Headswim | Interview | “We were all long-haired music nuts”

Uncategorized February 8, 2024

Headswim | Interview | “We were all long-haired music nuts”

Headswim are an English alternative rock band active during the 1990s. Last October, the band reformed for a one off show in Camden to mark the launch of their freshly reissued cult classic debut album, ‘Flood’.

Through the power of a hardcore fanbase the band were coaxed out of retirement, into the rehearsal studio and into The Underworld to perform the album in its entirety to aforementioned fans. The ex-Major label mites, Headswim teamed up with indie upstarts Trapped Animal to reissue ‘Flood’ to state the clamours of a Facebook group lovingly named (initially) ‘headswimfuckers’. Those same fans have crowdsourced the release on gatefold vinyl, CD and digital. The album has been lovingly mixed by the band’s original live engineer Andy Shillito – and the results are something else.

Photo by Steve Gullick

“We were all long-haired music nuts”

Thanks for stopping by! I guess it must be pretty special that you have a new recording after 23 years. I bet it doesn’t feel that long?

Clovis Taylor: Thanks for inviting me to Psychedelic Baby’s groovy play room, nice lava-lamp by the way. It’s been 23 years since Headswim last released any newly recorded material and like the hair on my head those years just disappeared as soon as the band gathered in a room to rehearse for a gig in November 2022.

What led you to decide to reform for a one off show in Camden last October?

As soon as the decision was made to re-release our debut LP ‘Flood’ it became obvious that only a live show would befit such a special occasion. We toyed with the idea of a question and answer session in a venue but this begged the question of why not simply play a show?

On the night in question our erstwhile sound technician, Andy Shillito, revealed that he intended to professionally record the show should the opportunity arise for a formal release in the future. It was a good job Andy had the foresight as plans were soon made to crowd fund ‘Flood Live’ with the generosity of Headswim’s Facebook group.
We are all stoked that your debut album, ‘Flood’ is now reissued, what runs through your mind when hearing those recordings today?

When I listen to the reissue of 1994’s ‘Flood’ I hear the virile energy of four young men brimming with confidence and friendship. It was recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales and I like to think Headswim left a sonic impression in those hallowed rooms… and maybe a roach or two as well. 

Would you like to share about your upbringing? Where did you all grow up? Tell us about daily life back in your teenage years.

Headswim grew up on the borders of East London and Essex. We were all long-haired music nuts playing in bands and testing the long suffering patience of our parents. You’d have found us exploring Epping Forest high on magic mushrooms or acid before returning to someone’s house to smoke hash and listen to music; The Who, Captain Beefheart, James Brown, Edie Brickell, Beth Orton, Pink Floyd, The Beastie Boys, Folk Implosion, Sandy Denny, Mad Professor, Bob Marley, The Prodigy, Weather Report, The Beatles et cetera.

Was there a certain scene you were part of, maybe you had some favourite hangout places? Did you attend a lot of gigs back then?

In terms of being part of a “scene” as a horny 15 year old I was warmly embraced by London’s rock and metal crowd. At the weekend you’d have found me head-banging at The Ruskin Arms in East Ham or watching Budgie at Walthamstow’s The Royal Standard, boozing at Kings night club in Seven Kings or trying to get laid at the LA2 in the West End. If I wasn’t working at my Saturday job you’d find me flicking through the racks at Shades Record Store located in St Anne’s Court, Soho. 

If we would step into your teenage room, what kind of records, fanzines, posters et cetera would we find there?

If you were brave enough to enter my teenage bedroom you’d have found a poster of Cliff Burton on the wall and another of Doro Pesch above my bed. Alongside LP’s by Status Quo and Free you’d find discs by The Undertones, The Go Go’s and The Cult. I even had a few 7” singles owned by my folks; Georgie Fame, Marvin Gaye, The Small Faces et cetera. 

Was Headswim your very first band or were you involved with any other bands?

After Art School I joined a band called The End, a bunch of psychedelic funkateers on a mission to get the world dancing. The End released one LP called ‘Gusto’ and if not the world we were successful in getting folks to shake a tail feather wherever we landed our spaceship.

Tom Glendining, Dan Glendining, Nick Watts, Clovis Taylor

Can you elaborate on the formation of the Headswim? You were originally called Blender?

Headswim was formed in 1989/1990 by Dan and Tom Glendining, two outrageously talented musicians I was lucky to be pals with. The equally talented Nick Watts joined them on keyboards/programming/sampling et cetera. The Glendinings first band was called Blinder and rumour has it one or two self funded singles were recorded and sold at gigs. After leaving The End I joined Headswim in 1993.

Photo by Steve Gullick

Would love if you could speak about the circumstances surrounding two four-track EPs, ‘Tense Nervous Head’ and ‘Moment of Union,’ on your own Crush Records label (the eight songs from the two EPs would later be compiled and released as the mini-album ‘Tense Moments’). I guess these two recordings were the leading point to join Epic Records and began working on ‘Flood’?

‘Tense Nervous Head’ was Headswim’s debut EP for Epic Records on a subsidiary label called Crush. The EP comprised two earlier demo songs (‘Violent’ / ‘My Life is Driving Me Crazy’) and two new songs, ‘One Red Eye’ / ‘Chains and Nails’. I replaced original Headswin bassist Paul Rimmer and re-recorded bass for ‘Violent and My Life’. Time has fogged our memories but we believe some of this material was recorded at The Who’s Ramport Studios in Battersea, London.

Photo by Lillle Wilde

‘Moment of Union’ was an EP released in 1994 before Headswim had entered Rockfield to begin recording ‘Flood’. The material on the ep featured a song called ‘Dead’ that heralded a strengthening of identity for Headswim and helped cement the bands reputation as a cross genre rock band. 
Both EP’s reveal Headswim experimenting with their sound. On ‘Proud’ from ‘Moment of Union’ you can hear turntable scratching and drum loop samples blended with slap bass and complex drumming. I think the song is an example of the wide pool of music the band was drawing from at the time. 

Photo by Lillle Wilde

“This tragedy shaped the sound and look of Headswim on our next LP, Despite Yourself”

It must have been a really difficult and stressful time when you lost Matthew…

The devastating blow of Dan and Tom losing their younger brother Matthew was a catastrophic shock to family, friends and band. This tragedy shaped the sound and look of Headswim on our next LP, ‘Despite Yourself’. The material on ‘Despite Yourself’ is far more singer-songwriter focussed with Dan composing the majority of the material. When listening to the LP it’s evident in the lyrical and tonal shade of the music that the death of Matt coloured the sound of the band. By this point Dan had developed into a highly skilled songwriter which led to Headswim scoring a top thirty UK chart hit with ‘Tourniquet’.

Photo by Lillle Wilde

After touring ‘Despite Yourself’ throughout 1997/8 Headswim began writing and recording their untitled third LP. After a long and ultimately fruitless spell in the luxury of Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, Sony Music’s attention was drawn to their account ledger and Headswim were dropped. In hindsight I wish we’d gritted our teeth and finished the third LP and moved on, however, it wasn’t to be and for whatever reason we weren’t happy with the direction of the material. Incidentally, Dan went on to re-record approximately half of these songs for his later Blackcar project. 

Photo by Lillle Wilde

Your band is a perfect example of how the grinding industry machine drops someone. What happened after the release of the single ‘Dusty Road’ in 2000?

After Headswim were dropped we limped on and secured a small deal with Pet Sounds which led to a 2000 single called ‘Dusty Road’. ‘Dusty Road’ deserved far more attention than it received as the song is a mighty and successful demonstration of Headswim’s character. On the chorus of ‘Dusty Road’ you’ll hear Dan layering multiple vocal lines lending the song an almost gospel righteousness.

Photo by Lillle Wilde

What are some of the most memorable gigs you played?

Headswim played more gigs than you’ve had hot dinners and when I try to recall them they all blend into one enormous gig casserole steaming with blood, sweat and tears. 

How do you enjoy working with Trapped Animal?

The reissue of ‘Flood’ and now ‘Flood Live’ would not have been possible without three major events:

1. Sony Music erased debt to all artists signed to the label pre 2000. Headswim were in considerable debt when we parted ways with the label, a reissue of any kind would have been financially impossible.
2. The formation of a Facebook group by loyal, frustrated Headswim fans.
3. Joel Clayton of Trapped Animal Records being a member of said Facebook group and offering to reissue Headswim material. 

Clovis Taylor

What’s next for you?

I doubt the band will play another show as the first was so difficult to arrange, finance and physically perform. Maybe there’ll be a reissue of ‘Despite Yourself’ and who knows, possibly an archeological dig to uncover some material recorded for the aborted third Headswim LP?

Klemen Breznikar

Headline photo: Headswim promotional shot | Photo by Steve Gullick

Headswim Official Website / Facebook
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