Music director
Sound sculptor

I have been playing ‘cello with bands, and making arrangements for bands for thirty years. More, actually. My brother Richard has always been a prolific songwriter. Sometimes he’d ask me to play with him, or I’d say I could hear a part for my cello in his song, ask if I could play. My first arrangement was for Richard, in my first year at Guildhall. I could hear parts for a string quartet, and just for fun, worked out what the lines were on ‘cello and then wrote them all out into a score. I had to try to play all four parts at once on the piano, along to his tape, to see whether they’d work. We never did record it.

I expected to play in an orchestra as a job. But it didn’t quite work out like that. While waiting for that orchestra job to come up, I started playing with Virginia Astley, and from there, started doing sessions on ‘cello for bands. I remember very clearly a sudden moment when I realized that playing with bands was a liberation. Here was a place where creativity was welcome. This was the early ‘80’s. Mad, reckless, independent music was being made with no eye at all to its commercial viability. My first proper (paid) session was for The Smiths, the Troy Tate version of Pretty Girls Make Graves. Along with recording and playing for Virginia Astely, who was supported by Geoff Travis and Rough Trade. I would go and play for bands like Test Department or Coil. Back at our flat, Richard had learnt to use a Portastudio. Together with the bass player Billy McGee, nights were spent disregarding any difference between the classical training we’d just had at Guildhall, and working out how far you could push a Portastudio. Richard and Billy were very good at it. I got more into soundscapes, and into finding what would happen if you turned the cassette over in the Portastudio and make it play backwards. And creating my own naïve string-based instrumental pieces.