Hey guys and girls!
I’m with one of the cult legends out there today. Yes, the one and only Robert John Godfrey of The Enid!
Lady Obscure: The Enid is a cult progressive band and your history is known to many, so I will not ask the traditional background questions! Punk was very big at that time that The Enid were formed and I can imagine the music scene was very different – how was it though, on a personal level, for you, Lickerish, Stewart and Storey?
Robert John Godfrey: Francis Lickerish and I did not get particularly on well. Steve Stewart was the love of my life and it was for him that I wrote The Lovers. My relationship with Dave Storey started off OK and has become closer as the years have gone on.
Lady: The Enid don’t “just” make music, you also tell stories with your themes and the way you approach music is constantly developing. How do these themes evolve? From mythology to the “power of whole” – whose stories are you telling?
Robert: Music can be many things ranging from ubiquitous drivel to the sublime. Its quality and integrity is governed by the quality and motivation of the composers who create it.
For me, the most important purpose of art lies in its ability to reveal profound truths about the world without ever having to resort to facts.
Composing is a truly magical process and capable of bringing about changes in consciousness like nothing else can. A musical score, like all of life, is interconnected through time as well as space; a powerful metaphor for our own lives: For each of us is a story with a silence at either end: Because though a musical creation exists as a complete indivisible whole, it can only be experienced as it unfolds, note by note.
Lady: Your innovative approach to “how the music scene should be” may be the seeds of many established marketing strategies today. Is there a business skills background involved or would you instead credit your obviously vast understanding of the world of music? I mean, in the early eighties you basically invented the Kickstarter project scheme! How cool is that?!
Robert: After Francis Lickerish walked out of the band in 1981, we were all left in a huge mess. The four remaining members decided to make a break with our record company and our manager and become independent.
Once those crucial decisions had been taken it was obvious that a direct relationship between the band and our fans was the way ahead.
Lady: You had a long hiatus between the late 1980s to mid 2000s. Even though you still released two albums within this time, a hiatus that long is very significant and curious, especially considering that The Enid was at a high point! I won’t ask about the reasons as it seems that they are personal, but how was this time for The Enid? How did the fans react? I mean, two giants, you and Lickerish, packed up and left the music scene – there must have been a strong reaction?
Robert: When Steve Stewart and I parted company in 1988, I was at a bit of a loss, unable to work properly without him. I was plagued by depression and self doubt as a composer during the nineties for all kinds of reasons. I had a number of provisional line-ups during the nineties but none of them work out. Then I met Jason Ducker in 2002. By 2005 he had decided he wanted to help me and Max Read revive The Enid.
Lady: Lickerish went back to making music in the mid 2000s as did you. I find this curious – would you say this was coincidental?
Robert: I had been planning the “reincarnation” of The Enid since 2005. I wasn’t aware of Secret Green until sometime later. I suspect the two scenarios are coincidental.
Lady: So, as one of the cult bands in the history of progressive rock who have helped shaped this genre, how do you feel about where Prog is now?
Robert: We live in exciting times as the younger generation begin to discover a genre long seen as very un-cool. We need to give them every encouragement.
Whatever the term “prog” means now, back in the late 1960s and early seventies content was king. Then it meant thinking and acting outside the box; an activity carried out by clever well educated composers and song writers with big conceptual ideas and intelligent imaginative music in their hearts intent on pushing the envelope.
This progressive turn of events gave rise to an explosion of creativity in the other performing and visual arts as well as in fashion, film and graphic design.
Whether we like it or not, Prog in the UK is still perceived by many from outside the genre as nothing more than mindless intellectually barren regurgitated nonsense. One reason for this might be that it is actually in part true. There are bands that have through sheer hard work and persistence, come to occupy positions they wouldn’t occupy on merit and at the expense of the far more gifted who need all our encouragement. I urge the experts – the editors, journalists and producers who write about prog to be more robust. They should wake up to the fact that by “not wanting to rock the boat” is exactly what may sink it.
Because allowing the naff to flourish without critique is stifling the production of the new and the wonderful and occasionally even the miraculous.
I want something better for the future of prog and we owe it to the next generation to put our house in order.
I am fed up with the fact that prog continues to be seen from without as a tribal fringe pursuit of an aging demography: The leper colony of the music business. Music for geography teachers and train-spotters; the repository for the weird, the old fashioned and the eccentric.
Prog has become a tale of two cities with innovative and exciting bands living cheek by jowl with all that is naff. Of course this was always the case but unlike the past, now there appears to be no critique being applied.
Clever youth is doing something else – probably something progressive; certainly not prog. Pity! If we want to encourage new blood of the highest ability into the genre we need to be able to call a spade a spade.
I believe the thing which has given progressive music such a bad reputation in the wider world is this. Too much “prog” is produced in homage to the glory days of the past. Too many of those doing it are people who have failed to develop the necessary compositional skills needed. The music they produce tends to be no more than a shallow parody of the great music of yesteryear and is to my ear largely meaningless unstructured drivel. Hardly progressive! Should we really be giving these sorts of band any encouragement when there are so many other more obvious candidates for our love?
Lady: I believe The Enid is planning a trilogy of releases with Invicta being the second instalment Trilogies are the way to go I’d say! How has the overall reception been for the first two albums?
Robert: Marmite! Loved or hated – nothing in between.
Lady: Ha! Beautiful analogy… So, currently The Enid has a line up that spans three generations, with vocalist Joe Payne the youngest member. How does it feel for Joe to be performing alongside established musicians and long time members such as you and Storey and similarly, how do the original members of the band feel to be welcoming in a younger generation? Are there any cons to it? I’m sure there are a lot of pros; could you name a few?
Robert: The younger generation are the ones putting in all the effort, and they will in due course inherit the future for the band. Its pro all the way from my point of view.
Lady: When should we expect the third album, with your solo project currently going on?
Robert: My project The Art Of Melody is now finished and we are drawing together the threads for the final work in the trilogy – “Reset”.
Lady: What’s next? Are there any international tours on the calendar?
Robert: We’ve certainly seen quite a surge in the amount of interest we are getting internationally. Particularly in Europe! We had a very successful tour around Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands last year, and certainly want to return. Interestingly, we seem to have had a particularly large boom in popularity over in Italy and France. So certainly, we will be thinking about coming to the continent this year. However, nothing is planned just yet.
For now though, we are focusing on our Spring tour. The purpose of this string of shows it to go back to our roots, performing shows in the venues that will attract new audiences. It is time to start acting like it’s 1974 all over again and get our hands dirty.
Lady: Thank you Robert!