An old folkie who got back into it...
These days I sing and play guitar(s) and other stringed instruments, then score and orchestrate where appropriate. My taste becomes increasingly eclectic ranging from finger-picked folk through country to soft rock mixed in with a few more alternative and eccentric numbers, including the odd novelty foxtrot...
Born in East London in 1951, I started writing and performing at the age of 17, playing at folk clubs in pubs in the East Ham, Ilford and Manor Park. (The Central, The General Havelock, The Denmark, plus the Eyes of Time art gallery) before moving to Cambridge (1969-72) where I played at and was later Treasurer and then President of the St Laurence Folk Song Society, the Cambridge University folk club.
Moving back to London in the early seventies saw a decline and eventually cessation of output as little matters of earning a crust (teaching), raising a family and writing science text books (try an Amazon search) took over...
The rediscovery of an old songbook in 2000 led to the start of an ‘archiving’ project, resulting in two CDs of early songs, ‘The Album that Never Was’ and ‘Back on the Cam’, which were independently produced and circulated to friends and acquaintances. The first few songs were recorded reasonably ‘straight’ and included some analogue recordings from the seventies, but as the project developed I started to experiment with arranging the songs using a combination of live takes and scored/synthesised orchestration with occasional sampling/looping.
This journey of musical rediscovery took a major step forward during an overnight stopover in Bahrain airport, waiting to fly into Beiruit in May 2003, when I passed the time mentally composing songs in a range of styles, which later formed the backbone of the CD ‘Waiting in Bahrain’, containing my first new songs for 25 years.
New songs continued to emerge (between bouts of textbook writing) and further CDs were produced, often inspired by travel. ‘Salawetu’ was followed by ‘My White Ambassador’ a tribute to the car that epitomises travel in India. These were circulated across the continents as the range of contacts grew.
After that I have produced a CD a year (more or less) - and now that I have retired this has if anything speeded up - and I still have a backlog of songs to record! The quality of the recordings has improved as I have become more experienced - and I owe a lot to the great ears of my co-producer and collaborator and old friend Steve Franks. I have also been fortunate to have had regular musical input from Jon Garvey (great sax) and Roger Brawn (great jazz guitar) - not forgetting Mick Ash, Keith Sidwell and Dave Stacey.
The new album Age Old Story is my sixteenth - and I've already started work on the next one, so plenty more to come. My last 10 albums are all available for free streaming or download from Soundclick. The lyrics, artwork and downloadable links are also available on my website http://www.martinstirrup.force9.co.uk .
Not recently - but as President of the Cambridge University folk club I got to hire and play alongside people like John Martyn and Martin Carthy. John Martyn once bought me a curry... does that coun t as a special moment?
I've mentioned John Martyn & I went to the same college as Nick Drake (he dropped out as I arrived). But I was also into The Who, The Kinks and the Stones - then later Steeleye Span, Fairport convention etc even Cat Stevens. Then there was the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, of course... (hence the occasional novelty foxtrot...)
A Yamaha accoustic - and whatever else I can lay my hands on... my son's cheap electric, a nylon stringed guitar I bought in Ecuador, an old bass, a couple of mandolins, a sitar, a ukulele, a harmonica, a bawoo, a dan bau, a rather decrepit banjo, an old Casio keyboard... I record on my laptop using Soundforge and an Esi interface, score and synthesise where necessary using Sibelius and mix it all on Sony Acid. It all seems to work...
I've seen the Maharishi's bathroom at Rishikesh - it was a beautiful blue (but sadly it had a cow in it...).