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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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
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.