Band biography, recollections and interviews
Band Biography – by Steve Harrison (bass)
So the band was formed.
Initially Jon brought some self-penned material along which he wrote to fit into the folk rock blueprint. Steve also suggested a few Trad covers to rock-up.
Meanwhile a small revolution was going in the folk music world outside and bands like The Waterboys and The Pogues brought a fresh punk edge to A.E’s largely “late 70s” musical game-plan.
Martin was soon to contribute his own material and was developing his aggressive theatrical delivery and unforgettable stage presence.
All these elements, coupled with Lesley’s pure classical fiddle gave the band a great depth to the music.
The rise of the contemporaries The Levellers, together with the whole ‘crusty’ musical scene spear-headed by bands like New Model Army, meant that AE were soon swept up by an unexpected rise in the fashionability and wide spread acceptance of “folk-rock”, and were soon head-lining and selling-out, large Brighton venues.
This line-up released two cassette EPS, Five Short stories and Simple Bond before Lesley and Jules left.
The band recruited Jane Barker as their next violinist. Having recently graduated from the Royal College of Music, she was an able replacement for Lesley and soon fitted into the anarchic social world and increasingly crusty dress-sense of A.E.
With Jane, the band recorded their final EP; Times Like These. This featured some of the band’s best collaborative song writing efforts; in particular, the Wood/Weymouth composition ‘Runaway’. This was a track with elements of ska and psychedelia with Martin’s articulate, storytelling lyrics at their absolute best.
A.E went on to rehearse and gig some of their best compositions after this, truly having settled on an identifiable sound of their own. Chris Way added another dimension to the sound by also playing Sax in addition to his normal role a precision rhythm guitarist. This material was never to be released.
There had always been tensions within the band. People had different aspirations (being a mix or day-jobbers, mortgaged and signers-on). There were other inter-personal tensions that had being simmering under too. So when cracks began to form (normally catalysed by trivial disagreements) the band swiftly disintegrated in a flurry of acrimony and bloody mindedness.
There were 3 ‘farewell’ gigs, which were excellent, but despite this no one had the will to carry on.
Interview with guitarist Chris Way (CW) by Jon Wood (JW) Summer 2021
JW - 1989 Can you recall when there were just the three of us (Jon, Steve, Chris)?
CW - Yes, I was living in this house and a girl, Carla, who introduced me to a guy who used to play in the band ‘Horslips’. We went to his place in Seaford and Steve was also there. It didn’t work out, but Steve then mentioned Jon and the three of us got together.
JW - Promises was our first original song. You wrote some of the lyrics to that one?
CW - Yes, the first verse and the chorus. And then you said you knew Leslie, and I think Steve must have known Jules. So, they appeared pretty quickly and then Steve advertised for a drummer.
I remember this guy turned up with his mother and we thought we can’t have him in the band, it wouldn’t look cool if he turned up with his mother!
JW- What I don’t remember, is how Martin came into the band?
CW - I don’t remember either, he just turned up!
I think he put an advert in a music shop and Steve saw it, but I’m not sure (Steve confirms he answered an advert that Martin had put up in Tiger Music).
The Cobblers Thumb was quite central to the whole beginning of the band and that’s where I first met Martin. I think he introduced himself as Raven at the time. The Architect (at the Architect’s studio opposite the pub where the band rehearsed) did us a massive favour letting us rehearse there. He was a lovely guy and said it was no problem at all.
JW - Yes, that’s so true.
CW - Plus, his girlfriend did all the (500 off) covers of our first EP, completely free.
JW - I’d completely forgotten that.
CW - We had to fold them all by hand.
JW - What are your thoughts about those early gigs? Like the Hastings gig and The Prince Albert (both December 1989)?
CW - I don’t recall those - were we any good? Ah, I do remember the Albert, Martin did a storming version of Black Leg Miner. I used to love rehearsing above that pub…
JW - The Springfield (now the Open House).
CW - That’s when we got on really well. That’s where we formed all the good stuff. The thing I remember was being absolutely amazed about how good Leslie was I was totally blown away and turned me on to the whole fiddle thing because I wasn’t sure about it at first.
JW - On those early rehearsals you took on the role of ‘boss man’ making sure everyone paid attention and came in on time. Do you recall that?
CW - I do. I don’t know what right I felt I had to do that. I don’t know where that came from, but I felt if we were going to gig, we had to be good and our best chance at that was if we perfected things. Plus, when we were ’in the zone’, it sounded so good, I wanted to capture that at gigs.
JW - With your songwriting, you had some really strong songs, but Jon and Martin were dominating the writing
CW - We’re like The Beatles and I’m George Harrison! I’m being flippant, I didn’t find the songwriting very easy at all. I was horribly self-conscious.
JW - A happy memory I have is when Martin started singing Landlord to us, but he didn’t have the chords and we coaxed the chords out as he sang it for the first time
CW - I remember you came out with that riff, and I thought that’s it, that’s the song right there. That’s a really good song, it is so angry and then it builds up and by the end it is just mental.
JW - Have you got a favourite track or tracks?
CW - I do like Landlord – I liked the ones that had a bit more of a rock leaning. Runaway is my favourite, because it is such a beautiful song. The fiddle playing with those effects on sounds so dreamy. The way it breaks down in the middle and then it elevates up.
I think Times like these is a great song, we were getting better as we went on - ironically right at the end.
JW - 1990 was an amazing year for the band – what are your memories of that year?
CW - I recall the beginning but don’t recall much of that year. I can look at the photos of the Pavilion Theatre gig (first EP launch) but don’t recall the event.
I loved the BUFF (Brighton Urban Free Festival) events (these were ’90 and ’91) – a great community feeling.
I remember the Malvern (festival – ’92) and Heineken Big Top (’93)
My favourite was the Richmond
JW - What are your memories of recording?
CW - I remember rehearsing at Anzac. Simon who worked there would leave the tape running. He was always non-committal as in, “what did you think of it Simon?” He’d answer,” yeah, it’s OK”
I remember the studio in Worthing (old Pink Dog), there was lots of waiting around. One thing about AE is was although we never had that much success, all the bits that are important about being on that journey, that other bands who are successful talk about, we did. And that’s what makes me really happy about it.
I remember when we (Jon & Chris) had to do backing vocals (Streets Ahead), it was horrible I hated it!
JW - What about playing saxophone (Chris started playing sax in the band ’92 and ’93)?
CW - That’s because my father bought me a saxophone. He was learning it, so he thought I should learn it too!
I never learned to play it properly.
JW - But you played some nice solos – like Reach for Heaven
CW - I worked out a solo for that one, which I was pretty pleased with. Saxophone worked well in The Waterboys, so I thought it could work well for us.
JW - Did you have a preference for which line-up, the original 7 piece or the later 6 piece?
CW - Depends whether you’re thinking about it musically, or in terms of a bloody good gig. A lot of our gigs descended into absolute mayhem, especially in the early days, but musically there were issues – rhythmically, people coming in in the wrong part – tunings etc. – but the audience were loving it so much with floors in danger of collapsing (actually happened! - The 101 Club, East Grinstead).
The later days were definitely more professional, but perhaps not quite as raucous as those early days.
But both were really good in their own way. I loved it all.
It was really exciting at the start as we didn’t know how far it was going to go. It was full of energy, although we were unsure what we were doing, just getting a bunch of songs together and get some gigs- it was a mad time. That energy didn’t disappear, just got more refined.
A band is about the characterization – about the sum of the parts, not individual ability.
JW - Did you think there is any way we could have held it together in ’93 and kept the band going?
CW - There were issues with egos continually, they were only getting worse and the more likely it was to fall apart.
There was potential for it to go to another phase, but then people started getting a bit precious about stuff. The potential for that to happen was always there and I’m as guilty as anyone else. I imagine that happens in 90 bands out of 100.
Someone might want to focus on someone in particular, but everyone in the band proved their value. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t sustainable.
What we had was of that time and it could only of worked in that time – the travelling community, the other bands of that scene made AE as strong as it was.
It was very old school – demo tapes in jiffy bags, posters, flyers, word of mouth. No social media etc. I still like that way of doing things – it’s more fun!
JW - Still playing?
CW - Yes, still playing. Not sure what to do with it, but it’s like meditation isn’t it
Interview with drummer John 'JC' Calway (JC) by Jon Wood (JW) Summer 2021
JW - 1989 – Do you remember your audition?
JC- Yes, there was no drum kit, there was just two boxes to play on. All the other band members were there (JC was the last to join). We played slow folk-rock stuff. Then we went to the Cobler’s Thumb.
The proper audition was at Anzac Studios in St James St, although Chris wasn’t present for that. We played for three hours and then went to the Ranelagh pub. I was told “You’re timing is s**t and you don’t know the rudiments or anything like that…..but you’re in!”
JW- You knew Martin (Weymouth) first I believe?
JC- I used to meet him in the Hungry Years. My wife had just bought me a drum kit so when Martin said he was in a band looking for a drummer…..
JW - What are your thoughts about those early days of rehearsing before we started gigging?
JC - Apart from my travels and all that, it was like connecting with some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life. It felt like ‘we can do this’.
JW- Thoughts about 1990? The early gigs?
JC - I walk around Brighton, past what was The Old Vic (Ship Street) and remember it solely as The Old Vic. Some gigs we did there were mind blowing.
JW – What do you recall of the recordings?
JC - I remember the first one was in Hove (Chris Priestley’s basement studio). For all the recordings I was always nervous. I was surrounded by amazing musicians.
JW - We never thought of it like that. You had great feel – the drumming on the track ‘Salisbury’ for example is excellent.
JC - I love Salisbury. But you know what? Some of the material near the end, like ‘The Fold’ and ‘Reach for Heaven’ with the saxophone throw in and so on……we were coming into a different era for the band.
JW - Yes, others have mentioned that.
JC - There was some amazing material near the end, and it is a shame it finished when it did.
JW - What was it like playing in a rhythm section with Steve (Harrison)?
JC - Ah Steve mate, he’s untouchable. I’ve seen a lot of bands since then and there is something about Steve, you can’t touch it. He’s an amazing guy for a start…and he is an amazing bass player. Same as you (Jon) with your guitar playing.
JW - No, you’re just being nice now!
JC - No, I’m telling you the truth. (Plus) there was something about me and Steve that just clicked.
JW - He feels the same. What about the times we played away from Brighton – the gigs and festivals?
JC - I remember playing Trowbridge two years in a row, the second time on the main stage. I can remember walking back to the tents very drunk and stoned and hearing people playing our cassettes.
JW - Was that after the first time we played there?
JC - Yes, it was after the first one. Every now and then you’d walk past a tent and hear ‘Five Short Stories’ playing.
JW - That’s a lovely memory
JC - It was amazing
JW – So, have you got a favourite AE track?
JC - Salisbury. There is a lot of aggression on that track. And Martin sung that song with conviction. And that end, the tommy-gun ‘Rat atat atat’. Runaway was brilliant with the Ska feel and that middle section that built up and up.
JW - Yes, that bit where Steve’s bass comes in
JC - Ah yeah!
JW - Our last gig was just heart-breaking.
JC - It was a killer, I never forgotten it
JW - Me neither.
JC- I just came off the drumkit, up to the microphones and applauded the audience.
JC - Those times we had over those four years, ’89 to ’93, were just the best years of my life and I think about it often and
sometimes it hurts me a lot because we lose that – because I think we were heading towards better days.
JC - I met 6 amazing people in 1989 and it all went tits up in 1993, but they were the best times I’ve had really. They were awesome.
Recollections of Altogether Elsewhere – Jules Lawrence (flute, harmonica)
Altogether Elsewhere were the first proper band I played in, and what an experience that was. From rather chaotic 'how are we going to make this work' rehearsals in an architect’s office through to mosh pit mayhem and festival headlines, the rise of AE had the energy rush of a plane taking off.
Take seven disparate people, plonk them down - with almost surgical precision - in the right place and at the right time and light the blue touch paper. The band's first ever show set the template - set to be up first at a benefit show in Hastings we ended up with the headline slot, (I vaguely remember the official headliner had pulled out at very short notice & the other act - Neil Stone's Animal Magic wanted to perform their set to a less drunken audience).
Anyhow - AE hit the ground running, an hour later we'd aced our test flight and I was addicted for life. From there on in, in our youthful self-confidence, we felt unstoppable and - to a large extent – it actually seemed to be just that.
The chemistry, though at times spiky, was held firmly together in the absolute faith in what we were doing... that gang mentality that bands are traditionally supposed to have but often seem to lack...
I've spent many years since then playing in a huge array of groups, and it has been incredibly rare to find an outfit that had such dynamism and that certain indefinable something which, well, means I'm writing this - half a lifetime on from our crazy nights down at the Duke of Wellington.
Recollections of Altogether Elsewhere – Jon Wood (guitar)
Time is a great healer and although I recall good and bad times with AE, it is the good times that dominate my recollections.
There were far more bad times by 1992 and the first half of 1993 so my recollections centres more on the glorious early days. However, as Steve says in the Biog, the reunion gigs in December 1993 were brilliant and we did go out on a high.
1989 is where it all started and although the band only played two gigs that year, right at the end of it, the build-up was amazing. We grew from three members to seven members over the course of 8 months and it was a glorious time of creating new music and getting to know the musicians involved.
I met Steve Harrison, the founder of the band, when a mutual friend introduced us at an Oyster Band gig in March that year. He suggested we got together with Chris Way and see what comes out of it.
To prepare for the first session, I wrote a quick tune that I thought was a folk-rock style (my key refence point being the seminal album Liege and Leaf by Fairport Convention). Steve was then far savvier than me re more modern reference points like Boiled in Lead and Pressgang, but he soon educated me!
That first session with just the three of us went really well and when Chris added lyrics for the verse and chorus we had our very first song, Promises.
The rest of that year was amazing. Hearing our initial songs and cover versions fleshed out more and more until we grew to the full line-up was a wonderful trip. Hearing Martin singing Promises for the first time, Lesley adding the fiddle riffs and solos to the tunes, Jules harmonica riff for Chris’ song Crime before dawn plus of course hearing the songs kick ass when JC joined and we had a drummer!
Coming up with a name for the band was a tortuous affair with lists of names discussed in the pub after rehearsals. After much debate and beer, we decided on ‘The sound of many shotguns’. When we saw the barman struggling to chalk our name on a board for our first gig because of the length of it, we decided on a rapid change to one of the also rans on the list and Altogether Elsewhere was born.
Is it a good name? Well in one way at least, the answer is no. People struggled to get it right! So we were advertised as Altogether Everywhere, Almost Elsewhere and many other combinations.
1990 was an incredible year for the band and all of us as individuals. We rode the crest of a wave of enthusiasm for folk-rock music, both nationally and locally. It was one of those fantastic cases of right band at the right time – we were part of ‘a scene’.
The Levellers were of course important, but the band that really got the Brighton scene going were McDermotts’ Two Hours in the mid to late ‘80s.
We were playing to capacity houses by our 8th gig. A great example was playing a support to McDermotts in May at the Old Vic (Ship Street – now an Irish theme pub) to a 300 capacity crowd and then achieving that as headliners at the same venue 4 weeks later and again at The Pavilion Theatre a fortnight after that.
We also played a support gig to Ozric Tentacles early that year – we did a good job of supporting a band at the top of their game, it was a brilliant evening.
Such rapid progress pulled others into the bands’ entourage. We had the lovely Stan and Matt as our roadies. Stan did a veg round and early gigs we were picked up in his van still with veg in the back. Plus Sue got involved in promotion and photography.
Song writing was also a joy in 1990 and 1991, with great collaborative efforts going on. I vividly recall the writing session for the song Landlord. It was at my house and Martin had the lyrics and a melody in his head but his guitar skills at the time were not good enough to articulate the chords.
Chris and I coaxed the chords out around Martin’s melody and we heard it taking shape….and knew that it was a classic in the making. It was a real crowd pleaser, the audience would join in with that killer line ‘At 6 in the morning you kick in my door’
The downside with the early success of AE, was the expectation this would be the norm. As any long serving band will tell you, there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes and a lot of trust between those involved to keep a band fresh and sustained. AE didn’t have the stamina for that. As Steve says in his Biog, the mixture of part-timers with day jobs and those signing on made discussions about where the band was heading really tricky.
We were creating some really interesting music near the end and some of these tracks were caught in rehearsal and can be found on the Soundcloud site. Here is just one example:
In early 1993 we received a letter from the lovely Richard Allen of Delerium Records suggesting that if we get our new material together then an album deal could be in the offing. That such good news could turn out to be the nail in the coffin for AE was typical of the poor relationships by 1993. Just discussions about who should play on what and what tracks should be chosen ended in bitter argument.
However, my overall recollection is of fantastic times and life changing experiences – in short I loved it!