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10/06/2012 EXCLUSIVE: Judge Smith interview part three

Date Published: 10-06-2012

I really enjoyed talking to Judge Smith the other evening. We were supposed to be talking about the imminent re-release of the Curly's Airships songstory, but we ended up talking about all sorts of other things as well.

Check out:

Part one
Part two

..and you will see what I mean.

As today's segment opens, we were talking about the musical version of The Fall of the House of Usher that he did with Peter Hammill et al about 20 years ago:

Judge: There are some magnificent tunes on that piece. I think it’s got some of Peter’s most wonderful melodies ever on that piece. It’s recorded in quite an austere fashion, but it has no compromises but the tunes themselves are just magnificent I think.

Jon: That’s something it’s a pity you didn’t get to a wider audience

Judge: Well at one time it was going to be put on at the Barcelona Olympics (1992). It was scheduled to be produced as a site-specific production, I think in the old Ministry of Health building in Barcelona.

But unfortunately really quite late in the day it fell through. Local and regional politics, local and euro funding and all the rest of it. It was a big, big disappointment so it did almost get produced.

Jon: Then it finally came out in 91 or 92? And then disappeared again and came out again in the late ’90s.

Judge: Yes, the first release was not very auspicious in terms of the actual record company involved and then Peter wanted to rework it and do a lot of really quite radical changes to the musical arrangements and the vocals and put it out again on his own label. And they’re both very interesting recordings I think

Jon: Well I think that was the nearest reference point to Curly

Judge: That’s interesting.

Jon: I think there were a lot of points between the two and not just because it had Peter on it, but they both had a very similar feel to them

Judge: Oh that’s interesting. It’s not a connection that I’ve would have made.

Jon: They’ve certainly got more in common than I think than Curly has to either of the other two song stories

Judge: Quite possibly. Well being around someone who writes extraordinary tunes it does rub off on one. It tends to raise your game and working with Peter, of course knowing his stuff, has raised the threshold at which a tune becomes acceptable to me. I think that won’t do, that’s predictable, and I am sure that being somewhat in the shadow there has had at least that beneficial effect.

Jon: That’s something that all three of the song stories – to me anyway – have got in common. Being a musician , when I’m listening to something I sing along with it and you usually know where the tune is going to go, and with yours, you don’t. You get wrongfooted, because you go off at a tangent that one wasn't expecting.

Judge: Oh yes, I’m very pleased to hear that. I like stuff that jumps around a bit. I like wrong-footing people’s musical anticipation.

Jon: I think there’s as much cheeky humour in the way that you write the music as you do the words.

Judge: Thank you again. I find it difficult to do things without jokes in them. I find it difficult to take things seriously, even though I take them very seriously

Jon: I know exactly what you mean

Judge: I am currently what my friend John Ellis would say, ‘cream-crackered’

Jon: You sound exhausted

Judge: I am a bit to be honest. David Minnick is doing all the heavy lifting on this project but he wants me to record my vocals in a particular way, and that is very demanding for me. I have to provide two identical vocals. I’m double tracking my vocals. And because I’m quite a random sort of singer, it’s very, very difficult to do. And I find it pretty tiring, but the results are very interesting. It’s not something I do myself, but he’s said ‘that’s how I want to do it’, and the whole point of getting him involved is for him to be the producer.

I’m really looking forward to hearing it

It’s extraordinary stuff to be honest. The sound...he is a wonderful musician. Absolutely extraordinary musician so I am very, very lucky indeed to have that relationship.

And there, once more, we shall knock it on the head for today. We will be back with more tomorrow, and quite possibly the next day as well..


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