GAY WOODS IN CONVERSATION WITH NICK CLARK



Photo: Claude Calteux

PART ONE Ė THE BEDLAM BORN TOUR

With the back-to-back tours of the USA and UK now over, the members of Steeleye Span have now returned to their homes. In Gay Woodsí case this is Ireland where I found her stocking up with woolies for the forthcoming winter. Bearing in mind the terrible weather the country has already experienced, I asked her first whether the rain and severe flooding had affected the tail end of the bands touring scheduleÖ..

When we went to Weston Super Mare it was horrific, the high winds and all that but we seemed to leave places just before they got flooded so we were blessed. The fuel crisis thing was just kicking in as we left so somebody was on our side.

But it went well?

It went very well. The last date was just great. It sold out so we were very happy with it.

Itís quite a testing time isnít it, trying all the new stuff out?

Very testing yes. Itís testing for the old Steeleye Span fans.

How did it go down?

It was mixed. We are getting a newer audience, thatís for certain. Lots of new faces and people who enjoyed it for different reasons so thatís very healthy. We managed to escape two or three gigs without doing ĎAll Around My Hatí and survived. I think thatís a time thatís now gone.

You had some smaller venues as well.

We played a small place in Hunstanton, it was a lovely little place but I believe we were too loud for them!

Itís nice there; did you have a wander around?

Earlier in the day I was taken to a very interesting place Ė a wildfowl sanctuary and gardens. Bill Machin runs it. Iím dying to get back there or write and thank him. Itís a lovely part of England and we drove back along the coast road back to Kingís Lynn and we saw some lovely places. It seems so far away from everywhere else, I think they should be given their freedom. It should be a province all of its own !

So, what now youíre back in Ireland?

I have some very exciting things musically going on in my head at the moment. I am going to get cracking next week.

So is this solo project going to happen?

Oh I think so yes. I think itís got to. I canít keep it quiet any longer. Iíd like to record something for sure. Iíd think Iíd better do it now. I have the music in my head and the songs and things and I want to get some interesting people who want to play with me for the same pay Iíll get Ė nothing! Just to start like I started years ago. I might actually do it from here (Ireland) because it gets too complex having to go away, at least the initial stages, getting the band together.

So you are talking about writing straight away?

Using some traditional stuff as well. Actually singing on the ĎBedlam Borní tour, messing around, making stuff up on stage, the audience was great.

Thereís quite a lot of you on ĎBedlam Borní isnít there? Creatively at least.

More than in the past thatís for sure. I donít know whether they (the fans) like it or not but Iím sure Iíll get some feedback, if they don ít.

Well they keep turning up!

They sure do. Itís astonishing. Iíll tell you which was a great gig Ė Bolton. It was bloody marvelous. There were lots of young kids Ė children, in the audience and there were lots of new people there and the audience were full of life. It was great.

How much of Auto Da Fe has gone on tour with you this time?

In my performance? Itís coming out in my persona again, itís great. Not so much in that style but incorporated in it. Itís just putting a hard edge in the songs. I dislike people who just swallow words. I like to spit it out. Itís nice to be quiet sometimes but itís great with something like ĎThomas the Rhymerí to give it new life, not to have it all 70ís. You give it like somebody coming from Hades or the underworld. This beautiful woman, this queen, sheís got such power over Thomas. Sheís gonna change him you know? I have read the long poem of it and it always annoyed me that some of it was missing. He comes back with the gift of seeing. He doesnít in the song. Iíd like to finish the story.

Given what youíve said, itís surprising you havenít done Tam Lin.

Itís strange, I was discussing that with somebody on the last gig. And I said, why does she feel obliged to change him? Lots think they have to change the man to fit into their world. I donít think thatís a good thing. Why canít she just leave him there? I wouldnít do that song because if I did, I would have to change the music. It belongs in another time to another Steeleye Span, back to another band and thatís where it should stay. I find that version very whimsical for the power thatís going on it. Again, the complete work of it is so complex. I did rework it two years ago but I found I was striking out so much and changing so much I thought I might do it some other time Ö not with the band, not with Steeleye Span. Lots more of them though! Lots more new ones to put new music toÖ

 11th November 2000