I was recently granted an audience with a musician whom i admire and respect a geat deal, Mr Paul Birchall. I first met Paul a couple of years ago following a Combination Head gig in Wath Upon Derne. It was an icy cold night, though red hot musically. I recently caught up with him back stage whilst he was on Tour with Heather Small and when he had caught his breath a couple of weels later here’s what he had to say……..
PM. How did the tour with Heather Small go?
PB. The tour went well thanks. Iv’e been working with Heather for eighteen years now nine of those with M-People. Heather’s a great person and passionate about her music. I was musical; director for this recent tour. Musically it is made easy by the top notch band we have including Gareth and Brian from Combination Head. It’s a bit like the nice working with PP Arnold.
PM. On reflection as the year draws to a close, how has 2009 been for you? What have you been up to?
PB. Phew! Two tours with Heather small, two American tours with Wang Chung and Cutting Crew, lots of shows with Snake Davis, a number of productions including Human Nature for Snake Davis,our tribute to the great Micheal Jackson, it was track of the week on Jazz FM. Constantly working on the New Combination Head album titled Truth seeker. I am recording with Gaz right now, it’s all sounding cool. We can’t wait to get some tracks out there. Busy basically.
PM. What can be expected frrom the new Combination Head album? Will “We Are Machine ” be included on it?
PB. I can tell you there are eleven tracks on it. We Are Machine won’t be on it.
PM. How far from completion is it?
PB. Iv’e scheduled April.
PM. I found some of the subject matter in the last two albums intriguing lyrically, From where did you draw your ideas for the new album?
PB. Oh there’s lots of stuff on there. I would like to keep it under raps!
PM. Looking at the images on the Combination Head website, i was wondering who came up with the idea of the manikin head?
PB. Myself and Matthew my son. Matt and Gareth are responsible for the wonderful art work.
PM. Any Combination Head gis planned in the new year?
PB. We are discussing the possibilities at the moment. Maybe the odd one off shows early in the year. There is a possibility of a show in Hartlepool. Watch this space.
PM. Being as you are, a working musician, what was the original motivation for getting Combination Head together.
PB. Since my exposure to Emerson,Lake and Palmer at school, 1971 i think?? my ears have always perked up on hearing intersesting interplay both harmonically and rythmically, andthat Hammond sound etc. Oh yes, The Beatles.
Basicalli i write every day and have amassed a huge catalogue of unused stuff. thats most of it actually. I am fortunate enough to count as friends some world class mucsicians, engineers and artists who all enjoy the music and contribute both in the writing and in many othert ways. its a dream machine, i just change the oil now and then.
PM. How did you get involved in the music scene?
PB. I was thrown in at the deep end. I taught myself a few chords on a single manual Phillichorda, the father of my school friend ran dance bands in the area and was told i was playing. He dropped a pile of sheet music off one day and said there was a gig in a couple of weeks “just learn the chords”. He must have thought i did ok as i never stopped working. There was a very healthy live music scene then, any function had a band so three gigs a week was the norm. Juggling an apprenticeship at British Leyland wasn’t so cool so one had to go. Also i am still happily married to Diane, the band leaders daughter.
PM. Would it be fair to say that Keith Emerson was an influence on your style?
PB. Very much so., particularly when i solo on the hammond. To be compared in any way to sir Keith is a great honour.
PM. Is there anyone whom you haven’t yet played with that you would like to and why?
PB. A lifes ambition was to work with George Harrison, he stopped returning my calls. I met Donald Fagen in New York last year but he didn’t ask me to play, or even better write. jimmy Webb is another.
PM. What is your opinion of the currant progressive rock scene?
PB. We got support from the Classic Rock society when it was most welcome, including a couple of support slots, some radio play. The first two albums have sold out and continue to be downloaded. We had lots of nice comments from people we met and by email. I feel there is a deep love of musicfrom those who attend our shows and we certainly love you. There are lots of music hungry people out there. We just need to work out how to get tribute band audiences to come and see original contemary prog.
PM. Whats in your CD player at the moment?
PB. “Ruff Album Mixes”, some tracks sent by my old, and i mean old, friend Gary Boyle. Anyone out there remember Gary or his band Isotope? His back catalogue has been re-released. We are talking about doing something together next year.
PM. What are your three favorite albums?
PB. If you asked me what my favorite Thirty albums were i would still struggle, so no!
PM. Do you have any commitments in 2010 with regards to playing with other people?
PB. Other than the lovely people previosly discussed, no.
With that i will bid you fairwell. Many thanks Paul.
Mr Birchall will be sending me a peak preview of some of the tracks from the forthcoming album Truth Seeker, though i am bound to absolute secrecy. I will be reviewing the album as soon as i get my hans on it. If you haven’t yet had a listen to Combination Head i would suggest you give them a hearing. Sound them out at www.combinationhead.com and www.myspace.co/combinationheaduk