Allan Crockford is best known as the bassist in Medway’s seminal act, The Prisoners, who paved the ground in the 80s for the British baggy scene and 90s Britpop. However latterly as his song writing has bloomed he’s stepped out as lead for The Galileo 7. They have a great new album out, False Memory Lane, that is arguably more reflective than his collaborations with former Prisoner Graham Day.
Allan speaks to Jason Barnard to share his thoughts on his career, various projects (including the new, rather splendid, Graham Day and The Forefathers single) and flourishing creative outlet in The Galileo 7.
The Galileo 7 (Allan Crockford centre)
Hi Allan, you have a new album out with your group Galileo 7, ‘False Memory Lane’. Can you tell me about the record – the sound you aimed to capture and lyrical themes?
The sound of a band playing backing tracks in a room full of printing machinery! We recorded the basic tracks in our friend’s business unit surrounded by huge printing presses and inhaling toxic chemical fumes… well, they smell pretty toxic. After years of rehearsing and recording in this space I’ve come to associate music with a particular industrial smell. The overdubs and mixing are done at home, where the main smell is food… Lyrical themes… mainly existential middle-aged angst about life, the universe and nothingness. With a humorous edge of course. The title track is really about how we construct a narrative for our lives and justify our actions in retrospect and indulge in self-deception when things go wrong. Or it might just be a play on words. The listener(s) can decide and let me know later.
There are some great tunes like ‘Fools’ on False Memory Lane. What’s your favourite tracks on the album?
I like them all in one way or another. I like the title track because it’s such a departure from anything I’ve done before. Fools is good – an old song I rescued from obscurity. I recorded it with another band I was in, but it never came out. ‘My cover is blown’ already seems to be a live favourite. And ‘Don’t know what I’m waiting for’ is good – Viv’s debut as a lead singer.
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Many seem lighter and more reflective than some of the other acts you played with like The Prisoners. Is this what you recognise?
Certainly the music is less aggressive, but it’s not deliberate. That’s the way the songs come out. I started writing songs very late and I’ve probably left out the adolescent, angsty phase and jumped straight to the more thoughtful and reflective bit. And there’s no point in trying to emulate the style and aggression of some of my previous bands. That comes with youth. We’ve still got plenty of energy but I think it’s channelled a bit more.
What led to the blossoming of your songwriting with Galileo 7? Did you kick many ideas about in your earlier bands?
I started writing songs when I discovered home recording software about 7 or 8 years ago. I liked the fact that I could make a listenable demo very quickly, and I also enjoyed the technical process of making a demo. It took me a while to realise that in making these demos that I was actually writing songs. I was in the Stabilisers at the time, a very punky-pop band, and although they did a few of my songs, they didn’t really fit in. So a lot of songs got stockpiled for about 3 years.
When I left the band I had tons of demos that I thought would make a good album if recorded with a band that was into the material. I’m still working my way through a lot of those stockpiled songs, although I have written a few since. I didn’t write anything in the previous bands apart from contributing arrangements, the odd chord change and maybe a line or two of lyrics. I was too busy being the one who got all the gigs, arranging and organising everything that keeps a band going… the boring but necessary stuff.
False Memory Lane is your third album with Galileo 7. Can you tell me about your first two long players?
The first one was ‘Are we having fun yet?’, released in 2010. It was recorded in basically the same way as the new one: backing tracks in the smelly print room and finished at home. I’m very proud of that one, as it was the first album that I completely wrote, sang and produced – with the help of Viv, Russ and Paul, our bass player at the time.
The second, ‘Staring at the Sound’ was recorded on 8 track and released in 2012. I’ve got mixed feelings about that one. It’s got some good songs on it, but I missed having complete control to muck about with it at home. I would have tarted it up a bit more, but it’s very easy to use up 8 tracks with a four piece band, 3 part double tracked harmonies, and a couple of guitar overdubs. But I’m growing to like it more as I get further away from it in time.
You are the frontman, singing and play guitar. That must be quite different to playing bass in other groups. That must be more challenging?
Absolutely! To be honest, there was a time last year when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it anymore. I love the writing and recording, but playing gigs was a chore. I always knew it was harder than just playing the guitar or bass and doing a few backing vocals, but it really is a completely different set of demands. Physically and mentally more tiring, and a lot more responsibility. But I’ve come through that. I think it was a bit of crisis of confidence coming to it so late and wondering whether a man of my age should actually be starting up a new band having never really sung before. But what the hell, life is about challenges, and what else am I going to do? I’m really enjoying the whole thing now.
Can you tell me about your background and music you were into in your teens leading up to co-forming The Prisoners?
Started with the Beatles if course, then Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, AC/DC… a normal path for someone born at that time. But then Punk rock came along and changed everything. It’s a cliché now, but the whole thing really did provide the impetus to do it ourselves. I liked The Jam, The Stranglers, XTC… the poppier end of it. I think you can probably still hear a bit of those bands in what we do.
The sixties sound like a key influence on Galileo 7’s ‘Nobody Told You’ and and ‘False Memory Lane’ for example. Is that material still a prime influence on you today?
Contrary to what you might believe, I like music from all eras. The 60’s was such a fertile period and of course you can’t help referring back to the music of that era. But I’m not stuck there. The two songs you mention weren’t written with any wish to recreate any particular sound or era. That’s just what came out. In both cases they came out experimenting with a new keyboard and/or a capo on the guitar.
You’ve had mixed views of some of The Prisoners records however the group released some fantastic tracks like ‘Hurricane’, ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ and ‘Who’s Sorry Now’. Is that because you felt that you couldn’t capture the incredible sound of your live shows?
Yes. I think any young band that has an exciting live sound will encounter some disappointing times in the studio. It is very difficult to capture in a sterile studio what you hear when you’re playing, and to a large extent we spent years trying to find a way of manufacturing a recorded sound that would in some way capture the excitement of a live performance. We only got it right occasionally.
Why did The Prisoners split and what did you do next?
We were just jaded with the rocknroll treadmill and each other. We never made any money and that grinds you down after a while. We all needed a break and a new plan. We took a break in summer 1986 and liked not doing anything so it became a split. After a few months James started his quartet and asked me to join… and we were back on the treadmill!
You’ve continued to play with Graham Day in many bands, notably The Solar Flares. What are the favourite records you’ve made with Graham?
All of them have some good points. A couple of the Prisoners albums are good, but I think the Solarflares stuff is mostly really good, and a bit unfairly overlooked.
You also have an excellent new single out as part of Graham Day and The Forefathers. Can you tell me more about the release and the band? ‘Love Me Lies’ is a Prisoners track isn’t it?
‘Love me lies’ was on WiserMiserdemelza originally. The Forefathers is a way for the three of us to get out and play live without the pressure of having to come up with anything new. We’ve got a massive back catalogue to pick from so the set is always changing. It’s fun. It’s a tribute act, except we’re paying tribute to ourselves. The recordings we’ve done are basically live recordings of us playing the set in our rehearsal room – recorded the same way and same place as the Galileo 7 album, except the G7 album has loads of overdubs.
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You’ve been often been badged under the ‘mod’ label. Has that been a help or hindrance?
People like labels, and once you’ve been given one it’s difficult to shake off. We were never mods, but mods liked us. We were into a particular era of music and clothes, but we were just as much into punk and even what is now called ‘classic rock’. We could understand why they came to see us, but we objected to being called ‘mod’ ourselves. In terms of getting a bit of recognition outside a particular circle of fans it was definitely a hindrance, but on the other hand at least we had a regular-ish audience.
Graham Day and The Forefathers (Allan Crockford far right)
Do you have many live shows planned with Galileo 7 and what should people expect? You also do a great version of Julian Cope’s ‘Reynard The Fox’ amongst the original material don’t you?
We’ll be doing as many live shows as we can, but when you get to our age it’s difficult to fit them in around real life. All offers considered though! The show is just us and our songs, a bit more basic than the recordings, a bit louder and bit faster. Like most bands. Reynard has been in and out of our set since we started the band. Our original bass player used to sing it to give me a break, but since he left I’ve taken it over. Great song from one of the best albums of the 80’s, Julian Cope’s ‘Fried’.
And finally, most importantly, where can people find out more information about you, The Forefathers and Galileo 7?
Copyright © Jason Barnard and Allan Crockford 2014. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without the permission of the authors.