The Bevis Frond, the band name used by Nick Saloman for his projects. Debut Miasma is a well regarded psychedelic album. A steady stream of LPs since then showcase Nick's strengths of strong songwriting, finely crafted lyrics, and a musical mixture from wig-out guitar jams to sensitive folky numbers. They are still very active and we managed to do an interview.
When did Bevis Frond form? Could you tell us the story?
I’d been playing in bands since I was about 15 in the late sixties with not very much success. I always had quite a lot of confidence in my abilities as a guitarist and songwriter, but for various reasons (often of my own making) I never really got anywhere. I left home at 18, and needed money for rent etc, so I never had decent equipment. I think if I’d been a bit more dedicated, I might have found ways to get a good guitar and amp. By the time I was around 20, the prog scene was in full flight and I never really got my head round that stuff, so that was when I started collecting old vinyl. I played in a folk rock band while I was at college, and did some solo acoustic stuff. By the time punk took hold, I was back in London, and I got a band together with some old mates with the idea of doing a mix of punk and psych. We called this band The Von Trap Family and we played loads of shows round London in the late 70s. We even got played on John Peel’s show. After that, the band sort of morphed into Room 13, and then I had a bad motorbike accident, which kind of finished the band. When I was okay again, I decided to do some solo recordings, and I issued a self-financed album called Miasma. I called my project The Bevis Frond as I’d been in a band called The Bevis Frond in the 60s, and I always liked the name, which was thought up by an old school friend Julien Temple (now a famous film maker). Much to my surprise, Miasma went down very well, so I continued making albums, and eventually I was asked to do some shows, so I put a live band together. This would be around 1989. We’ve had quite a few personnel changes since then, but Adrian Shaw has been on bass since the beginning, and is still an integral part of the band.
Who are some of your favorite artists and LP's?
Wow! How long have you got?? I started buying records when I was about 5 years old. I really like Rock & Roll, Gene Vincent, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. The Shadows figured big, then of course it was The Beatles and the British Beat thing. When psychedelia took off in 66, I was about 13. I just went for it hook line & sinker. I guess my favourite bands from that period would be Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe & The Fish, Mad River, HP Lovecraft, Ultimate Spinach, Savage Resurrection, Clear Light, Spirit, Pretty Things, Love, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Steve Miller Band, that kind of thing. I started going to gigs regularly in about 68. I lived in Central London, so it was all virtually on my doorstep. Over the next few years I really got into bands like Patto, Caravan, Blossom Toes, Taste, Cressida. I thought it was just going to continue like that forever, but by about 72, it was over. You had bands like Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant etc etc doing things like ‘Return Of The Space Goblins parts 1 -5’ in 17/8 time, and it did absolutely nothing for me. I was delighted when punk kicked all that stuff out. I really liked The Damned, but The Wipers for me were the key band of the late 70s/early 80s. For songwriting you can’t beat David Ackles or Joni Mitchell, and Dave Crosby’s ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’ is an important record for me. I love my UK folk too...Sandy Denny, Shirley Collins, Barry Dransfield, brilliant. More recently, I’ve got a lot of time for Teenage Fanclub, and I really like The Wellwater Conspiracy’s ‘Brotherhood Of Electrick’ album. I could go on (and on)....
What is the audience reaction to your live shows?
It’s usually very good. We don’t gig very often, so when we do, it’s a kind of minor event I guess, so people tend to travel a bit to see us, and they’re always up for a good time. I suppose because we’re not that young any more, there’s always a chance that we’ll die, and they’ll never be able to see us again!
How does the band work out the tracks on each record? Do you jam first?
There’s no set pattern. We do some jamming, but we also have things rehearsed. Remember, when we go into the studio, I’m paying for it, and I’m not rolling in money. It’s a bit like sitting in a taxi with the meter running. I have to be a bit thrifty, so there’s not too much spare time for working things out in the studio.
Why is psychedelic music, or heavy-psych still so popular?
Personally, I reckon, it’s because it’s so artistically free. Psych is pretty open-ended, it doesn’t really have rules or restrictions. After all that’s the idea behind it isn’t it? So there’s a lot of room for experimentation, and when the whole point of it is to ‘expand the mind’, it gives the artist a lot of scope to do just that. And I don’t think it’s a revelation to say that lots of people like to have their minds expanded.
Could you tell us about any Bevis Frond side projects?
Well, at the moment there aren’t any. In the past I did the Fred Bison V album, which was a little trip into garage psych. Then a few of us did the Scorched Earth record, which was a kind of heavy, late 60s type of thing.
Is the band interested in occultism?
In a word, no.
Do any occult writings inspire your music?
Again, no, not really. I really like writers like MR James and HP Lovecraft, so I’ve incorporated a bit of that into some stuff. The name Room 13 was taken from an MR James story called ‘Number 13’. But I don’t really think they’re occult are they?
What lies in the future for the band?
I’m planning a new album for 2015, and we’ve got some shows lined up for the Summer, and a tour of Europe might happen in the Autumn. Other than that, I don’t know. I tend not to make too many plans, as they have a nasty habit of not happening. I usually just wait & see what comes along.
Interview made by John Wisniewski/2015
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