Stonefield Tramp interview with Terry & Brian
1. Thank you for taking your time! First I would like to ask you where did you grow up and what were some of your influences?
Terry: I was born in Kiel, Germany, in November 1947, the son of a British soldier. In fact I lived in Germany untill 1961 when, at the age of 13, we returned to England, eventually settleing in South Wales. Incidently, the camp we lived on in Germany was called Hohne, and was situated right next to the site of the former concentration camp of Belsen. And I do believe that the knowledge of what had occurred there, during the war, and gained at a very young age,(5 years old at the time!) must have had a massive impact on my own particular style of lyric writing. Whilst in Germany I attended an Army boarding school, for 2 years, in Wilhelmshaven. The effect that this had on me was to give me a very independant streak, and all I wamted to do was leave home. So, at the age of 16 I joined the Army myself. As for influences, I really didn’t think much at all about pop music, untill the Beatles came along. That changed everything! And then in 1965 I discovered Bob Dylan. And I believe that it was him who was instumental in opening up my inner voice. I really believe that if there had been no Bob Dylan, there would have been no me! It’s as simple as that. Another great influence is Leonard Cohen, who Rob introduced me to, when we both got together, after leaving the Army, to write our songs in 1970.
Brian: I was born in Cheltenham, England in 1951, moving to Tewkesbury in 1953. Growing up in the fifties was a marvellous time for me and looking back it seems a more innocent time, full of happiness and great boy-hood adventures. I knew from an early age that I wanted to play guitar. I must have been the earliest exponent of the now infamous ‘air guitar.’ The Beatles came along and the world changed, me with it! However the Byrds jangling 12 string songs really did it for me.
2. Were you in any bands before forming Stonefield Tramp? If so, please tell me if there are any releases?
Terry: No. Stonefield Tramp was the first band that I was a part of.
Brian: I played in a number of School bands as I got older, mainly singing, choirs and the like, my first guitar arrived at the age of 15, courtesy of pocket money and paper rounds. In the late sixties Cream and Eric Clapton dominated, but it wasn’t easy trying to follow Eric! Gradually the group thing died for me, mainly because of arguments, practice etc. And along with another local guy I played in folk clubs doing Ralf McTell, Dylan and early Neil Young material. Great days. Alas no releases.
3. Why the name Stonefield Tramp?
Terry: ‘Dreaming Again’ was the second commercial album that Rob, Brian, and I had recorded. It, and its predecessor, ‘Follow the Sun’ by R.J.Van Spyk and Friends, were both recorded in the village of Stonesfield at the Acorn studio. Returning from the studio we realised that we needed a name. A debate took place and eventuaslly we settled on Stonefield Tramp, dropping the s from Stonesfield, because it didn’t sound quite right. And it was from the band name that we named our label ‘Tramp Records’.
Brian: From what I recall, after the recording session, realization dawned that a name was required. Stonefield Tramp emerged.
4. How did you guys came together?
Terry: Rob and I met up in Tonfanau, in North Wales, when we were both members of the All Arms Junior Leaders Regiment, both aged 16. Rob, I had noticed played a guitar. Little did either of us know, at that time, where this would lead to!
Brian: I was working at a local Factory when Terry was taken on. We had quite a lot in common and hit it off straight away, particulalary from a music point of view. I was introduced to Rob a little later, probably around 1972/73.
5. You first recorded a promotional album called Going Nowhere in 1971, right? I would like to know what happened, why was it not released? How many copies were actually made of this promo album?
Terry: That is correct! When Rob and I first got together to create our songs, which consisted of his music and my lyrics, we never intended to be anything other than songwriters. So the album was very simply recorded, with guitar and recorder, as a demo album only of our first ten songs. Besides, the recording quality was, in my opinion, not good enough for commercial release. I believe, although I may be wrong about this, that there are only 3 acetate copies in the world. Although, having said that, we do know that this album has been bootlegged!
Brian: The Going Nowhere album was recorded by Terry and Rob alone.
6. In 1974 you released Dreaming Again. I would like if you could share the whole story about recording and producing this LP!
Terry: ‘Dreaming Again’ almost didn’t get recorded at all. Rob didn’t want to do another album so soon after the first one! ‘Follow the Sun’ was an acoustic album that was very well received, and as we had loads of songs written, I suggested that we go ahead and record another one, purely on the success of ‘Follow the Sun’. I thought it would be another acoustic album, again, just with Rob, Brian and myself. You need to know, I think, that Brian and I lived in Tewkesbury, and Rob lived in Letchworth. So, there was some distance between us, and in those days communication was not so easy. No e mails back then! Much to my surprise, Rob went and formed a band, attracting bass player Chris, and electric guitarist Dave. So the acoustic album became a semi acoustic folk rockish album instead.
Brian: Follow the Sun was my first ever participation with the boys from a recording point of view. I remember spending time with Terry and Rob, in Terry’s cottage in a village outside Tewkesbury, practicing the songs to be recorded after a drinking session in a Tewkesbury pub. Because of the way the recording was done in those days everything had to be perfect as a group.
Where did you record it?
Terry: We recorded it at the Acorn studio in Stonesfield in Oxfordshire. It was done in straight takes and took 8 hours. Follow the Sun was done the same way, but only took 4 hours.
Brian: Recorded at Acorn studio in Stonesfield in Oxfordshire. All done in straight takes and the best part of a day to complete. I remember playing into microphones, and singing in a very disciplined manner, to complete the songs to an acceptable standard. Again as a group thing.
What can you tell me about the cover artwork?
Terry: Rob was interviewed by the local paper for Follow the Sun, and got to know the photographer. He happened to have a girl friend who was a graphic artist. When they heard about the follow up album, they offered their services for free! We couldn’t very well turn that down! I had to travell to letchworth for the photo session.
Brian: I had no influence, or input, over the artwork for the cover.
Where was it released and how many copies were made?
Terry: We released it ourselves and used to sell them by ‘word of mouth’ and at the bands gigs. All of our albums, ‘Follow the Sun’, ‘Dreaming Again’, and my first solo album ‘Come the Day’, were released as limited editions of 200 copies.
Brian: It was released about October 1974, 200 copies only, and sold by word of mouth to friends and others.
7. Did you do any touring?
Terry: No real touring, as such, but loads of pub gigs, and the odd College one.
Brian: No touring, because by this time Terry had moved away from Tewkesbury, and I had hooked up with a friend with whom I have played with for over 30 years, culminating in a couple of prestigious gigs at the British Consulate in Hamburg, Germany.
8. What happened next?
Terry: Stonefield Tramp was a working band from September 1974 untill about late 1976. When I joined I just wrote lyrics (which I had been doing since December 1967) In 1974 I bought a guitar and began to write my own songs, hence my debut of my first song ‘Come the Day’ on the ‘Follow the Sun’ album in April 1974. As my own song writing developed, the former song writing partnership with Rob seemed to be dieing, so I left the band to pursue my own path. At the time it felt like a very hard choice to make, but it really did feel like it was time to move on. Shortly afterwards Rob emigrated to the U.S.A. And that, effectively, was the end of Stonefield Tramp.
Brian: There must have been a period where I didn’t record with Rob or Terry for some years. I’ve always preferred the live scenario of playing, as opposed to studio work. I’m not very disciplined!
9. You recorded many albums including Strange Journey in three parts, Red Sky Descending, The Ballad of the Mystery by Peter Kiely, Natural Noise, The Alamo, The Ulster Songbook, Beneath a Pale Moon, Whispers in the Wind and Summertime. I would like if you could tell us more about this releases?
Terry: I just can’t help myself! As long as I write my songs, I want to record them, and I want to record them in a way that they are the very best that I can afford to do, given the high cost of it all, and my rather limited funds. Because of this sad fact, some of my albums, sadly, are not as good as they might have been. But, that is all now in the past, for having discovered David’s lovely FFG studio, just outside Tewkesbury, about six years ago, my albums are all of a very high quality indeed. David acts as my producer and knows instinctively what to add to my songs. The main reason for releasing Anthology 1 and 3 was to put out in cd format all of the best songs from those first six albums that I had recorded. The first three being those with Rob, and the others were my first three solo albums. The next album I recorded was my first CD ‘Whispers in the Wind’. This was amainly acoustic based album with my friend Colin from my own band ‘New Morning’. (1978-1980)
Brian: I don’t know how it happened, because I’ve been playing and singing for most of my life, so the time frames are a little askew. Terry and I pursued different paths for some years. I vaguely remember a phone call from him, out of the blue, and the recording started up again! Terry, I’m sure, will have a better recollection of what happened next with albums and recordings etc. Usually Terry will say ‘I’m doing another album, care to join me?’ And I just slot in a bit of guitar or harmony vocal. The only time I play harmonica is on Terry’s albums. To be perfectly honest, it’s a great way of doing things! I’m usually completely in the dark, when I arrive at the FFG studio, as to the songs and what is required by me. I’d like to think that it adds a slight organic feel to the songs by doing things ‘off the cuff.’
10. What are some of your future plans?
Terry: When I retire, in just over a year, I hope to be able to find a partner and perform my work as an acoustic duo. It is the only way to promote the albums. I have my website, of course, and that’s all part of it, and very good fun too!
Brian: I’m currently involved with a guy who has a great voice and we go under the name of Thunder Road. This is a recent venture. My previous partner retired after 35 years of playing, and I was quite ready to ‘hang up my guitar’ as well! Then this opportunity came along and I must admit that Thunder Road is the real deal!
Studio Engineer and producer
11. Thank you for your time and effort. Would you like to send a message to readers of It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine?
Terry: First off, thank you Klemen, for giving me this opportunity to be able to express myself on your website. And I’d like to thank everybody out there that appriciates the songs that I have written. Both with Rob Van Spyk, and Stonefield Tramp, and as a solo songwriter since 1977. As long as I continue to breath, I hope I shall be able to continue to write! And if I do continue to write (like all writers, I do get my blank spells!) I hope I shall be able to continue to record my work.
Brian: I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to give you a very brief snap-shot of my involvement with Terry and Rob. I’m not a song writer, I play and sing for fun. Music always has been fun! Terry and Rob were the brains, and the writers, of some very good songs, I did the easy bit! Terry deserves great credit for what he’s achieved over the years and I’ve been lucky to be a part of it. Good luck to you and your magazine.
With regards from Brian Balster. Tewkesbury, England. 11/11/11.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
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