Peter Daltrey & The Know Escape | Interview | New Album, ‘Running Through Chelsea’
‘Running Through Chelsea’ is a ground-breaking collaboration between Peter Daltrey (of cult 60s UK psych band Kaleidoscope) and former DC Fontana man Mark Mortimer that offers exciting sonic adventures.
Combining Mellotrons, Baroque strings, sitars, Hammond organ with 12-string guitars, brass, orchestral reeds and rare folk instruments from all over the globe, this is a powerful and contemporary sounding album with roots in the 60s psychedelic and mod past of both chaps. It comes out as a limited edition vinyl LP as well as CD and digital formats, via US label Think Like A Key Music with Peter writing the lyrics and Mark the music. It’s produced by long time Julian Cope guitarist producer Donald Ross Skinner in London and Rick Reil in New York.
“That magical period in my life has always coloured my written work”
How did you originally meet and what initiated the project?
Peter Daltrey: My memory is shot through with age holes. And any of my answers here will be best taken with a pinch of salt. Young Mark Mortimer will remember all this stuff better than I will. But as I recall Mark got in touch quite a few years back and asked if I would sing just one line on one of his songs. I agreed as I usually do and he and Donald Ross Skinner popped round to my gaff and we added the line. They went away happy and I got on with my quiet life in the country.
Then maybe two or three years ago Mark contacted me again and asked if I’d like to try adding some verses to an instrumental piece he’d written with Michael Tyack. It was not an easy task as the piece was an ethereal amorphous landscape of sound – not your nice and easy verse-chorus-bridge arrangement. But I eventually found my way in and wrote three short verses that slotted in with a variation of the discernable melodies in the piece.
Mark and Michael were pleased with the result and I nipped down to Glastonbury to add my vocal. Job done.
But not long after that Mark suggested we might collaborate on some other songs. I love collaborating as it forces you to write and sing in unfamiliar ways. When my band broke up I carried on writing and recording and have released around eighteen albums. Some of those were with other amazing songwriters like Damien Youth from the US and Arjen Lucassen from the Netherlands. I also wrote and recorded ‘The Journey’ album with US band The Asteroid No.4. A great band of guys who take psychedelic influences and weave them into their own contemporary music.
So Mark and I set out on our own musical journey. No idea where it would lead or if we’d get lost on the way…
The album itself is a fusion of both of your worlds, how did you approach the songwriting process?
When I was in Kaleidoscope and Fairfield Parlour, Ed and I always wrote our songs in the same way. I first wrote the lyrics and then Ed wrote the melody. But when I was writing on my own, of course, I had to write both. But I found when collaborating since then the best method for me is to ask my new partner to send me a simple instrumental track with a basic song structure.
I then write my lyrics and work out a melody. I might chop up some sections or copy and paste a different chord in to suit my melody, but usually what Mark sends me needs no re-arranging.
Once that’s done I add a scratch vocal and ask for Mark’s response. If we want to proceed Mark will add his own instruments and then call in his vast network of super-talented musician friends to contribute. It works as a dream and results in elaborate, exotic, multi-coloured arrangements that are more complex than anything I could produce myself.
Can you share some further words where the album was recorded and produced?
With modern technology and fast internet connections recordings can be made remotely by musicians recording their parts thousands of miles apart in their own home studios. Not ideal and wouldn’t suit everyone. But it works from an economic point of view. Look, most of us are either broke or just about getting by. Studio time can be very expensive and we can’t afford to fly off to sit toe to toe in a foreign studio all together. It’s a shame because working like this we never get to meet. Even Mark and I have rarely got together during the time we’ve been working on the album.
Working in this way suits me because I like to record my vocals over and over until I’m completely satisfied they are the very best I can produce. I then move on to harmonies and that for me is a process of elimination and trial and error. A great deal of error that I wouldn’t want anyone else to hear.
Mark and I exchange takes and rough mixes until we have both approved a final version. That is then sent to our producers on this project, Donald or Rick. They then work their magic adding additional instruments in some cases. Mixes are then punted back and forth until we are all in agreement on a master version.
Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?
Not sure where to go with that. I like them all. I can’t help weaving in some Sixties references to the lyrics because that’s where I come from, that magical period in my life has always coloured my written work, in songs and books. The title track is an obvious one, but also ‘Those Days’ and ‘Hotel Juliet’ are kind of nostalgic. ‘Turn On Your Radio’ is a bit cheeky. Back in the Sixties Britain only had one pop radio station – apart from one or two pirates bobbing up and down in the North sea – so anyone writing a song with the word “radio” in the title was hoping it was going to be an obvious shoe-in for playlisting. Today there are thousands of radio stations so getting them to notice your song is incredibly difficult with so much music being released every day. ‘Bukowski’s ‘Tambourine’ is sort of autobiographical. I first started writing poetry sixty years ago and posting them out to the little magazines hoping to get them published. I’m a big Bukowski fan so it was fun stitching that song together. ‘Elisa Lam’ is based on the tragic true story of the young girl that went missing from a hotel in America.
How pleased were you with the sound of the album?
I’m blown away by the sound of the album to be honest. Mark is an incredible musician and sends me tracks that are inspirational. That’s what fires me up creatively. I love the multi-layered complex arrangements. Every note, every word has been very carefully crafted to come to that final recording. It was a true labour of love.
I also feel it is a well-balanced album. There is the humour of ‘No Girls On Mars’ alongside the drama and lush depths of ‘Elisa Lam’. There is the exotic instrumentation of ‘Casablanca’ contrasting with the head-down straight on power of ‘Turn On Your Radio’.
I do love the fine instrumental flourishes in songs such as ‘The Circle’ and ‘Come Down From The Mountain’.
Are you involved in any other bands or do you have any active side-projects going on at this point?
I have two solo albums finished and ready to go. I’m hoping Think Like A Key might consider one of those for release later this year or a compilation of some of my solo albums from the past twenty years or so.
I’m also working with a British label on a luxury definitive box set of every recording from the Kaleidoscope and Fairfield Parlour back catalogue. It will include rare demos, outtakes, different mixes, posters and photographs and a biography of the band in book form. The label will release a vinyl box first to be followed by a larger collection on CD. They will include in that my second available solo album so fans can see that the music didn’t stop when the band broke up.
But, of course, with the success of ‘Running through Chelsea’ it makes sense for Mark and I to continue to work together. We are already two songs in and hoping that neither of us hit the dreaded writer’s block. As long as Mark keeps feeding me the inspiration I will continue responding in kind.
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