Dave Fielding - Musician and music producer

The Red Sided Garter Snakes, an astonishing (re)birth



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 Scroll down for the i
nterview with Dave Fielding


When you go to Manchester these days, you realize the city is busy reinventing itself. Whole neighborhoods are being built, transformed and embellished. Is there something in the air that makes it so? Is it in the heart of Mancunians to constantly embrace change and renew themselves?


Manchester’s music scene has always been a role model for the world with bands like Joy Division, The Smiths, The Fall, Inspiral Carpets, and many more. The music tradition never died out and is now perpetuating through new bands like The Gramotones, Blossoms, Hartheim, or Sonic Boom Six, to name just a few.


In this context of regeneration, The Red Sided Garter Snakes (RSGS) is a beautiful new collective blended with the cream of local musicians. Their debut album Endless Sea features John Lever and Dave Fielding (The Chameleons), James Mudriczki (Puressence), Andy Clegg (The Sun And The Moon), Stephen Wilson (Cornelus Crane), Mary Joanna Coogan (on vocals), Greg Mathews and Michael Reed (Bauer), Paul Denheyer (Fishmonkeyman), Paul Higham (Wilson) and Jon Jackson (on keyboards).


Have no doubt, Endless Sea is a stunning record. This is probably due to the many influences within the band and their ability to make vulnerability shine through strong melodies. Endless Sea oscillates between epic sounds and intimate moods with virtuosity and talent. John Lever’s magical and unique drumming skills define the backbone of this beautiful opus. The ultimate evidence of reinvention may well be the choice to include a brand new version of older Lever/Bushart song, ‘Love yourself’. How symbolic therefore of an enlightened path taken!


Dave Fielding is often cited as one of the greatest guitarists from the post punk era that also gave us Robin Guthrie, Johnny Marr and Ian Broudie. The Chameleons signature sound has surely influenced many of today’s mainstream alternative acts such as Editors and Interpol. Over the years Dave’s guitar style, whilst remaining distinctly dreamy, has become ever more psychedelic. These Eastern influences have developed through The Reegs and also can be heard on The Chameleons comeback album, Why Call It Anything. With The Red Sided Garter Snakes Dave’s sense of the mystical adds depth and texture to an already well-crafted set of songs. Yet the dreamy wonder that punctuates all of The Chameleons  back catalogue remains present and correct.





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I got the opportunity to ask a few questions to Dave Fielding hot on the heels of the album release. He kindly accepted to talk about his music and a few related things. I met Dave quite a few times when The Chameleons last toured. Such a warm, welcoming and peaceful soul!




This interview would not have been possible without some help… So many thanks to:

Terry McGarry for collecting Dave’s answers and taking a few pictues.

Brett Spaceman for his collaboration with this article.

 Second interview with John Lever, Here


History: a quick overview


How did you start playing your first instrument? Is your family musical?


I was in the church choir from the age of about nine to fourteen years old so I suppose singing was my first introduction to music.  I used to play on the church organ as well so I suppose the keyboard would have been my first instrument. Me and Reg (Smithies) went to see David Bowie June 23rd 1973 and we had never heard anything or seen anything as amazing. After that day we became addicted to guitars and rock music in general.  Previous to that day I wanted to play for Manchester United my childhood heroes.  My dad played the piano accordion and I was always messing around on that and after the Bowie concert he went out and bought me an electric guitar and the rest is history.


What is YOUR favourite album by The Chameleons and why?


My favourite Chameleons album has to be Why Call It Anything.  We had just got back together and it just seemed to come together easily, having said that, I do love both Chameleons acoustic albums.


"Script of the Bridge" is more than 30 years old now. What is your 2015 perspective on what that album meant and what it was like making it?


I never play anything by the Chameleons but looking back Script of the Bridge was a classic album, well underrated.  We wrote the album pretty quickly considering we had never done it before and the recording and mixing only took three weeks. We worked well together and the process of recording the album seemed a natural and easy thing to do. What Does Anything Mean was written more or less at the same time but we couldn’t really release a debut album as a double package. I’ve heard off several friends that the re-mastered version of Script is supposed to be far superior but haven’t heard it yet. We were young and head strong and wanted to do things our way, I suppose you could say we were rebellious to say the least. We didn’t really give a fuck what anyone else thought so long as we were happy with what we were doing and didn’t really think too much about the long term consequences of our sometimes reckless behaviour.



The Red Sided Garter Snakes


How did the idea of this new band come together?


John’s musical relationship with Mark came to an end again and we ended up in contact.  John was very down and I suggested he got behind his drum kit and get in the studio with his friends and try and be positive about life and music. I hadn’t a clue I would end up being part of what has turned out to be a great new project. John has been in control of what is his band really.  It has been very different than anything I’ve done before and I am very proud of it and get on great with everyone involved.  John is still a right laugh and when him and Andy Clegg are together it’s great fun to watch. What is a bit strange is the album is out next week and theres about five or six people on it I’ve not actually met yet, very odd.


How do you see your personal role in this beautiful collective? Did you always have the idea of a big collective?


I see myself as John’s right hand man.  I’m behind him all the way  (that bit sounds a bit dodgy) with this project,  I just do what comes naturally with whatever instrument I’ve got in my hand and hope it fits in with what everybody else is doing;  No,  i never expected or imagined being in this kind of collective,  I just go with the flow and don’t make too  many plans apart from looking after my Ooshka (his cat) and trying to be happy.  I’m looking forward to the next material which john has already got planned.


Is it different to work with people you’ve known all your life versus musicians/singers you’ve worked less frequently with?


It’s different but nothing none of us couldn’t handle. It’s a bit weird listening to vocals but you haven’t met the singers,  e.g. Mary Joanna Coogan and Greg from Bauer and Paul from Liverpool.  As far as my role goes I just want to put my style into the music and hopefully the whole thing comes together, it has done up to now.


Your fanbase is strong and supportive. Did it play a role in the motivation behind this project?


I would say more so for John than myself as John had been meeting fans at the gigs he was doing with Mark. I’ve been away from the public eye for a lot longer… So yeah I think John was more aware of the support for the project than me and also I’m not in there with the internet thing (which I like).


How did James Mudriczki get involved into the band? Is he the Roy Orbison to your Travelling Wilburys?


Oh, I don’t know about that but it’s been great working with Jimmy. Not only is he easy going and friendly but he one of the worlds’ greatest singers.



The Album – Endless Sea


What was the timeframe of making the new album? Did you always have a strong sense as to what you wanted to accomplish with/in it?


There wasn’t one as we were working at Steve Wilsons studio in between all the other stuff Steve was involved with. Eventually we moved to a studio in Alderney Edge and put the final touches and mix down there.


What do you usually start with when working on a new piece? What is your writing process?


With this album everyone was throwing their ideas in the mix but there was a lot of spontaneity involved as well, most of my guitars were just done by putting the machine in record and seeing what happened. A good and fast way of working. Most of this album was probably started with johns drums, or beats come to think about it.


Could you describe the album with your own words? What is it like for you?


I’m very proud of this album. It’s different than anything I’ve done before. I’ve enjoyed the process of getting it together and had a lot of laughs with John, Andy Clegg, Jimmy, Steve,  etc, etc. I’ve still got my own style and it comes over well on this album and along with John’s drumming pulls the whole thing together.


What makes this album different from what you’ve done before?


Probably the amount of different musicians and the age range of the members. I’m 55 and Mary Joanna is 21. I like the variation in the songs and the way that although there are five different singers the album doesn’t sound like a compilation.


Will fans get the chance to hear these songs live?


We need to get a few more tracks together before we go live and i think that is John’s plan, looking forward to doing it though.



Adders and ladders - Miscellany


Peter Hook says being in a band is like being in a marriage. What’s the nicest thing about being in a band and what is the most difficult?


Friendship and love. Falling out and hate.


Over time have you ever felt the need to modify your music style to keep up with changing times? If not compelled, how do you feel your music has changed over time?


It varies, my Lincoln band Coconut Dog Fuck are a totally different thing altogether, Go a trance style. I can fit into most things but have never really been dictated to by trends or fashions, I just do my own thing, you know?


What’s the most bizarre thing that happened to you when you were on stage?


Remembering what had happened.


What is the next step for the RSGS?


Write and record new material and take it wherever John decides go live.


The final word is yours, what do you want to tell to your fans?


Hope you are all well and happy and wish you all the best for the future. Hope to meet up with you at future RSGS gigs and yeah, love to you all,
Dave and Ooshka XX






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© 2015   


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