Tag Archives: Mark Hewins

Happy Birthday, Mark!

Today we celebrate the birthday of the magnificent guitarist and adventurer Mark Hewins who is 57 today. As a musician, Mark got involved with the Canterbury scene in the mid-70s when he played in Polite Force alongside ex-flowers Graham Flight, Dave Sinclair and many other Canterburyan heroes who guested the stage with the band. Later on, he would befriend and collaborate with many other musicians from the scene like Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair in projects like Going Going and Mashu.

Mark has also been a a great resource to many of us fans as he has happily shared with us both Canterbury-related music, pictures, videos and anecdotes, for example stories from when he was on the road with Soft Heap. He is always friendly, always approachable, and many of us owe him our personal thanks.

Some time ago, Mark sent me a video which is an interview with him while “on the road” – or perhaps “in the air” – and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to share it. Enjoy!

Also don’t forget to check out Mark’s account on Soundcloud where he shares his music, both his own solo works and collaborations with others. It is a treasure trove for any Canterbury enthusiast.

Happy birthday, Mark! :)

Mark and Hugh Interview

Mark Hewins has graciously shared with us a couple of interviews/talks between him and Hugh Hopper from 2007. I have embedded them here in this post for your viewing pleasure.

Hugh Hopper interview

This first one is a video of Mark interviewing Hugh and the two discuss subjects like experimental music, how Hugh first got into tape loops and a bit about how technology has changed music.

The Pedals (pedal heaven)

In the second one, Mark and Hugh talk about pedals. Among other thigs,  Hugh explains how he created his signature fuzzy bass sound that he used in Soft Machine.

Both videos should be rare and highly welcome treats to all fans out there. Thank you so much for sharing them with us, Mark! :)

Canterbury Soundwaves March Episode

Canterbury Soundwaves, the Canterbury Scene podcast

The March episode of the Canterbury Soundwaves podcast came out a couple of days ago and is a little special as it features an interview with the great Mark Hewins. Don’t miss out!

 

Featuring an interview with guitarist Mark Hewins about his various collaborative work with Elton Dean, Pip Pyle, Hugh Hopper, John Greaves, the Miller brothers, the Sinclair cousins, Gong, Lol Coxhill, Lady June, etc., as well as his innovative guitar styles. Also, early B-sides from both Kevin Ayers and Gong, some Soft Heap, and more Canterbury-sourced hiphop (this time, Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah spitting over a ’68 Softs loop!)

 

Link : Check it out! 

In memory of Steve Miller

Yesterday (Dec. 19th) would have been the 68th birthday of keyboardist/pianist Steve Miller (1943 – 1998). In 1966 he formed the band Delivery in which his younger brother Phil played guitar along with Pip Pyle on drums and Jack Monk on bass. Lol Coxhill would later join the line-up and the group became the backing band for Carol Grimes. Since then, he had a brief stint in Caravan as well as musical collaborations with musicians like Lol Coxhill and Mark Hewins. His last album was Miller’s Tale by the Steve Miller trio and Lol Coxhill.

Sadly, in early 1998, Steve was diagnosed with cancer. A benefit gig was held later in summer at the London Vortex Jazz bar which featured reformations of Delivery and Miller’s jazz quartet as well as improvisations by Mark Hewins and Elton Dean.

Mark has been so kind as to share with us a video recording from that evening. The video shows a moment on stage, I assume between songs, when Steve improvises a little tune on the piano. The quality of the picture is not good, but the music is beautiful.

Embedly Powered

via Flickr

 

We all knew it was Steve’s last gig before he was taken from us..

On stage here as he improvises a moment, so sublime, so.. Steve.

 

Source : Mark Hewins @ flickr

 

Sadly, Steve’s battle with cancer ended on Dec. 9th that same year. May his memory and music live on.

The Album Club tackles the Canterbury Knights

The Canterbury Scene Album Club discusses The Polite Force’s archival release Canterbury Knights which was recorded between 1976 and 1978 and was released by Voiceprints Records in 1997. Here’s a quick description of the album :

 

The Polite Force – Canterbury Knights (1997)

The Polite Force were a Canterbury jazz fusion group that grew out of the studio sessions for Dave Sinclair’s album Man Over Moon. In addition to Sinclair who played with the group for about a year or so, the band featured guitarist Mark Hewins, Graham Flight on bass, Max Metto on Saxophone and Vince Clarke on drums. In addition, a number of well known Canterburyans like Andy Ward and Richard Sinclair guested the stage. The band gigged locally in the Canterbury area between 1976 and 1978 and also recorded some demos and so on that unfortunately never got released during the band’s lifetime.

In 1997, Voiceprint released these recordings on the album Canterbury Knights which is well worth checking out for anyone interested in the jazzier sounds from Canterbury.

 

So, how do you feel about it? Let us know by dropping us a line or two in the forum discussion thread!

Forum link : The Polite Force – Canterbury Knights (1997)

Bovvercraft

Band: Soft Heap

Cast:

  • Elton Dean…the sanest one
  • Mark Hewins…the almost sane one
  • Pip Pyle…the sexy one
  • John Greaves…the absent one
  • Rufus…the pleasant driver
  • Great lady…Rufus mum
  • Stewardesses…concerned ladies


Tax free drink is a very good way to end a tour and, combined with the English Channel, usually makes for an entertaining interlude before returning to the rigours of London. It always is a real hoot at customs posts watching Pip trying to explain to the officers what drums are (of course they know). He’s even had to resort to bribery on occasion when baggage handlers take a dislike to him and his cases.

We were coming back from Calais on one such occasion, on the hovercraft for a change, although I prefer the boat myself. Our good friend Rufus was going to pick us up in Dover, so we had said goodbye to Bridget and the orange VW bus full of empty food packets, drink cans and other tour rubbish, in Calais. The gear had gone onto the hovercraft piled on one trailer, all together, neatly ready for us to wheel off. We were all in a very gregarious mood as we boarded and Elton and I sat together, immediately getting told off by a rather lovely stewardess for opening a bottle of wine, before we even took off, but it was all very good natured. I know now from my trips to the U.S. that these girls warn each other about “difficult” passengers so we were already marked before leaving France.

All was going swimmingly, oops, wrong metaphor, when Pip came stumbling back to us about two thirds of the way through the 45 minute trip. He told us John had bought two bottles of Remy Martin brandy and was drinking one so he didn’t have to pay the extra tax on it, did we want some. Of course we did so the three of us wobbled forwards to where they had been sitting. As we reached the seats I saw we were in trouble, John was hanging out of his seat, the last few dregs in the bottom of the bottle clutched in his hand. It was totally hilarious. Pip told us he must have drunk the lot in about half an hour and was paralytically drunk. All we could get out of him were grunts. The hovercraft was due to dock in 10 minutes and worried stewardesses suddenly buzzed around us realising there was a situation, and no time to deal with it.

Elton and I went back to our seats, the most useful thing I could do was take John’s bass, still clutched in his other nerveless hand, off him for safety’s sake.

Finally coming to rest on the tarmac in Dover we had to wait until everyone else was let off the hovercraft before carrying John, who was groaning with his eyes rolling in opposite directions, off on the wheelchair they keep for disabled passengers. The amused stewards took it off us at the bottom of the stairs and another was wheeled out from the terminal building. With our gear going in one direction with Pip, Elton pushing John, and me carrying our guitars in another we re-entered the UK.

Obviously warned by the stewards the customs officials were waiting for us, presumably to rip our gear apart to look for drugs (we had none). They took one look at John in the wheelchair though and holding their noses waved us past to much hilarity on all sides. Once in the terminal Rufus, who had been waiting came over and we adjourned to the bar, leaving John, still in the wheelchair, in the middle of the departure lounge burbling quietly to himself.

On the way over to the bar Rufus calmly told us his mother had come to meet us too, and was waiting to make our acquaintance. She was a beautiful person, and slightly tipsy though we were, we had the beginnings of a nice conversation. We had all been sitting at a table behind a sort of hedge of tropical plants (in pots) that divided the bar area from the rest of the terminal. These plants were about 2 meters high and you had to stand on tiptoe to see over into the main part of the building. Suddenly there was a crashing sound and John’s face poked through the foliage above our table. Rufus introduced him nonchalantly, as if he was actually sitting at the table.

His Mum was very sweet and said hello before his distorted face disappeared again. She kept saying how much she was enjoying herself (with naughty muso’s) when John’s face reappeared, this time with a large leaf sticking out of his mouth, he was chomping away on it and before we could stop him he stuck another in and began chewing harder. He was totally out of control and, bizarre as it seems, Rufus’ mum seemed quite impressed with his antics. We realised that by now the tour was finally over, rescued John and all went on our merry way home, I expect to the huge relief of the staff in the terminal.

MORAL – Always be nice to air stewardesses, they will always be nice back.

WORD COUNT 882 COPYRIGHT – M HEWINS 1994


PS! This is a repost of a story that was originally published on the old website on Musart.co.uk. These old web pages are gone, but are still accessible through archive.org’s Wayback Machine. Read the story on musart.co.uk by clicking here.

Polite Force, Joe – and the UFO

Band: Polite Force 1976

Cast:

  • Joe Gubay…Patron
  • Dave Sinclair…Richard’s cousin
  • Graham Flight…mellow bass player
  • Vince Clark…demon drummer
  • Jerry Darby…Sound Supremo
  • Mark Hewins…UFO


I really loved Joe Gubay’s place in Graveny, of course it wasn’t far from where Caravan had lived in the tent and done all their rehearsing. Jerry Darby and I had been using the Gulbenkian Theatre at the University in Canterbury (where he was the stage manager) for recording. Dave had been down there with him a couple of times, but we could only use it clandestinely at night and it involved using the whole stage and although there was free ice-cream (in the bar) it was a bit of a chore setting up the gear. I have some fine recordings from there in 1975. So Joe’s generous offer of a home plus recording gear was a real help. Dave started spending a lot of time over there and Jerry began recording bits of all of us.

The house itself sits at the top of Graveny hill. The sunsets and dawns in such a place have been hinted at by Turner in his paintings of Whitstable Bay, and the atmosphere, I remember clearly in that summer of ’76, sparked with life.

One night (during much singing and songing) I saw a small bright light outside in the sky. I stopped playing and kept looking at the tiny flickering light. Gradually everyone stopped too, and interested, we all gathered in the large bay window, looking out. The small light flickering, alternately dim, then bright and hard, continued. We all peered at it, Dave said it was a boat, Vince said it was a plane. But it never changed position. About two or three minutes passed and someone, it may have been Jerry began turning off the lights in the large panelled room. The Bluthner grand standing in the middle had the last one on and the light outside sparkled brightly as the room was plunged into darkness.

An audible gulp went up from everyone and minutes passed as we apprehensively watched the peculiar fizzing of the light. Everyone present that night, Dave, Vince, Graham, Jerry, me and most especially Joe all became very quiet. After about fifteen minutes of this (it seemed like hours) we started hoping, quietly, for it to g away. Joe said in an undertone what we all knew by now, for a fact. “I think it’s a UFO”. We all gasped out our loud indignation at first, which slowly turned to well – possibly; and as the minutes continued to pass and the light remained so still yet mobile in the middle distance horizon, we were all forced to admit, in hushed tones, that it probably was an alien space craft. After all it never moved, it wasn’t on the sea, it wasn’t an aeroplane, yet was in the air.

The light just carried on blinking at us. It seemed to be focusing its rays and we had started to become hypnotised by this by now fantastically coloured gem, gleaming in the atmosphere. Joe said, breaking the silence that had descended on us all, “I’m going outside”. Everyone stood immobile as Joe went through to the kitchen and back door. The latch scraped and the timber door squeaked as he slowly opened it. We looked at each other and everyone, though no-one would admit it, was quite scared and apprehensive. Jerry began to move towards the back door too. We all moved together as, slowly and cautiously, we half scrambled over each other to try and not be the first out of the back door.

It was May 1976 and we had been having the beginnings of the heatwave that was to last all that summer. And although it was nearly dawn, in the strange pre-twilight, the light shined strongly in the distance. There was a milky line on the horizon and as we walked down the garden, in a bit of a ddaze, Joe called out. I coul see the light sort of sparkling now and we all hurried, together, towards Joe’s voice. He was standing by the brush fence which separated the garden from the steep hillside down to the sea, looking up. In the darkness the small light looked very close. As we got closer Joe shouted to Jerry, “Quick turn all the mains off!”. The cable bringing mains electricity to the house was shorting out and it was sparking at the top of the pole! This was very dangerous as we were all playing instruments plugged into the electricity supply, I guess we could have all been killed.

The whole thing probably lasted half an hour although it seemed like much longer. And of course, afterwards everyone denied saying they had thought it was a UFO at all. I found this hilarious.

MORAL – Listen to people, no matter how outrageous the things they have to say, there may be something to help you in there – but it may not be what you think.

WORK COUNT 815 COPYRIGHT – MARK HEWINS 1994


PS! This is a repost of a story that was originally published on the old website on Musart.co.uk. These old web pages are gone, but are still accessible through archive.org’s Wayback Machine. Read the story on musart.co.uk by clicking here.

The story was also printed in the album sleeve of The Polite Force’s archive release Canterbury Knights.

Snapshots of Strasbourg

Band: Soft Heap

Cast:

  • Pip Pyle…garbage man
  • Elton Dean…a mentor
  • John Greaves…a translator
  • Mark Hewins…lucky bastard
  • Irene…super model
  • Alain Eckhart…French Guitarist


Viral pneumonia is a very dangerous thing to get, especially at 11 years old. It happened to me but I’m OK now. It did however introduce me to Strasbourg, because that’s where I spent 7 weeks recovering, and I was very much looking forward to playing there with Soft Heap on the second tour.

What a great town Strasbourg is. We had a fantastic time playing there. When we arrived our host, the promoter, took us for a meal. I, of course, knew the local food from my period of convalescence and ordered Chocroute, which is a wonderful sausage, flowery potato, sauerkraut and belly pork meal for the working man. The promoter and his friends were impressed that I knew their basic diet so I told them of my childhood illness, and foolishly boasted I could speak the local dialect, Alsatian, which sounds like low frequency backward German. “Go on say something to me” I said, thinking the few meaningless phrases I had picked up as a kid enabled me to converse with them. “Scrugjdkshjmksdu, kirgsddnj?” the promoter asked. Naturally I couldn’t even begin to understand him, so we scratched that idea and went to do the concert.

After one particular performance we were up all night having a good time until dawn, when we heard a clattering in the street below. It was the garbage men and Pip, for some reason, shot off and did the whole round, helping them collect the rubbish in this, one of the most beautiful European cities. I believe they paid him in cafe cognac’s afterwards and it must have been quite an experience. Perhaps another vocation?

We played Strasbourg a few times. During one tour I had gone to see the European Parliament on my own and found (in the surrounding gardens) one of France’s two genuine five star ‘Michelin Guide’ restaurants. A meal would have cost a year’s salary for mere mortals. This is how the other half live – and on us, don’t forget!

Anyway, it was getting late and I was about 3 Kilometres from town. It seemed I had half an hour before we started the gig and I knew the guy’s would be getting worried, so I tried to find a cab. Impossible. I was now starting to panic because with five minutes to go until the start of the gig I didn’t know where I was. The only thing I could think of doing was to flag a car down, any car, and plead for help. I walked into the road and waved my arms about, nearly getting run over a couple of times – who gives lifts to people carrying guitars, in the real world? – but thankfully a car drew up and I looked inside putting my best ‘help me’ face on. Irene was the most stunning blond I had ever seen, a real ‘super model’ candidate, wearing a fur coat and dangling with jewels. Yes, she would give me a lift and, yes she knew where we were playing. Phew! what a relief! I was so grateful I would have done anything for her at that moment, but it would have made me late!

We arrived at the hall and I invited her to see the gig. We walked in together, right on time, and the guy’s were already on stage. I could tell they were all ready to be annoyed with me for being late. As I walked down the central aisle of the hall full of people it went very quiet. They were all looking at this gorgeous woman who was with me. I sat her at the front and sauntered onto the stage, to thunderous applause. Even the guy’s were impressed!! Obviously she was done up to go somewhere else and unfortunately she left about half way through and I never saw her again.

Another memorable time in Strasbourg was with Soft HEAP#4, which was a short tour including Alain Eckhart. I turned up at the club and found a brand new Yamaha baby grand piano, unplayed as yet, sitting at the side of the stage. No contest. I am not ‘per se’ a piano player but found my own expression on this superb instrument. I spent two days in front of it, bending it to my will, I was the first human it had encountered – one of my most enjoyable voyages of musical discovery. The concerts may have been recorded, I would like to hear them one day, I do hope the recordings survive, and are as good as I remember.

MORAL – Politicians produce nothing but corruption, always eat well, and always at someone else’s expense.

WORD COUNT – 800 COPYRIGHT – MARK HEWINS 1994


PS! This is a repost of a story that was originally published on the old website on Musart.co.uk. These old web pages are gone, but are still accessible through archive.org’s Wayback Machine. Read the story on musart.co.uk by clicking here.

My Disposable Head

Band: Soft Heap

Cast:

  • John Greaves…under the piano
  • Pip Pyle…the barber
  • Mark Hewins…the changeling
  • Elton Dean…also under the piano
  • Various nubile women


Lille is an exciting type of place, if you like that sort of thing. It’s a sprawling, rolling, industrial city in the North of France and the people are like northerners everywhere, warm and hospitable for the most part but mad if provoked. The city itself is similar to somewhere like Leeds here. Soft Heap’s tour manager/driver Bridget lived there (in the beautiful Hellemmes District) and all the tours used to start or end there. It even has it’s own little metro, with dinky yellow carriages which whir, frighteningly unattended, up and down the city.

It was the end of tour party and a friend of the band had invited us and a number of her mates back to her parents house, which was huge. They had gone away on holiday so we all had the run of the place. With Elton, Pip, myself and John included there were about 15 people at the beginning and I remember watching the TV whilst people danced to loud music on the radio and mixed drinks in an electric food mixer – very noisy!

John and I found a playroom upstairs with toys and a piano in it and began playing together, he plays fantastic versions of Beatles tunes, growling along with them in his own inimitable way. But soon we started improvising over them, the modulations becoming wilder and wilder until he fell from his stool onto the floor. I remember we were playing Fool on the hill and had just reached the middle section, so he kept playing, reaching underneath the keyboard to the bare strings and raking his hands across them in a convincing “dream sequence” type way whilst wailing the middle bit. This brought a few people in to see what was going on and John, ever the performer, became carried along, getting ever more frantic with his hands until he actually drew blood. Now to us, on tour this was not an uncommon sight as we all suffered slight, or bad playing injuries from time to time, such is the nature of the music, but the more faint hearted of the girls realised we had drunk a little more than they had hoped for and left. There was still a hard core though.

I had admired one young girls very short haircut and professed an interest to have my head shaved, Pip offered to do it for me so we left John and Elton banging and clanking under the piano and went to the bathroom to find some razors. This was really interesting and everyone collected around the door. We found some disposable Bic’s and after wetting my hair, Pip (under pain of death to leave my ears) began shaving. After half an hour he had done about one quarter of my head and we had run out of razors. This was taking far longer than we had anticipated (try it yourself!) and everyone was becoming a bit bored, so we took a break to find more razors and drink. This was done and he began again, slowly scraping my scalp bare. I think there’s a vocation for him somewhere if he ever decides to stop working in Music, because he did a superb job, and after two hours (and 20 disposable Bic razors) I had a completely bare head – something I had always fantasised about – and not one scratch.

Everyone was really impressed that I had actually done it and Pip looked really proud of my ‘non tonsure’. Of course I had wanted it done sometime anyway so it was the right time and place, although my hair blocked the drains so badly that apparently plumbers had to be called to stop them overflowing, but we had gone by then. The party seemed to go on for several days, although it probably wasn’t that long because my hair was still non-existent when we caught the ferry. I seemed to frighten people who came near me, which frightened me!

One little postscript to this story concerns me getting home. I was greeted at the door by my partner of the time who said to me, the very instant I opened the door, “Trust you to come home drunk and bald”. Fair comment I suppose and one of the best I have ever heard.

MORAL: If you change your appearance be prepared for other people’s change of attitude.

WORD COUNT: 762 COPYRIGHT MARK HEWINS


PS! This is a repost of a story that was originally published on the old website on Musart.co.uk. These old web pages are gone, but are still accessible through archive.org’s Wayback Machine. Read the story on musart.co.uk by clicking here.

A Riotous Gig in a Strange Place

Band: Soft Heap

Cast:

  • Mark Hewins…Guitar
  • Pip Pyle…Drums
  • Elton Dean…Saxello
  • John Greaves…the Hero


Soft Heap tours, though intense and musically magical, had their moments of real danger and several times I have been more frightened than I ever want to be again. One concert springs to mind instantly and we all still talk about it with awe and dread.

Ferme Nord was in the very north of France, up by the Belgian border. As you travel nearer the sea and into the rural lowlands people have very strange attitudes and a few seem quite mad. The names are weird too. We were heading for a place called Zydcoote, and the place called Ferme Nord. We should have realised that it was literally that – Closed North.

The place was the biggest prison for juveniles in France and incarcerated there were some of the hardest cases from Paris. Murderers, rapists and, I expect worse, were all cooped up together in an enclosed barracks compound with a huge drill square in the middle. That would have been OK but as soon as we arrived it was clear to us that the staff, far from being prison warders were ineffectual social workers, and all these kids in leather jackets swarming round picking at the gear were really in control. We were shown our ‘accommodation’, a dormitory to ourselves – just what we always wanted! I still think they booked us on purpose.

Later we set up in their main hall and just got on with it. We played for about 2 hours straight and reaction seemed good from the crowd of hooligans packed in the hall, but no girls of course. Soft Heap Music is a collective ‘stream of consciousness’ form and one can very easily get drawn along on what can sometimes be a violent and bumpy ride. I bit the neck of my SG that night and the teeth marks, though re-varnished still remain. This particular crowd took all this right on board and were, by the end of the concert quite carried away.

Some small skirmishes started in the hall after the gig and as I was packing up there were a couple of hapless social workers rounding up the inmates who would listen. We had been promised food after the gig (the French are so hospitable) so we crossed the courtyard, accompanied by leather jacketed thugs. We walked past an almighty fight between 30 or 40 kids which was still going on outside the hall. In the canteen we were fed on the local delicacy, especially for us. Brains, lovely! And cooked in a canteen too, m m m m.

There had been some arguing between some of the kids. It had started to feel very tense and suddenly a little guy pulled, from out of his leather jacket, a huge Rambo type knife. He made to stab one of the other kids but his head ended up on the floor as Greaves (or ‘scrapper’ as his nickname now is) threw him over in a marvellous SAS manoeuvre, pinning him to the floor with his knee in the kid’s neck. John disarmed him so easily it took us totally by surprise. He had the kid totally helpless and the other toughs were so impressed they stood back in awe. It seemed John had saved the chief tough’s neck and was the local hero.

It was obvious by now the staff had totally disappeared. Whether it was fright or no overtime we’ll never know, but we were left alone with all these psychopathic kids and the gates were shut. The fight going on outside had got much worse and had gone inside. I walked along outside by one of the four story barrack buildings surrounding the square and watched, fascinated, as a fight slowly progressed along a corridor and into the rooms. By following the smashing windows and lights bursting I could predict which window the next chair was coming through. I winced at the frightened screeching of some of the more harmless kids, but I knew how they felt and was grateful to be outside.

Pip, John and Elton were under the protection of the tough guys and spent some time on the landing where one of the fights was, Pip handing out the rest of his valium to the more demanding kids, a very sensible precaution. I went back to the dormitory we were in and hid under the bedclothes until I went to sleep. The fight lasted for about 6 hours all together, but there were a few kids still hanging about in the morning. We made our escape as soon as a staff member turned up and opened the gates, zooming off in the microbus before we could get into any more trouble.

MORAL – Always be on your guard in places with strange names.

WORD COUNT 814 COPYRIGHT – MARK HEWINS 1994


PS! This is a repost of a story that was originally published on the old website on Musart.co.uk. These old web pages are gone, but are still accessible through archive.org’s Wayback Machine. Read the story on musart.co.uk by clicking here.