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Epitaph interview with Cliff Jackson

Epitaph formed back in 1969 in Dortmund out of the bands called Chicago Sect and The Red Rooster. They got their name from King Crimson song titled "Epitaph". Soon they were signed to a really big label but the circumstances were not the best for the band and in the end of 70's with a couple of albums on their back disbanded.


You formed the band in Dortmund. What was the scene back then in Dortmund?

Dortmund was the Hub of prog rock music in Germany in the early 70´s. It had a large club called Fantasio (capacity c/a 800-900) where all the British Rock bands played. Yes, Black Sabbath, Rory  Gallagher, Kraftwerk, Amon Düül II, Jimmy Smith, but also a lot of the now great unknown bands like Writing On the Wall, Terry Reid, IF, Gracious and many, many more. We were the house band and practiced in the cellars under the club. We had to be good.

Were you in any bands before Epitaph?

Yes, I was part of the Dortmund rock scene. My bands were 'Chicago Sect' and 'The Red Roosters'. The Red Roosters included Jim Mcgillivary, Bernd Kolbe and myself. Later to become the core of Epitaph.

How did you meet and choose the name?

I was a member of the British Armed Forces in Dortmund and bought my freedom in 1968. The name Epitaph came from a song from the first King Crimson album. We were fans.

Soon you started working on your debut as a trio. Cliff Jackson (vocals, guitar), Bernd Kolbe (bass, mellotron, vocals) and Jim McGillivray (drums). The first album was recorded in Essex studio in England, right? I believe it was however finished in Windrose Studios, Hamburg, where a fourth member was added to the group: Klaus Walz (guitar, vocals). Why is that so and how did you got signed up to such a major label like Polydor? Did you do any shows before the album?

We had been playing all over Germany as a pro rock band for about 2 years and were invited to backing a German blues pianist called Gunter Boas (he became a very good friend). While recording an album for him in Hamburg his producer heard us playing a couple of our own songs in the studio. He invited us back a couple of weeks later to record demos (It was a two track studio). Polydor heard them and signed us. Klaus Walz joined the band later after the first recordings in Wessex Studios in London. We recorded 2 tracks “Autum 71” and “Are You Ready”.

Things were looking great and you signed up to Billingsgate Records and started recording your third album, which was more into straight rock'n'roll titled "Outside the Law". You spend a lot of money promoting this release, but then Billingsgate went bankrupt and all their money was lost. This must had been really hard for you?

Gary Pollack, the CEO of Billingsgate Records from Chicago heard Epitaph at a Festival in Berlin in June 1972 and set up a US tour for us mostly in the Midwest.

We had a lot of new songs he liked so we went back to record "Outside the Law" in 1973. Recording took just 5 days. We went back to the States in 1974, but Billingsgate were already struggling and couldn't find the money to promote the album and put us on tour. We had lost a lot of ground in Germany so we put the band on ice for a couple of years.

Epitaph went through major changes during 1977, and only you remained from the original group, but you recorded "Return to Reality". What can you tell me about the album?

We were all living in 1977 in an old house in the country (old school house ). We were offered to do European tour (36 dates) with Hungarian prog rock band called 'Omega'. Klaus and Bernie didn't want to live in the country anymore and didn't want to do the tour for various reasons and split for the Big City Dortmund.

Myself and drummer Fritz Randow put a band together, did the tour and over the next 3 years recorded  three albums. The first "Return  to  Reality" was more or less the live show from the tour recorded at a small studio near Oldenburg, Germany.

I believe you recorded two more albums. These days you are still very active. Would you like to tell us what was going on in the band during last few years and what can we expect from the future?

Since our reunion in 2000 we have recorded two new studio albums "Remember the Daze" and "Dancing with Ghosts". We have also released a lot of our back catalog including two DVD's. We are open to tour again in November 2012; about 8 dates. The last show was in Hannover on the 27th of  November. We are also recording and filming. This time with a lot of our latest songs. We will start recording a new album in 2013.  

Was there any special moment while on stage?

Its very special to be on stage with Epitaph. The band always gives everything. Very pleased to be part of it.

Thank you very much for taking your time. Would you like to send a message to your fans?

Like to thank all the fans who stayed with us through the turbulent years and tried to understand the meaning. You the kings!

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
© Copyright 2012


chriscokid said...

Excellent! I really enjoyed reading this. I'm ready to explore Epitaph. It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine your coming across with some really good stuff. Thanks.

Jade Graham said...

We were the house band and practiced in the cellars under the club. We had to be good. vinyl lettering