterally – at all times, THROUGHOUT the song.

 

It’s absolutely relentless.  The structure is, basically, three “verses”, one bridge, and three more verses.

 

But when you get to verse two, your fingers hurt so bad you want to stop.  When you hit the bridge, it is like a relief almost, a “break” from the impossible, hellish riff designed by Mr. Helm.

 

The bridge, however, is almost WORSE, a very difficult figure to execute, up, down, across, vertical AND lateral motion is the formula here, and, it never stops.

 

Different verses have different variations, for example, verse 4, just after the bridge, finds me playing the figure on a different set of strings to Bryan, providing a very, very strange harmony indeed.

 

Verse 5 is my big solo, where I get another “break” from playing that riff, and I play some sharp, staggered chords with a crazy, high pitched high speed strummed chord, at the VERY top of the neck, of course, half a second later, I must be at the very BOTTOM of the neck to pick up that riff again.

 

We blaze through verse 6, sudden stop, and “Cutting Down Trees” is over.

 

This was another performance staple, played at many gigs, but, gradually dropped in favour of the new, more melodic material and new songs that appeared in the 1991-1992 time span.

 

I love this tune, but sometimes, playing it, could be the most exhausting, difficult thing you can imagine. It HURTS to play !  It’s not easy, it’s not always fun for one’s fingers, it’s… relentless - but beautiful.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

So, a fitting way to end the album, an album of 20 of the most unusual, diverse, interesting songs I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing, working on, and performing.  By accident, some of those songs got recorded, from time to time, and in 1999, I sat down and went through ALL the possible takes, and compiled the one and only Dozey Lumps record, “One Lump Or Two?”

 

It was fun.  It was difficult.  It was very, very rewarding.  We learned together.  We made a really good team, sometimes writing together, sometimes bringing a nearly complete piece to the table and then letting the other person help to finish it.  It was an excellent relationship, and the band might well have gone on for many years, had not our interest shifted to the world of looping, and the possibilities that looping live presented.

 

That led us to very, very suddenly drop the entire Crafty repertoire (with notable exceptions, please see the entry under “Live” by Bindlestiff) and move to a whole new world of ambient, looping and experimental electronic music.  Part of this change was simply due to the fact that the Lumps’ repertoire was really very, very difficult to play, and there was no real room for improvisation, whereas in Bindlestiff, the opposite was true, the compositional side was minimised and the opportunity to improvise, solo, and experiment made Bindlestiff the obvious choice for us in late 1992.

 

 

It was a privilege and a pleasure to be in this band, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I learned so, so much about composition, harmony, the new tuning, my own capabilities and limits, plus, best of all I would say, I became fast friends with the remarkable Bryan Helm, the man behind so very many of these tracks.  Our partnership, in two VERY different groups, between 1988 and 1995 (1997 at a distance) was one of the most fruitful and valuable to me as both a musician but also as a person.

 

The Dozey Lumps were a remarkable band, with a diverse and astonishing repertoire of exciting, unusual music.  There will NEVER be another band like them.

 

 

The Lumps rule !

 

 

For the next part of the story, please see the entry under Early by Bindlestiff.

 

 

To hear the hard rocking acoustic power trio versions of these songs, please see the entry for “Throat-Wobbler Mangrove” by Luxury Yacht.

 

 

notes from the guitarist’s seat:

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