I grabbed the opportunity to see this wonderful band earlier on this week, when I stumbled upon the Mumble’s interview with Luke Oldfield. He is the son of Mike Oldfield. How cool is that? Imagine having Mike Oldfield as your dad! I first witnessed Gypsy Fingers back in September, when while on a Mumble Mission to review the rather amazing Australian duo Tubular Bells For Two, Gypsy Fingers were the support act. This is where I fell in love with them. In the interim the band has expanded in numbers. The other two members of this brilliant band, Pat Kenneally on drums and Tali Trow on Bass Guitar, complimented the two front stars with a musical chemistry that is bewitching to behold. Of their arrival, Luke told the Mumble in a recent interview;
I posted on Facebook asking if there were any drummers or multi-instrumentalists who would be interested in joining Gypsyfingers and Pat Kenneally replied saying that he plays drums and keys sometimes at the same time, which we thought would be perfect! I had met Pat on a recording session previously so I knew he was a talented musician and that we would get on so we went to see him playing with another band so Victoria could see and meet him. We had a rehearsal and it just worked Pat has been an integral part of the band and a great friend ever since. Finding a bass player was more tricky! We had three bass players before we found Simon Hedges, who used to be in a great grunge band in Bristol called Airbus. Simon hadn’t played bass for 15 years since he left Airbus but we were having a beer telling him about how our bassist had spontaneously combusted (by suddenly moving to Japan) and he piped up with “I play bass!” and he was the perfect fit. He is currently working in Brussels for the BBC so we have our fifth bass player Tali Trow playing for us currently, who is also a real asset to Gypsyfingers bringing an extra layer of vocal harmonies with him.
The Voodoo Rooms was the perfect venue to take Gypsy Fingers in for a second time. Intimate dark, warm and very welcoming. The opening song of the performance was “Eating Me” Gypsyfingers had me totally for the next 90 minutes. The most outstanding track in their repertoire “Eating Me” has been part of Divines DJ sets throughout Autumn, Winter and Spring. The whole of the debut album “Circus Life” Is fantastic and joyful on the ear. However “Eating Me” is a work of perfection. Written by and sung by the very beautiful Victoria Coughlan, Its infectious and Funky and the lyrics deeply meaningful. It still blows me away that the band opened with Eating Me and dedicated the song to myself.
The whole song is choreographed. Its great to dance to. I am a mime artist and Dancer, Bowie is my god, & Eating Me has the same descriptive quality in Victoria’s vocal content and delivery, & is very conducive to dance interpretation of the song. I love the Dancefloors in the Voodoo Rooms. Wooden and sprung. Aye this was Divines fave song of 2017. And it will be part of my Set in the Vishnu Lounge at Eden, in June. Because I knew the source material so well. It was a real treat to be so up close and witness these young masters displaying their art so beautifully. The Oldfield musical genes were very present in Luke’s expert guitar licks and treatments, while Victoria’s unique and folky, vocal delivery and beautifully played keys brought Circus Life to life. I knew that I had just witnessed something very special and that this band would not be playing venues as small as this for much longer.
Venue Choice. 5 Stars, Entertainment Value. 5 Stars. Presentation. 5 Stars. So thats five stars all round.. 5 Stars. Divinexx
Following their critically well-received slot as the opening act on Tubular Bells For Two’s UK tour last autumn, Gypsyfingers now embark on their first ever UK tour, with a brand new single, Half World, released to coincide with the dates. A week before they set off on the road, The Mumble caught up with the band for a wee blether.
Well hello Gypsyfingers I hope we are all well! First question to Luke I thought I should clear up the Oldfield question first! Just how cool is your dad and what was it like to grow up the son of a Legend? LUKE: Dad is cool in a very down to earth way. He has never enjoyed drawing attention to himself or being in the spotlight and to me he is just my dad. I think people have some preconceptions about what it must be like to have a famous musician for a father but its not like that at all for me. My parents separated when I was very young and whenever I used to go and see Dad we would usually spend some time in the studio. For me it just seemed like a very normal thing that my dad was a musician. When I saw him perform live at The Albert Hall in 1993 was perhaps the first time I realised that my Dad wasn’t like everyone else’s Dad!
What age were you when you first saw the Exorcist? LUKE: I was 14 and I stayed up late with a few friends to watch The Exorcist in the dark and were all pretty spooked by it. Obviously the music was very familiar to me though so it didn’t have quite the dramatic effect it must have on most people.
What does Dad think of the band? LUKE: He doesn’t listen to a lot of music as he is always writing and creating his own music but he likes Gypsyfingers and is pleased that I have revived his old studio – Tilehouse Studios – where he recorded Five Miles Out, Moonlight Shadow and other records in the 80’s. We record Gypsyfingers there and I produce other there bands as well using lots of nice analogue gear including tape machines.
He has obviously been a major influence on all of you. Do you still work closely with him or are you a completely separate entity? LUKE: Victoria started Gypsyfingers as a solo project before I got involved so Gypsyfingers is definitely a separate entity from Mike Oldfield. Obviously I grew up with his latest releases – the Blue Peter “Sailor’s Hornpipe” Theme Tune is the first one I can remember – and I saw him play live several times so the influence on me is probably pretty strong. Everyone in Gypsyfingers has slightly different tastes in music, which I think is what what makes Gypsyfingers sound interesting. Victoria prefers classical and dance music; Pat loves 60’s and 70’s rock and my background is in rock and folk so there is a healthy melting pot of musical tastes and ideas between us.
Do you believe that Gypsyfingers’ star is ascending? LUKE: It certainly feels like it is! Victoria and I recorded our debut album “Circus Life” as a duo and it took a while for us to find the right musicians to play live with who could help us translate the album to be performed live. We had a great tour last year supporting Tubular Bells For Two and playing some fantastic venues and shows. The reaction from the audiences and press on that tour was brilliant so that has really spurred us on. We are now working with a booking agent and we want to keep the momentum going behind Gypsyfingers and to get our music out to a wider audience so we have our first UK headline tour starting on 26th April and we are currently booking more shows for later in the year.
With the launch of your new single, forthcoming gigs at The Isle of Wight Festival and Hyde Park and the recent success of ‘Belle Voci’ reaching the voice finals. Do you believe that it is now your time to be loved by the masses and are you ready for Superstardom? LUKE: Our new single “Half World” picks up from where a song like “Circus Elephant” on our debut album “Circus Life” left off and shows off a bigger sound thanks to Pat and Simon who play drums and bass on the record. We really hope people like it and we hope that we are taking folk-rock into slightly new territory with it. Our live shows are getting better and better and more opportunities keep coming up for Gypsyfingers. The important thing for us is to keep putting music out and playing shows as long as there is an appreciative audience. If that leads to superstardom then that would be fantastic and yes we would be ready for it.
This question is for everyone; opening last year with Tubular Bells For 2 must have been immense. How do you keep it real? LUKE: We had a great time on that tour and it was an exciting opportunity for sure. We are all good mates so its always fun being on the road with Gypsyfingers. We had Simon’s partner Sally Low with us on tour taking amazing photos so the tour was beautifully documented. We like to have a few beers after the shows to hang out and wind down. Funnily enough during that tour Victoria and I drove the van while Pat and Simon took the train, which they really loved. Thankfully none of their trains were delayed!
What is the one thing that lets you switch off, be you and help keep your feet on the ground? LUKE: I meditate a few times a week. It really helps to keep me grounded, particularly when things get a bit stressful. I also have a lovely bedlington-whippet called Bonnie who is constantly reminding me of the simple things in life.
What is your favourite moment so far with the band, was there one precise moment when you thought we have got something here! Or has it been very much a natural progression and you have realised what you needed to take you to the next level? LUKE: When Victoria and I started working together we didn’t have any rules or deadlines so we were able to experiment and find a sound that we liked and that we thought was interesting and fresh. From the start it has been a very organic progression. In 2014, quite soon after we released “Circus Life” we were offered a gig opening for James Blunt in Warsaw by a Polish promoter. The offer was very much out of the blue but it made us realise that we must be doing something right! It was a great opportunity and we rose to the occasion playing in front of 6000 people, selling lots of CDs afterwards and returning the following year to Poland for an 18 date tour!
How have the guys got on joining the band? I bet it was strange at first; Victoria and Luke were already very established, did you go out and actively seek the additional and members. They ‘rock’ let’s go get them or was it some kid of audition? LUKE: Victoria and I were playing a few acoustic gigs here and there as a duo and we felt that our folky acoustic set didn’t reflect our studio sound, which is more textured and ethereal. I posted on Facebook asking if there were any drummers or multi-instrumentalists who would be interested in joining Gypsyfingers and Pat Kenneally replied saying that he plays drums and keys sometimes at the same time, which we thought would be perfect! I had met Pat on a recording session previously so I knew he was a talented musician and that we would get on so we went to see him playing with another band so Victoria could see and meet him. We had a rehearsal and it just worked Pat has been an integral part of the band and a great friend ever since. Finding a bass player was more tricky! We had three bass players before we found Simon Hedges, who used to be in a great grunge band in Bristol called Airbus. Simon hadn’t played bass for 15 years since he left Airbus but we were having a beer telling him about how our bassist had spontaneously combusted (by suddenly moving to Japan) and he piped up with “I play bass!” and he was the perfect fit. He is currently working in Brussels for the BBC so we have our fifth bass player Tali Trow playing for us currently, who is also a real asset to Gypsyfingers bringing an extra layer of vocal harmonies with him.
Is there anything that you actually suck at? LUKE: Probably lots of things! Being vegetarians we are all terrible meat eaters but I think that is a good thing.
You all seem super talented and can all play multiple instruments and Victoria can even sing while playing everything! Who is who in the band? VICTORIA: We can all play a bit of everything! Our arrangements vary according to which song we are playing. Pat plays drums, piano, keys and he sometimes sings backing vocals as well. Luke plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar and sings, mostly backing vocals but sometimes lead. LUKE: Victoria is the lead singer and she plays piano, acoustic guitar and french horn. Tali plays bass and sings backing vocals.
Who is the funny one, who keeps you going when things get a bit serious? VICTORIA: Pat! LUKE: Definitely Pat.
I really like the preview of the new single ‘Half World’, can I ask who wrote it and what is it about? VICTORIA: Thanks so much! I wrote the original demo when I was playing around with guitar and came up the opening riff – the song just came naturally from there. The lyrics were inspired by recent stories about migrants. People and families forced to make the decision to flee their homes, the painful journey, inspired to survive by the hope of a better life. I have no idea whats that’s really like, I can only imagine. The song title Half World and lyric “my worlds been halved” illustrates the sense of loosing almost everything you knew and dreamed about… including loved ones. It was great taking this song from my demo to the band and then recording it in the studio. Once we played it through as a band on tour the form really took shape and that rocky guitar solo outro emerged. I think the song demands it, and its a lovely contrast to the breakdown vocal section. The march like drum rhythm is symbolic of marching footsteps, and the momentum of the song reflects the long relentless and arduous journey. Luke’s production and direction really helped to bring that to life, and adding the mellotron was fun too!
What are you looking forward most to the Isle of Wight festival or Hyde Park and why? VICTORIA: I can’t choose… both are amazing festivals and well known to us, and we are incredibly lucky and honoured to be taking part in both!! LUKE: They will both be great but Isle of Wight maybe has the edge for me because of its history and also we might get to stay on and check the festival out.
You guys are set for a very busy year any holiday plans or is it all just work, work, work at the moment and where would you go if you had the time? VICTORIA: We are super busy at the moment, and love every second of it but we realise its important to step away sometimes, take a break and come back to projects with a fresh pair of ears to make sure you are doing good work. Getting out of the studio is essential but holidays and breaks are always spontaneous. I hate making plans in advance as I often find it heart-wrenching having to leave my instruments behind. I’d love to travel round Iceland for a month or two, maybe convert a bus into a little studio and just travel and record along the way… and then carry on driving round the whole wide world for a few years!
Ah, 1994, good times! Writing this a quarter of a century later, those sweet, ebullient days of youth hang like foggy blossom in the memories of my mind… my first beers at 14, my first lay at 15, my first spliff at 16, my first rave at 17…. it was a time when everything was exciting & life was filled with promise. Ah 1994, I remember it well… resin was £15 an eighth, pills a tenner in the clubs, acid £2.50 a tab, speed £7.50 a gram & skunk weed £25 on yer eighth. Beyond my little Burnley bubble, it was the year when Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY State experimented with obtaining ear mites from cats & inserting them in his own ear, carefully observing and analyzing the results. It was also the year when Barbara Windsor joined the cast of Eastenders, taking over the Queen Vic as Peggy Mitchell, mother of the bald-pated Mitchell brothers. Meanwhile, the Japanese Meteorological Society were concluding their seven-year research on whether Catfish caused earthquakes by wigglin’ their tales. And the National Lottery was born.
On the telly you had your usual fare. In the morning GMTV vied with the Big Breakfast to set up the viewers’ day (never saw them myself, far too early). In the land of the soap opera it was Neighbours & Home & Away at tea-time (or twice a day for doleys & students), followed by Corrie & ‘Stenders. The Crystal maze was still on, as was Play yer Cards Right with Bruce Forsyth & his bevvy of sexy birds. Have I got News For You catered for the bankers, while Frank Skinner & David Baddiel entertained the footy fans with their Fantasy Football League! In comedy Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet) made all the pensioners laugh & a certain fat, mouthy lesbian bird called Jo Brand amused everybody else. At the dawn of his career Alan Partridge gave us Knowing me, Knowing You, & the Fast Show had us in stitches. From across the pond The Yanks were giving us pre-Trump Roseanne Barr at her peak, BBC 2 had imported the mad-dash Ren & Stumpy (Mondays, 6-25) while Channel 4 offered the stony huh-huh-huh’s of Beavis & Butthead. As for the all-conquering Simpsons, the family had invaded every home in the isles. As BBC2 were showed us repeats of the first series, Sky One kept us up to date with the latest hysterical adventures of Homer, Bart, Marge & Lisa.
In the celluloid realm of the movie, dem dere Yanks seemed to be havin’ a good day. With Raiders of the Lost Ark Steven Spielberg had apparently made the greatest film ever, but he called my opinion into question when he gave the world his Schindlers List. A haunting, emotional & yet very entertaining portrayal of the Jewish Holocaust, he brought that heinous crime to life in a masterpiece of cinematic experience & history. His decision to make it in Black & White only added to the atmosphere, excepting one sublime moment. After seeing a little girl wearing a scarlet coat during an urban clearance by the Nazis, we would come across that same coat later in the film… only in a cart full of bodies being hauled through the death camps. Other films that year included the Shawshank Redemption, released to a tidal wave of apathy, soon to become recognized as one of the great movies of all time… & Quentin Tarantino’s follow up to the startling & curiously unsettling Reservoir Dogs… Pulp Fiction! In it John Travolta became cool again, Uma Thurman was proper fit like, dancin away til she overdosed on coke, leadin’ to a wicked scene. Near comatose she was given a direct shot of adrenalin through the breast-plate & into her heart… she sat up with the needle stickin out of her chest… cool! I leave you with a memory of one particular scene. Bruce Willis walked in on his boss being botteyed by a copper called Zed & his rubber-clad gimp… evidence enough to prove that the Yanks are definitely WRONG! Nearer to home Britain produced the interminably silly Four Weddings & a Funeral, where once again Hugh Grant played a slightly embarrassed, yet vaguely cool Englishman trying to get laid.
In 1994 the Nineties at last began to express themselves. Being able to draw on the Sixties for it’s music, the Seventies for it’s fashion & the Eighties for not what to do (man learns from his mistakes) suddenly the age had projected a persona… nothing particularly new, but a subtle blend of all the cool bits that had gone on before. There was definitely something in the air, a sense of escape from the shackles of the Eighties… to be poor was cool, and all of Thatcher’s yuppies were now holed up in Surbiton des-res. From the many tribes came the many vibes, it wasn’t just Mods & Rockers anymore, the fashion industry fragmenting & it seemed that now, as long as you had a style you were cool. Look at Jarvis Cocker… a tall, gangly, thirtysomething, bespectacled geek was now an urban hero. The people were taking to the streets once again, more peaceably than the Poll Tax riots, their agendas more for Gay Pride & against the cutting down of student grants. There was a problem tho. The music scene, which is in the very fibre & blood of the British, was being taken over quite insidiously by America.
After the miracle of Madchester, with the Roses in hiding, the Mondays on crack; with James, The Charlatans & the Carpets past their peak, there came no new band to get us grooving. Suede shone ephemeral for a while, & their first album still possesses that classical guitar swirl which got us all excited. But then came Kurt Cobain. Based in Seattle the ‘grunge’ sound had rocketed round the world, leaving a trail of long hair & dodgy t-shirts in its wake. Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam & Mudhoney are all famous names from the era, but it is Nirvana & their release of Nevermind which suddenly thrust alternative music into the mainstream. Nirvana were pretty damn good, actually; very clever, with simple song structures, quiet & roaring juxtapositions & hypbotic lyrics. To the world the band’s frontman was the iconic figurehead of grunge, clad in a Freddy Krueger jumper & wielding his gee-tah like a Celtic axeman. Heroin addiction, a dark temperament & being married to Courtney Love was his downfall.
The story begins at the end of March. Kurt was in Rome & Courtney was in London, reviewing singles for the Melody Maker. That night she flew to Rome, & by the morning Kurt was in Umberto Prima Hospital hospital, overdosing. She did make the SOS call, btw, after finding him on the floor of their room in the Excelsior Hotel, but this sharp & conniving sociopath knew what she was doing. Her band, Hole’s, album was being released the next week, & it was time to ditch the stepping-stone-to-fame that had been her attachment to Kurt Cobain. In an interview made a few years later in the film ‘Kurt & Courtney’, Eldon Hoke, or El Duce, describes the background to the Courtney’s murder of Cobain at the hands of as certain ‘Allen’ – ie Allen Wrench. “Let the FBI catch him,” he had said, & it is no coincidence that two days after half-naming Cobain’s murderer, Hoke was found decapitated on the railroad tracks in Riverside, California. In a recent blogpost of mine, the wife described Courtney Love as, ‘an awkward hero. I was there. She’s no hero. She’s a narcissistic junkie who reaped the benefits of her dearly departed to mutilate her body with Hollywood surgery.’
The discovery of Kurt’s body at his home at 171 Lake Washington Blvd East Seattle, on April 8th 1994, sent shockwaves across the planet. In Seattle, a spontaneous coming together of the Grunge scene kinda summoned folk at the Fountain under the Space Needle by the Seattle Centre, where kids played Nirvana songs on guitar & lit candles & drank beer. Some would have found a corner to take, I presume, so rife was the drug in the city at that time. My wife is actually from Seattle – her partner at the time played bass for The Geffen-signed band The Posies – & she remembers going along to the vigil, & was taken aback by a young fellow wearing the famous smiley-face Nirvana t-shirt, to which had been added a red-daubed bullet hole in the head. ‘That’s crass,‘ she had told her best friend in disgust. Also quite crass was Courtney Love’s pre-recorded reaction, reading extracts from her own faked ‘suicide note’ & her emotional outburst that Kurt was an asshole for doing this to her family. The ultimate two-faced betrayal of the ultimate two-faced bitch!
So, where were you in Spring ‘94? Some of you were at school, some of you weren’t even born. Some had crap jobs, some had good jobs, some were on the dole. Some were in prison & some were pregnant. Some were in hospital while others were abroad. All in all, everyone was doing something & was somewhere. Me? I was dossing about in Burnley, Lancashire, & that’s where my adventure begins. I had moved into the front room of a two up, two down terraced house in Burnley. The electricity had recently been cut off, forcing me in front of a gas fire for light, heat & cooking (half an hour for toast). All around me lay the unkempt mess of a seventeen year old (messy as fuck)… to top it all off my band had recently split up & mi bird, Jane, had just got spots. For entertainment I was learning bass guitar on three strings of a beaten up acoustic, each one promising to snap at any moment. At this point I could play the entire bass line of Wild Thing & three others… I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs the Drums & I Am the Ressurection… all by my favourite band, The Stone Roses.
Now then, the Roses. Evidently ace, Manchester’s finest & easily the greatest band since The Beatles, whose influence may not have been as wide as that of the Scousers, but is of a more subtle type that has affected an entire generation. Every decent band since those heady days of ’89 has drawn inspiration from their mix of majesty & groove… Richard Ashcroft of the Verve had their poster shadowing his teenage years, Liam Gallagher was inspired to act after seeing The Roses play, & so on. For me & many others they were the soundtrack of youth, if not life, & whenever I hear one of their tracks, be it on an advertisement or in a club, a special familial moment always occurs. Tracks like Fools Gold are as famous as the National anthem & are as much a part of the country’s psyche as are the drums at the end of an Eastenders episode.
So, it was time to do one. It was Easter 1994, the trees were sprouting leaves left, right & centre, the ducklings were clogging the canals & twinkles began to return to the eyes of the birds. Within me I began to feel a stir, which I can now recognise as the Spirit of Adventure, an instinctual impulse that has driven men from the safety of their homesteads on various crazy missions, where death, or at least a serious accident, await. I was first filled with the spirit as a young boy following the adventures of Asterix & Obelix as they took on the might of Ceaser’s legions. Later, in the weekly Sunday morning race with my sister to see who woke up first & got control over the morning’s choice of video, I became addicted to mister Indiana Jones. Over the years I think I edged it, but through my sisters choice of video I now know all the lyrics to every song in Grease, and all the dialogue of Dirty Dancing… Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
Adventuring is great fun, exciting & educational, a life being led. In early ’93 I left Lancashire for my first proper adventure & had a wild teenage time touring England as far as Minehead, where I got a job as a burger boy at Butlins. Unfortunately my boss was a Bastard Rovers fan, & I was soon sacked. The money I saved up took me as far as Tarragona, near Barcelona, which was then stolen while I slept on the beach. My mum had to fly me home & I found myself back in Burnley… my adventure over but the thrilling taste of the tour still tantalising my essence & I was still only sixteen. So where to go this time. A stint at Butlins had served me well before, so I thought I’d try again…. this time closer to home in Yorkshire, & sunny Skegness.
It was time to do one from Burnley. Because of the recent success of the town’s football team, the whole world has now heard of my hometown. For those who have never actually been, Burnley is a misty, old industrial centre of about seventy thousand inhabitants nestled under the gaze of Pendle Hill, that lofty mound where the Lancashire witches would gather & cast spells on pregnant cows. Burnley is predominately working class, which means it’s full of good people, pies & pubs. As a teenager it had everything I needed… clubs, drugs & birds. My family lived there also, including the wonder of my life, mi Grandma Joan. Before I left for Skeggy she gave me a good dose of her home baking & a fiver, which coupled with the thirty quid income support money gave me £35 quid for the road. I spent my last evening in Burnley with my girlfriend Jane; smoking weed, making love & chatting about the future, the innocent enthusiasm of youth bubbling beneath our talk. We slept in a warm embrace til morning, when it was time to set forth. Jane’s mum dropped me off at the train station & they stood on the platform waving as my train pulled away. I waved back, not knowing when, or if, I would see them again.
Of course I didn’t pay on the train. Almost exactly a year previously I became a Fader (Fare Evader), inducting myself into a wonderful art, skill, sport & blag that has been a constant feature of my nomadic life. I remember my first jump well. After spending three hours in the rain at the top of the M1, waiting for a lift down South, I thought fuck it, lets try the trains… & have never looked back (or paid) since. The train wound through the gorgeous green valleys of Todmorden & Hebden Bridge, past the steep slopes of Halifax, the curry houses of Bradford, the grey megalopolis that is Leeds & into view of the stately Minster at York. Now already I’d seen far too many Yorkshiremen for my Lancastrian liking, but the situation was eased a little as we reached the desolate Moors. A little while later, beyond a windswept wilderness, the train pulled into Skegness & I breathed in the salty air of the coast.